Newsletter : 17fx0413.txt
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Ahmadinejad to Run for President of Iran
By VOA News
Iran's former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday stunned the country by
unexpectedly filing to run in the May presidential election, contradicting a
recommendation from the supreme leader to stay out of the race.
Ahmadinejad's decision could upend an election many believed would be won by moderate
President Hassan Rouhani, who negotiated the nuclear deal with world powers. Though
Rouhani has yet to formally register, many viewed him as a shoe-in following Supreme
Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's recommendation in September for Ahmadinejad to stand down
and conservatives' inability to coalesce around a single candidate.
Ahmadinejad's firebrand style could prove appealing for hard-liners seeking a
tough-talking candidate who can stand up to President Donald Trump. His candidacy also
could expose the fissures inside Iranian politics that linger since his contested 2009
re-election, which brought massive unrest.
Ahmadinejad previously served two four-year terms from 2005 to 2013. Under Iranian law,
he became eligible to run again after four years out of office, but he remains a
polarizing figure, even among fellow hard-liners.
His disputed 2009 re-election sparked massive protests and a sweeping crackdown in
which thousands of people were detained and dozens were killed. Internationally,
Ahmadinejad is more known for repeatedly questioning the scale of the Holocaust,
predicting Israel's demise and expanding Iran's contested nuclear program.
Ahmadinejad described comments by the supreme leader suggesting he not run as "just
advice'' in a news conference shortly after submitting his registration. There was no
immediate reaction from the supreme leader's office.
The May 19 election is seen by many in Iran as a referendum on the 2015 nuclear
agreement and other efforts to improve the country's sanctions-hobbled economy. Under the
nuclear deal, Iran agreed to curb its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of
Since the deal, Iran has signed multi-billion-dollar contracts with airplane
manufacturers Boeing Co. and Airbus. The benefits have yet to trickle down to the average
Iranian, however, fueling some discontent.
Israel Slams Le Pen's Denial of French Complicity in Fate of Jews
By Israel Hayom
The Israeli government has issued a furious response to French far-right presidential
candidate Marine Le Pen's remarks on Sunday in which she denied France's responsibility
for a mass arrest of Jews in Paris during World War II.
"This declaration is contrary to historical truth, as expressed in the statements of
successive French presidents who recognized France's responsibility for the fate of the
French Jews who perished in the Holocaust," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement
issued Monday, the eve of Passover.
"This recognition underpins the annual events marking the anniversary of the expulsion
of the Jews from France and the study of the Holocaust in the education system, both of
which are important elements in the battle against anti-Semitism, which unfortunately is
once again raising its head," the statement said.
Some 13,000 Jews were deported by French police on July 16 and 17, 1942, many of whom
were first detained under harsh conditions at the Velodrome d'Hiver indoor cycling
stadium. In all, about 75,000 Jews were sent to Nazi concentration camps from France
during World War II. Only 2,500 survived.
Le Pen's comments, which appeared at odds with years of efforts to make her once-pariah
National Front more palatable to mainstream voters, also drew fire in France. "I think
France isn't responsible for the Vel d'Hiv," Le Pen said on Sunday, referring to the
Nazi-ordered roundup by French police in Velodrome d'Hiver. "I think that, in general, if
there are people responsible, it is those who were in power at the time. It is not
France," she said in an interview with media groups Le Figaro, RTL and LCI.
While her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who led the National Front until he passed the
baton to his daughter in 2011, reveled in minimizing the Holocaust, Marine Le Pen has
sought to purge the party of anti-Semitism and even expelled her father from it because of
By reopening a debate about the state's role under the Nazi occupation, she touched a
raw nerve. In a sign of how sensitive her comments have become, "Vel d'Hiv" was the top
trending topic on Twitter in France on Monday, the first official day of election
"This brings back the old demons of the far Right," Jerome Fourquet, a pollster with
the French Institute of Public Opinion, said. "This could cost her in terms of voting
intentions at a time when the gap between candidates is tightening."
