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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Trump says he will try to broker Israeli-Palestinian peace deal

(JTA)—Saying he’d “never met a person from Israel that didn’t want to make that deal,” Donald Trump said if elected president he plans to try to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty.

“I am going to try and make that deal just because—man, would that be a beauty—if you like deals. I like deals,” the Republican presidential front-runner said at a rally Sunday in Terre Haute ahead of the Indiana primary on Tuesday, according to Jewish Insider.

“A lot of my Jewish friends say, ‘You will never be able to make the deal’ because there are so many years of hatred, especially on the other side,” Trump added. “You know, they [the Palestinians] grow up as young children hating, hating, hating Israel. I think the deal can be made. But we got to be smart, and we got to use our best people; gotta use me, but you got to use our best people. And I know the best people.”

In the speech, Trump also said the United States should use its clout as a major funder to demand that the United Nations do more to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Trump’s first foreign policy speech last week did not mention the Israeli-Palestinian conflict other than criticizing President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for being too critical of the Jewish state.

3 British city councilman suspended in one day for anti-Semitic posts

(JTA)—Three British city councilmen were suspended by the Labour Party on Monday for tweeting anti-Semitic comments.

Shah Hussain, a member of the Burnley Borough Council in Lancashire, was suspended hours after the two other lawmakers who had made anti-Israel statements on social media.

An investigation will be launched into tweets Hussain sent to the Israeli soccer player Yossi Benayoun in 2014, the Labour Party announced Monday evening.

One of the tweets, from July of that year during the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, read “you and your country doing the same thing that hitler did to ur race in ww2.” Another tweet, which uses the hashtag #FreePalestine, tells Benayoun: “Yossi, ur an idiot” and expresses sadness that a competing player “didn’t kick you hard enough in the head.”

Also Monday, Ilyas Aziz, a lawmaker in Nottingham in north-central England, was suspended hours after the Guido Fawkes British political watchdog website posted screenshots of his Facebook posts, including one from July 2014 calling for the relocation of Israeli Jews.

Other of Aziz’s posts shown on Guido Fawkes included one comparing Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to the Nazis’ treatment of Jews and another perpetuating the blood libel myth that reads “Stop drinking Gaza’s blood.” Another post shows an Israeli flag with the words “God didn’t give you the land—the UK did...c Illegally” superimposed on it.

The former mayor of Blackburn, also in Lancashire, Salim Mulla, was suspended less than an hour after his anti-Israel posts were outed, also by Guido Fawkes.

Mulla, whose Twitter profile said he was born in India, charged in an August 2015 Facebook post that Israel is behind ISIS. A month earlier he posted a conspiracy theory video blaming Israel for the Sandy Hook elementary school murders in Connecticut, adding his own comment that “He is talking facts.” A June 2015 post reads ”Zionist Jews are a disgrace to humanity.”

The suspensions come days after Labour suspended a British Parliament member, Naz Shah, for a 2014 Facebook post calling for relocating the entire State of Israel to the United States.

On Thursday, the party suspended former London Mayor Ken Livingstone for saying that Adolf Hitler was a Zionist for advocating in 1932 a policy of moving Europe’s Jews to Israel.

The following day, Labour said it would launch an investigation into anti-Semitism in the party. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn also said in a statement that he would propose a new party code of conduct that would “make explicitly clear for the first time that Labour will not tolerate any form of racism, including anti-Semitism, in the party.”

Corbyn, a harsh critic of Israel who has called Hezbollah and Hamas activists “friends,” has been criticized for not doing enough to curb the rising anti-Semitic rhetoric in his party.

Jewish tennis player from Argentina takes first ATP title in Turkey

BUENOS AIRES (JTA)—Jewish-Argentine player Diego Schwartzman won his first Association of Tennis Professionals tournament and reached the finals of the doubles event.

Schwartzman captured the men’s singles title at the TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Open in Turkey on Sunday, upsetting second-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (4), 6-0 in the finals. Schwartzman was unseeded.

He and partner Andres Molteni, also an Argentine, lost in the doubles final to Dudi Sela, an Israeli, and Italian Flavio Cipolla.

