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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

New Zealand stays restrictions on kosher slaughtering

August 9, 2010 Leave a comment

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”.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

A short history of anti-Semitism and its modern equivalent

July 31, 2010 Leave a comment
By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–Anti-Semitism is ancient, although the term itself appears only from the 19th century onward. By the latter part of the 20th century, Arabs were ridiculing the charge that they were anti-Semites, on the grounds that they are Semites.

Tendentious claims aside, no less a reference than the Oxford English Dictionary defines anti-Semitism as “theory, action, or practice directed against the Jews.”

Josephus describes claims against the Jews from first century Alexandria, then a city populated largely by Greeks. They sound like some of those still expressed: that Jews are diseased; clannish; committed to bear no good will to non-Jews; kill non-Jews in order to eat their entrails and their blood; and observe laws that are inhumane.

The New Testament refers to Pharisees (predecessors of modern rabbis) as vipers, blind guides, and hypocrites who preach one thing and do another. It also claims that Jews demanded the death of Jesus, while the Roman official Pilate saw him as innocent of a charge that would require the death penalty; that Jewish priests bribed Roman soldiers to testify that disciples stole the body of Christ from his tomb, in order to create the image that he had not risen from the dead; that Jews poisoned the minds of Gentiles against Christians; and that Gentile authorities acted against Christians in order to curry favor with the Jews.

A later entry in the classic literature of anti-Semitism is The Protocols of The Learned Elders Of Zion. Civilized intellectuals recognize it as a concoction produced as anti-Jewish propaganda by authorities in Czarist Russia. In recent years it has been trumpeted by Arabs and others as a genuine document produced by Jewish leaders, and containing their plan to control the world.

Among the points in the Protocols said to come from the Elders of Zion are:

“God has granted to us, His Chosen People, the gift of dispersion . . .which has now brought us to the threshold of sovereignty over all the world. . . . when we come into our kingdom it will be undesirable for us that there should exist any other religion than ours . . .In this difference in capacity for thought between the GOYIM and ourselves may be clearly discerned the seal of our position as the Chosen People and of our higher quality of humanness, in contradistinction to the brute mind of the GOYIM. . . . From this it is plain that nature herself has destined us to guide and rule the world.”

Anti-Semitism got a bad press in the 1940s. Since then the Roman Catholic Church and other Christians have tended to emphasize friendship and accommodation. Many of their scholars concede that their earlier doctrines, including elements of the New Testament, were created to serve purposes no longer relevant, and ought to be archived.

Those looking for clear expressions of anti-Semitism can use the internet to find Muslim clerics preaching about the “Filth of the Jews, the Brothers of Apes and Pigs” 

While overt anti-Semitism has declined, anti-Zionism has become fashionable. It is directed against Israel, rather than against Jews, per se. Some of its practitioners are Jews and others are Gentiles who chafe at any accusation of anti-Semitism. “Some of my best friends are Jews” is still heard, although it has long since become a line of ridicule. 
Some of my best friends are Jews who accuse Israelis of claiming that every critic of the country is an anti-Semite. 
Some of Israel’s severest Jewish critics may be “self-hating Jews,” a phenomenon that has been around at least since Jewish collaborators testified at medieval trials of inquisition. However, many may simply be misguided in their choice of political fashions.
Distinguishing anti-Semitism from anti-Zionism is not easy. A useful conception is that anti-Zionism verges into anti-Semitism to the extent that individuals accuse Israel of violating standards of activity far more onerous than they use to judge other countries, including their own.
Americans and Europeans are among those who go over this line. People from other countries may be even guiltier, but Americans and Europeans may be reachable by argument, and their governments are most important to Israel. The United States is the largest and most powerful of this cluster. It is also a country not regularly censured by official bodies that censure Israel routinely, and it may be one of those most vulnerable to censure if it would be compared fairly to Israel. Norwegians, New Zealanders, and a few others may come out smelling even sweeter than Israel or the United States, but they are far from nastiness, and appear to be irrelevant to this discussion. 
There are several indicators to challenge the often-heard charge that Israel represses its Arab minority. Among the most persuasive is the summary indicator of health: longevity. Israeli Arabs do not live as long as Israeli Jews, but the differences are smaller than those between American Whites and Blacks. Not only do Israeli Arabs live, on the average, six years longer than American Blacks, but Israeli Arab men live longer than White American men.
The incidence of Israeli Arabs as opposed to African-Americans who are so far removed from the norms of their societies as to be incarcerated also shows that Israel is not the oppressive society often depicted. While Arabs are incarcerated at twice the incidence of Jews in Israel, Blacks are incarcerated at four times the rate of Whites in the United States.

Israel’s security actions often come under attack, but an inquiry into the balance of threat versus defensive action does not support the condemnation of Israel. Since 2000 the incidence of Israelis who have died from Palestinian violence and terrorism. is six times the incidence of American casualties on 9-11, in Iraq and Afghanistan, corrected for population . The casualties caused by Israel in its defense appear to be substantially fewer than those caused by the United States. Lacking the kind of international investigations focused on Israel, however, the figures about fighters and civilians killed by American troops are far from precise. Perhaps 7,500 Palestinians and Lebanese have been killed by Israeli security forces since 2000.

Estimates of those killed in Iraq since the US-led invasion of 2003 range between 100,000 and one million, and estimates of those killed in Afghanistan range up to 40,000. Both figures reflect violence among Iraqis and Afghans, as well as casualties traced to American and allied troops. Those willing to listen to a non-Israeli professional soldier on the morality of the IDF might consider the comments by the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan. He describes the IDF’s concerns to avoid civilian casualties as greater than those of any other military force. 

A friend in Thurston County, Washington is more certain than I that he can distinguish anti-Semitism from a posture against Israel. He described efforts to oppose the boycott of Israeli products by the Olympia Food Coop. He writes
This isn’t about anti-Semitism. The momentum for the boycott comes from anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian people in our community. For the most part they are careful to avoid doing/saying anything which would open them to a charge of anti-Semitism. 

He goes on to write that a hate crime at the Chabad Center produced an outpouring of support for the Jewish community; that he and his friends defeated a effort by pro-Palestinians to name Rafah as a sister city; and that hundreds of people, not just from the Jewish community, came out to protest when neo-Nazis tried to stage a rally. 

I am a long way from Thurston County, and I would not condemn its population on the basis of an unknown number who may have gone over the line between a reasonable posture against Israel and anti-Semitism. It appears to me, however, that my friend is being too generous in clearing his adversaries from the charge. What he describes smells too much like “Some of my best friends are Jews.”

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Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University

Ranking State Department official describes U.S. efforts to preserve Israel’s ‘Qualitative Military Edge’

July 16, 2010 Leave a comment
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release)–Following is a transcript of comments on Israel by Andrew J. Shapiro, assistant secretary of State for political-military affairs as prepared for delivery Friday at the Brookings Saban Center for Middle East Policy:

Good morning. I am particularly pleased to be here at the Saban Center to address the Obama Administration’s enduring commitment to Israel’s security. And I am proud to say that as a result of this commitment, our security relationship with Israel is broader, deeper and more intense than ever before.

