Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


November 9, 2018

Jewish gun store owner in Colorado offers rabbis free rifles

(JTA)—The Jewish owner of a gun shop in Colorado has offered to give rabbis semi-automatic rifles for free following the murder of 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Mel Bernstein, who owns Dragon Arms near Colorado Springs, made the offer in an item aired Wednesday on KOAA-TV’s News5.

“Lets say there’s a fire in a synagogue. What do you grab? You grab a fire extinguisher right?” Bernstein, who goes by the name Dragonman, said on the NBC affiliate’s program. “OK, lets say somebody comes in and starts shooting everybody. What are you going to grab? You grab your AR-15 or a rifle or a handgun.”

During the shooting Saturday, “people sitting in the synagogue, they were sitting ducks,” and “nobody’s stopping him,” Bernstein said of the shooter, who authorities say was right-wing extremist Robert Bowers. “You have to have the tool to fight back, and this is the tool, and I’m donating these to the rabbis.”

Each gun that Bernstein hopes to give the local religious leaders is valued at an estimated $650, and the store was clear that each rabbi would have to pass a background check to take possession of the weapon, the Western Journal reported.

Rabbi Jeff Ader of Temple Beit Torah in Colorado Springs told KOAA that he thought the offer was very generous and thoughtful, and that he’d have to think about it. Ader also talked to Bersntein about giving some people the concealed weapons training he offers.

Another local rabbi said he’d prefer not to comment on the offer, News5 reported.

Scott Levin of the Anti-Defamation League serving Colorado told News5 that a rabbi with a gun causes image issues and a potential disruption of the sanctity of a synagogue. Levin also said that he believes there should be panic buttons installed and that he’s fine with armed security personnel, but that armed clergy sends the wrong message.

After the shootings, President Donald Trump said, “This is a case where if they had an armed guard inside, they may have been able to stop him immediately. Maybe there would have been nobody killed, except for him maybe.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who is Jewish, rejected the idea.

“I certainly don’t agree with his suggestion that this could have been avoided or mitigated if they’d had someone armed in the synagogue. That’s not the answer,” The Guardian quoted Schiff as saying. “The broader issue is what kind of climate are we creating in the country.”

White House says ‘all’ Iran sanctions will be reimposed, with exceptions

WASHINGTON (JTA)—The Trump White House on Friday announced that “all the sanctions” relieved under the 2015 Iran deal would be reimposed, but top Trump officials were simultaneously listing caveats.

“On November 5, 2018, all United States sanctions that were lifted under the disastrous Iran nuclear deal will be fully reimposed,” the White House statement said. “Together with the unprecedented sanctions actions taken by the Trump Administration, this will be the toughest sanctions regime ever imposed on Iran.”

It added, “sanctions will target critical sectors of Iran’s economy, such as its energy, shipping, shipbuilding, and financial sectors.”

But officials would not yet outline which entities would face sanctions. It was clear already there would be exemptions, making it difficult to assess whether the new sanctions would outdo the multinational sanctions coordinated in 2010 by the Obama administration, considered the toughest ever on Iran.

Bloomberg News earlier Friday reported that at least eight countries—including major Iranian oil consumers India, South Korea and Japan—would get cutouts allowing them to continue purchasing Iranian oil.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, in a conference call with reporters, acknowledged there would be eight cut-outs, but said these would be temporary, and that six of the countries would be expected to “greatly reduce” oil purchases and two will eventually have to cut off Iran completely. They would not name the countries.

Pompeo and Mnuchin also declined to say whether Iran’s Central Bank would be on the list. Cutting off the Central Bank from dollar markets, as was done under the Obama sanctions, was critical in starving Iran’s economy from cash.

President Donald Trump has reviled the multinational Iran nuclear deal negotiated by his predecessor, which traded sanctions relief for nuclear rollback. Trump called it the “worst ever” deal and pulled out of it in May. The six-month lead time for reimposing sanctions ends Monday.

Other parties to the 2015 deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, including European nations, have stuck with the deal. Trump administration officials have said that the U.S. sanctions, while unilateral, are nonetheless having an effect and have isolated Iran.

Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, opposed the deal, but also opposed pulling out of the deal. On Friday, he said the exemptions reinforced his position.

“Whatever its flaws, withdrawing from the Iran deal was a mistake,” he said in a statement. “Today’s announcement—that the Administration is immediately waiving the re-imposed sanctions— shows why. Countries are free to conduct sanctionable activity that lines Iran’s coffers, which could allow the regime to continue its support for terrorism and other destabilizing behavior across the region.”

Abraham Foxman scolds Israeli envoys for wading into debate over Trump and Pittsburgh

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Abraham Foxman, the former national director of the Anti-Defamation League who is known for his closeness to the Israeli establishment, has a message for Israeli officials defending President Donald Trump in the wake of the worst-ever attack on U.S. Jews: Butt out.

“I think Israeli officials and Israeli representatives should come and stand in solidarity with the American Jewish community in a time of pain and anguish and tragedy,” Foxman told Jewish Insider in its Thursday edition.

“I don’t think they should come to the United States and stand in solidarity with the President of the United States, especially during an election period. I can thank Trump on one hand for the good things that he’s done, but that does not take away from me the right to be able to criticize him on issues of value and that I feel are part of our tradition.”

Earlier, in interviews with Israeli media, Foxman said that Trump was not aware of how his rhetoric, often derisive of his opponents and of some minorities, influences extremists, but that he nonetheless bore some of the responsibility for the actions of extremists.

