Weekly roundup of world briefs
November 26, 2021
Is US Men’s National Team soccer player Brenden Aaronson Jewish?
By Emily Burack
(JTA) — The men’s World Cup soccer qualifier games are underway, and the U.S. team has a shot at making the tournament that will take place next fall in Qatar. For those fans who have suppressed the memories — the U.S. men’s team failed to qualify last time around.
One of the team’s six forwards is Brenden Aaronson, a 21-year-old from Medford, New Jersey, who has gone from playing in the American Major League Soccer league to the Austrian Bundesliga, where he suits up for Red Bull Salzburg.
It’s very rare for a male American exported player to perform well in a high-level European league, so naturally fans in the U.S. are watching Aaronson closely. And the buzz around his improving play seems to increase every week.
He has even earned the nickname “Medford Messi,” a reference to the all-time great Argentine player Lionel Messi.
Could the rising star with the last name Aaronson and curly hair be Jewish?
The answer is no.
Though Aaronson can be an Ashkenazi surname meaning Aaron’s son, a representative for U.S. Soccer told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Brenden Aaronson’s ancestry is Swedish. Aarsonson is also a Swedish name, a variant of the name “Aronsson” or “Aronsen.”
The World Cup is scheduled to take place in Qatar from Nov. 21 to Dec. 18, 2022.
NJ man accused of ordering attacks on synagogues sentenced to a year in prison
By Shira Hanau
(JTA) — A New Jersey man convicted of conspiring with members of a white supremacist group to vandalize synagogues in the Midwest was sentenced Tuesday to a year and a day in prison, according to NJ.com.
Richard Tobin, 20, was charged in federal court with conspiracy against the rights of minority citizens, a charge that can carry a maximum sentence of 10 years. Tobin was accused of plotting with members of the neo-Nazi group “The Base” to vandalize properties belonging to Jewish or Black groups in 2019 when he was 18 years old.
Law enforcement officials became aware of Tobin after a number of synagogues in the Midwest were vandalized in 2019. Tobin had dubbed the plot “Kristallnacht” after the 1938 night of terror in Nazi Germany in which synagogues and Jewish businesses were destroyed and nearly one hundred Jews were murdered.
Tobin was alleged to have planned the attacks and directed other members of the group located in the Midwest on how to execute the attacks from his home in Brooklawn, New Jersey. According to the Anti-Defamation League, The Base is a neo-Nazi group that “embraces Hitlerian ideology” and “envisions a coming race war.” Tobin pleaded guilty to the charges earlier this year, saying he was enraged by the site of Black shoppers at a nearby mall and felt “triggered by the state of the country.”
Rachael A. Honig, New Jersey’s acting U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case, celebrated the sentence in a statement.
“Richard Tobin encouraged hateful acts of violence against individuals and their houses of worship, based on their religion or the color of their skin,” Honig said in a statement, according to NJ.com.
Ruins of a Hellenistic fortress show ‘tangible evidence’ of Chanukah story, Israeli archaeologists say
By Shira Hanau
(JTA) — Archaeologists excavating a 2,100-year-old fortress say it provides “tangible evidence” of the events from the Chanukah story.
The site, located west of Hebron in the Lachish Forest, includes remnants of a fortress made of stone and wood that the archaeologists working with the Israel Antiquities Authority believe was burned by the Hasmoneans — Judean descendants of the Maccabees — during a battle with the Macedonian Greek Seleucids.
The excavation has turned up evidence of a fire in the form of burnt wooden beams as well as pottery, weapons and coins.
The coins found at the site point to the destruction of the fortress by the Hasmonean leader John Hyrcanus around 112 BCE, the archaeologists say.
“The excavation site provides tangible evidence of the Chanukah stories. It appears that we have discovered a building that was part of a fortified line erected by the Hellenistic army commanders to protect the large Hellenistic city of Maresha from a Hasmonean offensive. However, the finds from the site show that the Seleucid defenses were unsuccessful; the excavated building was badly burnt and devastated by the Hasmoneans,” leaders of the dig said in a statement.
The holiday of Chanukah, which this year begins Nov. 28, commemorates the period during the 2nd century BCE when the Seleucid King Antiochus attempted to stamp out all expressions of Judaism in Israel, which was then under the control of the Seleucid Empire.
The Maccabees, a Hasmonean family that were part of the priestly class, led a guerrilla war agains the Seleucids, eventually retaking the Temple in Jerusalem, which had been desecrated by idol worship at Antiochus’ direction. The holiday of Chanukah celebrates the Maccabees’ cleansing and rededication of the Temple as well as the lighting of the menorah there.
