The latest news in the Jewish world, generated by JNS

Download this story in Microsoft Word format here.

Click photo to download. Caption: New Kadima Chairman Shaul Mofaz. Credit: U.S. Department of Defense.In dramatic shift, Likud and Kadima form national unity government

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kadima Chairman Shaul Mofaz dropped an unprecedented political bombshell early Tuesday, as the two decided to join forces, establish a national unity government, and cancel plans for what only hours earlier had seemed to be an inevitable early election, Israel Hayom reported.

Mofaz announced that Kadima, the head of the opposition until the agreement was reached and the biggest faction in the Knesset with 28 seats, would be joining Netanyahu’s Likud-led coalition to advance two flagship issues: the modification of the system of government in Israel and the equal enlistment of all populations to the military.

The deal between the two parties stipulated that an alternative to the Tal Law, which exempts ultra-Orthodox men from mandatory military service, would be submitted by July and that a deal would be reached by December to alter the system of government. In exchange, Kadima vowed to ensure that the current government would remain intact for its full term, which ends in November 2013.

—JointMedia News Service

Click photo to download. Caption: An image from Google Earth showing what is suspected to be a driver training course and other Hezbollah facilities. Credit: Google Earth. Google Earth images show Hezbollah building new bases

Hezbollah has been building new bases and facilities in southern Lebanon and in the eastern Bekaa Valley near the Syrian border, the Lebanese Daily Star reported Tuesday, basing the report on recently uploaded Google Earth satellite images.

According to imagery analysts and European intelligence officials quoted by the Daily Star, the images show what appears to be a Hezbollah training base in an area of secluded hills near the border with Syria. The base includes what is suspected to be a driving course, a 100-meter firing range and a possible urban terrain assault course. The experts also indicated that the training base began construction in 2006, the year Hezbollah engaged in a war with Israel.

The images also showed a great deal of overt construction activity in Hezbollah-dominated areas in southern Lebanon, particularly in hills south of the town of Jezzine, which served as the terrorist organization's main line of defense after the 2006 Second Lebanon War, the report said.

Hezbollah's construction activity suggests the organization has made efforts to prepare for another possible confrontation with Israel.

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service

Click photo to download. Caption: Palestinian terrorist Dalal Mughrabi. Credit: PMW.PA honors terrorist who led attack that killed 37 Israelis 

The Palestinian Authority is again honoring Dalal Mughrabi, a woman who led a group of terrorists to hijack an Israeli bus in an attack that killed 37 people in 1978, Palestinian Media Watch reported.

Sporting events and summer camps are among the latest Palestinian efforts to glorify Mughrabi. A report by Al-Hayat Al-Jadida on one of the events described that “participants were divided into four small groups, named for Martyrs: the Martyr Izz a-Din Al-Qassam group; the Martyr Abd Al-Rahim Mahmoud group; the Martyr Bajes Abu Atwan group; and the Martyr Dalal Mughrabi group.”

—JointMedia News Service

Jewish groups differ on initiation of lawsuits against anti-Zionism on campus 

Amid the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) plenum in Detroit, debate has reignited over the initiation of federal lawsuits against anti-Zionist activities on university campuses. 

On May 6, the JCPA—an umbrella for Jewish community relations councils across the country—adopted a resolution stating that communal organizations should respect the First Amendment when they consider protecting students from alleged anti-Semitism on campus, recommending that lawsuits be limited for “toxic” environments that include “intimidation, violence or threats of violence.”

A 2010 decision by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights prohibited discrimination based on race, national origin or color in federally funded programs, as well as “harassment of members of religious groups based on shared ethnic characteristics.” The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is among the Jewish organizations emphasizing that anti-Israel activities on campus often turn into anti-Semitic harassment. 

However, the JCPA last October issued a draft resolution stating, “Lawsuits and threats of legal action should not be used to censor anti-Israel events, statements and speakers in order to ‘protect’ Jewish students.”

