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Congress tackles the anti-Israel boycott, but bipartisanship is fleeting

Fri, 2019-07-19 20:06

WASHINGTON (JTA) — On Wednesday, the Foreign Affairs committee in the Democratic-led House unanimously condemned the boycott Israel movement. On Thursday, the leader of the Republican-led Senate said it wasn’t enough, even if the full U.S. House of Representatives approved the bill.

Israel, BDS and Jews are not going away this election season.

Republicans and Democrats joined for a fleeting moment in celebrating the unanimous passage Wednesday of a non-binding resolution condemning the movement to boycott, divest and sanction Israel. It now goes to the House floor.

“I am deeply proud that more than three-quarters of my House colleagues, with overwhelming majorities of both parties, have co-sponsored my resolution making clear that Congress supports a strong US-Israel relationship, is committed to achieving a negotiated two-state solution, and forcefully condemns the Global BDS Movement,” Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., who led sponsorship of the non-binding resolution with Reps. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y. and Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., said in a statement after the resolution advanced.

Also advanced in committee was a bill that would codify into law the $3.8 billion in defense assistance to Israel pledged by President Barack Obama in 2016, in his final months in office.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee was elated. “AIPAC applauds the House Foreign Affairs Committee for adopting a pro-Israel resolution that rejects the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel and a bill that authorizes security assistance to the Jewish state,” it said.

Indeed, the bills were manna for AIPAC, a throwback to the good old days when bipartisanship was the hallmark of pro-Israel endeavors. The BDS resolution was the baby bear of bills: It condemned BDS, but also upheld the right to boycott — a number of Democrats have balked at separate legislation that penalizes Israel boycotts, saying that would infringe speech freedoms.

It also, as Schneider noted, reintroduces into the diplomatic lingo “two-state solution,” the path favored by much of the organized Jewish community, including AIPAC, but which has been abandoned by the governments of President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It too was bipartisan.

The good vibrations didn’t last. On Thursday, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the majority leader in the U.S. Senate was attacking the House for not advancing a bill the Senate has approved that protects states that penalize businesses and contractors who boycott Israel.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., does not want to create an ugly fight in her caucus between Democrats who would back the bill, S. 1, and those who cite civil liberties groups who say it violates the First Amendment.

“What a sad and bizarre situation we find in the House,” McConnell said Thursday on the Senate floor. “I urge the Speaker of the House to do the right thing. Don’t let these far-left voices run the show. At long last, bring S. 1 up for a vote — the comprehensive legislation that sailed through the Senate with 77 votes. Bring it up for a vote, Madam Speaker. Let them vote. I bet we would see a pretty good outcome and show anti-Semitism the door.”

McConnell said BDS is “an economic form of anti-Semitism that targets Israel.”

The other bill that sailed through the House committee, backed by Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., the chairman of committee’s Middle East subcommittee, codifying defense assistance to Israel, is a component of S. 1. Pelosi and Deutch separated it out of S. 1 when that bill came to the House, and are pushing it in part in a bid to deflect criticism that Democrats are distancing themselves from Israel.

McConnell also referred to a House resolution condemning anti-Semitism that passed earlier this year; the resolution, sparked by anti-Semitic tropes peddled by Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. (she apologized for some of them), ended up also condemning Islamophobia at the behest of Omar’s left-wing colleagues, who said she had become a target for hateful attacks because of her faith.

“All the while, Senate-passed legislation that would actually do something about anti-Semitism has been languishing over in the House without a vote,” he said.

Omar separately joined Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. and Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a civil rights icon who is close to the Jewish and pro-Israel communities, in introducing a nonbinding resolution that would uphold the rights of Americans to boycott.

Omar, who with Tlaib backs BDS, likely is advancing the bill in order to protect the right to boycott Israel, among others, but the resolution does not mention Israel. Lewis’ backing is rooted in the days during the 1960s civil rights struggles, which included boycotts of businesses that discriminated against African Americans. The bill cites past American boycotts of prewar Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan as well as the boycott of Apartheid South Africa.

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Critics hear anti-Semitic dog whistles in a Republican senator’s speech on ‘cosmopolitan elites’

Fri, 2019-07-19 19:04

(JTA) — Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., gave a speech condemning “cosmopolitan elites” and their plan to weaken America through their international network and their control of big business.

Hawley made the remarks Thursday at the National Conservatism Conference in Washington, D.C., a gathering of nationalist thinkers organized by Yoram Hazony, an American-Israeli professor.

Aside from referring to Jesus as a “Jewish rabbi,” he didn’t mention the Jews by name in the speech. But critics of the speech found parallels to the use of the term “rootless cosmopolitan,” an anti-Semitic smear popularized by Joseph Stalin in the mid-20th century. Nazis also used “cosmopolitan” as an anti-Semitic term.

Said Hawley, “For years the politics of both Left and Right have been informed by a political consensus that reflects the interests not of the American middle, but of a powerful upper class and their cosmopolitan priorities. This class lives in the United States, but they identify as ‘citizens of the world.’ They run businesses or oversee universities here, but their primary loyalty is to the global community.”

Critics said the languages echoes charges that Jews form an elite class and are only loyal to each other, rather than being true citizens of the countries they live in.

“If you’re Jewish and the use of ‘cosmopolitan’ doesn’t scare you, read some history,” wrote liberal New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who is Jewish.

Jeffrey Goldberg, the Jewish editor in chief of the Atlantic, tweeted wryly that “Rootlessness is also a cause for concern.”

Hawley denies that the speech is problematic. In response to a tweet criticizing the speech, he wrote that “The liberal language police have lost their minds.”

In another tweet he writes that he’s using the term “cosmopolitan” as it was used by Martha Nussbaum, whom he quoted in the speech: “the cosmopolitan [is] the person whose primary allegiance is to the community of human beings in the entire world,” not to a “specifically American identity.”

Nussbaum, Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, declined to comment specifically on Hawley’s speech.

But she told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “Cosmopolitanism, as I argue, is a ‘noble but flawed ideal.’ But quite apart from that, I do think that the label has often been attached to Jews in order to imply that they are not loyal citizens of the nation they are in, and that this was and is profoundly wrong.”

