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What Palestinian reconciliation means for Israel

Tue, 2017-10-17 21:16

Hamas and Fatah leaders shake hands following the signing of a reconciliation deal at the Egyptian intelligence services headquarters in Cairo, Oct. 12, 2017. (Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images)

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has taken a wait-and-see approach to last week’s Palestinian reconciliation deal.

Netanyahu spoke out publicly and loudly against the move toward unity between the feuding Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas, calling it a threat to Israel and a setback to peace. But he quietly indicated Israel could accept reconciliation if Hamas reformed.

“Israel insists that the PA not allow any base whatsoever for Hamas terrorist actions from PA areas in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] or from Gaza, if the PA indeed takes responsibility for its territory,” his office said in a statement Thursday after the deal was inked. “Israel will monitor developments on the ground and act according.”

Netanyahu reacted very differently to the failed 2014 reconciliation attempt by Fatah, which governs the West Bank, and Hamas, the terrorist group that runs Gaza. At the time, Israel froze negotiations and severed diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority.

Circumstances have since changed.

Israel has persistent fears about the costs of Palestinian reconciliation. But the prime minister’s restrained response, despite calls from right-wing ministers for more aggressive measures, reflects the potential benefits of letting the attempt play out, at least for now.

On Thursday, Fatah and Hamas signed a reconciliation deal in Cairo that reportedly will see the Palestinian Authority take over Gaza’s border crossings and assume full administrative control of the territory in the coming months. Some 3,000 Palestinian security officers are to join the Gaza police force. Elections are to be held for a national unity government.

But Netanyahu has made clear that Israel maintains its longstanding stance against Hamas rejoining the Palestinian Authority, which it broke from when it violently seized control of Gaza in 2007, unless the terrorist group makes historic reforms, including disarming, recognizing the Jewish state and breaking off relations with Iran.

“Reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas makes peace much harder to achieve,” Netanyahu wrote Thursday on his office’s Facebook page after the deal was announced. “Reconciling with mass-murderers is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Say yes to peace and no to joining hands with Hamas.”

Members of Netanyahu’s right-wing government urged an even tougher line. But Haaretz reported that Netanyahu told top ministers on Monday that Israel would neither cut ties with the Palestinian Authority, as advocated by Education Minister Naftali Bennett, nor act to stop reconciliation.

Israel has plenty of reasons to worry about Hamas joining the Palestinian Authority. The reconciliation deal reportedly does not address Hamas’ military wing, which has repeatedly fired rockets at, terrorized and warred with Israel. After the signing, Hamas’ deputy political leader, Saleh al-Arouri, said the purpose was for all Palestinian forces to “work together against the Zionist enterprise, which seeks to wipe out and trample the rights of our people.”

According to Israeli analysts, Hamas could let the Palestinian Authority handle the administration of Gaza while it focuses on bolstering its terrorist infrastructure and planning new attacks on Israelis. A plan that would have P.A. officials who oversee the coastal strip’s border crossings move back and forth between the West Bank and Gaza also raises security concerns.

However, if fully implemented, reconciliation could also bring benefits for Israel. It would address what many observers have warned is a looming humanitarian crisis in Gaza that could push Hamas into another war with Israel. Egypt, which is brokering the talks between Fatah and Hamas, would likely ease its blockade of Gaza, allowing more goods and people to move in and out of the territory. P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas would have to end the sanctions he has imposed on the territory to force Hamas’ capitulation, including crippling electricity cuts.

At the same time, reconciliation just might force Hamas to moderate. According to a report last week in Haaretz, the group agreed not to carry out terror attacks or fire rockets against Israel as part of the deal. Dana El Kurd, a researcher at the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, wrote Monday in Foreign Affairs that the international backers of reconciliation seek to “neutralize Hamas’ power by weakening its popular support.”

While El Kurd went on to argue that this would lead to more popular discontent and violence, Israel would likely welcome this development.

Even if Israel would prefer to see Palestinian reconciliation fail on its merits, the government has diplomatic reasons to accommodate the process. Among the world leaders celebrating the deal are two of Israel’s most important strategic partners, Egypt and the United States.

Under Egyptian President Abel Fattah-el Sisi, Jerusalem and Cairo have cooperated closely in recent years on shared regional security concerns, including Hamas. At the U.N. General Assembly last month in New York, Sisi coupled his first-ever meeting with Netanyahu with a call for Palestinian unity as a step toward peace with Israel. By opposing Sisi on reconciliation, Israel could put this progress at risk.

When it comes to the United States, which has also thrown its weight behind reconciliation, Netanyahu has gone out of his way to ensure no daylight comes between him and President Donald Trump. The prime minister reportedly warned top ministers in February against confronting Trump, explaining that the president’s personality must be taken “into account.”

In many ways, the Trump administration has rewarded Netanyahu. Washington reportedly has asked Israel to limit settlement expansion, and settler leaders have complained of slower-than-promised building in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. But U.S. officials have stayed relatively quiet as Israel has advanced such construction, including, as Netanyahu reportedly promised, outside the settlement blocs Israel expects to keep in any peace deal.

Trump has also taken a position on Iran, Israel’s arch-nemesis, very much along the lines suggested by Netanyahu. On Monday, Trump reiterated his vow to pull the United States out of the Iran deal if Congress did not tighten its restrictions on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program — earning praise from the prime minister, who last month exhorted world leaders to “nix it or fix it.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has vociferously defended Israel in the international body, and on Thursday, the State Department announced the United States would pull out of UNESCO over its anti-Israel bias, prompting Israel to follow.

In return for all this and more from the United States, Netanyahu may feel that abiding Palestinian reconciliation is a small price to pay — especially since he may simply have to wait for the process to collapse. The issues that have doomed numerous past attempts remain outstanding, most notably Abbas’ demands that Hamas disarm and bring its military wing under the command of the Palestinian Authority.

Unpopular at home and under his own diplomatic pressure, Abbas may also be playing a waiting game.

Richard Spencer will soon speak at the university with the largest Jewish student body in the US

Tue, 2017-10-17 20:56

White supremacist leader Richard Spencer, center, and supporters clashing with police after the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., was declared unlawful, Aug. 12, 2017. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

(JTA) — The University of Florida, home to the largest Jewish student body in the country, is bracing for an upcoming speech on campus by white supremacist leader Richard Spencer.

Only six weeks after Hurricane Irma wrought destruction in Florida, Gov. Rick Scott declared another state of emergency, this time ahead of Spencer’s speech in Gainesville on Thursday afternoon.

The university allowed Spencer to speak after initially declining his request, saying that as a public institution it must uphold the principles of free speech. He was a promoter of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August that turned deadly.

Spencer, the founder of a white supremacist think tank, has advocated a white ethno-state that would exclude non-whites and Jews. The Anti-Defamation League said he has become “more openly anti-Semitic in recent years.”

“Our decision to disallow the September event was based on specific threats and a date that fell soon after the Charlottesville event,” the university said in a statement. “Allowing Spencer to speak in October provided additional time to make significant security arrangements.”

Although the event is not sponsored by any groups affiliated with the university, the public university must pay over $500,000 in security for the event. In 1992, the Supreme Court ruled that the government cannot charge a speaker for security costs due to potential protesters.

Some 9,400 Jewish students attend the university, which has an enrollment of 52,000.

Chabad director Rabbi Berl Goldman said that dozens of Jewish students, parents and staff members had contacted him with worries regarding the event.

“I just received a call 10 minutes ago from a parent worried about his daughter that lives in a sorority,” he told JTA on Monday. “Another parent called my colleague, Rabbi Aron [Notik], the other Chabad rabbi here at UF, telling him that his daughter wants to know if she should attend classes or not.”

Law enforcement has been in touch with Chabad, which Goldman said will have “a very strong, armed security presence” Wednesday through Friday in addition to its regular safety precautions.

The CEO of Hillel at the university, Rabbi Adam Grossman, declined a request for comment.

The University of Florida is Spencer’s latest stop on a speaking tour that has riled U.S. campuses. In April, Auburn hosted the far-right speaker after a federal judge ordered it must. This month, Ohio State denied a speaking request by Spencer, while the University of Cincinnati approved it.

