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Norwegian government pension fund withdraws investments from companies in Israel and Malaysia citing ‘grossly unethical activity’

August 24, 2010 Leave a comment

OSLO (WJC)–The Government Pension Fund of Norway (GPFG) has divested from two Israeli firms and a Malaysian business claiming they engage in “grossly unethical activity”.

The Ministry of Finance, which sets the financial guidelines for the fund, has excluded Africa-Israel Investments and its subsidiary Danya Cebus, as well as Malaysian company Samling Global.

“The decision to exclude these companies from the GPFG is based on the Council on Ethics assessment that they are contributing to or are themselves responsible for grossly unethical activity,” Finance Minister Sigbjørn Johnsen was quoted as saying. Africa-Israel Investments is the majority owner of Danya, which develops Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the Norwegian Ministry of Finance said in a press release.

“The Council on Ethics bases its recommendation on the fact that the international community is united in the view that the area east of the 1967 line is occupied territory and as such comes under the purview of the fourth Geneva Convention. Several United Nations Security Council resolutions and an International Court of Justice advisory opinion have concluded that the construction of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory is prohibited under this Convention,” says Johnsen.

Samling Global, a producer of timber, plywood, veneer and palm oil, has operations in Malaysia and Guyana that contribute to illegal logging and environmental damage, the Ministry claimed.

The fund, which is managed by Norway’s Central Bank, owned around US$ 1.2 million worth of stock in Africa-Israel Investments. The GPFG’s total assets are worth US$ 450 billion.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Iranian pulls out of medal match with Israeli in Youth Olympics

August 19, 2010 Leave a comment

SINGAPORE (WJC)– At the Youth Olympics, officials of the Iranian team have reportedly forced a 16 year-old taekwondo fighter to withdraw because he was pitted against an Israeli competitor, Gili Haimovitz,  in the final.

Mohammed Soleimani withdrew from the final, saying he had a leg injury. He was also absent from the medal ceremony as he claimed that he had to go to hospital. Soleimani was to stand on the silver medal position as the Israeli flag was hoisted in the highest position. 

A spokesman of the International Olympic Committee said an independent doctor had confirmed that Soleimani suffered an injury: “What we know factually is that the athlete injured his ankle and was sent to the hospital for an X-ray. Tests revealed he did not suffer anything broken, and he is all right now. So unless more factual information is available, it is mere speculation.”

Germany’s badminton coach Holger Hasse said: “I heard about what happened with Iran and Israel and it’s very disappointing that the athletes must follow some political rules and I can’t understand this. This is a chance for countries to be peaceful and for the next generation to change things. Athletes are not political, they just want to have fun and meet friends.”

Nigerian coach Jones Adakole told reporters:  “This should not happen here, and it’s unfair. The Youth Olympics are about unity.” Malaysian badminton coach Wong Tat Meng agreed, saying: “What’s the purpose of the Youth Olympics? It’s to get everybody to enjoy sport and they should put aside politics. They should have carried on for the good of the sport.”

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Preceding provided by the World Jewish Congress

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

The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australian Jewish News

July 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Garry Fabian

Compiled by Garry Fabian

Opposition leader speaks on Hizb utTahir

CANBERRA, 21 July –  Australian opposition Leader Tony Abbott has conceded that members of Islamist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir hold concerning views, but as long as they do not incite terrorism, the group has a place in Australian society.

Speaking to radio shock jock Alan Jones last week, Abbott said if reports that the group was
agitating to establish an Islamic caliphate were correct, it would be “abominable, absolutely abominable”.

But he continued: “The general principle in this country is that we don’t punish bad thoughts, we don’t even punish bad words, as long as those words don’t amount to incitement to break the law.”

Hizb ut-Tahrir ­ an international Islamist group that has a small branch in Australia ­ is banned
in some countries, mostly in the Middle East. It has come under fire on a variety of fronts, not
least because of its anti-Semitic rants. and calls for the eradication of the Jewish State.
The Bangladesh arm of the group released a statement earlier this year calling on Muslims to
“teach the Jews a lesson” and “march forth to  fight them, eradicate their entity and purify the earth of their filth”.

In 2007, then attorney-general Philip Ruddock oversaw an investigation into possible terrorist
links with the local branch, but eventually decided not to proscribe the group.

Abbott said the group has very limited support in  this country at the moment, and argued the
mainstream Muslim community is not behind it. “My  hope, my expectation, my confidence is that this  is a minority view among Australian Muslims, but I’ve got to say anything that looks like an incentive, an incitement to break the law, is something [that] should certainly attract the very closest interest from the law enforcement agencies.”

