Weekly roundup of world briefs


August 21, 2020

Rashida Tlaib wins Michigan Democratic primary

By Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Rashida Tlaib, one of two Congress members to support the boycott Israel movement, defeated a challenger in her Michigan district’s Democratic primary as she bids for a second term.

Major media declared Tlaib the winner against Brenda Jones, who had preceded her in representing the Detroit-area district.

Tlaib, a Palestinian American, favors a binational state as an outcome of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She and Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, favor the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

Cori Bush, who on Tuesday unseated Lacy Clay, a longtime incumbent Democrat in a St. Louis-area district, also has indicated she favors BDS.

Holocaust museum in New York plans to reopen in September

By Josefin Dolsten

NEW YORK (JTA) — New York’s Holocaust museum is planning to reopen in September.

The Museum of Jewish Heritage-A Living Memorial to the Holocaust said Tuesday that pending approval from the city and state, it would open with limited capacity. The museum will be open three rather than five days a week with only a quarter of its previous visitor capacity and additional cleaning protocols.

New York’s museums have been closed since March due to the coronavirus pandemic and have still not been given the green light to reopen by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The museum also said it would be extending its popular exhibit about Auschwitz through May 2021. The world’s largest-ever traveling exhibition about the Nazi death camp has more than 700 original items from Auschwitz and 400 photographs.

“First and foremost is the safety of our visitors and our employees,” the museum’s president and CEO, Jack Kliger, said in a statement. “As people venture out again seeking educational experiences in safe public places, museums such as ours are uniquely qualified to welcome them back.”

The Metropolitan Museum of Art said last month that it was planning to reopen at the end of August following guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control, New York state and New York City.

Jewish man called ‘dirty Jew’ and beaten unconscious in Paris elevator

By Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — A Jewish man told police he was beaten by two men in the elevator of a Paris building where his parents live and called a “dirty Jew.”

The alleged victim, 29, said two Black men followed him into the elevator on Thursday, according to his police complaint and the National Bureau for Vigilance against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, the nongovernmental watchdog group wrote in a statement Tuesday.

BNVCA identified the alleged victim only as David S.

David sustained minor injuries to the face and throat.

The assault happened at a residential building in the 19th arrondissement, or district, of Paris, where many Jews live.

At around the 18th floor, one of the men told David, “Dirty Jew, dirty Jewish son of a whore, you’re a dead man, dirty Jew,” according to the alleged victim’s testimony. They fled when the elevator stopped on the floor where David’s parents live. David said he was rendered unconscious for several minutes because of the force of the blows.

Medical staff prescribed eight days of rest for David. In France, the number of rest days prescribed to assault victims may affect the sentence passed on offenders in case of a conviction.

All 3 Democrats vying for House Foreign Affairs Committee chair support restricting Israel from using for annexation

By Gabe Friedman

(JTA) — All three of the Democrats seeking to become the next head of the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee have said they do not want U.S. money to aid Israel’s potential annexation of parts of the West Bank.

Reps. Brad Sherman of California, Joaquin Castro of Texas and Gregory Meeks of New York are vying for the role with the defeat of the current head, longtime pro-Israel voice Eliot Engel, in his New York primary in June.

“I oppose any use of American taxpayer dollars to implement the Annexation Plan or to build any permanent Israeli installation in the West Bank or Gaza,” Sherman said in a statement.

Sherman and Meeks are longtime allies of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, the country’s largest pro-Israel lobby.

“Not a penny of US taxpayer money should subsidize or enable any unilateral annexation of parts of the West Bank,” Castro said. “Under a two-state approach, America has a responsibility to be an arbiter of peace, which means we need trust and credibility with both Israelis and Palestinians.”

Meeks suggested that aid to Israel could be used as leverage to influence its policy.

“Annexation is anathema to a two-state solution, and America cannot be used by its proponents to justify a pro-annexation position or policy,” he said. “On the contrary, the United States must be explicit in our opposition by applying pressure against Netanyahu should he annex territory, including leveraging US aid.”

Whether or not to withhold U.S. funds to Israel has become a common question posed to politicians since Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont brought it up prominently in the Democratic presidential campaign.

Orthodox music star performs song celebrating Donald Trump at Jewish summer camp

By Shira Hanau

(JTA) – The original song is about the repeated oppression of the Jewish people throughout history. The rewritten song is a prayer for Donald Trump to win re-election.

Orthodox Jewish pop star Yaakov Shwekey sang an ode to Donald Trump at an Orthodox overnight camp based on his hit song “We Are a Miracle.” In videos of the performance shared online Monday night, Shwekey sings a rewritten version of the song with lyrics supporting Trump’s re-election. No one in the video appears to be wearing a mask.

