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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Bernie Sanders wins Wyoming, reiterates Israel’s ‘disproportionate’ response in Gaza war

(JTA)—The day after his victory in the Wyoming Democratic caucus, Bernie Sanders doubled down on his assertion that Israel’s response in the 2014 Gaza war was “disproportionate.”

“Was Israel’s response disproportionate? I think it was,” Sanders, an Independent senator from Vermont, told CNN’s Jake Tapper in an interview that aired Sunday on “State of the Union.”

The Democratic presidential candidate complained that public figures were focusing on his initial response in a New York Daily News interview that 10,000 “innocent people” were killed in the Gaza conflict, noting he said he did not know the exact number. He later accepted the total presented by a Daily News editor—that 2,104 Palestinians were killed, including 1,462 civilians. Israel has estimated a lower number of civilians were killed in the war.

He lashed out when informed of the criticism by Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, who called the Sanders statement a “blood libel.”

“He’s attacking me for a statement I did not make,” Sanders asserted. The candidate had to ask who Oren is. Oren recently authored a well-publicized book, “Ally,” on the U.S.-Israel relationship based on his years in the ambassadorship.

Tapper called it “interesting... that the first Jew in American history to win a delegate, much less a primary, is taking this position with Israel... (Y)ou are taking a more critical position.”

Sanders corrected Tapper, saying he is taking “a more balanced position.”

“Whether you’re Jewish or not Jewish, I would hope that every person in this country wants to see the misery of never-ending war and conflict ended in the Middle East. It’s a difficult issue and good people have tried to deal with it for years,” Sanders said.

He added: “Of course we are going to support Israel, but you cannot ignore the needs of the Palestinian people in Gaza right now: poverty, unemployment, their community has been decimated. You can’t ignore that fact. And you can’t just be only concerned about Israel’s needs. You have to be concerned about the needs of all of the people of the region.”

On the same program, Hillary Clinton, who said she expects to be the Democratic Party nominee for president, criticized her party rival for his comments on Israel’s response to rocket fire from Gaza.

Clinton told Tapper that she support’s “Israel’s right to self-defense” and said she learned in negotiating the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in 2012 that “Hamas provokes Israel.” She also said that because Hamas bases itself in civilian areas, it is a “difficult undertaking for Israel to target” fighters.

“When you are being attacked with rockets raining down on your people and your soldiers are under attack, you have to respond,” Clinton said.

On Saturday, Sanders won the Wyoming Democratic caucuses with nearly 56 percent of the vote, though he and Clinton will divide the state’s 14 delegates. Sanders has won eight of the last nine state votes.

Also Saturday, Republican candidate Ted Cruz won all the Colorado delegates at the state’s Republican convention.

Bernie Sanders’ expression of Jewish pride wins cheers in Harlem

(JTA)—Bernie Sanders at a Harlem rally said he was proud to be Jewish in response to an anti-Semitic claim.

Sanders, the Independent senator from Vermont running for the Democratic presidential nomination, won applause with his answer Saturday at the historic Apollo Theater in the Manhattan neighborhood. The rally featured African-American celebrities and politicians who back his campaign.

A man asked Sanders, the first Jewish candidate to win major party nominating contests, about his Jewish identification and the time he spent in Israel in the 1960s, then expounded on theories of Jewish financial control.

“As you know, the Zionist Jews,” the man said, to rising cries of protest from the crowd, “they run the Federal Reserve, they run Wall Street.” Asked by a moderator to pose a question, the man said: “What is your affiliation to the Jewish community?”

“That’s not what you’re asking,” Sanders retorted. “I am proud to be Jewish.”

The audience erupted into applause.

Sanders has endeavored to peel away minority support from Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state who is the Democratic front-runner.

“I am a strong defender of Israel, but I also believe that we have got to pay attention to the needs of the Palestinian people,” he said, to another extended round of applause.

“There are wonderful people and I have met them on both sides of that issue and there are bad people on both sides of that issue,” Sanders said. “And if we are going to bring peace, hopefully, God willing, in the Middle East, we’re going to have to treat both sides with respect and equality.”

The man continued to shout protests, and the crowd drowned him out, shouting “Bernie!”

Ted Cruz acknowledges social issues gap with GOP Jews, stresses Israel support

LAS VEGAS (JTA)—Ted Cruz appealed to Republican Jews to back him for his outspoken support of Israel while acknowledging differences with the constituency on social issues and immigration.

