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U.S. energy secretary: Nuclear deal spurs concerns of more Iran support for terrorism

Thu, 08/13/2015 - 16:46

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Obama administration is concerned that Iran will increase backing for terrorism and other disruptive activities in the wake of the nuclear deal, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz said in an address to American Jews.

“We are concerned about some possible escalation in their support for terrorism, meddling in the region in terms of stability,” Moniz said Thursday in the webcast organized by the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. “Obviously Hezbollah terrorism is an example.”

Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based militia backed by Iran, launched a war against Israel in 2006 and is believed to be behind a slew of terrorist attacks on Jewish targets worldwide. Moniz also cited the prospect of increased Iranian disruption in Syria and Yemen.

Obama administration officials have acknowledged under congressional questioning that part of the at least $56 billion that will be freed up in the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal reached last month between Iran and six major powers could be directed toward Iranian disruptive activity.

But the concern expressed by Moniz, a top negotiator at the talks, was unusual in that, unprompted, he said directly that the administration anticipates an increase in terrorist activity. He also said the regime’s rhetoric on Jews and Israel was a concern.

“We find extremely bothersome to put it mildly the strong anti-Israel, anti-Semitic rhetoric coming out of Iran,” he said.

Moniz said, however, that the removal of the prospect of a nuclear weapon would facilitate confronting Iran on its other activities, saying enhanced security cooperation with U.S. allies would now occur “with the comfort that Iran does not have and will not have a nuclear weapon.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not yet authorized talks with the United States to enhance security, not wanting to be seen even tacitly as approving of the deal.

Moniz’s appearance follows an Aug. 4 webcast hosted by the same groups featuring Netanyahu, who staunchly opposes the deal.

During the webcast, Moniz said that the deal increases Iran’s breakout time to gathering the necessary nuclear material for a weapon from two months to a year.

Opponents and supporters of the deal are waging full-throated campaigns to influence the public and lawmakers ahead of a vote in Congress in mid- to late September on whether to reject the deal.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which is campaigning against the deal, on Thursday issued a memo noting opposition to the deal from six former top military and security officials. Backers of the deal had earlier this week released a letter from 36 former top military officials in support of the deal.

Jacob Lew, the Treasury secretary, argued in an Op-Ed to appear Friday in The New York Times that walking away from the deal in hopes of increasing leverage against Iran was a “dangerous fantasy.”

“In the eyes of the world, the nuclear agreement — endorsed by the United Nations Security Council and more than 90 other countries — addresses the threat of Iran’s nuclear program by constraining it for the long term and ensuring that it will be exclusively peaceful,” Lew wrote. “If Congress now rejects this deal, the elements that were fundamental in establishing that international consensus will be gone.”

Separately on Thursday, current and former Democrats on the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee who support the deal wrote their colleagues a letter saying they were confident it sufficiently constrained Iran.

“During our entire service on the Intelligence Committee, we have made it a top priority to monitor Iran’s nuclear program, its missile development, and its nefarious activities in the region and beyond,” said the letter initiated by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the committee and one of Congress’ Jewish members.

“We have done so because we recognize the imperative – for the United States and our allies, including Israel – that Iran never obtain a nuclear weapon,” the letter said. “You can be assured that these efforts will not only continue under the agreement but intensify.”

Detroit JCC camp counselor charged for filming naked boys in locker room

Thu, 08/13/2015 - 16:31

Matthew Kuppe, center, in a Facebook post with the caption, “This is how you celebrate 21!,” Aug. 9, 2015. (Facebook)

(JTA) — A counselor at a JCC day camp in suburban Detroit was charged with producing child pornography after allegedly filming prepubescent boys in the JCC locker room and sharing the photos online.

Matthew David Kuppe, 21, of West Bloomfield, Michigan, was arraigned in federal court Thursday and charged with production, distribution, receipt and possession of child pornography, the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press reported.

If convicted, the rising senior at Michigan State University faces up to 20 years in federal prison. He is being held without bond pending a hearing Tuesday in federal court. Prosecutors are trying to determine if there are additional victims.

“This defendant had access to a large number of children, and we would like to conduct interviews and look at evidence,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Woodward said Thursday, according to the Detroit News.

Kuppe, who used the handle “jcclockerroom” to post several photos of the naked boys on a foreign website, worked at the JCC of Metropolitan Detroit’s day camp for two years and at one point supervised its special-needs campers. Under questioning, he allegedly admitted to posting nude photos of the boys on the website and using the jcclockerroom email account, which contained several emails with child pornography.