Indian military chief tours Israel, receives briefing on security threats
(JNS) — The Indian Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Manoj Mukund Naravane (“MM”) Navarne, is in Israel for a five-day visit, reported the Indian website NDTV.
Upon arrival on Wednesday, Navarne visited the main headquarters of the Israel Defense Forces in Tel Aviv.
The next day, he stopped at the Indian Soldiers War Memorial in Jerusalem, where he laid a wreath and paid tribute to Indian army casualties that fell during World War I.
Also on Thursday, Navarne was greeted by the IDF Guard of Honor before observing an IDF special operations unit, “where he was briefed on aspects of the conduct of counter-terrorism operations,” according to the report.
He also spent time on Israel’s northern borders, receiving a briefing there by IDF officers.
Last month, Indian fighter jet pilots took part in the Israeli Air Force’s international Blue Flag drill in southern Israel. The pilots described receiving high training value from the exercise, adding that they would take home the experience of combined fourth and fifth-generation aircraft combat exercises.
Bennett thanks Erdoğan for help in releasing imprisoned Israeli couple.
(JNS) — Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday, thanking him for his help in releasing an Israeli couple being held in the country for eight days on suspicion of espionage.
Bennett reportedly referred to the matter as a humanitarian issue.
It was the first conversation between the two leaders and the first time an Israeli prime minister spoke with the Turkish president in nearly a decade, reported Ynet.
Mordy and Natalie Oknin were detained on Nov. 12 by Turkish security forces for photographing Erdoğan’s residence from the observation deck of Istanbul’s Küçük Çamlıca TV Radio Tower, which provides a panoramic view of the city. According to the Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency, a member of the staff at the tower’s restaurant heard the Hebrew speakers and alerted the authorities.
Following their arrest, the Israeli government began an intense diplomatic effort to secure their release. Talks with the Turks were conducted via several channels, in coordination with Israel’s Foreign Ministry, the Mossad and the National Security Council.
The couple returned to Israel early Thursday morning via a private jet dispatched by the Israeli government.
“Thank you to the prime minister and the foreign minister. Thank you to the president. Thank you to the people of Israel,” said the Oknins from their Modi’in home.
Republican attorneys general discuss countering Ben & Jerry’s boycott against Israel
(JNS) — Representatives from 11 Republican state attorney general offices in the United States met in Washington, D.C., this week to discuss how to address Ben & Jerry’s refusal to sell products in the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem, reported The Washington Post.
The gathering, which took place on the sidelines of the 2021 Federalist Society conference, included remarks by Richard Goldberg, who drafted one of the first anti-BDS laws while working for former Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2015.
Goldberg reminded those in attendance that 33 states currently have laws that either require pension funds to divest from or refuse contracts to companies that boycott Israel. He also called on the attorneys general to demand an explanation from Ben & Jerry’s parent company, Unilever, regarding its relationship with the independent board that oversees the ice-cream maker.
“[Unilever has] pledged that Ben & Jerry’s has said they will find a way to still work in Israel, even though its independent board chair has said it won’t,” he told The Washington Post. “It opens up a lot of questions as to the truthfulness about their statements to the market.”
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita said, “Unilever is on our radar.” At the meeting, he also pronounced his support for state governments taking action that affect the share prices of companies that “do not share our values.”
The New York State comptroller announced in October that it is pulling $111 million in investments from Unilever. Florida is moving $139 million in investments from Unilever, and Texas, New Jersey and Arizona announced similar measures.
Iran has further increased stockpile of highly enriched uranium
(JNS) — Iran has significantly increased its stockpile of highly enriched uranium in a breach of the 2015 nuclear deal it signed with world powers, the Associated Pressreported on Thursday.
Citing a confidential quarterly report by the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) watchdog, the report stated “that Iran has an estimated stock of 17.7 kilograms [39 pounds] of uranium enriched to up to 60 percent fissile purity, an increase of almost 8 kilograms since August.”
The report noted that “such highly enriched uranium can be easily refined to make atomic weapons, which is why world powers have sought to contain Tehran’s nuclear program.”
The Vienna-based IAEA told members that it could not verify the exact stockpile of enriched uranium “due to the limitations that Tehran imposed on U.N. inspectors earlier this year.”
Those restrictions include denial of access by Iran to surveillance footage at its nuclear sites, as well as online enrichment monitors and electronic seals, all of which have been cut off by Tehran since February.
