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Monday, May. 30 '16, Iyar 22, 5776



HEADLINES:
1. GOVERNMENT APPROVES AVIGDOR LIBERMAN AS DEFENSE MINISTER
2. ARAB YOUTHS ARRESTED FOR BRUTAL ATTACK ON ELDERLY JEWISH WOMEN
3. LAG BA'OMER BONFIRES CAUSED THURSDAY'S MAJOR WILDFIRES
4. TRAGEDY: HAREDI TODDLER DIES AFTER LEFT IN CAR
5. POLICE FLIPFLOP, RE-LABEL 'NATIONALISTIC RAPE' AS TERROR
6. NJ MAN WHO FIRE-BOMBED RABBI’S HOME CONVICTED OF TERRORISM
7. JEWISH WEDDING TWEETED FROM TURKEY DRAWS ANTI-SEMITISM CLAMOR
8. STEVEN SPIELBERG: I WAS WRONG TO THINK ANTI-SEMITISM WAS FADING


1. GOVERNMENT APPROVES AVIGDOR LIBERMAN AS DEFENSE MINISTER
by Ari Soffer

The Israeli government on Monday morning formally approved the appointment of Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman as defense minister.

"The cabinet unanimously approved the appointment of Avigdor Liberman as minister of defense," a statement from Netanyahu's office said.

The unanimous cabinet approval came after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu finally secured the vital backing of the Jewish Home party, after a compromise deal with Education Minister Naftali Bennett was successfully brokered by Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (UTJ).

Bennett had demanded the creation of a military liaison for the government's security cabinet, a smaller forum of cabinet members which decides on matters of national security.

The Jewish Home leader insists such a post is needed to avoid security cabinet members being kept in the dark on important developments, pointing to aspects of the 2014 conflict with Palestinian terrorists in Gaza, among other concerns.

Under the compromise brokered by Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, of the haredi United Torah Judaism party, security cabinet members will receive frequent personal briefings from Israel's National Security Council as an interim measure, while a committee of experts looks at ways to improve procedure.

The appointment will now be voted upon in the Knesset later Monday, where it will garner the majority of votes it needs to be formally approved. With that, the Yisrael Beytenu party will officially join the government, expanding its wafer-thin majority of one by five, to 66 seats in total (out of 120).

In addition, Yisrael Beytenu MK Sofa Landver was appointment Immigration and Absorption Minister, while Likud MK Tzahi Hanegbi was appointed Minister without portfolio to the Prime Minister's Office.

AFP contributed to this report.


2. ARAB YOUTHS ARRESTED FOR BRUTAL ATTACK ON ELDERLY JEWISH WOMEN
by Ari Soffer

Three Arab terrorists who stabbed a group of elderly women in Jerusalem earlier this month have been arrested, it was cleared for publication Monday morning.

The horrific attack in Armon Hanatziv on March 10, left two women in their 80s moderately wounded.

It began when a group of five elderly women on a morning walk noticed two Arab teens sitting on a bench. As the group passed the terrorists pounced on them, viciously stabbing the defenseless pensioners repeatedly, before leaving two victims for dead and fleeing the scene.

Security forces initiated a massive manhunt and detained two suspects shortly afterwards, but released them later that day after it was ascertained that they were not involved in the attack.

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The perpetrators were finally caught a week and a half later, following intensive police and intelligence work.

The terrorists, aged 16-17, hail from the Arab neighborhood of Jabel Mukabar, a hotbed of Islamist and Arab extremism. They confessed under interrogation to having planned to go out and kill Jews, and even discussed their plans during school time over social media.

It was further revealed that the mother of one of the suspects was arrested a week ago by Judea and Samaria police, after attempting to carry out a stabbing attack herself.

The trio told investigators that they had met on the morning of the attack at a local grocery store in Jabel Mukabar, and then headed towards the nearby Peace Forest. Two of them were carrying a knife and an ax respectively, and waited at the scene for Jewish victims. 

The third suspect did not join in the attack, having had a change of heart due to fears Israeli authorities would demolish his home.

After the vicious attack, the two attackers split up - one running straight home and the other heading back to his school. They discarded their weapons in a hidden spot as they fled, and one of them later returned to collect them so as to remove any incriminating evidence.
They also confessed to deciding to carry out a second similar attack - which they again planned over the Facebook and Whatsapp instant messengers - following the "success" of their first one. However, they were arrested before being able to carry out their second plan.
A gag order was lifted Monday over the arrests, as all three are set to be indicted in Jerusalem District Court.



3. LAG BA'OMER BONFIRES CAUSED THURSDAY'S MAJOR WILDFIRES
by Uzi Baruch

Lag Ba'Omer fires may have sparked the massive blazes in Emek HaArazim, Ramot, and Jerusalem's Romema neighborhood the Fire Department announced Monday. 

