Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Trump disavows ex-KKK head David Duke for 2nd time following refusal

(JTA)—Donald Trump disavowed, then refused to disavow, then disavowed again an endorsement by former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke.

Trump disavowed Duke on Sunday afternoon, for the second time, after refusing to do so that morning in an interview with Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination posted on Twitter video of his disavowal from two days earlier.

“As I stated at the press conference on Friday regarding David Duke—I disavow,” his tweet said.

On the CNN program, Trump told Tapper: “Just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, OK?”

Tapper pressed Trump on white supremacists several times.

“I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists,” he said. “So I don’t know. I don’t know—did he endorse me, or what’s going on? Because I know nothing about David Duke; I know nothing about white supremacists.”

Trump also said: “You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I’d have to look. If you would send me a list of the groups, I will do research on them and certainly I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong. You may have groups in there that are totally fine—it would be very unfair. So give me a list of the groups and I’ll let you know.”

Last Friday, he disavowed Duke’s support at a news conference announcing the endorsement of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who had dropped out of the Republican primary race about a week earlier.

“David Duke endorsed me? OK, all right. I disavow, OK?” Trump said.

It’s not the first time Trump has sent mixed messages about Duke. Last August, BuzzFeed news reported on Trump’s refusal at that time to accept Duke’s endorsement, and also claiming ignorance of Duke’s background. Yet it also uncovered a 2000 news release in which Trump distanced itself from the Reform party in part because Duke was a member.

Duke on his radio program Feb. 24 had urged his listeners to vote and volunteer for Trump.

“Voting for these people, voting against Donald Trump at this point is really treason to your heritage,” he said, according to BuzzFeed News, which first reported the comments.

Meanwhile, far-right French leader Jean-Marie Le Pen tweeted his support for Trump on Sunday.

“If I was American I would vote for Donald Trump … may God protect him,” he tweeted.

Le Pen was kicked out of the National Front party he founded, which is now led by his daughter Marine, for his racist and xenophobic comments.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported Friday that Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has consulted foreign policy expert Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell and speculated in 2013 that Israel may have carried out chemical attacks in Syria.

Wilkerson told the Times on Friday that he was not trying to raise the world’s ire by suggesting during an interview with Current TV that Israel was involved in the attacks.

“I was just suggesting all the different people that could have been involved at a time when speculation was rampant,” Wilkerson said.

ADL to provide Donald Trump, all presidential candidates info on extremists like Duke

(JTA)—The Anti-Defamation League said it will provide all presidential candidates with information on extremists and hate groups following Donald Trump’s admission that he didn’t know anything about former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

In a statement Sunday afternoon, the ADL said its Center on Extremism, which monitors and exposes extremists and hate groups, is providing information about extremists, including to the Trump campaign, “so that all candidates can be fully aware of these individuals and have a more complete picture when determining whose endorsements they should accept or reject.”

In an interview that morning on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Trump told host Jake Tapper: “Just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, OK? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists,” Trump told Tapper.

Several days earlier, Duke had told his radio listeners they should vote and volunteer for Trump. The Republican presidential front-runner disavowed the endorsement hours after the “State of the Union” interview, for the second time in three days, after refusing to do so on the program.

Duke is a former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard and white supremacist who has publicly asserted that Jews control the Federal Reserve Bank, the U.S. government and the media.

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement issued by the ADL on Sunday afternoon that Duke is “clearly exploiting Mr. Trump’s candidacy to get publicity for himself and his hateful ideas.”

“The last thing we want is for white supremacists to use this campaign to mainstream their bigotry,” Greenblatt said. “It is imperative for elected leaders and political candidates like Mr. Trump and others in the public eye to disavow haters such as Duke and the other white supremacists who have endorsed his candidacy.

“By not disavowing their racism and hatred, Trump gives them and their views a degree of legitimacy. Even if it is unintentional on his part, he allows them to feel that they are reaching mainstream America with their message of intolerance.”

McGill U students reject BDS motion in online vote

MONTREAL (JTA)—Students at Montreal’s McGill University failed to ratify a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions motion against Israel.

