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Jewish Agency recognizes Diaspora terror victims

Wed, 04/22/2015 - 08:29

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Jewish Agency for Israel remembered the victims of anti-Semitic attacks outside of Israel at a ceremony in Jerusalem on Israel’s Memorial Day.

Wednesday’s memorial focused on the victims of the terror attack on the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket in Paris in which four Jewish men were killed, and an attack on a Copenhagen synagogue that left a volunteer security guard dead.

Family members of the victims of the two attacks attended the ceremony at the Jewish Agency headquarters.

“We have discovered that the battlefield is not on the borders of Israel but in every Israeli city, and we furthermore discovered, once again, that the battlefield is not only on Israeli soil, but in every Jewish school and synagogue, and even in kosher supermarkets around the world,” Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky said at the ceremony.

“What protects us in Israel is conventional weapons: the power of the Israeli army. In the Diaspora, what protects us is an unconventional weapon: the solidarity of the Jewish people.”

Amedy Coulibaly, an Islamist, killed his Jewish victims at the Hyper Cacher market on the eastern edge of Paris during a daylong siege Jan. 9 and standoff with police. About a month later, the guard Dan Uzan was shot and killed outside the central Copenhagen shul, or Krystalgade Synagogue, by a lone Islamist gunman.

“My husband Phillipe was taken from me and from our children in the terrorist attack at Hyper Cacher in France. He was murdered for one reason: because he is a Jew,” said Valerie Braham, the widow of Philippe Braham. “The great hatred for the Jewish people entered my home and destroyed my family. It also touches every home and family in the Jewish people. Today we all feel the same pain.”

Female Arab-Israeli trailblazer among Independence Day torch lighters

Wed, 04/22/2015 - 07:13

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Arab-Israeli woman will be among the 12 Israelis to light a torch at this year’s official Independence Day ceremony.

Lucy Aharish, 33, is the first Muslim-Arab news anchor on Israeli television. Her announcement as a torch lighter has raised the hackles of both the far right and far left, with the right saying she is not loyal enough to the state, and the left and Arab communities saying she has sold out to the Israeli establishment.

Israel will mark the start of Independence Day, or Yom Ha’atzmaut, on Wednesday evening at the close of the solemn Memorial Day observance with a ceremony at Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem.

Torch lighters are Israelis who have made significant contributions to the state.

Other torch lighters include Rami Levy, the philanthropic owner of a chain of discount supermarkets; Ehud Shabtai, the creator of the Waze navigation app; Dr. Danny Gold, creator of the Iron Dome anti-missile system; and Gal Lusky, the founder and CEO of Israel Flying Aid, which provides emergency disaster relief around the world.

The Ministerial Committee for Symbols and Ceremonies in announcing the torch lighters last month called Aharish a “trailblazing Muslim journalist, who brings a discourse of tolerance and interdenominational openness to Israel’s public agenda.”

Jewish groups to protest pro-Palestinian gathering in Berlin

Wed, 04/22/2015 - 06:45

BERLIN (JTA) — A coalition of Jewish and pro-Israel groups is planning to protest a pro-Palestinian event in Berlin that is alleged to have ties to Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran.

Fearing a resurgence of the hate speech and violence that marked last summer’s anti-Israel protests in Germany, the coalition named Berlin Against Hamas will protest on Saturday outside the Berlin Arena, where the 13th Conference of Palestinians in Europe is to be held. More than 3,000 people are expected at the conference, which is co-organized by the Palestinian Community of Germany and the British-based Palestinian Return Center.

Politicians from all parties represented in the Berlin legislature have added their support, the Berlin office of the American Jewish Committee said in a statement.

According to the Berlin Department for Constitutional Protection, the conference has become “the most important activity of Hamas supporters” in the city.

“If political and legal means are not enough to stop this kind of event, then it’s time for the democratic civil society to show their true colors,” Deidre Berger, AJC’s director in Berlin, said in the statement accompanying the protest call.

Sebastian Mohr, spokesman for the Berlin Against Hamas initiative, applauded the readiness of politicians and NGOs to take a stand “against the hate of the terrorist Islamist group Hamas.”

