This Week in Review: What The Europeans Are Saying

Sephardic Jews in Turkey ‘subject to hostility,’ Spanish minister says

Hürriyet Daily News, Turkey reports: Sephardic Jews are living under threat in Turkey and many will seek Spanish passports due to new legislation that grants returners dual citizenship, Spanish Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón has said. Most of the demands for Spanish passports since the new law passed have come from Turkey and Venezuela, Gallardon told the New York Times on March 19. It is estimated that only 24,000 Sephardic Jews remain in Turkey, mostly concentrated in Istanbul. Historically, they have spoken the now-endangered Ladino language, a Judeo-Spanish dialect that is mostly a derivation of Castellan with a few Turkish intonations.

NATO chief: Crimea invasion could be just the beginning

EUobserver reports: NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen has warned Crimea could be the beginning of a wider military campaign, amid Russia’s veiled threats against EU and NATO member Estonia. He told the Brookings Institute, a think tank in Washington, on Wednesday (19 March): “I see Crimea as an element in a greater pattern, in a more long-term Russian, or at least [Russian leader Vladimir] Putin, strategy. So of course our major concern now is whether he will go beyond Crimea.” He added: “This crisis is not just about Ukraine. We see what could be called ‘21st century revisionism’: Attempts to turn back the clock; to draw new dividing lines on the map; to monopolise markets; shuffle populations.” He urged NATO members to increase defence spending.

Austria. SPÖ Youth Leader Lied Over Hitler Salute

Austrian Times reports: The leader of the Social Democrat’s (SPÖ) youth wing in Graz has been convicted of lying and libel after he took a photo of dancing supporters at a far right Freedom party rally which he claimed showed them making a Hitler salute. A court in Graz convicted Sebastian Pay of releasing a photo knowing that it would give the wrong impression, and it gave him a six-month suspended sentence and ordered him to pay a 1,400 Euro fine. The picture was widely republished in Austrian media in advance of the recent general election as a sign that the party had a growing number of neo-Nazi supporters, despite the fact that the freedom party (FPÖ) a day later had managed to provide a video showing that the man and the others around him had been dancing to the music and not making Hitler salutes. The video however only received significant coverage after the election by which point, according to the freedom party, the damage had been done. At the 0.25 second mark on the You Tube video published here the dancing man can clearly be seen.

Troops Of 12 Countries To Hold An Exercise in Bulgaria

Sophia News Agency reports: Land troops of 12 countries will take part in the international military exercise at the Novo Selo range in Bulgaria. Saber Guardian, the largest exercise for this year, starts on Friday and will include 700 troops from Bulgaria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, USA, Belgium, Turkey and Ukraine, according to Bulgaria’s Defence Ministry. The main goal is improving regional strategic partnership and NATO compatibility in international operations for dealing with humanitarian crises, peacekeeping and humanitarian aid.

Russian jets buzz Norwegian coast

Norway’s News in English reports: As Norwegian politicians try to balance their indignation and concerns over Russia’s territorial takeover in Crimea with their desire to remain good neighbours, Russian fighter jets continue to fly up and down along Norway’s own territorial border off the north west coast. The regular flights seem aimed at asserting Russia’s growing military presence in the important and resource-rich Arctic, while Norwegian leaders seem intent on avoiding provocation.

Transdniestria may become part of Russia

Pravda reports:  The Supreme Council of the unrecognized republic of Transdniestria appealed to the State Duma of Russia to provide for the possibility of entering the region in Russia in the Russian legislation. After the events in the Crimean Republic the country is under siege. Ukraine imposed restrictions on travel for Russians in Transnistria through its territory. The border was closed for cargo as well. The information was confirmed by Deputy Prime Minister of the Transnistrian Moldovan Republic for International Cooperation, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Nina Shtanski. “Russian citizens are not allowed in Transnistria and are not let out. Transnistria is home to nearly 200,000 Russian citizens, and not all of them can travel and leave the country through Moldova. This means that people are locked on both sides,” said Nina Shtanski… Meanwhile, Vyacheslav Tobuh, the chairman of the Republican movement of Transdniestria “Recognition,” member of the Supreme Council of the TMR, believes that Russia has a legal basis to accept Transdniestria to the Federation. Since there is a declaration of independence, the only thing that needs to be done is recognition of that status, as it was done in Crimea.

