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  • US President Donald Trump leaves after speaking following a tour of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, February 21, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB)
    US President Donald Trump leaves after speaking following a tour of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, February 21, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB)
  • Defense Ministry dismantling Amona outpost in the central West Bank on February 6, 2017. (Courtesy Amona Council)
    Defense Ministry dismantling Amona outpost in the central West Bank on February 6, 2017. (Courtesy Amona Council)
  • Muslim men attend a prayer and demonstration at JFK airport in New York City on February 3, 2017 to protest President Donald Trump's executive order banning immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)
    Muslim men attend a prayer and demonstration at JFK airport in New York City on February 3, 2017 to protest President Donald Trump's executive order banning immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)
  • In this June 1, 2016 file photo, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi speaks during a press conference with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty, File)
    In this June 1, 2016 file photo, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi speaks during a press conference with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty, File)
  • Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan attends the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem, on February 20, 2017 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan attends the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem, on February 20, 2017 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • IDF Sgt. Elor Azaria, who shot dead a disarmed and injured Palestinian attacker in the West Bank city of Hebron in March 2016, is surrounded by family and friends as he awaits to hear his sentence in a courtroom at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, on February 21, 2017 (Jim Hollander/POOL)
    IDF Sgt. Elor Azaria, who shot dead a disarmed and injured Palestinian attacker in the West Bank city of Hebron in March 2016, is surrounded by family and friends as he awaits to hear his sentence in a courtroom at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, on February 21, 2017 (Jim Hollander/POOL)
  • A Palestinian woman steps during a demonstration on a portrait of Israeli soldier Elor Azaria, on February 21, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / HAZEM BADER)
    A Palestinian woman steps during a demonstration on a portrait of Israeli soldier Elor Azaria, on February 21, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / HAZEM BADER)
  • Israelis demonstrate outside the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on February 21, 2017, during a protest in support of soldier Elor Azaria, who was being sentenced inside for killing an injured Palestinian assailant, February 21, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)
    Israelis demonstrate outside the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on February 21, 2017, during a protest in support of soldier Elor Azaria, who was being sentenced inside for killing an injured Palestinian assailant, February 21, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)
  • Supporters of IDF soldier Elor Azaria react outside the Israeli military court during his sentencing in Tel Aviv, Israel, February 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
    Supporters of IDF soldier Elor Azaria react outside the Israeli military court during his sentencing in Tel Aviv, Israel, February 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s news as it unfolded.

Azaria sentencing expected at noon

A military tribunal gets set to hand down its sentence for IDF Sgt. Elor Azaria, who was convicted last month of manslaughter for killing a Palestinian attacker who was incapacitated and lying injured on the ground.

The court is expected to hand down its sentence at noon.

Azaria’s family has already arrived at the Kirya military base in central Tel Aviv ahead of the hearing.

Soldiers from Azaria’s unit tell the 0404 news website that they’re “praying that the punishment will be light.”

Watch live feed of courtroom

A live feed from the Tel Aviv courtroom where judges are set to handed down the sentence can be seen here.

As the family enters the courtroom, Elor Azaria’s mother Oshra can be seen wiping tears from her eyes and his father Charlie has a somber look on his face.

Only a few protesters outside Azaria trial

Despite police preparations for large protests outside the Tel Aviv Defense Ministry headquarters where the trial is taking place, only a few protesters are outside.

Included among those is right-wing singer Ariel Zilber, playing songs on a keyboard.

Azaria enters court to applause

Elor Azaria enters the small courtroom to loud clapping and cheering from supporters. He hugs relatives and well-wishers and chats quietly with them.

The sentence is slated to be announced at noon.

Azaria gives big smile ahead of sentencing

Smiling widely, Azaria is hugged by his mother, fist-bumping a well-wisher behind him as well.

Someone yells out. “He’s just a kid, with the smile of an angel.”

Elor Azaria being hugged by his mother in a Tel Aviv military court on February 21, 2017. (screen capture: Channel 2)

Elor Azaria being hugged by his mother in a Tel Aviv military court on February 21, 2017. (screen capture: Channel 2)

Attorney Yoram Sheftel enters the courtroom. He has largely led the legal fight on behalf of Azaria. He has said that he plans to appeal the conviction.

Father: We have no expectations on sentencing

Azaria’s father tells supporters that the family has “no expectations” regarding the sentence and asks them to remain quiet regardless of the decision.

