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More rockets fired on Israel as communities open bomb shelters

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 12:31

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A barrage of rockets was fired from Gaza at southern Israel after a cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian groups was broken.

The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted two of the rockets fired Tuesday evening. Earlier in the day, rockets were fired at Beersheba in violation of the 24-hour extension of a five-day cease-fire. The Israeli military retaliated with strikes on Gaza.

Southern Israeli communities returned to emergency procedures adopted prior to the cease-fire, and communities in southern and central Israel reopened public bomb shelters.

Israel recalled its delegation to the Cairo indirect truce negotiations following the new rocket fire.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum suggested earlier on Tuesday that more rocket fire on Israel was imminent, telling The Associated Press, “If Netanyahu doesn’t understand … the language of politics in Cairo, we know how to make him understand,” referring to Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Another Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, asserted that the organization was interested in an agreement but said that “Israeli attacks are meant to pressure the Palestinian envoy.” Zuhri said that Hamas was not aware of any rockets being fired from Gaza.

Israel’s economy minister, Naftali Bennett, said about the resumption of rocket attacks, “When you want to beat a terror organization, you defeat it. When you hold negotiations with a terror organization, you get more terror.

Bennett, who heads the Jewish Home party, called for a “harsh response” to Hamas.

“Sooner or later Israel will have to defeat Hamas, there’s no way to avoid it,” he said.


Anti-Israel protesters target synagogue in Geneva

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 10:51

(JTA) — Anti-Israel protesters demonstrated outside Geneva’s main synagogue.

A Swiss watchdog group said the weekend protests in front of the Beth Yaakov, or Grande, Synagogue were the first public displays of hostility in Switzerland toward Israel since the conflict with Gaza began in early July.

A veiled woman carried a sign reading “Every synagogue is an Israeli embassy” and waved a Palestinian flag on Saturday morning, according to the Intercommunity Coordination Against Anti-Semitism and Defamation watchdog organization, or CICAD. The same protester returned that night accompanied by three men, the group said.

A second woman wearing a Palestinian flag around her neck tried unsuccessfully to enter the synagogue, according to the watchdog. The protesters told police that they have a right to protest and threatened to return the following Saturday.

“With this first public demonstration of hostility towards the Jewish community in Geneva since the beginning of the conflict in Gaza, an unacceptable step was taken,” CICAD said. “Synagogues should not become the new places of expression of hatred against Israel.”

CICAD called on local politicians, including those who support the Palestinian cause, to denounce this kind of action against the Jewish community and for authorities to take action to protect the Jewish community.


Rockets fired into Israel, violating cease-fire extension; IDF retaliates

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 08:58

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli military struck sites in Gaza after rockets were fired from the coastal strip into southern Israel in violation of a cease-fire extension.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly also recalled Israeli negotiators from cease-fire talks in Cairo after the rockets from Gaza were fired into Beersheba on Tuesday afternoon. Israeli government officials told Haaretz that the talks had collapsed.

The rockets broke a 24-hour cease-fire extension agreed to at midnight Monday. They landed in an open area; no injuries or damage were reported. The Iron Dome missile defense system did not attempt to intercept the rockets — the first targeting Israel in nearly a week.

Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon reportedly ordered the Israel Defense Forces to retaliate. One Israeli TV report said the IDF had hit 10 sites in Gaza.

“Yet again, terrorists breach the ceasefire and renew fire at Israeli civilians from Hamas ruled Gaza Strip. This continued aggression will be addressed accordingly by the IDF; we will continue striking terror infrastructure, pursuing terrorists, and eliminating terror capabilities in the Gaza Strip, in order to restore security for the State of Israel,” IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said in a statement.

Israel and the Palestinians had agreed to the extension of a five-day cease-fire reportedly because significant progress had been made on a long-term agreement.


Holocaust survivor activist arrested in Ferguson protests

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 08:04

(JTA) — A 90-year-old Jewish Holocaust survivor was arrested in St. Louis during protests over the shooting death by police of Michael Brown.

