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Suspected Paris synagogue bomber can be extradited from Canada

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 13:41

TORONTO (JTA) — Canada’s Supreme Court declined to hear the case of the prime suspect in a deadly 1980 synagogue bombing in Paris, paving the way for his extradition to France.

The nation’s top court on Thursday did not give reasons for its refusal to hear the case of Hassan Diab, who was seeking to appeal lower court rulings that called for his extradition.

French authorities allege that Diab was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and took part in the bombing of the Rue Copernic synagogue that killed four and injured more than 40.

Diab, 60, a dual Lebanese and Canadian citizen, has repeatedly denied the allegations. He and lawyers appealed an extradition order charging that France’s reliance on secret information raised issues of constitutionality and procedural fairness in Canada.

French authorities also cite fingerprint and handwriting evidence against Diab.

In case before the Supreme Court, Canadian authorities had argued that it “raises no issue of public importance.”

In 2011, an Ontario judge upheld a French request for Diab’s extradition even though he said the case against him was weak. Since then, Diab has been living under house arrest. He had been working as sociology professor in Ottawa.

The lower court’s decision was upheld by Ontario’s Court of Appeal and the federal justice minister.

The high court’s ruling “sends an important message: that diligent, committed authorities will never cease in their pursuit of justice against terrorists on behalf of their victims,” the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said in a statement.

 

Metal detectors to scan Muslim visitors to Temple Mount ‘when necessary’

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 11:52

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli police will use metal detectors to scan Muslim worshippers going to the Temple Mount, Israel’s public security minister said.

The detectors will scan for guns and other weapons made out of metal, Yitzhak Aharonovich told Israel’s Channel 1 on Wednesday night.

Muslim worshippers have had free access to the site since 2000, when the use of detectors was discontinued. The Temple Mount has been the site of escalating violence of late.

“We’ll use them when necessary,” Aharonovich said. “Any suspect will be inspected. For crowds we’ll use cameras — we’ll increase the supervision of people entering the compound, both Jews and Muslims.”

He said that a facial-recognition surveillance system also would be installed.

Aharonovich also said that he would prevent Jewish lawmakers and other Jewish visitors from going to the Temple Mount when necessary to prevent tension or rioting.

“Those who want to make things hotter on the Temple Mount, from the right or the left, be it the Islamic Movement, Fatah or Israeli rightist movements, including lawmakers, we have the authority to prevent them from going,” he said.

During a police ceremony in Jerusalem on Thursday, Aharonovich vowed to restore calm to the Temple Mount, as riots continued to flare in eastern Jerusalem.

“The Temple Mount is the focus. There will be no compromise on the Temple Mount, and we will preserve the status quo,” he said. “We won’t allow this or that extremist to change the status quo. We will restore quiet and a sense of security. There’s no other way. We will be victorious in this campaign.”

Budapest Jewish head alleges shortfall in Dohany ticket sales

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 09:56

(JTA) — The head of Budapest’s Jewish community said he filed a complaint with police alleging fraud and embezzlement at the historic Dohany Street Synagogue.

David Schwezoff told the Hungarian media last week that the community was at least $400,000 short in ticket revenues from visitors to the synagogue, the Nepszava newspaper reported Monday.

The president of the Mazsihisz Jewish federation, a Hungarian umbrella organization with which the Budapest community is affiliated, disputed the charge.

The revenue collected from ticket sales from the past two years was $1.21 million, Nepszava reported.

Last month, Schwezoff canceled the community’s contract with the firm responsible for collecting entrance fees to the community-owned synagogue, according to the paper.

It was unclear who Schwezoff accused of graft in the complaint, which has not been made public. Schwezoff and the community’s spokesman, Balazs Csaszar, were unavailable for comment.

Andras Heisler, the president of Mazsihisz, in disputing Schwezoff’s allegations claimed that ticket revenues will be approximately $2 million.

In an interview with Nepszava, Heisler accused Schwezoff of “running amok and compromising the Jewish community’s honor.” Heisler told JTA on Thursday that Schwezoff, who was elected president of his community last month, was “not competent as a Jewish leader due to his current actions.” He declined to make any further comment on Schwezoff.

In a radio interview Wednesday, Heisler warned that Schwezoff’s actions could jeopardize the popular Jewish Summer Festival of Budapest because it has been organized for the past decade by the owner of the company that collected fees to the synagogue. Schwezoff removed the owner, Vera Vadas, from the positions on Oct. 31.

