Matisyahu says he felt threatened during Spain gig
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West Bank shooting attack survivor thankful for ‘miracle’

'Largest Mediterranean gas field' found off Egypt coast; vote tally for Iran nuclear deal rises to 31 in Senate

Elie Leshem is deputy editor of The Times of Israel.

  • Matisyahu performing at the Rototom Festival in Benicassim, Spain, August 22, 2015. (YouTube/via JTA)
    Matisyahu performing at the Rototom Festival in Benicassim, Spain, August 22, 2015. (YouTube/via JTA)
  • A view of Alexandria, along Egypt's Mediterranean coast (CC BY Vyacheslav Argenberg/Flickr)
    A view of Alexandria, along Egypt's Mediterranean coast (CC BY Vyacheslav Argenberg/Flickr)
  • Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, May 7, 2015 (AP /Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
    Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, May 7, 2015 (AP /Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
  • A Russian air defense missile system Antey 2500, or S-300 VM, is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, August 27, 2013. (AP/Ivan Sekretarev, File)
    A Russian air defense missile system Antey 2500, or S-300 VM, is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, August 27, 2013. (AP/Ivan Sekretarev, File)
  • Kiryat Arba's Chief Rabbi Dov Lior (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
    Kiryat Arba's Chief Rabbi Dov Lior (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
  • The neurologist Oliver Sacks gives a TED talk in 2009 (CC BY Steve Jurvetson/Flickr)
    The neurologist Oliver Sacks gives a TED talk in 2009 (CC BY Steve Jurvetson/Flickr)
  • Israel Broadcast Authority employees holds signs as they protest against planned dismissals in Jerusalem on August 30, 2015 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Israel Broadcast Authority employees holds signs as they protest against planned dismissals in Jerusalem on August 30, 2015 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they unfolded.

Rabbis back far-right Jewish activists

Several senior settler rabbis have come out in support of far-right activists who have been either detained without charges by police or given orders to stay away from the West Bank, in the wake of a deadly firebombing attack widely attributed to extremist Jews.

“In recent days, administrative orders of detention, limitations and expulsion, without trial, were issued for many Jewish youths who are active for the nation of Israel and the Land of Israel,” the rabbis write in a letter, according to the Orthodox news site Kippa.

The rabbis, among whom are such figures as Rabbi Dov Lior and Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, say that the sanctions against Jewish activists are a “mark of disgrace” for those who issued them, “who fail to distinguish between friend and foe, who are cruel to the compassionate and show compassion to the cruel.”

Israeli man wounded in West Bank shooting

An Israeli man is lightly injured in a shooting incident near the settlement of Kedumim in the northern West Bank.

Hebrew-language media report that initial suspicions point to a shooting attack by Palestinians.

The victim, who is wounded in the hand, is evacuated to Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba for treatment.

Local settler leader blames government for shooting

Yossi Dagan, the head of the Samaria Regional Council, where a shooting attack took place earlier Sunday, holds the government responsible for “tying the IDF’s hands and preventing it from defending [Israeli] civilians” in the West Bank.

In a statement, he claims that the attacks took place at a location where the army used to maintain a roadblock, and that the roadblock was removed “in order to not disrupt the routine of Arabs.”

He says the attack could have been prevented if the roadblock hadn’t been removed.

Reports say the victim, who has been hospitalized with light injuries, is a personal friend of Dagan.

Pope: Let’s stop crimes like deaths of migrants in trucks

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is urging people to work together to stop crimes against migrants, including the 71 who perished in a smuggler’s truck on the main Budapest-Vienna highway.

Francis invites faithful in St. Peter’s Square in Rome to pray silently with him for migrants who die “on their terrible journeys.” He also prays that God would “help us to cooperate effectively to impede these crimes, which offend the entire human family.” Francis notes Vienna’s cardinal is in the square.

Four men are being investigated by Hungarian authorities in the human trafficking case.

With Christians in Iraq, Nigeria and elsewhere fleeing persecution among the huge numbers of migrants seeking safety, the pope implores the international community to “do something to put an end to the violence and abuses” of power.

— AP

Shooting victim’s car hit multiple times

Photos from the scene of the shooting in the West Bank show the victim’s car with at least four bullet holes in the driver’s-side door and one in the front windshield:

430 jobs saved at Israel Broadcasting Authority

The government comes to an agreement with the Israel Broadcasting Authority that heads off the firing of some 430 workers.

In order to save the 430 jobs, the government has agreed to shelve a clause in a new public broadcasting bill that calls on the authority to immediately begin slashing NIS 10 million from its budget every month.

In exchange for the government calling off the dismissals, the Histadrut nation labor union will commit to enter negotiations with the government over the reorganization measures.

