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Weekly roundup of world briefs

 

November 1, 2019



Israeli soldier injured by rock during clashes with residents of Yitzhar settlement

By Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA)—An Israeli soldier was hit and injured with a rock during clashes with residents of the northern West Bank settlement of Yitzhar.

The settlers also punctured the tires of several military vehicles, the IDF said.

The IDF said it used riot dispersal methods, including shooting in the air, to stop the clashes.

“It is inconceivable that IDF soldiers, who spend their days in defense of the settlers, would be attacked by those protected by them,” IDF Chief of Staff, Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, said in a statement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also serves as Defense Minister, condemned the violence. “I strongly condemn any assault on IDF soldiers. There will be no tolerance for lawbreakers who raise a hand to our soldiers,” he said in a statement.

Benny Gantz, head of the Blue and White party and a former IDF chief, said in a statement addressed to soldiers and their commanders: “The State of Israel and the people of Israel support you and strengthen you.  We will not stand for nor allow any harm to IDF soldiers.”

The incident comes following several instances of violence by settlers in the area of Yitzhar in recent days, including one in which masked youths attacked Jewish volunteers assisting Palestinian farmers with the olive harvest, injuring five volunteers including sending an 80-year-old rabbi to the hospital due to his injuries.

On Saturday, volunteers from the Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din filmed what it said were masked settlers throwing stones at Palestinian farmers and then stealing their olives.

On Friday, a youth from Yitzhar was arrested after he allegedly threatened an IDF battalion commander, leading to anger from other youths. Yitzhar leadership objected to the arrest being made close to the start of Shabbat.

He’s back. Bernie Sanders addresses rally of 20,000 in Queens.

By Marcy Oster

(JTA)—Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders told a rally in Queens, New York “I am back.”

Sanders addressed a rally on Saturday attended by an estimated 20,000 supporters, though the Sanders campaign put attendance at 25,000. It is the Vermont senator’s first campaign event since he had a heart attack earlier this month. Sanders pledged after his release from the hospital and again during last week’s presidential debate to move forward with a “vigorous” campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

He was introduced by New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who announced her endorsement, saying that Sanders was an inspiration for her decision to throw her hat into the political ring, and for her support of progressive policies.

Sacha Baron Cohen makes Nazi analogy to slam Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook policy

By Ben Sales

(JTA)—Is Facebook a haven for free expression? Or is it like a restaurant serving neo-Nazis?

Depends who you ask.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave an impassioned defense Thursday of his company’s policy of allowing a wide spectrum of speech on the platform. Speaking at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Zuckerberg invoked the First Amendment and the civil rights movement to defend his refusal to limit inflammatory discourse on his social media giant.

“Some people argue internet platforms should allow all expression protected by the First Amendment, even though the First Amendment explicitly doesn’t apply to companies,” Zuckerberg said. “I’m proud that our values at Facebook are inspired by the American tradition, which is more supportive of free expression than anywhere else.”

But Sacha Baron Cohen, who knows something about irreverent speech himself (see: “Borat,” “Ali G,” “The Dictator” and nearly every other film role he has ever played), says that Zuckerberg should take his role more seriously as the CEO of a private company.

In a tweet thread, Cohen wrote that Zuckerberg allowing offensive speech on Facebook is like a restaurant welcoming anti-Semites who shout anti-Semitic insults.

“If he owned a fancy restaurant and 4 neo-Nazis came goose-stepping into the dining room and were talking loudly about wanting to kill ‘Jewish scum,’ would he serve them an elegant eight course meal? Or would tell them to get the f**k out of his restaurant?” Cohen wrote. “He has every legal right, indeed a moral duty, to tell them to get the f**k out of his restaurant.”

Hunter Biden and his Jewish wife have matching Hebrew tattoos

By Josefin Dolsten

(JTA)—Hunter Biden and his wife shared their dramatic love story—and it includes matching Hebrew tattoos.

Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, told ABC that he married his now-wife Melissa Cohen Biden within six days of meeting her.

“I instantly fell in love with her,” Biden, 49, said in an interview that aired last week. “And then I’ve fallen in love with her more every day.”

Within days of meeting his Jewish wife, Biden got a tattoo with the word “shalom,” which means “peace” in Hebrew, to match one that she had. The pair wed in May.

