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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


August 4, 2017

Jewish camp apologizes for flying Palestinian flag

(JTA)—A Jewish camp in Washington state apologized after flying a Palestinian flag “as a sign of friendship and acceptance” to visiting Palestinian Muslim and Christian students.

Last week, Camp Solomon Schechter hosted members of Kids 4 Peace, a group that includes Christian and Muslim Palestinian children.

In a letter sent to parents and supporters following the visit, the camp wrote: “For the sake of a teachable moment, we did raise the Palestinian flag as a sign of friendship and acceptance. It was met with uncertainty by some campers and staff, especially the Israeli’s [sic], but all understood that the message of hope for peace by flying the Israeli flag alongside helped develop empathy. Still we plan to take down all the flags for Shabbat since there is no peace and also to relieve the sadness and anger that some feel by the site [sic] of the flag.”

The letter also said the camp “remain(s) unabashedly pro-Israel and we are celebrating Israel alongside our new friends.”

The independent camp,  founded on “the ideals of the Conservative movement,” is not affiliated with the movement’s Ramah camps or Solomon Schechter day schools.

In the letter of apology sent Sunday and posted on the camp’s Facebook page, the camp indicated that the Kids 4 Peace group requested the raising of a Palestinian flag alongside the U.S., Canadian and Israeli flags that are raised daily.

“We sincerely apologize that we upset some in our CSS and larger Jewish community by introducing the Palestinian flag into our educational program,” the apology said. “Camp Solomon Schechter reiterates our unwavering support for the State of Israel as the Jewish homeland.

“Camp Solomon Schechter is a proud Zionist and pro-Israel camp. We honor the Israeli Army and Israeli people on a daily basis at CSS. Our goal was to create a safe space for all, and begin dialogue among the next generation.”

The camp’s Facebook page was no longer available as of Monday morning.

Until the Facebook page was taken off line, comments were largely negative, with many saying the camp should not have raised a flag waved in support of terrorists carrying out attacks against Jews.

“This kumbaya crap is mind-blowing,” one commenter wrote on Facebook. “Yes, IF we had Arab partners in peace, we might try more efforts like this, but we don’t and you’re kidding yourselves if you believe otherwise.”

But some applauded the camp for trying to be a positive force toward peace.

“The ONLY reason one would see a Palestinian flag at CSS is to further peace, love, justice, friendship and to bring God’s love into this world,” the commenter wrote. “Honoring Palestinian children and their identity and loving Israel and being Zionists are not mutually exclusive.”

The camp’s executive director, Sam Perlin, and co-board president, Andy Kaplowitz, also issued a statement.

“Camp Solomon Schechter regrets raising the Palestinian flag alongside US, Canadian and Israeli flags on Thursday and Friday mornings and it is a long standing CSS custom to lower flags for Shabbat and raise them again Sunday morning,” the statement said. “We neglected to foresee in such actions the serious political implications and for that lapse in judgment, we are deeply sorry.”

Mother sues Dallas JCC alleging employee raped her 14-year-old daughter

(JTA)—A mother has sued the Aaron Family JCC of Dallas alleging that a fitness center employee molested and raped her then-14-year-old daughter.

The lawsuit, which was filed earlier in July, also names the Jewish community center’s CEO, Artie Allan, and the Jewish Community Center Association of North America, the Dallas Morning News reported.

The mother and daughter are not named in the lawsuit, according to the newspaper.

The suit alleges that when the mother tried to talk to Allen about the fact that the employee was harassing her daughter and rumors they may be dating—before she knew about the molesting and rape. Allen allegedly responded that,”it takes two to tango.”

According to the lawsuit, the assaults began in 2014, when the unnamed employee began stalking the girl, who is now an adult, when he trained her at the JCC gym.  The lawsuit charged that the employee also molested, sexually assaulted, threatened and raped her at the center and off-site.

The lawsuit said that two other girls told JCC staff members that the employee had sexually harassed them. It said the JCC neither launched an investigation nor disciplined the employee.

The newspaper reported that a former JCC employee, Randy Lee Adrian, was arrested in August on two charges of sexual assault of a child.

Adrian asked for the girl’s number to text her diet plans and workouts, but instead sent her explicit photos before sexually assaulting her over a span of 10 months, police told the newspaper. Police said he also threatened to kidnap and hurt her family if she told anyone about the assaults.

The Dallas JCC issued a statement saying it was aware of the lawsuit, “takes the matter seriously and will respond accordingly.”

“The JCC is committed to understanding the full and relevant story by a thorough investigation,” it said. “With a pending lawsuit, the JCC has no further comment at this time.”