“I recognize that is a question that many people here wrestle with,” Cruz said Saturday at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s leadership meeting, which gathers annually in Las Vegas, after one of the attendees earned applause for saying Cruz’s attitudes on abortion and gay marriage were unpopular with Jewish Republicans.

But Cruz, the Texas senator running for the Republican presidential nod, said he would not abandon his social conservatism.

“No Republican has ever won without campaigning and running as a fiscal conservative, a national security conservative and a social conservative,” he said.

Cruz was the only one of the three remaining presidential candidates to attend the RJC confab, and held separate private meetings with donors over the weekend. He is seeking Jewish support in his bid to keep front-runner Donald Trump from accruing enough delegates to win on the first round of voting at the convention. Cruz believes he can win a second round of voting.

Republican Jewish fund-raisers and activists have for the most part been skeptical of Trump and Cruz. However, all but one of the candidates they favored have fallen away. The one remaining, John Kasich, the Ohio governor, is not seen as able to win the nomination.

“We started this race with 17 candidates,” Cruz said. “Many of you started with somebody else; that’s a perfectly natural, reasonable thing to do.”

Cruz sought to assuage concerns about his social conservatism by saying he believed issues like gay marriage and abortion should in any case devolve to the states. He suggested he would not seek to impose his views as a president.

“Federalism answers a great many issues, it allows for a diversity of views,” he said.

“Nobody wants to elect a hectoring scold. I am not here to be pastor in chief but a commander in chief.”

The hard line on illegal immigration control by Cruz and Trump has also stoked concerns among establishment Republicans, particularly in the business community. Wealthier Republicans needed to acknowledge the strong feelings stroked by the issue among blue-collar voters who believe they are losing jobs to undocumented immigrants, Cruz said.

“You want to understand the rage,” Cruz said. “That frustration, that anger—median income has not changed in 20 years” for the working class, he said. “I suspect there are not many people in this room who are making today what we made 20 years ago.”

Cruz captivated the crowd with his impassioned excoriations of Obama administration policy on the Middle East, and said Democratic candidates would likely continue President Barack Obama’s policies.

“For seven years we’ve had a president who abandons and alienates our friends, and who shows weakness and appeasement to our enemies,” he said.

Obama, who has acknowledged deep differences with Israel’s leadership on Israeli-Palestinian peace and on how best to keep Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, has also touted the increase on his watch in security assistance and cooperation with Israel.

Cruz reminded the crowd that Trump had said he would remain neutral on the Israeli-Palestinian situation, which drew boos. Trump in recent weeks has said he would favor Israel in such talks.

He drew his longest applause when he said he would on his first day launch the process to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Bernie Sanders campaign rolls out Spike Lee TV ad

(JTA)—Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign has debuted a television ad produced by award-winning African-American filmmaker Spike Lee that features support from people of color.

Lee, who was born in the same Brooklyn, New York, neighborhood as the Democratic candidate, has been a longtime supporter of Sanders, an Independent senator from Vermont. The ad was released Saturday ahead of the April 19 New York primary.

Sanders’ rival for the nomination, Hillary Clinton, has been attracting the lion’s share of African-American support among Democratic voters.

“People of color have a deeply vested interest in what Bernie Sanders brings to us in this election,” the singer Harry Belafonte, a civil rights movement activist, says in the opening of the 30-second spot.

“People like Michael Brown, Sandra Bland and my father Eric Garner,” says Erica Garner, whose father died in 2014 after being put in a chokehold by a New York City police officer.

Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King says, “They’re not just hashtags and trending topics. But these are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters.”

Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, says of the candidate: “Bernie Sanders sees all of me. He sees all of you. He sees us a whole people, as a whole country. That’s why I’m voting for Bernie Sanders.”

Sanders appeared Saturday at Harlem’s historic Apollo Theater at an event featuring African-American celebrities and politicians who back his campaign.

Austrian government writing law to seize Hitler’s birthplace

(JTA)—The Austrian government reportedly is drafting a law that would transfer ownership of Adolf Hitler’s birthplace to the state.

The owner of the home in Braunau has refused for at least the last five years to sell the property to the Austrian government, which is working to prevent the site in the German border town from becoming a shrine to the neo-Nazi community.

