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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Yitzhak Rabin’s son warns Donald Trump: Same kind of ‘incitement’ spurred murder of my father

(JTA)—The son of slain Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said Donald Trump’s “ugly” campaign rhetoric is threatening American democracy and creating an atmosphere similar to the one in Israel leading up to his father’s assassination.

In a USA Today op-ed on Sunday, Yuval Rabin wrote that the recent call by Trump to “Second Amendment people” is the same kind of “incitement” that “led to the murder” of his father in 1995.

“More than one commentator in Israel and the U.S. has pointed to the parallels between Israel in the 1990s and the U.S. today,” Rabin wrote, citing articles in Haaretz and The New York Times.

He added: “Trump has called Clinton ‘the devil,’ claimed that the election might be ‘rigged,’ denigrated religions and questioned the impartiality of the justice system.

“Intentional or not, the Republican presidential nominee is removing confidence in the democratic form of governance. If an election is seen as illegitimate, if those who supported a candidate are viewed as somehow lesser ‘Americans,’ then it becomes acceptable—and even appropriate—to work outside the political system.”

Trump’s comments last week—suggesting that gun-rights supporters could take action against Hillary Clinton if she “wants to abolish” the Second Amendment, or the right to bear arms—also prompted Connecticut Gov. Daniel Malloy to make the Rabin assassination comparison.

“I instantly thought about Rabin and Israel,” Malloy, a Democrat, said on MSNBC. “There were rallies going on in Israel where ‘Death to Rabin’ was shouted and politicians didn’t respond, so I’m going to respond.”

Rabin was shot and killed by a right-wing extremist, Yigal Amir, amid tensions over Rabin’s push to make peace with the Palestinians.

Yuval Rabin went on to argue in his piece that Trump’s words are “a threat to American democracy.”

“It is not my place to make this claim,” he wrote. “But I have been touched by political violence, and have witnessed the environment that led to at least one person to believe such violence was called for.”

Trump volunteers court US voters in Israel, especially from swing states

(JTA)—In an unusual move, volunteers for Donald Trump have launched a campaign appealing specifically to U.S. voters living in Israel, notably those from swing states.

Under the slogan “The Israeli Interest,” Trump supporters in the past few weeks have launched a website and a Facebook page before heading out with banners to shopping malls across the country, The Times of Israel reported. They visited cities with a high concentration of U.S. voters, including Jerusalem, Modiin, Raanana and Beit Shemesh.

Local volunteers will distribute Trump publicity materials.

The volunteers have permission from the Republican candidate’s headquarters in the United States.

Hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens are eligible to vote in the November election, Israel’s Channel 10 reported. The Trump volunteers will target Americans who hail from swing states such as Florida and Pennsylvania. According to the Republicans, there are approximately 30,000 eligible voters in Israel from such states.

The manager of the Trump campaign in Israel, Zvika Brot, told Army Radio Monday that while “Israeli voters don’t agree with some of Trump’s statements, just like Hillary Clinton voters don’t agree with some of her statements, they agree 100 percent on the subject they care most about, which is Israel.”

Brot said “there is no more pro-Israel candidate in these elections” than Trump and “the Democrats can continue saying that the Clinton family are Israel’s greatest friends. I believe we are going to accomplish something good for Israel.”

According to an exit poll conducted by another get-out-the-vote group, iVote Israel, 85 percent of American voters in Israel cast their ballots for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, in the 2012 election.

Trump’s Israel campaign focuses primarily on his ostensibly pro-Israel platform. It also mentions his Jewish daughter, Ivanka, and Jewish grandchildren.

A senior adviser to Trump met with officials from the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem last week and was given a diplomatic-security briefing by officials.

Trump, whose campaign has been plagued by inconsistencies on many subjects, has made contradictory statements with regard to Israel. During the primaries he claimed that he would remain neutral on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, refusing to assign blame to either side.

The billionaire real estate magnate has questioned Israel’s commitment to peace while suggesting the Jewish state does not have a negotiating partner in the Palestinians. He has also called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “a good friend.”

At a presidential candidates’ forum hosted by the Republican Jewish Coalition last December, Trump said, “I don’t know that Israel has the commitment to make it, and I don’t know that the other side has the commitment to make it.”

Jordanian king vows to ‘defend’ Al-Aqsa mosque from Jewish ‘extremists’

(JTA)—Jordan’s King Abdullah II vowed to fight against “repeated violations and attacks carried out by Israel and extremist groups.”