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, on behalf of the National Conference on Jewish Affairs (NCJA),  said it is “irresponsible for the leaders of major Jewish organizations to promote a stricter standard for Jews to meet than for non-Jews in order to seek redress under Title VI.” 

Rossman-Benjamin, a lecturer at University of California Santa Cruz, filed a lawsuit on her campus in 2009, claiming that anti-Israel activism created a hostile environment for Jewish students.

—JointMedia News Service

Israeli company to sell for $240 million

Rehovot, Israel-based AeroScout will be sold to an international buyer for $240 million. The company manufactures chips that track objects, animals and human beings via radio frequencies on the Wi-Fi network. 

In 2010, AeroScout made more than $40 million. Its chips are used to monitor products as they are being manufactured. The New York Stock Exchange also uses AeroScout chips to track its handheld e-broker devices on the trading floor.

Among others, companies using the chips include Boeing, Freescale Semiconductor, Continental Tire and more than 500 hospitals around the world, according to Haaretz.

JointMedia News Service

Click photo to download. Caption: Gilad Shalit, former Hamas captive, upon his return to Israel. Credit: IDF.IDF launches new campaign to prevent soldier abductions

Amid rising concern over the increase in soldier abduction attempts by terrorist organizations, the Israel Defense Forces launched a new advertising campaign urging soldiers not to hitchhike to avoid the risk of being kidnapped, Israel Hayom reported.

The campaign, whose slogan is, “Don't catch a ride — it can catch you,” will be advertised on billboards, trains, streets and military bases. The IDF will also use social media networks and other websites to promote the campaign, including a mock video which will be uploaded to the Internet showing a kidnapped soldier pleading to his family for his release.

IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Yoav (Poly) Mordechai said, "This is the first campaign we are launching on the issue in several years. The campaign aims to provoke a change in the travel habits of soldiers in Israel by providing an understanding of the direct risks involved to the soldiers, and by appealing to their families."

The IDF noted that since the beginning of 2011, there have been 21 suspected attempts to kidnap soldiers. Last October, Israel agreed to release 1,027 prisoners in exchange for captured soldier Gilad Shalit, who was abducted by Gaza terrorists in June 2006.

—JointMedia News Service

Palestinian journalist blames radical Islam for Toulouse murders

Reacting to March’s Toulouse murders, in which a Muslim extremist shot and killed three Jewish children and a rabbi, a Palestinian journalist has written that France’s measures against radical Islam are justified.

Ahlam Akram—a female Palestinian journalist, researcher and human rights activist residing in London—recently wrote the following: “Wouldn’t any mother [prefer] for her son [to] be detained for a while rather than have him sacrifice his life for the sake of goals that do not [even] serve the Muslims? Why do we condemn European governments for denying citizenship to those who have committed unprecedented crimes? I am among those subjected to increased security checks at airports, yet I do not curse the European governments for it.”

“It is the extremist Muslim ideology that I curse one thousand times whenever I travel,” she wrote, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute.

—JointMedia News Service

British Airways marks 80 years of London-Tel Aviv flights

British Airways is celebrating 80 consecutive years of flights from London to Tel Aviv.

The London–Israel route was originally established in 1932 by Imperial Airways, a British company that operated from 1924 to 1939, mostly to British empire colonies. In 1939, Imperial Airways and British Airways Ltd. merged into a single British national airline, the predecessor to today’s British Airways.

The original flights to Israel were flown on a Scipio S17 plane that landed directly on the Sea of Galilee. Once the plane landed, passengers were transferred to land via small boats. To reach their final destination, passengers also had to endure train rides and several overnight stays. The entire journey, which can now be completed in under five hours, took five days.

Today, British Airways operates two flights daily from Tel Aviv to London on Boeing 767 and 777 planes. According to Yael Katan, the airline’s commercial manager in Israel, out of 33 million passengers worldwide, more than 250,000 passengers flew the Tel Aviv–London route last year.