Egypt summons British ambassador over Al-Jazeera comments

CAIRO — Egypt’s Foreign Ministry has summoned the British ambassador over comments he made in court after a judge sentenced three Al-Jazeera English journalists to three years in prison each for reporting “false news.”

The ministry says it objects to John Casson’s comments, calling them “unacceptable interference” in the country’s judiciary.

Speaking to television cameras in Arabic after the verdict, Casson said he was concerned it could “undermine confidence in the basis of Egypt’s stability, both in Egypt and abroad.”

The comments were posted on the British Embassy’s Facebook page, and were met with a wave of negative reaction in Arabic and English.

The court sentenced the three journalists on Saturday, sparking international outcry in the latest attack on free speech in the country.

AP

Gas prices to drop in Israel

With the price global price of oil plummeting, Israelis will soon pay a bit less at the pump.

Starting September 1, the price of unleaded fuel will stand at NIS 6.09 per liter for self-service, a 4.55 percent, or 29 agorot, reduction from its current price of NIS 6.38.

Israeli cartoon compares Israeli authorities to Nazis

A cartoon published by the pro-settler Israel National News site appears to depict an IDF soldier as the Jewish child raising his hands in surrender in an iconic photograph from the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II.

Pointing a loaded rifle, and a copy of the army’s rules of engagement, at the soldier is an Israeli authority figure — either government or military — who is equated with a Nazi officer.

Also equated with a Nazi officer is a Palestinian woman holding a slingshot.

Presumably, the cartoon is saying that the Israeli soldier, whose life is threatened by the slingshot, is being prevented by the Israeli authority figure from taking action to defend himself, through too-strict rules of engagement.

The cartoon comes in the wake of an incident in the West Bank Saturday that saw a group of Palestinian women grab on to an IDF soldier to keep him from arresting a Palestinian youth who threw stones.

A Facebook post with a cartoon published Sunday, August 30, 2015, by the news outlet Arutz 7 (screen capture)

A Facebook post with a cartoon published Sunday, August 30, 2015, by the news outlet Arutz 7 (screen capture)

Iran says Russian S-300 system coming soon

The Iranian defense minister says that Russia will supply his country with the advanced S-300 surface-to-air missile system “by the end of the year,” the Lebanese Al Mayadeen news outlet reports.

Hossein Dehghan also says Iran is in talks with Russia about acquiring “modern” Sukhoi fighter jets.

Israel has for years sought to block the sale to Iran of the S-300 system, which analysts say could impede Israel’s capacity to attack Tehran’s nuclear facilities.

A Russian air defense missile system Antey 2500, or S-300 VM, is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, August 27, 2013. (AP/Ivan Sekretarev, File)

A Russian air defense missile system Antey 2500, or S-300 VM, is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, August 27, 2013. (AP/Ivan Sekretarev, File)

Iran says 2 Americans sentenced for spying

On Twitter, The New York Times’s Tehran bureau chief quotes an Iranian spokesman to the effect that two people have been sentenced to a decade in prison after they were convicted of spying for the US. Their identities aren’t immediately clear, but it’s possible that one of them is Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian.

Iran is ‘true enemy’ of Gulf Arabs — Kuwaiti MP

A senior Kuwaiti lawmaker describes Iran as the “true enemy” of Sunni-ruled Gulf Arab states, in a sign of growing tensions with the Shiite power.

“It has become clear to all that Iran is an enemy plotting to swallow up our states and resources and is the true enemy of the region,” Hamad al-Harashani, the head of the Kuwaiti parliament’s foreign relations committee, says in a statement.

It is the strongest Kuwaiti criticism in years of Iran, with which Kuwait has traditionally had better ties than its fellow Gulf Arab states.

Harashani singles out an apparent bomb attack Friday in Bahrain as “yet further evidence of Iran’s aggression” in the region.

The blast killed a policeman and wounded seven people, with Bahraini officials saying explosives used in the attack were similar to material seized by authorities last month which “came from Iran.”

“Iran is seeking to spread chaos and undermine the ruling regimes” in the region, Harashani says, calling on Gulf states to boost security coordination.

AFP

Elite German soldiers said training in Israel

Some 110 elite German soldiers have been training in urban warfare at an installation in the Negev desert, the German newspaper Die Welt reports.

The report quotes an internal German Defense Ministry document that Berlin has been seeking military cooperation with Israel due to the IDF’s “performance level” and experience in “the fight against terrorism.”

Senate vote tally for Iran deal rises to 31

WASHINGTON — Oregon’s Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley becomes the 31st senator to announce support for the Iran nuclear deal, as momentum builds behind the agreement the Obama administration and other world powers negotiated with Tehran.

