Latest US/World News


Arafat’s wife admits he planned Second Intifada
( Suha Arafat, the wife of former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, admitted in an interview with Dubai TV that the late Palestinian leader had premeditated the Second Intifada, confirming a long-held Israeli suspicion. “Immediately after the failure of the Camp David [negotiations], I met him in Paris upon his return… Camp David had failed, and he said to me, ‘You should remain in Paris.’ I asked him why, and he said, ‘Because I am going to start an Intifada. They want me to betray the Palestinian cause. They want me to give up on our principles, and I will not do so,’” said Suha Arafat, according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). The Second Intifada lasted from 2000-2005. Palestinian leaders have long held that former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount in September 2000 set off riots that led to the beginning of the violence. However, Israel maintains that Arafat had planned the uprising following his rejection of an Israeli peace offer at the U.S.-organized Camp David summit in July 2000.

Israel launches natural gas platform in Tamar
( Israel has launched its first major natural gas platform in the coveted Tamar gas field in the Mediterranean, raising hope of energy independence, Israel National News reported. The platform, taller than Israel’s highest building, is located 24 miles west of the southern port city of Ashkelon and is scheduled to receive gas in April 2013.“Natural gas will not only make electricity production more efficient, cleaner, and cheaper, it is a giant step toward freeing us from dependence on foreign energy sources, especially Arab oil,” said Israeli Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau.
The Tamar gas field was Israel’s first major hydrocarbon discovery within its territory, spurring the discovery of other major fields such as Leviathan. Located roughly 80 kilometers off the coast of Haifa in waters more than 5,600 feet deep, the Tamar field is expected to hold over 9.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Apple’s best app list includes Israeli innovations
( Apple has included two Israeli-developed applications on its recently released App Store Best of 2012 list. Any.Do, an Israeli task-management application, was chosen in the Intuitive Touch category, and GroupShot, a photo-editing application from the Israeli company Macadamia, was picked in the Photo & Video Magic category. Any.D. lets users manage a task list with voice commands or a touchscreen. According to its iTunes store description, GroupShot lets users pick and choose parts from different photos and combine them to create the perfect shot. The full Apple list is available here (opens in iTunes).

Poll predicts gains for new Israeli party
( A recent poll conducted by the Jerusalem Post and Globes shows that the controversial new Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party led by Benjamin Netanyahu’s former aide Naftali Bennett rose by a projected three Knesset seats, from 11 to 14, in just one week. The rise in the polls for Bennett’s party comes amid criticism from Netanyahu and other Israeli politicians over his comments suggesting that as a soldier, he would refuse orders to evacuate a Jewish community. A recent New York Times feature on Bennett highlighted his ability to capture the politically underrepresented, yet fast growing, religious Zionist segment of Israeli society through his controversial annexation plan of Area C of Judea and Samaria and appeal to the values of the modern Orthodox community.
Meanwhile, in the same poll, Netanyahu’s joint Likud-Yisrael Beytenu party fell to 34 projected Knesset seats from 36 a week ago and 39 two weeks ago. The poll also predicts the reemergence of the once-dominant Labor party, which would see its share of seats rise from eight to 18, while Shas will increase by one seat to 11. Former TV personality Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party and Tzipi Livni’s new centrist party Hatnuah would each have 10 seats, according to the poll. The Israeli elections are scheduled for Jan. 22.

Defiant writer speaks about Jewish history at Iraq conference
( The recently held Conference of Religions and Sects in Iraq, supervised by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, was the first conference in the country dealing with the defense of religions in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq — but while Christians and both Sunni and Shi’a Muslims attended, no Jews were there to represent Iraqi-Jewish history. One Iraqi writer, however, spoke about Judaism at the conference despite being pressured not to do so. “The Presidential Council [of Iraq], the ruling party, and Iranian agents in Sulaymaniyah all warned me not to raise such a subject and speak about it, and tried to forbid it,” Nabil Al-Hadairi wrote in an article published by the Gatestone Institute on Dec. 27.
Jews played an important role in Iraqi history for more than 2,500 years. By the 1920s, 40 percent of Baghdad’s residents were Jewish. After the end of the British Mandate period in Iraq in 1932, many were stripped of their citizenship, expelled from the country, and forced to leave behind their property to looters. Many emigrated to the state of Israel. Those that remained continued to face persecution well into the 1960s. By 2008, there were fewer than 10 Jews living in Baghdad.
Al-Hadairi described how he noted at the religion conference “that the Iraqi constitution does not mention anything about Iraqi Jews, so that it has become necessary to draft an amendment to Article II of the constitution, granting official recognition to the Jewish faith, adding it to the other recognized national religions.” The writer urged Iraqi leaders to allow descendants of Iraqi Jews to regain citizenship and compensate them for the persecution of their families.

