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Young woman killed, 2 injured in West Bank stabbing attack

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 10:58

Israeli security and rescue personnel at the site where a young Jewish woman was killed and two people were injured in a stabbing attack at a bus stop at the entrance to the West Bank settlement of Alon Shvut, Nov. 10, 2014. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A young woman was killed and two others were injured in a stabbing attack in the West Bank.

The Monday evening attack occurred at the Alon Shvut junction in the Gush Etzion bloc of settlements, where the three Israelis were waiting for rides.

The dead woman was identified as Dalia Lemkos from the West Bank settlement of Tekoa. The others suffered light stab wounds.

Lemkos, who was in her mid-20s, reportedly also was stabbed in a terror attack in Gush Etzion in 2006.

The assailant, who reportedly pulled up in his car and stabbed the victims, was shot by a guard at the entrance to the Alon Shvut settlement. He was being treated in a Jerusalem hospital.

He has been identified as Maher Hamdi Hashalamun, 30, of Hebron. He reportedly is affiliated with the terror organization Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The attack took place in the same junction from where three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped in June. The teens were found dead nearly three weeks later near Hebron.

Several hours before the stabbings, a Palestinian man allegedly stabbed an Israeli soldier outside a Tel Aviv train station. The soldier later died in a Tel Aviv hospital. The assailant was apprehended.

 

Court upholds ruling for Northwestern U. in Chabad discrimination suit

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 09:04

(JTA) — Northwestern University did not discriminate against a local Chabad house when it cut ties with the religious institution, a federal appeals court ruled.

On Thursday, U.S. Court of Appeals Circuit Judge Richard Posner in Chicago upheld the dismissal of a September 2012 lawsuit alleging that the university had severed relations with the Tannenbaum Chabad House in Evanston, Ill., and its director, Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein, for anti-Semitic and religious reasons.

Northwestern had cut ties with the Tannenbaum Chabad House that month following reports that the rabbi had served underage students wine and hard alcohol.

In its lawsuit, Tannenbaum Chabad claimed that the university disaffiliated with it while campus fraternities and sororities also were guilty of underage drinking.

“As far as we’ve been able to determine, plying minors with hard liquor is not required by any Jewish religious observance,” Posner said in his decision, pointing out that alcohol was served regularly to underage students while under Chabad House auspices and that Klein drank with them.

Posner also said Klein was warned repeatedly but did not react.

“The Seventh Circuit’s opinion almost consciously avoided the record and the facts,” Jonathan Lubin, co-counsel on the original lawsuit, said in a statement provided to JTA.

“The decision simply disregards the actual record before the Court, and instead points to Wikipedia articles and Youtube videos to support its wild guesses as to what happened at the Chabad House,” the statement added.

Rabbi Meir Moscowitz, the director of Lubavitch Chabad of Illinois, told the Northwestern Daily that he was disappointed by the ruling and was mulling any further action.

“Rabbi Klein followed Northwestern’s rules and despite that was singled out by the university,” Moscowitz told the Northwestern Daily. “Rabbi Klein remains steadfastly committed to serving the students and faculty of Northwestern University, as he has for close to three decades.”

Klein and Chabad can ask for another hearing before the full panel of appeals court judges. If unsuccessful there, they can take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Alan Cubbage, Northwestern’s vice president for university relations, said in a statement that the university is “pleased” with the decision. He said the university has affiliations with several other religious centers on or near the campus, including the Fiedler Hillel Center.

The Chabad House continues to operate in Evanston with Klein as its director.

In Paris, Jewish teen mobbed, attempted arson at kosher eatery

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 08:25

(JTA) — Hours after the attempted arson of a Paris kosher restaurant, a group of French teenagers assaulted a Jewish adolescent outside a school.

The assault happened Thursday in the 3rd arrondissement, or district, 500 yards north of Bastille, in front of the private high school Progress, which has a large number of Jewish students.

The victim, who was wearing a kipah, was standing in front of the school with some friends when a group of approximately 15 youths of African descent ages 16-19 assaulted him, according to a report of the incident by the National Bureau for Vigilance against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA.

They beat the victim, who was not named, with their fists and elbows before fleeing the scene. He received medical attention and was given two days sick leave to recover from the assault, BNVCA reported.