“We have other options,” he says. “We are all lovers of Israel.”

— Judah Ari Gross

Judge begins reading sentencing decision

The judge begins reading the sentencing. It’s not clear if, like the verdict, she will take several hours reading out the decision before getting to the bottom line.

She begins by going over the basic facts of the case and of Azaria’s upbringing.

She says the sentence needs to match the crime. Judges spoke to soldiers, commanders, and mental health officers, she says. Azaria’s father told the court about how his son respected human rights and helped the needy, and fought to join a combat unit to serve the country.

Azaria handed prison sentence, demotion to private

The court notes that Azaria shot the Palestinian with the intention of killing him, and says prosecutors stressed the severity of the crime, while the defense argued the context of the incident, specifically that it was soon after a stabbing attack.

The court also notes the fact that Azaria was an outstanding soldier awarded for his service.

The court hands him a prison sentence and a demotion to private.

— Judah Ari Gross

Judge says Azaria violated army rules of engagement, values

Judges Maya Heller notes that Azaria operated unprofessionally during the incident and talks about the general chaos of the day. She says Azaria violated the army’s value of “purity of the weapon,” and rules of engagement and army’s values.

Violating the value of “purity of the weapon” hurts Israel’s position in the world and its security, she says

It’s not clear whether the judge has ruled in favor of a prison sentence or not. If the reading of the verdict is anything to go by, she could be talking about the case for a while to come.

Azaria may get 18 months to two years

The judge says possible sentence of 18-24 months in prison, but outlines the various opinions of the judges on the panel, who vary in their opinion from a year and a half to four years.

In making the decision, the judges say they “considered the harm to societal values done by the accused,” and found that Azaria’s actions did seriously harm societal values.

The bottom line is that Azaria will get at least a year and a half in prison, but that might take into account time served in the brig.

Judge criticizes army, defense minister

Inside the court room the judge criticizes the army for not taking better care of Azaria’s family, and the defense minister for interfering in the legal proceedings. Meanwhile outside, hard-right wing protesters from the Lehava organization tell police “we are the law here,” Yedioth Ahronoth’s reporter on the scene says.

Azaria given 18-month sentence, demoted

Azaria is given an 18-month sentence and demoted to private. He’s also given a 12-month suspended sentence.

The family of the Palestinian man Azaria killed are watching the proceedings on television in their Hebron home, Israel Radio’s Gal Berger reports from the living room.

Azaria lawyers plan to appeal sentence

Azaria’s lawyers are discussing their plans to appeal the sentence, which is expected to be filed in the coming weeks, and asked the court to put off his imprisonment in the meantime.

Likud MK says he doesn’t want Azaria to serve ‘a single day’

Likud MK David Bitan tells Channel 2 about Azaria: “I don’t want him to sit a single day in prison.”

Bennett calls for Azaria to be exonerated

Education Minister Naftali Bennett tweets that the “security of the citizens of Israel requires immediate clemency for Elor Azaria, who was sent to protect us.”

“The process was tainted from its foundation,” he writes. “It is forbidden for Elor to sit in jail because we will all pay the price.”

Likud minister joins call for Azaria clemency

Likud Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz writes on Facebook that “the court said its piece, the legal process is done. Now is the time for clemency, to return Elor to his home.”

Reactions to sentence pouring in

Everyone and their mother is throwing in their two cents about the military court’s sentence. Human Rights Watch hails the decision, saying “Sending Elor Azaria to prison for his crime sends an important message about reining in excessive use of force.”

“But senior Israeli officials should also repudiate the shoot-to-kill rhetoric that too many of them have promoted, even when there is no imminent threat of death. Pardoning Azaria or reducing his punishment would only encourage impunity for unlawfully taking the life of another person.”

Former Peace Now head Yariv Oppenheim writes on Twitter that the sentence was “embarrassing in its leniency, and even more embarrassing is the conduct of politicians who still demand pardon for a man who shot a terrorist in the head, because he deserved it.”

“A bloodthirsty state and the desire for revenge,” he writes.

Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah writes on Facebook that “the sentencing of Elor Azaria should be the end of this painful episode. We must say enough to the politicians who used cheap populism on the back of Elor and his family, threatening the values of the army and the ability of the commanders to carry it out.”

