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Netanyahu said to argue he deserves immunity because of prosecutors’ ‘bad faith’

In purported letter to Knesset, PM claims prosecuting him for corruption would hamper the Knesset’s work and amounted to selective enforcement motivated by politics, not justice

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends an event marking the eighth night of Hanukkah, on December 29, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends an event marking the eighth night of Hanukkah, on December 29, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they happened.

Hamas denies reports of ceasefire talks with Israel

Hamas denies reports it is in contact with Israel and seeking a ceasefire.

“There are no ceasefire talks with the Zionist enemy,” the organization says in a statement. “The occupation has not carried out the understandings reached in the past with the Egyptian mediators.”

The statement comes after Israel’s security cabinet met yesterday for several hours to address the ceasefire talks. The meeting ended without any statement as to the status of the talks.

The latest round of ceasefire talks, first reported by Channel 12 over the weekend, involve Israel easing its blockade to allow expanded overland trade between Gaza and Israel, expanding the naval fishing zone, and speeding up the laying of a gas pipeline to help resolve chronic energy shortages in the enclave.

Hamas has reportedly asked that Israel allow Gazan workers into Israel to work, but Israeli security agencies oppose the move, saying the idea posed a security threat, according to Channel 12.

In exchange, Hamas would reduce the rate and size of the weekly protests at the border fence, and would act to aggressively prevent rocket fire by terror groups toward Israeli territory.

Saudi Arabia says 2 Shiite men killed by police were planning terror attack

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia says two men who were shot and killed last week in the eastern city of Dammam had been planning an attack and were in possession of explosives that could have been used to deploy a car bomb.

The Presidency of State Security, which deals with counter-terrorism and domestic intelligence, says in a statement to the state-run Saudi Press Agency that the two Saudi men had been wanted by police. They were identified as Ahmed Abdullah Saeed Suwaid and Abdullah Hussain Saeed al-Nimr.

Saudi security said the two were killed on Wednesday in a shootout with police after refusing to surrender. The statement said investigations and the arrest of a third person showed the group had been planning an “imminent terrorist operation,” and were in possession of 5 kilograms (11 pounds) of a highly explosive substance, a machine gun, two pistols and live ammunition.

Saudi Shiites, who are a minority in the mostly Sunni Muslim kingdom, make up the bulk of the population in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich eastern region, including the city of Dammam where the incident took place.

Dammam, like other cities in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, was roiled by Shiite-led anti-government protests in 2011 and 2012. As the Saudi government cracked down on the protests, some protesters took up arms against police and were branded as “wanted” by state security. Some have since been killed in shootouts with security officers. Others have been detained, tried and executed.

— AP

Police say they’re ready for New Year’s mayhem

The Israel Police says it has finished preparations nationwide for New Year’s celebrations.

“Police officers and special patrol units including Border Police will secure events that are scheduled in cities and public areas,” a statement from a police spokesperson says.

Thousands of officers will deploy for the celebrations, and the “emphasis will be on maintaining public order,” with a special focus on drunk driving.

Sudan sentences 27 to death for torturing, killing protester

CAIRO — A Sudanese court sentences 27 members of the country’s security forces to death for torturing and killing a detained protester during the uprising against longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir earlier this year.

The death of protester Ahmed al-Khair, a school teacher, while in detention in February was a key point — and a symbol — in the uprising that eventually led to the military’s ouster of al-Bashir. Monday’s convictions and sentences, which can be appealed, were the first connected to the killings of protesters in the revolt.

Last December, the first rally was held in Sudan to protest the soaring cost of bread and the dire economic conditions, marking the beginning of a pro-democracy movement that convulsed the large African country. That led, in April, to the toppling of al-Bashir, and ultimately to the creation of a joint military-civilian Sovereign Council that has committed to rebuilding the country and promises elections in three years.

Monday’s verdict in the trial of the security forces took place in a court in Omdurman, Khartoum’s twin city, where hundreds of protesters, including many from the eastern province of Kassala, al-Khair’s hometown, had gathered outside the courtroom and elsewhere in the city, demanding justice for the slain teacher. Footage circulating online shows the protesters cheering after the verdict was announced. “Blood for blood, we do not accept blood money,” many chanted.

