Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


December 8, 2017

Geraldo Rivera apologizes to Bette Midler for alleged sexual assault

(JTA)—Television host Geraldo Rivera apologized to Bette Midler for an incident in which she says he groped her.

“Although I recall the time @BetteMidler has alluded to much differently than she, that does not change the fact that she has a right to speak out & demand an apology from me, for in the very least, publically [sic] embarrassing her all those years ago. Bette, I apologize,” Rivera tweeted on Friday.

Rivera also tweeted: “27 years ago I wrote a tawdry book depicting consensual events in 1973-45 years ago-I’ve deeply regretted its distasteful & disrespectful tone & have refrained from speaking about it-I’m embarrassed & profoundly sorry to those mentioned-I have & again apologize to anyone offended.”

On Thursday, Midler tweeted a video clip of a 1991 interview in which she told Barbara Walters that Rivera violently assaulted her the first time they met.

Tomorrow is my birthday. I feel like this video was a gift from the universe to me. Geraldo may have apologized for his tweets supporting Matt Lauer, but he has yet to apologize for this. #MeToo pictwitter.com/TkcolFWfA2

— Bette Midler (@BetteMidler) November 30, 2017

Earlier that year, Rivera published an autobiography called “Exposing Myself” in which he claimed to have had—in the words of Walters—a “torrid” sexual affair with Midler when she was a rising star in the early 1970s.

Midler, however, explained to Walters that she has a different recollection of their relations. Midler claims Rivera and his producer pushed her into a bathroom, broke two “poppers” (inhalant alkyl nitrate drugs), pushed them under her nose and proceeded to grope her.

Last week, Rivera tweeted a defense of Matt Lauer, the former host of the Today show whom NBC News fired for inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace. Rivera said, “News is a flirty business & it seems like current epidemic of #SexHarassmentAllegations may be criminalizing courtship & conflating it w predation.” He later apologized for that tweet. Fox News also distanced itself from Rivera’s tweets.

Rivera, who hosted multiple tabloid-style talk shows for decades and is now a contributor on Fox News, is the son of a Puerto Rican father and a Jewish mother. He had a bar mitzvah.

Midler—the recipient of numerous awards, including Grammys, Tonys, Golden Globes and Emmys—grew up in a Jewish family in Hawaii.

Although I recall the time @BetteMidler has alluded to much differently than she, that does not change the fact that she has a right to speak out & demand an apology from me, for in the very least, publically embarrassing her all those years ago. Bette, I apologize.

— Geraldo Rivera (@GeraldoRivera) December 1, 2017

27 years ago I wrote a tawdry book depicting consensual events in 1973-45 years ago-I’ve deeply regretted its distasteful & disrespectful tone & have refrained from speaking about it-I’m embarrassed & profoundly sorry to those mentioned-I have & again apologize to anyone offended

— Geraldo Rivera (@GeraldoRivera) December 1, 2017

Jared Kushner did not disclose his heading of a foundation that funded settlement projects

(JTA)—Jared Kushner did not disclose on government filings his position as a director of a family foundation that funded projects in West Bank settlements.

Kushner’s position as co-director of the Charles and Seryl Kushner Foundation from 2006 to 2015, when the foundation donated at least $38,000 to the building of a Jewish seminary in the West Bank settlement of Beit El and an additional $20,000 to Jewish and educational institutions in other settlements, was not disclosed on his filings with the Office of Government Ethics, Newsweek reported Sunday.

The revelation comes two days after reports that Kushner, President Donald Trump’s Jewish son-in-law and a White House senior adviser, attempted to stop a vote on an anti-settlement resolution that passed during the Trump transition period.

The U.S. State Department has traditionally labeled the settlements as an impediment or “unhelpful” to a two-state solution, but charitable donations to institutions there are legal under U.S. law.

Kushner has amended his financial records several times since his first filing with the government ethics office in March, and also has made three revisions to his security clearance application.

Newsweek reported that Kushner’s omission was first discovered by a team of researchers at American Bridge, a progressive research and communications organization. The group shared the discovery with Newsweek on Friday afternoon and its researchers suggested Kushner’s failure to disclose his position may have been an attempt to avoid “potential conflicts with his job negotiating Middle East peace.”

Had Kushner disclosed his position in the family foundation in his financial records, his involvement in the settlement donations and potential conflicts of interest with his government position may have been considered by the Office of Government Ethics, according to Newsweek.

Boston Globe cartoon of Sheldon Adelson uses anti-Semitic images, Jewish leaders say

(JTA)—Two Jewish leaders denounced a Boston Globe editorial cartoon that they said uses a caricature of Jewish billionaire Sheldon Adelson with anti-Semitic tropes.

