Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Israel suspending ties with UNESCO following vote that denies Jewish connection to Jerusalem

(JTA)—Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel would suspend its cooperation with UNESCO because of the U.N. agency’s decision to ignore Jewish ties to holy sites in Jerusalem.

Bennett’s statement on Friday followed passionate condemnations by Israel as well as international Jewish groups and communities of a vote the previous day in Paris by the executive board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Through a majority of 24 to 6 votes, the board passed a preliminary version of a resolution that calls several sites holy to Judaism only by their Islamic names without mentioning its Jewish names in Hebrew or English. The sites include the Temple Mount, referred to as Al-aram Al-Sharif.

Israeli officials will neither meet UNESCO representatives nor engage in cooperation in international conferences or professional cooperation with the organization, Bennett said in a statement that followed the outpouring of condemnations—including by a U.S. official who called the vote “one-sided and unhelpful.”

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump called the move by UNESCO a “one-sided attempt to ignore Israel’s 3,000-year bond to its capital city” and “further evidence of the enormous anti-Israel bias” at the United Nations.

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy adviser, Laura Rosenberer, condemned the resolution.

“It’s outrageous that UNESCO would deny the deep, historic connection between Judaism and the Temple Mount,” she said.

Bennett in his statement said of the UNESCO countries, “Your decision denies history and encourages terror. Those who give prizes to the supporters of Jihad in Jerusalem the same week that two Jews are murdered in the city could God forbid encourage more victims.”

The United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Lithuania and Estonia voted against the resolution and 26 countries abstained. Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO called the voting an improvement to previous votes by the U.N. agency, saying Western countries had supported previous measures with similar language on Jerusalem. Russia and China were among those that backed the resolution.

“This vote was certainly unpleasant, but I’m very pleased with the result,” Ambassador Carmel Shama-Hacohen told Army Radio Friday morning. “Our goal was to bring back France and our friends in Europe to not support the Palestinian resolution.”

He noted that Sweden, whose government is a harsh critic of Israel and the only EU Cabinet member that recognizes the Palestinian Authority as a state, also sat out the vote, as did India, which historically has supported anti-Israel resolutions in U.N. forums.

France and Sweden both abstained from Thursday’s vote after supporting a UNESCO resolution in April that also ignored the site’s Jewish ties. The April vote saw 33 votes in favor, 6 against and 17 abstentions.

Classified as pertaining to “Occupied Palestine,” the UNESCO resolution passed Thursday was submitted by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan. While it affirms “the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions,” it contains two references to Judaism: One in describing holy sites in Hebron and the other in decrying “the enforced creation of a new Jewish prayer platform south of the Mughrabi Ascent in Al-Buraq Plaza.”

The so-called al-Buraq Plaza is better known as the Western Wall Plaza—possibly Judaism’s holiest site. The use of the Arabic-language name is a recent development lifted from Hamas literature, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Terrorist attacks in Israel drop to lowest tally in over a year

(JTA)—The number of terrorist attacks perpetrated in Israel dropped in August to 93—the lowest monthly tally on record since March 2015 and the first dip since then below the 100-incident mark.

In Jerusalem, the number of incidents in August dropped by nearly half, to 13 from the 24 in July, the Shin Bet security agency said in its latest monthly report, which was published this week. Overall, the number of terrorist attacks dropped in August by 8 percent from the 101 incidents recorded in July.

Seven Israelis were injured in the August attacks—three of them were stabbed. Another two were wounded by firebombs. The remaining victims were injured by an explosive charge and the hurling of stones. Three of the terrorist incidents were mortar round launchings from the Gaza Strip, which did not result in injury.

August saw no fatalities from terrorist attacks.

In July, Rabbi Michael Mark was murdered in a terrorist attack in the West Bank settlement of Otniel that also injured three others.

In Israel, the West Bank and Gaza attacks began increasing in August 2015, when 171 were documented, and rose sharply in September and October of that year, with 223 and 620 attacks recorded in those months, respectively. The overall number of attacks decreased to 326 in November, 246 in December, 169 in January, 155 in February and 123 in March.

On Oct. 9, two people were killed and at least six injured when a Palestinian terrorist opened fire on a light rail stop in Jerusalem.

On Wednesday, a Palestinian child was killed in the southern Gaza Strip in an incident that a Palestinian medical source blamed on Israeli troops, but which Israel said was not the action of any of its forces.

Abdullah Nasser Atwa Abu Mdeif was shot in the back by a bullet on Tuesday evening in the al-Qarrara area east of Khan Yunis, Gaza Ministry of Health spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidra told the Maan news agency, adding his death was from Israel Defense Forces fire.

