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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


August 25, 2017

Stephen Bannon reportedly ‘going to war’ against Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner

(JTA)—Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon reportedly is “going to war” against several White House targets, including Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, according to reports.

A report Sunday evening in Vanity Fair titled “Steve Bannon Readies His Revenge: The war on Jared Kushner is about to go nuclear,” said that Bannon’s targets in the West Wing are the “globalists,” identified as Ivanka Trump, Kushner and former Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn, the chief economic adviser to Trump and director of the National Economic Council, as well as the “hawks,” identified as National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and his deputy, Dina Powell.

The magazine cited Breitbart News Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow as saying that Bannon “wants to beat their ideas into submission. Steve has a lot of things up his sleeve.”  

Bannon has returned to head the right-wing website Breitbart News after being removed from his White House post on Friday, nearly a week after he welcomed President Donald Trump’s divisive comments on a far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. He had left Breitbart to join the Trump campaign last year.

An unnamed Bannon ally told Vanity Fair that the former White House strategist called Kushner, an adviser to the president as well as his son-in-law, “a dope,” and that the two clashed fiercely on personnel decisions and policy debates, both domestic and international, many of which Bannon lost.

Unnamed Bannon allies told the magazine that Bannon had lobbied the president “aggressively” to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, a move that they say was blocked by Kushner. The report also noted that Bannon stayed away during a May visit by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to the White House, texting to a friend that “I’m not going to breathe the same air as that terrorist.”

On Sunday, the Breitbart website’s lead story was headlined “Report: Ivanka Trump Helped Push Steve Bannon Out Of The White House,” based on a Daily Mail report that said “Trump’s daughter Ivanka pushed out Bannon because of his ‘far-right views’ clashing with her Jewish faith.”

Breitbart updated the article to say “A senior White House aide informed Breitbart News that the Daily Mail report was ‘totally false’ and called into question the sources in the article of having any real knowledge of the Trump family.”

Bannon had been under fire since he began working for the Trump campaign. He has been criticized for calling Breitbart News a platform for the “alt-right,” a far-right and white nationalist movement that includes anti-Semitic figures and followers. Bannon has denied he is anti-Semitic, and supporters point out that Breitbart is pro-Israel.

Arthur Finkelstein, political strategist who made ‘liberal’ a dirty word, dies

(JTA)—Arthur Finkelstein, a Republican political strategist who helped elect presidents, senators and two Israeli prime ministers, has died.

Finkelstein died Friday at his home in Ipswich, Massachusetts, of lung cancer. He was 72.

“Arthur, as everyone who has worked with him called him, had passion in his soul, poetry in his heart and brilliance in his mind,” Larry Weitzner, a family spokesman, said in a statement issued by the family. “He set out to change the world and he did just that.”

Finkelstein is credited with helping to elect U.S. presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, and other U.S. political figures including Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and the late Jesse Helms of North Carolina, Strom Thurmond of South Carolina and Alfonse D’Amato of New York, as well as former New York Gov. George Pataki.

He also worked on campaigns for Israeli prime ministers Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon. Other Israeli politicians appearing on a partial list of Finkelstein’s clients include Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

“He brilliantly helped develop Benjamin Netanyahu’s vision for a ‘secure peace’ and helped voters to view the hawkish war general Ariel Sharon as a leader who was also a trusted grandfatherly figure,” the statement from the family said.

In later years Finkelstein spent more time working overseas and had clients in Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Kosovo and Ukraine.

Finkelstein “pioneered sophisticated demographic analyses of primary voters and methodical exit polling, and of using a marketing strategy, called microtargeting, to identify specific groups of potential supporters of a candidate regardless of their party affiliation,” The New York Times reported. “He would bombard them with appeals to support a candidate through direct mail and phone calls, coupled with television advertisements that mercilessly exploited a rival’s vulnerabilities.”

He also is credited with transforming the term “liberal” into a dirty word during the 1990s, according to the newspaper.

Finkelstein was the son of immigrant parents from Eastern Europe. He attended Columbia University, where he interviewed and helped produce radio programs for the author and philosopher Ayn Rand. He later earned a bachelor’s degree from Queens College in 1967 in economics and political science.

In 2013, he was honored by the American Association of Political Consultants and named to its Hall of Fame

In December 2004, Finkelstein and Donald Curiale, his partner of 40 years, were married in a civil ceremony in Massachusetts.

He is also survived by their daughters Molly and Jeni, granddaughter Maryn and brothers Ronald and Barry.

Australian broadcaster explains why it left Israel off the map

SYDNEY (JTA)—Australia’s national news service defended its decision to broadcast a graphic showing a map of the Middle East that included Palestine but not Israel.