Hedy Epstein of St. Louis was one of nine protesters arrested Monday for blocking the entrance to the downtown state office building that houses Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s office, the Nation reported.

“I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90,” Epstein told The Nation, as two officers walked her to a police van. “We need to stand up today so that people won’t have to do this when they’re 90.”

Epstein escaped Nazi Germany for England in 1939 on the Kindertransport. Her parents and other family members died in Auschwitz, according to her personal website.

Epstein has been active in civil rights and human rights causes as well as social justice, including fair housing, abortion rights and anti-war activities. She also has been active in pro-Palestinian causes, including demonstrating against Israel’s security fence, Israeli settlements and the demolition of Palestinian homes.

She is a member of the Speakers Bureau of the St. Louis Holocaust Museum and Learning Center.

Brown, an 18-year-old black male, was unarmed when he was shot and killed by police in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 9 after being stopped for walking in the street.

Israeli lone soldier from the U.S. missing for two days

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 07:25

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli lone soldier from the United States has been missing for two days according to police.

The soldier from the Givati Brigade, identified as David Menachem Gordon, 21, was last seen at a military base in central Israel on Sunday at around noon, the Jerusalem Post reported. He was wearing his military uniform and its purple beret, and carrying an assault rifle, Israel Police said.

Police said he speaks Hebrew with an American accent.

Gordon, who entered the Israel Defense Forces in August 2013, writes a blog about his experiences in the IDF.




German panel says Nazi-looted painting should go to Jewish heirs

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 05:30

(JTA) — Art experts have determined that another painting from the art collection of the late Cornelius Gurlitt should be returned to the descendants of its previous Jewish owner.

The experts, appointed by the German government, determined that the painting “Two Riders on the Beach” by Max Liebermann was wrongly taken by the Nazis and properly belongs to the heirs of David Friedmann, a German-Jewish industrialist and art collector. The determination makes the Liebermann work the second of 458 contested works of art to be designated for restitution to the heirs of a Jewish owner, the New York Times reported.

Gurlitt, the son of German art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt, who worked closely with the Nazis, was discovered by German tax authorities to be in possession of more than a thousand works by some of Europe’s most famous 19th- and 20th-century artists. Gurlitt, who died in May of this year, signed an agreement with the German government that any paintings determined by experts to have been improperly taken from their original owners would be returned.

Upon his death, it was revealed that Gurlitt willed his collection to the Kunstmuseum Bern in Switzerland. The Kunstmuseum has not yet agreed to accept the paintings, currently leaving them in a legal limbo.

The painting by Liebermann, a leading German Expressionist and himself a German Jew, could be worth upwards of $3.4 million, according to the Wall Street Journal. David Toren, the great-nephew of original owner Friedmann, had sued the Bavarian and German governments for the return of the painting.

Swedish woman attacked while wearing Star of David

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 05:19

(JTA) — A Swedish woman wearing a star of David was attacked while walking through a largely Muslim neighborhood in central Sweden.

Anna Sjogren, who is Jewish, had been scheduled to discuss the attack on Monday with the Jewish community’s security organization.

Sjogren was attacked Aug. 14 while walking in Gottsunda, a suburb of the city of Uppsala in central Sweden, according to a report by the Israeli daily Maariv. Sjogren told the newspaper that the incident began when a Muslim girl saw that Sjogren was wearing a Star of David around her neck and spit on her. Sjogren then pushed the girl in retaliation, whereupon she was attacked by a group of Muslim teenagers, whom Sjogren said were wearing scarves with colors of the Palestinian flag.

The attack left Sjogren bruised, with her eyes swollen and her jaw so badly damaged that she was initially unable to speak after the attack.

Sjogren told Maariv that she had not told the Swedish police for fear that giving her name and address would leave her vulnerable to further attack.

