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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Trump adviser endorses Netanyahu claim of ‘ethnic cleansing’ by Palestinians

WASHINGTON (JTA)—An adviser to Donald Trump and his presidential campaign backed up Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that the Palestinian demand for a removal of settlements amounts to “ethnic cleansing.”

“The prime minister of Israel correctly observes that the Palestinian demand to remove all Jews from their ancestral homeland in Judea and Samaria is nothing short of an attempt at ethnic cleansing,” David Friedman, a longtime lawyer to the Republican presidential nominee and an adviser on Israel to his campaign, told Haaretz on Sunday.

Judea and Samaria are biblical references to the West Bank.

“The State Department should be ashamed of their misguided reaction to Mr. Netanyahu’s remarks,” Friedman told the Israeli daily.

The Obama administration last week described as “inappropriate” Netanyahu’s claim that Palestinian opposition to settlements amounts to “ethnic cleansing.”

“We believe that using that type of terminology is inappropriate and unhelpful,” State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said.

In the video posted last week to Facebook, Netanyahu likens residents of the settlements to Arabs born in Israel.

James Woolsey, ex-CIA boss and strident Iran deal critic, joins Trump campaign

WASHINGTON (JTA)—James Woolsey, a former CIA director known for his outspoken opposition to the Iran deal, joined the presidential campaign of Donald Trump as a senior adviser.

In an announcement Monday by the Republican nominee’s campaign, Woolsey cast his decision to join mostly in support of recent promises by Trump to end budget cuts to the defense community. Trump had previously favored cutting defense spending.

“I am pleased to be asked to participate with others I respect in advising GOP candidate Donald J. Trump on the urgent need to reinvest in and modernize our military in order to confront the challenges of the 21st century,” Woolsey said. “Mr. Trump’s commitment to reversing the harmful defense budget cuts signed into law by the current administration, while acknowledging the need for debt reduction, is an essential step toward reinstating the United States’ primacy in the conventional and digital battlespace.”

Woolsey is close to rightist pro-Israel groups and is chairman of the leadership counsel of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the think tank that has taken the lead in opposing the deal reached last year between Iran and six major powers rolling back nuclear development in exchange for sanctions relief. He has spoken at the Herzliya Conference, Israel’s leading gathering of national security experts.

Woolsey directed the CIA for the first two years of President Bill Clinton’s presidency, from 1993 to 1995, but has since become a strident critic of Clinton and his wife, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee facing Trump in November.

A number of former prominent members of the intelligence community who worked under Republican presidents have endorsed Clinton or sworn they will not vote for Trump, citing among other factors his apparent closeness to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

NBA’s Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf inducted into Basketball Hall of Fame

(JTA)—Jerry Reinsdorf, who as owner of the Chicago Bulls has won six NBA championships, was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Reinsdorf was officially enshrined in the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, on Thursday, alongside players including Allen Iverson, Yao Ming, Sheryl Swoopes and Shaquille O’Neal, as well as others.

Led by superstar Michael Jordan, the Bulls dominated the NBA in the 1990s.

Reinsdorf also is an owner of the Chicago White Sox Major League Baseball team.

He said he became hooked on the NBA, and in particular the New York Knicks, when he entered high school in Brooklyn.

“(O)ne of the benefits of being a high school student in New York was that your student ID card got you into Madison Square Garden for 50 cents,” Reinsdorf recalled. “I was there anytime I could cobble together 50 cents plus the 10 cents for car fare.

“1949 was also the year of my bar mitzvah. A bar mitzvah is the time in his life when a Jewish boy realizes he has a better chance of owning a team than playing for one.”

His son, Michael, president of the Bulls franchise, sat next to him during the ceremony, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Donald Trump Jr. posts Instagram photo of himself grouped with alt-right symbol Pepe the Frog

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Donald Trump Jr. posted to Instagram a movie poster parody of himself heroically grouped with others deemed “The Deplorables,” including a cartoon frog that has become a popular symbol for white supremacists.

“Apparently I made the cut as one of ‘the Deplorables,’” Trump Jr. said in the posting Sunday of the image, which featured himself; his father, Republican nominee Donald Trump, and Pepe the Frog grouped together and parodying the poster for the action movie series “The Expendables.”

The deplorables reference was to remarks made last week by the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, dividing Trump’s supporters between “deplorables,” meaning bigots, and hard-working Americans who had difficulties advancing in the economy.