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service

Click photo to download. Caption: Michael Oren. Credit: Paul Foer.Oren ‘shocked’ that American Jews call to boycott Israeli products

The divide separating American and Israeli Jews is growing, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren said on Sunday, adding that the unity of the Jewish people should be a primary concern for all Jews.

Speaking at the Jewish Council for Public Affairs Plenum in Detroit on Sunday, Oren discussed his three children—Yoav, Lia and Noam—and described himself as an Israeli father shocked that American Jews would consider boycotting Israel while his own children were looking for bomb shelters and managing recruits in the Israel Defense Forces.

“There are American Jewish concerns such as ensuring Jewish continuity, maintaining Jewish institutions, affording a Jewish education. All are genuinely serious concerns, and not just for American Jewish kids,” Oren told the audience in Detroit, made up of leaders from all walks of Jewish life. “I was shocked, then, that on the very day that I spoke with my kids about their concerns in Israel, some American Jews were discussing a call to boycott products made by Israeli settlements in the West Bank.”

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service

Israeli gold medal rower sings national anthem herself at award ceremony

Israeli rower Moran Samuel sang Hatikvah, the Jewish state’s national anthem, after she won a gold medal at last month’s international rowing competition for disabled athletes in Italy. Since competition organizers failed to prepare a recording of the song, Samuel chose to sing the song herself.

“If you look at an obstacle as a challenge, then you’ll do the maximum to overcome it. There can be small challenges, like the anthem and me taking the mic and singing, and there can be bigger challenges,” Samuel said, according to Israel Hayom.

—JointMedia News Service

IDF removes strategic roadblocks in effort to improve Palestinian quality of life

The IDF removed several key roadblocks near six roads in the West Bank in an effort to improve Palestinian quality of life in the region. The removal of one of the roadblocks, called the Shomronim Barrier, allows Palestinians to travel freely between the Samaritan neighborhood located next to Nablus and the city of Nablus.

Critics accuse Israel of cornering Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and restricting their lives, despite a continuous terrorist threat against Israelis in the form of suicide bombers and rocket attacks. However, “lately, in light of increased stability and calm in the region, the IDF and the civil administration are making efforts to facilitate Palestinian movement throughout the territories,” an official said anonymously, according to the Jerusalem Post.

—JointMedia News Service

High expectations for Israeli windsurfer at London Olympics

Israel windsurfer Lee Korzits, 28, will compete in this year’s London Summer Olympic Games. If she reaches the podium, she will be the third Israeli to win a medal in windsurfing and the first Israeli woman to stand on the Olympic podium since Yael Arad won the first such medal in Judo at the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992.

“I go to London like a favorite and I train really hard to be good and to keep the top but, you know, I cannot sign that I am going to be in the medals. But I can sign that I will work hard and I will try all my best. And all the energy from the people that want that I would win I will take for me. And I hope that they will be happy with me if I win and will understand if I will not win,” she said, according to Israel Hayom.

—JointMedia News Service

Israeli study shows effects of childhood abuse on adult relationships

Click photo to download. Caption: Ben Gurion University of the Negev. Credit: Daniel Baranek.An Israeli study has showed that people who suffered maltreatment as children— including emotional, physical and sexual abuse—are more likely to experience difficulties in their romantic relationships as adults.

Researchers from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) found in two separate studies that such individuals had an extremely strong tendency to bash themselves, and this interfered with their relationship satisfaction. Some participants also exhibited symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The studies were published in the Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology.

—JointMedia News Service

Tunisian Jews under increased threat since revolution

Tunisian Jews are becoming concerned about the increased level of anti-Semitic violence, lawlessness and racism in the country since its revolution that kicked off the Arab Spring last year. Jewish relationships with Muslims in the country are becoming more strained.

