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Israel launches Gaza ground operation

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 15:03

An Israeli soldier directing a Merkava tank, at an army deployment area near Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip, on July 17, 2014. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

(JTA) — Israel launched a ground incursion into the Gaza Strip to destroy tunnels it says are used for terrorist activities.

The Israel Defense Forces’ spokesman’s office announced the operation by a “large IDF force” late Thursday on its Twitter feed following the order given by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon.

“A new phase of Operation Protective Edge has begun,” the IDF tweet said.

The operation is limited for now to tanks targeting 10 tunnels in Gaza, the IDF said.

“Our goal is to target Hamas’ tunnels that enable terrorists to infiltrate Israel and carry out attacks. This requires precise operations,” the spokesman’s office said.

Israeli troops earlier Thursday stopped an attempted Hamas infiltration from the Gaza Strip, forcing 13 infiltrators back into tunnels.

Israel launched Protective Edge in response to increased rocket fire on the country from Gaza. The Obama administration, which during the conflict has backed Israel’s right to defend itself, has said it would oppose a ground incursion.


Dueling commemorations set for 20th anniversary of AMIA bombing

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 14:34

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) – A group of relatives and friends of victims of the Buenos Aires Jewish center bombing will hold separate commemorations of the attack’s 20th anniversary.

Events memorializing the 85 people killed in the July 18, 1994 attack on the AMIA center will be held by the organized Jewish community and by a group called Active Memory, made up of relatives and friends of the bombing victims. Active Memory disagrees with the way the judicial case against the alleged bombers is being handled.

“For the first time we will hold a ceremony at the same time as the main Jewish institutions because they don’t protect us, don’t share our pain and neither our claim of justice,” Active Memory said in a statement released Thursday. The group said that over the last 20 years, AMIA and the DAIA Jewish umbrella “have defended those accused of covering up” the case.

At 9:53 a.m. Friday, the moment 20 years ago that the attack took place, a public ceremony will be held in front of the rebuilt AMIA building.

In addition, the American Jewish Committee’s Latino and Latin American Institute is holding a commemorative event for the AMIA bombing in Miami at Beth Torah Benny Rock Campus. Argentine Ambassador Miguel Talento and the general consul of Israel, Chaim Shacham, are scheduled to participate.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Argentine Federal Judge Ariel Lijo, who investigated irregularities in the first investigation of the AMIA bombing, called the president of the Buenos Aires Criminal Cassation Court, Federico Dominguez, to testify in the criminal investigation into alleged cover-ups in the case.  Dominguez was the attorney for one of the police officers accused in the original investigation of the bombing.

Lijo reportedly suspects that Dominguez pressured his client to lie in order to incriminate other police officers.

Due to irregularities in the investigation, the court in 2004 annulled the investigation and released all the suspects being held.

Op-Ed: Hold Iran to account on AMIA bombing

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 13:46

The bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires on July 18, 1994 killed 85 people. The attack remains unsolved.

NEW YORK (JTA) — On July 18, 1994, a hellish scene unfolded in Buenos Aires as a car bomb set by Iranian agents destroyed the AMIA/DAIA Jewish center, killing 85 people and wounding hundreds.

Twenty years later, there is still no justice in the case — and a decision taken by the Argentine government is part of the problem.

Last year, it signed a memorandum of understanding with the Iranian government that was supposed to establish a so-called truth commission to bring resolution to the case.

In April, the World Jewish Congress, supporting the Argentine Jewish community, called on the Argentine government to rescind the memorandum. As Jewish communities around the world mark the anniversary with vigils, we urge the U.S. government to bring pressure to bear to see that this happens, and to again push the Iranians to surrender the AMIA suspects.

Nothing has changed in Iran’s behavior in the 20 years since the AMIA atrocity. Iran’s terror forces continue to wreak havoc everywhere in the Middle East. Iranian-designed rockets have been raining on Israel. Iranian-funded and -armed Hezbollah has assassinated its way into a leading role in the Lebanese government, and now assists Syrian President Bashar Assad in slaughtering his own people. Not to mention that Iranian agents supplied the roadside bombs that not so long ago killed so many American service personnel during the Iraq war.

Iran’s terror team revels in its accomplishments. Two years ago, on the anniversary of the AMIA bombing on July 18, Hezbollah blew up a bus of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, killing six.