Less than 12 hours earlier, unidentified vandals had tried to burn down the Zekai sushi restaurant in the 17th arrondissement located 4 miles west of the school. The cases reportedly are unrelated.

The vandals hurled stones at the restaurant’s armored glass door late at night but failed to punch a hole through it, the news website of the Tribune Juive newspaper reported. They also tried to set off a firebomb before fleeing, according to BNVCA.

BNVCA, a nongovernmental watchdog, said the restaurant – an upscale eatery situated in a chic neighborhood near the Arc de Triomphe – has been targeted in the past by passers-by who shouted “Dirty Jews” into the restaurant before fleeing. The restaurant displays a kosher certificate on its front door.

Both incidents were reported to the police, BNVCA said.

Motorists threaten Dutch chief rabbi

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 08:09

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (JTA) — Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs filed a complaint with police against two men whom he said tried to intimidate him at a gas station.

Jacobs, chief rabbi of the Interprovincial Rabbinate for The Netherlands, filed the complaint last week after two men on Nov. 5 drove a BMW car in his direction in a sudden manner that Jacobs said was meant to intimidate him.

“I was putting in fuel and noticed two men, who had a Middle Eastern appearance, watching me from their car nearby,” Jacobs told JTA. “When I walked past their car to pay, they started the car and lunged in my direction, laughing. It was clear that they had waited to do this with the intention of at least scaring me, if not worse.”

Jacobs dresses in haredi Orthodox garb, making him identifiable as Jewish.

Jacobs’ home was targeted several times in recent years by individuals who threw stones at its windows. The last attack happened during Israel’s conflict this summer with Hamas in Gaza and prompted police to install security cameras around Jacobs’ home, located 30 miles east of Amsterdam.

“The current government is very clear in speaking against anti-Semitism and this is a good thing,” Jacobs said. “And while panic over anti-Semitism is not called for, we must recognize that there is growing anti-Semitism and report each incident because this is how we can combat the phenomenon.”

Greek university unveils memorial on site of destroyed Jewish cemetery

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 06:37

ATHENS, Greece (JTA) — Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, partly built on the ruins of the city’s historic Jewish cemetery, unveiled a memorial to the graveyard that was destroyed by the Nazis.

Greek Jewish leaders hailed the erection of the monument, a series of gravestones in a bed of grass next to a broken menorah, as a late but significant move by the university and the city to recognize the past.

The monument is an important step in reversing attempts to erase the city’s Jewish past, said David Saltiel, president of the Thessaloniki Jewish Community, but he called for more work to be done to “investigate, document and present clearly to the public the instigators and executors of this destruction.”

Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris, who has been instrumental in reviving the city’s Jewish heritage, and other Greek political leaders attended the ceremony on Sunday. Also on hand was Irit Ben-Abba, Israel’s newly appointed ambassador to Greece.

University rector Pericles Mitkas condemned the destruction of the cemetery, but said that perhaps some consolation could be found in the fact that on “these sacred lands a university was built — that is, the daily meeting place of many cultures, promoting  freedom and tolerance of all religion, race and politics and dedicated to combating prejudices. “

The Jewish community of Thessaloniki was a vital center of Sephardic Jewry for 450 years following the expulsion from Spain. Known as the “Flower of the Balkans,” it was the center of Ladino culture in the region.

In March 1943, the Nazis began sending Jews in railway convoys to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. By August, 49,000 of the city’s prewar population of 55,000 Jews had been deported. Fewer than 2,000 survived.

During the Nazi occupation, the Germans destroyed the cemetery, using the grave markers for construction material.

 

Israeli soldier stabbed in Tel Aviv by Palestinian assailant

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 06:22

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli soldier was stabbed and seriously injured near a Tel Aviv train station in a terror attack.

Police arrested a suspect in the stabbing shortly after the attack. The suspect is identified as Nur al-Din Abu Hashyaa, 18, from the West Bank city of Nablus, who tried to take the soldier’s weapon after he stabbed him multiple times with a knife. The attacker then hid in an apartment building near the site of the stabbing after the attack, where he was apprehended.

Police have confirmed that the attack was nationalistically motivated. The alleged attacker reportedly entered Israel illegally.

The stabbed Israeli man is reported to be about 20. He reportedly had no pulse and was resuscitated at the scene of the attack. He was taken to Sheba Hospital at the Tel Hashomer medical center where he went into surgery.