“May God hear our prayers, four more years, cause we are America,” Shwekey sang.

“Every day you fight a battle. On the news they try to hide all your victories, your accomplishments, the way you lead with pride,” the song continues. “But truth is always stronger, so join us as we sing our song.”

Yeshiva World News reported that the performance was at Camp Teumim Mesivta in Pennsylvania.

The performance comes less than three months before an election in which the majority of American Jews are expected to vote for Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate for president. But within the Orthodox community, Trump commands significant support.

Last month, Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, a member of the rabbinical council of Agudath Israel, an organization representing haredi Orthodox Jews, endorsed Donald Trump in an interview with Mishpacha magazine. The lyrics to the song were written by Yisroel Besser, an editor for Mishpacha, for a Trump campaign fundraiser Sunday in Long Branch, New Jersey, home to a large Syrian Jewish community. The fundraiser was held at the home of Stanley Chera, a longtime supporter of the president who died in April of the coronavirus.

In the video, Shwekey’s performance ends with chants of “USA, USA!”

Arab nations back extending UN arms embargo on Iran

(JNS) — Six Arab countries have called on the United Nations to extend its arms embargo on Iran.

“Iran has continued to proliferate conventional weapons and arm terrorist and sectarian organizations and movements throughout the region,” said the Gulf Cooperation Council in a statement about a letter sent on Saturday to Turtle Bay. “It is imperative to extend those restrictions to ensure and preserve peace and stability in this region and the rest of the world.”

Iran called the GCC effort as “unrealistic.”

“The GCC is currently at the apex of its incompetence, and its unrealistic policies have rendered it ineffective,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi told a press conference on Monday. “The council, swayed by the wrong and destructive policies and behavior of certain member states, has turned into a mouthpiece for anti-Iran elements inside and outside the region.”

The GCC letter comes as the United States is set to introduce a resolution at the U.N. Security Council this week to extend the arms embargo on Iran, which expires on Oct. 18.

China and Russia, who, like the United States, have a permanent veto on the U.N. Security Council, are expected to veto the measure — a move that the Trump administration has said would result in enacting snapback sanctions under the deal, which would include extending the arms embargo indefinitely.

Epic Israeli series ‘Beauty Queen of Jerusalem’ to feature ‘Shtisel’ star Michael Aloni

By Gabe Friedman

(JTA) — Production is underway on what is being billed as one of the most ambitious Israeli TV series’ ever.

“The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem,” Sarit Yishai-Levy’s epic bestselling novel about a fictional Sephardic family, is being produced by the country’s Yes Studios of “Fauda” and “Shtisel” fame and will feature four languages, including Ladino.

“Shtisel” star Michael Aloni, along with Hila Saada of “The Baker and The Beauty” and Itzik Cohen of “Fauda,” will feature in the cast.

From Deadline:

Set in the early-mid 20th century, the ambitious series will chart the passionate and tragic history of a family living through the Ottoman Empire, The British Mandate and Israel’s War of Independence. The multi-generational historical melodrama will shoot across the country in Hebrew, English, Ladino and Arabic.

“We have all fallen in love with the story of the Armoza family and cannot wait to see it materialize on screen,” Yes Managing Director Danna Stern told Deadline. “The initial two-season order is a show of confidence in the story-telling abilities of all involved.”

Seth MacFarlane adapting Herman Wouk WWII novels for miniseries

By Curt Schleier

(JTA) — “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane is adapting Herman Wouk’s epic World War II novels “The Winds of War” and its sequel, “War and Remembrance,” into a limited TV series for NBCUniversal.

Wouk, who died last year at 103, wrote numerous popular works of fiction — “Majorie Morningstar” (about a young Jewish woman who wants to become an actress), “Youngblood Hawke” (about a young writer supposedly modeled on the novelist Thomas Wolfe) and “The Caine Mutiny,” for which he won the Pulitzer Prize.

The author, an observant Jew, also wrote “This Is My God,” a book summarizing the tenets of Judaism intended for both Jews and non-Jews.

“The Winds of War” and “War and Remembrance” established the author’s reputation as a master of historical fiction — works featuring stories of personal conflict set against significant events. In this case, the books follow the experiences of Navy officer Victor Henry and his family from the German invasion of Poland through the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.

The two books had already been turned into a seven-part ABC miniseries in 1983 starring Robert Mitchum, Ali MacGraw and Jan-Michael Vincent. The miniseries, which remains among the most popular in television history, won five Emmy Awards and was nominated for 11.

