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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


October 20, 2017

Woody Allen clarifies remarks on Harvey Weinstein: ‘He is a sad, sick man’

(JTA)—Filmmaker Woody Allen clarified his remarks about Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein made in an interview with the BBC.

“When I said I felt sad for Harvey Weinstein, I thought it was clear the meaning was because he is a sad, sick man,” Allen said in a statement to Variety on Sunday night. “I was surprised it was treated differently. Lest there be any ambiguity, this statement clarifies my intention and feelings.”

In the BBC interview published Sunday morning, Allen was quoted as saying, “The whole Harvey Weinstein thing is very sad for everybody involved. Tragic for the poor women that were involved, sad for Harvey that his life is so messed up.

“There’s no winners in that, it’s just very, very sad and tragic for those poor women that had to go through that.”

Allen also expressed hope that the sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape accusations against Weinstein would not lead to a “witch hunt atmosphere … where every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself. That’s not right either.”

Critics of the director’s initial comments included actress Rose McGowan, one of the women accusing Weinstein of sexual assault, who described Allen as a “vile little worm.”

Allen, who like Weinstein is Jewish, in the early 1990s was accused of abusing his daughter, Dylan Farrow, during a custody battle shortly after his separation from his wife, Mia Farrow. She divorced Allen after learning of his affair with her adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, whom Allen married in 1997. The allegations were revived in 2013, when Dylan was 28.

Allen has long denied the abuse allegations.

Weinstein helped to revive Allen’s career after the alleged sex abuse came to light, producing several of Allen’s films, including the Academy Award-winning “Mighty Aphrodite.”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which awards the Oscars, expelled Weinstein on Saturday in an emergency meeting. It was the first time in the body’s 90-year history that it has ousted a member for unethical or potentially criminal behavior.

Western Wall dig uncovers ancient Roman theater

JERUSALEM (JTA)—An ancient Roman theater was uncovered during excavations of the Western Wall tunnels in Jerusalem.

The discovery of the 200-seat theater structure from the Roman period confirms historical writings that describe a theater near the Temple Mount, the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a statement Monday.

Excavations also uncovered eight stone courses, or layers of cut stone, the antiquities authority said.

The discoveries followed work to remove a 26-foot layer of earth under Wilson’s Arch, the only intact, visible structure remaining from the Temple Mount compound of the Second Temple period. The arch served as a passageway for visitors entering the Temple Mount compound and the Temple An aqueduct also passed over the arch.

The excavations were undertaken with the intent to date the arch, according to the antiquities authority.

The structures were built following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E., when Jerusalem became the Roman colony of Aelia Capitolina.

“From a research perspective, this is a sensational find,” site excavators Joe Uziel, Tehillah Lieberman and Avi Solomon said in a statement. “The discovery was a real surprise. When we started excavating, our goal was to date Wilson’s Arch. We did not imagine that a window would open for us onto the mystery of Jerusalem’s lost theater.”

The findings will be presented to the public at a conference at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem titled “New Studies in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Environs.”

The Second Temple started in 530 BCE.

Islamic State claims responsibility for Sinai rocket attack on Israel

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The Islamic State claimed responsibility for two rockets fired from the Sinai Peninsula at southern Israeli communities.

The terrorist group’s official news agency, Amaq, said Monday that the long-range rockets fired the previous night were targeting Israeli Air Force jets flying in the area, Ynet reported.

There were no injuries or damage in the first attack from Sinai on Israel since May 23, when President Donald Trump was visiting the area.

“The fighters confronted Israeli jets that flew above the state and targeted the Eshkol compound with two Grad rockets,” the statement said, according to Haaretz.

Eshkol refers to the Eshkol Regional Council located near the Gaza border.

The rockets triggered a Code Red alarm for Israeli communities near the border with Gaza.

The Islamic State also claimed responsibility on Sunday for attacks in northern Sinai that left six Egyptian soldiers dead.

Israel says it won’t escalate tensions with Syria following retaliatory strike

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli airstrikes incapacitated a missile launcher deep in Syria that had fired toward Israeli military jets.

The Israel Defense Forces said “the incident is over and there is no intention of escalation” after its Air Force struck the launcher near Damascus on Sunday, rendering it inoperable. According to the IDF, the Syrian surface-to-air missile was fired that morning during a “routine flight” by the jets over Lebanon.

The fighter jets returned safely to their bases.

The IDF said the targeting of Israeli jets required retaliation.