Schwezoff told the Heti Valasz weekly that Heisler treats him “as an enemy” partly because Schwezoff, who was not born Jewish, was photographed several years ago while wearing women’s clothes at a drag club.

“Mr. Schwezoff had a colorful life in the past,” Csaszar told JTA last month, adding that Schwezoff “made a 180-degree turn” and “has been living according to the Torah, keeping Shabbat and kosher.”

Kerry to meet with Jordan’s Abdullah, Netanyahu in Amman

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 09:53

JERUSALEM (JTA) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will hold a previously unannounced meeting in Amman with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Thursday evening meeting “will focus on ways to restore calm and de-escalate tensions in Jerusalem,” State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a tweet.

The Prime Minister’s Office reportedly would not comment on the meeting, though the palace in Jordan announced that it would take place.

Kerry met earlier Thursday in Amman with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, where they were expected to discuss the heightened tensions in Jerusalem and on the Temple Mount there, as well as the prospects for restarting peace negotiations.

Abdullah and Abbas met Wednesday at the palace, during which Abdullah offered his “total rejection” of Israel’s “repeated aggressions and provocations in Jerusalem,” according to a palace statement reported by the AFP.

Kerry canceled a visit to the United Arab Emirates on Friday to participate in the Sir Bani Yas Forum, an annual gathering of world leaders and thinkers discussing peace and security issues.

Argentine conference looks at Israel as model of start-up development

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 08:37

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — An Argentine municipality hosted a conference with Israel as its model for start-up development.

On Tuesday, the Israeli flag was flying over the Vicente Lopez district for a conference titled “Start-up Nation: Israel as a paradigm of the entrepreneurship ecosystem.”

The municipality, with a population of some 271,000, is located about 12 miles north of Buenos Aires City and is part of the Buenos Aires province.

More than 60 businesspeople heard from a panel of Argentine and Israelis presenters about Israel’s model to develop start-ups.

“The Israeli model has a lot to bring to our society, the panel was inspiring for our entrepreneurs and we want to improve the institutional links with Israel,” Eduardo Vinales, general director of economic development for Vicente Lopez, told JTA. “After this success, we want to continue showing here the Israeli model in order to transfer to Vicente Lopez Israeli methodologies and experiences.

“Argentinians and Israelis share a basic personality trait, which is the ability to challenge the limits and think we are capable of achieving great things without fear of failure,” he said.

Portland Jewish community shaken by murder-suicide

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 07:37

(JTA) — A murder-suicide in Portland, Ore., has left two Jewish day school students orphaned.

Portland police said that Ian Elias, 47, killed his ex-wife, Nicolette Elias, 46, at her home and then fled across town with his two daughters, ages 8 and 9, the Oregonian newspaper reported Tuesday. After a confrontation with police, Ian Elias shot and killed himself. The daughters, who attend the Portland Jewish Academy, were recovered unharmed.

The girls  are staying with close family friends, who are acting as guardians for the state, which took temporary custody of them.

The day school brought in counselors and rabbis to speak to staff on Tuesday, and additional counselors for students on Wednesday.

The Oregonian reported that Ian Elias had a long history of mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, and erratic, abusive behavior. His ex-wife had obtained restraining and stalking orders against him, and the Portland Jewish Academy and Mittelman Jewish Community Center also had obtained orders to keep him off their properties.

The day school had hired extra security to provide protection against Ian Elias.

In a court filing in January, Nicolette Elias described her ex-husband as “obsessed with his collection of guns and weapons,” the Oregonian also reported.

Ian Elias had spent 15 months in Israel to attend a rehabilitation program and subsequently stayed to study in a yeshiva. His mother told the Oregonian that her son was bipolar, but that he refused to follow his court-ordered treatment regimen.

German envoy to visit Dutch cemetery with SS soldiers’ graves

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 06:56

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (JTA) — Germany’s ambassador to the Netherlands is slated to attend a commemoration at a cemetery where many SS soldiers are buried.

Franz Josef Kremp is scheduled to attend the Nov. 16 ceremony at the Ysselsteyn cemetery near Eindhoven in the eastern Netherlands, a cemetery for victims of World War II. He is aware that it contains the remains of SS soldiers, according to a report Wednesday by the Dutch De Telegraaf daily.

“I think this is an affront,” Herman Loonstein, founder of the Federative Jewish Netherlands group, told the daily. “Mr. Kremp should not be presenting SS soldiers as victims. Jews were the victims.”

