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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


November 3, 2017

IDF blows up Gaza terror tunnel, killing at least 7

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The Israel Defense Forces blew up a terrorist tunnel that stretched from Khan Younis in Gaza to Israel.

The tunnel, which ended in Israel near the border with Gaza, is believed to have been dug after the 2014 Gaza war.

At least seven Gazan Palestinians were killed and another 11 injured in the controlled explosion, according to reports citing the Gaza Health Ministry.

Most of the dead are members of the terrorist organization Islamic Jihad, which has threatened retaliation. They were in the tunnel at the time of Israel’s planned explosion. The tunnel was under “active construction” at the time of its demolition.

BREAKING: Moments ago, the IDF neutralized a Gazan terror tunnel inside Israel from Khan Younis—a grave violation of Israeli sovereignty pic.twitter.com/WlfdrnbiZb

—IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) October 30, 2017

“This is a blatant violation of Israeli sovereignty, a situation that cannot be accepted and in light of which the IDF acted,” said IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manlis. He said that the tunnel was not a threat and had been under surveillance for some time.

“The IDF will continue to use all the means at its disposal, above and below ground, to thwart attempts to harm the residents of the State of Israel and to maintain the relative quiet in the area that was achieved after Operation Cast Lead. The IDF does not intend to deteriorate the situation, but we are prepared for a variety of scenarios,” he said.

The IDF said it holds Hamas responsible for all terror activity emanating from the Gaza Strip.

Earlier this month a Hamas terror tunnel was discovered under a United Nations school in Gaza. The school was immediately closed and the tunnel sealed, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, which runs the school, and Israeli authorities were notified.

Talk about hot pastrami! Burglars steal $5,000 from kosher deli in Brooklyn

NEW YORK (JTA)—The burglars who robbed a kosher deli in Brooklyn weren’t looking for brisket or roast beef. They left the food untouched but stole $5,000, after breaking in by way of the adjacent office of a Brooklyn state senator.

“They certainly weren’t desperate for pastrami,” state Sen. Simcha Felder said on Sunday, according to The New York Post.

Police said the burglary took place on Shabbat, between Friday and Saturday night. Mechy’s Deli, like most kosher food establishments, is closed during that time in honor of the day of rest.

The thieves broke into the deli by way of a stairwell connected to Felder’s office.

“Someone broke into the building. They broke into the office next door to ours and they broke into my office and messed up the papers in our office,” Felder said.

Israel will neither support nor oppose Catalonian independence

(JTA)—Diverging with the United States and the European Union, Israel has decided it would, for the time being, neither support nor oppose Catalonian independence, an Israeli news website reported

Spain on Friday requested that Israel align itself with many other Western nations in rejecting a vote declaring independence, according to the report Monday on nrg. The vote was passed earlier that day by the majority of delegates in the regional government of Catalonia, a semi-autonomous area in the kingdom’s northeast.

But senior Israeli diplomats decided in internal talks to neither oppose nor support the declared independence of Catalonia, which Spain says is illegal and anti-constitutional, nrg reported.

Madrid’s efforts to keep the country united have the continued support of the U.S. government, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. The United States “supports the Spanish government’s constitutional measures to keep Spain strong and united,” she said in a statement over the weekend.

According to the report, Israel’s neutrality is a reaction to hostility in international forums by Spain, which is a major funder of anti-Israel organizations and often has criticized Israel’s actions in the Israeli-Arab conflict more harshly and vocally than other countries in the European Union.

Additionally, support for Israel is seen as more prevalent in Catalonia than in many other regions of Spain, a federal kingdom of 17 semi-autonomous regions, according to the report.

Supporting Catalan independence would exact a price in the diplomatic arena, separating Israel from Western allies, according to the report.

But ACOM, a pro-Israel organization based in Madrid, in a statement Monday ,disputed the idea that an independent Catalonia would be a friend to Israel. It recalled that Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, was one of about 50 municipalities throughout Spain that have adopted the boycott campaign against Israel as official policy. ACOM also recalled various anti-Semitic expressions by Catalan politicians.

ACOM also recalled that, despite disputes, Israel and Spain are friendly nations.

In 2014, Spain’s congress voted in favor of a motion supporting Palestinian statehood. Unlike similar votes in Britain, France and Belgium, the Spanish motion of support was contingent on the completion of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. That was seen as a diplomatic victory for Israel.

In recent years, the Spanish judiciary has cracked down on state bodies adopting a boycott policy against Israel, scrapping those motions as anti-constitutional and discriminatory. Spain has the largest number of such municipalities in Europe.

The Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain, or FCJE, on Friday stated that it was opposed to the Catalan secessionist efforts.