In a statement, MacFarlane said he’s “been a devoted fan” of the books and their “depiction of small-scale human endurance in the face of large-scale global upheaval has never been more relevant than it is today.”

Non-Jewish assemblywoman in NY targeted in anti-Semitic attack

By Shira Hanau

(JTA) – The fact that New York state Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright isn’t Jewish didn’t stop a vandal from leaving behind an anti-Semitic note after defacing her office.

Seawright, a Democrat whose district includes part of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, called for a police investigation into the incident at a news conference Tuesday. The intruder, whose note also included a sexist message, sprayed white paint on the office Monday night.

Seawright is a member of the Assembly’s Jewish caucus and her husband is Jewish.

“I want to speak loud and clear today that we will never be intimidated by this criminal act,” she said at the news conference, according to Jewish Insider. “We will stand together, speak up and remain vigilant against this violence and anti-Semitism.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo denounced the incident in a tweet Tuesday, saying he would “hold those responsible accountable.”

Facebook announces new policy combating anti-Jewish stereotypes

By Ben Sales

(JTA) — Facebook announced that it would ban posts about Jews controlling the world among several other efforts to combat hate speech.

The announcement comes following a monthlong boycott of advertising on Facebook spearheaded by a coalition of civil rights groups led by the Anti-Defamation League. More than 1,000 companies participated in the boycott, which was meant to protest Facebook’s lack of action against hate speech.

In an announcement Tuesday issued by Guy Rosen, the social media platform’s vice president of integrity, Facebook said it would ban posts about Jews controlling the world, as well as those containing blackface. Rosen also wrote that Facebook has removed 23 “banned organizations” from the platform since October, half of which were white supremacist.

Facebook also announced the launch of a Diversity Advisory Council, but did not provide details on what the council would address.

Responding to the announcement, an ADL spokesperson called the changes “welcome yet overdue.”

“It’s distressing that it took this long for the platform to crack down on these particular forms of hate, when it’s quite obvious they should not have been allowed to proliferate in the first place,” the ADL statement said. “It’s equally as disturbing that Facebook still doesn’t view Holocaust denial as violative of their terms of service.”

Abbas calls UAE diplomatic move with Israel ‘treason’

(JNS) — Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh called the deal “treason,” saying it must be reversed. He called on other Arab states not to follow the UAE’s lead “at the expense of Palestinian rights,” reported the AP.

The Hamas terrorist group in the Gaza Strip called the deal a “stabbing in the back of our people.”

The official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported that Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki announced that following the order of Abbas, its ambassador to the UAE would be recalled.

The deal raised speculation that perhaps other Sunni Arab Gulf states at odds with Iran would follow the direction of the UAE.

Bahrain said it welcomed the deal, noting in the state-run Bahrain News Agency that just as importantly, it would stop “the annexation of the Palestinian territories as a step towards the achievement of peace in the Middle East.”

Meanwhile, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi also welcomed the agreement, using similar language as Bahrain.

“I followed with interest and appreciation the joint U.S.-UAE-Israel statement on halting the Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories and taking steps that would establish peace in the Middle East. I also value the efforts the parties to this agreement make in order to achieve prosperity and stability in our region,” he posted via Twitter on the website of the Egyptian presidency.

A mysterious synagogue is in the middle of the Kodak insider trading investigation

By Shira Hanau

(JTA) – Executives at Eastman Kodak, the once prominent film company, find themselves at the center of multiple investigations into possible insider trading after news that the company received a loan from a federal agency to begin manufacturing treatments for the coronavirus that temporarily spiked its stock prices.

At the center of the controversy is one mysterious synagogue.

After news leaked of the $765 million loan from the U.S. International Development Finance Corp. on July 27, the company’s stock prices began to rise and the number of shares being traded rose with it. The stock price later stabilized, but while it was were soaring, George Karfunkel, an investor and Eastman Kodak board member, donated 3 million shares to a Congregation Chemdas Yisroel.

According to a report in Mother Jones published Tuesday, those shares may have been worth as much as $180 million on July 29, the day Karfunkel gave them to the synagogue, which was registered as a corporation in Delaware in December 2018 and as a nonprofit in New York shortly thereafter. The donation would lower Karfunkel’s ownership of the company’s stocks enough that he would not have to report his stock transactions and would be eligible for a tax deduction.

Karfunkel is a longtime donor to Orthodox causes through his foundation, Chesed Foundation of America, which primarily gives to synagogues and schools.


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