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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


November 30, 2018

Man tries to run down Jews leaving Los Angeles synagogue

(JTA)—Los Angeles police arrested a man who allegedly attempted to run over two people outside of an area synagogue.

Police are investigating Friday night’s incident as a possible hate crime, the NBC Los Angeles affiliate reported.

A security camera video shows the driver trying to run down the two men leaving the Bais Yehuda Shul, and then reversing and trying to hit them again, CBS LA reported. The victims wore clothing typically worn by Orthodox Jews on Shabbat. The driver also reportedly shouted anti-Semitic epithets at them. He was stopped when his car ran a stop sign and slammed into another vehicle.

“Why he chose us? Probably because of the yarmulkes on our heads,” one of the victims told CBS.

The alleged attacker has been identified as Mohammed Mohammed, 32. He was held on $55,000 bail and charged with assault with a deadly weapon with a vehicle.

US not delaying peace plan over Israeli government turmoil

(JTA)—The U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, denied reports that the Trump administration is delaying the rollout of its peace plan due to the recent upheaval in Israel’s government.

Friedman also called reports about a high-level meeting last week that included President Donald Trump to discuss the timing of the peace plan “wildly inaccurate” in a statement released Monday that was posted to the U.S. Embassy in Israel’s website.

Those in attendance at last week’s Oval Office meeting with Trump included Friedman, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt—the administration’s team assembling the peace plan—as well as Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, according to the statement. Friedman called it a “very productive meeting.”

“I would like to reaffirm that the United States remains committed to sharing its vision for peace with Israel, the Palestinians and other regional and international stakeholders at the appropriate time,” Friedman said in the statement.

“Our timing, our strategy and our messaging is and will be entirely our own. We intend to release the President’s vision when the Administration concludes that we have maximized its potential for acceptance, execution and implementation.”

U.S. officials are said to be concerned about releasing a peace plan during an election season in Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government coalition currently has a narrow one-seat majority following the defection of the Yisrael Beiteinu party led by Avigdor Liberman, who stepped down as defense minister over a cease-fire with Palestinian terrorist groups firing rockets into southern Israel.

Friedman said he, Kushner and Greenblatt “are of one mind in terms of how best to proceed.”

“Those anonymous ‘experts’ who purport to speak for the Administration on this issue are ill informed and mistaken,” he said.

The Trump administration has never given a hard date for the announcement of the peace plan, though Trump said earlier this year that he hoped to release it early next year. The Palestinians have already said they would reject the plan, though no details about it have been made publicly available.

El Al to compensate all 400 passengers aboard flight diverted for Jewish Sabbath

JERUSALEM (JTA)—El Al will compensate the 400 passengers on the Tel Aviv-bound flight that was forced to divert in order to allow Sabbath-observant passengers to get off the plane.

Each passenger will receive a free round-trip ticket to the European destination of their choice, the airline announced Monday.

The airline also issued a clarification of a previous statement about violence toward the flight crew on the plane in order to stave off a threatened boycott of the airline by the haredi Orthodox community.

The flight, which left New York more than five hours late on Nov. 15, was diverted midflight to Athens, where the Shabbat observers disembarked and spent Saturday in a hotel near the airport. The rest of the passengers boarded an Israir plane several hours later and returned to Tel Aviv, since El Al does not fly on the Sabbath.

The flight had been delayed due to bad weather and was racing the clock to reach Israel before the start of the Sabbath. Dozens of passengers had demanded that the plane return to the gate at John F. Kennedy International Airport so they could disembark, but instead the plane took off.

Several accounts on social media and in blog posts have offered differing accounts of what occurred on the flight. It is unclear whether passengers, both religious and non-Sabbath observant, were violent toward the crew

The new statement said that “similar to the clarification on November 19, the company did not place blame on the secular, religious or haredi Orthodox communities for the reported events.”

“Any statement to the contrary was not done with the knowledge of El Al,” the statement said, adding that “El Al does not distinguish between its customers on the basis of sector, gender, or nationality.”

The statement also said that “the El Al management supports and appreciates the flight and ground crews who worked on this flight in an admirable manner.”

On Monday, shortly after the release of the statement, Rabbi Shalom Ber Sorotzkin, who had been on the flight and threatened El Al CEO Gonen Ussishkin with the boycott if he did not apologize to the haredi community for saying they were violent on the flight, reportedly was seen boarding an El Al flight.

Sorotzkin, the head of the Beit Shemesh-based Ateres Shlomo yeshiva network, on Sunday afternoon had publicly cut up his El Al frequent flier card at Ben Gurion Airport.

Meanwhile, a  security official for El Al, a former Shin Bet official, and two others were arrested Monday on suspicion of smuggling large amounts of cocaine into Israel on El Al planes as part of an international drug-smuggling network. It was described during a court hearing on Wednesday as a “large and wide-ranging affair,” The Times of Israel reported.

3 Israeli soldiers injured in alleged car-ramming attack in West Bank

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Three Israeli soldiers were injured in a suspected car-ramming attack in the West Bank.

The incident Monday morning took place near the Karmei Tzur settlement located south of the Gush Etzion Junction, which has been the site of many such attacks.

One soldier suffered a head injury; the other two were lightly wounded. They were treated at the scene before being evacuated to hospitals in Jerusalem.

A fourth soldier at the scene shot the Palestinian driver and “successfully neutralized the terrorist before anyone else was hurt,” the Israeli army spokesman said.

