Weekly roundup of world briefs
December 28, 2018
Israel arrests 100 Palestinians in crackdown
By Sam Sokol
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli forces arrested over 100 Palestinians over the past weekend as part of an anti-terror crackdown launched in the wake of last week’s uptick in terror activity in the West Bank.
“There were 100 arrests over the weekend, and another 36 yesterday,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced during a visit to the Giva’at Asaf settlement on Tuesday, where two members of the IDF’s haredi Orthodox Netzach Yehuda battalion were recently shot to death by a Palestinian gunman. “It is only a matter of time before we find this murderer as well, just as we found the others.”
According to the Palestinian news outlet Ma’an, Israeli forces arrested 24 Palestinians during a series of pre-dawn raids on Tuesday as well as confiscating security cameras in al-Rihan near Ramallah.
A number of Israeli cabinet officials have endorsed taking a harsher line against Palestinians involved in terrorism, including upping the pace of home demolitions and expelling the families of Palestinians who carried out attacks.
Pink Floyd tribute band shows back on
By Sam Sokol
JERUSALEM (JTA)—A Pink Floyd cover band announced on Tuesday that its upcoming Israel tour is back on after cancelling due to pressure from BDS advocate Roger Waters, co-founder of the original Pink Floyd.
On Sunday UK Pink Floyd Experience cancelled its shows in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Beersheba early next month, hours after Waters posted a letter calling on the group to honor the Israel boycott. By Tuesday it had made an about face, posting a statement on its website that it was “obliged to fulfill our contractual obligation” and would “perform a one-off special concert together with Israeli Pink Floyd Tribute Band ‘Echoes.’”
The band said that it had decided to accept the invitation to play in Israel without wishing to involve itself in politics. In the statement, its members regret “the upset caused by all of this, it was far from our intention to stir up all this anger and hatred, when the opposite was what was intended. In hindsight, it was very naive to think our motives would not be misunderstood and misrepresented.”
Waters wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday evening: “To sing my songs in front of segregated audiences in Israel, and contribute to the cultural whitewashing of the racist and apartheid government of that country, would be an act of unconscionable malice and disrespect.”
Waters announced in a Facebook post on Sunday that the cover band had decided to cancel their Israel gigs and thanked the band members for their “prompt response.” He called on other Pink Floyd tribute bands to refrain from performing in Israel.
Supporters of Israel then flooded the band’s Facebook page with angry posts, leading UK Pink Floyd Experience to take down its Facebook page.
Lest week, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, in a rare news release, called on sponsors of concerts being given by Waters in Mexico and several South American countries to withdraw their sponsorship, citing the “hostile, bigoted, and anti-Semitic comments made by Mr. Waters on numerous occasions.” It also called on elected officials in those countries “to make clear their rejection of his offensive and inciteful [sic] comments.”
Rights groups accuse Israel of coverup in deaths of Gaza teens
By Sam Sokol
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Human rights groups B’Tselem and Forensic Architecture have accused the IDF of “manipulating the truth” in its accounts of the deaths of two Palestinians teens killed in northern Gaza.
In a video posted to YouTube earlier this week, the two groups challenge the tactic of “roof knocking,” in which Israeli forces explode munitions on the top of a building to warn inhabitants that a missile or bomb strike is imminent. Focusing on a July airstrike in which the teens died, the groups allege that a video of the attack released by the military omits footage and that the teenagers were killed by a missile intended as the warning shot.
The rights groups allege that far from being a valuable tool for preventing civilian casualties, the practice of roof knocking is “unlawful and, for all intents and purposes, constitutes an attack. As such, the action must abide by the applicable rules set out in international law, including adhering to the principle of proportionality and the duty to provide effective warning. None of this was done in the case at hand.”
The IDF has defended the tactic as “imperfect” but necessary. In response, Forensic Architecture director Eyal Weizman told The New York Times that while “warning strikes are an essential part of the Israeli military’s claims to high ethical standards… such warnings are sometimes delivered with the same missiles that are used elsewhere to kill.”
The IDF denied the charges, telling the Times that “any allegations that the I.D.F. knowingly distorted or edited video footage are totally baseless and false.”
Last week B’Tselem released footage showing IDF troops shooting a mentally disabled Palestinian man in Tulkarem in the back of the head, allegedly showing that the IDF’s statement that its troops were responding to a violent incident were false.
Israel joins UN critics of Russia’s ‘occupation’ of Crimea
By Cnaan Liphshiz
(JTA)—Israel voted in favor of a U.N. resolution condemning Russia’s occupation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.
