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Bnei Menashe community disputes Israeli reports of 7 killed in India violence

(JTA) — Members of the Bnei Menashe Jewish community are rejecting an Israeli parliamentary report that a missile strike in Northeast India killed seven community members this week.

The news spread rapidly on Tuesday after Israel’s Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Aliyah put out a press release announcing the deaths, following a meeting about potentially jumpstarting efforts by the Bnei Menashe to move to Israel amid ethnic tensions in the Manipur region of India.

It cited Tzvi Khaute, director of the Bnei Menashe in Israel for the nonprofit Shavei Israel, as saying that the community urgently needed permission to immigrate, or make aliyah, and that it had “buried seven people who were killed as a result of a bomb falling next to the synagogue.”

But Khaute did not make that comment in a video of the hearing reviewed by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. A Bnei Menashe member in India offered a different account about violence near a local synagogue. And the information about the deaths was false, the Bnei Menashe Council in India said in a press release Wednesday.

Responding to the Knesset press release, the group speculated that Shavei Israel, one of two feuding nonprofits seeking to help the Bnei Menashe move to Israel, had misrepresented the facts on the ground when testifying during the committee meeting.

“The situation of Manipur’s B’nei Menashe after months of ethnic violence that has left many of them homeless and with no means of livelihood is indeed extremely difficult and their resettlement in Israel is urgent,” the council said in its statement. “Spreading lies as a way of arousing sympathy for their plight is despicable and can only work to their detriment.”

But the video from the hearing, coupled with reports from India, suggests that the Knesset committee’s press release might well have stemmed from more straightforward confusion.

The video shows Khaute saying that a bomb fell at a synagogue and that six people died in India, but he did not say when the incident occurred or whether the victims were Bnei Menashe. When asked by the chairman if it was Bnei Menashe who were killed, Khaute did not offer confirmation, instead segueing to talking about a seven-month-long delay in burying Bnei Menashe community members who were killed last year. It is unclear which deaths Khaute was referring to as only one community member is known to have died in the conflict.

At multiple points later in the hearing, lawmakers asserted that seven people were killed, though Khaute himself never said so.

A spokesperson for Shavei Israel said the organization was not involved with the Knesset press release and added that no Bnei Menashe member was known to have been killed in Manipur recently.

“He wanted to express how Bnei Menashe are in danger and how they should be brought to Israel as soon as possible,” a spokesperson told JTA said about Khaute. “There was a misunderstanding and no one from the committee verified with him that seven Bnei Menashe were killed yesterday. Nobody checked back with us or with him.”

Reports from Manipur suggest another possible source of confusion. In their regular updates on social media, the Manipur Police have not mentioned an attack on or near a synagogue. But they wrote on Tuesday that “armed groups” launched an attack on security forces in Moreh, a town on Manipur’s border with Myanmar, “employing gunfire and explosives.” Six security personnel were injured in the crossfire.

Kaikholal Haokip, a member of the Bnei Menashe Jewish community in Moreh who is also a spokesperson for the Kuki Inpee organization, representing one of the warring ethnic groups, told JTA that no one was killed in the incident. But he said neighbors and the caretaker of the local synagogue told him that a bomb was detonated by police on a highway close to the synagogue.

The bomb caused no damage to the synagogue or anyone inside, Haokip told JTA, adding that some Jewish community members, including the synagogue’s caretaker, have fled to other areas amid the violence and all remain safe.

JTA reached out to Oded Forer, the Knesset member who heads the committee, as well as to spokespeople for the Knesset and to the Israeli Ministry of Aliyah and Integration for clarification about the inaccurate press release but did not receive a response before publication.

The Bnei Menashe are believed to be descendants of the “lost tribe” of Manasseh, a claim that researchers dispute. Shavei Israel, a nonprofit organization that aims to bring “lost tribe” Jewish communities to Israel, has been responsible for the Bnei Menashe aliyah for more than two decades and has helped about 5,000 Jews immigrate so far. Another 5,000 still live in India.

