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Combatting Israelophobia will be topic of WJC Governing Board meeting

August 19, 2010 Leave a comment

NEW YORK  (Press Release)– Heads of Jewish communities from around the world will gather in Jerusalem for a meeting of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) Governing Board on 31 August and 1 September 2010.  The gathering will focus on ways to fight the growing threats against Israel. It will be addressed by senior statesmen from Israel and abroad.

Writer and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Professor Elie Wiesel will be presented with the first WJC “Guardian of Jerusalem” award in recognition of his lifetime accomplishments on behalf of the Jewish people. Members of the Israeli Haiti emergency rescue operation will receive a special award for their heroic humanitarian efforts in the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein, and opposition leader and Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni will participate.  Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer and Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau also confirmed their participation.

Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar will give a keynote address to delegates about the recently launched Friends of Israel Initiative (www.friendsofisraelinitiative.org).

Ahead of the Governing Board, World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder said:

“Everywhere, we are witnessing concerted efforts to attack the legitimacy of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. Boycott, sanctions and divestment campaigns are becoming prevalent; Israeli academics, authors, artists and sportspeople are being banned from participating in events; the media often presents a one-sided view of developments, and Israel is almost always being singled out for blame. We will be developing proactive initiatives to address these issues, and we will underline the need for Diaspora Jewry’s continued unwavering solidarity with Israel in a global environment that is increasingly hostile to those positions.”

The WJC meeting will be attended by around 150 leaders representing all major Jewish communities in the world and will adopt the future priorities and action plans of the organization. It will also discuss the difficult situation faced by certain Jewish communities, e.g. in Sweden and Venezuela.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

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

August 11, 2010 1 comment

By Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen

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

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

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

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

Pro-Palestinians in Sweden plan another Gaza flotilla

August 5, 2010 Leave a comment

STOCKHOLM (WJC)– Pro-Palestinian activists of the Ship to Gaza group who took part in the flotilla at the end of May have announced they would make a new attempt to reach the Gaza Strip before the end of 2010. “We are going to send a flotilla if the siege is not lifted,” spokesman Dror Feiler told the news agency ‘Agence France Presse’ in Stockholm.

A six-ship fleet first attempted to break the sea blockade of Gaza on 31 May but it was halted by the Israeli Navy. In the skirmish on one of the six ships, nine Turkish activists were killed. “We will go before the end of this year and we are quite sure that this flotilla will be more boats, bigger boats, it will be several passenger boats,” said Feiler, who took part in the flotilla’s first trip.

“And as determined before, we will not accept Israeli control, we will not accept Israeli inspections and we will go to Gaza,” the Israeli-born Swedish artist and activist said. “We hope that Israel and the international community will realize it is not possible to stop this and that it is not acceptable to continue with the siege [of Gaza],” he added.

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition said in a statement it planned to enlarge the coalition “to include the various groups around the world that want to join us, as well as intensify our efforts to mobilize a new flotilla.”

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Firecrackers shatter synagogue windows in Malmo

July 26, 2010 Leave a comment

MALMO, Sweden (WJC)–A firecracker has exploded on the steps of the synagogue in the Swedish city of Malmö, a day after a bomb threat was taped to the building. The explosion happened in the early hours of Friday. A bomb threat written on paper had reportedly been taped to the synagogue on the previous evening. It was the second threat directed at the synagogue in two weeks, according to the Swedish newspaper ‘The Local’. Security at the synagogue was increased last week, it reported.

No one was injured by the powerful blast, but three window panes were shattered. “It’s incredibly sad that this should happen again,” Jewish community President Fred Kahn said, adding: “We thought we were finished with this sort of thing.”

Bjorn Lagerbäck, coordinator of a dialog forum in Malmö which works against hate crimes, said the vandalism was extremely serious: “We condemn this completely. Such an event is not just directed against the synagogue, but also at other targets that could be described as ethnic or religious.”

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

EU readies more sanctions against Iran

July 22, 2010 Leave a comment

BRUSSELS (WJC)–The foreign ministers of the 27 European Union member states are set to approve further sanctions against Iran over its uranium enrichment program, targeting the country’s energy, financial and transport sectors. The measures, to be adopted at a meeting next week, are to include a ban on investing in Iran’s oil and gas industries, including the transfer of equipment and technology. The member states of the EU will be required to monitor the activities of Iranian financial institutions on their territory, and no insurance or reinsurance can in future to be provided to an Iranian entity.

The sanctions go beyond those adopted by the United Nations Security Council in June. The United States also imposed its own sanctions package on 1 July, which is supposed to restrict Iran’s access to refined petroleum and to disrupt financial transactions.

The EU is Iran’s largest trading partner, with Italy Germany and Austria being the most active states. Diplomats in Brussels believe that sanctions could be very disruptive for Iran’s economy. Although Iran is among the world’s top exporters of oil, it does not have sufficient refining capacity to meet domestic demand; it is thought to import around 40 percent of its domestic gas consumption.

Meanwhile, public opinion in France, Germany and Sweden is overwhelmingly in favor of tougher Iran sanctions, a survey has found. Over two thirds of respondents in the three countries said new measures against the regime in Tehran were needed, according to a poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research in Israel.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Swedish dockworkers begin week-long boycott of Israeli cargo over flotilla raid

June 25, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–Dockworkers at ports across Sweden have begun a week-long boycott of Israeli ships and will refuse to handle any Israeli cargo. Their union voted for a boycott in response to Israel’s raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla three weeks ago. Swedish ports handle nearly all the country’s incoming goods.

“Even if goods arrive in trucks, dockworkers often have some role in handling them when they arrive in port,” said Per Helgesson, the union’s chief negotiator. However, officials expect the boycott to have a minimal impact on Swedish-Israeli trade, which accounts for 0.2% of the Scandinavian country’s total imports and exports. Last year, Swedish exports to Israel were valued at SKR 2.5 billion (US$ 320 million) and imports amounted to some SKR 850 million, according to the Swedish Trade Council.

Union chairman Björn A. Borg told the French news agency AFP that his union had called for an international investigation into the raid, in which nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed. He added that the dockworkers believed Israel’s easing of its Gaza blockade, announced on Sunday, was insufficient.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.