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Commentary: Inappropriate for U.S. State Department to send Muslim cleric to Arab countries

August 11, 2010 1 comment

By Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C. –The State Department has confirmed that Feisal Abdul Rauf – who wants to be the imam of a mosque at Ground Zero – is taking a State Department funded trip to the Middle East to foster “greater understanding” about Islam and Muslim communities in the United States.

“He is a distinguished Muslim cleric,” said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. “I think we are in the process of arranging for him to travel as part of this program, and it is to foster a greater understanding about the region around the world among Muslim-majority communities.” Rauf is reportedly going to Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Qatar.
 
What a load of hooey.
 
We know a lot of rabbis, some ministers and a few priests. We would be appalled to have the government of the United States, which by law favors no religion, sending a rabbi to Israel – or the former Soviet Union or France or Argentina, where there are communities of Jews – to talk about how Jews live in the United States. Having a priest travel to the Vatican, Honduras, Ireland or the Philippines to describe the lives of American Catholics would be outrageous. Likewise, ministers to Sweden.
 
What business is it of the American government to send a Muslim to Muslim-majority countries to talk about Islam? How offensive is it to think that the American government is using American tax dollars to fly a non-government person around the world to promote the activities and lifestyle of a particular religion? Better to send a non-Muslim American government official to talk about American religious freedom, cultural diversity and the virtues of the secular, democratic state. 
 
To the speculation that Rauf will engage in fund raising for the proposed mosque at Ground Zero, Mr. Crowley said, “That would not be something he could do as part of our program,” he said. 
 
We’re so relieved. And we’re so sure he will do only as the American government desires.
 
But Debra Burlingame, a 9/11 family member told The New York Post, “‘We know he has a fund-raising association with Saudi Arabia,’ … noting that the Saudis have contributed money to underwrite programs by the American Society for Muslim Advancement, a not-for-profit that Abdul Rauf runs with his wife and that is one of the sponsors of the Ground Zero mosque. ‘He’s going to the well, and how can they say they do or don’t know what he’s doing?'”
 
To be entirely clear, JINSA believes Ground Zero is a battlefield cemetery – the site of a battle for the liberal democratic state. We oppose the building of a Muslim sectarian monument there because regardless of what its supporters say, it will be widely understood in the Muslim world as a battlefield monument in the name of Islam. 
 
Does the State Department really think Rauf (who said in English that the United States bears responsibility for 9-11) will tell the Saudis, Bahrainis and Qataris that he is building a monument to cultural understanding, interfaith relations and peace in New York because America is a good, safe and decent place for Muslims as long as they understand the secular, democratic nature of the United States? And that he doesn’t want their money because Americans will fund the mosque?
 
And how will the State Department know?

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Bryen is senior director of security policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.  Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member.

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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

Irish government blocks EU data transfer to Israel after passport affair

July 15, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–The European Commission’s proposal to recognize Israeli data protection standards as appropriate to transfer personal data of Europeans has been blocked by the Irish government. A spokesman for Irish Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said that Ireland could not support the move in the wake of the row of the faking of Irish and other EU passports in the killing of Hamas commander al-Mahbouh, in Dubai in January. In Europe, the hit is widely blamed on Israel’s Mossad.

The spokesman said the Irish government had the “gravest concern” that information supplied to Israel could be used to forge passports for use by intelligence agencies.

Dublin expelled an Israeli diplomat last month. Dubai police have accused Israeli secret service operatives to be behind the killing. However, separate investigations conducted by the Irish police did not find any additional evidence that links Israel to the forged passports of EU member states. Nonetheless, the Irish government maintains that Israel was responsible for them.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

The Rachel Corrie arrives in Ashdod without serious incident, but trouble looms on horizon

June 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Ira Sharkansky

By Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–The IDF brought the Rachel Corrie to Ashdod without the violence that marked the capture of the Mavi Marmara. The Irish government urged the blockade breakers to comply with Israeli demands, while Turkish leaders continue their charges of murder against those who dealt with the fighters on their ship. 