Yoav Mordechai, the IDF coordinator of government activities in the territories, wrote in a statement that the boy likely had died from a stray bullet shot during a wedding in the area.

Hundreds of Palestinians have died in clashes with security forces following the escalation in terrorist attacks last year. Many of them were killed while perpetrating terrorist attacks. At least 30 Palestinians have died in the Gaza Strip over the past two weeks in border clashes with Israeli troops or in retaliatory strikes for the launching of projectiles into Israel, Maan reported.

Israeli chief rabbi: Syria is suffering ‘a small holocaust’

(JTA)—Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef said “a small holocaust” was taking place in Syria.

At an interreligious meeting with Palestinian Muslim clerics hosted by President Reuven Rivlin, Yosef said the world must not be silent in the face of the atrocities taking place in the country that has been consumed by civil war since 2011, The Times of Israel reported.

“Every day not far from here, as we sit here, men, women and children are murdered in Syria, and particularly in Aleppo,” Yosef said at the meeting. “Millions of refugees are homeless, hundreds of thousands of others are starved, under siege. They are not our friends, but they are human beings who are suffering a small holocaust.”

Yosef said that particularly Jews, who endured the Holocaust and the murder of 6 million people as “the world looked on and remained silent,” must not do so now. In describing the civil war in Syria, Yosef used the Hebrew-language word for the Holocaust, “shoah.” Depending on how it is used in a sentence, the word can mean the Jewish genocide perpetrated by the Nazis or an unspecified calamity or major catastrophe.

“As Jews we must not stay silent,” the chief rabbi said. “The call must be heard from here: A genocide will not be allowed to go by quietly—not in Syria and not anywhere else, and not against any people.”

At the meeting Thursday, Israeli and Palestinian religious leaders issued a call against religiously inspired violence.

Donald Trump accused of harassing, mocking deaf Jewish actress Marlee Matlin

(JTA)—Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who is attempting damage control following his misogynistic statements, is accused of mocking the deaf Jewish actress Marlee Matlin over her disability.

Trump ridiculed Matlin, a 1986 Academy Award winner, during filming in 2011 of his reality television show “Celebrity Apprentice,” The Daily Beast reported Thursday, allegedly calling the contestant “retarded.”

Trump “would often equate that she was mentally retarded,” an unnamed source told the news site, which based its reporting on interviews with three longtime staffers who worked on Matlin’s season of “Celebrity Apprentice.” They spoke anonymously, citing fear of legal retribution for violating their contractual non-disclosure clause.

They said Trump would regularly disrespect the actress and would treat her as if she were mentally disabled, sometimes behind her back but at other times to her face.

Trump “would make fun of her voice. It actually sounded a lot like what he did [to] the New York Times guy,” one source told The Daily Beast, referring to the candidate’s impression of Serge Kovaleski, a disabled journalist. “Like, to make it seem like she was mentally not there? Sounded like he got a real kick out of it. It was really upsetting,” the source added.

The allegation comes on the heels of a rash of sexual harassment and assault accusations against Trump, as well as other allegations from a former “Apprentice” contestant, Richard Hatch, who claimed Trump also made lewd remarks to Matlin during taping.

“Watching him in the boardroom, the show’s main set, making sexual comments to Marlee Matlin, to all of the women on ‘The Apprentice,’ it was obvious that that’s just a part of who he is,” Hatch told People magazine this week. “It was obvious and it was grotesque. It was blatant and it was frequent. He did it with Lisa Rinna; he did it with Marlee Matlin. He did it with whomever happened to be there at the time.”

Matlin declined to comment on her time on the show, according to The Daily Beast.

Last year, she praised Trump in an interview with the New York Post.

“He treated me with respect and humor and was always looking after me,” she said.

Asked at the time if she was ready for a President Trump, she deflected, saying that “anyone can run for president.”

Last week, Trump distanced himself from lewd comments about women he made a decade ago, and which were published by The Washington Post. In the recording, which Trump said was of “locker room banter” that does not reflect his personality, Trump recounts to the television personality Billy Bush of “Access Hollywood” how he once pursued a married woman and “moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there,” expressing regret that they did not have sex.

He brags of a special status with women: Because he was “a star,” he said, he could “grab them by the pussy” whenever he wanted.

Trump, Clinton campaigns slam UNESCO Jerusalem resolution

(JTA)—The Trump and Clinton campaigns slammed a UNESCO resolution that upholds Muslim claims on holy sites in Jerusalem while mostly erasing Jewish claims, and Donald Trump said he would recognize the city as Israel’s capital.