Though less than 1,800 Jews still live in Tunisia, they have been in the region since the time of the Roman Empire. Since Tunisia’s revolution ousted Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, uncertainty has been growing for all—including Jews, according to reports. Several anti-Semitic incidents have occurred, including the burning of a synagogue in the city of Ghabes in February 2011.

“We are not afraid of Salafis who talk too much. We’re afraid of those who say nothing, then do something,” said David Bitan, a Djerba Jew.

—JointMedia News Service

Barak: Former officials acting inconsistently with their positions

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said recent statements by former top-level officials regarding the Israeli government’s decision-making on Iran “cast a shadow on the heritage of the important organizations in which they developed.”

In an interview with Israel Hayom published Friday, Barak said the statements by former Israel Security Agency chief Yuval Diskin, former Mossad chief Meir Dagan and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert “depict things incorrectly.”

Diskin has accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Barak with “messianism” in various aspects of fateful decision-making.

Barak said he has not spoken to current Mossad and Israel Security Agency heads about the statements of former officials, saying that “seemed to me to be inappropriate.”

“They conduct themselves in a manner befitting their positions and I hope this continues,” he said of current security officials.

—JointMedia News Service

Polls uniformly predict landslide election victory for Netanyahu

As Israel heads into early elections, to be held on Sept. 4, a spate of preliminary polls have emerged, all predicting a landslide victory for the current ruling party, Likud, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at its helm.

A poll conducted this week by the Dahaf Institute for the Knesset Channel predicts that television journalist-turned-politician Yair Lapid, and his Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party, will emerge from the upcoming election as the fourth largest party, with 12 Knesset seats. The same poll forecasts 31 seats for Likud, making it the largest party and cementing its status as the ruling party, 17 seats for Labor (up from the current eight) and 13 seats for Yisrael Beitenu (down from 15).

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service

Israeli foreign minister seeks new law eliminating religious exemptions from national service

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman will continue to push for a new law requiring all Israelis to enlist in mandatory army or civilian service at the age of 18 regardless of the level of their religious observance, the Jerusalem Post reported Thursday.

Click photo to download. Caption: Avigdor Lieberman. Credit: Michael Thaidigsmann.This comes in the wake of a decision by Israel’s High Court to invalidate the Tal Law, which had exempted the ultra-Orthodox from IDF service. The canceling of the law reflects a growing viewpoint in Israeli society that national service is a social obligation that must be the duty of all citizens, without exceptions.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews, or haredim, make up 13 percent of Israel’s 5.9 million Jewish population, according to Fox News. Haredi rabbis believe that army service leads to undue exposure to the secular world and cannot mesh with an ultra-Orthodox lifestyle.

—JointMedia News Service 

Israel leads the world in start-ups per capita, third globally in patents per head 

Click photo to download. Caption: Production of Copaxone, a revolutionary drug which treats Multiple Sclerosis, at Israel's Teva Pharmaceuticals. Credit: Teva.In the six-plus decades of Israel’s existence, the nation has proven to be a global pacesetter in innovation and the development of technology start-ups. According to recent story in the online magazine ISRAEL21c, Israel has the most start-ups per capita worldwide and the third-highest number of patents per head.

Just some of Israeli inventions include the Pillcam, a pill-sized camera that can pass through the digestive tract and detect diseases, and Copaxone, a revolutionary medicine treating Multiple Sclerosis.

Microsoft Windows NT and XP both were developed in Israel. Another memorable invention was the instant messaging service ICQ, sold later to AOL for more than $400 million.

—JointMedia News Service 

Methodists reject divestment from Israel, support 'positive investment' in Palestinian economy

A proposed resolution that would have required the United Methodist Church (UMC) to divest from three companies doing business with Israel was defeated Wednesday. At its quadrennial conference in Tampa, Fla., the UMC instead supported a motion calling for “positive investment” in the Palestinian economy.