Michael Layne, spokesman for the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit, said in a statement to the Free Press that the JCC was notified on Wednesday that a summer camp counselor was being investigated by West Bloomfield Police.

“Subsequently, we were notified that the individual had been taken into custody for alleged possession of photographs of campers taken while using the locker room and restroom facilities,” Layne said in a statement. “The staff member was immediately terminated. In accordance with our policies, the individual was subject to a criminal background investigation that came back clear prior to his employment.

The statement said the JCC was “cooperating fully” with the police investigation.

“We are communicating with the parents of our program participants,” Layne said.

A JCC email to parents obtained by JTA said Kuppe, who the email did not identify by name, had in his possession photographs of three JCC campers and that “the affected families have been contacted by the authorities.” The email said Kuppe was not only dismissed but “banned from JCC properties.”

The email, from CEO James Issner and board president Brian Siegel, also noted that it had “received no complaints” about Kuppe prior to his arrest.

The investigation started earlier this month after a Homeland Security agent learned of the “jcclockerroom” photos, which “depicted the prepubescent boys’ genitalia,” according to court records.

In an email exchange with an undercover agent, “jcclockerroom@gmail.com” wrote, “I only get to touch him a few times,” before giving graphic descriptions of the boy and adding, “I have more pics, but you need to send me some first … What would you do to these little boys (be graphic.)”

According to court papers cited by the Free Press, Kuppe described how he sexually abused the boy as he was changing out of his clothes and that he planned to give the young boy oral sex.

“I also purposely dropped something, and made him pick it up,” he said.

Investigators are trying to determine whether Kuppe in fact sexually assaulted any of the boys.

“We have a general idea of how many victims there are, but we want to make sure there’s not more,” Curt Lawson, the deputy chief of the West Bloomfield Police, told the Detroit News. “It’s not like 50 (victims), but we don’t want to say how many at this point.”

Homeland Security agents traced the gmail account’s IP address to Kuppe’s home, which they raided Wednesday.

The Free Press reported that Kuppe’s attorney, Michael Rex, could not be reached for comment.

According to Kuppe’s Facebook profile, he is a psychology student at Michigan State University.

Prominent L.A. Jews announce support for Iran deal

Thu, 08/13/2015 - 13:54

LOS ANGELES (JTA) – Nearly 100 prominent Los Angeles Jews, many with close ties to the Hollywood entertainment industry, have affirmed their strong support for the Iran nuclear deal.

In a full-page ad in the Aug. 14 edition of the weekly Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, 98 signatories, identifying themselves as “American Jewish supporters of Israel,” declared, “We are united in saying that the negotiated deal on balance is good, that any available alternatives are worse, and that Congress killing the deal would be a tragic mistake.”

Among the lead signatories are renowned TV producer-writer Norman Lear, movie producers Mike Medavoy and Lawrence Bender, famed architect Frank Gehry and billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad.

Other signatories include “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner, “Game of Thrones” executive producer Carolyn Strauss, television director Daniel Attias, and agents Peter Benedek and Rick Rosen.

Also included are numerous rabbis, academicians and civic activists, many associated with the Israel peace movement and liberal causes.

Indicative of the interest and split opinions on the topic, the same issue of the Jewish Journal features six lengthy opinion articles on the subject, plus a cover story surveying the attitudes of the local Iranian-Jewish community.

Two of the Op-Eds continue a long-running debate on the deal between Rob Eshman, The Journal’s publisher and editor-in-chief (for), and David Suissa, president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal (against).

The agreement reached last month between Iran and six world powers led by the United States provides economic sanctions relief for Iran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program.

Netanyahu critic Leon Wieseltier says Israeli PM is right on Iran deal

Thu, 08/13/2015 - 13:29

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Political commentator Leon Wieseltier acknowledged that despite his dislike for Benjamin Netanyahu, he believes the Israeli prime minister is right about the Iran nuclear deal.

“I’ve almost never written a good word about him, so he’s right not to like me,” Wieseltier, a veteran Jewish-American journalist who served as literary editor of The New Republic from 1983 until last year, told the Times of Israel in an extensive interview. “But I agree with Bibi on Iran. He is right about the deal.”

The nuclear threat from Iran will continue until its theocratic government, which Wieseltier called the “criminal theocratic regime,” is replaced by a democratic government.