“The United Nations’ attempt to disconnect the State of Israel from Jerusalem is a one-sided attempt to ignore Israel’s 3,000-year bond to its capital city, and is further evidence of the enormous anti-Israel bias of the U.N.,” said the statement released Thursday evening by Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, referring to the preliminary vote that day by the board of UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural and educational affiliate.

Laura Rosenberger, a senior foreign policy adviser to Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, told JTA that “it’s outrageous that UNESCO would deny the deep, historic connection between Judaism and the Temple Mount.”

While the UNESCO resolution affirms “the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions,” it refers to the Temple Mount several times only as Al-aram Al-Sharif, the Islamic term for the Temple Mount, without mentioning its Jewish names in Hebrew or English. It also uses the term Buraq Plaza, placing “Western Wall Plaza” in quotes, appearing to erase a Jewish connection to the site, where the Jewish Temple stood until the middle of the first century C.E. and whose retaining walls are made of distinct stones associated with the Jewish king Herod.

U.S. lawmakers have slammed the vote across the political spectrum. Israel and American Jewish leaders also have ripped the vote.

Israel has cut off ties with UNESCO as long as the resolution, which may go to the full body, stands. The executive board on Thursday backed the Palestinian-backed resolution with 24 votes in favor and 6 against, with 26 countries abstaining.

Trump also said he would recognize Israel’s capital as Jerusalem.

“I have said on numerous occasions that in a Trump Administration, the United States will recognize Jerusalem as the one true capital of Israel,” he said.

Last December, Trump refused to commit to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital while speaking to a Republican Jewish Coalition forum, but changed his tune by the time he addressed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in March.

“Jerusalem is the enduring capital of the Jewish people and the overwhelming majority of Congress has voted to recognize Jerusalem as just that,” Trump told the AIPAC assembly.

The Clinton campaign’s Israel page does not mention Jerusalem. While Congress has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, successive U.S. presidents, Republican and Democratic, have said its status should be left up to negotiations.

Rosenberger in her email cited Clinton’s record as secretary of state in President Barack Obama’s first term to uphold her pro-Israel credentials.

“As secretary of state, Hillary fought to defend Israel against biased resolutions like these at the United Nations and other international organizations and would proudly do so again as president,” she said.

Trump blamed the Obama administration for contributing to the erosion in Israel’s claim to the city. He referred to a corrected version of Obama’s eulogy at the funeral earlier this month of former Israeli President Shimon Peres. The original White House transcript was datelined “Jerusalem, Israel,” and the corrected version deleted “Israel,” conforming with U.S. policy.

“The decision by the Obama Administration to strike the word ‘Israel’ after the word ‘Jerusalem’ in the President’s prepared text was a capitulation to Israel’s enemies, and a posthumous embarrassment to Shimon Peres, whose memory the President was attempting to honor,” Trump’s statement said. “In a Trump Administration, Israel will have a true, loyal and lasting friend in the United States of America.”

Dutch chief rabbi decries planned euthanasia laws for healthy people

AMSTERDAM (JTA)—Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs urged his country’s government to drop plans to legalize assisted suicide for healthy individuals.

Jacobs was reacting to a statement made earlier this week in the Tweede Kamer, the Dutch lower house, by the country’s health minister announcing planned legislation designed to broaden existing laws on assisted suicide to include healthy people who no longer wish to live. The current law limits euthanasia to the terminally or chronically ill.

Jacobs’ opposition to euthanasia is based on religious laws on the sanctity of human life, which prohibit any intervention to end it, he said. Notwithstanding, he added Jewish law in some cases justifies avoiding interference to preserve life—especially in cases where such action only prolongs suffering with no plausible healing effect.

The proposed measure, he said, not only contradicts religious views on death but also risks causing unnecessary deaths of depressed elderly people whose death wish is only temporary.

“In the course of my work, I have seen not one, not two, but many elderly people who genuinely wished to die following the death of their spouses but then, within several years, were able to enjoy life for many years longer,” said Jacobs, the chairman of the ethics committee of Amsterdam’s Sinai Center, Europe’s only Jewish psychiatric hospital.

One case involved a woman who refused to eat or take medications following an infection.

“Then she was given antidepressants and within several weeks her pneumonia was gone, she recovered, and her depression, which hit while she was sick, was also gone,” the rabbi recalled. “I am the last person to downplay the pain felt by people who no longer wish to live, but we are morally forbidden from interfering and should do our utmost to help them and comfort them.”

In 2001, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize euthanasia for patients who were suffering unbearable pain and had no prospects of a cure.

But the proposal to include healthy, elderly individuals in the laws on assisted suicide outraged several faith communities in the liberal country, including Roman Catholics.

