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Netanyahu speech needed to go through Obama, half of U.S. voters say

Sun, 03/01/2015 - 15:19

(JTA) — Nearly half of American voters believe that Republican lawmakers should not have invited Israel’s prime minister to speak to Congress without first notifying President Barack Obama, a new poll found.

Some 48 percent of voters told a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll that Obama should have been consulted. Some 30 percent said they believed the invitation proffered by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was appropriate and another 22 percent said they did not know.

The poll also found that 66 percent of Democrats and 28 percent of Republicans said that Obama should have been notified about the invitation.

Some 800 registered voters were surveyed by phone in the poll conducted Feb. 25-28. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.46 percent.

Netanyahu is scheduled to address a joint session of Congress on Tuesday in a speech that has sparked controversy because neither Obama nor Democratic leaders were notified of the invitation. He also is scheduled to meet that day with a bipartisan group of congressional leaders.

Obama and members of the administration will not meet with Netanyahu, citing Israeli elections scheduled for two weeks later. At least 40 lawmakers have said they will boycott the speech.

The poll found that 47 percent of voters view Israel favorably and 17 percent negatively. In addition, 30 percent viewed Netanyahu positively and 17 percent negatively, up from 24 percent positively and 15 percent in August.

Nearly half of Americans have not seen, heard or read news coverage about Netanyahu’s upcoming speech, according to the poll.

AIPAC emphasizes Iran talks at record-breaking conference

Sun, 03/01/2015 - 15:08

WASHINGTON (JTA) — AIPAC launched its largest-ever conference with a focus on the Iran nuclear talks.

The legislative focus of the conference, which started Sunday with a record-breaking 16,000 activists in attendance, is two bills that seek increased congressional involvement in the nuclear talks underway between Iran and the major powers.

Activists who visit Capitol Hill on Tuesday, the last day of the conference, will seek co-sponsorship for a bill that adds new sanctions on Iran should it walk away from the talks. They also will lend their voices to a measure that subjects any deal with Iran to congressional approval.

President Barack Obama has threatened to veto both bills, saying that any congressional interference in the talks underway between Iran and the major powers risks scuttling the negotiations.

AIPAC speakers emphasized that they do not want to scuttle the talks and instead are seeking to ensure that there is congressional review and the deal is watertight.

“The ability to look at this, to submit it for approval or disapproval, is a critical role for Congress to play,” Howard Kohr, AIPAC’s CEO, said at the opening plenary.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who opposes the talks, is speaking to the conference on Monday. The next day he will address Congress in a speech that has engendered controversy because Netanyahu and the Republican congressional leadership arranged it without consulting Democrats or the White House.

Kohr acknowledged the furor, but noted that AIPAC was encouraging lawmakers to attend the speech.

“There’s no question that the way this speech has come about has created a great deal of upset among Democrats,” he said. “It frankly may have upset people in this room.”

Also addressing the conference is Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, who last week said Netanyahu’s speech is “destructive” of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Kohr in his opening remarks said that AIPAC also backs suspending assistance to the Palestinian Authority as long as it pursued statehood outside the framework of negotiations and sought legal action against Israel in international courts.

Ex-Israel envoy tapped to head Uruguay Foreign Ministry

Sun, 03/01/2015 - 13:08

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — The new president of Uruguay appointed the country’s former ambassador to Israel as head of the Foreign Ministry.

Dr. Tabare Vazquez on Sunday named Bernardo Greiver as secretary general of the ministry — a move that was seen as signaling closer Uruguay-Israel ties. Greiver, who is Jewish, has spoken publicly in recent years in favor of strong ties between Israel and Uruguay.

The new Uruguayan foreign minister, Nir Novoa, said in a radio interview that Greiver was tapped “because he knows the office, he is a diplomat with experience and is a hard worker.” Novoa told Universal Radio that he “talked with members of the Jewish community and they are pleased with this appointment.

“Without any doubt, this can be considered as a signal to Israel,” he said. “Uruguay had a very important role in the creation of the State of Israel and we need to continue on this path.”

In 1947, Uruguay voted at the United Nations in favor of declaring a Jewish state in Israel. The other two countries in the South American cone, Argentina and Chile, abstained.

