Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA
January 26, 2018
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens says he will not step down amid blackmail allegations
WASHINGTON (JTA)—Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens said he will not resign over allegations that he threatened to blackmail a one-time lover despite calls by state lawmakers of both parties.
“I’m staying,” Greitens said this weekend in an interview with The Associated Press, his first since the allegations emerged earlier this month. “The mistake that I made was that I was engaged in a consensual relationship with a woman who was not my wife. That is a mistake for which I am very sorry.”
Greitens, a Republican, denied allegations that he threatened to blackmail the woman, whom the media have not named. A number of Democratic and Republican state lawmakers have called on him to step down.
A St. Louis prosecutor has said she is investigating the blackmail allegations. Separately, CNN has reported that the FBI is also investigating Greitens, although it is not clear whether that investigation is related to the blackmail.
Greitens told the AP that he had not been contacted by law enforcement
“As far as my conduct, there is nothing to investigate,” he said.
Greitens, a former Navy SEAL whose seven military awards include the Bronze Star, became the first Jewish governor of Missouri when he was elected in November 2016.
The affair, which happened in March 2015, was first reported by the St Louis TV station KMOV.
The ex-husband of the woman with whom Greitens had the affair provided a secretly recorded tape of her confession to him that included details of their first encounter. The woman, who met Greitens when she cut his hair, said that Greitens took a photo of her in a compromising position to use if she ever came forward about their relationship.
Palestinian group pulled out of Women’s March over Scarlett Johansson’s Israel ties
(JTA)—A Palestinian women’s group pulled out of the Women’s March Los Angeles over the inclusion of Jewish actress Scarlett Johansson as a featured speaker.
Several other pro-Palestinian groups also boycotted the march held on Saturday, one of dozens that took place across the United States to fight for women’s rights and progressive causes. The first march held last year took place in cities around the world the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
The Palestinian American Women’s Association cited in a post on Facebook Johansson’s “unapologetic support of illegal settlements in the West Bank, a human rights violation recognized by the international community whose calls only led to a reaffirmation of her position, sending a clear message that Palestinian voices and human rights for Palestinians do not matter.”
Johansson is a former spokeswoman for SodaStream, whose main plant was formerly located in the West Bank. The plant was moved to the Negev Desert in southern Israel in 2015, where it employs 1,400 employees, one-third of them Bedouin Arabs. More than 70 of the West Bank Palestinians who worked for the company when it was located in Maale Adumim, also work at the new plant.
Johansson resigned as a goodwill ambassador for Oxfam, which supports boycotting West Bank settlements, over her employment by Soda Stream.
“While her position may not be reflective of all organizers at the Women’s March Los Angeles Foundation, PAWA cannot in good conscience partner itself with an organization that fails to genuinely and thoughtfully recognize when their speaker selection contradicts their message,” the Palesitnian women’s group.
Other pro-Palestinian groups that boycotted the march included: Al-Awda: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, Jewish Voice for Peace, Code Pink, BDS-LA, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return and other organizations who have signed the petition below in boycott of the Jan. 20 march in Los Angeles.
Actress Natalie Portman recalls ‘sexual terrorism’ to Women’s March Los Angeles
(JTA)—Jewish actress Natalie Portman told thousands of marchers at the Women’s March Los Angeles that she experienced “sexual terrorism” at the age of 13 following the release of her first movie.
She said her first fan letter after the release of “The Professional,” in which she played a young girl who befriended a hit man in hopes of avenging the murder of her parents, was from a man describing his “rape fantasy,” involving the young actress.
Portman, 36, said she rejected movie roles including a kissing scene, began to dress in an “elegant” style, and built a reputation as a “prudish, conservative, nerdy, serious” young woman “in an attempt to feel that my body was safe and that my voice would be listened to.”
“At 13 years old, the message from our culture was clear to me,” Portman, the first speaker of the afternoon, said. “I felt the need to cover my body and to inhibit my expression and my work in order to send my own message to the world that I’m someone worthy of safety and respect. The response to my expression, from small comments about my body to more threatening deliberate statements, served to control my behavior through an environment of sexual terrorism.”
In November, the Israeli-born actress was named the winner of the 2018 Genesis Prize, the so-called Jewish Nobel, and said the $1 million prize will go to programs that focus on advancing women’s equality.
Also in November, she told the Vulture Festival LA that she has had “discrimination or harassment on almost everything I’ve ever worked on in some way.”
During her speech to the Women’s March in Los Angeles, Jewish actress Scarlett Johansson called out actor James Franco, accused of sexual misconduct by five women in an article recently published in the Los Angeles Times, for wearing a Time’s Up pin at the Golden Globe Awards.
The “Time’s Up” initiative spearheaded by several prominent actresses including Johansson, and supported by hundreds more, was founded to fight sexual harassment, assault and inequality for women in the workplace.
