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Israeli hikers among fatalities in Nepal avalanche

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 13:45

(JTA) — A blizzard and avalanche in Nepal have killed more than a dozen trekkers, including at least two Israelis.

Extreme weather conditions spurred by the remains of Cyclone Hudhud struck the mountainous country on Tuesday, killing 17 hikers, including the Israelis, according to a report by the French news agency AFP. Other reports have varied, with the BBC placing the death toll at 21 trekkers in addition to three yak herders.

The death toll may rise as officials continue to hunt for some 100 missing trekkers.

Israeli media reported that the number of Israelis killed may be three or higher. The Israeli Foreign Ministry was waiting for reports to determine the official figures, according to Haaretz. Four Israelis have been rescued.

About a week ago, two Israeli tourists were killed in a rafting accident on the Apurimac River in Peru.




French city facing legal action over Marwan Barghouti Street

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 07:02

(JTA) — A watchdog on anti-Semitism vowed legal action against a French municipality that named a street after Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian who was convicted of murdering Israelis.

The National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, on Wednesday prepared to ask an administrative court to void the move by Valenton, near Paris, BNVCA founder Sammy Ghozlan told JTA. BNVCA also will complain to police of incitement to commit a crime, he added.

“This celebration of a murderer is unacceptable,” Ghozlan said of the dedication in Venton last month of a street honoring Barghouti, who was sentenced by an Israeli court in 2004 to multiple life sentences for planning dozens of deadly terrorist attacks.

During the Sept. 15 inauguration of Marwan Barghouti Alley, Valenton Mayor Françoise Baud called Barghouti “the face of the unwavering resistance of the Palestinian people against the occupation, the crimes, the destruction, the apartheid and the colonization perpetrated by the Israeli government.”

During the same ceremony, Baud, a member of the French Communist Party, also inaugurated a square honoring Nelson Mandela, a former president of South Africa and an anti-apartheid activist.

“Referring to both men in the same breath is no distinction for Barghouti but a diminution of Mandela’s personality,” Shimon Samuels, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s director for international relations, told JTA.

Ghozlan added that in light of the increase in anti-Semitic violence in France over Israel’s actions, “this is a signal that encourages more attacks on Jews.”

Barghouti was made an honorary citizen of Valenton five years ago. The municipality intends to sign a twinning agreement with the Balata refugee camp in the West Bank, Baud said in her speech.

‘British Oskar Schindler’ to receive Czech Republic’s highest honor

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 06:57

(JTA) — Sir Nicholas Winton, who is known as the “British Oskar Schindler,” will receive the Czech Republic’s highest civilian honor.

Winton, 105, is scheduled to receive the Order of the White Lion from Czech President Milos Zeman on Oct. 28 in Prague. It was first believed that he was too ill to travel, the Daily Mirror reported.

In a mission known as the Czech Kindertransport, Winton saved 669 Czechoslovak children from the Nazis while serving as a British diplomat. The saved children have more than 5,000 descendants.

Winton has been honored by the Czech Republic on several occasions, including receiving its highest military decoration in 2007. He was knighted in Britain.

His parents were German Jews but Winton was raised as a Christian.

Schindler was a German industrialist who saved hundreds of Jews from the Holocaust. His story was told in Steven Spielberg’s Academy Award-winning film “Schindler’s List.”


Israeli border policeman injured by rioters at Rachel’s Tomb

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 06:26

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli border policeman was injured by an explosive device at a military post near Rachel’s Tomb in the West Bank.

The explosion on Tuesday came after about 40 Palestinians gathered and began rioting near the post, throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at the soldiers stationed in the area.

The troops used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the rioters.

The tomb, considered the final resting place of the biblical matriarch, is located between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Facebook’s Zuckerberg and wife pledge $25 million to fight Ebola

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 06:14

(JTA) — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pledged $25 million to the Centers for Disease Control Foundation to help fight the Ebola virus.

