Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Netanyahu investigation has been launched, Israel’s attorney general confirms

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel’s attorney general has confirmed that he has ordered an investigation into accusations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in what the Israeli media is reporting as a money-laundering probe.

Avichai Mandelblit stressed to the media that the investigation opened late Sunday is initial and not a criminal investigation, according to reports.

The attorney general reportedly discussed the accusations with the police intelligence unit, the state attorney and the Justice Ministry.

“Following information received in matters pertaining among other things to the prime minister, and which has been presented to the attorney general by the police’s investigations and intelligence department, the attorney general has conducted a number of discussions attended by the state prosecutor and other senior officials in the Justice Ministry and the police’s investigations and intelligence department,” said a statement issued by Mandelblit’s office. “Upon their conclusion, the attorney general has decided to instruct that an examination of the matter be opened.

Many media reports on the probe published in recent days have been “inaccurate, to say the least,” the statement added.

The allegations have not been made public, although the reports say that it is a money-laundering probe separate from previous cases against Netanyahu.

Netanyahu’s office denied the allegations.

“As with all the previous instances, when allegations were made against the prime minister that turned out to be baseless, nothing will come of this—because there’s nothing there,” the Israeli media quoted a Netanyahu spokesman as saying.

Egypt’s foreign minister visiting Israel, first time in a decade

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The foreign minister of Egypt is in Israel to discuss his country’s recommendations for peace between Israel and the Palestinians with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Sunday’s visit by Sameh Shoukry is the first by an Egyptian foreign minister since 2007, according to Netanyahu.

Speaking at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu said the visit “teaches about the change that has come over Israel-Egypt relations, including President [Abdel Fattah] el-Sissi’s important call to advance the peace process with both the Palestinians and Arab countries.”

“The Egyptian foreign minister is coming on behalf of the president of Egypt; we welcome him.”

Shoukry, who has been foreign minister for two years, visited Ramallah for the first time two weeks ago to talk about Egypt’s peace plans with Palestinian leaders, Haaretz reported.

Netanyahu and Shoukry are scheduled to meet in the afternoon and evening.

They also reportedly will discuss coordination between their two countries over the search for wreckage of the EgyptAir flight that crashed in May after some was recovered off the coast of Netanya on Thursday. The flight from Paris to Cairo crashed into the Mediterranean Sea, killing the 66 passengers and crew on board.

Mother of slain Israeli girl asks permission to hold memorial on Temple Mount

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The mother of Hallel Yaffa Ariel, the 13-year-old Jewish girl killed in her bed by a Palestinian teenage attacker, requested permission to have a memorial ceremony on the Temple Mount.

Rina Ariel in a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked to bring 250 people to the Temple Mount, which is holy to both Jews and Muslims and the source of much tension over the years. The group that would ascend to the Temple Mount on Tuesday would include the Ariel family and a group of friends and supporters, Ynet reported.

“We and Hallel have always felt a deep connection to the Temple Mount. We visited it and will continue to do so, as we believe that it is the house of God, and that it gives strength and life to each and every house in Israel,” Rina Ariel wrote to Netanyahu late last week, Ynet reported. “And as it is only from there that all deficits can be filled, it is only from there that we will receive any sense of solace. For this reason we are asking to perform the mitzvah of visiting the Temple Mount and praying there for the ascent of Hallel’s soul this coming Tuesday, with 250 people who have pledged to join and comfort us. It is very important to me that the event be coordinated with the police and not carried out in any manner of confrontation.”

“Just recently, 200,000 Muslims performed a mass prayer at the site. Would a Jewish group comprised of a tenth of that number not be allowed to convene there for a single hour?”

Jews can only ascend the mount during limited visiting hours and are forbidden from doing anything resembling worship such as kneeling, singing, dancing or rending their clothes.

The Jerusalem District’s police chief, Yoram Halevi, met last week with the family to organize the visit but requested the prime minister’s final approval, according to Ynet.

Hallel was stabbed to death on the morning of June 30 as she slept in her bed in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba by a 17-year-old assailant from a nearby Palestinian village. Civilian guards shot and killed the attacker.

Israeli man shot in West Bank while in car with wife, 6 kids

JERUSALEM (JTA)—An Israeli man was injured when his car was hit by multiple gun shots in the West Bank on Saturday evening.

Eitan Finkel, 30, of the southern Israeli city of Netivot, was driving with his wife and six children when his vehicle was hit near the Tekoa settlement, the Israel Defense Forces told the Israeli media. Finkel continued driving to the Efrat settlement, where he was taken by ambulance to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Speaking from the hospital, Finkel told the Hamodia newspaper that he was surprised when a gunman “standing right across from us” did not shoot.

“It was a tremendous miracle. Only after we turned did he open fire on our car,” he said. “I managed to come out alive, and my wife screamed, ‘Drive, drive, hit the gas.’

“I asked my wife right away how the children are. I kept driving for another 10 minutes, until I saw an army jeep and stopped. During the whole drive I didn’t feel my leg, or that my shoe was filled with blood. My wife jumped out of the car and called the soldiers over, and from there I was evacuated to the hospital.”