 

Jewish donors leaving Britain’s Labor Party over Miliband’s anti-Israel stance

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 05:40

(JTA) — Jewish donors and supporters are deserting Britain’s Labor party over party leader Ed Miliband’s anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian stance.

Miliband has been warned of the loss of Jewish support, the U.K. Independent reported Sunday.

Miliband, the son of Holocaust refugees, last month ordered all party lawmakers to vote in favor of a nonbinding motion to recognize the state of Palestine.

The party reportedly also is having problem raising funds for next year’s elections.

Donations from the Jewish community in the past have been worth hundreds of thousands of pounds a year to the Labor Party, according to the newspaper, which reported that several previous supporters said that they and others are now very unlikely to support the party.

Last week, popular British actress Maureen Lipman announced that she would stop supporting the party after 50 years.

Miliband publicly and strongly criticized Israel for its 50-day operation in Gaza last summer.

Jewish man admits to beating British lawmaker George Galloway

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 05:34

(JTA) — A Jewish man admitted to beating British lawmaker George Galloway at a public event in London.

Neil Masterson, 39, acknowledged in Isleworth Crown Court on Friday the Aug. 29 assault that left Galloway with a broken rib and a broken jaw, requiring him to spend a night in the hospital.

Earlier that month, Galloway had called for his constituency to be “declared an Israel-free zone” in reaction to the Israel-Gaza conflict.

A charge against Masterson of religiously aggravated assault was dropped due to a lack of evidence. Masterson is a convert to Judaism, the London-based Jewish Chronicle reported.

Masterson, who works as a caregiver, reportedly shouted about the Holocaust before physically assaulting the Respect party lawmaker outside the event in west London.

Discrimination on the basis of nationality or race is illegal in Britain, as is inciting to hatred.

Masterson will remain in police custody until he is sentenced next month.

Haim Saban slams Obama’s Iran policy, advises bombing in worst case

Sun, 11/09/2014 - 17:46

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Haim Saban, a top Democratic Party donor and backer of Hillary Rodham Clinton, slammed President Obama’s Iran strategy and advised Israel to bomb the “living daylights” out of Iran if a nuclear deal with the major powers endangers Israel.

If Obama strikes a “bad deal” with Iran in nuclear talks under way and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assesses it as a deal that would put Israel at risk, “I would bomb the living daylights out of these sons of bitches,” Saban said Sunday at the first conference of the Israeli American Council, an advocacy group he is helping to fund.

The entertainment mogul for years has been close to former President Bill Clinton and his wife, who is considering a 2016 presidential run.

Saban said Obama made a mistake in helping to strike an interim agreement with Iran to roll back some sanctions in exchange for the rollback of some nuclear activity. The interim agreement led to the talks now taking place between Iran and the major powers, led by the United States, and has a deadline of Nov. 24.

Obama did not exhaust all options to pressure Iran before agreeing to go to talks, Saban said, and should have added sanctions and increased the U.S. military posture in the region to extract a better deal.

“We’ve shown too many carrots and a very small stick,” he said.

Sheldon Adelson, a major Republican donor, a casino magnate and also a funder of the IAC, was more circumspect, saying he would advise Netanyahu to take “all available steps” that involve the minimum risk to Israel.

Netanyahu and his officials have said that they see the possible deal now being considered as a bad one because it is likely to allow Iran to continue enriching uranium, albeit at low levels.

Discussing the prospects of Israeli-Palestinian peace and a two-state solution, Adelson repeated his claim that “the Palestinians are an invented people” and would never give up their ambition of destroying Israel.

Saban agreed, but said the demographic threat that he claimed Palestinians pose to Israel’s Jewish and democratic character necessitated two states.

The two moguls said they regretted missing the recent opportunity to buy the Washington Post in order to influence Israel coverage in the American media, which they said was biased, and discussed the prospects of buying The New York Times.

Gaza commemoration for Arafat canceled following attacks on Fatah leaders

Sun, 11/09/2014 - 17:25

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A commemoration rally in Gaza for the late Palestinian Fatah party leader Yasser Arafat was canceled after attacks on Fatah leaders there.

The event set for Tuesday was canceled on Sunday, two days after the homes and cars of Fatah leaders were blown up, as well as the stage where the commemoration was to take place.

Hamas has denied responsibility for the attacks.