Jewish and Muslim women finding common ground

The Jewish Chronicle, UK reports: Addressing 130 Jewish and Muslim women at the Foreign Office, Faith and Communities Minister Baroness Warsi said the religions had more in common than circumcision, ritual slaughter and good food. “Jewish and Muslim women feel that the men run all the organisations in their communities,” she said. “Despite the fact that leg-work goes in from women, when it comes to representation and engagement with government, 99 per cent of the people around the table are men.”  Baroness Warsi hoped that faith-based lobby groups would approach politicians with “women representing these communities”. An interfaith mentoring scheme for women would help break down barriers, she added. “For Jewish women to be mentoring young Muslim girls and successful Muslim women to be mentoring young Jewish girls — that relationship [would] create openness that allows you to have difficult conversations. “When men in the Jewish and Muslim communities get together, they talk about two things — circumcision and shechita. Women would like to talk about leadership so that, in years to come, we could stand back and say we have genuine relationships.”

 Yad Vashem marks 70 years since the destruction of Hungarian Jewry

European Jewish Press reports: Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial and Institute in Jerusalem, hosted Wednesday a march of remembrance with dozens of Holocaust survivors to mark 70 years since the beginning of the mass murder of Hungarian Jewry during the Holocaust.After the march a memorial ceremony took place in the Hall of Remembrance followed by lectures in the Yad Vashem Auditorium and aa symposium commemorating 70 years of the Nazi occupation of Hungary. On April 3, Yad Vashem’s International Institute for Holocaust Research will hold a special symposium focusing on Jewish Hungarians during the Holocaust. The symposium will consist of two sessions: the first one launching the new publication, Conscripted Slaves: Hungarian Jewish Forced Laborers on the Eastern Front during the Second World War, and the second focusing on special aspects of the Holocaust concerning Hungarian Jewry.

Accuracy and impartiality issues in BBC report on Abbas White House visit

BBC Watch, UK reports:BBC Media Watch, UK reports: On March 17th a report appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East and US & Canada pages under the title “Obama tells Palestinian leader to take risks for peace“. The messaging in that headline was repeated in the article’s opening lines. “US President Barack Obama has told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas he must take ‘risks’ for peace. Mr Obama told reporters at the White House that the search for a two-state solution remained elusive but he hoped to see progress in the coming weeks.” But did Obama in fact tell Abbas that ‘he’ specifically – as claimed by the BBC – ‘must’ take ‘risks for peace’? Not according to the transcript released by the White House which shows that Obama’s remarks were actually much less explicit and referred to a general need by all sides to ‘take some tough political decisions and risks’ rather than being a demand or an instruction directed towards Abbas in person.

France’s Interior Minister calls for resistance against antisemitism

European Jewish Congress reports: French Interior Minister Manuel Valls told a gathering in Paris in memory of the victims of the terrorist attack on the Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012. Speaking at the gathering organized by the CRIF representative organization of French Jews, an EJC affiliate, Valls said, “We have to resist, resist, resist against this antisemitism. Valls said that antisemitism came from the Far Right but “also feeds off anti-Zionism. It is nourished in our popular neighbourhoods on the ambiguities regarding the State of Israel. We must resist, resist, resist this antisemitism.”

Harriet Sherwood reports on latest target of anti-Zionist witch-hunt: Israeli architects 

CiF Watch, UK reports: As Harriet Sherwood’s days as the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent wind down, she’s evidently decided to use her remaining time doing what she does best: legitimizing the most marginal and hypocritical efforts to demonize and delegitimize Israeli Jews. Her latest report focuses on efforts – by some ‘sophisticated’ Brits – to isolate the latest international ‘misfortune’: Israeli architects.

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Haneen Zoabi, Palestinian Arab and Israeli citizen strikes again!


Zoabi wants justice in a world of peace and coexistence, where all live “on an equal footing.” Whose footing?

Haneen ZoabiHaneen Zoabi, is a Palestinian Arab and an Israeli citizen, the first Arab Israeli woman to be elected to the Israeli legislative body on an Arab party’s list. She was born in Nazareth. Zoabi studied philosophy and psychology at the University of Haifa, earning a Bachelors of Arts, and received a Masters of Arts in communications from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She was the first Arab citizen of Israel to graduate in media studies, and established the first media classes in Arab schools. She also worked as a mathematics teacher and worked as a school inspector for the Israeli Ministry of Education. She is a relative of Seif el-Din el-Zoubi, a former mayor of Nazareth and member of the Knesset between 1949 and 1959, and again from 1965 until 1979, and Abd el-Aziz el-Zoubi, a Deputy Health Minister and the first Arab member of an Israeli government. [1]

In an astonishing article published today in titled The defeat of “apartheid Israel”  written by Leonardo Wexell Severo and originally published in Brazil, Severo states that Zoabi is the “Defender of human rights and the value of freedom for all people.” He adds, “Haneen Zoabi stresses that her compass is justice in a world of peace and coexistence, where all live ‘on an equal footing.'”

