The Jewish Observer,

Los Angeles


8-14 Adar, 5777                                                     March 7-12, 2017 -- THE JEWISH OBSERVER, LOS ANGELES  --  598th Web Ed.






BBCi photo

Cont'd from Home Page

Many Palestinians see Arafat as an icon in their fight for a state but many Israelis view him as a terrorist.  Mohammed Watad from Jatt council told Israeli TV that the sign had been up for nine years.

Israeli Arab MP Ayman Odeh criticised the decision to remove the name.

"It is completely your right to say 'I am completely against this man'," he said, but added that Israel also named streets after controversial figures.  "I cannot accept this is OK but calling a street after Yasser Arafat is not OK."

Arafat led the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) for 35 years. The movement was sworn to Israel's destruction and carried out many deadly attacks.

Arafat later renounced violence and won the Nobel peace prize jointly with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres in 1994 for agreeing Israel-Palestinian peace accords.

However many Israelis held him responsible for attacks by Palestinian militants from areas under his control during the second Palestinian intifada (uprising) which began in 2000.

Arafat was Palestinian president from 1994-2004, when he fell ill in his compound in Ramallah. He died in hospital in France weeks later, aged 75.

Although Arabs make up about 20% of Israel's population, many of them identify politically and culturally with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. --BBCi


The US Department of Homeland Security has offered help to Jewish Community Centers after they received more than 100 hoax bomb threats in recent weeks.

Secretary John Kelly called upon his agency to "heighten our outreach and support", to Jewish institutions following the spate of attacks.

Jewish cemeteries have been desecrated in Philadelphia and St Louis.

President Donald Trump has condemned these attacks and the murder of an Indian in Kansas as "hate crimes".

Mr Kelly said his office had spoken on Wednesday to the Jewish Community Center (JCC) Association of North America, which represents more than 150 campuses.

The JCC, which offers athletic and educational programmes, has faced severe disruption amid repeated building evacuations.

No arrests have yet been made, and authorities have not released any information about motive.

During the discussion, the DHS offered assistance from their liaisons, who have offices in all 50 US states.

They also offered access to federal assistance, including "facility vulnerability assessments and "active shooter preparedness and bombing prevention training".

Over the past 18 months the agency has held active shooter drills with Jewish organizations in California, Virginia, New Jersey, and Florida, with more planned in the coming months.

Israel's Jewish Agency, the world's largest Jewish non-profit organization, has expressed "deep concern" over the anti-Semitic threats.

"I trust that US authorities will act resolutely to find those responsible, bring them to justice, and prevent such incidents from recurring", the agency's chairman Nathan Sharansky said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu applauded Mr Trump: "World leaders need to unequivocally condemn anti-Semitism wherever it is found.

"And I appreciate the fact that in the last few weeks and days, President Trump and Vice President Pence have taken a strong stance in condemning anti-Semitism."

Hundreds of Jewish headstones were toppled over in Philadelphia and St Louis, leading to interfaith fundraising drives to repair the damages.

Several Muslim military veterans have taken to Twitter to offer to protect Jewish institutions.

A rally to "Stand Against Hate" is being held in Philadelphia on Thursday at Independence Hall, where the US Constitution was signed.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia says the event is intended to "restore a sense of security and peace to our community".


President Donald Trump has signed a new executive order placing a 90-day ban on people from six mainly Muslim nations.

Iraq - which was covered in the previous seven-nation order - has been removed from the new one after agreeing to additional visa vetting measures.  The directive, which includes a 120-day ban on all refugees, takes effect on 16 March.

The previous order, which was blocked by a federal court, sparked confusion at airports and mass protests.  Presented as a means to strengthen national security against terror threats, it was blocked by the courts and effectively remains on hold.

The new order was unveiled by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.

"The fact remains that we are not immune to terrorist threats and that our enemies often use our own freedoms and generosity against us," said Mr Kelly.

In justifying the refugee ban, Mr Sessions said there are more than 300 refugees under investigation for potential terror offences. But no further details were given.

What is different about the new order?

Citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, the other six countries on the original 27 January order, will once more be subject to a 90-day travel ban.

Iraq has been taken off the banned list because its government has boosted visa screening and data sharing, White House officials said.

The new directive says refugees already approved by the State Department can enter the US. It also lifts an indefinite ban on all Syrian refugees.

Green Card holders (legal permanent residents of the US) from the named countries will not be affected.  The new order does not give priority to religious minorities, unlike the previous directive.

Critics of the Trump administration had argued that this was an unlawful policy showing preference to Christian refugees.

What does the administration say?

The three Cabinet secretaries held a joint news conference on Monday morning to discuss the new directive.

America's top US diplomat said the order was meant to "eliminate vulnerabilities that radical Islamic terrorists can and will exploit for destructive ends".

Mr Sessions said that, according to the FBI, more than 300 people who entered the US as refugees are under investigation for potential terrorism-related offences.

The top US prosecutor said three of the countries were state sponsors of terrorism.

The other three, Mr Sessions said, had lost control of territory to militants such as the Islamic State group or al-Qaeda.

Mr Kelly added that unregulated and unvetted travel was putting national security at risk. He said the US cannot tolerate "malevolent actors using our immigration system to take American lives".