In online voting last week by undergraduates, the motion was rejected 2,819-2,119 (57 percent to 43 percent), with 440 abstentions. It had passed in the university’s student society on Feb. 22 by a vote of 512-357, and was seen as a blow by pro-Israel students.

“The BDS movement, which among other things calls for universities to cut ties with Israeli universities, flies in the face of the tolerance and respect we cherish as values fundamental to a university,” McGill’s principal and vice chancellor, Suzanne Fortier, said in a statement. “It proposed actions that are contrary to the principles of academic freedom, equity, inclusiveness, and the exchange of views and ideas in responsible open discourse.”

Fortier said McGill, which has maintained silence on the issue, could not react to the BDS issue until the online vote deadline passed “out of respect for the student governance process.”

Pro-BDS forces at McGill have tried and failed three times over the past 18 months to pass a BDS motion.

After the student government passed the motion last week, some pro-Israel students said they encountered open hostility and even anti-Semitism on social media, while some previous donors to McGill vowed to stop giving.

On the same day the motion was passed by the student government, the Canadian Parliament passed a measure formally condemning BDS by a vote of 229-51. It calls on the Canadian government to “condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home, and abroad.”

Over the past few years, several Canadian universities have passed pro-BDS motions.

Clinton  trounces Sanders in South Carolina

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Hillary Rodham Clinton swept to victory in the South Carolina Democratic primary, moving closer to derailing the upstart bid by Sen. Bernie Sanders for the presidential nomination.

Clinton led Sanders, I-Vt., by nearly 50 percentage points, 73.5 percent to 26 percent, in balloting Saturday that featured a large turnout by African-American voters.

Favorability among blacks is likely to favor Clinton as the candidates head into March 1 primaries, known as Super Tuesday, when 11 states run contests for Democrats. Eight of the states are in the South, where blacks are likely once again to be a substantial portion of the turnout. Sanders has failed to make the inroads among minorities necessary to overtake Clinton.

“Tomorrow, this campaign goes national,” Clinton said in her victory speech in Columbia on Saturday.

Victories on Tuesday may propel back to inevitability the candidacy of Clinton, a former secretary of state thought to be the prohibitive front-runner but who has faced a surprisingly strong challenge from Sanders, the first Jewish candidate to win a primary. Sanders was thought to have dented Clinton’s chances when he won decisively earlier this month in New Hampshire and lost by a razor-thin margin in Iowa. Clinton defeated Sanders in the Nevada caucuses.

Republicans vote in 13 states on Tuesday, and the four challengers to Donald Trump, the real estate billionaire who is leading in the polls and has won three of the four early states so far, may face pressures to drop out if they cannot steal some of Trump’s thunder. Sen. Ted. Cruz of Texas has suggested he will leave the race if he fails to win his home state of Texas, which is in contention on the day.

Trump, meanwhile, appears to be sensitive to the barrage of attacks his rivals have unleashed on him in recent days as it appears likelier he will win the nomination. In the last debate before the Tuesday contest, on Feb. 25 in Houston, all four rivals lambasted Trump for saying he would be neutral in brokering Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Trump on Saturday posted on Twitter a photo from 2004, when he was grand marshal in the Salute to Israel Parade in New York.

NY college to start graduation earlier to accommodate Shabbat

(JTA)—A New York college has made the time of its graduation ceremony earlier so that it does not conflict with the Jewish Sabbath.

Baruch College, part of the City University of New York system, announced Friday that it would move up its May 27 commencement exercises by an hour to accommodate its Jewish students, the local CBS affiliate reported.

The school had scheduled its graduation ceremony for 5 p.m. on a Friday, making it too late for some participating students to return home from the Barclays Center in time for Shabbat. Some 11 percent of the student body is Jewish, many religiously observant.

Nearly  1,400 students had signed an online petition requesting an earlier start for the commencement exercises.

“Baruch College is committed to our entire diverse student body,” Baruch’s president, Mitchel Wallerstein, said in a statement. “With 170 countries and many ethnicities and religions represented, we work hard to ensure that our students receive a culturally sensitive and quality education. We are pleased that, with these revised space accommodations, we are able to be more responsive to the Sabbath constraints for both our Jewish and Muslim students.”

Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Brooklyn Democrat and an Orthodox Jew, praised the school.