A commentary in the Wall Street Journal links the Turkish regime with anti-Semitic and anti-American campaigns including blood libels that both countries have been harvesting organs from Iraqis killed in the violence that they provoked.  

It is too early to see any peace on Israel’s Gaza front. Nine deaths have added to the picture that the country is out of control. Operations in its defense are less costly in terms of human rights than how the Turks treat the Kurds, or the collateral damage associated with American operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Such comparisons are essential to any moral judgement, but there is no indication that people of note have done the arithmetic. Israel has a near monopoly of evil on the campuses of prestige universities and in the street demonstrations of major cities.

A good deal of Israel’s problem derives from the Palestinians’ possession of the David image: small and weak, fighting a more powerful enemy, while asserting the popular demand for a country of their own. Jewish pragmatists must make an effort to realize that big and powerful Goliaths are more likely to prevail.

Perhaps most of the people demonstrating against Israel have no awareness, or no concern for the actual record of vicious actions against Israeli citizens, and the sworn intention of many Palestinians to destroy Israel on their way to claiming their own country. 

Does the widespread antipathy portend serious danger?

It does not help that the Obama administration has staked out a posture of engagement with its adversaries, including working through international organizations that have exhibited automatic “don’t bother me with the facts” condemnations of Israel, far out of proportion to its actions in comparison with those of other countries. 

Most disappointing is the American failure to produce anything serious against the Iranian nuclear threat, or Syrian-Iranian funneling of offensive weapons to Hizbollah. If the Americans’ obsession with the Israel-Palestinian peace process has appeared naive, efforts to persuade Iran and Syria appears closer to madness.

It does help that Israel has friends. American public opinion has failed to show any clear shift in the direction of hostility, and highly placed individuals in European governments have shown an understanding of the threats that Israel faces. 

President Obama and his advisors do not ignore Israel’s concerns. One can quarrel with the lack of trust toward Obama and his administration expressed by many Israeli Jews, but it is one of the elements affecting any assessment of the near future. 

Also in the mix is the strident style of Prime Minister Netanyahu, and the even more fervent comments from his Foreign Minister and Minister of the Interior, both of whom have operational responsibilities for issues of importance to Europe and the United States. Netanyahu and his colleagues have concerned themselves with settling Jews in hostile Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, no matter what that might do to the willingness of others to help on the more vital topic of Iran.  

It has not been a cheerful week. Speculation that Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan may board a warship and lead an assault on the blockade of Gaza raises the prospect that the near future will be worse. 

 On this, we can hope for assistance from countries not wanting a naval battle in this part of the Mediterranean.

We continue on edge, but that has been the Jewish fate for as long as we have written about our history. In those 2,500 years or so, there have been many weeks worse than the one just experienced.

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 Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University.

The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australian Jewish news

May 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Garry Fabian

Compiled by Garry Fabian

Australia expels Israeli diplomat

CANBERRA, 26 May – Foreign Minister Stephen Smith announced on Monday his Government had evidence  that the Israeli Government forged Australian passports.

A three month investigation by Australian  intelligence organisations revealed “beyond
doubt”, according to Smith, the link between the  passport fraud and Israel. In response, the
Foreign Minister expelled a member of the Israeli  Embassy in Canberra effective this week, a decision he said was taken “with sorrow”.

An initial investigation launched in February and  led by the Australian Federal Police, was backed
up this month with a visit to Israel by the  director general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

Smith said there were three findings from the  investigation. First that there was no evidence the four Australians – Joshua Krycer, Joshua  Bruce, Nicole McCabe and Adam Korman – were anything other than innocent victims.  Second,  the forged passports were of such a high quality  that they pointed to the involvement of a  national intelligence agency. Third, that the  Australian investigation “left the Government in no doubt that Israel was responsible for the abuse and counterfeiting of these passports”.

He reiterated that Israel remained a friend of  Australia but said “time will tell” how long it  will take until the relationship between the two countries gets back on track.

