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Commentary: Sara Netanyahu steps up for immigrant children

August 15, 2010 Leave a comment

By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–Sara Netanyahu is not one of the most well regarded first ladies of the world. She is known for yelling and throwing things at the household help. She has been the target of civil actions for not paying what is required, and–along with her husband–the subject of police inquiries for fiddling with government funds.

Mrs. Netanyahu has most recently come to attention for writing a letter to Eli Yishai, the Interior Minister with direct responsibility for dealing with illegal immigrants.

“I turn to you as the mother of two sons and as a psychologist . . . I ask from the bottom of my heart that you use your authority to allow a vast majority of the remaining 400 children to remain in Israel. This issue is very close to my heart.”

Yishai is the Knesset leader of the SHAS party of Sephardi ultra-Orthodox, who often speaks out on matters of maintaining the ultra-Orthodox exemption from military service and other issues important to his community. He led the faction against allowing any of the immigrant children to remain in Israel, emphasizing the threat to the society of individuals who are not Jews according to religious law.

For the large number of Israelis who are not fans of either Sara or SHAS, this might be an event to celebrate.

However, many of those Israelis are lining up in behalf of the immigrant children. Joining them are leading media personalities, and Aliza, the politically correct wife of former prime minister Ehud Olmert.

No doubt the kids are here illegally. The government has voted to expel about one-third of some 1,200 children who do not meet criteria of being in Israel for a minimum of years, fluent in Hebrew, and attending Israeli schools. But I am not certain that the government will actually go through with this decision.

It is not only that implementation is not a strong element of Israel’s public administration. Those kids are tugging at a lot of heart strings.

The issue of illegal immigration is no less complex here than in other countries of  Europe and North America where there is work that the locals do not want to do. Housewives complain about the problems of finding and keeping decent help who have legal status. There are a couple of hundred thousand workers here legally to work in construction, agriculture, and the care of the infirm. There are thousands of others who have overstayed their permits, come over the border with Egypt, or entered informally from the West Bank. As elsewhere, there are ugly stories of individuals having to pay bribes in order to obtain work permits, being housed in substandard facilities, or denied proper wages.

Also in the headlines is a gun battle involving Africans coming through the Sinai, who rebelled against the Bedouin smugglers who demanded more money as they approached the Israeli border. Several Africans and Bedouins were killed in that fray, and other Africans died in an incident when Egyptian soldiers opened fire when they refused to surrender.

Other news is that illegal Africans are moving out of a Tel Aviv neighborhood and settling in a lower-priced area of Bnei Brak. That is a low-income, largely ultra-Orthodox suburb of Tel Aviv. What will emerge from that social combine will be interesting to observe. Already the locals are demanding a greater police presence in their community.

There is nothing new in all of this. The Book of Joshua describes the Gibeonites, whose presence among the Israelites was not entirely kosher, but who were allowed to stay and “be woodcutters and water carriers for the entire community.” (Joshua 9:21). (Gibeon, or El Jib, is a Palestinian village alongside Route 443, a few miles west of Jerusalem. Its residents may have to find a way through the barriers in order to get work in Israel, but I would not bet against them.)

When a million immigrants came from the former Soviet Union during the late 1980s onward, they had a major impact on the economy. There were some among them who fit the Gibeon profile as “woodcutters and water carriers,” but for the most part they came as physicians, engineers, scientists, and musicians. They and their children are higher than average in income, education and other social indicators.
More than one hundred thousand Ethiopians are mostly at the bottom of the economy, but there are not enough of them to fill the demand. They do not have the skills of Palestinian or Chinese construction workers, and the rights and social programs of Jewish immigrants may allow them to avoid the least desirable opportunities in the labor market.

Sara’s letter may cause her husband to squirm out of the firm posture about illegal immigrants he articulated a week ago, and lead other Israelis to elevate their feelings toward her, at least for a while. The fate of those 400 children is currently at the top of the emotional agenda. That issue will pass in one way or another, but the larger story of which it is a part will not go away.

Unless someone out there can tell us about a large and untapped pool of poor Jews.

*
Sharkansky is professor emeritus of politcal science at Hebrew University

Israel’s idealism often overwhelms its governmental delivery system

August 13, 2010 Leave a comment

By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM — Israel is too small and too poor for the demands that it lays upon itself, and are imposed by the world.

My favorite newspaper photo of the day shows a file room at a court house. It came with a story about a plaintiff’s case of medical malpractice that failed on account of a lost file. We see in the picture what we  know about government offices, hospitals and other public facilities. There is too much to do in order to assure proper treatment. 
 
Just last evening on our walk around French Hill we encountered a problem that might have justified a call to the police, but where the prospect of quick service versus the severity of the problem deterred us from making the call.