Just last week, President Obama met with Prime Minister Netanyahu and stated that “Israel has unique security requirements.” President Obama has ensured that his Administration fully recognizes those requirements, and we have redoubled our commitment to meeting them. Indeed, as Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs, one of my primary responsibilities is to preserve Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge, or QME.

Today, I’d like to tell you about how we’re preserving Israel’s QME through an unprecedented increase in U.S. security assistance, stepped up security consultations, support for Israel’s new Iron Dome defensive system, and other initiatives.

We recognize that today Israel is facing some of the toughest challenges in its history. This Administration is particularly focused on Israel’s security precisely because of the increasingly complex and severe threats that it faces in the region. Israel is a vital ally and a cornerstone of our regional security commitments.

When talking about the threat assessment in the region, one must start with the Iranian nuclear program. As Secretary Clinton said in March, “For Israel, there is no greater strategic threat than the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran.”

While the most grave, the Iranian nuclear program is one of many serious security threats in the region. Iran and Syria both pose significant conventional challenges. And these conventional challenges intersect with the asymmetrical threats posed by Hezbollah and Hamas, whose rockets indiscriminately target Israeli population centers, and whose extensive arms smuggling operations, many of which originate in Tehran and Damascus, weaken regional security and disrupt efforts to establish lasting peace between Israel and its neighbors.

We must recognize that the ever-evolving technology of war is making it harder to guarantee Israel’s security. For six decades, Israelis have guarded their borders vigilantly. But advances in rocket technology require new levels of U.S.-Israel cooperation. Despite efforts at containment, rockets with better guidance systems, greater range, and more destructive power are spreading across the region. Hezbollah has amassed tens of thousands of short- and medium-range rockets on Israel’s northern border. Hamas has a substantial number in Gaza. And even if some of these are still crude, they all pose a serious danger.

These and other threats to Israel’s security and civilian population are real, they are growing, and they must be addressed. And we are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our Israeli partners to do so.

Coming to my current job after eight years as Secretary Clinton’s primary foreign affairs and defense policy advisor in the Senate, I can personally attest to her deep sense of pride in being a strong voice for Israel. I travelled to Israel with then-Senator Clinton in 2005 (to attend a Saban Center conference) and joined her on her first visit to Israel as Secretary of State in March 2009.

When it comes to the U.S.-Israel relationship, the policy guidance Secretary Clinton has given me for my current position is no different from the guidance she gave me when I worked for her in the Senate. As the Secretary mentioned in a recent speech, the management of our security relationship with Israel and preserving Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge must be one of my top priorities.

The unique relationship between the United States and Israel is rooted in common values, interwoven cultures, and mutual interests. U.S. support for the idea of a Jewish homeland dates back to John Adams and John Quincy Adams, and can be traced through the letters of Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Roosevelt. Indeed, when Israel was founded in 1948, the United States was ready to embrace its new partner. President Truman famously extended official, diplomatic recognition to the State of Israel in just 11 minutes.

America’s commitment to Israel’s security and prosperity has extended over many decades and across Democratic and Republican Administrations alike. Our leaders have long understood that a robust United States-Israel security relationship is good for us, good for Israel and good for regional stability.

President Nixon paid the first official visit to Israel to begin direct U.S. diplomatic engagement to help bring peace to the region. This began a long, bipartisan effort to work toward peace and, in doing so, to further bolster Israel’s security as a sovereign state. President Nixon’s effort was continued by President Carter with the Camp David Accords, George H.W. Bush at the Madrid Conference, President Clinton’s stewardship of the Oslo Accords and the Wye River Conference – in which Brookings’ own Martin Indyk played such a central role – and the previous administration’s engagement at the Annapolis Conference.

President Obama has also made achieving peace and recognized secure borders for Israel a top Administration priority. Secretary Clinton, in her speech to AIPAC earlier this year, explained the imperative of pushing the peace process forward because the status quo is unacceptable. In addition to a nuclear-armed Iran, Israel’s future as a secure, Jewish, and democratic state is under threat from the dynamics of demography, ideology, and technology. The Obama Administration is working assiduously with the parties to restart direct negotiations toward a comprehensive peace as soon as possible.

We believe that through good faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.

Hand in hand with this commitment to peace has been the Administration’s unwavering dedication to ensuring that Israel is prepared to defend itself against the multitude of threats it faces. As the President said just last week, “the United States is committed to Israel’s security. We are committed to that special bond, and we are going to do what’s required to back that up, not just with words but with actions.”

Since day one, President Obama and Secretary Clinton have not only honored and re-energized America’s enduring commitment to Israel’s security, but have taken action to expand it to an unprecedented level. Our work is rooted in knowledge shared across the decades by presidents and policymakers on both sides of the aisle that a strong and secure Israel – and an Israel at peace with its neighbors – is critical not only to the interests of Israelis and Palestinians, but also to America’s strategic interests.

Peace and Security

As Secretary Clinton has often said, the status quo is unsustainable. Without a comprehensive regional peace, the Middle East will never unlock its full potential, and Israel will never be truly secure.

The dynamics of ideology, technology, and demography in the region mean that this continuing conflict poses serious challenges to Israel’s long-term security and its future as a Jewish and democratic state. This Administration believes that pursuing peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and Israel and its neighbors can be a mutually reinforcing process. Today, it is more essential than ever to make progress on all tracks.

Regional peace must begin with the recognition by every party that the United States will always stand behind Israel’s security. As President Obama put it, “no wedge will be driven between us.”

Israel’s right to exist, and to defend itself, is not negotiable. No lasting peace will be possible unless that fact is accepted. It is our hope that the Administration’s expanded commitment to Israel’s security will advance the process by helping the Israeli people seize this opportunity and take the tough decisions necessary for a comprehensive peace.

Maintaining Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge

For decades, the cornerstone of our security commitment to Israel has been an assurance that the United States would help Israel uphold its qualitative military edge – a commitment that was written into law in 2008. Israel’s QME is its ability to counter and defeat credible military threats from any individual state, coalition of states, or non-state actor, while sustaining minimal damages or casualties. The Obama Administration has demonstrated its commitment to Israel’s QME by not only sustaining and building upon practices established by prior administrations, but also undertaking new initiatives to make our security relationship more intimate than ever before.

Each and every security assistance request from the Israeli Government is evaluated in light of our policy to uphold Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge. At the same time, QME considerations extend to our decisions on defense cooperation with all other governments in the region. This means that as a matter of policy, we will not proceed with any release of military equipment or services that may pose a risk to allies or contribute to regional insecurity in the Middle East.

The primary tool that the United States uses to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge is security assistance. For some three decades, Israel has been the leading beneficiary of U.S. security assistance through the Foreign Military Financing program, or FMF. Currently, Israel receives almost $3 billion per year in U.S. funding for training and equipment under FMF. The total FMF account is $5 billion annually and is distributed among some 70 countries. So it is a testament to our special security relationship that each year Israel accounts for just over 50 percent of U.S. security assistance funding distributed through FMF.

