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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Police and Shin Bet: New Duma fire not arson attack by settlers

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Arson was not the cause of a fire that damaged the Duma home of a key witness in a deadly attack last year in the same West Bank Palestinian village, police believe.

Ibrahim Dawabsheh, the owner of the house, and his wife escaped from the burning home early Sunday morning and were treated in a West Bank hospital for smoke inhalation, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported.

He is the key witness to the July 2015 attack that killed his relatives Reham and Saad Dawabsheh, and their 18-month-old son, Ali Saad, and seriously injured Ali’s older brother. Ibrahim Dawabsheh is testifying in the murder trial of the suspected bomber, Amiram Ben-Uliel, 21, and his 17-year-old alleged accomplice.

The Israel Police and the Shin Bet security service, who are investigating the early Sunday morning fire, said in a statement issued that night that investigators have not found any indication the attack was nationalistically motivated or any evidence it was an arson attack. Some details of the investigation remain under a gag order.

“The findings so far at the scene are not consistent with the characteristics of a deliberate arson attack by Jews,” the joint statement said.

Palestinian officials have said they believe the attack on the home, which is located about 10 yards from the house that was burned down last year, was arson.

A bedroom window in the house was broken, with shattered glass inside, the French news agency AFP reported, citing local residents.

“The window was broken from the outside and flammable materials were found in the rubble,” Col. Malek Ali, fire chief for the nearby city of Nablus, told AFP.

Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian Authority official, told the Palestinian Maan news agency that it is clear Jewish settlers attacked the home.

“The way they attacked, the type of firebombs and the timing of the attack, all indicate that it was Israeli settlers,” he said.

Robert Piper, the United Nations coordinator for humanitarian assistance and development aid, in a statement condemned what he called the “arson attack by suspected Jewish extremists.”

“This violent act could easily have resulted in a more tragic outcome, as did the heinous terrorist attack last July on the home of Mr. Dawabsheh’s relatives in the same village,” he said.

Time updates article that inaccurately portrayed Palestinian terrorist

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Time magazine updated an article criticized by Israel for depicting a Palestinian assailant who killed three Israelis as a victim of Israeli security forces.

Last Friday, one day after Israel’s Government Press Office issued a statement about the Oct. 15 article lamenting the magazine had not corrected “a serious factual error” despite repeated requests, Time said the story titled “The desperation driving young Palestinians to violence” was “updated to give a fuller account of the attack.”

The article spotlights Bahaa Allyan, one of two Palestinians who attacked an Israeli bus in Jerusalem. One of the fatalities was an American-Israeli teacher, Richard Lakin.

Allyan, who was killed by police during the shooting and stabbing attack, is described in the article as a “graphic designer” who was “killed by Israeli security forces after allegedly trying to carry out an attack in Jerusalem.” The original article did not mention the three deaths.

According to the updated article, Allyan was carrying out an attack on a Jerusalem bus and three people, including the U.S.-born teacher, died as a result.

The statement on providing a fuller account did not include an apology.

The press office in its statement March 17 said it had reached out shortly after the article was published and repeatedly to the Time correspondent, Rebecca Collard, and a Time International editor in an effort to have the language changed.

Israel’s attorney general: Restrictive bill on mikvahs violates basic rights

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A bill that would bar Conservative and Reform conversions from public ritual baths violates Israeli constitutional law, the country’s attorney general said.

On Sunday, Avichai Mandelblit submitted a legal opinion to the government in which he said the bill violates several basic rights, including to freedom of religion, human dignity and equality, Haaretz reported. The bill passed a first reading in the Knesset last week.

The haredi Orthodox United Torah Judaism faction proposed the measure, which has received support from the haredi Shas party and some members of the religious Zionist Jewish Home party.

The measure aims to override a Supreme Court decision in February mandating that the ritual baths, or mikvahs, be open to Conservative and Reform conversions. Along with prohibiting that practice, the bill also may require that women immerse under the supervision of a mikvah attendant to ensure it is conducted according to Orthodox Jewish law.

Changes likely will be made to the bill before it is brought to the Knesset for its second and third readings.

In its current state, the bill even if it passed would likely be struck down by Israel’s Supreme Court.

Turkish ruling party official fired for tweet wishing Israeli deaths in Istanbul

(JTA)—The personal Twitter account of a spokesperson of a women’s association affiliated with Turkey’s ruling party featured a message wishing death to Israelis injured in a terrorist attack in Istanbul.