“Nobody is happy to see Elor go to jail, despite the fact that he did something which should not have been done. However an immediate pardon would make a mockery of the system of commands and laws of the army… With parole he received the minimum sentence and this is how it should be,” Shelah writes.

“Our task now is to stand behind the IDF chief of staff and against those who attacked him solely for political reasons. This is what we have done and what we will continue to do.”

Likud MK Yehuda Glick tweets praise for “the military legal system for its balanced sentence.”

Housing minister calls for immediate Azaria pardon

Housing and Construction Minister Yoav Galant, a former IDF general, calls on the defense minister and IDF chief of staff to hand Azaria a pardon immediately.

He says the trial took a “heavy toll on the army and Israeli society” and that in light of the punishment, and “for the sake of uniting the rifts between parts of the nation, we must exercise common sense and a measure of mercy.”

Meretz head rebuffs calls for Azaria clemency

Zehava Galon, leader of the left-wing Meretz party, responds to the growing cry for clemency by government ministers, saying they are showing “contempt for the sentence [and] lending legitimacy and seeking to whitewash acts that have a big black flag flying above them.”

Judges delay Azaria jail term until March 5

The judges uphold the Azaria defense’s request for a delay before he begins serving out his sentence, ruling he will enter prison by March 5, at 11 a.m.

The delay will allow the defense team to moumt an appeal.

Until then, he will be held at the Nahshonim base, the home base of his Kfir Brigade.

There is no immediate response from his family.

Herzog bemoans ‘circumstances’ that led to Azaria shooting

Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog calls Azaria a “victim of impossible political circumstances that Israel has been evading for decades,” in an apparent reference to Israel’s decades-long presence in the West Bank.

“The government and security officials should look at ways to prevent the next incident,” he says.

— Stuart Winer

Azaria’s family, supporters sing ‘Hatikvah’

Azaria’s friends and family in the court sing ‘Hatikvah,’ Israel’s national anthem and call him a hero. His mother and father hug him.

Azaria prosecutor says ‘justice was done’

Chief prosecutor Lt. Col. Nadav Weisman says in a statement after the sentencing, “We know this was a hard day for the accused, but justice needed to be done and justice was done.

“This sends a message to commanders,” he adds, apparently asserting that field officers will now feel greater pressure to uphold the army’s values and the rule of law.

Azaria’s sister: ‘I’m ashamed of my country’

In a Facebook post, Elor Azaria’s sister Eti Azaria bemoans the sentence and adds, “I’m ashamed of my country.”

“Elor, you’re our hero,” she writes. “We’ll continue to fight.”

Yesh Atid praises Azaria conviction, urges pardon

Members of the opposition Yesh Atid party take a typically centrist — some might say paradoxical — approach to the Azaria verdict, simultaneously praising the court and the army for convicting him and urging he be pardoned.

Azaria, party leader Yair Lapid, writes in a Facebook post, “is a soldier who made a grave mistake under difficult circumstances.”

He hopes, he writes, “that Elor’s commanders will consider a pardon that will let him and his family get back to their lives, but that is a decision left to his commanders alone.

“Politicians,” Lapid, a politician, adds, “should shop intervening in what happens in the military system. I commend the chief of staff and the court for their brave stand for the army’s values.”

Lapid is echoed by fellow Yesh Atid MK Yaakov Perry, a former head of the Shin Bet security agency.

He says in a statement that “despite the difficulty and sorrow that we all feel over the fact that a combat soldier was sentenced to prison, it is incumbent upon us to respect the court’s decision.”

He then adds, “If an appeal isn’t mounted, it’s certainly appropriate to consider a pardon or a reduction of the sentence.”

Azaria lawyer says lenient sentence shows appeal justified

In a statement after the sentencing, Yoram Sheftel, who led the defense in the weeks since the conviction, confirms there will be an appeal, and adds that the fact the court ruled that Azaria would serve only half of the minimum amount requested by the prosecution shows that such a move is justified.

He begins to lay out his plans for the appeal, saying the case is based on two false claims made by soldiers from the scene, who testified that Azaria said after the incident that the terrorist deserved to die.

“There were 13 cameras there!” Sheftel shouts, but none of them captured that statement.

Sheftel accuses the judges of deliberately ignoring facts. When asked why, he says, “I’m not a psychiatrist.”