“We see the Syrian regime as responsible for all the firing carried out from its territory, which is a clear Syrian provocation and we will not allow it,” IDF spokesman Brig.- Gen. Ronen Manlis said. “We reserve the freedom of action, but for us the incident is over and there is no intention of escalation.”

Israel reportedly updated Russia, an ally of Syria, about the attack and retaliatory strike as it was taking place.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu was scheduled to arrive for a planned visit to Israel later on Monday.

In the hours following the Israeli strike, the Syrian army warned of “dangerous consequences” for Israel’s “repeated aggression.” Syria said the planes it fired on had crossed into Syrian airspace. The IDF said the planes never left the airspace above Lebanon.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also defended the strike on the missile launcher.

“Our policy is clear: If anyone attempts to harm us, we will harm them back,” he said in a statement issued by his office. “Today they tried to hit our airplanes—we do not accept this. The Air Force acted precisely, quickly, and destroyed what had to be destroyed. We will continue to act as needed to protect Israel’s security.”

Trump bashes Schumer for not backing his Iran moves

WASHINGTON (JTA)—President Donald Trump chided Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, the senior Jewish lawmaker in Congress, for not backing his proposal to amend the Iran nuclear deal.

“Dem Senator Schumer hated the Iran deal made by President Obama, but now that I am involved, he is OK with it,” Trump said Monday morning on Twitter. “Tell that to Israel, Chuck!”

Schumer, D-N.Y., is a leading pro-Israel voice in the U.S. Senate, calling himself a “guardian of Israel” because of his name, which is rooted in the Hebrew for guard.

On Friday evening, after Trump earlier in the day had asked Congress to effectively amend the 2015 nuclear deal, Schumer said on Twitter he favored preserving the deal. The senator also implicitly chided Trump for ignoring the counsel of top advisers who favor keeping it including Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the chairman of the Joint Military Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford.

“The @SenateDems agree with #SecDef Mattis and General Dunford,” Schumer said. “We won’t allow the Iran deal to be undone.”

In 2015, Schumer voted against the deal, which trades sanctions relief for Iran’s rollback of its nuclear program. But like virtually every other Democratic opponent at the time, he now adamantly supports preserving it, joining the others in saying the pact remains the best means of building an international alliance to pressure Iran and pulling out of it would damage U.S. credibility.

In a statement to JTA following Trump’s tweet attacking him, Schumer said that there were existing tools outside the deal to pressure Iran.

“President Trump’s own Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Generals Mattis and Dunford, both said that it’s in our national security interest to keep the JCPOA in place and I agree,” he said. “I believe Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, will heed their recommendation. If the President is serious about countering Iran, his first step can be to implement the tough sanctions Congress passed in July and urge the House to pass the Hezbollah sanctions legislation that recently passed the Senate.”

Trump wants Congress to mandate sanctions should Iran fail to meet conditions not covered in the deal. They include maintaining restrictions on enrichment past the deal’s deadlines, which begin to kick in within the next decade, and allowing more ready access for inspectors to military facilities.

If Congress does not amend the agreement to Trump’s liking, the president has said he will pull out of it. Other partners to the deal, including close U.S. allies in Europe, oppose amending the deal, instead favoring increased pressure on Iran outside the context of the deal.

Far-right party finishes second in Austrian elections

(JTA)—Jewish groups called on the head of the conservative People’s Party in Austria to exclude the far-right Freedom Party from the new government coalition after the parties finished first and second in national elections.

Sebastian Kurz, the 31-year-old foreign minister and head of the center-right Austrian People’s Party, or ÖVP, will become Europe’s youngest leader.

With nearly all the results counted as of Monday morning, OVP won with 31.6 percent of the vote, to 27.4 percent for the Freedom Party, or FPO. The center-left Social Democrats of outgoing Chancellor Christian Kern was close behind with 26.7 percent.

The results appear to be a result of the refugee crisis in Europe. Kurz focused his campaign on the question of limiting migration, while the Freedom Party ran on a hardline anti-Islam platform. Austria accepted one of the highest proportions of refugees during the 2015 crisis.

The European Jewish Congress in its statement congratulating Kurz called on him to form a coalition of centrist parties and “not be beholden” to a party of the far right in his coalition.

“A party which has run on a platform of xenophobic intolerance and the targeting of immigrants must not be granted a seat at the governing table,” said EJC’s president, Dr. Moshe Kantor.

World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder, the US. ambassador to Austria in 1986-87, said in a statement: “It is sad and distressing that such a platform should receive more than a quarter of the vote and become the country’s second party. It is still full of xenophobes and racists and is, mildly put, very ambiguous toward Austria’s Nazi past.”

