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Israel orders razing of Palestinian car attacker’s family home

Sun, 11/16/2014 - 15:54

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The family home of the Palestinian man who killed two people when he drove into a crowd of commuters at a Jerusalem Light Rail stop was ordered to be demolished.

Israel sent the family of Abdelrahman al-Shaludi the demolition order on Friday; the family had 48 hours to appeal. The home is on the fourth floor of an apartment building in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.

Shaludi crashed his car on Oct. 22 into the Ammunition Hill light rail station in northern. A 3-month-old girl died at the scene and a 22-year-old visitor from Ecuador, who was in the process of converting to Judaism, died four days later. Eight people also were injured in the attack as passengers were disembarking from the train.

Shaludi attempted to flee on foot and was shot and killed by police, who confirmed that he had previously served time in an Israeli prison.

The family has denied that Shaludi executed a terror attack, saying he lost control of his car.

The B’Tselem human rights organization in a statement issued Sunday called the demolition order “collective punishment that is both unlawful and immoral.” The group called upon the authorities to reverse the demolition order.


Debate tabled on bill naming Israel national homeland for Jews

Sun, 11/16/2014 - 13:58

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Knesset committee vote on a law to officially make Israel the nation-state of all Jews was postponed.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, head of the centrist Hatnua party, on Sunday postponed her ministerial committee for legislation’s vote on the bill known as the Nationality Law.

“The explosive situation that exists in the Arab sector at the moment has already led to violent clashes and casualties. A discussion on the Nationality Law at this time is irresponsible,” Science, Technology and Space Minister Yaakov Peri said in requesting the delay of the vote during the committee meeting.

The bill calls Israel the national homeland of the Jewish people and would make Hebrew the official language, with Arabic having “special status.” It also calls Jewish law a basis for new legislation.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who supports the bill, said after the committee meeting that he would submit the bill directly to the full Cabinet for discussion.

“The State of Israel is the national state of the Jewish People,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “This is a central issue which is important for the future of the Jewish People in the State of Israel.”

The statement came hours after Netanyahu had opened the Cabinet meeting by saying he would move forward on the bill, which was proposed by Zeev Elkin, a member of his Likud party.

Netanyahu acknowledged, however, that the bill “will yet undergo many changes and discussions, but we will make it clear that the State of Israel is the national state of the Jewish People, while providing for equal rights – and ensuring equal rights – for all its citizens.”


Jewish man stabbed with screwdriver in Jerusalem

Sun, 11/16/2014 - 13:51

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Jewish man was stabbed with a screwdriver in central Jerusalem.

The victim, 32, was treated on the scene for stab wounds to his upper body before being taken to Shaarey Zedek Medical Center in the city.

The assailant reportedly was a Palestinian youth who was seen fleeing toward the Damascus Gate on the northwest side of Jerusalem.

Police said they set up roadblocks in their search for the attacker.

The attack comes on the heels of Arab unrest in Jerusalem and several attacks using cars and stabbing in the past two weeks.

Appeals court upholds dismissal of Alan Gross lawsuit against U.S.

Sun, 11/16/2014 - 13:42

(JTA) — A federal appeals court upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed against the U.S. government by Alan Gross, the American-Jewish contractor imprisoned in Cuba since 2009.

In a 3-0 decision Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the government cannot be sued for injuries that occurred in another country.

The ruling affirmed a lower court judge’s dismissal of the $60 million lawsuit in May 2013.

Gross and his wife, Judy, filed the suit in November 2012 against the U.S. government and a government contractor charging that Gross should have been better trained and informed of the risks before going to Cuba to set up Internet access for the Jewish community there.

The Grosses settled in mid-May with Development Alternatives Inc., a Maryland-based contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, for an undisclosed amount. Gross was working for the USIA.

Gross, 65, of Potomac, Md., was leaving Cuba when he was arrested in December 2009 for “crimes against the state.” He spoke virtually no Spanish and traveled to Cuba five times under his own name before his arrest. He is serving a 15-year sentence.

Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) met last week with Gross for two hours.

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 jailed in the United States on espionage charges.