Michael Danby MHR has released the following statement:
“I have previously & publicly (on Jon Faine’s 774  program) said I condemn the misuse of Australian passports by any other country. However, I do not  agree with the government’s decision to remove an  Israeli diplomat from Canberra. Neither France,  Germany or Ireland have asked for an Israeli  diplomat to be withdrawn as a result of the Dubai affair”

“This announcement comes at a time when Australia  is supporting just resumed Middle East peace negotiations”

“I accept that this decision has been made but  Australia has always been a good friend of Israel  and I have no doubt that this relationship will remain intact”, Mr Danby said.

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Australian Governmenr reaction excessive – Jewish Leaders

CANBERRA, 27 May – Jewish community  representatives have expressed dismay at the Federal Government’s decision to expel a diplomat  from the Israeli embassy in the wake of the passport forgeries.

In a joint statement, Executive Council of  Australian Jewry president Robert Goot and Zionist Federation of Australia president Philip Chester described the expulsion order as “an overreaction”.

The organisations pointed out that Foreign Minister Stephen Smith’s statement to Parliament this week “does not disclose any specific =evidence in support of his conclusions about Israel’s involvement in the matter”.

“Little good can come from taking punitive action  in relation to this matter against Israel, which is the Middle East’s only stable democracy and  the only Middle Eastern country that can be  relied on to act resolutely against international terrorism.

Goot and Chester said they were confident the  longstanding friendship and cooperation between
Australia and Israel would endure, “and that  Australia’s strong bipartisan support for Israel,
and for a just and lasting peace between Israel and its neighbours, will remain steadfast”.

Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC)  executive director Dr Colin Rubenstein said the expulsion was “unhelpful”, as the Government had  gone far enough when it “made clear its  displeasure over the abuse of Australian passports in the strongest of possible terms”.

“While Australia followed a British precedent in  its overreaction, no similar step has been taken
by Ireland, France or Germany, all of whom also  allegedly had forged passports implicated in the
killing of senior Hamas terrorist Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.”

AIJAC national chairman Mark Leibler said claims by Dubai authorities over the incident “should not be accepted as necessarily unbiased and  neutral, given Dubai’s apparent past tolerance of [Mahmoud] al-Mabhouh’s open and dubious activity on behalf of Hamas on Dubai soil”.

Leibler predicted Australia and Israel would continue to remain close allies.

“Australia and Israel have a longstanding  friendship and common interests, with the threats  of a nuclear-armed Iran and anti-western  terrorism just two of the pressing world concerns  that both countries will continue to confront  together, despite today’s decision.”

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Deputy PM in Election mode at Jewish Affairs luncheon

MELBOURNE,  25 May – Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard looked to be in election mode as she  addressed a lunch of community philanthropists,  senior business people and top members of the legal profession on Friday.

In a wide-ranging address and in question time  afterwards, Gillard spoke on a range of topics  from the ongoing economic crisis to climate  change, from Israel to Jewish schools. She spoke c andidly, but still managed to focus on the Rudd Government’s successes.

Despite being in election mode, she refused to speculate on a possible polling date but added “I’m looking forward to it, I like campaigning”.

She warned that Australia is not yet out of economic danger, referring to the ongoing crisis  in Europe, particularly Greece, which has  impacted this country. She also reminded guests  that the Rudd Government has worked hard to keep Australia from tumbling into recession.

“It hasn’t been easy,” she said. “And there have been legitimate criticisms of some of the stimulus we have rolled out.

But, she added, “We have managed to keep the country in a productive cycle.”

She confronted community concerns, including changes in Australia’s position on a small number  of votes in the United Nations relating to Israel, whether Australia aid to the Palestinian territories was remaining out of terrorists’  hands and assurances about the continuation of Jewish school funding.

The lunch was hosted by the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.

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Reaping the benefits

MELBOURNE, 28 May – Pioneering, original and innovative were three of the words Mount Scopus Memorial College principal Rabbi James Kennard  used to describe the school’s new kitchen garden.

Officially opened last week, the Stephanie  Alexander style garden adjoins a five station kosher kitchen, enabling the students to plant and till the produce before cooking with it.