A crowd of hundreds of thousands was expected to attend the rally, which was being held on the 10th anniversary of Arafat’s death, Reuters reported.

“After the series of explosions and assaults against Fatah leaders, we have been notified by Hamas’ political and security officials that security services won’t be able to take charge of security arrangements during the Arafat anniversary ceremony,” a senior Fatah leader in the Gaza Strip told the Palestinian Maan news agency.

It would have been the first time that a public commemoration of Arafat’s death would be held in Gaza since it was taken over by Hamas in 2007.

In June, Hamas and Fatah formed a unity government under Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

U.S. Supreme Court justices talk Jewish at G.A. opening

Sun, 11/09/2014 - 17:16

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer making a point during a panel discussion also featuring Justice Elana Kagan at the 2014 General Assembly conference of the Jewish Federations of North America in suburban Washington, Nov. 9, 2014. (Ron Sachs)

OXON HILL, Md. (JTA) – U.S. Supreme Court justices Stephen Breyer and Elana Kagan talked about their Jewish identities at the opening plenary of the 2014 General Assembly conference of the Jewish Federations of North America.

Speaking before a crowd of more than 2,000 at the conference center just outside Washington, Breyer said the most remarkable thing about there being three Jews among the nine Supreme Court justices is how unremarkable it is in America today.

Kagan, the other justice on the panel discussion moderated by NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg, said that her Jewish identity was the one thing that didn’t come up during her confirmation process.

“The one thing nobody ever said, the one thing I never heard was, ‘We don’t need a third Jewish justice,’ or ‘There’s a problem with that,’ ” she said. “So that’s a wonderful thing. My grandmother would have said ‘Only in America.’ ”

Kagan also talked about her bat mitzvah, crediting Rabbi Shlomo Riskin – then of the Lincoln Square Synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side (and now rabbi in Efrat, West Bank), with enabling the ceremony even though that sort of thing was not done in Orthodox synagogues back when Kagan was a kid.

The bat mitzvah wasn’t exactly identical to her brother’s, Kagan said – it was called a bat Torah, took place on Friday night rather than Saturday and had her chanting the haftarah portion rather than the Torah portion – but it was meaningful and groundbreaking nonetheless.

“We reached a kind of deal: It wasn’t a full bar mitzvah, but it was something,” she said. “Rabbi Riskin was very gracious, and I think it was good for the synagogue.”

Breyer said that when he thinks about what it means to be Jewish in the court, he thinks about the Jewish tradition of tzedakah.

“It’s not quite charity,” he said, “and it’s not quite rule of law either, but it’s part of trying to create a better world.”

Breyer said the great divisions of the world today are between those who believe in the rule of law and those who don’t.

“And that is a battle, and we’re on the right side of that,” he said.

The theme of this year’s General Assembly is “The world is our backyard,” and speakers will include Vice President Joe Biden and, via satellite, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“This year’s G.A. will remind us of why federation is relevant and critical,” G.A. co-chair Howard Friedman said.

Court frees scores of Eritrean, Sudanese asylum seekers in Israel

Sun, 11/09/2014 - 15:14

(JTA) — Israel will release 138 Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers who the nation’s Supreme Court ruled were being held illegally.

Thursday’s ruling was in response to a petition filed by the nonprofit organization The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants.

Following the decision, the Population and Immigration Authority said that the inmates would be released by Tuesday and issued new temporary residence permits. Most citizens of Eritrea and Sudan living in Israel carry such permits.

The asylum seekers were first incarcerated in accordance with the Anti-Infiltration Law, which allowed Israeli officials to hold individuals deemed to be “infiltrators” for more than three years in detention centers. The law was amended in 2013 and allowed the state to detain illegal migrants without trial for one year. That section was then struck down in September.

The asylum seekers were held at the Saharonim Prison in 2012 before being transferred to the Holot Detention Center in southern Israel last December. The petition filed by the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants argued that the state had held the asylum seekers beyond the legal time limit.

“There can be no dispute over the fact that incarceration for 12 long months, added to by a year in a detention center, as was carried out under the prevailing law, is extremely unreasonable and disproportionate,” the court said in its ruling, Haaretz reported. “It is unthinkable that this court has repeatedly struck down this law, yet the petitioners are still imprisoned.”