Pepe is a cartoon frog who has been ubiquitous on the internet over the last decade, but who in the last year or so has become popular as the flag-bearer of the alt-right, which advances an insular conservatism favoring white people.

“All kidding aside I am honored to be grouped with the hard working men and women of this great nation that have supported @realdonaldtrump and know that he can fix the mess created by politicians in Washington,” Trump Jr. said.

Also featured in the picture were others close to the Trump campaign, including vice presidential candidate Mike Pence, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Eric Trump, the nominee’s second son.

In the picture, too, are Alex Jones, the radio host and conspiracy theorist, and Milo Yiannopoulos, a writer who has celebrated the rise of the alt-right as it has attached itself to Trump’s candidacy, despite the nominee’s occasional expressions rejecting the movement.

The picture’s provenance is not clear.

Trump Jr. and his father have been criticized during the campaign for adopting themes and associating with individuals known on the alt-right. Last month, Trump Jr. retweeted an attack on Clinton by Kevin MacDonald, a psychologist notorious for his theories of Jewish manipulation and control. The tweet itself was unremarkable and did not refer to Jews.

Warden in Ecuador disciplined for marking prison visitors with Nazi stamp

(JTA)—Ecuador’s Justice Ministry said a prison warden was disciplined for negligence after it was found that guards used a Nazi-themed hand stamp to mark visitors to the jail.

The Justice Ministry also said on Sept. 8 that it fired the head of security at the prison in Quito, according to The Associated Press.

The Ecuadorean government condemned the use of the stamp after news of the practice spread on social media.

The stamp included Germany’s Nazi Party logo, featuring an eagle on top of a swastika, as well as 1939, the year World War II started.

New $3 million initiative for Jewish disabled honors Itzhak Perlman

(JTA)—The Genesis Prize Foundation and the Jewish Funders Network launched a $3 million matching grant program to fund an initiative to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in Jewish life.

The Breaking Barriers program launched Monday in honor of 2016 Genesis Prize laureate Itzhak Perlman will promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of Jewish communal life. It echoes Perlman’s lifelong dedication to educating society about doing more to enable people with disabilities to use their strengths and realize their potential.

The funds for the program will be distributed in North America and Israel, according to the Genesis Prize Foundation and the Jewish Funders Network.

Perlman, 70, an acclaimed violinist, educator and advocate for individuals with disabilities, was diagnosed with polio at 4 and uses a motorized cart.

When he was awarded the Genesis Prize in Jerusalem in June, Perlman pledged to use the $1 million award to benefit programs for people with disabilities. The so-called Jewish Nobel is awarded to individuals who have achieved professional success, made a significant contribution to humanity, and inspired others through their engagement and dedication to the Jewish community and the State of Israel.

It is the second matching grant collaboration between the Genesis Prize Foundation and Jewish Funders Network. The 2015 “Avenues to Jewish Engagement for Intermarried Couples and their Families” program was established last year in honor of the 2015 Genesis Prize laureate, Michael Douglas, and generated $3.3 million in new funds.

Perlman said he was “honored” to be part of Breaking Barriers.

“And to have the opportunity to encourage other funders to join this critical initiative so that each person, regardless of his or her abilities, will have the opportunity to maximize their potential and to participate as full members of the community,” he said in a statement. “This is a great opportunity to open more doors and accept all who choose to enter.”

In November, Perlman received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama. He has won 16 Grammys.

The Genesis Prize is endowed by the Genesis Philanthropy Group, which endeavors to build Jewish identity among Russian-speaking Jews worldwide. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was the first winner in 2014.

Alexis Arquette, Jewish transgender actress and advocate, dies at 47

(JTA)—Transgender actress Alexis Arquette, who worked to raise awareness about the transgender community, has died.

Arquette, the sister of actors David, Rosanna, Richmond and Patricia Arquette, died Sunday. She was 47. A cause was not given in a statement put out by her siblings, but it said she died as her family serenaded her with David Bowie’s “Starman.”

Arquette gained fame after playing a transvestite sex worker in the 1989 film adaptation of the novel “Last Exit to Brooklyn.”

She documented her gender transition and sex reassignment surgery in the 2007 film “Alexis Arquette: She’s My Brother.”

Arquette also had roles in “Pulp Fiction,” “Bride of Chucky” and “The Wedding Singer,” and performed in nightclubs and cabarets.

