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Poll finds Arabs in support of nuclear Iran

August 16, 2010 Leave a comment

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WJC)–An opinion poll conducted in several Arab countries has found that 57 per cent of respondents believe Iran wants to acquire nuclear weapons and regard this as a positive outcome for the Middle East.

The 2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll was carried by University of Maryland professor Shibley Telhami in conjunction with the polling firm Zogby International. This year’s poll surveyed 4,000 people in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, during the months June and July.

Among the most striking findings is that US President Obama’s popularity in the Arab world has declined sharply over the past 12 months, and only 20 percent of those surveyed approve of him now. Last year, following his Cairo speech, 45 percent of respondents viewed him positively. Professor Telhami said much of the decline in Obama’s ratings was due to disillusionment about the president’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, identified by 61 per cent of respondents as the US policy they were most disappointed with.

Asked to name which world leader they admire most, respondents for the first time favored Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, who launched a number of verbal attacks on Israel following the deadly raid of the Gaza-bound ‘Freedom Flotilla’. President Obama’s name did not even show up on this year’s most-admired leaders list.

Only 3 per cent of respondents said they empathized with the Jewish people if they watched programs about the Holocaust, with 88 per cent saying they resented such material, or had mixed feelings.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Commentary: Parallels between Johnson’s failed presidency and Obama’s.

August 11, 2010 Leave a comment

By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM — There is a troubling item in the New York Times that describes “the Obama administration pouring billions into its nationwide campaign to overhaul failing schools, dozens of companies with little or no experience are portraying themselves as school-turnaround experts as they compete for the money.”

If the budget says spend $X on program Y, there is internal pressure to get it done. It is not so much a government giveaway as shoveling money out the door.

It reminds me of Community Action.

It may not have been the War on Poverty that ended the Johnson Administration, but it did not help. One can argue about which element of that presidency has contributed more to sully its reputation over the subsequent years.

One of the undisputed goods of that period are the social policies that have put the Obamas in the White House, and Black faces in corporate board rooms, university faculty offices, the staffs of distinguished hospitals and law firms, and in the roles representing those functions on popular television shows. Yet there remain the wreckages of Black lives and those of other minorities.
There are pictures circulating of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Detroit in 1945 and today that portray sparkling cityscapes in Japan and a wrecked Detroit
For those who don’t get the message, one of the items concludes with “What  has caused more long term destruction – the  A-bomb, or  U. S. Government welfare programs created to buy the votes of those who want someone to take care of them?”
 
Americans are a long way from knowing what they will gain and lose from the administration’s 2,000 page health reform, along with federal administrative rulings, state actions, as well as adjustments by insurance companies, HMOs, private physicians, and what the courts will say about the above.

The NYT has documented some of the unresolved questions of who will get what, at how much cost, and when will we finally know?
No one should accuse the NYT of being anti-social, anti-Democratic, or anti-Obama. However, it has reported about the continuing problems of a war that seems unwinable, as well as the follies in congressional/White House logrolling and public administration.
Americans may be seeing a repeat of the bad war and problematic social policy of the 1960s, this time in the presence of persistent unemployment, a large debt overhang, and all those tea parties.

Things are not looking any better in a region of the world claimed as a priority.
The Brookings Institution is reporting a poll of public opinion in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates, during the period of June 29–July 20, 2010. Among its findings:

“Early in the Obama administration, in April and May 2009, 51% of the respondents in the six countries expressed optimism about American policy in the Middle East. In the 2010 poll, only 16% were hopeful, while a majority – 63% – was discouraged.”
The Arab public also has not gotten the administration’s message about Iran. “In 2009, only 29% of those polled said that Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons would be “positive” for the Middle East; in 2010, 57% of those polled indicate that such an outcome would be “positive” for the Middle East.” The governments in most of the countries surveyed have expressed strong opposition to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. Go figure.
There has been a stability of feeling from 2008 to the present about the prospects of a lasting peace between Israel and Palestinians. Again, the signs do not give the American president what he wants. 50-55 percent feel it will never happen, and 27-40 percent say that it is inevitable, but will take more time.

The Palestinians have refused to begin direct negotiations with Israel, and the Israelis have refused any concessions without direct negotiations.
It is hard to blame either the the Palestinians or the Israelis for those postures. They both are reacting to political realities more than Americans and others still pushing for direct negotiations. Only the naive can expect something more positive than angry frustration to result for such talks in the presence of Hamas, Hizbollah, Iran, and Syria, plus a weak Palestinian Authority and a suspicious Israel.

