Weekly roundup of world briefs
October 11, 2019
Broward County, Florida commission passes anti-Israel boycott resolution
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—A county commission in southeastern Florida unanimously passed a resolution opposing the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.
The Broward County Commission passed the resolution at a meeting on Sept. 24.
The commission said in the four-page resolution that it “opposes the BDS movement targeting Israel, including all efforts to delegitimize the state of Israel and efforts to target United States companies that are engaged in legal commercial activities,” and “urges Israelis and Palestinians to return to direct negotiations as the only way to achieve an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the Sun-Sentinel reported.
It also notes that “the BDS Movement effectively seeks to destroy the State of Israel as a homeland to the Jewish people, and seeks to establish one or two Palestinian-majority states.”
The Florida state legislature in 2016 passed an anti-BDS bill that prevents Florida state institutions from investing in or contracting with companies that boycott companies or products made in Israel. In April, the state legislature passed a bill that amends the state’s discrimination laws to equate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis led a trade mission to Israel in late May, and convened a state Cabinet meeting at the Knesset.
Over 130,000 Jews of Sephardic heritage applied for Spanish citizenship under law of return
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Over 130,000 Jews of Sephardic heritage applied for Spanish citizenship under a 2015 law giving the right to naturalization to descendants of Sephardic Jews.
The application window for the Spanish law of return expired at the end of September. More than half of the applications were filed last month, most from Latin American countries, the AFP French news agency reported.
Under the law, descendants of Sephardic Jews may become citizens if their application is approved for lineage by the umbrella group of Spanish Jewish communities and the Justice Ministry.
As of the beginning of September, Spain had naturalized at least 8,300 applicants under the law, with many applications awaiting processing.
In both Spain and Portugal, which passed a similar but open-ended law shortly before Spain, the Sephardic naturalization laws were described as aimed to atone for the state-led campaigns of persecution against the Jews in the 15th century and 16th century known as the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition.
Sheldon Adelson ordered to pay damages to Jewish Democratic group
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—A federal judge in New York has ordered billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson to pay compensatory damages and legal fees to the National Jewish Democratic Council for using “legal sadism” to disband the organization.
The NJDC now exists in name only as it works to recover its debts from its legal battle with Adelson that began in 2012.
In his ruling Monday, U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken said that “Adelson has failed to demonstrate that his initial lawsuit was a ‘good faith’ communication,” Courthouse News reported.
Adelson had sued the National Jewish Democratic Council in 2012 over an online petition alleging that the major Republican donor allowed prostitution at his casino in Macau. The petition included a hyperlink to an Associated Press article carrying allegations against Adelson. Much of the legal argument was over whether attaching a hyperlink is a clear enough signal that the defendants were citing available information.
The hyperlink was embedded in an online petition urging Republicans not to take money from Adelson, who in addition to being a major giver to the Republican Party also funds Jewish, pro-Israel and medical philanthropies.
The linked AP article reported on a lawsuit by a former employee of Adelson alleging that the employee was terminated for, among other reasons, refusing to allow prostitutes to ply their trade at the casino.
NJDC attorney Richard Emery told Courthouse News that he plans to depose Adelson on Oct. 15 in Las Vegas, where the lawsuit was first filed. The group is seeking damages under a statute in Nevada that penalizes frivolous lawsuits, in part about 12 other cases in which Adelson sued parties hoping to “destroy them economically,” to establish a pattern of legal behavior.
NJDC and former chairman Marc Stanley are seeking $24 million in punitive damages.
Brooklyn synagogue’s windows broken during Rosh Hashanah prayers
By Josefin Dolsten
NEW YORK (JTA)—The windows of a synagogue in Brooklyn were broken during Rosh Hashanah services.
A video showing people throwing milk crates at the the Rivnitz synagogue in the Williamsburg neighborhood was circulated Wednesday on social media.
Police said that the incident took place on Monday afternoon and they were searching for two females who were seen in the video, according to WPIX-TV.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo both condemned the vandalism.
“This is a shocking act of hate,” de Blasio wrote on Twitter. “We WILL find the perpetrators and hold them responsible.”
Cuomo said in a statement that he was “disgusted and enraged” by the incident and that he was directing the State Police’s hate crimes task force to work with the police on the investigation.
