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Palestinian Authority arrests then releases Hebron businessman who attended Bahrain summit

By Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The Palestinian Authority arrested and released the next day a Palestinian businessman from the West Bank city of Hebron who attended the United States-sponsored economic summit in Bahrain.

Saleh Abu Mayala was arrested on Friday night upon his return home from Bahrain by Palestinian intelligence forces and released by Saturday night, according to reports.

A second Palestinian businessman who attended the conference was nearly arrested in Hebron but he crossed to an Israeli-controlled area to prevent the arrest, the Times of Israel reported, citing another Palestinian businessman who had attended the conference, the rollout first part of the Trump administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday that Mayala was released “due to American pressure. His only crime was that he attended an economic conference designed to advance the Palestinian economy.”

Reports noted that the PA may have been seeking intelligence on the conference from the businessmen.

U.S. Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt appeared to acknowledge that pressure, tweeting on Sunday that the Trump administration was “pleased” that the PA released Mayala, and that it was looking forward to “continuing our conversation w[ith] all who attended the workshop & anyone else who wants a better future for the Palestinians.”

Did a Brooklyn judicial candidate adopt her Jewish husband’s last name to win the race?

By Marcy Oster

(JTA)—An Orthodox Jewish judicial candidate in Brooklyn says one of her opponents changed her last name to that of her Jewish husband in order to win the race.

Civil court judicial candidate Caroline Piela ran for office under the last name Cohen, which she officially changed in February just weeks before she announced her candidacy despite being married since 2006, the New York Post reported.

Tehilah Berman, 49, also a candidate for the judgeship in Brooklyn’s 6th Municipal District, called the name change “deception,” according to the Post.

“Catering to religious groups is not proper in this democracy,” Berman, an Orthodox Jew from Flatbush, told the Post. “People should be proud of their religion and not make believe they are something else.”

Cohen won Tuesday’s election with 44.24 percent of the vote. Berman came in last in the field of four with 14.53 percent.

“To the extent that I received support from the Orthodox community, it was because those folks saw who I am and what I did,” Cohen told the Post.

“I know Tehilah Berman is an Orthodox woman, and I believe her name to be very identifiably Jewish, and Ms. Berman did not do nearly as well as I did,” she said.

One of Cohen’s ads in Jewish publications in Brooklyn included the biblical quote, in Hebrew letters, “Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof,” or “justice, justice, you shall pursue.”

Best-selling author says appearances in Britain scrapped because he is Jewish

By Marcy Oster

(JTA)—A best-selling author said he was “shocked and upset” to learn that two British literary events declined to invite him to speak after learning he was Jewish.

Richard Zimler’s newest book is “The Gospel According to Lazarus.” He wrote in the British daily newspaper The Guardian that his publicist was “turned down by two cultural organizations that had previously shown enthusiasm for hosting an event with me. ‘They asked me if you were Jewish, and the moment I said you were, they lost all interest,” his publicist said.

The organizations reportedly feared backlash from the pro-Palestinian movements including the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

“If cultural organizations are afraid of hosting events for Jewish writers, then Britain has taken a big step backwards,” Zimler wrote.

Zimler, who wrote the best seller “The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon” published in 1996, was born in the United States and lives in Portugal and said he has no ties to Israel.

His new novel is set 2,000 years in the past in ancient Israel, not the modern state, and deals with Jesus’ relationship with Lazarus, who he raised from the dead.  It was released in the United Kingdom in April.

Zimler wondered in his column: “Are there Jews—scientists, engineers and professors, for example—who are denied jobs in the UK or lose contracts because of prejudice? Five or 10 years ago, I’d have said it was highly improbable. After my recent experience... I’d say it was entirely possible.

“If you fail to be welcoming to Jewish writers and artists because you fear a backlash, then your cowardice makes it possible for the haters to have their way—to spread their irrational dislike of Jews and make shunning them seem acceptable,” Zimler also said.

Pittsburgh Jewish federation gives over $650,000 to Christchurch victims

By Marcy Oster

(JTA)—The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh will give more than $650,000 to victims of the Christchurch terror attacks on two mosques that left 51 worshippers dead.

More than $60,000 of that total was raised by the Tree of Life congregation, which was targeted by an anti-Semitic gunman five months earlier on Oct. 27, 2018.