Israeli family flees home after embassy guard’s name made public in Jordan

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The family of the Israeli Embassy security guard who shot and killed two Jordanians after being stabbed   has left its home after a newspaper in Jordan made the guard’s identity public.

The identity of the guard, Ziv Moyal, 28, from a moshav in southern Israel, had been censored in Israeli reports, which identified him only by his first name and his photo blurred.

On Sunday, Jordan’s al-Ghad published the photo of Moyal’s embassy ID, which listed his full name in Arabic.

Moyal’s family, fearing for its safety, reportedly moved in with relatives.

During the incident, which occurred on July 23, the guard shot and killed an assailant, 17, who had entered a residential building in Amman used by the embassy to install furniture and stabbed the Israeli guard with a screwdriver. The building’s owner, who according to Ynet tackled the assailant and attempted to prevent the attack, was killed after being hit by a stray bullet.

Following the incident, Israel refused to hand over the guard for questioning by Jordanian authorities, citing diplomatic immunity. The embassy staff was allowed to leave Amman for Israel nearly two days later amid demonstrations and calls for the death penalty for the security guard.

On Thursday, Jordan’s attorney general, Akram Masaadeh, charged the guard in absentia with two counts of murder and for bearing an unlicensed weapon.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II reacted angrily after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed Moyal back in a personal meeting during which he praised the guard, saying “You acted well, calmly and we also had an obligation to get you out.”

Abdullah has said he will not allow the Israeli Embassy staff back in Jordan unless there is an investigation and a trial for Moyal. Israel announced Friday that it had launched an investigation, which is being overseen by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan.

Trump to meet with US ambassador to Israel over Temple Mount crisis

(JTA)—President Donald Trump will meet with the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, in Washington, D.C., to discuss the Temple Mount crisis.

The meeting is scheduled for late Monday morning, Haaretz reported. An unnamed White House official told the Israeli newspaper that Friedman was coming to Washington this week “as part of a long-planned trip.”

“In addition to a variety of meetings, he will be meeting with the president, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt tomorrow to discuss the events that transpired in the region over the past two weeks where tensions have recently lowered,” the official told Haaretz.

Friedman reportedly was involved in working to reduce tensions over the increased security measures at the Temple Mount, which ultimately were removed. The metal detectors and other measures were installed after a July 14 attack by three Arab-Israeli men that left two Druze-Israeli police officers dead.

Greenblatt, Trump’s special envoy for international relations, also visited Israel last week, also in a bid to help lower the tensions at the Temple Mount.

Both men last week visited the shiva for three members of the Salomon family who were killed by a Palestinian assailant as they sat at their Shabbat table in the West Bank settlement of Halamish celebrating the birth of a baby boy in the family. Friedman also visited the families of the Israel Police officers killed on the Temple Mount.

Australian state Labor Party votes to recognize a Palestinian state

SYDNEY (JTA)—The members of Australia’s New South Wales Labor Party have voted for the recognition of a Palestinian state following a push by former Foreign Minister Bob Carr, but in a watered-down version of its original.

The resolution passed Sunday at the party’s conference in Sydney failed to follow its original call for unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state. Carr, who also has served as Labor premier in New South Wales, proposed the resolution. Party members called on the next federal Labor government to recognize Palestine as an independent state.

Following on the heels of similar resolutions in the states of Western Australia and South Australia, the vote will present a challenge for federal Labor leader Bill Shorten, who has come under pressure to confirm his stance on the matter.

The New South Wales’ Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive, Vic Alhadeff, said the resolution “is a much better outcome than what was originally proposed in the conference booklet, and we applaud the efforts by many within the Labor Party who worked hard to achieve a more balanced resolution.”

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry also issued a statement.

“Clearly, Israel still has many friends within the Australian Labor Party, and they are to be applauded for ensuring that Bob Carr’s original motion was significantly amended before it was passed,” it said. “.The amendment expressly recognizes Israel’s right to exist within secure borders. It is disturbing that the original motion moved by a former Foreign Minister of Australia was so manifestly one-sided and unfair.”

Speaking Monday on the Australian Broadcasting Corp.’s “RN Breakfast,” Shorten said any recognition of a Palestinian state must address the concerns of both sides.

“There’s two issues,” he said. “One is the legitimate aspirations, and I stress legitimate aspirations of Palestinians, to have their own state and I do support that, but also the legitimate aspirations of the people of Israel to live in secure borders.”

Shorten reiterated his support for federal Labor’s long-held position of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

“If you support a two-state solution, ultimately that includes recognition of Palestine,” Shorten said.

