Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

 


Jewish professor describes being beaten by a Palestinian and German police

(JTA)—A Jewish professor visiting Germany described being assaulted in a Bonn park—first by a Palestinian who said “I f*** Jews,” then by police who slammed him to the ground and punched him in the face.

Yitzhak Melamed, who teaches philosophy at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, in a lengthy Facebook post published Friday accused the police of brutality, then of whitewashing their conduct and falsely blaming him for provoking the assault. Police subsequently apprehended the assailant.

The incident on Wednesday is the latest in a string of anti-Semitic assaults in Germany.

According to Melamed, he was wearing a kippah when a self-identified Palestinian man asked if he was Jewish and then proceeded to follow him, shouting things like “I f*** Jews. I f*** Jews” and “No Jews in Germany.”

He then threw Melamed’s kippah to the ground three times and pushed him three times. In response, Melamed said he tried to kick the man in the groin twice but missed both times.

The attacker fled after hearing a police siren. Melamed wrote that two police officers ran past the attacker and tackled him instead, then two or three other policemen helped pin him to the ground and handcuffed him. He said police punched him in the face several dozen times, bloodying him and breaking his glasses.


“I didn’t have much time to wonder, as almost immediately four or five policemen with heavy guard jumped over me (two from the front, and two or three from the back),” Melamed wrote. “They pushed my head into the ground, and then while I was totally incapacitated and barely able to breath[e] not to mention move a finger, they started punching my face. After a few dozen punches, I started shouting in English that I was the wrong person.”

A police officer then suggested that Melamed provoked the beating, Melamed wrote. He responded by describing his ancestors’ deaths in the Holocaust.

“Then the same policemen shouted at me in a didactic tone (in English): ‘Don’t get in trouble with the German Police!’” Melamed wrote. “This was more than enough. I told the policeman sardonically, ‘I am no longer afraid of the German police. The German police murdered my grandfather. They murdered my grandmother. They murdered my uncle, and they murdered my aunt. All in one day in September 1942. So, alas, I am not afraid of them anymore.’”


After being taken to the police station, Melamed wrote that police did not tend to his wounds and repeatedly tried to dissuade him from filing a complaint against them—including by suggesting that he attacked the police first, and by threatening to accuse him of resisting arrest. Eventually he was taken to another office, where he filed a complaint.

The next morning, Melamed wrote, Bonn’s police chief came to his hotel to apologize. But Melamed said the police department’s statement on the incident, published later that day, falsely blamed him for resisting them According to a police statement on PressePortal, a German press release platform, police said Melamed “failed to comply with several requests from the officials to stop” and “fought against the measures” of the police.

“Try (if you can) resisting arrest either when you are not in any bodily contact with the police, or, alternatively, when 5 policemen are on your back and you are barely able to breath[e],” he wrote.

Herbert Reul, a local German government minister, also apologized to Melamed, and said, “We will not allow Jews to be persecuted once again in Germany,” according to Deutsche Welle.

US Embassy in Jerusalem to cost $21.5 million for upgrades. Trump had estimated $250,000.

(JTA)—The new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem is going to cost a bit more than President Donald Trump had estimated. Make that nearly 100 times more.

The Maryland-based firm Desbuild Limak D&K was awarded a $21.2 million contract to design and build “compound security upgrades” to the embassy, according to official documents uploaded this week, Al-Monitor reported. The U.S. has already spent $335,402 to refurbish the embassy, formerly a consulate, ahead of its May opening.

“We’re going to have it built very quickly and inexpensively,” Trump told reporters in March following his decision months earlier to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate the U.S. Embassy there. “They put an order in front of my desk last week for $1 billion... We’re actually doing it for about $250,000, so check that out.”

Trump repeated this and similar claims numerous times, eventually raising the price to $400,000 during a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“As the president stated, the cost of initial modifications made to permit the embassy to open on May 14 was approximately $400,000,” a State Department official told Al-Monitor. “Following the May 14 opening, we have moved on to planning for and construction of a new extension and security enhancements at the interim site.”

The $21.5 million total “is actually a lot for that considering that they have plans apparently to purchase a new facility,” an aide in the House of Representatives told Al-Monitor.

The Trump administration has not announced when it plans to begin construction on a permanent embassy.

Syria blames Israel for airstrike on military post that killed 9

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Nine Syrian soldiers reportedly were killed in an airstrike on a military outpost in Aleppo in an attack being blamed on Israel.

The airstrike on Sunday night killed six Syrian nationals and three others fighting for Syria whose nationality has not been identified, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The official Syrian news agency SANA cited an unnamed military source as saying that Israel was responsible for the attack, and said it caused “only material damage.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Israel was targeting an Iranian Revolutionary Guard center in the attack. The center provides equipment and food to pro-Assad forces fighting in the area, and did not serve as storage for weapons, according to the observatory

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied the airstrike, as is its usual practice.

Israel has expressed concern about Iranian fighters supporting the Syrian military on the northern border in Syria’s more than 7-year-old civil war. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is believed to have spoken about the issue during his meeting last week with Vladimir Putin, since the Russian president has sway over Iran.

On Friday, Israel fired a Patriot missile at a Syrian drone, the second time such an incident occurred during the week.

Israel acknowledged airstrikes on Wednesday night that hit three military posts in the Quneitra countryside of Syria in response to a Syrian drone that Israel shot down over the Sea of Galilee.

