Latest US/World News

2012 World News YEAR IN REVIEW

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January
• The Israeli film “Footnote” becomes the Jewish state’s 11th film to be nominated for an Academy Award in the foreign film category. When the awards are handed out in March, however, the film does not become the first Israeli film to take the Oscar home.

February
• A national Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) conference held at the University of Pennsylvania includes sessions such as “The Economics of Israeli Occupation” and “Connecting with Grassroots Palestine.” The conference’s goal is to “bring an end to Israel’s system of oppression, segregation
and dispossession.”

March
• Four people are killed at Ozar Hatorah Jewish day school shooting in Toulouse, France when a gunman opens fire with an automatic rifle. The victims include a 30-year old rabbi from Jerusalem, along with his two young sons, and the 8-year old daughter of the school principal, whom the gunman chased down and grabbed by her hair before executing her.

• The worst Palestinian rocket barrages from the Gaza Strip so far this year see 166 rockets — not including 56 intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system — fired into major southern Israeli cities, with the wail of sirens and sudden explosions jolting residents, sometimes several times an hour. Authorities in communities in a 22-mile radius from Gaza cancel school for two days due to a lack of sufficient bomb shelters.

• While on a trip to the U.S., Israeli President Shimon Peres heads for California’s Silicon Valley where he launches his own facebook page, with the help of the social network’s founder Mark Zuckerberg.

• Michael Kassen is inducted as national president of AIPAC at the organization’s national policy conference in Washington, D.C.  Kassen is a resident of Westport and New York.

• Harvard University hosts a two-day conference on the “One State Solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Guests include veteran anti-Israel academics, the founder of Electronic Intifada and an ex-Palestinian official. No one sympathetic to Israel is identifiable.

• Former President Jimmy Carter and his publisher, Simon & Shuster, are slapped with a $5 million class action lawsuit for alleged falsehoods in his 2006 book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” filed by five Americans who purchased the book with the expectation that they would be reading accurate and factual
information on the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians. Instead, the suit alleges, the book contained false information intended to deceive the public and promote an anti-Israel agenda.  As such, the suit contends, Carter’s book violated a New York law that makes it illegal to “engage in deceptive acts in the course of conducting business.”

• March 22 marks the 90th anniversary of the bat mitzvah ceremony.

•The Jewish community marks the 20th anniversary of the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina that took the lives of 29 people and wounded many more.

• Iran was declared to be behind the terrorist attack which took place on March 17, 1992. The official ceremony is broadcast live in Argentina and attended by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon. The perpetrators were never apprehended.

April
• The Supreme Court rules in favor of the parents of nine-year-old Menachem Zivotofsky who sued the U.S. government after the State Department refused to issue their son a passport listing “Jerusalem, Israel” as his birthplace, rather than only “Jerusalem.” While the Supreme Court did not conclude that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, it did stipulate that federal courts of Jerusalem-born Americans can determine the constitutionality of listing “Israel” as their birthplace on U.S. passports. Zivotofsky’s lawyer called it a “full victory.”

• Academy Award winning actress Emma Thompson joined with others protesting the participation of Tel Aviv’s venerable Habimah Theater in a London festival that is performing the plays of William Shakespeare in 37 different languages. In a letter published by The Guardian, Thompson and her cohorts slammed Habimah for its “shameful record of involvement with illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

May
• In the election in France, Francois Hollande of the Socialist Party defeated incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy of the center-right Union for a Popular Movement, winning approximately 52 percent of the vote.

• In a surprise turnabout, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancels the early elections he had called just 24 hours before and instead forms a unity government with the opposition party Kadima. (Shaul Mofaz, leader of Kadima later left over Netanyahu’s indecision concerning a draft reform law.)

• Among the top concerns facing European Jewish community elites is economic strife and the demographic decline/assimilation of their co-religionists, reports the Second Survey of European Jewish Leaders and Opinion Formers, a project of the JDC International Center for Community Development.

June
• Israeli President Shimon Peres, singer/songwriter Bob Dylan and Jan Karksi, an officer of the Polish Underground during World War II are among the 13 recipients of the 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients with ties to the Jewish community. Karski received the medal posthumously.

• June 5 – 10 marks the 45th anniversary of the Six Day War.

July
• A suicide bomber explodes a bus full of Israeli tourists in the Bulgarian city of Burgas killing five Israelis and injuring more than 30. A senior U.S. official reports that the bomber was “acting under broad guidance” from Iran-funded Hezbollah to strike Israeli targets abroad.

• The U.S., as well as several other countries and thousands of people from around the world, join Israel in urging the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to pay tribute to 11 Israeli team members killed by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Games. But the IOC rejects Israel’s request for a moment of silence to be held at the London games and all subsequent games, saying it had paid tribute to the victims before. The London games mark the 40th anniversary of the Munich massacre.