We passed by a group of Arabs dressed as if they had come from a family feast to celebrate the end of a daily Ramadan fast. Suddenly a boy of about 14 jumped, yelled, smacked his hand against a parked car, and swaggered off as if he had rendered appropriate damage to a Jew’s property.

Call the cops and point out the vandal? Last time we called the police was a more serious event of an Arab assaulting a young woman. At that time our first call to the emergency number broke off in the midst of our report. When we did make contact, it took 10 minutes for the first patrol car to arrive. This in a neighborhood bordering an Arab community with a high incidence of minor and not so minor incidents.

So last night we continued on our walk, frustrated at the system and angry at ourselves for choosing the easy over what might have been the appropriate decision.

Another case: the Supreme Court has ordered the government to reconsider the appointment of a woman to the commission investigating the seizure of the Turkish flotilla.

What to do? The law requires that such bodies include a woman, but the Court made its decision after the commission had already heard what are likely to be the most important witnesses from the government and the military.

The entire investigation is a farce. So what that nine fighters (terrorists, if you will) were killed in a military operation? How many operations of American and NATO forces have caused as many casualties in the area from Iraq eastward without provoking the United Nations and pressuring the soldiers’ home country to conduct a public investigation?

Another case: Ha’aretz is exposing that several thousand illegals from Africa have been held in detention longer than the period of time allowed by law before their cases are settled. Many of these individuals have no documents and come from countries without functioning governments. But a judge may look at the law, and order that individuals held too long be let out on the street. The individuals waiting for such a determination look something like those files pictured above: too many to deal with according to requirements.

Who’s responsible? Both Israelis and the world. Seekers of justice work to impose whatever regulations they pick up from elsewhere in order to make things better here. The people making the demands are  Israelis and Jews feeling that Israel must be at least as good as other countries.

Then there is the world, always on edge in search of a new accusation that can be made against Israel.

Remember those 400 children of illegal immigrants ordered deported. There are daily articles describing citizen and overseas activists–from Eilie Wiesel downward–concerned that Israel might despoil itself by expelling children who should not be here.

None of these are bad ideas, but Israel does not have the population or resources of all those countries serving as models of public policy. And the resources that it does have are allocated more than elsewhere to defense. Staying alive comes at the cost of an ideal public administration or an environment as clean as that of Germany.
Overall, the country does not do badly with what it has. Its health and welfare, the incidence of violent crime, and the safety of its prisons look better than in the United States, but that is an easy standard of comparison. There is no other country where all of the universities are on the Chinese list of the 500 best in the world.

Thinking about making it better, I return to those moments last evening when I considered calling the cops against that teenager from Isaweea. Most likely the police had more serious things to do. One of my neighbors has a dented car, and an Arab is feeling good that he did something to the Jews. I am angry at myself, but would have been even angrier if the call to the police did not go through, if the patrol car came too late, or was met by women screaming about a racist Jew who had summoned the police for no reason about a well behaved boy.

*
Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University

The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australian Jewish News

August 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Garry Fabian

Compiled by Garry Fabian

Jewish community alarm expresses alarm over terrorist affiliate

MELBOURNE, 5 August – The Victorian Jewish community has expressed concern that an extremist Islamic organisation with a history of incitement and antisemitism has begun holding meetings in Melbourne. Hizb ut-Tahrir is banned in the US, Germany,  Russia and many Muslim countries including Pakistan and Egypt because it is defined as a terrorist  group. Terrorists involved in 9/11 and the London bombings have been linked to the group.

In Australia the group has been meeting in Sydney since 2007 but over the past year has begun holding events in Melbourne. Jewish leaders are
concerned that the group held a meeting in theBrunswick Town Hall on Sunday, with the  permission of the Moreland City Council.
They will be writing to council to ensure it is  aware of Hizb ut-Tahrir’s history of incitement, rejection of democracy and race hatred.

The chairman of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria Mr John Searle said he was sure the Moreland Council would not wish to support a group that preaches violence and runs counter to the spirit of multiculturalism.

“This is an issue that anyone who respects democracy and the rule of law should be concerned aboutas this a group that rejects Australian values.
“Hizb ut-Tahrir in Sydney describes Israel as ‘a dagger in Muslim lands’ and argues that democracyis not for Muslims. We don’t want that kind of
divisiveness undermining multicultural Melbourne.”

A Jewish community organisation which monitors  antisemitism says internationally Hizb ut-Tahrir hasan appalling record of spreading hate against Jews, The chairman of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation
Commission Mr Tony Levy said Hizb ut-Tahrir’s ideology of destroying democracy and replacing itwith an Islamic Caliphate was partially
responsible for terrorist attacks like 9/11 and 7/7. In Britain Hizb ut-Tahrir disseminated material claiming Jews were “a people of slander” and in Denmark aHizb ut-Tahrir leader was convicted of inciting racial hatred after telling Muslims to kill Jews.