Zuckerberg announced Tuesday on his official Facebook page that he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, will make the donation.

“We need to get Ebola under control in the near term so that it doesn’t spread further and become a long term global health crisis that we end up fighting for decades at large scale, like HIV or polio,” Zuckerberg wrote. “We believe our grant is the quickest way to empower the CDC and the experts in this field to prevent this outcome. We are hopeful this will help save lives and get this outbreak under control.”

A second health care worker at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who cared for Thomas Eric Duncan, who died last week after contracting the virus, tested positive for Ebola, according to reports on Wednesday.

Sarkozy despised for his Jewish origins, ex-French FM says

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 05:57

(JTA) — Bernard Kouchner, a former foreign minister of France, said that ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy was widely disliked because of his Jewish origins.

Kouchner made the assertion during an interview Tuesday for RMC radio in response to a question about observations Kouchner made about Sarkozy in his newly published book, “Crossed Memories.”

In the book, which was published last month, Kouchner wrote, “Nicolas Sarkozy wasn’t cherished; he was detested also because he was the son of a Hungarian and the grandson of a Jew.”

According to a book on the origins of Sarkozy – a former interior minister for the centrist UMP party who served as president between 2007 and 2012 – his paternal grandfather was a Sephardic Jew of Greek origin named Aaron Mallah.

During the RMC interview Kouchner, who served as foreign minister from 2007 to 2010, said of Sarkozy and his origins, “I think France is a racist country, certainly. But he got on alright, he achieved anyway though originally, I think this issue was present.”

Last month, Sarkozy announced that he would run for internal elections to lead UMP.

According to recent polls, Sarkozy received 45 percent of the Jewish vote in the first rounds of the 2007 and 2012 presidential elections despite the Jewish community’s longstanding preference for left-wing candidates.

British lawmaker quit Parliament post to vote no on Palestine motion

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 05:51

(JTA) — A British lawmaker resigned his parliamentary post to vote against a nonbinding motion recognizing the state of Palestine.

Mike Freer, who represents the heavily Jewish districts of Finchley and Golders Green, resigned as parliamentary private secretary to business minister Nick Boles of the Conservative Party to vote on Monday evening. He was one of 12 lawmakers to oppose the motion, which passed with 274 votes. More than 300 members of the House of Commons did not appear at Parliament to vote on the measure.

Ministers and private secretaries are required by protocol to abstain from votes on motions put forward by the opposition shadow government.

“It would have been easy to hide behind the protocol but the two-state solution we all want to see should be the end not start of the process,” Freer told the Jewish News website. “The Government had to follow the protocol but the irony is that I had to resign to support government policy.

“It’s an issue I feel strongly about and it was the right thing to do for my constituents. I’ve been a supporter of Israel and the two-state solution long before getting involved with Finchley and Golders Green. This decision was rooted in my personal beliefs, not just the constituency.”

Prime Minister David Cameron and much of his Conservative Party abstained from voting on the motion, which was sponsored by opposition Labor lawmaker Grahame Morris.

Jewish lawmaker Ed Miliband, who heads Labor, ordered all party lawmakers to vote in favor of the recognition.

The vote has no practical significance, as the British government is not obliged to change its policy on recognizing Palestine only after a peace deal is reached between Israel and the Palestinians.


Swastikas drawn on Yale dorm steps

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 05:40

(JTA) — Swastikas were drawn in chalk on the steps of a Yale University dormitory.

The swastikas were discovered early Sunday morning on the New Haven, Conn., campus. The Yale Police Department was investigating but had no leads as of Tuesday, the Yale Daily News reported.

“I condemn this shameful defacement, perpetrated anonymously under cover of night,” Yale dean Jonathan Holloway wrote Monday evening in an email to the campus community. “There is no room for hate in this house.