The Florida speech is his first campus appearance since the Charlottesville weekend, during which he led a a torch-lit march on the University of Virginia campus by neo-Nazis and other groups that at times chanted “Jews will not replace us.” Spencer was to be a featured speaker at the white-nationalist rally the next morning, but it was canceled due to security concerns. A woman was killed when a suspected white supremacist rammed his car into a crowed of counterprotesters.

Scott’s state of emergency order will allow local law enforcement officials to work with state and other agencies. The governor is also activating the Florida National Guard.

Norman Goda, a professor of Holocaust studies, dismissed the university’s argument that it had to host Spencer due to free speech.

“I think it’s been posed as a free speech issue as if he is just another right-wing speaker,” said Goda, naming figures such as “alt-right” provocateur Milo Yiannopolous and conservative political commentator Ann Coulter. “I think Spencer is a very different animal. He is the leader of a movement who it seems to me from everything he says is working for the violent overthrow of our constitutional system.”

Leah Gorshein, a 20-year-old political science and Jewish studies major, worries that the event could fuel a rise in campus anti-Semitism.

“We do have a really strong Jewish and pro-Israel base, so I have a lot of confidence in our students, but I am worried for their safety, and the anti-Israel and anti-Jewish movement that could arise from this,” said Gorshein, who serves as president of the Israel advocacy group Gators for Israel and sits on the Hillel student board.

Gorshein’s professors canceled classes on Thursday, and though she personally feels safe, she plans to either stay in her sorority house or go out of town, she said.

Brett Hartstein, a finance major and vice president of programming for Chabad, said he isn’t worried about his personal safety. Still, he won’t be going to class on Thursday, saying “I’ll just be with other students and do my lectures online.”

“I feel like it will be hard to focus in class that day, people will be anxious about other stuff,” Hartstein, 20, told JTA on Tuesday. “I’ll be able to get more studying, be more focused on the lecture by just watching it on my laptop by myself.”

Chabad is encouraging members of the Jewish community to heed a call by the university’s president, Kent Fuchs, to stay away from the event and is hosting a “good deed marathon” to provide “an opportunity to transform the message of hate into love, and of darkness into light,” Goldman said.

Goda’s students have expressed discomfort at Spencer’s Gainesville speech.

“I’ve spoken to enough to know that they’re bothered by the fact that he’s going to show up on their campus,” he said. “There’s one kid who actually works in the Phillips Center — that’s the place where he’s speaking — who was quite anxious about the whole thing.”

Goda said he urged the university to deny Spencer’s right to speak and instead allow the case to play out in court.

“He wanted to use us to burnish his academic bona fides and to give himself legitimacy, and I didn’t think that the University of Florida should acquiesce on this without a fight,” the professor said. “I didn’t think that we should be party to our own debasement without a serious public debate about what kind of speech was really covered and whether this was legitimate speech or deliberately incendiary speech.”

Is it Islamophobic to oppose the mosque next door? London Jews debate the question.

Tue, 2017-10-17 19:46

A Jewish man walking in London’s Golders Green neighborhood, which is home to a large Jewish population, Sept. 23, 2015. (Tony Margiocchi/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

(JTA) — A plan to open a mosque in a heavily Jewish area of London is dividing British Jews, with some calling the development worrisome and others accusing its opponents of racism.

The Islamic center is slated to open next month at the Hippodrome, a former concert hall in the heart of the north London neighborhood of Golders Green. The area is home to thousands of Jewish families of all major denominations and many synagogues, Jewish schools, kosher shops and restaurants, even hotels for devout Jews.

By Sunday, more than 5,600 people had signed an online petition urging municipal officials to investigate possible bylaw infractions by the center, which has received all the required permissions following the building’s purchase earlier this year by an Islamic charity. The petition does not mention the religious dimension, citing instead potential “disruptions” to traffic, as well as parking and air pollution.

But below the surface, the planned mosque has touched off an acrimonious exchange among those who welcome the new center, with its capacity of 3,000 visitors, and those who fear it. Some opponents worry that the mosque could lead to friction between British Jews and members of the Muslim minority, which surveys suggest is among the most anti-Semitic segments of British society.

“There is a concern around this very divisive issue,” said Jonathan Hoffman, a North London-based blogger and former vice chair of the Zionist Federation of Britain. “There is concern about Muslim anti-Semitism.”

Hoffman said his comments don’t mean he personally opposes the new center, but merely that he understands both sides of the debate.

Multiple surveys performed in recent years show far greater prevalence of anti-Semitic sentiments among Muslims compared to the general population. (A September survey suggested that Muslims were twice as likely as non-Muslims to espouse anti-Semitic views).

A 2008 study by the Community Security Trust, British Jewry’s watchdog on anti-Semitism, attributed a third to half of all violent anti-Semitic incidents to perpetrators described as having an Arab or South Asian appearance.

On the other hand, the Jewish community of Britain reported that of the record 1,309 incidents in 2016, “language or images relating to Islam or Muslims” were noted in 27 anti-Semitic incidents, compared to 39 in 2015. And of 236 anti-Semitic incidents in 2016 that showed political motivations alongside anti-Semitism, 12 were connected to Islamist motivation or beliefs.

Jewish-Muslim outreach has been more successful in the United Kingdom than elsewhere in Europe, with communities running successful joint programs, helping out one another and lobbying jointly.

Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, attributes some of this relative success to the fact that South Asian Muslims make up a larger proportion of the Muslim community in Britain than elsewhere in Europe. Arab Muslims are likelier to espouse anti-Israel and anti-Jewish views, he said in a February speech.

Nonetheless, opposing an Islamic center in Golders Green – a place many local Jews consider a safe haven from the effects of rising anti-Semitism elsewhere in Britain — is about “ensuring the continuation of a safe Jewish community” there, according to a British Jewish man in his 30s who grew up near Golders Green. Zvi spoke to JTA about the issue on condition of anonymity so as “not to be painted in the media as a racist.”

Indeed, to some British Jews, such concerns are merely a thin veil to mask anti-Muslim racism.

The fears around the new center “are baseless,” Stephen Pollard, the editor of the Jewish Chronicle of London, wrote in an op-ed published Monday titled “Shame on the Hippodrome protestors: The real story here is bigotry.” Concerns about the center are “pure bigotry: The idea that any Muslim is, by definition, our enemy,” he wrote.

Hoffman rejects Pollard’s assertion.

“There is no data on the reason why people are unhappy about the mosque, so for Pollard to say this is to make a disgraceful assumption,” Hoffman said.

Members of the Jewish community who researched the Muslim charity — a largely Iraqi and Iranian Shiite congregation called Hussainiat Al-Rasool Al-Adham – found no ties to the Iranian regime or extremist incitement, an expert on Islamism who ran some of the checks told JTA on Tuesday.

“If anything, this is a pro-Jewish group,” said the source, who spoke anonymously.

Some Islamic centers, the source said, do raise security concerns for neighboring Jewish residents and beyond.

“It really depends on the mosque,” the expert said.

Nonetheless, Jews in Golders Green will have to get used to the unfamiliar and potentially disturbing, the expert said. That includes the annual Ashura march, when some men whip their own shirtless backs and chests until they bleed to mourn the death of the founder of the Shiite stream of Islam in the seventh century.

“That and women in hijabs and burkas may be alarming to people in Golders Green, even though these sights pose no risk,” he said.

Geoffrey Alderman, a historian and former member of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, conducted his own inquiries into the center’s owner. They also led him to believe the group “should not be a concern from the Jewish point of view,” he told JTA.

Alderman, who lives in the neighboring suburb of Hendon, said on a personal level that he “might be concerned if not anxious as to what is going on” inside the mosque if it were to open in his neighborhood. But “just as the Jewish community of London has the right to buy property and turn them into places of worship, so do other religious groups,” added Alderman, who does not oppose the new center.

Hoffman, the blogger, said concerns about the Golders Green mosque reflect apprehension about broader changes in British society. Assimilation, internal immigration and emigration mean that Jewish minority has grown at the rate of 1.3 percent per decade, far smaller than that of British Muslims. (The Muslim population grew from 1.55 million in 2001 to 2.77 million a decade later, according to the Muslim Council of Britain.)

