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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


January 12, 2018

Barbra Streisand slams Golden Globes for not giving award to women directors

JTA—Barbra Streisand criticized the sexism of Hollywood while presenting an award at the Golden Globes, pointing out that she is the only woman to have received its best director award.

“Backstage I heard they said I was the only woman... to get the best director award, and you know, that was 1984: That was 34 years ago. Folks, time’s up!” Streisand said before presenting the final award of the night for best motion picture.

Streisand’s best director award at the Golden Globes was for the movie “Yentl,” in which she also played the title character.

“We need more women directors and more women to be nominated for best director,” the famed Jewish singer-actress also said. “There are so many films out there that are so good directed by women.”

Later tweeting some of her remarks, Streisand added: “I also would have liked to see director @PattyJenks and her film @WonderWomanFilm recognized because it shows how strong women can be, not only as characters but also at the box office. The three highest-grossing films last year were all carried by women.”

The Israeli actress Gal Gadot starred as the title character in “Wonder Woman.”

Streisand also praised Hollywood movers and shakers for changing the way they do business in the wake of the sexual harassment scandals that have rocked the industry.

“I’m very proud to stand in a room with people who speak out against gender inequality, sexual harassment and the pettiness that has poisoned our politics,” she said. “And I’m proud that our industry, when faced with uncomfortable truths, has vowed to change the ways we do business.”

Actress and director Natalie Portman, who is Jewish, also addressed the inequality in Hollywood while presenting the award for best director, saying “Here are the all-male nominees.”

Women have been nominated in the Golden Globe’s best director category only seven times since 1943, according to the Los Angeles Times. Streisand also was nominated in 1991 for “The Prince of Tides.”

Mike Pence’s Middle East visit rescheduled

(JTA)—Vice President Mike Pence will visit Israel later this month, his office announced.

Pence will travel to the Middle East Jan. 19-23, with other stops in Egypt and Jordan to meet with their leaders.

In Israel on the last two days of the trip, the vice president is scheduled to meet jointly with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, and to address the Knesset. He also is scheduled to visit the Western Wall and Yad Vashem.

Palestinian leaders refuse to meet with Pence in the wake of President Donald Trump’s recognition last month of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Pence postponed a planned mid-December visit to Israel so he could preside over the vote on a tax overhaul favored by Trump. It was believed that the vice president may have been needed to cast the deciding vote in the closely divided Senate, but he was not as the plan passed.

The original trip had included meetings in Bethlehem with Palestinian Authority officials.

On the newly scheduled trip, prior to visiting Israel, Pence will meet in Egypt on Jan. 20 with President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and in Jordan on Jan. 21 with King Abdullah II.

“At President Trump’s direction, the Vice President is traveling to the Middle East to reaffirm our commitment to work with the U.S.’s allies in the region to defeat radicalism that threatens future generations,” Pence’s press secretary, Alyssa Farah, said Monday in a statement. “The Vice President is looking forward to meeting with the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, and Israel to discuss ways to work together to fight terrorism and improve our national security.”

‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ wins big at the Golden Globes

(JTA)—“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” about a Jewish housewife in New York City in the late 1950s, won best television series, comedy, at the 2018 Golden Globe awards.

Rachel Brosnahan, the non-Jewish actress who plays the very Jewish Midge Maisel in the Amazon Studios series, took home the best actress award for a television comedy in Sunday’s awards ceremony in Beverly Hills, California.

Creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, who is Jewish, accepted the award for best comedy series.

James Franco won for best actor in a feature comedy for his portrayal of the eccentric director Tommy Wiseau in “The Disaster Artist,” a semi-fictional retelling of the production of Wiseau’s 2003 film “The Room”—popularly known as one of the worst movies ever made. The Jewish actor praised his longtime collaborator Seth Rogen, who had a part in “The Disaster Artist,” and his brother Dave Franco, who co-stars in the film and whom he called “my own Coen brother.”

Jewish actresses such as Gal Gadot, Natalie Portman, Debra Messing and Tracee Ellis Ross joined dozens of other actresses in wearing black to the awards ceremony to take a stand against sexual harassment and gender inequality in Hollywood. The move also promoted the “Time’s Up” initiative spearheaded by several prominent actresses, and supported by hundreds more, to fight sexual harassment, assault and inequality for women in the workplace. The initiative has raised more than $15 million toward a fund for victims in the week since its founding.

Golden Globes host Seth Meyers addressed the issue and in particular disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein in his opening monologue.

“For the male nominees in the room tonight, this is the first time in three months it won’t be terrifying to hear your name read out loud,” Meyers quipped. He noted that Weinstein was not present at the ceremony, adding: “But don’t worry, he’ll be back in 20 years when he becomes the first person ever booed during the In Memoriam.”

Portman, who is also a director, addressed inequality in Hollywood in presenting the award for best director, announcing “Here are the all-male nominees.”

