Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA
July 7, 2017
J Street meets with US ambassador to Israel David Friedman
(JTA)—The leadership of J Street, the liberal American Jewish Middle East policy group, met with David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel who before his nomination had derided the group as worse than Nazi collaborators.
“We appreciate the willingness of Ambassador Friedman to meet members of Congress under the auspices of J Street,” said a statement from J Street distributed after the meeting on Monday.
Friedman at the meeting was joined by a congressional delegation traveling in Israel under J Street auspices and led by J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami.
“It is vital to maintain an open channel of communication among American, Israeli and Jewish communal leaders of all political backgrounds,” J Street said.
Friedman, a longtime lawyer to President Donald Trump and a funder of the settlement movement, had derided J Street in writings and statements before Trump’s election last year, calling the group “worse than kapos,” the Jewish collaborators with Nazis. He had also said, before becoming ambassador but apparently having secured Trump’s pledge to nominate him, that as ambassador he would not meet with J Street.
In Senate confirmation hearings earlier this year, Friedman apologized for the “hurtful words” he said about liberal Jewish groups and individuals. Notably, however, he did not deliver a personal apology to J Street, although he did to other groups.
“While the content of today’s meeting was off the record, the fact of the meeting represents a recognition that there needs to be a broad dialogue in the pro-Israel community, even with those with whom we disagree,” the J Street statement said. “J Street is pleased to have the opportunity to convey on this trip to a wide variety of Israeli, Palestinian and American leaders the urgent necessity on the ground of making progress toward a two-state resolution to the conflict.”
The congressional delegation, all Democrats, included Reps. Barbara Lee and Ami Bera of California; Brenda Lawrence of Michigan; Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey; Earl Blumenauer of Oregon; Cheri Bustos of Illinois, and Dwight Evans of Pennsylvania.
Trump’s CNN wrestling video traced to online anti-Semite, ADL says
WASHINGTON (JTA)—The anonymous Reddit user who is claiming responsibility for the altered video depicting President Donald Trump body slamming someone with CNN superimposed over his head has a history of racism, anti-Semitism and incitement to violence, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said in a one-sentence email to a JTA request for a response to the ADL report on the gif, “The video did not come from Reddit.” He did not say where the video came from.
Trump tweeted the gif, or graphics interchange format—a short video that is friendly to multiple platforms—on Sunday. It was drawn from a staged encounter years ago between wrestling impresario Vince McMahon and Trump, who are friends.
The president has feuded with the media generally and CNN specifically in recent days. He has seized on CNN’s retracting of a report linking a Trump ally to a Senate investigation, calling the news network a purveyor of “garbage journalism.” He tagged the gif #FraudNewsCNN, and the official White House account, @POTUS, retweeted it.
Jared Yates Sexton, a political commentator who has criticized Trump, was the first on Sunday to trace the gif to a user of the Reddit social media platform and identified racist and anti-Semitic postings by the same user.
ADL in its analysis was more careful, stopping short of confirming that the Reddit user, who goes by the handle HanAssholeSolo, was behind the clip, saying instead that he “appears to have created the version of the edited clip tweeted by the president and posted it on a sub-Reddit commonly used by President Trump supporters.”
It noted that the Reddit user on Monday celebrated Trump’s use of the gif as a personal victory and that other Reddit users congratulated him or her.
ADL’s analysis tracked other memes—or internet themes—launched by the user, including a chart of CNN personalities with the purported Jews among them marked with stars of David and other intimations of Jewish media control.
In another post, the Reddit user, using the pejorative for African-Americans, said: “I just like dancing when n****** are getting beat down by the cops.” He or she also said that the liberal Jewish philanthropist George Soros’s “dead bloated corpse being dragged through the streets would be my satisfaction.”
Israel sues widow and children of Palestinian terrorist for cost of attack
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel has filed a civil lawsuit against the wife and young children of a Palestinian terrorist to recover the cost of his attack in Jerusalem.
The suit filed last month by the Jerusalem Prosecutor’s Office over the January attack is expected to be the first in a number of lawsuits expected to be filed against the families of Palestinian terrorists, Haaretz reported Sunday.