Melissa Cohen Biden, 33, is a filmmaker from South Africa but is now a naturalized U.S. citizen.

In the interview, Biden also spoke about his struggles with addiction and how he has sought treatment.

Hunter Biden isn’t the first in his family to marry a Jew. His late brother, Beau, married Hallie Olivere, who is Jewish. Following Beau’s death from brain cancer, Hunter and Hallie had a romantic relationship. Hunter’s sister Ashley is married to Howard Krein, a Jewish doctor.

Jews interpret a verse in Leviticus to mean that tattoos are not allowed under Jewish law, so body ink is considered taboo in many traditional Jewish communities.

Billy Eichner’s ‘Billy on the Street’ is coming to Netflix

By Emily Burack

(JTA)—Scream if you’re excited: Jewish comedian Billy Eichner’s show “Billy on the Street” is coming to Netflix.

The four seasons “of chaos and joy,” as Eichner calls them, hit the streaming platform Nov. 1.

Eichner’s show first aired in 2012, with three 10-episode seasons on the Fuse Network, before moving to TruTV for seasons four and five in 2015 and 2016. Subsequent episodes and clips have been exclusively online distributed by Funny or Die.

Eichner, whose profile got a boost after a star turn on “Parks and Recreation,” was born in Queens, and the show is set on the streets of New York. The premise is simple: Eichner runs around shouting questions with a celebrity in tow. The show features several Jewish-themed games, such “Whistle-Blow That Jew!”

“I had very loud parents, and you’re in New York—it’s loud outside,” he has said. “And I am someone who likes to hit a line very hard.”

“Billy on the Street” has been nominated for three Emmy awards, but has yet to win one.

Most Israelis support a government with 2 large political parties, survey finds

By Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A majority of Israelis support a new government based on two large political parties and rotating the post of prime minister between their leaders, a new survey found.

Fifty-six percent of some 600 respondents, Jews and Arabs, backed the alternating plan between longtime incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu, head of the Likud party, and Benny Gantz, his counterpart from the Blue and White party.

Twenty percent said they would support the idea only if Gantz is first and 14 percent responded similarly about Netanyahu. An additional 22 percent didn’t care who served first and 32 percent oppose any rotation.

They were responding to a special survey conducted by the Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research at the Israel Democracy Institute.

Sixty-five percent surveyed believe that Netanyahu should resign as head of Likud if he is indicted in any of the three corruption investigations against him. Another 53.5 percent believe he should resign now.

In the event of a resignation, lawmaker Gideon Saar was the choice of successor by 41 percent of respondents.

Meanwhile, a majority of voters in every party or faction that has entered the Knesset following the September elections said they would vote the same way again, including 88.5 percent from Likud and 84 percent from Blue and White.

The survey was conducted Oct. 3-6 with 501 respondents interviewed in Hebrew and 100 in Arabic. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.1 percent.

5 Democratic presidential candidates to address J Street conference

By Marcy Oster

(JTA)—Five Democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential nomination will address the J Street national conference.

The liberal Jewish Middle East policy group will hold its conference in Washington, D.C., beginning on Saturday.

The candidates are Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Michael Bennet of Colorado, along with Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, and former U.S. Housing Secretary Julian Castro. In onstage interviews, they will discuss the future of the U.S.-Israel relationship, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and American foreign policy in the Middle East, among other topics.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer also will address the gathering.

Other prominent speakers include former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak; Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List of Arab parties in Israel; and Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Saeb Erefkat.

On Tuesday, conference participants will visit Capitol Hill to discuss advocacy priorities with members of Congress.

ICE officer who drove truck into Jewish protesters will not be charged with a crime

By Ben Sales

(JTA)—A grand jury declined to indict a former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer who drove his truck into a row of Jewish protesters at an ICE detention center.

Capt. Thomas Woodworth resigned his position days after the August incident at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, where protesters were blocking an entrance. The demonstrators were part of Never Again Action, a new Jewish group protesting ICE and U.S. immigration policy by getting arrested at ICE detention facilities.

The grand jury voted not to indict other ICE officers on the scene.

The investigation included interviews with more than 70 witnesses, according to the Boston Globe.

“The grand jury worked really hard to sort through the evidence and testimony that was presented to them,” Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha said Wednesday, according to the Globe.

