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AIPAC rues added relief for Iran in talks extension

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 16:02

WASHINGTON (JTA) — AIPAC said it was “deeply disappointed” in the terms extending the Iran nuclear talks for four months.

“Despite our support for talks, we note that Tehran has yet to indicate a willingness to dismantle any element of its nuclear infrastructure,” the pro-Israel lobby said in a statement Monday in response to the extension of the July 20 deadline to Nov. 24 announced Friday.

“We are concerned that rather than coming into compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions, Iran will try to use the recently announced extension of talks to break the international coalition and advance its nuclear weapons program,” the statement said. “We are deeply disappointed that the P5+1 has offered even more economic relief to Iran.”

The P5+1 refers to Russia, the United States, China, Britain, France and Germany, the major powers negotiating with Iran since January to come up with a long-term sanctions relief for nuclear rollback formula.

“Economic pressure brought Tehran to the negotiating table, and increased pressure is critical to any reasonable prospect for reaching a good agreement,” the American Israel Public Affairs Committee said.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Iran has abided by the terms of the interim nuclear rollback governing the talks but gaps remain.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has suggested that the gaps are over the means by which Iran reduces its uranium enrichment capacity.

Iran seeks to keep its centrifuges while subjecting them to an inspections regimen. The United States wants Iran to dismantle a majority of the centrifuges and impose a tough inspections regimen on those remaining. Israel says the centrifuges should be totally dismantled.

Kerry also said there would be $2.8 billion in sanctions relief during the next four months in addition to the $4 billion to $7 billion under the formula governing the current talks.

Obama administration officials have said the effect of the interim sanctions rollbacks have been negligible and that Iran’s economy continues to suffer from sanctions.

Belfast synagogue vandalized on back-to-back days

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 15:08

(JTA) — A window was smashed on successive days at a synagogue in Belfast, Ireland.

The vandalism at the Belfast Hebrew Congregation took place on Friday night and the following day, the BBC reported. In the latter incident, the replacement window was shattered.

Police are treating the vandalism as a religious hate crime.

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said it was “totally unacceptable” for places of worship to be targeted, the BBC reported.

Gerry Kelly, a member of the legislative assembly, condemned the attack.

“There can be no place for attacks on any place of worship, regardless of the religion or denomination,” Kelly said, according to Belfast’s News Letter. “The local Jewish community makes a valuable contribution to our society and there is no justification for hate crimes.”

It was not clear whether the attack was related to Israel’s operation in the Gaza Strip.

Obama tells Kerry to broker ‘immediate’ cease-fire in Gaza

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 13:44

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Obama told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to push for an “immediate cessation of hostilities” between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

“As I’ve said many times, Israel has a right to defend itself against rocket and tunnel attacks from Hamas,” Obama said Monday in a brief news appearance as Kerry headed to Egypt to attempt to broker a cease-fire.

“And as a result of its operations, Israel has already done significant damage to Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure in Gaza. I’ve also said, however, that we have serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives. And that is why it now has to be our focus and the focus of the international community to bring about a cease-fire that ends the fighting and that can stop the deaths of innocent civilians, both in Gaza and in Israel.”

Obama said he wanted a return to the truce with Hamas brokered in November 2012, but Hamas has rejected such a return. Hamas has added demands including internationally monitored border crossings, prisoner releases and Israel staying out of Hamas-Palestinian Authority unity talks.

“I’ve instructed him to push for an immediate cessation of hostilities,” Obama said.

More than 500 Palestinians have died in the fighting, most of them civilians, while 25 Israeli troops and two civilians have been killed.

Brooklyn man, extradited from Israel, arraigned in ’08 beating death

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 13:33

NEW YORK (JTA) — A former Hasidic community watch group member in Brooklyn was arraigned in New York in a 2008 beating death after being extradited from Israel.

Yitzchak Schuchat, 31, was arraigned Friday in state Supreme Court in the death of Andrew Charles, according to New York 1. U.S. marshals returned him to New York last week.

Schuchat is facing charges of second- and third-degree assault as a hate crime; Charles was black.

An Israeli court decided to extradite Schuchat in 2011, but he remained in Israel pending appeal.

Schuchat, a member of the Shmira community watch group at the time of the assault, is being held on $300,000 bail and is scheduled to return to court on Aug. 18.

German Jewish leader: Don’t be intimidated by anti-Semitic protests

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 13:22

BERLIN (JTA) — Germany’s main Jewish leader called on Jews not to be intimidated by a recent spate of anti-Israel demonstrations featuring violently anti-Jewish slogans.