Volker Beck, a Green Party legislator and chair of the German-Israeli Parliamentary Group in the German Bundestag, said in the joint statement that the conference “does not further either peace in the Mideast or the legitimate interests in peace and security for Palestinians or Israelis. Just the opposite: it’s a place where prejudices are stoked and, even worse, Hamas’ terror and violence is legitimized or even glorified.”

The Berlin Arena’s managing director, Jana Seifert, told the German news agency dpa that government authorities had investigated but did not find any connections between the conference organizers and Hamas.

Nevertheless, Seifert said the venue insisted on contractual assurances from the organizers that the program would not break the law. It is illegal in Germany to incite violence or hatred based on such categories as religion, ethnic or racial origin, or sexual orientation.

It would also be illegal to incite hate against Israel: Earlier this year, a court in Essen set a legal precedent by finding a defendant guilty of incitement to anti-Semitism by calling for “death and hate to Zionists.”

Meanwhile, Berlin police said there also will be a demonstration in central Berlin on April 25, the Day of Palestinian Prisoners. Organizers registered some 3,000 participants.

Spy for Iran convicted in Israel

Wed, 04/22/2015 - 05:57

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Iranian-Belgian national was convicted of spying for Iran in an Israeli court.

Ali Mansouri, 56, a native of Iran, was convicted of espionage and aiding an enemy in wartime in Central District Court in Lod on Tuesday. He was sentenced to seven years in prison as part of a plea bargain agreement.

The court determined that the information Mansouri passed Tehran was of “limited value,” Reuters reported.

Mansouri was arrested on Sept. 11, 2013 at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv. He was carrying photographs of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and other sensitive sites in Israel.

Iran reportedly Mansouri the previous year. He acquired Belgian citizenship by marrying a Belgian woman in 2005, divorcing her a year later and changing his name.

Traveling in Israel as Belgian businessman Alex Mans, Mansouri is believed to have been spying on Israel for the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. He reportedly told Israeli investigators that he was promised about $1 million for his services.

Father of 7 kids killed in Brooklyn house fire prays at their Jerusalem graves

Wed, 04/22/2015 - 05:35

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The father of the seven children who died in a Brooklyn house fire returned to the Jerusalem cemetery where they are buried to mark the shloshim, or 30 days since their death.

Dozens of men joined Gabriel Sassoon on Tuesday to pray at the children’s graves following his request for people to join him during an interview earlier in the day on a haredi Orthodox radio station, the Vos iz Neis news website reported.

The seven white headstones placed in one row each bear the name of one of the children followed by the words “pure soul.”

Sassoon was out of town at a religious conference when the fire consumed his home shortly after midnight on March 22. Officials have blamed an unattended hot plate warming Shabbat meals as the cause.

Sassoon’s wife, Gayle, and one of his daughters, Tziporah, 15, both escaped the blaze by leaping from the house.

Tziporah, who was badly burned, reportedly will come home from the hospital next week, according to VIN. Gayle Sassoon remains in a coma.

3 rabbis convicted in religious divorce ring

Wed, 04/22/2015 - 04:54

(JTA) — Three rabbis were convicted of planning to kidnap Jewish men in order to force them to grant their wives a religious writ of divorce.

The rabbis, who are Orthodox, were convicted late Tuesday in federal court in Trenton, New Jersey, of conspiracy to commit kidnapping. Two of the rabbis also were convicted of attempted kidnapping.

The jury debated for three days following a two-month trial in the case of Rabbis Jay Goldstein, 60, and Binyamin Stimler, 39, both of Brooklyn, New York, and Mendel Epstein, 69, of Lakewood, New Jersey, CBS New York reported.

The conspiracy charge carries a possible life sentence, Reuters reported, citing the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Sentencing was set for July 15.

The rabbis were part of a group of men, including at least one other rabbi, who operated a ring that kidnapped husbands and used violence, including beatings and stun guns, until the they agreed to the religious divorce.

Under Orthodox Jewish law, a wife cannot divorce without obtaining the writ, known as a get, from her husband. She also can not remarry in a Jewish ceremony without the get.