The cartoon that appeared Friday was titled “Murder on the tax-cut express” and shows Adelson aboard a train conducted by President Donald Trump labeled as riding in the section for “priority passengers.” Adelson is shown in a dining car reading a newspaper headlined “Estate Tax Repealed,” and a waiter is serving him a large sack labeled “$14.6 billion.”

In a letter to the editor published Monday in the newspaper, Robert Trestan, regional director of the New England region of the Anti-Defamation League, and Jeremy Burton, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, said they were “deeply disturbed and offended” by the Ward Sutton cartoon.

“The portrayal—singling out, among all the donors and interests who stand to benefit, a prominent Jewish individual, Sheldon Adelson; depicting him with an exaggerated hooked nose; linking him with money; and positioning him as hidden inside the train while others conduct—evokes classic anti-Semitic imagery and reinforces existing stereotypes,” they wrote.

“At a time when hatred and bigotry of all forms are seeping into the mainstream, it is critical that the Globe and other responsible media outlets refrain from giving additional aid to those who no doubt will see this cartoon’s publication as further verification of long-established anti-Semitic views.”

The U.S. Senate early Saturday morning passed a sweeping tax bill along party lines that critics charge would benefit the wealthy and raise taxes on the middle class.

James Franco to direct, star in film about poet Shel Silverstein

(JTA)—Actor and director James Franco will direct and star in a film about children’s book author and poet Shel Silverstein.

The film, based on the book “A Boy Named Shel,” by Lisa Rogak, will focus on Silverstein’s personal life and professional struggles, Deadline Hollywood first reported.

Silverstein, who was born into a Jewish family and grew up in Chicago, is the author of the well-known children’s poetry collections “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and “The Light in the Attic,” as well as the children’s book “The Giving Tree.”

He also illustrated his books and collections. Silverstein also was a singer-songwriter and screenwriter.

Franco, who is Jewish, is fresh off his latest success, “The Disaster Artist,” a biographical comedy-drama film that chronicles the making of Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 cult film “The Room,” a critical flop that went on to become a cult classic. Franco and the film are reported to be in contention for several Oscars this year.

Palestinians warn of new intifada, end of peace process if Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israeli capital

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The Palestinian terror organization Hamas said it would incite a new intifada, or uprising, if the United States recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Hamas on Saturday issued a statement calling on Palestinians to “incite an uprising in Jerusalem so that this conspiracy does not pass.”

“This decision would represent a U.S. assault on the city and give legitimacy to )Israel) over the city,” the statement also said. “We call on the Palestinian people to stand as an impenetrable floodgate and a tall wall against this decision and renew the Jerusalem intifada.”

The statement is in response to reports that U.S. President Donald Trump will give a speech on Wednesday recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The White House has refused to confirm the reports. Axios first reported plans for the speech.

Other reports have said that in tandem with recognizing Jerusalem, Trump will for the second time sign a waiver suspending a 1995 law that mandates moving the embassy to the city from Tel Aviv. Every president, including Trump in June, has signed the waiver every six months since the law’s passage.

Friday, Dec. 1, was ostensibly the deadline for Trump to sign the waiver of the 1995 law, but there was no sign that he had signed it. There have reportedly been instances in the past, however, when a president delayed until Monday signing a waiver that was due Friday.

White House officials continued to be vague on Sunday about the prospects of a change in Jerusalem policy. “There are options involving the move of an embassy at some point in the future, which I think, you know, could be used to gain momentum toward a—toward a peace agreement, and a solution that works both for Israelis and for Palestinians,” H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser, said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The Palestinian Authority claims eastern Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas adviser Mahmoud Habash said Saturday that a Trump recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would bring about the “complete destruction of the peace process,” Ynet reported.

He also said that “the world will pay the price” for any change in Jerusalem’s status.

On Friday, a delegation from the Palestinian Authority met with Trump’s Jewish son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner to warn the Trump Administration that any acknowledgment of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or of moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would end the peace process, according to Israeli media reports.

They and the Arab world have long opposed a potential relocation of the U.S. embassy, repeatedly warning that it could spark fresh unrest.

On Wednesday, Israel’s Hadashot news reported that Trump was set to move the embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.

“We have nothing to announce,” a White House official told JTA later Wednesday.

Vice President Mike Pence told a pro-Israel event Tuesday that Trump was “actively considering when and how” to move the embassy.

Trump had campaigned on moving the embassy but backpedaled once he assumed office after representations by Jordan’s King Abdullah, who argued that a move would be disruptive and dangerous. Abdullah was in Washington, D.C., last week meeting with government officials.