“The use of the swastika violates our values of respect, thoughtfulness, generosity, and goodwill. I will not stand idly by when this or other symbols of hate are used on this campus. It is my hope that you will join me in taking a similar stand.”

Following the discovery of the swastikas, Yale students gathered outside the dorm to write messages of support for the Jewish community as part of a chalk mural.

Last month, two swastikas were drawn on a whiteboard in a Yale lecture hall.

Sunday’s incident comes after several incidents of swastikas drawn on campuses, including at Emory and Eastern Michigan.



Temple Mount visits halted due to violence

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 04:51

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Palestinian demonstrators protested near the Temple Mount after Israel Police limited worshippers’ access due to fears of violence amid growing tensions.

Jewish visitors were permitted to ascend the Temple Mount on Wednesday morning, but the visits were halted by noon after the protests became violent. Arab-Israeli leaders including Hanin Zoabi, Jamal Zahalka and Basel Ghattas of the Balad party joined the protests.

Wednesday is Hoshanah Rabbah, the last day of Sukkot, and a day when many Jewish pilgrims visit the holy site.

The Temple Mount visits on Wednesday morning were restricted to Palestinian men over 50 years old and women, though the Palestinian Maan news agency reported that women also were denied entry.

Israel Police reportedly said they had received “information on young Arabs intending to cause disturbances to public order at the end of prayers.”

On Monday, Israeli forces quelled riots on the Temple Mount by pushing the protesters into the Al-Aksa Mosque and locking the  door. Jews were allowed to visit the Temple Mount on Monday for the first time during the Sukkot holiday.

Lead witness against Julius and Ethel Rosenberg dies

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 16:39

(JTA) — The lead witness against Julius and Ethel Rosenberg died in July at 92.

The death of David Greenglass, who was Ethel Rosenberg’s brother, was not immediately reported because he was living under an assumed name and his family did not publicize his passing.

Greenglass provided testimony that led to the conviction and 1953 execution of the Jewish couple for sharing atomic secrets with the Soviet Union.

An Army sergeant, he helped the Rosenbergs obtain nuclear intelligence and was imprisoned for nearly a decade, then changed his name, The New York Times reported.

Tracked down decades later by a journalist, Greenglass said he had lied on the witness stand to save his wife from prosecution, according to the Times.

Greenglass grew up on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and was an outspoken communist when he began his World War II Army service. In 1944 he was dispatched to Los Alamos, N.M., where he was assigned to a team supporting the work of those developing the atomic bomb, passing along classified information to Julius Rosenberg.


N.Y. officials, Jewish leaders condemn Brooklyn attacks

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 16:31

NEW YORK (JTA) — Religious leaders and elected officials in New York City denounced two recent attacks in Brooklyn — against a deli and a JCC executive.

A news conference was held Tuesday at Brooklyn Borough Hall three days after dozens of teenagers were caught on tape vandalizing a Hasidic Jewish-owned deli in the Crown Heights neighborhood. The store owner, Yanki Klein, told CrownHeights.info that teens often come to his store to steal things and yell “heil Hitler.”

The previous week, Leonard Petlakh, the executive director of the Kings Bay Y, allegedly was assaulted by pro-Palestinian protesters following an exhibition basketball game between the Brooklyn Nets and Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv at the Barclays Center.

The New York Police Department is investigating both incidents and treating Petlakh’s case as a potential hate crime, according to the News 12 Brooklyn television station.

“We need good people to speak out whenever and wherever anti-Jewish violence should occur, not just at Barclays but anywhere in our city and beyond,” state Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz said at the news conference.

Other speakers included Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James, Jewish Community Relations Council of New York CEO Michael Miller, as well as Jewish, Christian and Muslim clergy.

The Crown Heights neighborhood is home to large numbers of Jews affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic sect and also has a sizable black population. It was the site of a three-day riot in 1991 in which a rabbinical student was killed.

