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Kerry Generates Controversy on His Iran Statements

TIP—An interview between Yahoo! News and Secretary of State John Kerry generated a firestorm of controversy, along with a series of retractions and clarifications from various Obama administration officials after Kerry seemed to imply to interviewer Katie Couric that he was open to cooperating militarily with Iran to halt an ongoing Iraqi offensive by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). Asked whether he could see the U.S. “cooperating with Iran militarily” against the Al Qaeda offshoot, Kerry responded “I wouldn’t rule out anything that would be constructive to” a range of possibilities and conditions. A number of think tanks in DC, commentators and editorials reacted negatively to the idea.

Ignoring Threats of Impeachment, Livni Meets with PA Officials

Walla! News revealed last week that Justice Minister Tzipi Livni ignored backlash from last month’s meeting with Palestinian Authority (PA) officials and has again met with Hamas-Fatah “unity government” representatives in London. Several senior PA officials told the Israeli daily that Livni has, in fact, been in constant contact with government ministers, mainly by telephone. Over the past several weeks, the Minister has allegedly spoken to “intelligence chief” Majed Faraj, head of the negotiating team Saeb Erekat and high-ranking Fatah official Jibril Rajoub. In her latest meeting, Livni spoke with PA “Foreign Minister” Riyad al-Maliki on the sidelines of an international conference held in London on the subject of war crimes and violence against women in conflict zones. A diplomatic source who was present even revealed to Walla! photo evidence proving Livni spoke to the PA official. Palestinian Arab sources stated that it was highly probably that the Justice Minister would meet with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas at some point over the next several weeks. Livni’s office has not responded to requests for comment.

Hitting the P5+1 Goals for July 20 Is Tougher Than Thought

TIP—As talks between Iran and the P5+1 global powers resumed this week in Vienna, the Los Angeles Times published comments from one senior State Department official stating that ”significant gaps” remain between the parties and that the administration “[does] not have illusions about how difficult it will be to close those gaps” in order to reach a comprehensive deal by the time that the July 20 deadline set by the interim Joint Plan of Action (JPA) passes. Negotiations have in recent weeks reportedly stumbled over issues ranging from uranium enrichment capacity to Tehran’s refusal to come clean over past military dimensions (PMDs) of its nuclear program. Among the sticking points facing negotiators this week will be the amount of centrifuges and the stockpile of enriched uranium that the Iranians will be allowed to maintain, as well as the fate of the Islamic republic’s heavy water production facility at Arak.

Klinghoffer Will Not Be Broadcast By the Met

The New York Times reported earlier in the week that The Metropolitan Opera has cancelled plans to simulcast John Adams’s “The Death of Klinghoffer” this fall to cinemas around the world, “drawing praise from some Jewish groups who object to the opera, but laments from the work’s fans and a warning from its composer that the decision promotes ‘intolerance.’” The opera is a musical reenactment of the hijacking of the Achille Lauro, a cruise ship, and Leon Klinghoffer, who was in a wheelchair, was murdered by members of the Palestinian Liberation Front. The Met canceled its planned Nov. 15 transmission of “Klinghoffer” to movie theaters and a radio broadcast after discussions with the Anti-Defamation League. The league praised the Met’s decision, saying that “while the opera itself is not antisemitic, there is a concern the opera could be used in foreign countries to stir up anti-Israel sentiments or as a vehicle to promote anti-Semitism.” Adams denounced the decision. In a statement he said, “My opera accords great dignity to the memory of Leon and Marilyn Klinghoffer, and it roundly condemns his brutal murder. It acknowledges the dreams and the grievances of not only the Israeli but also the Palestinian people, and in no form condones or promotes violence, terrorism or anti-Semitism.” Adams said the cancellation was “a deeply regrettable decision and goes far beyond issues of ‘artistic freedom,’ and ends in promoting the same kind of intolerance that the opera’s detractors claim to be preventing.”

Fyvush Finkel Documentary in the Works

Broadway house manager and musician Joe Traina will produce a full-length feature documentary on the life and times of stage, screen and TV actor Fyvush Finkel. Cory Green will direct. Finkel, who just performed in the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene’s 100th Gala, a tribute to Fiddler on the Roof, was a 50-year veteran of the Yiddish theatre whose career received a shot in the arm in his early 70s when he became a regular on CBS’ “Picket Fences.” In 2000 he landed a role on the series “Boston Public.” Finkel later stepped into the role of Mr. Mushnik in the Off-Broadway musical Little Shop of Horrors. Those to be interviewed for the film include Theodore Bikel, Yiddish National Theatre artistic director Zalmen Mlotek, lyricist Sheldon Harnick and actor/director Austin Pendleton.

U.S. Captures Benghazi Suspect in Secret Raid

Al-Monitor.com—U.S. Special Operations forces have captured the alleged ringleader of the terrorist attacks in Benghazi in a secret raid in Libya, the first time one of the accused perpetrators of the 2012 assault has been apprehended, according to U.S. officials. The officials said Ahmed Abu Khattala was captured over the weekend by American troops working alongside the FBI and is now in U.S. custody “in a secure location outside Libya.” Khattala was apprehended near Benghazi.