Al-Khair was detained on January 31 in Kassala and was reported dead two days later. His body was taken to a local hospital where his family said it was covered in bruises. At the time, police denied any wrongdoing and blamed his death on an “illness,” without providing any details.

Judge al-Sadik al-Amin al-Fek, however, says today that the teacher was beaten and tortured while in detention. “His death was an inevitable consequence of the beating and torture,” he says.

— AP

‘Tinder swindler’ gets 15 months for scamming women on dating app

An Israeli man who defrauded women across Scandinavia out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by presenting himself on the dating app Tinder as the son of a wealthy oligarch is sentenced to 15 months in prison and ordered to pay his victims NIS 150,000 ($43,289) in compensation by the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court.

Shimon Hayut, dubbed the “Tinder Swindler,” is also ordered to pay a fine of NIS 20,000 ($5,771) under the terms of a plea deal he reached with prosecutors after being convicted of four separate fraud charges. According to Hebrew media reports, after time served is deducted from his sentence and, assuming early release for good behavior, he could potentially be released in just two months.

During his sentencing hearing, Hayut tells the court that he is “sorry about everything” he had done and promises to “pay my debt to society,” the Ynet news site reports.

Shimon Hayut with one of his victims. (Screengrab)

Hayut was extradited back to Israel in October after fleeing the country in 2017 to avoid trial for various other fraud-related offenses. In the intervening two years, he roamed around Europe, presenting himself as Simon Leviev, the purported son of Russian-Israeli diamond mogul Lev Leviev. He used the dating app Tinder to contact women as Leviev and tricked them into loaning him money that he never repaid.

The 29-year-old Bnei Brak native was arrested over the summer in Greece in a joint operation of Interpol and the Israel Police.

Russia warns Iran nuclear deal in danger of ‘falling apart’

MOSCOW — Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers is in danger of “falling apart” without the compliance of the United States and the European Union, Russia’s foreign minister warns after meeting with his Iranian counterpart in Moscow.

The 2015 deal between Iran and Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for limits on its nuclear program. The US withdrew from the accord last year and imposed crippling economic sanctions that block Iran from selling crude oil abroad.

“Because of the destructive line that Washington keeps towing, this important achievement of international diplomacy… is in danger of falling apart,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says, adding that “colleagues from the European Union” were not fully complying with the agreement either.

In response to the US sanctions, Iran has pressured the European signatories to find a way to limit the impact on the Iranian economy. Tehran has slowly inched toward ceasing its own compliance with the terms of the deal. Last week, for example, the country began new operations at a heavy water nuclear reactor.

Iran’s moves have been condemned by Western governments as unwelcome and escalating tensions in the region, while Russia and China have repeatedly blamed the US.

After meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Monday, Lavrov says Russia would demand full compliance from both the US and the EU, in which case Iran would be able to return to fulfilling its obligations in accordance with the deal.

Otherwise the agreement should be considered “no longer existing,” he said.

— AP

Hanukkah stabber’s family says he has history of mental illness

MONSEY, New York — A man accused of storming into a rabbi’s home and stabbing five people as they celebrated Hanukkah in an Orthodox Jewish community north of New York City on Saturday night was raised to embrace tolerance but has a history of mental illness, his family says.

“Grafton Thomas has a long history of mental illness and hospitalizations. He has no history of like violent acts and no convictions for any crime,” his family says in a statement issued by attorney Michael Sussman. “He has no known history of anti-Semitism and was raised in a home which embraced and respected all religions and races. He is not a member of any hate groups. We believe the actions of which he is accused, if committed by him, tragically reflect profound mental illness,” the statement says.

Police tracked a fleeing suspect to Manhattan and made an arrest within two hours of the attack Saturday night in Monsey. Thomas had blood all over his clothing and smelled of bleach but said “almost nothing” when officers stopped him, officials said.

The stabbings on the seventh night of Hanukkah left one person critically wounded, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. The rabbi’s son was also injured, he said.

