Globe Briefs March 31

Globe Briefs March 31

Israel Police arrest 22 Haredi Orthodox men accused of sex crimes

Police arrested 22 Haredi Orthodox men in four Israeli cities who are suspected of sex crimes against women and minors over the past two years but were sheltered by religious leaders.

The men, aged 20-60, were arrested Monday morning in Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Betar Illit and Bnei Brak, all cities with large Haredi populations. Residents of the communities tried to prevent the arrests, throwing rocks and other projectiles, damaging some police cars.

The police posted a video showing the arrests on social media.

Police believe Haredi leaders helped conceal the crimes and dealt with them on their own rather than reporting them, according to reports. Their investigation revealed that Haredi leaders kept written records of the attacks; the perpetrators were required to get therapy within the Haredi community. They also were punished internally.

Police reportedly have seized some of those records, which were kept by a person charged with the task by a special committee of the Haredi community.

Iran imposes sanctions on 15 US companies over support for Israel

Iran has imposed sanctions on 15 American companies over their alleged support for Israel.

The announcement by the Iranian Foreign Ministry accuses the United States of “propping up the Zionist regime, terrorists and suppressing civilians in the region,” the state agency IRNA reported.

It comes two days after the United States issued new sanctions on several foreign firms and individuals accused of supporting Iran’s weapons program.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran condemns the recent measure taken by the United States administration to impose one-sided extraterritorial sanctions against Iranian and non-Iranian individuals and institutions,” the Foreign Ministry said in its statement.

“Imposition of new sanctions by the U.S. is based on fabricated and illegitimate pretexts and amount to an action against the international regulations as well as the word and spirit of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” the statement said.

The companies include Raytheon, Re/Max Real Estate, Oshkosh, United Technologies, ITT, BENI Tal and M7 Aerospace.

Iran’s announcement is largely symbolic because the firms do not do business with Iran, the news agency AFP reported.

Teen apologizes for twisting neighbors’ menorah into swastika

An Arizona teenager arrested for twisting a menorah in the front yard of a family’s home into a swastika posted an apology on Facebook.

Clive Jamar Wilson, 19, one of four teens arrested on March 17 for the Dec. 30 incident, told the Ellis family of Chandler that he was sorry, the East Valley Tribune newspaper reported. The Facebook page appears to have since been removed.

“My name is Clive (CJ) Wilson. I am writing this post to say I am truly sorry for the insensitive prank which my friends and I participated in during the holiday season last December. What we did was reckless, stupid, idiotic, and insensitive,” he wrote, according to the local paper. “From the bottom of my heart I apologize to your family. From the bottom of my heart I can tell you that that is not the way of my Jamaican heritage.”

He also reportedly wrote that he “made a mistake when I joined my friends in a very insensitive prank. If I could turn back the clock and remove myself and my three friends from participating in the horrible prank I would. But I can’t.”

Wilson then explained that his father attended a “Jewish university,” Brandeis, and has since taught him about Judaism and its values.

Naomi Ellis on Sunday accepted the apology in a statement to the newspaper.

“We believe that (Wilson) is sincerely sorry for his reckless actions. It is encouraging to know that he is taking the initiative to learn more about Jewish history and culture,” the statement said. “It is our hope that he will continue to learn the importance of tolerance and respect for diversity. We will continue to rely on the judicial system and on the Chandler Police Department to follow the next steps in the process,” she said.

The large, decorative Chanukah candelabra damaged on Dec. 30, 2016, was made of gold spray-painted PVC pipes and solar-powered lights.

Ellis and her husband, Seth, said they built the 7-foot menorah in front of their house after their three sons, ages 5, 6 and 9, asked for lights in their yard like their neighbors’ Christmas decorations.

Police helped the couple dismantle the swastika early in the morning before their children saw it. The menorah was rebuilt and replaced.

About 100 members of the family’s synagogue and their rabbi and neighbors gathered in the Ellis front yard to light the rebuilt menorah.

Bipartisan bill would boost penalties for anti-Semitic bomb threats

A bipartisan bill would increase the federal penalty for bomb threats and other threats of violence against religious institutions and ensure such acts can be prosecuted as a hate crime.

The bipartisan Combating Anti-Semitism Act of 2017, introduced Monday by Reps. David Kustoff (R-Tenn.) and Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), comes after over 150 bomb threat hoaxes were called into Jewish community centers starting in January. Although a Jewish teenager with dual Israeli-American citizenship was charged last week in the bulk of those threats, both sponsors focused on their impact on the dozens of JCCs and their clientele.

“The rise in threats at religious community centers is deeply disturbing and makes it clear that existing federal laws do not suitably deter these acts of hate,” Kustoff, who is Jewish, added in a statement. “Religious tolerance is the bedrock on which our great nation was founded. We must defend the individual liberties of our neighbors of all faiths and protect places of worship, and I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation that addresses the issue head on.”

Added Kilmer: “No American should be made a target because of his or her faith. Sadly, religious community centers across the country have increasingly had to lock down their facilities and call in bomb squads.”

The statement noted that JCCs were forced to evacuate as result of the threats, and families using Hebrew schools and early childhood education programs “have been forced to choose between their safety and their faith community.”

This bipartisan legislation would amend the Church Arson Prevention Act enacted in 1996 to ensure that individuals who make bomb threats and other “credible threats” of violence based on the religious nature of the target can be prosecuted for committing a hate crime.

The current law limits the consequences for “credible threats” to misdemeanor charges. The new law would create a penalty of up to five years in prison if such threats lead to damage or destruction of property.

Co-sponsoring the bill are Reps. Ted Poe (R-Tenn.), Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Joseph  Kennedy III (D-Mass.).