Hazony, who organized the conference, also defended the term. He listed a number of academic books that use the term in their titles to discuss globalization or multiculturalism, and are not anti-Semitic.

“Sorry but ‘cosmopolitan’ is a normal term in political theory, history and other academic disciplines,” he tweeted. “It means ‘citizen of the world’ and has no anti-Jewish valence. @HawleyMO used it correctly in his National Conservatism speech.”

Hawley’s main message was that America needs to refocus on nationalism rather than economic and cultural systems that prioritize globalization and multinational corporations, and that lead to the erosion of national cultures. It’s an idea that’s been echoed by President Donald Trump (who uses the term “globalists”) as well as his current and former advisors Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, who is Jewish.

Hawley said his main goal is to “renew the way of life on which our republic depends, to renew the great American middle who make our republic possible, to renew our common venture in freedom.”

Hawley cites four academics he says support cosmopolitanism. Three of them are Jewish: MIT Professor Leo Marx, Richard Sennett of the London School of Economics, and Nussbaum. The fourth is the late University of Chicago Professor Lloyd Rudolph.

Hawley adds that cosmopolitans dislike the shared institutions of American society, like the church.

“The cosmopolitan elite look down on the common affections that once bound this nation together: things like place and national feeling and religious faith,” he said. “They regard our inherited traditions as oppressive and our shared institutions — like family and neighborhood and church — as backwards.”

Later in the speech, Hawley said that the U.S. government should not “promote Christianity or any religion.” But he also said  the government should not “hinder or diminish religious expression.”

And he said that America’s history as a nation “began 2,000 years ago, when the proud traditions of the self-governing city-states met the radical claims of a Jewish rabbi, who taught that the call of God comes to every person.” He appears to be talking about Jesus.

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Rabbinical Council of America condemns racism at ‘highest levels of government’

Fri, 2019-07-19 17:55

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America said it “condemns the most recent outburst of racist rhetoric in the highest levels of government,” an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s call on four Democratic congresswomen to “go back” to unspecified countries.

The statement Thursday also alluded to statements by two of the congresswoman Trump has named, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, that have insinuated dual loyalties by advocates for Israel. Omar has apologized for some, but not all, of her controversial statements.

The other two targets of Trump’s ire are Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

“Whether statements that question the loyalty of American Jews when the safety and security of Israel is at stake or rallies that call upon descendants of immigrants to return to countries they never knew, we see these pronouncements as dangerous to the core values of our faith and the foundations of American society,” the statement said.

The statement’s tough tone was unusual for a body representing a segment of the community that has embraced Trump for aligning his policies with those of the Israeli government led by Benjamin Netanyahu, particularly in moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Centrist and leftist Jewish groups have also slammed Trump for his attacks on the congresswomen.

“The lack of civil discourse, the racist and xenophobic chants at political rallies, and rise of fringe hate groups all demand that we take a stand for goodness and respect,” RCA Vice President Rabbi Binyamin Blau said in the statement.

Trump in a tweet this week said the four congresswomen should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.” Omar was born in Somalia; the other three are born in the United States, and what “places” Trump was referring to is not clear.

At a rally Wednesday night in North Carolina, Trump supporters chanted “send her back” repeatedly when Trump attacked Omar.

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Ohio man gets 30 months in prison for attacking man he thought was Jewish

Fri, 2019-07-19 17:34

(JTA) — An Ohio man was sentenced to 30 months in prison for attacking someone he believed to be Jewish.

Izmir Koch, of the Dayton suburb of Huber Heights, was sentenced last week for attacking Paul Marshall outside a Cincinnati-area restaurant in 2017. He was charged with committing a hate crime and lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Koch, 34, was standing outside a restaurant asking people if they were Jewish. Though Marshall is not Jewish he answered in the affirmative when asked. Koch then beat him up, causing injuries to his ribs and a fracture of the orbital floor, the bottom portion of his eye socket.

The assailant, who is originally from Turkey, was indicted and convicted last year.

Todd Wickerham, a special agent leading the FBI’s office in Cincinnati, said the bureau sought a stiff sentence, Cleveland Jewish News reported.

“We just think the impact of someone being assaulted because of their religious preferences or their background is so impactful in the community that we want to take these cases on to make sure the penalties … really fit the impact of this,” Wickerham said. 

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Trump administration offers $7m for information leading to the arrest of AMIA bombing suspect

Fri, 2019-07-19 17:25

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Trump administration is offering up to $7 million for information leading to the arrest of a Hezbollah operative believed to have helped engineer the mass killing at a Buenos Aires Jewish community center 25 years ago.

The reward offer posted Friday by the State Department was timed to mark the anniversary of the July 18, 1994 bombing of AMIA, which killed 85 people and wounded more than 300.

It identifies Salman Raouf Salman, also known as Samuel Salman El Reda, as a “key leader” of the Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist militia. El Reda is also one of nine suspects in the AMIA bombing still subject to an Interpol red notice, or warrant. The other eight are Iranians.

Argentina and the United States convened a ministerial summit on terrorism this week to mark the AMIA bombing, and both have expressed frustration that the nine suspects are still free to travel, despite the Interpol warrants. A massive reward would inhibit the freedoms a suspect like El Reda now enjoys.

Israeli intelligence has identified Al Reda, a dual Colombian-Lebanese citizen, as the on-the-ground coordinator of the attack, according to Matthew Levitt, the director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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Israel won’t block Omar and Tlaib from entering country, says envoy

Fri, 2019-07-19 16:55

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israel will not deny entry to any member of Congress, its Washington envoy said.

Ron Dermer responded Friday to speculation about whether two congresswomen who back the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement targeting Israel would be allowed to enter.

“Out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America, we would not deny entry to any member of Congress into Israel,” Ron Dermer said in a message his spokesman sent to reporters via WhatsApp.

Israel in recent years passed a law reserving the right to deny entry to advocates of Israel boycotts. Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., both back BDS, and both have suggested that they plan to visit Israel this summer.

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Trump makes his week of ‘send them back’ about the Jews. Few Jews are happy.

