Weekly roundup of world briefs
July 2, 2021
German publishing boss tells workers to find new jobs if they oppose Israeli flag
By Cnaan Liphshiz
(JTA) — Here’s the advice from a top publishing executive in Germany to employees who complained about his decision to fly the Israeli flag on the business’ headquarters: Find another place to work.
“I think, and I’m being very frank with you, a person who has an issue with an Israeli flag being raised for one week here, after antisemitic demonstrations, should look for a new job,” Mathias Doepfner, the chairman of Axel Springer, said in a conference call last week with thousands of his employees around the world, Israel Hayom reported Monday.
Doepfner has described himself as a non-Jewish Zionist.
The flag was raised last month as Hamas and Israel exchanged fire for 11 days, resulting in more than 250 fatalities, mostly on the Palestinian side. Many protests against Israel in Europe and beyond featured incitement against Jews and Israel, and several acts of violence in Europe and the United States were documented in connection with the protests.
Axel Springer owns several Israel sites, including Yad2 on real estate sales.
On its website, the publisher lists five “Principles and Values.” The second states: “We support the Jewish people and the right of existence of the State of Israel.”
The first is: “Standing up for freedom, the rule of law, democracy, and a united Europe,” followed by “support for the transatlantic alliance between the United States of America and Europe; commitment to a free and social market economy, and the rejection of political and religious extremism and any kind of racism and sexual discrimination.”
Austrian soldier imprisoned for showing photos of swastika tattoo on testicle
By Cnaan Liphshiz
(JTA) — An Austrian soldier who posted online pictures of a swastika tattoo on one of his testicles was sentenced to 19 months in prison.
The sentence handed out earlier this month by an Austrian court to the 29-year-old soldier, who was not named in the Austrian media, owes also to an earlier conviction for displaying Nazi symbols, which is forbidden in Austria. He had received a suspended prison sentence for posting online pictures of Nazi World War II memorabilia.
That sentence was activated, however, when the soldier showed others with whom he had served the pictures of the swastika tattoo. The soldier said he had been very drunk when he got the tattoo earlier this year, the Kleine Zeitung newspaper reported earlier this month.
Violence renews on Temple Mount and in West Bank
By Ben Sales
(JTA) — Nine Palestinians were injured during clashes with Israeli police at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount amid escalating tensions on the Gaza border, less than a month after the end of a round of intense fighting between Israel and Hamas.
The clashes on Friday occurred as a crowd of Palestinians exited the Temple Mount, which Muslims revere as the Noble Sanctuary. According to the police, members of the crowd threw rocks at the police officers, who responded by firing sponge-tipped bullets and stun grenades.
In addition, a number of Palestinians were injured in clashes with Israeli soldiers outside an Israeli outpost in the northern West Bank. The soldiers fired tear gas and sponge-tipped bullets in that instance as well.
The fighting occurred amid renewed conflict between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza, who have repeatedly sent incendiary balloons into Israel this week, sparking fires in farmland and around border towns. Israel conducted multiple rounds of aerial bombing in Gaza in response.
Earlier this week, a crowd of right-wing Israelis marched in Jerusalem’s Old City, with some chanting “Death to Arabs” and other calls for violence. Last month, unrest and clashes in Jerusalem preceded the 11-day conflict between Hamas and Israel, in which more than 230 Palestinians and 12 Israelis were killed.
Polish schoolchildren destroyed dozens of Jewish headstones. They said they wanted to build a fortress.
By Cnaan Liphshiz
(JTA) — Several children in Poland toppled 63 headstones of Jewish graves because they wanted to use the slabs to build a fortress, they told police.
The group of five 12-year-olds had been working on the project for several days at the disused graveyard in Wroclaw, in western Poland, Gazeta Wyborcza reported Thursday. Police stopped them upon hearing hammering noises on Wednesday. Some of the headstones were smashed. Others were partially damaged and knocked down.
In a separate incident last week in eastern France, graffiti saying “Allah akba,” or God is great in Arabic, was left at the entrance to a Jewish cemetery in Strasbourg, France Bleu reported last week. There are no suspects.
In eastern Poland last week, a headstone from a Jewish grave that was used decades ago as construction material in Kraśnik was extracted from a sidewalk and placed at the local Jewish cemetery, TVN24 reported. The headstone was discovered three years ago after the pavement over it cracked. The bureaucratic action that launched then to replace the stone bore fruit this week.