Merkley’s backing puts supporters within reach of the 34 votes required to uphold a presidential veto of a congressional resolution disapproving the agreement, which curbs Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in sanctions relief.

AP

Italian group makes massive natural gas find near Egypt

Eni, an Italian energy group says it has found one of the largest natural gas fields in the world off the coast of Egypt, according to Reuters.

“According to the well and geophysical data available, the field could hold a potential of 30 trillion cubic feet of lean gas in place,” Eni says in a statement.

Israel’s Leviathan gas field, which is estimated at 16 trillion cubic feet, has so far been thought to be the largest in the Mediterranean.

“Zohr is the largest gas discovery ever made in Egypt and in the Mediterranean Sea and could become one of the world’s largest natural-gas finds,” Eni’s statement reads.

Women register to run for office in Saudi first

Saudi women for the first time begin to register as candidates for municipal polls in the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom where they face a host of restrictions, including a driving ban.

Earlier this month, in another first, women started to register as voters at centers run by all-female staff, separate from registration facilities for Saudi males.

Women in the Gulf state, which applies a strict segregation of the sexes, are banned from driving and have to cover in public from head to toe.

They also have to obtain the consent of a male guardian to travel, work, apply for a passport or to marry.

The late king Abdullah in 2011 granted women the right to vote and run as candidates in this year’s local elections, saying, “We refuse to marginalize women’s role in Saudi society.”

AFP

Matisyahu says he felt threatened during Spain gig

The Jewish reggae singer Matisyahu says that his performance at a recent music festival in Spain marked the first time in his career that he felt physically threatened by the audience.

“People were standing on each other’s shoulders with flags giving me the middle finger,” Matisyahu tells The Daily Beast in an interview. “It was intense. It was not peaceful. It was like ‘Fuck you, Matisyahu.’ I’ve never had the experience of anything like that, as a Jew or anything in my life.”

Matisyahu performed at the Rototom Sunsplash festival after a public backlash prompted organizers to rescind their initial insistence that he sign a statement in support of Palestinian statehood as a prerequisite for his appearance.

Read the full interview here.

AG says police didn’t sit on info in Gal Hirsch case

The Attorney General’s Office rebuffs criticism of the Israel Police in the affair of Gal Hirsch, a former IDF officer who is the leading candidate to head the force.

In a statement, the public prosecution says that, contrary to claims by Hirsch’s allies, the police did not sit for two years on information as to possible shady dealings in Hirsch’s past.

“The initial information was conveyed to the attorney general not from the Israel Police, but from another law enforcement source. In light of that information, the attorney general asked the head of the [police’s] Investigations and Intelligence Division to transfer for our perusal any relevant information held by police.”

The statement said that the police complied with the attorney general’s demand.

Even before rumors broke of Hirsch’s checkered past and an IDF investigation against a company linked to him, his appointment faced stiff opposition from police brass and families of soldiers killed while under his command.

‘Money laundering authority gave A-G info on Hirsch’

The Israel Money Laundering Prohibition Authority was the law enforcement authority that provided the Attorney General’s Office with preliminary information on suspected wrongdoing on the part of retired IDF officer Gal Hirsch, Channel 2 reports.

Israeli football team beats Spain

In its first official game, Israel’s national (American) football team beats Spain in Madrid, 28-20.

Knesset member blames government for terror attack

Bezalel Smotrich, a hawkish lawmaker from the right-wing Jewish Home party, blames the army’s recently modified rules of engagement for a shooting attack in the West Bank Sunday that saw an Israeli man lightly wounded.

Bezalel Smotrich ( Parush/Flash90)

Bezalel Smotrich ( Parush/Flash90)

“The results of the more stringent rules of engagement weren’t late in coming,” he says in a statement. “Less than a month ago, the political echelon chose to tie the IDF’s hands with ludicrous rules of engagement. This added stringency is another step in the mortal blow to Israel’s deterrence versus its enemy.

“The terror attack today near my home in Kedumim is a direct result of the political echelon’s impotence, which is unacceptable,” adds Smotrich, who is a member of the ruling coalition.

IDF fires tear gas at security fence protest

Israeli soldiers fire tear gas and stun grenades to disperse a protest in a Palestinian Christian town near Bethlehem against renewed work on Israel’s West Bank security fence.

Dozens of Palestinian and foreign protesters march in the West Bank village of Beit Jala toward an area where military bulldozers have uprooted olive trees to clear space for the barrier.

Two protesters have been arrested for throwing stones at soldiers guarding the construction zone, police say.

The former Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, denounces the work that began earlier this month.

“This land belongs to us,” he says.

“Whatever they do, whatever their courts say, this land belongs to us and it will return to us one day. You are stronger with your guns, but you are not the strongest when it comes to humanity.”