The General Assembly vote Monday demonstrated how Israel has gradually abandoned its neutrality on the Crimea issue amid a deterioration in relations with Russia.
The resolution calls on Russia to withdraw armed forces from what the signers call “temporarily occupied” Crimea. It also condemns the growing military presence of Russia in the Black and Azov Seas and obstruction of navigation.
Israel, the United States as well as all EU and NATO member states were among 66 countries that supported the resolution. Nineteen countries voted against the document’s adoption and 72 abstained, according to the Ukrinform agency.
Israel, whose representatives were absent during a 2014 General Assembly vote on the Russian takeover of Crimea, has since voted several times in favor of UN resolutions condemning Russia over the matter.
Russia has consistently supported UN resolutions that were very critical of Israel. Setbacks in bilateral ties include following the downing earlier this year in Syria of a Russian plane. Syrian anti-aircraft missiles destroyed the plane minutes after Israeli bombers carried out a mission in Syria. Russia blamed Israel for the incident, though Israeli officials rejected the allegation.
Academy Awards turns its back on latest Israeli film
By Tom Tugend
LOS ANGELES (JTA)– Israel’s more than half-century courtship to win an Oscar for best foreign-language film will continue past 2019.
Since submitting its first entry—and winning its first nomination—for “Sallah” in 1964, Israel has made the short list of top nominees 10 times, without ever reeling in the prize.
This year, tribal boosters can stop biting their fingernails anticipating the outcome. Israel’s entry “The Cakemaker,” a challenging film on bisexual affairs between German and Israeli lovers, was eliminated in the first round.
The list of nine semi-finalists among entries from 87 countries, announced by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Monday evening, eliminated the Israeli entry.
However, Israel was not the only snubbed contender. Looking at the entire history of Oscar awards, the three leading countries in the number of both nominees and ultimate winners—Italy, France and Spain—were all eliminated this time around.
Yet, oddly enough, if the themes chosen by a country’s filmmakers reflect in some ways the interests of their movie-going publics, the world’s fascination with the Holocaust, World War II and their aftermaths has never been higher.
Eight countries have this year submitted films, which deal directly or indirectly with the fate of Europe’s Jews during their darkest period, including Austria, France, Holland, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia and Switzerland.
None of these countries’ films made the short list, but of particular interest is Russia’s “Sobibor,” centering on the 1943 uprising in the notorious concentration camp, and Romania’s oddly named “I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians,” which focuses on the massacre of Odessa’s Jews by the Romanian army.
The list of nine semi-finalists will be winnowed down to five on Jan. 22, and the winner will clutch the golden statuette at the 91stOscar telecast on Feb. 24.
Facebook blocks Yair Netanyahu
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Facebook blocked the account of Yair Netanyahu after he shared content banned by the platform that called for avenging the deaths of Israelis killed in recent days by Palestinian terrorists.
Netanyahu, the son of the Israeli prime minister, also called Facebook “thought police” in a post criticizing the removal of previous content.
He reposted some of the offensive posts using screenshots, which circumvent the social media site’s controls.
Last week, Yair Netanyahu said in a post that the press, as well as left-wing NGOs and politicians, are “traitors,” and in another post suggested that all Muslims leave Israel.
He has previously been criticized for his boorish social media posts.
Financial Times names George Soros person of the year
By Sam Sokol
(JTA)—Liberal Jewish financier and philanthropist George Soros was named Person of the Year by Financial Times, which called him “the standard bearer of liberal democracy and open society.”
The British news outlet also noted that there have been “so many anti-Semitic conspiracy theories targeting Mr. Soros that it is difficult to keep count. Hardly a day goes by without a statement, a tweet or an image depicting him as a master manipulator of global politics.”
The choice by the centrist, free market Financial Times seems aimed, in part, to counter such allegations and focus on what it called “the values he represents,” including openness, media freedom and human rights. “These are the ideas which triumphed in the cold war. Today, they are under siege from all sides, from Vladimir Putin’s Russia to Donald Trump’s America,” the paper writes.
In an interview with Financial Times, Soros takes note of the backlash against him among authoritarian regimes and nationalist populists, particularly in Europe.
“I’m blamed for everything, including being the anti-Christ,” Soros says. “I wish I didn’t have so many enemies, but I take it as an indication that I must be doing something right.”
West Bank settlement construction drops in third quarter
By Sam Sokol
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Settlement construction dropped sharply in the third quarter of 2018, according to new statistics released by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics.