Video from the Saturday night incident in Crown Heights can be viewed below:

D.C. rabbi Barry Freundel arrested, charged with voyeurism

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 14:14

Rabbi Barry Freundel

(JTA) — Rabbi Barry Freundel, the longtime spiritual leader at Kesher Israel in Washington, D.C., was arrested and charged with voyeurism after the synagogue board alerted the authorities.

Freundel, 62, was taken away Tuesday in handcuffs after uniformed officers and plainclothes detectives from the Metropolitan Police Department searched his home in the Georgetown section of Washington, Washingtonian magazine reported.

A statement from the board of directors emailed to congregants said it had suspended Freundel without pay.

“Upon receiving information regarding potentially inappropriate activity, the Board of Directors quickly alerted the appropriate officials,” said the statement. “Throughout the investigation, we cooperated fully with law enforcement and will continue to do so.”

The D.C. police declined to provide further details beyond the charge. “We had an arrest of a Bernard Freundel, a 62 year old male who was arrested for voyeurism,” a police spokesman said.

Freundel, who is in police custody, is expected to have an initial appearance in D.C. Superior Court on Wednesday.

Freundel has led Kesher Israel, a modern Orthodox synagogue, for more than two decades. The congregation’s members include Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and former Sen. Joseph Lieberman.

The rabbi also serves on the executive council of centrist Orthodoxy’s Rabbinical Council of America.


British lawmaker defends ‘Jewish lobby’ comments

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 13:58

(JTA) — A British Parliament member defended his reference to a “Jewish lobby” during a House of Commons debate on a symbolic motion to recognize Palestine statehood.

On Tuesday, Andrew Bridgen of the Conservative Party stood by his statement during discussion of the motion a day earlier that “the political system of the world’s superpower and our great ally the United States is very susceptible to well-funded powerful lobbying groups and the power of the Jewish lobby in America,” Britain’s Jewish News reported. The motion passed by a vote of 274 to 12.

“I had the pleasure of visiting the U.S. Congress and the Senate in the summer. I met with many congressmen and senators of both parties, and it was alleged to me that no American politician would be remotely critical publicly of anything Israel does because as they put it, if they do, their opponents in the elections or in the primaries would have millions of dollars dropped into their campaign fund, without even asking, to get rid of them,” Bridgen said.

He added: “I used the language that I recall was used to me. I see this issue as a huge problem and I am certainly not anti-Semitic, and if push comes to shove I have historically sided with the Israelis on matters debated in our chamber.”

Meanwhile, another Parliament member, Mike Freer, sacrificed his post as parliamentary private secretary in order to vote against the Palestine statehood motion.

House of Commons protocol requires ministers and parliamentary private secretaries to abstain from backbench votes. In order to reject the motion, Freer, the Tory Parliament member for the Finchley and Golders Green constituency, had to relinquish his private secretary post to the business minister, Nick Boles.

Freer had the option to remain in his post and abstain from voting, but told the Jewish News, “I had to vote and it was therefore easy to quit.”

His constituency has the largest Jewish population in the United Kingdom.

“It’s an issue I feel strongly about and it was the right thing to do for my constituents,” Freer said. “This decision was rooted in my personal beliefs, not just the constituency.”

The vote to recognize Palestinian statehood is nonbinding and thus has no impact on government policy.

U.N.’s Ban in Gaza to ‘listen directly to the people’

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 08:53

(JTA) — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon arrived in Gaza as Israel allowed large amounts of construction material to enter the area.

Ban entered the Gaza Strip through the Erez crossing on Tuesday as part of his visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority to observe conditions in the wake of Israel’s war this summer with Hamas, which resulted in the death of more than 2,000 Palestinians and 73 Israelis, as well as substantial damage to buildings and infrastructure in Gaza.

The U.N. leader’s visit comes as Israel announced that more reconstruction supplies would be allowed to flow into the strip.