“Society is changing, plenty of synagogues are no longer in use, [or] are changed over to a different use. There is emigration, especially by Jews,” he said. “The Muslim population is growing and they will need more mosques. But building such a large mosque in that particular area is very controversial.”

Marie van der Zyl, a vice president of the Board of Deputies, said in a statement Tuesday that her organization was “heartened” to hear in talks with leaders of the new Islamic center “about their commitment to opposing anti-Semitism and extremism.”

While there are “legitimate concerns around planning,” the board “deplores the uninformed and prejudiced comments about this application, including from a small number of members of our own community,” read the statement.

To Hoffman, the dismissal of concerns by communal leaders over the religious dimension of the new center shows the issue “divides the community’s leaders from the rest.”

Ambrosine Yolanda Shitrit, a leader of the opposition to the Muslim center and a Golders Green activist for several right-wing Jewish causes, wrote Monday on Facebook that she is “concerned” for the safety of her daughter in Golders Green.

“I don’t feel my so-called community can keep my family safe anymore. They’re not on our side,” she wrote.

Ahmad Alkazemi, a spokesman for the Islamic center, said in a statement that his community “looks forward to playing our part in Golders Green’s diverse community, and we will always act as considerate neighbors and sincere friends towards the Jewish and other residents of this area.”

The Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham center “will never tolerate any form of hate speech on our premises, and we stand completely opposed to and will firmly address extremism, antisemitism and all forms of hatred through education and bridge building,” Alkazemi wrote. “We regard Jews and Christians alike as our friends.”

Officials spot ‘miracles’ amid ashes of Jewish camp in Northern California

Tue, 2017-10-17 19:41

Surrounded by blackened vegetation, Camp Newman’s iconic hillside Star of David survived a wildfire in Northern California. (Courtesy of URJ Camp Newman)

SAN FRANCISCO (J. The Jewish News of Northern California via JTA) — Administrators of a Jewish summer camp destroyed by a wildfire in Northern California toured the site for the first time, finding “miracles” amid the devastation.

Although most of Camp Newman’s buildings were lost in the North Bay Area wildfires, camp officials said an entrance gate, prayer books and prayer shawls survived the flames, along with an iconic wooden Star of David that overlooks the Union for Reform Judaism camp from a rocky perch.

The camp’s executive director, Ruben Arquilevich, and other camp officials visited the fire-ravaged site for the first time on Friday and were shocked by the scene even before they arrived.

Arquilevich in an interview Tuesday said the road to the camp had featured “scenery filled with blue skies and green trees and grass, and the first part has always been a neighborhood with a couple of hundred homes.”

“But as we drove through that neighborhood, all we saw were homes burned to the ground. This used to be a color scene, and it was black and white. It just haunted me,” he said.

Arquilevich’s spirits were raised, however, when he saw that the giant gate to the camp, inscribed with the words “May you be blessed as you go on your way,” was standing. Grapes dangled from some vines in the camp’s vineyard, which was undisturbed.

He was further relieved when the visitors found that a pair of Torah arks created by former camp artist-in-residence Helen Burke had survived. One had been dubbed the “Little Ambassador.”

At least 41 people have been killed as the result of 15 major wildfires across California. Over 217,000 acres and 5,700 structures have been destroyed..

The group made the 15-minute hike to the 6-foot Star of David, at which campers traditionally scream “I love being Jewish!” The wooden symbol “was completely untouched, surrounded by hundreds of yards of blackened brush,” Arquilevich told J.

The bimah of an amphitheater was heavily damaged, and all the nearby sheds were charred — “except for this one shed that contains our sacred texts and our prayer books and the tallitot,” Arquilevich said.

“It was completely intact,” he said. “We all just about broke into tears there because the tallitot were safe. That was just another miracle and just so moving. It pointed in the direction we’re going, with the idea that Camp Newman will continue.”

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, which owns and runs the 480-acre camp east of Santa Rosa, joined Arquilevich for the tour of the site. He said officials are determined to hold camp in 2018. About 1,400 children attend Camp Newman each summer, and 40 to 50 staffers come from Israel to work as counselors.

“We will have camp this summer,” Jacobs said. “I can’t tell you exactly where or how.”

How anti-Zionists fueled a far-right victory

Tue, 2017-10-17 19:12

The American Jewish Historical Society is housed at a Manhattan address that includes several other Jewish organizations. (Wikimedia Commons, JTA montage)

NEW YORK (JTA) — Last month, New York’s Center for Jewish History was the target of a right-wing campaign seeking to oust its new president, David Myers, over his dovish views on Israel. The campaign drew an appropriately outraged response from leading Jewish scholars, who rallied around Myers, a highly regarded historian who has publicly opposed the anti-Israel BDS — Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions — movement.

Now, one of the five independent historical organizations housed at the center, the American Jewish Historical Society, is also coming under attack. This time, however, the most consequential attacks are coming not from the far right but the far left. Anti-Zionist BDS supporters are masquerading as champions of free expression after their hijacking of the august and heretofore largely apolitical AJHS was foiled.

The latest controversy erupted into public view last week when AJHS’s board canceled two events that the society had been scheduled to host: a play by the anti-Zionist playwright Dan Fishback on intrafamilial disagreements about Israel and a discussion on the Balfour Declaration that was co-sponsored with the BDS-backing Jewish Voice for Peace. The cancellation came the same day as an article criticizing AJHS for hosting the events appeared in the far-right FrontPage Magazine.

Fishback and JVP immediately cried foul. Fishback, a JVP and BDS supporter, complained of “silencing and censorship.” JVP’s executive director, Rebecca Vilkomerson, decried what she called AJHS’s “shameful caving to rightwing pressure.” The New York Times picked up on the ensuing “backlash” from various cultural figures angered by what they saw as AJHS embracing censorship.

Critics focused on the cancellation of the play, “Rubble Rubble,” casting Fishback as a superficially sympathetic-seeming party in the drama. But the play’s cancellation cannot be understood in isolation.

For starters: Why was AJHS hosting a discussion with Jewish Voice for Peace on the Balfour Declaration — with a panel consisting of a Palestinian activist in dialogue with a JVP activist, neither of whom is even a historian? Would AJHS also host a panel discussion on the Oslo Accords sponsored by a far-right pro-settler group like Women in Green? I doubt it.

AJHS, consistent with its focus on American Jewish history, does little Israel-related programming. But the planned Balfour Declaration panel was not even the only event in partnership with JVP. Earlier in the year, AJHS partnered with JVP to host an event with an anti-Zionist Ethiopian Israeli activist. AJHS also was publicly offering discounted tickets to JVP members for Fishback’s play about Israel.

These three events, it’s worth noting, seem to be the only Israel-related programs hosted by AJHS in 2017. It’s simply not as if AJHS was hosting tons of Israel programs — or even many plays — and then singling out Fishback’s performance for cancellation because some people complained about his views on Israel.

Here’s the real question: How is it that American Jewry’s leading historical society came to select a fringe anti-Zionist group as its sole interlocutor on Israel-related programming?

AJHS’s director of programming, Shirly Bahar — who publicly supports the boycott of Israeli academic institutions — announced the society’s fall schedule with the declaration that she had worked to foster “critical, edgy, and politically challenging cultural and academic programs where difficult conversations about Mizrahim, Jews of Color, Palestine, cross-cultural solidarity, and anti-racism are highlighted rather than censored.”

The result, at least as far as Israel programming, seems to have been a schedule that reflected only one very particular strand of thinking on Israel — one that is far removed from the views of the overwhelming majority of American Jews.

The AJHS board officers did not seem to be aware of this sudden slant in the society’s programming until quite recently, as a source confirmed to the Forward. Ultimately, members of the AJHS board decided to cancel the events, with AJHS stating that “they do not align with the mission of the AJHS.”

The Jewish community does have genuine problems with campaigns to stigmatize and shut down people based on their views on Israel. Too often those who criticize Israel — liberal Zionists and anti-Zionists alike — are subjected to campaigns of invective and incitement. The right-wing campaign against David Myers is a prime example.

That’s not what happened at AJHS. Rather, an anti-Zionist fringe coopted the programming of a mainstream Jewish institution, then cried “censorship” when the institution’s board realized what was going on and put a stop to it.