Greiver succeeds Luis Almagro, who served between 1991 and 1996 as the Uruguayan ambassador to Iran.

Recent events have shown some tension related to the Iranian presence in the South American region and especially in Uruguay.

President Jose Alberto “Pepe” Mujica, who stepped down Sunday, said during Israel’s 50-day operation in Gaza over the summer that Israel was committing “genocide” against the Palestinians, as did Almagro. They also said “Gaza is a big concentration camp.”

Vazquez, who is from the same party as Mujica, when asked if he agreed with the president, said that Israel “was not committing genocide.”

Vazquez, 74, is serving as president for the second time. During his first administration, 2005 to 2010, he made an official three-day visit to Israel as a guest of then-President Shimon Peres. An oncologist, he also traveled to Israel in 1982, representing Uruguay in an international seminar about cancer research.

One month ago, Uruguay said it has “opened the door” to Israel’s help with security following a suspected bombing attempt near Israel’s embassy, for which Israel implicated Iran.

White House vows to veto bill mandating congressional review of Iran deal

Sun, 03/01/2015 - 12:47

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The White House said it will veto a bill that would subject any Iran nuclear deal to congressional approval.

The bill, which was introduced Friday by leading senators from both parties, would keep the president from suspending sanctions on Iran for 60 days while Congress considers any deal.

The White House maintains that any new legislation would scuttle talks underway.

“The president has been clear that now is not the time for Congress to pass additional legislation on Iran,” Bernadette Meehan, the spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said in an email.

“If this bill is sent to the president, he will veto it. We are in the final weeks of an international negotiation. We should give our negotiators the best chance of success, rather than complicating their efforts.”

The bill was introduced by Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), its ranking Democrat; Tim Kaine (D-Va.), the chairman of its Middle East subcommittee; and Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the foreign operations subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee.

Kaine’s support is especially notable, as the Virginia lawmaker has been among the administration’s most consistent backers in its participation in the nuclear talks between Iran and the major powers.

“I believe Congress should weigh in on the content of the deal given the centrality of the congressional sanctions to the entire negotiation and the significant security interests involved,” Kaine said in the statement announcing the bill.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which is holding its annual conference in Washington this week, added the bill to the agenda for its lobbying day on Tuesday, when thousands of activists head to Capitol Hill.

Already on its agenda is seeking co-sponsorship for a bill that would add new sanctions on Iran should it walk away from talks.

Rabbi Barry Freundel resigns position at Towson U.

Sun, 03/01/2015 - 10:09

(JTA) — Rabbi Barry Freundel, who pleaded guilty to voyeurism charges, has resigned as a professor at Towson University in Maryland.

Freundel submitted his letter of resignation to the suburban Baltimore university on Thursday, Towson spokesman Ray Feldmann told the Baltimore Sun.

His resignation is effective March 27. Freundel had taught ethics and religion since 2009 and was tenured. He was on paid leave since his arrest in October.

Last week, Freundel pleaded guilty to 52 counts of misdemeanor voyeurism for videotaping women undressing in the mikvah at his prominent Washington synagogue, Kesher Israel. He is facing a maximum penalty of 52 years in prison and tens of thousands of dollars in fines when he is sentenced in Washington Superior Court on May 15.

Investigators discovered secret cameras installed in the mikvah shower room and additional recording devices in his home.

Kesher Israel, an Orthodox congregation, has fired Freundel, 63, and ordered him to vacate its rabbinic residence. He reportedly will leave the home in early March.

Report: Obama threatened to shoot down Israeli jets sent to attack Iran

Sun, 03/01/2015 - 09:35

JERUSALEM (JTA) — President Barak Obama threatened to shoot down Israeli jets in 2014 if they were sent to attack Iranian nuclear facilities, a Kuwaiti newspaper reported.

The Arabic-language Al-Jarida newspaper cited “well-placed” sources in its report on Saturday.

According to the report, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided in consultation with Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, as well as top security and military commanders, to strike Iranian nuclear sites. The decision came, according to the newspaper, after Israel discovered that the United States and Iran were set to sign an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program following secret negotiations.

