Weekly roundup of world briefs
February 22, 2019
Mississippi House passes bill banning boycott of Israel
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—The Mississippi House of Representatives passed a bill that would prevent the state from doing business with companies that boycott Israel.
Following the 88-10 vote last week in the lower house of the state Legislature, the measure moves to the Senate.
It prevents the state retirement system, treasury and any state government entity from investing in a company that boycotts Israel. The bill calls on the state to develop the list of boycotting companies.
Existing investments as of July 1, 2020, would have to be sold within 120 days after the list is published, though exceptions can be made for investments the state determines are necessary.
At least 27 states have legislation banning boycotts of Israel, though some are facing legal challenges.
Mom of Jewish Parkland victim pens heartbreaking letter to daughter
By Josefin Dolsten
(JTA)—The mother of a 14-year-old Jewish girl killed in the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last year has penned a heartbreaking letter to her daughter.
Lori Alhadeff posted the letter to her daughter Alyssa on a website created to honor her memory.
Alyssa was among the 17 people killed on Feb. 14, 2018 at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School by a teenage gunman who once attended the school.
Her mother’s letter included references to the family’s Jewish background.
“17 beautiful people we, as a community, needed to bury,” Alhadeff wrote. “You were the first. The next day, Rabbi Gutnick presided and hundreds of people came from all over the country. If you remember from Bat Mitzvah classes, shivas last seven days when a loved one dies. In those seven days, I got so many hugs from people who loved you.”
Spanish filmmaker calls to boycott Israel at national film awards ceremony
By Cnaan Liphshiz
MADRID (JTA)—A filmmaker who won a Spanish national film award for a documentary about Gaza called during his acceptance speech for a boycott of Israel, which he called an apartheid state.
Director Julio Perez del Campo, whose “Gaza, a Look into the Eyes of Barbarism,” won the 2019 Goya Award for best documentary film, the equivalent of an Academy Award.
“No to Israel and the Eurovision, long live the fight of the Palestinian people,” he said in his speech Thursday.
Israel will host the Eurovision Song Contest in May after winning last year’s contest.
Del Campo also said “We should not legitimize countries that violate systematically human rights, we must not be complicit in Israeli apartheid.”
Israel’s embassy in Spain called the speech “a discourse of hate.”
Holland allows ‘Palestine’ as place of birth for people born before 1948
By Cnaan Liphshiz
(JTA)—The Dutch government will allow people who are not Israeli citizens but were born in pre-state Israel before 1948 to register their place of birth as “Palestine” on official documents.
The move, which the government said does not constitute any recognition of Palestinian statehood, was announced last week by the Dutch state secretary for interior affairs, Raymond Knops, the Volkskrant daily reported. The report said that the Dutch government decided on the move to prevent being sued at the European Court of Justice. It used to list “unknown country” as the place of birth for people who may now be registered as born in Palestine.
The ministry declined requests by people born in the British Mandate over Palestine before 1948 to list “the state of Palestine” as their place of birth, citing how the Netherlands and the rest of the European Union with the exception of Sweden do not recognize Palestine as a country.
Anti-Semitic acts in France rose by 74 percent in 2018
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Anti-Semitic acts in France rose by 74 percent last year.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said Monday night that the total of reported acts of anti-Semitism was 541 in 2018, up from 311 in 2017, according to local reports.
The latest incident occurred on Monday, when a tree planted in the Paris suburb of Sainte-Genevieve-du-Bois in memory of Ilan Halimi, a young man who in 2006 was kidnapped and tortured because a gang thought his Jewish family had a lot of money to pay ransom, was chopped down.
The incident followed a number of swastikas and anti-Semitic epithets being painted around the city in recent days, including on a local bagel shop.
Castaner on Monday night in Sainte-Genevieve-du-Bois near the memorial to Halimi, said that “anti-Semitism is spreading like poison,” and that the government will fight it.
He called anti-Semitism “an attack against hope.”
Nestle denies report it is in talks to distribute Israel’s popular peanut snack Bamba in US
By Josefin Dolsten
(JTA)—Bamba lovers, some bad news: Nestle apparently isn’t in talks to distribute the Israeli snack in the U.S.
The Israeli news site CTech reported earlier this month that Osem, Bamba’s manufacturer, was negotiating with the food giant over the puffed peanut nosh wildly popular in Israel.
“Osem will continue to work diligently on marketing Bamba in North America through its U.S. subsidiary Osem USA,” Nestle spokeswoman Caroline Bietry told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in an email. “Osem is not negotiating with Nestle over Bamba’s distribution.”
