Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA
July 28, 2017
Jared Kushner says Russia charges ‘ridicule’ Trump voters
WASHINGTON (JTA)—In a rare public statement, Jared Kushner insisted he did not collude with Russia and said the query into suspicions of a relationship between Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign “ridiculed” Trump voters.
“Let me very clear, I did not collude with Russia, nor did I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so,” Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a top aide, said Monday, reading a prepared statement after appearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed session.
Kushner is in the spotlight because of revelations in recent weeks that he attended a June 9, 2016, meeting organized by his brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr., who took the meeting believing it would be with a Russian government lawyer who had incriminating intelligence on Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton. Also under review are reports that Kushner, like his father-in-law in the real estate business, owes money to Russian lenders.
“I had no improper contacts,” he said. “I have not relied on Russian funds for my businesses and I have been fully transparent in providing all requested information.”
Kushner suggested the investigation was a means of undercutting Trump’s election.
“Donald Trump had a better message and ran a smarter campaign, and that is why he won,” Kushner said. “Suggesting otherwise ridicules those who voted for him.”
Kushner said he remained committed to his work, citing among his many assignments bringing peace to the Middle East.
“I am so grateful for the opportunity to work on important matters such as Middle East peace and reinvigorating America’s innovative spirit,” he said.
Israeli Embassy guard in Jordan kills assailant, bystander after being stabbed with screwdriver
(JTA)—An Israeli Embassy guard in Amman, Jordan, killed his 17-year-old assailant and a bystander after being stabbed in the chest with a screwdriver.
The attacker reportedly entered the home of an embassy official on Sunday evening to replace the furniture when he saw the security guard and stabbed him. The guard then pulled out his firearm and shot the attacker in the chest.
Reports said the owner of the residential building used by the embassy was hit with a stray bullet and killed.
Jordanian police are demanding to question the guard, while relatives of the stabber are calling for the death penalty.
The Israeli Embassy has refused to release the guard to the Jordanians for questioning, saying he has immunity. Jordan, meanwhile, refuses to allow the guard to leave the country.
The Israeli diplomatic team remains confined to the embassy compound, despite plans to evacuate the embassy staff and return them to Israel, Haaretz reported.
The Foreign Ministry told the Israeli media that it considers the incident to be a terror attack and related to the current Temple Mount crisis.
The father of the teen assailant reportedly told a Jordanian television station that he does not believe his son intended to attack an Israeli. However, he also said, “I consider my son to be a martyr for Allah.”
Thousands of Jordanians demonstrated against Israel in Amman on Friday over the installation of metal detectors at the Temple Mount. Among the chants heard at the demonstration was “How beautiful it is to kill soldiers in Jerusalem,” Ynet reported. The Jordan-based Islamic Waqf is the administrator of the Temple Mount.
Jordan allows Israeli Embassy employees, including guard who killed attacker, to return to Israel
JERUSALEM (JTA)—The members of Israel’s diplomatic mission in Amman, Jordan, including a security guard who shot and killed his teenage assailant and a bystander, are back in Israel.
The embassy employees, who had been confined to the embassy compound all day Monday following the stabbing attack Sunday evening by a 17-year-old and subsequent shooting, returned late Monday through the Allenby Bridge.
In a statement issued shortly after 11 p.m. Monday, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office said their return “was made possible by the close cooperation that took place in the last 24 hours between Israel and Jordan.”
The head of the Israel Security Agency, or Shin Bet, Nadav Argaman, traveled Monday to Jordan in an effort to diffuse the crisis.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah spoke that afternoon by telephone. Abdullah told Netanyahu to remove the metal detectors placed at the entrances to the Temple Mount used by Muslim worshippers, put into place after three Arab-Israelis killed two Druze-Israeli police officers in a July 14 terrorist attack near the Al-Aqsa mosque.
Israel’s Security Cabinet met for several hours Monday evening in an effort to resolve the crisis over security measures on the Temple Mount and the escalating diplomatic crisis with Jordan.
