Norwegian government pension fund withdraws investments from companies in Israel and Malaysia citing ‘grossly unethical activity’
OSLO (WJC)–The Government Pension Fund of Norway (GPFG) has divested from two Israeli firms and a Malaysian business claiming they engage in “grossly unethical activity”.
The Ministry of Finance, which sets the financial guidelines for the fund, has excluded Africa-Israel Investments and its subsidiary Danya Cebus, as well as Malaysian company Samling Global.
“The decision to exclude these companies from the GPFG is based on the Council on Ethics assessment that they are contributing to or are themselves responsible for grossly unethical activity,” Finance Minister Sigbjørn Johnsen was quoted as saying. Africa-Israel Investments is the majority owner of Danya, which develops Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the Norwegian Ministry of Finance said in a press release.
“The Council on Ethics bases its recommendation on the fact that the international community is united in the view that the area east of the 1967 line is occupied territory and as such comes under the purview of the fourth Geneva Convention. Several United Nations Security Council resolutions and an International Court of Justice advisory opinion have concluded that the construction of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory is prohibited under this Convention,” says Johnsen.
Samling Global, a producer of timber, plywood, veneer and palm oil, has operations in Malaysia and Guyana that contribute to illegal logging and environmental damage, the Ministry claimed.
The fund, which is managed by Norway’s Central Bank, owned around US$ 1.2 million worth of stock in Africa-Israel Investments. The GPFG’s total assets are worth US$ 450 billion.
Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress
SINGAPORE (WJC)– At the Youth Olympics, officials of the Iranian team have reportedly forced a 16 year-old taekwondo fighter to withdraw because he was pitted against an Israeli competitor, Gili Haimovitz, in the final.
Mohammed Soleimani withdrew from the final, saying he had a leg injury. He was also absent from the medal ceremony as he claimed that he had to go to hospital. Soleimani was to stand on the silver medal position as the Israeli flag was hoisted in the highest position.
A spokesman of the International Olympic Committee said an independent doctor had confirmed that Soleimani suffered an injury: “What we know factually is that the athlete injured his ankle and was sent to the hospital for an X-ray. Tests revealed he did not suffer anything broken, and he is all right now. So unless more factual information is available, it is mere speculation.”
Germany’s badminton coach Holger Hasse said: “I heard about what happened with Iran and Israel and it’s very disappointing that the athletes must follow some political rules and I can’t understand this. This is a chance for countries to be peaceful and for the next generation to change things. Athletes are not political, they just want to have fun and meet friends.”
Nigerian coach Jones Adakole told reporters: “This should not happen here, and it’s unfair. The Youth Olympics are about unity.” Malaysian badminton coach Wong Tat Meng agreed, saying: “What’s the purpose of the Youth Olympics? It’s to get everybody to enjoy sport and they should put aside politics. They should have carried on for the good of the sport.”
Preceding provided by the World Jewish Congress
Compiled by Garry Fabian
Opposition leader speaks on Hizb utTahir
CANBERRA, 21 July - Australian opposition Leader Tony Abbott has conceded that members of Islamist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir hold concerning views, but as long as they do not incite terrorism, the group has a place in Australian society.
Speaking to radio shock jock Alan Jones last week, Abbott said if reports that the group was
agitating to establish an Islamic caliphate were correct, it would be “abominable, absolutely abominable”.
But he continued: “The general principle in this country is that we don’t punish bad thoughts, we don’t even punish bad words, as long as those words don’t amount to incitement to break the law.”
Hizb ut-Tahrir an international Islamist group that has a small branch in Australia is banned
in some countries, mostly in the Middle East. It has come under fire on a variety of fronts, not
least because of its anti-Semitic rants. and calls for the eradication of the Jewish State.
The Bangladesh arm of the group released a statement earlier this year calling on Muslims to
“teach the Jews a lesson” and “march forth to fight them, eradicate their entity and purify the earth of their filth”.
In 2007, then attorney-general Philip Ruddock oversaw an investigation into possible terrorist
links with the local branch, but eventually decided not to proscribe the group.
Abbott said the group has very limited support in this country at the moment, and argued the
mainstream Muslim community is not behind it. “My hope, my expectation, my confidence is that this is a minority view among Australian Muslims, but I’ve got to say anything that looks like an incentive, an incitement to break the law, is something [that] should certainly attract the very closest interest from the law enforcement agencies.”
Hizb ut-Tahrir has come back into focus after hosting a conference in Sydney earlier this month.