Palestinians: Azaria sentence a ‘green light’ for IDF ‘crimes’

Azaria’s sentence is too lenient and gives a “green light” for IDF “crimes,” a Palestinian government spokesman says.

“The Palestinian government views this light ruling against the murderer soldier as a green light to the occupation army to continue its crimes,” spokesman Tarek Rishmawi tells AFP shortly after the sentencing.

— AFP

Azaria’s mother has a message on her fingernails

A close examination of the fingernails of Oshra Azaria, Elor Azaria’s mother, reveals that there is a Hebrew letter painted on each one. Together, the letters read, “Mother’s hero.”

A closeup of the fingernails of Elor Azaria's mother, Oshrat, during his sentencing hearing on February 21, 2017. The Hebrew letters spell out "mother's hero." (Jim Hollander/POOL)

A closeup of the fingernails of Elor Azaria’s mother, Oshrat, during his sentencing hearing on February 21, 2017. The Hebrew letters spell out “mother’s hero.” (Jim Hollander/POOL)

Liberman doesn’t call for Azaria pardon

Avigdor Liberman, who last year was among the politicians most vociferous in their urgings of an Azaria pardon, has been taking a much more circumspect approach since becoming defense minister.

In a Facebook post, Liberman refrains from explicitly calling for Azaria to be pardoned (though he takes pains to point out mitigating circumstances), diverging from the other coalition responses, and some opposition responses, to the sentence.

“Now, after the sentencing, I hope that the two sides will do what is necessary to finish this issue for good,” he writes. “As I’ve said in the past, even those who don’t like the verdict or the sentence are bound to respect the court, and as I’ve also said, the military must stand at the side of the soldier and his family.

“You have, on the one hand, an exemplary soldier, and on the other, a terrorist who tried to kill Jews, and everyone must take that into account.”

Father of stabber killed by Azaria says sentence a ‘farce’

The father of Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, the Palestinian who was killed by Azaria after attempting to stab soldiers in Hebron, says the sentence is a “farce.”

“A year and a half is a farce,” Yusri al-Sharif tells journalists at the family home near Hebron.

“What does a year and a half mean? Was he an animal to be killed like this, in this barbaric way?”

During the sentencing, Palestinians protest in the family’s home. Some step on a large poster of Azaria.

A Palestinian woman steps during a demonstration on a portrait of Israeli soldier Elor Azaria, on February 21, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / HAZEM BADER)

A Palestinian woman steps during a demonstration on a portrait of Israeli soldier Elor Azaria, on February 21, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / HAZEM BADER)

— AFP contributed

Clinton: Trump must ‘speak out’ about JCC threats

In a tweet, Hillary Clinton, the erstwhile candidate for US president, calls on Donald Trump to “speak out” about rising anti-Semitism in the US, specifically a wave of bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers this week.

Capital with Hebrew carving lends weight to Galilee village’s Jewish past

A pair of 1,800-year-old Hebrew inscriptions carved into a capital found last week in Pekiin may lend support to a tradition linking the Galilean village to an ancient center of Jewish scholarship.

The inscriptions were found etched into a limestone block buried beneath a courtyard of a building adjacent to the village’s 19th century synagogue during restoration work, the Israel Antiquities Authority announces.

The antiquities authority is tight-lipped about the find and refuses to disclose the text of the inscriptions, saying they are still being studied and won’t be published until they appear in a scholarly journal.

The IAA won’t say how archaeologists who inspected the inscriptions determined they were 1,800 years old. The IAA does disclose that the inscriptions appeared to be dedications by donors to the synagogue, lending support to the tradition of a Jewish presence during the Roman period.

The village Pekiin, in the northern Galilee, is believed to have been the site of a Jewish community since the Roman era, and Jewish tradition associates the modern village with a town mentioned in Josephus’s “Jewish War” and the Talmud as Beka. According to the Talmud, the town was a center of Jewish scholarship during the Roman period and Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai hid in a cave there for 13 years.

Police thwart terror group rally in Jerusalem

The Israel Police says it has prevented a violent parade and show of force by a terror group in an East Jerusalem neighborhood.

Under the power of counter-terrorism laws, police sign an order prohibiting the event, organized by the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine on Tuesday and Wednesday in the Issawiya neighborhood.

Police, with the assistance of the Jerusalem municipality, entered Issawiya and took apart a marquee tent where some of the activities were supposed to take place, a statement says.