Israeli fighter jets practiced for the mission, including flying into Iran’s airspace without being detected by radar, according to the report.

An Israeli minister revealed the plans to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, leading to the Obama threat to shoot down Israeli jets before they reached their targets in Iran, according to Al-Jarida. The source indicated that the minister was Liberman.

Netanyahu aborted the operation in the wake of the threat, leading to the further breakdown of relations between U.S. and Israel, according to the report.

Kerry, Netanyahu speak by phone amid tensions

Sun, 03/01/2015 - 08:56

(JTA) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hours before the latter left for Washington.

The discussion on Saturday focused on the Iran nuclear talks with the world powers, including the United States, Netanyahu’s visit to Washington and concerns over Israel’s punitive withholding of tax money collected for the Palestinian Authority, The New York Times reported Sunday, citing unnamed American officials.

Netanyahu and Kerry reportedly speak frequently.

The Israeli leader is scheduled to speak Tuesday before a joint session of Congress about concerns over the potential nuclear deal. The address has sparked controversy over protocol issues and its proximity to Israeli elections on March 17, and President Barack Obama said he will not meet with Netanyahu in Washington.

A framework agreement between Iran and the world powers is set to be signed at the end of the month.

Netanyahu in Washington also will speak before the AIPAC conference.

Netanyahu at airport: I am leaving on a ‘fateful, even historic, mission’

Sun, 03/01/2015 - 06:52

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was leaving on a “fateful, even historic, mission” as he boarded a plane for Washington, where he will deliver a controversial address before Congress.

“I feel that I am the emissary of all Israelis, even those who disagree with me, of the entire Jewish People,”  Netanyahu said Sunday morning at Ben Gurion Airport, two days before his speech warning about signing a nuclear deal with Iran. “I am deeply and genuinely concerned for the security of all Israelis, for the fate of the nation, and for the fate of our people, and I will do my utmost to ensure our future.”

Netanyahu was accompanied at the airport by his wife, Sara, and Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer.

His speech Tuesday before a joint session of Congress has sparked controversy over protocol issues. On the same day, Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with a bipartisan group of congressional leaders.

Obama administration officials will not meet with Netanyahu while he is in Washington, citing the proximity of Israeli elections on March 17, and some 30 Democrats have said they won’t attend the speech. Vice President Joseph Biden will be traveling on the day of the speech as well.

Netanyahu, through Dermer, organized the speech to Congress with Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the House speaker, who did not consult with the White House or Democrats in issuing the invitation, which was made in the name of both parties.

On Monday, Netanyahu will deliver a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

On Saturday night, Netanyahu visited the Western Wall, where he said he had “respect” for Obama.

“I believe in the strength of the relationship between Israel and the U.S. and in their strength to overcome differences of opinion, those that have been and those that will yet be,” Netanyahu said there.

He said the deal being negotiated with Iran “could endanger our very existence.”

“In the face of this danger,” Netanyahu said, “we must unite and also explain the dangers stemming from this agreement to Israel, to the region and to the world.”

Nemtsov murder risks civil war, Russian dissident Khodorkovsky warns

Sun, 03/01/2015 - 06:06

(JTA) — The murder of former deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov risked plunging Russia into civil war, Russian dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky said.

An unidentified shooter on Saturday gunned down Nemtsov, a leading opposition politician in Russia. Nemtsov was a Christian but said he had Jewish ancestry.

Khodorkovsky, a Russian Jew who left for Switzerland in 2013, made the warning in a statement posted Saturday on his website. The dissident, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison following graft trials that critics alleged were designed to eliminate his political ambitions and criticisms of human rights abuses by Russian President Vladimir Putin, noted that Nemtsov was murdered “a hundred meters from the Kremlin.”

Nemtsov died hours after appealing for support for a march on Sunday in Moscow against the war in Ukraine.

“I know that for many people Boris’s death will become so much of a Rubicon that the entire country may become different,”  wrote on his website. “Will we find ourselves standing even closer to the precipice of all-out war of everybody against everybody? Or will we find within ourselves the strength to understand that political differences are not a reason to stop acting like human beings?”