In August, Gross said he could no longer take life in prison and reportedly said goodbye to his family.

Netanyahu accuses Abbas of incitement in Jerusalem

Sun, 11/16/2014 - 11:25

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of incitement as the P.A.’s official media called for a day of rage in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu pointed out the call at the beginning of the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday.

On Thursday, Netanyahu, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Jordan’s King Abdullah II agreed after meeting in Amman to de-escalate the situation on the Temple Mount and make it clear that the status quo will be upheld.

“Abu Mazen must halt the incitement that leads to acts of violence,” Netanyahu said Sunday, using Abbas’ nom de guerre. “This is one of the roots of the inflamed moods that are fueled by Islamist extremist propaganda and propaganda by the Palestinian Authority.”

Netanyahu also called rumors that Israel intends to change the status quo on the Temple Mount  “a gross lie.”

Since capturing the holy site during the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel has severely restricted access for Jewish worshippers, in part not to inflame tensions. The status quo continues to restrict Jewish worship on the mount.

The day after the Jordan meeting, Israel removed its age limitation on entrance to the Temple Mount, for the first time in two weeks allowing Muslim men under the age of 50 to enter the compound that contains the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Army Radio reported.

The Palestinian Maan news agency reported Sunday that Netanyahu will meet again with Abdullah in the coming days to continue discussions over tensions surrounding the Temple Mount, citing  Jordanian parliament member Mohammed al-Katatshe.

French Muslims see Jews controlling nation’s economy, media

Sun, 11/16/2014 - 10:15

(JTA) — New surveys conducted in France suggested that Frenchmen of Muslim origin were far likelier to espouse anti-Semitic views than the general population.

In the two surveys, which were conducted in recent months, 74 percent of respondents who self-identified as observant Muslims agreed with the statement that Jews have too much influence on French economics, compared to 25 percent in the general population.

The assertion that Jews control the media received an approval rating of 23 percent in the general population group and 70 percent among practicing Muslims.

The surveys were released Sunday at the fifth annual national convention in Paris of the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities and organizations. A total of 1,580 people older than 16 were polled after Sept. 25 by the IFOP polling company and the Foundation for Political Innovation.

In the first survey, 1,005 respondents from the general population answered a series of questions about their attitudes toward Jews. Their answers were compared with responses several days later to the same questions by 575 people who said they were either Muslim or were born to a Muslim family.

Among the general population, 32 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that “Jews use to their own benefit their status as victims of the Nazi genocide” compared to 56 percent of respondents from the Muslim group and among those who voted for the far-right National Front party in 2012. Among voters for the Front de Gauche far-left party, the assertion had a 51 percent approval rating.

The existence of “an international Zionist conspiracy” was endorsed by 16 percent of the general population and by 44 percent of Muslim respondents. The same figure among Front de Gauche voters called Zionism “a racist ideology” compared to 23 percent in the general population.

In the general population group, 46 percent of respondents endorsed the description of Zionism as “an ideology that proclaims the right of the Jews to have their own country on their ancestors’ land.”

Israel bans Norwegian doctor, co-author of Lancet letter, from Gaza

Sun, 11/16/2014 - 08:37

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Norwegian doctor who was among the authors of a letter slamming Israel published in The Lancet was banned permanently from the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli government said the ban on Dr. Mads Gilbert was for security reasons, according to an email from the Norwegian embassy in Tel Aviv to The Local, a Norwegian daily.

Gilbert, 67, told The Local he believes he is being excluded because he has made critical comments against Israel.

The doctor said he has spent over 30 years working in international conflict areas, especially Gaza, The Local reported. He spent more than a month this summer working at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital helping to treat some of the thousands injured in Israel’s operation in Gaza.

Gilbert reportedly was traveling to Gaza late last month and was prevented from crossing from Israel into Gaza.

Norwegian government officials reportedly have asked Israel to change its decision.

In “An open letter for the people of Gaza” published this summer in The Lancet, a British medical journal, Gilbert and his co-authors accused Israel of committing a “massacre” in Gaza, among other things.

