Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt returning to Jerusalem this week

(JTA)—Two top advisers to President Donald Trump, including his Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner, will return to Jerusalem this week to push for restarted peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

The visits to Jerusalem and Ramallah by Kushner, a senior adviser to Trump, and national security aide Jason Greenblatt were widely reported on Sunday night, all citing unnamed White House officials. The visits were first reported in The Wall Street Journal.

It will be the first major peace push by the White House since Trump visited the region last month.

Kushner, who reportedly will arrive in Israel on Wednesday, is scheduled to meet in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and in Ramallah with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Greenblatt is scheduled to arrive Monday in Jerusalem.

An unnamed White House official told The Wall Street Journal that no three-way talks are expected during the visits and that no major breakthroughs are anticipated. Reuters reported that the White House has been holding behind-the-scene talks since Trump’s visit at the end of May, which reportedly was planned by Kushner.

Unnamed White House officials cited by several news sources reiterated that an agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians is a priority for the Trump administration.

Kushner is currently under scrutiny as part of the investigation into whether Trump officials colluded with Russia to sway the outcome of the presidential election.

British Jewish leaders condemn London van attack on Muslim worshippers

(JTA)—The deadly van-ramming attack at a mosque in London is “a painful illustration of why we must never allow hatred to breed hatred,” Britain’s chief rabbi said.

Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said his thoughts were with those affected by the attack just after midnight Monday in which a van drove into a group of people standing in front of the Finsbury Park Mosque in North London, killing one person and injuring 10. All the victims are Muslims, according to reports.

Some bystanders told reporters that the van’s driver said “Kill all Muslims” and “I did it” following the attack, and he reportedly smiled and waved at the crowds as he was taken away in a police cruiser.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews condemned the attack in a statement issued shortly after it occurred.

“All good people must stand together and join in rejecting hatred and violence from wherever it comes. The way forward is to strengthen the moderate majority and repudiate and marginalize extremism of every type,” the statement said.

The statement added: “Hatred of people because of their religion has no place in our society.”

British police said the incident was being investigated as an act of terrorism, which would make it the fourth such attack in England since March, including two van-ramming and stabbing attacks on and near London Bridge, and a bombing outside an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.

The van driver in the mosque attack was arrested after being seized and prevented from fleeing by bystanders; a Muslim imam reportedly stopped the crowd from injuring the attacker. His mental health reportedly will be assessed.

The European Jewish Congress in a statement called the attack “unconscionable.”

“We condemn this attack and its attempt to escalate tensions in the UK and we stand firmly beside our Muslim brothers and sisters in the aftermath of this attack,” EJC President Dr. Moshe Kantor said in the statement. “An attack on one religion is an attack on all religions, and all people and faiths must stand together against terror.”

Israel reportedly is secretly aiding Syrian rebels along Golan border

(JTA)—Israel has been secretly providing aid to Syrian rebels on the border in the Golan Heights for several years, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The aid includes cash, as well as food, fuel and medical supplies, the newspaper reported in an article that first appeared on its website Sunday night. The story cited interviews with about half a dozen Syrian fighters.

The Israeli army is in regular communication with rebel groups and its financial assistance helps pay the salaries of fighters and buy ammunition and weapons, according to the report. In addition, Israel has established a military unit that oversees the support in Syria.

Rebels and the military loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad have been fighting since 2011 in a civil war that at times has spilled over into Israeli territory with errant fire. The Israeli military has responded to the rocket and artillery fire that landed on Israel’s side of the Golan Heights.

Israel has acknowledged treating thousands of Syrians injured in the war, both on the border and in hospitals in the north of the country, as well as providing some humanitarian aid to civilians living near the border, including food and clothing.

Israel’s military neither confirmed nor denied The Wall Street Journal report, telling the newspaper that the Israel Defense Forces is “committed to securing the borders of Israel and preventing the establishment of terror cells and hostile forces … in addition to providing humanitarian aid to the Syrians living in the area.”