The Americans may have to prepare themselves for a short presidency. We’ll get an some fresh tea leaves to read on November 2nd.

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Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University

A pleasure cruise to Turkey? I think not!

July 16, 2010 Leave a comment

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO–A friend of mine was considering a Mediterranean cruise.  I suggested that he find another itinerary.   One of the ports of call he had been considering was in Turkey.  I can’t imagine a reason after the Gaza Flotilla incident why any member of the Jewish community would want to go to Turkey, anymore than they should want to go to Iran, Syria, Lebanon, or to Gaza.

There are places in the Muslim Middle East I would recommend visiting: Egypt, Jordan, and Oman, all of which I’ve had the pleasure of visiting myself.   Oh, I’ve also been to Turkey, but not again, thank you.  While Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in power, I’ll be waiting for his government to be reset, tied up, er-gone.  If I want Middle Eastern flavor, I’ll go to Israel.  And if I do venture among Israel’s other neighbors, perhaps it will be to the United Arab Emirates, Morocco or Tunisia. I certainly won’t waste time on the country of a false friend, a provocateur, someone who has betrayed Israel in order to curry favor with the most radical regimes in the Middle East. 

Beautiful beaches? Erdogan’s Turkey can keep them.   Antiquities?   There are a lot more in Israel, Jordan and Egypt.  Turkish coffee?  The world has learned to brew it long ago.  Carpets?  We can manage without them.

There was a time when I wanted to travel everywhere on the globe, to meet the people of every land, to taste their foods, partake of their customs.  Not anymore.   If other countries want tourism, let them earn it.  Let them show that they respect the people of the world, no matter where they come from or how they pray.  Let them demonstrate that they are willing to abide by international standards of decency.  

It was an act of indecency last May when Turkey attempted to force Israel to either give up its right to self-defense or be condemned by  Arab-engineered “world opinion” for blocking such manifestations of “humanitarian assistance” as knives, cutlasses, grenades, and automatic weapons.

Five of the six ships in the so-called Gaza Flotilla went peacefully to the Israeli Port of Ashdod and their humanitarian cargoes were transferred without incident to Gaza.  These supplies amounted to drops of water in the river of aid that Israel continually sends to the people of Gaza notwithstanding the fact that their Hamas “leaders” thank the Israelis with Kassam missile strikes on Sderot and the villages of Sha’ar Hanegev.

Only the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara refused to be escorted peacefully to Ashdod.  As the video released by the IDF makes clear, the “humanitarians” on board replied to the Israelis who invited them to deliver the cargo there: “Shut the f**k up.  Go back to Auschwitz!  We’re helping Arabs going against the U.S.  Don’t forget 9/11 guys.” 

Listen, you so-called “humanitarians,” we Jews are not going back to Auschwitz.   And we Americans will definitely remember 9/11, and all the innocent people who died there at the hand of terrorists with whom you apparently have much in common.

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Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World

Why would U.S. want Afghan pilots trained in Lebanon or Syria?

April 23, 2010 Leave a comment

By Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C — The U.S. Department of the Army put out a request for information on “Afghanistan National Army Air Corps English and Pilot Training.”

The Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training & Instrumentation (PEO STRI) is conducting market research by seeking sources with innovative business solutions to (1) train and certify up to 67 Afghani student pilots to an International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) English level 4 in the English language; and (2) provide basic rotary wing or fixed wing Commercial Pilot Training to the European Joint Aviation Authority (JAA) standards.

It is desired that the English language and basic pilot training take place within South West Asia. PEO STRI requests information on sources available to perform training in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, U.A.E, Uzbekistan, Yemen or other locations in Southwest Asia with the capability to provide requested training.

How is it possible that Syria, a charter and current member of the U.S. State Department list of terrorism-supporting countries, is considered an acceptable place to train Afghan pilots? Or Lebanon, which has Hezbollah as a member of the governing cabinet in Beirut? Hezbollah is a charter and current member of the U.S. State Department list of terrorist organizations, and until September 11, 2001, had killed more Americans than any other terrorist group. Didn’t Kyrgyzstan just have a coup inspired/financed by Russia? Wouldn’t training pro-Western Afghan pilots in Pakistan send those people from the frying pan into the fire? Isn’t Yemen home to some of the most virulently anti-American, anti-Western al Qaeda operatives and preachers, including Anwar al-Awlakiwho was talking to U.S. Army Major Nidal Hassan before he killed 13 Americans at Ft. Hood?
 
Aside from the fact that some of the countries listed are not in South West Asia, as the request for information requires, not one is remotely democratic. OK, we’ll give Jordan a few points and some to Iraq, but that’s it. 
 