Britain Labour Party head Jeremy Corbyn won’t attend dinner marking Balfour Declaration centenary

(JTA)—Britain’s Labour Party downgraded its representation at an event celebrating a milestone of Zionism, which Prime Minister Theresa May she would attend “with pride.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who is a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause and who last year said he regretted calling Hezbollah and Hamas his “friends” in a controversial 2009 statement, declined an invitation to next week’s dinner commemorating 100 years since the Balfour Declaration, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will attend in London as May’s guest, The Times of London reported Sunday.

In the 1917 declaration, named after then-foreign secretary Arthur Balfour and obtained on Nov. 2 that year after long talks with Zionist leaders, the British government vowed to help establish a national home for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel without jeopardizing the rights of other area inhabitants.

“We are proud of the role that we played in the creation of the State of Israel and we will certainly mark the centenary with pride,” May said in the British parliament last week. “I am also pleased that good trade relations and other relations that we have with Israel we are building on and enhancing.”

Representing Labour at the event instead of Corbyn, who did not specify his reason for not attending, will be the party’s shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry. Last month she represented Labour at a Friends of Israel event in Corbyn’s stead.

The British pro-Israel group and The Jewish News newspaper of London are organizing a conference on the Balfour Declaration slated to take place at Westminster next week with senior British and Israeli politicians, including the head of Israel’s Labor party, Isaac Herzog. Corbyn will not be attending the conference either, organizers told JTA.

Among those attending the conference will be Thornberry, International Development Secretary Priti Patel, former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, and Einat Wilf, an author and former Knesset member.

Since his election to head Labour in 2015, Corbyn, a hard-left politician, has been fighting allegations that his alleged hostility toward Israel and purported tolerance to vitriol against it was encouraging expressions of anti-Semitism in his party’s ranks and among his far-left supporters.

The main organization of British Jewry, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, accused Corbyn of whitewashing what it called Labour’s anti-Semitism problem under Corbyn. Corbyn has vowed to expel any Labour member caught making racist comments, including about Jews. Dozens of Labour members were ejected from the party for this reason, but others have been readmitted, left in place or merely temporarily suspended.

Meanwhile, in a column in the daily British newspaper The Telegraph on Sunday, titled “My vision for Middle East peace between Israel and a new Palestinian state,” British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson praised the Balfour Declaration for its “incontestable moral goal: to provide a persecuted people with a safe and secure homeland.”

“I am proud of Britain’s part in creating Israel,” he also wrote. He added that the call for the rights of existing non-Jewish communities living on the land to be protected “has not been fully realized.”

Dutch ex-PM slammed for using Holocaust-era word to describe Israeli arrests of Palestinians

AMSTERDAM (JTA)—A leader of Dutch Jews criticized a former prime minister of the Netherlands for using a word that is widely associated with the Holocaust to describe arrests by Israel of Palestinians.

Dries van Agt, a pro-Palestinian activist who in 2012 said Jews should have “gotten a piece of land in Germany” instead of Israel because “World War II had nothing to do with the Middle East,” used the word “razzia” on Twitter to describe the arrests of terror suspects last week.

No one died in the arrests.

Originating in Arabic, the word means invasion or raid. But according to Ronnie Eisenmann, a former leader of the Jewish Community of Amsterdam and current chairman of the pro-Israel Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, “it is mostly used in the Nazi context” in Dutch.

According to the ENSIE Dutch-language encyclopedia, “the word ‘razzia’ in the Netherlands is mostly used in connection with the time of the German occupation.”

Eisenmann called Van Agt’s use of the term “unacceptable and inappropriate,” adding that Dutch Jews “are used to this by now from Van Agt.”

Bart Vink, a representative of the left-leaning D66 party, which is relatively critical of Israel, also condemned Van Agt’s use of the word. “Your language, bias, and one-sidedness are objectionable,” Vink wrote to Van Agt on Twitter. “Again you are harming the Palestinian cause once more. Pity, they too deserve better.”

Van Agt served as prime minister in the early 1980s. In 2008, he spoke at a rally in Rotterdam in which Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh delivered a speech on video via satellite.

Van Agt has said that he would accept the definition of Hamas as a terrorist organization only if the same definition applied to Israel. He also has called for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s arrest and trial for alleged war crimes.

Van Agt has faced accusations of anti-Semitism since the 1970s and has consistently denied them.

In 1972, while serving as justice minister, Van Agt said: “I am only an Aryan,” in speaking to a journalist about his intention to bring about the release from prison of Nazi prisoners for health reasons.