 

Dutch Protestant Church pulls out of Kristallnacht event over sponsors

Sun, 11/09/2014 - 13:11

AMSTERDAM (JTA) — A senior official from the Dutch Protestant Church pulled out of a Holocaust memorial event co-organized by Socialists who commemorated a Hamas leader.

Arjan Plaisier, secretary of the PKN umbrella of Dutch Protestant churches, announced Friday that he would neither be speaking nor attending the Kristallnacht commemoration event organized by the Platform Against Racism and Exclusion.

The platform lists among its Kristallnacht commemoration partners the International Socialists, which in 2004 held a ceremony in memory of Ahmed Yassin, a former spiritual leader of Hamas whom Israel killed that year.

Another sponsor was the Dutch Palestine Committee, which supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, and far-left groups.

The Kristallnacht event is funded by Kerk in Actie, the PKN’s aid organization.

Likoed Nederland and other pro-Israel groups protested Plaisier’s planned attendance as a speaker at the event, which took place at the same time Sunday as the Jewish community’s official commemorative ceremony for the victims of the 1938 Kristallnacht pogroms in Germany and Austria, which many historians regard as the opening shot for the systematic application of violence against Jews by the Nazis and their helpers.

“After intensive dialogue, Arjan Plaisier decided not to speak at the event planned by the platform,” a PKN spokesman told Likoed Nederland. “We must respect the voices that we are hearing,” he added in reference to the protest.

The spokesman added that Plaisier decided “as a sign of good will” to attend the official ceremony organized by the Central Jewish Board, or CJO, at the Portuguese Synagogue of Amsterdam.

Plaisier told the Nederlands Dagblad newspaper, “I had not realized there were two commemorations, each sounding a different voice.”

 

Obama: ‘Still a big gap’ in negotiations with Iran

Sun, 11/09/2014 - 13:03

(JTA) — President Obama tamped down expectations about brokering a nuclear deal with Iran before the upcoming deadline.

“There’s still a big gap,” Obama told “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer on Sunday on the 60th anniversary broadcast of the CBS program. “We may not be able to get there.”

Nov. 24 is the deadline for a nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers. American negotiators in recent weeks have sounded more optimistic about achieving an agreement.

Obama said there have been “significant negotiations.”

Israel rejects any deal that allows Iran to continue enriching uranium at even minimal levels, which it is believed that a nuclear deal with Iran will include. Israel believes any enrichment capacity leaves Iran as a nuclear threshold state.

Meanwhile, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, posted Sunday on his official Twitter account a plan to eliminate Israel, or what he called the “fake Zionist regime.”

“The elimination of Israel does not mean the massacre of the Jewish people in the region,” he said.

The plan, which Khamenei believes will be palatable to the international community, calls for a referendum by “all the original people of Palestine including Muslims, Christians and Jews wherever they are.”

“Naturally, the Jewish immigrants who have been persuaded into emigration to Palestine do not have the right to take part in this referendum,” according to the nine-point plan.

Khamenei said the plan “can be properly understood by global public opinion, and can enjoy the support of the independent nations and governments.”

His plan rejects a “classical war” or an arbitration by the United Nations or other international organizations.

 

Israeli gov’t minister Amir Peretz quits over 2015 budget

Sun, 11/09/2014 - 12:09

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Amir Peretz, Israel’s environmental protection minister, resigned from the government over the proposed 2015 budget.

Peretz, of the centrist Hatnua party that is part of the government coalition, announced he was stepping down at the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday. His resignation goes into effect on Tuesday.

Saying the 328 billion shekel (approximately $86 billion) budget does not help the poorest Israelis, Peretz in an interview on Israel’s Channel 2 on Saturday night said he would “not be a part of a government that continues in this direction.”

At the Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly said after Peretz criticized the government and announced his resignation, “I thank you for acknowledging that your place is not around the Cabinet table.”

Peretz was bound by the coalition agreement to vote for the budget on Monday. If he had not resigned, and voted against the budget, he would have been removed from his position. Hatnua has six seats in the government.

Meanwhile, a minister in Yesh Atid, which has 19 seats — one more than Netanyahu’s Likud — said his centrist party was deciding whether to remain in the government.

Science Minister Yaakov Peri said in an interview on Army Radio that Netanyahu’s continued shifting rightward is making it difficult for Yesh Atid.