Six suspects, residents of Issawyia, are arrested and taken away for questioning on account of being members of a terror group, suspicion of disturbing the public peace, and conspiracy to commit a crime.

— Stuart Winer

Le Pen refuses headscarf, nixes talks with Lebanon cleric

France’s far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen refuses to don a headscarf for a meeting with Lebanon’s top Sunni Muslim cleric and walks away from the scheduled appointment after a brief squabble at the entrance.

Le Pen, who is on a three-day visit to Lebanon this week and has met senior officials, was to meet with the country’s grand mufti, Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian.

Shortly after she arrives at his office, one of his aides hands her a white headscarf to put on. Following a discussion with his aides that last few minutes, she refuses and returns to her car.

Le Pen has tried to raise her international profile and press her pro-Christian stance with her visit to Lebanon, a former French protectorate.

After walking away from the meeting with the grand mufti, Le Pen says she had previously told the cleric’s office that she would not wear a headscarf.

French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, gestures as she speaks during a press conference, in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017 (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, gestures as she speaks during a press conference, in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017 (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

“They didn’t cancel the meeting, so I thought they would accept the fact that I wouldn’t wear one,” she says. “They tried to impose it upon me.”

The office of Lebanon’s mufti issues a statement saying that Le Pen was told in advance through one of her aides that she would have to put on a headscarf during the meeting with the mufti.

“This is the protocol” at the mufti’s office, the statement says. It says the mufti’s aides tried to give her the headscarf and that Le Pen refused to take it.

“The mufti’s office regrets this inappropriate behavior in such meetings,” the statement says.

— AP

Trump condemns anti-Semitism

In a first statement directly addressing anti-Semitism in recent weeks, amid repeated calls for him to do so, US President Donald Trump says he denounces anti-Semitism “wherever he gets a chance.”

“Anti-Semitism is horrible and it’s gonna stop and it’s got to stop,” he says.

Trump has come under fire for ducking questions about rising anti-Jewish sentiment in the US in the lead-up to and aftermath of the elections.

Memorably, during a press conference last week, he shouted down an ultra-Orthodox reporter who, after emphasizing that Trump wasn’t an anti-Semite, asked about the administration’s response to a string of bomb threats against Jewish community centers.

Trump says JCC bomb threats a ‘sad reminder’ of evil

During a press conference at the museum, Trump expands on his earlier condemnation of anti-Semitism, speaking directly about a recent wave of bomb threats against Jewish community centers across the US.

“The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community centers are horrible and are painful, and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” he says.

Erdan implies Umm al-Hiran ramming wasn’t an attack

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan appears to walk back entirely his claim that an incident in a Bedouin village during which a police officer and a local resident were killed was a terror attack.

“We had a rough and regrettable incident a few weeks ago at Umm al-Hiran,” he says at a police event in Beersheba, according to Haaretz. “We must not let anyone try to take a local event, during which, sadly, both a police officer and a citizen were killed, and project from it on the relations between the Bedouin population and the Israel Police.”

The incident he is describing took place early on the morning of January 18, when police arrived to evacuate Umm al-Hiran’s Bedouin residents in order to make way for a new town.

As officers converged on the village, Yaqoub Mousa Abu Al-Qia’an, 47, a teacher and father of 12, packed a few belongings into his SUV and drove from his house, telling friends that he did not wish to witness its destruction. Soon afterward, the vehicle rammed into a group of officers, killing 1st Sgt. Erez Levi, 34, a father of two from Yavneh. Abu Al-Qia’an was fatally shot by police.

Yaqoub Mousa Abu al-Qia’an (Courtesy)

Yaqoub Mousa Abu al-Qia’an (Courtesy)

Police initially asserted that Abu Al-Qia’an was a terrorist, and even accused him of being inspired by the Islamic State group. They said he was shot after accelerating the vehicle in the direction of the officers.

But video footage that emerged in the hours after the incident showed the officers fired before Abu Al-Qia’an accelerated, and that, contrary to police assertions, the car’s lights were on.

Police officer 1st Sgt. Erez Levi, 34, who was killed in an alleged car-ramming attack at Umm al-Hiran, January 18, 2017. (Courtesy)

Police officer 1st Sgt. Erez Levi, 34, who was killed in an alleged car-ramming attack at Umm al-Hiran, January 18, 2017. (Courtesy)

Still, Erdan maintained for weeks that Abu Al-Qia’an was a terrorist.