“This is not about me. This is about Israel denying the Palestinian people in Gaza international support,” Gilbert told the British daily The Independent on Saturday.

“To deny professionals from the medical field the right to go to Gaza is another aspect of the collective punishment. They’re exercising the siege in an increasingly harsh and brutal way.”

Suspected Kansas City JCC shooter says he targeted Jews

Sun, 11/16/2014 - 07:52

(JTA) — The white supremacist suspect in the shootings of three people at two Jewish institutions in suburban Kansas City said he wanted to “be sure I killed some Jews before I died.”

Frazier Glenn Miller, who also goes by the name Frazier Glenn Cross, told the Kansas City Star in an interview published Sunday that he decided in March to carry out the April attacks on two Jewish sites in the city after he became so sick with emphysema that he thought he would soon die.

“I was convinced I was dying then,” Miller, of Aurora, Mo., told the newspaper in his first published interview since the April 13 attacks.

He went on to say, “I wanted to make damned sure I killed some Jews or attacked the Jews before I died.”

Miller is suspected of killing William Lewis Corporon, a retired physician, and his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, in the parking lot of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park, Kan., and then shooting to death Terri LaManno, a Catholic mother of two, in the parking lot at Village Shalom, a Jewish assisted-living facility a few blocks away, where she was visiting her mother.

None of the three victims were Jewish.

Miller, a former Ku Klux Klan grand dragon, told the newspaper that he conducted reconnaissance missions of the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom in the days before the shootings.

“Because of what I did, Jews feel less secure,” he said. “Every Jew in the world knows my name now and what I did. As for these … white people who are accomplices of the Jews, who attend their meetings and contribute to their fundraising efforts and who empower the Jews, they are my enemy, too. A lot of white people who associate with Jews, go to Jewish events and support them know that they’re not safe either, thanks to me.”

He told the newspaper that he regretted killing “the young white boy.”

Miller was charged in April with capital murder and first-degree premeditated murder. The capital charge carries a death sentence; the premeditated murder charge could result in life in prison.

He had served three years in prison on weapons charges and for plotting the assassination of Morris Dees, founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

ISIS claims beheading of American hostage

Sun, 11/16/2014 - 07:16

(JTA) — The Islamic State jihadist group claimed to have beheaded another American hostage.

In a video posted online Sunday morning on jihadist and social networking sites, the group also known as ISIS and ISIL said it beheaded American aid worker Peter Kassig.

Kassig, 26, of Indianapolis, was abducted in October 2013 in Syria. He founded a Turkey-based nonprofit group that assists refugees on both sides of the Syria-Turkey border. He went by the name Abdul-Rahman Kassig after converting to Islam

Kassig served in the U.S. Army during the Iraq war and was honorably discharged in 2007 over a medical ailment.

President Obama confirmed that the video was authentic and said that Kassig was killed in “an act of pure evil by a terrorist group that the world rightly associates with inhumanity.”

The video reportedly did not show the actual beheading but showed a black-masked man speaking with a British accent with a bloody decapitated head at his feet.

“This is Peter Edward Kassig, a U.S. citizen of your country; Peter who fought against the Muslims in Iraq while serving as a soldier,” the masked man said.

The one who purportedly is Kassig is dressed and sounds the same as the man seen in four other beheading videos, including that of dual American-Israeli citizen Steven Sotloff.

For the first time, the video identified where the beheading took place.

“Here, we are burying the first American crusader in Dabiq, eagerly waiting for the remainder of your armies to arrive,” the believed executioner said.

Dabiq is located in northern Syria near the border with Turkey.

The video also reportedly showed the beheading of several men identified as Syrian military personnel, the French news agency AFP reported.

Kassig founded SERA, or Special Emergency Response and Assistance, working from Turkey to provide food and medical supplies to refugee camps on both sides of the Syria-Turkey border while helping refugees flee the more then three-year-long civil war in Syria, according to ABC News.

Videos released since Aug. 19 have shown the beheading of Sotloff, American journalist James Foley, and British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning.