“How could a person publicly stand by an organization that helps to provide support for victims of sexual assault while privately preying on people who have no power? I want my pin back,” she said. Johansson did not name Franco but her representative told Vanity Fair that is who she was referring to.
She decried male abuse of power and spoke of the rage she felt when she heard another woman had been taken advantage of. “Suddenly I was 19 again and I began to remember all the men who had taken advantage of the fact that I was a young woman who didn’t yet have the tools to say no, or understand the value of my own self-worth,” said Johansson
Two Berlin museums return works to heirs of Jewish collector
(JTA)—Two Berlin museums have returned works to the heirs of a Jewish collector who liquidated them during World War II, according to the Foundation of Prussian Cultural Heritage.
The foundation returned 11 works from the Museum of Decorative Arts and the Skulpturensammlung that had belonged to Margarete Oppenheim, whose family was forced to sell them at a deflated price to the National Socialists in 1936.
Margarete Oppenheim, widow of the chemist and industrialist Franz Oppenheim, died in 1935, six years after her husband. Her collection has been described as one of Germany’s largest and most valuable, containing works by Impressionists and small sculptures, as well as of porcelain, majolica, faience and silver work.
The state arranged for the return of the works in keeping with the 20-year-old Washington Declaration signed by 44 countries committing themselves to seeking long-lost artwork that ended up in museums and other public collections. Germany was among the signers.
Five of the 11 works returned to the Oppenheim heirs were repurchased by the museums—two paintings on Christian religious themes from the 16th-century Donau School, and three 18th-century porcelain objects produced by the Meissen and Frankenthal firms.
The foundation has overseen the return of some 350 works of art and more than 1,000 books to the heirs of persecuted Jews.
Its president, Hermann Parzinger, said in a statement that he was grateful to the heirs for their role in coming to a “fair and just solution,” and added that the foundation remained dedicated to researching the provenance of works in Berlin museums.
Imke Gielen, spokeswoman for the law firm of Rowland & Associates, said the heirs appreciated the foundation’s procedure for return of the works, as well as the “tireless efforts of the foundation” to uncover the history of the works in its collection.
According to the foundation, Margarete Oppenheim had ordered the executors of her estate to auction her works after her death “at the most appropriate moment” and reinvest the funds in her estate. But because the auction took place in May 1936, at a time when Jews were being persecuted and pressured to divest of their property at greatly deflated value, the auction is considered to have been forced and thus illegitimate, according to the Washington Declaration.
Provenance researchers have found two additional objects that Margarete Oppenheim had lent to the museums personally and were never returned.
Amnesty International UK ‘targeting Jewish community,’ British Jewish group alleges
(JTA)—The main umbrella group of British Jews accused its local branch of Amnesty International of targeting the community following the abrupt cancellation of a joint event.
The accusation by the Jewish Leadership Council—a charity founded 15 years ago comprising 32 groups with different politics, including the Board of Governors of British Jews, the Jewish World Relief aid organization and several synagogues – came Monday following the cancellation of an event concerning Israel and the United Nations.
Amnesty had undertaken to host the event on Jan. 24 but withdrew the invite Friday.
“We are currently campaigning for all governments around the world to ban the import of goods produced in the illegal Israeli settlements,” the human rights group said. “We do not, therefore, think it appropriate for Amnesty International to host an event by those actively supporting such settlements.”
In its statement, the Council wrote: “We have long argued that the aggressive criticism of Israeli government policy creates an environment where antisemitism thrives and it is highly regrettable that on this occasion Amnesty International UK’s decision has targeted the Jewish community.”
Amnesty canceled a panel session titled “The UNHRC and Israel: How it works, what’s not working, and how it might be repaired.” Danny Friedman, a prominent human rights lawyer, was to chair the event with speakers including Fred Carver of the United Nations Association-UK and Hillel Neuer of UN Watch.
Israel and its supporters have accused the U.N. Human Rights Council of disproportionately targeting the Jewish state with criticism while overlooking abuses by other countries. From the council’s creation in June 2006 through June 2016, over half of its resolutions condemned Israel, according to UN Watch, a watchdog that monitors criticism by the United Nations of the Jewish state.
Amnesty International UK initially committed to joining the panel debate but withdrew some months ago. It did agree, however, to maintain its offer of the event space, according to the Jewish Leadership Council. But four days before the event was scheduled to take place, Amnesty International UK withdrew the offer, according to the council’s statement.
It is “disgraceful that a Jewish charity is barred from the offices of Amnesty International UK,” Jonathan Goldstein, chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council, said in the statement. “It is clear that Amnesty International UK’s claim ‘to protect Freedom of Expression’ is only on their terms.”
Israel and many of its supporters, including the American Jewish Congress, have criticized Amnesty International for what they call an anti-Israel bias and allegedly evenhanded treatment of it and terrorist groups, including Hamas.
