Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


November 23, 2018

Early elections in Israel?

(JTA)—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday that he is confident his coalition partners would not topple his government.

Netanyahu’s office issued a statement amid early election talk within the Jewish Home party, which can force Israel to go to the ballots a year earlier than planned by leaving the country’s governing coalition.

The prime minister “has confidence in the sense of responsibility of cabinet ministers not to make the historic error of toppling a right-wing government,” the statement said, the Israel Broadcasting Corp. reported.

Jewish Home’s leader, Naftali Bennett, has demanded that Netanyahu make him or someone else in the pro-settler party defense minister following the resignation of Avigdor Liberman, whose Yisrael Beiteinu party has pulled out of the coalition.

Liberman stepped down as defense minister in protest of Israel agreeing to a cease-fire with Hamas after the Palestinian terrorist group and others fired hundreds of rockets into southern Israel this week. Liberman argued that Israel should have crippled or toppled Hamas. Netanyahu took over the post, adding to the foreign minister portfolio he holds along with the premiership.

With Yisrael Beiteinu’s departure, the coalition in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament of 120 lawmakers, dropped to a bare majority of 61 seats. Jewish Home, with its eight seats, could topple the government by leaving and force an early election.

Stopping short of explicitly threatening to quit the coalition unless Jewish Home receives the Defense portfolio, senior party leaders did suggest that Netanyahu’s choice could determine whether an early election takes place.

“This week will decide whether we’re headed to elections or whether the Cabinet will continue until November 2019,” Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, also a member of Jewish Home, said in a speech this week.

US to vote ‘No’ rather than abstain on UN resolution about Israel’s control of Golan

(JTA)—The United States will vote “No” on a U.N. resolution criticizing Israel’s control of the Golan Heights rather than abstain as it has in previous years.

Nikki Haley, the outgoing U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, announced her country’s decision in a statement Thursday about a General Assembly vote scheduled for Friday.

“In previous years, the United States has abstained from voting on this resolution,” she wrote about the annual passing of a draft resolution titled “The Occupied Syrian Golan.” However, “given the resolution’s anti-Israel bias, as well as the militarization of the Syrian Golan border, and a worsening humanitarian crisis, this year the United States has decided to vote no.

“If this resolution ever made sense, it surely does not today. The resolution is plainly biased against Israel. Further, the atrocities the Syrian regime continues to commit prove its lack of fitness to govern anyone.”

Israel annexed the Golan Heights in 1981 after capturing them from Syria in the 1967 war. Syrian troops had used the volcanic plateau frequently as an elevated position to fire on Israeli troops and settlements.

In 2011, Syrian President Bashar Assad saw the eruption of a civil war, stoked by sectarian hatred between his country’s Sunni majority and his ruling Alawite minority—a group with Shiite affiliations—and its Druze allies. He had lost control of most of Syria’s territory until regaining much of it thanks to Russian military intervention and Iranian support.

Nearly half a million people have died in the war, and millions have been injured and displaced.

“The destructive influence of the Iranian regime inside Syria presents major threats to international security,” Haley said. “ISIS and other terrorist groups remain in Syria. And this resolution does nothing to bring any parties closer to a peace agreement.”

The United States has voted previously against U.N. resolutions singling out Israel over its control of the Golan.

In 2016, under then-President Barack Obama, the United States voted “No” with Canada, Israel and three Pacific nations that called for peace talks between Syria and Israel and Lebanon and Israel to be restarted immediately, and for an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights. The resolution passed by a large majority.

Photo of Hitler hugging girl with Jewish ancestry auctioned for $11,520

(JTA)—A photograph of Adolf Hitler hugging a child with Jewish roots and a letter by Albert Einstein predicting the rise of Nazi anti-Semitism each fetched five-figure sums at separate auctions.

The picture, dated 1933, was sold earlier this week for $11,520 at the Alexander Historical Auctions in Chesapeake City, Maryland, CNN reported.

It shows Rosa Bernile Nienau, whose grandmother was Jewish, being hugged by the Nazi leader outside his home in Bavaria, the sellers said. Hitler signed the photo with an inscription to Nienau. He had met the girl when she was about 6 years old at his birthday party in Bavaria that year. They were both born on April 20.