Called “precedent-setting” by Haaretz, the suit was filed against the estate of Fadi al-Qanbar, 28, who killed four soldiers in a truck-ramming attack in eastern Jerusalem on Jan. 8.
It calls for $572,000 in compensation to the families of each soldier killed, reimbursement for each of their funerals and headstones, and for the benefits paid by the state to the soldiers’ families. The soldiers were aged 20 to 22.
“This lawsuit, which stems from a terrorist incident in which soldiers were murdered, is designed to recover the expenses incurred in events of this kind to the state’s coffers, as well as sending a clear message that the state will also settle accounts on a civil level with the perpetrators of hostile acts,” the Jerusalem Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement, according to Haaretz.
Qanbar rammed his truck into a group of cadets in an officers’ training course who had just gotten off a bus on the promenade in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood. Soldiers shot and killed Qanbar.
The Israeli military also has sealed off the family home and revoked the Jerusalem residency permits of 10 family members.
Anti-Semitic graffiti spray-painted on harbor wall near Boston
(JTA)—Anti-Semitic graffiti was spray-painted on a wall near the harbor in a Boston-area coastal town.
A kayaker called local police on Friday evening after seeing the graffiti in Marblehead from the water.
The graffiti included a Star of David in a circle with a line drawn through it and the letters IDF in a circle with a line through it, a derogatory phrase referring to Bernie Sanders, “End the Jew” and the Trump campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” next to the word Jew, among others.
City officials and residents are expected to gather Monday near the site of the graffiti at Riverhead Beach to condemn the graffiti as part of a rally organized by the local Anti-Defamation League called “Marblehead Unites Against Hate.” Marblehead is a town of some 20,000 people about 16 miles northeast of Boston.
Police are investigating the graffiti incident, as well as another incident in a section of Seaside Park, where they said “similarly offensive graffiti was discovered.” It is not known if the same vandals are responsible for both incidents.
Marblehead city workers were able to quickly remove the graffiti once it was discovered, according to reports.
United Church of Christ resolution condemns Israel for treatment of Palestinian children
(JTA)—The United Church of Christ overwhelmingly approved a resolution condemning Israel for its treatment of Palestinian children living in the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem and Gaza.
The vote Sunday night by delegates at the 31st General Synod of the United Church of Christ in Baltimore, Maryland, was 79 percent in favor, 13 percent against and 9 percent abstaining, according to a statement issued by the church.
The resolution calls on Israel to “exercise an absolute prohibition against torture and ill-treatment of detained children.”
It also calls on the United States to withhold military assistance from Israel over what the church says are violations of human rights in its treatment of Palestinian children. The resolution says the churches and members must learn about the plight of children in Palestine and the State of Israel.
It comes two years after the church voted to divest from companies that profit from Israel’s control of the West Bank.
Among the abuses the resolution cited: Palestinian children being held in Israeli prisons and tried in Israeli military courts; strip searches; hands tied; blindfolds; physical violence; verbal abuse; intimidation; solitary confinement, and being interrogated without a lawyer or parent present.
The UCC Palestine/Israel Network, which drafted the resolution, worked with many allies and interfaith partners, the church said in a statement.
“The United Church of Christ stands with many ecumenical, interfaith and international partners in adopting this resolution,” the statement said. “The UCC joins other religious and secular organizations already seeking the remedies listed and/or currently deliberating actions toward justice for Palestinian children subjected to the abuses named” in the resolution, the statement said.
The church says on its website that it has over 5,000 congregations and nearly 1 million members across the United States.
The American Jewish Committee denounced the resolution, calling it “deeply disappointing.”
“The latest UCC resolution does nothing to advance the possibility of peace. Rather, by continuing to demonize Israel, UCC supports those who oppose peace,” Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC’s director of interreligious and intergroup relations, said in a statement Monday.
Anti-Semitic banner, fliers in NJ town tied to arrests of Orthodox couples for welfare fraud
(JTA)—A banner with an anti-Semitic slur hung over a synagogue’s Holocaust memorial and fliers left on cars in a New Jersey township are related to the arrest of several area haredi Orthodox couples for welfare fraud, police said.
The incidents occurred over the weekend in Lakewood, where at least seven haredi Orthodox couples were arrested last week for underreporting their incomes to receive government benefits, including a rabbi and his wife as well as his brother and his wife.