Shown during an Aug. 17 segment on ABC News Australia, the map illustrated a story about how laws in 11 Muslim-majority countries and the Palestinian territories treat rape victims.

“The story was about the repealing of a law in Lebanon that allowed rapists to escape punishment if they married their victims,” a senior executive for the Australian Broadcasting Corp. told JTA. “The map showed other countries where this law had already been repealed (in the blue) and countries where campaigners are actively trying to have it repealed (in the yellow).”

Israel, the executive explained, never had the law to begin with, so it was not included. Had it been included, the spokesman suggested, the criticism might have been even more intense.

“In context, I wonder if including Israel in the map might have attracted more warranted criticism... The story had nothing at all to do with it,” the spokesman said. “We have commented on the story to the Daily Mail and they’ve amended the story.”

The graphic made news after a pro-Israel, anti-Islamist activist, Avi Yemini, posted it on his Facebook page.

“Last night ABC News wiped Israel off their map,” Yemini wrote. “They’re literally doing the Islamists’ dirty work for them. We must DEFUND these traitors immediately.”

Yemini was not satisfied with the public broadcaster’s explanation.

“They’ve hit back with an excuse that could almost work,” he wrote on Facebook. “Except for one ‘minor’ detail: PALESTINE IS NOT A COUNTRY!”

The Lebanese parliament voted last week to abolish a law allowing rapists to escape punishment if they marry their victims.

The clause remains on the books in the Palestinian territories, according to ABC News Australia. 

Following attack, French Jewish leader calls for ‘immediate eradication’ of terrorism

(JTA) – Following the death of a pedestrian in what appeared to be a vehicular terrorist attack in Marseille, a leader of the local Jewish community called for the “immediate eradication” of terrorism.

Bruno Benjamin, the president of the local branch of the CRIF umbrella of Jewish communities, wrote the message Monday on Twitter shortly after police arrested a man they suspect is connected to the slaying of one woman and the serious injury of another in a car-ramming attack that morning.

Police cannot confirm that the incident was a terrorist attack, a police source told the Le Soir daily.

“#Marseille, terrorism knows no borders, terrorists have no limits and no humanity. Today, a total eradication is necessary,” Benjamin wrote in the unusually harshly worded message. “We cannot comprehend these levels of hatred and capacity” for terrorism, he added.

A prosecutor in Marseille said the incident appeared to be the work of a mentally ill person, the La Chaîne Info news channel reported.

The incident comes on the heels of deadly terrorist attacks in and around Barcelona on Thursday and Friday, where 14 people were killed and more than 100 wounded when a van plowed through a crowd. The Islamic State terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attack and for the actions of five suspected terrorists who were killed Friday during a police raid in a resort city south of Barcelona. The driver of the van in the attack is the subject of an ongoing manhunt.

On Friday, an 18-year-old man of Moroccan descent killed two women and wounded eight others in a stabbing attack in the city of Turku, Finland. Police arrested the suspect, whom they are calling a terrorist.

Russia’s Jews will get their etrog fruits from Italy despite sanctions, says rabbi

(JTA)—The Italian government said that the export of Italy-grown etrog fruits to Russia will not be affected by sanctions imposed by the European Union against Moscow, Russia’s chief rabbi said.

The agreement to exempt the export of the citrus fruit, which Jewish communities use as a religious artifact during the weeklong holiday of Sukkot, from any sanctions was reached last year and applies also to the June extension of those sanctions, Rabbi Berel Lazar told JTA based on statements from a local government in Italy.

Speaking to JTA from the region of Calabria in southern Italy on Friday, Lazar said: “The local government here said that because this is a religious product, they are going to make sure no sanctions are going to be applied on the etrogim.” He added that Russia imports the etrogim as a religious article exempt from taxation.

Lazar was born in Milan to a Chabad rabbi, Moshe Lazar, who for the past 50 years has been responsible for supervising the export of etrogim in Calabria to make sure the fruit, which is easily bruised and rendered non-kosher, meets the highest standards. Berel Lazar traveled to Calabria to help his 83-year-old father with the harvest.

Followers of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement share a strong preference for the etrog grown in Calabria, where tens of thousands of etrogim are picked annually for export in orchards owned by approximately 100 farmers. Etrogim also are grown in Israel and Morocco.

Chabad communities are major engines of Jewish life in the former Soviet Union and especially in Russia. The European Union in June extended a list of sanctions on Russia, including on exports and imports, in reaction to Russia’s annexation in 2014 of Crimea, an area that is internationally recognized as belonging to Ukraine.

