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Netanyahu Seeks Role in Russian-US Duo in Syria

By DEBKAfile

During his 48-hour trip to Moscow (Monday and Tuesday June 6-7), Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will try and talk President Vladimir Putin into cutting Israel into the military teamwork evolving between Washington and Moscow for combating the Islamic State in Syria.

As a quid pro quo, he will offer to elevate Moscow to senior broker in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, with Moscow or Geneva selected as the venue for direct Israeli-Palestinian talks, if they occur – and with US participation. Netanyahu is also keen on a role for Egypt's Presidents Abdek-Fattah al-Sisi.

DEBKAfile sources in Jerusalem and Moscow report exclusively that the floating of this deal was the reason why Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov abstained from attending the Mid East conference staged last weekend by France's President Francois Hollande in Paris. The UK and German foreign ministers followed the Russian lead and stayed away.

And Friday, June 3, on the day of the Paris meeting, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikihail Bogdanov, who is in charge of Kremlin Middle East policy, offered a formula for resolving the problem of Israeli settlements on the West Bank. That formula was very similar to the land swaps plan proposed by Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman a few years ago.

It consisted essentially of the transfer to the Palestinian state of parts of Israel with dense Arab populations, in return for Palestinian recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Israeli communities of Judea and Samaria.

In comments to Tass news service, Bogdanov said that Moscow is willing to host an Israeli-Palestinian peace conference, and also offered to mediate between the rival Palestinian factions, including Abu Mazen's Fatah and the radical Hamas which rules the Gaza Strip.

While some Israeli politicians see the French initiative as offering President Barack Obama a handle for settling accounts with Netanyahu before he leaves the White House at the end of the year, Moscow and Jerusalem are concocting a parallel strategy - not merely to block the Franco-American move, but also to lift Washington's drive for an Israeli-Palestinian accord from Paris to Moscow.

DEBKAfile sources say that this maneuver is based on the early stages of military and political coordination between Washington and Moscow in the Syrian arena, including the fight against ISIS. No such coordination exists between Washington and Paris.

Netanyahu envisages the tightening military cooperation between Russia and Israel for Syria, along with Israel's active participation in the airstrikes against ISIS, as becoming integral to American-Russian understandings, and extending also to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Moscow and Jerusalem both estimate that an offer of US-Russian-Arab guarantees to the Palestinians, underwritten by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, can move the negotiations forward.


Nun Who Hid Jews from the Nazis Receives Sainthood

By Israel Hayom

Pope Francis proclaimed two new saints on Sunday: a Swedish-born nun who converted from Lutheranism and hid Jews during World War II, and a Polish man who founded the first men's religious order dedicated to the immaculate conception.

During the canonization Mass in St. Peter's Square, the pope said Elizabeth Hesselblad and Stanislaus Papczynski were "exemplary witnesses to this mystery of resurrection." Polish President Andrzej Duda and first lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda attended the ceremony.

Hesselblad saved the lives of 12 Jewish members of the Piperno-Sed families by hiding them in the convent in Rome where she was mother superior from December 1943 until the Italian capital's liberation on June 4, 1944.

Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum bestowed on her the title of "righteous among the nations." It said Hesselblad never tried to convert those she saved, "rather insisting that they say their Hebrew prayers and fulfill other obligations of their religion."

Hesselblad, who was baptized in the Reform Church, migrated to the United States where she worked as a nurse and converted to Catholicism. She later moved to Rome, where she became a nun and dedicated her life to her religious order. She died of natural causes in 1957 and was beatified in 2000.

She is Sweden's second saint in 625 years, following St. Bridget, who was canonized in 1391. Her canonization comes ahead of the pope's scheduled trip to Sweden later this year to mark the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation.