Thomas, 37, was arraigned Sunday and pleaded not guilty to five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary. Bail was set at $5 million, and he remains jailed.

Thomas’ criminal history includes an arrest for assaulting a police horse, according to an official briefed on the investigation who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. A lawyer representing Thomas at the arraignment said he had no convictions.

The attack was the latest in a string of violence targeting Jews in the region, including a December 10 massacre at a kosher grocery store in New Jersey. Last month in Monsey, a man was stabbed while walking to a synagogue. Cuomo said Saturday’s savagery was the 13th anti-Semitic attack in New York since December 8.

— AP

US ambassador defends Poland from false Russian WWII claims

WARSAW, Poland — The US ambassador in Warsaw comes to Poland’s defense following repeated claims by Russian President Vladimir Putin that Poland bears blame for the outbreak of World War II.

“Dear President Putin, Hitler and Stalin colluded to start WWII. That is a fact. Poland was a victim of this horrible conflict,” Ambassador Georgette Mosbacher says on Twitter in English and Polish — though not in Russian.

World War II began September 1, 1939, when German troops invaded Poland. Two weeks later, the Soviet Red Army invaded from the east, in what Poles still call a “stab in the back.” The dual occupation came days after the Nazi and Soviet regimes had signed a pact with a secret protocol to carve up Poland and the Baltic states. Some six million Polish citizens were killed in the war, about half of them Jews murdered in the Nazi Holocaust.

Recently Putin has been arguing that the collusion of Western powers with Adolf Hitler paved the way for World War II. He has singled out Poland in particular, casting it as an anti-Semitic country that welcomed Hitler’s plans to destroy Europe’s Jews. He noted Poland’s ambassador to Berlin in the lead-up to the war, who was an avid anti-Semite.

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki protested Putin’s words on Sunday, saying they are deliberate “lies” and arguing that Putin is trying to deflect attention from recent political failures by Russia.

— AP and Times of Israel staff

PA claims Israel-Hamas ceasefire plan would further divide Gaza from West Bank

The Palestinian Authority says reports of a possible Israel-Hamas ceasefire in Gaza would deepen the rift between the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave and the Fatah-ruled PA in the West Bank.

Noting reported Israeli “promises of easing [blockade] measures for Gaza including the delivery of funds, a seaport, an airport, a hospital and an industrial zone,” PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh tells the weekly cabinet meeting in Ramallah that the ceasefire plan “is another piece of evidence of the efforts aimed at strengthening the division.”

Hamas denied reports earlier today that it was in contact with Israel and seeking a ceasefire. “There are no ceasefire talks with the Zionist enemy,” the organization said in a statement. “The occupation has not carried out the understandings reached in the past with the Egyptian mediators.”

The statement came after Israel’s security cabinet met yesterday for several hours to address the ceasefire talks. The meeting ended without any statement as to the status of the talks.

The latest round of ceasefire talks, first reported by Channel 12 over the weekend, involve Israel easing its blockade to allow expanded overland trade between Gaza and Israel, expanding the naval fishing zone, and speeding up the laying of a gas pipeline to help resolve chronic energy shortages in the strip.

In exchange, Hamas would reduce the rate and size of the weekly protests at the border fence, and would act to aggressively prevent rocket fire by terror groups toward Israeli territory.

Amid ceasefire reports, Israel lets in Gaza-grown strawberries

Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture says it’s been ordered by the “political echelon” to allow Gazan strawberries into Israel for sale in the Israeli market, in addition to the tomatoes and eggplant that are already being shipped from the coastal enclave into Israel.

The strawberries still require import approval by health inspectors, the ministry says.

The ministry statement explains the decision as a price-cutting measure, possibly to suggest it is not related to Israel-Hamas ceasefire talks.

“The price of strawberries in Israel is very high right now,” the ministry statement says. “The entry of [Gazan] strawberries into Israel is expected to significantly lower the consumer price of strawberries.”