The Obama Administration is proud to carry on the legacy of robust U.S. security assistance for Israel. Indeed, we are carrying this legacy to new heights at a time when Israel needs our support to address the multifaceted threats it faces.

For Fiscal Year 2010, the Administration requested $2.775 billion in security assistance funding specifically for Israel, the largest such request in U.S. history. Congress fully funded our request for FY 2010, and we have requested even more – $3.0 billion – for FY 2011. These requests fulfill the Administration’s commitment to implementing the 2007 memorandum of understanding with Israel to provide $30 billion in security assistance over 10 years.

This commitment directly supports Israel’s security, as it allows Israel to purchase the sophisticated defense equipment it needs to protect itself, deter aggressors, and maintain its qualitative military edge. Today, I can assure you that – even in challenging budgetary times – this Administration will continue to honor this 10-year, $30 billion commitment in future fiscal years.

But our unique security assistance relationship with Israel extends beyond raw numbers. Unlike other beneficiaries of Foreign Military Financing, which are legally required to spend funds in the United States, Israel is the only country authorized to set aside one-quarter of its FMF funding for off-shore procurements. This exception provides a significant boost for Israel’s domestic defense industry, helps them to develop indigenous production capacity, and is one of many ways we demonstrate our commitment to meeting Israel’s unique security requirements.

A second way we build Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge is through training and joint military exercises, such as last fall’s JUNIPER COBRA 2010 ballistic missile defense exercises. More than 1,000 U.S. troops participated in JUNIPER COBRA, which was the largest U.S.-Israeli exercise in history. U.S. and Israeli forces take part in numerous exercises each year to test operational concepts, improve interoperability, and focus on urban terrain and counter-terrorism operations. These collaborative efforts enhance Israel’s military capabilities and improve our own military’s understanding of and relationship with the Israeli Defense Forces.

In addition, many Israeli officers and enlisted personnel attend U.S. military schools such as the National War College, where they can acquire essential professional skills and build life-long relationships with their U.S. military and other foreign counterparts.

Third, the United States supports Israel’s defense needs through both our government-to-government Foreign Military Sales program and Direct Commercial Sales, including releasing advanced products restricted to only the closest of allies and partners. In the past few years, we have notified Congress of a number of significant sales aimed at preserving Israel’s qualitative military edge, most notably the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The F-35’s advanced capabilities will prove a key contribution to upholding Israel’s QME for many years to come.

Israel further benefits from a War Reserve Stockpile, which is maintained in Israel by U.S. European Command and used to boost Israeli defenses in case of a significant military emergency. And like many of our partners overseas, Israel is also able to access millions of dollars in free or discounted military equipment each year through the Department of Defense’s Excess Defense Articles program.

Fourth, the United States and Israel have long cooperated in research and development of military equipment. Given the threat Israel faces from short- and medium-range missiles, Israeli air and missile defense systems are an area of particular focus, including the Arrow Weapon System to counter long-range ballistic missile threats and David’s Sling to defend against short-range ballistic missiles. For our part, we are working with Israel to upgrade its Patriot Air and Missile Defense System, which was first deployed during the Gulf War, and have installed advanced radar systems to provide Israel early warning of incoming missiles.

Israeli-origin equipment deployed on Iraqi and Afghan battlefields are protecting American troops every day. This includes armor plating technology for U.S. military vehicles and unique medical solutions such as the “Israeli bandage” – a specially designed antibiotic-treated dressing that has been used widely by our men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also includes sensors, surveillance equipment, unmanned aerial vehicle technology, and detection devices to seek out IED’s. Many such partnerships and investments between our two governments and U.S. and Israeli defense firms have yielded important groundbreaking innovations that ultimately make us all safer.

What I have laid out here represents the core pillars of U.S.-Israeli security cooperation. But given the breadth of our relationship, I have only really begun to scratch the surface. The United States and Israel are also working closely in a series of other activities to enhance our shared security, from efforts to shut down the vast network of tunnels being used to rearm Hamas to tracking and combating terrorist financing, to countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, their delivery systems, and related materials through the Proliferation Security Initiative.

A prime example can be found in our joint effort to prevent and interdict the illicit trafficking of arms, ammunition and weapons components into Gaza. In 2009, the United States and Israel began intensive consultations to address this threat, a top agenda item whenever we meet for bilateral security talks. These efforts have since expanded into a wider international effort under the Gaza Counter Arms Smuggling Initiative – or GCASI. Under this multi-national partnership, the United States joins Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Norway and the UK – along with Israel and Egypt – to employ a broad range of diplomatic, military, intelligence and law enforcement tools to block the shipment of arms – including rockets, missiles and related components – into Gaza, safeguarding neighboring Israeli communities and promoting regional security.

A New Level of Security Cooperation

But what I really want to emphasize is that this Administration’s commitment to Israel’s security is more than just a continuation and strengthening of existing policies. Rather, we have been cultivating new ways to ensure Israel’s security and enhance our bilateral political-military relationship.

During the past year, there has been an unprecedented reinvigoration of bilateral defense consultations through nearly continuous high-level discussions and visits. We have re-energized structured dialogues such as the U.S.-Israel Joint Political-Military Group and the Defense Policy Advisory Group, among others. I lead the U.S. government’s discussions within the Joint Political-Military Group (JPMG), which includes representatives from both the State Department and Pentagon on the U.S. side and the Foreign and Defense Ministries on the Israeli side. The JPMG discussions cover a wide range of political-military topics, including first and foremost maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge. Meanwhile, the DoD-led Defense Policy Advisory Group provides a high-level forum dedicated to enhancing defense policy coordination.

This only reflects what we have been doing publicly with our Israeli partners. Just as important as this public cooperation and collaboration is what you don’t see. For instance, our regular and well-established meetings have recently been supplemented by an unprecedented number of intimate consultations at senior levels of our governments. These small, private sessions allow us to frankly discuss a wide range of current security concerns ranging from defense procurement to regional security. These consultations provide an opportunity for our governments to share perspectives on policies, address mutual concerns, explain threat perceptions, and identify new areas for cooperation. Our constant communication with the Government of Israel over the past year has helped us to more fully understand and appreciate the many unique security challenges that Israel must live with each and every day.

Let me now turn to another area where we are deepening our security relationship with Israel. The rocket threats from Hezbollah and Hamas represent the most immediate challenge. This is a very real daily concern for ordinary Israelis living in border towns such as Sderot, who know that a rocket fired from Gaza may come crashing down at any moment. As a Senator, President Obama travelled to Israel and met with families whose homes had been destroyed by rockets. So the President understands this threat. Secretary Clinton understands it. And I understand it.

That is why earlier this spring, the President asked Congress to authorize $205 million to support the production of an Israeli-developed short range rocket defense system called Iron Dome. This $205 million for Iron Dome, which has been authorized by the House, is above and beyond the $3 billion in Foreign Military Financing that the Administration requested for Israel in FY 2011. One of my colleagues in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs recently had a chance to see the Iron Dome training battery while in Israel for bilateral consultations, and was able to witness a simulation of the system’s promising new capabilities.