Green Party Candidate Declares Support for BDS

By Reuters &

The Green Party presidential candidate, Dr. Jill Stein, on Monday released a statement in support of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

"The United States has encouraged the worst tendencies of the Israeli government as it pursues policies of occupation, apartheid, assassination, illegal settlements, demolitions, blockades, building of nuclear bombs, indefinite detention, collective punishment, and defiance of international law," the Stein campaign said in a statement quoted by the Jewish Insider website. Therefore, the Stein campaign calls for ending military and economic support for the Israeli government while it is committing war crimes and defying international law."

Stein, 64, a physician and a Jewish Chicago native, announced her candidacy for president last February. In 2012, Stein was endorsed by Israel critic linguist Noam Chomsky. She received 456,169 votes (0.36%), mostly in Alaska, Oregon and Maine, noted the Jewish Insider.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, while criticizing Israel's conduct during the 2014 war in Gaza and touting his empathy for the Palestinian cause, acknowledged "there is some level of anti-Semitism" in the BDS movement.

Nevertheless, Sanders is associated with some pro-BDS supporters, noted the Jewish Insider. Just recently, Sanders appointed Dr. Cornel West, a prominent supporter of the BDS movement, to the Democratic Party drafting platform committee in order to push for changes in the party's policy on Israel. Reports indicate that Sanders wants to make "Palestinian rights" more of a priority in the Democratic Party platform.

Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton has addressed the BDS issue numerous times on the campaign trail, notes the Jewish Insider. In a letter sent to Hollywood mogul and major Democratic donor Haim Saban last year, Clinton expressed her "alarm" over the movement's efforts attempting to "punish Israel and dictate how the Israelis and Palestinians should resolve the core issues of their conflict. "This is not the path to peace," she wrote. "We need to repudiate forceful efforts to malign and undermine Israel and the Jewish people… We need to make countering BDS a priority."

Stein's announcement in support of BDS comes a day after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order directing state entities to divest all public funds supporting the anti-Israel movement.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, who just last week held the largest anti-BDS event yet at the UN General Assembly in New York, welcomed Cuomo's announcement. "Following last week's `Ambassadors Against BDS' conference and the unprecedented show of force against BDS, Governor Cuomo's announcement is another effective strike against those seeking to harm Israel," said Danon. "America is Israel's largest and most important ally, and the Governor's initiative emphasizes this special bond. This is another victory in the battle against BDS and I am sure that more states will continue to join this fight in stopping BDS across the U.S."

Muhammad Ali vs. The Jews

By Virtual Jerusalem &

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali, who died Friday at 74, railed against Jewish promoters and slammed Zionist control of the world, but he also attended his grandson's bar mitzvah and appealed to Muslim extremists to release Jewish journalist Daniel Pearl.

Ali's grandson became a bar mitzvah at a Philadelphia synagogue in 2012. Jacob Wertheimer, the son of Khaliah Ali-Wertheimer and Spencer Wertheimer, was called to the Torah at the historic Congregation Rodeph Shalom in front of 150 people, including the former heavyweight champion.

Ali's daughter, who was raised Muslim, said at the time, "No one put any pressure on Jacob to believe one way or another. He chose this on his own because he felt a kinship with Judaism and Jewish culture," and that it "meant a lot to Jacob" that Ali was there.

Ali, who was raised a Baptist named Cassius Clay, converted to Islam in the 1960s and changed his name. He was esteemed by several prominent Jewish figures, including the comedian-actor Billy Crystal, who imitated the boxer. Among his biggest supporters was sportscaster Howard Cosell, who was among the first to call the boxer by his conversion name and defended Ali when he was stripped of his title in the late 1960s for failing to enter the U.S. Army because of his Muslim faith.

Ali called out Jewish promoters in 1970 when he returned to the ring after 3 1/2 years away because of the draft-evasion charges. Asked by a New York Times reporter after the fight about a subsequent contest with heavyweight champion Joe Frazier, Ali replied: "To those who might want it, the fight will come. All those Jewish promoters — they'll see that it comes off." The reporter said the athlete smiled as he said it.