Hitler statue at site of Warsaw Ghetto stirs controversy
( An Italian artist’s exhibition that includes a statue of a kneeling Hitler placed at the former location of the Warsaw Ghetto has angered Polish Jews and Christians alike. Maurizio Cattelan, creator of the exhibition named “Amen,” is already known for controversial artistry. One of his most famous works, “La Nona Ora” (“The Ninth Hour”), shows Pope John Paul II being struck by a meteorite.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center called the statue’s placement “a senseless provocation which insults the memory of the Nazis’ Jewish victims.”
Critics say that the Hitler statue provokes mercy for the notorious dictator. Only a few days after the statue was erected on Warsaw’s Prozna Street, an unidentified person covered its face and hands. “As far as the Jews were concerned, Hitler’s only ‘prayer’ was that they be wiped off the face of the earth,” the Center’s Israel director, Efraim Zuroff, said in a statement.

Hawaii’s Jewish Lt. Governor to replace Daniel Inouye
( Brian Schatz, the Jewish lieutenant governor of Hawaii, will rise to the rank of U.S. senator to replace the late Daniel Inouye, who was known for a strong pro-Israel record. Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie last week announced the appointment of Schatz, a Democrat who served in the House of Representatives from 1998-2006. Inouye was praised by a number of Jewish groups when he died at age 88 on Dec. 17, including the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which said Israel “had no better friend over the past decades” than Inouye.
The National Jewish Democratic Council said it was “fully confident” that Schatz would continue Inouye’s “tremendous record of partnership with the Jewish and pro-Israel communities.”

Sharansky to review Western Wall gender policies
( In light of growing concern within the progressive Jewish community in the U.S. over gender segregation at the Western Wall, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked Natan Sharansky, chairman of the executive for the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), to study the issue and suggest ways to make the site more accommodating to all Jews. The movement to increase religious pluralism at the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, has been pioneered by the group Women of the Wall. In 2003, the Israeli Supreme Court ruling allowed for gender separation at the Western Wall and prohibited woman from carrying the Torah or wearing prayer shawls there. The tension between the progressive Jewish groups and Israeli authorities that oversee the Western Wall plaza also highlights a larger schism between the American and Israeli Jewish communities. In Israel, all Jewish religious life is governed by the Orthodox rabbinate, including life cycle events like marriage and death. While there have been calls to ease Orthodox control, there has yet to be full recognition of non-Orthodox streams of Judaism, which dominate the American Jewish community.

Terror infrastructure dismantled in Ramallah
( The Israel Security Agency, in cooperation with the Israel Defense Forces, uncovered infrastructure of the Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist organization in the Ramallah area, Israel Hayom reported. The cell allegedly planned on abducting Israelis. Detained members from the uncovered cell admitted to planning an abduction of an Israeli to use as a bargaining chip for freeing PFLP leader Ahmed Sadaat, who has been in an Israeli prison since 2006 for planning and executing the assassination of then-Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi in 2001.

Obama considers others for defense, after Hagel controversy
( U.S. President Barack Obama is considering several other candidates for the post of defense secretary after his administration received heavy criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike for considering former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel for the role, National Journal reported. Hagel currently chairs the Atlantic Council think tank, which this month published a column titled “Israel’s Apartheid Policy,” and has made controversial comments about Israel — such as “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people,” which he was quoted as saying in 2008. He has also come under fire for his remarks about homosexuals. While in the senate, Hagel voted several times against U.S. sanctions on Iran and signed a March 2009 letter urging Obama to directly negotiate with Hamas.
A senior Obama administration official said Obama is now considering other defense secretary candidates including Michèle Flournoy, who was undersecretary of defense for policy in the president’s first term, and current deputy defense secretary Ashton Carter, according to National Journal.

Alt-right conference quotes Nazi propaganda, says media protects Jews
Jewish activists are helping families separated at the border
Iraqi Jewish Archive’s U.S. exhibition extended

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