The king accused Israel of attempting to “violate the sanctity and compromise Al-Aqsa mosque,” and added, “Our responsibility towards the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem is our top priority in the international arena, and we use all means necessary to defend Al-Aqsa mosque” in an interview published Monday by the Jordanian Ad-Dustour daily.

As part of the 1994 peace agreement between Jordan and Israel, Jordan was given management of the Temple Mount and Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site for Muslims. Tensions have frequently erupted on the Temple Mount and Palestinians have claimed that Israeli efforts to “Judaize” the site have motivated the current wave of violence in Israel.

Abdullah said Jordan would resist Israel’s “blatantly repeated attempts to change the status quo in Jerusalem regarding its landmarks and the prejudice against Islamic and Christian peoples.”

He affirmed Jordan’s commitment to the Palestinian people, saying that “the Palestinian issue is our first priority and a supreme national interest.”

The failure to reach a “just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue and allowing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to move away from the two-state solution,” Abdullah said, “feeds violence and extremism in the region.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has staunchly denied Jordan’s assertion that Israel has sought to change the status quo at the Temple Mount. Efraim Halevy, a former head of the Mossad and one of the architects of the the agreement cementng Jordan’s role as caretaker of Al-Aqsa, told JTA last year that Israel was not changing the status quo as the Palestinians have charged, adding that the Palestinians were trying to change it.

Calls to action on Al-Aqsa by Palestinian officials in September coincided with a rise in terrorist attacks that Netanyahu in October called a “terror wave.” However, the number of attacks has decreased dramatically since then, and in June returned to levels predating the hundreds of monthly attacks documented after September, which some Palestinians called “the Al-Aqsa intifada.”

Despite harsh criticism on Israel by officials in the Hashemite-controlled Jordan, where a majority of the population is Palestinian, the kingdom has maintained friendly ties with Israel and is engaged in security cooperation with the Jewish state.

Israel and Jordan had agreed on a plan to install cameras at the Temple Mount site, but the Jordanians pulled out of the agreement in April under pressure from the Palestinians.

Bambi Sheleg, trailblazing Israeli journalist, dies at 58

(JTA)—Bambi Sheleg, a trailblazing Israeli journalist who left a mark on Israeli society with investigative reports published in the magazine she founded and elsewhere, has died.

Sheleg, a native of Chile, died Monday following a prolonged illness, the news site Srugim reported. She was 58.

A leader of the settler movement and a founder of the West Bank settlement of Atzmona, in 1999 she founded the magazine Eretz Acheret, which distinguished itself from other Israeli publications in the quality of its in-depth reporting on issues such as prison privatization and poverty. Her editorial line sought to challenge dogmas popular on the political left and right.

A Zionist and supporter of the settler movement, she was nonetheless critical about it in op-eds she penned in the Israeli media, including Yedioth Acharonot and Maariv, especially after the 1995 assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin.

She was married to Yair Sheleg, a journalist with the Israeli daily Makor Rishon, with whom she lived in Jerusalem. They had three children.

Born Biatris Erlich, she immigrated to Israel at 12 and lived with her modern Orthodox Jewish family in Netanya, where she attended a religious high school.

Bar Refaeli’s dad arrested for allegedly assaulting police officers

(JTA)—The father of top Israeli model Bar Refaeli was placed under house arrest for allegedly assaulting police officers who came to his home to investigate a neighbor’s noise complaint.

Rafi Refaeli was arrested Saturday at his home north of Tel Aviv, Ynet reported Monday.

He and a friend are accused of assaulting the officers outside the home, causing three of them minor contusions and tearing a female officer’s uniform. Rafi Refaeli was arrested while trying to leave the home through a back entrance, according to Ynet. His friend also was arrested.

Rafi Refaeli’s lawyer, Gil Fridman, said his client was arrested unjustly following a noise complaint over a disturbance he did not create, adding his client would be released shortly.

Ilan Azoulay, a lawyer representing the friend, said video footage will prove the two men did not assault the officers but were assaulted by them.

Bar Refaeli, who is considered Israel’s leading female model and was featured on the cover of the 2009 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, last week gave birth to her first child, a 7-pound baby girl that she and her husband, businessman Adi Ezra, named Liv.

Israeli officers who took Palestinian girl’s bicycle won’t face prosecution

(JTA)—The Israeli Border Police officers filmed taking away a Palestinian girl’s bicycle will not face criminal prosecution.

The conduct of the officers, who were filmed in July by the human rights group B’tselem tossing the bike in bushes, was “inappropriate and unprofessional,” the Justice Ministry’s Police Investigations Department said Monday, according to The Times of Israel. But the department found that the actions did not justify criminal prosecution.

