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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump to attend Jerusalem embassy opening

WASHINGTON (JTA)—The official White House delegation for the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem will include President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, as well as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

Kushner heads up the team seeking to restart Israeli-Palestinian talks Other members of his team—Jason Greenblatt, the lead negotiator, and David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel—will also be present for the ceremony on May 14, the 70th  anniversary of Israel’s founding according to the Gregorian calendar.

Those five members of the delegation are Jewish.

Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan completes the delegation and will lead the team, the White House said in a statement released Monday.

Trump had considered attending the embassy opening. The president has said he is proud of his Dec. 6 announcement on the relocation of the embassy from Tel Aviv. The move has led the Palestinians to abandon Kushner’s efforts to revive talks, at least temporarily.

Israel’s embassy in Washington, D.C., is planning its annual Independence Day party for the same day. The embassy party usually takes place on or near the Hebrew calendar anniversary of Israel’s 1948 independence, which this year was on April 19.

The new embassy grounds, on land in western Jerusalem but bordering eastern Jerusalem, are temporary. There are plans to build a permanent embassy, but it might take up to 10 years.

Ahead of the move, the U.S. Embassy’s twitter handle changed Monday to @usembassyjlm from @usembassytlv.

John McCain regrets not choosing Joseph Lieberman as his 2008 running mate

(JTA)—Sen. John McCain is using his new book and a documentary to publicly express his regret at not picking former Senate colleague Joseph Lieberman as his running mate in the 2008 presidential election, The New York Times reported.

McCain wrote in the book, which the newspaper said it obtained independently of the Arizona Republican, that his advisers warned him against picking Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat who turned Independent, because of his support for abortion rights. The advisers believed that support would divide the party.

“It was sound advice that I could reason for myself,” he wrote in “The Restless Wave,” according to The Times. “But my gut told me to ignore it and I wish I had.”

Other Republicans believe that McCain’s selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his vice president was responsible for “unleashing the forces of grievance politics and nativism” within the party. McCain lost to Barack Obama, a U.S. senator from Illinois, in the election.

McCain, 81, is battling the brain cancer that he was diagnosed with last summer and for which he is undergoing aggressive treatment. He spends most of his time at his Arizona ranch.

The book and a nearly two-hour HBO documentary are scheduled to come out later this month.

In the documentary, McCain calls the decision not to pick Lieberman “another mistake that I made” in his political career. Lieberman, who was Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore’s running mate in 2000—the first Jewish vice presidential nominee on a major ticket—told The Times that he didn’t know McCain felt that regret until he watched the film.

“It touched me greatly,” he said.

According to the article, those close to McCain have told the White House that the longtime senator plans for Vice President Mike Pence to attend the funeral service to be held in Washington’s National Cathedral but not President Donald Trump.

There were 4.2 million anti-Semitic tweets in 2017, report says

WASHINGTON (JTA)—The Anti-Defamation League estimated that there were 4.2 million anti-Semitic tweets out of the trillions posted on Twitter over a yearlong period.

In a report released Monday and timed with its annual Washington conference, the civil rights group’s Center on Extremism said its experts estimated “that the tweets were issued by approximately three million unique handles,” or accounts, in the period between Jan. 29, 2017, and Jan. 28, 2018.

The report, the first by ADL on anti-Semitic tweets, estimated the numbers ranged between 36,800 in the week of July 23-29 and 181,700 in the week between Dec. 3-9. It said there was no obvious detectable reason for the discrepancy.

The study did not control for “bots,” or automatically generated accounts. (Subsequent to the study, Twitter purged millions of suspected bots.) A program identified anti-Semitic language and experts examined 55,000 of the 19 million tweets that came under review by the program to statistically control for Twitter users who were citing the language to condemn anti-Semitism or who were using it with sarcasm or ironically.

The program searched for classic anti-Semitic stereotypes, like greedy bankers, despoilers of racial purity, God killers; anti-Semitic pejoratives, Holocaust denial; and praise for anti-Semitic figures. It did not focus on criticism of Israel except when it was cast according to the identified stereotypes or conspiracy theories.

Among the recurring themes the study uncovered were Jews as sexual predators, particularly relating to the allegations that movie mogul Harvey Weinstein had harassed and assaulted a number of women; age-old smears alleging that the Rothschilds control the world; references to Zionists as “racist warmongers who control the U.S. government and the media”; Holocaust denial; and claims that the billionaire philanthropist George Soros was behind “false flag” events meant to advance his liberal agenda.