Today he sounds far less assured.

“We need to draw conclusions once we find out exactly what happened there and the [Justice Ministry’s] Police Internal Investigations Department completes its investigation,” he says, according to Haaretz.

“From there we’ll continue to strengthen this relationship” between police and the Bedouins, “to bolster the police and law enforcement services against criminals who harm, more than anyone else, the dear Bedouin community with whom we wish to continue to live in peaceful coexistence in the Negev.”

Simon Wiesenthal Center urges US task force on anti-Semitism

The Simon Wiesenthal Center calls on the US attorney general to establish a task force to deal with a recent torrent of bomb threats against Jewish community centers across the US, and urged President Donald Trump, who just condemned the threats for the first time, to lay out a plan to combat “surging anti-Semitism.”

“The multipronged threats of anti-Semitism today demand concerted action. We look to President Trump to take a leadership role in addressing the problem of anti-Semitism and hate in America head-on in a speech at a time and place of his choosing,” rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center say in a statement.

“American Jewry is being targeted by extremists from multiple sources: On our nation’s campuses, where incessant anti-Israel campaigns have created a climate of intimidation; in New York, home to the world’s largest Jewish community, which reports a spike in anti-Semitic incidents, and just this week, 100 headstones in a Jewish cemetery in Missouri were overturned,” they say.

“Further, social media is being deployed 24/7 by extremists to target and demonize individual Jews, entire communities, our faith and values. We need lead leadership from the top to effectively combat the hate.”

Ya’alon rejects criticism from Azaria judges

Moshe Ya’alon rejects the rebuke he received from the judges presiding over the Elor Azaria case, who said he had interfered by making public statements about the issue before the trial was complete.

Ya’alon, who was defense minister at the time of the incident, says all his remarks were made with approval from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“To the prime minister, to the IDF chief of staff and to me it was clear, following the initial investigation, that this incident was out of the ordinary,” he says.

“Therefore, in a joint statement, we commented [on the case] a few hours after the incident in order to prevent people from using it as proof of the Palestinian blood libel.”

Speaking at a conference, Ya’alon praises the army for the 18-month sentence handed down earlier today.

He says Azaria and his family were pawns in a game played by “special interest parties” that caused deep divisions in Israeli society.

Jordan, Egypt insist on 2-state solution for Israel, Palestinians

CAIRO — Jordan and Egypt are reasserting support for a Palestinian state, days after US President Donald Trump said that peace does not necessarily depend on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In a statement during a meeting in Cairo with President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, King Abdullah II says that the two sides agreed that any proposals not based on a two-state solution would have serious implications for the region.

They say the peace process must be relaunched with the two-state solution as the “only solution for ending the conflict.”

Trump said last week he could accept a two-state solution or a single-state arrangement if it is agreed upon by all sides. Administration officials later said the US absolutely supports a two-state solution.

— AP

US to increase number of immigrants targeted for deportation

WASHINGTON — The Homeland Security Department is greatly expanding the number of people living in the US illegally who are considered a deportation priority.

The new guidelines under US President Donald Trump call for the deportation of any individuals in the country illegally if they are convicted, charged or suspected of a crime, which could include traffic infractions.

Department memos released today eliminate guidelines under the Obama administration that focused enforcement on immigrants in the United States illegally who have been convicted of serious crimes or are a threat to national security. The Obama administration also focused its enforcement resources on people who had just crossed the border.

The new guidelines also call for sending some immigrants caught crossing the Mexican border illegally back to Mexico, regardless of where they are from.

AP

Ya’alon derides his critics on Azaria trial

During his speech, Ya’alon also says he “was forced” to make additional comments about Azaria when he “heard MK [Avigdor] Liberman and MK [Oren] Hazan storming the military court, along with [right-wing activists Bentzi] Gopstein, [Baruch] Marzel and [Moshe] Feiglin.”

He says all of his comments were made to defend the military.

“Who will protect the IDF chief of staff, if not the defense minister,” he says.