What would possess the United States Army to expose Afghani pilots, who are supposed to secure a functional and consensual state in Afghanistan, to countries where the governments are almost uniformly totalitarian, functionally repressive, less than hospitable to reform or dissent, and have women in positions of legal inferiority? Saudi Arabia is the financier of a particularly repressive, homophobic, misogynistic and anti-Semitic form of Islam exported around the world.
 
We did not expect to see Israel on the list, although Israel certainly is capable of training pilots to the European Joint Aviation Authority standards, and a few months in Israel would impart some Western governmental, judicial and social norms, including religious and political tolerance.
 
But if not Israel, why not Britain or Italy or France or Spain or Portugal? Why not Denmark or Colombia or Mali or Uruguay? Why not India or Indonesia or Taiwan or Japan?
 
The list is clearly weighted toward the part of the world to which President Obama wishes to show American comity. Unfortunately, it is also a part of the world in which neither American policies nor American values are particularly welcome items on the agenda. The list and the thinking behind it are political mistakes that should be corrected. Certainly, they should be corrected before we give the Afghanis the idea that the norms of Syria and Lebanon are ones we want them to adopt.

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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

Dubai to deny Israelis with second passport entry

March 3, 2010 1 comment

PRESS RELEASE (WJS)–Following the assassination of a Hamas commander blamed on the Hamas, Israelis who also hold the passport of another country will be banned from entering the United Arab Emirates if identified as Jews, according to Dubai’s police chief.  Israeli nationals are currently not permitted to travel to the country, but Israeli citizens holding a passport of a third country can currently enter the country. “We will not allow those who hold Israeli passports into the UAE no matter what other passport they have,” Dubai police chief Dahi Khalfan Tamim said.

“We knew Israelis from their accents, but when they used European passports to come here, we accepted that and we treated them as Europeans. But after this day, if they have dual citizenship, we will exert extreme caution.”

“We know how to recognize them,” Tamim explained, saying his officials would be on the lookout for “Jews” and would identify them by “physical features and the way they speak.”

Israelis have been admitted to the UAE in recent years for specific reasons, including sports competitions and a recent energy conference. The sanctions come as Dubai authorities insist that they were sure that Israel’s Mossad carried out the assassination in a Dubai hotel room of a top Hamas official in January. The assassins used forged passports from five European countries to enter Dubai.

Meanwhile, the head of the Palestinian delegation in Australia, Izzat Abdulhadi, said Jewish leaders in Australia had to decide whether their loyalties lay with Australia or Israel. “I think the Jewish community [leaders] should be more constructive and behave as Australians and protect the integrity of Australian citizens,” Abdullhadi said in an interview with the newspaper ‘The Australian’.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Diplomatic crisis between Israel and EU over Dubai killing of Hamas leader

February 22, 2010 1 comment

 
PRESS RELEASE (WJC)–Citing “sources with knowledge of Mossad”, the British newspaper ‘The Sunday Times’ reports that in early January Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally authorized the killing of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai by a 11-member hit squad of the Mossad. The agents reportedly used fake diplomatic passports to enter the United Arab Emirates.

The foreign ministers of the European Union member states were expected to issue a statement later on Monday condemning the assassination and the use of false European passports, but the statement is unlikely to mention Israel. However, the ‘Jerusalem Post cites an unnamed senior EU official as saying: “The passport controversy obviously will be harmful for the way Israel is treated by the EU.”

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said the use of fake passports in the killing of the Hamas commander in a Dubai hotel room on 19 January was an issue of concern for all EU member states. “We are extremely concerned that a passport, which is a very rigorous and legal document, can be used in a different manner and for a different purpose,” he told reporters in Brussels. “We will discuss it, and I hope we will issue a statement expressing our concern.” Moratinos added that he would ask his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman about the affair on the sidelines of the EU foreign ministers meeting on Monday.

Dubai police last week said the assassins of the Hamas leader had used forged British, Irish, French and German passports and had been sent by Israel. The Israeli government has declined to confirm or deny this claim. Israel’s Deputy Israel Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon said on Saturday that he foresaw no crisis in Israel’s relations with Europe over the use of foreign passports, as Israel had nothing to do with it.

According to Hamas’ own statements, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was responsible for supplying militants in the Gaza Strip with arms.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Mossad accused of assassinating Hamas operative in Dubai

February 18, 2010 3 comments

   

(Press Release) WJC–Officials in Dubai are reportedly blaming the Israeli secret service, Mossad, for the killing of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in an airport hotel of the Gulf emirate last month but said it would be impossible to get hold of the assassins as there were no diplomatic relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel. “All elements strongly indicate the involvement of the Mossad,” Dubai police general Dahi Khalfan Tamim told the newspaper ‘Gulf News’.