An unidentified attacker in a car shot Nemtsov four times in the back as he crossed a bridge in view of the Kremlin, police said. Putin condemned the murder and said he has was closely monitoring the investigation amid widespread speculation that Nemtsov was eliminated by the Kremlin, as were other dissidents before him.

Leonid Bershidsky, a Russian Jewish journalist, in an Op-Ed published on bloombergview.com wrote that the death validated Nemtsov’s criticism of Putin “in the most terrible way.”

Bershidsky also criticized Putin’s government for what he said amounted to incitement against Nemtsov, writing that Nemtsov’s name was “on every list of traitors published on the Internet and aired on state TV.”

“It did not help that he was Jewish,” he wrote. “There was a strong undercurrent of anti-Semitism in the smear campaign.”


Federation marketing exec to run Philly Jewish newspaper

Sun, 03/01/2015 - 05:37

(JTA) — Philadelphia’s Jewish federation has named its top marketing official as publisher of the city’s Jewish Exponent newspaper.

Steven Rosenberg, the chief marketing officer for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, is taking over as the publisher’s representative, as well as the vice president and general manager of the Exponent, replacing David Alpher.

“I’m not a newspaper guy, but I like to think of myself as a smart guy that thinks outside the box,” Rosenberg told JTA. “I have a good background in marketing as someone who understands the media. And a new look at things is always smart.”

Rosenberg, who joined the federation three months ago, served previously as the vice president of marketing and communications at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

The federation is the sole owner of the Exponent, and the paper has been the target of criticism in the past for its handling of stories that did not cast federation priorities or donors in a favorable light. However, Rosenberg insisted that the paper will remain editorially independent.

“I’m not going to tell the executive editor what stories she should write,” said Rosenberg, referring to Lisa Hostein, who served previously as the editor of JTA. “I attend the editorial meetings when I can, and I will always share ideas, but what goes in the paper is her decision, 100 percent.”

Rosenberg said he would be more focused on elevating the Exponent’s profile, and attracting more advertisers, through more appearances at events and by raising the paper’s social media profile. He also said that he would look for “efficiencies on the sales and marketing side” and for other ways to save money on the business end.

According to its website, the Exponent, which has been publishing since 1887, is the second-oldest continuously published Jewish newspaper in the country (following the American Israelite in Cincinnati). However, like newspapers across the country, it has been suffering from declining readership and advertising revenues. The Philadelphia Business Journal reported that the paper has 22,000 subscribers, and Rosenberg acknowledged that it has been losing money.

However, he argued that the paper’s prospects are good.

“Advertisers have to understand, niche papers do very well,” Rosenberg said. “The Philadelphia Gay News is outstanding. Al Dia, which serves the Hispanic community, is a great model. There’s no reason we can’t show advertisers that we’re a great way to reach the Jewish community.”

Jewish groups slam Boteach ad on Susan Rice

Sat, 02/28/2015 - 21:16

WASHINGTON (JTA) — An array of Jewish groups condemned an ad by a foundation associated with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach accusing National Security Adviser Susan Rice of turning a blind eye to genocide.

“Susan Rice has a blind spot: Genocide,” said the advertisement appearing in Saturday’s New York Times, touting a talk on Iran this week in Washington hosted by Boteach, the New Jersey-based author and pro-Israel advocate.

As soon as the Sabbath ended, Jewish groups rushed to condemn the ad by This World: The Values Network.

The American Jewish Committee called it “revolting,” the Anti-Defamation League called it “spurious and perverse,” the Jewish Federations of North America called it “outrageous” and Josh Block, the president of The Israel Project, said it was “entirely inappropriate.”

Marshall Wittmann, the spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which will host Rice on Monday at its annual conference, said, “Ad hominem attacks should have no place in our discourse.”

On Sunday, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations issued a statement blasting the ad.

Other condemnations came from the Orthodox Union, J Street, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the National Council of Jewish Women and the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative movement. In a combined statement, the leaders of the Union for Reform Judaism and Reform’s Religious Action Center called the ad “grotesque,” “abhorrent” and a “sinister slur.”

The ad notes Rice’s recent complaints about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress on Tuesday, which was organized without consulting the White House. Netanyahu plans to speak against the nuclear talks between Iran and the major powers, which President Barack Obama backs. Rice said last week that the way the speech was organized was “destructive” to the U.S.-Israel relationship.