Initial reports indicated that there has already been some loosening of restrictions, with goods being able to leave Gaza for the West Bank for the first time in years, the news site middleeasteye.net reported. Gisha, an Israeli nonprofit, reported that two truckloads of goods were allowed to leave from Gaza for the West Bank for the first time since 2007.

On Monday, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said that the “border crossings are still in our hands,” although he stressed that he would continue to work with the United Nations and the Palestinian Authority to kick-start the reconstruction process.

Ban said he was visiting the enclave, which is controlled by Hamas since it seized power there in 2007, to “listen directly to the people of Gaza,” worldbulletin.net quoted him as saying.

Ban’s visit follows an international donors conference in Cairo over the weekend in which $5.4 billion was raised to help Gaza reconstruction.

During the meeting, which was not attended by Hamas or Israel, it was agreed that the United Nations would supervise the use of any construction material or heavy equipment in the strip to assure that it was not used to rebuild Hamas tunnels.

In talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, Ban condemned the construction of settlements beyond Israel’s 1967 borders.

“This does not send the right signals, and I urge the government of Israel to reverse these activities,” Ban said.

Tunisian Jews may vote for Islamists, prominent community member says

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 05:48

(JTA) — Some Tunisian Jews may choose an Islamist party in the upcoming elections, a leading member of the community said.

Rene Trabelsi, a businessman and son of a leader of Tunisia’s Jewish community of 2,500, made the assertion in an interview published this week by the Anadolu news agency ahead of the Oct. 26 parliamentary vote and the presidential race next month.

“There are no objections to selecting a political party with an Islamic background, such as Ennahda,” Trabelsi said in reference to Tunisia’s former ruling party, which stepped down last year as a temporary government proceeded to draft a new constitution ahead of the vote. “Regardless of ideological or religious considerations, we will support the party that presents a suitable economic program.”

Trabelsi noted that many Tunisian Jews had voted for Ennahda in the 2011 elections, which followed the ouster of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in a revolution that triggered several other upheavals throughout the Arab-speaking world.

He said that more than 80 percent of Tunisian Jews who are eligible to vote have registered.

According to some reports, Trabelsi recently turned down an offer to become the country’s tourism minister.

British Palestine motion undermines peace, Israeli Embassy says

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 05:13

(JTA) — Israel’s embassy in London condemned the British Parliament’s symbolic vote for recognizing Palestinian statehood as undermining peace efforts.

The embassy staff posted the statement Monday night on the embassy’s Facebook page after a majority of 274 lawmakers passed a nonbinding motion that called on the government to “recognize the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution.”

Twelve lawmakers opposed the motion; Cabinet members of Prime Minister David Cameron abstained.

In its reaction, the embassy wrote: “The route to Palestinian statehood runs through the negotiation room.” It added, “Premature international recognition sends a troubling message to the Palestinian leadership that they can evade the tough choices that both sides have to make, and actually undermines the chances to reach a real peace.”

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior official of the Palestine Liberation Organization and former Palestinian Authority Cabinet minister, praised the British Parliament for the vote, which she described in a statement as sending “the right message to the British government and the rest of Europe” and creating “the right environment for the international community to grant the Palestinian people legal parity and rights.”

During deliberations ahead of the vote, a lawmaker for Cameron’s Conservative Party, Andrew Bridgen, was quoted as suggesting that because of “the power of the Jewish lobby in America, it falls to this country and to this House to be the good but critical friend that Israel needs.” The vote, he wrote, “just might lift that logjam on this very troubled area.”

In response to the vote, the Board of Deputies of British Jews issued a statement Monday saying that it and most British Jews support a two-state solution, in line with Israeli and British government policy.

“This evening’s vote was a statement of intent, which says nothing about the timing for recognition of Palestinian statehood,” the board wrote. “We understand, therefore, the desire of some MPs to use it to express their support for a two-states solution, although we are concerned that the vote will be misused to undermine meaningful negotiations.”


