Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

 


Netanyahu’s office defends vote to freeze Western Wall agreement

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The Prime Minister’s Office in Israel said it was working to ensure that Jews of all streams can feel comfortable praying at the Western Wall after the Cabinet voted to freeze an agreement that would have made a permanent space there for women and men to pray as they wish.

Non-Orthodox and feminist groups in Israel and the Diaspora reacted with outrage Sunday at the news that the government had suspended the 17-month-old agreement under pressure from haredi Orthodox interests.

Cabinet Secretary Tzachi Braverman said in a statement Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had issued directives instructing that work be expedited to create a comfortable egalitarian section to the south of the Western Wall plaza. A small prayer area near that site, known as Robinson’s Arch, has been in use since 2000.

Braverman said Netanyahu had issued a directive that “Jews from all streams be able to continue praying there—as they are able to do today.”

Braverman also said that Netanyahu instructed him and fellow minister Tzachi Hanegbi “to continue dialogue in order to try and reach a solution.”

“It is important to Prime Minister Netanyahu that every Jew is able to pray at the Western Wall,” Braverman said in the statement, adding: “I recommend that those trying to exploit this issue be precise with the facts.”

Leaders of Diaspora Jewry and the Women of the Wall group originally sought a space at the familiar Western Wall plaza to the north of Robinson’s Arch where women and men could pray together and women could wear tallitot and yarmulkes and pray from a Torah scroll. The January 2016 compromise called for a larger and more permanent prayer space to the south of the plaza, a single entrance to the entire Western Wall complex, a pluralistic joint committee to oversee the southern area and a budget to pay for it.


Following Sunday’s announcement of the Cabinet vote to “freeze” the compromise, its proponents issued statements criticizing Netanyahu for reneging on his commitments. They are unlikely to be assuaged by Braverman’s terse defense of the status quo.

Freezing the compromise only deepens “the already accelerating divide between Diaspora Jews and Israel, precisely at a time when Jewish unity has never been more important,” Eric Goldstein, CEO of UJA-Federation of New York, said in a statement Monday. “We call on the government to immediately restore and move ahead with the Kotel agreement—a rare, unified compromise between all denominations that would be a landmark achievement for all Jews.”


Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, the head of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party and one of two Cabinet members to vote against the decision to freeze the agreement with liberal groups, said in a statement that it “constitutes a severe blow to the unity of the Jewish people, Jewish communities, and the fabric of relations between the State of Israel and the Jews of the Diaspora.”

Liberman said at the beginning of his party faction’s meeting Monday that he would not bring down the government over the issue, however, but work to come to a compromise.

Yair Lapid, head of the opposition Yesh Atid party, spoke in English at the beginning of his party’s faction meeting in order to reach the Jewish Diaspora, particularly U.S. Jews, he said.

“I want to tell you that the vast majority of the citizens of Israel oppose the two decisions taken yesterday by the government,” he said, referring to the Western Wall decision and a separate conversion bill that would solidify conversions in Israel under the authority of the haredi-dominated Chief Rabbinate.

“Do not give up on us. We have no intention of giving up on you. We are one people. It might take time. It might take elections. But in a democracy the majority decides and the majority in Israel want us to be one nation.”

He also said, “We will fight this together until these two decisions are canceled.”

Sephardi Orthodox Shas Party leader Arye Deri, who opposes the Western Wall compromise, said during his party’s meeting that dividing the Western Wall “destroys Jewish unity.”

He added: “Every Jew in the world, and non-Jews, can come pray there.

“We have nothing against Jews, in any place they may be. They are all our brothers. Our fight is against the approach, this ideology which is attempting to bring a new Judaism here, is trying to destroy everything that we built here over the years.”


Ban on Jewish Pride flags at gay march called ‘unbridled hypocrisy’

(JTA)—Jewish groups denounced the banning of Jewish Pride flags at a march in Chicago celebrating the lesbian community and called for an apology.