But be of good cheer: While Nestle would have provided wider distribution, Bamba is still available in a range of major stores, including Trader Joe’s and Target, as well as on Amazon.
Some fans point to a study suggesting that feeding Bamba to kids from an early age may prevent peanut allergies.
Osem USA did not respond to JTA’s requests for comment.
Posters calling for destruction of ‘Israeli Apartheid Forces’ hung outside Tufts Hillel
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Two dozen posters that are being called anti-Semitic were hung outside the Hillel center at Tufts University in suburban Boston.
The posters discovered Tuesday contained cartoons depicting militarized pigs, with at least one showing the pigs holding guns and calling for the destruction of the “Israeli Apartheid Forces and Amerikkan Pigs Which Fund it.”
Many of the images date to the 1960s and the Black Panther Party, and originally they were meant to disparage American military imperialism and the police state, The Associated Press reported.
Some of the posters were hung on the windows of the Granoff Family Hillel Center with the images facing inward. No other campus buildings were targeted, according to a statement released by Tufts Hillel.
“The derogatory images and symbolism in these posters were profoundly disturbing and hurtful to those targeted and to others in our community,” Tufts President Tony Monaco said in a statement that was sent by email to the Tufts community, according to the Tufts Daily student newspaper. “Recognizing these posters’ impact on our campus climate, we will fully investigate this matter and follow up appropriately on the results of that investigation.”
Violent anti-Semitic attacks soared 60 percent in Germany in 2018
By Toby Axelrod
(JTA)—Anti-Semitic crimes rose by 10 percent in Germany in 2018, with a 60 percent increase in violent crimes, spurring the main Jewish umbrella group there to call for a “stronger commitment” from police and politicians.
The Central Council of Jews was reacting to a report from the German parliament, the Bundestag, released to the Tagesspiegel newspaper and reported Wednesday.
“The latest numbers are not yet official but they reflect a trend, and that’s alarming,” the council’s president, Josef Schuster, said in a statement. “What Jews had already felt subjectively has been confirmed by the statistics.”
In previous reports, authorities have indicated that most perpetrators have right-wing extremist backgrounds.
Nationwide, there were 1,646 anti-Semitic crimes registered in 2018, up from 1,504 the previous year. Of these, 62 were violent attacks, up from 37 in 2017.
According to the Tagesspiegel, 43 people were injured in anti-Semitic attacks last year. A total of 857 suspects were identified, but there was only evidence for 19 arrests.
The numbers were delivered, as in past years, to Bundestag Vice President Petra Pau of the Left Party, who has submitted a formal request
for national statistics on anti-Semitic crimes for about two decades. They could change slightly after all 16 German states submit finalized statistics.
Virginia legislature candidate apologizes for anti-Israel and anti-Semitic social media posts
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—A Democratic candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates who describes himself as a “second-generation Palestinian refugee” has apologized for anti-Semitic and anti-Israel social media posts.
“This slander campaign is using five-year-old Facebook posts from my impassioned college days, posts that upon my reflection and with the blessing of time, I sincerely regret and apologize for,” Ibraheem Samirah said in a statement dated Friday. “I am so sorry that my ill-chosen words added to the pain of the Jewish community, and I seek your understanding and compassion as I prove to you our common humanity. Please do not let those who seek divide us use these words out of context of time and place to accomplish their hateful goals.”
The posts were first published on Thursday by the conservative website Big League Politics.
Samirah, a Chicago native who is Muslim, said that sending money to Israel is “worse” than sending money to the Ku Klux Klan and that the late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would burn in hell upon his death. He also accused Israeli teenagers of using Tinder to “cover up the murders in their names.
Samira, a dentist, is running in a special election on Feb. 19 to fill a vacated seat.
He has advocated on social media for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel and was the co-founder of American University’s Jewish Voice for Peace chapter, which backs BDS. He also was a member of the traditionally Jewish Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity at the university.
The news about Samirah comes as Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam works to overcome a blackface scandal.
El Al announces new direct flight to Orlando
(JNS)—Israel’s El Al Airlines announced on Tuesday that it will be serving a new destination in the United States, conducting direct flights between Tel Aviv and Orlando, Fla., starting in the summer.
The announcement was made at the IMTM International Tourism Exhibition in Tel Aviv, according to a report in Globes.
Flights will land once a week at Orlando International Airport starting in July, utilizing 787 Dreamliners and Boeing 777 airliners, and will fly on Tuesdays after midnight from Tel Aviv to Orlando, returning on Tuesdays from Orlando at 11:30 a.m.