After the statement’s publication caused a scandal, Van Agt said that he meant to say that the release would be difficult for him to achieve because his Jewish predecessor had, according to Van Agt, tried and failed.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which is an intergovernmental body of 31 countries including the Netherlands, last year adopted a definition of anti-Semitism which includes drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to those of the Nazis. Critics of this definition allege it is inaccurate and potentially limiting of free speech on the topic of Israel.

Israeli embassy’s ‘PeaceWithoutTerror’ ad campaign takes top prizes

BUENOS AIRES (JTA)—An ad campaign focused on peace created by the Israeli Embassy in Argentina about the 1992 bombing attack on the facility won two communications prizes.

The “PeaceWithoutTerror” campaign won two Eikon Prizes for Excellence in Institutional Communications, one for Social Marketing and one for Institutional Advertising. The prizes were awarded Wednesday.

The ad campaign, which received extensive media attention in bringing awareness to the 25th anniversary of the embassy attack, presented Argentinean celebrities making the number 25 with their fingers, showing one hand making the “V” sign for peace using two fingers, and the other making a “stop” to terror sign using the whole hand, or five fingers.

The campaign developed by Basevich Crea agency involved 64 participating celebrities; a photo exhibition in a national gallery; a book; videos screened on national television; and 20 countries that replicated the campaign.

“The success of the campaign was huge in numbers and in meaning. Our aim was to approach the memory of bombing from a point of view that is the opposite of the terror, to spread the idea of peace as the way to challenge the terror,” Javier Basevich, owner of Basevich Crea, told JTA.

A car bomb destroyed the Buenos Aires embassy on March 17 1992, killing 29 and injuring 242.

Iran is believed to be behind the bombing, as well as the deadly attack in 1994 on the AMIA Jewish community center in the same city. No perpetrators in either attack have been brought to justice.

The Eikon Prize for Excellence in Institutional Communications has been held since 1998 by the Imagen Magazine. The ceremony was attended by 400 professionals.

The Israeli embassy was the only organization to win two prizes at the same ceremony.

Ayer ganamos el oro en los #Eikon2017 en las categorías Publicidad Inst TV y #MarketingSocial por el trabajo comunicacional de #PazSinTerror pic.twitter.com/4qH7N9BNfx

—Israel en Argentina (@IsraelArgentina) October 26, 2017

Latin America and the Caribbean declared ‘Inter-Religious Coexistence Zone’

BUENOS AIRES (JTA)—Thirty leaders of different religious traditions from Latin America and the Caribbean will sign the “Cordoba Declaration,” identifying the region as an area of interreligious coexistence.

The declaration is set to be signed Monday in the Cordoba province, located in the center of Argentina.

“Under the premise of not waiting for—paradoxically—miraculous solutions, regional organizations representing four faiths in Latin America are building something that undoubtedly constitutes pride for the entire region,” said Claudio Epelman, executive director of the Latin American Jewish Congress, who also handles Vatican relations for the World Jewish Congress.

The Latin American Jewish Congress is one of four organizations that will sign the declaration.

Epelman in 2014 organized a delegation of 45 businesspeople and politicians—Jews, Muslims and Catholics, and interfaith leaders from Argentina to visit Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan.

“The Argentine experience is an example that surprises those in other latitudes. The Declaration is proof that interreligious coexistence is possible, and helps to shield the region so that it does not import conflicts from other parts of the world, but rather exports the message that coexistence is possible,” Epelman told JTA.

The groups that will sign the document that aims to promote joint coexistence work and the message of coexistence are the Latin American Episcopal Council; the Latin American Jewish Congress; the Latin American Council of Churches; and the Islamic Organization for Latin America and the Caribbean. The document also will be signed by representatives of these religious groups from Colombia, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The document will be signed in Cordoba to honor the nearly 20 years of interreligious work of COMIPAZ, the Interreligious Committee for Peace, created in Cordoba by Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders, Marcelo Polakoff, the rabbi of the Israelite Union Centre in Cordoba, told JTA. COMIPAZ is the first formal interfaith committee in Argentina.

Signing the document in Cordoba also remembers and honors the ancestral coexistence between Muslims, Christians and Jews that characterized Cordoba in medieval Andalucia, he added, referring to the homonymous city in the southern Spanish region of Andalucia.

Argentinean Secretary of Human Rights and Cultural Pluralism of the Nation Claudio Avruj is scheduled to attend the signing of the declaration at the Cordoba Cultural Center on Monday evening, as will the governor of Cordoba, Juan Schiaretti, and Ramon Mestre, the mayor of the capital city, also called Cordoba.

This year the Latin America Jewish Congress, the regional chapter of WJC, organized a joint Ramadan break-fast meal with the Jewish and Palestinian Muslim communities in Buenos Aires, which was welcomed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.


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