With protests against Israel occurring daily throughout the country – including Monday outside the Israeli Embassy in Berlin — Deiter Graumann, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said in a letter to community members and leaders that he could understand their concerns for their safety.

“More solidarity from the German, non-Jewish society would be very nice, of course, and more than appropriate,” he wrote. “But we won’t let ourselves be intimidated.”

While Jews themselves may differ on political issues, “there is no question that Israel must defend itself,” he said, while noting that the wave of anti-Semitism actually has roots far deeper than the current situation in the Middle East.

“After all, what does it have to do with Gaza when synagogues here are vandalized and attacked, when Jews are threatened and when completely unbridled masses on the streets shout that the Jews should be ‘gassed,’ ‘burned’ and ‘slaughtered’?”

On Saturday, police in Berlin managed to prevent a physical attack against an Israeli couple by demonstrators who were shouting “S*** Jews, we’ll get you!” and “Israel: Nazi murderer.”

On Friday, the American Jewish Committee in Berlin filed charges with police after an observer reported marchers chanting “Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come on out and fight.” Two days later in Hanover, pro-Israel demonstrators were violently attacked after unfurling an Israeli flag.

The injuries were minor, but the escalation is clear, said Fabian Weissbarth, who has observed several Berlin demonstrations as public affairs coordinator for AJC Berlin.

Weissbarth described a “really aggressive atmosphere” among several hundred protesters who gathered Monday near the Israeli Embassy. Further demonstrations against Israel are expected this week, he added.

Seven more Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza; IDF death toll at 25

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 12:58

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Seven more Israeli soldiers were killed in Gaza, bringing the death toll of troops to 25 since the beginning of the Israeli military’s ground invasion.

The Israel Defense Forces announced the deaths of the seven soldiers in a 24-hour span on Monday evening.

Four were killed Monday morning when infiltrators from Gaza entered southern Israel through a tunnel that ended between two kibbutzim near the Gaza border. The infiltrators reportedly fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the soldiers, who arrived on the scene in a military jeep.

The other three soldiers reportedly were killed in ongoing military operations in Gaza City’s Shujaiya neighborhood, one reportedly by friendly fire.

The number of Israeli soldiers killed in the current Operation Protective Edge is more than the total number of soldiers who died in Gaza operations in 2008-09 and 2012 combined. Two civilians also have been killed since the launch of the operation two weeks ago.

The Palestinian death toll rose to more than 500, most reportedly civilians, since the start of Protective Edge, according to the Washington Post.

On Monday, Israeli tank shells reportedly hit al-Aksa hospital in central Gaza, killing four and injuring dozens, including numerous medical staff. The shells were targeting what the IDF identified as a stockpile of anti-tank missiles stored next to the hospital, according to the IDF spokesman’s office.

Work completed overnight on Hungarian WWII monument

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 12:51

(JTA) — A controversial Nazi occupation monument was erected in downtown Budapest in the middle of the night after an appeals court rejected a petition to halt its construction.

Workers completed the main components of the memorial in Freedom Square after midnight Sunday following the decision by the Budapest Court of Appeals the previous evening, according to local reports.

Speaking Monday at a news conference in Budapest, Janos Lazar, a senior representative of the Hungarian government headed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, said there will be no unveiling ceremony because of the controversy surrounding the monument.

Critics of the monument, which depicts Hungary as an angel being attacked by a German eagle, say it glosses over Hungary’s active role in sending some 450,000 Jews to their deaths during the Holocaust. The Hungarian government disputes the interpretation, arguing the figure attacked represents all victims of fascism and not the Hungarian state.

Orban in February postponed a ceremony commemorating the country’s victims of World War II following protests by Jewish groups over the monument that they said obfuscates Hungary’s Holocaust-era role. Following his reelection, he asserted in early May that construction would go forward despite the Jewish community’s objections.

The Mazsihisz Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary pulled out of all government-led activities for the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of Hungary because of the monument.

In a statement Monday, Mazshihisz wrote, “Our efforts have not been in vain: Outstanding Hungarian scientists, clergymen and philosophers have strongly criticized [the erection of the monument] which followed a hundred days of continuous protest.”

Government workers began constructing the monument in April, but work was halted after the lawsuit filed by a former leader of the Socialist Party.

The site was secured early Sunday morning by 100 police officers to allow the completion of the monument, according to local reports. Protests have continued since then at the site, according to reports.