• French swimmer Fabian Gilot shows off a Hebrew tattoo with text meaning “I am nothing without them” when raising his arm upon his team’s Olympic victory in the men’s 4 x 100 relay. Gilot says he sported the tattoo to honor Max Goldschmidt, his grandmother’s Jewish husband, a survivor of Auschwitz.

• Following the failure — by two votes — of the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s measure to divest From what they referred to as three major U.S. companies profiting from Israel’s occupation. The Church overwhelmingly passes a separate resolution calling for the boycott of products made in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

August
• Armed men ambush an Egyptian military base in the Sinai Peninsula, killing 16 soldiers and stealing two armored cars, which they use to infiltrate Israel at the Kerem Shalom border crossing. They then engage in a firefight with IDF soldiers. Six attackers are killed. No Israelis are injured.

• Some 90,000 people from across the world – mostly Orthodox Jews — crowd into MetLife Stadium in New Jersey for the 2012 Siyyum Hashas – the completion of the 7 1/2-year cycle that it takes to learn the entire Talmud one folio page per day.

• U.S. gymnast Aly Raisman, 18, of Needham, Mass., captain of the U.S. Women’s gymnastics team, won two gold medals and one bronze medal at the London Olympics.  Raisman performed her floor exercise to the music of “Hava Nagila.” Other Jewish athletes on the U.S. team included Jason Lezak (swimming), Soren Thompson (fencing), Merrill Moses (water polo) and Mark Mendelbratt (sailing)

• Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, turns Young Judaea, the 103-year-old youth movement that it has sponsored since 1942, into an independent entity.

• An El Al charter flight from New York filled with 351 “olim chadashim” – new immigrants lands in Tel Aviv. Organized by Nefesh B’Nefesh and the IDF, the flight includes 127 young people set to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) – the largest number of new IDF soldiers to arrive on a flight ever.

September
• Amid attempts to ban circumcision in Germany and ritual slaughter in the Netherlands, Jewish and Muslim leaders from 18 European countries meet to determine ways of responding to religious bans on their continent.

• Rabbi Mark Dratch, former spiritual leader of Congregation Agudath Sholom in Stamford, is appointed executive vice president of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the largest group of Orthodox rabbis in the world.

October
• Hadassah celebrates its 100th anniversary in Jerusalem, dedicating its new one million square foot facility called the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower.

• Approximately 240 new immigrants arrive at Israel’s David Ben-Gurion airport as part of a final effort to bring the remainder of Ethiopia’s Jewish community to Israel.

• Israel’s Negev Desert is chosen by the Lonely Planet travel guide as one of the top 10 best regions in the world to visit in 2013.

• Sudan accuses Israel of blowing up an arms factory in Khartoum.

November
• In response to dramatic uptick in rockets raining down on southern Israel from Gaza, Israel launches Operation Pillar of Defense. As the conflict rages, the Jewish state’s Iron Dome missile defense system saves an untold number of lives.

• An Israeli-Arab from Taybeh and several other Palestinians from the West Bank are arrested for their alleged role in the Nov. 21 Tel Aviv bus bombing that wounded 28 people.

• The lone surviving terrorist from the 2008 Mumbai attack is hanged in the early hours of Nov. 21 in an Indian prison.

• Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak announces his surprising resignation from politics after nearly 50 years in service of the country.

• After months of speculation, former Israeli Foreign Minister and Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni announces her candidacy in Israel’s Jan. 22 general elections, unveiling her new party Hatnuah (“The Movement”).

• Jewish Democrats and Republicans have varied success in the Nov. 6 U.S. election. With five Jewish lawmakers retiring, overall Jewish numbers on Capitol Hill decline. Still, Jews still wield considerable strength in proportion to their percentage of the nation’s overall population, holding 10 percent of the Senate and 5 percent of the House of Representatives, but only around 2 percent of the population.

• Three hundred Jewish communities from more than 40 countries across six continents participate in the third annual “Global Day of Jewish Learning.”

• The Likud Central Committee approves a merger with Yisrael Beiteinu ahead of the coming election in Israel.

• Prolific Jewish-American author Philip Roth, 79, announces his retirement, following a career that spanned more than 50 years.

December
• The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has informed Cuba that the country’s ongoing detention of Jewish-American contractor Alan Gross violates international law. The 68-year-old Gross, who is ailing, has been imprisoned in Cuba since Dec. 2009 for trying to bring that country’s Jewish community Internet access.  Cuba reuses to negotiate his release.

• Harvard University students receive flyers from a supposed “Harvard’s Newest Final Club” stating that Jews should not apply but “coloreds” are welcome to do so.

• An Israeli family court approves the divorce of a gay couple and orders the interior ministry to officially register them as divorced.