The fighters interviewed for the story told Journal reporters that the Quneitra-based group Fursan al-Joulan, which means Knights of the Golan, is the main rebel group coordinating with Israel, which first made contact with the Israeli military in 2013 when Israel cared for some of its fighters. Its spokesman told the Journal that “Israel stood by our side in a heroic way,” and “We wouldn’t have survived without Israel’s assistance.”

Israel, which captured and annexed the Golan Heights in 1967, reportedly is concerned about a permanent Iranian and Hezbollah presence at its border under Assad, and that Iran would transport weapons to be used against Israel to Hezbollah military bases in southern Lebanon and the Syrian side of the Golan. Israel in recent years has bombed such arms shipments, leading to accusations that it was involving itself in the civil war.

The BBC story on the attacks was later changed to “Israeli police woman stabbed to death in Jerusalem.”

The policewoman, Hadas Malka, 23, was stabbed Friday near the Damascus Gate in the Old City Both assailants, including one holding a jammed gun, were shot and killed.

Simultaneously, at least one assailant was killed after attacking passers-by at the nearby Zedekiah’s Cave. Two people were injured in the attack.

New Zealand arts festival apologizes for removing word Israel from ‘Joseph’ lyrics

(JTA)—The longtime director of an arts festival in New Zealand has apologized for removing “Israel” from a song in the musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” scheduled to be performed there.

May Pritchard, who has coordinated the Artsplash festival for 30 years, said in a letter to the Wellington Regional Jewish Council and other critics of the change that the original words would be reinstated for the performance that will take place in September, the JWire Jewish news website reported.

The phrase “Children of Israel are never alone” in the song “Close Every Door,” which features Joseph and a choir of children, was altered to “Children of kindness.”

Pritchard said in her letter that she takes “‘full responsibility for this unfortunate and regrettable error.”

“You have my complete assurance that this was an unintentional and innocent error on the part of one of my team, and I apologize for it,” she said. “The person concerned, and myself for that matter, are religious people and would never consider intentionally doing anything racist or anti any religion.”

Pritchard said the festival has “always included children of all sorts of backgrounds, including Jewish.”

“There has never before been an incident of this sort, and I don’t expect there will be again,” she wrote, adding: “Action has been taken over the weekend to ensure that the original song words are all reinstated, with immediate effect.”

A local resident tweeted about the lyric change to “Joseph” lyricist Tim Rice, who responded in a tweet to the Wellington Local Council that the change was unauthorized. He also tweeted a thank you to the eagle-eyed resident, Kate Dowling, saying it was “a totally unauthorized change of lyric... Plus it’s a terribly drippy and meaningless alteration.”

David Zwartz of the Wellington Regional Jewish Council told JWire that since Rice has accepted an apology from the festival, “there is no reason why the performance of the song with the correct words shouldn’t go ahead.” He added that the word change “is an attempt to censor without explanation an event in Jewish history that took place about three-and-a-half thousand years ago. It is wrong to indicate to primary school children that something in the Jewish Torah – also included in the Christian Old Testament, and the Koran – needs to be altered, or avoided altogether.”

Swartz also said: “In the case of ‘Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,’ it is obviously something that inspired Sir Tim Rice and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber to create uplifting and enjoyable words and music. Its universal acceptability is shown by the more than 20,000 performances of the work worldwide.”

The song was part of a songbook of music by well-known composers that was to be performed by schoolchildren. “Close Every Door” and two other songs from the “Joseph” musical were first removed from the songbook altogether and then reinstated after an outcry from Rice and his supporters.

Jewish scholars say Dartmouth prof who signed pro-BDS statement was treated unfairly

(JTA)—A group of Jewish academics who oppose the boycott Israel movement decried a campaign against a Dartmouth professor who backed BDS, saying it has negatively impacted academic freedoms.

N. Bruce Duthu, an associate dean and faculty member in Native American studies at Dartmouth College, declined his nomination as dean of faculty earlier this year due to intense controversy over his past statements supporting the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement against Israel.

In response, eight members of the Alliance for Academic Freedom, a proponent of Liberal Zionism, noted Monday in an opinion piece in Inside Higher Education that while Duthu signed a petition supporting academic boycotts of Israel, he “embraced” Dartmouth’s official opposition to academic boycotts and pledged to continue to do so as dean of the faculty.