Ya’alon, a former chief of staff and member of the elite Sayeret Matkal unit, derides the “heroes from Big Brother, Facebook and Twitter” who “tried to give him lessons about fighting terrorism,” in a clear reference to Sharon Gal, a former MK and current participant on the Big Brother reality show, who was at the forefront of Azaria’s defense.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon delivers a speech on Monday, February 21, 2017 (screen capture)

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon delivers a speech on Monday, February 21, 2017 (screen capture)

UK university cancels ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ event over anti-Semitism

Citing the British government’s adoption of a definition of anti-Semitism that includes exaggerated criticism of Israel, a university in Britain calls off an event marking “Israel Apartheid Week.”

According to a report on the Jewish Chronicle news site, the University of Central Lancaster event was meant to feature Ben White, a prominent anti-Israel activist, and pro-Palestinian academics.

A university spokesman quoted in the report says the session, titled “Debunking Misconceptions on Palestine,” was canceled because it contravened the government’s new definition of anti-Semitism and was thus “unlawful.”

“The UK government has formally adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s new definition of what constitutes anti-Semitism,” the spokesperson is quoted as saying. “We believe the proposed talk contravenes the new definition and furthermore breaches university protocols for such events, where we require assurances of a balanced view or a panel of speakers representing all interests.”

The British government in December adopted the relatively broad definition of anti-Semitism first put forward in May at a conference of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which is based in Berlin.

According to that definition, anti-Semitism includes “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

It also says anti-Semitism includes “using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing
Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis” and “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

Trump’s envoy at UN warns Russia US stands firm on NATO, EU

US Ambassador Nikki Haley says the United States is ready to improve ties with Russia but will not compromise on its support for NATO and the European Union.

Haley tells a Security Council debate on conflicts in Europe that “Russia’s attempts to destabilize Ukraine” are among the most serious challenges facing the continent.

“The United States thinks it’s possible to have a better relationship with Russia – after all, we confront many of the same threats,” Haley says.

“But greater cooperation with Russia cannot come at the expense of the security of our European friends and allies.”

The remarks come as European governments are seeking reassurance after US President Donald Trump applauded Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, criticized NATO members over burden-sharing and praised Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Haley says the United States is committed to “the institutions that keep Europe safe” and that it “will not waver” in its support for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The United States wants to deepen cooperation within NATO while “keeping the door open to new allies,” she says.

US United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks at the Security Council meeting on February 21, 2017 at UN Headquarters in New York. (AFP PHOTO / KENA BETANCUR)

US United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks at the Security Council meeting on February 21, 2017 at UN Headquarters in New York. (AFP PHOTO / KENA BETANCUR)

AFP

Before Netanyahu arrives, Australia boosts 2-state solution

One day before Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to land in Sydney for the first-ever visit down under by a sitting Israeli prime minister, Australia’s leader endorses the two-state solution.

At the same time, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull warmly welcomes his Israeli counterpart, calls the Jewish state a “miraculous nation” and states unequivocally that his government would not have supported UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which in December harshly criticized Israel’s settlement enterprise.

“My government will not support one-sided resolutions criticizing Israel of the kind recently adopted by the UN Security Council and we deplore the boycott campaigns designed to legitimize the Jewish state,” Turnbull writes in the “Australian” newspaper.

“At the same time, we recognize that Israel and the Palestinians need to come to a settlement and we support a directly negotiated two-state solution so that Palestinians will have their own state and the people of Israel can be secure within agreed borders,” he writes.

In a time of deep and intractable conflicts in the Middle East, Israeli and Palestinian leaders “should return to the negotiating table and work towards a solution that upholds the rights of both peoples to live side by side in peace and security,” Turnbull adds.

After a two-state visit to Singapore, Netanyahu and his delegation will tomorrow make their way to Sydney, where he will stay until Sunday, meeting with top government officials and senior leaders of the Jewish community.

— Raphael Ahren

Lawyer enlisted to defend outpost law was grilled by police – report

The lawyer appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to defend a controversial law that legalizes West Bank settlement houses built on private Palestinian land was recently interrogated by police, Channel 2 news reports.

The lawyer, Harel Arnon, reportedly chose to remain silent when interrogators grilled him over an affair involving his client Ari Harow, Netanyahu’s former chief of staff, who is suspected of fraud.

Netanyahu was forced to enlist a lawyer to defend the settlement law in court after Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, a critic of the legislation, announced that he wouldn’t do so. The law, which received blanket condemnations from the international community, is already being challenged in the High Court of Justice by left-wing groups.