Wieseltier said he does not believe Congress will vote against the deal. He said it was plausible that a tightening of sanctions would have produced a better deal.

He also said that Netanyahu’s threat of a preemptive military strike against Iran’s nuclear plants is “crap, because there is no Israeli military solution,” and decried Netanyahu’s handling of Israel’s relationship with the United States over the deal. He said Netanyahu was to blame for the deteriorating relationship between the two countries.

“It is possible to be against the deal without alienating and angering so many people,” Wieseltier said. “If the possibility of the Iranian nuclear threat is one of the pillars of Israel’s security planning now, the American-Israeli relationship is another pillar. He’s playing around with it.”

President Barack Obama does not hate Israel, Wieseltier said, but he is “the first U.S. president who doesn’t really have a special feeling for Israel.”

Wieseltier said he first met Netanyahu in 1982, when he served as deputy chief of mission in Washington under Ambassador Moshe Arens.

“From the moment we met we disliked each other,” the journalist said.

He said that Netanyahu “is taking Israel nowhere fast. Really. Status quo minus is what it is.”

Record number of travelers passing through Ben Gurion Airport

Thu, 08/13/2015 - 13:11

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A record number of travelers were set to pass through Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport.

Nearly 80,000 people flew in and out of the Tel Aviv-area airport on 457 flights on Thursday, Globes reported, making it the most traveled day ever at the airport.

Some 2 million people were expected to fly in and out of Ben Gurion on international flights during the month of August, making it the most traveled month ever, the business daily reported.

Air traffic was up in July as well, with 20 percent more passengers and 10 percent more flights over the previous year.

Al Franken backs Iran deal, 5th of 9 Jewish Senate Democrats to do so

Thu, 08/13/2015 - 10:57

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., attending a Senate hearing in 2015: Franken on Thursday wrote a CNN op-ed supporting the Iran deal. (Astrid Riecken/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Sen. Al Franken endorsed the Iran nuclear deal, becoming the fifth of nine Jewish senators to back the agreement.

“Many have expressed reservations about the deal, and I share some of those reservations,” Franken, D-Minn., wrote in an op-ed published Thursday on CNN’s website.

“It isn’t a perfect agreement,” he said. “But it is a strong one. This agreement is, in my opinion, the most effective, realistic way to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon anytime in the next 15 years.”

Among Jewish Democratic senators, or those who caucus with Democrats, Franken joins Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer of California, Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, and Brian Schatz of Hawaii in supporting the deal. Among the four other Jewish senators, only Charles Schumer of New York has come out in opposition. The others, all Democrats — Ron Wyden of Wyoming; Ben Cardin of Maryland; and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut — have yet to declare.

Overall 18 senators, all caucusing with the Democrats, back the deal. A majority in the Republican-led chamber is likely to favor a bill that would kill the deal. President Barack Obama needs 40 out of 100 senators to block any rejection of the bill from advancing, and 34 to kill any chances of overriding his promised veto of any such measure.

Franken said that the international community should use the next 15 years, after which key aspects of the deal expire, to prepare to keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

“We also must begin now to make the case to the world that the danger posed by an Iranian nuclear weapon will not expire in 15 years — and remind Iran that, should it begin to take worrisome steps, such as making highly enriched uranium as that date approaches, we stand ready to intervene,” he wrote.

Others backing the deal are Carl Levin, a former Democratic senator from Michigan who retired last year and was a longtime leader on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and former Sen. John Warner, R-Va., another longtime Armed Services leader. Levin, who is Jewish and whose brother, Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., favors the deal, and Warner argued in a Politico op-ed Thursday that defense hawks should back the deal.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., this week became the first black Democrat to oppose the deal and say he would vote to reject it.

Israel’s ambassador the United States, Ron Dermer, has worked hard to repair relations with the Congressional Black Caucus. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s March 3 speech to Congress opposing the Iran deal, arranged with the Republican leadership without the knowledge of the Democratic leadership or the White House, drew the angriest responses from black lawmakers.

Ten Democrats in the House have said they will support a bill rejecting the deal. Opponents need at least 44 Democrats to override a veto.

Israel reaches deal with natural gas consortium

Thu, 08/13/2015 - 09:11

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel said it has reached a deal with a consortium of companies over the development of several off-shore natural gas fields.

The agreement will be brought to the Cabinet for its approval on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an announcement Thursday.

