2015: Surviving the times ahead

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by Alan Simons
by Alan Simons

Christopher Buckley, the American author and political satirist once said: “Reading any collection of a man’s quotations is like eating the ingredients that go into a stew instead of cooking them together in the pot. You eat all the carrots, then all the potatoes, then the meat. You won’t go away hungry, but it’s not quite satisfying.”

For diaspora Jews living in countries where there are a high percentage of individuals harbouring virulent antisemitic attitudes, such as in Greece, Panama, Poland, Bulgaria, Serbia and France, there’s also not much to be satisfied about. Antisemitic-based quotations abound from so many Internet sources. Many have been loosely translated from Urdu, Arabic, and other languages; so much so that one has to continually scramble to separate the fact from the fiction.

For diaspora Jews in many parts of the world, the continual need to come to the defence of one’s religious beliefs have left many reeling in a state of scepticism and understandably, in a precarious quagmire. It has, in essence, become an inherent part of daily life.

Having said that, whether or not you agree with Christopher Buckley, I believe quotations do have a place for us, especially in times of incertitude. Three quotations immediately come to mind. Perhaps, as we look forward to the year ahead with some tiny spark of sanguinity, this is the time to revive them.

“Don’t shelter yourself in any course of action by the idea that ‘it is my affair.’ It is your affair, but it is also mine and the community’s. Nor can we neglect the world beyond. A fierce light beats upon the Jew. It is a grave responsibility this – to be a Jew; and you can’t escape from it, even if you choose to ignore it. Ethically or religiously, we Jews can be and do nothing light-heartedly. Ten bad Jews may help to damn us; ten good Jews may help to save us. Which minyan will you join?”   -C.G. Montefiore, (1858-1938).

“My people have survived the prehistoric paganism, the Babylonian polytheism, the aesthetic Hellenism, the sagacious Romanism, at once the blandishments and persecutions of the Church; and it will survive the modern dilettantism and the current materialism, holding aloft the traditional Jewish ideals inflexibly until the world shall become capable of recognizing their worth.”  –Cyrus Adler, (1863-1940).

And finally, from Leo Tolstoy, (1828-1910). “The Jew is the emblem of eternity. He whom neither slaughter nor torture of thousands of years could destroy, he whom neither fire nor sword nor inquisition was able to wipe off from the face of the earth, he whom was the first to produce the oracles of God, he who has been for so long the guardian of prophecy, and who transmitted it to the rest of the world – such a nation cannot be destroyed. He is everlasting as is eternity itself.”

2015 is just a few days away. Yet, for me, it is already here. In peace.

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SEVENTY YEARS LATER - "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" | "The more things change, the more they stay the same"

SEVENTY YEARS LATER – “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” | “The more things change, the more they stay the same”

“Not all Muslims become involved in acts of violence. Yet all might be held culpable. This is because that section of Muslim–in fact, the majority–who are not personally involved, neither disown those members of their community who are engaged in violence, nor even condemn them. In such a case, according to the Islamic Shariah itself, if the involved Muslims are directly responsible, the uninvolved Muslims are also indirectly responsible.”            -Islamic spiritual scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

 Thank God there’s an Israel!

بفضل الله، هناك إسرائيل

ہم اسرائیل کے پاس خدا کا شکر ہے

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jewishinfoNews >>> Mid-Week in Review

What They Are Saying. A wrap-up of news and what to expect this week.

ynet news, Israel reports: Donetsk [Ukraine] leaflet: Jews must register or face deportation. Fear replaced communal atmosphere in Donetsk’s Jewish community as armed men handed out a leaflet Passover eve calling on Jews register their religion and property with the interim pro-Russian government or face deportation and loss of citizenship. A leaflet distributed in Donetsk, Ukraine calling for all Jews over 16 years old to register as Jews marred the Jewish community’s Passover festivities Monday (Passover eve), replacing them with feelings of concern. The leaflet demanded the city’s Jews supply a detailed list of all the property they own, or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportion and see their assets confiscated.

Photo credit: Europics

Photo credit: Europics

Austrian Times reports: Austria Accused Of Ignoring Giant Nazi Swastika.  A huge swastika that has scarred the walls of an Austrian castle for the past 80 years is still on view despite breaching strict postwar rules banning all Nazi symbols.  Austrian officials stand accused of prevarication over the massive swastika that was painted on the side of Hochkraig Castle in the state of Carinthia in 1934.  The local castle has been approached by officials of the Mauthausen concentration camp museum and memorial in Austria asking for it to be covered over – but the local authority said it doesn’t “feel responsible” for removing it. A spokesman for the Mauthausen organisation Peter Gstettner said that it was unbelievable that the symbol that been allowed to sit in plain view for more than 80 years and even more incredible that nothing has happened despite frequent attempts to have it removed.  The owner of the castle Peter Goess, 55, has however warned that the castle is no longer a safe structure, and any attempt to remove it could be dangerous for those involved in the removal operation. He has been backed up by the Austrian monuments commission which also warned that there was a danger the walls could crumble if any workers attempted to gain access to the swastika.