Loonstein is a Jewish activist against commemoration in the Netherlands of Nazis and soldiers who fought for Germany.

De Telegraaf reported that it had obtained a letter written by Kremp about the Ysselsteyn cemetery — where neo-Nazis have gathered in the past to honor Nazi soldiers buried there — in which he stated, “Among the dead resting here are German and Dutch war casualties, including Waffen SS.” The report did not say to whom the letter was addressed and in what context.

The Waffen SS was an elite Nazi unit whose men are responsible for the murder of countless Jews during the Holocaust.

Holland, which saw heavy battles between soldiers fighting for Nazi Germany and Allied forces, has many cemeteries where combatants from both camps are buried.

In recent years, Jewish groups like Loonstein’s have protested an emerging trend in which commemorations are extended not only to the Allied forces’ casualties and Holocaust victims, but also to the German soldiers. Organizers of such events have justified them as promoting reconciliation.

The Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, the Jewish community’s watchdog on anti-Semitism, has criticized the practice, warning it blurs the line between victim and perpetrator.

Israel bars U.N. investigators of Gaza operation

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 06:28

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel denied entry to members of a commission appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate possible war crimes committed during Israel’s Gaza operation this summer.

Israel on Wednesday did not permit the so-called Schabas Commission to enter Israel from Jordan, then announced it would not cooperate with the investigation.

In July, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the council for choosing to investigate Israel rather than nearby crisis zones such as Iraq or Syria, and implied he would not cooperate with U.N. investigators. The operation was ongoing at the time.

The Human Rights Council moved that month to establish a commission of inquiry “to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” while Operation Protective Edge was still going on.

The commission is named for William Schabas, a Canadian-born professor of international law at Middlesex University in London. Schabas said in an Aug. 12 interview with Israel’s Channel 2 that it would be “inappropriate” to assert that Hamas is a terrorist organization. Last year, Schabas said that Netanyahu would be his “favorite” leader to see tried by the International Criminal Court.

Following the end of the last Gaza conflict, in early 2009, Israel refused to cooperate with a U.N. investigation led by the South African jurist Richard Goldstone. The probe, dubbed the Goldstone Report, alleged that Israel had intentionally targeted civilians, though Goldstone later personally retracted the allegation. Israel rejected the original report as inaccurate and biased.

Arafat’s widow calls for talks rather than armed struggle

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 06:25

(JTA) — The widow of Yasser Arafat denounced violence and accused Hamas of “genocide” in the Gaza Strip on the 10th anniversary of the Palestinian leader’s death.

In an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Suha Arafat argued that the Palestinians’ best hope lies in negotiation rather than armed struggle. She said that the unequal strengths of the Israelis and Palestinians would lead to the Palestinians being crushed in an armed fight, while negotiations would expose Israel’s unwillingness to make peace.

Arafat, who lives in Malta, said she was pleased that Switzerland has recently recognized the state of Palestine and urged Italy to do the same.

She accused Hamas, which canceled a celebration in Gaza this week in memory of her husband, of taking the people of Gaza hostage and argued that the current desperate conditions in the territory amount to genocide. Arafat also said that the current generation of young Palestinians growing up in Gaza, with only violence and no education, have no hope but emigration.

Arafat, who has been accused of embezzling from the Palestinian government, said she has no plans to return to the West Bank or Gaza.

Israeli Border Police officer arrested in Palestinian teen’s shooting death

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 17:09

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli Border Police officer was arrested on suspicion of killing a Palestinian teen during a Nakba Day protest in the West Bank.

The officer, whose identity has not been made public, was arrested Wednesday and arraigned. The details of the case are under a gag order.

It is believed that the officer fired a live bullet rather than a rubber bullet during efforts to quell a violent demonstration in May outside Ramallah. The Israel Defense Forces said at the time of the incident that rubber bullets had been used.

An autopsy performed on Nadeem Siam Nawara, 17,  showed that he was killed by live fire. The bullet consistent was with those used by the IDF.

Another teen, Muhammad Abu al-Thahir, 15, also was killed that day.

Visa snafu tanks Mekel’s NBA plans

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 16:57

(JTA) — Visa problems prevented Israel’s Gal Mekel from signing with the NBA’s Indiana Pacers.

The Pacers were primed to sign Mekel, a point guard, following his release last month by the Dallas Mavericks, but delays in renewing his visa led Indiana to instead sign guard A.J. Price last week, according to a report by ESPN.