The family had been heading home after visiting the settlement of Metzad, The Times of Israel reported.

On Sunday, two West Bank Palestinian villages remained under a military closure as Israeli troops searched for the shooters.

Philistine cemetery found in southern Israel is historic discovery

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Archaeologists in southern Israel have uncovered a Philistine cemetery, making an unprecedented discovery.

The discovery following 30 years of work in the Ashkelon National Park by the Leon Levy Expedition was announced Sunday.

The cemetery dates to the 11th to 8th centuries BCE. The findings may support the claim, inferred from the Bible, that the Philistines were migrants to ancient Israel.

Artifacts uncovered at the site, including ceramics, jewelry and weapons, as well as the bones themselves, hold the promise of being able to connect the Philistines to related populations across the Mediterranean.

Excavation there, particularly in areas where the burials were undisturbed, allows archaeologists and scholars to begin constructing a picture of the typical goods buried with the Philistines. Small decorated jugs filled with what is assumed to have been perfumed oil, storage jars and small bowls make up the bulk of the goods. A few individuals were found wearing bracelets and earrings, and some were accompanied by their weapons, but the majority were not buried with personal items.

The Philistines buried their dead primarily in pits that were excavated for each individual: male or female, adult or child. Later, additional individuals were sometimes placed in the same pit, which was dug again along roughly the same lines, but the new individuals were interred with their own grave goods. Cremations, pit interments and multi-chambered tombs were also found in the cemetery.

The Leon Levy Expedition, led by Lawrence Stager of Harvard University, has been conducting large-scale excavations in what was ancient Ashkelon since 1985 with the support of Leon Levy and Shelby White of New York. This summer is its final excavation season.

The expedition is organized and sponsored by the Leon Levy Foundation, the Semitic Museum at Harvard University, Boston College, Wheaton College and Troy University.

Iranian commander: Missiles ready for the ‘annihilation’ of Israel

(JTA)—The deputy commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard said the country has over 100,000 missiles in Lebanon alone readied for the “annihilation” of Israel.

Speaking before last Friday prayers on Iran’s state-run IRIB TV, Hossein Salami also said that Iran has “tens of thousands” of additional missiles that are ready to wipe the “accursed black dot” of Israel off the map, according to a translation from the Farsi by the Middle East Media Research Institute, or MEMRI.

Salami is deputy head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is under the command of the country’s supreme leader.

“Today, more than ever, there is fertile ground—with the grace of God—for the annihilation, the wiping out and the collapse of the Zionist regime,” Salami said, according to the MEMRI translation. “In Lebanon alone, over 100,000 missiles are ready to be launched. If there is a will, if it serves [our] interests, and if the Zionist regime repeats its past mistakes due to its miscalculations, these missiles will pierce through space, and will strike at the heart of the Zionist regime. They will prepare the ground for its great collapse in the new era.”

He also boasted that “tens of thousands of other high-precision, long-range missiles, with the necessary destructive capabilities, have been placed in various places throughout the Islamic world.”

“They are just waiting for the command, so that when the trigger is pulled, the accursed black dot will be wiped off the geopolitical map of the world, once and for all,” he said, referring to Israel.

Salami’s remarks came as Germany’s foreign ministry said it is closely watching Iran’s attempts to procure nuclear and missile technology, The Associated Press reported.

German intelligence agencies reported dozens of such attempts last year, according to AP. A separate report by a German domestic intelligence agency said that counter-espionage officials had spotted 141 procurements attempts in one German state in the last year.

Martin Schaefer, a spokesman for Germany’s Foreign Ministry, said that Germany and its partners would work to enforce the agreement signed in Vienna last July meant to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

“We are already talking to our partners in New York and elsewhere, and we won’t hesitate to discuss this with Tehran,” he said.

Israel ‘occupation’ amendment rejected by Democratic platform drafters

(JTA)—The committee drawing up the Democratic Party’s platform rejected an amendment that would have called for an end to Israel’s “occupation and illegal settlements,” with members pledged to presumptive presidential nominee Hillary Clinton reportedly leading the opposition.

The Clinton backers said adding such language to the party’s call for a two-state solution would inflame tensions and hurt future U.S. efforts in peace talks.

Following the 95-73 vote on Saturday by the Democratic National Committee’s platform drafters, supporters of Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s rival for the nomination, reportedly jeered and chanted “Free, free Palestine,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

Prominent scholar Cornel West, a Sanders appointee to the Platform Committee and a proponent of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, spoke in favor of the amendment, saying Democrats should show “double love.”

“We ought to have a love for our precious Jewish brothers and sisters and a love for Palestinians,” he told the 187-member committee on Saturday in Orlando, Florida.

The platform draft dated July 1 said of Israel: “A strong and secure Israel is vital to the United States because we share overarching strategic interests and the common values of democracy, equality, tolerance, and pluralism. That is why we will always support Israel’s right to defend itself, including by retaining its qualitative military edge, and oppose any effort to delegitimize Israel, including at the United Nations or through the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement.