 

Israel’s U.N. envoy denies Hamas claim of captive soldier

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 10:01

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations denied a claim by Hamas that it was holding a soldier who had been captured in Gaza.

“There’s no kidnapped Israeli soldier and those rumors are untrue,” Ron Prosor said Monday.

The soldier named by Hamas, Shaul Aron, was among the 13 Israeli soldiers believed to have been killed in heavy fighting in Gaza City’s Shujaiya neighborhood on Sunday. The Israel Defense Forces had not provided a complete list of the dead as of Monday afternoon.

Hamas did not say whether the soldier was dead or alive and has provided no proof that it was holding him.

The Israeli army has neither confirmed nor denied the rumor.

Following the announcement of the alleged capture by Hamas’ military wing late Sunday night, fireworks and celebrations were held in cities including Ramallah, Hebron and Bethlehem, according to the Palestinian Maan news agency.

Among Hamas demands for a cease-fire with Israel is the release of Hamas members who were rearrested by Israel in recent weeks after being freed in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange.

 

Leaflets threaten Chicago Jews over Israel’s Gaza operation

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 09:26

(JTA) — Leaflets threatening the Jewish community because of Israel’s Gaza operation were found on parked cars in a Chicago neighborhood.

The leaflets found Saturday on six cars in the Pulaski Park neighborhood, in the northwestern part of the city, threatened violence if Israel did not pull out of Gaza and end its operation in the coastal strip that began July 8, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Chicago Police opened an investigation and notified the department’s hate crimes unit, according to the newspaper.

The leaflets were discovered a day after hundreds of protesters held a demonstration in downtown Chicago, including a “die-in” in which protesters representing the more than 400 Palestinians killed by Israel in the Gaza operation lay on the ground.

The demonstrators then moved their protest in front of the Israeli Consulate in Chicago, according to the Tribune.

SodaStream fires Palestinian employees in Ramadan fast dispute

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 09:16

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The SodaStream company reportedly fired 60 Palestinian employees from its West Bank plant over a dispute on breaking the Ramadan fast.

The workers were fired earlier this month, the WAC-MAAN trade union representing the Palestinian workers told The Marker, a business newspaper associated with the Israeli daily Haaretz.

The evening shift workers reportedly received dismissal notices a day after complaining that the food they received to end the daily sun-up to sundown fast during the Ramadan holy month was not enough. They are prohibited from bringing their own food into the plant due to the observance of kosher laws there.

On the evening they complained, the workers were sent home with promises that the issue would be resolved, according to the Marker. They received the termination notices the following day.

SodaStream told the Marker in a statement that the workers were dismissed because they called a wildcat strike, which the company said was without cause.

“SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum proudly presents the plant as an oasis of coexistence between peoples, but the reality is very different,” WAC-Maan Jerusalem coordinator Erez Wagner told The Marker.

SodaStream has been in the news in recent months following the signing of actress Scarlett Johansson as a spokeswoman and the ensuing controversy over its West Bank factory. Johansson resigned as a global ambassador for Oxfam over her position with the company, which employs Jewish and Palestinian workers in Maale Adumim.

Pro-Israel rallies held in 3 Australia cities

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 09:03

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – More than 3,000 people demonstrated in support of Israel at rallies in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.

In Melbourne, a piercing siren shattered the silence Sunday as about 2,000 people joined a “Code Red” rally.

Dr. Danny Lamm, president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, told the crowd, “Israel faces a battle on three fronts — the battlefront in Gaza, the home front and the global front, where the legitimacy of her operations are questioned. It is imperative that the world hears the truth and understands that Israel is acting in self-defense.”

Nina Bassat, president of Melbourne’s Jewish community, added, “We are here today because the State of Israel, so integral to our sense of identity and indeed to our destiny, is suffering.”

Sen. Scott Ryan, representing Prime Minister Tony Abbott, told rally participants that “the Australian government stands with you.”

In Sydney, some 1,000 people converged on Central Synagogue in Bondi to hear Israeli Ambassador Shmuel Ben-Shmuel tell the crowd, “Your support is a source of encouragement, your compassion is a source of comfort and your solidarity is a source of hope.”

Across the city, Julie Nathan, the research officer for the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, witnessed the 5,000-strong pro-Palestinian rally, which she described as a sea of “black flags of jihad, the yellow flags of a banned terrorist organization, Hezbollah, the Islamist chants and placards spewing anti-Semitism.”

She said some were bearing placards including “Israel: using one Holocaust to continue another since 1948″; “One Holocaust doesn’t justify another”; and “Netanyahu: modern day Hitler.”