The ad also notes a controversy from the 1990s, when Rice was on President Bill Clinton’s National Security Council staff and reportedly advised against describing the mass killings in Rwanda as “genocide.”

“Ms. Rice may be blind to the issue of genocide, but should treat our ally with at least as much diplomatic courtesy as she does the committed enemy of both our nations,” it said.

In an interview, Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, who directs the Rabbinical Assembly, said Rice deserved an apology from Boteach.

The ad “is completely inconsistent with the record of friendship and loyalty this public official has shown Israel and the Jewish people,” Schonfeld said.

Rice grew close to pro-Israel and Jewish groups during her stint as U.S. envoy to the United Nations, in Obama’s first term, through her efforts to head off attacks on Israel and protect vulnerable populations in Sudan.

“It is not up to Shmuley Boteach to make it appear this is the way the Jewish community treats our friends,” Schonfeld said.

Boteach in an interview said he stood behind the ad.

“The stakes could not be higher, and our ad rightly points out that Susan Rice has gone beyond any mandate in condemning the prime minister for simply speaking out,” he said. “Condemnation should be directed not at those who seek to give Israel a voice but to those who seek to deny it.”

Boteach, whose talk on Monday will take place in a Senate office building and will include Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust memoirist, as well as Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), has appealed to AIPAC activists to attend.

Sherman condemned the ad on Twitter, but did not say if he was still participating in the event it was promoting.

“This ad is outrageous and harms the U.S.-Israel alliance,” he said. “It should be denounced in every forum.”

AIPAC, like many of the groups that have condemned the ad, is skeptical of the Iran nuclear talks.

Nathan Diament, the Washington director of the Orthodox Union, a group that has been pronouncedly skeptical of the talks, on Twitter described the ad as an “inappropriate ad hominem attack” that “doesn’t advance discourse on key issue of Iran.”

Rabbi Steve Gutow, who heads the JCPA, the public policy umbrella for the community, said the ad was a blow against bipartisan support for Israel.

“It’s a sad moment for the Jewish community to have this ad appear,” he said in an interview.

UCLA student government member questioned about Jewish identity

Fri, 02/27/2015 - 15:33

(JTA) — A member of UCLA’s student government was asked in a hearing whether her Jewish identity presents a conflict of interest.

During a Feb. 10 hearing, four student government members at the University of California Los Angeles questioned Rachel Beyda’s ability to make unbiased decisions on cases in which the Jewish community had a vested interest while being an active in Jewish organizations on campus.

“What followed was a disgusting 40 minutes of what can only be described as unequivocal anti-Semitism during which some of our council members resorted to some of the oldest accusations against Jews, including divided loyalties and dishonesty,” wrote Beyda’s roommate Rachel Frenklak in the Daily Bruin, UCLA’s student newspaper.

Fabienne Roth, Manjot Singh, Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed and Sofia Moreno Haq all raised concerns about confirming Beyda’s appointment to UCLA’s student government judicial board. Roth pointed to an example case from last May and argued that two students who had gone on sponsored trips to Israel should not have been allowed to vote on a resolution that involved targeting Israel with Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions measures.

Beyda’s appointment was initially stalled with a 4-4 vote. However, a second vote was taken after a faculty member interjected to explain that Beyda’s Jewish affiliations did not constitute a conflict of interest.

Roth, Singh, Sadeghi-Moyahed and Haq all apologized publicly in the Daily Bruin.

UCLA Chancellor Gene D. Block, who is Jewish, issued a memo to the campus in the aftermath of the incident.

“The views of others may make us uncomfortable,” the memo read. “That may be unavoidable. But to assume that every member of a group can’t be impartial or is motivated by hatred is intellectually and morally unacceptable.”

“Religious affiliations and ethnic identity should not and do not disqualify someone from being an effective judge,” the Daily Bruin editorial board wrote on Feb. 12.