“After the March 15 attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, we feel compelled to come to the aid of those communities, just as our Jewish community was so compassionately supported only a few short months ago by people around the world of many faiths. We recall with love the immediate, overwhelming support Tree of Life received from our Muslim brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh,” the congregation wrote on the GoFundMe page it set up two days after the Christchurch attack in order to raise funds for the Federation’s effort.

The money will be transferred to the Christchurch Foundation, and will be used for counseling and other support services, education and vocational training, medical treatment and financial planning for the victims and their immediate families, the Federation announced on Friday, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

The money also will be used for programs that bring the Muslim and Jewish communities together, according to the report.

White supremacist who killed woman at Charlottesville rally sentenced to life in prison

By Ben Sales

(JTA)—The man who drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters at the 2017 neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, killing Heather Heyer, has been sentenced to life in prison.

James Alex Fields, Jr., a self-identified white supremacist, had pleaded guilty to the attack at the “Unite the Right” rally in August 2017, according to NBC’s Washington, D.C., affiliate. In addition to killing Heyer, the attack injured more than two dozen others.

Fields will be sentenced on separate state charges next month. By pleading guilty, he avoided the death penalty. He apologized for his crime at the sentencing hearing.

“I apologize for the hurt and loss I’ve caused,” he said, according to NBC. “Every day I think about how things could have gone differently and how I regret my actions. I’m sorry.”

Iran in talks to salvage nuclear deal

By Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA)—Officials from Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China asked Iranian counterparts not to abandon the nuclear deal that the United States has left.

The officials, whose countries still subscribe to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action spearheaded by former President Barack Obama, met the Iranians in Vienna on Friday, Reuters reported.

The talks were a “last chance for the remaining parties... to gather and see how they can meet their commitments towards Iran,” Reuters quoted Iranian diplomat Abbas Mousavi as saying. He complained that the deal is falling short of providing the economic benefits envisaged by Iran when the United States was still a party to the deal.

President Donald Trump last year took the United States out of the deal, citing Iran’s expansionism and involvement in terrorism. U.S. sanctions were snapped back on Iran and on international firms conducting business with it.

Israel also opposes the deal, which offers Iran relief from some international sanctions in exchange for its scaling back for 10 years parts of its nuclear program.

The renewed sanctions and other developments have sent the Iranian currency into a free-fall. Traded at 3,500 rial for $1 in 2016, it is now traded at 132,000 to the dollar. Several major firms have left Iran following the U.S. withdrawal from the deal.

The deal specifies several thresholds—limitations imposed on the size and nature of nuclear activity in Iran. Iran said it may enrich uranium to a purity forbidden under the deal unless it was changed to its satisfaction by July 7.

Holocaust survivor calls for Ocasio-Cortez to be removed from Congress for comments

(JNS)—Holocaust survivor Edward Mosberg accused U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) on Saturday of “spreading anti-Semitism, hatred and stupidity” and called for her to be ousted from Congress.

“She should be removed from Congress. She’s spreading anti-Semitism, hatred and stupidity,” said Mosberg, 93. “The people on the border aren’t forced to be there; they go there on their own will. If someone doesn’t know the difference, either they’re playing stupid or they just don’t care.”

The freshman congresswoman has come under fire for saying in an Instagram video a few weeks ago that the United States is “running concentration camps on our southern border,” in reference to the Trump administration’s policies regarding illegal immigrants.

Last week, Ocasio-Cortez rejected an invitation to tour with Mosberg, who is the president of the organization From the Depths.

“Her statement is evil,” said Mosberg. “It hurts a lot of people. At the concentration camp, we were not free. We were forced there by the Germans who executed and murdered people. There’s no way you can compare.”

Ambassador Danon calls for sanctions worldwide on Iran

(JNS)—Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon called for the international community to sanction Iran in response to the International Atomic Energy Agency announcing on Monday that the regime exceeded the uranium enrichment limit under the 2015 nuclear deal.

Danon said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “revealed last year that Iran never intended to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Now, the regime just demonstrated it by enriching over [600 pounds] of uranium,” referring to the maximum of low-enriched uranium allowed under the agreement.

In April 2018, Netanyahu revealed that Israel had secretly obtained tens of thousands of pieces of documentation apparently demonstrating that “Iran is brazenly lying when it says it never had a nuclear-weapons program. The files prove that.”