In southern Poland, the city of Bielsko-Biala is planning a commemorative space featuring Jewish headstones in recognition of the destruction of the Jewish cemetery there in the 1960s. A sports center was built on the site, Gazeta Wyborcza reported earlier this month.
British court rules that haredi Orthodox couple’s 2-year-old daughter must be taken off life support
By Cnaan Liphshiz
(JTA) — The fate of a 2-year-old Jewish girl on life support in England could be decided at a court hearing on Wednesday.
Alta Fixler of Manchester is gravely ill due to natal complications and has been on life support since birth. On May 28, the High Court of London ruled that ending Alta’s life is in her best interest, as medical experts do not believe she has a chance of recovering or feeling pleasure, the BBC reported. They believe she can sense discomfort.
Her parents said that taking their daughter off life support would contradict their Jewish faith. Judaism commands the preservation of human life and generally forbids actions to end it, though rabbis, including Orthodox ones, have diverging opinions on taking seemingly incurably patients off life support.
In the ruling, Justice Alistair MacDonald rejected a petition by the girl’s parents, who are haredi Orthodox, to have her moved to a hospital in Jerusalem.
More than 40,000 people have signed a petition urging British authorities not to stop life support.
“Alta’s family want her to be transferred to an Israeli hospital on religious and ethical grounds,” the online petition reads.
The move has been delayed pending the hearing this week.
The parents had petitioned the court after doctors at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, which operates the hospital where Fixler is being cared for, told them that their daughter should be taken off life support and allowed to die.
The hospital declined to have the girl discharged, leading to the legal fight.
Lapid aims to ‘reinvigorate’ Israel’s ties with Democrats, US liberal group
(JNS) — Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid emphasized reinvigorating the Jewish state’s ties with the Democratic Party in his first call with an American organization since assuming office last week.
Lapid made it clear that a “strong U.S.-Israel relationship benefits both countries, is a core strategic asset for Israel, and requires a bipartisan approach, working with both Democrats and Republicans,” according to a readout from the Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI), whose board of directors held a video call with the foreign minister.
“He noted reinvigorating Israel’s relationship with Democrats is one of his central objectives,” said the group.
The Israeli foreign minister also conveyed to DMFI his “deep appreciation for the warm reception the new Israeli government received from the [Biden] administration,” as well as its “unwavering commitment to Israel’s security.”
Additionally, Lapid told the group that Israel cannot allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon, as he also called for strengthening ties with the Arab world and working to narrow the conflict with the Palestinians.
Since taking office, Lapid has repeatedly stated that he will work towards renewing ties with the Democratic Party. He has called former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies towards Democrats “shameful and dangerous.”
“I have often warned against this policy, but the outgoing government made a reckless gamble in the decision to align itself with the Republicans and compromise Israel’s bipartisan standing in the United States,” he said last week.
Last week, Lapid spoke with his U.S. counterpart, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, vowing there will be “no surprises” in their relationship.
Wary of new outbreak, Israel to increase COVID screening at Ben-Gurion Airport
By Maytal Yasur Beit-Or and Ariel Kahana
(Israel Hayom via JNS) — Israel will significantly increase COVID-19 screening at Ben-Gurion International Airport amid fears of the highly contagious Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus, first detected in India.
An Israeli Health Ministry committee has warned the government that keeping Israel’s main point of entry completely open during the summer could result in another outbreak.
“As much as we may try to supervise [incoming travelers] at Ben-Gurion airport it is a difficult—if not impossible—mission,” warned a senior health official. “If the airport stays fully open over the summer we are likely to lose control over the situation and again become vulnerable to an outbreak, especially among teenagers.”
Following a meeting with ministers late on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said quarantine enforcement measures were to be enhanced and that 250 police officers would be assigned to the task.
The number of COVID-19 testing stands at Ben-Gurion International Airport is to be increased, and a testing facility is to be established at the site.
Among other possible measures discussed by ministers were an awareness campaign about the importance of quarantining upon returning to Israel from abroad; fining parents whose children violate quarantine; and comprehensively vaccinating 12- to 15-year-olds.
In February, all Israelis over the age of 16 became eligible to receive the vaccine.
The Delta variant has spread to more than 80 countries. World Health Organization chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said on June 18 as saying that Delta was becoming the globally dominant variant of the virus.