The retaliatory attack Wednesday evening came hours after an American-made Patriot missile based in the northern Israeli city of Safed intercepted the unmanned aerial vehicle in Israeli airspace.

Jared Kushner still lacks highest security clearance level at White House

(JTA)—Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a top White House adviser, lacks the highest level of security clearance.

Kushner received a permanent “top secret” security clearance in late May, which does not allow him to review some of the government’s most sensitive secrets, The Washington Post reported Friday, citing two people familiar with his access.

Kushner may not review “sensitive compartmented information,” known as SCI, which primarily involves U.S. intelligence sources and surveillance methods, according to the newspaper. Thus, Kushner has been prevented from seeing some parts of the president’s Daily Brief, a highly classified summary of world events that sometimes describes intelligence programs and operatives, the Post reported.

Kushner attorney Abbe Lowell would not confirm Kushner’s clearance level to the newspaper. He said the White House handled Kushner’s security clearance according to the standard process and that Kushner has sufficient access to do his job.

“After a review done in the normal course by career officials, Mr. Kushner was given his permanent White House clearances in May, and has access to all the materials and information he needs to do the domestic and international work the president has asked him to do,” Lowell said.

In February, Kushner’s clearance was downgraded from top secret to secret following a temporary clearance. The reason for the downgrade was not clear, but reports at the time noted that his family real estate business was in debt and his widespread global investments would make a businessman like him vulnerable to foreign influence.

Kushner, who is an Orthodox Jew and is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, advises the president on issues including the Middle East.

Middle East peace negotiators have traditionally had top secret clearance, considered critical in understanding the myriad pressures facing the parties as they consider talks.

California Democrats rebuke Dianne Feinstein and endorse her opponent

(JTA)—State Democratic leaders in California officially endorsed longtime Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s progressive opponent—and the vote backing Kevin de Leon wasn’t close.

Feinstein, a moderate Jewish lawmaker who has been a senator since 1992, beat de Leon in the Democratic primary by 33 percentage points last month. But the 51-year-old assemblyman finished second and advanced to a runoff with Feinstein, 85, in the general election in November.

On Saturday night, 65 percent of the state Democratic Party’s 333 executive board members opted to endorse de Leon in the general election and only 7 percent chose Feinstein. Another 28 percent voted for “no endorsement,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

In February, before the primary, the board had voted 54 percent to endorse de Leon to 37 percent for Feinstein. Neither won the endorsement, however, because they fell short of the 60 percent requirement.

Feinstein has a comfortable lead heading into November, but the vote indicates that California Democrats are abandoning her platforms and shifting to the left.

In 2016, an Israel activist group lauded de Leon as president pro tempore of the state Assembly in helping to pass a bill that assured California would not contract with groups that boycotted Israel.

On Sunday, California Democrats adopted a resolution at their annual convention to oppose federal bills intended to thwart the movement to boycott Israel.

Feinstein and Barbara Boxer were the first Jewish female U.S. senators, having been elected the same year.

A robocall sent around in May called Feinstein a “traitorous Jew” and urged Californians to vote for Patrick Little, an avowed anti-Semite.

Argentina freezes assets of suspected Hezbollah fundraising network

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA)—In a first, Argentina has frozen the assets of a suspected Hezbollah fundraising network in the area known as the Triple Frontier with Brazil and Paraguay.

The Financial Information Unit of Argentina investigated possible criminal actions by Lebanese citizens living in the country that could be involved in money laundering and financing terrorist acts.

Hezbollah has been linked to the 1992 attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, which killed 29, and the 1994 attack on the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires that killed 85.

The investigation into the Barakat Group, also known as the Barakat Clan—a criminal organization linked to Hezbollah led by Assad Ahmad Barakat—resulted in an administrative order freezing the assets and money of its members under the national criminal code related to financing terrorism.

This is the first time that one of the three governments has frozen assets and funds from a Hezbollah-linked organization based in the Triple Frontier.

The Financial Information Unit identified at least 14 people linked to the Barakat Clan who registered multiple crossings to Argentina, mainly through the Tancredo Neves International Bridge in the Misiones province. Once in Argentina, the clan members would cash in charges at a casino in Iguazú exceeding $10 million without declaring either the income nor the discharge of funds when crossing the border.

“In relation to this illegal act, it is suspected that it would raise funds for the Lebanese Hezbollah organization,” the government agency wrote. The accounts were frozen on Wednesday, according to the statement.

According to a Financial Information Unit statement issued Friday, the Barakat Clan is involved in smuggling, falsifying of money and documents, extortion, drug trafficking, arms trafficking, money laundering and terrorist financing.

The Triple Frontier often is mentioned as a place linked to Hezbollah and the Barakat group, and has been investigated over the past two decades as a source of money for Hezbollah and other groups’ activities related to terrorism.

Barakat, along with others who operate in the tri-border area, has been designated a terrorist by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, of the Treasury Department of the United States, which means that his assets are frozen there as well and that he is unable to operate financially in the U.S.

Argentina is home to a large Lebanese expatriate community and U.S. authorities suspect groups in that community of raising funds through organized crime to support the Iranian-backed terror organization. In 2006, the U.S. Treasury targeted the same fundraising network.

Earlier this year, the U.S. and Argentina agreed to work together to cut off Hezbollah funding networks and money laundering financing terrorism across Latin America.

 

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