The website Katholiek Gezin, or Catholic Family, published  a scathing op-ed on Friday accusing the government of creating a reality in which many elderly citizens no longer wish to live and of trying to benefit financially from that reality.

“After many years in which the health system endured cutbacks that generated increasingly tragic situations of lacking assistance for our elderly, the Cabinet now comes up with a solution: Professional assistance to suicide for people who have ‘completed their lives,’” the op-ed read. It called the proposed legislation a “slippery slope” that risks allowing financial considerations cheapen the value of human life in a graying society.

But Edith Schippers, the Dutch health minister, said that assisted suicide also for healthy individuals is meant to address the needs of “older people who do not have the possibility to continue life in a meaningful way, who are struggling with the loss of independence and reduced mobility, and who have a sense of loneliness, partly because of the loss of loved ones, and who are burdened by general fatigue, deterioration and loss of personal dignity.”

Hit man says slain law professor Dan Markel’s ex-wife was part of contract killing

(JTA)—A hit man who confessed to killing Jewish law professor Dan Markel implicated Markel’s ex-wife in the crime, adding that she supervised his work a day before the killing.

The allegation against Wendi Adelson came in an Oct. 4 police interview released this week by the Tallahassee Democrat, the Forward reported  Thursday. The hit man, Luis Rivera, said that his longtime friend Sigfredo Garcia shot Markel. Rivera, who said he drove the getaway car, has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

In the course of the two-hour interview, Rivera told police that Garcia said he had been hired to kill Markel in 2014 because “the lady wants her two kids back.”

Markel and Adelson, who divorced in 2013, were locked in a bitter custody dispute at the time of the murder. Adelson and her family have denied any involvement in Markel’s slaying.

Rivera said that he and Garcia saw Adelson walking near Markel’s house the day before the murder. Rivera said he thought Adelson was scoping the place ahead of the killing. Katherine Magbanua, a suspected accomplice who allegedly knew both the killers and Adelson, said Adelson was there to “make sure he wasn’t lying, that she wasn’t just paying him for nothing.”

Prosecutors told the Tallahassee Democrat on Oct. 11 that the alleged encounter between the hit men and Adelson could, if proven, connect Adelson with Markel’s murder.

“I think if it’s true, it implicates her, but I haven’t been able to confirm or deny that,” Chief Assistant State Attorney Georgia Cappelman told the newspaper.

Adelson’s attorney, John Lauro, told the Tallahassee Democrat on Oct. 12 that Rivera’s testimony is unreliable.

“All of his alleged information is second or third hand and none of it has been corroborated during the investigation,” Lauro said.

Under the terms of his plea deal, Rivera will serve an additional seven years on top of the 12 years he is currently serving on unrelated federal charges.

Garcia, charged with first-degree murder in connection with the killing, has pled not guilty.

Speaking with his hands shackled throughout his lengthy interview with police, Rivera wove a detailed account of two separate trips to Tallahassee with Garcia, the second of which ended in Markel’s brutal killing.

Last month, Tallahassee Police Department investigators said that the brother of Markel’s ex-wife, Charlie Adelson, and her mother, Donna Adelson, should be considered prime suspects in his slaying. However, Florida’s state attorney dismissed as “speculation” affidavits from Tallahassee police.

Paris regional council vows to strip funding from BDS promoters

(JTA)—A regional council in France that includes Paris passed a precedent-setting amendment that excludes funding from promoters of boycotts against Israel.

The council of the Ile-de-France region, where right-wing parties have a majority, adopted the amendment Thursday, the Le Monde Juif website reported the following day.

The report said the council’s president, Valérie Pécresse of the UMP party of former President Nicolas Sarkozy, led the vote in keeping with her campaign promises to pursue vigorous measures against the BDS movement—an acronym for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.

“In accordance with the law, I will not tolerate any form of boycotts against Israel in the Ile-de-France region,” she said while campaigning for the top executive political position of the region, which is home to most of France’s 500,000 Jews.

Robert Ejnes, deputy president of the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities, in a Twitter post congratulated the council for its amendment, whose final text was not yet published. Ariel Goldmann, another CRIF vice president, wrote on Twitter about the measure: “Thank you and bravo.”

In France, several dozen promoters of a boycott against Israel have been convicted of inciting hate or discrimination. Some activists have been convicted based on the 2003 Lellouche law, which extends anti-racism laws to the targeting of specific nations for discriminatory treatment.

The judiciary in neighboring Spain has cracked down in recent years on BDS initiatives, declaring them unconstitutional. Last month, the high court of the Asturias region there joined other Spanish high tribunals in upholding rulings by lower instances declaring BDS discriminatory.

Britain’s ruling party is formulating legislation against BDS, officials said earlier this year.


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