With his singles’ victory, Schwartzman rose in the ATP rankings from 78 to 62, making him the highest-ranked Jewish player. His success in Turkey also sent him over the $1 million mark in earnings.

In beating Dimitrov, Schwartzman won 11 of the last 12 games.

Would-be Miami synagogue bomber reportedly was Muslim convert, wanted to inspire other attacks

(JTA)—The South Florida man arrested for planning to bomb a Miami synagogue has been publicly identified and charged in federal court.

James Gonzalo Medina, 40, of Hollywood, appeared in court in Miami on Monday afternoon, several media outlets reported.

Medina, who according to court papers is a convert to Islam, was arrested on a charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction in an attempt to blow up the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center during Friday night services, the last night of Passover. The Conservative synagogue has about 800 member families and houses an early childhood center, according to its website.

Local 10 News reported that the criminal complaint also accuses Medina of planning to attack the synagogue on Yom Kippur. Medina told a confidential informant more than once that he planned to strike during Yom Kippur using AK-47 assault rifles, Local 10 said, citing the complaint. When the informant told Medina the attack might look as if it were orchestrated by the Islamic State, Medina expressed pleasure, believing it would “inspire other Muslims to attack as well.”

Asked by the FBI informant why he wanted to attack the synagogue, Medina said it was his “call of duty” and something he had to do “for the glory of Allah,” the complaint said, according to the Washington Post. Medina also told the informant he believed “Jewish people are the ones causing the world’s wars and conflicts.”

According to the Sun Sentinel, Medina tried to make a speech during his court appearance, but was stopped by U.S. Magistrate Judge William Turnoff after saying, “I’ve got a few words of my own... My name is James Medina, aka James Mohammed.”

Prosecutor Marc Anton told the judge that Medina talked about “obtaining a bomb he could either place under a car or throw it over the wall.”

After the undercover informant provided Medina with what he said was an explosive device, the FBI arrested Medina on his way to the synagogue. The device was not real, authorities said.

Medina is being detained at the Federal Detention Center in Miami and will remain there until at least Thursday, the day of his arraignment and bond hearing.

If convicted, Medina faces a maximum penalty of life in federal prison, according to the Sun Sentinel. He has not indicated whether he will plead innocent or guilty.

In a statement published in the Sun Sentinel, the synagogue said its leadership “has been briefed by law enforcement and Jewish community security officials” and been assured “that the synagogue and school were never at risk at any time during the investigation and arrest, and that there are no credible threats directed against us at the present time.”

The synagogue and an affiliated school were operating as normal Monday.

Medina has several prior arrests, including one for sending violent threats via text message. He said in court that he is out of work, divorced and has no significant assets. He was provided a court-appointed lawyer.

Anti-Semitic incidents drop in the Netherlands but rise in schools

AMSTERDAM (JTA)—A watchdog on anti-Semitism in the Netherlands recorded a 26 percent decrease in anti-Semitic incidents in 2015 over the previous year but noted a “worrisome trend” in the growing number of incidents involving schools.

The Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, or CIDI, recorded 126 incidents last year, compared to the 171 in 2014, according to its report published Monday. The 2014 number was the peak year for incidents.

Despite the decrease, the number of incidents in 2015 is the second highest since 2010, which had 124.

Last year, 36 incidents were in the victims’ direct environment, meaning those involving neighbors or acquaintances the victims knew as opposed to anonymous threats and abuse online, read the CIDI report. Five incidents involved physical violence against people and six were cases of vandalism.

The most common category of incident was insults shouted or spoken on the street, accounting for 19 percent of the total, or 24 incidents. There were 12 cases of online anti-Semitic harassment in the form of emails and electronic messages.

One case featuring violence was reported in Amsterdam by a non-Jewish woman of Moroccan descent who is married to a Moroccan Jew. Parents of her daughter’s classmates pressured and confronted her during school activities over her relationship with the Jewish man, she said. A father of her daughter’s classmate grabbed the woman by her throat after calling her a “Jew’s whore” and threatening to shoot her at a swimming pool, the report said.

CIDI did not press charges because the victim declined to cooperate.

Incidents involving schools were the highest recorded in a decade, with 16 cases. Noting a steady increase in that category over the past three years, CIDI director Hanna Luden called it “a worrisome trend” in a statement.