Fri, 2019-07-19 15:37

WASHINGTON (JTA) — It’s been dislocating, even dizzying, witnessing the devolution of President Donald Trump’s argument with four of his fiercest congressional critics, none of whom are Jewish, into an argument about… what Jews want.

Over and over since Monday’s tweet saying that that the Democratic congresswomen should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came,” Trump has defended himself by calling the lawmakers and their party anti-Israel and anti-Semitic. In turn, Jews — including many who share Trump’s contempt for some of the women — appear to be asking the president to leave them out of it.

Immediately after his tweets, Democrats and a handful of Republicans called them racist. The House passed a resolution Tuesday calling them racist, with every Democrat and four Republicans voting yea. Major media stopped used wiggle words like “racially charged” and bluntly called his tweets racist.

In a flurry of subsequent tweets, press gaggles and at a rally in North Carolina, Trump pushed back, saying the congresswomen “hated” Israel and Jews, and also quoted Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., as saying the congresswomen were anti-Semitic.

(On Wednesday he identified the freshman lawmakers: Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. All but Omar were born here; all are women of color.)

“When will the Radical Left Congresswomen apologize to our Country, the people of Israel and even to the Office of the President, for the foul language they have used, and the terrible things they have said,” wrote Trump. “I can tell you that they have made Israel feel abandoned by the U.S.”

The four, who call themselves “The Squad,” have diverse opinions about Israel: Tlaib, a Palestinian-American, wants a binational state. Omar is a harsh critic but supports two states. Tlaib and Omar back boycotts, Pressley opposes them and Ocasio-Cortez has not made her views clear on the issue.

Both Omar and Tlaib have been faulted for trading in classic anti-Semitic tropes about Jewish control of the political system. Ocasio-Cortez has said that as with any other minority, Jewish sensibilities should be of primary consideration in considering whether a statement is anti-Semitic. The New York congresswoman offended some Jews when she called migrant detention camps “concentration camps.” Other Jews defended her. She emphasized that she was not likening them to Nazi concentration camps.

In the telling of the president and his allies, that stew of views renders not just the four but the entire Democratic Party anti-Semitic. That, as the Orlando Weekly put it, is a “strange pivot.” The newspaper was describing remarks by Florida’s Republican senator, Rick Scott, who also defended Trump’s tweets by calling the Democrats anti-Semitic.

“It was not racist,” Scott said of Trump’s tweets. “It was clearly not the way I would do it, but let’s remember the position that these Democrats have taken. They’ve become the anti-Semitic party now and so that’s wrong. Our country is not anti-Semitic. They are attacking law enforcement, our border agents and ICE. That’s wrong. These people are doing their job.”

That prompted a rejoinder from Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., one of the state’s most senior House members. He chairs the Ethics Committee and the Middle East subcommittee.

In a statement, the Jewish lawmaker listed his week’s activities, which included formally condemning the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires; reviewing a recent trip to Israel; advancing legislation that would codify defense assistance to Israel and, separately, condemning the boycott Israel movement.

“Senator Scott should apologize to all Democrats and Republicans who work together every day on these vital issues, and he should apologize to the Jewish community of Florida, many of whom are lifelong Democrats who have been fighting anti-Semitism and standing up for Israel since its founding in 1948,” Deutch said. “And he should sit with me so I can explain to him what’s possible when politicians stop using dangerous rhetoric and start working together.”

The numbers would appear to back Deutch: American Jews still continue to favor Democrats overwhelmingly. And Jewish groups on all sides said Trump’s “go back home” rhetoric was out of bounds.

The Anti-Defamation League called Trump’s remarks racist and called on him to stop using Israel and Jews as a “shield.”

“As Jews, we are all too familiar with this kind of divisive prejudice,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL’s  CEO and national director, in a statement. “While ADL has publicly disagreed with these congresswomen on some issues, the president is echoing the racist talking points of white nationalists and cynically using the Jewish people and the state of Israel as a shield to double down on his remarks.”

The American Jewish Committee also told Trump to leave the Jews out of it. “We can’t believe we have to say this, but no, the Democratic Party is not antisemitic and some of the Jewish people’s greatest champions have been and are Democrats. Politicizing antisemitism is exactly the wrong way to fight it,” the group tweeted.

The Republican Jewish Coalition’s executive director, Matt Brooks, decried those at Wednesday night’s Trump rally in North Carolina who chanted “send her back” when Trump again called Omar an anti-Semite. (Trump said he was “not happy” with the chant and tried to speak over it, but the media counted the seconds he allowed the cry to mount: 13.)

“The ‘send her back’ chants were wrong, vile, and don’t reflect who we are as Americans. I strongly oppose @IlhanMN views and policies but those chants have no place in our society,” tweeted Brooks.

Trump, to be sure, is mining and stoking a real division among Democrats over how to treat anti-Semitism. In a Twitter thread, CNN’s Jake Tapper quoted anonymous House Democrats as saying they were rankled when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi jumped to defend The Squad with the House resolution condemning Trump.  The anonymous Democrats noted that a similar resolution inspired by Omar’s anti-Semitic expressions was ultimately watered down.

In short, it was a week of whiplash for Jews, in which “send them back” rhetoric clashed with a number of events and statements in support of a Jewish agenda. On Monday the Department of Justice held a high-level colloquium on anti-Semitism, which focused primarily on the boycott Israel movement on campuses. On Thursday, at a State Department ministerial colloquium on international religious persecution, Vice President Mike Pence mentioned the Jews in Venezuela, where “media associated with the Maduro regime often cast coverage of Israel in anti-Semitic tones and trivialize or even deny the Holocaust.”

And on Wednesday, Trump met at the White House with survivors of religious persecution, including a Yemeni Jew, Rabbi Faiz Algaradi, and Irene Weiss, a Holocaust survivor who volunteers at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial and Museum in Washington.