Leonard Nimoy, actor who played Spock on ‘Star Trek,’ dead at 83

Fri, 02/27/2015 - 13:45

Leonard Nimoy (L) and wife Susan Bay arrive at the premiere of Paramount Pictures’ “Star Trek Into Darkness” on May 14, 2013 in Hollywood. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)

(JTA) — Leonard Nimoy, the actor best known for his role as Spock on “Star Trek,” died Friday morning at his home in Los Angeles.

The cause of death was end-stage chronic pulmonary disease, the New York Times reported. He was 83.

Nimoy’s Spock has proved to be one of the most famous television characters of the second half of the 20th century. Nimoy said that he based the character’s split-finger salute, now a pop culture fixture, on a Kohanic blessing which involves a manual approximation of the Hebrew letter shin.

Nimoy was born in Boston’s West End neighborhood in 1931 to Yiddish-speaking, Orthodox Jewish immigrant parents from then Soviet Ukraine.

After teaching method acting in his own studio and making several minor film and television appearances in the 1950s and early 1960s, Nimoy was cast as Spock, a pragmatic alien with trademark pointed ears, in 1965. “Star Trek” became a cult classic show in the 1970s and eventually spawned five subsequent TV series and 12 films.

Nimoy held the role of Spock for over four decades and sustained a successful Broadway theater career. His other notable acting roles include Paris in the spy series “Mission Impossible” and the psychiatrist David Kibner in a 1978 remake of “Invasion of the Bodysnatchers.” He also directed two of the “Star Trek” films and the comedy “Three Men and a Baby” in 1987.

Nimoy showcased his ambivalence about being closely identified with the Spock role through the titles of his two autobiographies, entitled “I Am Not Spock” (1975) and “I Am Spock” (1995).

In his later years, Nimoy rediscovered his Jewish roots. In 1991, he produced and starred in “Never Forget,” a TV movie based on the story of a Holocaust survivor who sues a group of neo-Nazi Holocaust deniers, and four years later he hosted an NPR series in which Jewish celebrities read aloud Jewish short stories. In 2002, he published “Shekhina,” a book of photographs of semi-nude Jewish women, which angered Orthodox leaders. And in 2009, he narrated a documentary about the Beth Sholom Synagogue in Elkins Park, Pa., which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Nimoy was nominated for an Emmy Award for his role as Golda Meir’s husband in “A Woman Called Golda” in 1982.

Italian lawmakers urge recognition of Palestinian state

Fri, 02/27/2015 - 09:50

(JTA) — Italian lawmakers backed a non-binding resolution urging the government to recognize Palestine as a state.

Italy’s Chamber of Deputies voted by 300 to 45 to pass the motion presented by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party, the news site repubblica.it reported on Friday.

Friday’s symbolic vote does not change the position of the Italian government, which, like other European countries, still supports a negotiated two-state solution.

Ireland, Britain, France and the European Parliament held similar votes toward the end of last year. Sweden went further, officially recognizing Palestine, whereas Spain’s congress passed a motion that says Spain should recognize a Palestinian state only after its establishment is agreed upon in bilateral negotiations with Israel.

Politician for French National Front says Jews blocking his musical career

Fri, 02/27/2015 - 09:47

(JTA) — A French amateur singer affiliated with the far-right National Front party said his musical career is being blocked by Jews because he is not part of their clique.

Xavier Sainty, a candidate for National Front from the central Allier region in the upcoming regional elections, made the statement on social media earlier this month, the Liberation daily reported on Wednesday.

“Even in show business I am blocked in all directions, and a Jewish producer, ‘Patrick Jaoul’ told me to my face: ‘as you’re not Jewish you’ll never be on television or the radio and you’ll be barred because we have money and it all belongs to us, you’ll never make it.’”

Using the Hebrew word for non-Jews, Sainty added: “This is how we are treated by these governments for decades, we the ‘goyim.’ For a real French revolution, for Marine Le Pen and fast!”

Under its current president Marine Le Pen, National Front has distanced itself from the anti-Semitic statements and views of her father and predecessor, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has multiple convictions for inciting hatred against Jews and denying the Holocaust.

But CRIF and other prominent Jewish groups advocate treating her and her party as pariahs citing the fact that Jean-Marie Le Pen is still National Front’s honorary president and that numerous party officials have expressed anti-Semitic views.