The account of Irem Aktas, head of the media department of the women’s branch of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, showed the message briefly on Saturday, after news emerged that at least three Israelis were killed and nine others wounded in a suicide attack on attack on Istanbul’s Istiklal Avenue on Saturday, in which at least five people were killed, the Turkish news site haberedevam.com reported. She was reportedly fired following that message.

AKP official tweets right after the #Istanbul attack. “ I wish that the wounded #Israeli tourists were dead.” pic.twitter.com/wjZ80pjJDv

—Aykan Erdemir (@aykan_erdemir) March 19, 2016

Her account was closed shortly thereafter, amid reports, including on haberedevam.com, that she had been fired.

The governor of Istanbul Province, Vasip Sahin, initially said four people had been killed in the attack, including the bomber, but the death toll rose under an hour later as another victim died of injuries in hospital.

Health officials said 36 people were injured in the attack in Istiklal Avenue, also known as Istiklal Street, including 12 foreign nationals.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that two Israelis had been killed and said it was possible there was a third Israeli fatality.

Speaking to the Israeli press after an emergency meeting, he said officials were investigating if Israelis had been targeted in the bombing, and said intelligence pointed to it being an Islamic State attack.

Turkey was recently hit by a series of attacks by Kurdish terrorists.

Israeli soldiers prevent 2 Palestinian stabbing attacks in West Bank

(JTA)—Israeli soldiers thwarted two planned stabbing attacks within minutes in the West Bank.

In an attempted attack last Friday afternoon, a Palestinian man tried to stab soldiers at the Etzion Junction in Gush Etzion, according to The Times of Israel. The soldiers shot and killed the assailant.

The second incident took place near the Shaar Binyamin industrial park east of Ramallah, when two Palestinian youths with knives were stopped by soldiers.

The two youths were arrested, and security forces searched the area for the vehicle that had dropped the two off at the scene.

Other terrorist attacks have occurred at both the Etzion Junction and Shaar Binyamin industrial park in recent months.

Additional attempted stabbings by Palestinian teens were thwarted earlier in the week in Jerusalem and at a junction south of Nablus.

Twenty-nine Israelis and four foreign nationals have been killed in the wave of Palestinian terrorism and violence that began in October. Almost 200 Palestinians have been killed, most of them while attacking Israelis, and the rest during clashes with troops, according to the Israeli army.

Palestinian alleged terrorist killed in West Bank incident

(JTA)—Israeli troops shot and killed a young Palestinian man they said was planning to stab Israelis near the Gush Etzion junction in the West Bank.

His name was not immediately released for publication; the Maan news agency reported last Friday. Earlier in the day, Israeli police reported that two Palestinian minors were detained near the entrance to the industrial zone of Shaare Binyamin northeast of Jerusalem for carrying knives.

Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said Israeli troops spotted two youths exiting a car with Palestinian plates in the area.

On March 17, Israeli forces detained nine Palestinians in a series of raids across the West Bank, in the villages of Silat al-Thahr near Jenin, Habla in the northern district of Qalqiliya and the al-Jalazun refugee camp in the central West Bank district of Ramallah.

The raids followed an attack the same day in the West Bank city of Ariel by two Palestinians who stabbed an Israeli soldier there, wounding her moderately. They were shot and killed by other soldiers, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Last month, the Shin Bet security agency recorded a total of 154 terror attacks committed in Israel and the West Bank by Palestinians against Israelis, the agency wrote in its monthly report.

Attacks in February resulted in the deaths of three victims and the wounding of 11—a decrease from the slaying of five victims and the wounding of 28 in January.

The casualties in February were the lowest monthly total recorded since July, when 103 attacks were observed.

Attacks began increasing in August, when 171 attacks were documented, and rose sharply in September and October, with 223 and 620 attacks recorded in those months respectively.

Cristiano Ronaldo meets with Palestinian boy who survived Duma torching

(JTA)—The Palestinian child whose brother and parents were killed in a July firebombing attack attributed to Israeli Jewish extremists met soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo in Madrid.

Ahmad Dawabshe, 5, arrived at the Real Madrid soccer club headquarters in Madrid on March 17 accompanied by his grandfather, where he met a number of players including his idol, the Maan news agency reported.

Ahmad was the sole survivor of a deadly arson on his family home in the northern West Bank village of Duma on July 30. He lost his parents, Saad and Riham, as well as his 18-month-old brother, Ali, and was only recently released from Israel’s Sheba Medical Center, where he underwent months of treatment.

Four Israelis are on trial for the arson.