“In modifying the spring commencement time for the Jewish student body, the President sends a clear message that every student’s graduation is just as important as the next, and acts as a reminder to be culturally sensitive,” Hikind said in a statement.

Veteran JTA correspondent Tom Tugend honored by France for WWII service

LOS ANGELES (JTA)—Longtime JTA correspondent Tom Tugend was bestowed with France’s highest decoration for his World War II service.

President Francois Hollande recently appointed Tugend, 90, as Chevalier (Knight) in the National Order of the Legion of Honor. The award was established by Napoleon in 1802.

Tugend’s U.S. infantry regiment was attached to the 1st French Army during the fighting against SS units defending the Colmar Pocket in Alsace.

Subsequently, Tugend served as an American volunteer in Israel’s War of Independence and was a squad leader in the Anglo-Saxon 4th anti-tank unit. He was recalled by the U.S. Army in 1950 for the Korean conflict and was assigned as editor of an army newspaper in San Francisco.

For the past 28 years, Tugend has reported from Los Angeles for JTA and others on the Hollywood entertainment industry, politics, Jewish communities and personalities, and on some of the oddities of life in California.

He has worked for the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times and The Associated Press bureau in Madrid, as well as a longtime UCLA science writer and communications manager.

Tugend came to the United States in 1939 as a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany. He and his wife, Rachel, a Jerusalem native, have three daughters and eight grandchildren.

Young soccer fans accost Jewish-Italian sportscaster in London

ROME (JTA)—An Italian-Jewish sportscaster said he was accosted by a group of youths after their team lost a key match in London.

In a blog post David Guetta, known as the radio voice of the Florence soccer team Fiorentina, reported that about 20 youths had accosted him on Feb. 25 as he waited for an underground train after Fiorentina lost to the English team Tottenham Hotspur, a club with many Jewish supporters. The loss ousted Fiorentina from the European League championships.

“They recognized me and started to chant ‘David Guetta, a train for Mauthausen awaits you,’” he wrote. The chant rhymes in Italian.

The shameful thing, Guetta wrote, is that the youths who accosted him “almost certainly do not really know what happened at Mauthausen. Or at Auschwitz, Dachau, Treblinka.” He added that he would have liked to have had the encounter in Florence, “in front of the memorial plaque that recalls the Florentines who left with these trains that today they want for me, and who never returned.”

Racism and anti-Semitism by militant soccer fans has been an issue in Italy for years.

The Feb. 25 incident was not the first time that Guetta, who has provided the radio play-by-play for Fiorentina for more than 30 years, had been subjected to anti-Semitic slurs. In an interview for an Italian Jewish newspaper in 2010, he reported that he had been called “s---tty Jew” on a number of occasions, had swastikas scrawled on his motorcycle and received threatening letters.

“My response to these totally imbecile manifestations was to rejoin the Florence Jewish community after 14 years,” he said, even though Guetta said he was not observant.

‘Transparent’ creator Jill Soloway producing new Amazon series

(JTA)—Jill Soloway, whose hit TV series “Transparent” focuses on a transgender woman and her very Jewish family members, is creating a new show for Amazon.

Kathryn Hahn, who plays a female rabbi on “Transparent,” will star in the new show called “I Love Dick,” Deadline reported last Friday. Based on a 1997 novel, the series, to be co-produced and directed by Soloway, is about a married couple living in a college town in Texas.

Soloway, who is Jewish, is the creator, director and executive producer of the Golden Globe Award-winning “Transparent,” which she has said was inspired by her father coming out as transgender. The show, which has run for two seasons, has focused heavily on the Jewish background of the Pfefferman family, including an ancestor who fled Hitler’s Germany.

Soloway was also a writer and producer for the popular HBO series “Six Feet Under.”

Court tosses conviction of Arab-American for covering up terrorist past

(JTA)—A U.S. appeals court has vacated the conviction of a Palestinian-American for covering up her conviction and imprisonment in Israel for bombing attacks when she applied for U.S. citizenship.

A three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit U.S. Appellate Court in Cincinnati on Feb. 25 overturned the conviction of Rasmieh Odeh, 68, an associate director at the Arab American Action Network. The district court that found her guilty should have allowed expert testimony that Odeh had post-traumatic stress disorder and therefore did not know she made false statements to U.S. immigration officials, the appeals court ruled, according to Reuters. The prison sentence of 18 months handed down last March was canceled.