“We are currently examining the creation of a law, which would force a change of ownership and pass the property to the Republic of Austria,” Interior Ministry spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundboeck told the French news agency AFP last week.

“We have come to the conclusion over the past few years that expropriation is the only way to avoid the building being used for the purposes of Nazi” sympathizers, he said.

Braunau resident Gerlinde Pommer’s family has owned the house where Hitler was born on April 20, 1889, for more than a century. The town has tried for decades to purchase the building.

The ministry had rented the home for decades and sublet it to charitable organizations. The house, which draws neo-Nazi visitors, especially on the anniversary of Hitler’s birthday, has stood empty for approximately five years after the owner refused to authorize needed renovations.

The building is listed as a historical landmark and cannot be razed. Hitler’s name does not appear anywhere near the home.

A stone outside the home is inscribed with the words:  “Never again Fascism. In memory of millions of dead. For Peace, Freedom and Democracy.”

AIPAC opposes further sanctions relief for Iran

WASHINGTON (JTA)—The American Israel Public Affairs Committee opposes further sanctions relief for Iran, citing its ballistic missile tests and its continued backing for sides fighting in the region.

“If Iran wants additional sanctions relief, it must first change its behavior,” the prominent Israel lobby said in an April 7 statement, which was accompanied by statements from members of Congress from both parties opposing additional sanctions relief.

U.S. administration officials reportedly have considered allowing Iran to engage in offshore dollar trading, which would alleviate sanctions on dealing with the United States that remain in place after the Iran nuclear deal.

President Barack Obama, however, said last week that allowing Iran access to dollars is not necessary. Instead, he has said, U.S. officials will endeavor to make it clear to third parties that a range of transactions are now permissible under the Iran nuclear deal.

The Obama administration is concerned that Iranians have yet to feel the effect of the removal of U.S. sanctions, which could reinforce hard-liners in the regime who opposed the sanctions relief for the nuclear rollback deal reached last year between Iran and six major world powers.

AIPAC, joined by some lawmakers from both parties, say that while Iran has observed the letter of the agreement, it has flouted its spirit by testing ballistic missiles, which violates U.N. Security Council resolutions, and by continuing its backing for insurgencies and counterinsurgencies in the region, as well as terrorist groups that target Israel.

In a rare move last week, the lobby blasted as “weak” the sanctions imposed on Iran by the Obama administration in the wake of the missile tests.

Lawyers who named Alan Dershowitz in sex case say it was a ‘mistake’

(JTA)—Lawyers who named Alan Dershowitz in a filing naming men alleged to have had sex with underage girls now say it was a mistake.

The joint statement last Friday by Dershowitz, Bradley Edwards and Paul Cassell say the sides have dropped dueling lawsuits arising from the case.

“Edwards and Cassell acknowledge that it was a mistake to have filed sexual misconduct accusations against Dershowitz; and the sexual misconduct accusations made in all public filings (including all exhibits) are hereby withdrawn,” said the statement released by Jeffrey Streitfeld, who was appointed by a Florida court to mediate the case.

The claim arose in a 2014 filing by Edwards and Cassell that questioned the validity of a 2008 deal that allowed Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire, to serve about a year in prison under favorable conditions for soliciting a minor for prostitution.

Dershowitz, who as Epstein’s lawyer helped negotiate the deal, was named as one of several men, including Britain’s Prince Andrew, who also had sex with the women procured by Epstein. Dershowitz, a famed constitutional lawyer, retired Harvard law professor and a prominent Israel defender, denied the claim, as did Andrew.

Dershowitz said Edwards and Cassell had not performed due diligence in filing the claim and said they should be disbarred. They sued him for defamation; Dershowitz countersued.

Dershowitz was able to produce records showing he could not have been present when the claimed sex took place.

“Edwards and Cassell maintain that they filed their client’s allegations in good faith and performed the necessary due diligence to do so, and have produced documents detailing those efforts,” the statement said. “Dershowitz completely denies any such misconduct, while not disputing” his accuser’s “statements that the underlying alleged misconduct may have occurred with someone else.”

Dershowitz in a separate statement said he was “pleased” that the litigation was over and was “gratified” by the statement.

The New York Daily News reported that Dershowitz also released a statement from former FBI director Louis Freeh who separately investigated the allegations and said the “totality of the evidence” refutes the claims.