The AMIA bombing itself was the culmination of more than a decade of Iranian-sponsored terrorist atrocities that killed many Westerners. In 1983, Iranian-backed terrorists sent truck bombs into the barracks of American and French peacekeepers in Beirut, killing 299. In 1992, Iranian agents blew up the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29 and wounding hundreds. (No one has been brought to trial in that case, either.)

The Argentine memorandum is a despicable document. Argentina’s judiciary long ago presented clear evidence that the terrorist attack was ordered and masterminded by senior officials in the Iranian government and by Hezbollah. It even presented Interpol with the names of the alleged perpetrators, which in turn issued a red alert.

Iran, however, refused for many years to render the suspects, so Argentina decided to try a conciliatory approach by signing the joint memorandum — notwithstanding the vociferous protests of the Argentine Jewish community, which decried it as an affront to the victims of the attack. The community also warned that as a practical matter, the gambit was doomed to fail. It has. A year later, the Argentine government has nothing to show for it — not surprisingly, since the Iranian regime has foiled the “truth commission” at every turn.

We at the World Jewish Congress approach the AMIA anniversary, as we do each year, with a heavy heart. We grieve for our many friends lost and live with the aftermath of the atrocity.

What have we learned since the AMIA bombing?

We’ve learned that the world loves to forget. But as Jews, we must heed the commandment of “zachor” – to remember. To paraphrase Genesis, the voice of our brothers’ blood is crying out to us from the ground. Some people say that “justice delayed is justice denied,” but we will keep insisting until justice is done.

The way forward on this case is the same as it always was: America, Argentina and the West must insist that the Iranian regime stop putting up roadblocks and dust and hand over the suspects. If Iran does not do so, it can never be accepted back into the family of nations no matter how many nuclear bombs it promises to forgo.

(Robert Singer is CEO of the World Jewish Congress.)

U.C. Regents confirm student regent over pro-Palestinian activists’ objections

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 13:26

(JTA) — The University of California Board of Regents approved the appointment of a pro-Israel UCLA student as a student member of the board despite objections from pro-Palestinian students.

The board backed Avi Oved’s nomination at its meeting Wednesday in San Francisco. It rejected a call to delay its vote to allow time for an investigation into allegations that Oved had not properly disclosed a donation from a pro-Israel philanthropist to an unrelated UCLA student government campaign.

The student regent serves as a non-voting board member for one year before becoming a voting student regent. The board governs the University of California system.

According to The Daily Californian, U.C. Berkeley’s student newspaper, the University of California Students Association’s systemwide student affairs committee had requested the vote’s postponement until September so it could look into allegations regarding the donation.

Oved has denied that he acted improperly and called the accusations “an attack against me as a pro-Israel student.”

In a letter released July 9, the chairman of the Board of Regents and the chair of the special committee in charge of selecting a student regent said that “even if all of the allegations against Mr. Oved are true, they clearly would not constitute a violation of the UCLA election code.”

UCLA’s student newspaper, The Daily Bruin, reported that the one vote cast against Oved was by current student regent Sadia Saifuddin, who cited concerns raised by students about transparency and conflict of interest in light of the allegations against Oved.

Oved, who is Jewish, will join Saifuddin, the first Muslim student representative on the University of California’s Board of Regents. Saifuddin’s appointment also met with controversy for her support for divestment from companies that do business with Israel in the West Bank.

Pro-Palestinian students had pointed to an April 2013 email sent by Oved to philanthropist Adam Milstein thanking him for what was described as a “generous donation.” At the time, Oved was running for the position of internal vice president of UCLA’s student government on the Bruins United slate.

Representing himself as speaking on behalf of Bruins United, Oved wrote to Milstein that the slate is “prepared to make sure that UCLA will maintains [sic] its allegiance to Israel and the Jewish community.”

Milstein had written a $1,000 check to UCLA’s Hillel earmarked for “UCLA student government leaders,” the L.A. Jewish Journal reported.

Israel designates murdered Palestinian teen as terror victim

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 13:15

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel recognized the murdered Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir as a victim of terror.

The decision by the Ministry of Defense followed the indictment Thursday of three Jewish Israelis in the slaying, the ministry said in a statement, as well as the findings from the investigation pointing to the nationalistic motive of the killing.

