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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


October 5, 2018

Progressive Jewish groups denounce Senate panel’s vote to advance Kavanaugh, while conservatives praise it

(JTA)—Progressive Jewish organizations denounced the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote to advance the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, while conservative groups lauded it.

The committee voted Friday to send the nomination to a full Senate vote a day after it heard testimony from Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused the federal appeals court judge of sexually assaulting her when they were in high school. Two other women have also said that Kavanaugh assaulted or acted inappropriately toward them while in high school or college.

Lawmakers, including Judiciary Committee member Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., have called for the FBI to investigate the allegations before the full Senate vote.

Among the groups criticizing the decision were the National Council of Jewish Women and the Reform movement. Those praising the vote included the Republican Jewish Coalition and the Coalition for Jewish Values.

The National Council of Jewish Women said it was “appalled” by the decision to advance President Donald Trump’s nominee to a full Senate vote.

“Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmed that pushing through a nominee who will undermine the rights of women, immigrants, LGBTQ individuals, and people of color is more important than hearing survivors and investigating credible allegations,” the organization’s CEO Nancy Kaufman said in a statement.

Rabbi Jonah Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, denounced the vote in a statement on behalf of the Reform movement.

“The Reform Jewish Movement continues to believe that Judge Kavanaugh’s elevation to the Supreme Court would significantly jeopardize the most fundamental rights, rooted in our enduring Jewish values, that we have long supported,” Pesner said. “The recent allegations of sexual assault have added urgency to our opposition.”

While the Coalition for Jewish Values said it was “happy” about the decision and called Kavanaugh “a qualified candidate,” the group also expressed support for Flake’s call for an FBI investigation into the allegations.

“It is obvious that the FBI investigation should have happened months earlier, but conducting it now will permit Judge Kavanaugh to take his seat on the Supreme Court without a cloud of suspicion,” the organization’s president, Rabbi Pesach Lerner, said in a statement to JTA.

In a statement to JTA, the Republican Jewish Coalition said it “applauds” the committee vote.

“This has been a difficult and gut-wrenching process,” RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said. “Our thoughts are with Dr. Ford, Judge Kavanaugh and their families during this very difficult time. We hope this process can move forward now without partisan rancor.”

Israeli airstrike hits Palestinians rioting at Gaza border, killing 2

(JTA)—Two Palestinians, including a 14-year-old boy, were killed in riots along the fence separating Gaza and Israel, Palestinian sources said.

An 11-year-old boy also was severely injured in the clashes Friday, Haaretz reported based on sources in the Gaza Strip.

A spokesman for the Israeli army told Haaretz that a military aircraft carried out a strike in the northern Gaza Strip after Palestinians hurled grenades and explosive charges at soldiers.

In August, the Israel Security Agency documented 129 terrorist incidents along the Gaza border, including 34 cases featuring firebombs, the agency said in its monthly report. That tally accounted for the majority of 206 incidents recorded in the West Bank and Israel proper.

Gwyneth Paltrow to marry Brad Falchuk in the Hamptons

(JTA)—Gwyneth Paltrow and television executive Brad Falchuk are set to marry this weekend at their home in the Hamptons, Page Six reported.

The Hollywood actress and Falchuk, who have dated for more than three years, will be wed in front of about 50 people at the ceremony, according to a report Thursday on the celebrity gossip site.

Falchuk, 47, who is Jewish, was a co-creator, writer and director of the hit show “Glee,” and is now executive producer of “American Horror Story.” He is the son of former national Hadassah President Nancy Falchuk.

Paltrow, who won an Oscar for best actress in 1999 for “Shakespeare in Love,” reportedly is a follower of Kabbalah. She is the daughter of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother, the actress Blythe Danner.

It’s the second marriage for both.

Paltrow was wed to Coldplay’s Chris Martin until they broke up in 2014.

Falchuk was married to TV producer Suzanne Bukinik.

Paltrow and Falchuk began dating after they met on the set of “Glee” in 2014. They were engaged earlier this year.

Paltrow wrote in her Goop magazine of her decision to tie the knot again: “I have decided to give it a go again, not only because I believe I have found the man I was meant to be with, but because I have accepted the soul-stretching, pattern-breaking opportunities that (terrifyingly) are made possible by intimacy.”

US official urges nuclear watchdog to probe Netanyahu’s claims on Iran

(JTA)—A State Department official called on the International Atomic Energy Agency to investigate Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claims about a secret nuclear warehouse in Tehran.