Real Madrid posted a video on social media of the child meeting the team. In it, Ahmad Dawabshe, bearing scars on the right side of his upper face and the back of his head, is seen playing with several Real Madrid players, including the Portugal-born Ronaldo. He also visited the club’s hall of fame. Several players signed a ball which they gave him, and Ronaldo signed the back of a soccer shirt emblazoned with Ahmad’s name.

Several Israelis were arrested in late 2015 over the deadly arson attack on Ahmad’s family. In January, two Israelis, one of them a minor, were charged with three counts of murder and being an accessory to murder.

Left-wing group probed for quizzing Israeli soldiers on secrets

(JTA)—Israel’s defense minister ordered the opening of a criminal probe against members of a left-wing group whose head researcher questioned soldiers on classified security issues.

Moshe Yaalon ordered the probe March 17 following the airing by Channel 2 of footage in which activists from Breaking the Silence, a group whose mission is to expose alleged human rights violations and war crimes by Israeli troops, were seen interviewing soldiers on classified tactical and operational procedures that did not appear to be directly connected to the group’s stated mission. Ya’alon did not name the alleged violations he suspected had occurred.

Ron Zeidel, the chief investigator for Breaking the Silence, was filmed presenting the questions to soldiers just out of active duty.

Among the questions he asked were: “The mortar detachments are they positioned, like, inside the checkpoint compound?” and: “The company deployed there, are they, like, not a part of the security detail around the fence?” He also asked a soldier: “What were the missions in the sector?”

Referring to actions designed to prevent infiltration into Israel from the Gaza Strip by Hamas terrorists, he asked: “What kind of tunnel work do you mean?” and “Was it operational or experimental?”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said March 17 that “Breaking the Silence has crossed another line.”

But Breaking the Silence CEO Yuli Novak told Channel 2: “Our job is to collect information and publish it in accordance with the censor’s dictates.” Novak claimed the television report served “a number of organizations, which, along with lawmakers from Likud and Jewish Home, seek to silence anyone who criticizes the government and the occupation.”

In one talk, Zeidel seemed to allay an interviewee’s concerns over disclosing classified information. “The things we ask, it’s like for our own knowledge. It’s just, you know, for our professional knowledge and for... Things that sometimes have significance that’s a little hard to see, questions that may appear irrelevant,” he said.

Avi Dichter, a Likud lawmaker and former head of the Shin Bet security agency, said the footage “looked like information-gathering by the handlers of an agent” on the IDF’s capabilities, equipment, field security and ammunition. ”I didn’t hear a word about Palestinians or Gazans,” he said.

Despite terror threat, Jerusalem Marathon draws record participation

(JTA)—Despite an elevated risk of terrorist attacks, a record-setting 30,000 runners from 62 countries arrived at the starting line of the annual Jerusalem Marathon, including Mayor Nir Barkat.

The number of runners in the race last Friday was slightly higher than the previous record of 26,000 in 2015, despite the fact that it is taking place at a time of frequent terrorist attacks, Army Radio reported. Foreign participants numbered 2,400—a new record for the event, which is taking place for the sixth consecutive year.

Thousands of soldiers were deployed along the 26.2-mile route of the event to protect runners from possible attacks.

Flanked by a group of runners from Africa, Barkat, wearing the Jerusalem Marathon official orange T-shirt on the startline, told Army Radio that the city had not considered canceling the event because of the attacks.

Kpkosgei Shadrack, 25, from Kenya won the 2016 Jerusalem marathon in a time of 2:16:33—an improvement of nearly two minutes from the result of last year’s winner, Tadesse Yaee Dahbi of Ethiopia.

“Through the greatest of trials, Jerusalem does not cancel events,” said Barkat, 56, a jogging enthusiast and former officer in the Israel Defense Forces Paratroopers Brigade. “It’s part of our message. We will carry on as usual.”

More than a quarter of 155 terrorist attacks documented in February occurred in Jerusalem—more than any other city in Israel, according to official data from the Israel Security Agency, or Shin Bet.

Some 2,400 runners outside Israel registered for this year’s race, more than double the number last year and an all-time record both in terms of the number of countries represented and the number of foreign participants.

Countries represented include Uzbekistan, Argentina, Hong Kong, Austria, Singapore, Turkey, the United States and Switzerland. Sixty runners registered from China alone.

ADL redirecting $56,000 in Trump donations to anti-bias programs

(JTA)—The Anti-Defamation League has redirected $56,000 in donations from Donald Trump—his total contributions over the past decade—to fund new anti-bias and anti-bullying education programs.