Until now, Dubai police had stopped short of accusing the Mossad. However, with at least seven of the eleven named suspects in the case now revealed to have used the stolen identities of Israelis that hold dual nationalities, officials in the Gulf state believe that the evidence points to Israel’s spy agency. On Wednesday, police in the emirate said they hold retinal scans of the suspected assassins, which they plan to publish through the international police agency Interpol.

In Britain and Ireland, the Israeli ambassadors were called in by the respective governments over the matter. Reportedly, the killers of al-Mabhoub used six fake British and three fake Irish passports to travel to the United Arab Emirates.

Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown has promised a full inquiry. “We have got to carry out a full investigation,” he told a radio station. “The evidence has got to be assembled about what has actually happened and how and why, and it is necessary for us to accumulate that evidence before we can make any statements.” The Foreign Office in London made a statement saying that “Given the links to Israel of a number of the British nationals affected, there will be a meeting between the permanent under-secretary and the ambassador…The defrauding of British passports is a very serious issue.”

The newspaper ‘Haaretz’ has learnt the identities of two Palestinians arrested in Jordan in connection with the assassination. Ahmad Hasnin, a Palestinian intelligence operative, and Anwar Shekhaiber, an employee of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, were arrested in the Jordanian capital Amman and extradited to Dubai. The two were residents of the Gaza Strip until Hamas seized control there in 2007, ‘Haaretz’ reports. A third man is under arrest in Syria on suspicion of having assisted the hit squad, according to the British news paper ‘The Guardian’.

In Israel, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said there was no reason to blame the Mossad for the killings, but added that it was Israel’s policy never to comment on such matters. Meanwhile, Israeli media report that Mossad head Meir Dagan was not planning to resign over the matter.

Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was suspected for being involved in the 1989 abduction and murder of two Israeli soldiers, along with several other attacks against Israel.

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The preceding provided by The World Jewish Congress

The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australian Jewish News

January 25, 2010 1 comment

 

Compiled by Garry Fabian

Peer Protest moves to Melbourne

MELBOURNE, 20 January – A small group of  Palestinian supporters held a protest outside the  Australian Open on Tuesday afternoon (January 19).

The Australians For Palestine group, which  numbered fewer than 10, singled out Israel’s top tenns player Shahar Peer for criticism. The  protest was peaceful, but after a time, the demonstrators were asked by police to leave.

The group, most of who were dressed in corporate  attire, held placards with a photo of Peer in her  Israel Defence Forces uniform. The slogan on the  placard read:  “Shahar Peer serves for apartheid Israel”.

According to a flyer distributed by Australians  For Palestine, Peer has been singled out because  she “has shown no understanding of the oppressive
conditions under which Palestinian athletes are  forced to live, but rather sees herself as a victim of discrimination”.

Peer, who refrains from making political  statements, has been the target of anti-Israeli  protests. Most recently, she was heckled at a  tournament in Auckland. She also came to global  attention last year when the United Arab  Emirates, host of the Dubai Tennis Championship, refused to issue the Israeli citizen with a visa.
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Peer advances to second round

MELBOURNE, 21 January – Israeli tennis player  Shahar Peer has won through to the second round  of the Australian Open after defeating Czech  player Lucie Hradecka 6-7, 6-2, 6-1 on Wednesday (January 20).

Peer, the 29th seed, looked sluggish in the  opening set and struggled to find her rhythm  against Hradecka, who served powerfully in the early stages of the match.

Peer gave up an early break in the first set when  she failed to hold serve in the eighth game. The  rest of the set went on serve to the tie-break,  where Peer quickly fell behind 5-1. She clawed  her way back to 5-6, fending off a set-point in
the process, before Hradeka produced another big serve to take it 7-5.

However, Peer found her range midway through the  second set and began to dominate proceedings from  the back of the court. She broke in the fifth and
eighth games of the second set, with Hradecka  gifting her the latter with four double faults.

Peer dominated in the third set, and was further aided by a hefty unforced error and double-fault  count from Hradecka, who was beginning to become frustrated.

With little help from her booming first serve,  Hradecka was unable to match Peer’s superior ground strokes.

At the post-match media conference, Peer said: “I  played her [Hradeka] last year and lost in  straight sets. She is a good player and has a big  serve, but she is not always consistent and I  think that’s the main thing with her.

“I had to play good and be aggressive, because  she tries to dominate points pretty early, so my  main goal was to be solid but also aggressive. I
tried to combine those two and return well too  and I think I did it quite well.”