Her siblings praised Arquette’s commitment to raising awareness about transgender individuals.

“Despite the fact that there are few parts for trans actors, she refused to play roles that were demeaning or stereotypical,” their statement said. “She was a vanguard in the fight for understanding and acceptance for all trans people.”

The Los Angeles native was born to a Jewish mother, actress Brenda Denaut, and a Catholic father who later converted to Islam, actor Lewis Arquette. She launched her acting career early, starring in the music video for The Tubes’ rock hit “She’s a Beauty” as a 12-year-old.

184 US synagogues pledge to welcome, support refugees

(JTA)—Some 184 Jewish congregations and communities in the U.S. signed a pledge of support for refugees, promising to take action to help those seeking shelter in the country.

The “Welcome Campaign” is being organized by the refugee support and advocacy group HIAS (formerly the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), which was founded in 1881 to help Jewish immigrants fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe.

The letter—”an affirmative statement in support of welcoming refugees” to the United States—says signatories will support refugees in various ways, including through education, advocacy and fundraising, and on the local level.

“The American Jewish response to the largest refugee crisis recorded in history is really about who we want to be as American Jews,” Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, vice president of community engagement at HIAS, said in a statement.

“All across the country, local Jewish communities are acting on their values and insisting as Americans and as Jews that desperate families be given the chance to rebuild their lives in safety. Together, we are refusing to be silent bystanders at this historic moment.”

Abbas says Israel, not Palestinians, committing ‘ethnic cleansing’

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas responded to a video released by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying it is Israel, not the Palestinians, who are committing “ethnic cleansing.”

Abbas made the statement Sunday night as part of remarks for the start of the Muslim Feast of the Sacrifice holiday.

“The government of Israel is carrying out ethnic cleansing and deliberately killing—acts that have exposed it to international criticism all over the world,” Abbas said.

Two days earlier, Netanyahu had released a video in English on social media accusing the Palestinians of wanting to ethnically cleanse the West Bank in their call for a Palestinian state without any Jewish residents.

Abbas said he was ready to meet with Netanyahu to discuss restarting peace talks. The two leaders were invited last week by Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet under his auspices in Moscow.

“We are not isolated, like the Israeli government is trying to present us. The government of Israel is the actually isolated one in the international stage because it isn’t interested in continuing on the path of peace, continues the settlement industry and damages the holy sites,” Abbas said.

In his video, Netanyahu said: “[T]he Palestinian leadership actually demands a Palestinian state with one pre-condition: No Jews. There’s a phrase for that; it’s called ethnic cleansing. And this demand is outrageous. It’s even more outrageous that the world doesn’t find this outrageous.”

The video, also released in a Hebrew version, as well as one with Arabic subtitles, is distinctly directed to an audience outside of Israel.

“Ask yourself this: Would you accept ethnic cleansing in your state? A territory without Jews, without Hispanics, without blacks?” Netanyahu said. “Since when is bigotry a foundation for peace?”

The U.S. State Department called the charge “inappropriate and unhelpful” and said it has engaged in “direct conversation” with Israel’s government over it.

Family of Ethiopian-Israeli held by Hamas holds demonstration to mark 2 years of captivity

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The family of an Ethiopian-Israeli man held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip demonstrated in front of the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem to mark two years since his disappearance.

A crowd of supporters joined the family of Avraham Abera Mengistu at the rally Sunday night, The Times of Israel reported.

Mengistu, 30, of Ashkelon, is believed to have voluntarily climbed over the security fence between Israel and Gaza in September 2014, and since then has not been heard from. He suffers from mental illness and was exempt from serving in Israel’s military.

“We see that two years have passed, and my brother Abera is still imprisoned, and we see that they are not taking action to return him home,” Mengistu’s brother, Ilan, told supporters at the demonstration. “There’s no justifying his imprisonment, and we are going to fight in order to bring him home.”

The family also has appealed to the international community to intervene with Hamas. Last week, the family marched alone at Zikim beach, near where Mengistu crossed into Gaza.

Hamas has admitted that it holds Mengistu, as well as a Bedouin-Israeli man who also is said to be mentally ill, who crossed into Gaza. Hamas also holds the remains of two Israeli soldiers, Lt. Hadar Goldin and Sgt. Oron Shaul, both killed during Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

Mengistu immigrated with his family to Israel in 1991 when he was 5 years old.


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