“The Mount Scopus community garden provides  students with the opportunity to grow, cook, eat and learn in the process,” Rabbi Kennard said.  “It is a community enterprise that has brought together students, teachers, parents,  grandparents and supporters, all growing in the garden together.”

Planned by a group of year 6 mathematics students  last year, the garden is designed in the shape of
a Magen David, with fresh, organic vegetables and  herbs growing in sections and a chicken coop off
to the side. Years 4 and 5 students spend  fortnightly lessons in the garden with a  qualified horticulturalist where they attend to  the vegetables before spending a double class in  the home style kitchen classroom with kitchen teacher Delia Baron.

“The kids are learning so much; culturally,  through science, maths, English. It’s coming into  every lesson,” Baron said at the opening. She  praised the foresight of Greg Hannon, head of  Smorgon Family Primary School, and Rabbi Kennard, saying that when approached with the program they “took it on with such gusto”.

Attendees at the opening, including Stephanie  Alexander herself, watched as a year 4 class  completed its kitchen lesson where students  prepared afternoon tea for the guests using produce from the garden.

The formalities concluded with college rabbi  Shamir Kaplan affixing a mezuzah to the kitchen door and a foundation tree planted by key  supporters. A deciduous tree, its leaves will be  composted to add to the garden.

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Reform urged for Yeshivah

MELBOURNE, 28 May – The Yeshivah Centre this week said it is planning to remedy a set of problems
identified in a recent survey conducted among synagogue members.

Responses gathered from congregants revealed  dissatisfaction with services; a need for a  greater focus on youth minyans; greater efforts  at inclusiveness, particularly towards women; a  need for improved governance; and a demand for  renovations to the building. Also suggested was the removal of the controversial Yechi sign from the centre’s shul.

The one-off poll, conducted late last year, canvassed members of the centre to obtain a  snapshot of attitudes since the passing of Yeshivah’s leader, Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Groner.

Although all 614 members received the survey, only 155 responded, with survey firm Platinum  Edge Consulting stating the centre has 371 members regularly attending the main Yeshivah shul.

More than half the respondents thought the minyan in the main synagogue, particularly on Shabbat, “requires considerable improvement”, with  two-thirds calling for improvements to youth  minyans. Less than 10 per cent of those surveyed  believed there was enough emphasis on the needs of the congregation’s youth.

A survey summary stated that “one of the most  contentious issues . is whether congregants feel a sense of community and belonging to the shul”.  Just over half of the respondents did not fully  agree that “their family feel[s] part of the community formed by this congregation”, with more than a fifth stating the shul “is not at all
warmly and openly welcoming to visitors and newcomers”.

There was strong demand for women to play a  greater role in the running of the shul, with  suggestions that women be admitted to the committee.

The survey found dissatisfaction with Yeshivah  shul’s governance, with a majority calling for the committee to be elected, not appointed. There was also concern about congregants not being kept in the loop on major developments.

Issues about the physical state of the building and its upkeep figured prominently, with a third of respondents identifying air conditioning and basic facilities needing a facelift.

Yeshivah Centre general manager Nechama Bendet said the centre commissioned the survey “to assist with the process of identifying the current and future needs of our shul community, particularly in light of transition issues” since Rabbi Groner’s death almost two years ago.

“Based on feedback from the survey, there will be particular focus on creating a greater sense of belonging for congregants, increasing pastoral care services, ensuring that the shul is meeting the needs of the youth and making women feel more connected. In addition, improvements to the shul environs and facilities will be undertaken.

“Shul life is an integral part of the Yeshivah Centre community, and we are committed to ensuring that we are providing quality programs and services to our shul community.

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Renewed call for supreme kashrut authority

CANBERRA,  28 May -Shops, restaurants or products that define themselves as kosher without the blessing of a legally recognised kashrut authority could face prosecution if a proposal submitted to the Federal Government last week gets the green light from legislators.

The submission, put forward by the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia (ORA) and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), calls for one  body – namely ORA – to be given the legal right to endorse individual kashrut authorities, setting the guidelines they must adhere to.