Nablus-area mosque torched in suspected ‘price tag’ attack

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 05:09

(JTA) — A mosque near Nablus was damaged in a fire and vandalized in an attack that area residents blamed on Jewish extremists.

The fire damaged the lower story of the mosque in the village of Akraba near the West Bank city, Army Radio reported Tuesday based on interviews with residents.

“The lower story was completely torched and someone spray-painted ‘price tag’ and ‘Kahane was right’ on the walls,” Zakaria Sada of Nablus told Army Radio, noting the graffiti was in Hebrew.

Police are investigating, Army Radio reported.

“Hate crime doesn’t begin to describe what I’m seeing,” Sada said. “I think this a serious act of terrorism.”

Jewish extremists have used the “price tag” graffiti as their calling card in attacks on Arab-owned real estate that they targeted as revenge for attacks on settlers and other Israelis. The slogan is featured as well in vandalism against Israel Defense Forces equipment.

Rabbi Meir Kahane was an Israeli far-right politician and a founder of the Jewish Defense League. He was murdered by an Egyptian terrorist in 1990 in his native New York City.


Israeli housing minister: Coalition may destabilize over settlement ‘building freeze’

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 05:06

(JTA) — Israel’s housing minister said the government coalition may become destabilized over what he described as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reluctance to approve construction in settlements.

Uri Ariel of the rightist Jewish Home party issued his warning Sunday during the dedication of a new synagogue in the West Bank settlement of Itamar, Army Radio reported.

“I am telling the prime minister and asking him: Do not test us and do not shame us, lest the situation of this government and this coalition become destabilized because of the building freeze. Start building,” said Ariel, whose party is the coalition’s third largest member with a tenth of the Israeli parliament’s 120 seats.

Ariel’s statement of a freeze is believed to be a reference to delays in the granting of permits by the Ministry of Defense for building in the West Bank. No new plans have been approved in the past six months, Army Radio reported, and no significant tender for construction in the West Bank has been published.

Construction is being carried out in territory under the jurisdiction of the city of Jerusalem, which Israel regards as its own territory and not a part of the West Bank.

British Parliament passes nonbinding motion recognizing Palestine

Mon, 10/13/2014 - 16:40

(JTA) — The British Parliament overwhelmingly voted for a nonbinding motion to recognize the state of Palestine.

The measure passed by a vote of 274-12 following a six-hour debate Monday, Haaretz reported.

Prime Minister David Cameron and much of his Conservative Party abstained from voting on the motion, which was sponsored by opposition Labor lawmaker Grahame Morris.

Jewish lawmaker Ed Miliband, who heads Labor, ordered all party lawmakers to vote in favor of the recognition.

The vote has no practical significance, as the British government is not obliged to change its policy on recognizing Palestine only after a peace deal is reached between Israel and the Palestinians.

Cameron’s official spokesman told reporters before the vote, “I’ve been pretty clear about the government’s position and it won’t be changing.”

Seven European Union members have recognized a Palestinian state. They are Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta, Poland and Romania.

In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly accorded Palestine non-member observer state status, de facto recognizing it as a state. Some 138 countries voted in favor of the resolution.

Sears removes swastika ring for sale on website

Mon, 10/13/2014 - 14:54

NEW YORK (JTA) – The retailing giant Sears removed a swastika ring offered for sale on its website.

The item was listed under the “men’s punk rock style” jewelry collection.

“This gothic jewelry item in particular features a Swastika ring that’s made of .925 Thai silver,” the item description read. “Not for Neo Nazi or any Nazi implication. These jewelry items are going to make you look beautiful at your next dinner date.”

After consumers called attention to the item, a Sears representative responded via Twitter: “This item is a 3rd party Sears Marketplace product that does not abide with our guidelines and is being removed.”

The item also was for sale on Amazon.com, though it is listed currently as unavailable.

The Jewish parenting website Kveller posted an image of the Sears page with the swastika ring before it was taken down.