A spokesperson for Attorney-General Robert McClelland said it would be inappropriate to
confirm or deny whether the group is under investigation by Australia’s intelligence agencies.
Union for Progressive Judaism condemns Israeli Convdersion Bill
MELBOURNE, 22 July – The local Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ) has added its voice to global Reform and Conservative condemnation of attempts to push a conversion Bill through the Knesset.
Sponsored by Yisrael Beitenu MK David Rotem, the Bill would delegate the authority to municipal rabbis to carry out conversions to, in an attempt to streamline the conversion process for non-Jewish Israelis.
The Bill’s opponents complain that the same clause effectively provides legal backing for the
authority of the Orthodox rabbinate over all conversions, and threatens the status of those
who converted overseas through non-Orthodox rabbis.
In a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, signed by UPJ president David Robinson and other senior officials, Progressive Judaism’s Asia-Pacific roof body expressed “great disappointment and shock” at news that Rotem had taken action to drive the Bill through the Knesset without coordination with representatives of all streams of Judaism.
Rotem’s action also drew the condemnation of Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, who had been working to bridge Diaspora and Israeli concerns over the Bill since it was proposed earlier in the year. While American Jewish organisations have been most vocal in speaking out against the Bill, the UPJ rejected Rotem’s view that some concerns about the proposed legislation are solely American, writing “We believe that it is important for you to know that the grave concerns expressed about this legislation extend far beyond the United States .
“We join the leadership of the World Union for Progressive Judaism in viewing this Bill in its
current form as an affront to all Progressive and Conservative Jews.”
The Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) also weighed into the debate. ZFA president Philip
Chester wrote a letter to Netanyahu, warning that the passage of such legislation “would do
incalulable harm to the unity of the Jewish people”.
Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Israel Religious Action Centre, the advocacy arm of the Progressive movement in Israel, told The AJN during a recent visit to Australia that those
parts of the Bill “bring us back from our tremendous achievement [in Israel's Supreme Court] of six years ago that allReform and Conservative conversions all around the world are recognised in Israel for purposes of aliyah.”
Rotem, defending the Bill on Monday, told The Jerusalem Post that he was unwilling to delay
resolving a problem that affects thousands of immigrants.
Controversy or birthright
SYDNEY, 23 July – Australian Birthright program organisers have rejected reports in the
international media claiming a recent group visit to Hebron was “unprecedented”.
An article, first published in the New York Jewish Week last week, reported that the trip
made by the Australian Chabad Campus Birthright group earlier this month also “raised questions about whether the program has shifted policy on visits to the West Bank”.
But Rabbi Yehudah deVries, who is responsible for the Australian Chavaya Taglit-Birthright Israel trips for Chabad Campus students, said that those undertaking the extended program for longer than the 10-day free trip have always visited Hebron, with the exception being the past two years.
Rabbi deVries explained he was approached by Birthright’s official trip organiser, Israel
Experience, to arrange the visit to the Cave of the Patriarchs, or Ma’arat HaMachpela, the site
where according to the Torah Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sara, Rebecca and Leah are buried.
“The entire 10-day program was submitted for Taglit’s approval, as always, and was, as always, approved.
“This includes security approval,” he explained.
“The trip went ahead and was run according to exact security requirements,”
Rabbi deVries said security would not have been approved if the army, police and education
department had deemed the visit to be a potential risk.
“If we can visit Kibbutz Misgav Am, which is in the firing range of Hezbollah on the Lebanese
border; we stand on a Golan Heights border lookout at Mizpe Gadot and look into Syria, then why make a point ofHebron being either dangerous or political?” Rabbi deVries questioned.
And as for the politics of the visit?
“Politics should not be brought to the groups. Taglit-Birthright Israel is most young people’s
first experience of the land of Israel. Let them see as much as possible . and let them make
informed decisions based on their own intellect and experience,” he said.
The Zionist Federation’s Israel Programs coordinator Brendan Bensky said the visit formed
part of the Chabad Campus group’s Jewish historical aspect and was approved by Birthright.
This trip was the first time an Australian group undertook the Birthright program mid-year.
Israel a point of difference in Australian election campaign
CANBERRA, 23 July – Just two days into the election campaign, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott touted his party’s “unshakable commitment” to Israel.
Speaking at an Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce lunch in Melbourne on Monday, Abbott took the opportunity to criticise the Rudd-Gillard Government’s record towards Israel.