Trump’s invocation of anti-Semitism and his defense of Israel, even if intended to embarrass Democrats and defend his racist remarks, is playing well on the Jewish right — but only up to a point. Noah Rothman, of the conservative Commentary magazine, lamented that as a result of Trump’s ugly remarks,  “the Republican Party Trump represents is losing, or has already lost, the moral high ground in its efforts to call out Rep. Omar’s unveiled expressions of anti-Semitism for what they are. Democrats certainly aren’t doing so. Absent any check on her instincts, Omar and the ‘squad’ can be expected to renew their commitment to a special brand of ethnic and sectarian antagonism.”

As for the Jewish center, they insist that bigotry in defense of Jewish interests is no virtue.

Said the ADL’s Greenblatt of Trump: “Politicizing the widespread, bipartisan support for Israel and throwing around accusations of anti-Semitism is damaging to the security of Israel and the Jewish community. He should lead by example, stop politicizing these issues and stop smearing members of Congress.”

A version of this post first appeared in The Tell, Ron Kampeas’ weekly newsletter on all of the Jewish news from Washington. Subscribe to it here.

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Man killed outside Washington detention center cites ‘concentration camp’ debate in manifesto

Fri, 2019-07-19 15:19

(JTA) — An armed 69-year-old man who was killed by police outside an immigrant detention facility in the state of Washington wrote in a manifesto that he came there because it was a “concentration camp.”

Willem Van Spronsen was killed Saturday outside the Northwest Detention Center while holding an assault rifle and after placing flares near flammable items. He wrote a three-page manifesto against we “visible fascism,” posted on the website of the KIRO television station, before heading out to the center.

He wrote that “it’s time to take action against the forces of evil,” citing in part “highly profitable detention/concentration camps and a battle over the semantics.”

Last month, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., referred to immigration detention facilities on the  U.S.-Mexico border as “concentration camps,” prompting a wide debate. Critics say the term should be reserved for referring to the the Holocaust and that the conditions at the facilities can’t be compared to what occurred at what became Nazi death camps. Ocasio-Cortez and her supporters said the term predated the Nazis and refers to any facility holding people who have not been accused of a crime.

Officials said that officers outside Northwest Detention Center told Van Spronsen to drop his weapon, but fired at him when he failed to comply. He was struck with two rounds and died at the scene.

Police said the video shows Van Spronsen’s starting a fire at the detention center, as well as placing flares in “strategic” locations, even underneath a 500-gallon propane tank. He was also seen starting a fire to his vehicle causing a large explosion.

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Germany to compensate 8,000 Israel Holocaust survivors from Romania

Fri, 2019-07-19 15:05

(JTA) — Some 8,000 Romanian Jewish Holocaust survivors living in Israel will officially be recognized by Germany and receive a monthly compensation up to $225, the German government said.

The statement Thursday by the German government also said the move will include retroactive payments to cover the last 20 years.  Every survivor is set to receive a total of anywhere between $27,000 to $54,300 in addition to the monthly compensation.

The move is expected to cost Germany about $420 million in reparations.

The survivors in question are Jews who lived in 20 cities around Romania, including Ia?i, Gala?i, Piatra Neam?, Constan?a, ?tef?ne?ti and Bac?u, and were either directly or indirectly impacted by Romanian dictator Ion Antonescu’s collaboration with the Nazi regime or by the Nazis themselves following Antonescu’s removal from power, Israel Hayom reported.

Heirs to Romanian Holocaust survivors born after 1910 and who died after June 1, 2002 will also be eligible to sue for reparations from the German government.

To be eligible for the stipend, survivors must have lived or been deported from the 20 cities listed in the decree during the Holocaust.

The agreement was reached following negotiations over 10 months between Jerusalem and Berlin.

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The Jewish reporter who brought the 1969 moon landing into America’s living rooms

Fri, 2019-07-19 15:04

NEW YORK (JTA) — In the 1960s, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and John Glenn were household names, idolized as god-like figures by a public enraptured by NASA’s forays into space.

There was also Jules Bergman, who almost attained the same fame despite never actually going into space.

The charismatic television reporter covered all of NASA’s 54 manned space flights during his lifetime. One of those was Apollo 11, which, 50 years ago, on July 20, 1969, became the first manned spacecraft to land on the moon.

A longtime science editor for ABC News, Bergman was the first network correspondent assigned to cover space full time. That made him “almost as much of a celebrity as the astronauts he covered,” The New York Times wrote in his obituary in 1987.

Bergman, who grew up in New York City, took the subject so seriously that he spent almost as much time as the first astronauts at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.. He said he wanted to give viewers ”not an ivory-tower discussion of science, but an on-the-spot report of discoveries, which are changing the lives of human beings daily.”

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CBS’s avuncular anchor Walter Cronkite may have been the best-known “face” of the space program, but the unsmiling, dark-haired Bergman was almost certainly the best prepared.

He took part in various simulations to show viewers the challenges and conditions of space travel, including being subjected to five G’s — five times the force of gravity. He undertook the exercise routine NASA’s astronauts did to prepare themselves for space travel and spent the entirety of a 12-hour broadcast in a harness identical to one worn by astronauts to measure their vital signs.

“I know that he was incredibly passionate about NASA and all of space exploration. That comes across even when you watch him,” his nephew, Mark Bergman, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in a phone interview on Wednesday.

The reporter’s legacy lives on even after his death in 1987 at the age of 57. Ten years earlier, Bergman had been diagnosed with a nonmalignant brain tumor and had surgeries to remove a number of growths. He was also suffering from seizures. The National Association of Physician Broadcasters gives out a Jules Bergman award for excellence in reporting. Footage of Bergman is seen in the Hollywood dramas “Apollo 13” and “Hidden Figures,” as well as countless documentaries.

Though he didn’t speak publicly about his Jewish identity, he was perhaps the only Jew whose public image was so tightly bound with the early space program. Judith Resnick became the first Jewish-American to go into space in 1984. Two years later, she was aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger, which broke apart shortly after takeoff, killing her and the rest of the crew.

Bergman was widely admired for his work but also had a bit of a reputation among colleagues.

“[H]e was the most disliked person I guess in the program, but he did his homework and he was real good,” Jack King, who served as NASA’s public affairs officer, said in part one of the three-part PBS documentary “Chasing the Moon,” which is airing this month.

