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U.S. envoy ‘concerned’ over anti-Semitism in Turkey

Fri, 11/14/2014 - 14:43

(JTA) — The United States is concerned over recent expressions of anti-Semitism in Turkey, the State Department’s special envoy for combatting anti-Semitism, Ira Forman, said.

Forman spoke of these concerns in an interview with JTA Friday from Berlin, where he attended a high-level meeting on anti-Semitism organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE.

“We are concerned when civil society or political leaders call on the Jewish community to denounce Israel,” Forman said in reference to such calls. Prime Minister Tayyp Erdogan made similar statements during Israel’s summer war with Hamas in Gaza.

“And we are concerned when we hear that someone posted a sign reading ‘to be demolished’ on Istanbul’s Neve Shalom synagogue,” Forman said in reference to an incident that occurred this week.

Forman, who visited Istanbul recently, noted “this causes concern” also in light of deadly terrorist attacks on the synagogue in 2003 and 1986. Forman said he was “very concerned” when he learned that when a Turkish tabloid with a large readership, Yeni Akit, reported in May on the collapse of the Soma mine the article’s front-page headline said that the mine owner’s son-in-law is Jewish, linking this with a conspiracy theory involving “Zionists.”

Erdogan, whose Islamic party has ruled Turkey for the past decade, has scaled back considerably what used to be a close strategic partnership between his country and Israel, which he has accused of “murdering babies.”

On Europe, Forman said that concerns about the safety of Jews remain strong across some of the continent’s Western countries.

“Listening to delegates from France telling us that Jewish parents are pulling their children out of public school to keep them safe and others even pulling them out of Jewish schools and sending them to Catholic schools so they won’t be targeted by terrorists made a powerful impression,” he said.

The American delegation included diplomats and leaders from nongovernmental groups representing Jews as well as other minorities.

“This reflects an understanding in American civil society that anti-Semitism is not a Jewish problem, but a problem of society as a whole. And while some European governments have demonstrated determination in the fight against anti-Semitism, civil society in many European countries is, sadly, not there yet.”

AOL partners with Cornell Tech to fund new labs in New York, Israel

Fri, 11/14/2014 - 12:50

NEW YORK (JTA) — A graduate school cofounded by Cornell University and Israel’s Technion is launching a research lab with money it received from the AOL Internet media corporation.

The New York City-based Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute (part of the Cornell NYC Tech graduate school), which was born out of a 2011 collaboration between the upstate New York university and the Haifa one, announced the new lab’s opening on Wednesday.

The lab, called “Connected Experiences,” or ConnX, will last four years and is funded by a “multimillion” dollar gift from AOL. The exact amount was not disclosed.

The lab will operate in both Israel and New York, and will allow researchers to explore technologies in areas including communication and coordination, food and wellness, education and safety, and information and entertainment.

“The partnership with AOL will allow Cornell Tech and Technion researchers access to resources — platforms and engineering and product knowledge — that is not readily available in academic settings,” said Dan Huttenlocher, dean of Cornell Tech, in a statement.

The gift also supports a fellowship program for graduate students, half of them to be female, in New York and Israel. Faculty in the new ConnX lab will include Shiri Azenkot and Serge Belongie at Cornell Tech, and Anat Rafaeli, Nir Ailon and Roi Reichart at Technion.

Following Jordan talks, Israel lifts Temple Mount age limitation

Fri, 11/14/2014 - 06:22

(JTA) — Following trilateral talks with Jordan and the United States on de-escalating tensions in Jerusalem, Israel removed its age limitation on entrance to the Temple Mount.

On Friday, Israel for the first time in two weeks allowed Muslim men under the age of 50 to enter the Temple Mount compound, which contains the al-Aqsa Mosque, Army Radio reported.

The limitation came after several weeks of violent clashes in east Jerusalem between Israeli troops and Palestinian protesters, and a spike in terrorist attacks in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Its lifting came hours after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met in Amman with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and King Abdullah II of Jordan.

