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Weekly roundup of world briefs


October 16, 2020

Top Hamas official enters quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19

By Neta Bar

(Israel Hayom via JNS) — Deputy Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri has contracted COVID-19, the terrorist group confirmed on Thursday.

Arouri had entered quarantine and was “doing well,” Hamas said in an official statement.

Arouri is believed to have contracted the disease while meeting with Fatah officials in Turkey two weeks ago to discuss ending longtime strife between the rival Palestinian factions, which have recently announced they would join forces.

He also met with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah over the weekend of Sept. 5 as part of a delegation led by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

Arouri is considered to be Hamas’s commander in Judea and Samaria and is the mastermind behind the group’s relentless attempts to expands its terrorist infrastructure in the area—something that severely undermined the rule of Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas.

He also served as a recruiter and the Islamist group’s chief financier, raising and transferring funds on its behalf.

Arouri is on the United States’ list of most-wanted terrorists and has a $5 million bounty on his head as part of the States Department’s Rewards for Justice Program.

Arouri is believed to be living in Istanbul. As a top target, Hamas has been trying to obscure his whereabouts and in recent years rumors have circulated that he left Turkey and is shuttling between Lebanon and Qatar.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

‘Wonder Woman’ Gal Gadot third highest-paid actress in 2020

By Naama Barak

(Israel21C via JNS) — Israeli actress Gal Gadot made $31.5 million in 2020, earning her third place on Forbes’ list of this year’s highest-paid Hollywood actresses.

The bulk of her earnings, the magazine said, came from $20 million for her role in the Netflix film “Red Notice.”

The closure of most movie theaters due to the coronavirus crisis had led studios to postpone the release of some films, the magazine noted, including “Wonder Woman 1984,” the sequel to the hit movie “Wonder Woman” that catapulted Gadot to international fame. Originally slated to be released in December 2019, it is now set to hit screens this Dec. 25.

As such, Forbes noted, most of the actresses on the list made their earnings via TV shows or streaming services. These include Sofia Vergara, who topped the list with $43 million for her role in “Modern Family,” and “Grey’s Anatomy” actress Ellen Pompeo, who came in eighth place with $19 million. The exceptions to this were Angelina Jolie (No. 2 with $35.5 million) and Emily Blunt (No. 6 with $22.5 million), who made their money largely from more traditional films.

In the 12 months leading up to June 2020, the 10 highest-paid actresses combined earned $254 million — 20 percent less than the previous year and far less than the $545.5 million earned this year by the 10 highest-earning male actors.

This year’s appearance on the Forbes list wasn’t a first for Gadot: back in 2017, she topped the list with earnings of $1.4 billion.

Trump plans to appoint two individuals to US Holocaust Memorial Council

By Jackson Richman

(JNS) — U.S. President Donald Trump announced his intention on Friday to appoint two individuals to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council.

Real estate executive Loren Flaum and South Carolina Ports Authority chairman Bill Stern were named to the council, the governing body of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Stern is also the South Carolina finance chair for U.S. President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign.

Flaum’s father, David, served on the 68-member Holocaust Memorial Council since 2019. He died in August at the age of 67. Active in Republican politics and involved in Trump’s re-election campaign, he also served as national chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

“I am beyond humbled and honored to serve our country on the Holocaust Memorial Council,” Loren Flaum, 37, told JNS. “As a third-generation Holocaust survivor, it is essential that we continue to educate the next generations so that we never forget.”

Jewish scientist among three recipients of Nobel Prize for medicine

Harvey J. Alter, along with Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice, received the prestigious prize for the discovery of the hepatitis C virus.

(JNS) A Jewish scientist was one of three professors jointly awarded on Monday the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Harvey J. Alter, along with Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice, received the prestigious prize for the discovery of the hepatitis C virus.

“For the first time in history, the disease can now be cured, raising hopes of eradicating hepatitis C virus from the world population,” said the committee in a statement. They announced the prize at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

Alter, 85, is an intramural researcher at the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Houghton, who is in his 70s, is a virologist at the University of Alberta in Canada. Rice, 68, is a virology professor at Rockefeller University in New York.

The three made seminal discoveries that led to the identification of a novel virus.

Prior to their work, the discovery of hepatitis A and hepatitis B had been critical steps forward, though the majority of blood-borne hepatitis cases remained unexplained. The discovery of the hepatitis C virus revealed the cause of the remaining cases of chronic hepatitis, as well as made possible blood tests and new medicines that have saved millions of lives.