The ring was caught in an FBI sting operation in October 2013 in which federal agents posing as a Jewish woman and her brother sought the gang’s services. The “husband” was to be assaulted at a warehouse in Edison, New Jersey. When the other men arrived at the warehouse wearing masks and carrying rope, surgical knives and a screwdriver, they were arrested.

The convictions came three months after Rabbi Martin Wolmark, 56, of Monsey, New York, pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges. He will be sentenced on May 18.

N.Y. transit authority must run ad that refers to killing Jews, judge rules

Tue, 04/21/2015 - 17:42

(JTA) — New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority must allow the display of an ad about Muslims killing Jews, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge John Koeltl in Manhattan on Tuesday deemed the ad, which includes the statement “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah,” as protected speech under the First Amendment and said it must be run on public transportation.

Koeltl rejected the MTA argument that the ad could be seen as a call to violence against Jews and could incite terrorism.

The ad is sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, which is headed by blogger Pamela Geller and is known for its sharp anti-Muslim rhetoric. The ad has run in other cities, including Chicago and San Francisco, without inciting violence.

The ruling will not be enforced for 30 days to allow MTA to appeal, Reuters reported.

The ad, which was rejected originally last September, includes a man wearing a scarf over his face and adds, “That’s his Jihad, what’s yours?”

The “Killing Jews” ad, as both sides are calling it, is part of a five-ad campaign parodying the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ “My Jihad” ads that have appeared on public transportation in other cities. The CAIR ads emphasize the nonviolent aspects of the term “jihad.”

$286M David’s Sling funding bill introduced in House of Representatives

Tue, 04/21/2015 - 15:53

WASHINGTON (JTA) – Bipartisan legislation to continue funding for the joint U.S.-Israel air defense system known as David’s Sling was introduced in the House of Representatives.

The bill introduced Tuesday by Reps. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., and Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., would authorize $286 million for procurement, research and development for the midrange missile defense system, which is designed to take down missiles from more than 180 miles away.

David’s Sling supplements the Iron Dome anti-missile system, which protects Israel against short-range rocket attacks.

“It’s important for us to bring this system online so we can help our ally in Israel and grow our economic partnership, so we can better share innovative ideas and create 21st century jobs in both countries,” Kilmer said in a statement.

Bridenstine noted the “immediate and growing missile threat” facing Israel.

“Hamas and Hezbollah and their supporters in Iran and Syria are developing more sophisticated and longer range missiles aimed squarely against our best ally in the Middle East,” he said, adding that the United States and Israel developing David’s Sling together “demonstrates the unshakable American commitment to Israel’s security.”

Israel Police: Car accident that injured 4 Palestinians doesn’t appear deliberate

Tue, 04/21/2015 - 15:53

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Four Palestinians were injured in a West Bank car incident in what police are investigating as a hit-and-run, but the victims say they were targeted.

Investigators said they have not turned up any evidence pointing to a deliberate attack in Tuesday night’s incident, in which a car with Israeli license plates plowed into the victims in the village of Nebi Elias and kept traveling, the Times of Israel reported.

The driver, a Jewish resident of the West Bank, later called and turned himself in to police.

Initial reports had called the incident a retaliation for the car ramming attack last week in Jerusalem that killed one Israeli and left another in serious condition.

The victims, including two pregnant women, had been walking by the road, a main thoroughfare through the northern West Bank. They told the Palestinian Maan news agency that the driver appeared to deliberately target them.

Bend the Arc launches PAC for domestic policy issues

Tue, 04/21/2015 - 15:10

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Bend the Arc launched a political action committee that in its fundraising for candidates will focus strictly on domestic issues of concern to Jewish-Americans.

“Bend the Arc Jewish Action PAC will leverage the Jewish community’s political resources to support members of Congress and congressional candidates who are unapologetic progressive champions,” said a statement issued Tuesday by the liberal Jewish policy group.

“By highlighting the core progressive values of Jewish voters, Bend the Arc Jewish Action PAC will send a clear message that political candidates cannot rely solely on their support for Israel to earn the support of the Jewish community; they must stand for progressive ideals and policies at home.”

The PAC launch included an announcement of $200,000 going to 12 endorsed lawmakers, all Democrats.