Fellow journalist George Alexander also didn’t mince words.

“There were several prima donnas in broadcasting, Jules Bergman being the preeminent example,” Alexander said in the documentary. “Jules wanted you to know that he could have been an astronaut.”

Bergman’s nephew was aware of his reputation, though he said his uncle was “always really nice” to him.

“[H]e was a smart guy doing something that no body else was doing, so there certainly could have been some jealousy from his competition and others in his industry,” he said.

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He recalled his uncle giving him and other family members a peek into a world few had access to, inviting them into the press area at the Kennedy Space Center and to ABC’s studio in New York.

“Anytime he was on covering a story it was a big deal,” his nephew said. “A moment to pause at the dinner table, and we all had to shut up and listen.”

Bergman was so enthusiastic about flight that he earned a pilot’s license and wrote about it in the book “Anyone Can Fly.” He won an Emmy award for his documentary “Closeup on Fire” as well as many journalism awards.

In his work as a reporter, he covered the highlights of the space program as well as its tragedies. In January 1967 he reported the grim news that three astronauts had died on the launchpad as fire swept through their Apollo 1 spacecraft.

“They died at T minus 10 minutes into a simulated launch countdown,” he said, “helplessly trapped inside their spacecraft.”

But he also witnessed the triumphs. When Armstrong and Aldrin became the first humans to land on the moon, Bergman was the one who described the moment for many of the 650 million people worldwide who were watching on television.

“What’s happening now up there is that at this point Aldrin and Armstrong are scheduled to, and we have every reason to think they are, eating dinner, like millions of other Americans,” said Bergman, allowing himself a rare chuckle. “Who can imagine any more unusual place for two Americans to have dinner than on the moon?”

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Israeli Holocaust survivor helps buy hospital bed for 102-year-old Polish rescuer

Fri, 2019-07-19 15:01

(JTA) — A Holocaust survivor from Israel donated money to buy a $1,200 medical bed for a 102-year-old non-Jewish woman from Warsaw, who risked her life to save Jews from the genocide.

Krystyna Danko, who is now deaf and blind, is among the oldest rescuers still alive.

Joe Erlichster, 75, on Friday said it was “part of our duty as Jews to recognize what some brave souls in Poland and elsewhere did” during World War II.

Before World War II, Danke was an orphan who  was taken in a Jewish family named Kokoszko in Otwock near Warsaw. During the war, Danko almost single-handedly rescued all four members of the family, her case file says.

Danko was in 1998 conferred that title Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, Israel’s authority for commemorating the Holocaust. Unusually, Yad Vashem’s website characterizes her efforts as “incredible.”

Jonny Daniels, founder of the From the Depths Holocaust commemoration group, spoke with Danko’s family earlier this week, who told him she’s in need of a bed they cannot afford.

Daniels began a crowd-funding campaign that reached Erlichster, who gave his donation in memory of the Kulinski family. That non-Jewish family saved Erlichster’s own family in Otwock. Other donors included Greg Rodin from Canada.

The bed arrived at Danko’s Warsaw apartment on Thursday.

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Natalie Portman recalls Anne Frank in post about immigration enforcement

Fri, 2019-07-19 14:30

(JTA) — Recalling a visit to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Hollywood actress Natalie Portman wrote on Instagram that she “shudders” at the thought of young girls hiding from the U.S. government.

Portman’s post from Tuesday, which includes a picture of herself as a teenager, reads: “When I was 16 I visited Anne Frank’s house with Miep Gies, the woman who bravely hid Anne and her family when the Nazis were rounding up Jews in Amsterdam and much of Europe. Today, I shudder at the thought of a young girl hiding somewhere in my own country, afraid to turn on her light or make a noise or play outside lest she get rounded up by our government.”

Portman, who is Jewish, added the hashtags #notinmyname and #notinmycountry.

Immigrant families across the country were on alert last weekend in light of expected widespread immigration raids that had been announced a few weeks earlier President Trump.

The Forward suggested that Portman may have been indirectly referencing the story of Liza, a teenager in Passaic, New Jersey, who told The New York Times that she and her family huddled in their house with the lights off early Sunday morning as ICE agents waited outside.

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Norway’s state broadcaster airs ‘Jewish swine’ cartoon

Fri, 2019-07-19 12:32

(JTA) — Norway’s public broadcaster NRK defended from accusations of anti-Semitism its airing of a cartoon showing an overweight Jew taunting a man who is afraid to call him a swine.

The video, posted online earlier this month by the NRK state-owned government, is titled “Scrabbles” and was captioned “tag a Jew” on the Facebook page of the animators who created it, Norske Grønnsaker.

In it, a grey-haired man wearing a kippah and dressed like a haredi Jew is playing Scrabbles with a younger man in shorts. The Jew is frustrated over how long his adversary is taking to construct a word. Then, the camera switches to the young man’s point of view to reveal that he’s constructed the word “Jew swine” (one word in Norwegian) but has not revealed it yet.

The young man sighs in frustration as the Jewish one taunts him over his Scrabbles skills. “We are clearly on different cognitive levels,” the Jew exclaims.

The cartoon’s airing by NRK, which has long been said to espouse a left-wing editorial line, evoked unusual support and praise by far-right figures, including the anti-Semitic Holocaust denier Hans Jørgen Lysglimt Johansen.

Ivar Staurseth, a journalist for the Minerva newspaper, on Facebook suggested it was anti-Semitic. ”It’s not for nothing that suffix ‘swine’ doesn’t appear together with other groups/minorities,” he wrote.

NRK Entertainment editor Charlo Halvorsen rejected the allegation, telling Aftenpost Wednesday: “The Scrabble player made an indecent and indefensible word that we can’t and should use. But he’s tempted to win.”

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Sanders campaign workers say they earn making “poverty wages”

Fri, 2019-07-19 11:40

(JTA) — Unionized campaign organizers working for Bernie Sanders’ presidential effort complained that their employment terms fall short of Sanders’ rhetoric on labor standards.

Campaign hires have demanded an annual salary equivalent to a $15-an-hour wage, which Sanders, a senator who is Jewish and who describes himself as a democratic socialist, for years has said should be the federal minimum, the Washington Post on Thursday reported.