Marian Kotleba became Banská Bystrica's governor. Source: SME
Marian Kotleba became Banská Bystrica’s governor. Source: SME

The Slovak Spectator reports: Regional paper praises fascist state.  The flag of the European Union is a symbol of occupation, and the Nazi-allied wartime Slovak state was a prosperous and successful country: these are just the two most striking examples of the kind of rhetoric found in a newspaper published by the Banská Bystrica regional government since Marian Kotleba became governor.  The Náš kraj (Our Region) monthly is the self-proclaimed official newspaper of Banská Bystrica Region, published by the office of the regional government and funded from the regional budget. It is available in electronic form on the regional government’s website and distributed in printed form to households around the region free of charge. The paper has hardly any informational value, but as such it is not unique, as most of the eight self-governing regions in Slovakia publish a periodical of their own, according to a 2013 survey by the non-governmental organisation Transparency International Slovensko (TIS). These regional papers use most of their space to promote the activities of their respective regional governor and present his activities in a positive light. Banská Bystrica Region however stands out, since Kotleba, who has a background as a far-right extremist, took power in the region. Regional elections bring extremist to power.

Sophia News Agency reports: Bulgaria Among Popular Passover Destinations for Israeli Tourists.  Israeli citizens prefer to spend the Passover festival in Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria, according to Turkish tour operators, Bulgarian National Radio reported.  Turkey is the destination of choice for some 6,300 Israeli citizens celebrating the eight-day festival of Passover, also known as Pesach, beginning on 15 April, Turkish Haberler informed.  The second most preferred holiday destination is Greece, followed by Italy and Bulgaria.  Meanwhile, Turkish Airlines has launched eight flights to Israel a day.

The Copenhagen Post reports:  Government gives go ahead for circumcision.  Board of health establishes new guidelines for religious ceremonies. The practice of circumcising Jewish boys during brit milah ceremonies has been allowed to continue in Denmark according to new guidelines issued yesterday by the national board of health.  Beforehand it was not expected that the agency would recommend a ban on male circumcision on religious grounds.  The guidelines stipulate that male circumcision is a surgical procedure and restricted to medical practitioners.  The guidelines require a doctor to be present at a brit milah when a rabbi circumcises a boy.  It is estimated that every year up to 2,000 boys are circumcised for religious reasons by Jewish and Muslim families in Denmark.  While doctors usually handle the circumcision of Muslims, Jewish boys are often circumcised by a rabbi, typically when the boy is 8 days old. 

Click on image
Click on image

Tarek Fatah reports:  Arab versus Arab in Syria – Medieval brutality seeped in sadistic pleasure. These horrific scenes are from Syria showing opposition soldiers beating and torturing captured government POWs. Some may argue its the other way around, but irrespective of whoever is carrying out this act, it is an Arab beating up a fellow Arab; a Muslim torturing a fellow Muslim. Some day, I hope Muslims wake up and realize, it is they who are to blame, not the West, the Jews or the Hindus. That is the day we will have arrived in the 21st century to join the rest of humanity. Until then, Yalla…

Palestinian Media Watch (PMW)  reports:  PA names forest after arch-terrorist Abu Jihad.  Abu Jihad masterminded terror attacks that killed 125 Israelis.   The official Palestinian Authority daily reported that the PA and Fatah inaugurated a forest they chose to name after arch-terrorist Abu Jihad: “The Martyr Abu Jihad Forest.”  Abu Jihad was a founder of Fatah and deputy to Yasser Arafat. He headed the PLO’s military wing and planned many deadly terror attacks. These attacks, which according to the official PA daily killed at least 125 Israelis, included the most lethal in Israeli history – the hijacking of a bus and killing of 37 civilians, 12 of them children.  Palestinian Media Watch has documented that PA Chairman Abbas decorated terrorist Abu Jihad post-mortem a few months ago with “the highest order of the Star of Honor.”

The Jordan Times reports today that Jordanian air force destroys vehicles trying to cross from Syria.  Fighter jets from the Royal Jordanian Air Force on Wednesday attacked vehicles that tried to cross the Jordanian border from Syria, destroying them, a statement issued by the Jordan Armed Forces (JAF) said.  The army did not identify whether the vehicles belong to the Syrian regime or to rebels.  The brief statement was posted on JAF website. The army was expected to give further details later today.