The banner hung at Congregation Sons of Israel reads “(((Heebs))) will not divide us,” using the anti-Semitic echo symbol popularized by the “alt-right” to highlight Jewish names. Heebs stands for Hebrews and is used as an ethnic slur against Jews. The banner also lists a website for a white supremacist group.
Anti-Semitic fliers referencing the arrests were placed on cars throughout the township as well, the Asbury Park Press reported.
New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino in a tweet posted Sunday called the incidents “sickening.” He also reminded the public of the $10,000 reward from the state for information that leads to a bias crime conviction.
The incidents are being investigated as hate crimes.
“We do believe that this recent rash of anti-Semitic incidents is directly related to the recent arrests in our town. We have not had any other incidents before,” Lakewood Police Chief Gregory Meyer told the Asbury Park Press. “We will not tolerate this kind of behavior and we are working with (the) state and the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office in an attempt to make arrests. We will look to prosecute all incidents of bias crimes that take place against our citizens.”
Hungarian foreign minister defends PM’s praise for Nazi ally Miklos Horthy
(JTA)—The foreign minister of Hungary defended his prime minister’s praise for Nazi collaborator Miklos Horthy while also criticizing Horthy’s anti-Semitic policies.
The statement Saturday by the minister of foreign affairs and trade, Peter Szijjártó, followed Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s assertion during a June 21 speech that Horthy, who was an ally of Adolf Hitler, was one of “a few outstanding statesmen,” thanks to whom “history did not bury us beneath itself after all.”
Horthy passed anti-Semitic laws and oversaw the murder of hundreds of thousands of Jews.
“History must be respected, and the historical facts indicate that the activities of Miklos Horthy as governor included both positive and extremely negative periods,” Szijjártó told the MTI news agency following condemnations of Orban’s praise by the Mazshihisz umbrella group of Jewish communities and the World Jewish Congress.
Szijjártó added: “However, it is extremely negative and belongs in the category of historical sin that despite his oath he did not protect Hungary’s Jews, who were part of the Hungarian nation. It belongs in the category of historical sin that laws which discriminated against Jews were introduced during his time in office, and that hundreds of thousands of Jews fell victim to the Holocaust.
“Our government is one of the European governments that has done the most to combat anti-Semitism. While Hungary has its current government, the Hungarian Jewish community can be sure that the Government will protect them in every respect.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to visit Hungary later this month.
Israel’s ambassador to Budapest, Yossi Amrani, also sought clarification from Hungarian government officials regarding the Orban statement.
Belgium’s north bans form of kosher slaughter
(JTA)—The Parliament in the northern Belgium Flanders, or Flemish, region unanimously passed a resolution banning ritual slaughter without stunning.
The decision, made last week, follows a similar one approved in May by the Walloon Parliament in the south, Belgium’s largest region. Both measures will take effect in 2019.
Half of Belgium’s Jewish population of 40,000 people lives in the Flemish region. The remaining 20,000 live in the Brussels region. Walloon is home to just a few hundred Jews.
Kosher slaughterhouses in Antwerp, the capital of the Flemish region, provide meat to many Jewish communities in Europe.
The threat to ban ritual slaughter without stunning has been circulating in Belgium for many years.
Shechitah, the ritual method of slaughtering animals, requires they be conscious when their throats are slit—a practice that critics say is cruel but which advocates insist is more humane than mechanized methods used in non-kosher abattoirs. Muslims slaughter animals in a similar method, albeit with fewer restrictions, to produce halal meat.
Teen arrested in vandalism of Jewish camp charged with hate crime
(JTA)—A local teenager has been arrested and charged with vandalizing a Jewish camp in upstate New York.
Police found in their investigation that Christopher Santoro, 18, acted against Camp Shomria in Liberty, New York, out of “a dislike for the religion of the owners and occupants of the camp.” The State Police hate crimes unit has been involved in the investigation.
The camp run by the Hashomer Hatzair movement was broken into on June 12. Several of the buildings were damaged on the interior and exterior, and covered in anti-Semitic graffiti.
Santoro was arraigned Wednesday in the Town of Fallsburg Justice Court on felony charges of third-degree burglary and fourth-degree criminal mischief as a hate crime. He will return to court on July 5, The Times Herald-Record reported.