The Anti-Defamation League said it was “deeply disturbed” by the video.
“At a time when the Brooklyn Jewish community is already on edge in the wake of a series of anti-Semitic incidents, it is extremely upsetting to see this congregation targeted during what is otherwise supposed to be a joyous celebration of the Jewish New Year,” Evan Bernstein, the regional director of the organization’s New York-New Jersey office, said in a statement.
There has been a spate of attacks in recent months against visibly Orthodox Jewish men in Brooklyn.
Bernie Sanders campaign events canceled ‘until further notice’ following heart procedure
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Sen. Bernie Sanders had two stents inserted for an artery blockage.
A Wednesday statement by Jeff Weaver, an aide to the Vermont Democrat and presidential hopeful, said Sanders had “experienced some chest discomfort” at a Tuesday campaign event. Testing found the artery blockage and the procedure was completed.
“Sen. Sanders is conversing and in good spirits. He will be resting up over the next few days,” the statement said.
The Jewish lawmaker’s campaign events have been canceled “until further notice,” Weaver said.
Sanders, 78, currently is polling in third place in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, behind Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden.
German city withdraws award to artist over his backing for boycott Israel movement
By Josefin Dolsten
(JTA)—The German city of Aachen nixed an award to a Lebanon-born artist after discovering that he is a supporter of the boycott Israel movement.
Walid Raad will not get the Aachen Art Prize due to his political views, the mayor said Monday. The prestigious prize comes with an award of approximately $10,900.
“According to research, we have to assume that the designated prizewinner is a supporter of the BDS movement and has been involved in various measures for the cultural boycott of Israel,” Mayor Marcel Philipp said in a statement, according to ARTnews.
The statement said that the contemporary media artist had been asked about his support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement against Israel and that his reply had been “evasive.”
Raad currently lives in New York, where he teaches at the Cooper Union School of Art.
In May, Germany passed a resolution calling the BDS movement anti-Semitic, becoming the first major European parliament to do so.
In 2014, Raad signed a letter calling on artists to withdraw from an exhibition because it was being shown at Israel’s Technion Institute of Technology. More than 100 artists and intellectuals signed the letter organized by the BDS Arts Coalition.
Last month, the German city of Dortmund withdrew a literary award to British author Kamila Shamsie for her support of the boycott Israel movement.
Corbyn sparks controversy for Rosh Hashanah video featuring Hamas supporter
(JNS)—Jeremy Corbyn sparked outrage for releasing a Rosh Hashanah video that features an activist who last year led a public Jewish mourning prayer for dead members of Hamas.
In the clip posted on Twitter ahead of the Jewish holiday, Corbyn visits a grocery store with Jewish Labour Party members to discuss the symbolism of honey and apples for the Jewish new year and promote Labour’s “Green Industrial Revolution” program.
Alongside him is Rob Abrams, a Jewish anti-Zionist activist who in May 2018 led the Kaddish prayer in Parliament Square for 62 Palestinians killed on the Israel-Gaza border, at least 50 of whom were Hamas operatives, according to the Jewish Chronicle.
Israel activist David Collier wrote in response to the clip, “There is no way you are not aware much of the Jewish community were outraged when this person explicitly led a prayer service for dead Hamas terrorists. Which makes your actions here deliberate. Your spiteful nature highlights you are a real danger.”
Also in the video is Labour counselor Sue Lukes, who tweeted an article titled the “Jewish ‘War against Corbyn’ risks bringing real antisemitism to Britain” and wrote a piece to “honor” Malia Bouattia, the former National Union of Students president who was accused of anti-Semitism.
Political activist Arsen Ostrovsky replied to the clip saying, “The Jewish people will continue to have a sweet & happy #RoshHashanah (New Year), notwithstanding the darkness, hate and bitterness YOUR leadership has brought the community!”
A teen allegedly attacked a Jewish woman in Brooklyn, pulling off her scarf and wig
By Josefin Dolsten
NEW YORK (JTA)—Police said a Jewish woman reported being harassed in Brooklyn on Rosh Hashanah.
The 22-year-old said that she was approached on Sunday evening by a female teenager who “pulled her scarf and wig from her head,” a New York Police detective, Annette Shelton, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in an email.
The incident occurred in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood and the perpetrator, who was described as being 16 years old, was accompanied by another teenager, the woman told police.