The prospect of sanctions is not the only challenge facing the etrog industry in Calabria. An unexpected frost this winter severely damaged the sensitive etrog trees, destroying approximately 90 percent of the crop, Moshe Lazar told JTA. The shortage means that the fruit this year, which was deemed unfit for exportm will be picked and exported as long as it is kosher, Moshe Lazar said. Even so, he added, the frost means “there won’t be enough etrogim to go around this sukkot.” This applies to Russia, too, said Berel Lazar.

The shortage has hiked up prices, with a prime Calabria etrog going for approximately $500, according to Rabbi Avraham Wolff of Odessa, Ukraine.

“We’re worried that we may not have a Calabria etrog and we’re pulling all possible strings to get at least one,” Wolff said. In previous years, his community was able to purchase five individual Calabria etrogim ahead of the holiday.

“We decided to set up a small fund for buying that Calabria etrog, no matter the price,” he said.

Immediately after sukkot, the prices of Calabria etrogim drop to about $1 a pound, Berel Lazar noted. The local population uses the fruit to make jam.

Rabbi threatens to quit Jewish Home party over Naftali Bennett’s lesbian aide

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A rabbi who is a leader of the Jewish Home party has threatened to leave the party because a spokeswoman for its leader, Naftali Bennett, is a lesbian.

Rabbi Yisrael Rozen, the head of the Zomet Institute, which researches how technology can be used under Jewish law, resigned Wednesday from the party’s presidium, and on Thursday threatened to leave the party altogether.

“I have nothing against her or against them (homosexuals), but I think that this community is wrong and defiant and that outwardly expressed homosexuality is an impossibility in a party that purports to represent religious Zionism,” Rozen reportedly wrote to party leaders.

After Rozen’s objections became public, Bennett responded in a tweet that included a quote from the Jewish text Ethics of the Fathers.

“Anyone who thinks I need to discriminate against a person because of his sexual orientation, gender or skin color will encounter a total refusal from me,” he said. “Beloved is man—every man—who was created in God’s image.”

Bennett also serves as Israel’s education minister.

The Israeli Hebrew-language daily Yediot Acharonot reported last month that Bennett’s media adviser Brit Galor Peretz is married to her female partner, Adi Galor, and they are raising two children.

Galor outed Peretz in a post on Facebook after the state told the country’s Supreme Court in response to a petition that the government remains opposed to allowing same-sex couples to adopt, though it currently is legal for such couples to adopt if a heterosexual couple cannot be found for a child.

The Jerusalem Post reported that Rozen has threatened to quit the party three times in recent months, including after Bennett recruited a secular soccer star to run on the party’s Knesset candidate list and after the party adopted a hard line on conversions.

Vandals scrawl anti-Israel graffiti on Bulgarian Jewish monument

(JTA)—A monument put up by Jews in Bulgaria to thank the town of Vidin for preventing the deportation of its Jews during the Holocaust was vandalized.

The Thanksgiving Monument, erected in 2003, was spray-painted with the words “Allah,” “Palestine,” “Hamas,” and the Islamic star and crescent moon symbol, the Shalom Organization of Jewish in Bulgaria said in a Facebook post Monday.

The organization posted photos of the vandalism, which occurred Saturday, on its Facebook page.

The mayor of the Vidin municipality, Ognyan Tsenkov, called the vandalism an “outrageous and unacceptable” act, the Shalom Organization said in its post. He reportedly ordered the monument to be immediately cleaned.

Shalom Organization President Alexander Oscar in a letter to the mayor thanked him for his firm statement and quick action, and stressed that the monument “will continue to be a symbol of the brotherhood and a long history between our two peoples,” the post also said.

In 1943, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, some politicians and many members of civil society were successful in standing up to the Nazis and preventing the country’s Jews from being deported to death camps, the Sofia Globe reported.

Next year, Bulgaria’s Jewish community will mark the 75th anniversary of the prevention of the deportation of 50,000 Bulgarian Jews. More than 11,000 Jews from parts of northern Greece and Yugoslavia, territories which were under Bulgarian administration during World War II, were deported and killed, however.

Swastikas and anti-Semitic slurs found in Michigan park

(JTA)—Swastikas and anti-Semitic and racial slurs were discovered in a skate park in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The Veteran’s Memorial Park was closed for several hours on Friday after the 15 swastikas and slurs, which included “Jews die” and “Free USA,” were discovered, according to local reports citing the Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation Department.

The Ann Arbor Police are investigating the incident, the city said in a statement, which asked the public to report any suspicious activity. The police increased patrols in and around city parks in response

“Hate speech goes against the moral fiber of the Ann Arbor community,” Mayor Christoper Taylor said in a statement. “Any speech that advances racism, religious oppression, sexism, homophobia, transphobia or bigotry does not belong in Ann Arbor.”


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