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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.”

Venice Jewish museum, three synagogues to undergo renovations

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 07:20

(JTA) – The Jewish museum in Venice and three of the city’s five historic synagogues are getting a $12 million refurbishment.

The renovations are expected to be completed in time for events in 2016 marking the 500th anniversary of the creation of the Venice Ghetto, according to the Venetian Heritage Council, an international philanthropic group that made the announcement of the project on Monday.

International fundraising efforts will be led by the council’s chairman, Joseph Sitt, and vice chairman, Diane von Furstenberg, the Belgian-born Jewish fashion designer whose mother was a survivor of Auschwitz.

Renata Codello, who heads the Venice office of the Italian Culture Ministry under the UNESCO program for the city, will oversee the project.

“The $12 million undertaking will repair and reinforce walls and structures through the entire building, restore gilded wooded panels bearing carved biblical features, and fix numerous adornments and design elements that have suffered the weight of a half-millennium,” the council said in a statement.

“In addition to the structural revitalization of the synagogues, we are vastly improving and upgrading the museum space, adding space and streamlining room-to-room flow to accommodate the incredible interest in this piece of history,” council director Toto Bergamo Rossi said.

Founded in 1953, the Jewish museum in Venice is located in the heart of the former Venice Ghetto, where Jews were confined in 1516. The synagogues, two of them in use for worship today, date back to the 16th century and occupy the top floors of preexisting ghetto buildings whose simple exteriors hide the ornate decoration of the jewel-like sanctuaries.



Youth hockey coach fired for posting Nazi propaganda on Facebook

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 07:07

VANCOUVER, Canada (JTA) — A youth hockey coach in suburban Vancouver was fired for posting Nazi propaganda on social media.

Christopher Maximilian Sandau, 33, was dismissed earlier this month by the North Delta Minor Hockey Association after refusing to remove the posts from his Facebook page, CTV News reported. Sandau also denies the Holocaust.

His Facebook page included a photo of Adolf Hitler with the message “Adolf Hitler: The Greatest Story Never Told,” as well as a swastika flag with the message, “If this flag offends you, you need a history lesson,” the Vancouver Sun reported.

“The posts contained extreme and objectionably material believed to be incompatible with an important purpose of our minor hockey association — to promote and encourage good citizenship,” NDMH president Anita Cairney said in a statement.

Sandau insists he never mentioned his Nazi sympathies while coaching his players, who were in grades 6 to 9.

“The whole time I was coaching with these kids and interacting with the kids, my focus was only on hockey,” Sandau told the Sun. “I wasn’t trying to impose this knowledge on anybody.”

In an interview with the Sun, Sandau, who said he played professional hockey in Germany, also denied the Holocaust, saying that the Jews seen in newsreels were dying of typhus and that the Germans were “doing their best to save them.”

“My view on the history basically got me canned,” Sandau complained.

Sandau’s Facebook posts also included canards against Jews including that they control the banks, according to CTV News.

Sotloff family establishes foundation in slain journalist’s name

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 06:18

(JTA) — The family of Steven Sotloff, the journalist who was beheaded by a member of ISIS, has established a foundation to provide scholarships for journalism students.

The 2Lives Steven Joel Sotloff Memorial Foundation will “provide scholarships for journalism and liberal arts students who have the passion, skills and desire to follow in Steven’s footsteps and pursue careers in journalism – particularly to tell the stories of people in conflict-torn regions around the world,” according to its mission statement.

The name of the foundation, which will be managed by the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, is based on a statement in one of the two letters he smuggled out to his parents, Arthur and Shirley.

“Everyone has two lives. The second one begins when you realize that you only have one,” it said.

Sotloff, who grew up in Miami, was abducted on Aug. 4, 2013, after crossing the Syrian border from Turkey. On Sept. 2, ISIS released a nearly three-minute video online titled “A Second Message to America” showing the beheading of Sotloff.

Sotloff published articles from Syria, Egypt and Libya in various publications, including Time.com, the World Affairs Journal and Foreign Policy. He also freelanced for The Jerusalem Post and the Jerusalem Report magazine.

It was revealed after his death that Sotloff, 31, held Israeli citizenship. His connections to Israel and the Jewish community reportedly had been sanitized from the Internet and social media in order to keep the information from his radical Islamic captors.

Sotloff, a grandson of Holocaust survivors, made aliyah in 2005 and studied foreign relations at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, a private college.



Netanyahu calls on Arab citizens to respect the law, shun incitement

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 06:14

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Arab citizens of Israel to “respect the law.”

“Do not be swept away by propaganda and incitement. Don’t be swept away by an inflamed minority. You are citizens with equal rights and equal obligations, and the first obligation of any citizen is to respect the law,” Netanyahu said Tuesday night at the end of a security Cabinet meeting.

The meeting, which lasted several hours, was called in the face of riots and unrest in the Arab sector, as well as terror attacks by Palestinians on Israelis in the center of the country as well as the West Bank.

“We are determined to take all possible action against incitement and escalation; we will take vigorous action against the terrorists,” Netanyahu said.