The organizers and other employees supporting them have invoked the senator’s words and principles in making their case to campaign manager Faiz Shakir, the documents reviewed by The Washington Post show.

The conflict between Shakir and union representatives dates back to May and remains unresolved, the Post reported.

Shakir defended the campaign’s terms, telling the Post it “offers wages and benefits competitive with other campaigns.” Sanders and Shakir “both strongly believe in the sanctity of the collective bargaining process,” he added.

The union representing the campaign workers, United Food & Commercial Workers Local 400, also defended in a statement the campaign, saying its staff “have access to myriad protections and benefits secured by their one-of-a-kind union contract.”

Internally, however, union members drafted a letter for sending to Shakir this week, which said they “cannot be expected to build the largest grassroots organizing program in American history while making poverty wages.”

Citing the “campaign’s commitment to fighting for a living wage of at least $15.00 an hour,” they added: “we believe it is only fair that the campaign would carry through this commitment to its own field team.”

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Haredi man sues Orlando-area McDonald’s for not hiring him due to his beard

Fri, 2019-07-19 11:06

(JTA) — A Jewish haredi man is suing McDonald’s, claiming the fast-food giant violated his freedom of religion when it refused to hire him because of his beard.

The plaintiff, who sued Wednesday, is represented by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in his claim against McDonald’s restaurant in Longwood, Florida that turned down his 2016 application to be a maintenance worker there, Newsweek on Thursday reported.

Allegedly, management told him that he would have to shave his long beard if he wanted the job. According to his suit, McDonald’s policy requires all male employees to be clean-shaven.

A manager allegedly the applicant he “had the job, but would need to shave his beard to be in compliance with McDonald’s grooming and appearance policy,” according to the Commission.

Orthodox Jews in the Chabad-Lubavitch branch of Hasidism grow for religious reasons.

The would-be worker claims he offered to wear a beard net instead, but the manager wouldn’t accept the compromise. Instead, he reportedly told the man couldn’t be hired if he was going to violate McDonald’s company policy.

The lawsuit seeks back wages for the past three years he would have been employed.

The man was reportedly told “he had the job, but would need to shave his beard to be in compliance with McDonald’s grooming and appearance policy,” according to the EEOC.
McDonald’s franchisees can set their own grooming policies.

The Chalfont & Associates, which owns the Longwood franchises, did not respond to requests for comment by the Miami Herald.

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The kid in me wants another shot at the moon

Thu, 2019-07-18 21:56

(JTA) — I watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon through one eye, the other glued shut by a stye. This was in the kitchen of our rented bungalow on the New York side of Lake Champlain, where we spent a month every summer. My parents had parked our crappy black-and-white portable TV on the kitchen table, and someone was no doubt futzing with the wire coat hanger that stood in for an antenna.

I feel it was past my bedtime, and I was wearing pajamas, and I was cranky about the whole thing with the stye and all. If I remember being truly excited about the first human on the moon, I think it might be a bit of confabulation. It was only in the next few years I’d get really excited about the space program. I found out you could write a fan note to NASA and they would send you a thick envelope of swag related to the latest mission. It would include color glossies of the crew, maybe a facsimile of the patches they wore and — oh bliss — a foldout map of the moon.

The coolest thing was a floppy acetate phonograph record of the audio of Apollo 11’s landing on the moon. It’s a tense few minutes of scratchy voices, and I played it so often I committed it to memory.

Aldrin: Lights on … Down 2 1/2. Forward. Forward. Good. 40 feet, down 2 1/2. Kicking up some dust. 30 feet, 2 1/2 down. Faint shadow. 4 forward. 4 forward. Drifting to the right a little. OK. Down a half.

Mission Control: 30 seconds [of fuel remaining].

Armstrong: Forward drift?

Aldrin: Yes. OK. Contact light. OK, engine stop.

Armstrong: Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.

Mission Control: Roger, Tranquility. We copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot.

I was enthralled by that as an 11-year-old, and even more so this week as I binged on documentaries marking the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s successful mission. The technological unlikelihood of the entire space program, the mustering of national will to go from essentially zero to moon in less than a decade, the collective vision and problem solving to achieve what still looks like an unachievable task. If it feels like ancient history, that’s not just because it was five decades ago. I imagine anyone who has no direct memory of the moon landings can’t even imagine what it means for our federal government to set an audacious goal and achieve it.

The best of the retrospectives, especially the three-part “Chasing the Moon” series on PBS, don’t mythologize this vast public undertaking or minimize its costs. “Chasing the Moon” emphasizes that billions of dollars were being spent on beating the Russians to the moon while American cities burned and young men were dying in Vietnam. An audio clip of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is every bit as awe inspiring as video of a Saturn V launch: “If our nation can spend $35 billion a year to fight an unjust evil war in Vietnam, and $20 billion to put a man on the Moon, it can spend billions of dollars to put God’s children on their own two feet, right here on Earth.”

There are also reminders that the space program wasn’t the bipartisan, national kumzitz that we like to remember it was: Rocket plants and mission headquarters were put in Southern states to buy the support of Southern lawmakers; an African-American pilot was kept out of the astronaut program to placate their constituents; Wernher von Braun, the ex-Nazi who built the Saturn V, spun tall tales to convince Congress and the public that the moon shot wasn’t first and foremost an attempt to one-up the Soviets.

I’m old enough that I am not only feeling nostalgic about the moon landing but nostalgia for the nostalgia. This year is also the 20th anniversary of “A Walk on the Moon,” Tony Goldwyn’s film about romance and infidelity set in the summer of 1969. Diane Lane plays a Jewish housewife spending her weekdays without her husband at a Catskills bungalow colony, and Viggo Mortensen plays a hunk who tempts her into an affair. The moon landing forms the backdrop.

A Jewish bungalow colony! The moon! Except for the whole infidelity thing (as far as I know, anyway), the entire film plays like my home movies. There’s even an eerie moment depicting a very specific event from my own childhood (a kid steps on a hornets’ nest, and all of the colony’s women administer to him with ice cubes).