Golden Globe winners are decided by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a nonprofit organization. At the ceremony, the association announced $2 million in grants to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and the Committee To Protect Journalists.

Jared Kushner’s family business reportedly still making financial deals with Israeli companies

(JTA)—The family real estate business of senior White House adviser Jared Kushner reportedly has continued to make large financial deals with Israeli companies and businesspeople.

Kushner, the Jewish son-in-law of President Donald Trump, resigned as chief executive officer of Kushner Companies in January 2017 before taking up his White House post, but still has a stake in the family business.

In May, shortly before Trump’s visit to Israel, the first diplomatic trip of his presidency, Kushner Companies received a $30 million investment from the Israeli insurer Menora Mivtachim, one of the country’s largest financial institutions, The New York Times reported Monday, citing a Menora executive.

The money from the deal, which was not made public, went into 10 Maryland apartment complexes controlled by Kushner Companies, according to the report.

There is no evidence that Kushner was personally involved in the deal, according to The Times, which cited government ethics filings that he is the beneficiary of a series of trusts that own stakes in Kushner properties and other investments worth as much as $761 million.

Christine Taylor, a spokeswoman for the Kushner Companies, told The Times that the company “does no business with foreign sovereigns or governments, and is not precluded from doing business with any foreign company simply because Jared is working in the government.”

Kushner attorney Abbe Lowell said in a statement: “Jared Kushner has not been involved in, nor spoken about any Kushner Companies’ activities or project, since shortly before the Inauguration. He has an ethics agreement, reviewed by lawyers, with which he is in full compliance. Connecting any of his well-publicized trips to the Middle East to anything to do with Kushner Companies or its businesses is nonsensical and is a stretch to write a story where none actually exists.”

Other deals that were reported previously include the Kushner Companies teaming up with at least one member of Israel’s wealthy Steinmetz family to buy nearly $200 million of Manhattan apartment buildings and build a luxury rental tower in New Jersey; the company’s purchase of several floors of the former New York Times headquarters building in Manhattan from Israeli businessman Lev Leviev; and at least four loans from Israel’s largest bank, Bank Hapoalim.

Sarah Silverman’s birthday wishes to her nephew in the IDF bring out the haters

(JTA)—Comedian Sarah Silverman posted birthday wishes on Instagram to her 19-year-old nephew showing a photo of him as a baby and a photo of him as an Israeli soldier, leading to hateful messages in response.

“This baby is now a 19 year old soldier. OY. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, @adar_abramowitz_silverman I LOVE YOU A ZILLION!!️” Silverman said in her message posted on Saturday.

Adar Abramowitz is the son of her sister Rabbi Susan Silverman and Yosef Abramowitz, CEO of Energiya Global Capital, who live in Israel. Adar and his brother Zamir were adopted by the couple, who also have three biological daughters.

Messages in response called the soldier an “Israeli terrorist,” “a 19 year old apartheid colonial enforcement officer? must be so proud;” and said: “I am Palestinian and it breaks my heart to see kids forced to serve. It adds to the oppression and subjugation. I hope this young man sees humans beings all the same and chooses not to participate in the oppression.”

Messages in support read: “soldiers don’t serve the (democratically) elected government. They serve the country and protect their families. Like here in the US, our Army isn’t Republican or Democrat;” “Looks like you have grown to become a fine young man who is serving your country well!”; and “Bless you and your nephew. You should be proud. The hateful people on this feed are pathetic. Happy birthday to a very handsome soldier!”

Silverman wrote in response to one person who said he would be unfollowing her: “go for it but he can’t help being Israeli and having to serve. He isn’t the govt. let’s hope he’s part of the solution.”

The post received nearly 22,000 likes.

Over 100 artists sign open letter supporting Lorde’s Israel concert cancellation

JTA—More than 100 artists including musicians, writers, actors and directors signed an open letter published in The Guardian in support of pop star Lorde’s right to cancel her show in Israel.

The letter published on Friday also slammed the full-page ad calling Lorde a “bigot” published in the Washington Post and funded by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s World Values Network organization.

Among the signers of the letter were actor Mark Ruffalo, singer Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd front man Roger Waters, actor John Cusack, British director Ken Loach, writer Angela Davis and writer Alice Walker.

“We deplore the bullying tactics being used to defend injustice against Palestinians and to suppress an artist’s freedom of conscience. We support Lorde’s right to take a stand,” the letter says. It also says that Boteach “has nothing to teach artists about human rights.”

Lorde said last month she would cancel her Tel Aviv concert less than a week after it was announced following criticism by pro-Palestinian fans in her native New Zealand.

New Zealanders Nadia Abu-Shanab and Justine Sachs—the former Palestinian and the latter Jewish—wrote an open letter on the website The Spinoff saying that Lorde’s scheduled performance in Israel “sends the wrong message.”

“Playing in Tel Aviv will be seen as giving support to the policies of the Israeli government, even if you make no comment on the political situation,” they wrote.