In the attack Sunday, the assailant entered a residential building occupied by the embassy to install furniture and stabbed the Israeli guard with a screwdriver. The guard shot and killed the assailant. The building’s owner, who was standing nearby, was killed after being hit by a stray bullet.
Jordanian police had demanded to question the guard, while relatives of the stabber called for the death penalty. The embassy refused to turn the guard over to the Jordanians for questioning, saying he had immunity.
Jordanian security forces reportedly held mobs of protesters who had gathered at the embassy at bay following the incident.
The Israeli media reported that the government is considering removing the metal detectors and replacing them with high-tech security cameras, and is aiming to make the changes before Friday, the busiest day at the site for Muslim prayers.
The cameras reportedly would be located a distance away from the gates into the site, so as not to offend the worshippers, who have been protesting the metal detectors by refusing to enter the sites and holding worship services at the gates, leading to clashes with Israeli security forces that have killed at least five Muslims.
BDS activists reportedly prevented from boarding flight to Israel
(JTA)—Five members of an interfaith delegation to Israel were prevented from boarding their flight from Washington, D.C., due to their activism on behalf of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
The Jewish Voice for Peace organization said in a statement Monday that the delegation tried to check into its Lufthansa flight at Dulles International Airport, only to be told that the Israeli government had ordered the airline not to let the five passengers aboard.
In March, the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, amended the Law of Entry to prevent leaders of the BDS movement from being allowed into Israel. The amendment applies to organizations that take consistent and significant action against Israel through BDS, as well as the leadership and senior activists of those groups.
Lufthansa spokesman Tal Muscal confirmed that the delegation members were not allowed to fly per the Israeli government’s request. Lufthansa was not made aware of the reason for the order.
Muscal said the airline must obey government requests like these to block passengers from boarding flights.
“We don’t know who these people are,” Muscal told JTA. “We have no information as to why the Israeli government does not want them to enter. We simply have to abide by the rules and regulations of every country in which we operate.”
The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment on the report.
Three of the activists were from JVP, including a rabbi. The other two delegation members prevented from boarding the flight were Rick Ufford Chase of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship in Rockland County, New York, and Shakeel Syed, a national board member with American Muslims for Palestine in Los Angeles.
The other 18 participants with the Interfaith Network for Justice in Palestine delegation arrived Monday morning in Israel and were allowed to enter after several hours of detention and questioning, according to JVP.
JVP states on its website that it supports boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.
“Israel denied me the ability to travel there because of my work for justice for Palestinians, even though I’m Jewish and a rabbi,” Rabbi Alissa Wise said in the JVP statement. “I’m heartbroken and outraged. This is yet another demonstration that democracy and tolerance in Israel only extends to those who fall in line with its increasingly repressive policies against Palestinians.
Syed said in the statement that he had his boarding pass in hand when “the Lufthansa representative informed me that they had a direct order from ‘Israeli immigration authorities’ to not allow us to board the plane. Furthermore, they refused to even show us the Israeli order.”
JVP said it is believed to be the first time that the amendment has been enforced before passengers boarded their flights to Israel and the first time that Israel has denied entry to Jews, including a rabbi, for their support of BDS.
Following the passage of the Entry Law amendment, several groups that promote BDS planned to organize delegations to come to Israel and test the boundaries of the amendment.
An anti-BDS bill making its way through Congress would expand existing law that bans boycotts imposed by foreign governments to include those imposed by international organizations like the European Union and the United Nations.
Second anti-Israel protest staged outside Istanbul synagogue
(JTA)—For the second time in less than a week, protesters demonstrated against Israel outside a synagogue in Istanbul over Israel’s decision to put up metal detectors at the entrance to the Temple Mount.
The latest incident reported in the Turkish media occurred Saturday outside the Ahrida Synagogue on the European side of the Turkish capital, in the north of the neighborhood of Fatih, which is a stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist movements in Turkey.
Responding to the Turkish Jewish community’s protests, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said in a statement Sunday to the media that while “limiting Muslims’ access to Al-Aqsa mosque for whatever reason is an unacceptable mistake that Turkey expects Israel to undo immediately,” the Turkish government “does not agree with actions actions outside places of worship of Jewish citizens.”