IAEA chief Rafael Mariano Grossi was quoted by the report as saying that the lack of oversight was similar to “flying in a heavily clouded sky.”
On Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Iran had resumed its production of equipment for making advanced centrifuges at an assembly plant in Karaj, a city west of Tehran, adding that the IAEA has been unable to monitor the site for months.
“Iran had stopped work at Karaj in June after a sabotage attack that Tehran blamed on Israel, which hasn’t acknowledged responsibility,” it said.
Luxembourg to distribute $1.1 million in restitution to Holocaust survivors
(JNS) — The World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) announced that the Claims Conference has begun allocating $1.1 million to Holocaust survivors who are currently living in or were persecuted by German Nazis or their allies in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg during the years of World War II and the Holocaust.
The money comes from the Luxembourg Fund, a direct support payment program for Holocaust survivors that is the result of an agreement on Holocaust-era restitution. It was signed in January by WJRO, the State of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the Jewish community of Luxembourg and the Luxembourg Foundation for the Remembrance of the Shoah.
Holocaust survivors from 11 countries who applied by the initial deadline of Oct. 15, and who have been approved, will each receive a first installment payment of $5,657 by the end of November. The second and final payment is expected to be made in March.
The deadline for new applicants has been extended to Jan. 31.
Gideon Taylor, WJRO’s chair of operations, noted that “the compensation program is an important acknowledgment by the government of Luxembourg of how the Holocaust was carried out under Nazi occupation and of the suffering endured by Jews in Luxembourg. These funds provide a small measure of justice and will help survivors live their lives with the dignity they deserve.”
Claude Marx, 87, a Holocaust survivor living in Luxembourg, said “the symbolic gesture that this payment program represents will never heal the wounds that I and other Holocaust survivors have suffered as a result of Nazi crimes in Luxembourg and elsewhere, but it is an important chapter in our journey to find a measure of justice.”
Brazilian journalist apologizes for saying his country would need to kill its Jews to match Germany’s wealth
By Cnaan Liphshiz
(JTA) — A journalist working for one of Brazil’s largest broadcasters apologized for saying on TV on Wednesday that the only way his country could match Germany’s wealth is by killing its Jews.
Jose Carlos Bernardi, a pundit for Jovem Pan, a right-leaning radio and television station, made the comments in a discussion Tuesday about a visit by former Brazilian president Luis Inácio Lula da Silva to Germany.
Asked by journalist Amanda Klein how Brazil could attain the economic development enjoyed by Germany, Bernardi replied: “Only by attacking Jews will we get there. If we kill a gazillion Jews and appropriate their economic power, then Brazil will get rich. That’s what happened with Germany after the war.”
Bernardi’s remarks provoked an outcry by critics who accused him of inciting violence and repeating anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews and wealth. A prosecutor in Sao Paulo is looking into charging Bernardi with incitement to hatred, according to the Brazilian newspaper Jornal do Commercio.
In a statement, Bernardi said he “apologized for the unfortunate remarks” he had made, saying his intention was to address and highlight the injustice done to Jews by Germany rather than recommend it as a course of action.
Jovem Pan also apologized for the remarks. The network has not responded to calls to fire Bernardi.
A right-wing lawmaker in the parliament of the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo, Antônio Campos Machado, said that his office has pulled out of a contract with Bernardi, who had provided consulting services to Campos Machado. “There are no longer the conditions necessary” for employing Bernardi, Campos Machado wrote.
CONIB, the umbrella group of Brazilian Jewish communities, in a statement said Bernardi’s remarks caused “distress and pain” to many Jews and reiterated its position against comparing contemporary political issues to the Holocaust.
Reigning ‘Miss Universe’ Rejects Calls to Boycott Israel-hosted Pageant
The reigning “Miss Universe” came out on this week against the pressure on contestants to boycott the beauty pageant, which is being held for the first time in Israel next month.
“Everyone with different beliefs, with different backgrounds, with different cultures — they all come together and when you are in there you forget about politics, about your religion,” Mexico’s Andrea Meza told The Associated Press ahead of a tour of Jerusalem’s Old City.
“It’s just about embracing other women,” said the 27-year-old Meza, who is slated to hand over her crown to the winner of the 70th “Miss Universe” pageant in Eilat on Dec. 12.
The South African government withdrew its support for its contestant, Lalela Mswane, because she refuses to abide by an Israel boycott.
Mswane, who was crowned Miss South Africa in late October, has been facing online harassment since tweeting on Nov. 2 that she is “looking forward” to the event.