Le Pen, who had in the past fired party members for anti-Semitic statements, has not yet commented publicly on Sainty’s post.

According to CRIF and the National Bureau for Vigilance against anti-Semitism, the far right in France remains a major propagator of intellectual anti-Semitism, but most physical attacks on Jews are perpetrated by radical Muslims.

On Jan. 9, Muslim terrorist Amedy Coulibaly killed four people at a kosher supermarket outside Paris – one of three deadly attacks by French Muslims on Jews since 2012.

New footage from the shooting, which Coulibaly filmed, showed he asked a shopper about his ethnicity and executed him after the shopper said he was Jewish, Le Nouvel Observateur reported Thursday.

Coulibaly, who took more than 20 people hostage before police killed him, told a journalist during the siege that he had come to kill Jews.

China, World Jewish Congress to commemorate Shanghai Ghetto liberation

Fri, 02/27/2015 - 08:50

A Jewish girl and her Chinese friends in the Shanghai Ghetto during World War II, from the collection of the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum. (Wikimedia Commons)

(JTA) — The World Jewish Congress and China’s government are preparing a joint commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Shanghai Ghetto.

The People’s Republic of China and WJC intend to host the ceremony in September, the parties said in a joint statement to media on Wednesday.

More than 23,000 Jewish refugees lived in the ghetto in Shanghai, which was then occupied by Japan — an ally of Nazi Germany and cofounder of the fascist Axis powers.

Some of the refugees in the ghetto arrived there from Lithuania, where the Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara gave transit visas into Japan to approximately 6,000 Jews in defiance of orders from Tokyo.

“We will commemorate, for the first time, part of the Holocaust that tends to get less attention,” said WJC President Ronald S. Lauder, who will chair the commemoration event.  “This historic event also marks another step towards strengthening the bonds between the Chinese and Jewish people.”

The event, the first to be co-organized by the WJC and China, will bring 100 WJC representatives to Shanghai.

Robert Singer, CEO of Lauder’s organization, finalized the joint commemoration earlier this week during a meeting in London with Qiu Yuanpin, a Chinese minister of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office.

“It is in the best interests of world Jewry that we forge even closer relations with Beijing,” Singer said.

Yuanpin said in the joint statement with the WJC:  “Both Chinese and Jewish nations have suffered at the hands of Fascist forces, but, ultimately, achieved final victory after unyielding struggle.”

Chinese officials in recent years have stepped up their rhetoric against Japan, demanding more explicit expressions of regret for atrocities committed during World War II from the current government of the island nation.

Historical tensions between the Asian powers are further complicated by efforts by Japan’s right-wing government to beef up the country’s military capabilities, ending decades of a pacifist prohibition on maintaining offensive capabilities.


Madonna hacker indicted in Tel Aviv

Fri, 02/27/2015 - 07:33

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Tel Aviv man was indicted for hacking American pop star Madonna’s computer and selling unreleased songs.

Adi Lederman, 39, was charged on Tuesday in Tel Aviv Magistrate Court with illegal wiretapping, invasion of privacy, copyright infringement and obstruction of justice.

An undercover investigation by the Internet crime unit of Israel’s anti-fraud police led to the allegation that Lederman hacked into Madonna’s computer and posted songs from an unreleased album.

He also is accused of hacking into the computers of several other international artists.

He allegedly sold Madonna’s unreleased tracks online after stealing them in December.

After the unauthorized release of 27 tracks from her forthcoming album, “Rebel Heart,” Madonna released six fully-produced tracks early. She called the theft “a form of terrorism” and the equivalent of “artistic rape.”

Jewish disability activists lobby Congress

Fri, 02/27/2015 - 07:29

WASHINGTON (JTA) – Activists from across the country marked Jewish Disability Advocacy Day by lobbying members of Congress to preserve Social Security disability insurance and increase funding for transportation.

The day-long event held Wednesday was sponsored by two dozen organizations, including the Jewish Federations of North America, and included lobbying on Capitol Hill and speeches by disability experts. The group of 90 activists was addressed by Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

Jennifer Dexter, assistant vice president of government relations at Easter Seals, told the lobbyists that states need funds for transportation needs of the elderly and those with disabilities.