The order to allow Gazan strawberries into Israel comes a day after Israel’s security cabinet met for several hours Sunday to consider a broad easing of the blockade in exchange for a reduction in the rate and size of the weekly protests at the Israel-Gaza border fence, and Hamas’s agreement to act aggressively to prevent rocket fire by terror groups toward Israeli territory.

Flu vaccine stockpile will run out in two days – report

This year’s especially virulent strain of flu has sent Israelis scrambling to get vaccinated — and seen health funds running short on their vaccine stockpile.

According to Channel 12, at the present rate of vaccination — which kicked into high gear over the past week amid news of three flu-related deaths — the country’s vaccine supplies will run out in just two days’ time.

Health Ministry releases 45,000 flu vaccines amid shortage

Responding to the shortage in flu vaccines, the Health Ministry says it is transferring 45,000 vaccines to three major health funds — Clalit, Meuhedet and Leumit.

Israelis have rushed to vaccinate themselves and their children after three people died in recent days from a virulent strain of flu.

Clalit says over a million of its members have received vaccines this season.

Pompeo to travel to Ukraine ahead of Trump’s US Senate trial

The top US diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, will travel to Ukraine ahead of President Donald Trump’s trial in the Senate over allegations he sought to push Kyiv to investigate a political rival, the State Department says.

The trip will make Pompeo the most senior US official to visit Kyiv since a scandal erupted earlier this year over a controversial phone call in which Trump allegedly tried to pressure his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky to find dirt on Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden.

Pompeo will travel to Kyiv on January 3 and will meet Zelensky as well as other top Ukrainian officials, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus says in a statement.

Trump was impeached by the US House of Representatives for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress on December 18 and faces trial in the Senate, possibly in January. Pompeo, a staunch Trump defender, was personally implicated by several witnesses during the impeachment inquiry.

Trump is accused of withholding $400 million in assistance to Ukraine and a White House meeting with Zelensky to push Kyiv to investigate Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of directors of a Ukrainian gas company. Despite testimony from 17 officials that Trump leveraged his office for political gain, the president has maintained his innocence throughout the impeachment inquiry — denouncing it as an “attempted coup” and an “assault on America.”

— AFP

Moderate quake hits southern Iran, no casualties reported

TEHRAN, Iran — A magnitude 5.4 earthquake strikes a town in southern Iran, the country’s seismology center reports.

The quake jolts for about eight seconds the village of Qale Qazi, which is some 40 kilometers northeast of the major port city of Bandar Abbas. The temblor’s depth is some 20 kilometers.

There are no immediate reports of casualties or damage. The village has some 5,000 people, mainly farmers.

Iran lies on major seismic faults and experiences an earthquake a day on average.

Earlier in November, a magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck northwestern Iran, killing at least five people and injuring over 300 others.

In 2003, a magnitude 6.6 earthquake flattened the historic city of Bam, killing 26,000 people.

— AP

Netanyahu schedules press statement, likely about immunity, then cancels it

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancels an 8 p.m. live statement to the press, just half an hour after his staff tells the media he’ll be making it.

Netanyahu is believed to have planned to announce he would seek parliamentary immunity in three corruption cases. The announcement that he would be making a statement came from staffers in the Likud party, not the Prime Minister’s Office, suggesting it was political in nature.

It’s not immediately clear why Netanyahu has now canceled the announcement. Channel 12’s Amit Segal is speculating that he may want to avoid giving fodder to his opponents in tomorrow’s High Court of Justice hearing on petitions calling to bar him from forming the next government, should be win the elections, because of the looming indictments.

Blue and White mocks PM’s canceling of believed immunity announcement

Blue and White mocks Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s abrupt cancellation of a live television statement to the nation tonight that was believed to be an announcement that he planned to seek parliamentary immunity in three corruption cases.

“He can’t manage an announcement. How is he going to manage the country?” Blue and White quips on Twitter.

Netanyahu’s critics, including Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, have suggested he won’t be able to run the country while standing trial for corruption. Netanyahu himself once said the same thing about Ehud Olmert when the then-premier faced his own corruption investigations in 2006.