Moreover, JVP and Fishback don’t exactly have the strongest standing to complain about shutting down or stigmatizing others. This is the same JVP that tried to shame LGBT supporters of Israel who marched in this past summer’s Celebrate Israel parade in New York by disrupting their contingent. This is the same Fishback who defended pro-Palestinian activists who shut down an event by a pro-Israel LGBT group at a conference hosted by the National LGBTQ Task Force.

Activists like these appear all too happy to see those with whom they disagree shut down or shouted down. And they seem equally happy to aggressively try to coopt the Jewish institutions to which they can gain entry. When they are denied, they kvetch about being silenced.

AJHS was the collateral damage. Now it faces the wrath of those who were wrongly led to believe that AJHS “caved” to right-wing censors. And AJHS has alarmed constituents who wonder why a preeminent communal historical institution would subcontract its Israel programming to a widely loathed anti-Zionist group.

But if AJHS came out as a loser, there were also winners. The incident gave new ammunition to those on the far right who are now trying to smear David Myers and the Center for Jewish History for the programming decisions of AJHS, an independent organization. And JVP gets to resume its favorite posture: righteous “silenced” victim.

(Daniel Treiman, a recent graduate of New York University School of Law, is a former managing editor of JTA and a former opinion editor of the Forward.)

Marc Klionsky, master portrait painter, dies at 90

Tue, 2017-10-17 18:56

(JTA) — Marc Klionsky, a Soviet-Jewish émigré to New York who gained worldwide prominence painting portraits of such eminent figures as Golda Meir and Elie Wiesel, has died.

Klionsky, who died last month at 90, was the youngest artist to have his paintings exhibited in the renowned Tretiakov Gallery in Moscow.

His works have been exhibited around the world, including throughout Europe and in Israel, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

Along with Meir, the late Israeli prime minister, and Wiesel, the late Nobel laureate, Klionsky painted portraits of musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie and B.B. King, and industry titans such as Armand Hammer, among many others.

Klionsky, a Russia native who was the son of a master printer, trained in Russia’s best art schools and began working as an artist in his early teens. His family escaped the Holocaust when his father convinced 200 people from their neighborhood to travel to Kazan in eastern Russia, away from the advancing Nazi army.

He later escaped in 1974 with his family from Russia, due to anti-Semitism and lack of artistic freedom, first to Rome and then to New York.

In the forward to a book on Klionsky’s work, Wiesel, for whom Klionsly sculpted his Nobel Prize medal, wrote: “A painter on the theme of return or of memory, or both, Marc Klionsky offers us multiple faces that have haunted his past and ours. One has only to see them to understand his journey from Leningrad to Manhattan. One has only to study them to recall the events which they incarnate. For Marc Klionsky, the mystery of endurance as well as transformation is in the human face.”

Klionsky is survived by his wife of 58 years, Irina; two daughters; four grandchildren; and a sister.

Harvey Weinstein shows us how perpetrators pose as victims

Tue, 2017-10-17 16:57

Harvey Weinstein speaking at National Geographic’s Further Front Event at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City, April 19, 2017. (Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for National Geographic)

(JTA) — In an interview with The Daily Beast, George Clooney described Harvey Weinstein as a very powerful man with a tendency to hit on young beautiful women over whom he had power. Despite the “rumors” he had heard about Weinstein’s openly predatory behavior, Clooney expressed sincere shock and outrage at the widespread sexual misconduct allegations directed at Weinstein.

Clooney is not alone in this cognitive dissonance. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow reported that well before articles in The New York Times and the New Yorker quoted dozens of his victims, his colleagues routinely referenced his behavior in public speeches. Everyone knew that Weinstein abused his power, yet the harm he did to his victims was a well-kept secret.

Michelle Obama addressed this dynamic last year in response to the news that then-candidate Donald Trump had been caught on tape bragging about sexual assault. She said that women are drowning in violence and abuse and disrespect, and trying to pretend that it doesn’t hurt because it’s too dangerous to look weak. Victims are coerced into treating the harm they suffer as a shameful secret, even when the crimes committed against them are public knowledge.

Far more people have seen misleading TV shows than have ever seriously listened to abuse victims describe their experiences. Television has led people to expect that assault victims, like drowning victims, will thrash against the waves and loudly cry for help. When a real woman smiles at a powerful man who won’t take his hand off her leg, or says, “It’s OK, really,” or even quietly and insistently says “no,” bystanders do not understand that she is in danger. Meanwhile, abuse victims are coerced into giving the impression that nothing is wrong. Those who speak up are punished more often than they are protected, with devastating consequences.

In their consistent testimony about Weinstein’s behavior, his victims describe the professional and legal pressure they faced to be peaceful and show the world that they were OK. Weinstein does not face this pressure. In multiple statements, he has expressed intense distress in terms that suggest he feels he is is entitled to sympathy and validation. He has also expressed an expectation that he will be forgiven and restored to his position if he makes enough progress in therapy. No professional association has condemned or will condemn Weinstein’s perceptions of therapy, because they are within normative practice.

Women and other marginalized people are familiar with this pattern. When accused of abusive or oppressive behavior, privileged people seem to expect that with the right combination of apparent remorse and therapy, others will comfort and forgive them. Women who complain about sexual harassment, disabled people who demand usable bathrooms and people of color who ask white people to stop using racial slurs all face this kind of emotional retaliation. Victims are pressured to disregard their own feelings in order to help perpetrators feel better about themselves.

In his statement following The New York Times expose, Weinstein briefly apologized for the “pain” caused by his behavior, but pivoted quickly to emphasize his own feelings.

“Although I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go. That is my commitment,” his statement read. “My journey now will be to learn about myself and conquer my demons.”

Weinstein is pursuing therapy not for the sake of his victims, but because he is suffering and would like to feel better. In the professional literature, this sense of woundedness is called moral injury. Weinstein and others who see their own moral injury as a bigger problem than the harm they have done have no trouble finding therapists and spiritual leaders willing to validate their worldview.  

Spiritual leaders and therapists are too often more willing to put pressure on victims to forgive. For both victims and perpetrators, justice is dismissed as a spiritual distraction and healing is purported to depend on deciding that the abuse doesn’t really matter anymore.

Well-meaning people rush in to tell victims that their abusers “only have as much power as you give them,” as if spiritual growth can somehow stop bullets, restore lost professional standing or render formative experiences irrelevant. Abuse has consequences that are beyond the control of victims, but it is almost never socially acceptable to acknowledge this. This is spiritually corrosive to everyone involved.

Superficially gentle lectures on the importance of tolerance, forgiveness and second chances prevent those who are being drowned from crying out for justice. This cowardice sometimes disguises itself as the virtue of tolerance, but it is just as misogynistic as sexual harassment. Both of these violent acts send the message to victims that their lives matter less than someone else’s self-image. Victims of all genders deserve solidarity from their spiritual leaders.

It is time to stop keeping secrets about the consequences of abuse.  

(Ruti Regan, @RutiRegan, is a Conservative rabbi and disabled disability advocate. She who writes the realsocialskills.org blog. She provides ritual consulting and training for rabbis, cantors and communities in accessibility and disability-informed spiritual leadership. )  

Israel sets conditions on negotiating with Palestinian unity government

Tue, 2017-10-17 16:48

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli government said it will not conduct diplomatic negotiations with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas unless it meets several conditions, including a halt to the group’s terrorist activities.

The conditions, which were announced Tuesday following a meeting of the Security Cabinet, include recognition of Israel and a halt to all terrorist activities in accordance with the rules set down by the Middle East Quartet; disarming of Hamas’ military infrastructure; and the return of the bodies of fallen Israeli soldiers and several civilians being held by Hamas in Gaza.

Other conditions are handing full security control of the Gaza Strip, including all border crossings, to the Palestinian Authority; the severing of all ties between Hamas and Iran; and humanitarian supplies and funds for Gaza facilitated through the P.A.

The Palestinian Authority and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, signed a reconciliation agreement earlier this week in Cairo. They are scheduled to meet again next month in the Egyptian capital to discuss forming a new unity government, as well as elections for president and parliament.

On Tuesday, Hamas denied reports that it had agreed as part of the unity deal to halt terror and rocket attacks on Israel.