Orthodox Jew stabbed in Antwerp in attack seen as anti-Semitic

Sun, 11/16/2014 - 03:18

LIEGE, Belgium (JTA) — An Orthodox Jewish man who was stabbed in the neck in Antwerp in a suspected anti-Semitic attack was released from the hospital.

Yehosha Malik, 31, sustained injuries classified as moderate on Saturday morning in the capital of Belgium’s Flemish region, the Gazet van Antwerpen reported. He was discharged the same day after medical staff determined his injuries were not life threatening.

In an interview with Hadrei Haredim, a Hebrew-language news website, Malik said he felt a jab to his neck “and saw a young man eagerly trying to stab again.”

Malik was on his way to synagogue in the city’s center, where a population of approximately 16,000 Orthodox Jews reside.

According to Malik’s account, the attacker fled after he was confronted by a witness, also an Orthodox Jew.

The region’s Forum of Jewish Organizations wrote in a statement that “there is very real chance we are dealing with an act of pure anti-Semitism.”

Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, called on European authorities to step up efforts to protect Jewish communities that are being targeted by Islamists and other parties.

“There is a war against the Jews on the Internet and on the streets,” he said. “Until there is a crackdown on incitement to hatred and anti-Semitism, then more people will believe that these types of attacks are legitimate. We call on European authorities to form a specially dedicated pan-European body to deal specifically with the wave of anti-Semitism and the threat of radical Islam that threatens Jews and the continent of Europe.”

Rabbi Menachem Margolin of the Brussels-based European Jewish Association said his group will set meetings with European Union officials to discuss “the severity of the situation and ways to combat such phenomena at their core, through education.”

U.S. envoy ‘concerned’ over anti-Semitism in Turkey

Fri, 11/14/2014 - 14:43

(JTA) — The United States is concerned over recent expressions of anti-Semitism in Turkey, the State Department’s special envoy for combatting anti-Semitism, Ira Forman, said.

Forman spoke of these concerns in an interview with JTA Friday from Berlin, where he attended a high-level meeting on anti-Semitism organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE.

“We are concerned when civil society or political leaders call on the Jewish community to denounce Israel,” Forman said in reference to such calls. Prime Minister Tayyp Erdogan made similar statements during Israel’s summer war with Hamas in Gaza.

“And we are concerned when we hear that someone posted a sign reading ‘to be demolished’ on Istanbul’s Neve Shalom synagogue,” Forman said in reference to an incident that occurred this week.

Forman, who visited Istanbul recently, noted “this causes concern” also in light of deadly terrorist attacks on the synagogue in 2003 and 1986. Forman said he was “very concerned” when he learned that when a Turkish tabloid with a large readership, Yeni Akit, reported in May on the collapse of the Soma mine the article’s front-page headline said that the mine owner’s son-in-law is Jewish, linking this with a conspiracy theory involving “Zionists.”

Erdogan, whose Islamic party has ruled Turkey for the past decade, has scaled back considerably what used to be a close strategic partnership between his country and Israel, which he has accused of “murdering babies.”

On Europe, Forman said that concerns about the safety of Jews remain strong across some of the continent’s Western countries.

“Listening to delegates from France telling us that Jewish parents are pulling their children out of public school to keep them safe and others even pulling them out of Jewish schools and sending them to Catholic schools so they won’t be targeted by terrorists made a powerful impression,” he said.

The American delegation included diplomats and leaders from nongovernmental groups representing Jews as well as other minorities.

“This reflects an understanding in American civil society that anti-Semitism is not a Jewish problem, but a problem of society as a whole. And while some European governments have demonstrated determination in the fight against anti-Semitism, civil society in many European countries is, sadly, not there yet.”

AOL partners with Cornell Tech to fund new labs in New York, Israel

Fri, 11/14/2014 - 12:50

NEW YORK (JTA) — A graduate school cofounded by Cornell University and Israel’s Technion is launching a research lab with money it received from the AOL Internet media corporation.

The New York City-based Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute (part of the Cornell NYC Tech graduate school), which was born out of a 2011 collaboration between the upstate New York university and the Haifa one, announced the new lab’s opening on Wednesday.

