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Over 600 turn out for Washington pro-Israel rally

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 06:44

WASHINGTON (JTA) — More than 600 people attended a pro-Israel rally in Washington D.C., cheering Jewish and Christian clergy and lawmakers who pledged to stand with Israel during the Gaza conflict.

Speakers at the rally Thursday in Farragut Square, just blocks from the White House, called for an end to the barrage of missiles launched by Hamas and other groups.

The speakers rejected equating Hamas and Israel in the current conflict, saying that Israel goes out of its way to warn Palestinians while Hamas places its arms among its civilians.

If counting the number of dead is the way to decide which side is right, then “by that reckoning, you look at World War II and you see that Eisenhower is a war criminal” due to the high number of German casualties, said Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.).

“Every rocket fired into Israel is a war crime,” he said.

His colleague, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) spoke of Congress’ strong support for Israel.

If Hamas “would protect their own children as much as Israel protects their own children, we would have a chance for peace. Hamas needs to understand Israel is here to stay forever,” Franks said.

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, praised the unity of the crowd in its support for Israel, but also called for consideration of the civilians on both sides who suffer.

“We are gathered here as one people,” he said. “Never before in history has a nation taken the steps Israel has to avoid civilian killing.”

He added: “We must never, never turn our backs when civilians die. It is painful whenever a child dies.”

The rally was sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, a number of area synagogues and about 50 Jewish organizations. Canadian and Israeli diplomats also attended.

Several pro-Palestinian counter protesters tried unsuccessfully to shout over the speakers.

Several hundred people turned out for a pro-Palestinian demonstration on July 11 at the Israeli embassy in Washington.

Austrian foreign minister to file complaint over anti-Semitic speech online

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 06:37

(JTA) — Austria’s foreign minister said he would file police complaints against people who posted anti-Semitic comments on his Facebook page after he called for peace between Israel and Hamas.

“We will submit a statement of facts to the prosecutor’s office to examine the hate postings,” said Sebastian Kurz, according to a report in the online edition of the Heute tabloid on Wednesday.

The daily did not repeat any of the reportedly anti-Semitic statements. Kurz, 27, is not Jewish.

Over the past few days, Kurz has appealed to both sides in the Gaza conflict to stop the violence in official statements and on Facebook.

Separately, a French-language petition titled “Stop the Jewish occupation of Palestine: Death to Jews and the Jewish occupation” has garnered 363 signatures since July 8, bringing the total number of signatories to 3,759. The petition was first posted in March 2013 but crossed the 2,000 mark only in April this year.

In the Netherlands, the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, a local watchdog group on anti-Semitism, told media it has received dozens of anti-Semitic messages since July 8, when Israel launched air strikes on Gaza after an intensification of rocket fire from there.

Report: Israel to downsize mission to Turkey following riots

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 06:04

(JTA) — Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman ordered non-essential ministry personnel serving in Turkey to return to Israel following an attack by rioters on Israel’s consulate in Istanbul, Israeli media reported.

Liberman issued the order to the diplomats and their families Friday, according to the Haaretz report and Israel radio, after anti-Israel protesters in Istanbul broke into the compound of Israel’s consulate, shattering some its windows before riot police dispersed them.

Liberman also accused Turkish authorities of not doing enough to protect the diplomats, describing the events as “a blatant violation of diplomatic rules and the Vienna Convention which requires countries to provide protection to foreign diplomats serving on their territory.”

The protest in Istanbul started at 1:30 a.m. Thursday in front of the Israeli consulate in the Levent neighborhood, the online edition of the Hurriyet Daily reported.

Demonstrators at the consulate waved Turkish and Palestinian flags, chanting slogans such as “Hail to the resistance from Istanbul to Gaza,” “Murderer Israel, get out of Palestine” and “Strike, strike Hamas; strike against Israel.”

An hour into the rally, a number of protesters climbed the consulate wall and pelted the building’s windows with stones and other objects. When police fired water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd, the protesters began hurling objects at police.

Earlier, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had accused Israel of perpetrating a “systematic genocide” against Palestinians.

“Since 1948, we have been witnessing this attempt at systematic genocide every day and every month,” he said in a speech. “But above all we are witnessing this attempt at systematic genocide every Ramadan.” Israel was established in 1948.

Officials from the AKP ruling party were involved in organizing the protest in Istanbul, the daily reported.

Yeni Akit, a daily associated with the AKP, has run editorials and columns attacking Turkish Jews for defending Israel.

The protesters gathered outside the consulate to protest Israel’s incursion into Gaza and its aerial attack on Hamas in response to Hamas’ rocket fire on Israel. More than 200 Palestinians and two Israelis have been killed since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on July 8.

Across Europe, protest rallies against Israel’s actions featured anti-Semitic slogans and resulted in rioting, including a massive street brawl outside a besieged Paris synagogue on July 13.