The study said that one noteworthy development was the prolific use of the term “globalist” as an anti-Semitic slur.

“Although the term is not inherently anti-Semitic, ‘globalist’ is often used as a pejorative term for people whose interests in international commerce or finance ostensibly make them disloyal to the country in which they live, or who are willing to undermine the financial security of their neighbors in order to benefit transnational interests,” it said.

President Donald Trump and some of his top advisers have been criticized as skirting an anti-Semitic line with their use of the term. The ADL report did not mention Trump’s use.

ADL, a member of Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council, praised the social media giant for its attempts to improve “conversational health,” but recommended further actions for Twitter, including increased openness to outside review, making its terms of service more comprehensive and enforcing it and enhancing its offensive content filters.

ADL made the report available to Twitter prior to posting it and include Twitter’s response. Twitter said that among its planned reforms was “making affiliation with violent extremist groups against its terms of service; making hateful imagery harder to find by labeling it as sensitive content and banning it from profile and header pictures; communicating its rules more clearly to violators; improving how Twitter reviews abuse reports filed by third-party witnesses.”

Aly Raisman: US gymnastics officials continue to fail abuse survivors

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Officials responsible for U.S. gymnasts have failed to oust the enablers who allowed the team doctor to molest dozens of athletes, Aly Raisman told the Anti-Defamation League.

“We’re not having a full investigation of who knew and who didn’t know, and that’s a big problem,” Raisman said Sunday at the opening of the Anti-Defamation League annual leadership conference. The theme of the conference this year is “my good fight,” and is dedicated to underrepresented voices taking on discrimination, hate speech and violence.

Raisman, who is Jewish and the winner of numerous Olympic medals, including several golds, in March sued the US. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics alleging negligence for not stopping former U.S. Olympics gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar from sexually abusing young athletes. Nassar was sentenced earlier this year to 40 to 175 years in prison for molesting over 150 women and girls over two decades.

Raisman spoke onstage in an interview with Sarah Wildman, the deputy editor of Foreign Policy who last year in an essay described her experience with sexual harassment as a young journalist.

Raisman, 23, described a culture that enabled Nassar, allowing him to groom the gymnasts he was supposed to care for. Nassar was the official the gymnasts turned to if they felt ill, if they needed comforting or if they were hungry. She said it is now clear in real time that some officials were aware of the abuse.

“The fact that no one pulled us aside and didn’t talk to us is a huge red flag, those people need to be gone and some of those people are still there,” Raisman said.

Raisman faulted USA Gymnastics for a lack of transparency, noting that three board members resigned in January without explanations why. “Who’s picking the new board members?” she asked. “They’re not asking survivors to help out.” She said that the authorities should delve decades past to uncover how Nassar was able to get away with molesting victims believed to number in the hundreds.

“We need to look at every single year and figure out why this was ignored,” she said.

Both the USOC and USA Gymnastics have rehauled their leadership in the wake of the scandal. The USOC has not commented on Raisman’s lawsuit. USA Gymnastics said at the time that it first learned of Nassar’s abuses in 2015, when it reported him to authorities.

Raisman’s remarks at Nassar’s sentencing hearing earlier this year drew national attention. Speaking to the ADL, she said she nearly didn’t speak at the hearing because the prospect was so traumatic. She said she drew upon her training as a gymnast, when she learned how to ignore the crowds and the cameras and focus on her game, and wrote her 13-minute speech at the last minute.

She did not feel relief after the hearing, she said. “I felt awful. I felt sick.” She said she still often feels overwhelmed recounting her experience, and has taken up meditation as a means of self-calming. “It helps so much,” she said.

Hamas leaders in Gaza reportedly have offered long-term cease-fire to Israel

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Hamas leaders in Gaza have sent messages to Israel through various channels in recent months offering to negotiate a long-term cease-fire.

According to a report Monday in the Israeli daily Haaretz, Hamas wants to tie the cease-fire to an easing of the blockade on Gaza, a green light for large-scale infrastructure projects and a prisoner exchange.

Israel has “not responded clearly” to the messages, according to Haaretz.

Hamas reportedly is more open to discussing such a cease-fire since it is in “dire and unprecedented strategic distress,” the report said.  In addition, reconciliation efforts between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority remain frozen in the wake of an assassination attempt in March on P.A. Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah during his visit to Gaza.

