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BDS plea to anthropologists garners 360 names

Fri, 10/03/2014 - 05:45

(JTA) — More than 350 anthropologists from around the world have endorsed a boycott of Israel and its academic institutions.

The statement was posted on Oct. 1 on the website jadaliyya.com with 231 signatories and a call for others to add their names to the list. On Friday, the list had reached 360 names.

“As a community of scholars who study problems of power, oppression, and cultural hegemony, we have a moral responsibility to speak out and demand accountability from Israel and our own governments,” reads the statement, which endorses “boycott[ing] Israeli academic institutions that are complicit in these violations.”

Israeli academic institutions, the statement said, “are complicit with the occupation and oppression of Palestinians” with “intimate connections between Israeli academic institutions and the military, security, and political establishments in Israel.”

Among the signatories are 13 academics from the City University of New York and 13 from Columbia University. Nine cosignatories are listed as being from from Harvard University and eight from Yale University.

Netanyahu: No chance for peace deal if Israel sued for war crimes

Fri, 10/03/2014 - 05:37

(JTA) — A Palestinian push to try Israeli officials for war crimes at a United Nations tribunal would end any chance of reaching a peace deal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu spoke to Army Radio on Friday, a day after the Palestinian Authority’s envoy to the United Nations said his government would join the International Criminal Court if the U.N. Security Council refuses to set a deadline for Israel to withdraw from all Palestinian territories.

“We may end up there,” Netanyahu said of the prospect of war crimes charges being brought against Israel at the Hague-based U.N. tribunal. “If Abu Mazen attempts it, this will have dire consequences,” he added, using another name for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. “He could bring the Hague to do it, bringing us to the destruction of any chance of a sane peace deal.”

On Thursday, Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian Authority’s U.N. envoy, told the Associated Press that his government has turned to the Security Council “to force Israel to negotiate in good faith the end of the occupation within a time frame.”

The Palestinian Authority hopes the council will adopt a draft resolution setting November 2016 as the deadline for an Israeli pullout from the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza.

“But if this additional door of peace is closed before us, then we will not only join the ICC to seek accountability,” Mansour said. “We will join other treaties and agencies” to build evidence “that we exist as a nation, we exist as a state, although the land of our state is under occupation.”

Geller sues NYC’s MTA over ‘killing Jews’ ad

Fri, 10/03/2014 - 05:33

(JTA) — A pro-Israel group known for its sharp anti-Muslim rhetoric sued New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority for rejecting its advertisement on the city’s public transportation.

The American Freedom Defense Initiative, which is headed by blogger Pamela Geller and is known for its aggressive critiques of Islam, sought to post an ad that included the quote “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah.” Geller says the quote is from Hamas-affiliated TV and exposes the organization’s true agenda.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in a federal court in Manhattan, the Associated Press reported.

The MTA had said that the ad could be seen as a call to violence against Jews and violated its “viewpoint-neutral” advertising standards.

The group alleges that its free speech and due process rights were violated and notes that the ad has run in other cities without inciting violence.

Geller and her group have drawn much attention for their controversial ads. In a rare backdown recently, the group complied with a request from the family of journalist James Foley to remove from an ad an image from the video depicting his beheading in August.

ADL, OU score Obama administration on Jerusalem rebuke

Fri, 10/03/2014 - 05:30

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Two Jewish groups criticized as unhelpful the Obama administration’s sharp rebuke to Israel for announcing building plans in Jerusalem.

Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman, in a statement Wednesday said that the building announcement last week by Israel would “distance Israel from even its closest allies” and “poison the atmosphere.” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki delivered similar remarks.

The Orthodox Union in a statement Thursday said that the statement ran counter to an otherwise constructive meeting Wednesday between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The statements, O.U. Washington Director Nathan Diament said, “suggest that the onus for the peace process impasse is upon Israel, when in fact it is decades of Palestinian and Arab rejectionism and incitement (such as that voiced by Palestinian President Abbas at the U.N. General Assembly last week) that ‘poisons the atmosphere’ for peace. “

The Anti-Defamation League’s national director, Abraham Foxman, said in a statement that the remarks were “myopic, ill-timed and off the mark” and also said they distracted from the meeting between the leaders.

“The United States and Israel should remain solidly focused on the issues the President and Prime Minister outlined in public comments before their private meeting — shared concerns about the global threat of Iran’s nuclear program, the battle against the peril to the region from brutal extremists, and a way forward for Israel and the Palestinians — after the seven weeks of fighting — to stop Hamas rocket attacks against Israel,” Foxman said.