Russia denounces US airstrikes, Hezbollah attacks in Iraq

MOSCOW, Russia — Russia’s foreign ministry calls the “exchange of strikes” between Hezbollah and US forces in Iraq “unacceptable,” and calls for restraint from both sides.

“We consider such actions unacceptable and counterproductive. We call upon all parties to refrain from further actions that could sharply destabilize the military-political situation in Iraq, Syria, and the neighboring countries,” a ministry statement says.

— AFP

Netanyahu has decided to ask Knesset for immunity – report

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to formally ask the Knesset for immunity from prosecution in three corruption cases, Channel 13 reports.

To that end, he has penned a letter to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein saying he would ask for immunity, the channel says.

Edelstein, Netanyahu deny PM has asked for immunity from prosecution

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein’s office denies reports that he has been informed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he is seeking immunity from prosecution in three corruption cases.

“No request has been made,” a spokesperson for Edelstein tells The Times of Israel.

Netanyahu must inform Edelstein by tomorrow that he plans to ask the Knesset for immunity — or forgo the immunity process.

A spokesperson for Netanyahu is also denying the Channel 13 report a short time ago, according to which the PM formally informed Edelstein he would seek immunity.

— Raoul Wootliff

Blue and White pushes for swift decision on Netanyahu immunity

In the wake of reports, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to ask for parliamentary immunity to avoid prosecution in three corruption cases, the Blue and White party says it will push for the formation of a Knesset House Committee to consider Netanyahu’s request as quickly as possible.

Knesset Legal Adviser Eyal Yinon issued a legal opinion last month that an MK cannot be indicted while the Knesset considers their immunity request. Since no coalition was formed after the September 17 election, nor is one going to be in place until long after the March 2 vote, it will be several months before a Knesset House Committee, which has the power to consider immunity request, is staffed. During that time, Netanyahu will enjoy effective immunity from prosecution regardless of the final decision.

Blue and White hopes to push for a speedy staffing of the House Committee, despite the lack of a coalition, in order to have an answer on Netanyahu’s immunity before election day.

By agreement of the outgoing Knesset’s factions, two parliamentary committees seen as vital for the government’s proper functioning have been staffed: the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and the Finance Committee.

In its announcement, Blue and White says its no. 5, MK Avi Nissenkorn, who chairs the temporary Arrangements Committee, will convene the committee on Wednesday to push for a vote on establishing a House Committee able to consider Netanyahu’s request.

While media reports have claimed Netanyahu has already informed Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein he plans to seek immunity, both Edelstein and Netanyahu are denying it this evening.

Federal prosecutors file charges against Hanukkah stabber

MONSEY, New York — Grafton E. Thomas, accused of stabbing five people as they celebrated Hanukkah in a rabbi’s house north of New York City on Saturday night, was expected to appear in federal court in White Plains to face five counts of obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs by attempting to kill with a dangerous weapon and causing injuries.

The attack on the seventh night of Hanukkah occurred amid a series of violent attacks targeting Jews in the region that have led to increased security, particularly around religious gatherings.

Thomas’s family said he was raised to embrace tolerance, but has a history of mental illness.

“Grafton Thomas has a long history of mental illness and hospitalizations. He has no history of like violent acts and no convictions for any crime,” his family said late Sunday, in a statement issued by attorney Michael Sussman. “He has no known history of anti-Semitism and was raised in a home which embraced and respected all religions and races. He is not a member of any hate groups.”

“We believe the actions of which he is accused, if committed by him, tragically reflect profound mental illness,” the statement said.

According to a criminal complaint, Thomas, a scarf covering his face, entered the rabbi’s home, located next door to a synagogue, and said, “No one is leaving.” Thomas then took out a machete and started stabbing and slashing people in a home packed with dozens of congregants, the complaint said. The five victims suffered serious injuries, including a severed finger, slash wounds, and deep lacerations, the complaint said. It added that at least one victim was in critical condition with a skull fracture. The rabbi’s son was also injured.

On Sunday, Thomas, 37, pleaded not guilty to five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary. He was detained on $5 million bail and refused to answer questions as he was escorted to a vehicle.