Ari Harow, former chief of staff of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a Likud meeting in the Israeli parliament, November 24, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Ari Harow, former chief of staff of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a Likud meeting in the Israeli parliament, November 24, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Arnon tells Channel 2 that he was interrogated in connection with the sale of a company owned by Harow, who he says is a client of his firm.

“I cooperated fully with the interrogators within the constraints imposed on me as a lawyer dealing with my clients’ affairs,” he is quoted as saying. “I’m positive that the suspicions against Harow will turn out to be a red herring.”

Anne Frank center: Trump administration ‘infected’ with ‘anti-Semitism’

The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect excoriates Trump, saying his statement earlier today condemning anti-Semitism is “too little, too late” and a “Band-Aid on the cancer of anti-Semitism that has infected his own administration.”

The full statement, posted to the Anne Frank Center’s Facebook page, reads as follows:

The President’s sudden acknowledgement is a Band-Aid on the cancer of Antisemitism that has infected his own Administration. His statement today is a pathetic asterisk of condescension after weeks in which he and his staff have committed grotesque acts and omissions reflecting Antisemitism, yet day after day have refused to apologize and correct the record. Make no mistake: The Antisemitism coming out of this Administration is the worst we have ever seen from any Administration. The White House repeatedly refused to mention Jews in its Holocaust remembrance, and had the audacity to take offense when the world pointed out the ramifications of Holocaust denial. And it was only yesterday, President’s Day, that Jewish Community Centers across the nation received bomb threats, and the President said absolutely nothing. When President Trump responds to Antisemitism proactively and in real time, and without pleas and pressure, that’s when we’ll be able to say this President has turned a corner. This is not that moment.

Trump’s spokesman hopes Anne Frank Center will come around

WASHINGTON — White House spokesman Sean Spicer responds to the Anne Frank Center’s very harsh statement, which dismissed Trump’s comments today condemning anti-Semitism and accused his administration of being “infected” with Jew-hatred.

“The president has made clear since the day he was elected — and frankly going back to the campaign — that he is someone who seeks to unite this country,” Spicer tells reporters during the daily press briefing. “He has brought a diverse group of folks into his administration, both in terms of actual positions and people that he has sought the advice of.

“He has been very forceful with his denunciation of people who attack people because of their religion or because or their gender or because of the color of their skin.

“It’s ironic that no matter how many times he talks about this that it’s never good enough.

“Today, I think, was an unbelievably forceful comment from the president in terms of his denunciation of the actions that are currently targeted toward Jewish community centers, but I think he’s been very clear, previous to this, that he wants to be someone who brings this country together and not divide people, especially in those areas.

“I saw that statement. I wish that they had praised the president for his leadership in this area. Hopefully, as time continues to go by they recognize his commitment to civil rights, to voting rights, to equality for all Americans.”

— Eric Cortellessa

Spicer: Trump to tackle anti-Semitism ‘through deed and action’

WASHINGTON — Asked what Trump will do about the uptick in anti-Semitic incidents in the US, Spicer says, “I think the president is going to do what he’s talked about since election night. It’s through deed and action, talk about how we can unify this country and speak out against hate, anti-Semitism, racism. And he’s going to continue to do that.

“I think he will show you, over the course of months and years, through what he does in terms of his policies and his speech, that he is going to be a president that brings people together, that unites them, and speaks very, very forcefully against those who are seeking to do hate or to tear people down.”

— Eric Cortellessa

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UK university cancels ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ event over anti-Semitism

Citing the British government’s adoption of a definition of anti-Semitism that includes exaggerated criticism of Israel, a university in Britain calls off an event marking “Israel Apartheid Week.”

According to a report on the Jewish Chronicle news site, the University of Central Lancaster event was meant to feature Ben White, a prominent anti-Israel activist, and pro-Palestinian academics.

A university spokesman quoted in the report says the session, titled “Debunking Misconceptions on Palestine,” was canceled because it contravened the government’s new definition of anti-Semitism and was thus “unlawful.”

“The UK government has formally adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s new definition of what constitutes anti-Semitism,” the spokesperson is quoted as saying. “We believe the proposed talk contravenes the new definition and furthermore breaches university protocols for such events, where we require assurances of a balanced view or a panel of speakers representing all interests.”

The British government in December adopted the relatively broad definition of anti-Semitism first put forward in May at a conference of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which is based in Berlin.

According to that definition, anti-Semitism includes “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

It also says anti-Semitism includes “using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing
Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis” and “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”