Iron Dome will be part of comprehensive layered defense against the threat of short range rockets fired at the Israeli population. This funding will allow Israel to expand and accelerate Iron Dome production and deployment to provide timely improvements to their multi-tiered defense. This step is one in a series that demonstrates the strength of our mutual defense relationship and shows how serious we are about ensuring that our enhanced security dialogues translate into action.

Iron Dome fills a gap in Israel’s multi-tiered defense system. Israel has conducted thorough tests of Iron Dome components and we’ve conducted an evaluation of our own. We are confident that Iron Dome will provide improved defense for the people of Israel.

Helping to make Israel’s population more secure from the short range rocket and missile threat its border towns face is not only the right thing to do, but it is the type of strategic step that is good for Israel’s security and for the United States’ interests in the region.

Bolstering Israel’s security against the rocket threat will not by itself facilitate a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Conversely, a two-state solution will not in and of itself bring an end to these threats. But our support for Iron Dome and similar efforts do provide Israel with the capabilities and the confidence that it needs to take the tough decisions ahead for a comprehensive peace.

U.S. support for Israel’s security is much more than a simple act of friendship. We are fully committed to Israel’s security because it enhances our own national security and because it helps Israel to take the steps necessary for peace. As Secretary Clinton has suggested, we cannot entrust Israel’s future to the status quo. And the most certain way to ensure Israel’s future as a democratic state is through a sustainable regional peace.

We will also continue to support our words with concrete actions. The U.S.-Israel security relationship is too important to be anything less than a top priority. As surely as the bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable, our commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge has never been greater. And I can assure you that under the leadership of President Obama and Secretary Clinton, our relationship will always receive the time, attention and focus that it deserves.

Thank you for your time and attention this morning. I look forward to your questions.

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Preceding provided by U.S. State Department

The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australia and New Zealand Jewish News

July 11, 2010 Leave a comment
 

Garry Fabian

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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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
area. 

“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.

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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.

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New Zealand readies for legal action over shechitah
WELLINGTON,  NZ 9 July –  The New Zealand Jewish  community is making preparations for a legal  challenge to the Government’s outlawing of
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.

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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.

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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.

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Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

Israel’s ‘Lousy PR’ vs. its national defense needs

June 30, 2010 Leave a comment

 By Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a strange conversation, a journalist called to ask how badly Israel’s image had been damaged by the flotilla incident. Our first thought was, “Not as badly as if the precedent was set for ships to land in Gaza without Israeli inspection, or if the millions of Euros in their pockets had actually reached Hamas.” But that wasn’t what he was asking. He really wanted to know whether countries or people who had previously “liked” Israel “liked” Israel less now, and if Israel would have “done better” if it could have explained itself better. 
It was, in fact, the dreaded “Israel’s lousy PR” question.
 
In a second strange conversation, an admittedly cynical diplomat told us to disregard the posturing anti-Israel statements at the European Parliament, the UN Human Rights Commission and other international bodies. “People don’t really know anything, they just say things.” But, he added, Israel couldn’t expect to get a fair shake in those places because it doesn’t spend enough time making its case to European diplomats. 
 
Again, “Israel’s lousy PR,” was the issue, not the reality of the Arab/Islamic threat to Israel or the reality of Israel’s defense.
 
Our belief is that the flotilla incident actually made people and countries behave more like themselves. 

There are those inclined to dislike Israel for ethnic or religious reasons; or because they see only the limited view of Israel their media-controlling governments want them to see; or because they reflexively support people who look sad. 

There are those, on the other hand, who are inclined to appreciate the difficulties of Israel in the Middle East and find in Israel a like-minded, democratic ally under attack by radical forces that also threaten the West. This group often includes post-Soviet countries including Poland and the Czech Republic, and in this case includes Italy and The Netherlands. 

And there is a third type, those who travel in groups or packs – among them the media, Western Europeans, and left-wing Democrats – who don’t necessarily want Israel to disappear; and who do in fact understand the substance of Israel’s difficulties; and who would never think of themselves supporting Hamas, Hezbollah or Iran; but who can’t defend Israel in public because it isn’t fashionable; but won’t condemn it more than absolutely necessary; and will still do business with Israel where they find it useful. Cynical diplomats often find themselves here.

All reacted to the flotilla in predictable ways.

Arabs governments, Arab and other media, Turkey and Iran trashed Israel. 

Americans were far more supportive of Israeli actions than Europeans, but President Obama and Congressional Democrats walked a finer line in their support than conservatives. 

And while the EU Parliament – a body responsible to no one for anything – loudly denounced Israel for the raid, the European countries on the UN Human Rights Commission largely abstained from the slander of Israel and the call for a UN-run investigation (Norway always, sadly, excepted).

The actual elected leaders of the G-8 – the United States, Canada, Japan, Britain, Germany France, Italy and Russia – people who have a responsibility for policy, put forward a communiqué calling for direct Israeli-Palestinian talks (as Israel has), welcomed Israel’s own investigation (not mentioning the UN or any other international investigation) and Israel’s own decision to change the rules of the embargo, noted that the “legitimate security concerns of Israel that must continue to be safeguarded,” and called for the “immediate release” of Gilad Shalit. 

And, interestingly, while Iran naturally trashed Israel and threatened it with future flotillas, faced with the reality that Israel would not permit future ships to land and would consider blockade busting to be an act of war, the Iranian government called the whole thing off. Ditto the government of Lebanon.

Israel and supporters of Israel have to make the best possible case for Israeli defensive activities with the full understanding that there is a double – and triple – game out there. The requirements for national defense have to trump PR. If Israel (or America, for that matter) allows itself to be undone by the PR ramifications of defense, or if PR becomes the ultimate determinant of rightness or wrongness in security matters, defense will become impossible – for Israel, for the United States and for the West.

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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.

Suppose Turkey Transfers U.S. Technology and Tactics to Iran and Syria

June 22, 2010 1 comment

Ed. Note: Turkish media jumped on a sentence in a recent column in which we worried about the potential compromise of Western military technology by Turkey as it expands its relations with Iran and Syria (and Brazil, Hamas and Hezbollah). We weren’t the only ones worried. A member of our Board of Advisors with long experience in U.S. defense policy wrote the following:

As a member of NATO, Turkey has access to a wide array of American technology that, if compromised, could spell real danger for U.S. operations in the Middle East and Persian Gulf, and threaten allies that rely on American equipment and training. Turkey’s increasingly close relations with Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, Iran and, recently, Russia, should cause the United States to monitor Turkey closely with an eye toward the damage that could be done to American interests.

Unfortunately, the U.S. has shown no interest in the radical reorientation going on inside of Turkey. The widespread arrest of past and present Turkish military figures along with a large number of others has not sparked even a comment from the State Department or Pentagon, and nor from the White House. The participation of the Turkish government with the IHH in the Gaza flotilla – and the corresponding inflammatory rhetoric that has emanated from the Turkish government – received even less attention. The result is that the Turkish government thinks it has a free hand with Israel, as well as with Iran – although it is peeved the U.S. did not back the Turkish-Brazilian deal for a portion of Iran’s nuclear materials.