Under the deal, the Israeli Delek group and the Texas-based Noble Energy will develop the largest gas field, Leviathan, and reduce its holdings in other gas fields. The agreement also will regulate the price of natural gas during the development period, which ends in 2020.

Netanyahu said the deal will “bring Israel’s citizens hundreds of billions of shekels in the coming years, hundreds of billions of shekels. This money will serve us in health, education and social welfare.” He credited National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz for brokering the agreement.

In December, Israel’s Anti-Trust Authority recommended the breakup of the consortium over monopoly fears, angering the companies, which have spent billions of dollars on exploration and development.

Leviathan, discovered in 2010 in the Mediterranean Sea west of Haifa, is estimated to hold 16 trillion to 18 trillion cubic feet of gas. The Tamar field, which has at least 9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, is expected to meet Israel’s energy needs for the next 20 years.

Hundreds of police officers protecting Tel Aviv event in Paris

Thu, 08/13/2015 - 08:15

(JTA) — About 500 police offers are patrolling a controversial beach event in Paris featuring Tel Aviv.

The Tel Aviv on Seine event, part of the weeklong Paris Plages festival, was held Thursday as planned, despite opposition from a Paris lawmaker and pro-Palestinian groups. The festival turns the banks of the Seine River into a beach and this year is devoting each day to a beach in another country.

BNVCA, a French anti-Semitism watchdog, said it asked the Paris police commissioner to bolster security during the festival day devoted to Tel Aviv out of fear of anti-Semitic attacks.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo defended the decision to celebrate Tel Aviv in an Op-Ed in the French daily Le Monde, calling on the people of Paris to attend the event in large numbers. She called the city “progressive” and said that Paris and Tel Aviv have cooperated for many years in the fields of culture and technology.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls in a tweet threw his “full support” behind the event, the French edition of The Local reported.

Pro-Palestinian and left-wing groups said they would protest the event. About 50 protesters, some wearing shirts reading “Justice in Palestine,” blocked the entrance to the event, according to BDS France.

West Bank Bedouin tent burned down in suspected arson attack

Thu, 08/13/2015 - 05:57

Bedouin residents from Kafr Malik standing near a burned tent that was allegedly set on fire by arsonists in their West Bank village, Aug. 13, 2015. (Flash90)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A tent in a West Bank Bedouin village was set on fire in a suspected arson attack.

The tent in the village of Kafr Malik, located north of Ramallah, was burned completely early Thursday morning, according to reports. It had been used for storage and unoccupied at the time of the fire.

Graffiti spray-painted on a rock near the burned-down tent included a Star of David and the words “administrative revenge,” which could refer to the recent administrative detention orders for three suspected Jewish extremists. Under administrative detention, prisoners can remain in custody for up to six months without a hearing or charges, renewable indefinitely. Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners remain in administrative detention in Israeli prisons.

The suspected extremists were arrested after the July 31 arson attack on a West Bank Palestinian home that left a baby and his father dead. The West Bank village of Duma, where the attack occurred, is located about three miles from the Bedouin village where Thursday’s attack took place.

Later Thursday, three Jewish youths reportedly were arrested in the area in connection with the attack. The youths’ car also was seized and they were prohibited from meeting with an attorney.

Over 111 terrorist attacks stopped in West Bank, Jerusalem in 2015

Thu, 08/13/2015 - 05:18

(JTA) — Israeli security forces said they prevented 17 suicide attacks and eight kidnappings so far in 2015, in addition to several attacks stopped by the Palestinian Authority.

Five of the 17 attacks that the Shin Bet reported stopping were planned by Hamas members, five were planned by other groups and the remaining seven were not affiliated with any organization, the Times of Israel reported Wednesday.

Unaffiliated terror cells are growing in number and tend to be difficult for security services to monitor, according to the Times of Israel.

In total, Israel has prevented 111 attempted terrorist attacks in 2015, more than half of them planned by members of Hamas. Nearly all the thwarted attacks targeted Israelis in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem.

Bernie Sanders pulls ahead of Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire poll

Wed, 08/12/2015 - 16:50

(JTA) — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders surpassed front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton as the leading Democratic presidential candidate in a poll of New Hampshire voters.

Sanders, who is Jewish, led Clinton 44-37 percent among the 442 likely Democratic primary voters who responded in the Franklin Pierce University/Boston Herald poll released Wednesday.