 

Arab-Israelis riot to protest killing of resident by Israel Police

Sun, 11/09/2014 - 08:56

JERUSALEM (JTA) — At least 20 Arab-Israelis were arrested during riots in the Arab-Israeli town of Kfar Kana in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of a resident by Israel Police.

On Sunday, the Arab-Israeli community declared a nationwide strike to protest the killing Friday night of Kheir Hamdan, 22. Riots were taking place in other Arab-Israeli cities.

In the face of the riots, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to strip the citizenship of those who call for the destruction of the State of Israel.

Police shot Hamdan after he brandished a knife and slammed his fist on the windows of a police van in Kfar Kana after a relative was arrested for using a stun grenade. Police in the northern Israeli town said they feared they were in danger.

A surveillance video released the following day shows Hamdan walking away from the police van when he was shot.

Israel’s Justice Ministry said in a statement released Saturday night that the Police Internal Investigations Department at the State Attorney’s Office — a civil, independent investigations unit — is looking into the incident. The Israel Police also have launched an investigation, according to reports.

Netanyahu said at the beginning of the weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday that Israel will not tolerate riots.

“We will take determined action against those who throw stones, firebombs and fireworks, and block roads, and against demonstrations that call for our destruction,” he said. “We are not prepared to tolerate more demonstrations in the heart of our cities in which Hamas or ISIS flags are waved and calls are made to redeem Palestine with blood and fire, calling in effect for the destruction of the State of Israel.

“I have instructed the interior minister to use all means, including evaluating the possibility of revoking the citizenship of those who call for the destruction of the State of Israel.”

Hamdan’s father, Rauf, told reporters, “Whoever did this act is not human. The incident will not only interest residents of Kfar Kana, but all of Palestine.”

The mayor of Kfar Kana called the shooting “murder in cold blood.” Arab-Israeli lawmaker Ahmad Tibi in a tweet called the incident “a mafia-style execution.”

 

Lindsey Graham: New Senate will push congressional review of Iran deal

Sun, 11/09/2014 - 08:20

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The incoming Republican majority in the Senate will advance a bill that would subject any Iran nuclear deal to congressional review, a top senator said.

“If there is a deal, if it is a good deal, I will go for it,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Saturday at the inaugural conference in Washington of the Israeli American Council.

“If it is a bad deal, I will kill it,” said Graham, who as chairman of the foreign operations subcommittee of the incoming Senate’s Appropriations Committee will wield considerable power in foreign policy. He said his bill would be cosponsored with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the incoming Foreign Relations Committee chairman.

The Obama administration, with the outgoing Democratic Senate majority, until now has managed to minimize Congress’ influence on the talks underway between Iran and the major world powers. Nov. 24 is the deadline for a nuclear deal, and American negotiators in recent weeks have sounded more optimistic about achieving an agreement.

Graham alluded to frustration until now by most of the Republican caucus and some Democrats at the Democratic leadership’s refusal to bring to a vote enhanced sanctions legislation that the White House had opposed.

“In January of next year, we’re going to stop talking and start voting,” he said.

Graham’s remarks earned cheers from the audience at the conference. The Israeli American Council seeks to advance the interests of Israeli Americans within the Jewish community and more broadly.

Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, described the difference between Israel and the United States over Iran as a “serious disagreement.”

“We don’t merely want to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon today, we want to make sure that Iran does not have the capability to build a nuclear weapon tomorrow,” Dermer said. “And we believe that goal is achievable by keeping strong sanctions and other pressures, and only reducing those pressures when Iran fully dismantles its nuclear weapons capability.

“A deal that removes those sanctions and leaves Iran’s nuclear program essentially intact is a bad deal as far as Israel is concerned.”

U.S. and other nations’ officials have said that a nuclear deal with Iran will likely allow Iran to continue enriching uranium at minimum levels, with a tough inspections regime in place, but Israel believes any enrichment capacity leaves Iran as a nuclear threshold state.

“The idea that instead of dismantling Iran’s nuclear weapons program, and intelligence and U.N. inspectors will do the job, does not give Israel much comfort,” he said.

Dermer spent a considerable portion of his speech pushing back against the notion arising out of a series of recent diplomatic disputes that U.S.-Israel relations were at a nadir. He listed disputes going back to 1948 with other administrations that were seen as pro-Israel and praising the Obama administration’s “unprecedented” levels of military and intelligence cooperation with Israel.