The lab, called “Connected Experiences,” or ConnX, will last four years and is funded by a “multimillion” dollar gift from AOL. The exact amount was not disclosed.

The lab will operate in both Israel and New York, and will allow researchers to explore technologies in areas including communication and coordination, food and wellness, education and safety, and information and entertainment.

“The partnership with AOL will allow Cornell Tech and Technion researchers access to resources — platforms and engineering and product knowledge — that is not readily available in academic settings,” said Dan Huttenlocher, dean of Cornell Tech, in a statement.

The gift also supports a fellowship program for graduate students, half of them to be female, in New York and Israel. Faculty in the new ConnX lab will include Shiri Azenkot and Serge Belongie at Cornell Tech, and Anat Rafaeli, Nir Ailon and Roi Reichart at Technion.

Following Jordan talks, Israel lifts Temple Mount age limitation

Fri, 11/14/2014 - 06:22

(JTA) — Following trilateral talks with Jordan and the United States on de-escalating tensions in Jerusalem, Israel removed its age limitation on entrance to the Temple Mount.

On Friday, Israel for the first time in two weeks allowed Muslim men under the age of 50 to enter the Temple Mount compound, which contains the al-Aqsa Mosque, Army Radio reported.

The limitation came after several weeks of violent clashes in east Jerusalem between Israeli troops and Palestinian protesters, and a spike in terrorist attacks in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Its lifting came hours after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met in Amman with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and King Abdullah II of Jordan.

At a press conference in Amman Thursday, Kerry said that in the talks the leaders agreed “to make sure that they de-escalate the situation, and that the steps they take will instill confidence that the status quo will be upheld.” He declined to specify the steps in question.

“There are firm commitments, particularly from the custodian of the holy mosque,” Kerry said in reference to Jordan, “as well as Israel, to guarantee that they will take these steps.”

Asked whether Jordan would return its ambassador to Israel, who was recalled for consultation during the escalation period, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said: “Let’s see what happens and then we’ll review our decision, but we have to see what happens on the ground first.”

Meanwhile, security forces in Jerusalem were deployed in large numbers to respond to rioting, Army Radio reported.

On Thursday, an 11-year-old Palestinian boy was injured when a sponge bullet fired by Israel Police hit him in the face.

The incident happened during a demonstration in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya. Police fired the bullets, as well as tear gas and other crowd control methods, as masked Palestinian youths threw rocks at them, AFP reported.

The bullet smashed the youth’s nose and caused heavy bleeding. He is being treated at Hadassah Medical Center in Ein Kerem, where he is listed in moderate condition.

Knesset advances bill forcing free Adelson-owned newspaper to charge readers

Fri, 11/14/2014 - 05:37

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli lawmakers in a preliminary vote approved a bill that would make free distribution of a major newspaper illegal.

The bill’s chief target is Israel Hayom, a free Israeli newspaper owned by American billionaire Sheldon Adelson. The bill passed its first reading by a vote of 43 to 23.

Sponsored by Labor party lawmaker Eitan Cabel, the bill will now be sent to a Knesset committee to be revised for its second and third Knesset plenum votes.

While the bill targets all newspapers that are distributed for free, it has been clear its intent is to force the Adelson-owned newspaper, which is considered to be a mouthpiece for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to charge customers. Founded in 2007, Israel Hayom is the only major free Israeli paper and recently became Israel’s most-read. The bill would mandate that Israel’s least-expensive major paper charge no less than 70 percent the price of its next-most-expensive competitor.

“This is a bill in favor of pluralism and multiple opinions,: Cabel told the lawmakers. ” It is a battle so that, in a few years, we do not become a country with only one newspaper. Sheldon Adelson wants to bury a market that is fighting for its life.

“Israel Hayom does not exist because of its success as a newspaper but because of the hundreds of millions in gambling funds that are funneled to it from overseas. Does anyone in this room honestly think that this is how a model for a normal newspaper looks? That this is how fair competition looks?”

Opponents of the bill, however, say it is a violation of democratic rights.

“What is this? Since when do parliaments close newspapers? Are we Bolsheviks?” asked Likud party lawmaker Moshe Feiglin, who has been the object of significant criticism in the newspaper.