It was the first survey of voters in which Clinton was not the most popular candidate, according to the Boston Herald. A Franklin Pierce/Boston Herald poll in March had Sanders, an independent running in the Democratic race, trailing Clinton by a 44-8 margin.

The poll was conducted Aug. 7-10 by phone and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.7 percentage points.

More than half of the poll respondents said they viewed Sanders “very” favorably.

Just 35 percent said they were “excited” about Clinton’s campaign, according to the poll. Among the 80 percent of respondents who said they viewed her favorably, only 38 percent said it was “very” favorable.

Sanders, 73, was more popular among younger voters than older ones, according to the Washington Post. Among poll respondents 65 and older, the 67-year-old Clinton had more than 50 percent support, compared to less than 30 percent for Sanders.

Jewish swimmer loses arm in Florida alligator attack

Wed, 08/12/2015 - 16:30

(JTA) — A Jewish woman lost her arm to a severe alligator bite while she was swimming alone in a Florida river.

Rachael Lilienthal, 37, of Orlando, was attacked by an alligator in the Wekiva River in central Florida on Saturday afternoon. According to media reports, Lilienthal was repeatedly pulled underwater and bitten by the alligator. Kayakers rescued her by fighting off the alligator, which was nearly 9 feet long, with their paddles.

Lilienthal, who is a Spanish lecturer at Rollins College, also was bitten on her back and abdomen.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Officials caught the alligator early Sunday morning and euthanized it.

Chabad of O’Town, an Orlando congregation, held a prayer service for Lilienthal on Sunday and called on its members to pray for her after she underwent surgery, according to London’s Jewish Chronicle.

Labor Party hopeful in Britain defended 9/11 anti-Israel conspiracy theorist

Wed, 08/12/2015 - 16:21

(JTA) — Jeremy Corbyn, a Parliament member who is on track to become the head of Britain’s Labor Party, wrote a letter in support of a priest who claimed that Israel and wealthy Jews were behind the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.

Corbyn defended Rev. Stephen Sizer, who in February posted an article on Facebook blaming Israel for the attack on the New York landmark, the Daily Mail reported Wednesday.

In a letter to Anglican Church leaders after they decided to ban Sizer from using the Internet for six months, Corbyn wrote in February that Sizer was unfairly “under attack by certain individuals intent on discrediting the excellent work [he] does in highlighting the injustices of the Palestinian Israeli situation.”

Corbyn has surprised many by leading in the race for Labor chief in polls of party members this summer.

According to the Daily Mail, he also has described Hamas and Hezbollah as his “friends” and is a close friend of Holocaust denier Paul Eisen, who runs a pro-Palestinian group called Deir Yassin Remembered.

In a blog post referenced by the Daily Mail, Eisen claimed that he and Corbyn had been close for 15 years, that Corbyn attended his group’s anti-Israel events each year and that the Parliament member had donated money to the group.

Sizer had been accused of anti-Semitism even before his February Facebook post. In 2014 he delivered a speech on the “Israeli lobby” at an Iranian conference that sought to “unveil the secrets behind the dominance of the Zionist lobby over US and EU politics,’” according to the Daily Mail. He has also visited Hezbollah leaders in Southern Lebanon and appeared frequently on a Hezbollah television station.

30 cars and buildings spray-painted with anti-Semitic graffiti near San Antonio synagogue

Wed, 08/12/2015 - 12:54

(JTA) – Anti-Semitic graffiti was spray-painted on some 30 cars and buildings in a San Antonio neighborhood near an Orthodox synagogue.

The graffiti discovered Wednesday morning in the Texas city included swastikas and references to the Ku Klux Klan, according to local reports. At least one car’s side window was smashed in with a rock.

The San Antonio Police are investigating the incident.

Much of the vandalism was centered on Sholom Drive and Sholom Place, streets that border Congregation Rodfei Sholom. Most of the congregation’s 300 member families live near the synagogue.

“I want to tell those who did this that you have done something destructive,” Rabbi Arnold Scheinberg of Rodfei Shalom told News Radio 1200 WOAI. “Your life could be much better if you could have more love than hate. We’re sorry for you; we are sorry the way you express your life.”

The synagogue members are “outraged that in this day and age there are people who still live in their own minds and own worlds where it seems to be OK to hate people based on their religion,” synagogue board member Howard Feinberg told the Times-Picayune newspaper. “We are cleaning up and moving on.”

U.S. energy secretary to pitch American Jews on Iran deal

Wed, 08/12/2015 - 11:44

WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz will make the case for the Iran nuclear deal to American Jews.

