Globe Briefs May 19
White House: Staffer’s Western Wall comment does not reflect administration
Reported remarks by a Trump administration official rejecting Israel’s claim to the Western Wall were “unauthorized” and do not represent the position of President Donald Trump, a White House official said.
“The comments about the Western Wall were not authorized communication and they do not represent the position of the United States and certainly not of the president,” said the official.
The remark that the Western Wall “is not your territory, it’s part of the West Bank” reportedly arose during conversations between an advance team planning Trump’s visit to Israel next week and officials in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office.
Netanyahu wanted to join Trump on his visit to the Wall, which is unprecedented for a sitting president.
According to a report by Israel’s Channel 2, the Israeli delegation was so angry by the remark that members started shouting.
An Israeli official told the station that the Jewish state was “convinced that this statement contradicts President Trump’s policy as expressed in his fierce opposition to the latest [United Nations] Security Council resolution” and that it had asked the United States for clarification on the comment.
In December, the U.N. Security Council passed an anti-settlement resolution with the U.S. abstaining. Trump slammed President Barack Obama for not vetoing the measure, calling it “extremely unfair.”
Trump had said during his campaign he would move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, which would effectively recognize the city as Israel’s capital. He has since retreated from that pledge and is still contemplating the move.
Adelsons to answer questions in corruption case against Netanyahu
Jewish billionaire philanthropist Sheldon Adelson and his wife will testify in Israel in a corruption investigation into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israel’s Channel 2 news first reported Sunday evening that the Adelsons will testify next week during their visit to Israel.
The couple is arriving in Israel ahead of the visit by President Donald Trump on May 22-23, and will remain for a few days afterward, at which time they will testify. Adelson and his wife, Miriam, agreed to testify in the investigation into the so-called Case 2000 after being assured that they were not suspected of wrongdoing.
Adelson, a casino magnate, is the owner of the pro-Netanyahu daily newspaper Israel Hayom, which is distributed for free. Part of the case includes accusations that Netanyahu and Arnon Mozes, publisher of the daily Yediot Acharanot, discussed a deal in which Netanyahu would receive favorable coverage in Yediot in exchange for legislation that would cut into the circulation of Adelson’s paper.
Channel 2 reported that investigators will ask the Adelsons if they were aware of the deal. Miriam Adelson reportedly deals with the couple’s Israeli affairs. The couple is considered to be close friends of the Netanyahus.
Sheldon Adelson, a major giver to Republican candidates, endorsed Trump when it was clear the reality TV star and real estate magnate would be the party’s nominee. He subsequently donated tens of millions of dollars to the Trump election campaign, and later gave a record $5 million to fund inauguration celebrations.
Jewish mayor faces anti-Semitism in aftermath of white supremacist protests
The mayor of Charlottesville, Va., was hit with anti-Semitic tweets following protests by white nationalists over the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a local park.
White supremacist leader Richard Spencer, who attended the nearby University of Virginia, led the protests on Saturday — one during the day and another at night with demonstrators holding tiki torches. The Charlottesville City Council had voted to remove the statues of Lee and another Confederate general, Stonewall Jackson, located in a different park.
A court injunction will halt the action for six months.
“What brings us together is that we are white, we are a people, we will not be replaced!” Spencer said during the daytime protest.
Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer, who is Jewish, issued a statement published Saturday on Facebook criticizing the protesters, calling them “profoundly ignorant.”
“This event involving torches at night in Lee Park was either profoundly ignorant or was designed to instill fear in our minority populations in a way that hearkens back to the days of the KKK,” Signer wrote on his Facebook page. “Either way, as mayor of this City, I want everyone to know this: we reject this intimidation. We are a welcoming City, but such intolerance is not welcome here.”
The statement sparked anti-Semitic and racist comments on Twitter. One tweet, from the account of someone calling themselves Great Patriot Trump, read: “I smell Jew. If so, you are going back to Israel. But you will not stay in power here. Not for long.”
Signer responded: “Here is what this great country faces in this age of @realDonaldTrump — a sitting mayor subjected to anti-Semitism. I will not be intimidated.”
Signer told Reuters that the protests came on the day the city marked its annual Festival of Cultures celebrating diversity.
“You’re seeing anti-Semitism in these crazy tweets I’m getting and you’re seeing a display of torches at night, which is reminiscent of the KKK,” Signer told Reuters. “They’re sort of a last gasp of the bigotry that this country has systematically overcome.”
Times publisher defends hiring of conservative columnist Bret Stephens
The publisher of The New York Times sent a personal letter to subscribers who canceled over the newspaper’s hiring of conservative columnist Bret Stephens.
Arthur Sulzberger Jr. sent the email on Friday afternoon to subscribers who specifically mentioned Stephens as their reason for canceling their subscription, Politico reported, after obtaining a copy.
Stephens, who is Jewish, came to the Times after serving as the foreign affairs columnist for The Wall Street Journal. Prior to that, at 28 he became editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post in 2002. He is a Pulitzer Prize laureate and an assertive defender of Israel and its current government’s policies. Stephens is also a fierce critic of President Donald Trump.
“Our customer care team shared with me that your reason for unsubscribing from The New York Times included our decision to hire Bret Stephens as an Opinion columnist. I wanted to provide a bit more context,” the email said, according to Politico.
Stephens has come under fire for questioning the theory of climate change and its dangers, as well as for calling anti-Semitism the “disease of the Arab mind” and “the short answer for why the Arab world is sliding into the abyss.”
Sulzberger said in his letter to subscribers that the newsroom functions separately from the opinion department where Stephens works and that his columns will not inform the newsroom. He also listed several of the Times articles about climate change and a recent issue of the Sunday magazine dedicated to the climate’s future, according to Politico.
“This journalism is unrivaled in its sophistication and imagination,” he wrote. “The support of our subscribers is what allows us to pursue such ambitious stories all over the globe.
“Meanwhile, The Times’ Opinion pages remain an independent and unblinking forum for debate from a wide range of viewpoints among open-minded, informed writers and readers. I don’t think, in these polarizing and partisan times, there’s anything quite like it in American journalism.”
A Times spokesman told Politico that fewer than 6 percent of subscribers who canceled since Stephens was hired in April cited him as the reason for the cancellation.