Mekel, the second Israeli to play in the NBA after Omri Casspi, had opened his second season in the NBA as a starter for the Mavs, but shooting woes and roster changes led the team to release the former Maccabi Haifa standout. He had missed part of his rookie campaign with an injury and split his time in the NBA’s Development League.

The Pacers, who had been granted an injury waiver by the league, had announced plans to pick up Mekel by the Nov. 6 deadline. But when word filtered down that he might not get his visa renewed until the next day, the team opted for Price, a five-year veteran who played his first three seasons with Indiana.

Mekel was rumored to be in talks to sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder, who have been depleted by injuries. The reports, however, were debunked Monday on Twitter by ESPN’s Marc Stein.

With a guaranteed contract, the Israeli will still be paid the remaining $1.76 million over this season and next.

 

Freundel prosecutors need more time to mull plea possibility

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 14:42

(JTA) — Prosecutors investigating the case of Barry Freundel, the Washington rabbi accused of voyeurism, told a judge that they need more time before they can decide whether to offer a plea deal.

At a hearing Wednesday in D.C. Superior Court, prosecutors said they are still determining the total number of Freundel’s victims, the Washington Post reported.

Freundel, 62, was arrested in October for allegedly using hidden cameras to spy on women, including those whose conversions he was overseeing, while they were in the mikvah, or ritual bath. He has been charged with six counts of misdemeanor voyeurism and faces up to six years in prison.

Another hearing is scheduled for Jan. 16.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Zubrensky said that her office is creating a website with information about the case in order to encourage any other Freundel victims to come forward.

Freundel has been suspended without pay from Kesher Israel, the modern Orthodox congregation he has led for more than two decades. He has also been suspended from Towson University, where he taught Judaic studies.

 

West Bank mosque fire seen as ‘price tag’ attack

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 12:41

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Arson is suspected in a mosque fire in a West Bank town near Ramallah.

Ramallah Mayor Faraj al-Naassaneh blamed Jewish settlers for setting fire to the mosque in the village of Al-Maghir, which sustained major damage. The fire reportedly began at approximately 3 a.m. Wednesday.

Israeli Civil Administration officials are investigating whether the fire had nationalistic motives.

Miri Regev, a Likud member of Knesset, condemned what she deemed a “price tag” attack — the strategy adopted by extremist Jewish settlers and their supporters generally to exact retribution for settlement freezes and demolitions or Palestinian attacks on Jews.

“No to price tag — it is forbidden to take the law into your own hands,” Regev was quoted as saying in The Jerusalem Post.

Several West Bank mosques have been set ablaze in recent years in price tag attacks, including one in the same town two years ago.

Also Wednesday morning, an ancient synagogue in the Arab-Israeli town of Shfaram was set ablaze by a fire bomb.

Meanwhile, Islamic Jihad on Wednesday said it would respond to the mosque attack.

“The terrorism of the settlers and the occupation army will be met with a Palestinian will that doesn’t accept submission and surrender, ” it said in a statement, according to The Jerusalem Post. “Those who encourage and allow attacks on mosques and against Palestinians should expect a response.”

 

Plans advance for building in eastern Jerusalem Jewish neighborhood

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 12:36

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Jerusalem planning committee has given preliminary approval for the construction of at least 200 housing units in an eastern Jerusalem Jewish neighborhood.

The approval Wednesday is for the Ramot neighborhood on the northern edge of Jerusalem.

The project is several stages and several years away from the start of actual construction.

The housing is slated to be built on private land owned by a haredi Orthodox group, according to The Associated Press.

The announcement comes as Palestinian rioting continues in eastern Jerusalem and following the announcement earlier this month of plans for at least 1,000 apartments in two other eastern Jerusalem Jewish neighborhoods.

We are deeply concerned by this decision particularly given the tense situation in Jerusalem,” U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said during Wednesday’s daily press briefing. “Most importantly they are contrary to Israel’s own stated goal of achieving a two-state solution because they make it more difficult to do that.”

On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Jordan to talk about the tensions in Jerusalem with King Abdullah II.

 

Kerry visiting Jordan’s Abdullah to talk about Jerusalem tensions

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 12:03

JERUSALEM (JTA) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet in Jordan with King Abdullah II to discuss the escalating tensions in Jerusalem and the fight against ISIS.

Kerry was set to arrive in Amman on Wednesday for a two-day visit, according to deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.

The State Department in recent weeks has called on Israel and the Muslim community to act with restraint to deescalate tensions over Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount.