Yıldırım said the government “expects on all citizens exercise self restraint.” The short statement did not say what would happen to those who do live up to the government’s expectation.
Israel installed the security devices at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, at the site the Muslims call Haram al Sharif, in response to a July 14 terrorist attack near the Al-Aqsa mosque that killed two Israeli police officers.
At the Ahrida Synagogue, which is one of the country’s oldest, at least 29 men gathered carrying signs with anti-Israel slogans and a cardboard structure meant to symbolize an X-ray machine, the Haberler news website reported.
On Thursday, protesters showed up at the Neve Shalom synagogue in Istanbul, where they kicked the front door and hurled objects at it. Leaders of Turkish Jews condemned the targeting of synagogues to protest Israel’s actions. Following the July 14 attack, Israel temporarily limited access to the holy site for men under 50 and placed metal detectors at the entrance to the site.
Synagogues, which have been targeted by Islamists and other terrorists in Turkey in the past, are heavily guarded in Istanbul by police. To enter Istanbul’s main synagogues, including Neve Shalom, visitors must obtain the permission of the Jewish community prior to arriving there. The fact that demonstrators were able to gather outside the synagogues and stage protests there is highly unusual for Istanbul.
In the aftermath of the officers’ slaying, in which the three Arab-Israeli terrorists were shot dead by police, several Palestinians died in riots over the past week and three Jews were murdered in the West Bank settlement of Halamish inside their home by a Palestinian terrorist.
On Sunday, a security officer at the Israeli Embassy in Aman, Jordan, killed a man that Israel’s Foreign Ministry said had come to carry out a terrorist attack at the compound Approximately 30 people were besieged in the embassy on Monday due to the Jordanian authorities’ desire to detain and question embassy staff, who have diplomatic immunity under international treaties.
Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s envoy, heads to Israel to help reduce Temple Mount tensions
WASHINGTON (JTA)—Jason Greenblatt, President Donald Trump’s special envoy for international relations, is headed to Israel in a bid to help reduce tensions as Jerusalem’s Temple Mount remains a flashpoint and after a Palestinian terrorist killed three Israelis from the same family in a West Bank stabbing attack.
“President Trump and his administration are closely following unfolding events in the region,” a senior administration official told JTA on Sunday night, speaking on condition of anonymity and reporting Greenblatt’s departure.
“The United States utterly condemns the recent terrorist violence, including the horrific attack Friday night that killed three people at their Shabbat dinner table in Halamish, and sends condolences to the families of the innocent victims,” the official said. “We are engaged in discussions with the relevant parties and are committed to finding a resolution to the ongoing security issues.”
Greenblatt would closely coordinate with the National Security Council and with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law who is a top aide and is charged with renewing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, the official said.
Yosef Salomon, 70, and his children Chaya, 46, and Elad, 36, were killed by a 19-year-old Palestinian attacker from a nearby village who entered the home in the Halamish settlement and began stabbing the family members. They had gathered at the Salomon home to celebrate the birth of a baby to another of the senior Salomon’s sons. His wife, Tovah, 68, was injured in the attack.
Thousands attended the funerals on Sunday afternoon at the cemetery in the central Israeli city of Modiin.
The area around the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism and also the location of the Haram A-Sharif, the third holiest site in Islam, has been riven with tensions since July 14 when three Arab-Israelis shot and killed two Israeli police officers at the holy site before they were shot to death.
Israeli authorities installed metal detectors at the site in the wake of the attack and since then, Muslims have refused to enter the Temple Mount, instead praying outside of its gates, leading to clashes and the deaths of at least five Palestinians in recent days.
Arab-Israeli man stabbed by Palestinian assailant
JERUSALEM (JTA)—An Arab-Israeli man was stabbed several times in the neck by a Palestinian assailant in the central Israel city of Petach Tikvah.
The 32-year-old victim in the Monday morning attack was taken to a local hospital with moderate wounds, Israel Police said. He is an Egged bus driver who was on a break getting a cup of coffee.