Arab News, Saudi Arabia reports from Egypt: Brotherhood members banned from elections. An Egyptian court on Tuesday banned members of ousted President Muhammad Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood from running in upcoming elections, a lawyer and state media said. Egypt’s military-installed authorities are engaged in a deadly crackdown against the movement, which swept elections in Egypt after the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak in 2011 but is now blacklisted as a “terrorist group.” A court in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria ordered authorities to bar any candidacies from Brotherhood members or former members in presidential and parliamentary elections.

Hürriyet Daily News, Turkey reports: Turkish, Greek jets in first dogfight after 27 months.  Turkish and Greek fighter jets engaged in a mid-air dogfight over the Aegean Sea twice on April 15 in a first since January 2012, Greek media has reported.  According to the reports based on Greek military sources, four F-16s belonging to the Turkish Air Force approached the Semadirek (Samothraki) Island before the first dogfight. Four Greek F-16s took off “to locate and prevent” the Turkish aircraft. Sides faced off against each other north of Samothraki, as well as southwest of Limni (Limnos) Island.  The official website of the Turkish General Staff did not list any violations or dogfights for April 15.

Radio Prague  reports: Poll: 60 percent of Czechs perceive foreigners as problem. Foreign nationals who moved to the Czech Republic in the past five years are perceived as problematic by 60 percent of Czechs, according to a survey by the CVVM agency released on Wednesday. Meanwhile, some 32 percent of people who took part in the poll said foreigners did not present a problem on the national level. Locally, however, foreign citizens are perceived as problematic by 25 percent of Czechs. The poll also founded that some 70 percent of Czechs believe foreigners permanently residing in the country increased unemployment; 65 percent said they contributed to rising crime levels and 57 percent suggested foreigners presented a health risk.

 The Local, Sweden reports: Israeli lawyer in Sweden to talk settlements.  Swedish MPs have invited Israeli lawyer Calev Myers to hold a seminar at the Riksdag on Thursday, but some observers question whether he represents the Israeli public opinion.  Myers, who founded the Jerusalem Institute of Justice (JIJ), was invited to Sweden by parliamentarians from the Moderate and Christian Democrat party.  He is perhaps best known internationally for questioning US President Barack Obama’s Middle East policies. His talk with parliamentarians in Sweden, however, is expected to address Israeli settlements.  “His views are extreme even in Israel,” Joakim Wohlfeil at Swedish aid NGO Diakonia told the TT news agency. “He believes, just like the militant occupants, that the occupied territories should be annexed rather than aiming to broker a peace deal with the Palestinians.”  Myers’ institute holds an annual seminar entitled the Palestinian Human Rights Week, and he often addresses his concerns that the global community has got the wrong end of the stick.

BBC Watch reports: Route 35 terror attack gets a grand total of 34 words in BBC report.  Over twenty-eight hours after the April 14th terror attack on Route 35 in which father of five Chief Superintendent Baruch Mizrachi was murdered and his wife and son injured, the BBC finally managed to come up with a brief mention of the incident, buried at the bottom of an article titled  “Israelis and Palestinians in bid to extend peace talks” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the night of April 15th.  The article was illustrated using the misleading photograph…

The Times of Israel reports: Amsterdam fined Holocaust victims for unpaid taxes while they were in camps. City collected more $10 million from survivors after the war for unpaid ground lease fees, researchers say. The team of researchers for the Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, or NIOD, wrote their findings in a still unpublished report they have been compiling since last year at the city’s request, the Het Parool daily reported Tuesday. The city under Mayor Eberhard van der Laan asked NIOD to look into fines that the city had imposed on hundreds of Jewish Holocaust survivors for properties they owned but for which they had failed to pay ground lease fees after the German army’s invasion in 1940 into the Netherlands. Nazi authorities began in 1942 the deportation and murder of 75 percent of the 140,000 Jews living in the Netherlands then. Many of the houses in question were used by Nazi occupation officers and local collaborates, Het Parool reported. The city went after Holocaust survivors for missed payments as late as 1947 and imposed fines on them for missing payments, according to the daily, whose publication on the issue last year prompted the investigation.

The Jewish Chronicle, UK reports: Le Pen blocks kosher food for school children. France’s far-right National Front party has been accused of undermining religious freedom after it banned state schools from serving kosher and halal food in the 11 town councils it now controls. Party leader Marine Le Pen declared school canteens should not cater for religious restrictions on food, in line with France’s secular values. Alternatives to pork will also be banned on days when pork is on the school menu in NF-run councils, she said. Ms Le Pen — whose father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, described the Holocaust as a “mere detail of history” — said: “We will not accept any religious demands in school menus. There is no reason for religion to enter the public sphere, that’s the law.”

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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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