Iranians get jail time for entering Kenya on fake Israeli passports

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 16:34

(JTA) — Two Iranians pleaded guilty in Kenya to using fake Israeli passports to enter the country.

The Kenyan court on Wednesday ordered the Iranians, a man and a woman, to serve two years in jail or pay a large fine. They have 24 days to appeal the sentence.

The Iranians, who were arrested at Nairobi Airport on Sept. 18, are being held under anti-terrorism laws.


Philly transit worker sues over Rosh Hashanah firing

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 16:13

(JTA) — A janitorial worker for Philadelphia’s mass transit system is suing the agency for firing him after he refused to work on Rosh Hashanah and Shabbat.

Romel McAlpin, who belongs to the Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ, which preserves some Jewish holidays, said he informed the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, or SEPTA, of his beliefs when he was hired in May 2012, Philadelphia media reported.

McAlpin, who is backed in his lawsuit by the Transport Workers Union, said that the accommodations that SEPTA offered, involving seeking a shift swap from a specific class of worker, were too restrictive.

McAlpin was dismissed for his observance of Rosh Hashanah last year and for Shabbat on Oct. 12, also last year. He filed his lawsuit in August.

Israel imposes Yom Kippur closure of West Bank

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 16:01

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The West Bank was closed by the Israeli military ahead of Yom Kippur.

Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon ordered the closure, which begins at 11:59 p.m. Thursday and will remain in effect until the same time on Saturday.

Palestinians needing humanitarian assistance will be able to enter Israel with the permission of the Civil Administration.

Ben Gurion Airport also will be closed to all flights from 2 p.m. Friday, Yom Kippur eve, through Saturday night following the end of Yom Kippur. All radio and television stations also go off the air for the Day of Atonement.

Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, coincides this year with the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, the second most important holiday on the Muslim calendar. Eid al-Adha commemorates the near sacrifice by Abraham of his son Issac.

Fearing clashes between Jews and Muslims during the holiday observances, police will increase their presence in mixed Arab- and Jewish-Israeli cities — especially in Jerusalem and Acre — according to Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.

354 House members urge Kerry to press Iran on inspections

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 15:45

WASHINGTON (JTA) — More than three-fourths of the House of Representatives wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry to say that Iran must fully cooperate with nuclear inspectors.

“We believe that Iran’s willingness to fully reveal all aspects of its nuclear program is a fundamental test of Iran’s intention to uphold a comprehensive agreement,” 354 Congress members wrote in the Oct. 1 letter.

They referred to nuclear talks now underway between Iran and the major powers, including United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France and Germany. The talks have a Nov. 24 deadline.

“Accurate predictions of the period of time needed by Iran to assemble a weapon and assessments of Iran’s compliance cannot be made without highly reliable information obtained from an unrestricted inspection and verification regime,” said the letter, which was spearheaded by Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the committee’s ranking member.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has sought information on the “potential military dimensions” of the Iranian nuclear program, including Iran’s development of a nuclear bomb. However, the IAEA has stated that Iran has failed to meet deadlines and has even continued work at the Parchin military base, according to the letter.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee praised the letter.

“The overwhelmingly bipartisan support for this letter reflects Congress’ determination to ensure that any agreement with Iran must prevent Tehran from attaining a nuclear weapons capability,” AIPAC said in a statement.

Israel rejects U.S. request on Ebola relief in Africa

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 15:33

(JTA) — Israel, citing health considerations, turned down a request from the United States to assist in medical relief in Ebola-stricken West African countries.

Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon rejected the request, which first came to the Foreign Ministry from Samantha Power, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, Ynet reported on Wednesday.

Yaalon said it would risk infecting Israeli medical teams and the army troops that would secure them, according to Ynet. Israel’s assistance was sought in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

In the request, Power cited Israel’s past successes in providing medical relief in disaster-stricken areas.

The Foreign Ministry favored the request, Ynet said, but sought the approval of the Defense Ministry.


West Bank university’s researchers quit conference over non-recognition

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 15:20

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Two Israeli researchers from Ariel University in the West Bank withdrew from a conference in London after being told they could not mention their institution.

The researchers had been invited to deliver papers at the annual conference of the European Association of Israel Studies, which was held last month at the University of London. But they were informed that they could present their papers as individual scholars, not as representatives of the university, Clive Jones, the association’s chairman, told the London-based Times Higher Education magazine.

The association, Jones said, has taken the position that “until the status of the Occupied Territories has been decided between the two parties, we cannot recognize Ariel as a university which is part of the broader Israeli higher educational body.”

Ariel was recognized as a full university in 2012, a step that was controversial in Israel and abroad.