Jared Kushner says Israeli-Palestinian peace needed for regional stability

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians is a prerequisite for regional stability, Jared Kushner said, signaling that the Trump peace negotiating team is hewing to conventional notions of how to arrive at a deal.

Kushner, speaking Sunday at the annual Saban Forum convening Israeli and U.S. policymakers, scholars and influencers, outlined the challenges his father-in-law, President Donald Trump, faces in the Middle East, including Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its disruptive behavior and the proliferation of terrorism.

“You have the Israeli-Palestinian issue,” Kushner, who is a senior adviser to Trump and the most senior official handling Israeli-Palestinian peace, said. “If we’re going to try and create more stability in the region as a whole you have to solve this issue”

Kushner’s linkage of Israeli-Palestinian peace to stabilizing the region suggested a potential tension between the Trump administration and the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu clashed repeatedly with President Barack Obama over what he saw as Obama’s attempts to link Israeli-Palestinian peace to broader regional policies. Additionally, Israelis have long rejected the premise that Israeli-Palestinian peace would necessarily ameliorate any of the other problems afflicting the region.

Achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace as a prerequisite to advancing broader agendas has been a feature of successive U.S. administrations for at least 50 years, and Kushner’s remarks suggested that Trump’s ambitions, for all of the president’s talk of breaking with the past, were not so distant from his predecessors.

Kushner also abjured an incremental approach to reaching an agreement, preferring to solve the “big issue” first—another area of potential disagreement with Israel, where the tendency is to favor managing tensions with the Palestinians as opposed to resolving them.

“We’ve been very focused on the deal,” he said “If you solve the bigger issues a lot of the little issues—or not little issues, because they’re all very serious issues—will be mitigated over time.”

Kushner also thanked the room for sending his negotiating team policy proposals, which also was notable as a nod to the Washington “swamp” that Trump has claimed he hopes to “drain.” The Saban Forum, funded by Israeli-American entertainment mogul Haim Saban, who interviewed Kushner, is organized by the Brookings Institution, a liberal-leaning think tank, and brings together mandarins of the U.S., Israeli and Middle Eastern foreign policy establishments, some of whom have been plying their trade for decades.

“That’s been so helpful to us, developing the ideas,” Kushner.

Kushner was cagey about details, resisting Saban’s pleas to confirm whether Trump would on Wednesday recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as has been reported in the media. He did offer one substantive departure from past efforts at getting to a peace deal—absolutely no deadlines.

“We’ve been very deliberate about not setting time frames so we have more room to be successful,” he said.

He also acknowledged the unusual composition of the team. His past was in real estate and Jason Greenblatt, the top negotiator, and David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, are formerly lawyers for Trump. The only member with deep experience in the region is Dina Powell, a member of the national security council, whom he credited with working out a long-term plan.

“Her family is Egyptian, she speaks Arabic, she’s been very instrumental in helping us develop a regional aspirational economic plan for what could happen post-peace,” Kushner said.

“We don’t view a peace agreement just as signing a piece of paper and then hoping everything works out, we’re focused on what happens after,” Kushner said. “How do you create an environment where ten years down the road the people who are the beneficiaries of peace, have jobs and opportunity that they didn’t have before.”

Playing along with a theme introduced by Saban, Kushner joked about the team’s religious and ethnic makeup. “As this process has gone through, my team in particular, being three Orthodox Jews and a Coptic Egyptian, has tried very hard to do a lot of listening,” he said.

Saban, unusually, opened by referring to Kushner’s legal troubles; he has been named as directing Michael Flynn, a top security adviser to Trump’s transition team, to try to scuttle Obama’s plans to allow through a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s settlement policies. Flynn on Friday pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about a call he made a year ago to the Russian ambassador at what he claims was the behest of Kushner. Neither Kushner nor his lawyers have confirmed that he delivered the instructions.

Saban then thanked Kushner for allegedly trying to intervene on Israel’s behalf.

“I personally want to thank you,” Saban said.

“You and your team were taking steps to try and get the United Nations Security Council to not go along with what ended up being an abstention by the U.S.,” he continued. “As far as I know there’s nothing illegal there, but I think that that this crowd and myself want to thank you for making that effort, so thank you very much.”

Kushner muttered, “Thank you,” as the crowd delivered muted applause.

Kushner at the end of the exchange tamped down speculation that he was overwhelmed by legal troubles or the vast portfolio of responsibilities he has. In addition to Middle East peace, he also runs the Office for Innovation and is tackling the opioid crisis, and there have been reports that Trump wants him and his daughter, Ivanka, back in New York as early as next month.

“The kids are loving it here,” Kushner said. “The schools are great.”


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