“Australians would be foolish to ignore the violence and hatred this group has expressed in othercountries. We have a wonderful tolerant multicultural society and we have to be vigilant in protectingit,” he said.

*
Jewish school runs into resident objections

MELBOURNE, 4 August – While its new Minimbah  Campus on Orrong Road is set for completion within weeks, The King David School has been left
in limbo over the usage of its new multimillion-dollar facility.

The City of Stonnington issued a notice of decision to grant a permit for King David to use  the new classrooms and theatre earlier this year, but objectors quickly applied to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to have the decision reviewed.

Local residents are concerned about the opening times, the number of people permitted to use the new building and a lack of parking.

With the VCAT hearing only set for mid-October and the August completion date of the facility looming, school president Michael Lawrence sought
advice from local member Tony Lupton before  requesting an intervention from Victoria’s Planning Minister.

“Last time we had a VCAT hearing scheduled for October and we didn’t receive a response until March,” Lawrence said. “We are nearing completion
of the building and part of the Federal Government’s conditions for use of the site under the Building the Education Revolution initiative, under which we received funding, is for the site to be available for community use within a specific timeframe.”

Despite concerns from residents, a spokesperson for Planning Minister Justin Madden said it is in fact common practice for the minister to call in matters on the basis of land use, particularly when the site is to be used for educational purposes.

“With building works due to finish shortly it is common sense to address the matter of the building’s use quickly,” she said this week. “Calling the matter in from VCAT means a decision can be reached more quickly, while still considering the differing views.”

The spokesperson also confirmed a meeting had been held last month between residents, the school, council representatives and the minister’s staff. The department is currently reviewing the information and is expected to make
a recommendation to the minister shortly.

She said the matter is of state significance as it is a multimillion-dollar development, has an educational usage, was part of the Building the
Education Revolution stimulus package and was partly funded by the Federal Government.

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Film Festival threatened over Israel link

MELBOURNE, 5 August – The Melbourne International Film Festival has been threatened with legal action for refusing to withdraw a film at the
request of its makers, who objected to the  festival receiving funding from Israel. Feature film Son of Babylon, which is set in Iraq, screened on July 26 and July 28 as scheduled, despite demands it be withdrawn in protest at
funding from the Israeli government. The funding  amounted to a return economy-class airfare for an Israeli director.

”The festival was informed in enough time to stop the screening . therefore if you have knowingly disregarded our wishes and screened the film, we will of course be left with little alternative than to take appropriate action
against the festival,” producer Isabelle Stead wrote to festival executive director Richard Moore last week in an email exchange leaked to crikey.com.au.

”You should not underestimate our resolve to ensure that our film is not associated with thestate of Israel as long as it continues itsillegal crimes against humanity,” she wrote.

There is, in the filmmakers’ stance, a distinct echo of Ken Loach’s decision to withdraw his film Looking For Eric from last year’s festival on the
same grounds. On July 18 last year, The Age broke the story that the veteran English filmmaker hadsaid ”if it did not reconsider the sponsorship,
he would not allow the festival to screen his film”. Mr Loach cited ”illegal occupation of Palestinian land, destruction of homes and livelihoods” and ”the massacres in Gaza” as reasons for the boycott.

Mr Moore said acceding to Mr Loach’s demand would be ”like submitting to blackmail”. That put him and the festival at odds with the Edinburgh Film
Festival, which had done precisely that. In acknowledgment of its stand and its response to pressure by the Chinese government over the
documentary, “The 10 Conditions of Love,” about Uighur independence leader Rebiya Kadeer,Victorian civil liberties group Liberty lastmonth gave this year’s Voltaire award to the Melbourne festival.

This year’s flare-up is a little more complicated, however.

Mohamed Al-Daradji, director and co-producer of “Son of Babylon,” wrote to the festival about 14 hours before his film’s first festival screening,
requesting that the festival cancel it and the second scheduled screening.

Within two hours, Mr Moore replied. ”To request a withdrawal of the film on the day of the screening is simply not acceptable and shows a lack of respect for our organisation,” he wrote.

”We are not able to replace the film at short notice and we will screen it today. I am prepared to consider other options for the second screening but I will also need to consider the financial ramifications.”

However, the July 28 screening went ahead, prompting an angry email from Ms Stead, who did not return calls or emails from The Age.

”When we grant a festival permission to screen a film that took us years to make along withdanger, blood, sweat and tears we do so with trust. I would have thought a festival would morally recognise the need to tell a Palestinian
co-production that it was funded by the state of Israel,” Ms Stead wrote.

The Zionist Federation of Australia president Philip Chester meanwhile wrote to festival director Richard Moore, and the film’s director Mohamed Al-Daradji and producers Isabelle Stead and Atia Al-Daradji saying “The request by the makers was completely inappropriate … “[The boycott] is part of a worldwide attempt to isolate Israel, to boycott Israeli products, creativity, programs
and culture. We’re seeing it everywhere and that’s the real worry.”