Some Bnei Menashe Jews have protested the organization and say it abuses its power over their aliyah. Another Israeli nonprofit that formed in 2017, Degel Menashe, has been advocating for this group and says it wants the Jewish Agency to have more control over the immigration process.

“We recommend their immigration to Israel, but in a low-profile manner to avoid criticism of interfering in India’s internal affairs,” Michal Vilertal, head of the Asia division at the foreign affairs ministry, said, according to the press release. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will assist in every way with the community’s immigration to Israel.”

Bnei Menashe Jews in India belong to the Kuki-Zo ethnic minority in Manipur, which clashed with the majority Meiteis in May when the Meiteis demanded “scheduled tribe” status, which offers benefits traditionally reserved for minority tribes. Tensions between the Meiteis and the smaller tribes in Manipur had been building for decades, and now Kukis say they are being targeted by Meitei groups and military and police collaborators.

The conflict has so far claimed 200 lives and 70,000 people have fled, according to Indian news reports. There has only been one known Bnei Menashe casualty; some are fighting on the frontlines, sources on the ground say. Hundreds of Bnei Menashe Jews have been forced to flee their homes with no hopes of returning as new informal borders form between the Meitei and Kuki areas.

The latest incident took place with tensions rising across Manipur this week as the conflict approaches its ninth month. In Thoubal, near the capital of Imphal, four Meitei Muslims were shot dead on Tuesday by “armed Meitei miscreants,” local media reported, leading to the imposition of a curfew. Meanwhile, minority tribes called a 24-hour total shutdown until Wednesday in protest of alleged mistreatment by state police.

While Shavei Israel emphasizes that the Israeli government press release misunderstood Khaute on the specifics of recent incidents, the group said the release had gotten right the urgency he expressed about the safety of the Bnei Menashe in Manipur.

“I am begging that this community be allowed to immigrate to Israel,” the release quoted Khaute as saying. “Every day that they stay in India and do not immigrate to Israel, they risk their lives.”

The post Bnei Menashe community disputes Israeli reports of 7 killed in India violence appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Newly released documents from the Deschênes Commission show Canada’s reluctance to prosecute Nazi war criminals

The release of formerly classified documents from the 1986 Deschênes Commission—which investigated how Nazi war criminals entered Canada after the Second World War—reveals greater details about why the government was reluctant to prosecute them once they were in the country, says David Matas, the lawyer who represented B’nai Brith Canada at the inquiry. Canada released […]

The post Newly released documents from the Deschênes Commission show Canada’s reluctance to prosecute Nazi war criminals appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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South African Immigrants to Israel Protest Against Former Country Government

The International Court of Justice in The Hague in session in January 2020. Photo: Reuters/Eva Plevier.

Dozens of South African immigrants to Israel protested against their former country’s government on Friday, standing with their new home against political and legal attacks from South Africa’s ruling ANC party, highlighted by accusing Israel of “genocide,” last Thursday in the International Court of Justice (ICJ)

“The demonstration is not against South Africa or its people, but against its disgraceful government. I am proud to stand here as an Israeli, but I am ashamed of the government of my homeland, for stooping so low. It is a danger to Judaism,” said David Kaplan, an attendant of the event.

Former Knesset member Ruth Wasserman Lande, who was raised in Cape Town, South Africa before moving to Israel for military service, living in Israel since, added “Justice is with us, the ruling party of South Africa has sold its soul to Iran.”

The protest in Ra’anana in central Israel comes a few weeks after Israel was forced to stand trial at the International Court of Justice in The Hague against charges of “genocide” in its current defensive war against Hamas in Gaza. The charges were filed by South Africa’s government, a noted friend of Hamas leadership and outspoken critic of Israel and the Israeli government.

In South Africa’s case against Israel, the country alleges that the IDF is acting “genocidal in character because they are intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group.”