Here is a selection of what Zoabi allegedly said to Severo.

  • “Eighty-five percent of the Palestinian population was expelled in 1948. Today we are the third generation after the earthquake, 1.2 million Israeli Arabs, 18% of the population of Israel, a racist state, which uses tools for their religious domination. This is the reality of the policy of apartheid, very invisibilized, the media acting as a propaganda tool to justify indiscriminate massacres against the population who are women, children or elderly. In advertising for the dominator, the Palestinians are “terrorists “
  • “Israel has no constitution, no borders”
  • “Israel is a country that has no constitution, no borders, but 30 laws that legitimize any abuse. There is a law of 2003, which forbids marriage between Palestinians, and one from 2011, that allows the confiscation of Palestinian land. It is a strategy of war conducted and exercised against an entire people with the logic that taking more land, means fewer Arabs. The expelled, from 1967, are no longer citizens in this state. Due to the Family Reunion and Naturalization law,for example, those who left Jerusalem for more than six months can lose citizenship. That is, a Jew born in Brazil has more rights than an Arab who was born there. In addition to the confiscation of land, building a house is running the risk of it being overturned because the Home Office has no record that maps it. Thus, construction is illegal, we are not entitled to be there. Without being able to occupy land, or build more additions. We have 60 thousand homes without permission. Then the state comes in and destroys everything. “
  • “Besides the conflict over land in Israel, there is a conflict over identity, because racism is very present. The confiscation of Palestinian land, the construction and delineation of cities, the disappearance of towns and villages, the laws of education, building parties and civil organizations are part of the same policy of segregation. They want to ban the Palestinian people from living in their territory.”
  • “As a Palestinian, one cannot marry a non-Palestinian, even if they are Brazilian or Syrian. If the husband’s father is Palestinian, with an Arab surname he cannot marry. Those who live in the West Bank live better than Israeli Arabs, because they are Palestinians, we are not. Due to an absurd law, if we say that we have Palestinian identity, we are not being loyal to the Israeli state. I, a Member of Knesset, cannot be called Palestinian. In official documents we are not Jews. We have no identity.”
  • “The role of the Israeli Ministry of Education is for us to disappear with our identity. Among its goals is to link to the Jewish State of Israel, link to the diaspora in the world, and strengthen the Hebrew language. I did not exist before 1948, we are all ghosts. In Arab schools, it is forbidden to teach what happened. The literature of resistance is prohibited. It is forbidden to teach about the nationalist revolution of 1952 in Egypt, that Nasser was talking about. All sixth-grade textbooks, for example, are on the Holocaust as a unique human catastrophe. I identify as a victim of the Holocaust more than the Israelis who are repressing us. We must be loyal to the lessons of history: do not kill, do not be racist, be loyal. By killing and discriminating unfairly, Israel is perpetrating a Holocaust. “
  • “We are forbidden even to remember the Nakba, the catastrophe. We have no right to memory or history. All institutions are gagged, forbidden even to mention the Nakba. If any student or teacher talks about it, the Ministry simply cuts the resources of the educational institution. “
  • “We have fought in defense of a state for all its citizens. This is a project of citizenship that goes against the essence of Zionism that is racist, which is the project of a Jewish state. For the Zionist Jews, the danger posed by Israeli Arabs is the same as the nuclear reactors in Iran. We live in a confrontation between democracy and Judaization, between colonizer and colonized, hence the separation wall, hence the siege of Gaza. The Judaization of the state is an obsessive disorder .”
  • “Israel has 60 agreements with European countries and even deal arms with the Brazilian government, to sell planes to Brazil. The fact is that every time Israel expands, illegally annexing the Palestinian territories, it has better relations with the countries of the world. So the Israeli government reads this as support for its expansion, while it should pay the price for this affront to international law. When this illegal expansion is denounced in parliament, a minister immediately ascends the podium and says do not worry, we have good relations and they are improving every day. That is, when you sign an agreement with Israel, it is not only economical, as customarily heard by governments, but a political settlement. It is an immoral support, because Israel is committing crimes “

The above item can be read in its entirety, in English at: and in Portuguese at: CUT

 [1] wikipedia

Leonardo Wexell Severo is a communications adviser to CUT (Unified Workers) National, Brazil, and a special reporter of the newspaper People’s Time. He is the author of several works – including the “Latifúndio Midiota” which portrays the reality of capitalist media.

(Photo credit: CUT)

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-DESMOND TUTU TAKE NOTE. “Blame game won’t lead us to peace.”


October 8, 2010.