At a press conference in Amman Thursday, Kerry said that in the talks the leaders agreed “to make sure that they de-escalate the situation, and that the steps they take will instill confidence that the status quo will be upheld.” He declined to specify the steps in question.

“There are firm commitments, particularly from the custodian of the holy mosque,” Kerry said in reference to Jordan, “as well as Israel, to guarantee that they will take these steps.”

Asked whether Jordan would return its ambassador to Israel, who was recalled for consultation during the escalation period, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said: “Let’s see what happens and then we’ll review our decision, but we have to see what happens on the ground first.”

Meanwhile, security forces in Jerusalem were deployed in large numbers to respond to rioting, Army Radio reported.

On Thursday, an 11-year-old Palestinian boy was injured when a sponge bullet fired by Israel Police hit him in the face.

The incident happened during a demonstration in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya. Police fired the bullets, as well as tear gas and other crowd control methods, as masked Palestinian youths threw rocks at them, AFP reported.

The bullet smashed the youth’s nose and caused heavy bleeding. He is being treated at Hadassah Medical Center in Ein Kerem, where he is listed in moderate condition.

Knesset advances bill forcing free Adelson-owned newspaper to charge readers

Fri, 11/14/2014 - 05:37

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli lawmakers in a preliminary vote approved a bill that would make free distribution of a major newspaper illegal.

The bill’s chief target is Israel Hayom, a free Israeli newspaper owned by American billionaire Sheldon Adelson. The bill passed its first reading by a vote of 43 to 23.

Sponsored by Labor party lawmaker Eitan Cabel, the bill will now be sent to a Knesset committee to be revised for its second and third Knesset plenum votes.

While the bill targets all newspapers that are distributed for free, it has been clear its intent is to force the Adelson-owned newspaper, which is considered to be a mouthpiece for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to charge customers. Founded in 2007, Israel Hayom is the only major free Israeli paper and recently became Israel’s most-read. The bill would mandate that Israel’s least-expensive major paper charge no less than 70 percent the price of its next-most-expensive competitor.

“This is a bill in favor of pluralism and multiple opinions,: Cabel told the lawmakers. ” It is a battle so that, in a few years, we do not become a country with only one newspaper. Sheldon Adelson wants to bury a market that is fighting for its life.

“Israel Hayom does not exist because of its success as a newspaper but because of the hundreds of millions in gambling funds that are funneled to it from overseas. Does anyone in this room honestly think that this is how a model for a normal newspaper looks? That this is how fair competition looks?”

Opponents of the bill, however, say it is a violation of democratic rights.

“What is this? Since when do parliaments close newspapers? Are we Bolsheviks?” asked Likud party lawmaker Moshe Feiglin, who has been the object of significant criticism in the newspaper.

CORRECTION: This brief has been changed from the version that appeared Friday to reflect that the bill would not shut down Israel Hayom but would force it to charge a price for the paper. The headline has been changed to reflect the change.

Israel sends medical shipments to fight Ebola

Fri, 11/14/2014 - 05:30

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel has sent medical shipments including mobile clinics to three African countries to help combat the spread of the Ebola virus.

The mobile field hospitals and medical cargo are expected to arrive by ship in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea in about a month. The equipment sent includes protective gear, a treatment cart and the full medical equipment required for setting up the clinics.

The project, known as Operation Hospitals of Hope, was overseen by MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for International Development, a department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The nonprofit Israeli organization SAREL provided the supplies and professional guidance, and the ministry paid for the mobile hospitals and to ship the containers.

Once the containers arrive in their designated countries, Israeli experts will travel to help local teams set up the clinics and get them running. Israeli NGOs also are recruiting doctors to help the local medical teams operate the clinics.

“Operation ‘Hospitals of Hope’ is an integral part of the vision of MASHAV and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel of helping nations in need, including nations without diplomatic relations with Israel. We have always done so in the past, and we are doing it again today,” MASHAV head Gil Haskel said.