Civilian bystanders stopped the attacker, 21, from the West Bank Palestinian city of Qalqilya and in Israel illegally, while he was fleeing the scene and wrestled him to the ground, according to the Israel Police. He was arrested and taken for questioning.
The attacker, who has not been named, was previously jailed in Israel for activity against the state, The Times of Israel reported, citing the Israel Security Agency, or Shin Bet. Israel Police said they are treating the incident as a nationalistic attack on an Israeli target.
The Palestinian assailant told investigators that “I did it for Al Aqsa,” according to reports, referring to the mosque on the Temple Mount, or what the Muslims call Haram al Sharif.
There have been several terror attacks by Palestinians and Arabs against Israeli targets since the July 14 attack on the Temple Mount that left two Druze-Israeli security guards dead and led to the installation of metal detectors at Muslim entrances to the holy site. Muslims have been killed in clashes with Israeli police over the installation of the security devices.
Israeli tank fires on Hamas post in Gaza in retaliatory strike
JERUSALEM (JTA)—An Israeli army tank attacked a Hamas post in the southern Gaza Strip in response to rockets fired on southern Israel.
The Israeli attack came early Monday morning after two rocket attacks Sunday on Israel—in the morning and late evening. Both rockets fell in open areas and did not cause any damage, according to the Israel Defense Forces.
The Code Red siren alerts were not sounded since both rockets were heading toward unpopulated areas.
There were no reports on damages or casualties in the retaliatory attack.
New Jersey town orders religious boundary taken down
(JTA)—A town in New Jersey has ordered an Orthodox Jewish organization to take down its eruv, or religious boundary, by early next month.
Mahwah, which is located across the New York state border, told the South Monsey Eruv Fund to remove the white plastic piping from utility poles that it uses for the symbolically enclosed area by Aug. 4. An eruv allows observant Jews to carry objects and push strollers outside of their homes on Shabbat.
The Orthodox community told The Associated Press that it had been given permission to hang the piping by the utility company But town officials said the piping is banned because it is considered signage.
More than 1,200 people have signed an online petition calling for the eruv to be taken down. Many of the dozens of comments accompanying the petition, titled “Protect the Quality of our Community in Mahwah,” refer to “these people” and express concerns about falling property values. Most of them are anonymous.
“I don’t want these rude, nasty, dirty people who think they can do what they want in our nice town,” one of the comments reads.
Another says: “I do not want the town of Mahwah to turn into an undesirable place to live. These people do not assimilate with other people outside their community. I do not want them controlling our school board and siphoning funds for their yeshivas. Also, they buy houses which they claim is for religious purposes and do not pay taxes. They should stay where they are and leave our town alone.”
New York Times names David Halbfinger new Jerusalem bureau chief
(JTA)—The New York Times has named David Halbfinger, its deputy national editor, to serve as the newspaper’s Jerusalem bureau chief.
Halbfinger, a 20-year veteran of the Times, has served as a reporter for the metro, national and culture sections. He also covered John Kerry’s presidential run in 2004.
The Times’ announcement called the Israel post “one of the scrutinized (and most prestigious) jobs in journalism.”
“He has written hard-hitting investigations of corrupt public officials and businessmen, murderous prison guards, law-breaking Hollywood moguls, roamed his native Long Island, the Bronx, and eight states in the South, left a big mark in New Jersey, covered John Kerry’s presidential run and helped lead the politics team in New York,” Times International Editor Michael Slackman and Deputy International Editor Greg Winter said in the announcement of Halbfinger’s appointment.
On Twitter, Halbfinger said the new job was “A dream fulfilled.” He will begin work after Labor Day. His wife and three children will move to Jerusalem in August.
The family are members of Congregation Shomrei Emunah in Montclair, New Jersey. The synagogue is affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.
Halbfinger succeeds Ian Fisher, who took the position in January after Peter Baker, who had served there for one year, left to cover Donald Trump’s presidency in Washington, D.C. Fisher, who has been at the Times for 28 years, will spend the next year with his family in Italy, according to the newspaper.