Mitt Romney, the GOP presidential candidate who was defeated by Obama in 2012, opened the conference Friday with a blistering criticism of Obama in the light of the revelation that the president wrote Iran’s supreme leader a letter saying that any U.S.-Iran cooperation on combating Sunni Islamist extremists was contingent on a nuclear deal.

“That the president would write a letter of this nature, in effect legitimizing a nation and a leadership that is violating international norms and is threatening the world, is so far beyond the pale, I was stunned. I was speechless,” Romney said. “The right kind of approach in dealing with Iran is that we consider them a pariah, their leaders are shunned and we exert that kind of moral suasion on them.”

Venezuela to give 1,000 Palestinians free university education

Sun, 11/09/2014 - 08:04

(JTA) — At least 1,000 Palestinians will receive a free university education in Venezuela.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday welcomed 119 Palestinian students who will be trained in the field of medicine through the new Yasser Arafat Scholarship Program.

“We will train at least 1,000 doctors, quickly, now,” Maduro said in an address to the students in Caracas, the South American nation’s capital. “It is a hard goal but we can’t fail on this, we have no excuses.”

Maduro also announced the expansion of the program to engineering, architecture “and every field of knowledge.”

The scholarship program is named for Arafat, the former head of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the first president of the Palestinian Authority.

Maduro said he cried when he saw the images of Palestinian students dancing in their first minutes in Venezuela.

“We want to see you dance again,” the president said.

The Palestinian students obliged by dancing for Maduro, who received from them a keffiyah, or Arab headdress.

More than 20 of the students are from Gaza; the rest are from the West Bank. They were picked up in Jordan by a plane sent from the Venezuelan government that also brought 10 tons of humanitarian aid for Gaza.

In August, Maduro publicly accused Israel of pursuing “a war of extermination against the Palestinian people” and has compared Gaza to Auschwitz.

Three months earlier, Venezuela announced that it would supply oil to the Palestinians. Venezuela in 2009 recognized the State of Palestine.

 

78-year-old assaulted in Warsaw anti-Semitic attack

Sun, 11/09/2014 - 07:06

(JTA) — Police in Warsaw arrested the alleged perpetrator of an assault on a 78-year-old man while shouting anti-Semitic slurs.

The suspect, identified in Polish media as a 30-year-old man named Pawel L., allegedly struck the victim outside a store on Friday, causing him injuries that required hospitalization.

Police found Pawel being subdued by passers-by who intervened after witnessing the attack, according to the news website fakt.pl. The report did not say whether the victim was Jewish, but prosecutors intend to charge Pawel with perpetrating a hate crime along with assault.

Pawel was taken into custody immediately at the scene. If convicted, he could face a jail term of up to 10 years.

Austria’s national railway opens exhibit about its Holocaust complicity

Sun, 11/09/2014 - 06:46

BRUSSELS (JTA) — Austria’s national railway company opened an exhibition at the European Parliament about the firm’s complicity in the Holocaust.

Titled “The Suppressed Years,” the exhibition opened last week at a ceremony attended by members of the European Parliament, European Jewish Congress staff and Austrian Federal Railways executives, including the firm’s CEO, Christian Kern.

“When we first discussed bringing this exhibition here, some from our marketing team feared it would hurt the brand,” Kern said. “But we need our brand to be clean. And showing what happened in the Holocaust is necessary for that.”

The exhibition features a confined space the size of a cattle wagon of the sort that was used in transporting tens of thousands of Austrian Jews and other groups persecuted by the Nazi regime in Austria to concentration and death camps across Europe.

It also tells the story of foreigners who were forced to work for the Austrian railway and the story of the railway’s rapid absorption, within a few days, into the German railway system after Nazi Germany merged with Austria in 1938.

For decades after World War II, Austrian politicians argued that Austria was an occupied nation and officials at first resisted offering restitution to Holocaust victims. But in 1991, then-chancellor Franz Vranitzky apologized for Austria’s role in the murder of 90 percent of the country’s pre-Holocaust population of over 200,000 Jews.

“The exhibition tells not only the story of what happens in the Holocaust, but also the background – the process of nazification among the railway’s workers, the rooting out of dissidents, the severe oversight that existed,” said Milli Segal, an Austrian Jew who is curator of the exhibition.