“I have to say that it’s a little disappointing, given the deep affinity between the Australian
people and the Israeli people that the current Australian Government has somewhat weakened our longstanding bipartisanship on Israel,” Abbott said before the crowd of more than 1000
businesspeople and Liberal Party faithful.
“I want to reiterate here today, the Coalition’s unshakable commitment to Israel’s security and I want to assure you that a Coalition government would never support a one-sided United Nations resolution against Israel to curry favour with an anti-Israel majority in the General Assembly,” he said.
He continued: “And we would never overreact to any international incident, because we appreciate that Israel is under existential threat in a way that almost no other country in the world is.”
He told guests, including dozens of the nation’s finest journalists, who were following Abbott’s
campaign trail, that Australia needs to appreciate that “a diminished Israel diminishes the West”.
The Opposition Leader also used the opportunity to pay tribute to the achievements of the local Jewish community. He commented that Australia is the only country in the world, apart from Israel, where Jewish people have occupied the highest offices, including as the governor-general.
Among guests at the Crown Casino lunch were Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey, Shadow Minister for Finance Andrew Robb, Victorian Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu and former treasurer Peter Costello.
Costello, who travelled with Julia Gillard to Israel last year for the Australia-Israel
Leadership Forum, delivered the vote of thanks, endorsing his former cabinet colleague’s tilt at the top job.
“Tony Abbott is a man of commitment and a man of drive,” Costello said. “I know he was party of a very successful government, I don’t know that about Julia Gillard.”
Canadian MP Calls on Australia to charge Iran with conspiracy to commit genocide
MELBOURNE, 22 July- Australia should be the first country to refer Iran to the United Nation Security Council, a senior Canadian politician said this week.
Irwin Cotler delivered keynote addresses and met politicians from both sides this week during a whirlwind tour of Australia supported by the Anti-Defamation Commission (ADC).
The human rights law professor and former Canadian attorney-general said Australia, as a
signatory to the United Nations genocide convention, needs to “exercise leadership” and
refer Iran to the UN Security Council for conspiracy to commit genocide.
When probed as to why his country, which for many years has been outspoken on preventing genocide, would not do that itself, Cotler said “political leaders live in an insular bubble where issues of the day overwhelm these issues”.
“The country that does it first will be applauded by history,” he told the audience
He added that if Australia did refer Iran for investigation, Canada would certainly support the move.
Cotler, who chairs the Responsibility to Prevent Coalition, which recently completed a report on “The danger of a nuclear, genocidal and rights-violating Iran, said the evidence is
available to indict Iran over conspiracy to commit genocide.
The report states: “Repeated calls for the destruction of Israel and ‘prophecies’ of its
demise all work to normalise the idea of genocide in the minds of the Iranian people. Articulated in the context of demonising rhetoric implying a clash of civilisations, calls for the
annihilation of the Jewish State begin appearing not only moral and justifiable, but natural as well.”
Asked why, if the evidence is clear, Iran has managed to escape scrutiny, Cotler replied: “It
certainly does make a mockery of international law and it sustains a culture of impunity”.
“The Iranian regime can intensify incitement, knowing they won’t be held to account,” he said.
Cotler added that it is not just through incitement to genocide that the Iranian regime
threatens global stability. He said suspected nuclear weapons development, Iran’s sponsorship
of terrorist organisations and violations of the rights of the Iranian people were four distinct
threats posed by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Ashley Brown selected for Australia Under 19 Football training squad
Ashley Brown joined North Caulfield Maccabi Junior Football club in 2010 and is a part of the
successful U18 Youth Development Programme, and plays in the Boys U16 and Under 18 competition.
Ashley will hopefully be selected later this year to once again compete in the Asian Qualifiers. She has just returned from the FFA Nationals in Coffs Harbour where she competed in the Victorian U17 girls team and was selected in the All Stars team (representing the best players of the tournament). Ashley has a long and impressive record of achievement on the football filed.
In 2006, Ashley aged 11 made the Victorian Primary Schools State soccer team, and was
included in the National Training Centre in Victoria for advanced players. At the time she
was the youngest player ever to be included in that squad.
In 2007, aged 12 and in 2008 aged 13, she was part of the Victorian State u15 team. In 2008 she was selected in the U17 Australian Team and travelled to Malaysia to compete in the Asian
Qualifiers. She was in the starting lining up playing against Thailand and Myanmar and the team finished top of their group. In 2009 Ashley won the Maccabi Victoria Deloitte’s Rising Star Award and in 2009, she was selected again in the Australian U 17 squad for the Asian Qualifiers (but unfortunately had to withdraw three days before due to injury). In
January 2009 Ashley represented Victoria in the National Futsal Championships.