A campfire in Emek HaArazim, near Ramot, probably started the blaze as Lag Ba'Omer festivities ended, spreading due to northwest winds at approximately 12:05 pm Thursday, the Investigative Department of the Jerusalem Fire and Rescue Service said. The blaze eventually grew to a wildfire, spreading easily through the forest. 

Then, due to a change in wind direction, multiple small fires broke out in Emek Hazevaim, eventually converging into a large fire that swept through that valley. 

A fire in Romema, meanwhile, was likely started by Israeli youth building bonfires in the heavily-crowded neighborhood, the investigation added, aided by high winds and dry air. The wind tunnel spread the fire quickly through the neighborhood, causing hundreds of families to evacuate. 

The two blazes were the latest in a spate of fires across Israel this spring/summer season. After 1,500 fires were recorded in five days in April, experts warned that the prime culprit is a lack of fire safety; as such, Lag Ba'Omer, where the nation's children build bonfires anywhere and everywhere proves a day prone to fires every year. 

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4. TRAGEDY: HAREDI TODDLER DIES AFTER LEFT IN CAR
by Eliana Royzen

Rescue forces were called to the scene of a toddler forgotten in a car in Ashdod. The infant, aged about one and a half years old, showed no signs of life and MDA paramedics confirmed him dead on the scene. 

The toddler was discovered in a vehicle parked on Millman Street, Ashdod, at noon on Monday. The child had reportedly been left in the car for several hours. 

MDA paramedics were called to the scene and tried to perform CPR on a toddler, but were finally forced to confirm his death.

Police stated that they have begun an investigation into the incident.

MDA Lachish Regional Director Ami Ivgi said, "When we got there we saw a baby about a year and three months old unconscious with symptoms of extreme heatstroke. He showed no signs of life and we were forced to confirm him dead. "


5. POLICE FLIPFLOP, RE-LABEL 'NATIONALISTIC RAPE' AS TERROR
by Tova Dvorin

Police once again defined an incident which three Arabs raped a 20-year-old mentally disabled Jewish girl as "terror" Monday, less than 24 hours after a police spokeswoman publicly denied the rape had "nationalistic motives." 

The Tel Aviv District Police filed a request to the Tel Aviv Magistrates Court Monday morning to extend the remand of Amad Al-Din Daragmeh by 8 days, Walla! News reports, based on five separate charges; one or more of them were terror-related. 

But less than one hour after news of the charges reached Israeli media, the police apparently asked to retract terror-related charges from the extension request, Channel 2 now reports.

"At this stage we request to remove the charges that the rape was on a nationalistic basis," a police spokesperson stated Monday. "This has been blown out of proportion." 

But then, minutes after that, police asked to return the clause to the statement. 

Police confusion

In the crime, two Arab residents of Judea and Samaria as well as an Arab citizen of Israel were filmed raping the mentally handicapped girl in a motel in southern Tel Aviv, humiliating her and spitting on her while shouting racist slurs and threatening to harm her family.

The original statement on the case indicated it was for "nationalistic" motives, i.e. a terror attack; police hid the case from the public for ten days out of concerns it would spark clashes between Jews and Arabs.

But spokesperson Merav Lapidot told Army Radio Sunday that the crime "was not a nationalistic crime," and further criticized the media for how it handled the news of the rape thus far, adding that the investigation is being handled by experts as thoroughly and meticulously as possible. 

The statement followed an apology from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Friday for condemning the rape before the investigation was complete.


6. NJ MAN WHO FIRE-BOMBED RABBI’S HOME CONVICTED OF TERRORISM
by JTA

A 24-year-old New Jersey man was found guilty of terrorism for vandalizing Jewish temples and firebombing a rabbi’s residence four years ago.

A jury cleared Anthony Graziano of Lodi, New Jersey of several attempted murder charges and one count of aggravated arson but convicted him of terrorism — the most serious offense — and 19 other charges connected with Graziano’s actions.

Graziano showed no emotion as the jury’s verdict was read Friday afternoon in state Superior Court in Hackensack, the news site NorthJersey.com reported. He faces 30 years to life in prison on the terrorism charge alone when he is sentenced on July 22.

During the trial, a rabbi who testified against Graziano said he feared for his and his family’s life after Graziano had tossed a Molotov cocktail through the rabbi’s bedroom window. Graziano’s mother broke down on the witness stand, saying she did not recognize him as the person she had raised.

It was the first case in Bergen County to employ a post-9/11 terrorism law that required the finding that five or more people were terrorized by the crime or that the acts were carried out to promote terror, according to NorthJersey.com.

Graziano’s lawyer, Ian Silvera, pledged an appeal.

"This was an arson case, not a terrorism case," he said. "That has been my position from the very beginning and it is still my position today."

Authorities say Graziano and a childhood friend, Akash Dalal, who will be tried separately, spray-painted anti-Semitic messages outside Temple Beth Israel in Maywood and Temple Beth El in Hackensack in December 2011. Then, on Jan. 3, 2012, the two tried to set Temple Khal Adath Jeshurun in Paramus on fire, authorities said.