Funding for the two-year federal Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, a transportation authorization law, expires May 31 and Congress currently is deciding on funding levels.

Congress should allocate at least $5 million, Dexter said, adding, “It’s a small program that makes a difference.”

Rachel Goldberg, director of aging policy at B’nai B’rith International, advocated for the shifting of funds from Social Security’s retirement fund to its disability insurance fund, saying the disability fund could be insolvent by the fall of 2016.

“We’ve known this was coming” for 25 years, she said.

Social Security’s retirement funding is expected to last through 2034. If the requested shift of one-10th of 1 percent is agreed upon, that would move forward the program’s insolvency date by one year, to 2033, Goldberg said.

It is important to fight “not just for Jewish people but for all the disabled in the world,” said Rabbi Jonah Pesner, executive director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, one of the event’s sponsors.

Jewish people “shouldn’t allow there to be stragglers at all,” he said. People with disabilities “belong at the center of our community, not the rear,” he said.

Panelist Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, agreed. “We take a radical view. We believe all people with disabilities can be included,” he said. “Disability rights are human rights.”

Calif. Jewish cemetery accused of mishandling remains is sued a second time

Fri, 02/27/2015 - 07:16

(JTA) — A Jewish cemetery accused of disturbing dead people’s remains is being sued for the second time.

Several dozen relatives of people buried at Eden Memorial Park Cemetery in Mission Hills, Calif., filed a complaint Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court alleging mass disturbances of their loved ones’ graves.

About 40,000 people are buried in the 72-acre cemetery, including comedians Groucho Marx and Lenny Bruce.

The allegations include interference with dead bodies and with the right to dispose of remains, intentional infliction of emotional distress and fraud, the local CBS affiliate reported.

The cemetery’s employees have testified that every grave at Eden Memorial Park is currently at risk of being disturbed and its protective vault damaged, the lawsuit said, according to CBS.

Eden Memorial Park is owned and operated by SCI California, a subsidiary of the Texas-based Service Corporation International (SCI), the  largest operator of cemeteries and funeral services in the United States.

Company officials “have not seen the lawsuit and therefore cannot comment on it,” SCI spokeswoman Jessica McDunn said in a statement.

In March 2014, the cemetery  agreed to a settlement worth about $80.5 million in a class-action lawsuit involving 25,000 claimants.

The lawsuit claimed that Eden Memorial Park, which is one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in the United States, instructed groundskeepers to “secretly break concrete vaults with a backhoe and remove, dump and/or discard the human remains, including human skulls, to make room for new interments.” The alleged incidents began as early as 1985.

Dieudonne and Ahmadinejad trade mutual admiration

Fri, 02/27/2015 - 07:14

(JTA) — Iranian ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Dieudonne M’bala M’bala a “great artist” during a meeting in Tehran with the French comic who is a repeat inciter of hate against Jews.

Dieudonne visited the Islamic Republic last week, the news site fararu.com reported, and presented Ahmadinejad with a golden statue of a man performing the quenelle — a gesture reminiscent of the Nazi salute that Dieudonne is promoting as a sign of discontent with the establishment but that French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has called a gesture of “anti-Semitic hate.”

Dieudonne calls the statue a “golden quenelle” and has presented a number of them to personalities he defines as anti-Zionist. Ahmadinejad is a noted Holocaust denier who during his presidency expressed his wish that Israel would disappear.

On his official Twitter account, Ahmadinejad wrote about the encounter: “Visiting an old friend, a great artist. #Dieudonne #all4Palestine.”

During his eight years in office through 2013, Ahmadinejad ran competitions of cartoons on the Holocaust, soliciting drawings that suggested the genocide never happened or is happening to the Palestinians.

Dieudonne has more than 10 convictions for inciting hatred against the Jews, including through ridiculing the Holocaust and suggesting it is fabricated.

Dieudonne, whose shows are regularly banned in France and who is facing accusations of tax evasion in addition to ongoing probes into anti-Semitic speech, is the inventor of the word “shaonanas.”

A mashup of the Hebrew word for the Holocaust and French for pineapple, it is widely understood to be a codename suggesting the Holocaust never happened without violating France’s laws against denying it.