Woodstock also took place that summer, not far from the bungalow colonies. It barely registers on the staid middle-class Jews in the film. I remember the screenwriter  of “A Walk on the Moon,” Pamela Gray, saying that while everyone else was experiencing the 1960s, her parents’ generation was still living in the ’50s.

But not for long. The ’60s caught up with everyone. We probably gained more than we lost: women’s rights, civil rights, cleaner air, cleaner water, better health, the end of a pointless war. But we lost something, too: a sense of national purpose to solve our common problems; a deep respect for science over politics; a revelation, experienced by all the astronauts, that earth is a fragile, lonely and lovely thing and our only home. Imagine if we could muster the spirit of the Apollo program not for jingoism but, say, for climate change.

(This is the point in the joke where God says, “Let me take another look at that moon map.”)

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On 25th anniversary of AMIA bombing, Argentina lists Hezbollah as terrorist group

Thu, 2019-07-18 20:52

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — Argentina listed Hezbollah as a terrorist group on Thursday, the 25th anniversary of a deadly attack on Argentine Jews attributed to the Lebanon-based militia.

Hezbollah, which has denied any involvement in the 1994 bombing on the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires, was placed on a national list that was created Wednesday specifically for the purpose of giving the government a legal framework to take hostile action against the group. The attack killed 85 and wounded hundreds.

AMIA President Ariel Eichelbaum praised the blacklisting by the administration of President Mauricio Macri, which follows years of foot dragging by previous Argentine governments.

“Hezbollah is a terrorist organization that is still active in our continent, it is important that it has been included in the registry of terrorist groups,” he said.

At 9:53 a.m. Thursday, the time the bomb went off, emergency vehicles including police cars and firefighting trucks sounded their sirens in commemoration of the victims.

The main commemoration event began at the same time in front of the building that was destroyed.

A candle in memory of each victim was lit, as well as one for the late prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who police say was murdered in 2015, four days after he formally accused then-President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of covering up the role of Iranian officials in the attack.

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Jeffrey Epstein denied bail, judge says he poses danger

Thu, 2019-07-18 20:42

NEW YORK (JTA) — Jeffrey Epstein was denied bail on sex trafficking charges.

A Manhattan federal judge, Richard Berman, said in his ruling Thursday that the 66-year-old financier poses a danger to former victims and potential new ones.

In 2008, Epstein was convicted of abusing dozens of underage girls, but was given what was generally considered a lenient sentence — 13 months in a private wing of a county jail. He was allowed to leave for work six days a week as long as he returned to the facility at night. Epstein, who is Jewish, and his associates were given immunity from federal prosecution.

That agreement has come under scrutiny following Epstein’s arrest and indictment for sex trafficking.

In February, a judge ruled the 2008 deal illegal because the his victims were not notified before the agreement was approved. The case was reopened after a Miami Herald reporter identified some 80 alleged victims who said they were recruited into a sex ring run by Epstein and made to recruit others.

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A Jewish family sold this Kandinsky painting to survive the Nazis. Amsterdam is keeping it anyway.

Thu, 2019-07-18 20:38

AMSTERDAM (JTA) — Following a protracted legal fight, the family of Irma Klein last year finally got Dutch restitution officials to recognize that the Nazi occupation forced Klein to sell her Wassily Kandinsky painting to this city’s municipal Stedelijk Museum for a fraction of its worth.

That was in 1940, several months into the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, when Klein and her husband sold “Painting with Houses” for the modern-day equivalent of about $1,600 because they needed money to survive the Holocaust.

In its ruling last November, the Dutch Restitutions Committee accepted the family’s account.

But in an unusual and controversial departure from universal practices, the committee also determined  that the painting should not be returned to the family. It cited “public interest” in keeping the work on display at the Stedelijk, among other arguments.

It was the latest of several such refusals by the Netherlands based on what the Dutch Restitutions Committee introduced in 2013 as a “weighted interest” approach to looted art.

It has prompted outrage and concern by some experts, claimants and their representatives. They fear a precedent and see injustice by a country that used to be considered a model implementer of art restitution practices.

“These developments risk turning the Netherlands from a leader in art restitution to a pariah,” Anne Webber and Wesley Fisher wrote in a December op-ed in the Dutch daily NRC Hadelsblad. Webber is an art restitution expert and Fisher is the director of research for the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. Their essay was titled “It’s a scandal that this stolen art hangs at the museum.”

It is “particularly disturbing,” Fisher told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, that this is happening in the Netherlands, which is one of only five countries (the others being Germany, Austria, the United Kingdom and France) that set up committees to determine the provenance of suspect artworks. Such committees were a key requirement of the Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art – a landmark document agreed upon in 1998 by 44 countries.

Irma Klein sold “Painting with Houses” by Wassily Kandinsky during the Holocaust. (Courtesy of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam)

The principles are significant because they form the basis for handling countless claims that cannot be resolved in court because of statutes of limitations.

The document’s effect on restitution efforts remains inconclusive. More than 21 years after its publication, more than 100,000 paintings out of approximately 600,000 that the Nazis stole remain unreturned, according to Deutche Welle. Some of them hang in museums and private collections across Europe and beyond. Others are the subject of drawn-out legal fights.

Interviews with visitors to the Stedelijk suggest there is widespread support for the Dutch approach of resisting restitution to ensure public access to art.

“Art is meant to be viewed,” said Chloe van der Vlugt, a 19-year-old art student from Miami, Florida, who is in favor of keeping the disputed Kandinsky in the Stedelijk. The 1909 painting by the Russian artist features a mysterious figure crouched sorrowfully in a field opposite houses with radiant facades.

“A lot of pillage happened in art, whole countries have lost their treasures,” she added. “We need to move on.”

During two days of interviewing at random some 50 admirers of Kandinsky, JTA did not encounter a single person who favored returning the painting to the family after being informed of the dispute’s details. Those interviewed came from 10 countries, including Israel.

“I think it should stay here, Kandinsky belongs to all of humanity,” Liad Eini, 19, an Israeli art lover on leave from the army, said passionately during a visit – the second in two days — to the Stedelijk. The city-owned modern art museum, housed in a structure resembling a huge bathtub, is considered one of the world’s leading institutions of its kind.