Anthony Scaramucci Twitter account asks how many Jews were killed in the Holocaust

Tue, 2017-10-17 15:29

Anthony Scaramucci departing from “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” at Ed Sullivan Theater in New York City, Aug. 14, 2017. (Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A Twitter account associated with Anthony Scaramucci, the colorful investor who was briefly President Donald Trump’s communications director, withdrew and apologized for a tweet surveying how many Jews people believed were killed in the Holocaust.

“This poll was put up by @lancelaifer without consulting @Scaramucci who is traveling in London,” the Scaramucci Post account said Tuesday with a screen capture of the offending tweet. “The poll has been taken down.”

The original tweet asked, “How many Jews were killed in the Holocaust?” and offered multiple choices: “Less than one million, between 1-2 million, between 2-3 million, more than 5 million.” The historical figure, 6 million, was not offered.

The screen capture showed that within an hour of posting, 4,776 people had responded, with 68 percent answering more than 5 million, 21 percent saying less than 1 million and the rest split between the other two options.

This poll was put up by @lancelaifer without consulting @Scaramucci who is traveling in London.
The poll has been taken down. pic.twitter.com/SKaaPZAPow

— ScaramucciPost (@ScaramucciPost) October 17, 2017

Two tweets followed: “This is @lancelaifer and I apologize if anyone was offended by the Holocaust poll,” one said. Another said, “The intent of the poll was to highlight ignorance of the basic facts of the Holocaust. I take full responsibility for it.”

The original tweet drew widespread outrage. “What the actual f— is this, @Scaramucci?” tweeted CNN anchor Jake Tapper, who is Jewish.

Lance Laifer, according to a Bloomberg Business biography, has founded several capital management firms, as has Scaramucci. It’s not clear how they are associated.

The Scaramucci Post links to articles, many related to the news of the day, and attaches them to surveys or simply asks: “Thoughts?” Three tweets on Tuesday asked followers’ “thoughts” about a Halloween costume meant to look like Anne Frank, the Holocaust diarist. The company distributing the outfit withdrew it earlier this week and apologized.

Scaramucci was communications director at the White House for 10 days this summer and helped spur the firing of establishment Republican figures in the White House such as Reince Priebus, the former chief of staff. He also undermined anti-establishment figures who eventually left, like Stephen Bannon, who is associated with the “alt-right.”

Scaramucci himself was forced out after he delivered an obscenity-laden interview to The New Yorker attacking Priebus and Bannon.

A female Israeli combat soldier proudly models for weapons companies

Tue, 2017-10-17 15:19

Orin Julie posing with an assault rifle at a shooting range in the West Bank. (Omer Shapira/Courtesy of Say Talent)

TEL AVIV (JTA) — When it comes to women posing with firearms, the United States is fully loaded. Lithe models can be found showing off weapons at gun shows, in rifle magazines and on dedicated social media pages.

Orin Julie may look like just another “gun bunny,” as such models are sometimes called, but she is the industry’s secret weapon. She is a former Israeli combat soldier who is trained to discharge the weapons she poses with.

“I don’t stand around in swimwear,” she said in an interview at the office of her Tel Aviv modeling agency. “I know how to hold guns, how to shoot, how to do combat stuff — and Americans appreciate that.”

Julie’s military background has helped her stand out as a weapons model and win a following of legions of American gun enthusiasts. But the reception to her modeling also demonstrates the vast differences between the the gun cultures of the United States and her native Israel.

At home many see her as a woman who served in a combat unit, as an embodiment of female empowerment. To her fans in the United States, she is a symbol of the very American mixture of constitutional rights, gun ownership and a culture in which “sexy” can refer both to a beautiful young woman and the assault weapon she cradles.

Two years into her career, Julie, 23, has modeled for a half dozen Israeli and American companies that sell firearms and related products. Last year, she represented Israel’s Gilboa Rifles at the world’s biggest gun show in Las Vegas.

A video about her by Israel’s Kan public broadcaster has been viewed by more than 800,000 people since it was posted on Facebook earlier this month.

Meanwhile, Julie’s Instagram account has racked up 145,000 followers, many who gush over photos of her in lipstick and crop tops bearing the latest arms, from petite handguns to massive assault rifles.

Julie said her love of guns and her career modeling them emerged from her Zionist upbringing. Growing up in the central Israeli town of Kiryat Ono, she recalled being a “very spoiled girl.” But in high school, as she began thinking ahead to her mandatory military service, Julie quietly resolved to become a combat solider.

“No one thought I could do it,” she said. “But I really love Israel, and I wanted to show I could do more and be more.”

The army initially turned Julie down for combat, citing her asthma, but with the backing of a powerful female commander, she managed to start her second year of service in the Israel Defense Forces’ new mixed-gender search and rescue brigade. She said she was the first woman to serve as the communications sergeant for a brigade commander.

Orin Julie during her combat training in the Israel Defense Forces. (Courtesy of Orin Julie)

In 2015, near the end of her three years of service, photos Julie posted on Instagram of herself in training drew the attention of the Israeli military equipment retailer Zahal, which led to contracts with local makers of firearms and gun accessories and a West Bank shooting range. She has also modeled for Ideal Conceal, an American startup that hopes to market cellphone-sized handguns to women with the slogan “Carry with confidence, conceal in style.”

Julie publicly embraces her Israeli identity and her combat experience, which she said her employers encourage. On Instagram, she posts throwback photos of her time in the army, writes in Hebrew and wishes her followers “Shabbat shalom.” Judging by the response on her Instagram account, it works for her fans.

Hebrew and English comments like “I just love Israeli girls” and “ok I’m ready to join the IDF” are common. However, so are those calling her a “baby killer” or otherwise attacking Israel.

Orin Julie modeling a handgun designed for women. (Courtesy of Say Talent)

While Julie’s devotees can agree that her nationality and combat experience are sexy, the ways the Israelis and Americans respond to her are in other ways distinctive.

In general, Israelis pay little attention to the guns Julie poses with. After all, most of them handle weapons in the army and are barred from owning them by their country’s strict laws. The very idea of a weapons model is foreign here; Julie said she is the first.

More salient to Israelis is Julie’s combat service as a woman. The army’s promotion of female fighters has triggered controversy of late, and Julie said men, including her former commanders, send her supportive messages and women stop her on the street to thank her.

“Girls say I inspired them to go for a combat position or just to do what they love,” she said.

As for her American fans, many respond enthusiastically to the guns Julie helps sell in their country’s large market — one that many other Americans see as underregulated. Her Instagram followers in the United States, whom she described as “crazy about guns,” often comment on specific gun models she uses.

Last August, she posted a photo of herself holding an M60 machine gun nearly as big she is. Comments from Americans included, “I love this gun. I was an M60 gunner for three years”; “M60 Machine Gun…!!! Nam memories!”; and “War in vietnam, m60 7.62 mm nato.”

Orin Julie taking aim during a photo shoot. (Shuki Laufer/Courtesy of Say Talent)

Julie, speaking to JTA just days after a gunman killed 58 people at an outdoor music festival in Las Vegas, declined to speak on the record about her views of gun laws in the United States or modeling for companies that do business in the country. She said only that she believes in the right to self defense but is saddened whenever she hears of an innocent victim of American gun violence.

“I’m really sorry about what happened in Vegas,” she said. “I hope the government will find a way to take care of it.”

Ultimately, Julie said, she worries little about how she is perceived. Modeling guns is about using her talents to achieve her ambitions, she said, which include completing her degree in personal training and launching a successful acting career.

“I was blessed with certain skills, and I all want is to be the best version of myself,” she said. “I love the adrenaline of holding a gun. It makes me feel powerful and in control.”

Spanish newspaper’s claim that British soccer club hated due to ‘Jewish origin’ condemned

Tue, 2017-10-17 13:11

(JTA) — British soccer clubs have condemned an article in a Spanish daily newspaper that reported the “Jewish origin” of the Tottenham Hotspurs has caused the team to be hated by rival clubs’ fans.

The Madrid-based daily sports newspaper Marca published the article on Monday ahead of a match between the Spurs and Real Madrid as part of the Champions League play.

“Their Jewish origin has made them into a club hated by rival fans. But in their 135 years of existence they have always had style and great players,” the article said, in part.