The designation entitles the family to benefits from the state. Also, the teen’s name will be included on the Memorial Day list of killed soldiers and terror victims.

The three Jewish suspects, who reportedly reenacted the crime, have confessed and said the slaying was in revenge for the kidnapping and murders of Israeli teens Gilad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach.

Khdeir was kidnapped from outside a mosque in his eastern Jerusalem neighborhood early on the morning of July 2, hours after the funerals for the three Israelis. Khdeir’s badly burned body was found hours later in the Jerusalem forest.

Israel falls in world lacrosse quarterfinals

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 12:48

Three goals by Ari Sussman, right, couldn’t prevent Israel’s quarterfinals loss to Australia in the World Lacrosse Championships, July 16, 2014. (Larry Palumbo)

(JTA) – Israel’s debut in the World Lacrosse Championships ended in the quarterfinals with a 9-8 loss to Australia.

In Wednesday night’s game near Denver, Israel nearly tied the score with five seconds remaining and a one-man advantage, but a shot by Matthew Cherry was turned away.

Ari Sussman tallied three goals and Cody Levine had two for the Israelis.

Israel, which formed its lacrosse team just four years ago, will still play a meaningful game Friday against England. An Israeli victory would clinch a top-six finish in the tournament and placement in the elite Blue Pool for the 2018 world tournament in England.

In Thursday’s semifinals, third-ranked Australia will face the top-ranked United States, with Canada opposing the Iroquois Nation. The championship game is scheduled for Saturday.

Against Australia, Israel jumped to a 4-1 lead in the opening quarter and held a 5-4 edge late in the third period. Australia gained the lead to stay in fourth quarter.

Israel, with a roster about evenly divided between American immigrants to Israel and U.S. residents, had outscored its first five opponents by a combined 88-18.

UNRWA condemns discovery of rockets in Gaza school

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 10:29

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A United Nations agency condemned the discovery of rockets discovered in one of its schools in the Gaza Strip.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which assists Palestinian refugees, said in a statement issued Thursday that about 20 rockets were discovered hidden on the premises of a vacant school in Gaza during what it called a “regular inspection.”


“This is a flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law,” UNRWA said in its statement, saying 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.

“UNRWA has strong, established procedures to maintain the neutrality of all its premises, including a strict no-weapons policy and routine inspections of its installations, to ensure they are only used for humanitarian purposes,” according to the statement.

UNRWA has launched an investigation into the incident.

In January 2009, the Israel Defense Forces shelled a UNRWA school in the Jabaliya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip that was housing at least 1,300 Palestinians driven from their homes by the Israeli military operation Cast Lead. Gaza officials put the death toll from the incident at 40.

Hamas terrorists reportedly fired from just behind the building and Israeli troops responded in the direction of the fire, not knowing what the building housed.


Obama: Using all resources to get to cease-fire

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 10:25

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Obama said his administration is using all its resources to arrive at a cease-fire in the Gaza conflict and again upheld Israel’s right to self-defense.

“As I’ve said repeatedly, Israel has a right to defend itself from rocket attacks that terrorize the Israeli people,” Obama said Wednesday in a foreign policy address at the White House.

“There is no country on Earth that can be expected to live under a daily barrage of rockets,” he said. “And I’m proud that the Iron Dome system that Americans helped Israel develop and fund has saved many Israeli lives.”

Obama also noted the loss of civilian life in the Gaza Strip.

“Over the past two weeks, we’ve all been heartbroken by the violence, especially the death and injury of so many innocent civilians in Gaza —- men, women and children who were caught in the crossfire,” the president said on a day that the death toll among Palestinians rose to over 200, most of them civilians, including four boys aged 9 to 11 killed on a Gaza beach.

One Israeli civilian has been killed in the barrage of Hamas rockets.

Israel says it is targeting Hamas military targets and blames Hamas for keeping armaments so close to civilians.

Obama and his officials have consistently blamed Hamas for the outbreak of the conflict launched July 8.

Obama in his address slammed Hamas for “prolonging the conflict,” noting that it had not abided by an Egyptian-proposed cease-fire on Tuesday. Obama said his administration would intensify its work with Egypt and others to reach a cease-fire.