Hitler and Nienau exchanged several letters. Nienau’s mother, Karoline, was a nurse and an acquaintance of Hitler, and had brought her daughter to his birthday party, where they bonded, the auction house said, based on research.

“The dear and (considerate?) Rosa Nienau Adolf Hitler Munich, the 16th June 1933,” the picture sold read. It was delivered to Nienau’s mother in Munich.

“Research shows that even early on, Hitler became aware of the girl’s Jewish heritage but chose to ignore it, either for personal or propaganda reasons,” the auction house said in the description of the item.

When Martin Bormann, a high-ranking Nazi Cabinet minister, discovered her non-Aryan origins, “he forbade mother and daughter access” to Hitler’s residence, the auction house also said. Nienau died in the 1940s at a hospital from a spinal infection.

Separately, a handwritten letter by Einstein, the Jewish inventor of the theory of relativity, was sold Tuesday for nearly $40,000 in Jerusalem, The New York Times reported. The Kedem Auction House said the previously unknown letter, brought forward by an anonymous collector, fetched $39,360.

Einstein wrote the letter to his sister after going into hiding in 1922 following the assassination of Germany’s Jewish foreign minister, Walther Rathenau, by right-wing extremists. Police had warned the Jewish scientist that his life could be in danger, too, according to The Times article.

“Here are brewing economically and politically dark times, so I’m happy to be able to get away from everything,” he wrote in the letter.

Palestinian shunned for selling land to Jews to be buried in Jewish cemetery

(JTA)—A chief rabbi of Jerusalem allowed a Palestinian man to be buried in a Jewish cemetery following his body’s exclusion by imams over his sale of real estate to Jews.

Aryeh Stern, the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel’s capital, ruled this week as a rabbinical judge that Alah Kirsh may be buried at a Jewish cemetery as an exception because he was a “righteous gentile,” Ynet reported Friday.

Kirsh and five others were killed in a traffic accident on Nov. 4. His family sought to bury his body at their Muslim cemetery in eastern Jerusalem, but the imams turned them away because he had been accused of selling real estate in that part of the capital to Jews several years ago. The family was not allowed to bring Kirsh’s body to the Al Aqsa mosque and was forbidden to pitch a mourner’s tent and receive guests there, as is the Muslim custom.

Ekrima Said Sabri, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, cited a 1935 fatwa, or religious Muslim edict, issued by his predecessor, Amin al-Husseini.

A publicly anti-Semitic leader of Arab Israelis and ally of Nazi Germany, al-Husseini wrote that “anyone who sells a home or land to Jews will not receive a Muslim burial.” Basing a new fatwa on the old one, Sabri wrote: “Whoever sells to the Jews in Jerusalem is not a member of the Muslim nation, we will not accept his repentance and he will not be buried in the Muslim’s cemetery.”

Kirsh’s body was placed temporarily outside a Muslim cemetery in Nabi Salih, a village near Ramallah. Stern ruled that he may be buried at a section of the Jewish cemetery at Har Hamenuchot reserved for people without religion.

“Since the Muslims will not bury him, we must correct the distortion of justice that results in unjust humiliation of a man whose only sin was being prepared to sell land to Jews,” Stern wrote. “It is incumbent on us to honor a righteous gentile, and in this case a person who showed good will and was willing to take risks for the Jewish settlement.”

The case was brought to Stern’s attention by Im Tirtzu, a right-leaning pro-Israel advocacy group.

Kentucky bars state contractors from involvement in Israel boycott

(JTA)—Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed an executive order banning the award of state contracts to companies that participate in campaigns to boycott Israel.

Bevin, a Republican, signed the order at a ceremony Thursday at the Kentucky Capitol with Israel’s U.S. ambassador, Ron Dermer, and the consul general of Israel to the Southeast United States, Judith Varnai Shorer, The Associated Press reported.

Executive Order 2018-905 relates to “the prohibition of discriminatory boycotts against Israel and other trade partners in state contracting,” the four-page document says.