“He is part of the problem, because of his rhetoric, his focusing on issues—it’s the unforeseen consequences of his ideology, of his political philosophy,” Foxman told Times of Israel. “He is a demagogue.”

In retirement, Foxman spends a good portion of his time in Israel. While heading the ADL, he was known as one of the American Jewish leaders most comfortable representing the U.S. Jewish community to successive Israeli governments, including Netanyahu’s. He also consistently urged American Jewish organizations to defer to the judgment of the democratically elected government of Israel on security matters there.

A number of Israeli officials have praised Trump’s response to the killing of 11 worshippers at The Tree of Life synagogue complex on Saturday, allegedly by a man who shared Trump’s expressed fear that Central American migrants planned to “invade” the United States.

Naftali Bennett, the minister for the Diaspora, has appeared on American media arguing that tarring Trump with helping to spur anti-Semitic acts was unfair because he was the most pro-Israel U.S. president in memory, moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.

Israel’s U.S. ambassador, Ron Dermer, in an MSNBC interview cast anti-Israel activity on campuses as a threat on par with white supremacists and said he was pleased with Trump’s response.

Trump at an Illinois rally called the attack “an assault on all of us” and said of those seeking the destruction of the Jews, “we will seek their destruction.”

Trump also has continued with campaign rallies and used his popular Twitter feed to continue his lacerating attacks on opponents and—within hours of the attacks—to comment on baseball.

Trump visited Pittsburgh and the Tree of Life on Tuesday. Dermer, in video of Trump’s arrival, appears to take the lead in greeting him, which is highly unusual for a diplomat at a U.S. domestic event.

Lithuanian state historians defend Nazi collaborator accused of killing Jews

(JTA)—Lithuania’s state historical institute on the Soviet domination of the country defended in court a deceased collaborator with Nazi Germany who is accused of murdering Jews.

The Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of the Residents of Lithuania defended Jonas Noreika against the allegations by numerous historians last month in a document submitted to the Vilnius District Administrative Court. The defense was a response to an American activist’s lawsuit against the center for its refusal to facilitate the removal of a plaque honoring Noreika in Vilnius.

“The Center, based on existing historical sources, has numerous times come to the conclusion Noreika had not participated in the mass murder operations against the Jews during the period of German occupation, and not in the Telsiai or Šiauliai districts,” the Center’s lawyer, Kristina Cerednickenkaite, told the court in the defense against the lawsuit filed this year by activist Grant Gochin from Los Angeles.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center for years has argued that Noreika, whom many consider a hero in Lithuania because he was killed while being held by Soviet authorities, became a mass murderer after his appointment in 1941 as head of Siauliai County under the German Nazi occupation.

Silvia Foti, a granddaughter of Noreika who lives in Chicago, has written a soon-to-be-published book based on years of independent research that she says confirms the allegations.

In August, the Jewish Community of Lithuania said in a statement that the plaque honoring him on a central wall of the library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences in central Vilnius must be removed because “Noreika was a direct and enthusiastic participant in perpetrating the Holocaust in Lithuania,” the community said.

Vilnius officials have declined to remove the plaque, saying they will defer to the state museum’s decision.

In September, amid growing international attention for Foti’s findings, Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius urged authorities to remove the plaque – the first such call by a senior Lithuanian official on any of the country’s numerous monuments celebrating killers of Jews.

Gochin, a South Africa native whose relative perished in the Holocaust in Lithuania and who has mounted multiple lawsuits against the glorification of their killers, said the defense is “shocking.”

“I had never heard of an EU government going to court to defend a Nazi,” he told JTA.

The center in its defense said that Noreika fell from grace with the Germans. It also suggested that Noreika helped save Jews from the Holocaust rather than help kill them. It called Foti’s research and that of Gochin unsubstantiated. The center asked the court to compel Gochin to pay the center’s legal costs.

Ilana Glazer event at Brooklyn synagogue canceled due to ‘kill all Jews’ graffiti

(JTA)—Graffiti reading “Kill all Jews” ‍was discovered on the stairwell of Union Temple in Brooklyn Heights, prompting organizers of a political event planned there to cancel it.

The event was scheduled to be hosted by “Broad City” star Ilana Glazer at the historic Brooklyn synagogue on Thursday, the New York Post reported.

Separately, graffiti that included multiple swastikas and the words “Kill Kykes” next to a drawing of Hitler was discovered in Salem, Massachusetts earlier this week, The Salem-based Jewish Journal reported Thursday. Several swastikas were found at Reading Memorial High School in the town of Reading, Massachusetts. Other racist graffiti were found in Reading last month. Officials declined to say what the graffiti in Reading said while police investigate the incidents, the Boston Globe reported Thursday.

Witnesses to the bloodbath at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh on Saturday said the gunman who killed 11 people there shouted “all Jews must die.”

At about 8:30 p.m., Glazer told the crowd outside the building that the 8 p.m. event, where she was scheduled to interview journalist Amy Goodman and New York state senate candidates Andrew Gounardes and Jim Gaughran, was cancelled because of the graffiti.

Hateful slurs were found on the second and fifth floor. The vandal had written “Kill all Jews” on a door.

The event was part of Glazer’s The Generator Series, where she interviews activists and politicians “to see how they serve us—the people,” the Post reported.

“I hope it doesn’t have a chilling effect on people going to vote” in Tuesday’s midterm elections, Gounardes told The Post. “We can’t afford to stand in the silence or be scared or intimated.”


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