The report was published amid increased attention in recent days to the prospect of Jewish emigration from the Netherlands because of anti-Semitism. Dutch media interviewed some worried Jews following an anecdotal report by Ynet on the discomfort of some Dutch Jews in the Netherlands.

However, immigration to Israel from the Netherlands is low compared to neighboring Belgium and France.

In 2015, a total of 96 Dutch citizens made aliyah, the highest figure recorded in a decade but still less than 0.2 percent of the total Jewish population of the Netherlands, which is estimated at 50,000.

France provided Israel with nearly 8,000 immigrants in 2015, or 1.6 percent of that country’s Jewish community. Belgium, which has 40,000 Jews, saw 287 Jews leave for Israel last year.

David Blatt to interview with Sacramento Kings for head coaching job

(JTA)—David Blatt, the Israeli American who was fired this season as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, reportedly will interview with the Sacramento Kings for the same position.

The NBA team reportedly has interviewed several candidates with head coaching experience, ESPN reported Sunday in an article citing unnamed league sources who said Blatt would be interviewed early this week. The Kings recently fired George Karl after finishing 33-49 this season.

Blatt interviewed for the New York Knicks last month, though the team is said to be leaning toward interim coach Kurt Rambis, and also was considered by the Los Angeles Lakers before they hired Luke Walton last week.

Omri Casspi, the first Israeli to play in the NBA, is coming off a strong season with the Kings. Casspi also played for Maccabi Tel Aviv, which Blatt coached to the 2014 Euroleague championship.

At the time of his firing in January, Blatt said he wanted to remain in the NBA, as opposed to returning to coaching in Israel and the European leagues, where he led Maccabi Tel Aviv to five national titles and the Euroleague crown. He also guided the Russian national team to a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics.

At the time of his dismissal, the Cavaliers had the best record in the Eastern Conference. Some claimed the team’s superstar, LeBron James, undermined the coach. Blatt had led the Cavs to the 2015 NBA Finals, where they lost to the Golden State Warriors in six games.

Israeli found dead in Hungary was killed in robbery, prosecutor says

BUDAPEST (JTA)—The Israeli citizen found dead in Hungary was killed in a brutal robbery for his two mobile phones, laptop computer and cash, the Hungarian Prosecutor’s Office said Monday.

Ofir Gross, 40, who traveled to Hungary for vacation from his studies in biomedical engineering in Germany, was found dead on Saturday evening in the courtyard of a ruined countryside house in the small eastern Hungarian town of Tiszakécske, according to the prosecutor’s office, which said the murder was strictly about the robbery.

According to the prosecution, quoted by the Internet news website  24.hu, the two suspects, ages 21 and 19, are from nearby villages and were detained in order to prevent them from fleeing.  The older suspect reportedly was known as a drug user and recently was released from prison where he served time for robbery, according to the website.

Gross was killed on April 22, the prosecutor’s office determined, according to 24.hu. The alleged killers reportedly used bricks found in the courtyard of the neglected countryside house, then hid the body inside the home. Police found the body under rubbish.

The older suspect reportedly sold one of Gross’ cellphones and the laptop. The alleged killers also buried his other belongings, including a tent and knapsack.

Gross’ family arrived in Budapest on Sunday to identify the body.

Ohio Jewish leader cited by John Kasich for Holocaust memorial role dies at 68

(JTA)—Joyce Garver Keller, the longtime executive director of Ohio’s Jewish community relations council who helped establish a state Holocaust memorial, has died at 68.

On Monday morning, less than two weeks before she was scheduled to be honored at a Jewish Council for Public Affairs event in Cleveland, Keller died at her home in suburban Columbus. No cause of death was reported.

According to the Cleveland Jewish News, Keller served 25 years at Ohio Jewish Communities, which represents the state’s Jewish federations and their partner agencies in Washington and Ohio’s state capital, retiring last June.

Keller also worked behind the scenes to bring the Ohio Holocaust and Liberators Memorial at the Ohio Statehouse to fruition. Designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, the $2.1 million memorial was unveiled in June 2014.

Keller raised private donations for the memorial and helped advance the project, the Columbus Dispatch reported.

