Weekly roundup of world briefs


August 14, 2020

‘Harry Potter’ star Jason Isaacs opens up about his struggle with addiction

By Emily Burack

(JTA) — British Jewish actor Jason Isaacs opened up about his longtime struggle with drug addiction to the British magazine The Big Issue on Monday, saying he first got drunk at age 12 and “by the age of 16 I’d already passed through drink and was getting started on a decades long love affair with drugs.”

“Every action was filtered through a burning need I had for being as far from a conscious, thinking, feeling person as possible. No message would get through for nearly 20 years,” he said.

“I think what would surprise the 16-year-old me is that I’m okay,” he added.

Isaacs, 57, born in Liverpool to Jewish parents who have since moved to Israel, is perhaps best known for playing Lucius Malfoy in all eight “Harry Potter” films. He has spoken at length about growing up in the Jewish community, and his experience with anti-Semitism as a Jewish teenager in London.

“There were constantly people beating us up or smashing windows,” he told the Independent in 2013 about his upbringing in the suburb of Childwall. “If you were ever, say, on a Jewish holiday, identifiably Jewish, there was lots of violence around.

Israel offers Lebanon assistance after massive, deadly explosion in Beirut

By Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israel has offered Lebanon humanitarian assistance after a massive explosion at Beirut’s waterfront killed at least 30 people and injured thousands.

Israel’s defense minister Benny Gantz announced the offer on Twitter. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli army and at least one Israeli hospital also offered aid.

Because Lebanon and Israel are still technically in a state of war, the offers are being extended through third-party diplomatic channels.

“Under the direction of Minister of Defense, Benny Gantz and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gabi Ashkenazi, Israel approached Lebanon through international defense and diplomatic channels to offer the Lebanese government medical humanitarian aid,” Gantz tweeted.

“This is the time to rise above any conflict,” tweeted the spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces, Hidai Zilberman.

Initial reports said the blast was in a warehouse packed with explosives and may have been triggered by a fire. Videos posted to social media showed the forceful blast cutting a wide swath of damage across Beirut, and area hospitals have been overwhelmed with the injured.

The explosion comes as the country is reeling from the coronavirus pandemic and an economic crisis that has accelerated unemployment and hunger.

Israeli authorities told multiple news organizations that the country had nothing to do with the disaster.

In recent years, Israel has assisted and received assistance from neighbors that were formerly enemies, or with whom it has difficult relations.

Austria will allow descendants of Holocaust victims to receive citizenship

By Marcy Oster

(JTA) — Austria will allow the descendants of Holocaust victims to receive citizenship beginning Sept. 1, the country’s embassy in Israel announced Sunday.

Before an amendment to Austria’s citizenship law ratified last September, only survivors were entitled to receive citizenship, and then only if they left Austria due to Nazi persecution before May 1945.

Ynet reports that tens of thousands of Israelis will now be eligible for Austrian citizenship under the new rule. The application process will be free.

The amendment is “in line with Austria’s ongoing endeavour for reconciliation with all those who suffered under the totalitarian Nazi-regime in Austria,” Austria’s government website states.

Normally Austrians lose their Austrian citizenship when they apply for citizenship in another country.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has forged very close ties with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the past few years.

French Holocaust denier Alain Soral arrested and his ally Dieudonne banned from Facebook

By Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — Police in France have again arrested Alain Soral, one of the country’s most prominent purveyors of anti-Semitic sentiment.

Soral, who has previously been sentenced to prison for inciting racial hatred and denying the Holocaust was apprehended at his Paris apartment on July 29 in connection with his website, “Equality and Reconciliation,” Le Parisien reported. The website outlines conspiracy theories about how Jews exercise their power and calls for a revolution.

Separately, Facebook closed on Monday the Facebook page and Instagram account of Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, a political ally and friend of Soral.

Soral’s arrest was over incitement to hatred against Jews and actions that “endanger the fundamental interests of the republic.” People accused of publishing incitement and other non-violent offenses involving racism and calls for insubordination rarely get arrested in France. But Soral has been multiple times, though he has so far avoided prison by appealing his convictions.

Both Soral and Dieudonné have gained attention for posting anti-Semitic content and receiving multiple convictions for incitement and Holocaust denial. Several weeks ago, YouTube deleted Dieudonné’s channel and videos.

The action against Soral, who along with Dieudonné founded the now defunct Anti-Zionist Party in France, reflects a growing willingness on the part of the judiciary to use force against purveyors of anti-Semitic sentiment.

Social networks, including YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, had for years resisted or ignored calls to deprive Soral and Dieudonné of a platform on those services, citing the firms’ commitment to free speech.