“Over the next 24 hours we’ll continue to stay in close contact with our friends and parties in the region, and we will use all of our diplomatic resources and relationships to support efforts of closing a deal on a cease-fire,” he said.

Separately, former President Bill Clinton defended Israel’s response but said Hamas’ tactics were helping to isolate Israel.

“Over the long run it is not good for Israel to keep isolating itself from world opinion because of the absence of a viable peace process,” Clinton told the Indian NDTV news channel, according to a report by the French news agency AFP. “In the short-to-medium term, Hamas can inflict terrible public relations damage on Israel by forcing it to kill Palestinian civilians to counter Hamas.”

Clinton said Israel “couldn’t look like fools” by not responding to Hamas rocket barrages, part of what he said was Hamas’ “strategy designed to force Israel to kill their own civilians so the rest of the world will condemn them.”

Home of Netherlands chief rabbi attacked

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 10:20

(JTA) – A chief rabbi of the Netherlands said unidentified individuals hurled stones at his home in what he said was the second anti-Semitic attack on him in a week.

Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs said the latest attack took place at 5 a.m. Thursday, when two stones were hurled through a window of his home in Amersfoort.


An earlier incident outside his home on July 10 ended without damage, he said. Jacobs’ home has been targeted five times in recent years, he told JTA.

“The fact that these attacks are recurrent shows the depth of hatred that exists against Jews,” he added.

On Thursday, the pro-Israel organization CIDI prepared for a support rally to express solidarity with Israel for its military operation against Hamas and other terrorists in Gaza. Israel launched the operation last week amid ongoing rocket fire on Israeli cities and towns.

One Israeli and more than 200 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting, which triggered a wave of anti-Semitic incidents across Western Europe and especially France.

Anti-Israel protesters said they would hold a counterdemonstration opposite the CIDI rally at Amsterdam’s Dam Square.

Khalid Sinouh, a goalkeeper for Rotterdam’s Sparta soccer team, called CIDI “a criminal organization” and a “pro-apartheid organization” on Twitter on Thursday, the Telegraaf daily reported.

U.S. Senate panel advances bill on cemetery desecration

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 08:14

WASHINGTON (JTA) – A U.S. Senate committee advanced a bill that would make the desecration of cemeteries around the world a violation of religious freedom.

If approved, the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 would be amended to include the vandalizing of cemeteries. Under the proposed change, the United States could penalize countries that obstruct religious freedom by cutting foreign aid, imposing trade sanctions, and canceling cultural and scientific exchanges.

On Wednesday, the Foreign Relations Committee sent the measure to the full Senate for consideration. The House of Representatives has approved the bill.

“The defacing or destruction of a cemetery — based on an affiliation with a particular religious or spiritual group — should not be tolerated by governments,” said U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who helped lead the effort in the Foreign Relations Committee, of which he is a senior member.

“Freedom of religion requires respect for those practicing their faith alone as well as in community with others.  It also requires protection for those who identify as members of a religious community, for the symbols of the community, for the houses of worship and other institutions of the community.”

In 2013, Jewish cemeteries were desecrated in a number of countries, including the Netherlands, Hungary, Russia, Poland, France, Germany, Georgia, Moldova and Argentina, according to Cardin’s office.


Palestinian-American teen beaten by Israeli police returns to Tampa

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 07:10

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Palestinian-American teen who was seen in a video being beaten by Israeli soldiers returned home to Florida.

Tariq Abu Khdeir, 15, and his mother arrived in Tampa late Wednesday night, where they reportedly were greeted by about 50 family members and supporters. Khdeir was under house arrest after being released on bail.

“I am only 15, but I will never think of freedom the same as I did two months ago,” he said at the airport, according to The Associated Press. “No child, whether they are Palestinian or Israeli, deserves to die.”

Khdeir reportedly said he was ready to play with his friends and go fishing.

Khdeir is a cousin of the Palestinian teen found murdered in a revenge attack on July 2 in the Jerusalem forest. Three Jewish Israelis have been indicted in the slaying.

He was on a summer vacation visiting family in eastern Jerusalem when the murder occurred hours after the funeral of three kidnapped and murdered Israeli teens. Khdeir was one of six eastern Jerusalem teens arrested at a riot following the funeral.