The Daily News also quoted separate lawyers for the accuser as saying that she stands by her allegations.

Heckling, booing at Boston-area meeting on anti-Semitism and racism

(JTA)—A meeting called by the mayor of a Boston suburb to discuss prejudice, including anti-Semitism and racism, degenerated into name calling and accusations.

Newton Mayor Setti Warren said he called the April 7 meeting in the wake of several anti-Semitic and racist incidents in the community, especially in the local schools.

Many who attended the forum wanted to keep the focus directed on anti-Semitism, including a woman who held a sign reading “It’s not prejudice, it’s anti-Semitism,” the Boston Globe reported.

Three incidents of anti-Semitic graffiti were reported at predominantly Jewish Newton North High in the days after fans of an opposing Catholic school basketball team shouted anti-Semitic chants during a championship game. And a Newton middle school was the target of at least three incidents of anti-Semitic graffiti since October, including one in March.

At one point in the meeting, Jewish activists heckled an African-American woman who spoke of her son being called a vulgar racist slur at school, according to the newspaper. Also, the superintendent of schools was booed and needed a police escort to his car.

Warren, who is African-American, said that in addition to the anti-Semitic incidents, there have also been racist issues on campus. He noted an incident in which racist questions were emailed to a black student group at Newton North High.

“I was chilled, and just as angry as when I heard about the anti-Semitism,” Warren told those attending the meeting.

Warren called on the crowd to show respect and try to understand their neighbor’s perspective.

In a letter sent to the community following the meeting Warren, who called the community meeting “difficult, but essential,” announced continuing steps to halt the problem, including hiring a civil rights attorney to work with teachers and students to address issues of prejudice and discrimination, and tracking the progress made by the community .

“It will take work on the part of all of us to maintain Newton’s tradition as a welcoming, inclusive community,” Warren wrote. “It is not enough to acknowledge the groundbreaking work that came before us. Each community and each generation must keep up these efforts.”

Labour Muslim lawmaker in Britain suspended for praising Hitler, other anti-Semitic tweets

(JTA)—Britain’s Labour Party has suspended a municipal lawmaker over anti-Semitic tweets written before she was elected, including one praising Adolf Hitler as the “greatest man in history.”

Aysegul Gurbuz, 20, a councillor in Luton, located about 30 miles northwest of London, denied that she had written the tweets, saying her sister had posted them on their joint Twitter account, the Daily Mail reported last week.

The Labour Party said Gurbuz, who is Muslim, would be suspended pending an investigation. She was elected in May, becoming the youngest lawmaker in her district’s history.

Along with the lauding of Hitler, other tweets posted between 2011 and 2014 said Gurbuz hoped Israel would be wiped out by an Iranian nuclear bomb and “The Jews are so powerful in the US it’s disgusting.” Another read: “Ed Miliband is Jewish. He will never become prime minister of Britain.” Miliband is a former foreign minister of Britain.

The account has been deleted.

Labour has seen a string of scandals involving alleged anti-Semitism, leading to the suspension of at least one party activist.

Elder care bill in Congress includes directive to assist Holocaust survivors

WASHINGTON (JTA)—A new provision in the bill funding assistance for the elderly directs the federal government to issue guidance to states on serving Holocaust survivors.

The Jewish Federations of North America lobbied for the inclusion of the provision in the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, which was first approved in 1965.

In a statement on April 7, the day the Senate reauthorized the act after the U.S. House of Representatives had already done so, the JFNA praised Congress for the vote and for including the Holocaust survivor provision.

“With more than 1 in 5 Jewish Americans over 65 years old, Federations have been a steadfast supporter of the OAA, which helps enhance vital services at Federation-affiliated agencies,” said William Daroff, the director of JFNA’s Washington office, in the statement.

Federations draw on funding provided through the act for day care and transportation for the elderly and kosher meals on wheels, among other services.

“We are also thrilled about the new provision that will ensure the comfort and security of Holocaust survivors, and look forward to working on its implementation with the Administration for Community Living,” Daroff said.

The act directs the assistant secretary for the aging “to issue guidance to states on serving and conducting outreach to this vulnerable population,” the JFNA said.

Last month, the JFNA distributed the first funds to assist Holocaust survivors made available under a separate federal government program.

Of more than 100,000 survivors in the United States, the JFNA estimates that one in four is 85 or older and that the same number live in poverty.


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