El Al will kick off the new route with tickets starting at $1,000 each.
The airlines recently opened routes to Las Vegas and San Francisco.
Israel has recently benefited from additional airlines bringing passengers to Tel Aviv, including Rwanda Air and Sun d’Or from Tel Aviv to Tokyo.
Alitalia also announced new direct flights from Tel Aviv to Milan, Rome and Athens.
On Jan. 29, Florida’s state cabinet officially recognized Jerusalem as the “eternal and undivided capital” of the State of Israel. Florida is Israel’s 13th-largest trade partner worldwide and one of 33 U.S. states holding cooperative economic agreements with Israel.
Palestinians call on Arab countries to skip Mideast summit in Warsaw
(JNS)—The Palestinian Authority urged Arab nations on Monday to skip or downgrade their presence at this week’s summit in Warsaw concerning the Middle East, as P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas traveled to Saudi Arabia to talk about “the dangers facing the Palestinian cause.”
Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister Riyad Malki told the Voice of Palestine that the Palestinians “view the Warsaw conference as a plot against the Palestinian cause.”
The summit, which the Palestinians were not invited to, is seeking, among numerous issues, to combat the Iranian threat and solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Known as “The Ministerial Conference to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East,” it will consist of U.S. and Israeli officials, as well as the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Bahrain.
Meanwhile, Abbas will meet Saudi King Salman regarding “the current political situation and the dangers facing the Palestinian cause, especially Jerusalem,” announced the Palestinian leader’s office.
“The visit is a continuation of the communication between the two leaderships under difficult international circumstances, as well as attempts to terminate the Palestinian cause,” according to the official Palestinian news agency WAFA, quoting the Palestinian ambassador in Saudi Arabia.
Guaidó seeks to restore ties between Venezuela and Israel
(JNS)—Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó—recognized by numerous countries, including the United States and Israel as its interim leader amid pushback against Socialist leader Nicolás Maduro—said he is looking to renew the ties with Israel that his country ceased a decade ago to align itself with the Palestinians.
“I am very happy to announce that the process of stabilizing relations with Israel is in full swing,” Guaidó told Israel Hayom. “It is very important for us. We will renew ties, later we will announce the appointment of an ambassador to Israel, and we really hope an ambassador from Israel will come to us.”
When asked by the outlet if the embassy would be in Jerusalem, Guaidó said “it is one of the subjects we are talking about. I will declare the resumption of ties and the site of the embassy at the proper time.”
Many members of the Venezuelan Jewish community have fled the increasing poverty and anti-Semitism prevalent in the country, having moved to Israel and other countries.
Concerning the existing community there, Guaidó said: “There are many Venezuelans in Israel and many Jews in Venezuela. This [Jewish] community is very active and prosperous, one which has contributed greatly to our society. I assume they are happy we are renewing ties with Israel.”
Rescue dog rewarded for finding bodies of Israeli sisters missing in Argentina
By JTA staff
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA)—A German shepherd received a cash reward offered by an Israeli family for finding the bodies of two sisters who were missing in Argentina for two weeks.
The women were the mother and aunt of an Israeli man being charged with homicide in their deaths.
Ruca and her trainer, Ayelen Castro, received the more than $1,300 reward on Friday at the Sociedad Israelita de Beneficencia Jewish center in Mendoza, in the northwest of the country. The money will go to the School of Canine Training of Mendoza, or Escam.
Several local Jewish leaders attended the ceremony.
“She did find our sisters, alerted the police and earned the reward we offered. Ruca is a German shepherd and doesn’t have much use for cash, therefore we have decided to reward her organization, Escam,” the family said.
The family also presented Castro with a personal cash reward “for the excellent job of training of Roca, and for helping to bring some closure to our families, now that we can bring them to eternal rest in peace, side by side, in their family home of Israel.”
It is not the first complex case that the dog has helped solve. In 2009, Ruca found the body of a missing child near a river in Lujan, and has been involved in several other successful search and rescue operations.
The bodies of Dr. Lily Pereg, 54, an associate professor of microbiology at the University of New England in Australia, and her sister, Pyrhia Sarusi, 63, were found on Jan. 26 buried under debris in the home of Sarusi’s son, Gil Pereg, in Mendoza province, in the northwest of the country. The sisters, who had been traveling in Argentina, had not been heard from since Jan. 12.
Their bodies arrived in Israel over the weekend and were taken for additional forensic exams.
Pereg was charged in Argentina with homicide in the death of his aunt and aggravated homicide in the death of his mother.