In a statement provided to the Dispatch, Ohio Gov. John Kasich called Keller’s death “a deep personal loss for me and for so many others in Ohio who valued her friendship and have long admired her leadership.”

“I will forever be grateful for her essential role in helping make the Ohio Holocaust and Liberators Memorial a reality,” said Kasich, a Republican presidential candidate. “Her dedication to the Jewish community, as well as her understanding of the importance of leading lives of commitment to values larger than ourselves, is a model for us all.”

Mitchell Levine, Keller’s rabbi at Congregation Agudas Achim in Columbus, told the Cleveland Jewish News that Keller “had a lot of spirit and a lot of energy, so it’s a huge shock, and her loss will be felt in virtually every corner of Ohio.”

Howie Beigelman, Keller’s successor at Ohio Jewish Communities, told the Jewish News: “She was a mentor to so many people in and out of Ohio in the community advocacy field, and a guide to so many public officials in understanding our community and working with our community. Everything we do each day is based on the foundation she laid.”

Keller is survived by her husband, Steven, a son and three grandchildren.

JDC, HUC announce global Jewish leadership fellowship

(JTA)—JDC Entwine—the initiative for young adults of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion—has established a Jewish leadership fellowship.

The Weitzman-JDC Fellowship for Global Jewish Leaders was announced on Monday.

The graduate fellowship was founded by Jane Weitzman, a JDC board member, and her husband, shoe designer Stuart Weitzman, to provide HUC-JIR rabbinic, cantorial and Jewish education students expertise in Jewish needs around the world and in Israel, according to the announcement.

“While all major U.S. universities today have top graduate programs developing the next generation of leaders to face the challenges of our changing world, there is a desperate need in the North American Jewish community to immerse our up-and-coming leaders in issues confronting Jews internationally,” Jane Weitzman, a board member of JTA’s parent organization, 70 Faces Media, said in a statement.

Over the next five years, the Weitzman-JDC Fellowship at HUC-JIR will train 15 fellows, giving them a deeper understanding of global Jewish issues that they can bring to their congregations, classrooms and communities across North America. As part of the program, the fellows will travel to some of the 70 countries that JDC provides services.

Weitzman-JDC Fellows will work from a special curriculum developed with HUC-JIR to foster the concept of global Jewish responsibility and activism on Jewish issues among their congregants, students and the wider North American Jewish community, the statement said.

Father of Palestinian siblings shot during alleged attack calls for release of video

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel Police have declined to release a video showing an attempted stabbing attack at a Jerusalem-area checkpoint in the wake of an investigation that shows civilian security guards, not Border Police officers, killed the alleged attackers—a brother and sister.

Maram Salih Hassan Abu Ismail, 23, and Ibrahim Saleh Taha, 16, were shot dead at the Qalandiya crossing north of Jerusalem on April 27 after Ismail allegedly threw a knife at the guards. A second knife was found on her brother. Ismail, the mother of two, was pregnant, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported.

The police said they cannot release the footage because it is part of an ongoing investigation, according to reports.

The Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department announced Sunday that an inquiry determined that the siblings were killed by the civilian guards. Private guards are often stationed at the major crossings between Israel and Palestinian areas to boost security.

The siblings’ father, Salah Abu Ismail, 61, called for the release of the security camera footage, saying it would show his children were not carrying knives and police later planted them on their bodies.

Israel Police released photos of the two knives and a switchblade found on the boy last week following the incident.

Police said the two acted suspiciously and hid their hands as they walked toward the guards in the car lane, which is off-limits to pedestrians. The two ignored shouted orders to stop, according to police, and when they neared the guards, Ismail hurled her knife at one of the police officers, who was not injured. Police and security guards then opened fire on the siblings, killing them, police said.

Salah Ismail told the English-language news website The Times of Israel that his children were not carrying knives and did not intend to attack security personnel. He said his daughter had headed in the wrong direction when she arrived at the checkpoint, leading her and brother, who tried to steer her in the right direction, to be shot and killed.

The siblings did not understand what the security forces were shouting at them in Hebrew when they called on them to stop, Palestinian bystanders told reporters.

Israel has not yet released the bodies of the siblings to the family for burial.


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