The researchers decided to withdraw from the conference. The issue was addressed at the conference by Israeli scholars from other universities, according to Times Higher Education.

The West Bank university announced the slight in a statement issued Thursday.

“The event described is an extreme manifestation of hypocrisy and absurdity,” the statement said. “While the conference organizers are interested in research and researchers of Ariel University, they are trying to ignore the existence of the institution where these studies have emerged.”


Georgia students protest homecoming game on Yom Kippur

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 13:22

(JTA) — An online petition protesting the university of Georgia’s decision to hold its homecoming football game on Yom Kippur has acquired some 2,000 signatures.

The petition decrying the scheduling conflict was addressed to the university president.

Georgia is playing Vanderbilt in a Southeastern Conference game on Saturday that is scheduled to start at 4 p.m, several hours before the end of Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.

The petition does not ask that the game be rescheduled but rather states, “We are simply here to ask how a major public university with a strong Jewish community could make this mistake.”

In a statement released to the local NBC affiliate, the university said that the conflict arose because the homecoming game is traditionally scheduled in October and the Oct. 4 game was the only home game on the schedule that month. It also noted that in an era of television contracts, universities like Georgia have little control over their schedules.

However, the university added, “we will in the future consider the option of scheduling Homecoming quite early or quite late during the football season, if necessary, to take appropriate regard for the deep respect we hold for our students’ religious tenets.”

Student Jamie Gottlieb, one of the petition organizers, told the television station, “We felt really acknowledged on campus and felt that our voice was heard.”

The Bulldogs have one Jewish player, Brandon Kublanow, a starter on the offensive line.

“My mom’s been talking to me about it,” Kublanow told the Augusta Chronicle recently. “Every year that it happens, it happened in high school, Yom Kippur would fall on the same day as a game and she’d be like, ‘You’re not playing.’ ‘Mom, come on. Let’s be realistic. I’m playing.’ ”

Kublanow, who growing up attended an Orthodox Chabad synagogue, according to the paper, said he would like to fast, per the day’s custom, but “realistically I’m not going to. I’ve got to be ready for the game. It is what it is.””

London bus driver facing discipline over inaction on passenger’s slurs

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 13:00

(JTA) — London’s public transportation authority said it will act against a bus driver who did not respond when a passenger shouted anti-Semitic epithets at fellow passengers.

The abusive passenger said he would “burn the bus” and “the Jews,” scaring the children on the bus operated by the Arriva company, the London-based Jewish Chronicle reported. The driver allowed the passenger to get off the bus and then reboard.

Paul Edwards, correspondence manager of the Transport for London, told the newspaper that the driver has been identified and interviewed, “and Arriva will take appropriate action to ensure that any future incident is handled more appropriately.”

The abusive passenger, Ian Campbell, 42, of London, will be indicted in Magistrates Court in Hendon on Oct. 9.

Britain witnessed a significant rise in anti-Semitic attacks during Israel’s operation in Gaza over the summer, according to the Community Security Trust, London Jewry’s anti-Semitism watchdog.

French teen with jihadist aspirations says she was told to kill Jews

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 11:43

(JTA) — A French teenager who wanted to join jihadists in Syria said her handlers instructed her to commit attacks on Jews in France.

The testimony of the 15-year-old girl, who was arrested last month after her parents alerted police to her plans, appeared Thursday in Le Nouvel Observateur weekly. The magazine referred to her only as Lea, which is not her real name.

The report said that she was born to a nonreligious family and raised in southern France.

A juvenile court placed her under arrest and forbade her from leaving the country after her parents read her plans on her personal computer.

The article in the weekly did not say what restrictions if any exist on her freedom of movement or other liberties.

In the interview, Lea said she communicated for months with individuals who contacted her on Facebook. None of them were named. She also met with at least two handlers who allegedly helped prepare fake documents for her ahead of her planned journey to Syria.

But at one point, one of her handlers told her she could not travel to Syria after all and would need to commit an attack against Jews on French soil.

“They told me: ‘it’s no use, you’ve got too much of a record to ever come, so now the action needs to take place in France,’” the girl told the weekly. “They started showing me videos of dead children in Palestine, telling me about the need to act against the Jews.”

According to her testimony, the girl was under pressure to commit a suicide attack against Jewish targets or an attack resembling that of Mohamed Merah, the Muslim radical who murdered three children and a rabbi at a Jewish day school in Toulouse in 2012.

“A woman talked to me about it for the first time. I found the place, ways to get weapons. I don’t know if I would’ve been able to go through with it,” she said.


2 Palestinians arrested in West Bank terror attack plot

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 11:28

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Two Palestinian men were arrested at a West Bank checkpoint on suspicion of planning a terror attack.