A particular worry is the Turkish intelligence services, to which Prime Minister Erdogan has appointed two radical Muslim civilians to key positions: Hakan Fidan as head of Milli Istihbarat Teskilati (MIT), Turkey’s foreign intelligence service; and Muammer Güler as Undersecretary for Public Order and Security, which heads Turkey’s counterterrorism service. The intelligence services are playing a key role in separating the Turkish military from Israel and in the removal of those they see as a threat to the current government.

The big risk is that the intelligence services, conflating their very strong hatred of Israel with their support of Israel’s – and America’s – enemies, will grab equipment and information from the Turkish military and share it with those enemies.

No one can competently say what Turkey is discussing – or sharing – with Hamas and Hezbollah, or with Iran and Syria. Until the Gaza flotilla, Israel did not collect intelligence on Turkey, and it is unlikely the U.S. has paid much attention.

Turkey has the third largest air force in NATO (some 930 aircraft) after the U.S. and the UK. Of these, 230 are F-16’s (Blocks 20, 40 and 50) and Turkey is a Level 3 partner in the forthcoming Joint Strike Fighter. Like the U.S., Turkey has KC-135 refueling tankers, meaning that the Turkish Air Force can operate just about anywhere on a sustained basis (or could provide refueling to Iranian F-14’s or Syrian Sukhois and MiGs). Turkey also has four AWACS aircraft that can be used to direct air battles – their own or those of their new allies. This is a particular risk to the U.S. because it exposes all U.S. assets in the Gulf area to Turkish real-time surveillance, and it could give to the Iranians and Syrians a strong ability to actively target U.S. bases and operations, as well as U.S. air, naval and land assets in the region.

Turkey also has a relatively strong Navy with a number of German-designed diesel electric submarines, modern torpedoes, and surface ships equipped with missiles and gun systems. Its navy is probably not capable of challenging the U.S., but Turkey could transfer sensitive systems to America’s adversaries. Among the systems in Turkish hands that could pose serious threats are the U.S. Harpoon missile, the Norwegian Penguin, the Exocet from France, Sea Skua from BAE systems, Hellfire II from the U.S. and others.

Turkey has a strong amphibious capability with an assortment of landing craft, mobile armor systems, self-propelled guns, anti-tank systems and a range of equipment that, if in Iranian or Syrian hands, could spell real trouble. For example, Turkey has more than 850 Stinger missiles (now locally built). These missiles are the same ones the Mujahedeen used to great effect against Russian helicopter gunships. Also in the Turkish army are tens of thousands of LAW antitank rockets, TOW antitank missiles and the very effective Russian Kornet antitank missile. Any of these systems, but particularly the TOW missiles, if transferred would significantly strengthen the Iranians and Syrians.

There are countermeasures systems, night vision equipment, communications gear, command and control and capabilities from other countries, such as advanced Israeli drones, that in the hands of either the Iranians or Syrians, could tip the balance in the region and directly harm U.S. operations and leverage while also posing a serious operational threat.

At this time, the U.S. has not taken any steps to moderate the flow of technology, equipment, systems and supplies to Turkey. In fact, the reverse is true as the Obama Administration has been building its “pro-Muslim” foreign policy in large part around Turkey. And it is true that in some areas, most particularly in Afghanistan, the Turks are making a contribution. Turkey has a small contingent responsible for security around Kabul, and also assists in training the Afghan Army and police forces. But even this positive is a red flag, because Turkey’s close relationship to Iran could pose a serious risk if Ankara and Tehran expand their relationship to cover the evolving situation in Afghanistan and connected with it, Islamic ideological collaboration.

Turkey is a powerful country for many reasons – its NATO membership, its heavy investment in the military, its historical position in the region and its strong alliance with the United States. That the United States is standing by and waiting for the next example of Turkey’s turn away from the West to happen is narrow-minded and reckless.

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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.

UN Human Rights Council condemns Iran for 2009 clampdown on protestors

June 16, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–Iran has been condemned by the United Nations Human Rights Council for its violent crackdown on unrest after the 2009 presidential election. Fifty-six countries endorsed a US-sposored statement voicing concern at Iran’s arrests and executions of dissidents and calling on Tehran to uphold fundamental freedoms of expression, media and assembly.

“We were able to garner broad cross-regional support for this initiative, from all regions of the world, at a very crucial juncture for the people of Iran,” US Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe told reporters. She added: “The brutality and violence committed by the Iranian regime against human rights defenders and peaceful protesters is sickening,” she said.

The United States joined the Human Rights Council for the first time last year. “US leadership at the Human Rights Council matters. Without US engagement here, we leave a vacuum of leadership which will get filled by the priorities of others,” she said.

Pakistan, speaking for the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), as well as African and non-aligned countries, backed Iran in the debate. The objection was to Iran’s record, a “country-specific situation,” being addressed under an agenda item on a landmark human rights meeting held in Vienna in 1993.

The United States and Norway had heavily lobbied countries to endorse the statement, saying the one-year anniversary of the violent protests should be marked. The text voices concern at “events including the violent suppression of dissent, detention and executions without due process of law, severe discrimination against women and minorities including people of the Baha’i faith and restrictions on freedom of expression and religion.”

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

Turkey, Israel’s best friend in Middle East? That reminds me of the story…

June 7, 2010 Leave a comment

By Alex Liff

Alex Liff

SAN DIEGO–Watching the aftermath of the so called Gaza flotilla unfold can’t help but remind one of the following old joke that goes something like this.   A gentleman comes out of a building and sees a crowd gathered below, gesturing angrily toward a roof where one can observe a young man dragging an old lady toward the edge of the roof, in an attempt to throw her down.  The crowd, visibly upset, yells insults at the young man, telling him to let the old woman alone.  Suddenly another person emerges from the building and announces that the old lady is the young man’s mother in law at which point the crowd exclaims, “ah the witch, the nerve of her to resist”.  Substitute Israel for the old woman and the world for the crowd and the whole absurdity of the affair comes clearly into focus. 

In fact the whole affair can be characterized by the following analogy.  The door bell rings, you open it and in barges one of the neighbors, the one you used to play poker with but lately he has been acting kind of weird.  He punches you in the face, gives you a bloody nose and then declares that he won’t play poker with you anymore, until of course you apologize for not leaving the door open and then getting some blood on his shirt with your darn, squirting nose.  The neighborhood is up in arms at your brutality and your neighbors from Norway and Sweden in fact drop you from the neighborhood poker night all together.  Which brings us to Israel’s so called old friend, Turkey.  “Israel cannot find any better friend in the region than Turkey. And Israel is about to lose that friend,”  declared Turkey ‘s ambassador to U.S, Namik Tan.  He then went on to kindly outline the steps that Israel could take to keep its “good” friend, Turkey, from severing those dear ties.  And so with a straight face, can we have some drum roll please. 