Directing the group will be Hadar Susskind, who also leads Bend the Arc Jewish Action, the Washington-based lobbying arm of Bend the Arc, a group that advocates on an array of liberal policy issues, including voting rights, immigration rights, gay marriage equality, economic justice and gender equity.

Susskind has a long background in Jewish community advocacy, having worked for groups including the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and J Street.

Chairing Bend the Arc Jewish Action is Alex Soros, the son of noted liberal philanthropist George Soros, and chairing the affiliated PAC is Marc Baum, a hedge fund manager from New York. Other donors include Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Paul Egerman, the national finance chairman for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

The endorsed lawmakers are Reps. Mark Takano, Mike Honda, Xavier Becerra and Barbara Lee of California; Keith Ellison and Rick Nolan of Minnesota; Jan Schakowsky of Illinois; Ruben Gallego of Arizona; David Cicilline of Rhode Island; Yvette Clarke of New York; Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey; and Alma Adams of North Carolina.

New York’s Met Council names new CEO, will stay independent

Tue, 04/21/2015 - 15:08

NEW YORK (JTA) — The Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, which has been on shaky ground since the 2013 arrest of longtime chief William Rapfogel for embezzlement, has hired a new leader.

Alan Schoor, the senior vice president for operations at Touro College in New York, was tapped as CEO to succeed David Frankel, the Forward reported Tuesday. Frankel, the social service agency’s executive director, will leave at the end of this year.

A Met Council spokesman said that a merger with another not-for-profit, which the agency acknowledged several months ago it was mulling, is no longer under consideration, according to the Forward.

The Met Council has experienced financial uncertainty since the arrest of Rapfogel in September 2013 for his role in a kickback scheme that yielded millions of dollars. Rapfogel is serving a prison sentence of 3 1/2 to 10 years.

A year after his appointment to succeed Rapfogel, Frankel announced last August that he would leave Met Council. Frankel, a former corporate executive and commissioner in New York City’s Department of Finance, reportedly clashed with the agency’s board and leaders of the local Jewish community councils.

Schoor, an Orthodox Jew, has worked as a senior executive at the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services and in the City of New York’s Department of General Services.

A statement released Tuesday by the Met Council quoted the UJA-Federation of New York, which provides some funding to the Met Council.

“UJA-Federation supports the decision of Met Council’s board to maintain an independent organization supporting the Jewish Community Councils,” said the federation’s president, Alisa Doctoroff. “Alan is an experienced executive and we are pleased to have him directing Met Council’s critical work of caring for the most vulnerable New Yorkers.”

Name of Palestinian teen killed in revenge slaying removed from Israel’s memorial

Tue, 04/21/2015 - 14:32

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The name of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, the Palestinian teenager who was kidnapped and burned alive by Jews in a revenge killing, was removed from Israel’s national memorial at the request of his parents.

The name was removed on Tuesday afternoon, hours after news reports that Khdeir’s name was added to the Victims of Acts of Terror Memorial at Mount Herzl, Ynet reported Tuesday evening.

Israel’s Defense Ministry recognized Khdeir as a civilian victim of terror two weeks after he was murdered, an act that was widely reported. His name on the memorial was noted as Israel prepared to mark Yom Hazikaron, or Memorial Day, which began at sundown Tuesday. It was first reported by Israel Radio.

The dead teen’s father, Hussein, told Ynet on Tuesday that “this is a great initiative meant to honor my son, but I’m more interested with something else entirely: For the court to do justice with those who burned my son alive and sentence them to the appropriate punishment.”

Khdeir, 16, was kidnapped from his eastern Jerusalem neighborhood early on the morning of July 2 and murdered hours later, less than a day after the funerals of Israeli teens Gilad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach, who were kidnapped and slain by Palestinians near Hebron.

Three Jews are on trial for beating Khdeir and then setting him on fire. The suspects — Yosef Haim Ben-David, 29, and two 16-year-old males — told investigators that the slaying was in revenge for the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teens.


Siren, ceremony mark start of Israel’s Memorial Day

Tue, 04/21/2015 - 13:46

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israelis “are not a people of war,” President Reuven Rivlin asserted at a candle-lighting ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem to mark the start of the country’s Memorial Day.