The men, in their early 20s, were found to be carrying three pipe bombs, a homemade gun and several knives when they were stopped Thursday at the Tapuah Junction in the northern West Bank. They were taken in for questioning by the Shin Bet security service.

Several Palestinian terrorist attacks have been thwarted in recent months at the Tapuah Junction, which is near the Ariel settlement.

Also on Thursday afternoon, two Jewish-Israeli girls were injured when the car in which they were traveling through eastern Jerusalem’s A-Tur neighborhood was pelted with rocks.

Jerusalem’s Barkat raps White House rebuke on housing approval

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 08:22

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat rejected White House criticism of building housing in a Jewish neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem.

“I say this firmly and clearly: Building in Jerusalem is not poisonous and harmful – rather, it is essential, important and will continue with full force,” Barkat said Thursday in a statement. “I will not freeze construction for anyone in Israel’s capital. Discrimination based on religion, race or gender is illegal in the United States and in any other civilized country.”

A day earlier, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that a plan that was granted final approval in December 2012 for the construction of 2,610 housing units in the Givat Hamatos neighborhood would “poison the atmosphere” and distance Israel from “even its closest allies.”

Barkat said the apartments there “will enable more young people from all sectors and religions to live in Jerusalem and build their future here, thereby strengthening the capital of Israel. We will not apologize for that. ”

The plan was published last week, allowing for tenders to be issued and construction to start. It was publicized Wednesday by Peace Now two hours before a scheduled meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama.

Following the meeting, Netanyahu slammed Peace Now for its timing in releasing the news, calling it “irresponsible” and saying the activist NGO had timed the statement to harm his talks with Obama.

Netanyahu also rejected the criticism, saying the White House should make sure it understands the situation properly “before deciding to take a position like that.”

Peace Now Executive Director Yariv Oppenheimer said, “Netanyahu has only himself to blame. He is responsible for authorizing building in sensitive areas. The prime minister should reserve for himself and his ministers his frustration over the destructive impact of his policies on Israel foreign relations.”

Lancet editor says he ‘deeply regrets’ polarizing letter on Gaza

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 07:29

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The editor of The Lancet said in Israel that he “deeply regrets” the divisiveness caused by the open letter published in the British medical journal accusing Israel of a “massacre” in Gaza.

Dr. Richard Horton in a statement Thursday at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa said that he “deeply, deeply regrets the completely unnecessary polarization” caused by the letter published in July to the people of Gaza during this summer’s conflict in the coastal strip between Israel and Hamas. Several dozen physicians from the West signed the letter, which also accused Israel of “cruel” and “vicious war crimes.” Physicians, researchers and Israeli officials decried the letter.

NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institute that monitors nongovernmental organizations, last week unearthed evidence tying two of the letters’ authors to support for David Duke, who circulated a video supporting the white supremacist.

Horton also said he was “personally horrified at the offensive video that was forwarded by two of the authors of that letter. The worldview expressed in that video is abhorrent and must be condemned, and I condemn it.”

After a round of applause, he continued, “I will be publishing what I have just said in The Lancet next week.” Horton did not say specifically that he would retract the letter.

In his statement at Rambam, which he also visited earlier in the week, Horton condemned contributors to The Lancet who promote explicitly anti-Semitic materials, expressed a new understanding of Israeli realities including the complexities of the Arab-Israel conflict, and pledged a new relationship with Israel.

He called the incident “a turning point in my relationship with Israel” and said that his visit was “a fresh start for a different future.”

Horton also invited Israelis to “tell the Israeli health story” in The Lancet in parallel to the Palestinians.

Following his remarks, NGO Monitor said in a statement that it was “urgent that the letter be removed from The Lancet’s website and a formal retraction and apology be published prominently, both on the website and the next hard copy issue.”



Mila Kunis gives birth to girl

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 06:35

(JTA) — Jewish actress Mila Kunis gave birth to a girl.

The baby was born Tuesday night at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The father is Kunis’ fiancee, actor Ashton Kutcher.

Kunis said in interviews before her delivery that she would take a break from acting to be a full-time mother.

Sources close to Kunis told media outlets before her pregnancy was announced that she planned to have children and raise them Jewish.

Kutcher is a follower of the Kabbalah movement and reportedly keeps kosher.

Fire hits 18th-century Romanian Jewish cemetery

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 05:47

(JTA) — One of Romania’s oldest Jewish cemeteries was hit by fire that consumed some 50 acres.