Those not receiving an endorsement would not be able to operate as kashrut authorities within the
law, preventing them from bestowing hechshers (kosher licences).

And in what was described as a “monumental and historic”  achievement, the proposal received the backing of the country’s principal communal kashrut authorities, including Kosher Australia, Chabad Kashrut and Adass Kashrut in Victoria, the Kashrut Authority in New South Wales and the Kashrut Authority in Western Australia.

The submission was put forward in response to the Government’s Issues Consultation Paper on Food Labelling Law and Policy Review, which asked whether there was a need to establish agreed definitions of terms such as “halal”
and  “kosher” and, if so, whether the definitions should be included or referenced in the Food Standards Code.

Though the ORA and ECAJ submission recognises that, to date, the self-regulation of kashrut authorities has created “very few problems” and that the Jewish community feels it “has served it well”, it adds: “the rabbinic authorities in Australia have no capacity to prevent a producer from labelling or self-certifying a product as ‘kosher’.”

It also notes that “in a self-regulated environment, there is potential for confusion and even fraudulent conduct through the potential for rogue producers to use the word ‘kosher’ with impunity.”

To tackle that problem, the submission states: “The only viable means of regulation of kosher labelling would be to enshrine (by legislation or regulation) the present self-regulated system, that is, to give legislative or regulatory authority to the endorsement of the rabbinic or kosher authorities within Australia.

“Such legislation could provide that the word ‘kosher’ may only be used on a label if the product bears a form of endorsement that it has been certified as kosher by a recognised rabbinic or kosher authority in Australia. Such
recognition can be conferred by ORA as the designated body representing the religious Jewish leadership for this purpose.”

Insisting that individual kashrut authorities would retain their autonomy, Rabbi Meir Shlomo Klugwant, chair of the ORA kashrut subcommittee, said as an overarching, endorsing body, ORA would be responsible for laying down the guidelines and overriding principles that the authorities would have to abide by. Quite what those principles would be are yet to be hammered out, Rabbi Klugwant noting “There is much work to be done and these are early days.”

However, he added: “What is encouraging is that all parties at the table . were happy and prepared to consider the concept of a centralised national body to endorse kashrut authorities in Australia. This is monumental and historic in nature.” The sentiment was echoed by Benjamin Koppel, president of Adass, who said he was
“heartened by the united approach of the kashrut authorities and was pleased to be involved in the
discussions and deliberations. It was good to be able to sit around the table together and to work towards a common goal.”

Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, head of the NSW Kashrut Authority, added: “It was extremely gratifying to have all the kashrut agencies working together for the common good, and if these recommendations are accepted by the Government – this will be to the benefit of all kosher consumers”

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Winning run hits brick wall

MELBOURNE,  27 May – AJAX has suffered its first defeat of the season in a heart-stopper against Beaumaris, losing 8.15 (63) to 9.11 (65).

After a last-minute winner last week, the Jackas couldn’t repeat the dose on the weekend, as Beaumaris was too strong from start to finish.  Ajax had few winners, with the Kalmus brothers, Ben and Josh, both impressing, while Jarrod White battled hard in the ruck.

Warren Steinberg was the other standout for the visitors, proving solid in defence. While the  side worked hard to keep its winning streak  intact, turnovers and poor kicking in front of goal was the difference between the sides.

Beaumaris won more contested possessions early, and dominated the clearances from the opening bounce. The side kicked the first three goals of the game within the opening five minutes, before Ash Kalb found space in the forward 50 to kick the Jackas’ first of the game. Beaumaris capitalised on an Ajax turnover to extend itslead to five goals, but David Fayman responded, slotting the last two goals of the term.

Coach Bernie Sheehy was pleased with his side’s forward pressure, but pleaded with his charges to hit their targets by hand.

As the wind picked up in the second quarter, the players started to lift their work rate and intensity. Ben Kalmus and Fayman, kicked the only two goals for the term, giving the Jackas the slenderest of leads at the main break, but it could have been further ahead if not for some wayward goal-kicking. In the shadows of half time, Jackas veteran Mark Segal went down with a hamstring injury.