Rivlin spoke Tuesday night after a one-minute siren sounded throughout Israel, bringing the nation to a halt on a commemoration known in Hebrew as Yom Hazikaron.

“Our sons did not go to battle thirsty for blood. Not this past summer, not those before, not in our sorrow in those that, God forbid, are still to come,” he said. “We are forced to fight. Our children are sentenced to continue to hold a weapon in order to guard our borders, to defend our homes, on the factory that we have built here. The defense of our existence is the way of our lives.

Rivlin added, “There is no camp – no camp – in which there is no death. I’ve seen the sons of kibbutzim and settlements, moshavim and villages, Jews and non-Jews, urban people, lone soldiers and immigrants. I came to them too late. I got to know them when they were no longer here.”

Earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a ceremony at the headquarters in Jerusalem of Yad Lebanim, the association for families of fallen soldiers. He spoke about his family’s continuing grief for his brother, Yonatan, who died in 1976 during the rescue of kidnapped Israelis in Entebbe, Uganda. The prime minister had visited his brother’s grave earlier in the week in order to avoid disturbing bereaved families on the actual day.

A second siren, two minutes long, will sound at 11 a.m. Wednesday and marks the beginning of official memorial ceremonies throughout Israel.

Some 23,320 fallen soldiers and civilian victims of terror are being recognized this year, including the 116 soldiers and civilians who were killed or died in the last year, among them the  67 soldiers and five civilians killed in Israel’s operation in Gaza last summer. The figure of 23,320 fallen soldiers is calculated from 1860, when Jews first began to settle outside of Jerusalem.

Polish fashion guru called out for posing with SS hat

Tue, 04/21/2015 - 12:31

(JTA) — Holocaust commemoration activists in Warsaw filed a complaint against a Polish fashion celebrity who posed for pictures while wearing Nazi SS symbols.

Jonny Daniels, founder of the From the Depths commemoration group, filed the complaint with Warsaw prosecutors on Tuesday against Michal Witkowski, who on Sunday posed with two friends for pictures at Poland’s annual fashion week in the central city of Lodz.

Witkowski, who runs a popular fashion blog and appears frequently on television shows, was wearing a hat resembling a military beret emblazoned with the infamous SS symbol worn by soldiers of that elite Nazi unit during World War II. Displaying Nazi symbols is illegal in Poland, where the Nazis killed approximately 3 million Jews and another 2 million non-Jews.

On Monday, Witkowski apologized for the wearing the hat.

“I am not, nor did I want to be, a proponent of content related to any ideology, and in particular with the Nazi ideology,” he wrote on Facebook. Witkowski added that he did not inspect the hat too closely before wearing it and that he did so “without knowing that it could offend.”

But Daniels dismissed the apology as “an attempt to get off the hook in a country where authorities are often too forgiving of expressions of disrespect to the fallen.” He urged Witkowski to tour the former Auschwitz concentration camp with From the Depth staff “to understand why the hat is so offensive.”

The incident comes on the heels of Polish diplomats’ fury at FBI director James Comey for his reference in a speech last week at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s National Tribute dinner to “the murderers and accomplices of Germany and Poland.”

The U.S. ambassador to Poland, Stephen Mull, apologized for Comey’s remarks, calling them “wrong, harmful and offensive.”

But Daniels said that “in order to be taken seriously when distancing themselves from the Holocaust, Poland and its society should first tackle phenomenon like Witkowski’s, to acknowledge and combat widespread ignorance, indifference and also complicity during the genocide.”

Woman with Saudi and Jewish ancestry wins $40K in racial profiling settlement

Tue, 04/21/2015 - 12:23

(JTA) — An American woman of Saudi and Jewish descent has reached a settlement with Frontier Airlines and the U.S. government after being pulled off an airplane, detained and strip-searched.

Under the settlement, Shoshana Hebshi will receive $40,000 from the federal government as compensation for the “severe humiliation she suffered,” according to a news release issued by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU filed the suit on behalf of Hebshi, a mother of two who was detained at Detroit Metropolitan Airport on Sept. 11, 2011, the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

The ACLU charged that Hebshi was singled out because of her Middle Eastern name and appearance.