Chester praised Moore, whose wife and children are Jewish and lived in Israel for several years, for refusing to yield.

“Richard Moore has been very courageous in saying, ‘this is inappropriate. You don’t have to like every film we show, but that’s what art and
festivals are all about, don’t try and censor me’.”

Following the screening, the film’s producers again contacted Moore requesting the proceeds from ticket sales be donated to a charity of
their choice. The request was denied.

*
Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

Commentary: Israelis divided on fate of children of foreign workers

August 3, 2010 Leave a comment

By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM — The New York Times headlines  its article about a recent Israeli government decision dealing with the children of illegal immigrants, “Israelis Divided on Deporting Children.” Its first paragraph claims that

“Deep divisions emerged here on Monday over the fate of about 400 children of foreign workers who have no legal status in the  country and are slated for deportation. The issue has touched on sensitive nerves in Israel, which sees itself as a nation of Jewish refugees and defines itself as a Jewish and democratic  state.”

The issue does stir emotions. However, the results of one media query seem short of “deep divisions.” The country’s most popular news web site asked about the government decision that would allow approximately 800 children of foreign workers to stay in Israel, and deport about 400.” The criteria employed by the government would take into consideration length of residence, fluency in Hebrew, and enrollment in public school.

Of more than 1500 respondents,  17 percent thought the decision an appropriate compromise, 54 percent chose the option “Disgrace; there is a need to deport them all,” and 29 percent chose “Shameful; the government should allow all to stay.”

The issue of illegal immigration touches the same buttons here that it does in the United States and Western Europe. Israel is the only well-to-do western country having a land border with Africa, and the route from Egypt over the Sinai with Bedouin guides has resulted in substantial illegal foreign worker communities in Eilat and the poorer neighborhoods of Tel Aviv. Official estimates of close to 150,000 illegal residents include these migrants, as well as individuals who came as part of official agreements with several Asian countries (especially the Philippines, Thailand, China), and overstayed their visas. European prostitutes also come over the Sinai, typically  organized by Israeli criminals whose own origins are in the women’s homelands of the former  Soviet Union.

As elsewhere, businesses and families have trouble attracting menial workers who are legal, and provide jobs despite threats of inspections and fines. Egyptian police and soldiers make occasional sweeps against Bedouin traffickers, but their practice of shooting and killing the migrants does not go down well with Israelis.

Israel’s media has cooperated with activists who portray many of the African migrants as refugees seeking asylum from Darfur, although there may be few if any who have documented such origins. The vast majority are economic migrants, with large numbers coming from Eritrea and Nigeria. Efforts to arrange orderly programs of work permits with those governments along with procedures for returning illegals have not succeeded. While Israel’s government was pondering the issue of deporting children and their families over the course of several weeks, the media provided coverage for children who spoke, in Hebrew, about their love of Israel, their aspirations to become Israelis and eventually to serve in the army, and their lack of any connections with any other place. Media personalities press individuals speaking for the government, or Knesset Members in favor of deportation, with questions like, “How can you deport such children?”

Israelis do have sensitive nerves, but it is not clear how they differ from other populations. Perhaps 100,000 have expressed concern for Gilad Shalit, the soldier held prisoner in Gaza more than four years, but there are no overt signs of a movement to undercut the government’s refusal to free all the prisoners demanded as his price by Hamas. 

More likely to be emotional than other events is the death of military personnel. When an IDF helicopter crashed with the loss of six lives during a training mission in Romania, the media devoted extensive coverage of the incident over the course of several days: from the first report of a missing helicopter missing to the funerals of the men on board. There were numerous interviews with experts speculating about the cause of the crash, and reports about the technicians, officers, and military rabbis sent to Romania in order to collect material for inspection and to identify the remains. As has occurred in the case of other military loses, there were stories about each of the individuals, interviews with friends and family members. Thousands of people attend these funerals, many of whom have no direct connection with those killed. 

While there are Israelis who feel strongly about pleasant looking Africans and other children of illegal immigrants, there is no indication that they are able to shape public policy. It is hard to argue with the statement, expressed by several in the government’s majority, who said that an excess of leniency would only add to the problems of a small country, wanting to remain Jewish, and having a border with the poorest region of the world.

Among those quarreling with this sentiment was a prominent television personality who held forth on the value of ethnic variety, and the greater willingness of these immigrants than the ultra-Orthodox to work and to serve in the army.

The government has taken initial steps to build some kind of barrier through the long wasteland that is the border between the  Sinai and Israel, but the Bedouin will be crafty at poking holes in whatever Israel builds. And it is cumbersome at best to deport individuals who have no  documents, may not report truthfully about their origins,  and are not likely to be accepted by whatever homeland Israel would decide is theirs. 
Israel has approached European countries with a request to accept some of these people. So far there are no reports of success. 
Anyone think that the United States would cooperate?