CORRECTION: This brief has been changed from the version that appeared Friday to reflect that the bill would not shut down Israel Hayom but would force it to charge a price for the paper. The headline has been changed to reflect the change.

Israel sends medical shipments to fight Ebola

Fri, 11/14/2014 - 05:30

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel has sent medical shipments including mobile clinics to three African countries to help combat the spread of the Ebola virus.

The mobile field hospitals and medical cargo are expected to arrive by ship in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea in about a month. The equipment sent includes protective gear, a treatment cart and the full medical equipment required for setting up the clinics.

The project, known as Operation Hospitals of Hope, was overseen by MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for International Development, a department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The nonprofit Israeli organization SAREL provided the supplies and professional guidance, and the ministry paid for the mobile hospitals and to ship the containers.

Once the containers arrive in their designated countries, Israeli experts will travel to help local teams set up the clinics and get them running. Israeli NGOs also are recruiting doctors to help the local medical teams operate the clinics.

“Operation ‘Hospitals of Hope’ is an integral part of the vision of MASHAV and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel of helping nations in need, including nations without diplomatic relations with Israel. We have always done so in the past, and we are doing it again today,” MASHAV head Gil Haskel said.


Gaza war caused explosion of online hate speech in Europe, report finds

Fri, 11/14/2014 - 05:24

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (JTA) — The summer war between Israel and Hamas generated an explosion of online anti-Semitic hate speech in several European countries, an international watchdog reported.

The assertion came in a report on 10 European countries released Wednesday by the International Network Against Cyber Hate and the Paris-based International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism — or INACH and LICRA respectively.

In the Netherlands, the Complaints Bureau Discrimination Internet, or MDI, recorded more instances of online hate speech against Jews during the two-month conflict than during the entire six months that preceded it, revealed the report, which the groups presented in Berlin at a meeting on anti-Semitism organized by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, or OSCE.

More than half of the 143 expressions of anti-Semitism documented by MDI in July and August, when Israel was fighting Hamas in Gaza, contained incitements to violence against Jews, the report stated. Roughly three quarters of the complaints documented in that period occurred on social media.

In Britain, the Community Security Trust recorded 140 anti-Semitic incidents on social media from January to August, with more than half occurring in July alone.

And in Austria, the Forum against Antisemitism recorded 59 anti-Semitic incidents online during the conflagration of violence between Israel and Palestinians — of which 21 included incitements to violence — compared to only 14 incidents in the six months that preceded it.

The data on online anti-Semitic incidents corresponded with an increase in real-life assaults, LICRA and INACH wrote.

The report’s recommendations included a submission by the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism, which called for OSCE member states to adopt the “Working Definition of Anti-Semitism” that the European Union’s agency for combating xenophobia enacted in 2005 but later dropped. The definition includes references to the demonization of Israel.

CRIF: Recognizing ‘Palestine’ risks worsening anti-Semitism in France

Fri, 11/14/2014 - 04:41

(JTA) – CRIF, France’s federation of Jewish organizations and communities, said the submission to parliament of a draft motion favoring immediate recognition of a Palestinian state risks exacerbating anti-Semitic hatred.

CRIF urged French lawmakers to refrain from voting in favor of the motion, which a predominantly Socialist bloc this week submitted to a vote in the French lower house later this month. Last week, the French Green party advanced a similar initiative in the French Senate.

“In France, after the anti-Semitic riots this summer, this declaration will certainly not be interpreted as a peace initiative and risks exacerbating the anti-Semitic tensions which we saw last summer,” reads the CRIF statement on the planned vote, which is slated for Nov. 28.

CRIF rarely links France’s anti-Semitism problem to mainstream political parties’ policies on Israel.

From Jan. 1 to July 31, the SPCJ security service of the French Jewish community documented 527 anti-Semitic incidents compared to 276 in the same period of 2013. The increase was largely attributed to the targeting of Jews by Muslims and Arabs in response to Israel’s killing of hundreds of Palestinians in its summer war with Hamas in Gaza.

