Globe Briefs June 2

Globe Briefs June 2

London’s Muslim mayor joins pledge to fight anti-Semitism

Newly elected London Mayor Sadiq Khan endorsed a pledge co-signed by dozens of American and European mayors to fight anti-Semitism.

Khan, a Muslim Labour politician who won the May 5 mayoral election by a broad majority, recently informed the Board of Deputies of British Jews of his decision to join the Mayors United Against Anti-Semitism initiative, the board said in a statement published Thursday.

The board and two other Jewish groups approached Khan to sign the pledge, the statement said.

“I am proud to sign the Mayors United Against Anti-Semitism pledge and I will encourage other mayors across the country and Europe to do the same, to help send the message far and wide that anti-Semitism is totally unacceptable and can never be justified,” Khan said, according to the statement. “Sadly, for many Londoners, Anti-Semitism is a very present problem. As a British Muslim, I am no stranger to discrimination and prejudice.”

Developed by the American Jewish Committee in July 2015 and launched in Europe later that year, the initiative received its first European co-signatory in Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, followed by her counterparts in Frankfurt, Madrid, Milan and Copenhagen. In all, 150 mayors from 30 European countries have signed along with more than 300 mayors from 50 American states.

Khan has condemned members of his own party who engaged in hateful rhetoric against Jews and Israel. This vitriol within Labour has exposed the party and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to scrutiny in local media and by Labour members.

“Anti-Semitism is one of the greatest challenges facing Jews in London and across the country,” Jonathan Arkush, the president of the Jewish board, said in the statement. “This sets a very positive tone that we hope will be replicated throughout Khan’s mayoralty.”

Given recent concerns “expressed about currents within Britain’s Labour Party regarding Anti-Semitism, this is a particularly welcome and important development, since he is such a prominent member of the Labour Party,” AJC CEO David Harris said of Khan.

NJ court rules $11M state grant to yeshiva unconstitutional

A New Jersey court has ruled unconstitutional state grants to two religious institutions — including $10.6 million to one of North America’s largest haredi Orthodox yeshivas.

The ruling was made May 26 by a New Jersey appellate court, the Asbury Park Press reported. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s administration announced the grants in 2013 as part of a $1.3 billion funding package allocated among 46 educational institutions in the state.

The $10.6 million grant to Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, a city known for its large haredi Orthodox community, was supposed to help fund construction of a new library. The other institution, a Presbyterian seminary, was to receive $645,323. The grants have not been paid yet.

“This is a victory for civil rights and a victory for New Jersey taxpayers, who should never have to subsidize institutions that discriminate or that exist to teach their particular religious doctrine,” Edward Barocas, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s New Jersey office, said in a statement, according to the Asbury Park Press.

The ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a complaint in state Superior Court in 2013 to stop the grants. The complaint was later moved to a state appellate court.

In its unanimous decision, the three-judge court panel wrote, according to the Star-Ledger: “Here, unlike other broad-based liberal arts colleges that received grants, both the yeshiva and the seminary are sectarian institutions. Their facilities funded by the department’s grants indisputably will be used subsequently, if not exclusively, for religious instruction.”

New Jersey’s attorney general defended the grants in court, arguing they should be allowed because they paid for secular, rather than religious, activities.

The ACLU’s Barocas told the Asbury Park Press in April: “At a time when public school funding has been slashed in our state, it’s an insult for more than $11 million to go toward private, sectarian, religious institutions that actively exclude students based on religion or gender.”

Beth Medrash Govoha, which has more than 6,500 students, enrolls only men and offers courses in Judaic studies only.

Officials with the yeshiva did not respond to the newspaper’s request for comment.

Hezbollah is broke thanks to US sanctions, says White House official

Non-nuclear U.S. sanctions against Iran and its allies have led to Hezbollah being in “its worst financial shape in decades,” the top sanctions enforcement official told Congress.

“After many years of sanctions targeting Hezbollah, today the group is in its worst financial shape in decades,” Adam Szubin, the acting Treasury under

secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence told the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee May 25. “And I can assure you that, alongside our international partners, we are working hard to put them out of business.”

Szubin described sanctions introduced in recent months to further isolate Hezbollah, a Lebanese militia that in 2006 fought a war against Israel and that Israeli intelligence believes has tens of thousands of missiles in place for the next war.

The House committee asked Szubin and two other top officials handling the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal to testify. Congressional Republicans and a number of Democrats have expressed concerns about reports that the U.S. is going out of its way to accommodate Iran in the sanctions relief for nuclear rollback deal.

Stephen Mull, the top U.S. official charged with implementing the deal, acknowledged that the United States was making it clear to third parties that some sanctions are no longer in place.

“In an effort to provide greater clarity to the public and private sectors on what sanctions were lifted and what non-nuclear sanctions remain in place, the Departments of State and Treasury have been participating in extensive outreach with the public and private sectors, mostly at the request of other governments, in order to explain U.S. commitments,” he said.

Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., the chairman of the committee, lacerated the sanctions officials for what he said was “the length the Obama administration has gone to accommodate Iran.”

“The administration told us that sanctions on Iran’s terrorism, human rights and ballistic missiles would be fully enforced after the agreement,” he said. “Yet, it now says that non-nuclear sanctions would undermine the Iran agreement. The White House’s Iran policy amounts to walking on eggshells.”

Szubin rejected the claim. “We have not lifted any of our sanctions designed to counter Iran’s destabilizing activities outside the nuclear file,” he said. “These sanctions are not just words on paper. We are vigorously enforcing them.”

Szubin also rejected reports that the Obama administration is contemplating implementing a system to allow Iran to trade in dollars. He outlined a number of areas where the United States is blocking Iranian non-nuclear activities that are otherwise subject to sanction, including its backing for Hezbollah, Iran’s chief proxy in the civil war in Syria.

Thomas Countryman, an assistant secretary of state, revealed that the U.S. assisted Israel in intercepting a Panamanian flagged vessel in the Red Sea that was bearing Iranian weapons. Previous reports on the March 2014 interception by the Israel Defense Forces did not mention U.S. involvement.

Countryman also discounted claims that the U.S. was not doing enough to keep Iran from testing ballistic missiles.

“Our policy on Iran’s ballistic missile program has not changed — Iran must cease this work, including ballistic missile launches,” he said.