Moniz, a nuclear physicist, will appear Thursday via a webcast sponsored by the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. He was one of the lead negotiators in the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal reached July 14 between Iran and six major powers.

“As the debate continues over the Iranian nuclear agreement, we welcome the opportunity to allow individuals across North America to hear directly from one of the most important members of President Obama’s administration on this issue,” said Michael Siegal, the JFNA’s chairman, in a statement. “Sec. Moniz is one of the world’s foremost leaders on nuclear development, and his expertise is beyond reproach.”

The Moniz webcast will follow a similar appearance on Aug. 5 by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who stridently opposes the deal.

Separately, 36 former top U.S. military officers came out in favor of the plan.

“There is no better option to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon,” said the letter signed by retired generals, lieutenant generals, brigadier generals, major generals and rear admirals who served in the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard.

“Military action would be less effective than the deal, assuming it is fully implemented,” the letter said. “If the Iranians cheat, our advanced technology, intelligence and the inspections will reveal it, and U.S. military options remain on the table. And if the deal is rejected by America, the Iranians could have a nuclear weapon within a year.”

British petition calls for arrest of Netanyahu for ‘war crimes’

Wed, 08/12/2015 - 11:37

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A petition calling for the arrest of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he visits Britain in September has reached more than 41,000 signatures and must receive a government response.

The online petition was uploaded on Aug. 7 to the United Kingdom Parliament’s official website. After 10,000 signatures the government must respond to the petition, and after 100,000 signatures it will be considered for debate in Parliament.

“Under international law he should be arrested for war crimes upon arrival in the U.K. for the massacre of over 2000 civilians in 2014,” the petition says, citing Netanyahu’s scheduled September visit.

As of Wednesday evening, the government has not responded to the petition. The Israeli news website Ynet quoted unnamed officials at the British Foreign Office as calling the petition “a publicity stunt.”

Any British citizen can place a petition on the Parliament’s website. Other petitions currently on the website include legalizing cannabis, with almost 197,000 signatures; setting minimum prices on milk, with 47,000 signatures; and stopping benefits to illegal immigrants. with 13,400 signatures.

Haredi school cancels Rivlin visit over LGBT support

Wed, 08/12/2015 - 10:04

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A haredi Orthodox school in Jerusalem canceled a visit by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin reportedly over his support for the LGBT community following the deadly attack at the city’s gay pride parade.

Kehilat Yaakov administrators sent a letter to Rivlin on Tuesday via the Jerusalem municipality nixing the visit, which was scheduled for Sunday, the first day of school in the haredi community. He was to be part of a class on unconditional love.

The school cited the president’s statements following the stabbing attack at the Jerusalem gay pride parade that left one teenage marcher dead, according to Israeli news reports. Rivlin condemned the attack, calling it “a terrible hate crime.”

Army Radio, which first reported the cancellation, reported on Wednesday that several haredi rabbis had pressured the school to cancel the appearance.

The chairman of the Knesset Education Committee, Yaakov Margi of the Sephardic Orthodox Shas party, said the committee was considering dismissing the head of the school over the incident, according to Army Radio.

The Education Ministry in a statement issued Wednesday said it views the incident as “very serious” and reaffirmed that it encourages teaching “tolerance, acceptance of others and pluralism.”

The President’s Office said in a statement that it regretted the decision, but hoped that many would attend the lesson on unconditional love.

Israeli badminton player blames loss on last-minute visa

Wed, 08/12/2015 - 09:07

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli badminton player blamed his loss in the world championships on the last-minute granting of a visa by Indonesia.

Moshe Zilberman, ranked 44th in the world, lost Tuesday in the first round of the World Badminton Championship in Jakarta to Hsu Jen Hao of Taiwan.

The visa for Zilberman, 26, was approved on Monday, and he arrived in Jakarta later the same day under tight security, according to the Olympic Committee of Israel. Zilberman applied for the visa six months prior to the championship and had been waiting in Singapore, a short flight to Jakarta, for two weeks hoping it would come through before the start of competition on Monday.

“On one hand I was happy that I could be here, but on the other, I was disappointed as I could not demonstrate even 50 percent of my ability. I did not train in the past five days,” Zilberman said in an interview distributed by the Badminton World Federation on Tuesday.

The federation had intervened to help Zilberman obtain the visa, The Associated Press reported, citing Olympic Committee of Israel Secretary-General Gili Lustig.