Lauder called the election results “in many respects worse than Kurt Waldheim’s election as president of Austria 30 years ago. Today’s FPÖ is far beyond acceptable democratic limits.”

Waldheim, also the former secretary-general of the United Nations, hid his complicity in Nazi war crimes, but it was exposed late in his career.

Lauder strongly warned against including the Freedom Party in any governing coalition.

“Like the AfD in Germany, the National Front in France, or Jobbik in Hungary, the FPÖ is an extremist party that panders to racists and anti-Semites and whips up feelings against minorities,” Lauder said “It is led by a man who in his youth expressed clear sympathies for the Nazis. In its present state, the FPÖ is not, and should not be, a party of government,” he said.

Some 9,000 Jews live in Austria, according to the Jewish Virtual Library figures for 2016, making them about 0.1 percent of the country’s population.

Israeli driver Alon Day races to first NASCAR championship

(JTA)—Israeli race car driver Alon Day has won his first NASCAR championship.

Day finished first in the standings in the auto racing group’s European series, which ended Sunday with a race in Belgium. The Israeli was fourth in the race—he needed only to complete the first lap to take home the title after being well ahead in the rankings, The Times of Israel reported.

He had finished second and third in the European series standings the past two seasons.

“It is such an amazing feeling!” Day was quoted as saying in the Motorsport.com racing website. “We were trying so hard the past three years to win this title; we won so many races but never the championship.”

Day, 25, who grew up in Ashdod, has done the bulk of his training on computer-screen simulators because Israel did not have a motor sport race track until this year.

Israel OKs housing for Jewish neighborhood in mostly Palestinian Hebron

JERUSALEM (JTA)—An Israeli planning committee approved the construction of an apartment complex in a Jewish neighborhood of Hebron, a mostly Palestinian West Bank city that has been the flashpoint in attacks against Jews.

The approval on Monday by the Civil Administration’s Subcommittee for Licensing is the first for new Jewish housing in the city since 2002.

In Hebron, some 500 Jews live among 40,000 Palestinians. The building will be constructed in the Beit Romano neighborhood, one of four Jewish neighborhoods in the city.

Hebron’s Palestinian municipality is expected to appeal the decision and claim ownership of the land.

Peace Now claims the property was under Jewish ownership prior to 1948 and that after 1967, the Civil Administration leased the land to the Hebron Palestinian Municipality and it remained under protected tenancy. The liberal NGO argues that should continue, even thought it was taken from the municipality in the 1980s to establish an Israeli military base.

Now that there is no longer a base on the land, the group says, it should revert to the municipality.

The subcommittee, a Defense Ministry panel that oversees construction activity in the West Bank, is set to approve hundreds more housing units throughout the West Bank during its meetings scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.

Hebron has seen a number of attacks on Jewish Israelis, most recently a rash of stabbing attempts by Palestinian teens last month and some car rammings.

Ben Kingsley playing Adolf Eichmann in film about Nazi’s capture by Israel

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA)—Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley is in Buenos Aires filming a Hollywood movie about the capture of Adolf Eichmann by Israeli agents.

Kingsley, a British actor, is starring in “Operation Finale,” which chronicles the notorious Nazi’s life as Ricardo Klement living in the Argentine capital after World War II and the Mossad operation to capture him. Chris Weitz, a producer and writer known for “Rogue One” in the “Star Wars” series, is the director. Filming will last one more month in greater Buenos Aires area.

A Mossad unit led by Peter Malkin captured Eichmann in May 1960; he was executed in Israel in 1962. Malkin will be played by the Guatemalan-American actor Oscar Isaac. Matthew Orton wrote the screenplay. Tony Award winner Michael Aronov will play another Mossad agent, Zvi Aharoni.

Kingsley, who won an Oscar for his 1982 portrayal of Mahatma Gandhi, has played “Moses” for TV (1995); Itzhak Stern in “Schindler’s List” (1993); Otto Frank for “Anne Frank” (2001); and Simon Wiesenthal in “Murderers Among Us” (1989).

“The Man Who Captured Eichmann,” a 1996 film starring Robert Duvall, was based on the book “Eichman In My Hands” written by Malkin with Harry Stein.

Argentina was a haven for Nazi war criminals after World War II, including Joseph Mengele and Erich Priebke. One month ago the country presented to Israel tens of thousands of documents from the World War II era, some of them related to Nazi war criminals.


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