In Amsterdam, four people were arrested Thursday for using Nazi symbols and making Nazi references at an anti-Israel demonstration.

Two of the people arrested performed the Nazi salute while two others were taken into custody for using the word “Nazi,” the De Telegraaf daily reported Thursday.

The demonstration of a few dozen people coincided with a larger pro-Israel rally organized by the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel.

Israeli among 298 fatalities aboard downed Malaysian plane

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 05:58

(JTA) — A 27-year-old Israeli was among the 298 victims who died when Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 crashed in Ukraine.

Dov Avnon, Itamar Avnon’s father, announced his son’s death on Facebook, the Maariv daily reported Friday.

“They say life is short — yes it is true,” wrote the Israeli-born Dov Avnon, who lives in the Netherlands and describes himself as a Christian with a Jewish background.  “I am happy that he grew up with the bible and the faith that Christ died for him on the cross,” he wrote.

An acquaintance of Itamar Avnon told JTA he was in the Netherlands for a wedding and was on his way to Australia, where he studied, via Malaysia. Itamar Avnon served in the Israel Defense Forces as a paratrooper in 2007. Dov Avnon and his wife, Jeannet, have two other children, Jonathan and Ruth.

Israel’s embassy in the Netherlands offered condolences to the families of the 298 victims of the crashed plane, including 173 Dutch citizens.

The plane is believed to have been downed Thursday in Ukraine’s east, possibly by pro-Russian separatists.

“The Embassy of Israel on behalf of the people of Israel would like to express its sorrow and offer sincere condolences to the Dutch people and to all the families of those who have tragically lost their lives today on the Malaysian flight MH17,” the embassy said in a statement Thursday on its Facebook page.

In its statement, the U.S. State Department wrote: “The United States is shocked by the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, and we offer our deep condolences to all those who lost loved ones on board. May their memory be blessed.”

The plane, which left for Malaysia from the Netherlands, carried up to 100 scientists, activists, researchers and health workers who were on their way to Melbourne, Australia for a conference about AIDS, The Daily Telegraph of London reported.

Irgoen Olei Holland, a group representing Dutch-born Israelis, also offered its condolences to the Dutch embassy in Tel Aviv, the group said in a statement Friday.

Focus on the tunnels, Kerry tells Netanyahu

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 05:52

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Expressing concern about civilian casualties, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Israel’s operation in the Gaza Strip should be a “precise” one, targeting Hamas tunnels.

Kerry made the appeal during a telephone conversation late Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the U.S. State Department said in a statement issued hours after the Israel Defense Forces entered Gaza.

“The secretary reaffirmed our strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorist threats emanating from tunnels into Israel and expressed our view that this should be a precise operation to target tunnels, as described in a statement from the Israeli Defense Forces,” Kerry said in the statement distributed by the White House.

The IDF spokesman said on Twitter that the army had so far targeted four tunnels and 21 rocket launchers.

An Israeli soldier died in the incursion.  Eitan Barak, 20, was shot in the northern Gaza Strip, Haaretz reported.

In Gaza, the Israeli incursion resulted in the death of five Palestinians, including a baby, early Friday, according to the Ma’an news agency. The IDF spokesman said on Twitter that 17 terrorists were killed and 13 were captured.

In his statement Kerry said he asked Netanyahu to limit civilian casualties. Separately, his spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said Thursday that Kerry had told Netanyahu that “certainly there’s more that can be done” to prevent civilian casualties. She cited particularly the deaths Wednesday of four boys playing soccer on a beach.

So far, two Israelis and more than 200 Palestinians have died since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on July 8 in response to rocket fire from Gaza. The operation, which began with air strikes, was broadened Thursday to include ground incursions.

Following the move, Jordan called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council. Psaki said Kerry was in touch with the leaders of Egypt, which borders Gaza and which proffered a cease-fire that Hamas rejected earlier this week, and Qatar, an Arab state that maintains close relations to Hamas.

The IDF called 18,000 reserves troops for duty in connection with the activity in Gaza, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement.

Several rockets launched from Gazas hit unpopulated areas near Beersheba and Ashdod, Army Radio reported.

White supremacist who targeted Jews sentenced to life

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 16:29

(JTA) — A white supremacist who with her boyfriend targeted Jews in a killing spree was sentenced to life in prison.

Holly Grigsby on Tuesday apologized to the families of her victims at her sentencing in a Portland, Ore., federal court, The Associated Press reported.

Her boyfriend, Joey Pedersen, already is serving a life sentence handed down in a Washington State court. Pedersen is facing a life term in a federal court sentencing hearing next month as part of a plea deal.

Pedersen and Grigsby, 27, were arrested north of Sacramento, Calif., in 2011 after allegedly killing Pedersen’s father, stepmother and two strangers, including 19-year old Cody Myers, in a monthlong killing spree that spanned California, Washington and Oregon.

Grigsby told detectives that the couple killed Myers because they believed he was Jewish based on his last name. Myers was not Jewish.