Netanyahu made the claim about the facility in the Iranian capital during a speech Thursday before the U.N. General Assembly in New York, saying the warehouse was used for “storing massive amounts of equipment and material from Iran’s secret weapons program.” The equipment and material, he said, was being moved to other parts of the city.

The Israeli leader urged the IAEA to investigate the locale.

In a statement quoted by Reuters, a State Department official said following Netanyahu’s claims that it was “absolutely imperative that the IAEA fully exercise its authorities in order to provide confidence to the international community that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran.”

An unnamed U.S. diplomatic source quoted by the Israel Broadcasting Corp. said that “The latest revelation of nuclear documents requires the Agency to find out if Iran is hiding nuclear materials or activity.”

In April, Israel announced it had stolen more than 100,000 documents from a Tehran archive detailing the Iranian nuclear program.

Iran has denied Netanyahu’s claims about a nuclear warehouse.

An unnamed U.S. intelligence source was quoted by the Israel Broadcasting Corp. as disputing Netanyahu’s claims about the warehouse.

“What Netanyahu said last night was slightly misleading,” the source was quoted as saying. “We knew about the facility in Tehran and it’s a place full of file cabinets and documents, not aluminum pipes or centrifuges. Secondly, there’s nothing in that facility that can be seen as an Iranian violation of the nuclear deal.”

Israel had opposed the 2015 nuclear deal signed by Iran and seven world powers, including the United States, that offered Iran relief from economic sanctions in exchange for its dialing back of parts of its nuclear program. In May, President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal, reintroducing sanctions both on Iran and on companies doing business with it.

The renewed sanctions and other developments have sent the Iranian currency into a free-fall. The rial hit a record low this week of around 170,000 against the dollar, compared to about 3,500 rial for $1 in September 2016.

Federal court blocks Arizona law excluding Israel boycotters from contracts

(JTA)—A federal court blocked an Arizona law requiring state contractors to certify that they will not boycott Israel, finding that the law likely violates the contractors’ free speech rights.

“A restriction of one’s ability to participate in collective calls to oppose Israel unquestionably burdens the protected expression of companies wishing to engage in such a boycott,” District Court Judge Diane Humetewa wrote in Thursday’s order blocking the law.

The judge also said that the law interferes with First Amendment rights, the news site Tuscon.com reported.

Collective action “targeted by the [law] specifically implicates the rights of assembly and association that Americans and Arizonans use ‘to bring about political, social, and economic change,’” Humetewa said.

The law, enacted in March 2016, requires that any company that contracts with state or local government in Arizona submit a written certification that it is not currently boycotting Israel and will not do so. The Arizona law is similar to legislation passed in other states.

Earlier this year, a federal court blocked a comparable Kansas law, which the Kansas Legislature subsequently amended.

The American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, filed a case challenging the Arizona law on behalf of an attorney, Mikkel Jordahl, and his one-person law office, which contracts with the government to provide legal services to incarcerated individuals. Jordahl has had a state contract to provide legal advice to inmates in Coconino County Jail for 12 years.

“Boycotts are an important way for people to collectively call for social change and this peaceful form of protest has long been protected by the Constitution,” Jordahl said. “No matter where you stand on the issue of Israel and Palestine, it should be clear that we as individuals have a right to engage in peaceful individual boycotts and a right to not spend our money in the way we choose.”

The ACLU does not take a position on boycotts of foreign countries, it said in a statement about the verdict, but the organization has long supported the right to participate in political boycotts and has voiced opposition to bills that infringe on this First Amendment right.

Danish committee OKs draft resolution calling to ban circumcision

(JTA)—A parliamentary committee in Denmark cleared the path for a nonbinding vote on a petition that calls for banning nonmedical circumcision of boys for humanitarian reasons.

The Folketingets Administration said Thursday that the text of the petition presented no constitutional obstacles.

A vote could be held before November, according to Lena Nyhus, an activist for the ban and an initiator of the petition.

The petition by the group Denmark Intact crossed the 50,000 mark in June, four months after its launch, Danmarks Radio reported. According to regulations passed in January, petitions approved for posting on the Danish parliament’s website are brought to a vote as nonbinding motions if they receive that level of support within six months and unless they are deemed unconstitutional.

Petitions that make the signature threshold are read out as resolutions, requiring the government to take no actions whether they pass or fail. Still, a vote in a major European parliament on whether circumcision should be banned would be a precedent in Europe after World War II, when the Nazis imposed and introduced anti-Semitic legislation and practices in many countries they occupied.

Jews circumcise males when they are 8 days old. Muslims perform the practice at a later age, but rarely after the boy turns 13.