Eini’s mother, Dorit, a teacher, hushed her son, reminding him to speak softly.

“Paintings reach museums at the end of sad stories and tragedies,” she said. “The Holocaust happens to be famous and evocative to us Jews, but it’s no exception to the various calamities behind many of these paintings all around us.”

All those interviewed said, however, that Klein’s family should be offered monetary compensation.

But the elaborate ruling of the Dutch Restitutions Committee, an advisory body whose establishment by the government in 2002 helped make Holland a pioneer in art restitution, offered no reference to compensation, according to Gert-Jan van den Bergh, the lawyer for the claimants, who do not wish to be named. His clients do not rule out a monetary settlement, he said.

(The value of the painting is not known, van den Bergh said, as it has never been appraised. But a Kandinsky painting similar in style to “Painting with Houses” and created the same year fetched $26 million at a London auction in 2017.)

The Stedelijk museum in Amsterdam had nearly 700,000 visitors in 2018. (Flickr)

Fisher, the Claims Conference representative, said the committee’s failure to discuss a monetary settlement did not give the impression of good will.

“There are a good many ways in which a museum can agree that a painting belongs to the family but nonetheless retain the artwork,” he said. “It is not reasonable that the family in this case is not receiving anything.”

Queried about the possibility of compensation, Eric Idema, the general secretary of the Dutch Restitutions Committee, said he “cannot comment on this specific case.” Generally, he added, the committee has no mandate to offer compensation. Fisher, however, insisted that even a vague recommendation on a settlement would have put pressure on the Stedelijk Museum to offer the family some money.

Stedelijk has not made such an offer, van den Bergh said.

The museum, which is being sued by the family, has said it will keep to the letter of the binding recommendation of the Restitutions Committee, which said the museum is excused from any further action on Klein’s Kandinsky.

The committee also cited the failure of Klein, a Holocaust survivor who died in Amsterdam in 1983, to claim the painting, which the committee determined “had not been stolen or confiscated.” However, the committee did find that “the sale of the painting cannot, on the one hand, be considered in isolation from the Nazi regime,” but also owed to the dire financial straits faced by Klein and her husband in 1940.

It also said the Amsterdam municipality “bought the painting in good faith.”

Unusually, the committee then cited the painting’s prominent placement to explain its decision not to return it, saying in a statement that the artwork “has a significant place in the Stedelijk Museum’s collection.”

“The Committee concluded on the grounds of these interests that the city council is not obliged to restitute the painting,” the statement said.

The argument for keeping art accessible in resisting restitution claims is not new in court cases, according to Orna Artal, a co-founder of Ramos & Artal, a dispute resolution firm in New York and an expert on provenance and restitution of Nazi-looted art.

However, such reasoning is unusual to be invoked by a state-created restitution committee, Artal and Marika Keblusek, a lecturer from the University of Leiden who specializes in the study of looted art, confirmed.

According to the lawyer van den Bergh, it’s happening in the Netherlands in reaction to a massive restitution claim in 2006: Some 202 paintings were yanked from Dutch museums in favor of the Goudstikker family, whose claim was affirmed by the Restitutions Committee.

The first use of the “weighted interest” approach came seven years later, when the committee recognized that paintings belonging to the late Jewish art collector Richard Semmel were looted, but agreed to return only one. Four paintings that Semmel lost because of the Nazis were kept on display, citing the museums’ interest in keeping them accessible to the public.

It was a watershed moment for the Dutch Restitutions Committee, which has made about 170 recommendations, most of them binding rulings, pertaining to some 1,500 items. (Among the binding rulings, 84 were fully or partially in the applicants’ favor and 56 were to reject the claim in full.)

The introduction of the weighted interest approach means that “ownership of looted art outweighed rightful ownership,” Webber and Fisher wrote in their op-ed. And while the committee has ruled since 2013 in favor of returning some looted art, they added that weighted interest in principle means that “[n]o Dutch museum would ever need to return a single work of art ever again.”

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Former Democratic chair Howard Dean: ‘Israel’s government has lost its soul’

Thu, 2019-07-18 20:17

(JTA) — Howard Dean, a former Democratic National Committee chairman and ex-governor of Vermont, said Israel’s government has “lost its soul and purpose.”

Predictably, Dean’s tweet from Friday, which was inspired by an Israeli Cabinet minister’s endorsement of conversion treatment for gay people and his support of annexing the West Bank, set off a Twitter storm.

Much of the rebuke, however, was over what Dean wrote after his Israel zinger — he seemed to suggest that Jews were made noble because of anti-Semitism.

Here’s his full tweet: “Israel’s government has lost its soul and its purpose. The nobility of the Jewish people conferred by their terrible suffering is being squandered by cheap bigoted political crooks. The result will ultimately be the loss of a Jewish homeland which would be an unspeakable tragedy.”

Israel’s government has lost its soul and its purpose. The nobility of the Jewish people conferred by their terrible suffering is being squandered by cheap bigoted political crooks. The result will ultimately be the loss of a Jewish homeland which would be an unspeakable tragedy https://t.co/CtuY6jDvp8

— Howard Dean (@GovHowardDean) July 14, 2019

Dean’s criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is fairly standard stuff on the pro-Israel left, which fears the demise of the two-state solution. One critic referred Dean to Netanyahu’s statement rebuking the comments on conversion therapy by a minister in his government. (The Cabinet member has since walked back his statement about conversion treatments.).

But many critics – the tweet had nearly 500 comments — took issue with his broader remarks about the Jewish people’s history.

Ben Lorber, a left-leaning Jewish writer from Chicago, provided one of the most sharp-worded comebacks.

“The idea that there is a ‘nobility of the Jewish people conferred by their terrible suffering’ is a gross projection of Christian hegemony that needs to stop,” he wrote. “We are beautiful because of our spirit, culture, texts, traditions, laughter, life. Not because we suffered for your sins.”

Dean, a regular contributor to MSNBC since his retirement from politics, has not replied to the debate about the tweet.

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