Regarding Never Again Action, he said, “I recognize there is disappointment here, I understand how they feel, and it is not lost on me the pain that they’re in.”

Never Again Action condemned the decision and called on the Wyatt facility to be closed.

“We are greatly disappointed that Mr. Woodworth will not be held accountable for his irresponsible, dangerous, and violent actions against peaceful protesters on August 14, nor will the officers who recklessly deployed pepper spray into the crowd that night,” the group’s Rhode Island chapter said in a statement Wednesday. “Mr. Woodworth should be in jail but, more importantly, the Wyatt should be shut down, the state should ban all collaboration with ICE, and ICE detainees at the Wyatt should be freed.”

After meeting with Jewish anti-ICE group, Rhode Island governor supports ban on private prisons

By Ben Sales

(JTA)—Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo announced her support for a ban on private prisons in the state after meeting with Never Again RI, the local chapter of a Jewish group that protests U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Rhode Island has no private prisons, according to Josh Block, Raimondo’s press secretary. And there is no state bill under consideration that would enact such a ban, though the governor favors one.

Block said that such a ban, if passed, would prevent a private prison from being established in the state.

“This is a moral and deeply personal issue for many Rhode Island families,” Raimondo said following her Oct. 17 meeting with representatives of Never Again RI and other groups. “President Trump’s actions on immigration are inhumane and immoral, and I stand with Rhode Islanders in opposing his policies.”

Never Again RI is affiliated with Never Again Action, a new Jewish group protesting ICE and the Trump administration’s immigration policy by being arrested at ICE detention facilities.

In August, an ICE officer drove his truck into a row of Jewish protesters at a Rhode Island detention center. The officer, Capt. Thomas Woodworth, has since resigned his position. He will not be charged with a crime, the state’s attorney general announced Wednesday.

In a statement at the time, Raimondo expressed “outrage” at the incident.

Aaron Regunberg, a Never Again RI activist and former state representative, called for legislation to ban private prisons.

“This is an important first step toward ending ICE’s attacks on our immigrant neighbors here in Rhode Island,” Regunberg said in a statement Oct. 17 after meeting with the governor.

Snoop Dogg will promote an Israeli cannabis tech startup

By Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Snoop Dogg, an outspoken advocate of marijuana use, is the new brand representative for an Israeli cannabis tech startup.

Seedo, based in Yokneam in northern Israel, sells an automatic hydroponic growing machine for herbs and vegetables that is used for growing cannabis.

Snoop Dogg has joined Seedo “to educate consumers on the environmental benefits and social opportunity of Seedo’s home and commercial grow technology,” the company said in a statement.

The American rapper will contribute to a social responsibility program that will share Seedo’s growing practices and provide donated Seedo products for local communities, neighborhood organizations and influencers. The initiative will start in his hometown of Long Beach, California, according to the company.

“Promoting a healthier lifestyle by providing my friends and communities with products that allow for growth in unused urban spaces is something I’m all the way down with” Snoop Dogg said. “Seedo creates cost savings and the opportunity for all people to benefit from agricultural technologies.”

Tornadoes damage Dallas Jewish federation and JCC buildings

By Marcy Oster

(JTA)—Nine tornadoes caused considerable damage in North Texas, including at the Jewish federation and JCC buildings in Dallas.

No one was killed or badly injured in Sunday’s storms, the Dallas Morning News reported.

The tornadoes also damaged homes in Dallas-area Jewish neighborhoods, according to the Texas Jewish Post.

The Dallas Jewish Community Center said on Facebook that its neighborhood “took a hard hit” and was without power and landlines as of Tuesday evening.

The post said the JCC has launched cleanup and repairs at its campus, and is working with city and safety officials “to determine when it is safe to welcome guests back to the center.” It pledged to “be ready to assist those in need when we reopen.”

The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas building sustained “substantial damage,” the organization said on Facebook. The federation said it hoped to be functioning offsite by sometime Wednesday.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those whose homes and neighborhoods were impacted,” the post said. “We will rebuild together. We will heal together.”

The Dallas Fire-Rescue Department has counted 104 buildings destroyed, 286 with major damage and 344 with minor damage, according to reports. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster across 15 counties in North Texas, including Dallas.

 

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