According to the CBS’ figures, reported on Wednesday in The Jerusalem Post, housing starts in the disputed West Bank dipped by 52 percent compared to the previous quarter. Despite Israel’s right-wing government, which is widely seen as pro-settlement, housing starts were down a full 17 percent during the first three quarters of the year compared to the same period in 2017.
Following a series of terror attacks last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he would accelerate settlement construction.
Airbnb executive tours West Bank but excludes settlement listings
By Sam Sokol
JERUSALEM (JTA)—An Airbnb executive visited the West Bank and met with Jewish settlement leaders amid criticism of its decision to remove Jewish-owned properties in the disputed territories from its short-term rental listings.
Chris Lehane, head of global policy and public affairs for the company, met Tuesday with senior settlement leaders and toured the Barkan Industrial Park.
The visit, said Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, was “an important step against BDS,” the boycott movement targeting Israel.
Airbnb had come under fire in pro-Israel circles after deciding to delist homes in Jewish settlements last month because, it said, the settlements are “at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.” Following a meeting between Airbnb executives and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, the Israelis issued a statement claiming that Airbnb had backed down from its policy of not listing apartments in settlements, only to be contradicted by the company, which stated that while it opposed the BDS movement against Israel, it was not backing down.
“Airbnb communicated that we are developing the tools needed to implement our policy, and that process includes continuing our dialogue with the Government of Israel and other stakeholders,” the company said in a statement reported by The Jerusalem Post.
Trump signs law conferring Congressional Gold Medal on Anwar Sadat
By Ron Kampeas
WASHINGTON (JTA)—President Donald Trump signed legislation that will honor Anwar Sadat posthumously with the Congressional Gold Medal for leading Egypt to peace with Israel.
The medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by Congress, would be conferred next year, the 40th anniversary of the Camp David accords. This year is the centenary of the late Egyptian president’s birth. Trump signed the legislation on Dec. 13.
A Congressional medal requires the sponsorship of two-thirds of lawmakers in of both chambers, which was secured by Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah in the Senate and Reps. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., and Chris Stewart, R-Utah, in the House.
The bid to confer the medal was promoted by The Friedlander Group, a New York-based publicity and lobbying firm with a focus on Jewish issues. Backing the bid outside Congress were Shafik Gabr, an Egyptian industrialist; Isaac Dabah, an Israeli clothing tycoon who operates plants in Egypt; and Tzili Charney, the widow of Leon Charney, a major pro-Israel philanthropist who was a longtime friend of Ezer Weizman, the Israel defense minister at the time, and who advised some of the negotiators at Camp David.
Militant Islamists assassinated Sadat in 1981 because of the 1978 Camp David peace deal he forged with Israel. Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin received the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize.
3 arrested for vandalism of Penn State U fraternity’s menorah
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Three men were arrested for the theft and vandalism earlier this month of the nine-foot menorah in front of the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity house at Penn State University.
The incident took place on Dec. 2. A member of the fraternity attempted to stop the men as they vandalized the menorah and was assaulted, according to a criminal complaint, the student newspaper The Collegian reported.
A total of five men affiliated with or visiting another fraternity house were involved in the incident, according to State College Police.
The menorah was valued at $1,800. ZBT is a traditionally Jewish fraternity.
The three arrested men, ages 19 and 20, were charged with theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property and criminal mischief.
Two other suspects who confessed to being involved in the theft, the vandalism or both, have not yet been charged, the newspaper quoted the police report as saying.
The menorah also had been stolen and vandalized three days earlier on Nov. 29, though it is not known if the incidents are connected.
Last year, four Penn State University students were charged with stealing a 9-foot menorah from the home of the campus Chabad rabbi and leaving it damaged outside the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity, another traditionally Jewish fraternity.
Ohio man convicted of hate crime in beating of man he thought was Jewish
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—An Ohio man was convicted of a hate crime for attacking a man he thought was Jewish.
Izmir Koch, 33, of Huber Heights, was found guilty by a judge for his part in the assault of a man smoking a cigarette outside a local restaurant on Feb. 4, 2017.
Koch asked people standing outside the restaurant if anyone there was Jewish. When the victim responded in the affirmative, although he was not actually Jewish, Koch allegedly punched him, knocking him to the ground. Koch then continued to hit and kick him, as did others standing outside the restaurant.
The victim suffered injuries to his ribs and a fracture of his eye socket.
Before and during the assault, Koch and the other assailants were heard shouting, “I want to kill all of the Jews” and “I want to stab the Jews,” according to the Department of Justice.
A hate crime charge is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, the local ABC affiliate WLWT reported.