Sjogren is reportedly helping to plan a Sept. 7 rally in support of Israel in conjunction with the World Zionist Organization, something she was involved with before the attack.

Israeli students to talk about Gaza operation at beginning of school year

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 04:57

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The first two weeks of the Israeli school year will include discussion of Israel’s operation in Gaza, the education ministry announced.

The ministry on Monday issued a syllabus to teachers which calls on them to allow students to talk about their personal experiences and to work on special projects in which they express their feelings about the month-long operation, dubbed Protective Edge.

School starts in Israel on Sept. 1.

Teachers also are asked to hold discussions about freedom of speech in a democratic society and how to hold an open dialogue.

Schools also are expected to hold cultural events and talent shows in an effort to help students relax following a summer of running to bomb shelters and hearing news of rocket attacks.

“We dedicate the first week of school as well as the school year to addressing the scourge of racism and talking with students about the aspects of tolerance, acceptance of others and the eradication of racism in society,” Education Minister Shai Piron said in a statement on the Ministry’s website.

Meanwhile, the Home Front Command is considering changing school bus routes in southern Israel to make sure the students have a protected place to disembark in the event of a rocket attack, according to reports.



Israeli envoy to Britain visits ‘Israel-free zone’

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 16:03

(JTA) — Israel’s ambassador to the United Kingdom visited a city whose representative to Parliament declared an “Israel-free zone.”

Daniel Taub came to Bradford, in northern England, on Monday at the invitation of community members, the local Telegraph and Argus newspaper reported. Taub met with local lawmakers, faith leaders and representatives of other community organizations.

George Galloway of the Respect party announced at a party meeting on Aug. 2, “We have declared Bradford an Israel-free zone.”

“I am here because I was invited to come by the people of Bradford, who sent a clear message that George Galloway does not represent them,” Taub said during his visit, according to the newspaper. “I don’t believe George Galloway is the real voice of Bradford. There is a long history of cooperation between Bradford and Israel.”

Galloway in his comments had said, “We don’t want any Israeli goods, we don’t want any Israeli services, we don’t want any Israeli academics coming to the university or the college, we don’t even want any Israeli tourists to come to Bradford, even if any of them had thought of doing so.”

A Galloway spokesman told the British media that his remarks were in reaction to Israel’s operation in Gaza.

Several complaints were filed against Galloway for the comments and he is under police investigation.


Israel-Gaza cease-fire extended 24 hours as progress made on long-term truce

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 16:01

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli and Palestinian officials reportedly have confirmed that the Gaza cease-fire will be extended by 24 hours.

The extension of the current five-day cease-fire, which is set to expire at midnight Monday, will allow the sides to continue to discuss a long-term truce.

The talks reportedly are being extended because of what has been characterized as significant progress in talks on an agreement.

A senior member of the Palestinian delegation told the French news agency AFP that there had been “progress,” with both sides demonstrating “a great degree” of flexibility.

Earlier Monday, following a security meeting at the Ashdod Navy Base, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the cease-fire talks.

“We are ready for any scenario – the Israeli team in Cairo has been instructed to insist on Israel’s security needs and the IDF is prepared for very action strong action if fire is resumed,” Netanyahu said.

He added, “It could yet take time and one must be patient and determined. The combination of persistence and strength will assist us in achieving the goal of this.”

The Qatari-based Al-Jazeera news channel reported late Monday night that the cease-fire agreement currently being considered favorably by both sides includes opening border crossings between Israel and Gaza, with building materials allowed into Gaza under international supervision and expanding the fishing area for Gaza boats. The discussion of building a Gaza seaport and releasing Palestinian prisoners is to be discussed within a month.

The Gaza Health Ministry on Monday said the death toll from Israel’s monthlong military operation rose to 2,016 after several more injured Gazans died of their wounds. The ministry said 541 of the dead were children. More than 10,000 were wounded during the operation the Israelis called Protective Edge. 

 Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and three civilians were killed during the operation, which began on July 8.

Incumbent Brian Schatz survives Hawaii Senate primary

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 14:35

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii narrowly survived a Democratic primary challenge to win the party nomination.

The victory, which was declared on Friday following a six-day delay in the completion of the statewide vote, likely clears the way for Schatz to remain in the Senate.

Schatz, who is Jewish, edged U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa with 48.5 percent of the vote to 47.8 percent. The incumbent finished 1,769 votes ahead of Hanabusa.

Voting began on Aug. 9, but some residents of the Puna district of the big island of Hawaii could not vote until Friday because of damage from Hurricane Iselle. Hanabusa unsuccessfully filed suit to block the latter vote in two precincts of Puna, arguing that the district had not sufficiently recovered to complete the vote.

Adding to the bizarre finish, 800 uncounted ballots were discovered in Maui.

Hanabusa has left open the possibility of challenging the primary results in court.

Schatz was appointed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie in December 2012 to replace the deceased Sen. Daniel Inouye, despite Inouye’s expressed wish that Hanabusa be appointed as his successor. However, Schatz garnered the support of President Obama and many national liberal interest groups, and he substantially outraised Hanabusa.

Assuming that his nomination is not overturned in court, Schatz is widely expected to win the general election in overwhelmingly Democratic Hawaii. He would be up for reelection to a full term in 2016.

Sophie Masloff, Pittsburgh’s first Jewish mayor, dies at 96

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 14:17

Former Pittsburgh Mayor Sophie Masloff, seated in the audience at ​a 2012 roundtable on Pennsylvania’s voter ID law, reads from a prepared statement opposing the legislation. (Courtesy of The Jewish Chronicle)

NEW YORK (JTA) — Sophie Masloff, the first Jewish mayor of Pittsburgh as well as the first female to lead the city, has died.

Masloff, who guided the southwestern Pennsylvania city from 1988 to 1994, died Sunday at 96.

The Democratic pol was known for her outspokenness and down-to-earth personality. Pittsburgh’s 56th mayor, a lifelong native of the city, described herself as an “old Jewish grandmother,” according to The Associated Press.

Masloff , who had been a City Council member for 12 years, took the post at age 70 when Mayor Richard Caliguiri died in May 1988. The following year she was elected to another four-year term in what the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette described as “one of the hardest-fought mayoral elections ever in Pittsburgh.”

Masloff’s tenure was challenged by economic hardship, the crack cocaine epidemic and a 28-day public transit strike, but she was credited with cutting an unpopular wage tax, launching a residential recycling program and improving signage on the city’s streets.

Her tenure also was marked by a legal battle with the Chabad Hasidic movement over her refusal to display a menorah on the steps of City Hall.

Born Sophie Friedman to Romanian Jewish immigrants, Masloff grew up in a Yiddish-speaking household. Jack Masloff, her husband of more than 50 years, died while she was mayor.

Masloff worked for 30 years as a county court clerk, then was elected to the City Council in 1976, eventually becoming its president.

Describing Masloff’s manner as “unpretentious” and “grandmotherly,” the Post-Gazette said she was “an authentic Pittsburgh celebrity. “

After leaving office, Masloff remained active in city affairs. She was twice honored in City Council proclamations: for her work with the Zionist Organization of America and for community activism in her neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, a heavily Jewish enclave. She also appeared in an advertisement for Bruegger’s Bagel Bakery.

Federal appeals court calls for review of NYC metzitzah b’peh law

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 13:59

NEW YORK (JTA) — A New York City health law designed to regulate the controversial metzitzah b’peh ritual circumcision practice must pass stricter scrutiny, a federal appeals court ruled.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan on Friday said a lower court ruling in January 2013 did not apply a rigid enough constitutional standard in permitting the city to proceed with consent forms that parents would be required to sign for circumcisers to use oral suction during the procedure.