The fire spread on Monday through the Jewish cemetery of Iasi, which opened in the 18th century and contains 80,000 graves, the local news website ziaruldeiasi.ro reported. It consumed dense vegetation that grew between headstones, the result of many years of neglect.

Firefighters put out the blaze and stopping it from spreading. The report did not say how many headstones were damaged and to what extent.

The fire may have been started by locals who periodically burn dry vegetation as a way of clearing agricultural land and preventing uncontrolled fires, according to the news site.

A similar fire in 2012 consumed large parts of the Jewish cemetery in Iasi’s Pacurari district, damaging several dozen headstones. Footage from that fire showed ancient graves surrounded by flames that fed off a thick bed of dry grass, twigs and dead trees.

Iasi used to be among the centers of Jewish life in Romania until its entire Jewish population was annihilated in 1941 in a series of pogroms perpetrated by locals and through the deportation of Jews to Nazi-run and local concentration and death camps.

The cemetery of Iasi features a monument in memory of the 15,000 Jews murdered by locals in pogroms. More than 350,000 Jews were murdered in areas held by pro-Nazi Romanian troops during World War II. The country currently has approximately 6,000 Jews, according to the European Jewish Congress.

In 2012, the Council of Europe adopted a nonbinding resolution placing responsibility for the care of Jewish cemeteries on national governments. The resolution was based on a report on Jewish cemeteries that noted instances in which cemeteries in Eastern Europe have been turned into “residential areas, public gardens, leisure parks, army grounds and storage sites; some have been turned into lakes.”

El Al may be violating U.S. law, N.Y. rabbi says

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 05:30

NEW YORK (JTA) — A New York rabbi-attorney claimed that some El Al Airlines’ policies may violate U.S. law in the wake of delays on flights because haredi Orthodox men refused to sit next to women.

Rabbi Iris Richman, posting Tuesday on the Facebook page of Jewish Voices Together, cited a federal law that states “An air carrier or foreign air carrier may not subject a person in air transportation to discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, or ancestry.”

Richman told Haaretz that she called the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division and was informed that the department was “willing to investigate any situation where any employee of a carrier, i.e steward/ess participated in asking someone to change a seat because of their gender.”

Her post followed two days after the launch of an online petition calling on El Al to provide a small section of gender-segregated seats for an extra fee. More than 3,000 people have signed the petition, which also charges that the Israeli airline permits “female passengers to be bullied, harassed and intimidated into switching seats which they rightfully paid for and were assigned to.”

El Al maintains that it does not discriminate against passengers. An airline spokeswoman told Haaretz, “Our policy in general is to try to accommodate any customer request.”

White House rebukes Israel over eastern Jerusalem building

Wed, 10/01/2014 - 15:48

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israel’s go-ahead for new housing in eastern Jerusalem would “poison the atmosphere” and distance Israel from “even its closest allies,” the White House said.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest delivered the unusually sharp remarks on Wednesday, just after President Obama concluded a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Earnest said Obama raised the topic with Netanyahu.

“The United States is deeply concerned by reports that the Israeli government has moved forward with the planning process in a sensitive area of East Jerusalem,” Earnest told reporters in the daily briefing.

Earlier Wednesday, the Peace Now organization reported that a plan that was granted final approval in December 2012 for the construction of 2,610 housing units in the Jewish eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Hamatos was published last week. Publication of the plan allows tenders to be issued and construction to start.

“This development will only draw condemnation from the international community, distance Israel from even its closest allies, poison the atmosphere not only with the Palestinians but also with the very Arab governments with which Prime Minister Netanyahu said he wanted to build relations,” Earnest said, referring to recent proposals by Netanyahu that Israel first broker peace with its Arab neighbors before it finalizes an agreement with the Palestinains.

“It would also call into question Israel’s ultimate commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians,” he said.

Earnest also condemned the recent move into Silwan, a Palestinian neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem adjacent to the Old City, by Jewish families associated with an activist group, describing the activists’ agenda as one that “by definition stokes tension between Israelis and Palestinians.”

“Givat Hamatos is destructive to the two states solution,” Peace Now said in a statement on its website. “It divides the potential Palestinian state and blocks the possibility to connect the Palestinian neighborhoods in south Jerusalem with the future Palestinian state. Netanyahu continues his policy to destroy the possibility of a two state solution. He is doing so in the West Bank, and he is doing so in East Jerusalem.”

Separately, on Tuesday afternoon, masked Palestinians reportedly threw rocks and fireworks at a preschool in a Jewish neighborhood of the Mount of Olives in eastern Jerusalem.

The children, who were playing on the playground, were rushed into the building’s bomb shelter for protection, Ynet reported.