In addition, Frontier said it will amend its employee handbook and training to “more clearly state its zero-tolerance policy on discrimination.”

“I filed this lawsuit because I didn’t want others to experience the kind of unnecessary trauma that I did, and it has given me faith that the justice system can work to protect constitutional rights,” Hebshi said in the news release.

“People do not forfeit their constitutional rights when they step onto an airplane,” said Rachel Goodman, an attorney with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, in the news release. “This settlement sends that critical message, and will help protect future passengers from having to endure what Shoshana went through.”

Israelis among world’s least religious, poll finds

Tue, 04/21/2015 - 12:18

(JTA) — Israel may be the birthplace of Judaism and Christianity, but it is also one of the world’s least religious nations, according to a new poll.

The WIN/Gallup poll of 63,898 residents in 65 countries found that 65 percent of Israelis described themselves as either not religious or convinced atheists. Meanwhile, 75 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza viewed themselves as religious, with 18 percent not religious.

The poll found that overall, 63 percent of people said they are religious. With 61 percent of its citizens not religious, China was the world’s least religious country, whereas Thailand, with 94 percent of its citizens religious, was the most.

Despite Israel’s low rates of religiosity, according to the poll, the Middle East was one of the world’s most religious regions, with more than eight out of 10 people portraying themselves as religious. With 51 percent of its residents not religious, Western Europe was the least religious region.

The Gallup findings on Israel conflict with findings from a 2009 study by the Israeli Democracy Institute, according to The Jerusalem Post. The 2009 study reported that religiosity decreased in the decade after Jews from the former Soviet Union began immigrating to Israel en masse, but has subsequently increased, with 80 percent of respondents saying they believed in God.

Nisman complaint against Argentine government dismissed on last appeal

Tue, 04/21/2015 - 11:13

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) – A federal prosecutor dismissed accusations by the late special prosecutor Alberto Nisman that Argentina’s government covered up Iran’s role in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center.

On Monday, a day after Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner linked Jewish leaders to an international conspiracy against the government and railed against Nisman on social media, prosecutor Javier De Luca of the Court of Cassation refused to take on the criminal complaint filed in January by Nisman days before his shooting death.

De Luca said “it is not possible to move forward with the evidence-gathering measures proposed because those events do not constitute a crime.”

The appeals court is the highest avenue for appeals in criminal cases in Argentina, meaning that legal proceedings in the accusations against Kirchner and Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, who is Jewish, have reached an end. A federal judge and a federal appeals court had previously dismissed the accusations.

Seeking an extraordinary ruling, Nisman’s mother, Sara Garfunkel, filed a writ with the country’s Supreme Court asking it to maintain her son’s accusations, as well as the investigation into her son’s unsolved death.

Nisman was found dead in his Buenos Aires apartment on Jan. 16, hours before he was to present his allegations to Congress.

On Monday, a march to the court was the second gathering of planned monthly rallies calling for justice in the Nisman case. Information is disseminated using the Twitter account @MemorialNisman and the hashtag #Memorial Nisman.

Meanwhile, Kirchner tweeted her accusations on Sunday to her more than 3.7 million followers that Nisman had said during meetings with Jewish community leaders that Paul Singer, who heads a U.S. hedge fund, would provide billions of dollars to prevent Argentina from signing a memorandum of understanding with Iran on jointly investigating the AMIA bombing, which killed 85 and injured 300.

The memorandum, which has received international criticism, was signed in January 2013.

“If necessary, Paul Singer will help us,” Kirchner tweeted, quoting Nisman, adding, “To the uninformed or unaware reader, Paul Singer is the Vulture Lord and owner of the decisions of Judge Griesa against Argentina.”

Singer is part of a lawsuit to collect on Argentina’s national debt, in arrears since 2001.

Kirchner made the link between Nisman and the so-called vulture fund in a series of tweets in Spanish and in English, as well as on her personal blog, which rail against Nisman and the DAIA, the Jewish political umbrella.

DAIA denied any relationship linking local Jewish leaders and Singer.