The suit came as both countries are signatories to the 1948 Genocide Convention, passed after the Holocaust and with the goal of creating proceedings to ensure no genocide like what happened to the Jews of Europe occurs in the future.

Israel said South Africa was acting as “the legal arm of Hamas,” and called the charges “baseless,” especially as the country has been noted to take unprecedented steps to protect civilians in the war. Furthermore, the war began after Israel was attacked by Hamas terrorists on October 7, when they invaded southern Israel, murdering more than 1,200 and taking hostage over 240.

The ICJ refused to grant South Africa’s wish of calling for an immediate ceasefire, but nevertheless ruled to investigate the genocide charges and called on Israel to “take all measures within its power to prevent the commission of all acts within the scope of [genocide].”

Even this past week South Africa continued its attacks, calling for the defunding of Israel, with Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor saying “This necessarily imposes an obligation on all states to cease funding and facilitating Israel’s military actions.”

The post South African Immigrants to Israel Protest Against Former Country Government first appeared on

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Robert Kraft Antisemitism Nonprofit to Air Super Bowl Ad Featuring Associate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and team owner Robert Kraft celebrate winning Super Bowl LIII, Feb. 3, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Kevin Lamarque.

Foundation to Combat Antisemitism (FCAS), a group created by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, will air its first Super Bowl commercial when the San Francisco 49ers take on the Kansas City Chiefs on Feb. 11.

An estimated 100 million television viewers will see the commercial, which features Dr. Clarence B. Jones, a former legal adviser of civil rights hero Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Jones, according to FCAS, helped King draft the famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which was delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC on Aug. 28, 1963.

“I know I can speak for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when I say without a doubt that the Civil Rights movement (including the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Acts) would not have occurred without the unwavering and largely unsung efforts of the Jewish people,” Jones said in a press release issued by FCAS. “With hate on the rise, it is as important as ever that all of us stand together and speak out. Silence is not an option. I’m glad that I’ve lived long enough to partner with Robert Kraft and FCAS to continue to spread the message to the widest possible audience — the Super Bowl.”

This year’s Super Bowl commercial mark’s FCAS’ biggest push to promote awareness of antisemitism since its founding in 2019. Last year, the nonprofit launched a $25 million multimedia campaign, which asked supporters to use the “Blue Square” emoji available on iOS devices in their social media posts.

FCAS has undertaken numerous other initiatives to address rising antisemitism.

In March 2023, it announced a partnership with Brandeis University, which will include a student fellowship program for undergraduates, conferences featuring leading experts on antisemitism, and collaborations with K-12 administrators. Additionally, Brandeis University’s Hornstein Jewish Professional Jewish Leadership Program will expand to include “Kraft Scholars,” who will participate in new online degree and certificate programs that will train them to respond to crises caused by antisemitic incidents.

Kraft, who led the remarkable transformation of the New England Patriots from a second tier club to an annual Super Bowl contender and winner of six such titles in under twenty years, founded FCAS after being awarded $1 million through Genesis Prize, an honor given to successful members of the Jewish community. FCAS focuses most of its resources on social media, aiming, it says, “to stand up against racist and violent rhetoric aimed at the Jewish people through the most accessible and most powerful avenue of information in the world.”

In a statement, Kraft, expressed hope for this latest campaign and praised Dr. Clarence Jones as an emblem of his FCAS’ highest aspirations.

“The work Dr. Jones has done over the course of his entire life and career is the embodiment of FCAS’ mission to build bridges and stand up to Jewish hate and all forms of hate. In the time we have spent together and through his work, I have become a huge fan of Dr. Jones, and I am proud to spotlight all that he has done for our nation,” he said. “With this ad, we hope to continue to spread Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s message of unity and equality at a time in which the country needs it mist most, and our goal is to reach a wide audience of people and inspire all Americans to stand up together, arm in arm, and fight this horrific rising hate.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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