During the rite, the circumciser uses his mouth to draw blood from a just-circumcised baby’s penis.

The appeals court decision, written by Judge Debra Ann Livingston, stated that the law targets the specific exercise of a particular religious practice without broader applicability, since oral suction during circumcision is not practiced among the general U.S. population. Under the federal guarantee of free exercise of religion, this means that the law is subject to “strict scrutiny.”

The judgment mandated a strict scrutiny review of the law in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, which had denied the plaintiffs a stay of the law’s enforcement.

The defendants, including Thomas Farley, commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, alleged that the practice of metzitzah b’peh puts infants at risk of being infected by the herpes simplex virus, an infection common among adults that can have major health consequences for newborns.

The law was enacted in 2012 after at least 11 boys contracted herpes from metzitzah b’peh between 2004 and 2011. Two of them died and two others suffered brain damage.

The plaintiffs, including Agudath Israel of America and the International Bris Association, in seeking a permanent stay on enforcing the law argued that it circumscribed religious rights among observant Jews.

Outline of cease-fire agreement approved, Palestinian news agency reports

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 13:33

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A cease-fire agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is being drawn up after both sides approved an outline, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported.

The final document is being prepared in the wake of Egypt-sponsored negotiations over the past several days, Maan reported Monday evening, citing Palestinian sources.

The Israeli delegation reportedly left Cairo to inform Israel’s Cabinet when it convened at 9 p.m. to discuss the agreement.

The deal is expected to be announced late Monday night as the latest five-day cease-fire expires.

Sylvia Hassenfeld, philanthropist and Jewish pioneer, dies at 93

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 13:25

NEW YORK (JTA) — Sylvia Hassenfeld, a major Jewish philanthropist and the first female president of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, has died.

Hassenfeld, of Palm Beach, Fla., died Friday. She was 93.

She served as the JDC chair from 1988 to 1992, representing the organization in the former Soviet Union, and overseeing significant Jewish outreach in Central and Eastern Europe. Hassenfeld also presided over significant JDC operations in Africa.

Hassenfeld led the Hassenfeld Foundation, which supported Jewish and non-Jewish causes around the world.

Her philanthropy was directed at the United Jewish Appeal, Brandeis University, the Jewish Agency for Israel and other Jewish and non-Jewish organizations.“Sylvia Hassenfeld was a remarkable woman who dedicated her life to improving the human condition by protecting the rights of all and promoting religious freedom,” Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence said.

Hassenfeld’s Jewish activism was inspired by the family involvement of her husband, Merrill, the chairman of the Hasbro company before his death in 1980, in the religious and Jewish communal life of Providence, R.I. She would go on to lead the Providence Jewish Federation.

She was a major force behind the Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at New York University that is scheduled to open a new facility in 2017.


Shin Bet: Hamas West Bank operation aimed to topple P.A., start third intifada

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 11:25

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Hamas planned to start a third intifada and seize control of the West Bank from Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, the Shin Bet security service said.

On Monday, the Shin Bet said it arrested 93 Hamas operatives in the West Bank in May and June who were planning a series of massive attacks on Israeli targets, especially the Temple Mount, in order to start the conflagration. Indictments are expected to be filed against at least 70 of the suspects.

The leader was Hamas operations officer Salah Al-Aruri, who lives in Turkey, according to the Shin Bet. Aruri was released and deported in 2010 after years in Israeli jails for terror-related charges.

Terror cells were set up in 46 Palestinian West Bank towns and villages — including in and around Jenin, Nablus, eastern Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Hebron — the Shin Bet said.

Many of those recruited for the cells were students studying chemistry and engineering, and academics, according to the investigation.

Funds for the operation were transferred from Turkey and Jordan, the Shin Bet said. Nearly $600,000 was used to purchase weapons and safe houses.


Pro-Palestinian protesters keep Israeli cargo ship from unloading in Calif.