With both sides applying intensive pressure, the third term was an arm wrestle, with just two goals kicked in 30 minutes of football. Ajax had the better of the quarter, but failed to take advantage of opportunities in the forward 50, and went to three-quarter-time with a slender two-point lead.

Coach Sheehy urged his players not to “waste what’s been a good effort”, adding the game was “there for the taking”.

After missing the third term with a leg injury, Jason Israelsohn was back on the ground for the final term, and quickly goaled to extend his side’s lead. But Beaumaris responded in emphatic fashion, taking the game on and slotting three  consecutive goals to wrest the lead. Josh Ludski kicked truly to give Ajax a sniff with only 30seconds on the clock, but it wasn’t to be, as Beaumaris claimed an upset victory.

The Reserves side won their second game in a row with a hard-fought victory over Beaumaris 12.9(81) to 11.7 (73), while the Under-19s suffered their second defeat in a row, losing a see-sawingaffair against Old Mentonians 12.5 (77) to 11.13 (79).

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Israeli Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh on Australian speaking tour

MELBOURNE–During his recent trip to Australia, Israeli-Arab journalist and authority on Palestinian issues
Khaled Abu Toameh answers questions on a range of issues.

How do you feel as an Arab Muslim living in Israel?

You know, I always say that it’s very easy to solve the problem between Jews and Palestinians. Why? Because at the end of the day, there is going to be separation, in one form or another, from the Palestinians.

One day, they will be there and we will be here.  But what do we do with the 1.4 million Arabs living inside Israel. What’s their future? I’m  very worried about the serious deterioration that has happened with relations between Jews and Arabs inside Israel.

If I were a Jew living in Israel, I would be very worried about the deterioration of relations between Jews and Arabs inside the country. We, the Israeli Arabs, have been extremely loyal to the State of Israel ever since its establishment. We are the Arab who in 1948 did not challenge Israel’s right to exist. We accepted Israel. We welcomed Israel. We helped build Israel. Israel gave us passports, citizenship, okay. But although the overwhelming majority of us were  loyal to the State of Israel, sadly, the State of  Israel or the Israeli establishment were not equally loyal towards its Arab minority.

And what am I talking about. I’m talking about employment, services, infrastructure. We continue to suffer from what [former prime minister] Ehud  Olmert called a policy of systematic discrimination against the Arab minority.

Now, the good news is that Israel is not an apartheid state. But the bad news is that there is discrimination inside Israel. It’s not just against Arabs – it’s against Russians. It’s against Ethiopians. It’s against the elderly. It’s against the disabled. If this policy
continues and the Israeli establishment does not wake up and embark on an emergency plan to improve its relations with its Arab minority, the third intifada will be on the streets of Haifa and Akko, and the Negev and the Galilee.

[However, that said], if you ask me on a personal basis, and I think I represent mainstream Israeli Arabs, we would rather live in Israel under any circumstances. It’s much better than living as a first-class citizen in Cairo, Amman, Gaza or Ramallah.

Q.You say Israel is not an apartheid state. Can you elaborate?

If Israel were an apartheid state, an Arab would not be allowed to live in a Jewish neighbourhood.An Arab would not be able to go to a Jewish school, and so many other things. Or an Arab would not be able to go to the same restaurant as a Jew. You have to look at the apartheid system and study it and see what it was. Compare it toIsrael. Are there problems with discrimination?
Yes. But I wouldn’t call it apartheid.

Q. Do Israeli Arabs find Hatikvah alienating as the national anthem?

Maybe Hatikvah does not represent what I, as an Arab Muslim, feels – my aspirations and all that – but I have no problem with it. A Jew can sing whatever he wants, and a Muslim will sing whatever he wants. I don’t care about the colours of the flag. I don’t care about Hatikvah. I respect them. I’m not challenging them. I’m just saying, if you want to be a Jewish state and sing
whatever you want, do whatever you want, fine. But give me full rights in this Jewish state. You can be a Jewish state for all of your citizens.