From Jordan, Kerry will move on to the United Arab Emirates on Friday to participate in the Sir Bani Yas Forum, an annual gathering of world leaders and thinkers discussing peace and security issues.

 

U.S. senators meet with Alan Gross in Cuban prison

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 11:12

(JTA) — Two U.S. senators met with Jewish-American contractor Alan Gross in a Cuban prison.

Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) met Tuesday with Gross for two hours, according to reports.

The senators told The Associated Press that there was no indication that a development in releasing Gross was imminent. Cuba has expressed an interest in negotiating a trade of Gross for three Cubans who are in jail in the United States on espionage charges.

Gross, 65, of Potomac, Md., was jailed Cuba in 2009. He is serving a 15-year sentence for “crimes against the state” for helping to provide Internet service for the island’s small Jewish community while working for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

He suffers from several chronic illnesses.

“I do feel we’re closer there, one because what Alan Gross has said himself, this is going to end one way or another,” Flake said in answer to a reporter’s question about Gross going free.

In August, Gross said he could no longer take life in prison and reportedly said goodbye to his family. Last week, his wife told CBS in Miami that she was concerned that he will take his own life.

 

U.S. Jewish groups accuse P.A.’s Abbas of incitement

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 10:26

(JTA) — U.S. Jewish groups condemned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for incitement.

Several groups also expressed concern over the escalation of terror and tension in Jerusalem and throughout Israel.

“Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian officials must end their inciteful comments,” said Robert Sugarman and Malcolm Hoenlein, chairman and executive vice chairman, respectively, of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “His reference to igniting a religious war, as well as his earlier statements which urged that Jews should be blocked from entering the Temple Mount ‘by all means necessary’ and denying any Jewish connection to its holiest site, only serve to raise tensions and encourage further violence. These attacks should instead be condemned by Mr. Abbas and the Palestinian leadership, international community and the United Nations.”

The Presidents Conference also called on Israel to “do everything possible to protect its citizens and restore peaceful conditions.”

The Zionist Organization of America said in a statement issued last week that “it is high time to cease pretending that Abbas is a genuine moderate and peace partner.”

“It is simply astonishing, immoral and deeply damaging to the cause of peace that the world, including the Obama Administration, takes no notice of Palestinian Arab incitement to hatred and murder and the open, shameless glorification of any Palestinian Arab who tries to or succeeds in murdering even a single Jew,” said Morton Klein, the ZOA’s national president.

The Anti-Defamation League in a statement called on Israeli civic and political leaders to work to deescalate tensions between Arab- and Jewish-Israelis.

“This spate of violence by Palestinians, including stabbings, shootings and the deliberate crashing of cars into civilians, is alarming,” said Abraham Foxman, ADL’s national director. “It is appalling that Palestinian President Abbas has not condemned against these attacks, despite the ongoing violence and messages throughout Palestinians media and society celebrating the violence and calling for more. Abbas’ outrageous and disgraceful silence is further evidence that he is abandoning his past commitments to non-violence and to Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation.

The American Jewish Committee in a statement issued last week called on governments worldwide “to condemn unequivocally Palestinian terrorist attacks in Jerusalem, and to press the Palestinian Authority to make every effort to deter, rather than incite, further assaults.”

The statement came after two Palestinians drove their cars into groups of people waiting at Jerusalem light rail stops and the assassination attempt on Temple Mount activist Yehuda Glick.

“Hamas rockets and missiles may be quiet for the moment, but Palestinian individuals, affiliated with terrorist organizations, are using other methods to kill and maim,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

Rivlin stresses unity in hosting Reform leaders

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 09:14

JERUSALEM (JTA) — “We are all one family,” Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin told leaders of the Reform movement at his residence in Jerusalem.

“I can say to all of you, we are one family and the connection between all Jews, all over the world, is very important to the State of Israel,” Rivlin said Tuesday while hosting over 50 North American and Israeli Reform leaders on the Board of Governors of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Rabbi Aaron Panken, the president of HUC, and Andrew Berger, its Board of Governors chairman, are leading the delegation.

Rivlin said his country must work to bring Israelis of all backgrounds together.

“I believe we have to bridge social gaps for the societies to live together and to progress,” he said. “We must build confidence measures because we are going to live here together forever. We are not doomed to live together but destined to live together.”

Panken said of the delegation, “We are here to sustain and build the connection between North American Jewry and Israel. We are here to demonstrate our solidarity with the people and State of Israel and express our support for many of your efforts.”