• Singer Stevie Wonder backs out of a performance at a the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) gala in Los Angeles due to a recommendation from the United Nations to withdraw.

• A Hungarian lawmaker from the far-right Jobbik party calls for Jews to be registered as threats to national security. Less than a month later, another member of the Hungarian government attended an anti-Israel demonstration outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and burned an Israeli flag.

• The UN General Assembly passes a resolution upgrading the Palestinians’ status to “non-member observer state.” The resolution passes over Israel’s objections with 138 members voting yes, 41 abstaining and only nine voting no. Outside North America and the Czech Republic, most of Israel’s support came from island-nations like Palau and Micronesia in faraway Oceania. Israel’s regular allies at the UN, including Germany, abstained. The Palestinians were backed by Paris, Beijing and Moscow.

• The Yiddish Book Center has been named a Standard Bearer by Slingshot ‘12-‘13, a resource guide for Jewish innovation. The Guide features the 50 most innovative Jewish projects in North America.

• Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announces his resignation following his indictment on fraud and breach of trust for allegedly promoting a diplomat who provided him with sensitive information about the police investigation against him.

• A newly declassified CIA damage assessment published by the National Security Archive at George Washington University on Dec. 14 reveals that Jonathan Pollard, the only person in U.S. history to receive a life sentence for spying for an American ally, received a sentence of that magnitude because of an unauthorized interview he gave Wolf Blitzer of the Jerusalem Post in 1986.
Pollard, who on Nov. 21 entered his 28th year in federal prison following a conviction of spying for Israel without intent to harm the U.S., cooperated with prosecutors in 1987 in return for an assurance that he would not receive a life sentence. But according to the CIA, Pollard’s interview with Blitzer—now a veteran television news anchor for CNN—violated that deal.
The fact that Pollard gave the interview with Blitzer “without obtaining advance approval of the resulting text from the Justice Department,” the assessment said, represented a violation of his plea bargain.
Additionally, the assessment said Pollard’s wife at the time, Anne, also gave an unauthorized interview—with the CBS “60 Minutes”
program, three days before Pollard’s sentencing. Esther Pollard, Jonathan’s current wife, told the Jerusalem Post that the U.S. government “did something highly suspicious by forgetting to send anyone to monitor these interviews.”
“Later, at sentencing, the prosecutor successfully inflamed the judge against Jonathan by falsely claiming that not only had the interviews been secretly arranged behind their backs, but that Jonathan had also disclosed highly classified material to Blitzer that compromised the intelligence community’s sources and methods,” she said.
Pollard’s advocates in Congress and elsewhere have long said that his life sentence is disproportionate to his crime. When he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom last June, Israeli President Shimon Peres reportedly asked President Barack Obama in a private meeting to grant Pollard clemency. But the White House, at the time, said it would not change its position on Pollard.

• Hebrew will be removed as an officially recognized foreign language in the British primary school system, potentially preventing even some Jewish schools from teaching the language, London Jewish Chronicle (JC) reports. For many Jewish primary schools in the UK who offer Hebrew as their only foreign language, the language’s removal from the government-recognized list could eliminate it from being taught altogether because those schools will be required to offer one of seven other languages, according to the JC.

• Tensions continue to run high in the West Bank, as more than 10,000 Palestinians rallied in Hebron to celebrate Hamas’ 25th anniversary. Additional protests were held in Nabi Salih, Bil’in, Qalandia and Beitunia. Meanwhile, a Palestinian terrorist group comprised of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and PLO members in Hebron posted a video declaring the beginning of the third Intifada. The group threatened to kidnap IDF soldiers and carry out attacks on Israelis in response to IDF activity. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday commented on the Hamas protests over the weekend, saying, “With the approval of [Palestinian Authority President] Abu Mazen, [Hamas] called for the destruction of Israel and the expulsion of Jews from Jerusalem and from every point in the State of Israel.”

• Jewish groups mourn the passing of nine-term U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) on Monday, Dec. 17 at age 88, reflecting on what they called his legacy as one of the most pro-Israel legislators in Washington. The American Jewish Committee (AJC) recalled that Inouye’s appreciation for Israel began when he sold Israel Bonds in Hawaii in 1951, and his co-sponsorship of resolutions condemning Hezbollah and Hamas, supporting Israel’s right of self-defense, and urging President Barack Obama to oppose the Palestinians’ unilateral declaration of statehood at the United Nations.
Inouye, as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, “worked tirelessly and effectively to ensure that America’s ally, Israel, had the necessary resources to defend her people,” the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) said in a statement.
The National Jewish Democratic Council also praised Inouye’s contributions on the Senate Appropriations Committee, saying that the senator’s efforts “resulted in significant increases in aid for Israel.” In a statement, NJDC called Inouye “one of the strongest pro-Israel voices on Capitol Hill.”

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