In a clarification issued after publication, senior reporter Enrique Ortega wrote: “That ‘hatred’ that Tottenham suffers is very focused on the radical and racist groups that are hiding in the social mass, especially Chelsea and West Ham.”

“I regret the confusion that has been created in this respect. The intention was not to damage the image of Tottenham, a club we respect, value… and we do not want to serve as a speaker to these racist minorities who use any pretext to expand their hate messages, which we reject head-on,” he also wrote.

The Tottenham team said in a statement: “We are astonished that a publication such as Marca, which presents itself as an alleged source of professional journalism, has seen fit to publish such an article which is blatantly wrong and wholly distasteful.”

Spurs rivals Chelsea and West Ham also released statements blasting the article’s assertion. Chelsea said that the article made “wide-ranging, inaccurate and appalling accusations.”  West Ham called the article “unfounded, offensive and wildly inaccurate.”

The team was popular among Jewish immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Fans often call themselves the “Yid Army,” though the league has since banned the term as offensive.

Report: New bill would allow Israeli government to close left-wing NGOs critical of IDF

Tue, 2017-10-17 12:40

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A new bill being prepared would allow the Israeli government to close left-wing NGOS that are critical of the Israeli military or call for boycotts of Israel.

The bill Is being prepared by Israel’s Tourism Minister Yariv Levin at the behest of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Channel 2 reported.

Levin reportedly started working on it about five months ago. The legislation is set to be reviewed by legal advisors and approved by Netanyahu in the coming weeks, for introduction during the Knesset’s winter session.

The bill would affect NGOs such as Breaking the Silence, which brings former army soldiers to schools and other venues both inside and outside of Israel to talk about alleged abuses of Palestinians under occupation.

Netanyahu on Sunday told a summit of Christian reporters in Jerusalem that he plans to create a parliamentary committee to investigate the funding NGOs receive from foreign governments.

The Knesset in July 2016 passed controversial legislation that requires nongovernmental organizations to publicly declare their foreign government funding.

Under the NGO transparency law, NGOs that receive more than half their support from “foreign political entities” – including foreign governments or state agencies — must declare that funding and detail it every time they put out a report and advocacy literature, or speak with a public official. Left-wing human rights organizations are disproportionately affected by the law.

The NGO law was opposed by the United States, and denounced by many European countries.

Kosher winery partially reopens as wildfires continue burning in Northern California

Tue, 2017-10-17 10:41

The scene at Hagafen Cellars on Oct. 10, 2017, when land, vegetation and equipment were burned in the fires raging throughout Wine Country this week. (Courtesy of Hagafen Cellars)

(JTA) — Hagafen Cellars, the only kosher winery in the Napa Valley and Sonoma, partially opened despite sustaining heavy damage in the wildfires racing through the area.

The winery’s tasting room reopened on Monday morning, and “We’re waiting now for our first tourist,” owner and winemaker Ernie Weir told J. The Jewish News of Northern California.

Several buildings and virtually all of the winery’s agricultural equipment were destroyed in the fire. And while one of the winery’s 12 acres of vineyards was burned, the grapes already had been harvested. The inventory remained intact as well.

There are hundreds of wineries in the region and most were forced to close in the first days of the fires, which have been burning for more than a week. Some of the wineries burned to the ground, according to J.

There have been at least 41 deaths reported from the northern California wildfires and more than 80 people remain missing. The fires have burned over 217,000 acres and destroyed more than 5,700 homes and other structures. Damage estimates have topped $3 billion.

As of Monday night some 60 percent of the fires were reported contained, with rain in the forecast for later in the week.

The Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, The Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties reported that as of Monday evening the nine local synagogues in the path of the fires were unharmed, as well as the JCC of Sonoma County.

At least 21 local Jewish families have lost their homes in the fires, and are currently sheltering in one of the synagogues, with the others working to help provide the families with meals. IsraAid is also on the scene, providing supplies and grief counseling, according to the Federation. In addition, representatives from Sonoma County Chabad Jewish Center and Chabad Jewish Center of Petaluma have been visiting emergency centers and providing support, as well as meals via Oakland Kosher.

 

 

German court again convicts Holocaust denier Ursula Haverbeck, 88

Tue, 2017-10-17 09:49

(JTA) — Ursula Haverbeck, a well-known historical revisionist and neo-Nazi was again convicted of Holocaust denial.

Haverbeck, 88, was convicted on a Berlin district court on Monday and sentenced to six months in prison, Deutche Welle reported.

The conviction was for saying at an event in the city in January 2016 that the Holocaust did not occur and that there were no gas chambers at the Auschwitz Nazi death camp, which she said was a labor camp. Haverbeck said she will appeal the conviction.

Holocaust denial is illegal in Germany.

She is scheduled to go on trial in the western German down of Detmold for the third time, after twice being convicted of incitement to hatred there for denying a genocide of the Jews during World War II.

In November 2016, Haverbeck was convicted by a court in Verden on the basis of numerous articles she had published in the local newspaper Stimme des Reiches, or “Voice of the Reich,” in which she denied that the Holocaust occurred.   The previous month, a court in Bad Oeynhausen sentenced Haverbeck to 11 months in jail for incitement to hate. In September 2016, the court in Detmold sentenced her to 8 months in prison. And the previous year, a court in Hamburg sentenced her to ten months in jail. She has appealed all of these decisions as well and has not spent any time in jail on the convictions.

German media call her the “Nazi grandma,” according to DW.

Suspect arrested over anti-Semitic graffiti at northern England synagogue

Tue, 2017-10-17 09:24

(JTA) — A suspect was arrested in connection with anti-Semitic graffiti painted on the sign of a synagogue in northern England.

Police in Leeds on Monday told British media that they had arrested the man at the end of last week after a second incident occurred outside the Etz Chaim synagogue. Staff members of the anti-Semitism watchdog group Community Security Trust were harangued with anti-Semitic abuse by the suspect outside of the synagogue before his arrest, the London-based Jewish Chronicle reported.

On Oct 11, a swastika and the word “kikes” was painted in red on the sign of the synagogue facing the main road.

Both incidents currently are under investigation, according to police. The man was released after his arrest pending the results of the investigation.

Following the incident, four members of the local Muslim community visited the synagogue with a gift of flowers in a gesture of solidarity with the local Jewish community.

What happens now with the Iran deal

Mon, 2017-10-16 21:29

President Donald Trump at the White House speaking on the administration’s Iran strategy, Oct. 13, 2017. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Donald Trump has said what he wants Congress to do with the Iran nuclear deal, which he has called the worst in the world: Make it better.

How does that happen? Is it possible to “fix” the deal without breaking it?

Here’s a breakdown of what Trump wants, what might happen and where the Jewish organizations, many who were fierce opponents of the original deal, are on the issue.

What Trump wants

The 2015 deal negotiated by the Obama administration, the European Union, Britain, Germany, France, Russia and China with Iran traded sanctions relief for a rollback of Iran’s nuclear program. Trump can leave the deal whenever he wants: All he has to do is stop waiving — that is, restore — the sanctions removed by the deal.

Top security advisers have talked Trump out of that option, saying it could damage the U.S. reputation. Instead, they have counseled him to decertify Iranian compliance with the agreement under a 2015 law passed by Congress as a means of overseeing the deal: the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, or INARA.

Under the act, once Trump decertifies — he said he would do that in a White House speech on Friday — Congress has 60 days to reimpose sanctions. But the White House is not asking Congress to reimpose the sanctions. Rather the president wants new legislation, through an amended INARA or through a new law, that would effectively reshape the deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Trump wants the new laws to override provisions of the deal, including the so-called sunset clauses that lift restrictions and allow Iran to enrich fissile material beginning within the next decade. Trump wants a law that would keep U.S. sanctions in place should Iran remove the restrictions, even though the sunset clauses allow them to do so.

In another instance, the deal includes a complex and relatively lengthy procedure for International Atomic Energy Agency nuclear inspectors to visit sites not covered by the deal. Trump wants a law that would reimpose sanctions unless Iran agrees to simplify the procedure.

Trump said Friday in outlining the policy that if he’s not happy with the outcome, he would pull out of the deal.

“In the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated,” he said. “It is under continuous review, and our participation can be canceled by me, as president, at any time.”