Organizers of the 21st annual Chicago Dyke March told the three women asked to leave the march that the rainbow flags with a white Star of David in the center would be a “trigger,” or traumatic stimulus, for people who found them offensive.

A Dyke March collective member told the Windy City Times that the women were told to leave because the flags “made people feel unsafe,” and that Sunday’s march was “anti-Zionist” and “pro-Palestinian.”

The Anti-Defamation League said in a statement Monday that march organizers should apologize to the women for what it described as an “outrageous” action.

“The community of LGBTQ supporters is diverse and that is part of its tremendous strength,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s CEO. “Both the act and the explanation were anti-Semitic, plain and simple. We stand with A Wider Bridge and others in demanding an apology. We appreciate the Human Rights Campaign’s support and we call on other leaders from LGBTQ and progressive communities to join us in condemning this exclusion.”

The Human Rights Campaign, which calls itself the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization with 1.5 million members, tweeted its support for the women.

“Marches should be safe spaces to celebrate our diversity and our pride. This is not right,” the group wrote.

The Chicago Dyke march in a statement issued late Sunday said that Palestinian and Jewish anti-Zionist marchers approached the women and expressed concern about the flags since they are “visually reminiscent of the Israeli flag” due to the placement of the Star of David in the middle, and because such flags are widely used in pinkwashing efforts.

The women were asked to leave, according to the statement, after they began “defending the state of Israel and Zionism as a whole.”  The statement continued: “It became clear that the political position of the marchers was at odds with the anti-racist and anti-Zionist ethos of Dyke march Chicago.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights NGO, also denounced the banning of the Jewish Pride flags, saying it “brings disgrace to a movement that is dedicated to equal rights for all.”

“Equal rights that is except for Jews who dare to celebrate their ties to their people and the Jewish homeland,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the center, said in a statement.

He added: “The unbridled hypocrisy and anti-Semitism of these campaigners degrades the cause for equality for all in our society and for LGBTQ rights around the world.”

The Chicago Jewish Voice for Peace, which backs the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, offered its support to march organizers, retweeting its statement that “We stand 100% w @DykeMarchChi more coming, heres partial teaser: @AWiderBridge whose staffer was asked 2 leave partners w Israeli military!”

U of Delaware lecturer loses job for saying Otto Warmbier ‘got what he deserved’

(JTA)—An adjunct professor at the University of Delaware who said American Jewish college student Otto Warmbier “got exactly what he deserved” will not be rehired to teach at the university.

Katherine Dettwyler, who teaches anthropology, criticized Warmbier on social media and in the comments section of an article published on the National Review website.

“The University of Delaware has announced that Katherine Dettwyler, who last taught in the spring as an adjunct faculty member, will not be rehired to teach at the University in the future,” the school announced Sunday in a statement, the Delaware News Journal reported.

The announcement came days after the university issued a statement denouncing her remarks.

“Is it wrong of me to think that Otto Warmbier got exactly what he deserved,” Dettwyler said in a post on her Facebook page, according to reports and screenshots of the page, which can no longer be accessed online.

Warmbier was detained in North Korea for over a year and died shortly after returning home in a coma. North Korea has denied that Warmbier was mistreated while in custody after being sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for stealing a propaganda poster on what North Korea claimed were orders from an Ohio Methodist church.

“These are the same kids who cry about their grades because they didn’t think they’d really have to read and study the material to get a good grade ... His parents ultimately are to blame for his growing up thinking he could get away with whatever he wanted. Maybe in the US, where young, white, rich, clueless white males routinely get away with raping women. Not so much in North Korea.”

She also posted that Warmbier behaved like a “spoiled, naive, arrogant U.S. college student who never had to face the consequences of his actions” while he was in North Korea.

Throughout negotiations to return Warmbier home, the family did not disclose that he was Jewish so as not to antagonize North Korea, which believed he was affiliated with the church.