“We feel dismay and concern about allegations made by the highest authority in the country, full of falsehoods and lies about an international conspiracy against Argentina,” DAIA Vice President Waldo Wolff told JTA.

David Kertzer wins Pulitzer for biography detailing Pius XI-Mussolini ties

Tue, 04/21/2015 - 09:47

BOSTON (JTA) — Historian David Kertzer won a Pulitzer Prize for his biography detailing how Benito Mussolini’s secret relationship with Pope Pius XI influenced the Italian dictator’s persecution of his country’s Jews.

Kertzer, a professor of anthropology and Italian studies at Brown University, was recognized in the biography-autobiography category for “The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe.”

Also recognized, for fiction, was Anthony Doerr for another book on World War II, “All the Light We Cannot See,” a complexly woven and emotionally powerful novel set in occupied France and Nazi Germany.

The prestigious journalism and literature awards were announced on Monday.

Kertzer based his book on research into papal documents from the inter-war years released by Pope John Paul II and other material.

The Pulitzer committee called it “an engrossing dual biography that uses recently opened Vatican archives to shed light on two men who exercised nearly absolute power over their realms.”

Kertzer told The Brown Daily Herald, “The ‘eye-opening’ revelation constitutes a concrete example of Pius XI provoking state-sanctioned anti-Semitism in the years leading up to and during World War II.”

Kertzer’s 1997 nonfiction book, “The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara,” won the National Jewish Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award. It is being made into a film by Steven Spielberg based on a script by Tony Kushner.

Palestinian driver says deadly car attack was deliberate

Tue, 04/21/2015 - 08:50

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Palestinian man who rammed his car into two Israelis at a Jerusalem bus stop, killing one and critically injuring the other, admitted that the attack was deliberate.

Khaled Kotina, 37, of eastern Jerusalem, said he intended to harm Jews and made the decision shortly before he committed the attack in the French Hill neighborhood, the Shin Bet security service announced Tuesday.

Kotina said he drove along Highway 1 in Jerusalem looking for Jewish people to run over. He identified his victims by their clothing, according to the Shin Bet.

Shalom Sharki, 25, of Jerusalem, died hours after the attack of his injuries. A 20-year-old woman remains in critical condition.

During his interrogation, Kotina told the Shin Bet that he suffers from mental health problems and that he pretended to be insane during a psychiatric examination following his arrest. Israel Police said that the psychological assessment found Kotina fit to stand trial.

The Shin Bet said it determined that Kotina’s decision to perpetrate the attack was based on nationalistic motives, not impulse. Kotina is married with no children and has no criminal record.

Police had originally treated the April 16 incident near the border of eastern and western Jerusalem as an accident.

There have been several terror attacks in recent months in which cars were used to ram pedestrians in Jerusalem. In one such incident in October, two people were killed, including a 3-month-old girl.

Former Auschwitz guard on trial asks for forgiveness

Tue, 04/21/2015 - 07:47

Oskar Groening at the first day of his trial in Luneberg, Germany, to face charges of being an accomplice to the murder of 300,000 at Auschwitz, April 21, 2015. (Andreas Tamme/Getty Images)

BERLIN (JTA) — Former Auschwitz guard Oskar Groening, on trial for his role in the murder of 300,000 people in the concentration camp, asked for forgiveness.

Groening, 93, told the District Court of Luneburg on Tuesday, the first day of the trial, that “for me there is no question that I made myself morally complicit.”

The former Waffen-SS member told the court that he learned about the gas chambers as soon as he reported for duty at Auschwitz in 1942, the German news agency dpa reported. He admitted to gathering the money and valuables found in the baggage of murdered Jews and handing it over to the SS — something he has publicly discussed in interviews over the years.

“I beg for forgiveness,” he said in court, according to news reports. “When it comes to the question of criminal guilt, you must decide.”

Groening was held in a British prison until 1948. He eventually found work as a payroll clerk in a factory.

The charges relate specifically to the murder of at least 300,000 Hungarian Jews in the summer of 1944. Plaintiffs in the case against him include the state as well as more than 60 Holocaust survivors and their relatives.

Groening is one of several former concentration camp guards summoned to stand trial in the past year.