What happens next, congressional version

Two prominent Republicans in the U.S. Senate, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Bob Corker of Tennessee, are shaping legislation according to Trump’s specifications. The legislation is still being drafted, but Corker last week released a summary of the proposal.

“The legislation automatically reimposes sanctions if Iran’s nuclear program violates certain restrictions,” the summary said. “These restrictions remain in force indefinitely, effectively ridding the JCPOA of its sunset provisions as they apply to U.S. sanctions; bolster IAEA verification powers; and limit Iran’s advanced centrifuge program.”

Enacting the bill as it stands now is unlikely. Advancing the legislation requires 60 backers in the Senate, as none of the 48 Democrats in the body of 100 are likely to get on board. Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said as much, referring to statements by Trump’s top military advisers, who oppose killing the deal despite its flaws.

“The @SenateDems agree with (Secretary of Defense James) Mattis and (chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) General (Joseph) Dunford,” Schumer said on Twitter after Trump announced his decision. “We won’t allow the Iran deal to be undone.”

What happens next, international version

The likelier way forward would involve not Congress but U.S. allies who signed on to the deal. This would involve increasing pressure on Iran outside the context of the nuclear deal, which Trump could claim as an improvement.

The three European governments that signed the deal released a statement Friday saying they opposed rupturing the pact, but were eager to squeeze Iran for its other malign activities, including missile testing and military adventurism.

“We stand ready to take further appropriate measures to address these issues in close cooperation with the U.S. and all relevant partners,” the statement from the governments of Britain, Germany and France said.

Trump in his own remarks suggested he was open to that route.

“I urge our allies to join us in taking strong actions to curb Iran’s continued dangerous and destabilizing behavior, including thorough sanctions outside the Iran Deal that target the regime’s ballistic missile program, in support for terrorism, and all of its destructive activities, of which there are many,” he said.

Trump could then legitimately claim that the international community was focused more holistically on Iran’s overall bad behavior and not narrowly on the nuclear program.

Robert Satloff, the director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said in a conference call Monday organized by the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs that this could offer a win-win: Keeping the deal in place for those who favor doing so while allowing Trump the opportunity to say it was improved.

“The main focus is trying to get our allies to get together with the United States and reach improvements, and then the president will say ‘good enough,'” he said.

Where is the pro-Israel camp?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is enthusiastic about Trump’s proposal, especially the prospect of killing the deal outright should the Iranians not play ball. Among international leaders, only the Saudis share Netanyahu’s enthusiasm.

“I believe that any responsible government, and whoever seeks to promote peace and security in the world, needs to take advantage of the opportunity that President Trump’s decision has created in order to improve the agreement or abrogate it and, of course, stop Iran’s aggression,” the Israeli leader said Sunday in remarks opening his weekly Cabinet meeting.

The centrist pro-Israel community is less sanguine. Like Schumer and other Democrats who opposed the original deal, there is a sense among pro-Israel groups that breaching the deal would damage America’s ability to affect Iranian behavior by reducing U.S. credibility among allies.

Instead, the major groups urged collaboration by Congress, the administration and U.S. allies to address flaws while keeping the deal intact.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee welcomed Trump’s speech, but emphasized that he was not proposing ending the deal, at least for now.

“The president made clear his view of the deficiencies in the JCPOA, but he also indicated that the United States is not withdrawing from the accord at this time,” AIPAC said in a statement. “Instead, he called upon Congress and our allies to work together to address the deal’s problematic sunset clauses, the lack of sufficient inspections, and the danger posed by Iran’s ballistic missile program.”

An AIPAC official told JTA that it was too early to assess whether the group would back the Corker-Cotton bill, as a final version was not yet released.

David Harris, the American Jewish Committee’s executive director, said in a post on the group’s site that it wasn’t useful to relitigate earlier political battles over the deal.

“At this point in time, whatever earlier views were, it is absolutely essential that the Administration, Congress, and our key allies in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia work as collaboratively as possible on the Iran threat,” Harris said.

Jonathan Greenblatt, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, said rupturing the agreement now could destabilize the region. His group, like the AJC, opposed the deal.

“A reimposition of sanctions and an unraveling of the deal would not only have a negative impact on America’s international leadership and foreign affairs priorities, but could bring immediate threats from Iran,” Greenblatt wrote on Medium. “But there is an opportunity now to reset the terms of this debate.”

J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group, urged Congress to reject any attempt to amend the deal.

“Congress does not need to be an accomplice in Trump’s plan to unravel the Iran deal,” the group said in a statement. “They can stand up against a course of action that could lead to an unconstrained Iranian nuclear program or another war in the Middle East.”

On the right, the Zionist Organization of America, in a post by its president, Morton Klein, in advance of Trump’s speech, opposed keeping the deal in place.

“The only things likely to slow Iran is pressure, including and especially renewed sanctions,” Klein wrote. Decertifying the JCPOA but keeping the United States “in this deeply flawed agreement,” he added, “is illogical and useless.”

Halloween costume company removes Anne Frank outfit

Mon, 2017-10-16 21:12

Holloweencostumes.com removed this Halloween costume of Holocaust diarist Anne Frank from its sites. (Screenshot from Holloweencostumes.com)

(JTA) — An online costume company removed a Halloween costume of Holocaust diarist Anne Frank from its U.S. and European websites.

Holloweencostumes.com, whose website is run by the Minnesota-based company Fun.com, pulled the costumes on Sunday after a backlash on social media.

The costume, which can be seen on social media in screen grabs, included a long sleeve blue button-up dress, a brown shoulder bag and a green beret. The company described Frank as a World War II hero and an inspiration, adding that “we can always learn from the struggles of history.”

“There r better ways 2 commemorate Anne Frank. This is not one. We should not trivialize her memory as a costume,” Carlos Galindo-Elvira, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League in Arizona, said in a tweet.

There r better ways 2 commemorate Anne Frank. This is not one. We should not trivialize her memory as a costume.

— carlosgeADL (@carlosgeADL) October 16, 2017

Company spokesman Ross Walker Smith in a tweet apologized “for any offense” the costume caused.

“We sell costumes not only for Halloween season, such as school projects and plays. We offer several types of historically accurate costumes – from prominent figures to political figures, to television characters,” he tweeted. “We take feedback from customers very seriously. We have passed along the feedback regarding this costume, and it has been removed from the website at this time.”

Ben Kingsley playing Adolf Eichmann in film about Nazi’s capture by Israel

Mon, 2017-10-16 20:48

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley is in Buenos Aires filming a Hollywood movie about the capture of Adolf Eichmann by Israeli agents.

Kingsley, a British actor, is starring in “Operation Finale,” which chronicles the notorious Nazi’s life as Ricardo Klement living in the Argentine capital after World War II and the Mossad operation to capture him. Chris Weitz, a producer and writer known for “Rogue One” in the “Star Wars” series, is the director. Filming will last one more month in greater Buenos Aires area.

A Mossad unit led by Peter Malkin captured Eichmann in May 1960; he was executed in Israel in 1962. Malkin will be played by the Guatemalan-American actor Oscar Isaac. Matthew Orton wrote the screenplay. Tony Award winner Michael Aronov will play another Mossad agent, Zvi Aharoni.

Kingsley, who won an Oscar for his 1982 portrayal of Mahatma Gandhi, has played “Moses” for TV (1995); Itzhak Stern in “Schindler’s List” (1993); Otto Frank for “Anne Frank” (2001); and Simon Wiesenthal in “Murderers Among Us” (1989).

“The Man Who Captured Eichmann,” a 1996 film starring Robert Duvall, was based on the book “Eichman In My Hands” written by Malkin with Harry Stein.

Argentina was a haven for Nazi war criminals after World War II, including Joseph Mengele and Erich Priebke. One month ago the country presented to Israel tens of thousands of documents from the World War II era, some of them related to Nazi war criminals.

Jewish women share their tales of harassment, and a rabbi atones for his fellow men

Mon, 2017-10-16 19:11

Women are sharing their tales of sexual harassment and assault by using the hashtag #metoo. (Joseph Branston/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

(JTA) — It has happened in a Jerusalem marketplace. On a flight to Israel. On the way home from an Orthodox Brooklyn wedding. Jewish women are among the hundreds of thousands saying, under the hashtag #metoo and in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, that they’ve been groped, harassed or assaulted by men.