Sheldon Adelson questioned for second time in corruption case against Netanyahu

JERUSALEM (JTA)—American Jewish billionaire philanthropist Sheldon Adelson was questioned by Israeli police for a second time in a corruption investigation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Adelson met Monday with investigators from the serious crime investigative unit. His wife, Miriam, also was scheduled to meet with investigators.

Police have assured the Adelsons that they are not suspects in the investigation, known as Case 2000. Adelson first met with investigators in May when he and his wife visited Israel in connection with President Donald Trump’s visit.

On Sunday night, the couple attended a Birthright Israel event marking the project’s 600,000th participant.

Adelson, a casino magnate, is the owner of the pro-Netanyahu daily newspaper Israel Hayom, which is distributed for free. Part of the investigation includes accusations that Netanyahu and Arnon Mozes, publisher of the daily Yediot Acharanot, discussed a deal in which Netanyahu would receive favorable coverage in Yediot in exchange for legislation that would cut into the circulation of Adelson’s paper.

In recordings obtained by police of Netanyahu and Mozes discussing such a deal, they referred to Adelson as the “gingy,” or redhead. Investigators reportedly have asked if Adelson was aware of the deal. Reports following the first round of questioning said that Adelson was not made aware of the deal by Netanyahu.

Miriam Adelson reportedly deals with the couple’s Israeli affairs, including the newspaper. The Adelsons and Netanyahus are considered to be close friends.

Jewish Agency, Reform movement cancel meetings with Netanyahu following Western Wall decision

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The Jewish Agency’s board of governors canceled a scheduled dinner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the Israeli government decided to freeze a plan to create an egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall.

Also Monday, the heads of the Reform movement in the United States and Israel said they would cancel a meeting with the prime minister scheduled for Thursday in the wake of the decision. The meeting had been arranged several weeks ago.

The Jewish Agency announced the cancellation on Monday, the day of the dinner. The statement also said the group would change its entire agenda for the remaining two days of its meetings in Jerusalem “in order to address the ramifications of these decisions.”

A Knesset ceremony Monday to kick off the board of governors meeting also was canceled.

The Jewish Agency also announced that it had unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the Israeli government to reverse its decision to suspend the deal and a separate decision to advance a bill that would only recognize conversions completed under the auspices of the haredi Orthodox-dominated Chief Rabbinate.

The resolution said the proposed conversion bill “has the devastating potential to permanently exclude hundreds of thousands of Israelis from being a part of the Jewish people.” It also said the board “deplores” the decision to freeze the Western Wall agreement intended to “establish the Kotel as a unifying symbol for Jews around the world, as stated: ‘One Wall for One People.’”

“The Government of Israel’s decisions have a deep potential to divide the Jewish people and to undermine the Zionist vision and dream of Herzl, Ben-Gurion, and Jabotinsky to establish Israel as a national home for the entire Jewish people,” the resolution also said.

The Jewish Agency’s newly installed board of governors chairman, Michael Siegal, told Haaretz on Monday that his agency would re-evaluate its relationship with the Israeli government.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, explained in a statement that his movement had been “deeply encouraged” 18 months ago when Netanyahu and his Cabinet, over the objection of haredi Orthodox parties, had passed an agreement that was negotiated by the Reform and Conservative movements, Women of the Wall, the Jewish Agency and the Israeli government.

Jacobs said Netanyahu rescinded the agreement without discussion with North American leaders.

“The decision cannot be seen as anything other than a betrayal, and I see no point to a meeting at this time,” Jacobs said. “After yesterday’s shameful decisions, we feel that at this moment, after more than four years of negotiations, it is not clear that the current Israeli government honors its agreements.”

The agreement would have doubled to nearly 10,000 square feet—half the size of the Orthodox main section just to its north—a section where men and women could pray together on the western side of the Temple Mount. A committee of non-Orthodox leaders and government officials was to manage the non-Orthodox section, and a single entrance was to lead to both sections.

 

Reader Comments
(0)

 
 

Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2018

Rendered 09/25/2018 00:07