JNS news briefs: October 22, 2012
Emir of Qatar to visit Gaza, raising geopolitical concerns
(JNS.org) The emir of pro-Western Qatar is set to become the first head of state to visit Gaza Strip, raising serious geopolitical concerns over the future direction of the Hamas-dominated Palestinian enclave.
According to Israel Hayom, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani is officially visiting the Palestinian enclave to inaugurate reconstruction projects worth over $250 million.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh issued a statement confirming the visit and urging “our people to express their good hospitality in welcoming the great visitor of Gaza.”
Israel and the West consider Hamas to be a terrorist organization. Hamas has largely remained isolated by the international community over its refusal to recognize Israel and renounce violence.
Palestinian officials in the Fatah-ruled West Bank, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, were “very disappointed” with the emir’s decision to visit Gaza without their consultation or support.
“The visit does not serve the unity of the Palestinian territories, the people and the political system. On the contrary, the visit poses a threat to unity and our political system,” said Palestinian political analyst Adel Abdel Rahman, who is affiliated with Fatah.
The visit of the emir from a major Sunni Muslim Gulf State could also represent a major geopolitical change for Hamas. For years, Hamas relied on weapons and aid from Shi’a Muslim Iran and its ally Bashar al-Assad in Syria—bonded by their mutual hatred for Israel. However, many Sunni Gulf leaders fear the growing threat of Iran’s nuclear program and support the anti-Assad rebels in Syria. Hamas may be turning to the Gulf States for support as the fortunes of Iran and Syria decline.
Swedish court upholds religious freedom in Chabad case
(JNS.org) A Swedish appellate court has upheld the right for Chabad-Lubavitch representatives to homeschool their children in accordance with their religious faith, overturning a previous Swedish law that prohibits religion as a motive for homeschooling.
The case originated with last year when Gothenburg city authorities began fining the Namdar family until they enrolled their children in Swedish public schools.
In a nine-page unanimous verdict, the court ruled that the “government is deciding that the recent change to the law [that religion is not regarded as a valid reason] cannot stand in contravention to Sweden’s international obligation.”
“I’m grateful to G-d for the insight and sensitivity of the judges,” said Rabbi Alexander Namdar.
In a statement responding to the ruling, Chabad-Lubavitch Executive Director Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky also praised the decision: “The court’s decision, confirming that Sweden will uphold the fundamental values of religious freedom and human rights of citizens, could have far-reaching ramifications. It is a manifestation of the responsibility of government to protect and cherish these values so vital to life and society.”
According to a Swedish politician behind the original law, the law was created to protect immigrant children who were being denied an education by their family for religious reason.
Report: Brooklyn café charges customers with Orthodox garb $25 to sit at bar
(JNS.org) The River Café in Brooklyn charges Jews with Orthodox clothing or hairstyles a $25 minimum to sit at the bar, a fee that does not apply to other customers, two employees of the establishment told the New York Post.
An instruction manual given to café hosts says “if two religious Jews come in, we call ahead to the maître d’ and say, ‘Is there space for two at the water bar?’—in which case a minimum of $25 will be enforced that is just for Jews wearing yarmulkes or any sort of religious hat,” one employee said.
The waterfront café is not kosher but is often a site where Brooklyn Jews meet on dates, according to the Post. The employees—one current, one former—told the newspaper that the maître d’ informs the head waiter through a code when customers wearing a kippah or other form of Jewish garb express interest in sitting at the bar.
7 rockets, mortars hit Israel in latest firing from Gaza
(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) Seven Qassam rockets and mortar shells were fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip on Monday morning, causing no injuries or damage, Israel Radio reported.
Two Palestinian terrorists were reportedly killed on Monday morning in the northern Gaza Strip as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) responded to the latest Palestinian firing.
Israeli soldiers conducting routine operations along the Gaza border fence came under mortar fire in the morning hours, prompting return fire, an IDF spokesperson said.
The Israel Air Force also targeted two rocket-launching squads, from Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), in northern Gaza over the course of the morning.
Citing local Palestinian officials, Reuters reported that two Palestinian terrorists were killed in Gaza. Hamas claimed one of the dead as its own, and the other was not immediately identified. Several other Palestinians were wounded in the strikes as well, Palestinian sources told news agencies.
After EU targets Gilo, Netanyahu says no restrictions on building in Jerusalem
(JNS.org) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the European Union’s condemnation of Israel’s plan to build 800 new housing units in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo by affirming that the Jewish state would not “impose any restrictions on housing projects in our capital.”
Gilo is located beyoned the 1949 Green Line in the southern portion of eastern Jerusalem, and was land won by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. Some 40,000 Jews live there. On Oct. 19, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she “deeply regrets” Israel’s plans to construct new housing there.