“We will continue to work toward a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiated directly by the parties that guarantees Israel’s future as a secure and democratic Jewish state with recognized borders and provides the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity. While Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations, it should remain the capital of Israel, an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths. Israelis deserve security, recognition, and a normal life free from terror and incitement. Palestinians should be free to govern themselves in their own viable state, in peace and dignity.”

For months Sanders, the first Jewish candidate to win a major party nominating state vote, has sought to elevate the issue of Palestinian rights in the platform.

Clinton has secured enough delegates to win in the first round of voting for the nomination at the convention in Philadelphia July 25-28. Sanders was given five spots on the platform drafting committee—unusual for a losing candidate—a reflection of the strength of his campaign.

Oldest American, Goldie Michelson, dies at 113—a month away from birthday

(JTA)—The oldest American, Goldie Michelson of Worcester, Massachusetts, has died at the age of 113 and 11 months.

Michelson, the daughter of Russian Jewish parents who immigrated with her family to Worcester when she was 2, died at home last Friday.

Born in 1902, she lived for 113 years and 335 days—nearly all of it in Worcester—and her age was a source of pride, the Boston Globe reported. Michelson credited her longevity to walking.

Michelson (nee Corash) was named the oldest living American in May.

She graduated from Pembroke College, which later became the Women’s College of Brown University, and received a master’s degree in sociology from Clark University in Worcester. Her thesis at Clark was titled “A Citizenship Survey of Worcester Jewry” and examined why many of the city’s older Jewish-immigrant residents did not pursue American citizenship or learn English.

She told the Worcester Telegram in 2012 that her thesis was inspired by her time working with Jewish women’s organizations such as Hadassah and the National Council of Jewish Women.

After the borders of the Soviet Union opened up for Jews in 1989, a new wave of Jewish immigrants came to Worcester. Michelson was among the volunteers to help them settle in and accustom themselves to American society.

Michelson was also active in community groups, including one that supported the founding of Brandeis University.

After graduating from college, she was a social worker in Worcester, and went on to teach religious education and direct plays at a local synagogue. She married David Michelson, a friend of her brother.

Michelson acted and directed nearly all her life—she directed a pageant performance of “Fiddler on the Roof” when she was nearly 100.

Her husband, a businessman who developed medical office buildings, died in 1974.

After his death, Michelson endowed the Michelson Theater and the David and Goldie Michelson Drama Fund at Clark University.

“It never occurred to me that I would live this long,” Michelson told Clark University’s magazine in 2012. “I just went on and on, and I’ve loved it.”

Progressive Jewish groups call on Jewish Republicans to withdraw Trump support

(JTA)—Bend the Arc, a partnership of progressive Jewish groups, has called on the Republican Jewish Coalition to withdraw the organization’s support for presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump.

The online petition was addressed to Matthew Brooks, executive director of the RJC.

“Withdraw the RJC’s support of Donald Trump until he actively rejects the white supremacists—including anti-Semites—who are eagerly supporting his campaign,” the petition launched July 7 says.

In a statement accompanying the petition, Bend the Arc said: “For a national Jewish group to continue to support him is unconscionable. As a Republican group, the RJC has the ability to pressure his campaign to cease being a megaphone for hate. As a Jewish group, they are morally obligated to do so.”

The petition came a day after Trump doubled down on defending a campaign tweet that featured a Star of David shape and dollar bills superimposed over an image of Hillary Clinton, and the same week his Jewish son-in-law, Jared Kushner, defended Trump against charges that the candidate is anti-Semitic.

Bend the Arc has been working to stop a Trump nomination for president since the early fall.

The RJC endorsed Trump in May following his victory in the Indiana primary. The statement did not praise Trump, but dwelled on the need to defeat Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, and hold on to majorities in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau sheds tears on Auschwitz visit

WARSAW, Poland (JTA)—Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the Auschwitz memorial, wiping away tears several times.

Among those joining Trudeau on his tour Sunday of the former Nazi death camp was Nate Leipciger, a former prisoner there who immigrated to Canada from his native Poland in 1948 at the age of 18. Among others in the delegation were the Canadian minister of foreign affairs, Stéphane Dion, and Rabbi Adam Scheier of Montreal, vice president of the Council of Rabbis of Canada. Auschwitz Museum Director Piotr Cywinski welcomed the group.

Trudeau reportedly made a point of visiting the Auschwitz memorial following the NATO summit in Warsaw.

Members of the delegation visited much of the museum exhibition, including one block showing photographs documenting the arrival of a transport of Jews from Hungary. They also saw the room devoted to sorted looted property—shoes, bags, glasses and brushes—that in the camp jargon was called “Canada,” and visited the building of the first gas chamber and crematorium at Auschwitz I.

In the second part of the visit, Trudeau and his group visited the former Auschwitz II-Birkenau and walked along the railway ramp where the Germans carried out the selection of the Jews. They also saw the ruins of the gas chamber and crematorium III, where the delegation said Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead.

“Today we saw the possibilities of deliberate human cruelty and evil. Let us remember always this painful truth about ourselves,” Trudeau wrote in the guest book of the museum. “Never enough tolerance. Humanity must learn to love its diversity.”

Canada is among the 36 countries that supported the Perpetual Fund of Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, which finances the maintenance of authentic remains of the concentration camp.


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