Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Orthodox Union joins Jewish communal letter opposing family separations

(JTA)—The Orthodox Union joined an open letter signed by 26 other Jewish organizations opposing separation of migrants’ families at the border.

The decision to sign the letter on Friday came two days after the O.U., an umbrella Orthodox group, hosted Attorney General Jeff Sessions at its annual conference in Washington D.C.,where he spoke to a friendly crowd about protecting religious liberty for houses of worship, and other matters. In May, Sessions’ department instituted a policy to separate migrant families after they cross the U.S. border illegally.

O.U. officials were assailed on social media and in a petition organized by the liberal rabbinic human rights group T’ruah for feting Sessions, and replied that they had brought up the immigration issue with him privately. On Thursday, June 14, one day after hosting Sessions the Orthodox Union released a statement criticizing the Trump separation policy.

Under the policy implemented in recent months, every illegal migrant who crosses the United States border is prosecuted and detained. Because children cannot be prosecuted with adults, they are reclassified as unaccompanied minors and taken away, either to mass children’s shelters or foster homes.

Critics of the policy say forcibly separating parents and children is traumatizing and draconian. Sessions says it’s a necessary measure to enforce border security.

“This policy undermines the values of our nation and jeopardizes the safety and well-being of thousands of people,” the Jewish open letter says. “As Jews, we understand the plight of being an immigrant fleeing violence and oppression. We believe that the United States is a nation of immigrants and how we treat the stranger reflects on the moral values and ideals of this nation.”

The letter signed by 26 national Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, Jewish Council for Public Affairs and HIAS, urges the administration “to immediately rescind the ‘zero tolerance’ policy and uphold the values of family unity and justice on which our nation was built.”

Among the signers of the letter are the leading organizations of the Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist movements. The addition of the O.U. means that top representative bodies of all four major American Jewish denominations have come out against the policy. It is rare that the O.U., which generally takes conservative political positions, agrees with the other three movements on a matter of domestic government policy.

Religious groups across the spectrum, Jewish and not, have opposed the policy, and the O.U. is among the most recent conservative religious organizations to oppose it. It has been criticized in recent days by the Southern Baptist Convention, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Rev. Franklin Graham, the late Billy Graham’s son.

Why did Argentina’s Lionel Messi miss World Cup penalty kick? Israel’s defense minister knows.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA)—Israel’s defense minister suggested a reason that Argentina superstar Lionel Messi missed a penalty kick in his team’s World Cup opener: The Argentines had canceled their friendly match against Israel a week earlier.

“In the Argentina against Iceland game we saw just how much Messi needed the warm-up game against Israel,” Avigdor Liberman tweeted Saturday night about the game earlier that day in Moscow between the powerful Argentines and upstart Icelanders.

Messi’s failure to convert left the game tied at 1, which is how it finished. Goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson knocked away the shot.

The June 12 match in Jerusalem between the national teams of Israel and Argentina was canceled several days before it was scheduled following two months of pressure from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. The FIFA international soccer federation has opened disciplinary proceeding against the president of the Palestinians’ soccer governing body for alleged incitement.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Embassy in Argentina spread a message of support for its host country’s World Cup squad, despite the canceled friendly. The messages included strong support for Messi, who had been the victim of death threats over his planned participation in the match in Jerusalem.

The delegation posted on social media a video saying it “will be waiting for ‘Lio,’” referring to Messi and the canceled friendly. Later the embassy said that Israel waited in vain for Messi, but that “...we are a people used to waiting for the... Messi-ah.”

The video shows embassy staffers painting their faces with blue and white for Israel but also light blue and white, the Argentina team’s colors. The video, which was tweeted by the embassy, shows Israel’s ambassador to Buenos Aires, Ilan Sztulman, wearing an Argentine team T-shirt and saying “No doubt, we will be supporting the light blue and white.” The video shows the embassy team celebrating a Messi goal against Brazil, even though Sztulman is a native of Brazil.

The Israeli support for Argentina’s national team gained attention from the major Argentine media and was followed by another tweet just before Saturday’s match wishing the team “success.”

Former Israeli lawmaker arrested as alleged spy for Iran

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A former Israeli lawmaker was arrested on suspicion that he spied on Israel for Iran.

Gonen Segev was arrested last month, the Israel Security Agency, or Shin Bet, said in a statement issued Monday.

On Friday, the state attorney filed a criminal indictment against Segev in Jerusalem District Court for spying and other charges related to passing information to an enemy country.