 First, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would have to publically apologize to Turkish PM Tayyip Erdogan specifically and to the Turkish nation in general for the dastardly assault at sea that killed the nine peace loving Turks who were last seen in a video called “bash an Israeli soldier’s head in with a peace loving metal pipe”.  The esteemed ambassador unfortunately did not specify if PM Netanyahu would have to be standing on one, or two knees while giving that apology leaving those wicked Israelis to guess about the proper protocol that would satisfy the aggrieved, peace loving Turks. 

Second, Israel would have to consent to, practically beg the U.N to organize a so called international investigation into the Flotilla affair.  Here again the details remained a bit murky as the honorable ambassador did not specify if it would be Iran or Saudi Arabia or perhaps some other equally deserving and unbiased world actor chairing such an impartial commission.  Perhaps it would be Hamas itself,  given all of its significant human rights credentials and even handedness (as in they are equally adapt at throwing people off of buildings with left as well as right hand) that would get the honorary chairmanship of such a commission. 

Third, the distinguished ambassador Mr. Tan outlined a demand for Israel to essentially lift the blockade of Gaza.  As in the first two demands, the details remained a bit incomplete,  and thus it was unclear if the Iranian missiles would need to be delivered directly to Hamas via Haifa or Ashdod ports.  It was also a bit unclear if the Israelis needed to reserve aisle or window seats for the Iranian revolutionary guard instructors who would of course be needed to teach the peace loving Hamasniks how to use such sophisticated equipment.  Of course there has been quite a bit of press lately about the bestial Israeli blockade and how it was denying the long suffering, peace loving, oppressed people of Gaza, such basic human necessities as coriander, ginger and yes, the French croissants.  It’s clear that no spontaneous suicide bombing celebration is complete without a bit of ginger and coriander.  In fact it is said that the attendees to the famous suicide bombing museum in Gaza, you know the one the graphically depicts the Pizza place bombing in Tel Aviv that peacefully killed and maimed dozens of Israelis, listed French croissants as one of the key missing items off of the cafeteria menu.  Ah, such travesty indeed. 

So what is one to make of Mr.Tan’s statement?  Well, today, saying that Israel can not find a better friend than Turkey in the region is kind of like saying that in a prison full of criminals, the one who merely killed a few people is morally superior to the rest who are mass murderers.  It is true that Turkey was a friend, in the pre-Erdogan days.  It was a relationship based on mutual benefit and befitting of a Nato member with aspirations to join the European union.  The Turks benefitted by getting Israeli military technology and economic know how while also enjoying massive Israeli tourism and the hard currency that it brought.  That all changed in the last 5 years or so, as Mr. Erdogan steered a steady course away from western orientation and toward Islamism of Iran.  Turkey has cuddled up to Iran and has done everything possible to shield Iran from international sanctions.  It has been quite clear for all but most naïve observers for quite some time that Turkey is a friend no more, not for Israelis and not for the Americans.  And just like in real life when one’s friend decides to leave you, the best reaction is to bid them a fond farewell, and ask that the door not hit them on the way out.  Groveling and begging is very unbecoming in life and politics alike. 

What does it all mean for Israel, U.S and Nato?  It’s time to face the facts, Turks are friends no longer and appropriate conclusions need to be drawn.  U.S would be well served to do the right thing and finally declare that Turkish genocide against the Armenians did take place.  Military contacts should be cut appropriately and economic cooperation curtailed.  And as for Israel?   How should Bibi respond to Mr. Tan’s tantalizing request?  Well, in 1980 at the height of the cold war, at the Olympic games, one American reporter would run into his Russian counterpart who would use his fingers to proudly show how many medals the Russians won that day.  Naturally the American was a bit frustrated.  That all changed the day the U.S Hockey team won the gold medal.  The next morning the American bumped into the Russian, and proudly held up just one finger, and you can probably guess which one it was.  The humble suggestion to Bibi is to use that one finger to respond to Mr. Tan’s proposition.  I hope it means the same in Turkish, if not, perhaps the U.N commission can help to translate. 

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Liff is a freelance journalist based in San Diego

The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Jewish news of Australia and New Zealand

June 6, 2010 Leave a comment

Garry Fabian

Compiled by Garry Fabian

Shechita outlawed in New Zealand

WELLINGTON, New Zealand , May 28 — he days of a Jewish mother making the traditional chicken soup for the family Friday  night Shabbat dinner have come to an end for New Zealanders.

The country has issued a new Animal Welfare Commercial Slaughter Code which stipulates that commercially killed animals must be stunned before slaughter.making halachic slaughter impossible. The new regulations take immediate effect.

Whereas Kosher beef will be able to be imported into New Zealand, the country clearly stipulates that the importation of chickens is banned.

Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence of Sydney’s the Great Synagogue was formerly spiritual head of the Auckland Hebrew Congregation.

He told J-Wire: “There is a strong body of veterinary and animal welfare research which continues to confirm shechita as a humane method of slaughter of the highest standard. Further, the NZ government and its animal welfare advisors have failed to answer substantial challenges by scientists of international repute to the research and the premises on which its recent determination has been made.  Significantly, tests have not been done on animals under shechita conditions.”

The National Animal Welfare Advisory Council (NAWAC) report on which the minister made his decision recognised “that the rights of the New Zealand Jewish community to practise its religious beliefs accorded by the Bill of Rights Act must be balanced against animal welfare considerations.”

It stated that there were alternatives short of an outright ban on shechita available to the government.  Nonetheless, the minister has chosen the most extreme option.

“There is no balance.  A deliberate decision has made to override the Jewish community’s acknowledged rights.  This is a case of misplaced values, bad science and bad legislation.”

John Hellstrom, the Chairman of the National Animal Welfare Advisory committee said: “The Code sets out general principles and recommendations for best practice, ensuring animals do not suffer unreasonable or unnecessary pain and distress when they are killed.”

He told J-Wire that in New Zealand Halal meat for the Muslim community is not affected as the animal is stunned before being slaughtered.

There is no direct appeal against the decision which is effective with 24 hours of publication but there could be an opportunity for a judicial review to consider if the banning of Shecita is contrary to New Zealand’s Bill of Rights.

The chicken soup the Jewish community grew up with will be no more.at least in a Kosher format.

Hellstrom said: “Whereas there is no problem with importing beef there are a couple of diseases which concern New Zealand with respect to chickens. The only chicken meat which is imported has been processed but unprocessed chicken cannot be brought into the country.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry told J-Wire that “the MAF understands that commercial Shechita of poultry has not taken place in New Zealand for some years due to a lack of interest.”

“Not true” says Sydney-based Rabbi Moshe Gutnick who is the acting President of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia.

In his role as Rabbinic Administrator of the Kashrut Authority of Australia and New Zealand, Rabbi Gutnick has made many trips to the New Zealand city of Invercargill where the kosher ritual killing has taken place for years. He told J-Wire: “We send shochtim from Sydney on a regular basis and I can assure you that chickens were slaughtered as well as meat-producing animals. This decision by the New Zealand Government, one which has a Jewish Prime Minister, is outrageous. We will be doing everything possible to get this decision reversed. One of the last countries I would have expected to bring in this blatantly discriminatory action would have been New Zealand.”