Alter demonstrated that an unknown virus was a common cause of chronic hepatitis, while Houghton used an untested strategy to isolate the genome of the new virus that was named hepatitis C. Rice provided the final evidence showing that the hepatitis C virus alone could cause hepatitis.

Liver inflammation — or hepatitis, a combination of the Greek words for liver and inflammation — is mainly caused by viral infections, although alcohol abuse, environmental toxins and autoimmune disease are also significant causes.

Hepatitis A is transmitted by contaminated water or food, and generally has little long-term impact on the patient. Hepatitis B is transmitted through blood and bodily fluids, and represents a more serious threat as it can lead to a chronic condition with the development of cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Jewish high school students in Northern California ask district to take action against anti-Semitism

By Marcy Oster

(JTA) — Jewish students and their supporters have called on school officials in Northern California’s Marin County to take action against anti-Semitism at a local high school.

More than 5,600 people have signed the Change.org petition addressed to the Tamalpais Union High School District and its superintendent, Tara Taupier.

Last month, an Instagram account associated with the Redwood High School in the city of Larkspur, 13 miles north of San Francisco, called on followers to identify Jewish high school students in Marin County. School officials later said that they believed they had identified the student running the Instagram account and provided the information to local law enforcement. The account was removed.

“Our safety is threatened by the list and the pictures posted by the student,” reads the petition signed by Redwood students. “The list of Jewish students paired with the image of the swastika and the bullet produces an uncanny resemblance to the use of lists during the Nazi Regime. The idea of going back to school with a student whose beliefs align with those of Nazis is inconceivable.

“We believe the ‘action’ taken thus far by the administration has done nothing to make us feel secure and safe. This student has gotten away with offensive behavior for far too long and this recent escalation is a direct result of the lack of attention given by the district.”

The action taken so far, according to the petition, was an email from the district that “focused too much on the history of anti-Semitism and the actions of the community rather than the action plan of the district.”

Israel delivers first Iron Dome defense system to the US Army

By Marcy Oster

(JTA) — Israel delivered the first of two Iron Dome missile defense system batteries to the U.S. Army.

The U.S. and Israel signed an agreement for the purchase of two batteries a year ago from its developer, the Haifa-based firm Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd.

The batteries will be employed in the defense of U.S. troops against ballistic and aerial threats, Israel’s Defense Ministry said Wednesday in a statement.

On Wednesday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited Rafael’s Leshem Institute for an event marking the delivery of the first Iron Dome missile to the U.S.

In March, the Army canceled plans to purchase more of the batteries because of difficulties integrating them into its existing air defense systems.

Congress has given Israel more than $1.5 billion to produce Iron Dome batteries. In 2014, the U.S. and Israel signed a co-production agreement that would allow parts of the Iron Dome system to be produced in the United States.

Since it was deployed in 2011, Iron Dome has intercepted over 2,400 rockets fired at Israel from Gaza. Along with Iron Dome, Israel employs several other defense systems, including David’s Sling, Arrow-2 and Arrow-3.

YouTube removes Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam channel

By Ben Sales

(JTA) — YouTube has removed the video channel of the Nation of Islam, the organization led by Louis Farrakhan.

YouTube said it removed the channel on Oct. 2, citing its policies against hate speech, according to the Jewish Journal.

“We have strict policies prohibiting hate speech on YouTube, and terminate any channel that repeatedly or egregiously violates those policies,” said the statement, according to the Jewish Journal. YouTube said it has removed 25,000 channels for hate speech.

Some individual accounts of Nation of Islam members are still up, with tens of thousands of followers.

Farrakhan is a longtime, vehement anti-Semite who has railed against “wicked Jews,” praised Adolf Hitler, condemned the “synagogue of Satan,” likened Jews to termites and accused them of controlling the U.S. government. He also has a history of homophobia. This past summer, a string of celebrities defended or praised Farrakhan and echoed his anti-Semitic rhetoric.

A July 4 speech in which Farrakhan called Jews the “enemy of God” has been viewed more than a million times, according to the Anti-Defamation League. That month the ADL called Farrakhan the “most popular antisemite in America.”

YouTube has also removed white supremacists from its platform this year, including Richard Spencer and David Duke.

Britain’s Liberal rabbis allow interfaith couples to get married under a chuppah

By Marcy Oster

(JTA) — Britain’s Liberal Judaism movement moved to allow interfaith couples to be married by a rabbi under a chuppah, the traditional Jewish marriage canopy.

The movement’s Conference of Liberal Rabbis and Cantors announced the policy change on Sunday.