“Settlements are illegal under international law and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible,” she said.
Netanyahu, however, explained the following Sunday: “Just as [they] build in London, Paris, Washington and Moscow, we build in Jerusalem, and our bond with our capital is as ancient and as powerful [as other countries' ties to their own capitals].”
Last year, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel said plans to build additional housing units in Gilo cast doubt on Israel’s willingness to seek peace, Netanyahu responded that Gilo “is not a settlement.”
“It’s a neighborhood in Jerusalem that is only a few minutes’ drive from my home and my office in central Jerusalem,” he said at the time. “I will not accept any demand to stop building in Jerusalem. We have always built there and will continue to do so.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said EU’s inappropriately interfered with Israel’s domestic affairs by condemning building in Gilo.
Uncertainty over report that U.S. agrees to direct talks with Iran
(JNS.org) The U.S. and Iran have agreed for the first time to one-on-one negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, the New York Times reported Saturday, citing Obama administration officials.
The White House denied the report.
“It’s not true that the United States and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after the American elections,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement issued by the White House.
Israeli officials were initially surprised by the report and voiced concerns over the Iranians using negotiations as a ploy to further enhance its nuclear program.
“We hope that this [report] is unsubstantiated,’” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Army Radio. “I want to believe the denial issued by the White House; they have a lot of experience. The negotiations with Iran did not begin yesterday, and not the day before. There are 10 years of cumulative experience and the Iranians have deceived the Security Council and the P5+1 time and time again.”
The Obama administration in the past has been open to the idea of direct talks with Iran. However, so far the offers have been rebuked. Many analysts believe that hardliners within the Iranian government would be unwilling to sit down with a country they have long demonized as the “Great Satan.” Nevertheless, recent sanctions have hit the Iranians hard—its currency has plummeted over 40 percent in the last couple of weeks.
Israeli Navy boards Gaza-bound ship without incident
(JNS.org) The Israeli Navy intercepted and boarded the Gaza-bound ship Estelle in international waters on Saturday without incident.
The Finnish-flagged, Swedish-owned ship set sail from Naples, Italy on Oct. 7 with about 30 people from eight countries, including Israeli activists.
After an initial search of the vessel, an Israel Defense Forces spokesman said that no humanitarian aid was found onboard, according to Israel Hayom. Instead they found toys for children and a large amount of cement. Israel maintains an air, sea and land blockade of Gaza to prevent weapons smuggling to the terrorist group Hamas.
Commenting on the ship, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “People aboard the ship were aware of the fact that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Their sole purpose was to create a provocation and denigrate Israel’s image. If human rights was truly important to those activists, they would have sailed to Syria instead.”
The peaceful interception of the latest Gaza-bound ship is a stark departure from the May 2010 Gaza Flotilla incident, when violent activists ambushed Israeli commandoes aboard a Turkish ship named the “Mavi Marmara.”
New Arab party to address Arab Israelis rather than Palestinians
(JNS.org) Arab public officials and activists have been working recently to establish a political party that will focus on Arab communities in Israel and their relationships with the government, rather than on promoting Palestinian nationalism.
The party’s platform will be unlike the platforms of other existing Arab parties, such as the National Democratic Assembly, Ra’am-Ta’al and Hadash, which concentrate their efforts mainly on the rights of Palestinians in the territories and criticizing Israel.
Senior Arab figures recently met with the council that heads the fledgling party to discuss the party’s platform, including issues of housing and employment that young Arab couples living in Israel face on a daily basis, and the rising rate of unemployment among the general Arab-Israeli populace.
“[Current] Arab MKs are interested only in matters pertaining to the Palestinians and events in Arab countries,” an Arab community representative and member of the new party’s council told Israel Hayom. “Officials elected by the public to the Knesset are more often found outside the country than in the streets of Arab villages and cities in Israel, and it’s time we changed that.”
Israeli cyclist attempts to complete 3,000-mile ride for cancer research
(JNS.org) Tom Pelad, a 24-year-old Israeli student, along with a group of friends and supporters, is set to complete a 3,000-mile bike journey across America to raise money and awareness for cancer research in Israel.
Pelad’s journey, which began in August in Los Angeles and ending in New York, is part of a new organization he started called Bike for the Fight (BFF)in response to the death of his father, Ramy Pelad, at age 58 from a rare form of cancer.
“Exactly one year ago, I started this process,” Pelad told the Times of Israel. “I had no business background, no college degree, no money. I didn’t know with who, what, or when I would do this; I only had the why. I wanted to make something negative into a positive.”