— AP

Prosecutors find anti-Semitic materials in Monsey stabber’s phone, journals

ABC reports that federal prosecutors are charging Grafton Thomas, the assailant in the Saturday night Hanukkah stabbing rampage in Monsey, New York, with hate crime charges, after finding anti-Semitic materials on his phone.

Citing the criminal complaint filed against Thomas today, the report says:

The man accused of invading rabbi’s home and stabbing five people during Hanukkah celebration over the weekend is now facing federal hate crime charges after authorities found what they described as anti-Semitic materials in several journals and on the suspect’s phone.

According to the criminal complaint, Grafton Thomas was in possession of handwritten journals that referred to Adolf Hitler and Nazi culture, as well as drawings of the Star of David and a Swastika. His internet browsing history also included several noteworthy searches, including “German Jewish Temples near me.”

1.8 million Israelis got vaccinated against flu as virulent strain spreads

Fully 1.8 million Israelis have gotten vaccinated against the flu as a virulent strain spreads around the country.

Many did so for the first time in their lives this week, after three people died in recent days from the virus.

The rush on clinics has depleted the country’s vaccinations stockpile.

The Health Ministry says 50,000 more vaccines will become available tomorrow, and 100,000 more will arrive from overseas by next week.

Netanyahu rails against High Court: ‘Only the people decide who will rule’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues his campaign against a potential High Court decision Tuesday to block him from forming a government due to criminal charges announced against him.

“Some are trying to drag the Supreme Court into the political arena, to slander and legally thwart my candidacy for the premiership,” Netanyahu says in a video tonight posted to social media.

“I cannot imagine that the Supreme Court of the State of Israel would fall into that trap,” he adds. “In a democracy, only the people decide who will rule the people, and nobody else. That has always been the case and that is how it will remain.”

Netanyahu said to argue he deserves immunity because of prosecutors’ ‘bad faith’

Channel 13’s Raviv Drucker insists Netanyahu has already drafted his letter asking the Knesset for immunity from prosecution.

He makes three arguments in the letter, Drucker claims:

1. A trial during the election or during his next term in office, if he wins, would hurt the public and would severely hamper the Knesset’s ability to function.

2. His prosecution in three criminal corruption cases amounted to discrimination against him, as other politicians — so Drucker alleges that Netanyahu is alleging — committed acts identical to his, but have not faced corruption indictments.

3. The indictments were being issued in “bad faith” — effectively an argument that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit was attempting to topple Netanyahu for political reasons, not for actual criminal misdeeds. Netanyahu reportedly says in the letter that Mandelblit decided to indict Netanyahu too quickly after the prime minister’s October pre-indictment hearings, and had allowed a constant stream of leaks to the media from the investigations.

PLO official condemns Monsey stabbing attack

Saeb Erekat, the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, says he has condemned the stabbing attack that targeted five Jews at a rabbi’s home in New York last weekend.

He tweets that he issued the condemnation at a meeting in the West Bank with a delegation of American students from the University of Michigan.

“My thoughts are with the victims and their relatives. Antisemitism and all forms of discrimination are evil and should be eradicated,” the PLO official says in the tweet.

— Adam Rasgon

‘Fauda’ a hit again: 1 million Israelis watch 3rd season debut

The first episode of the third season of the hit Israeli drama “Fauda” was viewed by Israelis about 1 million times over the 48 hours after it first aired.

The Israeli drama, in Hebrew and Arabic, received a 12.6 percent share of viewers during its debut on Thursday night, according to a trade website citing the YES satellite company.

“Fauda” focuses on a commando unit of the Israeli Defense Forces whose members embed themselves in the Palestinian community, gathering intelligence and preventing terror attacks. Netflix has aired its first two seasons with English subtitles. The third season will be aired on Netflix sometime in 2020.

The third season reportedly will focus its attention on Gaza.

The cast of ‘Fauda..’ (Ohad Romano/via JTA)

Its creators are Times of Israel Arab affairs analyst Avi Issacharoff and actor Lior Raz, who stars in the show. Both men served in the IDF unit depicted in the series.