Opinion polls have for months seen Le Pen securing a top-two spot in the April 23 first
round but latest surveys show a tightening of support for the four leading candidates.
Late Sunday, Le Pen issued a statement saying she considered the French state was in
exile in London during the occupation and that her stance "in no way exonerates the
effective and personal responsibility of the French people who took part in the horrible
Vel d'Hiv roundup and in all the atrocities committed during this period."
British PM: Remembering the Holocaust is Vital to Fighting Hate
By Israel Hayom
British Prime Minister Theresa May is committing to fighting anti-Semitism in the
United Kingdom, May said in a statement published on Sunday ahead of the Passover holiday,
which began on Monday evening.
"The history of the Jewish people and the horrors of the Holocaust highlight what
happens when freedom is lost and anti-Semitism is allowed to flourish," the message
May stressed that the memory of the Holocaust must not be allowed to fade.
"In remembering the Holocaust, we will also reaffirm our national commitment to fighting
hated and prejudice in all its forms in the world today."
The prime minister went on to thank her country's Jewish community for its "enormous
contribution" to the U.K. and underscored that she would defend the Jewish community's
rights to practice their faith "without fear."
May's Passover message garnered a hostile response from some of her followers on
Twitter. "You're in their pocket sort your life out May," one user replied. Other
followers chimed in to bash Israeli policy.
Politico Article on Chabad-Trump Connection Misleads Readers
A recent Politico article detailed a web of connections between President Donald Trump,
Russian President Vladimir Putin and a vast network of Chabad-Lubavitch benefactors and
The Politico article, published Sunday under the simultaneously blithe and misleading
headline, "The Happy-Go-Lucky Jewish Group That Connects Trump and Putin," adds that the
Russian Chabad-supporting oligarchs and their associates have worked with Trump, and
charts more of their connections to Chabad. The article also sketches out personal links
between the oligarchs and Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner - who also support Chabad.
It's clear from the article that Chabad is a common thread between Putin allies and the
Trump family and its business partners in the sense that support for Catholic
charities is a common thread among politicians attending the Al Smith Memorial Foundation
Dinner. But the article never actually shows what Chabad has to do with any of the ties
between Trump and Russia.
Did Chabad influence any of the business deals or relationships between Putin's
oligarchs, their friends and Trump? The article never reports any influence. Did Trump
meet any of his Russian business partners through Chabad? Not according to the article.
Did Chabad play a role in Kushner's success shepherding Trump's presidential campaign? If
it did, the article doesn't say so.
Despite the article's info-dump on ties between Trump, Putin and Chabad benefactors,
Chabad's connection to the story emerges as nothing more than incidental. Although the
article shows that Trump and Putin allies support Chabad, it does not prove that Chabad
has any meaningful role let alone an "outsize importance" in the
Yes, Trump attended a brit at Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson's graveside a
brit arranged by oligarch Lev Leviev, a Chabad supporter. Yes, Jared and Ivanka now attend
a Chabad synagogue. Yes, Jason Greenblatt met with Berel Lazar, the Chabad chief rabbi of
Russia and a Putin ally.
However, Trump's brit appearance was a result of his deal-making with Russian oligarchs
not the cause of it. And Kushner's Chabad support far predates his connection with
the Trump clan, going back at least through his college days. The Lazar meeting is
important to the Trump-Russia affair, but only to the extent that Lazar is a Putin ally,
not because he's a Chabad rabbi.
The article attempts to buttress its case by spuriously calling Chabad "Trump's kind of
Jews," betraying a lack of knowledge regarding Chabad, its goals and how it operates. The
article's description of Chabad is misinformed, inaccurate and vague. Most glaringly, the
article never quotes any representative of Chabad, or any experts on Chabad, all of whom
are easily accessible.