One woman entered the throng flying an Israeli flag before police escorted her out of harm’s way, according to Nathan.

In Perth, about 500 supporters joined what was billed as a “peace rally,” with one federal and several state parliamentarians in attendance, according to reports.

 

Florida State U. prof Dan Markel slain in home shooting

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 08:00

(JTA) — Dan Markel, a law professor at Florida State University, died after being shot in his home.

Markel died Saturday morning, a day after being discovered shot in the back in his home and taken to the hospital, the Tallahassee Democrat reported. He was 41.

No suspects have been identified, the Democrat reported.

“I am deeply saddened to report that our colleague Dan Markel passed away early this morning,” FSU law school dean Donald Weidner said in a statement issued Saturday, adding that the case was still under active investigation by local authorities.

A memorial service was held Sunday at Congregation Shomrei Torah in Tallahassee. A memorial service will be held at the university in the fall when students return to campus.

Markel was a graduate of Harvard Law School and primarily taught criminal law at Florida State.

Markel’s writings have been featured in The New York Times, Slate and The Atlantic. He is the author of the 2009 book “Privilege or Punish: Criminal Justice and the Challenge of Family Ties.” He also wrote a law blog called “Prawfsblawg.”

Report: Israel hit Sudan site housing missiles for Gaza

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 05:51

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel bombed a warehouse in Sudan housing long-range missiles heading for Hamas in Gaza, an Arabic newspaper reported.

The London-based Al-Arab quoted unnamed sources in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, as saying that Israel struck an ammunition warehouse on Friday located north of the capital. Sudanese officials had claimed the explosion was caused by a fire, according to reports.

Israel’s military has not responded to the allegations.

In 2009, Israel carried out three airstrikes in western Sudan on a convoy reportedly carrying weapons to Gaza. Israel was blamed as well for a 2012 explosion in a weapons plant in Khartoum that reportedly was building weapons for Hamas.

Israel kills infiltrators near Gaza border

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 05:28

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli troops killed 10 infiltrators who came through a tunnel from northern Gaza into southern Israel.

The infiltrators emerged from the tunnel Monday morning between two kibbutzes near the Gaza border, the Israel Defense Forces reported. The IDF said its radar captured the infiltration.

One cell of infiltrators was struck by Israeli airstrikes, the IDF said, and a second cell was killed in a gunfight with Israeli troops.

Residents of the two kibbutzes, Erez and Nir Am, and some surrounding southern Israeli towns were ordered to remain in their homes with the doors locked for several hours on Monday morning as the IDF searched for more possible infiltrators.

Israel’s Shin Bet security service reportedly had warned the IDF of a potential infiltration in the area.

 

Two U.S. citizens among Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza City

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 05:07

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Two American citizens were among the 13 Israeli soldiers killed in the heavy fighting in Gaza City’s Shujaiya neighborhood.

Max Steinberg, 24, of Beersheba and Los Angeles, and Sean Carmeli, 21, of Raanana and South Padre Island, Texas, were members of the Golani Brigade killed Sunday in the battle.

Some 65 Palestinians were reported killed in the fighting.

Steinberg enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces several months after visiting Israel for the first time on a Birthright Israel trip in June 2012. He spoke to his father by phone hours before his death, according to the Times of Israel. The family is traveling to Israel for his funeral.

Carmeli, whose parents are Israelis who moved to Texas, moved to Israel to attend high school.  His two older sisters live in Israel. His parents reportedly are on their way to Israel.

The U.S. State Department confirmed both deaths late Sunday and said Steinberg and Carmeli were American citizens.

Main suspect in Khdeir revenge murder named

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 15:28

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The name of the main suspect in the revenge murder of a Palestinian teenager from eastern Jerusalem was released.

The suspect is Yosef Haim Ben-David, 29, of the Adam settlement near Jerusalem, who owns an eyewear store in Jerusalem and reportedly has a history of mental problems. His attorneys reportedly will enter a plea of insanity.

The Jerusalem District Court released his name late Sunday night after a gag order was lifted on the suspect’s identity.

Ben-David, who had appealed the release of his name to the public, is accused of beating 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir unconscious and then burning him to death. He and two other suspects, both 16-year-old males — from Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh — told investigators that the slaying was in revenge for the kidnapping and murder last month of three Israeli teens.

The suspects have admitted to the murder and reenacted it for police.

Ben-David, who was committed to a mental hospital in recent months after allegedly attempting to murder his infant daughter, also is charged with attempting to kidnap a 7-year-old boy from eastern Jerusalem a day before the murder of Khdeir.