The Israeli leader said he had ordered new steps to combat the rioting and terror, including the demolition of terrorists’ homes; more severe punishment for throwing stones and firebombs; and fines for parents of children throwing rocks, among other measures.

Netanyahu said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “is not a partner in this effort” to reduce tension and violence, and is inflaming the situation rather than calming it.

“Instead of speaking the truth, he is disseminating lies to the effect that we intend, or are operating in some way, to change the status of the holy places – this is a gross lie,” Netanyahu charged.

Tel Aviv supermarkets allowed to stay open on Sabbath

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 06:09

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Supermarkets in Tel Aviv may remain open on the Sabbath, a municipal court ruled.

Tuesday’s ruling denied a city request that the court require the stores to heed municipal attempts to keep stores closed on Saturdays.

It is illegal in Israel to open retail businesses on the Jewish Sabbath, which begins at sundown Friday and ends after sunset Saturday. Businesses that remain open are levied modest fines.

More than a year ago, Israel’s Supreme Court ordered the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality to enforce a by-law that bans its businesses from opening on Saturday.

The municipality had been working to find a way to allow a percentage of the city’s grocery stores to receive permission to remain open on Saturdays, using an amendment to the existing law. The stores would have been spread throughout the city, with fewer open in areas that are more religious and more in secular areas. But outgoing Interior Minister Gideon Saar did not approve the amendment.

Since Saar did not respond either in the affirmative or negative to the amendment request, the court ruled Tuesday that the amendment became valid.

Under the ruling, most stores operating on the Sabbath in Tel Aviv can continue doing so, and the Tel Aviv municipality cannot submit new requests to close down businesses operating on the Sabbath, according to the Israeli business daily Globes.

Activists, government officials meeting in Berlin on combatting anti-Semitism

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 06:04

(JTA) — Hundreds of activists and government officials from around the world are set to meet in Berlin to discuss ways of countering anti-Semitism.

The conference is being organized by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, or OSCE, and will be held Tuesday and Wednesday in the German capital to mark the 10th anniversary of the OSCE conference on anti-Semitism and the Berlin Declaration, which urged OSCE member states to monitor and combat anti-Semitism through legislation and education.

More than 200 individuals from civil society groups, many of them from Jewish organizations, have registered to attend the event, which comes amid increased concern about rising anti-Semitism in Europe. Some 350 representatives of international organizations and governments from the 57 OSCE member states will also attend, according to Rabbi Andrew Baker, representative of the OSCE chair on combating anti-Semitism and director of international Jewish affairs for the American Jewish Committee.

For Baker, “the most pressing issue is providing physical protection and security to Jewish communities in Europe” in the wake of frequent attacks on Jewish institutions and individuals, including by jihadists with and without combat experience in the Middle East.

While some European governments allocated extra funds and resources for protection of Jewish communities following recent attacks, “others are declining to do so,” Baker said. Beyond the issue of funds, he said, progress needs to happen on “recognizing the seriousness of the problems communities face.”

Baker said the “unique feature” of the conference is that it is “providing a platform for discussion” between NGOs and governments.

On a trip in September to Denmark, Baker heard from government officials that in Denmark, a “relaxed approach” is taken to security. Posting armed police outside Jewish institutions does not happen in Denmark because authorities fear it would make the general population feel uncomfortable.

“European governments are not fully prepared to confront the potential terrorist threat posed by returning jihadist fighters who can move freely inside the Schengen borders. Such a person could be in Brussels in the morning and in Copenhagen or Budapest in the afternoon,” he added.

Netanyahu: Iran is U.S. enemy, not partner

Tue, 11/11/2014 - 17:49

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The United States should treat Iran as an enemy and not as a partner, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Jewish leaders.

“Iran is not part of the solution, it’s a huge part of the problem,” Netanyahu said Tuesday, referring to reports that the United States may be coordinating with Iran in their shared battle to crush the Islamic State jihadist group in Iraq and Syria. “The Islamic state of Iran is not a partner of America, it is an enemy of America and it should be treated as an enemy.”

Netanyahu, speaking via video link to the annual General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, said such treatment should extend to nuclear talks now underway between the major powers and Iran “by keeping tough sanctions on the regime, by making clear that the international community is determined to do whatever it takes to prevent Iran from breaking out or sneaking out to get the bomb.”

He said a deal that would allow Iran a limited uranium enrichment capacity would be a “disaster of historic proportions.”

U.S. officials have said that such a deal is the likely outcome should the sides come to an agreement. The deadline to reach a deal is Nov. 24.

“The worst thing that could happen now is for the international community to agree to a deal that would leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power and removes its sanctions,” he said.

Netanyahu also crticized Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as “irresponsible” for “fanning the flames” of violence as rioting intensifies inside Israel and the West bank this week.

He cited Abbas’ praise for the slain attacker who last month attempted to assassinate a Jewish activist who seeks Jewish access to the Temple Mount, and the Palestinian Authority’s denials of any Jewish connection to the ancient site.