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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

 

January 5, 2018



Israeli government OKs $72 Million anti-BDS project

(JTA)—Israel’s government has approved a plan setting aside $72 million to fighting the campaign to boycott Israel.

The plan would entail the largest monetary investment yet by Israel specifically toward combating the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign. It was announced last week to the cabinet ministers and approved as an executive order after none of them objected, the Ynet news site reported Friday.

It calls for setting up a not-for-profit organization whose board will be made up of government officials and donors from abroad, the report said. The board will oversee the first major “civil-society infrastructure servicing the State of Israel and the pro-Israel community in the fight against the de-legitimization of Israel,” the notice sent to the ministers read.

The $75 million budget will come partly from the Israeli government and partly from Jewish donors and communities abroad, the report said. It did not say when the new organization would become operational or even established formally.

But the initial funding to the tune of $36 million will come from the budget of the ministry that includes Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Information. At least 10 Jewish philanthropists have pledge to at least match that sum, with some promising to give $2 and $3 to any dollar put in by the Israeli government beyond the initial funding, according to the report.

The organization envisaged by its creators would operate on a regular basis to counter pressure applied to artists, performers and commercial enterprises who seek to engage with Israel. But it would shift into high gear at sensitive periods such as fighting waves of terrorist attacks and anti-Israel votes at international forums.

The new organization’s avenues for action would include public campaigns, lobbying, arranging for solidarity visits to Israel by opinion shapers, establishing new and social media presence and interacting with pro-Israel organization worldwide for coordinated action with a focus on Europe.

While such activities today formally fall under the purview of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, spinning off the nonprofit would allow for quicker and more flexible action unconstrained by government bureaucracy and legal limitations on third party services. But the new organization will be subject to review by the state.

Israel says it succeeded in bid to withdraw from UNESCO by 2019, official says

(JTA)—Denying reports that Israel has missed the deadline for leaving UNESCO, its ambassador to the international body said it has successfully handed in its notice of departure effective 2019.

UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay has agreed to view an email sent to her from the Israeli foreign ministry announcing the pullout effective before 2019, Carmel Shama-Hacohen was quoted as saying in an article published Friday by Haaretz.

It takes a year for the withdrawal to take effect.

Shama-Hacohen’s statement followed previous reports that, despite announcing its intention to leave the organization for its bias against the Jewish state, Jerusalem did not give notice in time for the membership to end in 2019.

Shama-Hacohen conceded to Haaretz that he and his aide had arrived with a written notice at the Paris UNESCO building when it was closed for the holiday and manned only by security guards, who refused to sign that they had received the document.

Azoulay agreed to view the email notice as official, so that “Israel, which has done every effort to complete the pullout alongside the United States, may not find itself still a member of this unfortunate organization, which has been hijacked by the Arab states and Islam,” Shama-Hacohen is quoted as saying.

In October, the United States announced that it would leave UNESCO, citing “continuing anti-Israel bias.” Six years ago, the United States cut off more than $80 million a year, about 22 percent of its entire budget for UNESCO, in reprisal for its acceptance of Palestine as a member. Israel also suspended its funding at that time.

Israel and the United States will remain as observer states of UNESCO, whose full name is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

In recent years, UNESCO has passed resolutions rejecting Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, and placed the Cave of the Patriarchs and the Old City of Hebron in the State of Palestine on the list of world heritage sites in danger. It frequently refers to the Temple Mount only by its Arabic name, Al-Haram al-Sharif.

Between 2009-2014, UNESCO adopted 46 resolutions against Israel; 1 on Syria; and none on Iran, Sudan, North Korea, or any other country in the world.

In 2011, UNESCO elected Syria’s regime headed by Bashar Assad to its human rights committee.

Jerry Seinfeld spotted at Tel Aviv’s ‘best’ falafel shop

(JTA)—Hours after landing in Israel, the comedian Jerry Seinfeld was spotted at a well-known falafel eatery ahead of his two shows there.

Wearing a blue polo shirt and a New York Mets baseball cap, Seinfeld was photographed ordering food on Friday at Falafel Hakosem, an eatery situated half a mile east of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.

Israel’s Channel 2’s food critic earlier this year proclaimed the falafel joint the best of its kind in Tel Aviv, Ynet reported.

Seinfield, one of the most famous Jewish comedians of all time, is scheduled to perform at Tel Aviv’s Menorah Mivtachim Arena on Saturday night. He performed four sold-out shows in a row there during his previous visit to Israel in 2015.

In September, Seinfeld released a new comedy special on Netflix, titled “Jerry Before Seinfeld.”

Portuguese official disappears with Jewish heritage money

(JTA)—Police in Portugal are searching for a local politician whom they suspect fled the country after pocketing $130,000 earmarked for developing Jewish heritage sites.

Marco Baptista, who represents the Social Democratic Party in the eastern town of Covilha, dropped off the radar earlier this month after the money was transferred from the regional government’s office for the development of Jewish heritage sites to his personal account based on documents that contained forgeries of signatures by other officials, the Correio da Manhã reported last week.

The money came from Portugal’s Rede de Judiarias, a national network of sites connected to the Jewish population that had lived in Portugal before the adoption in the 16th century by the royal house of the Inquisition—a church-led campaign of persecution of Jews and other non-Christians. Baptista was a consultant for the Rede de Judiarias.