Last week, the series was ranked eighth on The New York Times list of the 30 best international television shows of the decade.

— JTA

Hillary Clinton gets ‘tears in her eyes’ after watching Yiddish ‘Fiddler on the Roof’

Anatevka had a special guest in attendance on Sunday afternoon: Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton attended the Yiddish production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” or “Fidler Afn Dakh,” at Stage 42 in Manhattan.

Following the show, Clinton went on stage to hug director Joel Grey. In a video shared to the show’s social media accounts, she also spoke to the cast.

“I just can’t tell you how extraordinary this made me feel,” Clinton said. “In and of itself, it’s such an incredible production, but as we were just saying, given the time, and everything that’s going on, you just want everybody in the world to see this and to feel it and to relate to it and to empathize with it and to cry at the end, like I did. So, maybe we can bring back some of that empathy and understanding that is just being squeezed away. And we can’t let that happen. So, thank you all.”

Nick Raynor, an actor in the cast, posted a photo on his Instagram of Clinton meeting the performers and writing, “with tears in her eyes, she proclaimed how important and beautiful this message & show truly is. Thank you Hillary for spending your time with us.”

Hillary Clinton with the cast of the Yiddish ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ December 29, 2019. (Nick Raynor/Instagram/via JTA)

Clinton is not the first famous guest to visit Anatevka. Earlier this year, the Jewish Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg attended — on the same night as Kate McKinnon, the actress who impersonates RBG on “Saturday Night Live.”

— JTA

Israeli, American, German envoys to Poland weigh in on Russia’s WWII claims

WARSAW, Poland — The Israeli, American and German ambassadors in Warsaw weigh in against claims by Russian President Vladimir Putin that Poland bears part of the blame for the outbreak of World War II.

“Dear President Putin, Hitler and Stalin colluded to start WWII. That is a fact. Poland was a victim of this horrible conflict,” Ambassador Georgette Mosbacher of the United States said on Twitter in English and Polish.

The Russian Embassy countered with a tweet saying: ”Dear Ambassador, do you really think that you know about history any more than you do about diplomacy?”

World War II began on September 1, 1939, when Nazi German troops invaded Poland. Two weeks later, the Soviet Red Army also attacked embattled Poland from the east, in what Poles still refer to as a “stab in the back.” Days earlier, Germany and Russia had signed a pact with a secret protocol to carve up Poland and the Baltic states between themselves. Some six million Poles lost their lives during the whole of WWII.

Recently, Putin has argued that collusion between Western powers and Adolf Hitler paved the way for World War II. He also cast Poland as an anti-Semitic country that welcomed Hitler’s plans to destroy Europe’s Jews.

German Ambassador Rolf Nikel and Israeli Ambassador Alexander Ben Zvi took a stand Monday to blame the war’s outbreak on the August 1939 Nazi-Soviet pact.

Polish historian Mariusz Wolos told the Onet portal that Putin is aiming at “creating discord between Poland and the US and the international Jewish diaspora.” He said Putin is trying to erase Stalin’s alliance with Hitler from history.

British historian Roger Moorehouse tweeted to say that Putin’s words “provoked a much better popular understanding of the pact’s true nefarious nature and significance.”

— AP

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Prosecutors find anti-Semitic materials in Monsey stabber’s phone, journals

ABC reports that federal prosecutors are charging Grafton Thomas, the assailant in the Saturday night Hanukkah stabbing rampage in Monsey, New York, with hate crime charges, after finding anti-Semitic materials on his phone.

Citing the criminal complaint filed against Thomas today, the report says:

The man accused of invading rabbi’s home and stabbing five people during Hanukkah celebration over the weekend is now facing federal hate crime charges after authorities found what they described as anti-Semitic materials in several journals and on the suspect’s phone.

According to the criminal complaint, Grafton Thomas was in possession of handwritten journals that referred to Adolf Hitler and Nazi culture, as well as drawings of the Star of David and a Swastika. His internet browsing history also included several noteworthy searches, including “German Jewish Temples near me.”