Peer will play unseeded Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova in the second round.

At the media conference, Peer talked down threats  to her security when asked whether the recent  spate of anti-Israel protests had affected her preparation.

“There is security going on around me, I don’t  know exactly how much but I feel really safe,” Peer said.

“I’m just focusing on playing tennis and I’m not  here to focus on my security or what’s going on outside the court.”

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Youth movements safe despite GFC

MELBOURNE, 21 January — Amid reports that Jewish  youth movements worldwide had gone cap in hand to the Israeli government to save them from
financial collapse, the Zionist Federation of  Australia (ZFA) this week insisted that the  future of local organisations was secure.

However, ZFA president Philip Chester cautioned  that the groups for children and teenagers were surviving “hand-to-mouth”.

Chester voiced his concerns just days after  leaders of world Zionist youth movements met with  the Knesset Education Committee to plead their
case for increased funding. It followed extensive  budget cuts by the Jewish Agency for Israel last year.

Chester ­ who ultimately oversees Betar, Bnei  Akiva, Habonim Dror, Hashomer Hatzair, Hineni and  Netzer ­ said  “People would be shocked at the  small budgets some of the movements are running on.”

The organisations, run by youth leaders, most of  who are under 21, are largely responsible for their own funding. Most rely on parents,  supporters or movement alumni for week-to-week  activity and camp funding. Traditional
fundraising methods, such as film and trivia nights, are common.

Increasingly, movements are also having to raise  money to support shaliachs (emissaries), who are  sent to Australia by the Jewish Agency, but are
only partially financially supported.

The movements’ roof body ­ the Australian Zionist  Youth Council ­ receives some funding from the ZFA, but only for large-scale programs, such as  leadership camps. For some movements the model works.

Bnei Akiva, for example, has strong support from  the Mizrachi community and is savvy in its  fundraising ­ organising a mishloach manot sale  at Purim and a lulav and etrog sale at Succot.

Other movements, particularly the smaller ones, have less success.

The ZFA is working with them to attract support,  but according to Chester, it is not easy.

“We haven’t yet worked out the magical formula to do it,” he said.

Community philanthropists have been approached to  ascertain whether they would be interested in  assisting, and Chester has also been in  discussions with the NSW Jewish Communal Appeal  (JCA) to garner support for the Sydney movements.

And while JCA support for youth movements was not on the short-term agenda, he said he was more hopeful in the longer term.

Meanwhile, Chester said he was confident of the survival of local chapters.

“The numbers are good and to their undying  credit, the kids do it for nothing and run functions on the smell of an oily rag.

“The truth is, no matter how little they have, they will never stop doing it.”
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Dudi Sela blows lout of Australian Open

MELBOURNE, 20 January – Israeli tennis player Dudi  Sela has crashed out of the Australian Open in  the first round, losing to Ukrainian qualifier  Ivan Sergeyev 6-3, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6.

Israel’s top-ranked male player ­ ranked 41 in  the world ­ came into the match with a virus and never found his rhythm, despite displaying patches of brilliance.

The match lasted three hours and 22 minutes.

The Israeli was broken in the first game of the match and there were two more breaks of serve in  the set, one to each player. Sergeyev served out the set with a love game.

The second set went on serve to a tie breaker,  which Sergeyev dominated with some big serving, winning 7-3.

Sela regained his composure and took the third set 6-4.

There were consecutive service breaks in the  second and third games of the fourth set as the intensity went up a notch.

The set then went on serve until the tie break,  and it was a brilliant passing shot on the  forehand that eventually gave Sergeyev his hard-fought win.

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Australian Jewry rallies for Haiti

SYDNEY, 21 January – Australian Jews are being urged to step up their support for the international aid effort in Haiti.

In the wake of the earthquake that has ravaged the Caribbean island, claiming an estimated 200,000 lives, two community charities — Jewish Aid Australia (JAA) and Magen David Adom (MDA) — have launched appeals.

In three days, JAA had already raised $70,000 for  the relief effort. It is directing its donations towards CARE Australia — a non-partisan, non-political Australian charity on the ground in Port-au-Prince.

JAA chief executive officer Gary Samowitz said: “The response has been fantastic and we’ve been inundated with calls and emails.”

Among the donors are AJN owner Robert Magid and his sister Nora Goodridge, who made a $40,000 pledge.

“Bob and Nora’s donation is an inspiring example to the rest of the community,” Samowitz said. “The more money raised, the more services will be  provided to those suffering the aftermath of the earthquake, and every donation counts.”