Pro-Israel critics of Duthu, the op-ed writers suggested, treated Duthu “unfairly” and did a disservice to “the cause of Jewish studies [and] Israel studies.”

Signers of the op-ed included Deborah Dash Moore, a professor specializing in Jewish history at the University of Michigan, and Cary Nelson, the former president of the American Association of University Professors.

On May 22, Duthu declined the nomination as dean of the faculty of arts and sciences at Dartmouth and decided to step down as associate dean of interdisciplinary studies after concerns were raised over his signature on a statement calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. The statement, by the council of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, or NAISA, calls on its members “to boycott Israeli academic institutions because they are imbricated with the Israeli state and we wish to place pressure on that state to change its policies.”

Earlier in May, Dartmouth economics professor Alan Gustman authored a faculty-wide letter calling on Duthu to publicly denounce the BDS statement or resign his position as dean, The Dartmouth newspaper reported.

Duthu responded by writing, “I continue to believe in the right of private citizens to express criticism of any country’s government policies. At the same time, I do not believe that a boycott of academic institutions is the appropriate response. Instead, I support sustained, open and collegial engagement with fellow academics, including collaborative research and teaching.”

Gustman pointed out that Duthu’s statement did not say he was withdrawing his support for the NAISA letter.

Duthu’s defenders include Dartmouth faculty member and Jewish studies head Susannah Heschel, who told the Alliance for Academic Freedom that she had “never heard anything from him that I would consider even remotely problematic about Israel, and I believe several of my Jewish colleagues who are far more right-wing than I feel the same way.”

She noted that Duthu helped her set up visits by faculty at Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University.

“Plus,” she wrote, “Bruce has been invited to lecture at Hebrew University and accepted with enthusiasm. Truth: he is no boycotter.”

Duthu said that as of July 1 he will return to the Native American studies department as a faculty member.

Heads of national US teachers’ unions slam Israel’s proposed ban on political opinions in classrooms

NEW YORK (JTA)—The heads of the American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors jointly condemned a law proposed by Israel’s education minister that would bar the expression of political views in classrooms.

“The ‘code of ethics’ that the government of Israel is considering for the country’s academic institutions is a threat not only to academic freedom in Israel, but to Israel’s standing as a democracy,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten and AAUP President Rudy Fichtenbaum in a joint statement Monday. Both Weingarten and Fichtenbaum are Jewish.

The proposed code of ethics for institutes of higher education, spearheaded by Israel’s education minister, Naftali Bennett, has spurred a fierce debate in Israel about the role of politics in the classroom. An organization of Israel’s university chiefs has rejected the code as governmental overreach.

“A careful study of the code shows that although it is defined as an ‘ethical code for appropriate behavior in the areas of overlap between academic activity and political activity,’ many of its articles deal with general activities in academic research and lectures,” the Committee of University Heads, which represents the nation’s seven universities, said in a statement last week. “As such, this code is a collection of state rules to dictate our conduct as faculty members.”

The AFT represents over 1.5 million K-12 teachers, while the AAUP represents teachers from more than 500 college campuses.

Weingarten and Fichtenbaum’s statement noted that they oppose the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel but believe any group has the right to free speech.

“While we have opposed efforts to boycott Israeli universities, we also oppose stifling discussion of boycott proposals,” they wrote. “No one convinces anyone of the merits of their position by preventing free speech.

“Moreover, movement to do this violates the norms of intellectual freedom and makes any opposition to boycott proposals significantly more difficult to defend. Either you believe in democracy and the freedom to speak or you don’t.”

ADL urges hate crime probe in Virginia killing of Muslim girl

WASHINGTON (JTA)—The Anti-Defamation League called on authorities to probe the slaying of a Muslim girl in suburban Virginia as a hate crime.

“We urge the Fairfax County Police Department to investigate the murder as a possible bias crime,” Doron Ezickson, the ADL’s Washington, D.C., director, said in a statement Monday. “ADL has communicated that to law enforcement and we have reached out to ADAMS to offer any assistance.”