The petition describes circumcision as a form of abuse and corporal punishment, equating it with female genital mutilation. The petition states that parents who have their children circumcised outside Denmark should be exposed to legal action in Denmark, which has 8,000 Jews and tens of thousands of Muslims.

But last week, when spokespeople for most of the parties in the Danish parliament provided their faction’s positions on the issue, a tally showed that a majority of lawmakers would vote against supporting a ban if the issue is brought to a vote, the Kristeligt Dagblad daily newspaper reported.

The Socialist People’s Party and the far-left Red-Green Alliance are the only parties in favor of a ban, according to Danmarks Radio. Between them, they have 21 seats out of the parliament’s 179.

However, it is not yet clear if the other parties will require their representatives in parliament to vote against the nonbinding motion calling for a ban.

Descendants of Serbian woman who rescued Jews told to leave Israel

(JTA)—Israeli immigration authorities revoked the temporary residency status of two great-granddaughters of a Serbian woman who saved Jews during the Holocaust.

The Ministry of the Interior sent a letter earlier this month explaining its decision to Ana Dudas, the late rescuer’s granddaughter, who immigrated to Israel with her husband and three daughters in 2011, the Israel Broadcasting Corp., or Kan, reported Wednesday

According to Israeli law, the Jewish state may naturalize those it recognizes as Righteous Among the Nations—Israel’s title for non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from the genocide—and their descendants up to three generations.

Dudas, who is named for her late grandmother, had immigrated with her family to Israel on that basis, according to the report. She was accepted as a candidate for naturalization, and her husband and three daughters were given temporary residency in connection with her status. But the ministry this month informed Dudas that some residency permits will not be extended, Kan reported.

Dudas’ eldest daughter married an Israeli citizen and had a child with him, and therefore is eligible for Israeli citizenship regardless of her mother’s status. But Dudas’ application for citizenship and staying permit is dependent on her two younger daughters and husband leaving the country, according to the report. Their staying permits will not be extended.

“So who do I leave? A mother doesn’t leave her little girls, but does that mean I have to set aside my eldest?” a tearful Dudas asked during a Hebrew-language interview with Kan. “It’s extremely difficult.”

Palo and Ana Dudas, the grandparents of the older immigrant mother, lived in the village of Lug, located near the Croatia-Serbia border. When all the Jews were ordered to register and to hand over their property, Palo and Ana Dudas offered refuge to the Deutsch family of Jewish merchants and found hiding places for them in huts that were spread out in their fields. To camouflage the Jews’ identities, the Dudas family dressed the Deutsches in Slovak peasant clothes and put them to work in the fields. Their 8-year-old daughter, Katarina, brought food to the family each day.

“The risk taken by the Dudas family was great as the majority of the local residents supported the Ustase” Nazi collaborators, wrote the Yad Vashem state Holocaust museum, which recognized the late couple’s heroism in 1995.

In the interview, Dudas asked authorities to extend her younger daughters’ staying permit for “just a few more years,” until they are 18.

Asked for a reaction, the Interior Ministry told Kan: “The procedure on the Righteous Among the Nations allows their children and grandchildren to stay and work in Israel for a definite period. When the [staying] application is made, these rules are made known to the applicants. Ana is eligible to extension of her staying permit as per the procedure.”

Syrian man arrested in Berlin for alleged chemical weapons plot targeting Israel

(JTA)—A Syrian man who was recently arrested in Germany belonged to a cell plotting to use chemical weapons in attacks on Israeli targets, a German tabloid reported.

The 21-year-old terror suspect was arrested last Thursday by Germany’s SEK unit in a Berlin cafe according to the report Friday in Bild. He was wanted in connection with an April 14 assault in the German capital, police said at the time of his arrest.

The assault was over a financial dispute, the report said.

But on Thursday. Bild learned that the suspect was also wanted in connection with terrorism and a plot to attack Israeli targets with chemical weapons.

Local police acknowledged that the suspect had been taken into custody last week, without confirming details regarding the alleged terror plot. A police spokesperson said only that the suspect was “very dangerous” and that he was under investigation for a matter unrelated to the assault charges stemming from the April 14 incident, Israel National News reported.

But according to Bild, the suspect recruited other Syrians and reportedly prepared an explosive device. The bomb was apparently intended to be used as part of a chemical weapon attack.

The exact type of chemicals and the target have not been disclosed.

Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service said it had been tipped off by a foreign agency several months ago regarding the suspect’s plans. Local authorities later tapped the suspect’s phones.

Police conducted a search of the suspect’s residence, but say they found no incriminating evidence. The suspect apparently entered the country illegally, using a fake Libyan passport.


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