Hamas has called on Gaza Palestinian demonstrators to continue to protest at the Gaza border as part of the March of Return protests, and has vowed that the protests will continue past what was supposed to be the end date,  May 14, the date on the Gregorian calendar that marks Israel’s 70th birthday and which the Arab world calls the Nakba, or catastrophe. The Palestinian Authority also is planning a large demonstration on that day in Ramallah in the West Bank, the seat of the P.A. government.

The Israeli military estimates that 70 percent of the 48 Gaza Palestinians killed in the current protests are connected to Hamas or the military wings of other terror organizations in Gaza, according to Haaretz.

Israeli soldiers kill 3 Palestinians attempting to breach border with Gaza

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli soldiers shot and killed three Palestinians attempting to breach Israel’s border fence with Gaza and infiltrate the country.

The men killed on Sunday afternoon were part of a group of four men planning to enter Israel from Gaza and carry out a terror attack, the IDF said. The soldiers had been monitoring their movements as they approached the fence.

The men were carrying an ax, two bottles of lighter fluid, a lighter, a bolt cutter, an oxygen mask, and a GoPro camera, according to the IDF.

“An attempt to damage security infrastructure, breach Israel’s sovereignty, and carry out an attack was thwarted. The IDF will continue to operate against those who attempt to harm Israel, its civilians, or security infrastructure,” the IDF said in a statement posted on Twitter.

Some 48 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds wounded since protests began along the Gaza border on March 30.

Tamika Mallory blames Trump Muslim ban, Mexican border wall on Netanyahu

(JTA)—Women’s March leader Tamika Mallory said in a tweet that President Donald Trump’s so-called Muslim ban and plan for a wall on the border with Mexico were inspired directly by the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mallory, who returned over the weekend from a trip to Israel sponsored by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, said in the  tweet Sunday, “Be clear: Donald Trump’s wall + #muslimban + #deportation plan are all lines out of the #Netanyahu book of oppression. Trump has referenced this himself. We ought pay attention & not allow folks to label us + try to black list us in to silence. #JusticeDelegation (more 2 come)”

An hour later she tweeted: “While I was traveling ppl insisted that I must hear ‘both sides.’ As long as the side of injustice exists, we must address it. I heard from some who support the Israeli gvt, but could not explain what I saw with my own eyes. Injustice is a threat to ALL SIDES.#JusticeDelegation”

Mallory was criticized in February by the Anti-Defamation League and others for tweeting enthusiastically about her appearance at a rally by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who delivered a speech laced with anti-Semitic and homophobic remarks. More recently she criticized Starbucks for including the ADL in its anti-bias training, saying the Jewish group “constantly” attacks black and brown people.

In linking Trump and Netanyahu,  Mallory cited a Jerusalem Post article from August 2017 that reported on the transcript of a January 2017 phone call between Trump and President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico in which the U.S. president references Israel’s security wall with the West Bank.

“You know, you look at Israel – Israel has a wall and everyone said do not build a wall, walls do not work—99.9 percent of people trying to come across that wall cannot get across and more,” Trump told Peña Nieto, according to the report. “Bibi Netanyahu told me the wall works.”

Mallory also tweeted on Sunday: “Unpacking my mind... my trip to the Israel & Palestine was schizophrenic. The land is beautiful... the people are full of love & resilience. However, there is a crime against humanity happening and we can not turn a blind eye or be afraid to tell the truth. #JusticeDelegation +”

The Center for Constitutional Rights said on its website that the trip “brought together mostly Black and Brown civil and human rights leaders working on domestic U.S. justice issues who have not had an opportunity to visit Palestine and Israel. The justice delegation was planned to provide an opportunity to better understand the human rights situation in Israel and Palestine, including the history of systematic displacement and institutional racism, as well as the work of human rights defenders there.”

The delegation met with Palestinians and pro-Palestinian activists and visited sites of religious interest.

When the delegation arrived on April 29,  Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Katherine Franke, chair of CCR’s board and Sulzbacher professor of law, gender, and sexuality studies at Columbia University, were detained for 14 hours and interrogated at Ben Gurion International Airport, then denied entry into Israel and deported because of their involvement in organizations that support boycotts against Israel.

Franke was barred from entering because of her “prominent role” with Jewish Voice for Peace, a spokesman for Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry told Haaretz. Franke denied a leadership role in JVP, though she said she has volunteered for its academic advisory council in the past.


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