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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Syrian fighter: “We have a big fight against the Jews ahead of us.”

Friday Update. What Others Are Saying.

SYRIA: Anti-Assad fighter, “We have a big fight against the Jews ahead of us.”

The Jewish Chronicle (UK) reports: “As Bashar al-Assad fights for his survival, a new threat to Israel is crystallising across its northern borders. What began in Syria as a limited but genuine people’s uprising against a dictatorship has become contaminated with Saudi-funded foreign mujahideen who are driven, among other things, by an intense hostility toward non-Muslims – and an implacable hatred of Jews and Israel. In Al Midan, a suburb in southern Damascus, Mateen, a fighter who claimed to have travelled from Afghanistan, shared his ideas for a post-Assad Syria: “We have to a build a society of respect and brotherhood in accordance with the Prophet’s commandments,” he said in Urdu. “We will treat non-Muslims kindly, but we have a big fight against the Jews ahead of us. We will take that up, God willing.”

LEBANON: Hezbollah supporters wave Iranian flags and carry pictures of Syrian President Bashar Assad

The Daily Star (Lebanon) reports: The opposition March 14 coalition Wednesday slammed Hezbollah’s organization of protests across the country against a film insulting the Prophet as an attempt to divert attention from the crisis in Syria.  The coalition statement praised President Michel Sleiman for demanding official clarification from Tehran over Jaafari’s remarks Sunday that the Revolutionary Guard had sent high-level military.

EGYPT: No need to amend Israel treaty

Gulf Today (Arab Emirates) reports: Egypt sees no reason to make changes to its peace treaty with Israel, presidential spokesman Yasser Ali said in statements carried on Thursday by the state-owned paper Al Ahram. “There is no need for the moment to amend the Camp David agreement,” said Ali who was accompanying President Mohammed Mursi in New York for the meetings of the UN General Assembly…Israel has watched with concern as Islamic parties were catapulted to the forefront of politics following a popular uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak. Mursi, who emerged from the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, has repeatedly said he would respect international treaties signed by Cairo.

TURKEY: Syria Muslim Brotherhood says Russia ‘an excuse’ for inaction

The Jordan Times:  Russia’s UN Security Council veto is “just an excuse” for world powers not to intervene in Syria, but the regime is going to fall without their help, the chief of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood told AFP Thursday. “Russia is just an excuse for the rest of the great powers not to topple [Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s] regime,” said Mohammed Riyad Al Shaqfa, complaining of an international unwillingness to “get sucked into” the conflict in Syria. The exiled chief of the hardline opposition group was referring to divisions in the Security Council, where permanent members Russia and China have so far vetoed three resolutions on Syria… Shaqfa repeated calls on the international community to provide the Syrian rebels with anti-aircraft missiles to fend off air attacks and with long-range missiles to use against tanks… Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood claims no direct links to the main Islamist movement that was established in 1928 in Egypt.

SAUDI ARABIA:  King Abdullah, “Stop abusing religions, prophets.”

Arab News (Saudi Arabia) reports: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has urged people the world over to confront those who try to abuse divine religions and prophets of God. Addressing princes, ministers, religious scholars and other citizens who came to greet him at Taiba Palace on Tuesday night, King Abdullah urged Muslims to defend their Islamic faith and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)… In his brief speech, King Abdullah described Islam as a religion that promotes tolerance, mercy and equality. Crown Prince Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, attended the reception. . . Meanwhile, intellectuals in Madinah said King Abdullah’s arrival in the Prophet’s city after concluding his private vacation in Morocco was a symbolic reply to those who try to tarnish the image of the Prophet (peace be upon him). They also noted the king’s efforts to promote dialogue between the followers of different cultures and faiths.

EGYPT: “President Muhammad Mursi, must sever diplomatic ties with the United States and expel the US ambassador.” – Islamic Group’s Rifai Taha.

Asharq Al-Awsat (UK) reports: After the 25 January Revolution and the election of Muhammad Mursi to the presidency, the number of Islamic Group and Jihad Organization leaders who have been released from prison has risen significantly. One of the most prominent figures to be released is the Islamic Group’s Rifai Taha. After years of being on the run, followed by a lengthy prison sentence, Taha, the Islamic Group’s international representative, who in the past has been charged with planning the assassinations of presidents and government officials, has finally returned to his hometown in southern Egypt.

IRAN: Iranian FM warns Nationals against travelling to Canada

Fars News Agency (Iran): The Iranian foreign ministry in a statement warned the country’s nationals against visiting Canada due to the growing wave of Iranophobia and Islamophobia in the British colony. “According to evidence, the wave of Islamophobia and Iranophobia has not stopped but has considerably increased over the past few years and this approach has affected the country’s governmental and nongovernmental authorities,” the ministry said in its statement issued on Wednesday. The statement added that the arrest and deportation of Iranian nationals under different pretexts continues and they are deprived of basic rights such as accessing their bank accounts or conducting financial transactions.”The performance of Canadian police shows that the country’s government does not have sufficient resolve or capability to pursue crimes committed against Iranian residents.”

FRANCE: Vows not to tolerate Islamic ‘radicalism’

Gulf Times  (Qatar): France’s Socialist government vowed to do more to integrate the country’s Muslims but warned that it would not tolerate the country becoming a hotbed of Islamic radicalism. In a speech marking the inauguration of the Strasbourg Grand Mosque, the biggest Islamic place of worship ever built on French soil, Interior Minister Manuel Valls pledged to come down hard on extremists, warning that foreign activists trying to stir up trouble would be immediately deported… He warned yesterday that he would not “hesitate to expel those who claim to follow Islam and represent a serious threat to public order and, as foreigners in our country, do not respect our laws and values.”  He also made it clear that the Muslim community as a whole had to accept responsibility for tackling extremism, which he linked to a re-emergence of antisemitism in the country. “If all religions have their share of fundamentalists, it is in Islam that this raises fears. It was on French soil and with a French passport that Mohamed Merah killed in the name of Islam. Antisemitism is a terrible scourge and its resurgence cannot be disguised.”

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