The Pratt Foundation, meanwhile, run by Jewish philanthropist Heloise Waislitz, has made an initial donation of $50,000. The foundation’s  CEO, Sam Lipski, said the 5000 workers at the  family company, Visy, had also been invited to give funds to the people of Haiti. He said donations made by staff would be matched by the foundation.

Ron Raab, president of Insulin for Life Australia,  added that his organisation had sent emergency shipments of insulin to assist Haitian diabetics
who were struggling to get access to lifesaving medication.

Local MDA branches are also running an appeal to support the work of their Israeli colleagues on the embattled island. As part of the International Committee of the Red Cross, MDA sent a paramedic delegation to Haiti immediately upon hearing of the earthquake.

According to MDA-Red Cross coordinator Dudi Abadi, all the money raised by the ambulance and first aid service will be used to fulfill the most urgent needs — medical equipment, blankets, water, food, hygiene items, purification tablets and sheets of plastic.

Encouraging the community to give generously to the appeals, Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Robert Goot said: “The earthquake
claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people and has left many of the survivors without homes, food, water, medical and hospital services, and
other basic necessities. I urge everyone in our community to dig deep and support the recognised international aid organisations, which have
workers on the ground in Haiti, including Jewish organisations such as Jewish Aid Australia Limited, Magen David Adom and ZAKA.”
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Israeli Torah scholar sets up new Kollel

SYDNEY, 21 January – Despite success stories in Melbourne and Perth, Sydney has struggled for years to establish a viable kollel.

But this time around the Jewish Learning Centre  (JLC) is hoping that the outcome will be different.

Next month, JLC plans to bring four Israeli  bochers (Torah scholars) to set up Australia’s third Torah MiTzion Kollel.

Once established, it will be one of 25 religious-Zionist kollels dotted around the world under the umbrella organisation of Torah MiTzion in Israel, including one in Melbourne, based at Mizrachi shul and another in Perth.

Rabbi Daniel Eisenberg, who will be heading the project, said: “Jewish life is very dependent on the vibrancy of its institutions and every additional source of inspiration that can be provided to the Sydney community will help advance stronger Jewish identity.

“This is a prime example of that kind of institution.”

Traditionally, a kollel is an institute for  advanced Torah studies, which provides married men with housing and a regular monthly stipend to study Judaism’s classic texts.

However, this Torah MiTzion Kollel will run slightly differently.

For starters, these bochers are not married. Further­more, while they will undertake intensive studies at JLC’s beit hamedrash, the men will also perform outreach work.

Other shuls run similar initiatives for unmarried  bochers, but this is the only program to officially be called a kollel in Sydney.

“The focus here is to work in the traditional sense of the kollel, as well as to strengthen the Jewish nature of the community,” said Rabbi
Eisenberg, who is still raising some of the $180,000 in funds needed to operate the project in its first year.

This is not the first time an organisation has tried to establish a kollel in the area.

In 2006, the Adass Israel congregation brought out seven rabbis and their families to set up Sydney’s first full-scale kollel. But two years later, it closed down because of funding and organisational issues.

Rabbi Eisenberg, however, believes this time they will succeed.

“It’s not like bringing a group of married men and their families. It’s a very big difference in proportion. It’s more sustainable,” he said.
Can Pakula make the trains run on  time?

MELBOURNE, 21 January – Jewish MP Martin Pakula  has been handed Victoria’s poisoned chalice – the transport portfolio.  The state’s transport minister Lynne Kosky resigned from parliament on Monday, citing family health problems.

Pakula who was voted in by his caucus colleagues  yesterday, will inherit a range of problems, which include over crowded trains, transport cancellations and a troubled over-budged new  electronic ticketing system, and technical
problems with the public transport system.

The 40-year old who was elected to Parliament in  2006, had a Jewish upbringing, and is a son of a Holocaust survivor. He also adds industrial relations to his portfolio.

He is one of three Labour MP’s in the Victorian Parliament. The others are Marsha Thomson and Jennifer Huppert.

Pakul caught the train to work recently, taking time out to hear complaints from frustrated commuters.

Mr Pakula chatted with passengers on the 8.17am  from Sandringham, hearing their complaints about punctuality and cancellations on the network.

He said most people had been welcoming, but had a lot to say about their morning commute.

“What they want is reliability and punctuality. That’s the absolute key message from today,” he said.

A casual user of the system Mr Pakula said he caught the Sandringham line a couple of dozen times a year and sometimes caught the bus home from the station.

“Like all commuters, I’ve had times when the train I’ve been on has been extremely crowded, or it has been extremely hot or there’s been delays
and I understand why people would be frustrated by that,” he said.