The French draft motion follows the adoption last month of a similar motion in Britain’s House of Commons and in Ireland’s upper house. Also last month, Swedish Prime Minister  Stefan Lofven said his country would recognize “Palestine.” Another draft motion was submitted to Spain’s congress for a vote later this month.

Israel maintains that Palestinian statehood should be recognized only after the two parties agree on the terms for establishing the future state, but negotiations between the parties are stuck.

Rising anti-Semitism threatens all of Europe, Samantha Power tells Berlin confab

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 16:55

(JTA) — Rising anti-Semitism in Europe threatens not only Jews but overall European values, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said at a conference on anti-Semitism in Berlin.

The event, which concluded Thursday, was organized by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to mark the 10th anniversary of the first OSCE conference on anti-Semitism and its concluding declaration, which underscored that political events in the Middle East were no excuse for hate crimes.

That admonition of 2004 remains relevant today, Power said, adding that “robust steps must be taken” to combat the problem.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s foreign minister, confirmed at the conference that “bold and brutal anti-Semitism has shown its ugly face again” in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

While noting it is the right of all citizens of a democracy to protest, Power, who headed the U.S. delegation to Berlin this week, said demonstrations in Europe “increasingly feature vicious anti-Semitic rhetoric and, in some instances, even transform into anti-Semitic mobs.”

If leaders do not act to ensure the safety of their citizens, “they will provide Hitler with a posthumous victory of a ‘Judenrein’ Europe,” Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director and a member of the U.S. delegation to the conference, said in a statement.

Power urged European leaders to appoint high-level envoys to focus on anti-Semitism; pass hate-crimes legislation, and vigorously pursue and prosecute perpetrators; and uphold the clear distinction between legitimate political protest and anti-Semitism.

“[A] Europe where anyone feels afraid or endangered because of the actions, beliefs or speech of a neighbor is a Europe where everyone’s rights are at risk,” Power said.


Hasidic family charged in $20 million fraud case

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 15:54

NEW YORK (JTA) — More than a dozen members of a prominent Satmar Hasidic family in New York were charged with lying to obtain $20 million in mortgages while also receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in public benefits.

Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and George Venizelos, the assistant director of the New York field office of the FBI, announced the indictments on Thursday charging 14 defendants with conspiracy to commit bank fraud related to mortgages on properties in three counties, two in New York City.

The indictment also charges several of the defendants with additional crimes, including making false statements to lenders, aggravated identity theft and theft of public money. Thirteen of the defendants were arrested Thursday and will be arraigned in federal court in White Plains, N.Y.

The defendants include real estate developer Irving Rubin, as well as his brothers, sons, wife and various in-laws. A real estate lawyer and real estate appraiser are also charged in the case.

“As alleged, the scheme carried out by the Rubins and others ripped off banks, welfare programs, and taxpayers,” Bharara said in a news release. “It ranged from 2004 to 2014, from Brooklyn to Harlem to Orange County, and the individuals involved alternately played the parts of prince or pauper, depending on which scam was being perpetrated.”

The defendants are accused of fraudulently obtaining more than $20 million in loan proceeds in connection with more than 20 fraudulent loans. The majority of the loans went into default and were not repaid.

According to the indictment, the family used the money for personal expenses, concealing the fraud and funding other real estate projects. At the same time that the defendants were representing to banks that they had substantial income and assets, the indictment alleges that they were also representing to state and local agencies that they had little or no income and assets and were entitled to receive public assistance including Medicaid, food stamps and Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) benefits.

Students for Justice in Palestine signs vandalized at Cornell

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 14:59

(JTA) — Signs critical of Israel posted by Students for Justice in Palestine on the Cornell campus were torn down several times.

SJP originally posted the signs on the school’s Arts Quad on the morning of Oct. 29, according to a report by Cornell’s student newspaper, the Daily Sun. Another student took down the signs later that morning, which led to a confrontation with SJP.

The student who removed the signs had been under the impression that the signs were not properly authorized by the university, the Daily Sun reported, though they were.

Reposted signs were removed or destroyed several times over the rest of the week until SJP gave up and took down the signs.