“Grigsby also reportedly commented that when arrested, the couple were on their way to Sacramento to ‘kill more Jews,’ ” police reported at the time.

Jewish lawmakers: Kerry says he may be open to deferred Iran sanctions

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 16:10

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jewish lawmakers said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry agreed to raise with President Obama the possibility of deferring congressional sanctions as leverage in nuclear talks with Iran.

Kerry’s spokeswoman denied it, saying the lawmakers were “projecting what they want to hear.”

Kerry met Thursday with about a dozen Jewish lawmakers to discuss a range of issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and Israel’s conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, along with the Iran talks.

Months ago, the Obama administration had buried congressional bids for deferred congressional sanctions that would kick in only should the talks fail.

Obama and Kerry had argued that existing sanctions were sufficient pressure and that new sanctions would be seen as bad faith.

Lawmakers attending the meeting with Kerry told JTA that they asked Kerry if he was ready to reconsider his opposition to deferred sanctions.

They said he answered that such a bill “might strengthen his hand” and that he would raise it with the White House. The report of the meeting first appeared in Al Monitor, a Middle East news site.

Marie Harf, his spokeswoman, denied the reports on Twitter, saying “Kerry made clear we oppose new sanctions legislation while we negotiate, period.” In another tweet she said its “not breaking news that sometimes members hear and project what they want to hear.”

Kerry suggested earlier this week that the Obama consideration may consider extending the talks beyond the July 20 deadline, saying that Iran and the major powers had made progress in the talks but that substantive gaps remained.

According to reports, Iran is resisting demands by the major powers that it dismantle most of its uranium enrichment capability and instead is pressing for an inspections regime as the central mechanism keeping it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), one of the lawmakers at the Kerry meeting, would not offer details, but told JTA that “from the nature of the conversation, I sensed an opening toward triggered sanctions.”

Ashdod bomb shelters ordered not to engage in gender segregation

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 16:00

(JTA) — Several bomb shelters in Ashdod were ordered to remove signs indicating they are for men only.

In response to a complaint lodged by Knesset member Stav Shaffir, the Rabbinical Courts Administration ordered the removal of the signs, the Times of Israel reported.

“The thought that women who sought a secure refuge from rocket fire and encountered a closed door just because they were women is unthinkable,” Shaffir said in a news release issued Thursday.

In her complaint to Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett and Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber, Shaffir demanded they ensure that gender segregation not be practiced with regard to bomb shelters or secure rooms anywhere in Israel.

The Times of Israel said Hebrew media outlets were reporting that the Rabbinical Courts Administration blamed the signs on “the private actions of an employee without the knowledge of the management,” and said it would take disciplinary steps against those involved.

“In practice, gender segregation was not implemented, nor will it be implemented when [it comes to] entering bomb shelters,” the administration said.

Israel shoots down second Hamas drone

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 15:17

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel shot down an unmanned drone that entered its airspace via the Mediterranean Sea.

The aerial vehicle was intercepted Thursday night over Ashkelon by a Patriot missile battery, the Israeli military said.

It was the second drone sent from Gaza since the start of Operation Defensive Edge; the first, on Monday, also was intercepted by a Patriot missile.

Hamas’ military wing claimed responsibility for both drones. Hamas reportedly said the drone was headed to attack a target deep in Israel.

Also Thursday, Gaza terror groups fired more than 100 rockets at southern and central Israel in the hours following the end of the humanitarian cease-fire. Israeli tanks, artillery, ships and planes began striking Gaza targets with more intensity. Israel later launched a ground invasion.

Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces said earlier Thursday that it had dropped leaflets in 14 Gaza communities urging residents to temporarily leave their homes and offering instructions on where to go that would be safe. The leaflets indicated that the IDF was planning to expand its Gaza operation.

 

Israel launches Gaza ground operation

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 15:03

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Dueling commemorations set for 20th anniversary of AMIA bombing

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 14:34

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Op-Ed: Hold Iran to account on AMIA bombing

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 13:46

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What have we learned since the AMIA bombing?

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

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

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

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

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 13:26

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israel designates murdered Palestinian teen as terror victim

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 13:15

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

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

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

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

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

Israel falls in world lacrosse quarterfinals

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 12:48

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UNRWA condemns discovery of rockets in Gaza school

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 10:29

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

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

 

“This is a flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law,” UNRWA said in its statement, saying that the incident “endangered civilians including staff and put at risk UNRWA’s vital mission to assist and protect Palestine refugees in Gaza.”

The statement did not indicate who left the rockets in the school.

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

UNRWA has launched an investigation into the incident.

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

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

 

Obama: Using all resources to get to cease-fire

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 10:25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Home of Netherlands chief rabbi attacked

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 10:20

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

U.S. Senate panel advances bill on cemetery desecration

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 08:14

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Palestinian-American teen beaten by Israeli police returns to Tampa

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 07:10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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