And in response, a male rabbi rewrote a Yom Kippur prayer that men might recite to confess the ways they have objectified and violated women.

The #metoo hashtag has spread across social media as women have shared their stories of being sexually harassed or assaulted. The campaign began Sunday night, after actress Alyssa Milano tweeted “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”

If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet. pic.twitter.com/k2oeCiUf9n

— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 15, 2017

Since Milano’s initial tweet, the hashtag has been used more than 200,000 times, according to the BBC.

Women have also shared their stories of abuse in Jewish settings, and of the institutional inaction that sometimes followed when they reported assault or harassment.

Eliana Fishman, a graduate student in New York City, wrote about being harassed by homeless men her Jewish high school encouraged her to talk to, and added that “I get frustrated every time a male religious leader urges his devotees to chat with people on the street, without acknowledging how street harassment works.”

Leah Solomon, who lives in Jerusalem, wrote that years ago, as a 19-year-old counselor at a Jewish camp, four of her 14- and 15-year-old campers came to her with stories of abuse by the same man in their home community. The camp did nothing, she wrote, because the abuse happened off camp grounds.

Debra Nussbaum Cohen, the New York correspondent for Haaretz, wrote that she was assaulted on her first flight to Israel, at age 18.

“I was 18 and on my way to Israel, flying alone for the first time anywhere, and the man next to me groped me repeatedly under the blankets on the overnight flight,” she wrote on Facebook. “At the time I lacked the self-confidence or agency to tell him to stop or call the flight attendant. You can be damn sure I’ve done all I can so that my daughters don’t.”

The #metoo posts have also prompted responses from men who acknowledge the enormity of the problem of sexual abuse, and are promising to do more to stop it. Rabbi Andrew Shapiro Katz, who lives in the Israeli city of Beersheva, wrote a Facebook post in the style of a Jewish prayer, declaring many of the ways in which men have harassed women:

I have objectified. I have disrespected. I have taken advantage. I have harassed. I have violated.
I have sought sexual gratification/conquest with little to no regard for the feelings of the other.
I have touched without certainty of consent.
I have pursued in ways that caused discomfort and possibly fear.
I have uncovered what someone wanted covered.
I have looked when someone expected privacy.
Much of it was as a boy, but not all.
Maybe most of the women do not remember, but assuredly some do.
Maybe what I did was so run-of-the-mill that it isn’t what any of the women posting “MeToo” are referring to.
But so what.
I know the culture and I was a participant in it, even as I came to fight against its more egregious manifestations.
I am not shocked by what other men do because I remember my own actions and thoughts and I can extrapolate.
I feel guilt and shame. I feel pain for pain I caused, or that I minimized or ignored.
But I also feel, and know, that I am responsible. I can do better. I can do more.

The post mimics the “Ashamnu” confessional prayer recited on the day of Yom Kippur — a Hebrew acrostic listing the ways people collectively have sinned. It begins, “We have trespassed. We have betrayed. We have stolen.”

Katz ends his version of the prayer by taking responsibility for the pain he’s caused and pledging to take action to prevent abuse in the future.

This Jewish soprano takes on Trump in absurdist opera piece

Mon, 2017-10-16 18:55

Sara Hershkowitz said the crowd of 15,000 at her Netherlands performance was “screaming like I was Beyoncé every time I sang above a B natural.” (Thomas Jahn)

BERLIN (JTA) — “Do it your way, and make it provocative.”

That’s what the producers of the recent Lowlands festival in the Netherlands wanted when they asked American soprano Sara Hershkowitz to perform György Ligeti’s eight-minute absurdist work “Mysteries of the Macabre” with the North Netherlands Symphony Orchestra.

Ligeti’s work — “anti-anti-opera, a comedy about the apocalypse,” Hershkowitz calls it — is a surreal piece that pokes fun at despots and their excesses. Other versions on YouTube show the coloraturas who perform her character, the chief of the secret police, wearing military fatigues, leather and fishnet stockings or a Britney Spears-style schoolgirl outfit.

So what was Hershkowitz to do?

“I would sing naked if there were an artistic justification,” said the Berliner, a Los Angeles native. “I’m not in favor of gratuitous nudity. It’s artistically lazy, and showing flesh no longer has the power to shock. So … I decided to do it as Donald.”

Hershkowitz begins as a clownlike Trump with a paunch, a suit and bright orange makeup. She takes off the suit to reveal a baby costume. The infant Trump, complete with bottle, “has a meltdown,” she says. Beneath the baby outfit is a stars-and-stripes swimsuit with a Miss America sash.

Her performance at Lowlands — a music and performance arts festival in which the orchestra shared a bill with the likes of The XX and Iggy Pop — brought down the house. Musing over the experience in an email to friends, Hershkowitz said she was amazed to see “15,000 millennials listen rapt, with pure joy and open hearts  to classical music …  the whole lot of them screaming like I was Beyoncé every time I sang above a B natural. Which was totally disorienting, but lovely for my ego.”

Hershkowitz, who prefers not to give her age, explained her inspiration to JTA.

“I want to ignite a conversation about what the relationship should be between classical music and politics,” she said. “There tends to be this belief in my field that classical music is holy, and that our job as musicians is to transcend the schmutz. And I agree that is often our job. But not always.

“Sometimes, particularly with a piece as radical as ‘Le Grand Macabre,’ there is the space to stand up for what we believe in and to connect it to our times,” she added, referencing the Ligeti full-length opera from which “Mysteries” was adapted. “And there is a long, glorious tradition of Jews using satire and theater to do so.”

She describes herself as “very Jewishly identified.” Raised by Conservative Jewish parents who lived in Israel before settling in California in the 1960s, Hershkowitz said she had no trouble picking up and moving to Germany about 10 years ago, going from a thriving Jewish community to one still recovering from the Holocaust.

“I had the name of a voice teacher on a piece of paper, and that was it,” she said of her move. “It was terrifying and also the best decision I ever made.”

Why?

“Germany is the center of the opera world,” she said.

Hershkowitz started out doing small gigs, and in 2007 was appointed as principal artist at the Opera Bremen. She has performed at the Hamburger Staatsoper, the New Israeli Opera and the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, among other venues.

In 2012 she left Bremen, “leapt into nothing and started freelancing.”

“There are days when it’s challenging,” she said, “but I’m still glad I did it. I like being able to choose my projects.”

Striking out on her own seems to be an inherited trait. Her great-grandmother Sarah Greenberg, for whom she was named, “came to America from Belarus with nothing at the age of 14. She spoke no English. She had no contacts.

“I feel like she’s with me a lot – we both left our lives. OK, I was 23 and she was 14. And I came on an airplane and had chicken piccata and cranberry juice for lunch. But I think a lot about how we both left everything we know to create a life out of nothing.”

Today, thanks to Germany’s subsidies for artists and Berlin’s relative affordability, Hershkowitz says she is “able to take risks here. The creative life has dignity here.”

Besides, she says, Berlin with its three opera houses “is a dream city for artists.”

What about for Jews? On the positive side, Hershkowitz says she has “encountered virtually no overt anti-Semitism” in this liberal city of nearly 4 million, whose Jewish population is estimated at about 25,000.

On the downside, there is an occasional “awkwardness in conversations” when non-Jews find out she’s Jewish.

“I am always surprised when people don’t [figure that out] – with my name. Sara is very familiar to Germans,” she said, because Nazi racial laws forced Jewish women to add the name to their passports.

Yet confronting uncomfortable truths is merely a part of Hershkowitz’s job. Take her recent performance at Lowlands.

“I’m not trying to give a message, or pretend I have answers about what to do about the hot steaming mess that is our president,” she said. “But my job is to hold up a mirror. To dazzle, illuminate.”

Hershkowitz will again perform “Mysteries of the Macabre” with the North Netherlands Symphony Orchestra at the Lawei Theater in Groningen on Friday and Saturday.

“The opera world can be a bit insulated; it’s often perceived as being not relevant to the world today,” she said. But if you only “make pretty music … and don’t also stand up for what you believe when great injustice is being done, you would be on the wrong side of history.”