Four days later, Graziano abandoned a plot to throw Molotov cocktails into the Jewish Community Center in Paramus, a synagogue, when a police car drove by, prompting him to leave behind Molotov cocktail equipment and a bicycle, authorities said.

The attacks culminated, prosecutors said, with the Jan. 11, 2012, firebombing of Rabbi Neil Schuman’s Rutherford residence — where he, his wife, their five children, his father and her mother were sleeping — in an attempt to burn down the adjacent Congregation Beth El.


7. JEWISH WEDDING TWEETED FROM TURKEY DRAWS ANTI-SEMITISM CLAMOR
by Hillel Fendel

The small Jewish community in Edirne, in northwest Turkey, has waited patiently since 1976 for a wedding in its local synagogue – and when it finally occurred yesterday, the response it drew from other Turks was less than celebratory.

The wedding was set to be such a significant and joyous event that it was decided to broadcast it via Periscope and Twitter – a particularly popular social medium in Turkey. However, it drew the attention of anti-Semites in the country, and the bride, groom and Jewish community in general were told, "Too bad Hitler didn't finish the job" and the like.

Edirne has a Jewish history of some 1,500 years, but just 50 years ago, only 100 Jews lived in Edirne. Finally, the local Jewish cemetery there was confiscated by the authorities, and then destroyed to make way for a residential neighborhood.

Then began the upswing. In 2013, the synagogue was renovated, and last year it was opened to the public. Its first wedding, yesterday, drew many members of the budding Jewish community, and the joy was great. Community leader Yitzchak Ibrahimzadeh even decided that it should be shared with the public at large, via Twitter. The happiness turned to consternation, however, as the responses began tweeting in: "Kill the Jews!" "Get out of occupied Palestine!" etc.

Ibrahimzadeh did not lose heart. "Many anti-Semites expressed their hatred on the Periscope broadcast," he tweeted back. "Together, hand in hand, we will overcome them." He proudly included pictures of a synagogue, church, mosque and Turkish flag, symbolizing his hope that unity would win the day.

The small Turkish-Jewish community, numbering not more than 17,000, disseminated the news of the anti-Semitic barrage, and it was mentioned in various news media.

Anti-Semitism in Turkey is a common phenomenon. Polls conducted in 2007–2009 showed that 64% of Turks would not want to see Jews as their neighbors, and 76% have a negative attitude towards Jews. A recent article by the New York-based Gatestone Institute entitled "Turkey's Runaway Anti-Semitism" states that while there is "always an unusual optimism in the official language chosen by Israeli officials or Jewish community leaders [regarding anti-Semitism in Turkey], facts on the ground are a little bit different than the rosy picture."


8. STEVEN SPIELBERG: I WAS WRONG TO THINK ANTI-SEMITISM WAS FADING
by JTA

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Speaking at Harvard University’s commencement, filmmaker Steven Spielberg said he was "wrong" as a kid to think anti-Semitism "was fading."

Spielberg, whose 99-year-old father Arnold sat in one of the first rows at his address before the Ivy League university’s class of 2016, told the graduates Thursday that the world "is full of monsters" espousing "racism, homophobia, ethnic hatred, class hatred" and "religious hatred."

Spielberg also offered a veiled criticism of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, saying, "We are a nation of immigrants — at least for now" and calling on graduates to vote in the upcoming election.

Facebook COO and Harvard alum Sheryl Sandberg, who is also Jewish, served as chief marshal of the ceremony.

"As a kid, I was bullied — for being Jewish," Spielberg recalled in his speech. "This was upsetting, but compared to what my parents and grandparents had faced, it felt tame. Because we truly believed that anti-Semitism was fading. And we were wrong. Over the last two years, nearly 20,000 Jews have left Europe to find higher ground. And earlier this year, I was at the Israeli embassy when President Obama stated the sad truth. He said: ‘We must confront the reality that around the world, anti-Semitism is on the rise. We cannot deny it.’"

The 69-year-old creator of award-winning films like "Schindler’s List" and "Saving Private Ryan," as well as blockbusters like "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and the Indiana Jones series, also spoke about his Shoah Foundation. The foundation has taken video testimonies of over 53,000 Holocaust survivors and witnesses in 63 countries since he founded it in 1994, he said.

The foundation is now collecting testimonies from genocides in Rwanda, Cambodia, Armenia and Nanking, he said, adding, "We must never forget that the inconceivable doesn’t happen — it happens frequently."

Spielberg provided more details about his childhood brushes with anti-Semitism in a 1993 interview with The New York Times. In that interview, soon after "Schindler’s List" came out, Spielberg, who grew up in Ohio, Arizona and California, recalled, "I was always aware I stood out because of my Jewishness. In high school, I got smacked and kicked around. Two bloody noses. It was horrible."




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