JNF chief executive to repay $525,000 loan from charity

(JTA)—The CEO of the Jewish National Fund will immediately repay a $525,000 loan he received from the charity.

The office of New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sent a letter to JNF last week calling on the organization to recover the loans made to Russell Robinson and its chief financial officer, Mitchel Rosenzweig, by the end of the calendar year.

The letter followed a July 27 story in the Forward about the loans, made in the 2015 fiscal year, which violate a state law barring charities from lending money to their officers.

JNF spokesman Adam Brill told the publication New York Jewish Life over the weekend that Robinson would repay the loan by Aug. 1, “to make sure there is no sense of impropriety.” Brill also noted that since Robinson and Rosenzweig are executives, not officers or directors, which are limited to board members, the group believed they were entitled to receive the loans.

Haaretz reported that the loans were included in JNF’s tax filings for 2015 and were granted, according to the documents, “to facilitate the purchase of real estate” to both men.

JNF told the Forward that Robinson and Rosenzweig have been repaying the loans in regular installments and are being charged interest at the prime market rate—the interest rate banks offer well-qualified borrowers.

“As always, JNF is in full compliance with the laws and regulations of the State of New York, and follows all legal procedures as specified by the NY Attorney General, and will respond to any requests made by the Attorney General as in the past,” Brill said in a statement to the Forward.

In 2015, Robinson earned $436,000 from JNF and Rosenzweig $306,000, the Forward reported, based on the charity’s 990 tax filing. The Forward article noted that “JNF has grown significantly during their tenure, with assets at the end of the 2015 fiscal year that were 25 times larger than when the two joined the organization.”

This dog does a Nazi salute. The guy who trained him says it’s not a hate crime.

(JTA)—A Scottish man arrested for teaching his girlfriend’s dog to do the Nazi salute denied in court that he committed a hate crime.

Mark Meechan, 29, taught the pug, named Buddha, to respond with the Nazi salute when prompted by statements such as “Heil Hitler” and “gas the Jews.”

Meechan posted videos of the dog performing the trick on YouTube.

He appeared in court last week after being arrested in May and charged with committing a hate crime and posting a video that was grossly offensive.

The original video, posted last September on his YouTube channel, Count Dankula, has been viewed more than 2.8 million times. Meechan said on the video that he trained the dog to annoy his girlfriend.

“My girlfriend is always ranting and raving about how cute and adorable her wee dog is, so I thought I would turn him into the least cute thing I could think of, which is a Nazi,” he said.

Meechan later posted a video in which he apologized for the original dog clips, saying it was a joke and that he has no such political leanings.

“I am so sorry to the Jewish community for any offense I have caused them. This was never my intention and I apologize,” he said in that video.

Slutwalk Chicago, in reversal, will allow marchers carrying Jewish and Zionist symbols

(JTA)—SlutWalk Chicago will allow marchers carrying Jewish or Zionist symbols after saying earlier they would be banned.

The group, part of an international movement that protests rape culture, in its ban announced this month referred to a decision by the Chicago Dyke March to ask three women carrying rainbow flags featuring white Stars of David to leave.

But a SlutWalk Chicago organizer told Haaretz on Sunday that the group would welcome all participants at the Aug. 12 march who wish to protest sexual violence and the attitudes of shame and blame that surround it. The organizer, identified as Red, also said the collective needs to make amends to the Jewish community for past actions.

“We are not banning any symbols or any kind of ethnic or heritage flags,” Red told Haaretz following a meeting of organizers to hone their message. “Those are welcome, everyone is welcome to express themselves as they see fit at SlutWalk. And we encourage people to bring signs and symbols that represent fighting sexism, patriarchy, rape culture, and that takes a lot of different forms for different people, and we support them in how they decide to show up for SlutWalk.”

Since a series of tweets reportedly made by the group’s social media team without consulting with the collective, SlutWalk has reached out to the Jewish and Muslim communities in Chicago to show that the event is inclusive and offers a safe space to all participants, Red told Haaretz.

Red said people carrying Israeli flags would not be banned.

“As a feminist person myself, I feel very strongly about Palestinian liberation and radical Jewish resistance,” Red told Haaretz. “I care very deeply about those concerns, but I do think that at SlutWalk Chicago we have some apologizing to do around the confusion with some of our tweets.”

Organizers of the Chicago Dyke March in June told the three women carrying Jewish Pride flags who were asked to leave that the rainbow flags with a white Star of David would be a “trigger,” or traumatic stimulus, for those who found them offensive.

Jewish groups have denounced the banning of the Jewish Pride flags at the lesbian march and called for an apology.


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