Hizb ut-Tahrir has come back into focus after hosting a conference in Sydney earlier this month.

A spokesperson for Attorney-General Robert McClelland said it would be inappropriate to
confirm or deny whether the group is under investigation by Australia’s intelligence agencies.

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Union for Progressive Judaism condemns Israeli Convdersion Bill

MELBOURNE, 22 July – The local Union for  Progressive Judaism (UPJ) has added its voice to global Reform and Conservative condemnation of attempts to push a conversion Bill through the Knesset.

Sponsored by Yisrael Beitenu MK David Rotem, the Bill would delegate the authority to municipal rabbis to carry out conversions to, in an attempt to streamline the conversion process for non-Jewish Israelis.

The Bill’s opponents complain that the same clause effectively provides legal backing for the
authority of the Orthodox rabbinate over all conversions, and threatens the status of those
who converted overseas through non-Orthodox rabbis.

In a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, signed by UPJ president David Robinson and other senior officials, Progressive Judaism’s Asia-Pacific roof body expressed “great disappointment and shock” at news that Rotem had taken action to drive the Bill through the Knesset without coordination with representatives of all streams of Judaism.

Rotem’s action also drew the condemnation of Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, who had been working to bridge Diaspora and Israeli concerns over the Bill since it was proposed earlier in the year.  While American Jewish organisations have been most vocal in speaking out against the Bill, the UPJ rejected Rotem’s view that some concerns about the proposed legislation are solely American, writing “We believe that it is important for you to know that the grave concerns expressed about this legislation extend far beyond the United States .

“We join the leadership of the World Union for Progressive Judaism in viewing this Bill in its
current form as an affront to all Progressive and Conservative Jews.”

The Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) also weighed into the debate. ZFA president Philip
Chester wrote a letter to Netanyahu, warning that the passage of such legislation “would do
incalulable harm to the unity of the Jewish people”.

Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Israel Religious Action Centre, the advocacy arm of the Progressive movement in Israel, told The AJN during a recent visit to Australia that those
parts of the Bill “bring us back from our tremendous achievement [in Israel’s Supreme Court] of six years ago that allReform and Conservative conversions all around the world are recognised in Israel for purposes of aliyah.”

Rotem, defending the Bill on Monday, told The Jerusalem Post that he was unwilling to delay
resolving a problem that affects thousands of immigrants.

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Controversy or birthright

SYDNEY,  23 July – Australian Birthright program organisers have rejected reports in the
international media claiming a recent group visit to Hebron was “unprecedented”.

An article, first published in the New York Jewish Week last week, reported that the trip
made by the Australian Chabad Campus Birthright  group earlier this month also “raised questions about whether the program has shifted policy on visits to the West Bank”.

But Rabbi Yehudah deVries, who is responsible for the Australian Chavaya Taglit-Birthright Israel trips for Chabad Campus students, said that those undertaking the extended program for longer than the 10-day free trip have always visited Hebron, with the exception being the past two years.

Rabbi deVries explained he was approached by Birthright’s official trip organiser, Israel
Experience, to arrange the visit to the Cave of the Patriarchs, or Ma’arat HaMachpela, the site
where ­ according to the Torah ­ Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sara, Rebecca and Leah are buried.

“The entire 10-day program was submitted for Taglit’s approval, as always, and was, as always, approved.

“This includes security approval,” he explained.

“The trip went ahead and was run according to exact security requirements,”

Rabbi deVries said security would not have been approved if the army, police and education
department had deemed the visit to be a potential risk.

“If we can visit Kibbutz Misgav Am, which is in the firing range of Hezbollah on the Lebanese
border; we stand on a Golan Heights border lookout at Mizpe Gadot and look into Syria, then why make a point ofHebron being either dangerous or political?” Rabbi deVries questioned.

And as for the politics of the visit?

“Politics should not be brought to the groups. Taglit-Birthright Israel is most young people’s
first experience of the land of Israel. Let them see as much as possible . and let them make
informed decisions based on their own intellect and experience,” he said.

The Zionist Federation’s Israel Programs coordinator Brendan Bensky said the visit formed
part of the Chabad Campus group’s Jewish historical aspect and was approved by Birthright.
This trip was the first time an Australian group undertook the Birthright program mid-year.