Segev, a physician, was energy and infrastructure minister from 1992 to 1995. He served more than two years of a five-year prison sentence beginning in 2005 for trying to smuggle more than 30,000 ecstasy tablets into Israel from the Netherlands and for forging a diplomatic passport. He later moved to Nigeria, where he continued to practice medicine.

Segev was arrested in May trying to enter Equatorial Guinea, which refused him entry due to his criminal record, and turned him over to the Israel Police.

A joint Israel Security Agency and Israel Police investigation found that Segev has been working with Iranian intelligence and providing them with information about Israel’s energy economy, security sites in Israel, and diplomatic and security personnel and buildings, according to the agency.

According to the investigation, Segev and elements from the Iranian Embassy in Nigeria made contact in 2012. The statement said Segev subsequently visited Iran twice to meet with his handlers “in full knowledge that they were Iranian intelligence operatives.”

“Segev also met with his Iranian handlers in various hotels and apartments around the world which he assumed were used for covert activity, the statement said. “Segev even received secret communications equipment for encoding messages between him and his handlers.”

As part of his mission, Segev put Israeli citizens in the foreign affairs and security fields in touch with Iranian intelligence agents who he passed off as Iranian businessmen, according to the agency.

Other details of the case against Segev remain under a gag order.

Israeli media outlets reported that Segev had initiated the contact with Iran and that in 2016, the Israeli Health Ministry rejected a request from Segev to reinstate his medical license so he could return to Israel.

Netanyahu’s son pressured him to tweet support for Trump’s Mexico Wall, report says

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The son of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Yair, pressured his father to post a tweet in support of President Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

The tweet, made in January 2017, led the Mexican government to summon the Israeli ambassador to Mexico for a reprimand. The Mexican government also demanded an apology from Israel.

The tweet said: “President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israel’s southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea.”

Trump retweeted it less than a day later.

The Israeli daily Yediot Acharonot on Sunday published a report which notes that the prime minister posted the tweet at his son’s urging, despite the opposition of several of the prime minister’s top advisors.

“This was an unnecessary tweet, published against the recommendations of all professional advisers,” an inside source told Yediot. “Although it is not criminal, it adds up to yet another questionable decision by Netanyahu, some of which have been security related.”

The information has come to light in witness reports describing Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision-making process during an investigation of the prime minister’s affairs, according to Yediot. Some decisions were made under pressure from family members, including Yair, according to the report.

Nir Hefetz, a former Netanyahu communications director who turned state’s witness in one of the investigations against the prime minister, told police how Yair Netanyahu pressured his father to install metal detectors on The Temple Mount in the wake of the killing in July 2017 of two Israeli police officers at the site, which led to wide-spread protests.

The metal detectors were removed less than a month later.

Former CIA head compares US immigration policies to Nazi Germany

(JTA)—Former head of the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency Michael Hayden compared the Trump administration’s immigration policies to Nazi Germany.

In a tweet posted on Saturday, Hayden wrote: ““Other governments have separated mothers and children,” under a black and white photo of the front of Auschwitz as seen from the railroad tracks approaching the former Nazi camp.

The tweet is a response to reports that under the U.S. government’s so-called zero tolerance policy against illegal migrants nearly 2,000 children have been separated from their parents or adult guardians after entering the United States.


Men yell ‘f*** all Jews’ at Dutch chief rabbi’s son and family

AMSTERDAM (JTA)—The son of a chief rabbi of the Netherlands and his family were accosted on the street by two young men who shouted at them “f*** all Jews” at them.

Rabbi Yanki Jacobs, the son of Binyomin Jacobs, made a complaint to police on Sunday about the incident from the previous evening, the AD news website reported.

On a street corner in a heavily Jewish area in southern Amsterdam, “two young men called out at the family ‘Cancer Jews’ and ‘f*** all Jews’ at our direction. They repeatedly drove in our direction in an intimidating manner,” Yanki Jacobs was quoted as saying.

On Twitter, he listed the license plate number of the vehicle in which the two were riding with a request to help identify them. Jacobs said the men appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent.

“I have had enough,” he told AD, adding that previously he had been cursed on the street. “I’ve grown accustomed to thinking about it as normal, but now thought that we as a Jewish community must no longer agree for this to happen to us.

“If I do nothing, who will? I walk around my neighborhood, a 10th-generation Amsterdam Jew, and I will not be driven out of this city.”

The home of Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs has been vandalized five times in recent years. In 2014, police advised the elder Jacobs to refrain from using some trains for fear for his safety.