 

Gaza war caused explosion of online hate speech in Europe, report finds

Fri, 11/14/2014 - 05:24

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (JTA) — The summer war between Israel and Hamas generated an explosion of online anti-Semitic hate speech in several European countries, an international watchdog reported.

The assertion came in a report on 10 European countries released Wednesday by the International Network Against Cyber Hate and the Paris-based International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism — or INACH and LICRA respectively.

In the Netherlands, the Complaints Bureau Discrimination Internet, or MDI, recorded more instances of online hate speech against Jews during the two-month conflict than during the entire six months that preceded it, revealed the report, which the groups presented in Berlin at a meeting on anti-Semitism organized by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, or OSCE.

More than half of the 143 expressions of anti-Semitism documented by MDI in July and August, when Israel was fighting Hamas in Gaza, contained incitements to violence against Jews, the report stated. Roughly three quarters of the complaints documented in that period occurred on social media.

In Britain, the Community Security Trust recorded 140 anti-Semitic incidents on social media from January to August, with more than half occurring in July alone.

And in Austria, the Forum against Antisemitism recorded 59 anti-Semitic incidents online during the conflagration of violence between Israel and Palestinians — of which 21 included incitements to violence — compared to only 14 incidents in the six months that preceded it.

The data on online anti-Semitic incidents corresponded with an increase in real-life assaults, LICRA and INACH wrote.

The report’s recommendations included a submission by the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism, which called for OSCE member states to adopt the “Working Definition of Anti-Semitism” that the European Union’s agency for combating xenophobia enacted in 2005 but later dropped. The definition includes references to the demonization of Israel.

CRIF: Recognizing ‘Palestine’ risks worsening anti-Semitism in France

Fri, 11/14/2014 - 04:41

(JTA) – CRIF, France’s federation of Jewish organizations and communities, said the submission to parliament of a draft motion favoring immediate recognition of a Palestinian state risks exacerbating anti-Semitic hatred.

CRIF urged French lawmakers to refrain from voting in favor of the motion, which a predominantly Socialist bloc this week submitted to a vote in the French lower house later this month. Last week, the French Green party advanced a similar initiative in the French Senate.

“In France, after the anti-Semitic riots this summer, this declaration will certainly not be interpreted as a peace initiative and risks exacerbating the anti-Semitic tensions which we saw last summer,” reads the CRIF statement on the planned vote, which is slated for Nov. 28.

CRIF rarely links France’s anti-Semitism problem to mainstream political parties’ policies on Israel.

From Jan. 1 to July 31, the SPCJ security service of the French Jewish community documented 527 anti-Semitic incidents compared to 276 in the same period of 2013. The increase was largely attributed to the targeting of Jews by Muslims and Arabs in response to Israel’s killing of hundreds of Palestinians in its summer war with Hamas in Gaza.

The French draft motion follows the adoption last month of a similar motion in Britain’s House of Commons and in Ireland’s upper house. Also last month, Swedish Prime Minister  Stefan Lofven said his country would recognize “Palestine.” Another draft motion was submitted to Spain’s congress for a vote later this month.

Israel maintains that Palestinian statehood should be recognized only after the two parties agree on the terms for establishing the future state, but negotiations between the parties are stuck.

Rising anti-Semitism threatens all of Europe, Samantha Power tells Berlin confab

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 16:55

(JTA) — Rising anti-Semitism in Europe threatens not only Jews but overall European values, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said at a conference on anti-Semitism in Berlin.

The event, which concluded Thursday, was organized by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to mark the 10th anniversary of the first OSCE conference on anti-Semitism and its concluding declaration, which underscored that political events in the Middle East were no excuse for hate crimes.

That admonition of 2004 remains relevant today, Power said, adding that “robust steps must be taken” to combat the problem.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s foreign minister, confirmed at the conference that “bold and brutal anti-Semitism has shown its ugly face again” in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

While noting it is the right of all citizens of a democracy to protest, Power, who headed the U.S. delegation to Berlin this week, said demonstrations in Europe “increasingly feature vicious anti-Semitic rhetoric and, in some instances, even transform into anti-Semitic mobs.”