“Liberal Judaism’s Conference of Liberal Rabbis and Cantors (CoLRaC) came to the decision, after much discussion and studying, in order to recognize and celebrate the diversity of Jewish life in Britain in 2020,” the movement said on its website.

In adopting the new policy, Liberal Judaism became the first Jewish movement in the United Kingdom to permit the chuppah to be used at an interfaith ceremony.

The change is a “sign of welcome to a couple” who indicate their wish to keep a Jewish home, said Rabbi Danny Rich, who drafted the report which led to the changes.

The blessing under a chuppah is “at the rabbi’s discretion and where the couple intend to maintain a Jewish home,” read a statement from the conference.

Liberal Judaism represents about 10 percent of British Jews affiliated with a synagogue, according to the Guardian. It is part of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, an international network that includes Reform, Liberal, Progressive and Reconstructionist communities.

Israel will ban most sales of animal furs, government minister says

By Josefin Dolsten

(JTA) — Israel will ban the buying and selling of furs, a government minister said.

Calling the use of animal skin and fur for clothing “immoral,” Gila Gamliel, Israel’s environmental protection minister, said the country would move to ban the trade, according to a report Monday from the BBC.

The move would make Israel the first country to ban the sale of all fur. Only a handful of cities in the United States and Sao Paolo, Brazil, currently have such a policy in place, according to the BBC.

The new policy would allow exceptions for “scientific research, education or for instruction and for religious purposes or tradition.” That would likely allow haredi Orthodox men to continue to buy shtreimels, the fur hats traditionally worn on Shabbat and holidays.

Gamliel is currently in the news for having contracted COVID-19 and breaking Israel’s lockdown to pray in a synagogue on Yom Kippur more than 100 miles from her home.

The announcement drew praise from Israeli animal rights groups.

“The minister’s important decision will save countless animals,” the group Animals Now said in a statement, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Israeli lawmakers have debated proposals to ban fur for a decade.

Eli Rozenberg takes control of El Al airlines

By Marcy Oster

(JTA) — Eli Rozenberghas taken control of El Al Airlines, after a tumultuous debate over who should manage Israel’s flagship airline.

El Al was privatized in 2004, and since then it has struggled financially, with the coronavirus pandemic worsening the situation.

Eli Rozenberg’s $75 million bid to buy control of the airline offered a lifeline, but some in Israel argued that selling to him would amount to a circumvention of the law prohibiting non-Israelis from owning the airline. Eli Rozenberg is a resident of Israel and an Israeli citizen, but his father, who owns a nursing home chain in the United States, is not. The source of the financing for the deal is a 25-year loan from Kenny Rozenberg, Eli Rozenberg confirmed in a meeting with the El Al board of directors, the Israeli business daily Globes reported,

Critics of the deal argued that such a loan amounts to a gift and might mean that Kenny Rozenberg effectively controls the airline. But Eli Rozenberg pledged that his father had not been given any El Al shares as collateral for the loan.

The government accepted that argument and concluded that Eli Rozenberg will be the actual owner of the airline. Now that the deal has gone through, Eli Rozenberg is able to name directors and a CEO for the airline. But flights into and out of Israel are severely curtailed because of the nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19, and it is unclear when normal air travel might resume.

US court orders Iran to pay $1.4 billion to family of former Jewish FBI agent

(JNS) — A U.S. court has ordered the Iranian government to pay more than $1.4 billion in punitive and compensatory damages to the family of former FBI agent and Jewish American Robert Levinson, who disappeared in 2007 while visiting Iran and working part-time for the CIA. He is believed to have died while in Iranian custody.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly ruled last week that Levinson’s family be awarded $107 million in compensatory damages and $1.3 billion in punitive damages.

“Iran’s conduct here is also unique, given that it plucked a former FBI and DEA special agent from the face of the earth without warning, tortured him, held him captive for as long as 13 years, and to this day refuses to admit its responsibility,” said Kelly in his ruling.

“And his wife and children, and their spouses and children have had to proceed with their lives without knowing his exact fate. These are surely acts worthy of the gravest condemnation,” he added.

Levinson’s family applauded the judge’s ruling.

“This judgment is the first step in the pursuit of justice for Robert Levinson, an American patriot, who was kidnapped and subjected to unimaginable suffering for more than 13 years,” said his family in a statement.

“Until now, Iran has faced no consequences for its actions. Judge Kelly’s decision won’t bring Bob home, but we hope that it will serve as a warning against further hostage-taking by Iran,” said the family.


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