This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in Israel Hayom.
Report: Germany bans Hamas flag following anti-Semitic incidents
(JNS) — The German government has agreed to ban the Hamas flag following a number of anti-Semitic incidents at anti-Israel rallies in the country last month, Deutsche Welle reported on Sunday.
The proposal was an initiative of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), according to the report. The center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) had initially raised constitutional concerns regarding the proposal, but later backed the initiative.
Deputy parliamentary spokesman for the CDU Thorsten Frei called the move “a clear signal to our Jewish citizens.”
During the Israel Defense Forces’ “Operation Guardian of the Walls,” the 11 days of fighting last month with terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip, demonstrations throughout Germany were marred by anti-Semitic slurs and attacks on synagogues.
In April of last year, Germany banned all activity on its soil by Lebanese Shi’ite terror group Hezbollah, as well as outlawed the public display of Hezbollah symbols and flags.
A bullet was fired into a Brooklyn synagogue. The NYPD is investigating.
By Ben Sales
(JTA) — The New York Police Department is investigating the firing of a bullet into an empty synagogue in Brooklyn on Shabbat.
No one was hurt in the incident at Khal Zichron Mordechai in the East Midwood neighborhood.
The police told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that its Hate Crimes Task Force has been notified of the incident but is not actively involved in the investigation.
The bullet was fired before 3 p.m. Saturday into a first-floor window of Khal Zichron Mordechai, according to the New York Post. The synagogue, which is Orthodox, was closed at the time. The bullet hole and a bullet fragment were found that night.
The police did not say whether there had been another shooting nearby or whether a suspect has been identified. JTA has emailed the synagogue for comment.
Jewish philanthropist and former hedge fund exec gets 7 months in prison in NYC corruption case
By Asaf Shalev
(JTA) — A hedge fund founder and major donor to Orthodox Jewish causes has been sentenced to a seven-month prison term for his involvement in a scheme to bribe the head of the New York City prison guard union.
Murray Huberfeld, 60, was sentenced Tuesday after having pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy over a $60,000 payment to Norman Seabrook, the former head of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association who also was convicted in the affair. The payment was a kickback to Seabrook for having steered $20 million in the union members’ retirement money to Huberfeld’s hedge fund, Platinum Partners.
In imposing the sentence, U.S. District Judge Lewis Liman in Manhattan said he took into account the “truly extraordinary” letters of support for Huberfeld, Reuters reported.
“Mr. Huberfeld’s crime was a serious one,” Liman was quoted as saying. “This was not a momentary lapse.”
Huberfeld’s arrest in 2016, and subsequent court case, rocked parts of the Orthodox world in the New York City area because of Huberfeld’s record of generosity. He had given away millions, especially to synagogues linked to the Chabad-Lubavitch movement and to haredi Orthodox institutions in Brooklyn.
Huberfeld’s role as a trustee for Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance proved controversial, and the museum lost out on $500,000 in municipal funding.
Before being sentenced, Huberfeld told the court that he had repaid $5.5 million of the union’s money that he had lost on bad investments and that he planned to return $1.5 million more.
“Every day I am faced with the hard fact that my actions caused so much hurt,” Huberfeld said, according to Reuters. “What I did was wrong.”
Quentin Tarantino opens up about learning Hebrew, his life in Tel Aviv and being an ‘abba’
By Gabe Friedman
(JTA) — Yes, Quentin Tarantino is learning Hebrew — at the same speed as his toddler.
The famed non-Jewish American director, who has been married to Israeli singer and actress Daniella Pick since 2018, opened up Tuesday night on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” about his new life in Israel, which included a longer-than-expected stint in Tel Aviv during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The idea was that we would spend three to four months in Tel Aviv, three to four months in Los Angeles, and then COVID hit,” he told the late-night host. “So three to four months became nine, 12 months.”
Tarantino added that he has learned several words in Hebrew, but not enough to hold a conversation. He watches baby shows in Hebrew with his son, especially one he compared to a “Hebrew version of ‘Sesame Street,’” through which he’s broadening his Hebrew vocabulary.
Kimmel asked how his 15-month-old son, Leo (not named for a certain famous actor), was doing, and Tarantino said he can only say one word: “abba,” Hebrew for “dad.”
“And a third of the time he means me,” Tarantino quipped.