David Zwartz chairs the Wellington Jewish Council. He told J-Wire: “I am sure there will  objections made that this action is an
infringement of the right of Jews to observe their religion.”

For New Zealand’s Jewish mothers and grandmothers who have added love to the Shabbas chicken soup with its giblets there will be only a simple and far less involved procedure.  Hellstrom added: “Kosher chicken soup cubes are obviously processed so there will be no problem importing them.”

Shechita is banned in Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

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Ethics or religion in schools

SYDNEY, 3 June  A debate over religious education has flared, as 10 public schools piloted an ethics course as an alternative to religious instruction this term.

Although many children remain enrolled in special religious education (SRE), some students opt out of these classes, wasting time at school because of no secular alternative.

While this program is still in a trial phase, Jewish SRE provider Academy BJE expressed concern.

Meanwhile, representatives of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBD) and Jewish schools met NSW Education Minister Verity Firth on Monday to discuss how students were recruited to the course. Firth was reportedly supportive of the community’s concerns.

“Our position is that Jewish children should not be targeted to leave their SRE classes and invited to opt for the ethics classes instead,”
JBD chief executive Vic Alhadeff said.

“The default position should be that Jewish children automatically attend SRE classes, and that the only way they can choose the ethics course is through their parents expressly requesting in writing that they do so.

Alhadeff said the JBD supports the initiative, but their “concern is to protect and preserve Jewish continuity”.

At the moment, it is only proposed to offer ethics lessons to students in years 5 and 6 who are not already receiving religious instruction.

Close to 50 per cent of Jewish children in NSW are taught by Academy BJE, according to principal Rachele Schonberger, but she is worried that with an ethics program, Jewish students might miss out on learning about their heritage.

“We want to give them access to the beauty of Judaism,” she said, adding that ethics classes have nothing to do with Jewish morals, history or spiritualism, which “distinguishes a Jewish child from one that is not”.

Lesley Holden, a parent at Crown Street Public School in Surry Hills and the pilot coordinator of the school’s community group, told The AJN she believes that students who are not involved in SRE classes are essentially discriminated against because they are not engaged in any meaningful activity at that time.

Holden said that, as a parent, she was “quite upset that there was no meaningful alternative for her son while scripture classes were on”.

In a media statement, Firth said ethics classes are intended to encourage students “to think and talk about things like fairness, honesty, care, rights and responsibilities”, rather than introduce a competing theology.

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Melbourne Communal Appeal abandoned

MELBOURNE, 3 June – Plans  to introduce a Victorian Jewish communal appeal have been scrapped after research revealed the Melbourne community raises more money than Sydney.

New South Wales’ Jews have raised funds to support communal endeavours via the Jewish Communal Appeal (JCA) since the 1960s and for decades, discussions have raged whether its southern neighbour should follow suit.

A subcommittee of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) was set up in 2008 to explore the prospect of a communal appeal in Melbourne. In March this year, the subcommittee was given a push by some of the Jewish community’s most generous donors, led by David Smorgon.

Smorgon, together with other donors, funded the appointment of a top consultant to speak to 14 community organisations and confidentially go through their finances.

The results were announced to the JCCV and donors last week.

“Our funding is pretty much on par with NSW funding, therefore there doesn’t seem to be a great need to go to a communal appeal,” JCCV president John Searle said. “A communal appeal would not raise more money. In fact, it might raise less money.”

The example Searle gave was that if 10 organisations call the same household during the course of the year, they may raise $100 each, but if a Victorian communal appeal were to call, it is unlikely to receive a $1000 donation from the same family in one lump sum.

He admitted “there is a fair bit of surprise coming out of this report. It is shattering all the myths.”

Smorgon added he was pleased to “once and for all get the facts” and that the idea of a Victorian communal appeal can now be “put to bed”.

“The findings are reassuring because they show the strength of the community,” he said.

David Balkin, the president of the NSW JCA, indicated the report was not as clear-cut as it appears.

“They say they raise slightly more than we do, but Melbourne has a much richer community than us,” Balkin said. “They have far more billionaires than we do and they are a bigger community. We shouldn’t be the benchmark because if Melbourne had a JCA like we do, they would raise more than they do today.”

Despite answering one question, the report raised a number of other issues.

Smorgon said it revealed that the fundraising burden was not being spread around. “We’ve still got too many people who don’t give.”

Searle listed other concerns, including that the next generation of philanthropic families will not support the Jewish community like their parents and grandparents have done; the substantial fundraising struggle faced by smaller community organisations and schools; the future of bequests; and how to go about central communal planning without having control of the purse strings.

Balkin certainly agreed with Searle’s final point.

“I’ve seen the report and I can understand what they are saying, but they are missing out on the planning,” he said. “Donors give us money as an intermediary because they think we know what the needs of the community are better than they do.

Balkin also took a swipe at the JCCV, indicating Sydney’s equivalent, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, benefits from increased funding.

“Clearly the most obvious example of the consequence is our JBD, where we have a well-respected and well regarded advocate for our
community at the state level and Victoria has always struggled with that.”

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Celebrating eight decades

MELBOURNE, 3 June – With Temple Beth Israel (TBI) celebrating its 80th birthday this week, the emphasis is on youth, as the synagogue looks ahead to its next eight decades.

Australia’s oldest Progressive congregation works closely with the Leo Baeck Centre, Bentleigh Progressive Synagogue and Kedem, the three other congregations of the Victorian Union for Progressive Judaism (VUPJ), and is a major voice on the Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ), which serves Australia and the region.

But in an era of membership turnover across Melbourne’s synagogues, and a proliferation of smaller minyans, long-established shuls of all stripes are struggling to hold the interest of congregants and to draw in new worshippers.

Finding tomorrow’s leaders can be a challenge that begins in the cradle, and TBI’s leadership team are doing all they can to meet it.

Rabbi Fred Morgan, TBI’s senior rabbi, harked back to the recent Shavuot morning service, and a ceremony celebrating the beginning of the life cycle. “We invited all babies born over the previous year onto the bimah for a special blessing with parents and grandparents, under a tallit, which was a really beautiful event,” he said.

In the words of TBI’s executive manager Art Feinman, the shul’s Matan program, for children who do not attend a Jewish day school, is a place “to plant the seeds”.

Feinman also spoke about “leadership born out of music” through Junior Chazzanim, a group of teens who provide musical Shabbat accompaniment once a month.

Dana Bar-Zuri, shaliach of the VUPJ and Netzer in Victoria, said sending 21 Melbourne youngsters to Israel for a 10-month leadership program – among a total of 33 nationally – is a record.

Jerusalem-born Bar-Zuri arrived last year to take up her role. In coordination with Beck Fiala, Netzer’s Melbourne head, she runs educational programs, including twice-yearly seminars on Jewish and Zionist issues, and monthly forums on “hot topics” in Israel.

“I try to bring them a lot about the Progressive community in Israel and to see what type of issues they are dealing with, and compare it to the issues the Progressive community in Australia, especially in Melbourne, are dealing with,” Bar-Zuri said. Bar-Zuri said TBI teens relate strongly to projects promoting tikkun olam (repairing the world), and to topics such as the conversion bill
controversy and Women of the Wall.