But from today he is expected to be a regular  traveller, getting out on public transport every day.

Mr Pakula also indicated that he would be considering the future of W-Class trams, saying they would most likely eventually end up servicing only the city circle.

“I don’t think anything is forever (and) I don’t think they are designed for large-scale commuter transportation any more,” he said.

“I think people want a more modern, more comfortable tram these days, and so I think the W-class tram, their use will be confined to (the city circle).”

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Country music with a slice of kugel

TAMWORTH, NSW. 21 January – Every year at about this time, country music flows down the streets of Tamworth just about as freely as the cold beer
flows from the taps of their pubs.

It’s the Tamworth Country Music Festival in the city that’s described as the Nashville of the Southern Hemisphere.

It’s also the city home to musicians who go by the curious names of 8 Ball Aitken and Bird.

“Come on in, we’ve made a kugel for you,” 8 Ball Aitken says when we meet at his home. The Queensland native, who sports a long bright red beard and speaks in a soft voice, performed at the festival, which ran until January 24

Aitken has led an interesting life. The Golden Guitar nominee went from picking mangoes and bananas, to picking the strings on his guitar. Though not Jewish himself, his fiancee and manager Bird Jensen are, and Judaism has come to influence his music.

Aitken is a welcome friend at Brisbane’s Beit Knesset Shalom Progressive Synagogue; he has played at synagogue functions and filmed part of a music video there.

Over the past six years, he’s released three albums and toured in towns all over Australia as well as 15 countries.

“[His music] is not strictly country,” Jensen says. “It’s part blues, folk, country and indie rock,” she explains.

The pair’s hard work has finally paid off. “We earn our living through our own original music,” Jensen says. “A lot of people can’t do that.”

Many artists in Australia, including Aitken, are partially supported by the Australian Business Arts Foundation (ABAF).

To get more funding, business-minded Jensen even  makes her own “8 Ball shmattehs” — T-shirts and other tour merchandise — and says she is willing
to go the extra mile in ways other managers probably never considered.

“If anyone [donates enough money to get 8 Ball  Aitken back into the studio], I’ll personally make them a shabbat dinner in their home,” Jensen enthuses, “and it will be good.”

8 Ball Aitken performed at the Tamworth Country Music Festival through January 24.

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Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

Correcting rightwing misinformation about Israel and Palestine

January 18, 2010 1 comment

By J. Zel Lurie
 
DELRAY BEACH, Florida–I am not diplomatic when I  discuss Israel and Palestine with rightist American Jews who support the settlements. The facts that they pick up from rightist propaganda  are usually totally wrong. Nothing I say penetrates their one-track minds. They don’t believe my facts even though I present chapter and verse.
     
So it’s usually a complete waste of time and I try to avoid it.
 
However there is one rightist whom I can’t discourage from writing me long vituperative missives. I sometimes answer him curtly, not politely. But back comes  another long message.
 
He means well. He loves Israel but most of Israel’s history is terra incognita.  He says he supports a Palestine State, but he is confused because it would conflict with the settlements.
 
He solidified  his ideas about Israel and its enemies around 1975. Nothing will change them. He believes that my recounting the vicious attack by Jewish settlers on an Arab village was part of the Arab propaganda machine. Did the New York Times also join the Arab machine when it featured a similar attack a few days later. The Times article was accompanied by the usual denunciations of the settlers by Israel’s leaders but little action against them.
 
He doesn’t understand that the world has changed, that the real enemy is Iran and that Israel and the Palestine Authority are actually on the same side against Iran and Hamas
 
Despite the chasm that divides them on Jerusalem and the final borders, Israel and the Palestine Authority have joined the U.S.- led coalition of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Jordan, Palestine and Israel against Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah.
 
Egypt has taken the lead against Hamas by constructing an underground steel wall that will end the era of the tunnels which has kept the Gaza economy alive. It will die in a few months when the wall is finished.
 
Had I told my rightist  correspondent that the Palestinian President Mohammed Abbas has a brand new police force which has taken over the Palestinian streets from the gunmen and terrorists and that this force was trained by an American general and received its   supply of arms and jeeps from the Israel Army, he would have replied, “You’re funny!”
 
Let me quote one paragraph from a recent message from my rightist correspondent. Believe me I did not make up his confusion over his desire for peace nor his blaming historic events on the bent back of President Jimmy Carter, the man who is most responsible for peace between Egypt, the leading Arab country, and Israel.
 