Amazon renews ‘Hunters,’ Al Pacino’s Nazi-hunting drama, for second season

By Marcy Oster

(JTA) — “Hunters,” the Amazon series starring Al Pacino about a group of Nazi hunters in New York City in the 1970s, has been renewed for a second season. Variety reported the news on Monday.

The show — which involves a network of Nazis living in the United States and conspiring to create a Fourth Reich, and a band of misfits who hunt them down — drew criticism from some Jewish groups for its premise and for its portrayal of the Holocaust.

Following the release of the first season in February, the Auschwitz Memorial and Museum called the show “dangerous” for depicting a human chess game in Auschwitz.

“Inventing a fake game of human chess for ‘Hunters’ is not only dangerous foolishness & caricature. It also welcomes future deniers,” the museum said.

In March, Stephen Smith, who heads the USC Shoah Foundation Institute — the Holocaust foundation founded by Steven Spielberg — called on Amazon to not produce a second season.

“Survivors of the Shoah sought justice, not revenge,” he wrote in an op-ed.

Iran says it fired ballistic missiles from launch pads hidden underground

(JNS) — Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRCG) fired a series of ballistic missiles on Wednesday from launch pads hidden underground during an ongoing military exercise.

On the second day of the “Great Prophet 14” military drill, the IRGC Aerospace Force successfully fired the missiles while fighter jets destroyed targets on Farur island, reported Iran’s Tasnim news agency. The IRCG also practiced offensive mine operations and tactics at sea.

The final stage of the military drill in the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz will include missile units, vessels and drones.

The U.S. military’s Central Command said in a statement that Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar and Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates were on high alert, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

“The incident lasted for a matter of minutes, and an all-clear was declared after the threat indicator had passed,” the military statement said.

According to satellite images released on Monday, Iran has moved a dummy U.S. aircraft carrier to the Strait of Hormuz, likely for use in war games.

UN names first-ever anti-Semitism monitor

(JNS) — U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has named Miguel Morantinos, the High Representative for the U.N. Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), as the first-ever U.N. Focal Point to monitor anti-Semitism.

In his new position, Morantinos—a former Spanish Foreign Affairs minister—will be responsible for enhancing a system-wide response at the United Nations to longtime anti-Semitism.

The Combat Anti-Semitism Movement applauded the appointment.

“The importance of this role is reflected by the wealth of high-level experience and prominent leadership” exhibited by Morantinos, said CAM director Sacha Roytman-Dratwa.

“The fight against anti-Semitism has never been more urgent. The rise in attacks across the world has reached truly worrying proportions,” he continued. “By appointing an anti-Semitism envoy, the United Nations is sending a very important message to the world that tackling hatred against Jews is very much a global priority.”

Sheldon Adelson pledges to pay Las Vegas casino employees despite pandemic downturn

By Marcy Oster

(JTA) — Billionaire casino magnate and Jewish philanthropist Sheldon Adelson said in a letter to his Las Vegas employees that he will maintain pay and benefits through at least Oct. 31.

The letter dated Wednesday recognized the personal challenges of the employees during the coronavirus crisis, including caring for elderly relatives, spouses who have lost their jobs and uncertainty about whether their children would be returning to school.

The company reportedly paid its staff of 10,000 at The Venetian Resort Las Vegas full salaries and benefits during Nevada’s state-mandated closure that began on March 17 and ran for over two months.

Sands owns the Venetian and Palazzo casinos and the Sands Expo & Convention Center on the strip.

The resorts reopened in early June but have seen a huge drop in business, with the casinos relying mostly on local gamblers.

Employees also tweeted praise for Adelson, a major giver to Israel causes and Republican candidates.

Jordan calls on Israel to ‘end provocations and violations’ on Temple Mount

(JNS) — The Jordanian Foreign Ministry called on Israel to “respect the sanctity” of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and end “all provocations and violations there.”

According to Jordan’s Petra News Agency, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Deifallah al-Fayez conveyed the message of protest through diplomatic channels, condemning what it called “Israeli violations” on the Temple Mount, by having allowed Jews “to storm the mosque” on the Jewish holiday of Tisha B’Av last week.

Hundreds of Jews visited the Temple Mount to mark the fast day commemorating the destruction of the two holy temples that once stood on the site.

Al-Fayez also said that the Temple Mount, where the Al-Aqsa Mosque is located, is “a place of worship for Muslims only.” He called on the international community to end these so-called “Israeli violations.”

