Weekly roundup of world briefs
February 8, 2019
Israel lawmakers cancel visit to Ireland after parliament passes West Bank boycott
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—The speaker of Israel’s Knesset cancelled an official delegation of Israeli lawmakers to Ireland, after its parliament advanced a bill banning the sale of West Bank goods.
Yuli Edelstein cancelled the parliamentary delegation on Monday. It was scheduled to travel in March.
The Occupied Territories Bill passed on Thursday would ban the import or sale of goods originating in all “occupied territories,” with lawmakers’ discussions centered on eastern Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the West Bank.
The Irish Parliament’s lower house, or Dail, passed the measure by a vote of 78-45 with three abstentions. The upper house of the Irish Parliament, the Seanad, passed the bill in July. It is the second of a five-phase process, according to reports.
The Irish ambassador to Israel was summoned to the Foreign Ministry for a reprimand on Friday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also serves as Foreign Minister.
Iran demonstrates rapid-deployment forces in military war-game exercises
(JNS)—Iran showcased war games on Friday consisting of newly developed, quick redeployment forces specialized in fighting enemy units, according to state media, amid increased antagonism with the United States.
Around 12,000 elite troops, fighter jets, drones and armored vehicles were included in the two-day exercises, located in the central province of Isfahan, reported state television.
Installed by transport planes and 60 helicopters, commandos hunted artificial armed troops, while an armored battalion blocked “enemy” units attempting to retreat, according to state media.
“In these war games, we will showcase two important developments: a special-forces rapid deployment battalion and a highly mobile offensive armored battalion,” Gen. Kioumars Heydari, head of the regular army’s ground forces, told state television.
This development comes as the U.S. Treasury Department issued fresh sanctions on Iran last week, including against the Iran-backed Zaynabiyoun Brigade and the Fatemiyoun Division, both based in Syria, providing “material support” to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
“Treasury’s targeting of Iran-backed militias and other foreign proxies is part of our ongoing pressure campaign to shut down the illicit networks the regime uses to export terrorism and unrest across the globe,” said U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in a statement.
‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ garners 3 Screen Actor Guild awards
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” took the first three awards announced at the Screen Actors Guild ceremony.
Tony Shalhoub won a SAG award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor, Rachel Brosnahan won Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor, and the entire cast won for Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series in the awards ceremony on Sunday night.
The Netflix series features Brosnahan as a Jewish stay-at-home mom in the 1950s who decides to try her luck as a stand-up comedian. Shalhoub plays her father.
Driver curses church members during walk to remember Holocaust
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—A driver yelled obscenities and anti-Semitic remarks as members of a church in California walked to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
About 100 members of the Church of Jesus Christ Temple Philadelphia in Salinas, California had gathered on Sunday after services in the church parking lot to get ready for an annual walk in memory of the Holocaust and its victims. A man in a black BMW SUV drove by and yelled obscenities and insults against Israel and the Jewish people, local television station KSBW reported.
The driver circled back to yell at the marchers again, according to the report.
The walkers held a sign reading “Never Again. Remembering the Holocaust” and carried Israeli flags. The walkers included children, young parents pushing strollers and seniors.
The church has worked with the Jewish community in Salinas for a number of years, according to the report. Its pastor currently is visiting Israel on a religious pilgrimage.
Health survey shows Israel’s Kfar Saba has country’s highest life expectancy
(JNS)—A survey of the health situation in Israel’s 16 largest cities showed that Kfar Saba has the country’s longest life expectancy, and that Bnei Brak has the lowest rates of child obesity.
The Health Inequality Report published on Tuesday by Israel’s Health Ministry surveyed all cities of 100,000 or more residents—a total of 4.4 million people in all.
Results showed that the highest rates in cancer among men is in Ashdod (379 out of every 100,000 men) and the highest rate for women is in Holon (352 out of every 100,000). The highest levels of breast cancer were found in Tel Aviv.
Ashdod and Holon also held the records for the highest number of diabetes sufferers—60 per 100,000.
The study did not officially rank the healthiest and least healthy cities in Israel.
Samsung to acquire Israeli smartphone camera company
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Samsung has signed a deal to acquire the Israeli smartphone camera company Corephotonics Ltd.