So Israel is not trying to impose Hatikvah on me. That’s also good. It shouldn’t be imposing anything on anyone. If Israel wants to be a Jewish state, that’s also fine with us Israeli Arabs. We never thought that it was a problem until Israel raised it. It’s like, why are you chasing me, asking me to accept you as a Jewish state? You are a Jewish state anyway. You are the homeland for the Jews.

But why are you asking me to start saying “yes I accept” or “I don’t accept it”? What does it matter to you? Israel should not be begging or chasing anyone to recognise Israel or accept Israel as a Jewish state. Israel is a fact. It exists. Whether people accept Israel or not, that’s their problem. But Israel should have enough self-confidence and stop raising these issues. There’s no need for it.

Q. What is your opinion of Foreign Minister AvigdorLieberman’s proposal to make all Arabs swear oaths of loyalty to the State of Israel?

Why is he raising this? We are citizens of Israel. Who is he to come now and ask us to do this? By the way, this is a dangerous idea,because today you will demand it from the Arabs. Tomorrow you will demand it from the Russians. Then you will demand it from the Ethiopians. Israel is a state of law and order and should have more confidence in itself than this man.
This man’s message, unfortunately, is very negative, and he is also damaging relations between Jews and Arabs. If Mr Lieberman wants to incite and say these awful things, I say something like this: he who came last, should leave first.

If Mr Lieberman stands up and says “All citizens should be equal and loyal to the state of Israel”, I will say, “yes Mr Lieberman, thank you”. I will even serve in the army. But once you single out one group, that becomes too dangerous. This is not what Israel wants and fortunately, he does not represent the majority of Jews in Israel.

Q. What can you tell us about the recent arrests of two Israeli Arabs [on charges of espionage forHezbollah] and the response from the [Israeli-Arab] community?

These charges will be tested in court. But what is for sure is that the arrest itself and the allegations that are flying do not contribute to coexistence. They only widen the gap between Arabs and Jews. And if it turns out to be true that these guys are actually guilty of what they are accused of, it just shows that the radicalisation [of Israeli Arabs due to discrimination] is continuing.

Q. How well are your lectures received overseas, in particular at universities?

First of all, you should ask me how they arereceived by Palestinians [in the Palestinian areas]: very well. I go to Gaza, I’ve been at Palestinian universities in Gaza. I’ve been at Palestinian universities in the West Bank. I go back there every day. I talk, most people tell me what I’m saying makes sense, that these are reasonable things I am saying. So over there I have no problem.

Where do the problems start? As soon as I show my face at a university campus in Canada or in the US, or even here at Monash University, where people – most of them not even Palestinian, not even Arabs – stand up and say to me “how dare
you” [and then start throwing around words like] apartheid, war crimes, massacres, death to Israel and death to Zionism.

Their message is hatred and delegitimisation of Israel and demonisation of Jews. I ask [these protesters], “Who are you?” And they say, “We are the pro-Palestinian group”. I tell them, “Excuse me, what’s pro-Palestinian about you? That you are wearing your kaffiyeh? That doesn’t make you pro-Palestinian. You are just Jew-haters and Israel-haters. If you really cared about the
Palestinians, why don’t you come to Palestine and teach Palestinian children English, for example? Why don’t you come to Palestine and promote the rights of women under Hamas? Then I will call you pro-Palestinian.

“But sitting over here on a campus in America,and telling me that Israel is bad and to dismantle this Jewish State and to get rid of it,that does not really help me as an Arab Muslim living in Israel. Your message is no different than the message of Hamas. We have enoughincitement, thank you. If you have anything good to offer us, please come.”

I passed by some Lebanese girls who were organising Israel Apartheid Week in Canada. I stopped at their information table and I asked them, “Excuse me, which apartheid are you talking about?” They said, “Of course the Jewish State, and apartheid against the Palestinians.” And I asked them if they were from Lebanon. “What about the apartheid in Lebanon against the Palestinians, where in Lebanon there is a law that prevents Palestinians from working in morethan 60 professions? By law, it’s written in the law.”