Shelton said that the police’s Hate Crimes Task Force was investigating the incident.
The incident is the second alleged attack that occurred on Rosh Hashanah in the borough. On Monday, the windows of a synagogue were broken in the Williamsburg neighborhood.
That incident drew condemnations from Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
A Swedish political party says it will fight to ban circumcision
By Josefin Dolsten
(JTA)—A Swedish political party has voted to change its official stance in favor of banning circumcision.
The Swedish Center Party voted 314-166 at its annual meeting to work to fight the nonmedical circumcision of boys. Party chief Annie Loof was among the party leaders who criticized the vote.
The Center Party received approximately 8 percent of the votes in last year’s national election, earning 31 seats in the 349-seat parliament. It broke with its center-right alliance earlier this year and now backs the left-wing ruling coalition, though it’s not officially part of the bloc.
The vote Saturday drew fierce debate in the country between advocates, who say circumcision infringes on children’s rights, and critics, who say a ban would threaten the country’s Jewish and Muslim populations.
“A ban on circumcision would make Jewish life in Sweden impossible,” Aron Verständig, chairman of The Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities, said Sunday in a statement.
According to Swedish law, circumcision can be performed only by medical practitioners or those licensed by the country’s Health and Welfare Board.
Sweden’s Jewish community numbers about 20,000 and has faced a range of challenges in recent years—from the rise of anti-Semitism that at times has turned violent to policy proposals that community members say make their lives difficult or impossible.
There have been attempts to ban circumcision and the import of kosher meat, citing children’s and animal’s rights. A 1988 law banned the slaughter of poultry without stunning, which makes kosher slaughter impossible, though Jews were initially granted an exemption. A 1937 law had banned the kosher slaughter of cows and sheep.
Anti-Semitic incidents in Argentina more than doubled in 2018 over the previous year
By JTA Staff
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA)—Anti-Semitic incidents in Argentina soared by 107 percent in 2018 over the previous year, according to a new report.
The 20th edition of the annual Anti-Semitism Report prepared by the research body of the DAIA Jewish political umbrella group showed that nearly 90 percent of the 834 complaints filed dealt with incidents that occurred online, on social networks or on news websites.
“We are losing the cultural battle against hate speech,” DAIA President Jorge Knoblovits said in presenting the figures on Wednesday. “Our efforts are not enough; the increase is fierce.”
Knoblovits also said that the situation has become worse in 2019, with not only online but also physical attacks, including the assault of a rabbi in Rosario in June.
The 2017 report from the DAIA’s Center for Social Studies had shown a 14 percent rise from the previous year.
This year’s report also provided a study about attitudes toward Jews in Argentina by the Gino Germani Institute at the University of Buenos Aires. The survey of 1,443 people revealed that 87 percent “do not know or have a misconception about what is Zionism” and 61 percent agreed with the assertion that “Jews had too much power in financial markets.”
Netanyahu-Liberman meeting makes no progress toward forming coalition government
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—A meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Liberman, who prevented Netanyahu from forming a coalition government following elections in April, lasted for less than an hour and failed to make progress toward forming a unity government.
“Netanyahu offered Lieberman to join the government as soon as possible, to enable the formation of a national unity government,” the prime minister’s Likud party said in a statement.
Liberman reportedly reiterated his commitment to a secular unity government made up of his nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, the center-left Blue and White and the right-wing Likud.
His party’s eight Knesset seats could put either the left wing or right wing over the 61 seats needed to form a more narrow government.
Following his meeting with Netanyahu, Liberman was seen meeting at the Knesset with Blue and White’s No. 2, Yair Lapid.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, Likud announced that Netanyahu is considering snap leadership elections within the party.
“The purpose of the move is shattering the illusion of a ‘rebellion in Likud’ that other parties are wishing for, something which is holding them up from joining a unity government,” the party said.
Blue and White narrowly won the most seats in the national election last month, but Netanyahu was tasked by President Reuven Rivlin with forming a government since more seats were pledged to him by the right-wing bloc.
Also Thursday, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said in an interview with the Kan public broadcaster that Netanyahu would be willing to take a leave of absence from leadership if he is indicted in any of the three corruption cases against him. Pre-indictment hearings are being held this week and into next week.
The new Knesset was scheduled to be sworn in later in the day.