Click photo to download. Caption: An IDF Caterpillar D9—a machine that comes under fire when churches and other bodies consider divestment from companies doing business with Israel. Credit: MathKnight.Leading up to the conference, 1,200 American rabbis signed a letter opposing the divestment resolution. Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said Wednesday that the rejection of divestment was a “relief,” emphasizing that divestment “is a blunt tool that, by singling out Israel, actually makes [Christian-Jewish] reconciliation more difficult.”

Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions—the three companies that would have been affected by the UMC resolution—are also the subject of a proposed resolution for the June 30-July 7 Presbyterian Church (USA) conference in Pittsburgh, Pa. The Presbyterian resolution asks for those companies to “be placed on the General Assembly Divestment List until such time as they have ceased profiting from non-peaceful pursuits in Israel-Palestine.”

—JointMedia News Service

Report shows Iran, Syria bypassing arms embargoes

More than $2.2 billion worth of arms and ammunition have been imported since 2000 by countries operating under arms embargoes, according to new figures released Thursday by international humanitarian agency Oxfam.

The figures are contained in a new report, “The Devil is in the Detail,” showing the extent to which states have been flagrantly flouting the 26 U.N., regional or multilateral arms embargoes in place during this period.

Regarding the ongoing flow of weapons into Syria, the report says the country in 2010 imported $167 million worth of air defense systems and missiles as well as $1 million worth of small arms and light weapons, ammunition and munitions. Some of these arms played a central role in the Syrian government’s crackdown on protesters, in which the U.N. estimates 8,000 people have been killed since last year.

Iran has breached embargoes and continued to trade weapons on a massive scale, according to the report, amounting to $574 million in such activity from 2007-2010.

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service

American football touches down in Israel for first international game

The Israeli Football League will host its first international game of American tackle football on May 17. Comprised of 10 teams, the league has cobbled together its first national team of Israel’s top players.

The national team will face off against Maranatha Baptist Bible College, a Christian university from rural Wisconsin, in a game that IFL leaders hope will bring some international publicity, as well as local respect, to the concept of American football in the Holy Land.

The national team players, like all IFL footballers, are not professional athletes. They are young men from every corner of the Israeli spectrum—soldiers and professionals, Americans, Canadians, Israelis and even a healthy representation of Israeli Arabs. They purchase their own gear, trek twice a week to practice, and subject themselves to pummeling injuries for one reason only: sheer love of the game.

“I am slightly overwhelmed because of now having to balance football with everyday life, but grateful for the opportunity to play for my country,” says Lewis Duker, a California native who plays for the Tel Aviv Pioneers and has also earned a spot on the IFL’s national team.

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service

Arabs throw rocks at Jewish school bus

Arab youths pelted a bus full of Jewish children with rocks in Jerusalem's mixed Jewish-Arab neighborhood of Abu Tur.

The children, between the ages of 3 and 13, were inside the bus when the windows began to crack and the door completely broke from the attack.

“They threw [the rocks] and ran away. Police and an ambulance with sirens came within a minute, and began to investigate,” the children related, according to a report from Israel National News on Wednesday. 

“We are not afraid. It is important to keep traveling, and for them to know we are not afraid of them. We must be here,” they added. 

—JointMedia News Service

Click photo to download. Caption: A photo from the "Casual Conversations" exhibit, featuring Russian Jews in the Brighton Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. Credit: NMAJH.Photos of Russian Jews in Brighton Beach to go on display

The National Museum of American Jewish History is opening a new exhibit showcasing photographs taken in the Brighton Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY, home to a large Russian Jewish community.

Opening May 6, the exhibit by Alina and Jeff Bliumis, titled Casual Conversations, features photos of subjects who were asked to pose with signs signifying their identities as Russian, Jewish or American. 

 “This exhibition goes to the heart of one of the major themes of this museum: How do we define ourselves as Jews, as Americans or as whatever identity one may choose, given the freedoms America provides. All of our visitors, Jews and non-Jews, Americans and non-Americans, grapple with the complexities of heritage, homeland, and identity,” said Josh Perelman, the Philadelphia-based museum’s chief curator and director of exhibitions and programs.