The 100-year-old camp bills itself as “The Kibbutz in the Catskills.”
Qatar is third country to ban ‘Wonder Woman’ over Israeli actress Gal Gadot
(JTA)—Qatar has become the third Arab-majority country to ban the screening of the movie “Wonder Woman” because Israeli actress Gal Gadot is playing the title role.
The film had been scheduled to premiere in Qatar on Thursday and was being promoted by the local theater chains VOX Cinemas Qatar and Novo Cinemas. But in the days before its scheduled release, the film was removed from cinema websites, Doha News reported.
The film, which has grossed over $700 million worldwide, according to Forbes, has been banned in Lebanon and Tunisia. Jordan’s Communications Commission initially banned the film before allowing it to be screened “due to a lack of legal precedent.”
Gadot, 32, does not shy away from touting her Israeli heritage. She praised the Israeli military in a widely shared Facebook post during the 2014 Gaza War. She served in the Israeli army as a combat instructor during the 2006 Lebanon War.
Jewish community donates soccer field to Italian town devastated by earthquakes
(JTA)—A central Italian town devastated last year by earthquakes has a new sports field provided by the Italian Jewish community.
On Sunday, a soccer field donated by the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, or UCEI, was formally opened at Amatrice with a friendly match between Maccabi Italia and a local team.
Amatrice was at the epicenter of a series of quakes starting Aug. 24 that destroyed much of the town and other nearby localities. About 300 people were killed in the natural disaster.
The new soccer field is the first sports facility to reopen after the quakes.
“It’s a small gesture, a drop in the ocean of the emergency, but I hope that it can renew the hope and faith in the future,” UCEI President Noemi Di Segni said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “The game resumes,” she also said—quoting the name of the initiative. She then recited the Shehecheyanu prayer recited over new beginnings and firsts.
The UCEI has provided aid to Amatrice and the earthquake zone since the quakes hit. It organized a blood drive, collected funds and material for relief operations, and opened a special bank account for earthquake relief donations. Volunteers from the humanitarian NGO IsraAid also worked in the affected area.
22-year-old Israeli convicted of arson at historic Galilee church
(JTA)—A 22-year-old Israeli man was convicted in the 2015 arson at a historic church in the northern part of the country.
The Nazareth District Court convicted Yinon Reuveni for the attack on the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes in the Galilee, The Times of Israel reported. The Roman Catholic church is built at the site where Christians believe Jesus multiplied bread and fish to feed 5,000 people.
Also Monday, a suspected accomplice, 21-year-old Yehuda Asraf, was acquitted of aiding Reuveni in the attack.
Reuveni was indicted last year for the arson and charged with another one in Jerusalem. According to the indictment, Reuveni committed the church arson due to negative beliefs he held about Christianity, the BBC reported. Reuveni’s lawyer said he would appeal the verdict.
At the time of the attack, graffiti reading “False idols will be smashed” and “pagans” were found on the walls of the church, leading police to believe the fire was set deliberately as part of a hate crime.
The Roman Catholic church, located in the area of Tabgha, is built on the site of a fifth-century church and contains restored mosaic floors from the time period. The attack, which was widely condemned in Israel, did not damage the church but other buildings in the complex were harmed, according to The Times of Israel. Renovations to reopen the complex cost around $1 million.
A third suspect, Moshe Orbach, is awaiting trial, according to The Times of Israel.
Quentin Tarantino gets engaged to Israeli singer Daniela Pick
(JTA)—Quentin Tarantino has become engaged to an Israeli singer, Daniela Pick.
The famed director and the 33-year-old musician and model, the daughter of Israeli singer and songwriter Tzvika Pick, were engaged Friday night in Los Angeles, Ynet News reported.
“It’s true, we’re very happy and very excited,” Pick told Ynet of the engagement.
The couple started dating in 2009 when the 54-year-old Tarantino was visiting Israel to promote his movie “Inglorious Basterds.” They later broke up, but were seen together again in 2016, according to Ynet.
Tarantino, who is of Italian, English and Irish ancestry, won the Academy Award for best screenplay for “Django Unchained” and “Pulp Fiction” while directing both films.