ADAMS is the acronym for the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, the mosque that Nabra Hassanen had worshipped at in Washington’s northern Virginia suburbs in the pre-dawn hours Sunday before heading to a restaurant with friends for breakfast. Muslims fast from dawn to dusk during the month of Ramadan.

A motorist confronted the friends and assaulted the victim as they were walking back to the mosque, according to reports. All but Hassanen fled to the mosque, where worshippers alerted authorities. Hassanen’s body was found later in a pond.

Police arrested Darwin Martinez Torres, 22, and he was charged with murder, but told the Washington Post they were not investigating the killing as a hate crime. They did not explain why.

Marine Le Pen, Manuel Valls re-elected to French parliament

(JTA)—France’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen and former Prime Minister Manuel Valls both secured a seat in a parliamentary election that was dominated by the party of President Emmanuel Macron.

The centrist party, La Republique En Marche, which was created last year, clinched 361 seats out of 577 in the National Assembly, giving it an absolute majority following the final round of the parliamentary elections in France.

This provides Macron and his party, whose name means “Republic onwards,” a majority in parliament to pass economic reforms that he said during his presidential campaign were necessary to end the country’s financial stagnation.

National Front, Le Pen’s anti-Muslim and Euroskeptic party, garnered eight seats in the election—two fewer than polls predicted for the party.

Macron won the final round of the presidential vote on May 7 with 66 percent of the vote. Le Pen received 34 percent, the best result ever by her party.

Valls, a centrist member of the Socialist Party, narrowly defeated the far-left politician Jean-Luc Melenchon, who has been accused of espousing anti-Semitic rhetoric in speeches, in the Essone region in northern France. Valls won 50.3 percent of the vote there, according to FranceInter.

In a speech last year, Valls called anti-Zionism a form of anti-Semitism. In 2009, he said he has an “eternal bond” with the Jewish people because of his marriage to a Jewish woman.

Meyer Habib, a lawmaker for the UDI centrist party and a former leader of the CRIF umbrella of French Jewish communities, was re-elected to parliament as the representative of the 8th District.

Israel is home to more than 70,000 French citizens eligible to vote out of 111,736 throughout the district. During his campaign, Meyer was endorsed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is a longtime personal friend.

For the first time in history, turnout in a legislative election slumped to below 50 percent in both rounds. On Sunday, 43 percent of voters cast ballots.

Haredi Orthodox parties propose resolution to cancel Western Wall egalitarian agreement

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The haredi Orthodox parties in Israel’s government have proposed a new resolution that would rescind a government decision to create an official egalitarian section at the Western Wall.

The United Torah Judaism and Shas parties submitted the proposal to the Prime Minister’s Office in recent days, Army Radio first reported Sunday. The plan would return the “status quo” to the Western Wall, keeping in place the egalitarian prayer area erected at Robinson’s Arch, Army Radio reported.

The rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinowitz, approved the proposal.

In a statement issued Sunday to the media, the Women of the Wall group called it “outrageous” that the government would consider the proposal more than a year after approving an agreement for an egalitarian section governed by the liberal Jewish movements.

“Israel’s prime minister, who encouraged the various parties to reach an agreement, has yet to harness the courage to enforce it,” the statement said. “Netanyahu now cowardly continues the discrimination and exclusion of women at the Western Wall. In submitting to the will of the Haredi parties, the PM is sacrificing women’s rights to pray as they wish, be it egalitarian or traditional prayers.”

An agreement passed in January 2016 by the government for an egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall was negotiated by the Reform and Conservative movements, the Women of the Wall, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli government.

Under the agreement, which was approved by the Cabinet, the egalitarian section of the wall near Robinson’s Arch would be expanded and placed under the authority of a pluralist committee. The section would have a common entrance with the rest of the Western Wall plaza. The plan also called for solidifying haredi Orthodox control over the site’s traditional Orthodox section.

Haredi Orthodox lawmakers and some from the Jewish Home and Likud parties in December submitted a bill to the Knesset to prevent non-Orthodox public prayer at the Western Wall.


Reader Comments


Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2019

Rendered 06/29/2020 22:51