If leaders do not act to ensure the safety of their citizens, “they will provide Hitler with a posthumous victory of a ‘Judenrein’ Europe,” Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director and a member of the U.S. delegation to the conference, said in a statement.

Power urged European leaders to appoint high-level envoys to focus on anti-Semitism; pass hate-crimes legislation, and vigorously pursue and prosecute perpetrators; and uphold the clear distinction between legitimate political protest and anti-Semitism.

“[A] Europe where anyone feels afraid or endangered because of the actions, beliefs or speech of a neighbor is a Europe where everyone’s rights are at risk,” Power said.

 

Hasidic family charged in $20 million fraud case

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 15:54

NEW YORK (JTA) — More than a dozen members of a prominent Satmar Hasidic family in New York were charged with lying to obtain $20 million in mortgages while also receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in public benefits.

Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and George Venizelos, the assistant director of the New York field office of the FBI, announced the indictments on Thursday charging 14 defendants with conspiracy to commit bank fraud related to mortgages on properties in three counties, two in New York City.

The indictment also charges several of the defendants with additional crimes, including making false statements to lenders, aggravated identity theft and theft of public money. Thirteen of the defendants were arrested Thursday and will be arraigned in federal court in White Plains, N.Y.

The defendants include real estate developer Irving Rubin, as well as his brothers, sons, wife and various in-laws. A real estate lawyer and real estate appraiser are also charged in the case.

“As alleged, the scheme carried out by the Rubins and others ripped off banks, welfare programs, and taxpayers,” Bharara said in a news release. “It ranged from 2004 to 2014, from Brooklyn to Harlem to Orange County, and the individuals involved alternately played the parts of prince or pauper, depending on which scam was being perpetrated.”

The defendants are accused of fraudulently obtaining more than $20 million in loan proceeds in connection with more than 20 fraudulent loans. The majority of the loans went into default and were not repaid.

According to the indictment, the family used the money for personal expenses, concealing the fraud and funding other real estate projects. At the same time that the defendants were representing to banks that they had substantial income and assets, the indictment alleges that they were also representing to state and local agencies that they had little or no income and assets and were entitled to receive public assistance including Medicaid, food stamps and Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) benefits.

Students for Justice in Palestine signs vandalized at Cornell

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 14:59

(JTA) — Signs critical of Israel posted by Students for Justice in Palestine on the Cornell campus were torn down several times.

SJP originally posted the signs on the school’s Arts Quad on the morning of Oct. 29, according to a report by Cornell’s student newspaper, the Daily Sun. Another student took down the signs later that morning, which led to a confrontation with SJP.

The student who removed the signs had been under the impression that the signs were not properly authorized by the university, the Daily Sun reported, though they were.

Reposted signs were removed or destroyed several times over the rest of the week until SJP gave up and took down the signs.

Palestinian teen planning Jerusalem attack arrested

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 14:45

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli police arrested a Palestinian teenager who admitted to planning to carry out a terror attack using a knife.

The 17-year-old from Ramallah, in the West Bank, said he planned to stab a driver or ride a bus to Jerusalem and stab the driver, causing the bus to have an accident that would result in the death or injury of more Israelis, The Jerusalem Post reported.

A search of the teen on Wednesday night near the Jewish settlement of Dolev had turned up a knife and screwdriver in his backpack, according to reports. The teen was waiting at a junction for a ride or bus to Jerusalem.

Also on Wednesday evening, the Israel Border Police arrested a 20-year-old Palestinian man with a combat knife as he tried to enter the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

 

Suspected Paris synagogue bomber can be extradited from Canada

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 13:41

TORONTO (JTA) — Canada’s Supreme Court declined to hear the case of the prime suspect in a deadly 1980 synagogue bombing in Paris, paving the way for his extradition to France.

