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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

 


Turkey recalls ambassadors to US and Israel amid Gaza violence

JTA—Turkey recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Israel after at least 50 Palestinian protesters were reportedly killed at the Gaza border.

South Africa also recalled its envoy to Israel earlier on Monday, Agence France-Presse reported.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel of “genocide” over the killings in Gaza. Tens of thousands gathered of Palestinians gathered there for protests in the hours before the dedication of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem earlier today. Over 2,400 were injured.

The Israel Defense Forces said that it is “operating according to standard operating procedures” and claimed that several protesters were planting explosives. Some flew flaming kites across the border, and at least one started a wildfire, according to The New York Times.

Erdogan called Israel a terrorist state in December.

South Africa also announced its ambassador will leave Israel “until further notice.”

“Given the indiscriminate and grave manner of the latest Israeli attack‚ the South African government has decided taken a decision to recall Ambassador Sisa Ngombane with immediate effect until further notice‚” read a statement from the country’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation.

The protests are part of the March of Return, a longstanding demonstration that has taken place every Friday at the border for the last seven weeks. The protests were supposed to end on May 14, the day on the Gregorian calendar when Israel became an independent state 70 years ago. The Arab world calls this event the Nakba, or “catastrophe.” Hamas leaders have called for the protests to continue beyond Monday.

“The IDF is prepared for a variety of scenarios. IDF commanders are present in the field and are conducting situation assessments. The IDF will act forcefully against any terrorist activity and will operate to prevent attacks against Israelis,” the military said in a statement that also appeared on Twitter.

“The IDF will act harshly against any terrorist activity and will act to preserve Israeli sovereignty and prevent attacks on civilians and soldiers,” the statement said.

Israeli jets strike 5 Hamas targets in Gaza

(JTA)—Israeli fighter jets struck five Hamas targets in a military training facility in northern Gaza.

The attacks came Monday during the dedication of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. The strikes were in response to violence that occurred in mass protests along the Gaza border, according to a statement issued Monday by the Israel Defense Forces.

The protests, which opposed the embassy dedication, saw at least 50 Palestinians killed and hundreds injured in clashes with Israeli forces. Tens of thousands of Palestinian protesters massed on the border as part of the March of Return, a string of demonstrations against Israel that have taken place every Friday at the border for the past seven weeks.

Earlier on Monday, an Israeli fighter jet and a tank targeted two other Hamas positions in northern Gaza following Hamas fire on nearby Israeli troops, the IDF said.

On Monday afternoon, an IDF force foiled the placing of an explosive charge near the border fence by a squad of three armed Palestinians in southern Gaza.

In a statement, IDF Spokesman Ronen Manlis called the protests a “cover for organized terrorist activity and an attempt to divert the energy directed at it from the Gaza Strip into Israel.” The statement said the IDF is prepared to respond to a wide variety of scenarios and has deployed a number of combat battalions along the Gaza border, along with special units, intelligence gathering forces and snipers.

“Our forces do not fire at demonstrators who have come to express their position on the Gaza Strip,” he said. “The action is focused on those who carry out terrorist activities against the security infrastructure.”

Jersey City to move Polish massacre monument, solving international dispute

(JTA)—A statue that commemorates the Polish victims of a World War II massacre will be relocated on the Jersey City waterfront in an agreement that ends a war of words between city officials and Polish authorities.

Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop and the Katyn Forest Massacre Memorial Committee arrived at the agreement on Friday, and will announce the details on Monday, the Jersey Journal reported.

The monument on the east bank of the Hudson River commemorating the Katyn Forest massacre is set to be removed due to work on a waterfront redevelopment project. The area where the statue is located is planned to be turned into a new, kid-friendly park, including a splash area.

The committee said in a statement over the weekend that the statue will be relocated to another prominent area on the Hudson River, at the foot of York Street.

Following announcement of the agreement, rallies against the removal of the statue planned by the Polish community were cancelled.

In 1940, the Soviet secret police murdered over 20,000 captured Polish citizens, including soldiers and police officers, in the western Russia forest. Several hundred of the victims were Jewish; they were killed by a gunshot to the back of the head.

Mass graves were discovered by the Germans in 1943, and the Soviet Union initially blamed the Nazis. It was not until 1990 that the Russian authorities recognized that it was “one of the grave crimes of Stalinism.”

The bronze and granite statue shows a tied-up Polish soldier who has been stabbed in the back with a rifle bayonet. Polish-American sculptor Andrzej Pitynski created the work in 1991.

Fulop tweeted on Friday that an agreement had been reached, calling it a “win-win.”  A photo with the tweet shows him standing at the waterfront with Eric Lubaczewski, the executive director of the Polish-American Chamber of Commerce. The tweet also said: “The goal was one that respects/cares/keeps the monument in an extremely prominent location to honor sacrifices while also giving #JerseyCity a chance to re-purpose our waterfront.”

Lubaczewski told the Polish Press Agency that the new location in an existing park is in a better place to allow people time to stop for private reflection. He said the monument should be moved in the next 60 to 90 days. He added that the land on which the monument will sit would be deeded to the Polish consulate or the memorial committee for 99 years.

In the debate leading up to the agreement, Fulop, who is Jewish, called a Polish senator who criticized the city an anti-Semite.

Mitt Romney calls pastor picked to lead prayer at US Embassy dedication a religious bigot

(JTA)—Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney criticized the choice of Robert Jeffress, a Dallas pastor, to lead a prayer at the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

Romney, who currently is running for the Senate in Utah, said in a tweet Sunday evening “Robert Jeffress says ‘you can’t be saved by being a Jew,’ and ‘Mormonism is a heresy from the pit of hell.’ He’s said the same about Islam. Such a religious bigot should not be giving the prayer that opens the United States Embassy in Jerusalem.”

Jeffress responded in a tweet: “Historic Christianity has taught for 2,000 years that salvation is through faith in Christ alone. The fact that I, along with tens of millions of evangelical Christians around the world, continue to espouse that belief, is neither bigoted nor newsworthy.”

Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, a Southern Baptist megachurch, is a Fox News contributor, an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump, and host of radio and television shows broadcast throughout the United States. He preached at a private service for Trump and his family prior to his inauguration in January 2017.

Jeffress endorsed Romney, who is Mormon, for president in 2012, The Hill reported.

Jefress told Fox News Radio on Friday that he would be delivering the opening prayer at the dedication.

He told host Todd Starnes: “In that prayer, I’m going to be recounting God’s history of faithfulness to His people, the Israelites. I’m going to be thanking God for the strong leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu, who is absolutely determined to protect Israel. And I’m also going to be thanking God for our President Donald Trump, who had the courage to do what no other U.S. President has done, and that is to officially recognize Jerusalem and to move the embassy. This is another example of promise made, promise kept.”

Pastor John Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel, will deliver the benediction at the ceremony, according to CNN. In an interview on Friday with the Breitbart news website, Hagee said he told President Donald Trump he would win “political immortality” for moving the embassy from Tel Aviv.

“I told him that the moment that you do that, I believe that you will step into political immortality,” the conservative news website quoted Hagee as saying.

A Jewish investor linked to the Russia probe bought alt-right domain names

NEW YORK (JTA)—A Jewish principal in an investment firm linked to an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election said he bought website domain names linked to the “alt-right” movement in a personal capacity.

Frederick Intrater, brother of the chief executive of Columbus Nova, said he had had for years bought domain names related to trending topics in order to later sell them off for a profit, according to a statement posted Thursday on Twitter by Washington Post reporter Eli Rosenberg.

Rosenberg had reported in the Washington Post on Wednesday that the company was listed as the registrant behind alt-right-related domain names created during the 2016 presidential election.

Social media meddling is a key part of the Russia probe, and alt-right sites were seen as sources of pro-Trump information during the 2016 campaign. Columbus Nova’s biggest investor is Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, who is Intrator’s cousin and was among those targeted by U.S. sanctions imposed earlier this year punishing Russia for its interference in the U.S. election.

Intrater, who is Jewish, said his purchases of domain names related to the alt-right, a loose right-wing movement that includes white nationalists and anti-Semites, were done in a personal capacity and not related to Columbus Nova although he acknowledged sometimes having used his work emails to register the domains.

Intrater said he had bought the domain names at a time “when there was mainly an ultra-conservative perception of ‘alt right’” and that he later decided to let them expire rather than sell them since they had “connotations that are inconsistent with my moral beliefs.”

“To conclude that I support white supremacy or anti-Semitism is unreasonable given what I’ve described above and also taking into consideration that I am a Jew and son of a Holocaust survivor,” Intrater said.