Shortly after the money was transferred last month, the modem, router and a computer of the Rede de Judiarias’ office in the nearby town of Belmonte went missing, leaving the institution without online access to its bank accounts and official correspondence. Technicians replaced the missing gear three days later—by which time both Baptista, 41, and the money were gone.

Relatives of Baptista offered to repay the money he is believed to have stolen and are cooperating with police’s attempts to locate him, the ZAP news agency reported, as prosecutors prepare an indictment for fraud and theft.

Rabbi Elisha Salas, who is based in Belmonte and is consulted regularly on commemoration projects, told Jornal do Fundao that the Rede de Juderias, which has so far declined to comment publicly on the affair, must divulge “the whole truth” about it.

Target recalls Jewish-themed ‘Cards Against Humanity’ game over offensive content

(JTA)—Target said it is recalling a Jewish-themed version of a card game that features offensive content.

The popular and intentionally offensive game, Cards Against Humanity, asks players to compete for the funniest or least appropriate answer to a fill-in-the-blank question.

Cards in the “Chosen People Pack” version were flagged on social media in recent days for prompts like “Can’t you see, the Jews are behind everything—the banks, the media, even _____!” and an answer reading “Torturing Jews until they say they aren’t Jews anymore.”

Target is “aware of this extended card pack of the game Cards Against Humanity,” a spokesperson wrote on Twitter Thursday evening, “and are in the process of removing it from our stores. We apologize for any disappointment as it is never our intention to offend our guests with the products we carry.”

Target is the second-largest discount store retailer in the United States.

A “Jew Pack” set of cards is still available on the game maker’s web site. The game was developed by eight Chicago-area high school friends: Max Temkin, Josh Dillon, Daniel Dranove, Eli Halpern, Ben Hantoot, David Munk, David Pinsof and Eliot Weinstein.

“Cards Against Humanity is a party game for horrible people,” reads the description of the game on its website. “Unlike most of the party games you’ve played before, Cards Against Humanity is as despicable and awkward as you and your friends.”

ADL ‘concerned’ by spate of anti-Semitic, racist vandalism in Manhattan

(JTA)—The Anti-Defamation League expressed concern following recent incidents in Manhattan featuring vandalism and anti-Semitic graffiti.

The targets included three Upper East Side businesses, private apartments and other public spaces, ADL said Thursday citing reports. It included “explicit anti-Semitic symbols, as well as racist” ones ADL did not say when the incidents took place.

On Thursday, police released a photo of one slender man, who appears to be older than 50, whom police said is wanted for committing a pattern of aggravated harassment as a hate crime. He is believed to have placed stickers containing anti-gay, anti-black and anti-Semitic statements on three Madison Avenue stores since October, police said.

“This recent spate of hateful acts remind us that the fight against anti-Semitism is inextricably linked to the fight of all forms of hate, and therefore must be addressed in all our communities,” said ADL New York Regional Director Evan R. Bernstein in a statement.

In the first three quarters of 2017, ADL tracked 167 incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism across New York State as well as a 92 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in New York City. In the recent findings, Manhattan surpassed other NYC boroughs receiving the highest number of anti-Semitic incidents.

Michael Oren calls for IDF to ‘shoot to kill’ suspected terrorists

(JTA)—Michael Oren tweeted that the Israel Defense Forces should “shoot to kill” suspected terrorists, rather than just “neutralize” them.

Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States who serves as a deputy minister in Israel’s Knesset, made the call for extrajudicial killing while tweeting Wednesday about Omar al-Abed, who was convicted on the same day of murdering three Israelis in a July attack on the West Bank settlement of Halamish.

Oren tweeted that al-Abed, whose name he spelled differently, attacked medics after being “neutralized” by Israeli forces. Israel uses the term “neutralized” to describe a suspected terrorist who no longer poses a physical threat. Oren said that al-Abed “sat healthy and smiling in court” at his military court date Wednesday, despite having committed the attack.

Soldiers responding to terror attacks cannot determine if terrorists are neutralized, as the current open-fire order states. Soldiers are not doctors. But they must ensure that the terrorists pose no further threat. Though “neutralized,” Al-Obeid attacked the medics treating him.

— Michael Oren (@DrMichaelOren) December 27, 2017

In July, Al-Abed entered a home in Halamish and stabbed three family members to death as they were eating Shabbat dinner. The military advocate general is seeking four consecutive life sentences for Al-Abed.

The question of when it is appropriate for soldiers to kill suspected terrorists became a divisive topic in Israel last year after Elor Azaria, an IDF medic, shot dead an alleged terrorist who was incapacitated and lying on the ground. Despite protests on Azaria’s behalf, he was convicted of manslaughter in January and sentenced to 18 months in prison, later shortened to 14 months. Leading Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have called for Azaria to be pardoned, but Israeli President Reuven Rivlin rejected the pardon requests in November.

Before becoming Israel’s ambassador to the United States in 2009, Oren, who was born and raised in the United States, was a preeminent historian of the Middle East and Israel. He ended his term as ambassador in 2013 and was elected to Knesset two years later as part of the center-right Kulanu party.

Earlier this year, speaking about Azaria, Oren said the IDF’s open-fire orders should be “clarified,” but he did not explicitly call for “shoot to kill.”

 

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