Obama to visit Church of the Nativity
(JNS.org) President Obama plans to visit Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity during his three-day visit to the Middle East next week. The church is world-famous for the site where Christians believe Jesus was born, and has been granted World Heritage status by the UN. Obama will visit the Church during his stop in Israel and the Palestinian territories, which begins on March 20. While in Israel, Obama is expected to visit the Israel Museum, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and the Shrine of the Book. In addition to meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama will be shown an Iron Dome installation, the Israel National News reported.
The U.S. president will speak at Israel’s Binyanei Ha’uma (Israel Convention Center), visit the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, and lay a wreath on the tombs of Zionist leader Theodor Herzl and former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin on Mt. Herzl. He is also expected to meet with opposition representative and Labor party leader Shelly Yechimovich.
Capriles to run for Venezuelan president
(JNS.org) Henrique Capriles (Radonski), the Venezuelan opposition leader who lost to Chavez in the country’s election last year will run again for president in the wake of Chavez’s death from cancer last week. The Catholic Capriles is the grandson of Jewish Treblinka concentration camp survivors. During his previous campaign against Chavez, he faced antisemitic taunts. Capriles, who belongs to the conservative Primero Justicia (First Justice) party, will run against Chavez’s preferred successor, Nicolas Maduro on April 14. If he wins, Capriles wants to reduce Venezuela’s relations with governments he considers controversial like Iran and to improve his country’s relations with the U.S.
Judge rejects bid to bar Jews from jury
(JNS.org) A New York federal judge has rejected a request by a lawyer to exclude Jews from a jury in an upcoming terrorism trial. The attorney for Abdel Hameed Shehadeh, Frederick Cohn told Judge Eric Vitaliano of the New York Federal District Court in Brooklyn that Jewish jurors would be biased against his client. “Given that there’s going to be inflammatory testimony about Jews and Zionism, I think it would be hard for Jews to cast aside any innate antipathy. The American Jewish community is heavily aligned with Israel and Zionism. Here is a guy who is a Muslim, who is opposed to those things,” Cohn told the judge in February, according to the Huffington Post. According to unsealed FBI documents, Shehadeh has been accused of lying to federal authorities on his goal to join the Taliban while attempting to enter Pakistan in 2008. Later, while trying to join the U.S. Army, Shehadeh failed to disclose his trip to Pakistan. Jurors cannot be excluded based on race, gender or religion.
UN report: BBC reporter’s son killed by Palestinian rockets
(JNS.org) A United Nations report has found that the death of Omar al-Masharawi, the 11-month-old son of BBC Arabic correspondent Jihad al-Misharawi, was caused by an errant Palestinian rocket, not an Israeli airstrike as was originally claimed, the Associated Press reported. The 11-month-old boy’s death became a symbol of Palestinian perceived Israeli aggression during Operation Pillar of Defense last year. A photo of the dead boy in his father’s arms as he wept made headlines across the world after being widely publicized by the BBC. But a widely read blog called Elder of Ziyon had photos of the damaged room where baby Omar was killed examined by an anonymous military expert, who said, “The story doesn’t hang together. An Israeli bomb could not have penetrated the roof of this structure, then exploded, and have left the structure looking as it does: charred on some surfaces, but still intact. … a Hamas rocket could have done exactly this damage, including the projectile-through-the-roof feature.”
Now, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has confirmed that suspicion, saying in a March 6 report that the incident was caused by “what appeared to be a Palestinian rocket that fell short of Israel,” according to the Associated Press.
Syria rebels vow to ‘liberate Golan Heights’
(JNS.org) Syrian rebels operating in the region near the border with Israel threatened on Sunday to fight to regain the Golan Heights from Israel following the toppling of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Israel Hayom reported.
In a video published online, a rebel fighter, filmed against the backdrop of the Golan Heights, said “we are in the occupied Golan Heights, which the traitor Hafez al-Assad sold to Israel 40 years ago. These lands are blessed and the despicable Assad family promised to liberate them, but for 40 years the Syrian army did not fire a single bullet. We will open a military campaign against Israel. We will fire the bullets that Assad did not and we will liberate the Golan.”