The nation’s top court on Thursday did not give reasons for its refusal to hear the case of Hassan Diab, who was seeking to appeal lower court rulings that called for his extradition.

French authorities allege that Diab was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and took part in the bombing of the Rue Copernic synagogue that killed four and injured more than 40.

Diab, 60, a dual Lebanese and Canadian citizen, has repeatedly denied the allegations. He and lawyers appealed an extradition order charging that France’s reliance on secret information raised issues of constitutionality and procedural fairness in Canada.

French authorities also cite fingerprint and handwriting evidence against Diab.

In case before the Supreme Court, Canadian authorities had argued that it “raises no issue of public importance.”

In 2011, an Ontario judge upheld a French request for Diab’s extradition even though he said the case against him was weak. Since then, Diab has been living under house arrest. He had been working as sociology professor in Ottawa.

The lower court’s decision was upheld by Ontario’s Court of Appeal and the federal justice minister.

The high court’s ruling “sends an important message: that diligent, committed authorities will never cease in their pursuit of justice against terrorists on behalf of their victims,” the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said in a statement.

 

Metal detectors to scan Muslim visitors to Temple Mount ‘when necessary’

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 11:52

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli police will use metal detectors to scan Muslim worshippers going to the Temple Mount, Israel’s public security minister said.

The detectors will scan for guns and other weapons made out of metal, Yitzhak Aharonovich told Israel’s Channel 1 on Wednesday night.

Muslim worshippers have had free access to the site since 2000, when the use of detectors was discontinued. The Temple Mount has been the site of escalating violence of late.

“We’ll use them when necessary,” Aharonovich said. “Any suspect will be inspected. For crowds we’ll use cameras — we’ll increase the supervision of people entering the compound, both Jews and Muslims.”

He said that a facial-recognition surveillance system also would be installed.

Aharonovich also said that he would prevent Jewish lawmakers and other Jewish visitors from going to the Temple Mount when necessary to prevent tension or rioting.

“Those who want to make things hotter on the Temple Mount, from the right or the left, be it the Islamic Movement, Fatah or Israeli rightist movements, including lawmakers, we have the authority to prevent them from going,” he said.

During a police ceremony in Jerusalem on Thursday, Aharonovich vowed to restore calm to the Temple Mount, as riots continued to flare in eastern Jerusalem.

“The Temple Mount is the focus. There will be no compromise on the Temple Mount, and we will preserve the status quo,” he said. “We won’t allow this or that extremist to change the status quo. We will restore quiet and a sense of security. There’s no other way. We will be victorious in this campaign.”

Budapest Jewish head alleges shortfall in Dohany ticket sales

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 09:56

(JTA) — The head of Budapest’s Jewish community said he filed a complaint with police alleging fraud and embezzlement at the historic Dohany Street Synagogue.

David Schwezoff told the Hungarian media last week that the community was at least $400,000 short in ticket revenues from visitors to the synagogue, the Nepszava newspaper reported Monday.

The president of the Mazsihisz Jewish federation, a Hungarian umbrella organization with which the Budapest community is affiliated, disputed the charge.

The revenue collected from ticket sales from the past two years was $1.21 million, Nepszava reported.

Last month, Schwezoff canceled the community’s contract with the firm responsible for collecting entrance fees to the community-owned synagogue, according to the paper.

It was unclear who Schwezoff accused of graft in the complaint, which has not been made public. Schwezoff and the community’s spokesman, Balazs Csaszar, were unavailable for comment.

Andras Heisler, the president of Mazsihisz, in disputing Schwezoff’s allegations claimed that ticket revenues will be approximately $2 million.

In an interview with Nepszava, Heisler accused Schwezoff of “running amok and compromising the Jewish community’s honor.” Heisler told JTA on Thursday that Schwezoff, who was elected president of his community last month, was “not competent as a Jewish leader due to his current actions.” He declined to make any further comment on Schwezoff.