Calcalist reported the sale on Monday, citing the lsraeli law firms that represent both companies. It first reported earlier this month that Samsung was considering the acquisition.
The deal is worth $155 million, Calcalist reported, citing an unnamed person familiar with the deal.
Samsung previously has been an investor in Corephotonics, participating in two out of three of the company’s funding rounds. All three rounds raised $38 million.
The company, founded in 2012, develops dual lens camera technologies designed to improve the performance of smartphone cameras.
In 2017 , the company reportedly filed a lawsuit against Apple Computers for using its technology without authorization in the iPhone 7 plus and the iPhone 8 plus.
Jewish philanthropist receives Australia’s highest honor
By Henry Benjamin
SYDNEY (JTA)—Australian Jewish philanthropist Pauline Gandel received the country’s top honor, the Companion of the Order of Australia, which also was given to her husband John in 2017.
The award is tantamount to receiving a knighthood in the U.K., and honors Gandel’s support for the arts, education and Jewish causes
The honors were awarded on Sunday, which was marked as Australia Day.
The Melbourne-based couple is one of Australia’s most prolific benefactors to both the secular and Jewish communities. Gandel Philanthropy has distributed over $100 million to charitable causes since 1978.
Among the few other married recipients of the award were opera singer Joan Sutherland and her husband, the conductor Richard Bonynge.
John and Pauline Gandel are major supporters of Keren Hayesod, Yad Vashem and Tel Aviv University.
Israel grants Amare Stoudemire residency rights
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel’s Interior Ministry granted former NBA All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire residency rights, another step toward citizenship.
“In the near future, the possibility of granting the player citizenship will be examined,” the ministry said in a statement on Monday.
Stoudemire has been playing professional basketball for the Hapoel Jerusalem team since 2016, though he left briefly in mid-2017 to try for a return to the NBA.
He identifies with the Hebrew Israelites, African-Americans who believe they are connected to the biblical Israelites, and observes Jewish holidays. He told HBO sports reporter Jon Frankel at an event at Harvard University in April 2018 that he is “in the process” of converting to Judaism.
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said that he made the decision based on Stoudemire’s seriousness about Judaism and living in Israel even after his basketball career ends, and because he is “making a mark in Israel and in Israeli sports.”
Not having citizenship means Stoudemire is eligible to play for the team in the Union of European Basketball Associations’ Champions League, and is allowed one of the few non-citizens slots in Israeli League competition.
Stoudemire played for the New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns among other teams in a 16-year NBA career. He had to suspend his part ownership in Hapoel in order to play.
Immigrant tale wins top Jewish children’s book honor
By Penny Schwartz
(JTA)—A picture book based on the classic “All-of-a-Kind Family” books by Sydney Taylor won an award named in her memory.
“All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah” (Schwartz & Wade), about a turn-of-the-century immigrant Jewish family on New York’s Lower East Side, won a Sydney Taylor 2019 book award gold medal for younger readers from the Association of Jewish Libraries. The awards were announced Monday in Seattle.
The AJL cited the poetic language of author Emily Jenkins and Paul O. Zelinsky’s exuberant illustrations.
“Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster” by Jonathan Auxier (Amulet Books/Abrams), took the award for older readers. The historical fantasy, set in Victorian London, tells the story of a girl chimney sweep and a golem who saves her life.
“What the Night Sings,” by Vesper Stamper (Knopf/Random House), won the top prize for teen readers. Stamper’s debut illustrated novel is a coming-of-age Holocaust story set in a displaced persons camp, told through the voice of a young German girl violist who before the war did not know she was Jewish.
Originally published between 1951 and 1978, the “All-of-a-Kind-Family” series drew heavily on the childhood of Taylor (1904–1978), a one-time professional dancer whose immigrant parents raised five daughters.
Israeli Cabinet approves export of medical cannabis
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel’s Cabinet approved the export of medical cannabis.
Some of the countries reportedly eager to trade with Israel include Australia, Germany, Austria and Mexico, according to Forbes.
The approval on Sunday comes a month after the Knesset passed legislation to pave the way for the legal export of medical cannabis. The Netherlands and Canada already export medical cannabis.