“As Australian Jews, they feel very comfortable being Progressive, but they really want to know what it’s like to be a Progressive Jew in Israel – it’s very different.”

Max Gross, who has been appointed VUPJ youth activities coordinator, focuses on congregants and prospective congregants aged in their 20s, organising a mix of activities including Shabbat dinners, Zohar discussions and social outings. He also arranges youth groups to attend services.

With his Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) background – he was president of AUJS at La Trobe University – his aim is to attract and hold an age group that congregations find difficult to keep interested. Gross has identified “a very positive trend in
more young people coming to synagogue services”.

Feinman sees work with teens and 20-somethings a foundation for “a growing interest and real involvement in TBI in the 30s and 40s age group”.

On a more formal level, TBI president Brian Samuel believes in succession planning. He pointed to young professionals such as Dr Fairlie Wayne, David Marks and Ian Moore on the TBI board, as “people we can come back to in later years and ask to take a senior role”.

The addition of Rabbis Gersh Zylberman and Rayna Gevurtz to the team some years ago attracted young newcomers, and with the couple’s departure for the US, Samuel said a search committee will seek a new, young associate rabbi.

According to Rabbi Morgan, the cumulative focus on teens, young adults and people in their 30s and 40s is a sound basis for future development.

“We have exceptional leadership at present on the board, and teams working in social justice, pastoral care and hospital visiting,” he said.

He also noted that the TBI Friendship Club, a social group for those on the other side of middle age, is now 10 years old and welcoming
more than 100 people each session. “That’s the future too.”

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Jewish students brace for negative reactions

MELBOURNE, 3 June – An escalation in tension around Australian university campuses is expected in the wake of the Gaza flotilla raid.

Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) vice-chairman Glen Falkenstein warned students need to be aware and report any incidents.

“If a student is harassed or intimidated on campus, then we encourage them to contact their campus AUJS president or their equity and diversity unit.”

Falkenstein said there has already been increased activity on campus. Meanwhile, in order to best confront verbal attacks or hostile conversations over the flotilla crisis, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies has emailed background information and interview
transcripts to community members.

The information provides legal background, indicating that “Israel is currently in a state of armed conflict with Hamas” and as such
“maritime blockades are a legitimate and recognised measure under international law”.

Israel exercised its right to enforce its blockade after passengers on the boats provided “clear intention to violate the blockade by means
of written and oral statements”.

They have also circulated transcripts of official Knesset press responses from Israeli Government spokespeople.

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Marching on Melbourne’s streets

MELBOURNE, 3 June – Australian cities became marching grounds for anti-Israel rallies this week in response to the Israeli navy’s raid on a flotilla attempting to break the Gaza blockade.

In Melbourne, about 300 protesters waved placards and brandished Turkish flags in a peak-hour demonstration on Tuesday night.

Protesters were continually warned off tram tracks by police, with some waving posters bearing slogans such as “Boycott Israel” in front of tram windows.

The demonstration, organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), was flanked by a heavy police presence, and eventually ended at the State Library.

Rather than officially attending the protests, members of the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) spent the evening calling
talk-back radio stations and writing to newspapers to counter the negative media in the wake of the crisis.

National chairperson Liam Getreu said the organisation decided they would “rather influence public opinion in the media than put up posters that will just be torn down”.

“We wanted to be smarter and rather arm people with facts,” he said

Warned by police not to attend the protest, Betar members in Sydney opted to hold a vigil outside the Turkish consulate in Woollahra. They held signs with slogans such as “Enough support for terrorism” and “Floating guerrillas not a peace flotilla”.

“It was a spontaneous protest in support of Israel and against the lies being spread about Israel’s intentions,” Betar’s Ari Briggs said.

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Cross-border kosher contention

SYDNEY, 7 June New South Wales Kashrut Authority (KA) administrator Rabbi Moshe Gutnick has moved to diffuse tension between Melbourne and Sydney rabbis.

But he was adamant he does not regret distributing a letter, signed by 10 rabbis and the organisation’s director, in response to
rumours that Sydney’s Adass Israel community would not accept the kosher status of meat prepared in the Harbour City and plans to establish a breakaway authority.

Tensions flared after, for the second time in recent months, an ultra-Orthodox Sydney family employed a Melbourne caterer under the supervision of the Melbourne-based Adass Israel Rabbi Avrohom Zvi Beck.

An Adass representative told The AJN that the family did so because catering was cheaper than Sydney kosher catering.

He added that Sydney Adass Rabbi Shalom Silberberg had agreed to oversee the food once it arrived in Sydney, although it was to be prepared in Melbourne using Melbourne kosher meat.

This sparked a cross-border war of words, with the KA responding to unconfirmed claims that the Adass family had gone with a Melbourne caterer because it did not accept the kosher status of Sydney meat.

In addition, there was talk that Rabbi Silberberg was establishing another kosher authority.

However, the Adass rabbi refused to confirm whether that was the case, saying only that his work is in “its infant stages at the moment”.

“I really don’t want to comment,” he said. “I don’t know what is going on and I don’t want to embarrass anyone.”

Melbourne Adass Israel member Benjamin Koppel said he too was unaware if Sydney was establishing its own kosher authority.

“We only know what is in the public domain,” he said, adding that while the communities carry the same name in both states, they are autonomous.

However, this did not stop the KA examining in explicit detail the different shechitah (ritual slaughter) practices used in Sydney and in Melbourne in its letter. They quoted a review prepared by an American rabbi into a Melbourne’s kosher meat practices.

“The OU [Orthodox Union] shechts at a maximum of 750 birds an hour per shochet, some require as low as 600 birds an hour. In Melbourne, the rabbi found the amount being shechted was 1000 per hour!”

It said the rabbi also found chickens in Melbourne are being soaked in water at the wrong temperature.

But Koppel, who saw the rabbi’s report, said “he was very satisfied with all he saw”.

“He suggested a small number of enhancements and cost-saving measures.”

While Eric Silver from Melbourne’s Solomons Kosher Butchers – the only producer of kosher chickens in Victoria – would not comment
publicly -, other rabbis said the KA letter misquoted the report.

Rabbi Meir Shlomo Klugwant, the head of the Organisation of Rabbis in Australasia kashrut subcommittee, said he found the situation “most disturbing and extremely disappointing”.

But Rabbi Gutnick said the KA’s letter had been taken completely out of context. “There should be absolutely no tension between Melbourne and Sydney,” he said. “The letter was crystal clear that we hold the Melbourne rabbinate in the
utmost respect. On behalf of the rabbinate of the KA, we eat the Melbourne shechitah when in Melbourne.

“The sole purpose of the letter was to point out that those who are trying to suggest that the Sydney chickens are inferior are simply incorrect.”

He called those who have misinterpreted the KA’s letter “mischievous and misrepresenting our position”.

“Perhaps those whose agenda it is to try and say that our shechitah is not good are trying to deflect from the essential issue by fomenting discord between Melbourne and Sydney.”

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Fabian is Australia bureau chief of San Diego Jewish World