 *
Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University.

Jerusalem tourism waxes and wanes with international politics

July 26, 2010 Leave a comment

By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–More than two million overseas visitors arrived in Jerusalem during a recent year. The attractions are well maintained places linked to individuals and events featured in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, and a functioning Old City enclosed by walls built in ancient times and last reconstructed in the 16th century. The Old City offers sites and shopping for tourists, and four distinctive neighborhoods that are the homes of 30,000 Jews, Muslims, Armenians and other Christians. Only a short ride away is Bethlehem, equally compelling for those wanting to see the roots of Christianity. Jericho is not much further in another direction. It offers winter visitors a chance to dine comfortably in an outdoor restaurant, while ten miles away in Jerusalem it may be raining and close to freezing.
While the numbers coming to Jerusalem are impressive, and often a nuisance to locals having to cope with crowds and traffic, the city ranks lower than 50 others in the numbers of tourists it attracts. London, New York, Bangkok, Paris, and Rome attract from three to seven times the number of international tourists as Jerusalem. Dublin, Amsterdam, and Prague get twice as many, while even Kiev and Bucharest, plus resorts near Bangkok attract 50 percent more international visitors than Jerusalem.

Jerusalem may have more of a mystic pull than these other places. The “Jerusalem syndrome” is a documented condition whereby some visitors believe themselves to be biblical characters. Jewish and Christian sufferers act as David, Jesus, or some other figure associated with their faith. I am not aware of visitors to London and Paris thinking that they are Henry VIII, Napoleon, or any of the other figures associated with local history.
Why does Jerusalem rank only #51 on a sophisticated ranking of international tourism? 
Distance has something to do with it. Visitors to Western Europe can avail themselves of numerous attractive destinations as part of the same trip from home. There are decent beaches and other features in Tel Aviv and Netanya, but they attract only 60 and 10 percent of the overseas visitors as Jerusalem. Tiberias is on the Sea of Galilee and close to sites important to Christians, but draws only 25 percent of the number of visitors to Jerusalem. 
 
There are other sites in countries close to Jerusalem, notably Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, but the borders of the Middle East are not as easy to cross as those of Western Europe. For some years now Israeli security personnel have not allowed Israeli Jews to visit Bethlehem or Jericho without special permits, and others have to pass through barriers and inspections meant to protect us.

Politics and tension are more likely to figure in a decision to visit Jerusalem than other cities. The number of overseas tourists to Israel dropped from 2.4 million in 2000, which was mostly prior to the onset of the latest intifada, to a bit over one million in 2003, which was one of the bloodiest years. Numbers increased to 1.9 million by 2005 when the violence had diminished significantly. No other country included in the regions of Europe and the Mediterranean surveyed by the United Nations tourist agency showed comparable variations in the same period. Even on a mundane issue like this, the U.N. is unable to consider Israel part of the Middle East region, which includes all of the countries bordering it and Palestine.

Jerusalem has drawn more tourists that some well-known sites in Europe. It does better than Florence and Venice, and is pretty much tied with Athens. Why less than Kiev and Bucharest? There are mysteries in the world of tourism that may boil down to nothing more than current fashion or a lack of precision in the numbers.

Tourist flows change with politics and economics. Thirty years ago there was virtually no direct travel between Israel, the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Now Russian visitors are in second place behind those from the United States; there are sizable numbers from Ukraine and Poland. Thousands come each year from India, Korea, Japan, China, and Nigeria. Indonesia and Morocco receive Israelis and send visitors to Israel, even though there are no formal diplomatic relations. There are even a few hundred visitors annually from Malaysia and Iran, whose officials are usually among our most intense critics .

My latest Jerusalem experience may be part of a multicultural gesture to attract overseas visitors, or it may reflect nothing more than the lack of experience or attention by the person responsible. While I usually pay no attention to the music piped into the exercise room at the university gym, this morning I became alert to something familiar. It was Silent Night, in the English version I was required to sing many years ago at the Highland School. But only in December. Never in July.

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Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University

Shen Yun a musical, terpsichorean and visual feast

July 14, 2010 Leave a comment

 By Eileen Wingard

Eileen Wingard

SAN DIEGO–With creative inspiration drawn from traditional Chinese culture, Shen Yun Performances presented a remarkable spectacle at the Civic Theatre last Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. The final show will be tonight. The gorgeous handmade costumes and the breathtaking digital animated backdrops enhanced the sumptuous visual feast. Silken sleeves, cloud-like fans, archers’ bows all contributed to the uniqueness of each segment.
    