In a video that garnered widespread attention internationally, a masked teen identified as Tariq is shown being pinned down by an Israeli border policeman while another office pummels him with his feet and kicks his head. Tariq is seen in photographs after his arrest with a bloody face, black eyes and a severely swollen lip.

The officer, who has not been named, was suspended for at least 15 days pending a hearing on whether charges will be brought, a statement from Israel’s Justice Ministry said last week.

Following a probe of the July 3 arrest of Khdeir, the ministry said that “apparent evidence was found supporting the guilt of the police officer suspected of severe violent crimes, committed after the arrest of the minor, and while the minor was handcuffed.”

The U.S. State Department at the time said that the U.S. was “profoundly troubled” by the beating and called for “a speedy, transparent and credible investigation and full accountability for any excessive use of force.”


3 Israeli suspects in Palestinian teen’s murder indicted

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 06:24

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Three Jewish Israelis in the apparent revenge murder of a Palestinian teen were indicted.

The indictment filed Thursday in Jerusalem District Court charged the still unnamed suspects with the murder and kidnapping of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, 16, of eastern Jerusalem, as well as other crimes.


The suspects’ names remain under a court-ordered gag order. They are identified as a 29-year-old man from the Adam settlement outside Jerusalem, and two 16-year-olds, from Beit Shemesh and Jerusalem.

Khdeir was kidnapped from outside a mosque in his Shuafat neighborhood early on the morning of July 2, hours after the funerals for three Israeli teens who were kidnapped and murdered, allegedly by Hamas members. Khdeir’s badly burned body was found hours later in the Jerusalem forest.

According to the indictment, Khdeir was beaten unconscious and then set afire while still alive.

The three suspects, who reportedly reenacted the crime, have confessed and said the slaying was in revenge for the kidnapping and murders of Gilad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach. Khdeir’s murder touched off rioting in Arab areas throughout the country.

“The indictment that was filed details a grave and shocking act, perpetrated against a background of racism, against an innocent teenager,” Israel’s attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, said in a Justice Ministry statement, according to reports. “The attorney general wishes to express his deep sorrow over this cruel act that counters all basic human morals.”

Rockets strike Israel during humanitarian cease-fire

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 05:29

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Rockets fired from the Gaza Strip struck southern Israel two hours after a humanitarian cease-fire went into effect.

Israel halted its aerial fire on Gaza at 10 a.m. Thursday, as agreed upon the previous evening. The rockets violating the cease-fire targeted the Eshkol region near the Gaza border; no damage or injuries were reported.

It is not known what group fired the rockets. Hamas was the only Gaza terror group to officially agree to the cease-fire.

The brief truce was to allow Palestinian civilians an opportunity to purchase food and other necessities. Most Gaza civilians have not ventured far from their homes since the launch 10 days ago of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge to stop rocket fire on the country. In addition to Gazans flooding supermarkets, hundreds reportedly lined up outside an open branch of the Bank of Palestine in Gaza City.

Israel agreed to a request from Robert Serry, the United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, to hold its fire for humanitarian reasons.

Prior to the start of the cease-fire, a rocket salvo was fired at several heavily populated cities in central Israel, including Tel Aviv, Petach Tikvah and Netanya. The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted one rocket; the rest fell in open areas. Several rockets also targeted Beersheba.

Israel’s Air Force reportedly struck 37 targets in Gaza overnight. The Palestinian death toll since the beginning of the operation is above 200, according to Palestinian reports. One Israeli civilian has been killed since the beginning of the current conflict.

Video: Israel’s military foils large-scale infiltration from Gaza

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 04:52

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli forces foiled an infiltration attempt that its military said was aimed at carrying out a major terror attack.

The Israel Defense Forces identified 13 armed men exiting a tunnel inside Israel early Thursday morning by a kibbutz near the Gaza border. Once the men realized they had been spotted, they attempted to dive back into the tunnel, but were thwarted by an Israeli airstrike. The IDF said some of the infiltrators were injured.

The IDF said  the Hamas terrorists planned to attack civilians living in an Israeli kibbutz, the IDF said in a statement. According to photos taken by the IDF, the infiltrators were carrying weapons including shoulder-mounted RPGs, or rocket-propelled grenades.