Pope Francis Takes a Break

The Daily Beast reports that the Pontiff has not been feeling 100% since his return from the Middle East. “No one can argue that Pope Francis deserves a little break. Since taking office in March 2013, the 77-year-old Argentinian has been on the move almost non-stop greeting his adoring public and reforming the Vatican’s many troubled institutions. But an announcement by the Vatican’s news service on Monday that the pope will be drastically curtailing his schedule by suspending his popular Wednesday audiences in July and skipping his daily Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, where he lives, has many in Rome wondering if the pope is really OK.” The Beast noted that the Pontiff has but one long, has been pushing hard, and has the attitude that however things work out, so be it.

German Study to Determine if Anti-Zionism is Antisemitism

TheTower.org reports that the German government plans to conduct a study on the relationship between anti-Zionism and antisemitism. The Jerusalem Post obtained a copy of letter sent from an adviser of German’s President Joachim Gauck to the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The letter, by Gauck’s senior diplomatic and foreign policy adviser, Ambassador Heinz-Peter Behr, came in response to a request sent last month by Wiesenthal Center associate dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper, who has been demanding such studies in correspondence with several European leaders.

Jim Keegstra, Canadian Holocaust Denier, Dead at 80

The Canadian Press reports that Jim Keegstra, 80, a Holocaust denying high school teacher, mechanic, and mayor of Eckville, Alta., whose prosecution for the willful promotion of hatred went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, is dead. Keegstra was obsessed with The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but learned the hard way that the controversial Holocaust Denial law was upheld as a fair limit on free speech. His lawyer said the conviction ruined Keegstra’s life. He spent the years before his death as the custodian of an apartment building. The cause of death was an enlarged heart after a prolonged illness, according to his son, Darren Keegstra.

Regional Implications of a Nuclear Deal with Iran

Washington—Amb. Dennis Ross told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 12, 2014, “America’s readiness to negotiate a deal with the Islamic Republic on its nuclear program is a source of deep concern among our traditional friends in the Middle East. For the Arabs, the fear is that the deal with come at their expense, with the United States increasingly seeing Iran as a partner. For the Israelis, the worry is that we will conclude a deal that leaves the Iranians as a threshold nuclear state, capable of breaking out to nuclear weapons at a time when we might be distracted by another international crisis. I still believe the prospects of an agreement are probably less than the 50% figure President Obama cited late last year. Basic conceptual gaps remain, with the Iranians still believing that their limited offers of transparency should be sufficient to satisfy our concerns about the peaceful character of their nuclear program. For the Saudis, Iran already represents an existential threat even without nuclear weapons. The Saudis, Emiratis, and others see an aggressive Iranian pursuit of regional hegemony. From a Saudi standpoint, the Iranians are encircling them—seeking to gain dominance in, and the ability to threaten them overtly and covertly from, Bahrain, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen.”

In Iran, Clerical Rule, Luxury Lifestyle

The New York Times reports that the nouveaux-riches in Tehran drive Porsches, Ferraris and Maseratis and live in multimillion-dollar luxury apartments. 35 years after a revolution that promised an egalitarian utopia and vowed to root out the modern Westernized lifestyles of Iran’s cosmopolitans So how have some people become so rich? Hard-line clerical leaders, together with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, have engineered a system where it is largely they, their family members and their loyal cronies who prosper. The corps runs large parts of the economy. Since 2006, it has been awarded at least 11,000 development projects, from construction and aerospace to oil and gas. In addition, according to the Heritage Foundation, “The hard-line clerical establishment has gained great wealth through control of tax-exempt foundations that dominate many economic sectors.”

Dysfunction of Arab States Puts Stress on Colonial Borders

UAE-The National reports that in the past week, two prominent Arab figures expressed doubt that Syria would remain as it was, with its war into its fourth year. Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt told AP: “We are still at the beginning of the war in Syria. In the long term, the map of the Middle East will be redrawn.” Meanwhile, the former UN envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, declared to Der Spiegel that Syria would “become another Somalia. Iran wants to consolidate the Syrian regime’s hold over “vital Syria”—Damascus, the border with Lebanon, the Syrian coast, and communication lines in between—through the city and province of Homs. Unable to impose its allies’ control over large swathes of Sunni-dominated areas in Syria and Iraq, a hegemonic Tehran may prefer fragmentation, allowing it to dominate digestible components of disintegrating Arab states.