Beginning with a small group of friends, Pelad’s concept took off after he was introduced to Eric Heffler, the executive director of Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF), a non-profit supporting cancer research in Israel. With ICRF’s help, Pelad has stopped at various locations and partners with local Jewish and non-Jewish organizations. He has also been promoting a positive message about Israel.
“I’m supporting something that makes Israel so special: technology, science, research,” Pelad said.
So far, Pelad has raised $80,000 and expects to receive $100,000 by the end of his ride.
Israel critic Noam Chomsky attends Islamic University conference in Gaza
(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) Noam Chomsky, a Jewish professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a consistent critic of U.S. and Israeli policies, visited the Gaza Strip on Oct. 18 and attended a conference at the Islamic University.
Chomsky, 83, known for his pro-Palestinian views, has consistently called on Israel to end its naval blockade of Gaza. According to French news agency AFP, Chomsky was quoted by Jamal al-Khudari, a member of Gaza’s legislative council and head of the university’s administrative board, as saying “The Palestinian people have a right to live peacefully and in freedom.”
AFP reported that Palestinian television broadcast comments by Chomsky. The aging professor reportedly described his travel to Hamas-ruled territory and said, “Our trip to Gaza was very difficult, but we arrived here and I saw several things which I hoped before to see.”
Chomsky, who lived on a kibbutz in Israel in the 1950s, has been an outspoken critic of the way the Jewish state was established in 1948 and supports a two-state solution.
‘Anti-Israel’ prof no longer listed as Northeastern Jewish Studies faculty member
(JNS.org) A Northeastern University professor has been removed from the faculty list of the school’s Jewish Studies Department following the release of a video by Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT) revealing the anti-Israel measures he took in the classroom.
Prof. Denis Sullivan—whose name was previously listed as a Jewish Studies faculty member on the department’s webpage, and is now no longer on that page—remains the head of the Boston-based school’s Middle East Center, according to APT President Charles Jacobs.
“This makes four staffers at Northeastern who have been dismissed or have had their positions shifted in the wake of our video exposes,” Jacobs said.
Both Sullivan and Northeastern’s media relations department did not return requests from JNS.org.
Students who take Sullivan’s classes “tell me all the time about the incredible bias that he has, and Denis Sullivan will disagree with them and give them a bad grade because of it,” Jason Pressburg, former director of Israel Programs at Northeastern Hillel, said on the APT video. Pressburg said Sullivan is “vehemently anti-Israel” but “claims to be unbiased.”
One of the readings for Sullivan’s course, as displayed on the video, is “Al Haq Position Paper: Sixty Years of Nakba: Israel’s Continued Policy of Forcible Displacement.” Other readings listed in his syllabi include “How Israel Brought Gaza to the Brink of Humanitarian Catastrophe,” “Israel’s Lies,” “Human Rights in Palestinine and Other Occupied Arab Territories,” and John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s “The Israel Lobby.” In 2009, he took his students to the Cairo office of the Arab League.
Jacobs wrote in an op-ed that Sullivan’s “lectures, syllabi, curricula, and invited guests are shown on our video to be clearly designed to poison the minds of students against the Jewish state.”
The APT video including the information on Sullivan, as well as other APT videos on campus anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, is available to view at www.shameonneu.com.
U.S. philanthropist to fight heart disease with Hadassah in Israel
(JNS.org) Irene Pollin—founder and chairman of Sister to Sister and widow of the late Washington, DC-area professional sports team owner Abe Pollin—has donated $10 million to Hadassah Medical Organization to establish the Linda Joy Pollin Cardiovascular Wellness Institute in Jerusalem, intended to help women combat heart disease. Pollin’s granddaughter presented the donation Oct. 18 at Hadassah’s centennial commemoration ceremony.
“Since founding Sister to Sister in Washington, D.C., I have longed to find a place outside of the United States to establish a heart disease prevention program geared toward women…Partnering with Hadassah is an obvious extension of the work we’ve been doing, of the gimmick-free, prevention-focused work that has made Sister to Sister unique. Given Hadassah’s 100 years of experience helping women of all backgrounds take better care of themselves, I could not think of a better way to reach out to our sisters across the globe than establishing the Linda Joy Pollin Institute at Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem. Heart disease knows no boundaries, and neither will we,” Pollin said.
Marcie Natan, National President of Hadassah, said “The work and treatment that will be undertaken at Hadassah Medical Organization will be critical in contributing to preventing heart disease, and the data the program will collect will be used in Israel and throughout the United States. The historical and ongoing role of Hadassah is to bring healing to people of all backgrounds.”
Preceding provided by JNS.org and reprinted with permission
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