Instead, it bases its claims on quotes from the following people: Mort Klein, the head
of the U.S.-based Zionist Organization of America; Ronn Torossian, a Jewish PR guy with
ties to Israel's right; and Shmuley Boteach, the celebrity rabbi who used to belong to
Chabad, broke with the movement decades ago and has since built up his public profile
through TV shows and books. It's not clear what makes any one of them an expert on Chabad
or its ethos.
Here are a few of the article's biggest errors on Chabad: It says Chabad "lacks in
numbers" and has a "small size." The movement's core number of hasidim might be relatively
small, but in fact, its thousands of emissaries (and the supporters they attract) comprise
one of the most widespread Jewish organizations in the world, one that has challenged and
at times conflicted with older local Jewish communities across the globe. The fact that
it's hard to tally Chabad's following speaks to its loose organizational structure, not
its lack of supporters.
The article also repeatedly suggests that Chabad is some kind of third way between
full-on Orthodox Judaism and lack of observance. This is incorrect. First of all, Chabad
is an Orthodox Jewish movement led by Orthodox Jewish married couples, and it promotes
Chabad boasts large communities in North America and Israel. It is one facet of the
sprawling Orthodox Jewish world, not a separate category. True, as Boteach suggests, many
of the Jews who take part in Chabad religious services and activities like camp and Hebrew
school are not themselves Orthodox. But the fact that the movement is open to Jews across
the religious spectrum doesn't mean it isn't itself Orthodox.
The article then suggests, without evidence, that this "third way" is somehow Trumpian.
It quotes Torossian saying, somewhat inexplicably, that "Chabad is a place that tough,
strong Jews feel comfortable [in]" but never explains why that would make
Chabadniks "Trump's kind of Jews."
In fact, Chabad's intended emphasis on welcoming all Jews doesn't really convey
toughness and strength. It conveys friendliness and openness. If there is one thing that
Trump and Chabad have in common, it is a knack for effective branding. But Trump
enterprises are very much a one-man show; Chabad emissaries, or shluchim, must build their
own bases of support in whatever communities they are dispatched to, with little support
from the main Chabad institutions in Brooklyn and New Jersey.
And even if Chabad represents a third way, Trump's overarching message isn't exactly
one of compromise and non-judgmental acceptance.
So yes, it's valuable to know that a web of Trump and Putin associates also bankroll
Chabad centers. But it's a step too far to suggest that Chabad has played a meaningful
role in the Trump-Russia affair, or that there is a causal relationship between Chabad
supporters and the global political or business worlds they can be found in, or to claim
that the movement itself is Judaism's answer to Trumpism.
Sephardic Chief Rabbi OKs Cigarettes
Israel's Sephardi chief rabbi has ruled that it is permitted to smoke cigarettes that are
not certified as kosher for Passover during the holiday.
Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef said in a satellite television broadcast that cigarettes do not
need to be certified as leaven-free for Passover, though some cigarettes manufactured in
Israel or abroad are certified as kosher for Passover.
He appeared to be responding to questions about whether American cigarettes need to be
certified as kosher, according to The Jerusalem Post. Rabbi Yosef seemed to base part of
his ruling on the fact that leaven is not forbidden if a dog will not eat it.
"If you put a cigarette in front of a dog, who is always hungry he will eat
anything. But put a cigarette in front him, will he smoke it? He won't touch it," the
rabbi said in the Hebrew-language broadcast. Rabbi Yosef did indicate that it is better
not to even start smoking, but added that if a person is already addicted, he doesn't need
A recent study found that the Israeli army has a major smoking issue: Nearly 40% of
Israelis are smokers by the time they finish their compulsory army service. About 37% of
Israeli soldiers are smokers when they are discharged, compared to 26% of new recruits,
the study found - a 42% increase over the course of service.
Israel has anti-smoking laws and smoking is forbidden in many public areas, but the
laws are not always enforced. In practice, if a given municipality chooses not to enforce
the laws, it is up to the private citizen to call the police - and often, by the time the
police arrive, the smoker has already left the area.
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