Here is the paragraph:
“I hope there will be a Palestinian sate. I accept that concept wholeheartedly. However, I am also aware  that it was Jimmy Carter who named the Arabs “Palestinians” in 1967 and also renamed the West Bank from Judea and Samaria. These facts are basic to understand the attempt to disenfranchise the rights of the Jews.”
 
I don’t know what rightist brochure he has read which demonizes Jimmy Carter and reverses history. The West Bank was a section of Palestine until 1948 when it was conquered by the Jordanian Arab Legion and became the West Bank of Jordan. The name continued during the first years of the Israel occupation. I took a photo of an ambulance on the West Bank in 1975. It was inscribed in three languages, Hebrew, Arabic and English in the side. Hebrew was on top. It read “Hageda Hamaaravit” the West Bank.
 
The first Orthodox Jewish settlers, members of Gush Eminim, began to use the inaccurate phrase Judea and Samaria in 197 5. It is  inaccurate because much of Biblical Judea, from Gezer to Jerusalem, is part of Israel and not the West Bank. Later the government made it official. Jimmy Carter had nothing to do with it.
 
West Bank Arabs began calling themselves Palestinians soon after the Jordanian conquest. Yassir Arafat made it official with the founding of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the early 1960s. Jimmy Carter may have used the term but the first American president to use it officially was George W. Bush.
 
More important than his basic facts being totally wrong is that his last sentence on Jewish rights to the land contradicts his first sentence on his hope for a Palestine state. Where does he hope the Palestine state will rise?  In New Zealand, perhaps?,
 
The real basic fact is that two peoples both have rights to the land. The Peel Commision way back  in 1937 said the land should be divided between them.  Neither the British Mandatory Government, nor the World Zionist Organization, nor the Arab Higher committee accepted the judgment of the British Royal Commission, headed by Lord Peel.
 
Until 1947 when the United Nations ruled that the land should be divided fifty fifty with Jerusalem internationalized.  The Jews celebrated that after 2000 years there would be a Jewish state.

The Arabs attacked. The war ended with the Jews occupying 78 percent of the land leaving the Palestinians with 22 percent in the West Bank and Gaza. The borders were drawn in green on the armistice maps which gave rise to “the Green Line.”
 
The Jewish settlers invaded the Green Line, 300,000 strong. They have placed their settlements to try to make a contiguous viable Palestine state impossible.
 
That is the situation today.
 
 When this column appears I will be on a 7-day cruise with 20 other couples from my breakfast club which bills itself as “The Intellectual Crossroads of Southern Florida.”
 
The subject that we intellectuals will be discussing as we sit around the pool is how to make peace in the Middle East. If any innovative ideas emerge I will report them. And I promise to be diplomatic.
 
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Lurie is a freelance writer based in Delray Beach, Florida

U.S. to sell $290 million in enhanced guided bombs to United Arab Emirates

December 30, 2009 Leave a comment

WASHINGTON, DC (Press Release)– The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress Dec. 22 of a possible Foreign Military Sale to the United Arab Emirates of enhanced guided bomb units and associated parts, equipment, training and logistical support for a complete package worth approximately $290 million.

The Government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has requested a possible sale of 400 GBU-24(V) 11/B Enhanced PAVEWAY III, 400 GBU-24(V) 12/B Enhanced PAVEWAY III, 400 GBU-49(V) 3/B Enhanced PAVEWAY II, 400 GBU-50(V) 1/B Enhanced PAVEWAY II, 800 MK-84 2000 lbs Bombs, 400 MK-82 500 lbs Bombs, 400 BLU-109/B 2000 lbs Bombs. Also included are containers, bomb components, mission planning software, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government and contractor technical and logistics personnel support services, and other related elements of program support. The estimated cost is $290 million.

This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a critical and key partner, which has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East. This proposed sale supports the prior sale of the Block 60 F-16s to the UAE.

The proposed sale of the weapons will strengthen the effectiveness and interoperability of a potential coalition partner, reduce the dependence on U.S. forces in the region, and enhance any coalition operations the U.S. may undertake. The UAE will have no difficulty absorbing these additional munitions into its armed forces. The proposed sale of these weapon systems will not alter the basic military balance in the region.

The principal contractors are the Raytheon Corporation of Waltham, Massachusetts, and McAlester Army Ammunition Plant of McAlester, Oklahoma. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.

Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of additional U.S. Government or contractor representatives to the UAE. The number of U.S. Government and contractor representatives required in UAE to support the program will be determined in joint negotiations as the program proceeds through the development, production, and equipment installation phase.

There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale. This notice of a potential sale is required by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded.

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Preceding provided by U.S. Defense Department