Weekly roundup of world briefs
December 6, 2019
Muslim woman deflects anti-Semitic tirade against man and young sons in London
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—A Muslim woman wearing a hijab confronted a man on an Underground train in London who was verbally attacking a man and his sons, who were wearing kippahs.
The man, in a tirade caught on video, told the family during the Friday ride that they are members of “the Church of Satan,” and said that Jews were behind the slave trade and the 9-11 attacks.
The Jewish father remained calm and ignored the man, though at least one of his young sons looked uncomfortable.
He later told the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism that the video clip of the man’s verbal abuse is only a short part of a 20-minute tirade. He said he wanted to meet the Muslim woman, identified as Asma Shuweikh, in person so that he can thank her.
“We are certain that without her intervention and distraction, he would have continued his abuse which could have escalated to physical violence. I would like to meet Asma in person to thank her,” the statement said.
A second person, a man in a baseball cap, also attempted to intervene, but was threatened by the man spewing hatred.
The unidentified man was arrested on Saturday and charged with an alleged racially aggravated public order offense, the Mirror reported.
Mother of Israeli-American woman imprisoned in Russia asks Putin to pardon her daughter
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—The mother of an Israeli-American woman being held in a Russian prison has asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to pardon her daughter.
Yaffa Issachar, the mother of Naama, sent the letter through the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III, the Hebrew daily Maariv reported.
The Patriarch met last week with Putin in Moscow, where he was visiting by invitation of the Russian Church. He met with Yaffa Issachar in Jerusalem before leaving for Russia and delivered her direct message to Putin.
“Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich! I, Yaffa Issachar, the mother of Na’ama Issachar, who has been in prison for seven months, plead with the heartache of a mother to pardon my daughter and return her to her family,” the message read, according to Maariv.
Issachar was sentenced in Russia last month to 7 1/2 years in prison for drug smuggling. She had been detained in Russia since April after 9 grams of marijuana were found in her luggage before a connecting flight on the way from India to Israel, where she moved while in high school. She had not planned to enter Russia.
Nine grams is less than a third of an ounce and is within the legal limit for personal use in Israel. It generally gets a slap on the wrist in Russia.
Earlier this month, Israel extradited Russian hacker Aleksey Burkov to the United States, where he is wanted on embezzlement charges for a credit card scheme that allegedly stole millions of dollars from American consumers
Russia had tried exchanging Naama Issachar for Burkov, but its advances were turned down by Israel.
106 Democratic congressmen sign letter condemning State Department reversal on settlements
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—More than 100 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, calling on him to “immediately” reverse the decision to declare that West Bank settlements are not illegal.
The letter, led by Rep. Andy Levin of Michigan, was signed by 106 congressmen, including 12 committee chairs.
“This announcement, following the administration’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem outside of a negotiated agreement; its closure of the Palestinian mission in Washington, D.C. and U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem; and its halting of aid Congress appropriated to the West Bank and Gaza, has discredited the United States as an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, severely damaged prospects for peace, and endangered the security of America, Israel, and the Palestinian people,” the letter said.
“The State Department’s unilateral reversal on the status of settlements, without any clear legal justification, therefore has offered a tacit endorsement of settlements, their expansion, and associated demolitions of Palestinian homes,” the letter also said. The decision, it added, undermines America’s “moral standing.”
The letter is backed by the liberal Jewish organization J Street.
Groups from three Jewish streams call on Trump to fire Stephen Miller for white supremacist views
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Organizations representing three streams of Judaism in a joint statement called on President Donald Trump to fire Stephen Miller as his senior policy advisor over his support for white supremacists.
The statement also expressed concern about “the disturbing ways in which his dangerous views have influenced U.S. immigration policy. Such views have no place in the White House or as a basis of American policy.”
The groups signing on to the statement are the Central Conference of American Rabbis, The Rabbinical Assembly, Reconstructing Judaism, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and the Union for Reform Judaism. Orthodox Jewish groups do not appear on the list.
Southern Poverty Law Center earlier this month published hundreds of emails sent by Miller to a reporter at the conservative Breitbart News, many of them racist and anti-immigrant in nature.
“This nation was founded and has been strengthened by immigrants seeking religious freedom and opportunity. Indeed, some of our country’s lowest moments have been when we have excluded or discriminated against groups based on their nationality or heritage,” the statement said.
New York enacts law to teach police officers how to recognize hate crimes amid rise in anti-Semitism
By Ben Sales
NEW YORK (JTA)—New York state police officers must be trained in how to recognize and respond to hate crimes under a new law.
The bill comes as hate crimes in general—and anti-Semitic incidents in particular—are on the rise in New York City. Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn have seen a string of assaults and vandalism directed at Jews and Jewish institutions.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the measure on Monday. Its chief sponsors are State Assemblywoman Nily Rozic of the New York City borough of Queens and State Sen. Todd Kaminsky of Long Island, both Jewish lawmakers.
“Hatred has no place in New York State and we will continue taking aggressive measures to stamp out hate whenever and wherever it rears its ugly head,” Cuomo said in a statement.
The bill instructs the state Division of Human Rights and Hate Crimes Task Force to develop procedures for training law enforcement to handle hate crimes. It does not detail exactly what the training will entail.
“With the steady surge of hate crimes across New York, there is little room for complacency,” Rozic said in a statement. “This new law will equip local law enforcement with the proper tools to identify, report, and respond to these crimes that continue to divide and instill widespread fear.”
Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party pledges to ban local councils from boycotting Israeli products
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—The Conservative Party in Britain, led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, will ban local councils from boycotting products from foreign countries, including Israel.
The pledge is made in the party’s election policy manifesto in the run-up to the Dec. 12 general elections.
“We will ban public bodies from imposing their own direct or indirect boycotts, disinvestment or sanctions campaigns against foreign countries. These undermine community cohesion,” the document released Sunday says.
Introducing a law against such boycotts would prevent Labor-majority local councils from imposing boycotts against Israel, according to the Jewish Chronicle.
In its election policy manifesto published Thursday, the Labour Party said it would stop selling weapons to Israel.
British voters will choose a new Parliament in the wake of the Brexit controversy. Parliamentarians backed Johnson’s call for a vote in late October.
10,000 passengers ride buses as Shabbat service launches in Tel Aviv
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—The new Shabbat bus service in Tel Aviv was such a hit that some passengers were left waiting at the station.
More than 10,000 passengers used the public transportation service, an initiative called “We move on weekends.”
There are six routes—most circumvent religious neighborhoods—with minibuses scheduled to come every half hour. The service includes transportation to surrounding communities including Ramat Hasharon, Givatayim and Kiryat Ono.
Three hours after the service was launched on Friday evening, Tel Aviv announced that it would add more vehicles after passengers were left waiting due to large demand, the Israeli business website Calcalist reported.
The city of Tel Aviv will pick up $2.6 million of the $3.6 million operating costs for the first year, i24 reported.
In Israel, buses and trains do not generally run in Jewish-majority cities on Friday night and Saturday before sundown. The practice was born of an agreement reached between the haredi Orthodox community and David Ben-Gurion, the nation’s first prime minister, before the formation of the state.