Hours after the infiltration attempt, the IDF posted video of the infiltration and the airstrike on the tunnel opening.

Hamas took responsibility for the attempted infiltration and said all its members returned home, according to the Times of Israel. Palestinian radio in Gaza aired a report that the infiltrators killed and injured Israelis, but the IDF said it had no reports of deaths or injuries.

Residents of Kibbutz Sufa and nearby communities had been instructed to remain in their homes in the hours after the infiltration attempt while Israeli troops searched the area.

Israel probing deaths of four Palestinian boys shelled on Gaza beach

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 16:29

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s military said it was investigating the deaths of four Palestinian boys who were playing on a Gaza City beach when it was shelled.

Gaza officials said the shelling on Wednesday afternoon was an Israeli naval or aerial attack.

“Based on preliminary results, the target of this strike was Hamas terrorist operatives,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. “The reported civilian causalities from this strike are a tragic outcome.”

The statement added, “We are carefully investigating the incident in question.”

The boys, aged 9 to 11, were brothers and cousins, according to reports; seven others were wounded in the attack. The family appears to be affiliated with the Fatah faction, rivals of Hamas, as photos of the funeral show the boys wrapped in Fatah flags.

The strike took place near a hotel frequented by journalists, many of whom provided first-person accounts in their publications and on social media.

More than 200 Palestinian Gazans have been killed in the eight days of Operation Protective Edge, the majority civilians, according to Palestinian reports.

‘Red’ Klotz, player-coach for Globetrotters ‘opponent,’ dies at 93

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 16:18

(JTA) — Louis “Red” Klotz, the driving force behind the team that served as the foil for the Harlem Globetrotters, has died.

Klotz, who with his Globetrotters counterpart, Abe Saperstein, formed a Jewish-run traveling basketball show that has traveled around the world for more than six decades, died Saturday at his home in Margate, N.J. He was 93, and had suffered several strokes the past two years.

He was the founder, owner and coach of the squad best known as the Washington Generals, which has squared off against the Globetrotters in over 100 countries dating back to 1952. The 5-foot-7 Klotz, a standout in college and professionally in the NBA’s forerunner league, also played for the Generals and often was the victim of the Globetrotters renowned hijinks.

Their games, at least in theory, were meant to be competitive — as competitive as a team (Klotz’s) that goes 1-14,000 against an opponent can be. The Generals’ sole victory, in 1971 in Tennessee, was documented and a source of pride for Klotz, although he maintained that an earlier win went unrecorded due to a scoreboard operator’s error.

The Globetrotters “had to play somebody,” Klotz’s biographer, Tim Kelly, told JTA this week.

The teams were independent organizations that traveled and practiced separately, he said.

“You’ve got a 5-7 guy, the son of Jewish immigrants, playing in front of the shah of Iran, three popes, at the bottom of a drained pool and in bull rings,” said Kelly, whose biography, titled “The Legend of Red Klotz: How Basketball’s Loss Leader Won Over the World – 14,000 Times,” was published last year. To the end, he added, Klotz “was very, very aware of [the Generals’] role as ambassadors.”

A star point guard at South Philadelphia High School and Villanova University, Klotz joined the largely Jewish professional club known as the SPHAs (for the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association), which was owned and coached by fellow SPHS alumnus Eddie Gottlieb.

Klotz would go on to play for the Baltimore Bullets when it won the 1948-49 championship of the Basketball Association of America, defeating Gottlieb’s Philadelphia Warriors. A few months later, the league merged into what is now the National Basketball Association.

Klotz served as a player-coach the next season for the Cumberland (Md.) Dukes of the All-American Professional Basketball League. Dukes management scheduled an exhibition game against the Globetrotters.

“The Trotters expected to come in there and walk all over us,” Klotz said in the Kelly book. “I told our guys to make them respect you, and they responded.”

Cumberland took the Globetrotters to overtime before losing, but Saperstein was impressed. He invited Klotz to join a traveling team playing against the Globetrotters on an exhibition tour of Latin America. That eventually led to Klotz’s founding of his team.

Israel agrees to humanitarian cease-fire of five hours for Gaza

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 15:53

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli military agreed to a humanitarian cease-fire to allow civilians in Gaza to resupply their households with basic necessities.