Tragic end to World Cup trip
MELBOURNE, 23 July–A local teenager critically injured in a diving accident in Malaysia died in Melbourne on Thursday.
On Tuesday, an air ambulance carried 14-year-old Reagan Milstein and his mother Tamara home from Singapore, where he had spent 18 days in hospital in a critical condition.
Upon arrival, he was taken straight to Melbourne’s Monash Medical Centre, where he remained in intensive care.
His mother Tamara said on Tuesday that while the family were very relieved to have their son
safely home, they now “embark upon the next stage of this sad journey where the road ahead will be very difficult and filled with uncertainty”.
“The family would like to express their immense gratitude to friends, family and the wider
community who have provided so much comfort and support and helped them all cope during this tragic time,” she said.
Tributes flooded in to the Facebook group ‘Regan’s Recovery’. Family, friends and other
members of the community had been posting their wishes and prayers on the Facebook page since the accident.
CANBERRA, 26 July – Despite lobbying from the Jewish community, Education Minister Simon Crean failed last weekend to commit to compulsory Holocaust education in Australian schools.
Speaking to a standing-room only audience at the opening of the Jewish Holocaust Centre’s
refurbished main exhibition on Sunday, Crean praised the efforts of curator Jayne Josem.
“What struck me coming in was the joy, the happiness and the pride when I came in, but
you’re quickly brought back to perspective when you’re taken through the museum,” said the minister, whose full portfolio takes in education, employment, workplace relations and social inclusion.
Moving on to political matters, Crean discussed the draft national curriculum, which is open for public consultation until July 30. He outlined the option of year 10 students undertaking a
study of the Holocaust as part of their history classes.
“It is vital that our children are aware of the past and that they learn from the past,” he said.
But despite lobbying from the Executive Council of Australian Jewry for Holocaust studies to be made compulsory, the Member for Hotham did not give any indication this would be happening.
“All students in year 10 will undertake a depth study of war and peace in the 20th century, this
includes the impact of World War II on the modern world and will give students the chance to study the history of the Holocaust,” the former opposition leader said.
He added that the curriculum authority was also charged with building lessons of tolerance and respect into the curriculum, which is set to be unveiled later this year.
“Good education does help deliver a good citizen [and] the Jewish Holocaust Centre does a great job in fostering that understanding and that belief in tolerance and acceptance and that belief in diversity,” he said.
Speaking immediately before Crean, Josem said that since its opening in 1984, more than a
quarter of a million students have been guided around the centre by a survivor guide. But she
spoke of the challenge with today’s students – who come to the centre with piercings, low-slung shorts, iPods and mobile phones.
“Our job here is to penetrate through their digital armoury and get them to think about why they’ve come.”
The museum’s new interactive story pods and modern presentation, which were developed with the input of survivors, will go some of the way to achieving that.
“They arrive indifferent . but they leave different,” she said.
More than 500 people braved the rain to attend Sunday’s opening, which was held in a marquee alongside the museum, with overflow crowds watching on screens inside the centre. As deputy prime minister, Julia Gillard had accepted an invitation to open the refurbished exhibition, but she sent Crean in her place because of a timing clash/
Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World
NEW YORK (Press Release)– Many governments’ policies toward migrants worldwide expose them to human rights abuses including labor exploitation, inadequate access to health care, and prolonged detention in poor, overcrowded conditions, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday in advance of International Migrants Day, on December 18, 2009.
A 25-page roundup of Human Rights Watch reporting on violations of migrants’ rights this year, “Slow Movement: Protection of Migrants’ Rights in 2009,” includes coverage of China, Cuba, Egypt, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States.
“Governments seem to forget that when men, women, and children migrate, they don’t leave their rights at home,” said Nisha Varia, senior researcher in the Women’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch. “Instead of protecting people who already are at special risk of abuse, many governments further marginalize migrants, punish them, or push access to services out of reach.”
Research in Greece, Italy, Libya, Egypt, and Israel showed harsh policies toward arriving migrants, including lack of adequate screening to determine who is a refugee, arbitrary and indefinite detention, returning persons to countries where they risk abuse, and detention of children with adults. Aggressive policies to thwart migrants when they try to cross borders can be lethal. Since May, Egyptian border guards have killed at least 17 migrants trying to cross into Israel.