The department said the case will be moved to the Israel Police’s disciplinary board for further review, the Times of Israel reported.

The video, shot on July 25 and posted to YouTube in early August, has been viewed online more than 240,000 times. It shows an officer approaching 8-year-old Anwar Burqan on a street in Hebron before the girl jumps off her bike and runs away in tears. A second officer is then seen dumping the bike in some nearby bushes.

Attorneys for the officers said the officers told investigators they had taken the bike from the girl to protect her. One of the officers was suspended from duty after the video became public.

Rio pays tribute to 11 Israeli victims of ’72 Munich Olympic massacre

RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA)—Under the auspices of the International Olympic Committee, Brazilian senior officials joined sports activists from Israel and elsewhere at a commemoration of the 11 Israeli victims of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre.

The Israeli and Brazilian Olympic committees and members of the local Jewish community attended the event Sunday evening at Rio City Hall.

“What happened in 1972 was one of the most lamentable episodes in the history of the Olympic Games, when  fanaticism and intolerance [converged in a] deplorable act of terrorism,” Brazil’s foreign minister, Jose Serra, said on behalf of President Michel Temer. “I believe the IOC, in all these years, hadn’t held the homage it deserved.”

Israel’s most senior representative to the games, Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, said terrorism “does not differentiate [between] people” and reaches everyone.

“When we fight against terror, we look for peace. We still see discrimination against the Israeli athletes,” she said. “There are countries that deny visas to competitors. We know that mixing sports and politics is against the IOC protocol and contrary to the Olympic spirit. Sport must bring people together.”

Unlike previous Olympic commemorations dealing with the 1972 massacre, Sunday’s event was entirely devoted to the murdered Israelis. A previous homage was held Aug. 4 at a memorial site in the Olympic Village, where not only the Israelis were honored but also four others who were killed during Olympic Games.

Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano, the widows of fencing coach Andre Spitzer and weightlifter Yossef Romano, were among those who lit 11 candles at the event.

Israel’s honorary consul in Rio, Osias Wurman, told JTA: “The mayor opened the doors of his house in a gesture of great friendship with the Brazilian Jewish community and the whole people of Israel. It’s a unique moment for us Brazilian Jews.”

Among the ceremony’s participants was Ori Sasson, the Israeli judoka who gave Israel its second medal in Rio—bronze in the men’s judo over 220 pounds competition. His Egyptian opponent during the competition who refused to greet him after being defeated was much criticized.

Approached by guests and journalists for a comment, Sasson avoided answering questions about conflict in the Middle East.

“It was not the first time this happened between a judo athlete competing against Muslims,” he said, “but I am only an athlete, I’m not a politician.”

Donald Trump says anti-Semitism will be among disqualifying criteria for immigrants

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Donald Trump said he would test would-be immigrants for anti-Semitic beliefs and that Israel would be a key ally in defeating radical Islam.

Speaking Monday in Youngstown, Ohio, the Republican presidential nominee outlined national security policies that included “extreme vetting” for would-be immigrants, including for those who would reject what he described as American values of tolerance.

“We should only admit into this country those who share our values and respect our people,” Trump said.

Explaining why he favored such a policy, he cited the French experience as an example.

“Beyond terrorism, as we have seen in France, foreign populations have brought their anti-Semitic attitudes with them,” he said.

It’s not clear which “foreign populations” he was referring to, although from the broader context of his comments, targeting “radical Islam,” it appears he was speaking of Muslims from North Africa. Anti-Semitism existed and at times thrived in France for centuries before its recent waves of immigrants.

Trump also said Israel would be key in an alliance to face down the spread of radical Islam.

“As president, I will call for an international conference focused on this goal,” he said. “We will work side by side with our friends in the Middle East, including our greatest ally, Israel.”

Much of Trump’s targeting of would-be immigrants focused on attributes he has associated with Islam.

“In addition to screening out all members or sympathizers of terrorist groups, we must also screen out any who have hostile attitudes towards our country or its principles—or who believe that Sharia law should supplant American law,” he said, referring to the Muslim religious canon.

The Anti-Defamation League immediately took to Twitter to express concerns about Trump’s reiterated call to ban Muslim entry and entry from countries subject to violence.

“Refugees from Syria, Iraq, etc. are fleeing the same terror we fear,” the ADL said. “Suspending immigration would only trap those who need refuge most.”

Also speaking out was HIAS, the lead Jewish group advocating for immigrants and refugees.