In a radio interview Wednesday, Heisler warned that Schwezoff’s actions could jeopardize the popular Jewish Summer Festival of Budapest because it has been organized for the past decade by the owner of the company that collected fees to the synagogue. Schwezoff removed the owner, Vera Vadas, from the positions on Oct. 31.

Schwezoff told the Heti Valasz weekly that Heisler treats him “as an enemy” partly because Schwezoff, who was not born Jewish, was photographed several years ago while wearing women’s clothes at a drag club.

“Mr. Schwezoff had a colorful life in the past,” Csaszar told JTA last month, adding that Schwezoff “made a 180-degree turn” and “has been living according to the Torah, keeping Shabbat and kosher.”

Kerry to meet with Jordan’s Abdullah, Netanyahu in Amman

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 09:53

JERUSALEM (JTA) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will hold a previously unannounced meeting in Amman with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Thursday evening meeting “will focus on ways to restore calm and de-escalate tensions in Jerusalem,” State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a tweet.

The Prime Minister’s Office reportedly would not comment on the meeting, though the palace in Jordan announced that it would take place.

Kerry met earlier Thursday in Amman with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, where they were expected to discuss the heightened tensions in Jerusalem and on the Temple Mount there, as well as the prospects for restarting peace negotiations.

Abdullah and Abbas met Wednesday at the palace, during which Abdullah offered his “total rejection” of Israel’s “repeated aggressions and provocations in Jerusalem,” according to a palace statement reported by the AFP.

Kerry canceled a visit to the United Arab Emirates on Friday to participate in the Sir Bani Yas Forum, an annual gathering of world leaders and thinkers discussing peace and security issues.

Argentine conference looks at Israel as model of start-up development

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 08:37

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — An Argentine municipality hosted a conference with Israel as its model for start-up development.

On Tuesday, the Israeli flag was flying over the Vicente Lopez district for a conference titled “Start-up Nation: Israel as a paradigm of the entrepreneurship ecosystem.”

The municipality, with a population of some 271,000, is located about 12 miles north of Buenos Aires City and is part of the Buenos Aires province.

More than 60 businesspeople heard from a panel of Argentine and Israelis presenters about Israel’s model to develop start-ups.

“The Israeli model has a lot to bring to our society, the panel was inspiring for our entrepreneurs and we want to improve the institutional links with Israel,” Eduardo Vinales, general director of economic development for Vicente Lopez, told JTA. “After this success, we want to continue showing here the Israeli model in order to transfer to Vicente Lopez Israeli methodologies and experiences.

“Argentinians and Israelis share a basic personality trait, which is the ability to challenge the limits and think we are capable of achieving great things without fear of failure,” he said.

Portland Jewish community shaken by murder-suicide

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 07:37

(JTA) — A murder-suicide in Portland, Ore., has left two Jewish day school students orphaned.

Portland police said that Ian Elias, 47, killed his ex-wife, Nicolette Elias, 46, at her home and then fled across town with his two daughters, ages 8 and 9, the Oregonian newspaper reported Tuesday. After a confrontation with police, Ian Elias shot and killed himself. The daughters, who attend the Portland Jewish Academy, were recovered unharmed.

The girls  are staying with close family friends, who are acting as guardians for the state, which took temporary custody of them.

The day school brought in counselors and rabbis to speak to staff on Tuesday, and additional counselors for students on Wednesday.

The Oregonian reported that Ian Elias had a long history of mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, and erratic, abusive behavior. His ex-wife had obtained restraining and stalking orders against him, and the Portland Jewish Academy and Mittelman Jewish Community Center also had obtained orders to keep him off their properties.

The day school had hired extra security to provide protection against Ian Elias.

In a court filing in January, Nicolette Elias described her ex-husband as “obsessed with his collection of guns and weapons,” the Oregonian also reported.

Ian Elias had spent 15 months in Israel to attend a rehabilitation program and subsequently stayed to study in a yeshiva. His mother told the Oregonian that her son was bipolar, but that he refused to follow his court-ordered treatment regimen.