Lorde said in a statement about the cancellation that she educated herself about Israel before booking the concert, but that “I didn’t make the right call on this one.”

Jewish group among 6 put on Israel’s boycott blacklist

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry has placed the left-wing, California-based Jewish Voice for Peace and five other U.S. groups on a BDS blacklist.

Hadashot News, the Israel Television News Company, first reported Saturday night that members of JVP, which has over 200,000 online supporters and 70 chapters, could be banned from entering the country.

The BDS blacklist has 20 organizations on it. The ministry issued the full list on Sunday after the Hadashot news report. BDS stands for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

The other U.S. groups on the list are: American Friends Service Committee; American Muslims for Palestine, Code Pink, National Students for Justice in Palestine; and the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights.

European groups on the list include BDS France; BDS Italy; War on Want; Friends of Al-Aksa; The European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine; and Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign. The BDS National Committee; BDS Chile; and BDS South Africa also are on the list.

The groups that appear on the list are those that are “working in a clear and consistent manner to encourage a boycott of Israel and conduct a campaign of delegitimization against it,” Hadashot News reported.

The Interior Ministry will be responsible for enforcing the list, reportedly beginning in March.

Not every person who is a member of such an organization or who has expressed support for such an organization would be barred from entering Israel. It is reported to be limited to those who hold senior or key positions in the groups that appear on the blacklist, or important or high-profile activists.

“As someone with considerable family in Israel, this policy will be a personal hardship. But I am also heartened by this indicator of the BDS movement’s growing strength, and hope that it will bring the day closer when just as I go to visit my friends and family in Israel, so will Palestinian friends and colleagues be able to return home,” Rebecca Vilkomerson, Jewish Voice for Peace executive director, said in a statement issued Saturday.

Ronald Lauder praises Trump as ‘man of incredible insight and intelligence’

NEW YORK (JTA)—Amid a public debate about Donald Trump’s fitness for office, World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder praised the president as “a man of incredible insight and intelligence.”

Lauder, heir to the Estee Lauder Companies, in a statement Monday noted that he had known Trump for over 50 years, since the two studied at the University of Pennsylvania.

“The President I have seen is a man of incredible insight and intelligence. But he is not a politician and that confuses his critics,” Lauder said. “When President Trump refuses to speak in stale political platitudes, his critics think he is missing something. But the truth is President Trump speaks to the country in an authentic and genuine way that Americans understand and appreciate.”

Lauder’s statement was first shared on Twitter by New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, who said it was “unsolicited.”

It comes amid the debate about Trump’s mental health ignited by the publication of “Fire and Fury: Inside the White House,” a tell-all book about Trump’s presidency written by author and journalist Michael Wolff.

On Saturday, Trump responded to claims he was not fit for office by calling himself “a very stable genius” on Twitter.

Netanyahu proposes alternative to US funding of Palestinian refugee agency

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the U.S. should transfer its funds away from a United Nations agency that deals specifically with Palestinian refugees to another UN body that supports all the world’s refugees.

Netanyahu at the start of Sunday’s weekly Cabinet meeting addressed U.S. threats to cut funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA.

The United States is the largest single donor to UNRWA, contributing $368 million of its $1.2 billion annual budget last year alone. The threat to cut U.S. funding to the Palestinian refugee agency came last week, another result of the U.N. General Assembly condemning, at the Palestinian delegation’s behest, Trump’s recognition last month of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“UNRWA is an organization that perpetuates the Palestinian refugee problem. It also perpetuates the narrative of the right-of-return, as it were, in order to eliminate the State of Israel; therefore, UNRWA needs to pass from the world,” Netanyahu said on Sunday, after saying that he “agrees completely” with President Donald Trump’s criticism of the agency.

“This is an agency that was established 70 years ago, only for Palestinian refugees, at a time when the UNHCR deals with global refugee problems. Of course this creates a situation in which there are great-grandchildren of refugees, who are not refugees but who are cared for by UNRWA, and another 70 years will pass and those great-grandchildren will have great-grandchildren and therefore, this absurdity needs to stop,” Netanyahu said.

But Netanyahu noted that “genuine” Palestinian refugees still need assistance, and proposes that UNRWA funds from the United States should be “gradually shifted” to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which has “clear criteria for supporting genuine refugees, not fictitious refugees as happens today under UNRWA.”

Such an action would presumably minimize the damage to the humanitarian situation of Palestinians in Gaza, which could lead to more tension on Israel’s border with the coastal strip.

Most UNRWA assistance is distributed to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Israeli critics say that UNRWA in the Gaza Strip is not sufficiently vigilant about the uses of its facilities by Hamas and other terrorist groups. UNRWA has condemned Hamas for using its schools to stockpile rockets during the summer months, but Israel says that such discoveries often come after Palestinian civilians are placed in danger.

Supporters of UNRWA say it spares Israel from responsibility for a humanitarian crisis that would be inevitable without it.


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