The Israel-Syria border has been mostly quiet since 1974. Israel had coordinated with the Red Cross to send humanitarian aid into Syria, but Israel was told that the refugees refused to receive aid from Israel. Private aid organizations in Israel are working with Jordan for human assistance to Syrian refugees.
Dutch must label products from Jewish communities beyond Green Line
(JNS.org) Israel on Thursday sharply condemned a new initiative in the Netherlands directing businesses to label products originating in Judea and Samaria, eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights as separate from those produced in Israel. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmorsaid, according to Israel Hayom, “If the Europeans claim that labeling products made in the settlements is intended only to inform the consumer that the product comes from a disputed area, they should also be consistent and mark any product from disputed territories in Europe and around the world. But if the move denigrates Israel, and only Israel, it is clearly a manifestation of blatant discrimination and thus inherently wrong.” The Israel response was to the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs’s directive to all retail chains in the country to label products from Jewish communities beyond the 1967 Green Line not as made in Israel, but as made in “Israeli settlements in the Golan Heights, east Jerusalem, the West Bank or in Palestinian territories.” Retailers will not be punished for not complying.
State Dept. defers award for author of antisemitic, anti-American tweets
(JNS.org) The U.S. State Department has delayed an award it had planned for Egyptian women’s rights activist Samira Ibrahim, the author of anti-semitic and anti-American tweets. Ibrahim, who was set to be honored by Secretary of State John Kerry and First Lady Michelle Obama on March 8 as one of 10 recipients of the International Women of Courage Award, tweeted the following after last summer’s bus bombing that killed five Israelis in Bulgaria: “An explosion on a bus carrying Israelis in Burgas airport in Bulgaria on the Black Sea. Today is a very sweet day with a lot of very sweet news.”
The Weekly Standard reported that later in the summer of 2012, Ibrahim tweeted, “I have discovered with the passage of days, that no act contrary to morality, no crime against society, takes place, except with the Jews having a hand in it. Hitler.” Additionally, on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, she tweeted, “May every year come with America burning.”
After at first claiming her Twitter account was hacked, Ibrahim — upon leaving the U.S. on Thursday — admitted that she sent the “hostile” tweets. “I refused to apologize to the Zionist lobby in America for previous comments hostile towards Zionism under pressure from the American government so the prize was withdrawn,” she tweeted.
In a press briefing March 7, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the department has decided to defer presenting this award to Ibrahim this year so that they can further investigate the statements. According to a State Department press release, Ibrahim had earned the honor because she was “among seven women subjected by the Egyptian military to forced virginity tests in March 2011.” But Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, president and of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, believes Ibrahim’s entire personal record—not just her women’s activism — should be considered when evaluating her.
“We cannot cherry pick specific endearing characteristics of individuals we support,” Jasser wrote in a statement to JNS.org. “Some Islamist public figures as well as some secular leftist socialists may have redeeming features, but those cannot be viewed in a vacuum. We ignore their Islamism and its attendant threat against the West at our own eventual peril. … Samira Ibrahim’s recently revealed tweets are indicative of the antisemitism that is rampant throughout the Middle East, as I testified to before Congress on February 27,” he wrote.
Former U.S. defense official calls for Pollard’s release
(JNS.org) Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb said on Tuesday that the U.S. should release convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard from prison, saying Pollard’s punishment was “disproportionate.”
“As an American, I can’t accept the injustice of it,” Korb said, according to Israel Hayom. Korb was assistant secretary of defense when Pollard was arrested by U.S. authorities in 1985. Pollard was later convicted of spying for Israel and sentenced to life in prison. Now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress think tank in Washington, Korb made his comment while visiting Israel, where he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres.
“Pollard is the only person in U.S. history to be served a life sentence for spying for a friendly country,” Korb said. “Israel is undoubtedly a friend, not an enemy. The average sentence for spying for a friendly country is only a few years. He needs to be released not because of interests, but because it is the right thing to do. It is time for the Israeli public to make its voice heard,” he said.
More than 100,000 Israelis have signed a petition calling for Pollard’s release. The petition will be presented to Obama during his visit to Israel later this month. Prominent signers of the petition include former President Yitzhak Navon, writers A.B. Yehoshua and David Grossman and Nobel Prize winners Dan Shechtman, Aaron Ciechanover and Robert Aumann.