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Israel a point of difference in Australian election campaign

CANBERRA, 23 July – Just two days into the election campaign, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott touted his party’s “unshakable commitment” to Israel.

Speaking at an Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce lunch in Melbourne on Monday, Abbott took the opportunity to criticise the Rudd-Gillard Government’s record towards Israel.

“I have to say that it’s a little disappointing, given the deep affinity between the Australian
people and the Israeli people that the current Australian Government has somewhat weakened our longstanding bipartisanship on Israel,” Abbott said before the crowd of more than 1000
businesspeople and Liberal Party faithful.

“I want to reiterate here today, the Coalition’s unshakable commitment to Israel’s security and I want to assure you that a Coalition government would never support a one-sided United Nations resolution against Israel to curry favour with an anti-Israel majority in the General Assembly,” he said.

He continued: “And we would never overreact to any international incident, because we appreciate that Israel is under existential threat in a way that almost no other country in the world is.”

He told guests, including dozens of the nation’s finest journalists, who were following Abbott’s
campaign trail, that Australia needs to appreciate that “a diminished Israel diminishes the West”.

The Opposition Leader also used the opportunity to pay tribute to the achievements of the local Jewish community. He commented that Australia is the only country in the world, apart from Israel, where Jewish people have occupied the highest offices, including as the governor-general.

Among guests at the Crown Casino lunch were Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey, Shadow Minister for Finance Andrew Robb, Victorian Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu and former treasurer Peter Costello.

Costello, who travelled with Julia Gillard to Israel last year for the Australia-Israel
Leadership Forum, delivered the vote of thanks, endorsing his former cabinet colleague’s tilt at the top job.

“Tony Abbott is a man of commitment and a man of drive,” Costello said. “I know he was party of a very successful government, I don’t know that about Julia Gillard.”

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Canadian MP Calls on Australia to charge Iran with conspiracy to commit genocide

MELBOURNE, 22 July-  Australia should be the first country to refer Iran to the United Nation Security Council, a senior Canadian politician said this week.

Irwin Cotler delivered keynote addresses and met politicians from both sides this week during a whirlwind tour of Australia supported by the Anti-Defamation Commission (ADC).

The human rights law professor and former Canadian attorney-general said Australia, as a
signatory to the United Nations genocide convention, needs to “exercise leadership” and
refer Iran to the UN Security Council for conspiracy to commit genocide.

When probed as to why his country, which for many years has been outspoken on preventing genocide, would not do that itself, Cotler said “political leaders live in an insular bubble where issues of the day overwhelm these issues”.

“The country that does it first will be applauded by history,” he told the audience

He added that if Australia did refer Iran for investigation, Canada would certainly support the move.

Cotler, who chairs the Responsibility to Prevent Coalition, which recently completed a report on “The danger of a nuclear, genocidal and rights-violating Iran, said the evidence is
available to indict Iran over conspiracy to commit genocide.

The report states: “Repeated calls for the destruction of Israel and ‘prophecies’ of its
demise all work to normalise the idea of genocide in the minds of the Iranian people. Articulated in the context of demonising rhetoric implying a clash of civilisations, calls for the
annihilation of the Jewish State begin appearing not only moral and justifiable, but natural as well.”

Asked why, if the evidence is clear, Iran has managed to escape scrutiny, Cotler replied: “It
certainly does make a mockery of international law and it sustains a culture of impunity”.

“The Iranian regime can intensify incitement, knowing they won’t be held to account,” he said.

Cotler added that it is not just through incitement to genocide that the Iranian regime
threatens global stability. He said suspected nuclear weapons development, Iran’s sponsorship
of terrorist organisations and violations of the rights of the Iranian people were four distinct
threats posed by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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Ashley Brown selected for Australia Under 19 Football training squad

Ashley Brown joined North Caulfield Maccabi Junior Football club in 2010 and is a part of the
successful U18 Youth Development Programme, and plays in the Boys U16 and Under 18 competition.

Ashley will hopefully be selected later this year to once again compete in the Asian Qualifiers. She has just returned from the FFA Nationals in Coffs Harbour where she competed in the Victorian U17 girls team and was selected in the All Stars team (representing the best players of the tournament). Ashley has a long and impressive  record of achievement on the football filed.

In 2006, Ashley aged 11 made the Victorian Primary Schools State soccer team, and was
included in the National Training Centre in Victoria for advanced players. At the time she
was the youngest player ever to be included in that squad.