The dancers were an outstanding collection of beautiful young men and women whose gracefulness, skill and dedication permeated their every move. The source of the choreography is Chinese classical, ethnic and folk dance. Lead dancer Michelle Ren, Yungchia Chen and Siya Yang were the choreographers for this program.  
    
Set to original music, the dancers were accompanied by a 40-piece live orchestra under the direction of Ying Chen. The instrumentation included the Chinese erhu, the pipa, the bamboo flute and the Chinese gong, as well as the usual complement of Western instruments. 
    
Some of the dances came from specific areas of China, a Miao Village, the Yi people, Tibet and Mongolia. Others were from historical periods such as the Drummers of the Tang Court, dating from the Tang Dynasty. Two of the dances told specific stories, Wu Song Battles the Tiger taken from a popular novel, and Splitting the Mountain, based on a beloved Chinese fairytale. The opening, The Emperor Ushers in a Glorious Age, and the finale, Buddha’s Teachings Spread Far and Wide, reflected Chinese religious beliefs.  One piece, with the dancers in modern dress and the backdrop of a city of high rise buildings, showed the repression, still existent in China, toward practitioners of Falon Dafa, the practice to which most of the performers subscribe.
    
Also programmed were a performer on the two stringed, bowed erhu, Xiaochun Qi, and two vocalists, soprano Min Jiang and tenor Yuan Qu. All were accompanied by Peijong Hsieh at the piano. They provided welcome contrasts to the dance ensemble numbers.
     
Each section of the program was introduced by two charming masters of ceremony, Kelly Wen and Leeshai Lemish. They spoke both English and Chinese, with Wen doing most of the Chinese narration and Lemish, who has both Israeli and American citizenship, doing most of the English script.
This is a show not to be missed. For information, call: 888-973-7469
    
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Wingard is a retired violinist with the San Diego Symphony Orchestra and a freelance writer

Israel’s Security: What the Media has Underreported

June 18, 2010 Leave a comment

By U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman

WASHINGTON, D.C. –There are six hugely important developments that have happened in the last month that will provide extraordinary help to protect Israel’s security. Unfortunately, these events have been underreported in the media:

1.     On June 9, 2010,  the U.N. Security Council passed a set of new sanctions against Iran with Russia, China, the U.S. and nine others voting in favor, with Brazil and Turkey voting no, and Lebanon abstaining.  While these sanctions will have some additional effects, and are expected to result in even greater sanctions from the Europeans and the U.S., the most immediate, as well as long term benefit of the sanctions is that Russia has agreed not to sell its S-300 anti-aircraft system to Iran!  The S-300 system is extremely difficult to overcome, according to all knowledgeable military experts.  If delivered to Iran, it would be a game-changer in Iran’s military position vis-a-vis Israel.

2.     On June 12, 2010, Saudi Arabia agreed to permit Israel to over fly a portion of its territory, should Israel feel it necessary to undertake military actions against Iran.

 
3.     On June 10, 2010, the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, publically stated that Israel should not be forced to end its blockade of Gaza.

4.     On June 9, 2010, Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas publically declared in Washington, D.C. that he and the Palestinians were ready to recognize that the Jewish people have a right to some portion of Israel and the territories.
 
5.      On May 10, 2010, Israel was admitted, unanimously, to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). This enables Israel to join the world’s fellow economic powers as a co-equal, first class citizen for the first time.

 
6.      On May 13, 2010, President Barack Obama announced his intention to give the state of Israel $205 million so that Israel might purchase additional Iron Dome anti-missile defense batteries for deployment throughout the State of Israel.On May 20, 2010, the House of Representatives voted 410 – 4 to affirm President Obama’s decision. The Iron Dome Short Range Artillery Rocket Defense System is designed to intercept short-range rockets, missiles, and mortars launched by terrorists in Gaza and southern Lebanon. It can protect Israel from rockets within a range of 2.5 – 45 miles.
 
All these six items have a major, positive impact on the security of the State of Israel!

Each of these six accomplishments was only made possible with the direct, powerful, and demanding insistence of President Barack Obama. In my opinion, the big picture for Israel’s security has improved!

There is, obviously, a long way to go, but progress such as this is important not to overlook, ignore, or belittle.

 *

Congressman Steve Rothman (Democrat-New Jersey) is in his seventh term in the U.S. House of Representatives.  He serves on the House Appropriations Subcommittees of Defense; and State and Foreign Operations, which appropriate all spending for the United States military, and all foreign aid, respectively.

OPINION – Ronald S. Lauder: Put more pressure on Iran – Financial Times Deutschland

June 17, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–In a contribution for the German newspaper ‘Financial Times Deutschland’, the president of the World Jewish Congress argues that the latest UN sanctions against Iran were only a first step and need to be followed up with unliateral measures by the US and Europe. Read the full text in English and German below.