In November 2012, Amnesty UK chastised staffer Kristyan Benedict, Amnesty UK campaigns manager, over his posting on Twitter of a remark deemed anti-Semitic regarding three Jewish members of parliament.
“Louise Ellman, Robert Halfon and Luciana Berger walk into a bar... each orders a round of B52s... #Gaza,” he wrote.
New Orleans mayor elect walks back support of pro-BDS resolution she authored
(JTA)—New Orleans Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell has walked back her support for a resolution she authored and supported that lends support to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.
The resolution to boycott investments with human rights violators, which passed the New Orleans City Council on Jan. 11 with all five members present voting in support, mentions neither Israel nor the Palestinian territories, but BDS and anti-Israel activists claimed the passage as a victory for their cause.
Cantrell was not present for the vote on the resolution, which she wrote and introduced as part of her Welcoming Cities initiative, reportedly in collaboration with the New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee.
In a statement issued on Saturday, Cantrell said she would support the council in its plans to reconsider and withdraw the resolution.
On Wednesday City Council President Jason Williams called for reconsideration of the resolution, saying he was not aware of the boycott movement or its mission when he and the council voted, the New Orleans Advocate reported. Other council members have told the local media that they will move to reconsider the resolution at their next council meeting.
“After extensive discussion and deliberation about the impact of this resolution, I can say that the unintended impact does not reflect my commitment to inclusivity, diversity, and respect and support for civil rights, human rights and freedoms of all New Orleanians,” Cantrell, who takes office in four months, said in her statement.
She noted that the resolution introduced at the last minute was taken up at the end of a nearly six-hour meeting after a suspension of the rules, “needlessly denying interested parties notice, transparency, and open discourse.”
Cantrell said in the statement that she regrets that the council’s passage of the resolution has encouraged outsiders to claim that New Orleans is one of the largest U.S. cities to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.
“This is totally inaccurate, untruthful and does not reflect the values of New Orleans. We are a city that is welcoming, and open to all. Well intentioned actions can be taken out of context by others for their own political benefit, with negative connotations that overshadow any original motives; I believe that is what happened with this resolution,” according to the statement.
The mayor-elect reiterated her support of the Jewish community and Israel. “While I will continue to examine issues of civil rights and fair contracting, I want to unequivocally reiterate that I am neither supportive of the BDS movement nor in any way hostile to the Jewish community or the State of Israel. Nor was it my intention to commit the City of New Orleans to such positions,” she said.
Diego Schwartzman loses to Rafael Nadal in Australian Open
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA)—Jewish Argentine tennis star Diego Schwartzman lost to top-seeded Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open in a nearly four-hour match.
Nadal, of Spain, reached the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 6-3 victory over the 24th-seeded Schwartzman in the first Grand Slam of the year.
“What a great match against a fantastic player and a great person #great is the word,” Nadal, the highest-ranked player in the world, wrote following the match on his Instagram account, where he posted a photo of the two players shaking hands after the match.
Schwartzman, 25, is the world’s highest-ranked Jewish player at No. 26 in the ATP rankings. Israeli player Dudi Sela, at age 32, is ranked 95th and lost in the first round of the tournament.
“I feel great,” Schwartzman said following the match. “I think I did a good job inside the court. I think Rafa played good points in those moments, playing aggressively. That’s why he’s one of the best in history.”
Schwartzman, 25, who was raised in a Jewish family in Buenos Aires, has steadily risen in the rankings since turning pro at 17. Between 2010 and 2012, he won nine tournaments in the International Tennis Federation, the sport’s minor leagues. He won his first ATP Tour title at the Istanbul Open in 2016, upsetting the highly ranked Grigor Dimitrov.
In online survey, 27 percent of European Jews say they feel unsafe
(JTA)—In a survey conducted online among hundreds of respondents who identified as Jews, 27 percent of Europeans and 11 percent of Americans said they felt unsafe.
In the World Zionist Organization survey released Friday, which was conducted last year among a total of 1,361 respondents, 51 percent of those in Europe said that wearing Jewish symbols in public made them feel unsafe. In North America, that figure was 22 percent.
A press statement by WZO about the survey said it was conducted among Jews not living in Israel but it did not say how many of the 1,361 respondents were from Europe, North America and beyond. The statement also did not specify which countries in Europe the respondents on that continent came from.
Nearly one third of European respondents said they had experienced or witnessed an anti-Semitic event featuring vandalism, compared to 11 percent worldwide.
Worldwide, most respondents who said they had experienced an anti-Semitic incident also indicated that they did not report it to police. Six percent said they did not report the alleged incident out of fear for their security. Thirty percent said they did not want “to make a big deal of it” and 42 percent said they lacked faith in authorities to act on their complaint.