In 1985, Ali visited Israel to arrange for the freeing of some 700 Shiite Muslim prisoners in the Atlit detention camp. Five years earlier, during a visit to India, Ali charged that Zionists "control" America and the world, according to an interview reported in a leading publication in India, the text of which was obtained by JTA.

In the biweekly India Today dated Feb. 1-15, 1980, Ali spoke of Zionists when asked about the "militant revival" of Islam in Iran and the holding of "your countrymen hostage." Ali, saying that "those people in Iran are fanatics" and that "the other Muslims in the world have condemned their action," declared "religion ain't bad; it's people who are bad.

"You know the entire power structure is Zionist. They control America; they control the world," said Ali, who was in India earlier as a special emissary of then-President Jimmy Carter. "They are really against the Islam religion. So whenever a Muslim does something wrong, they blames the religion."

But in January 2002, when Daniel Pearl of The Wall Street Journal was kidnapped by Islamic extremists, Ali pleaded publicly for the Jewish journalist's release and life. "I appeal to you to show Daniel Pearl compassion and kindness," Ali implored Pearl's abductors, who would behead the journalist in Pakistan after nine days of captivity, although his fate would not be known for another three weeks.

"Treat him as you would wish all Muslims to be treated by others," he entreated. "Daniel should not become another victim of the ongoing conflict. It is my most sincere prayer that Daniel Pearl be permitted to return safely to his family. May Allah have mercy on us all." Ali attended the memorial service for Pearl in March 2002.

Ali's legacy goes far beyond the ring. His conversion to Islam in 1964 marked his metamorphosis from mere athlete to cultural icon, becoming a symbol of "Black Power" and radical black identity. Ali famously defied the draft in 1967 at the height of the Vietnam War, using the opportunity to decry "white imperialism."

"No I'm not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over," said Ali. "This is the day when such evils must come to an end."

Mirroring militants like the Black Panthers, Ali embraced an ideology not of racial reconciliation and egalitarianism, but of racial separatism, one which was rife with disparaging views on non-blacks in general – and Jews in particular.

Despite a long history of comments assailing Jews and decrying Zionism, Ali nevertheless won many Jewish admirers, and on the occasion of his death won praise from a slew prominent Jews. Former Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein will represent the State of Israel at Ali's funeral, and the former boxing champ will be eulogized by Jewish actor and comedian Billy Crystal.

Ali's hatred of Israel and support for anti-Jewish terrorism during his decades-long boxing career, many of his Jewish supporters claim, were tempered with age later in life, as they note his Jewish son-in-law and his participation in a Bar Mitzvah ceremony for his grandson.

For much of his life, however, little differentiated Ali's views both on race and the Jewish people from the rhetoric emanating from white supremacist circles. Like his white counterparts, Ali abhorred mixed race couples, saying that blacks engaged in romantic relationships with people of another race deserved to be put to death.

"A black man should be killed if he's messing with a white woman," he said in a Playboy interview. The same fate, he said, should also await any black woman guilty of dating outside of her race. "Then she dies. Kill her too."

Like other racial separatists, Ali lambasted Zionism as an omnipresent threat. He repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel and openly supported terrorists aiming to kill Jews. "In my name and the name of all Muslims in America, I declare support for the Palestinian struggle to liberate their homeland and oust the Zionist invaders," Ali said during a trip to Lebanon.

Using Zionism as a code-word for Jews, Ali blamed Zionism for a plethora of cultural issues, frequently asserting that "the Zionists" control America – and by extension, the world. Speaking to David Frost in 1969, Ali bluntly stated that he believed "all Jews" are "devils." Mistakenly interpreting the word gentile to mean non-Jewish whites, Ali stated "all Jews and gentiles are devils."

In 1984, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, an affliction which gradually reduced his involvement in public life. In his later years, Ali did abandon the kind of harsh rhetoric and stark racial separatism that characterized his boxing career.

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