In a Facebook post, Zilberman thanked “all the people who supported me and who joined in my struggle to change the politics of sports forever.”

He left Indonesia shortly after losing the match and returned to Singapore.

Indonesia, a nation of some 250 million citizens, is the world’s largest Muslim country in terms of population. Israel does not have diplomatic relations with Indonesia.

Arab and Muslim countries have repeatedly barred Israeli athletes from attending matches, sometimes as punishment for the barring of Palestinian athletes by Israel from attending international tournaments.

U.S. anti-Semitism envoy opposes criminalizing anti-Semitism

Wed, 08/12/2015 - 06:25

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The top U.S. official combating anti-Semitism said he does not counsel any restrictions on speech in his interactions with foreign officials.

“In our interactions with other governments and civil society outside the United States we make very clear that we support freedom of speech and assembly and oppose criminalizing speech – even the most odious forms of anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred,” Ira Forman, the State Department’s special envoy to combat and monitor anti-Semitism, said in an Aug. 10 letter to Jewish Voice for Peace.

Forman was replying to the group after it said that the State Department definition of anti-Semitism, which is used to deal with foreign officials, inhibits free speech on U.S. campuses.

Jewish Voice for Peace, or JVP, a group that supports the movement to enact anti-Israel boycotts, divestment, and sanctions, had in May sent Forman and Secretary of State John Kerry a letter from its academic advisory council saying that the State Department definition of anti-Semitism was “vague” and “problematic” and had been “construed to silence any criticism of Israeli policies.”

The letter, signed by over 250 academics and backed by a petition with more than 15,800 signers, cited instances where terms related to Israel appearing in a 2010 State Department circular on anti-Semitism  – “demonize,” “double standard” and “delegitimize” – were used on some U.S. college campuses to define anti-Semitism, a definition the group said silences criticism of Israel.

Those terms appear in an addendum to the definition explaining, “What is anti-Semitism relative to Israel?”

In his reply, Forman said that the addendum expands on and makes more specific the “demonize,” “double standard” and “delegitimize” terms deemed vague by JVP.

He noted that the expanded explanation includes: “Denying the Jewish people the right of self-determination … applying double standards by requiring of [Israel] behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation … drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” as examples of anti-Semitism. Forman also notes that the addendum says that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.”

Forman said that the definition has been “useful” in his work. He quoted Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, speaking last year of anti-Semitic manifestations at protests of Israel’s actions during last summer’s Gaza war.

“Just as there is a way to express criticisms of Palestinian policies and actions without expressing Islamophobic views or attacking Muslims, so too there is a way to express criticisms of Israel’s policies and actions without making anti-Semitic remarks,” Power had said.

In a reply to Forman, JVP said it was “heartened” by Forman’s commitment to speech protections but argued that even the expanded definition of the terms is problematic.

“’Denying the Jewish people the right of self-determination … applying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation,’ are vague and overbroad, so much so that they can be construed to deem any criticism of the State of Israel as anti-Semitic,” the letter said.

Belz Hasidic school in London denied state aid

Wed, 08/12/2015 - 05:36

(JTA) — A request for state aid from a Belz Hasidic school in London was rejected weeks after the school’s threat to ban students whose mothers drive stirred controversy.

The Hackney Council said it decided not to grant the Beis Malka School Voluntary Aided status due to the amount of money the school requires for new building construction, the Jewish Chronicle reported.

The council said it also rejected the request due to the school’s inadequate teaching of the national curriculum, its inadequate provisions for special educational needs, and “serious concerns about health and safety.”

The school’s “compliance with the Equality Act 2010” also was a factor, the Jewish Chronicle reported.

In May, Belz rabbis in London issued a letter saying that female drivers violate “the traditional rules of modesty in our camp” and that children would be expelled from Belz schools if their mothers dropped them off by car beginning in August with the new school year. Many Hasidic groups in the United States also frown upon women driving.

In response to the letter, the Equality and Human Rights Commission wrote to the schools to say that it would be against the law to deny children entry on such grounds, according to the Chronicle.

The commission later said that it has received a “satisfactory response” from the leaders of the Talmud Torah Machzikei Hadass boys school and the Beis Malka girls school over the threat after the schools had offered assurances that “they will not exclude or refuse admission to any child or apply any other sanction on the basis of their mother driving.”

Both schools have been rated “good” by Ofsted, Britain’s Office for Standards in Education.