None of the cabinet secretaries took any questions after the press conference. –BBCi

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The younger brother made a detailed statement to police, BBCi photo

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The eldest, 29, and his brother, 17, say one of the attackers was armed with a hacksaw and they both suffered cuts during the struggle. They say they were harassed while driving through Bondy on Tuesday evening, wearing kippas.

Bondy is near Aulnay-sous-Bois, an area hit by anti-police rioting this month.

No suspects have been detained yet in connection with Tuesday's assault.

Bondy is part of Seine-Saint-Denis district, north-eastern Paris, where violence erupted earlier this month because of the alleged rape of a young black man by police.

The man, called Theo, left hospital this week after emergency treatment. Violence also rocked some other suburbs.

Seine-Saint-Denis has a high density of immigrants, many of them Muslims. The district suffers from high unemployment and urban deprivation.

A French group combating anti-Semitism, called BNVCA, said the two Jews had been racially abused first by two assailants who had followed them in a van.

'You're going to die!'

In a statement to police, quoted by French commercial broadcaster LCI (in French), the younger brother says that when the van cut off their car, his brother lowered his window to ask why.

"I do what I want on the road," the driver allegedly replied. "You dirty Jews! You pr***s! You're going to die!"

The younger man says the driver then ran at his brother wielding a hacksaw, striking him with it as he tried to protect his face from attack.

When he saw the attacker aiming for his brother's neck, he struck him and a struggle ensued for the saw, in which his own fingers were cut, he said.

Some of the people then intervened to stop the attack, telling the brothers to leave, which they did, going to the casualty ward of a hospital, the younger brother said.

An eyewitness told LCI that he had taken a hacksaw off a man involved in the brawl but said he had seen no kippas.

"I saw neither Jew nor Muslim nor Christian nor atheist at the scene," he said. "As for the brothers' account, I heard nothing of the kind."

The BNVCA initially said that one of the brothers had lost a finger in the attack but they later corrected their account (in French) of the incident.

Anti-Semitism has been a feature of Islamist attacks in France in recent years:

An Islamist gunman killed four people in a Jewish supermarket during the Paris attacks in January 2015, which included the massacre at Charlie Hebdo magazine

In 2012 a Jewish school was targeted by gunman Mohammed Merah in a shooting spree that left seven people dead in Toulouse and nearby Montauban. –BBCi


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A report by Israel's state comptroller accused them of failing to prepare for the threat of cross-border tunnels dug by Palestinian militants led by Hamas.

During fighting, these were used to launch attacks on Israeli soldiers.

Mr Netanyahu insists his security cabinet was aware of the threat and that all scenarios were discussed.

The Israeli military launched Operation Protective Edge in July 2014 with the stated aim of stopping rocket attacks by Hamas and destroying the group's capabilities to conduct operations against Israel.

After an initial phase focused on air strikes, the Israeli military launched a ground offensive that sought to degrade militants' infrastructure in Gaza and destroy their network of tunnels

The operation concluded in August 2014, when both sides agreed to a ceasefire.

The 50-day war left at least 2,251 Palestinians dead, including more than 1,462 civilians, according to the UN, and 11,231 others injured. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers and six civilians were killed, with scores more wounded.

Tuesday's long-awaited report by state comptroller Joseph Shapira, who reviews Israeli government policy and actions, looked at whether the military was ready to deal with the underground tunnel network Hamas had built.

Militants used the tunnels to infiltrate Israeli territory on four occasions, killing 12 soldiers. In total, Israeli forces destroyed 32 tunnels during the conflict.

Mr Shapira found that Mr Netanyahu and then-Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon failed to provide members of the security cabinet with "significant and essential information" necessary to make "well-informed decisions" on the situation in Gaza.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military was found by the state comptroller to have failed to prepare a strategy to destroy the tunnels, forcing it to improvise ways to deal with them during the fighting without the necessary intelligence and preparation.

"The political establishment, the military establishment and the intelligence bodies were aware of the tunnel threat and even defined it as strategic," Mr Shapira wrote. "And yet the actions taken to deal with the threat did not match this definition."

There has been plenty of political score-settling in the run-up to publication of this much-leaked report. It deals with some key issues for Israel about the 2014 conflict.

Many Israeli soldiers were killed by Palestinian militants using their network of underground tunnels and there were fears they could be used to attack Israeli communities just outside Gaza.

The state comptroller found that, despite intelligence on these, the security cabinet and the Israeli military did not have an advance plan to deal with them.

He also poses a bigger question about whether the 50 days of intense fighting could have been avoided altogether. The report notes that in more than a year, Israel's cabinet had not had a discussion to set its strategy on Gaza. Some analysts say an effective strategy is still needed.

Responding to the report, Mr Netanyahu said "the tunnel threat was presented in detail to the security cabinet in 13 separate sessions and was discussed in all its severity while examining all of the strategic and operational scenarios".

The war was a "success", he added, with Israel dealing the "harshest blow to Hamas since its inception".

However, Israeli opposition leader Yitzhak Herzog said the report proved that Mr Netanyahu was "a failure in peace as well as in security".

The Israeli military said it was "implementing lessons learned" in the report, but criticized the state comptroller for focusing "on only one threat among others that existed and remain on the agenda", according to the Jerusalem Post.

Hamas has said it has dug new tunnels since the war, while Israel has uncovered at least one further tunnel. It has also reportedly begun the construction of an underground barrier along the border.