A committee made up of the Finance and Health ministries had recommended allowing the export following a process promoted by the Ministry of Health. It which would treat medical cannabis as medical product like any other—including labels, instructions and dosages– that would be sold in pharmacies with prescriptions under the same strict standards as purchasing other medicines.
The process to write and approve the actual procedures will take up to a year to complete, according to reports.
Licenses for medical cannabis companies will be granted by the Health Ministry and will require police approval.
The committee determined that the state could make up to $1 billion per year in tax revenue from the exports.
There are eight cannabis growing companies operating in Israel and several others involved in production, marketing and distribution. Dozens of other farmers hold licenses to grow cannabis, but had delayed planting as the export legislation was being considered.
Czech Parliament recognizes international definition of anti-Semitism
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—The lower house of the Czech Parliament recognized the international definition of anti-Semitism.
The resolution to recognize the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism passed on Friday during a session to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, observed on Sunday.
The definition, which has been adopted by the governments of several European countries, is non-binding.
Germany’s Angela Merkel calls out anti-Semitism ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a video released ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, called on every citizen to fight against anti-Semitism and xenophobia.
She decried anti-Semitism by Germans and also hatred of Jews by Muslim migrants, as well as hatred of Israel.
“People growing up today must know what people were capable of in the past, and we must work proactively to ensure that it is never repeated,” Merkel said.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day was marked this year on Sunday, Jan. 27.
Merkel called for new ways to remember the Holocaust, as there are fewer and fewer survivors and other eyewitnesses to the Nazi genocide.
“It will be crucial in the coming time to find new ways of remembrance,” she said. “We must look more closely at the personalities of people who were victims back then, and to tell their stories.”
Police say death of British Jewish teen not murder
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—The death of a Jewish day school student whose body was found in an abandoned building in Manchester, England, is no longer being treated as a murder.
Sarah Goldman, 16, was discovered by a family member in the building near her home shortly after she was reported missing. Her death was caused by hanging, the Manchester Evening News reported.
A 41-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of murder and was later released. Greater Manchester Police said that no further action will be taken against him.
“The death of a 16-year-old girl in Kersal, Salford, is no longer being treated as suspicious,” the police said in a statement. The police said a file on the death will be passed to the coroner.
Goldman, who attended Yavneh Girls at Manchester’s King David High School, told her family that she was going to use her Orthodox school’s gym early Monday morning, around 5 a.m., the Manchester Evening News reported.
The girl was reported missing to police at 9:25 a.m. that day, and her body was found by a family member about 20 minutes later.
The Jewish school said in a statement that students were being offered support in the wake of the death. It said that “Sarah was a lovely, bright, intelligent and well-mannered pupil and she will be hugely missed by everyone at school.”
Latest closed Twitter accounts aimed at Israelis are not foreign fake news
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Twitter said that 61 accounts aimed at Israelis that were removed from the service were not linked to foreign fake news campaigns.
“We have carefully reviewed these accounts and our analysis does not indicate any malicious intent or State-sponsored activity,” a Twitter spokesperson said.
JTA reported Tuesday that the accounts had been suspended over the manipulating news allegations, citing a tweet by Elad Ratson of Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, who also handles digital diplomacy. Ratson said in his tweet that a total of 343 bot accounts have been suspended since Israel’s elections were announced for April.
Florida puts Airbnb on notice over removal of Jewish settlements
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Airbnb has been put on Florida’s list of scrutinized companies over its decision to remove listings of rooms and homes for rent in West Bank Jewish settlements.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his Cabinet voted to place the company on the list following a recommendation by the state Board of Administration.
The state could move to ban its pension fund from investing in Airbnb if it goes public, as reported, by as early as June or at least by 2020.
“This is not a policy that applies to all these disputed territories evenhandedly,” DeSantis said. “It singles out Israeli Jews in the West Bank. It does not apply the same de-listing to Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank, and that is wrong and that runs afoul of Florida law.”
DeSantis has ordered state employees not to stay at Airbnb homes while traveling on state business.
Airbnb responded to Tuesday’s vote.
“We unequivocally reject and oppose the BDS movement and are disappointed by today’s vote,” the company said in a statement.
Airbnb announced in November that it would remove the listings of some 200 apartments and homes for rent in the settlements, but not in Palestinian communities.