In 2007, aged 12 and in 2008 aged 13, she was part of the Victorian State u15 team. In 2008 she was selected in the U17 Australian Team and travelled to Malaysia to compete in the Asian
Qualifiers. She was in the starting lining up playing against Thailand and Myanmar and the team finished top of their group. In 2009 Ashley won the Maccabi Victoria Deloitte’s Rising Star Award and in 2009, she was selected again in the Australian U 17 squad for the Asian Qualifiers (but unfortunately had to withdraw three days before due to injury). In
January 2009 Ashley represented Victoria in the National Futsal Championships.

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Tragic end to World Cup trip

MELBOURNE, 23 July–A local teenager critically injured in a diving accident in Malaysia died in Melbourne on Thursday.

On Tuesday, an air ambulance carried 14-year-old Reagan Milstein and his mother Tamara home from Singapore, where he had spent 18 days in hospital in a critical condition.

Upon arrival, he was taken straight to Melbourne’s Monash Medical Centre, where he remained in intensive care.

His mother Tamara said on Tuesday that while the family were very relieved to have their son
safely home, they now “embark upon the next stage of this sad journey where the road ahead will be very difficult and filled with uncertainty”.

“The family would like to express their immense gratitude to friends, family and the wider
community who have provided so much comfort and  support and helped them all cope during this tragic time,” she said.

Tributes flooded in to the Facebook group ‘Regan’s Recovery’. Family, friends and other
members of the community had been posting their wishes and prayers on the Facebook page since the accident.

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Australian Education Minister stand on Holocaust Studies

CANBERRA, 26 July – Despite lobbying from the Jewish community, Education Minister Simon Crean failed last weekend to commit to compulsory Holocaust education in Australian schools.

Speaking to a standing-room only audience at the opening of the Jewish Holocaust Centre’s
refurbished main exhibition on Sunday, Crean praised the efforts of curator Jayne Josem.

“What struck me coming in was the joy, the happiness and the pride when I came in, but
you’re quickly brought back to perspective when you’re taken through the museum,” said the minister, whose full portfolio takes in education, employment, workplace relations and social inclusion.

Moving on to political matters, Crean discussed the draft national curriculum, which is open for public consultation until July 30. He outlined the option of year 10 students undertaking a
study of the Holocaust as part of their history classes.

“It is vital that our children are aware of the past and that they learn from the past,” he said.

But despite lobbying from the Executive Council of Australian Jewry for Holocaust studies to be made compulsory, the Member for Hotham did not give any indication this would be happening.

“All students in year 10 will undertake a depth study of war and peace in the 20th century, this
includes the impact of World War II on the modern world and will give students the chance to study the history of the Holocaust,” the former opposition leader said.

He added that the curriculum authority was also charged with building lessons of tolerance and respect into the curriculum, which is set to be unveiled later this year.

“Good education does help deliver a good citizen [and] the Jewish Holocaust Centre does a great job in fostering that understanding and that belief in tolerance and acceptance and that belief in diversity,” he said.

Speaking immediately before Crean, Josem said that since its opening in 1984, more than a
quarter of a million students have been guided around the centre by a survivor guide. But she
spoke of the challenge with today’s students – who come to the centre with piercings, low-slung shorts, iPods and mobile phones.

“Our job here is to penetrate through their digital armoury and get them to think about why they’ve come.”

The museum’s new interactive story pods and modern presentation, which were developed with the input of survivors, will go some of the way to achieving that.

“They arrive indifferent . but they leave different,” she said.

More than 500 people braved the rain to attend Sunday’s opening, which was held in a marquee alongside the museum, with overflow crowds watching on screens inside the centre. As deputy prime minister, Julia Gillard had accepted an invitation to open the refurbished exhibition, but she sent Crean in her place because of a timing clash/

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Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

 

The Jews Down Under: Roundup of Australian Jewish News

July 19, 2010 1 comment

 

Compiled by Garry Fabian

Shalit campaign goes postal

Garry Fabian

SYDNEY & MELBOURNE. 12 July – The deluge of petitions urging the United Nations to step up
its efforts to secure the release of Gilad Shalit
continued to flow in over the last week.

Less than a fortnight after launching
the campaign, almost 2500 letters have been
received, many with multiple signatures.

Sydney’s Moriah College and Melbourne’s Mount Scopus Memorial College each returned hundreds of  letters signed by their secondary students, while
Sydney’s Emmanuel College and Academy BJE also sent in bundles.