The cease-fire will begin at 10 a.m. Thursday  and last for five hours, the Israel Defense Forces announced Wednesday evening. During the cease-fire, the IDF said in a statement that it “will cease operational activity within the Gaza Strip and hold its fire.”

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, or COGAT, and representatives of the United Nations brokered the humanitarian truce on Wednesday.

“Should the humanitarian window be exploited by Hamas or other terror organizations for the purpose of launching attacks against Israeli civilian or military targets, the IDF will respond firmly and decisively,” the IDF said.

Also Wednesday, Israel’s Cabinet approved the call-up of 8,000 more reservists, in addition to the 48,000 that already have been called up, to assist in the Gaza operation dubbed Protective Edge.

Szymon Szurmiej, Jewish actor and Polish leader, dies

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 15:27

(JTA) – The Jewish actor and director Szymon Szurmiej, the longtime head of Poland’s State Jewish Theatre, has died.

Szurmiej, a leading Jewish figure for years during the post-Holocaust communist era, died Wednesday in Warsaw. He was 91.

He survived the widespread anti-Semitic purges of 1968 and, in addition to heading the theater since 1970, served as the longtime president of the Social and Cultural Association of Polish Jews, or TSKZ, a secular, state-allied body that was one of the few Jewish organizations permitted to operate under communism.

Szurmiej also served as a member of Poland’s Parliament in the 1980s and represented Polish Jewry in international Jewish organizations.

Israeli tech sector continues investment surge with nearly $1B quarter

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 15:01

(JTA) — Israeli high-tech firms raised $930 million in the second quarter of 2014, the sector’s strongest quarter in more than a decade.

The figure, drawn from a survey by the Israeli Venture Capital Research Center and financial firm KMPG, was the highest quarterly figure since 2000 and an increase of 109 percent from one year ago.

Combined with the results from the first quarter of this year, Israeli high-tech firms raised $1.6 billion in the first half of 2014, which the research center calls “the strongest capital raising period on record for Israel’s high-tech industry.”

The strong quarter was led by a $135 million investment in Landa Digital Printing by the Altana Group, a German investment company. Life science firms raised more than any other sector, drawing $251 million in capital.

The data indicate the continuation of a recent investment surge in the Israeli tech sector. In 2013, Israeli high-tech firms raised $2.3 billion, the most in a decade, according to Reuters.

Woman battling deportation cites judge’s Jewish ties in recusal request

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 14:49

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A woman convicted in Israel in connection with a 1969 terrorist bombing filed a motion to recuse the judge presiding over her deportation case because of his Jewish community ties.

The motion filed this week and first reported by Politico suggests that Rasmieh Yousef Odeh will allege at trial that she was tortured and raped while in Israeli custody.

Odeh is facing charges that she failed to note her Israeli conviction when she applied to enter the United States in 1993 and then when she became a citizen in 2004.

“Clearly, one who has been a life-long supporter and promoter of Israel and has deep ties to the State of Israel spanning over 50 years, who no doubt believes that Israel is a great democracy and protector of human rights, cannot be ‘reasonably’ said to be impartial when these claims of torture and illegality are raised by a Palestinian defendant,” Michael Deutsch, a lawyer for Odeh, wrote in the motion.

Paul Borman, a U.S. District Court judge in Detroit, and his wife have donated at least $3 million to the Detroit Jewish federation, according to the motion.

Deutsch casts Borman’s involvement with the federation as purely pro-Israel, although it is unclear from the motion how much of his donations and activism were designated for Israel-related activities.

For instance, Deutsch cites Borman’s earning the title of “Builder of Israel,” apparently unaware that the term dates from the biblical Book of Ruth and often is a rubric for an array of Jewish community activities.

Borman also has been credited by the federation for being “instrumental in bringing hundreds of Detroiters to Israel,” including state lawmakers, according to the motion.

Israel jailed Odeh for life for her involvement in a number of Jerusalem bombings in 1969, including one at a supermarket that killed two Hebrew University students, Leon Kanner and Eddie Joffe.

She was released in a prisoner exchange with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in 1980 and immigrated to the United States from Jordan in 1995.

Odeh was arrested last October for failing to disclose her terror attack conviction in her immigration papers. Her trial date is Oct. 21.