The Palestinian Maan news agency reported that the driver, identified as Ramzi Abu Yabes, a resident of the Dheisheh refugee camp, was killed by the soldier’s bullet. The report said his wife also was in the car and was injured.

Soros’ foundation pulls out of Turkey after criticism from Erdogan

(JTA)—The foundation financed by Jewish billionaire philanthropist George Soros is pulling out of Turkey, days after the country’s president accused Soros of trying to “divide and tear up nations.”

The Open Society Foundations announced Monday it would cease operations in Turkey, saying that the “baseless claims” against it made it impossible to continue its work promoting democracy.

On Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Soros of providing assistance to jailed Turkish activist Osman Kavala, who is charged with attempts to overthrow the government.

In his speech to local officials, Erdogan referred to him as “the famous Hungarian Jew Soros,” and said that he “sends people across the world to divide and tear up nations and uses the large amount of money he possesses to this effect.”

Soros’ support for liberal and pro-democracy forces has led to accusations that he is working to undermined elected  governments in his native Hungary and is the force behind grassroots protests in the United States, his adopted country. Many observers say the criticism of Soros often plays on classic anti-Semitic tropes of secretive global control. The Hungarian government launched an ad campaign against Soros last year, which also prompted concerns about anti-Semitism.

The foundation pulled out of Hungary earlier this year.

More recently an investigation found that a Republican-led opposition research company hired by Facebook tried to discredit critics of the social media giant by linking them to Soros. After letting the firm go, Facebook leaders Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg both issued statements denouncing anti-Semitism.

Wisconsin high school students will not be punished over Nazi salute photo

(JTA)—The Wisconsin high school students who made what appears to be a Nazi salute in a junior prom photo will not be punished due to their First Amendment rights.

The Baraboo School District is “not in a position to punish the students for their actions” because of their First Amendment rights, the school district superintendent, Lori Mueller, said in a letter sent last week to parents.

The contents of the letter first appeared in the Baraboo News Republic, and later was reported by the New York Times.

“As previously stated, we cannot know the intentions in the hearts of those who were involved,” Ms. Mueller wrote in the letter, adding: “Despite our efforts, we are still unclear about some key details.”

The school announced more than a week ago that it would launch an investigation into the incident, which took place before the junior prom last spring. The school district was assisted in its investigation by the Baraboo Police Department.

The photo was taken in the spring and involves about 50 students. It was posted originally in a private online album tagged #BarabooProud. It was taken by the parent of a student in the class, Peter Gust, who was not hired as a photographer by the school district that night. The photo also was not taken on school property but instead in front of the Sauk County Courthouse in Baraboo.

The school district is holding a series of four meetings on the topic of the photo and white supremacy.

City of Beverly Hills urges Airbnb boycott over ending West Bank rentals

(JTA)—The City Council in Beverly Hills, California, unanimously passed a resolution condemning Airbnb’s decision to remove listings of rentals in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and is encouraging a boycott of the web service.

The resolution passed last week said Airbnb’s decision demonstrates “hatred, prejudice, ignorance and hypocrisy.” It also said Airbnb’s actions “are antithetical to the values that we hold dear in Beverly Hills,” adding that “prejudice and discrimination based on religion have no place in our community, country and world.”

The resolution noted that the City of Beverly Hills opposes Airbnb’s “discriminatory decision to remove all listings in Jewish settlements in the West Bank,” and calls on Airbnb to “correct this act of disrespect to the land of Israel and restore its original services immediately.”

The resolution concludes that if Airbnb does not change its decision, “we call upon all civilized people across the globe to boycott Airbnb until such time as they desist from these despicable anti-Semitic actions.”

Airbnb announced on Nov. 19 that it would remove the listings of some 200 rooms and homes for rent in West Bank Jewish settlements.

“We find the actions of Airbnb deplorable,” Mayor Julian Gold said in a statement issued by the city. “On behalf of our residents, this unanimous resolution reflects the City Council’s ongoing commitment to Israel and to exposing hatred anywhere it exists.”

The statement also included Vice Mayor John Mirisch saying that “Airbnb is not welcome in Beverly Hills as long as its policies are based on anti-Jewish double standards. Jew hatred is a disease. We can try to inoculate others against this malady but we also must protect ourselves against its effects.”

German man, 95, charged as accessory to murder of more than 36,000 at concentration camp

(JTA)—A 95-year-old German man has been charged with being an accessory to more than 36,000 murders when he allegedly served as a guard at the Mauthausen concentration camp.

Berlin prosecutors confirmed on Friday that the man, identified as Hans Werner H. due to privacy regulations, is accused of serving as an SS guard at the Nazi camp in 1944 and 1945, The Associated Press reported. The camp was located in northern Austria.

More than 36,000 people were killed at Mauthausen during the time he served at the camp. He is not accused of a specific killing, however.

The 2011 conviction in Munich of former concentration camp guard John Demjanjuk as an accomplice in the murders of nearly 30,000 Jews in the Sobibor death camp in Poland set a precedent in that being a guard at a death camp was sufficient to prove complicity in murder.

German prosecutor Martin Steltner told AP that the man is alleged to have “known about the various methods of killing as well as the disastrous living conditions of the imprisoned people.”

A court must determine if the man is fit for trial before it can proceed.

Earlier this month, former Nazi SS guard Johann Rehbogen, now 94, went on trial for being complicit in the mass murders of several hundred prisoners at the Stutthof concentration camp. Rehbogen, who uses a wheelchair and is in declining health, was younger than 21 when he worked at the camp between 1942 and 1944 and thus is being tried in a juvenile court in the western German city of Münster.


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