Syria’s Oldest Synagogue, Destroyed by Assad

The Daily Beast reports that the Syrian Army forces flattened the over 400-year-old Eliyahu Hanabi Synagogue in Damascus last month. Shlomo Bolts, an official at the Syrian American Council and a Jew of Syrian ancestry, said: “This is hardly the only place of worship to be destroyed by the Assad regime. The Umm al-Zinar Church [in Homs, that locals say dates back to the first centuries of Christianity], the [1,400-year-old] Khalid Ibn Walid Mosque, and countless other irreplaceable cultural sites are now lost.” Activists estimate that at least 33 churches and hundreds of mosques have been destroyed by the Assad regime since the start of the Syrian civil war, as well as six UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Nazi Seizure of Stores Garners Jewish Family $68 Million Judgment

JNS.org—A court in Berlin ordered Germany to compensate the descendants of the Jewish owners of a department store chain that was seized by Nazis with an additional 50 million euros ($68 million), The Associated Press reported. The Schocken’s chain of stores in the Saxony region was seized by the Nazis in the 1930s. The descendants, who reside in Israel and the U.S., were already paid 15 million euros for one of the seized buildings in the 1990s. One of the buildings that held one of the family’s stores, built in the city of Chemnitz by architect Erich Mendelsohn in 1930, now houses the German State Museum of Archaeology.

Yair Lapid: Birthright “Saved A Generation” of Young Jews

JNS.org—Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid said that the Taglit-Birthright Israel program, which provides free 10-day trips to Israel for Jews ages 18-26, “saved a generation” of young Jews. “We were on our way to losing a generation of young Jews around on the world,” Lapid said at a farewell ceremony for Birthright co-founder Michael Steinhardt, held at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel Hayom reported. Steinhardt is stepping down from his position as co-chairman of Birthright, 15 years after founding the organization together with Charles Bronfman.

Anti-BDS Student Resolution Passes at Western Washington U.

JNS.org—Associated Students of Western Washington University (ASWWU) became the first North American university student government to pass a proactive resolution against the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. In a 7-0 vote, ASWWU resolved that it would not consider BDS resolutions based on national origin because of the “tensions between students related to foreign conflicts should be managed in a healthy and collaborative manner rather than be exacerbated.” Additionally, the resolution noted that BDS campaigns could result in students being targeted based on their nationality and lead to “disrespectful bias, hostility, hate, or harassment.”

Syria’s Oldest Synagogue, Destroyed by Assad

The Daily Beast reports that the Syrian Army forces flattened the over 400-year-old Eliyahu Hanabi Synagogue in Damascus last month. Shlomo Bolts, an official at the Syrian American Council and a Jew of Syrian ancestry, said: “This is hardly the only place of worship to be destroyed by the Assad regime. The Umm al-Zinar Church [in Homs, that locals say dates back to the first centuries of Christianity], the [1,400-year-old] Khalid Ibn Walid Mosque, and countless other irreplaceable cultural sites are now lost.” Activists estimate that at least 33 churches and hundreds of mosques have been destroyed by the Assad regime since the start of the Syrian civil war, as well as six UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Nazi Seizure of Stores Garners Jewish Family $68 Million Judgment

JNS.org—A court in Berlin ordered Germany to compensate the descendants of the Jewish owners of a department store chain that was seized by Nazis with an additional 50 million euros ($68 million), The Associated Press reported. The Schocken’s chain of stores in the Saxony region was seized by the Nazis in the 1930s. The descendants, who reside in Israel and the U.S., were already paid 15 million euros for one of the seized buildings in the 1990s. One of the buildings that held one of the family’s stores, built in the city of Chemnitz by architect Erich Mendelsohn in 1930, now houses the German State Museum of Archaeology.

Anti-BDS Student Resolution Passes at Western Washington U.

JNS.org—Associated Students of Western Washington University (ASWWU) became the first North American university student government to pass a proactive resolution against the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. In a 7-0 vote, ASWWU resolved that it would not consider BDS resolutions based on national origin because of the “tensions between students related to foreign conflicts should be managed in a healthy and collaborative manner rather than be exacerbated.” Additionally, the resolution noted that BDS campaigns could result in students being targeted based on their nationality and lead to “disrespectful bias, hostility, hate, or harassment.”

Dysfunction of Arab States Puts Stress on Colonial Borders

UAE-The National reports that in the past week, two prominent Arab figures expressed doubt that Syria would remain as it was, with its war into its fourth year. Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt told AP: “We are still at the beginning of the war in Syria. In the long term, the map of the Middle East will be redrawn.” Meanwhile, the former UN envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, declared to Der Spiegel that Syria would “become another Somalia. Iran wants to consolidate the Syrian regime’s hold over “vital Syria”—Damascus, the border with Lebanon, the Syrian coast, and communication lines in between—through the city and province of Homs. Unable to impose its allies’ control over large swathes of Sunni-dominated areas in Syria and Iraq, a hegemonic Tehran may prefer fragmentation, allowing it to dominate digestible components of disintegrating Arab states.

Yair Lapid: Birthright “Saved A Generation” of Young Jews

JNS.org—Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid said that the Taglit-Birthright Israel program, which provides free 10-day trips to Israel for Jews ages 18-26, “saved a generation” of young Jews. “We were on our way to losing a generation of young Jews around on the world,” Lapid said at a farewell ceremony for Birthright co-founder Michael Steinhardt, held at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel Hayom reported. Steinhardt is stepping down from his position as co-chairman of Birthright, 15 years after founding the organization together with Charles Bronfman.

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