Can you imagine if the Knesset met tonight and passed a law banning Arabs from working in one ­profession?

They said, “You know, you are right, but don’t tell these folks over here. Don’t bring the dirty laundry out, please.” I told them that washypocrisy. If they want to wage a campaignagainst apartheid, they need to go against all the apartheid they are talking about.

I don’t like these negative messages. They don’t bring us anything. The same goes for campaigns for divestment and boycotts. Again, I asked howit could help me? Boycott – negative. I told some folks who were calling for boycotts: “Instead of
wasting all this energy calling for boycotts of Israel, why don’t you come to that part of the world and bring Jewish and Palestinian professors together, for example? You guys are actually undermining the moderates over there who want
peace, through your messages of hatred.”

The battle today against Israel is not in the form of a suicide bomber and a rocket. We have answers to that. Israel has been able to deal with them. You can always strike back at a rocket. You can always fight against suicide bombers. Israel has succeeded at that. I’d be much more worried as a Jew at what’s happening on the university campuses. This is very serious, what we encounter over there.

Q. You are a Jerusalem Arab. Do Jerusalem Arabs want a divided Jerusalem?

I don’t think anyone wants Jerusalem to be divided. I don’t think Jerusalem can be divided. Jerusalem can perhaps be shared. But you cannot really divide Jerusalem. It’s not practical.

This transcript includes answers given by Khaled  Abu Toameh during a Q&A in Melbourne. His trip to Australia was sponsored by the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, the United Israel Appeal and the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.

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Fabian is Australia bureau chief of San Diego Jewish World

Israel says it will turn away Gaza ‘Freedom Flotilla’

May 28, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–Israel says it will block a fleet of nine ships carrying international activists and supplies from reaching the Gaza Strip.

The Freedom Flotilla, organized by the Free Gaza group, left from ports in Ireland, Greece and Turkey last week and is scheduled to arrive Thursday off the coast of Gaza.

Israel has offered to transfer the humanitarian aid, including food, clothing and construction materials, to Gaza through an approved Israeli port.

“Ships forcing their way into Gaza will do nothing to aid the people there,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said in a statement issued late Monday. “Existing land crossings are more than capable of meeting their needs. International aid organizations and the private sector of Gaza ensure that all the necessary food, medicine and clothing are provided to the Strip via Israel.”

Palmor said the flotilla organizers “are less interested in bringing in aid than in promoting their radical agenda, playing into the hands of Hamas provocations. While they have wrapped themselves in a humanitarian cloak, they are engaging in political propaganda and not in pro-Palestinian aid.”

Some 15,000 tons of supplies enter Gaza each week, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Five Free Gaza vessels have been allowed to dock in Gaza port in recent years. A ship was turned away last year by Israel’s navy.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

Australia expels Israeli diplomat over forgery of Australian passports

May 26, 2010 Leave a comment

 

(WJC)–Australia has ordered the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat after an investigation concluded that there was “no doubt” Israel forged four Australian passports used in the assassination of a senior Hamas leader. Stressing that the decision was taken “much more in sorrow than in anger,” Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said Monday that he had requested an unnamed diplomat to be withdrawn within one week. “These are not the actions of a friend,” he said. “No government can tolerate the abuse of its passports, especially by a foreign government.” Australia’s punitive reaction follows Britain’s action in March, expelling an Israeli security agent following an investigation that it said offered compelling evidence that Israel was behind the January 20 assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a hotel in Dubai.

Some 33 members of an assassination team widely speculated to have been Mossad agents used forged passports from Britain, Ireland, Australia and Germany to enter and leave Dubai. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied that the Mossad intelligence service was behind the assassination. A spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Canberra expressed “regret” at the decision, adding that it was not “reflective” of the relationship between the two countries. Michael Danby, a Jewish legislator in the Labor government, criticized the decision, but said bilateral relations between Canberra and Jerusalem – which date back to World War I – would remain intact.

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Preceding provided by Worod Jewish Congress.