Put more pressure on Iran
By Ronald Lauder 

On Wednesday, following months of intensive diplomatic haggling, the UN Security Council finally passed a fourth package of sanctions on Iran which at least to some extent can be qualified as “strong”. The fact that China and Russia were now willing to support such measures sends out the important signal that the international community is determined. The vote at the United Nations is the fruit of hard work, in particular by the Obama Administration.

The United Nations have again made it clear that a nuclear-armed Iran is not an acceptable option. Yet whoever believes that Iran is unprepared is naïve and has learnt little from the past years of negotiations.

These sanctions come late. President Obama wanted them in place six months ago, and his French counterpart Sarkozy even promised them “within three months” – back in the summer of 2009. Precious time has again been wasted.

In the meantime, in Natanz, Qom, Isfahan and other secret locations, Iran’s nuclear program and the enrichment of uranium to weapons-grade has continued at great pace. In parallel, the regime is developing medium-range missile systems and has procured plans to build advanced nuclear warheads.

All this is happening under the watchful eyes of the international community. Reports by the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna provide clear evidence of Iran’s true intentions, as do those of Western intelligence services. Although Iran is censured when it denies IAEA weapons inspectors access to its nuclear sites, or otherwise fails to comply with its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, nothing else happens.

As long ago as 2006 the UN Security Council adopted a legally-binding resolution which called on Tehran to cooperate. The same year, the council passed sanctions because Iran had failed to comply with its demands.

In other words, for the last four years the regime in Tehran has been in clear breach of international law. It has defied the international community and has put up a smokescreen of frantic diplomatic activity which serves only one purpose: to gain precious time.

Any tactic suits Iran if that tactic helps to delay effective sanctions. As a result, Iran already possesses sufficient fissile material for two nuclear bombs. A year ago, it had only enough to make one.

In short, for years Iran has successfully made a fool of the international community and always been a step ahead of the diplomatic game. President Ahmadinejad will continue to make dishonest offers to the West, combined with ludicrous demands and conditions. Together with his allies around the Globe he will continue to present himself as the innocent victim of Western attacks.

Iran has managed to fool the world with a kind of pseudo diplomacy that only serves the purpose of creating confusion and seeks to drive a wedge into the international community, despite the growing threat that Iran poses to world peace.

Iran’s reasoning has been that no country will want to lose its competitive advantage in the global marketplace for oil and gas by unilaterally withdrawing from the lucrative Iranian energy market.

Regrettably, Brazil and Turkey have now deemed it appropriate to negotiate with Tehran about possible “compromises” – without the international community’s mandate to do so. At the Security Council, these two countries were the only ones to vote against the Iran sanctions package, when even Lebanon abstained.

Only a mediator that is accepted by all sides, acts on the basis of international law and is not secretly motivated by narrow self-interests can be a credible arbiter. After the events of the last weeks, I have my doubts that Ankara is well qualified to assume the role of an “honest broker”.

Moreover, why should we assume that Turkey or Brazil will achieve, in the course of a few months, the breakthrough that even diplomatic heavyweights like Russia and China could not bring about in years of intensive diplomacy and political pressure? The “deal” they presented three weeks ago was rightly rejected by the permanent members of the Security Council.

The Iranian regime will continue to gain time. As long as certain countries keep trying to score cheap diplomatic points despite the seriousness of the issue, there will not be a satisfactory solution. The international community’s unity and resolve is an absolute precondition for stopping aggressive regimes such as the one in Iran. It must not be squandered.

However, this will not be sufficient. The new UN sanctions will have to be implemented forcefully, and additional measures – if necessary on a unilateral basis – must follow suit.

The United States are forging ahead, and Europe would be well-advised to, as a minimum, withdraw quickly and fully from the Iranian oil and gas sector.

Even if this means voluntarily forgoing profits in the short term: it is our only chance to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran without military means. After years of fruitless diplomacy, now is the time for action! Further by-standing would be wantonly negligent. It appears that the European heads of government are now finally ready to act.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

Israeli violinist and pianist to perform together June 17 in Carlsbad

June 14, 2010 Leave a comment
By Eileen Wingard 
 

Eileen Wingard

CARLSBAD, California–Israel has supplied the world with an abundance of musical talent. In addition to many fine orchestras, topped by the Israel Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta, it has been the birthplace or the nurturing ground for violinists Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zuckerman, Shlomo Mintz; pianinsts Yefim Bronfman, Daniel Barenboim and others. The organization most responsible for identifying and supporting burgeoning Israeli talent has been the America-Israel Cultural Foundation (AICF).
    
This Thursday, June 17, at 7:00 p.m. at the Ruby G. Schulman Auditorium in Carlsbad’s Dove Library, 1779 Dove Lane, Carlsbad, two AICF recipients, violinist Asi Matathias, and pianist Victor Stanislavsky, will perform works by Cesar Franck and Edvard Grieg. The concert is part of the San Diego Jewish Music Series of the San Diego Center for Jewish Culture. It is underwritten by the Leichtag Foundation.
    