The appellate court sent the case back to the district court, which could order a new trial.

Odeh was found guilty in Nov. 14, 2014, of covering up her conviction and imprisonment in Israel for her involvement in a number of Jerusalem bombings in 1969—including one at a supermarket that killed two Hebrew University students, Leon Kanner and Eddie Joffe—when she entered the United States in 1995 and applied for citizenship in Detroit in 2004.

Israel jailed Odeh for life, but she was released in a prisoner exchange with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in 1980 and immigrated to the United States from Jordan.

Odeh has said her confession to the bombing was the result of severe torture by Israeli security forces, including rape and electric shocks.

Oberlin prez ‘respects’ free speech of faculty member behind anti-Semitic Facebook post

(JTA)—In response to an article revealing that an Oberlin College professor made numerous postings about Jews and Israel to Facebook, the liberal arts college’s president said Oberlin “respects the right of its faculty, students, staff and alumni to express their personal views.”

Marvin Krislov’s statement came after The Tower on Feb. 25 published an article about Joy Karega, an assistant professor of rhetoric and composition at the elite Ohio institution.

Karega, who took down her Facebook posts and Twitter account after the article’s publication, had made comments accusing Israel and “Rothschild-led bankers” of responsibility for downing a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine in 2014. She also posted a graphic of Jacob Rothschild, a member of the prominent Jewish banking family, with a caption reading: “We own your news. The media. Your oil. And your government.”

Screenshots of many of her posts were published originally on The Tower.

In a statement posted on Oberlin’s alumni Facebook page on Feb. 25, Krislov, who is Jewish, added, “The statements posted on social media by Dr. Joy Karega, assistant professor of rhetoric and composition, are hers alone and do not represent the views of Oberlin College.”

Alan Dershowitz, an emeritus professor of law at Harvard University, criticized Krislov’s response, telling The Tower: “If Karega had expressed comparably bigoted views about Blacks, Muslims or gays, the President of Oberlin would not have posted the boilerplate he posted. He would have condemned those views, even if he defended her right to express them.”

In one post, Karega accused “the same people behind the massacre in Gaza” of shooting down the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine. She continued: “With this false flag, the Rothschild-led banksters, exposed and hated and out of economic options to stave off the coming global deflationary depression, are implementing the World War III option.”

Karega’s social media posts drew attention after she was listed as co-sponsor of an event at Oberlin scheduled for March 2 in which Robin Kelley, a history professor at UCLA, is due to deliver a lecture titled “Fighting Apartheid Since 1948: Key Moments in Palestinian and Black Solidarity.”

Karega declined to respond to The Tower, but posted on Facebook Friday: “Robin Kelley IS still coming to Oberlin next week, despite efforts by some to prevent it. Trust, when I come up out of my Unbothered state of being, I’ll have a lot to say (analysis, no doubt) about the kinds of intimidation and silencing tactics that are rhetorically enacted in digital spaces, through email, through telephone communication, and propagandized editorial articles, masquerading as ‘journalism,’ and how common it is for Black women, who are early in their career on the tenure track as part of the professoriate, to be prime targets for these kinds of activities and practices.”

Oberlin has drawn attention in recent months for what some alumni claim is a culture of tolerance for anti-Semitism. More than 250 alumni have signed an open letter to Krislov voicing concern about this and mentioning several incidents at the school, including the expulsion of the Kosher Halal co-op from the Oberlin Student Cooperation Association and a protest against Israel on Rosh Hashanah that Jewish students had to pass through on their way to holiday services.

Some Jewish student leaders criticized that letter in an Op-Ed published in the Cleveland Jewish News this week, saying the letter “lack(ed) a nuanced understanding of the complex dynamics on Oberlin’s campus” and expressing concern that “there was virtually no student involvement or input on the letter’s contents.”

The school also garnered headlines in December when African-American student activists issued a 14-page list of demands to Krislov, including that the school divest from companies doing business with Israel. The document also demanded that Krislov guarantee tenure “upon review” for Karega and seven other African-American tenure-track faculty members.


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