Robert Fine responds to Desmond Tutu’s call for a boycott of Israel in the South African Mail & Guardian

Archbishop Desmond Tutu shines a torch of social justice in places where many politicians fear to tread. He was one of the leaders of the fight against apartheid and remains a critical voice in the new South Africa. On the Israel-Palestine question, however. I should like the opportunity to express my disagreement with him.

In support of a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Tutu asks:”Are we willing to speak out for justice when the moral choice that we make for an oppressed community may invite phone calls from the powerful or when possible research funding will be withdrawn from us?”

He asks: “Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their own previous humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon? Have they forgotten that God cares deeply about all the downtrodden?”

Now there is every reason for Tutu to shine the torch of justice on injustices in other nations as well as his own and every reason to explore injustices taking place in Israel and Palestine. I have no argument with him on this. However, his formulation of the problem is to my mind ill considered.

First, the “they” Tutu refers to — those who threaten to withdraw research funding from those who speak out for justice, those who have forgotten their own experience of humiliation, those who do not care about the downtrodden – are refered to as “our Jewish sisters and brothers”. If he reflects about what he has written, he may share the discomfort I have in reading this characterisation of Jews.

Second, the question of why he singles out Israel and Israeli academic institutions is not explained. Why not a host of other countries that repress their own inhabitants or occupy foreign lands, or a host of other universities that are equally implicated in policies of state? My own countr, Britain, has after all been engaged in two bloody wars with casualties that far outnumber anything that has involved Israel. Why not boycott British academics?

The academic boycott campaign he supports looks to the exclusion of Israeli Jews — and only Israeli Jews — from the scholarly life of humanity. This seems to me discriminatory.

Third, Tutu corrodes a fundamental distinction in political thought, that between civil society and the state, when he asserts without qualification that “Israeli universities are an intimate part of the Israeli regime”. This is a half truth. Universities are also an important forum of dissent. The relation between civil society and the state needs, to be addressed more seriously if we are not to hold a people responsible for the human rights abuses of their government. In other cases of international solidarity we support democratic forces in societies that are suffering under or struggling against oppressive states or movements.

Fourth, Tutu is careful not to demonise Israel but he does not take responsibility for the possible consequences of his support for an academic boycott of Israel. This campaign opens the door to the deployment of ever wilder claims to justify the special treatment of Israeli Jewish academics — for example, that Israel is inherently ethnic cleansing, genocidal or akin to Nazism. To justify discrimination against certain academics by virtue of their nationalit, there is a tangible risk of slippage from political criticism to the vilification of a whole people.

Fifth, Tutu offers one particular account of the Israel-Palestine conflict in which Palestinians exist mainly as victims and Israelis mainly as victimisers. His boycott proposal, however, does not afford recognition of the fact that there is a plurality of discourses concerning the complex origins and responsibilities of this conflict. One of the ill effects of an academic boycott would be to reduce this plurality of narratives to just one hegemonic version of events. Surely Tutu would agree that no understanding can come from refusing to hear alternative points of view.

The problem is that we no longer quite hear even our own words. It has become almost common sense to say Israel is a uniquely illegitimate state, Zionism a uniquely noxious ideology, supporters of Israel a uniquely powerful lobby, and memory of the Holocaust a uniquely self-serving reference to the past. This discourse is shared by a range of parties — not only sections of liberal and radical political opinion committed to universal moral values, but also fundamentalist and ultra-nationalist parties with no such commitments. . .

In short, the danger of a boycotting response is to heap on “Israel” absolute culpability. It does not meet our real political need, which is to understand a conflict, to help find a peace between the parties, and support those in each nation who oppose bigotry, racism, violence and despair. Justice should be viewed in a more relative, interactive and comparative way.

Robert Fine is professor of sociology at the University of Warwick, England.

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(Photo credit: snydertalk)


UPDATE – October 26, 2010

“Tutu urges Cape Town Opera to call off Israel tour” – TIMES Live, South Africa.

TIMES Live reports:

Tutu says: “Just as we said during apartheid that it was inappropriate for international artists to perform in South Africa in a society founded on discriminatory laws and racial exclusivity, so it would be wrong for Cape Town Opera to perform in Israel.”

“Cape Town Opera should postpone its proposed tour next month until both Israeli and Palestinian opera lovers of the region have equal opportunity and unfettered access to attend performances.”

Tutu says only “the thickest-skinned South Africans would be comfortable performing before an audience that excluded residents living, for example, in an occupied West Bank village 30 minutes from Tel Aviv, who would not be allowed to travel to Tel Aviv, while including his Jewish neighbours from an illegal settlement on occupied Palestinian territory.”

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