Israel’s Channel 13 reported on Monday that Netanyahu said that Israel will reveal further evidence that Iran has lied about its nuclear initiative.

While 660 pounds is not enough to produce a nuclear bomb, exceeding the limit is a sign of Iran appearing to disregard the 2015 accord, which the United States withdrew from in May 2018, in addition to reimposing sanctions lifted under it alongside enacting new penalties against Tehran.

Moreover, “If any one of the European parties to the deal—Britain, France and Germany—believe Iran has violated the agreement, they can trigger a dispute resolution process that could, within as few as 65 days, end at the U.N. Security Council with a so-called snapback of U.N. sanctions on Iran,” reported Reuters.

“The world must join the U.S. in sanctioning Iran for this belligerent behavior,” added Danon. “It can never be allowed to acquire nuclear capabilities.”

15 killed in Israeli airstrikes against Iranian, Hezbollah targets in Syria

(JNS)—Israeli warplanes attacked multiple targets in Syria early Monday morning, killing at least nine Syrian and Iranian military personnel and at least six civilians, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Reports indicated that injuries occurred as a result.

Israeli jets and naval gunships targeted at least 10 sites around Homs and Damascus, as well as the Syrian border with Lebanon, with Syrian air-defense forces opening fire on Israeli missiles. Targets included the Jamraya research facility—considered one of the most important research facilities in the country—and Hezbollah and Iranian bases.

According to Syrian state news, children and one infant were among the casualties in Sahnaya, southwest of Damascus.

“A military source said that the army air defenses confronted hostile missiles launched by Israeli warplanes at midnight from Lebanese airspace towards some of our military sites in Homs and the [area] of Damascus,” SANA reported.

Lebanon’s Al Mayadeen television reported damage in Al-Kiswah near Damascus, a location that had previously been targeted by Israel and contains a weapons depot.

The attack came just hours after Israeli intelligence company ImageSat confirmed that Russian S-300 air-defense batteries were fully operational near the town of Masyaf in northern Syria.

Following the Israeli strikes, an unidentified flying object exploded into a mountainside north of Nicosia in Cyprus.

Kudret Özersay, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, posted on social media that “the first assessment is that a Russian-made missile, part of the air-defense system, which was part of the air-defense system that took place last night in the face of an [Israeli] air strike against Syria, completed its range and fell into our country after it missed.”

Dozens arrested in demonstrations protesting Ethiopian-Israeli’s shooting death by off-duty cop

By Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Thousands of Ethiopian Israelis and their supporters demonstrated in cities across Israel on Tuesday night to protest the killing two nights earlier of an Ethiopian teen by an off-duty police officer.

At least 60 protesters were arrested and at least 47 police officers were injured as protesters blocked major intersections throughout the country, halting traffic and public transportation.

Some of the protests became violent and included rock throwing, firebombs and burning tires. Police used riot dispersal methods in some cases to remove the protesters, but also kept a low profile elsewhere to prevent clashes.

Solomon Tekah, 19, was killed Sunday night in Kiryat Haim, in northern Israel. The officer was at a nearby park with his wife and children when he attempted to break up a street brawl. He said the teens threw stones at him and he believed he was in mortal danger. The officer is under house arrest.

Tekah’s funeral took place on Tuesday afternoon.

President Reuven Rivlin in a statement issued late Tuesday night called on “all of us to act responsibly and with moderation.”

“I know that you are doing everything in your power to convey the voice of your protest and to lead a change that is all about righting wrongs and creating a better future. No one wants revenge,” he said.

Rivlin added: “This is not a civil war.”

Anti-Semitic trolls ruin Adidas’ Arsenal soccer jersey launch

By Gabe Friedman

(JTA)—Anti-Semitic trolls forced Adidas to scrap a social media promotion for a new jersey made for the London soccer team Arsenal.

The sportswear company’s tool allowed fans to put their Twitter handles on the back of a virtual jersey and tweet an image of it. Some used it to put handle names such as “@GasAllJewss” into the tool. Hashtags such as “#InnocentHitler” also were tweeted on some of the virtual jerseys.

Adidas UK took down the tweets and eventually the entire promotion by Tuesday.

Arsenal is one of London’s most popular teams. Its fans were the subject of anti-Semitic abuse during a game against the Spanish squad Valencia on Holocaust Remembrance Day in May.

 

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