Sandy Koonin, the head of Hebrew at Moriah’s high school, said students in the middle and high schools completed a lesson about Israel Defence
Forces soldier Shalit’s situation to ensure they fully understood the campaign before signing the letter. More than 350 responded.

“Kids were very happy to sign and very interested to learn more about it and do something to help him get free,” Koonin said. “Most of the kids had
heard about him and they knew he was in captivity but they didn’t really know what had actually happened. We all hope the letters help.”

More than 250 secondary students at Mount Scopus College also answered the call. “I am pleased that our students, thousands of  miles away, feel a strong bond between themselves  and Israel and are prepared to act on this,”
Mount Scopus director of Jewish studies and Hebrew Avi Cohen said. “Our consistent message to  students throughout the Gilad Shalit campaign is
that we, as Jews, have a shared responsibility for our brethren wherever they might be in the world.

“Most importantly, we try to impress on students the fact that even though they live in Melbourne,  and even though they are only school students,
they can still make a difference.”

Older members of the community have also rallied behind the campaign. Melbourne’s Jewish Holocaust Centre and Biz 120, a seniors club for Sydney’s Russian Jewish community returned piles of letters, while 67 residents at Sydney’s Montefiore Home collectively signed one copy of the letter

The initiative, marking the fourth anniversary of the young Israeli soldier’s kidnapping by Hamas,  has also gone international, after two Jewish
newspapers overseas picked up on the story and decided to urge their readers to do likewise. Individual responses from the US and UK have also
been received at The AJN’s Melbourne office.

Every day since the launch, hundreds of letters have poured into the office from across Australia. Later this month, the letters will be personally delivered to the United Nations headquarters in New York.

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Holocaust Video outrage

MELBOURNE, 14 July – A video of a Melbourne woman’s family singing and dancing along to the  Gloria Gaynor hit I Will Survive while on a trip
to a Nazi death camp has angered Jews across the globe.

Jane Korman, an artist who lives in Ashwood and is Jewish, posted the video of her 89-year-old  father Adolk – who survived the Holocaust – and
her three children dancing to the hit inside the Auschwitz death camp in Poland where as many as 1.1 million people were killed during World War II.
Although first displayed at a Monash University gallery in Caulfield last December and published on the online video site YouTube in January, the
Dancing Auschwitz video has gone viral over the past few days, racking up more than 200,000 hits.

The video shows the Korman family dancing in front of the Auschwitz sign ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ – Work Sets You Free – a Polish synagogue, the
German concentration camp at Dachau, the Czech concentration camp at Theresienstadt and a memorial in Lodz, Poland, to victims of the Nazi ghetto.

At one point, her father is seen wearing a t-shirt with the words “I will survive” written across its front.

Jewish Holocaust Centre education director Zvi Civins said the video was inappropriate.

“I feel the best expression of survival and the fact that Jews have survived is to educate people about what happened,” he said.

“Auschwitz is the site of over a million deaths and if dance is the best way to express the vitality of the Jewish people despite the holocaust perhaps a better location could have been chosen,” he said. “As an educator I think
Auschwitz needs to be seen through different lenses than that video clip has the potential of portraying.”

Kamil Cwiok, 86, was just a child when he and his family were rounded up by the Nazis.

Most of his family died in the gas chambers at Auschwitz.

“I don’t see how this video is a mark of respect for the millions who didn’t survive, nor for those who did,” he told the UK’s Daily Mail. “It
seems to trivialise the horrors that were committed there.”

Dozens of Jews have posted their outrage on YouTube alongside messages of support.

Ms Korman could not be reached today but told The Australian Jewish News last December she was aware the project would be highly offensive to
some people, survivors in particular, but that was not her intention.

“It might be disrespectful, but [my father] is saying we’re dancing, we should be dancing, were celebrating our survival and the generations after me, – the generation he’s created. We are affirming our existence,” the paper reported.

“I have explained to them [Holocaust survivors] that there’s no intention of being disrespectful, it’s about a new response, a fresh interpretation
of the history, the memory and the lesson so that these lessons keep on being remembered and not forgotten  not become a numbing memory, but a very powerful memory.”

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Holocaust survivors honour heroine

MELBOURNE, 14 July – Ditha Slowey today lives a peaceful life in central Victoria, but in World War II she was a hero. In 1945, when she was 19,
she helped 23 British RAF prisoners of war escape a death march through her home town of Lossen, eastern Germany. She fed them and treated their
wounds as they hid in a Catholic manse.

But that is not why she was honoured in a ceremony at the German consulate in South Yarra yesterday.

Mrs Slowey and her family risked their lives to support Jewish families who had lost their homes and jobs under Hitler.

A descendant of one of those families flew from the US to present Mrs Slowey with a proclamation of thanks, for her ”righteousness, compassion
and fortitude”, with the endorsement of the Leo Baeck Institute of New York that preserves German Jewish culture.

As Jewish farmers in Lossen (now Losiow, Poland), Bruno – a World War I hero for Germany – and Erna Zucker were stripped of their farm and subsisted under curfew with half-rations.

Mrs Slowey’s Aunt Martha and Uncle Fritz, who were butchers, defied orders to not serve Jews and smuggled meat to the Zuckers.

Mrs Slowey made regular secret night trips to deliver food, cash and letters to a ”two-room hovel” in the town of Oberglogau that housed
another Jewish family, the Hartmanns, who had owned a department store.

The Zuckers’ grandson, Oved Zucker, described Mrs Slowey, nee Bruncel, as a heroic woman. He said his grandparents had been ”debased, and
degraded”. They were outcasts, ”and in Nazi Germany, compassion was a capital crime”.

One Easter night in 1942, they were deported to Auschwitz and murdered. But Mr Zucker felt ”selfless, courageous and amazing acts of loving
kindness . would have surely brought some light and hope into their hearts”.

The Zuckers’ three sons had fled Germany before the war and there are now 10 great-grandchildren.

Oved Zucker, 71, a physicist from Virginia, says a cousin typing ”Lossen” and ”Zucker” into Google 18 months ago led him to Mrs Slowey’s 2006
biography, Into Enemy Arms, written by her British nephew, Michael Hingston (Ditha had married one of the British POWs she saved, the
late Gordon Slowey, and they moved to Australia in 1963).

”It was an incredible story,” Mr Zucker said, ”and so we decided as a family, ‘We have to do something.’ If you put yourself in the position of all the Germans who were out there who didn’t do anything, and then there is somebody who does something, has the courage to do it, for us as a
family, not to acknowledge, honour, respect, say thank you for it, is unthinkable.”

Mrs Slowey said she was overwhelmed and had not expected accolades. She had acted out of ”human compassion” and could not stand by ”seeing
people so badly treated, with such indignity. I find hard to take, the gratitude that the Jewish community has extended to me, for the little we
were able to do. That is what moves me the most of all.”

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Australian Aliyah expected to surpass record numbers in 2010

MELBOURNE, 14 July – The Zionist Council of Victoria will farewell a record number of Olim at its Executive meeting later this week.

Over 30 Australian Olim ranging in ages from babies to baby boomers will be presented with Mezzuzot for their new homes in Israel by the
ZCV, with about 100 family and friends of the Olim watching on.

“With Australian Aliyah numbers ever increasing the Aliyah Mezzuzah presentations are a tradition the ZCV is delighted to embrace” says ZCV President Dr Danny Lamm.

The Aliyah office has never been so busy. Australia Federal Aliyah Shaliach Oren Sella is particularly thrilled about the record of Australian Olim expected to be broken this year.

“Since 1979 the magic number of 200 Australian Olim has never been surpassed” Oren says. “However in 2010 this record is about to be
reset; by the end of August over 180 Australians will have made Israel their home” he proudly reports.

Oren is duly proud of another fact: In the first 6 months of 2010 Australia showed the largest growth of Aliyah in the world, more than 50
percent, as compared to the same period in 2009.

Interestingly, the Australian Olim are not from one particular demographic group. “Australian Olim are families, singles, religious, traditional, secular and of all ages” explains the Aliyah Shaliach. “And of course Israel can’t wait to greet them all!”

The Zionist Council of Victoria leads and encourages Jewish and Zionist activity and expression within Victoria, to represent the Jewish community, to promote and communicate Israel’s interests within the broader Victorian
community and to promote Victoria’s relationship with Israel.

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Soccer fan still critical

MELBOURNE 16 July – The mother of critically ill Melbourne teenager Reagan Milstein has thanked the community for its support during a difficult time.

Reagan remains in a Singapore hospital with his  parents by his bedside, after suffering major complications following a diving accident in Malaysia.

His mother Tamara said “Our immediate aim is to bring our beautiful boy safely back to Melbourne and that alone has its many challenges.

“We are hopeful that the doctors in Singapore will be able to stabilise Reagan in the next few days so that he can be transferred back to a Melbourne hospital and in the meantime, we continue to hold his hand and sit beside him as he tries to find his way back to us.

She said the family have been overwhelmed with good wishes and prayers. “Our entire family has been overwhelmed by the love and support of
friends, the community and the outpouring of kindness from across the world and this continues to be a constant source of comfort to us during this unbearably sad journey.

Reagan’s father Kevin Milstein said via Facebook that Reagan’s condition was more complicated than the bends, a common diving accident, and he had
suffered brain damage due to the blood supply being cut off to his brain.

“We cannot know what the future holds for Reagan but we can be certain that the beautiful boy that left for the World Cup in June is not the same
one that will be returning home,” he posted.

Meanwhile, students and staff at Melbourne’s Bialik College are continuing to pray for the year 8 student’s recovery.

The Milstein family has been associated with the school for 20 years and the accident has profoundly impacted on the school, where Kevin works as an integration aide and Reagan’s brother Corey is a year 11 student.

Principal Joseph Gerassi said Reagan and the Milstein family were in the thoughts of all at the school.”We continue to pray for Reagan and to hope for
news of some improvement,” he said.

Since news of the accident reached the school, counsellors have been made available to provide support to both students and staff.

Regular lunchtime prayer sessions have been held by campus Rabbi Steven Link, and both staff and students have written personal notes to Reagan,
which are being sent to the Milstein family in Singapore.

A Facebook group called “Reagan’s Recovery” had attracted over 1300 members as of Wednesday morning.

Reagan’s favourite soccer team, the Melbourne Victory, also sent its support. In addition Reagan’s Maccabi soccer club, the U15B Thunder,
dedicated their game on Sunday to their friend and teammate.

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People of the Book

MELBOURNE, 19 July – Outreach is the theme of Makor Jewish Community Library’s annual appeal, which was launched this week. According to
director Leonie Fleiszig, the facility is the only connection many Jews have with the community.

“Most people who come to Makor don’t live in Caulfield. In fact, 90 per cent who come in on a Sunday are Israelis living in areas like Warburton ( a country town some 80 kms from Melbourne) and Footscray. ( western suburb not known to have a Jewish population) We will also
send books out to them,” she said.

“Many people, non-Jews too, will come in, read and use the library. You don’t have to pay if you’re not a member.”

The library has a large range of Hebrew books and films, runs regular “Hebrew Hour” programs and screens Israeli films monthly.

The elderly are also voracious users of the library – some participating in the Write Your Own Story program and others benefiting from
Makor’s wide range of audio books, and the pick-up and delivery service. Fleiszig said the library is always looking at extending its work with the
elderly, and is currently in discussion with Jewish Care to run the Write Your Own Story program with the residents at Gary Smorgon House.
Extending the audio book and Yiddish sections are also priorities.

In addition to holding the catalogues of the Jewish Historical and Genealogical societies, Makor also collaborates with major libraries in Victoria and beyond, which coordinate their databases with Makor’s. Fleizsig said many
council and public libraries also refer people to Makor when looking for specific Jewish items.

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Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

Former Malaysian PM says U.S. staged 9/11 attacks

January 27, 2010 2 comments

KUALA LUMPUR (WJC)–Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad has suggested that the September 2001 terrorist attacks were “staged” by insiders.

“It sounds logical to me. Until today, you cannot even find scraps of the plane that crashed into the World Trade Centre, and there is no picture of the other plane, which was supposed to crash. The way the tower came crashing down was also funny. People who saw it were also not ordinary people. They were professional engineers and what they say is quite credible,” he said in a speech in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

Referring to a Hollywood movie, he said: “There is strong evidence that the attacks were staged. If they can make ‘Avatar’, they can make anything. Killing innocent people to provide an excuse for war is not new to the US.”

“I have great respect for the Arabs but for them to hijack four planes is not very Arab. Just imagine the amount of planning that would be involved.”  Rejecting claims that he was being insensitive to the victims, Mahathir stressed that he was “being more sensitive to the victims” as he was saying the attacks were carried out “deliberately.”

The former Malaysian prime minister also said that his views about how 9/11 attacks were carried out would not affect Malaysia’s chances of attracting foreign investment. “I have said this many times even when I was the prime minister. But we still have the foreign direct investment. However, we cannot rely on foreign direct investments alone. We must build on our own system,” he said.

Referring to Israel, Mahathir said: “In seizing the land of the Palestinian to create a homeland for the Jews, the West has launched the longest and the biggest guerilla war of liberation. The West has made a grievous mistake by doing this.”

In the past, the 84-year-old Mahathir – who served as prime minister of the South-East Asian nation from 1981 to 2003 – was repeatedly condemned for making anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli statements.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Human Rights Watch says migrants abused in many countries including Arab countries, Israel and U.S.

December 17, 2009 Leave a comment

NEW YORK (Press Release)– Many governments’ policies toward migrants worldwide expose them to human rights abuses including labor exploitation, inadequate access to health care, and prolonged detention in poor, overcrowded conditions, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday in advance of International Migrants Day, on December 18, 2009.

A 25-page roundup of Human Rights Watch reporting on violations of migrants’ rights this year, “Slow Movement: Protection of Migrants’ Rights in 2009,”  includes coverage of China, Cuba, Egypt, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States.

“Governments seem to forget that when men, women, and children migrate, they don’t leave their rights at home,” said Nisha Varia, senior researcher in the Women’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch. “Instead of protecting people who already are at special risk of abuse, many governments further marginalize migrants, punish them, or push access to services out of reach.”

Research in Greece, Italy, Libya, Egypt, and Israel showed harsh policies toward arriving migrants, including lack of adequate screening to determine who is a refugee, arbitrary and indefinite detention, returning persons to countries where they risk abuse, and detention of children with adults. Aggressive policies to thwart migrants when they try to cross borders can be lethal. Since May, Egyptian border guards have killed at least 17 migrants trying to cross into Israel.

Both documented and undocumented migrants may face abuse or discrimination in their host cities and countries. Human Rights Watch has investigated pervasive mistreatment of migrant domestic workers and construction workers in the Middle East and Russia. Cheated by unscrupulous brokers and employers, these workers often told of excessive hours, unpaid wages, and confiscation of passports. In the worst cases, their situations amounted to forced labor and trafficking.

“Migrants form the backbone of many economies, performing the labor and services that people in their host countries depend on but won’t do themselves,” Varia said. “Instead of getting respect and the freedom and wages they are owed, they are treated as security threats, and in general, as undesirables to be pushed out of sight.”

Those apprehended for immigration offenses often face disproportionate punishments or prolonged detention in poor conditions. Human Rights Watch showed how the United States deports large numbers of documented migrants for nonviolent offenses with serious consequences for family unity and fails to provide adequate health care to migrants in detention. Immigration violations are sometimes treated as serious crimes, as in Malaysia, where punishments include imprisonment and caning. The fear of arrest and deportation also means that migrants may endure exploitative work conditions or avoid approaching authorities to report abuse.

“Governments have a right to control their borders, but they need to do so in a way that protects human rights,” Varia said. “Migrants who are abused are supposed to have access to legal remedies, regardless of their immigration status.”

Government attempts to control migrant populations within their territory often include discriminatory policies that broadly restrict migrants’ freedom of movement for no legitimate purpose, Human Rights Watch said.  For example, several provinces in Thailand require migrant workers be confined to their workplaces or homes at night and prohibit them from traveling within the province. In countries such as Malaysia and Italy, governments have condoned vigilante-style monitoring of migrants by civilian groups. Migration can increase the risk of infection with HIV, tuberculosis (TB) or flu, but discrimination against migrants can impede their access to care.

Human Rights Watch called on governments to make stronger commitments to migrants’ rights in 2010, including ratifying the International Covenant on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Their Families. The group also urged governments to:

  • Reform immigration policies to facilitate documented migration that protects migrants’ rights, and to clamp down on intermediaries who deceive migrants or charge unlawful fees that leave migrants indebted and more vulnerable to exploitation;
  • Screen interdicted migrants, new arrivals, and migrants in detention in accordance with international standards, including identifying asylum seekers, trafficking victims, and other vulnerable people, and ensuring that unaccompanied children are treated according to their best interests;
  • Ensure access to a core minimum of health services regardless of citizenship or social origin, and repeal discriminatory provisions mandating automatic deportation of migrants living with HIV;
  • Improve labor standards and enforcement in accordance with international standards, including equal protection of domestic workers, and strengthen inspection mechanisms to ensure regular payment of wages and decent working conditions for migrants;
  • Investigate abuse and killings of migrants, whether by private citizens or government authorities, and prosecute fully through the relevant national laws while ensuring protection for migrants against retaliation. Investigations into abuse should be carried out irrespective of migrants’ immigration or contractual status.

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    Preceding provided by Human Rights Watch