—JointMedia News Service

Group combating criticism of Islam works with Hamas-linked CAIR

Six Ohio universities who have been working to combat “misinformation” about the Middle East and Islam have chosen the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) as their partner. CAIR has well-documented connections with the terrorist group Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

A video promoting the Northeast Ohio Consortium for Middle East Studies (NOCMES) states that Muslims are human beings who are often misjudged as terrorists. CAIR was listed as a partner in the effort on a promotional flyer for a NOCMES event.

Jorge Solis, the federal judge for a 2010 U.S. case against the Holy Land Foundation that exposed CAIR as a front group for Hamas, wrote at the time that the government’s evidence created “at least a prima facie case as to CAIR's involvement in a conspiracy to support Hamas.” CAIR was named an unindicted co-conspirator during that trial. 

—JointMedia News Service

Palestinian terrorist Khalil Al-Wazir, also known as Abu Jihad, discussing a military operation. Credit: PD-Jordan.PA holds six sporting events in honor of terrorist

The Palestinian Authority (PA) named six sporting events after terrorist Khalil Al-Wazir (also known as Abu Jihad) to mark the anniversary of his April 16, 1988 death, Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) reported.

A total of 125 Israeli civilians and soldiers were killed in terror attacks Abu Jihad planned and directed, according to PMW.

Sporting events held in Abu Jihad’s honor included the “Abu Jihad table-tennis championship,” the “Martyr Abu Jihad judo tournament,” and a boxing tournament, among others, reported official PA daily publication Al-Hayat Al-Jadida. 

—JointMedia News Service

Israeli app shows how to live ‘green’ 

Israel’s Environmental Protection Ministry has released a mobile application intended to teach people how to live “green” and save money.

Advice from the app, titled “Environment—Let’s think green,” includes not consuming bottled water, using energy-efficient light bulbs, and avoiding significant acceleration while driving in order to conserve fuel.

“After years in which we grew accustomed to advertisements that encourage us to consume more, we are standing on the same stage and calling for smart consumerism,” Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan said in a statement. 

—JointMedia News Service 

Click photo to download. Caption: A front view of the apartment at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich where 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were held hostage by Palestinian terrorists. Credit: ProhibitOnions.Petition asks London Olympics to honor 11 Israelis killed in Munich

With the 40th anniversary of Palestinian “Black September” terrorists killing 11 Israeli athletes and coaches at the Munich Olympics approaching, a petition is urging the International Olympic Committee to hold a moment of silence in the Israelis’ honor at the summer 2012 Olympics in London.

The petition—launched by Ankie Spitzer, the widow of Israeli fencing coach Andrei Spitzer, and the Jewish Community Center of Rockland County, NY—has so far gathered more than 20,000 signatures and has the ultimate goal of 1 million. 

“For my husband Andrei and the others killed, we must remember the doctrine of the Olympic Spirit, ‘to build a peaceful and better world which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play,’ is more powerful than politics,” Ankie Spitzer says in the text of the petition, which can be found at www.munich11.org.

—JointMedia News Service

Survey: Israeli-Palestinian conflict not a big issue for Arab youth

Earning a fair wage and owning a home are now the two highest priorities for young people in the Middle East, displacing “living in a democracy” as the greatest aspiration of regional youth, according to the findings of the latest ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey, the largest study of its kind of the region’s largest demographic group.

The survey polled 2,500 Arabs aged 18 to 24 in 12 Middle Eastern states one year after the start of the Arab Spring.

Very few respondents in almost all surveyed countries said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the biggest obstacle facing Middle East. The number was lowest in Egypt, at 10 percent. The number was also low in most of the Gulf emirates. Civil unrest and lack of democracy far outstripped the Israel-Palestinian conflict as a concern in most Arab countries.

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service

Posted on May 8, 2012 and filed under Briefs, Israel, U.S., World.