“For the American Jewish community, the thought of barring a refugee family because of their religion or home country is simply unpalatable,” Melanie Nezer, the group’s vice president, said in a statement.

Trump dedicated a chunk of his speech to decrying what he described as a decline in American security under President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee who was secretary of state in Obama’s first term. He referred to the nuclear rollback for sanctions relief deal with Iran.

“The nuclear deal puts Iran, the No. 1 state sponsor of radical Islamic terrorism, on a path to nuclear weapons,” he said. “In short, the Obama-Clinton foreign policy has unleashed ISIS, destabilized the Middle East and put the nation of Iran—which chants

‘Death to America’—in a dominant position.”

In an almost simultaneous appearance with Clinton in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Vice President Joe Biden also invoked Israel in attacking Trump’s national security policies.

Biden noted Trump’s claim last week that Obama had founded ISIS, the Islamic State terrorist group. Trump doubled down on the claim for days before claiming he was being sarcastic.

“The leader of Hezbollah, a direct threat to our ally Israel, repeated that claim,” Biden said.

Baton Rouge Jews pray, raise funds for flood victims

(JTA)—Baton Rouge’s Chabad House launched an emergency fundraising campaign for thousands of people affected by the massive floods that swept across Louisiana.

At least five people have perished and more than 20,000 people have been rescued in Louisiana amid floods that began Friday due to heavy rainfall. The deluge brought 6 to 10 inches of rainfall to the southeastern parts of the state. Several more inches of rain fell Saturday, according to the National Weather Service, which warned that floods may spread to Texas.

“People have lost their homes, cars, are out of work, and need food, clothing and shelter,” read the fundraising appeal posted Monday by the Baton Rouge Beit Chabad, which opened last year, on its website. “Some members of the Jewish community of Baton Rouge also “have seen major devastation,” said the appeal for the fundraising drive, which has a $25,000 goal. “It is our job to reach out and help in any way we can.”

President Barack Obama issued a disaster declaration on Sunday for flood-ravaged Louisiana.

The local Chabad community, headed by Rabbi Peretz Kazen, said it will use donations “to help with immediate things such as food and clothing for people, as well as funding to help people get set up with temporary apartments or pay for hotels while they deal with their home clean up,” the text read. Many of the flood victims “have been shocked by the loss of everything,” read the appeal, which urged readers to “come together as a community, as we have seen in the past, and help out a fellow person.”

The Beth Shalom Jewish Reform congregation of Baton Rouge canceled its Shabbat reception because of the torrential rains and its service for Tisha b’Av, a day of mourning that ended Sunday night.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the storm,” the congregation’s website read. “Everyone, please do your best to stay safe and heed warnings from your local authorities.”

Israel offers security help as Argentina absorbs 3,000 Syrian refugees

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA)—Israel has offered to help with security issues in the absorption of 3,000 Syrian refugees in Argentina.

Five Israeli lawmakers on a mission to Argentina signed an agreement Friday with Argentine Vice President Gabriel Michetti and Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra that stresses cooperation in the fight against terrorism along with the need to address the security needs of the country and its Jewish community.

“We understand the Argentinian desire to help with the global humanitarian crisis, but it is very important that terrorists don’t use this as a way to enter Argentina,” one of the Israeli lawmakers, Haim Jelim, an Argentina native, told journalists.

Michetti tweeted Friday to his 765,000 followers a photo of himself with the Israeli lawmakers announcing that they will “strengthen commercial ties” with Israel.

Israel’s recently appointed ambassador to Argentina, Ilan Sztulman, in his first meeting with Argentine journalists said Israel “helps people who escape from the humanitarian crisis in Syria, we treat them in our hospitals, we share the attitude of helping them. But it is important that Argentina do this very carefully, especially because Iranians and Hezbollah are already in Argentina and in the region.”

The agreement signed between the two nations will be a framework for new legislation to increase exchange in commerce, science and security cooperation.

“We will cooperate in agriculture, commerce, water and sustainability, but the most important issue now in this context is security and the fight against terrorism, and we are united now to work together on this field,” Jelim told JTA.

Less than a month ago, Argentine Jewish leaders had expressed concerns over security with the upcoming arrival of the Syrians.

“We will not do anything to increase insecurity in our country,” said Argentina’s secretary-general, Marcos Pena. “We are clear that terrorism has already hit our country twice, at the AMIA Jewish center and the Israeli Embassy. We are actively monitoring the security threats, especially with the current global upheaval. We are very clear in our stand against violence and terrorism.”


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