He said that in his short time in office, Rivlin has “shown true leadership in the areas of rights for the Arab citizens of Israel, reconciliation between diverse groups and consideration of those in Israeli society who need help.”

Three Israeli Reform rabbis are set to be ordained Thursday at HUC’s academic convocation at its Jerusalem campus.  HUC has ordained 90 Israeli rabbis at its Jerusalem campus.

Before his election as president, Rivlin had come under fire from the Reform movement for statements he made after a 1989 visit to a Reform synagogue’s services in New Jersey, telling an Israeli newspaper, “This is idol worship and not Judaism.”

During a 2007 meeting with Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rivlin would not commit to calling Yoffie “rabbi.”

Leading Russian rabbi slams demand that Jews condemn Ukrainian oligarch

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 08:10

(JTA) — A senior Russian rabbi accused the country’s Communist Party of “vulgar and primitive anti-Semitism” after it demanded that Russian Jews condemn a Ukrainian Jewish oligarch.

Rabbi Boruch Gorin, a spokesman for and adviser to Rabbi Berel Lazar, a chief rabbi of Russia, on Wednesday said the request in a letter from two Communist lawmakers sent last week to Lazar and Adolf Shayevich, another chief rabbi of Russia, “reflected a primitive form of anti-Semitism which presumes all Jews belong to some sinister superstructure simply because they are Jewish.”

While the rabbis “have nothing to say to the communist lawmakers, we do expect other members of the Duma to speak out against this provocation,” Gorin said.

In the letter, the lawmakers urged Lazar and Shayevich to speak out against Igor Kolomoisky, a Ukrainian Jewish banker and regional governor who has poured millions of dollars into rearming the Ukrainian army against Russia.

“Russian Jews must distance themselves from Kolomoisky and make him understand that his crimes are denounced by his own people,” one of the lawmakers, Valery Rashkin, told the Izvestia newspaper after he and Sergey Obukhov published an open letter in the newspaper to Lazar and Shayevich. The lawmakers wrote that Kolomisky’s actions “contribute to ethnic and race hate and cause people to commit hate crimes not only in Ukraine, but also in Russia.”

The Russia-Ukraine border has been tense since the overthrow in February of Ukraine President Victor Yanukovych, who was accused of corruption and perceived by many Ukrainians to be a Kremlin puppet.

Citing concerns to ethnic Russians and other minorities, Russia annexed the Crimea from Ukraine in March — an action that triggered an ongoing armed conflict between pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s east and government troops.

Throughout the conflict, pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian propagandists have accused one another of espousing anti-Semitism.

French Islam convert with Jewish father dies fighting with ISIS

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 08:07

(JTA) – A French Muslim man whose father is Jewish died while fighting with jihadists in Syria.

Raphael Amar, 22, died last month in Deir ez-Zor in Syria’s east, according to a report Tuesday by the Israeli daily Maariv. The report was confirmed by Sammy Ghozlan, founder of the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA.

Amar, whose mother was born Catholic, according to the Actualite Juive weekly, converted to Islam four years ago and followed a childhood friend to Syria earlier this year to fight with the Islamic State Sunni jihadist group. The family received the news of his death on Oct. 17. Amar’s body remains in Syria.

“I myself am not very close to religion, but when Raphael was a young boy he attended Passover seders and bar mitzvahs,” Amar’s father, Laurent, told Ma’ariv.

According to Ghozlan, “there is a phenomenon in which some French Jews who were not brought up very Jewish are radicalized.”

Ghozlan told JTA that he met with a 16-year-old Jewish girl in Paris who was converted to radical Islam and knows of at least two other cases in Lyon.

“With a divided Jewish community and with Israel — once a source of pride for all French Jews — under constant vilification, some young Jews are seeking something to be proud of, and some find that in radical Islam,” Ghozlan said. “It has the power of a cult and the tools to brainwash them.”

Amar studied computer science in the southern city of Montpellier, near the suburb of Lunel, where he lived with his father, a computer engineer, and mother, Lillian, a psychologist. The family told some of Amar’s relatives in Israel that he had died in a car accident.

According to Maariv, Amar’s mother was in the process of converting to Judaism, but she pretended to convert to Islam instead to be closer to her son.

“The events in Gaza were a subject for some discussions at home,” Laurent Amar told Maariv. “They used anti-Israel propaganda on him, telling him Israel was barbaric, but I think he knew Israel was defending itself.”