Violinist Asi Matathias, 22, made his debut at 14 with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Zubin Mehta. Mehta was so impressed by the youth that he invited him to solo with the IPO the following season. Mehta described Asi as “extremely musical, sensitive and technically accurate.”
    
After Asi’s early violin training in Israel with Chaim Taub, the talented young man continued his studies at the Universitat fur Musik und darstellende Kunst in Vienna. He has been supported by the AICF since 1997.
    
Asi has performed with orchestras in Europe and recorded with the BBC, the Austrian Radio, and the Israel Broadcasting Authority. Currently, he is working with Pinchas Zukerman as a scholarship student at the Manhattan School of Music.
    
Along with his studies, he continues to concertiize. His 2009-10 season included a concert at Carnegie Hall Stern Auditorium, playing alongside pianist Yefim Bronfman and cellist Wolfgang Laufer; solo programs  in Carnegie Weill Recital Hall,  Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center, and in Japan, and another solo performance with the IPO.
    
Pianist Victor Stanislavsky, 27, has been an AICF scholarship winner since 2002. He has also won top prizes in Italy’s “Pozzoli International Piano Competion and in China’s International Piano Competition. Recently, he was one of thirty pianists world-wide, invited to compete in the Van Cliburn Competition.
    
Victor was born in the Ukraine and moved to Israel in 1990. His early training was at the Rubin Academy in Haifa. He received his BA degree with highest honors from the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music of the Tel Aviv University.  In addition to soloing with Israel’s top orchestras, he has performed in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Eastern and Western Europe, South Korea and China.
    
After a recent Athenaeum Concert in La Jolla, Ken Herman of the La Jolla Light praised his “youthful vigor and mature interpretation.”
    
Tickets for the recital are $15 JCC members, $18 non-members. Call 858-362-1348. 
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Wingard is a freelance writer based in San Diego 
 
 
 

 

United Nations imposes fourth round of sanctions on Iran

June 11, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–By 12 out of 15 votes, the Security Council of the United Nations on Wednesday approved a fourth round of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, which many fear is ultimately aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Turkey and Brazil voted against the resolution text while Lebanon abstained. Earlier this week, the permanent members of the council – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – agreed on the most far-reaching sanctions package so far.

Hours before the vote, the US, France and Russia dismissed a proposal by Iran to swap some of its enriched uranium for reactor fuel, arguing that unlike the original plan drawn up in Geneva eight months ago the proposal negotiated by Brazil and Turkey would leave Iran with enough material to make a nuclear weapon.

The new measures prohibit Iranian investment in nuclear facilities and activities abroad and ban new categories of weapons to be imported into Iran. It imposes asset freezes on 40 new entities, many linked to the Revolutionary Guard in Iran. Resolution 1929 also imposes sweeping new restrictions on financial activities that could contribute to Iran’s nuclear or proliferation activities.

Travel and financial restrictions also were imposed on more officials and institutions, and the resolution has a qualified call for the boarding and inspection of ships heading for Iran. However, that can be carried out only if the country whose flag the vessel flies agrees to inspections.

The World Jewish Congress (WJC) applauded the Security Council vote. WJC President Ronald S. Lauder, said in a statement: “This resolution is an important demonstration of the international community’s unwillingness to tolerate a nuclear Iran that is characterized by continuous human rights abuses and threats against its neighbors. The resolution includes a ban on Iran’s acquiring heavy weapons and prevents Iran from investing in any nuclear related entities such as uranium mines or nuclear enrichment plants.”

“The World Jewish Congress believes that these sanctions are an important step and that additional pressures must be applied as well in order to stop Iran. We applaud the members of the UN Security Council, led by the United States Mission to the United Nations which invested yeoman efforts, for all their work in passing these measures and urge the international community to immediately enact and enforce them. We also urge the European Union to enact its own sanctions, as it has been promising for a long time, which would go a long way in bolstering these UN measures. We also urge the United States Congress to finalize its sanctions legislation and President Obama to sign it into law. The entire international community can together demonstrate the courage and determination to exercise the ability to keep Iran in check,” added Lauder.

Meanwhile, Russia said the sanctions meant it could not supply Iran with the S-300 anti-missile system Tehran had ordered, a military source told the ‘Interfax’ news agency. “It is compulsory to fulfil a decision by the UN Security Council, and Russia is not an exception here,” the unnamed source in the Federal Service for Military Technical Co-operation, which supervises Russian arms sales, was quoted as saying, adding: “Naturally, the contract for the delivery to Tehran of the S-300 air defence missile systems will be frozen. Russia agreed the S-300 deal with Iran several years ago, but has never delivered the weapons, under pressure from the US and Israel.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.