The Dutch Public Prosecution Service said this year that it had recorded 141 confirmed criminal offenses of discrimination against Jews in the Netherlands in 2017, nearly double the number over the previous year and a five-year high. Anti-Semitic offenses accounted for 41 percent of the xenophobic incidents recorded in 2017.

Bill would make it a crime to film Israeli soldiers at work

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli Cabinet ministers advanced a bill that would make it a crime to film Israeli soldiers, particularly during clashes with Palestinians, despite objections by the attorney general.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved the measure, proposed by the right-wing Yisrael Beitenu party, on Sunday. The bill makes filming or publishing footage “with intent to harm the morale of Israel’s soldiers or its inhabitants” punishable by up to five years in prison. The prison term increases to 10 years if the intention was to damage “national security.”

The legislation includes both traditional media and social media.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit opposes the bill, saying he cannot defend such a law. He also said the Supreme Court would not uphold such a law.

The bill moves to a preliminary reading in the Knesset, reportedly on Wednesday.

Following the reading, the language of the bill likely will be softened as a result of a compromise brokered on Sunday in which the prohibition on filming soldiers will only apply to when there are active clashes and it obstructs soldiers ability to do their job. The rewrite also likely will lessen the jail term to three years.

Israeli soldier Elor Azaria was convicted of manslaughter after he was filmed by a volunteer from the B’Tselem NGO shooting a downed Palestinian assailant in the head in Hebron.

B’Tselem said such a law would not stop it from documenting what it describes as abuse by Israeli soldiers.

Israel hits Hamas targets in retaliatory attack

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel said its airstrikes hit nine Hamas targets in Gaza after three rockets were fired from Gaza on southern Israeli communities.

The Israeli strikes targeted two military compounds and a munition manufacturing site in the northern Gaza Strip. The Israel Defense Forces said they were also in response to the arson attacks from explosive kites and balloons that have been flown into Israel causing damage to thousands of acres of agricultural fields and woodlands.

“These are terrorist acts that endanger Israeli residents living in southern Israel and damage extensive areas in Israeli territory,” the IDF said in a statement.

“The IDF has fired warning shots near groups who were responsible for the arson and destruction in Israel, and has carried out attacks against infrastructure used by these groups,” the statement also said. “The IDF’s intelligence and operational capabilities will allow it to increase these strikes as necessary. The IDF is determined to continue to act with increasing intensity against these acts of terror as long as required, using the variety of tools at its disposal.”

Code Red rocket alert sirens sounded in southern Israeli communities sounded early Sunday morning throughout the city of Ashkelon as well as smaller border towns and kibbutzim. Two of the rockets landed on Israeli territory and one landed in Gaza.

They were the first rockets fired at Israel from Gaza in nearly two weeks.

Norwegian rapper curses Jews at concert celebrating diversity

(JTA)—A Norwegian rapper hired by the City of Oslo to sing at an event intended to celebrate diversity cursed the “f***ing Jews” during his performance.

In response to the profane statement Friday by Kaveh Kholardi, the leader of the country’s Jewish community has threatened to take legal action against the 23-year-old performer.

Kholardi wished Muslims “Eid Mubarak,” a greeting in Arabic for the Eid al-Fitr holiday that on Friday marked the end of Ramadan, Dagen reported. He went on to ask if there were Christians present, smiling upon hearing cheers. Then he asked if there were any Jews, adding “f***ing Jews … Just kidding.”

Christine Thune, a spokeswoman for the Oslo municipality, told the Verdens Gang daily that the organizers had complained to Kholardi. Anne Christine Kroepelin said the whole “point of the event was diversity and inclusion,” and that Kholardi’s apparent expression of anti-Semitism was “exactly the opposite of what the organizers wanted to promote.”

On June 10, five days before the concert, Kholardi wrote on Twitter: “f***ing Jews are so corrupt.”

On Facebook, Kholardi wrote following criticism by the Jewish leader, Ervin Kohn, that he is “neither a racist nor anti-Semite,” and that the reference to Jews during the concert was taken out of context” and was only a joke.

Kohn demanded an apology from Kholardi, threatening a complaint to police for incitement to hate if Kholardi does not comply with the request.

Kholardi’s Facebook account has become inaccessible following the incident.

Gaza Palestinian killed during attack on border fence

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A Palestinian man was killed and at least one was injured as they “attempted to damage a security infrastructure in the northern Gaza Strip,” the Israeli army said.

Other reports said the men were attempting to breach the border security fence.

The Israel Defense Forces said the death and injury occurred when the bomb that a group of five Palestinian men was setting near the security infrastructure exploded. As many as three may have been injured, later reports said.

The incident occurred several hours after the IDF bombed Hamas military targets inside of Gaza in a retaliatory attach.

Israel will not interfere in Eurovision, Netanyahu promises

(JTA)—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised that the government will not interfere in the 2019 Eurovision song contest, which Israel is scheduled to host.

The assurances were offered in a statement issued Monday by the Prime Minister’s Office following a meeting with some government ministers.

“The government (will) act in accordance with European Broadcasting Union rules,” the statement said. “However, there are open legal issues regarding the Eurovision stemming from matters of pending legislation that are yet before the courts. The Prime Minister instructed that the legal aspects of the matter be examined with the relevant officials before a decision is made.”

The legal issues appear to refer to the current status of the Kan public broadcaster, which was created last year and has temporary membership in the European Broadcasting Union, which sponsors Eurovision.

The government is set to divide Kan into two separate entities—an entertainment entity and a news division—which would void its membership in the EBU and prevent Israel from hosting or participating in future Eurovisions. The Supreme Court is considering the split but has not yet ruled on the issue.

The business news website The Marker reported that if the split is approved, the government would likely delay it by up to 18 months to allow Israel to host the song contest.

Meanwhile, Israel’s culture and sport minister, Miri Regev, reportedly has been demanding that Kan allow the government to be involved in producing the introductory segments for each artist for the 2019 contest. The segments are filmed in the host country and are an opportunity to publicize tourist opportunities, citing the public funds that will be used to host the contest.

Israel won the right to host the 2019 Eurovision after Netta Barzilai won the competition last month with the song “Toy.” At the time of her victory, Barzilai proclaimed that the competition would be held in Jerusalem. Regev echoed the sentiment and said earlier this month that Israel should withdraw as host Eurovision if it is not held in Jerusalem.

Four Israeli cities are said to meet the criteria to host Eurovision and likely will submit bids: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Eilat.

Late last month, a message on the official Eurovision Twitter account warned fans not to book flights to Israel “just yet” and instead “keep an eye out for announcements on our official channels,” leading to speculation of disagreements between organizers and Israeli officials over various aspects of the competition, including matters connected to the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Olympic paddler helps raise memorial to murdered Polish Jews

WARSAW, Poland (JTA)—A Polish Olympian remembered Jews from Kroscienko who were murdered in the village during World War II at the dedication of a memorial he spearheaded.

Local officials, representatives of Jewish organizations and dozens of residents attended the ceremony Sunday in the Jewish cemetery in Kroscienko, in southern Poland.

Dariusz Popiela, the 2017 national champion in the canoe/kayak slalom and the silver medalist at the European Championships, spearheaded a project to restore the memory of “the forgotten neighbors” as part of the Shtetl of Tzanz project of the Nomina Rosae Foundation

“For many years I trained on the canoe track not knowing that a few dozen meters away is a collective grave of Kroscienko residents,” Popiela said at the ceremony.

The monument looks like a broken Jewish gravestone with the names of 246 Jewish victims. Popiela collected money for the monument online on the website pomogam.pl.

About $30,000 was raised for the project, which also had support from the Jewish Historical Institute Association and the Nissenbaum Family Foundation.

According to Popiela, the most important part of the project is the possibility of “getting out of oblivion and putting on the monument the names and surnames of all Jewish Kroscienko residents, resisting the plans of their murderers to erase their memory.”

On April 28, 1942, German occupiers carried out mass executions in the area. Research made it possible to collect a list of the Jews murdered in the village then and between the second half of 1939 and August 1942, when the last Jews left there.

The cemetery in Kroscienko was destroyed during World War II. The gravestones—as in many other places throughout Europe—were used to build sidewalks and pave roads. At the cemetery during the war, Germans also carried out mass executions.

In advance of the dedication of the memorial, the cemetery was cleaned up and fenced in.

Woman chasing after Jewish kids with knife arrested in London

(JTA)—A woman was arrested in a London neighborhood for running after Jewish children while brandishing a knife and shouting “I want to kill all you Jews.”

The incident took place on Sunday evening in Stamford Hill, which has a large haredi Orthodox population. Some 15 children aged 8 to 15 were walking home from a local synagogue following the evening prayer service.

London Police were alerted to the threat by the Shomrim neighborhood watch group, according to the London-based Jewish Chronicle.

The woman, 47, was arrested on suspicion of a “racially aggravated public order offense,” police told the newspaper. She was sent for a mental health evaluation.

Police said the incident was not terror related.


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