January 17th, 2018

Blaze Bernstein’s classmate charged with murder

Murder is being investigated as a possible anti-gay hate crime

(JTA) — A former high school classmate of Blaze Bernstein, 19, the Jewish college student found dead in a park near his parents’ Southern California home, was charged with murder.

Samuel Woodward, 20, was charged with murder in a complaint filed Wednesday morning in Orange County Superior Court. He is being held in the county jail in lieu of a $2 million bail. The felony murder charge included a sentence enhancement for using a knife.

Blaze Bernstein (Photo: Bernstein Family)

The Orange County Register, citing a search warrant affidavit obtained by the newspaper, reported Monday that Bernstein had been stabbed more than 20 times, leading authorities to investigate whether the teen was killed in an act of rage.

Woodward, who was taken into custody on Friday afternoon, was arrested after crime lab technicians determined that blood found on a sleeping bag in his possession belonged to Bernstein, the Register reported. The murder weapon reportedly has not been found.

District Attorney Tony Rackaukas said there was no evidence that the two were friends at the Orange County School of the Arts, NBC Los Angeles reported.

It is believed that Bernstein was pursuing a romantic relationship with Woodward, and that Bernstein kissed Woodward in the hours before the murder, which Woodward rebuffed, the Register reported, citing the affidavit.

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January 17th, 2018

When Jews came from ‘shithole’ countries

While congressmen in the 1920s may not have used Trump’s language, they were also opposed to letting in people from so-called ‘shithole’ countries


NEW YORK (JTA) — Jews were “undesirable.”

They were “of low physical and mental standards.” They were “filthy.” They were “often dangerous in their habits.” They were “un-American.”

A Jewish family in Jedrzejow, Poland, circa 1900. (Imagno/Getty Images)

So read a report submitted to the House Committee on Immigration in 1924, written by the director of the United Stated Consular Service and approved by the secretary of state. That year, Congress passed a bill that drastically slashed immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe, responding to xenophobic feelings across the country.

The bill didn’t mention Jews, but they were affected. In 1921, according to JTA at the time, 120,000 Jews came to America. After the law was passed, that number fell to around 10,000. The headline on that article was blunt: “America shuts her doors to immigration.”

The nativist rhetoric of a century ago found new expression in the reported words of President Donald Trump at a recent meeting of lawmakers, where attendees said he questioned why the United States should allow people from “shithole countries,” including those in Africa, to immigrate. He suggested the U.S. should admit more people from places like Norway. Keep reading →

January 17th, 2018

Will Abbas’ rant kill the peace process?

‘Today is the day that the Oslo Accords end,’ Mahmoud Abbas said


WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Oslo Accords? “Killed,” the Palestinian Authority president says, blaming Israel.

The Israeli prime minister says the Palestinians are now “unmasked” — but naturally he blames the Palestinians.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaking at a session of the Palestinian Central Council in Ramallah, in the West Bank, Jan. 14, 2018. (Photo: Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Notably, the United States is silent.

The P.A. president, Mahmoud Abbas, delivered a rambling address of more than two hours this weekend to the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Council.

“Today is the day that the Oslo Accords end,” he said. “Israel killed them.”

Abbas blamed the restrictions under which his Palestinian Authority operates and what he regards as Israel’s unrestrained occupation activity.

“We are an authority without any authority and an occupation without any cost,” he said.

His remarks drew condemnation across the Israeli and U.S. Jewish spectrum, including from groups that have not hesitated to criticize the Israeli government for recalcitrance in the peace process. The groups and the Israeli government were especially outraged that Abbas rejected Jewish connections to the land of Israel and claiming that Zionism was “a colonial project that has nothing to do with Judaism.”

President Donald Trump, a target of wrath in the Abbas speech, is typically quick to jab back at insults but said nothing. Neither have two others called out in the address: Nikki Haley, the ambassador to the United Nations, nor David Friedman, the ambassador to Israel. Also silent are (characteristically) Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, who is charged with reviving Israeli-Palestinian talks, and (uncharacteristically) Jason Greenblatt, the Trump administration’s top Middle East negotiator and avid tweeter.

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January 10th, 2018

Eli Valley: Cartoons for the crisis

Eli Valley will show and tell about his cartoon art Jan. 24, as part of the Twin Cities Jewish Humor Festival


During a September 2017 appearance on Ari Melber’s MSNBC show, cartoonist Eli Valley said, regarding the aim of his politically-pointed artwork: “I want to contribute to making anyone who’s involved, even in a peripheral way, with [the Trump] administration: plutonium — unable to go to restaurants, unable to go outside without being shunned publicly, because they are an entire disgrace.”

Eli Valley: Netanyahu is off the deep end of the Jewish political spectrum. (Photo: Loubna Mrie)

When Melber asked if Valley was talking about a kind of “social shaming,” Valley added, “Within the Jewish world, these people should be excommunicated, I think. People who support this hero of American Nazism should be excommunicated.”

Valley, who recently published a collection of his cartoons, Diaspora Boy: Comics on Crisis in America and Israel (OR Books), will appear Jan. 24 at Blackstack Brewery in St. Paul, as part of the ninth annual Twin Cities Jewish Humor Festival.

The cartoonist talked on the phone with the Jewish World last week about his new book, critical reactions to his artwork, the Trump administration and his upcoming appearance here.

At the outset, Valley gainsaid my observation that his upcoming date in St. Paul was sort of extraordinary, in that the organized the Jewish community — in this case, the St. Paul JCC and the Sabes JCC — booked somebody who expresses a radical political critique.

“I’m very glad that there’s going to be an opportunity for more mainstream community members to listen,” he responded. “I don’t consider myself that radical, but I guess the perception might be there.”

Many of Valley’s cartoons portray high-profile leaders of the Jewish community in an unflattering way; but he said, “I think the cartoons in the book reflect the mainstream Jewish community opinion, which is a foundationally progressive mentality; and, in terms of Israel, anti-authoritarianism doesn’t strike me as radical.”

The “radical” is Netanyahu, according to the 47-year-old comic artist.

“To me, it’s an affront to decency when he’s invited to any American Jewish institution,” Valley commented, regarding the Israeli premier. “I find that offensive.”

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