“The Commonwealth of Kentucky unequivocally rejects the BDS movement and stands firmly with Israel,” it also states, referencing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against the Jewish state

A governmental body “may not enter into a contract” unless it “includes a representation by the contractor that the contractor is not currently engaged, and will not for the duration of the contract engage in the boycott of a person or an entity” with which Kentucky “can enjoy open trade,” the document also says.

Supporters of the BDS movement say it is a nonviolent way to support the Palestinian cause. But Bevin called the movement anti-Semitic and “repugnant.”

Bevin’s office says 25 other states have enacted laws or executive orders to ban the use of state resources to support the BDS movement.

“There should be no question: Boycotting Israel is bad for business, and the majority of states agree,” William Daroff, senior vice president of the Jewish Federations of North America, wrote in a statement.

Kentucky exported nearly $85 million worth of goods and services to Israel last year, the order said.

New York state councilman sorry for suggesting Orthodox Jews aren’t ‘normal’

(JTA)—A councilman in upstate New York apologized for a text that juxtaposed Orthodox Jews with “normal” ones.

Peter Bradley, a member of the Clarkstown Town Council in Rockland County, apologized on Nov. 12 and again the following day at a council meeting for the statements he made on Nov. 2, less than a week after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in which 11 worshippers were killed.

On Facebook, Bradley criticized New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for visiting with Orthodox Hasidic Jewish community leaders.

“Normal Jews and non-Jews alike were grieving at the JCC while they were meeting ‘the guy with the checkbook,’” wrote Bradley, who has been accused of using negative rhetoric about Jewish residents.

Before Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, demonstrators gathered outside Town Hall to protest his remark, the Rockland/Westchester Journal News reported.

“I do admit, the dialogue, the structure, the tone, has to be transitioned,” Bradley said during the meeting. He also said he has planned meetings with activists “just to get a grip on the complicated things ... in Rockland.”

During a Nov. 8 interview on Channel 12 News, Bradley said that when he spoke of “normal” Jews, he meant “mainstream” or Reform Jews outside Ramapo, which also has a growing Orthodox community.

William Goldman, who wrote ‘Princess Bride’ and ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,’ dies at 87

(JTA)—William Goldman, a novelist and screenwriter who twice won the Oscars for his work on “All the President’s Men” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” died at the age of 87.

Goldman, who was Jewish, passed away Thursday night in his Manhattan home, surrounded by family and friends at the age of 87, friends of his family told Deadline.

Goldman began his writing career as a novelist and later transitioned to writing scripts. As a novelist, Goldman wrote the critically-acclaimed “Marathon Man” and “The Princess Bride,” among others. He later adapted those two novels for film, turning them into box-office hits that are considered classics.

His first film script was “Masquerade” in 1965. Some of his other notable film credits include “Misery” (adapted from the Stephen King novel) and “The Stepford Wives (adapted from the Ira Levin novel)

Goldman was born in Chicago and grew up in the suburb of Highland Park, Illinois.

He was married to Ilene Jones from 1961 until their divorce in 1991. They had two daughters.

Stabber shot by Dutch police was seeking Jewish and Christian victims

AMSTERDAM (JTA)—A Syrian asylum seeker shot by police officers in The Hague after stabbing three people was looking for Jewish or Christian victims, prosecutors said.

On Wednesday, prosecutors said the officers lawfully and justifiably discharged their weapons in the May 5 shooting of the man who has been identified in the Dutch media as Malek F., the De Telegraaf daily reported.

Detectives found that Malek F., 31, who was initially declared insane but then charged with a terrorist assault, was on the lookout for “Christian and Jewish kuffars,” the Arabic word for non-believer in Allah. He had said that kuffars were akin to “animals or retarded people,” the prosecution’s report quoted him as saying

He was shot while stabbing people in the Schilderswijk, one of the most heavily Muslim neighborhoods in the Netherlands. One of his victims, whom he seriously injured, was Muslim.

Malek F. was moderately injured in the incident and faces three counts of attempted murder.

Two days earlier, Malek F. told detectives, he had brought a knife to a church in The Hague but left after no one opened the door when he knocked.


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