Both documented and undocumented migrants may face abuse or discrimination in their host cities and countries. Human Rights Watch has investigated pervasive mistreatment of migrant domestic workers and construction workers in the Middle East and Russia. Cheated by unscrupulous brokers and employers, these workers often told of excessive hours, unpaid wages, and confiscation of passports. In the worst cases, their situations amounted to forced labor and trafficking.
“Migrants form the backbone of many economies, performing the labor and services that people in their host countries depend on but won’t do themselves,” Varia said. “Instead of getting respect and the freedom and wages they are owed, they are treated as security threats, and in general, as undesirables to be pushed out of sight.”
Those apprehended for immigration offenses often face disproportionate punishments or prolonged detention in poor conditions. Human Rights Watch showed how the United States deports large numbers of documented migrants for nonviolent offenses with serious consequences for family unity and fails to provide adequate health care to migrants in detention. Immigration violations are sometimes treated as serious crimes, as in Malaysia, where punishments include imprisonment and caning. The fear of arrest and deportation also means that migrants may endure exploitative work conditions or avoid approaching authorities to report abuse.
“Governments have a right to control their borders, but they need to do so in a way that protects human rights,” Varia said. “Migrants who are abused are supposed to have access to legal remedies, regardless of their immigration status.”
Government attempts to control migrant populations within their territory often include discriminatory policies that broadly restrict migrants’ freedom of movement for no legitimate purpose, Human Rights Watch said. For example, several provinces in Thailand require migrant workers be confined to their workplaces or homes at night and prohibit them from traveling within the province. In countries such as Malaysia and Italy, governments have condoned vigilante-style monitoring of migrants by civilian groups. Migration can increase the risk of infection with HIV, tuberculosis (TB) or flu, but discrimination against migrants can impede their access to care.
Human Rights Watch called on governments to make stronger commitments to migrants’ rights in 2010, including ratifying the International Covenant on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Their Families. The group also urged governments to:
- Reform immigration policies to facilitate documented migration that protects migrants’ rights, and to clamp down on intermediaries who deceive migrants or charge unlawful fees that leave migrants indebted and more vulnerable to exploitation;
- Screen interdicted migrants, new arrivals, and migrants in detention in accordance with international standards, including identifying asylum seekers, trafficking victims, and other vulnerable people, and ensuring that unaccompanied children are treated according to their best interests;
- Ensure access to a core minimum of health services regardless of citizenship or social origin, and repeal discriminatory provisions mandating automatic deportation of migrants living with HIV;
- Improve labor standards and enforcement in accordance with international standards, including equal protection of domestic workers, and strengthen inspection mechanisms to ensure regular payment of wages and decent working conditions for migrants;
- Investigate abuse and killings of migrants, whether by private citizens or government authorities, and prosecute fully through the relevant national laws while ensuring protection for migrants against retaliation. Investigations into abuse should be carried out irrespective of migrants’ immigration or contractual status.
Preceding provided by Human Rights Watch
TEHRAN (WJC)–The head of Iran’s nuclear program, Ali Akbar Salehi, has said that his country needed 20 new industrial-scale uranium enrichment facilities. The announcement came only days after the regime in Tehran approved a plan to build ten new enrichment plants. The IRNA news agency quoted Salehi as saying that Iran needed the sites to generate 20,000 megawatts of electricity through nuclear power over the next 20 years.
Salehi accused the West of trying to force Iran out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). “They have noticed that we are so insistent on adherence to the NPT, and this is not to the liking of the West,” said Salehi. “We have no plans to pull out of the NPT.”
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei lashed out at the United States and Britain, labeling them Tehran’s main “enemies”. He warned they would fail to isolate Iran over the nuclear issue.
France’s Europe Minister Pierre Lellouche told a Jewish radio station in Paris that “the time has come to seek firmer sanctions against Iran.”
Meanwhile, the Malaysian government has recalled its envoy to the United Nations in Vienna for “consultations” after he had voted against a resolution at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) rebuking Iran. “The voting was not in accordance with the procedures of the government and therefore the minister of foreign affairs has instructed the permanent representative of Malaysia to the United Nations in Vienna to return to Malaysia for consultations,” the Foreign Ministry in Kuala Lumpur declared.
Mohammed Arshad Manzoor Hussain currently holds the rotating chair of the 35-member IAEA’s Board of Governors. Malaysia was one of three countries with Cuba and Venezuela that voted against the resolution to censure Iran for secretly building a second enrichment plant. The measure passed by 25 votes to three. Afghanistan, Brazil, Egypt, Pakistan, South Africa and Turkey abstained.
Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress