Norwegian government pension fund withdraws investments from companies in Israel and Malaysia citing ‘grossly unethical activity’
OSLO (WJC)–The Government Pension Fund of Norway (GPFG) has divested from two Israeli firms and a Malaysian business claiming they engage in “grossly unethical activity”.
The Ministry of Finance, which sets the financial guidelines for the fund, has excluded Africa-Israel Investments and its subsidiary Danya Cebus, as well as Malaysian company Samling Global.
“The decision to exclude these companies from the GPFG is based on the Council on Ethics assessment that they are contributing to or are themselves responsible for grossly unethical activity,” Finance Minister Sigbjørn Johnsen was quoted as saying. Africa-Israel Investments is the majority owner of Danya, which develops Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the Norwegian Ministry of Finance said in a press release.
“The Council on Ethics bases its recommendation on the fact that the international community is united in the view that the area east of the 1967 line is occupied territory and as such comes under the purview of the fourth Geneva Convention. Several United Nations Security Council resolutions and an International Court of Justice advisory opinion have concluded that the construction of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory is prohibited under this Convention,” says Johnsen.
Samling Global, a producer of timber, plywood, veneer and palm oil, has operations in Malaysia and Guyana that contribute to illegal logging and environmental damage, the Ministry claimed.
The fund, which is managed by Norway’s Central Bank, owned around US$ 1.2 million worth of stock in Africa-Israel Investments. The GPFG’s total assets are worth US$ 450 billion.
Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (WJC)–Jews in New Zealand have won a temporary exemption from a new legal requirement that animals must first be stunned before being slaughtered. Representatives of the Jewish community last week filed legal proceedings against Agriculture Minister David Carter and on Monday said said a Wellington court had ordered a temporary exemption until the case is decided next year.
Carter had announced in May that he was requiring pre-slaughter stunning for all commercial killing of livestock. About 300 lambs and 2000 chickens were commercially slaughtered according to ‘shechita’ last year. The minister later apologized to the Jewish community for any offense caused when he told veterinarians: “We may have upset a relatively small religious minority, and I do appreciate their strong feelings for this issue, but frankly I don’t think any animal should suffer in the slaughter process.”
More than half New Zealand’s sheep are killed by halal slaughtermen for the Islamic market, by cutting the throats of electrically stunned animals. However, shechita slaughter requires the trachea, oesophagus, carotid arteries and jugular veins to be cut using a sharp blade to allow the blood to drain out. The animal cannot be stunned or unconscious.
The New Zealand National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee first recommended a dispensation for the kosher slaughter in 2001, but most recently said it would prefer there were no exemptions from the requirement that all animals slaughtered commercially were first stunned. It said there was evidence calves which simply had their throats cut experienced pain, and it had the “strongly held” view that the cattle, sheep, goats and possibly poultry would experience similar pain.
Wellington Jewish Council Chairman David Zwartz predicted the case would be argued on the grounds that the Bill of Rights allowed for freedom of religious practice, and the requirement for stunning was an infringement of the right of Jews to observe their religion.
Other countries to ban shechita include Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, and the European Parliament earlier this year voted in favor of a new regulation which could lead to kosher meat being labeled as “meat from slaughter without stunning”.
Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress
Compiled by Garry Fabian
Visiting Group Greeted warmly
ADELAIDE, 7 July – A group of more than 20 Bnei Akiva Melbourne members and leaders travelled to Adelaide last month to show their support for the small community and help spread some extra Shabbat cheer.
About 20 year 9 boys were accompanied by seven leaders and a shaliach to the South Australian capital, where they shared meals on both Friday
night and Saturday, and hosted activities for the locals.
“In Melbourne, we recognise how lucky we are to have a thriving and vibrant community, yet at the same time we see that others in Australia do not
have the Jewish luxuries that we may take for granted,” Bnei Akiva spokesperson Daniel Weil explained “These visits are important as it is
not often that groups visit the smaller communities.”
Arriving on Friday morning, the group travelled straight from the airport to local Jewish school Massada where they ran a number of activities, including Shabbat programs and fun sessions.
A bowling match with local families was also arranged after Shabbat, followed by a barbecue dinner.
“The feedback we received was very positive,” Weil said.
The inter-community visit was a joint initiative between the Bnei Akiva shaliach and a local Adelaide rabbi, who became close friends while living in Israel.
The trip is part of the Zionist youth movement’s plan to show its support for small Jewish communities around the country, and according to
Weil, it was just as meaningful for the Bnei Akiva group as it was for the Adelaide participants.
“It allows them to show us that, despite their small size, they are just as passionate about leading Jewish lives as we are. Even though it is
immensely harder for them to do so, it serves to show us how lucky we are with everything that we have in our community,” he said.
Rabbi goes full circle
MELBOURNE, 6 July – Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant addressed a group of Victorian Muslims at a City Circle event last weekend.
The former president of the Rabbinical Council of Victoria and current rabbi at Jewish Care discussed some of the challenges facing the Jewish community. After the presentation, which also included some background information on the Victorian Jewish community, the group had the
opportunity to question Rabbi Kluwgant.
“It was an enlightening experience and I am glad to have been offered the opportunity to talk to the group so openly as it gave me the chance to
live the message I have been promoting in relation to multifaith dialogue and engagement,” he said.
Among the topics asked about were interfaith dialogue and commonalities between different religious leaders.
City Circle aims to highlight an Australian Muslim identity while developing friendship and cooperation between Muslim and non-Muslim communities
70th Anniversary for the Dunera Boys
MELBOURNE, 8 July – In ranks depleted by the passing of seven decades, they will return to the small NSW town of Hay in September to reminisce
about a perilous wartime voyage from Britain to the far side of the world.
The “Dunera boys” is the moniker bestowed on 2542 men, 2036 of whom were Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany and Austria, living in Britain and classed as enemy aliens.
Seventy years ago this month, they were placed aboard the Dunera, bound for Australia. The ship had a maximum capacity of 1600, and conditions were described as “inhumane”.
These men and boys were refugees from Nazi Germany who had reached what they believed was the sanctuary of England just before the outbreak
of war in 1939. When the war broke out in September 1939, they were interned and later shipped as “enemy aliens” to Australia. But even
more degrading, they were locked up with German prisoners of war, and other Nazi personnel.
On arrival in Sydney, the bewildered newcomers were taken to internment camps in the rural towns of Hay, NSW, Loveday, SA, and Tatura, Victoria.
Subsequently reclassified as “friendly aliens”, hundreds were recruited into the Australian Defence Force. After the war, around 800 remained in the country.
Peter Felder, son of Dunera boy Henry Felder, is organising this year’s reunion, the first major gathering since a 50th-anniversary event in 1990.
“So far, we’ve had 12 Dunera boys indicating they will attend,” he said
Former internee Mike Sondheim will be one of the party. “The people of Hay always display their
hospitality and friendship to us as long-lost sons having returned home.”
From September 3-5, the intenees will return to the sites of former camp seven and eight for a commemoration.
They plan to re-enact their arrival at the local railway station and follow the route they marched along from the station to the camps. Unlike in 1940, the Hay Shire Council mayor will formally welcome the visitors.
Among the activities planned, they will visit the grave of Menasche Bodner, the only Dunera boy buried in the Jewish section of the Hay General
Cemetery, and will see the Hay Dunera Museum.
Court ruling on question of religious freedom
MELBOURNE, 6 July – A father has won the right to stop his children from taking part in Jewish coming-of-age ceremonies, after a court agreed
with the man that they should be able to make their own religious choices.
The mother wanted her children to participate in their bar and bat mitzvahs – ceremonies that mark the beginning of boys and girls taking responsibility for their Jewish faith.
But the father, a Catholic who irregularly attends church, wanted them to choose their own religion in a ”voluntary and informed” way when they were old enough.
The dispute played out in the Federal Magistrates Court in Melbourne where the separated parents, known as Mr and Mrs Macri, asked the court to determine the religious future of their children: a 10-year-old and eight year-old twins.
Mr Macri, 44, did not oppose his children observing Jewish holidays and events. The children had undergone some classes in Hebrew, but the lessons had lapsed at their request. In accordance with traditional Jewish practice, the son had undergone circumcision.
Mrs Macri had enrolled the children in a religious youth group for two hours each Sunday. But Mr Macri was concerned this had ”an element of political content” and wished for them not to attend.
He also asked for an injunction, stopping Mrs Macri from committing their children to the Jewish faith through the bar and bat mizvah ceremonies until they were older. Jewish girls usually undergo bat mitzvah aged 12, while boys have their bar mitzvah at aged 13.
Federal magistrate Terry McGuire allowed the mother to take the children to the youth group but ordered her not to let her children participate in the ceremonies until they made the choice or their father agreed to it.
”Australia is a multicultural and secular society,” Mr McGuire said. ”These children are fortunate in that they have the opportunity to directly experience the culture and traditions of the religions practised by each of their parents.”
Mr Macri had not pitted one religion against the other but had wanted his children to participate in the culture and traditions of both religions
without committing to either at this stage, he said.
In contrast, Mrs Macri wanted to commit the children to Judaism immediately.
He said there was no evidence that deferring the decision would later stop the children choosing to enter the Jewish religion.
TV Channel accused of racism
SYDNEY, 9 July – TV Channel Nine and its program – A Current Affair (ACA)- allowed anti-Semitic comments to be published on its website,
violating racial vilification laws according to NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff.
ACA reported one evening last week on plans for an eruv in the Sydney suburb of St.Ives. After the show, it posted a video of the story on its
website, which attracted hundreds of comments. The discussion, which was about whether or not the local council should approve an application
to erect 27 poles to constitute the eruv in the suburb, soon descended into an attack on Israel and the Jewish community. “The bosh (Germans)
didn’t finish the job” said one post. Another went further ” Quick hide your babies, the Jews are going to drain their blood to bake bread!”.
Alhadeff contacted Channel Nine to alert them of the possible breach of the law and the network immediately removed the comments. “The quick
response was appreciated, but the incident draws attention yet again to the need for all media to implement effective filtering systems of what is
posted on their sites” Alhadeff said. “Some of the remarks clearly violate the race vilification laws, and it is unacceptable for media to carry
such slurs until such time as the offensiveness is drawn to their attention”.
B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission executive director Deborah Stone said it is not the community’s job to monitor news sites. She added
that is was particularly concerning that the report prompted virulent anti-Semitism. John O’Dea, who represents the local electorate of Davidson, said there needs to be a rational debate over the feasibility of an eruv in the
“Prejudice or discrimination based on racial or religious grounds should play no role in the debate” he said. The federal member for the area, Paul Fletcher, whose electorate would contain part of the eruv, called anti-Semitic comments disturbing. “There is no place in this decision-making process for anti-Semitic comments”, Fletcher said.
Jewish ANZAC’s to be honoured
CANBERRA, 9 July – A Jewish memorial service will be held a the graveside of Berrol Mendelsohn, a World-War I soldier whose remains will be interred in France on July 19. The fallen officer is so far the Jew among 94 Australian soldiers who have been identified using DNA technology, after a mass grave
containing 250 bodies of Anzacs was discovered two years ago at Fromelles in France.
shechitah, kashrut experts in Australia expressed fears that the ban may impact closer to home.
The New Zealand community were hoping that a meeting with Prime Minister John Key late last month might lead to reversal of the policy. But
though he told the gathering that he ‘wants to Jewish community to be strong and vibrant in New Zealand”, he has so far failed to respond to their concerns.
“In the absence of any firm response from the Government, the community is preparing its legal case to restore the legal practice of shechitah
as an integral part of its right to manifest the Jewish religion and belief in New Zealand, as provided for in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990”, Community spokesperson David Zwarts said.
The kashrut crisis began when NZ Agriculture Minister David Carter imposed a requirement that animals be electrically stunned before slaughter, meaning that it is no longer possible to provide halachically acceptable meat.
Mikvah watershed in Canberra
CANBERRA, 9 July – After years of community deliberations, Canberra’s Jewish women will finally have the use of a local mikvah. Chabad of
ACT, which has been active in the nation’s capital for a year, will own and run the facility. It will be ready for use early next year. Rabbi Dan Avital, who has been working to establish Chabad of ACT, said building the
facility had been a stated goal since he and his wide Naomi arrived.
“We are incredibly excited at having started building the first mikvah in Canberra”, he said.
The mikvah will have two immersion pools – to allow the continuity of operation – and three bathrooms, and will be attended by Rebbetzin
Avital. Although attached to the Avital’s residence, it will have a separate access to ensure privacy.
Holocaust Museum ugrade
MELBOURNE, 12 July – Henryk Kranz’s father taught him to draw by candlelight in a hiding place he had helped a farmer dig into the hillside during the Nazi occupation of Poland in World War II.
His father, Zygmunt, would make aeroplanes, houses and other toys from wood, metal and matchboxes to amuse him in the dark, cramped
space where they hid until liberated by the Red Army in August 1944.
“He was quite gifted with his hands,” the retired neurologist, 72, says of his father, who years later sculpted a series of bronze busts that reminded him of some of the people he once knew in his Polish home town of Boryslav, now in western Ukraine.
Almost a decade after Zygmunt Kranz’s death, seven of these busts have pride of place in a redeveloped new museum that opens officially this
month at the Jewish Holocaust Centre in Elsternwick.
Henryk Kranz does not believe his father set out to recreate faces of specific people but “archetypal individuals from his memory of that period”.
Also on display are two artworks from an unpublished children’s book by Henryk’s daughter, Andrea, celebrating the heroism of farmer Jozef
Baran and his wife Eleonora, who risked their lives to save her father and his parents.
Like her father, Andrea Kranz is a medical practitioner. She works in palliative care with cancer patients.
She has been reading the story about the heroic Barans to her 4½-year-old daughter, Iliya. Her grandfather would often retell it. “It was woven
throughout my childhood,” she says.
The new multimedia museum updates the Selwyn Street facility built 25 years ago. Audio-visual displays, photographs, artwork and memorabilia
present the stories of its increasingly frail survivor guides to students and other visitors.
“This is a big concern many survivors express, this fear that in the future no one will be left to talk about their murdered families,” curator Jayne Josem says, noting that technology will ensure their stories continue to be heard.
Zygmunt Kranz was a mining engineer in the petroleum industry at the start of the war. He was sent to a labour camp near Boryslaw, as it is
known in Poland, and put to work digging out old pipelines.
The farmer had befriended him after offering his team shelter for a day on which the Germans were rounding up Jews. He took a liking to Zygmunt and
offered to hide his family. The two men dug about a metre high and wide and 1.3 metres long behind the rear wall of the farm shed. They installed a
pipe so they could breathe and, later, planks to keep back the crumbling earth.
Zygmunt Kranz, who took his family across the Czech border to Germany and Norway, worked as an \engineer at CSIRO and Unilever after settling here in 1950.
He wrote in a letter in 1993 nominating the Barans as Righteous Among the Nations at the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem that Jozef Baran was “broadly straight and just”.
He brought his wife Frances and three-year-old Henryk to the “bunker” in October 1941, visited them when he could and escaped the camp to join them in January 1943.
The Barans would leave buckets with food in the shed. The Kranz family would emerge for a few hours at night.
Henryk, ill at one stage, was cared for in the farmhouse and remembers gazing fearfully up the hill at a boy walking a bicycle. The boy stopped and stared before continuing.
Through a crack in the door he saw sunlit fields with bright yellow flowers. And once he heard sounds of people searching the shed. “They were trying to find some hidden trapdoor; we were very quiet trying not to make a sound at all.”
He was six when they were finally able to come out of hiding. “I was just speaking in whispers,” he says.
Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World