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 09:58

(JTA) — Pro-Palestinian protesters prevented an Israeli cargo ship from unloading at a California port.

The protesters gathered Sunday at the Port of Oakland to stop a ship from Zim Integrated Shipping Services, Israel’s international maritime cargo company, from docking and unloading. The protest is under the auspices of the Block the Boat coalition organized by the San Francisco-based Arab Resource and Organizing Center.

The ship docked at the port Sunday evening after remaining at sea on Saturday to avoid arriving in the middle of a protest by thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators.

Unionized dockworkers at the port on Sunday honored the picket line and refused to unload the ship.

“Workers honored our picket and stood on the side of justice, as they historically have,” the center said in a statement on its website. “Oakland said no to Zionism and blocked the boat for an entire weekend. This is the first time in history that this has happened. Israeli apartheid is falling one port at a time.”

Similar actions are expected to take place at ports in Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., this week and later in Vancouver.

Qatar visit by Balad lawmakers spurs call for ban on Arab-Israeli party

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 09:41

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli lawmakers called for Balad to be expelled from the Knesset after its lawmakers visited Qatar and perhaps the Arab-Israeli party’s founder, Azmi Bishara.

Bishara lives in exile after resigning from the parliament in 2007 and fleeing Israel amid accusations that he provided information to Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War.

“Members of Balad, the party founded by Azmi Bishara, who was charged with espionage and fled Israel, again prove unequivocally to those who still doubted it that they do not have a place in the Knesset,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said in a statement that was posted on Facebook. “While Israel is still in a difficult campaign against Hamas terrorists, Balad lawmakers traveled to Qatar and demonstrated support for Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and his cronies.”

Liberman also called the party a “fifth column representing terrorist organizations in the Knesset.”

The party’s three lawmakers — Jamal Zahalka, Hanin Zoabi and Bassel Ghattas — reportedly visited Qatar last week. The party would not say whether or not the three met with Bishara, but did confirm that the lawmakers paid for their own trips.

Miri Regev of the Likud party, chair of the Knesset Interior Committee, asked Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein in a letter to investigate the Qatar visit and ban the party from Knesset.

Zoabi and Zahalka were arrested last month at an Arab-Israeli protest in northern Israel against Israel’s operation in Gaza.

Train service in southern Israel suspended over security fears

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 08:20

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Train service between Ashkelon and Sderot in southern Israel was halted due to security reasons.

Sunday night’s halt to service on the line that runs near the border with Gaza — a day before the end of a five-day cease-fire with Hamas and other groups in Gaza — was “until further notice,” Israel Railways said on its website.

The Defense Ministry reportedly ordered the cessation of train service and told the rail service to fortify the line against anti-tank fire from Gaza.

Train service between Ashkelon and Sderot was closed during large portions of the recent conflict in Gaza.

The Transportation Ministry will add buses between the two southern Israeli cities in the meantime, according to reports.

British supermarket Sainsbury’s removes kosher products during protest

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 05:22

(JTA) — A branch of the popular British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s removed kosher items from its shelves over fears of attacks by anti-Israel protesters.

The Holborn branch in central London emptied its kosher section on Saturday as anti-Israel protesters demonstrated outside the store, the Guardian reported Sunday.

At the same time of the Sainsbury’s protest, demonstrators at a Tesco supermarket in Hodge Hill, Birmingham, entered the store and began throwing Israeli food products on the floor.

The food removed from Sainsbury’s was not necessarily Israeli in origin. Some of it was manufactured in the United Kingdom and Poland, according to the Guardian.

In response to complaints by customers on its Facebook page, which accused Sainsbury’s of racism against Jews, the company apologized “for any inconvenience or offense caused,” saying the decision was made in the one store “as a precautionary measure during a demonstration close by” and that the products were returned to the shelves “as soon as was practically possible.”

“As a non-political organization, Sainsbury’s would never take such a decision on grounds other than ensuring the quality or safety of our products,” the statement said.