Khdeir 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.

Last week, Israel’s Defense Ministry recognized Khdeir as a terror victim.

Backstreet Boys scrap Israel shows due to Gaza crisis

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 15:18

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Backstreet Boys canceled three sold-out concerts in Israel due to the Gaza conflict.

The American pop band posted a message Sunday on its official website announcing the cancellation of the July 29-31 concerts at the Raanana Amphitheater “to assure the safety of the audience.” New dates will be scheduled for the spring.

“This is a major disappointment for the band and fans as this was to be our first visit to Israel and we looked forward to meeting our fans,” the message said.

Canadian singer Paul Anka also canceled two concerts set for this week in Tel Aviv. The concerts will be rescheduled “once the local situation is resolved,” according to a statement issued by his representative.

Earlier, the Gaza conflict forced the cancellations of a Neil Young concert in Tel Aviv and a performance by the band America.

Israel’s Supreme Court: State need not move more shelters near Bedouin

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 14:23

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel does not have to move more bomb shelters into Bedouin communities in the Negev Desert, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled.

The ruling on Sunday, on an emergency request by several Israeli human rights organization, did call for officials to prepare official criteria for protecting civilian communities in the South and present it within 30 days.

The emergency petition was filed late last week after two Bedouin teens living in an unrecognized village in the South were injured by a rocket fired from Gaza. On Saturday, a Bedouin man was killed and his infant daughter seriously injured by rocket fire near Dimona.

The court recognized that the government has a limited number of portable bomb shelters and distributes them according to the most need. In their ruling, the justices said they “felt confident that if the circumstances were to change in such a way as to justify the transfer of shelters to the villages that the respondents would alter their position.”

According to the petition, approximately 100,000 Bedouin live in Negev villages, mostly in temporary shacks and huts that do not provide protection from falling rockets, and there are no bomb shelters or safe zones in the villages. Residents also said they cannot hear the sirens warning of rocket attacks.

Obama tells Netanyahu that Kerry will travel to region

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 13:56

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Secretary of State John Kerry will head to the Middle East to work out a cease-fire in the Gaza conflict, President Obama told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Sunday’s phone conversation was the second in three days for Obama and Netanyahu about the Gaza operation.

According to a readout of the call released by the White House, Obama informed Netanyahu that John Kerry “will soon travel to Cairo to seek an immediate cessation of hostilities based on a return to the November 2012 cease-fire agreement.”

Obama raised “serious concern about the growing number of casualties,” including Palestinian civilians and Israeli soldiers, the readout said. The president also “reiterated the United States’ condemnation of attacks by Hamas against Israel and reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself.”

Netanyahu in a televised address to Israelis on Sunday night asserted, “We are doing everything to secure the lives of our citizens and soldiers. Israel did not choose to launch this campaign. It was forced on us.”

Addressing the families of the 18 soldiers who have died in the ground operation launched late last week, Netanyahu said, “There’s no war that justifies bringing your sons to the grave.” He called the Israeli troops “professional, determined, and strong both spiritually and in firepower.” He also said the Israel Defense Forces is “exceeding expectations” in Gaza.

Netanyahu said Israel gained international backing for continuing its Gaza operation by accepting three requested cease-fires, two humanitarian, in recent days.

He said Hamas had worked for years on the labyrinth of tunnels discovered under Gaza and leading into Israel, and that the terrorist group was at the point of “terrible terror attacks on us.”

“That was Hamas’ plan all along,” Netanyahu said.

U.N. agency returned rockets to Hamas, Israeli official says

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 13:37

JERUSALEM (JT)A — Rockets discovered in a United Nations agency school in Gaza were returned to Hamas, an Israeli official said.

The rockets were handed over to local government authorities, a senior Israeli official told the Times of Israel. The local government authorities in Gaza are Hamas, he reportedly pointed out.

About 20 rockets were discovered on the premises of a vacant United Nations Relief and Works Agency school in Gaza during what the agency called a “regular inspection.”

“This is a flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law,” UNRWA said in its statement, adding that the incident “endangered civilians including staff and put at risk UNRWA’s vital mission to assist and protect Palestine refugees in Gaza.”

The statement did not indicate who left the rockets in the school. It said the agency launched an investigation into the incident.

Israel has requested that the United Nations release photos of the rockets. The request has been denied, since the photos are evidence, according to UNRWA, which has said it will keep key players updated on the investigation, according to the Times of Israel.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to arrive in Israel on Tuesday.