German envoy to visit Dutch cemetery with SS soldiers’ graves

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 06:56

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (JTA) — Germany’s ambassador to the Netherlands is slated to attend a commemoration at a cemetery where many SS soldiers are buried.

Franz Josef Kremp is scheduled to attend the Nov. 16 ceremony at the Ysselsteyn cemetery near Eindhoven in the eastern Netherlands, a cemetery for victims of World War II. He is aware that it contains the remains of SS soldiers, according to a report Wednesday by the Dutch De Telegraaf daily.

“I think this is an affront,” Herman Loonstein, founder of the Federative Jewish Netherlands group, told the daily. “Mr. Kremp should not be presenting SS soldiers as victims. Jews were the victims.”

Loonstein is a Jewish activist against commemoration in the Netherlands of Nazis and soldiers who fought for Germany.

De Telegraaf reported that it had obtained a letter written by Kremp about the Ysselsteyn cemetery — where neo-Nazis have gathered in the past to honor Nazi soldiers buried there — in which he stated, “Among the dead resting here are German and Dutch war casualties, including Waffen SS.” The report did not say to whom the letter was addressed and in what context.

The Waffen SS was an elite Nazi unit whose men are responsible for the murder of countless Jews during the Holocaust.

Holland, which saw heavy battles between soldiers fighting for Nazi Germany and Allied forces, has many cemeteries where combatants from both camps are buried.

In recent years, Jewish groups like Loonstein’s have protested an emerging trend in which commemorations are extended not only to the Allied forces’ casualties and Holocaust victims, but also to the German soldiers. Organizers of such events have justified them as promoting reconciliation.

The Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, the Jewish community’s watchdog on anti-Semitism, has criticized the practice, warning it blurs the line between victim and perpetrator.

Israel bars U.N. investigators of Gaza operation

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 06:28

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel denied entry to members of a commission appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate possible war crimes committed during Israel’s Gaza operation this summer.

Israel on Wednesday did not permit the so-called Schabas Commission to enter Israel from Jordan, then announced it would not cooperate with the investigation.

In July, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the council for choosing to investigate Israel rather than nearby crisis zones such as Iraq or Syria, and implied he would not cooperate with U.N. investigators. The operation was ongoing at the time.

The Human Rights Council moved that month to establish a commission of inquiry “to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” while Operation Protective Edge was still going on.

The commission is named for William Schabas, a Canadian-born professor of international law at Middlesex University in London. Schabas said in an Aug. 12 interview with Israel’s Channel 2 that it would be “inappropriate” to assert that Hamas is a terrorist organization. Last year, Schabas said that Netanyahu would be his “favorite” leader to see tried by the International Criminal Court.

Following the end of the last Gaza conflict, in early 2009, Israel refused to cooperate with a U.N. investigation led by the South African jurist Richard Goldstone. The probe, dubbed the Goldstone Report, alleged that Israel had intentionally targeted civilians, though Goldstone later personally retracted the allegation. Israel rejected the original report as inaccurate and biased.

Arafat’s widow calls for talks rather than armed struggle

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 06:25

(JTA) — The widow of Yasser Arafat denounced violence and accused Hamas of “genocide” in the Gaza Strip on the 10th anniversary of the Palestinian leader’s death.

In an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Suha Arafat argued that the Palestinians’ best hope lies in negotiation rather than armed struggle. She said that the unequal strengths of the Israelis and Palestinians would lead to the Palestinians being crushed in an armed fight, while negotiations would expose Israel’s unwillingness to make peace.

Arafat, who lives in Malta, said she was pleased that Switzerland has recently recognized the state of Palestine and urged Italy to do the same.

She accused Hamas, which canceled a celebration in Gaza this week in memory of her husband, of taking the people of Gaza hostage and argued that the current desperate conditions in the territory amount to genocide. Arafat also said that the current generation of young Palestinians growing up in Gaza, with only violence and no education, have no hope but emigration.

Arafat, who has been accused of embezzling from the Palestinian government, said she has no plans to return to the West Bank or Gaza.