The announcement in a statement released Sunday came a day before Trump, the front-runner in the Republican presidential race, is scheduled to address the largest gathering of American supporters of Israel at the AIPAC annual policy conference in Washington, D.C.

“These undoubtedly were sincere gifts,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL’s CEO. “But in light of the recent campaign, we have decided to redirect the total amount of funds that he contributed to ADL over the years specifically into anti-bias education programs that address exactly the kind of stereotyping and scapegoating that have been injected into this political season.”

ADL also called on other groups, philanthropies and nonprofits to consider redirecting charitable funds given to them by Trump into similar initiatives “to combat hate, promote tolerance, and build a stronger American community,” the statement said.

The Trump money will go to expand ADL’s national No Place for Hate initiative by enabling schools in 10 regions—New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Atlanta, Houston, Denver, San Diego, San Francisco, Arizona and Las Vegas—to increase their anti-bias and anti-bullying work.

“We are taking this step to demonstrate that, even as the campaign has surfaced ugly rhetoric, we can reach higher,” Greenblatt said. “Even as his campaign has mainstreamed intolerance, we can push back on the hate and evoke our better angels not just with words, but with deeds.”

Boycott stickers cropping up on Israeli products throughout Canada

TORONTO (JTA)—More stickers advising consumers not to purchase products made in Israel are popping up across Canada.

Facebook posts now show the stickers on Sabra hummus, Keter and SodaStream products, Glutino biscuits, dates and tangerines at grocers, and at hardware stores in Montreal, Winnipeg, Hamilton and Brampton, Ontario, and other towns in British Columbia.

“Warning!” the stickers state. “Do not buy this product. Made in Israel: A country violating international law, the 4th Geneva Convention, and fundamental human rights... #BDS.”

The labels are being distributed free by the Montreal-based Canadians for Justice & Peace in the Middle East, or CJPME, which launched the sticker campaign after the House of Commons voted last month to condemn the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, campaign against Israel.

“CJPME was specifically cited in the parliamentary motion targeting organizations supporting economic action against Israel, and CJPME has launched its new campaign in response,” the group said on its website.

In recent week, the stickers had been affixed to bottles of Israeli wine in Vancouver, British Columbia, and to grocery products in Calgary, Alberta.

Both affected companies removed the labels and vowed increased vigilance.

CJPME is urging activists to post Facebook pictures of the labels stuck on products.

The Jewish Defense League of Canada has written to the federal minister of public safety that “conspiring with other groups and persons to willfully damage business premises and impeding people from carrying on normal business ... must be stopped.”

Also, the JDL said it has brought the matter to the attention of the Canada Revenue Agency, as CJPME’s charitable arm, the CJPME Foundation, is registered as a federal charity that issues tax receipts for donations and lists the same address as the CJPME.

Brazilian, Israeli officials to honor 11 Israelis murdered in Munich at Rio Olympics

RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA)—Brazilian and Israeli officials will lead a ceremony at this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro honoring the 11 Israelis murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the Munich Olympics in 1972.

The Aug. 14 ceremony at the Rio City Hall will feature the widows of weightlifter Yossef Romano, who was kidnapped, castrated and murdered by the terrorists, and Andre Spitzer, a fencing coach, lighting 11 candles, according to the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper.

Officials from the Israeli Olympic Committee and the Israeli Consulate will lead the commemoration.

“As Brazilian, Jewish and Zionist, we are deeply moved by the International Olympic Committee initiative,” Israel’s honorary consul in Rio, Osias Wurman, told JTA. “The fact it will happen in Brazil is very remarkable to all Brazilian Jews.

“We must remind the world that killing Israeli Jews was not a practice restricted to Munich. Nowadays, the suicide terror once again stabs innocent Jews in the land of Israel.”

The IOC had already announced a special area in the Olympic Village in Rio to commemorate the memory of Olympians who have died, including the Israeli athletes and coaches. In addition, a “moment of reflection” in honor of all dead Olympians will be held during the closing ceremony.

“There will be no minute of silence at the opening ceremony,” read an IOC note, frustrating a longtime request of families. “We will dedicate a moment during the closure ceremony to allow everyone at the stadium and everyone watching at home to remember their loved ones that have passed away.”

Israel has 20 qualified athletes for the Rio games, to be held Aug. 5-21 in Rio de Janeiro. This is the 16th Olympic Games attended by the Israeli national team since 1948. To date, Israel has won seven Olympic medals, including one gold, one silver and five bronze.


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