AFP

Yachimovich: Egyptian gas should mean lower prices for Israelis

Senior opposition lawmaker Shelly Yachimovich says that now that Egypt has found a massive natural gas field off its coast, the price Israelis pay for their gas should be lower.

“If the finding is real,” she says in a statement, “there will be regional competition and prices will plummet.”

Yachimovich is a strident opponent of the controversial deal shaping up between the Israeli government and a consortium of gas companies that regulators have labeled a de facto monopoly.

That deal has yet to be passed by the government, and cabinet ministers were arguing Sunday that the Egyptian find should serve as incentive to pass the agreement sooner rather than later.

But Yachimovich argues that the Egyptian gas field — billed as the largest in the Mediterranean — should prompt the government to reopen its agreement with the gas companies and eke out more favorable terms.

3 charged in anti-Semitic vandalism at Jewish summer camp

Three men are arrested and charged with vandalizing a Jewish summer camp in Michigan with painted swastikas.

Dakota Burnett, 20, and Xavier Mulac and Cody Emelander, both 18, all of South Haven, Michigan, where Camp Agudah Midwest is located, were arraigned Friday in Van Buren County District Court. They are charged with malicious destruction of property, Mlive.com reported.

They face up to a year in jail and more than $2,000 in fines if convicted.

In the July 26 incident, a swastika was spray-painted on a sign outside the overnight camp, which is affiliated with the haredi Orthodox Agudath Israel of America. The vandalism coincided with the fast day of Tisha b’Av, when Jews mourn the destruction of the ancient Temples in Jerusalem.

JTA

Minister: Egypt gas find a wake-up call

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz says Egypt’s major gas find should be a wake-up call for Israel to finalize the terms of its looming agreement with a consortium of gas companies that’s poised to develop Israel’s own sizable offshore reserves.

Referring to the ongoing dispute that has pushed off the signing of the deal, Steinitz states, “The finding of the massive gas field in Egypt is a painful reminder that while Israel sleepwalks and dallies with the final approval for the gas road map, and delays further prospecting, the world is changing in front of us, including ramifications for export options.

“We must pass the gas road map and forward the Israeli gas industry,” he adds.

Shooting attack survivor thankful for ‘miracle’

The Israeli man who was wounded in a shooting attack in the West Bank earlier Sunday relates his recollections of the attack and asserts that the fact that he survived is a “huge miracle.”

“I drove to work as usual,” says a visibly shaken Ronen Edri in a video published by the independent news outlet 0404. “In front of me was a vehicle that was going relatively slowly, which was a little suspicious.

“I continued along with [the vehicle], and we came to the junction. I turned right, and a second later I heard a huge noise, a burst of shots that took out all of the window on the left side.”

He says he then “stepped on it and got out of there as fast as I could.

“I was wounded in the hand, with shrapnel in my back. The bottom line is that, thank God, it was a huge miracle. That’s it. I’m thankful for the miracle. I could have been in a very different place today.”

Egyptian gas find bad news for Israel, expert says

With its massive gas find in the Mediterranean, Egypt will “likely have to meet domestic needs first, before any export plans are discussed,” Robin Mills, a Dubai-based analyst at Manaar Energy Consulting, tells Bloomberg News.

“A find of this size should be enough to cover a lot of Egypt’s energy gap.”

He adds that “this will also put a damper on Israeli plans to export gas to Egypt.”

— AFP contributed.

Jason Rezaian not sentenced in Iran yet, lawyer says

The lawyer for Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who was tried for espionage in a Revolutionary Court in Iran, says an Iranian announcement Sunday that two people have been sentenced to 10 years for spying for the US and Israel “has nothing to do with the case of my client.”

Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian (YouTube screenshot)

Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian (YouTube screenshot)

Attorney Leila Ahsan says the court has yet to issue its verdict on Rezaian.

Rezaian was arrested in July 2014, and reportedly faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. His case has been widely criticized by rights groups.

— AP contributed.

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Matisyahu says he felt threatened during Spain gig

The Jewish reggae singer Matisyahu says that his performance at a recent music festival in Spain marked the first time in his career that he felt physically threatened by the audience.

“People were standing on each other’s shoulders with flags giving me the middle finger,” Matisyahu tells The Daily Beast in an interview. “It was intense. It was not peaceful. It was like ‘Fuck you, Matisyahu.’ I’ve never had the experience of anything like that, as a Jew or anything in my life.”

Matisyahu performed at the Rototom Sunsplash festival after a public backlash prompted organizers to rescind their initial insistence that he sign a statement in support of Palestinian statehood as a prerequisite for his appearance.

Read the full interview here.