The Temple Mount has been under the day-to-day control of the Muslim Waqf religious authorities and overseen by the Jordanian government since the 1967 Six-Day War with Israel retaining security control of Judaism’s holiest site. The Waqf forbids Jews from praying on the site, which is a source of ongoing controversy between Israel and the Palestinians, and between Israel and Jordan.

Israeli, German fighter pilots to conduct joint exercises over Dachau, Munich Olympic Village

(JNS) — Israeli fighter pilots will make history in September, when they are scheduled to conduct joint military exercises with their German counterparts over the Dachau concentration camp, where more than 30,000 Jews were murdered during the Holocaust, and the Olympic Village in Munich, where 11 Israeli athletes and their coaches were massacred in 1972 by Palestinian terrorists.

The Israeli Air Force will fly over these sites to honor the memory of those who perished there, Channel 12 reported on Sunday.

According to the report, coronavirus restrictions will be taken into account during the joint exercises, which will involve fighter squadrons practicing air battles, long-range sorties and aerial refueling.

Last summer, IAF Commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Nurkin visited Germany to develop and enhance cooperation between the air forces.

“We meet here and remember what happened in the past and do everything possible to work together in the future,” General Nurkin said during the visit.

Israeli chemistry students win gold, silver and bronze at 52nd Olympiad

By Noam Dvir

(JNS) — A member of the Israeli delegation to the 52nd International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO), held this year in Istanbul, became the first Israeli competitor in a decade to win a gold medal at the prestigious event.

Israel’s young chemistry whizzes competed against 240 youths from 60 nations, including Iran and Syria. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s IChO was held via Zoom.

Roi Peer, 18, of Gan Haim scored a total of 90.35, qualifying him for the gold medal. He finished 26th in the competition rankings.

Prior to the competition, he said, “Last year, I won a silver medal, and I won bronze the year before that. It’s been a weird year because of coronavirus, mostly because the competition will take place on Zoom, and that kind of lowers your motivation.”

After securing a gold medal, he said, “when they called my name, it was exciting. After three years in the competition, I found that the work paid off.”

Peer’s teammates, Ron Shprints and Bar Sheffer, both earned silver medals, with scores of 83.31 and 81.80, respectively.

Team member Ward Yahya of Taibe scored 62.05, earning a bronze medal.

The Education Ministry and the Maimonides Fund’s Future Scientists Center oversaw the team’s training. Education Minister Yoav Gallant congratulated the team, saying, “We will support training for Israeli teams in scientific fields in 2021, as well.”

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

Hundreds of musicians speak out after rapper’s anti-Semitic social-media posts

(JNS) — Hundreds of musicians in the United Kingdom made a stand against “all forms of racism” following anti-Semitic social-media posts by British rapper Wiley.

Popular names like Rita Ora, Niall Horan, Lewis Capaldi, Lily Allen and Little Mix joined fellow artists and music labels, in addition to industry figures, in signing an open letter titled “#NoSilenceInMusic” on Aug. 1.

They said “whether it be systemic racism and racial inequality highlighted by continued police brutality in America or anti-Jewish racism promulgated through online attacks, the result is the same: suspicion, hatred and division. We are at our worst when we attack one another.”

The letter also read: “Minorities from all backgrounds and faiths have struggled and suffered. From slavery to the Holocaust, we have painful collective memories. All forms of racism have the same roots—ignorance, lack of education and scapegoating. We, the British music industry are proudly uniting to amplify our voices, to take responsibility, to speak out and stand together in solidarity. Silence is not an option.”

The letter was posted after Wiley, whose real name is Richard Kylea Cowie Jr., went on an anti-Semitic tirade a few weeks ago.

Twitter, Facebook and Instagram deactivated the accounts belonging to Wiley last week after Jewish groups worldwide conducted a 48-hour boycott of Twitter.

Another mysterious fire erupts at Iran industrial area

(JNS) — Another fire broke out in an industrial area near Tehran on Tuesday, Iranian state TV reported.

A fire department official said the incident was under investigation, reported Reuters.

“The fire broke out at the industrial area of the Jajrud district in the Pardis county this morning … there were no casualties … firefighters are trying to contain the fire,” stated Iranian TV.

A medical clinic north of Tehran in July was the scene of an explosion that killed 19 people. And an explosion took place east of Tehran near the Parchin military and weapons development base on June 26, the report noted.

This was the latest in a series of mysterious explosions and fires around Iranian military, nuclear and industrial facilities in recent weeks.

At least seven Iranian ships caught fire in the port city of Bushehr about two weeks ago as part of a continuation of mysterious explosions occurring throughout the country, according to state media.


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