Intrater reportedly has been interviewed as part of an investigation into Russian interference into the 2016 election being led by special prosecutor Robert Mueller. The company said on Wednesday that it had hired in 2017 as a consultant Michael Cohen, the lawyer under federal scrutiny for his role in paying off a woman who said she had an extramarital affair with President Donald Trump.

At least 50 Palestinians reported dead in border protests on day of US embassy move

JERUSALEM (JTA)—At least 50 Gazan Palestinians have been killed at the border with Israel, where tens of thousands have gathered for protests in the hours before the dedication of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.

About 50,000 Palestinians massed on the border by mid-afternoon on Monday. Several thousand more Palestinian protesters were located more than a quarter of a mile from the border fence in a tent area, the IDF said. There are at least 10 flashpoint areas along the border.

In addition to the dead, more than 1,000 are injured, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which has reported that one of the dead protesters is 14. The IDF said that it is responding with riot dispersal means is “operating according to standard operating procedures.”

Protesters in the West Bank also began marching from Ramallah toward the Qalandiya checkpoint near Jerusalem, with smaller marches starting out from other West Bank cities such as Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus and Jericho.

The protests are part of the March of Return, protests that have taken place every Friday at the border for the last seven weeks, leaving at least 48 Palestinian protesters dead and thousands wounded. The protests were supposed to end on May 14, the day on the Gregorian calendar when Israel became an independent state 70 years ago, which the Arab world calls the Nakba, or catastrophe. Hamas leaders have called for the protests to continue beyond Monday, however.

The IDF warned that up to 250,000 Palestinian protesters could come to the Gaza border on Monday and breach it, entering Israel.

“The IDF is prepared for a variety of scenarios. IDF commanders are present in the field and are conducting situation assessments. The IDF will act forcefully against any terrorist activity and will operate to prevent attacks against Israelis,” the military said in a statement that also appeared on Twitter.

“The IDF will act harshly against any terrorist activity and will act to preserve Israeli sovereignty and prevent attacks on civilians and soldiers,” the statement said.

In an English-language video posted on social media, the IDF warned: “On Monday May 14th, the Hamas terrorist organization plans to send armed terrorists, among 250,000 violent rioters to swarm and breach Israel’s border with Gaza and enter Israeli communities. Hamas plans to carry out a massacre in Israel. The Israel Defense Forces will not let them.”

The B’Tselem human rights organization said in a statement in response to the Palestinian deaths: “The demonstrations held in Gaza today came as no surprise. Israel had plenty of time to come up with alternate approaches for dealing with the protests, apart from firing live ammunition. The fact that live gunfire is once again the sole measure that the Israeli military is using in the field evinces appalling indifference towards human life on the part of senior Israeli government and military officials.” The statement called on soldiers to refuse to comply with open-fire orders.

Meanwhile, at least five wildfires are burning near Jewish communities in southern Israel, which broke out after kites carrying explosives were flown from Gaza over the border.

HUC appoints Rabbi David Ellenson as interim president after death of Rabbi Aaron Panken

(JTA)—The Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion appointed Rabbi David Ellenson to serve as interim president, following the death of Rabbi Aaron Panken in a plane crash earlier this month.

On Monday, the Reform movement’s flagship seminary, said Ellenson would serve as interim president of its four campuses in New York, Jerusalem, Cincinnati and Los Angeles. He previously served in the role from 2001 to 2013, prior to Panken’s appointment.

Panken, a licensed pilot, was killed on May 5 at the age of 53 while piloting a small aircraft near Wawayanda, New York, near the New Jersey border. A passenger, Frank Reiss, a flight instructor, was injured in the crash. The cause of the accident is unclear and pending investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.

Panken was remembered by colleagues and friends as a joyful leader who was passionate about Israel and embodied “the best of the Reform movement.”

In a statement on Monday, Ellenson, who is concluding his tenure as director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University, praised Panken’s legacy.

“Rabbi Aaron Panken will be remembered for his leadership, skills, visions, judgment, and ability to inspire and move others to action,” Ellenson said. “I am confident that his dreams for HUC-JIR will yet be realized through the foundations he constructed and the visions he has bequeathed us. These dreams and visions will constitute his unforgettable monument, as we secure his enduring legacy.”

Ellenson is a scholar of modern Jewish thought and history who has worked at institutions including the University of Southern California, the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Shalom Hartman Institute, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and New York University.

 

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