Israel Brief June 25, 2012: Central Israel Moshav Maor Synagogue vandailzed with Arabic graffiti

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Synagogue vandalized with Arabic sayings

Source: JTA, 6-25-12

A synagogue in central Israel was defaced with Arabic graffiti.

The vandalism was discovered June 22 on a synagogue in central Israel’s Moshav Maor.

The graffiti was from an Islamic prayer and read “There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet.”

It came days after a West Bank mosque near Ramallah was torched and graffiti protesting the upcoming evacuation of several apartment buildings in the Ulpana neighborhood of the West Bank settlement of Beit El was painted on its walls in what is being considered a price tag attack.

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Full Text Israel Political Brief June 20, 2012: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Office Response to the State Comptroller’s Report on the Carmel Fire

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Prime Minister’s Office Response to the State Comptroller’s Report on the Carmel Fire

Source: PMO, 6-20-12

Prime Minister Netanyahu is studying the State Comptroller’s findings.
Some of the deficiencies indicated by the Comptroller were corrected immediately after the Carmel disaster:

An aerial firefighting squadron was established. In the past year, it has extinguished over 100 fires, including the major fire in the Jerusalem area.

The Fire and Rescue Service was transferred from the Interior Ministry to the Public Security Ministry and was allocated hundreds of millions of shekels for the opening of eight fire stations, the recruitment of an additional 300 firefighters and the purchase of an additional 89 firefighting vehicles.

In his report, the State Comptroller also notes that, “The Prime Minister’s personal involvement in the urgent securing of firefighting means from abroad by utilizing his network of connections with the leaders of the countries that expressed a willingness to assist in extinguishing the fire, was a positive and important contribution.” This is in reference to the fact shortly after the outbreak of the fire, the Prime Minister worked to bring in 38 planes and helicopters from 12 different countries. Without the firefighting planes from abroad, it would have been impossible to deal with the fire successfully.

Prime Minister Netanyahu thanks the State Comptroller for is work and will continue to work to correct the deficiencies.

Israel Brief June 11, 2012: Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum Defaced with Anti-Israel, Anti-Semitic Graffiti

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Hate Vandals Deface Yad VaShem Holocaust Museum

Yad VaShem Holocaust Museum officials were shocked Monday morning to discover anti-Zionist hate slogans and graffiti praising Hitler.
Yad VaShem

Yad VaShem
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Yad VaShem Holocaust Museum officials were shocked Monday morning to discover anti-Zionist hate slogans and graffiti praising Hitler.

“Hitler, thanks for the Holocaust” and “If Hitler didn’t exist the Zionists would have had to invent him” were among the graffiti scrawled on the walls of the plaza. Another hate message stated, “Jews wake up – the Zionist regime is dangerous,” and the vandalism was signed by “The global Zionist mafia.”

Yad VaShem director Avner Shalev said, “I am shocked and horrified by this blatant act of burning hatred against the country and against Zionism. It has crossed the red line and is very worrisome.”

He said it is not clear who was behind the vandalism, and police are investigating.

Education Minister Gideon Saar asserted that the vandals “intended to insult public sensitivities.”  One of the signatures indicated that anti-Zionist Jews may have been behind the hate attack, and security cameras may offer evidence of the perpetrators.

Yad VaShem was closed in the morning while workers tried to erase the damage.

 

Yad Vashem hit with anti-Israel, anti-Semitic graffiti

Source: JTA, 6-11-12

Vandals spray painted anti-Israel and anti-Semitic graffiti at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum.

The slogans written in Hebrew, including “Hitler, thank you for the Holocaust,” “If Hitler did not exist, the Zionists would have invented him,” and “The war of the Zionist regime is not the war of the Jewish people,” were mostly found at the entrance to the museum and concentrated near the Warsaw Ghetto Square and the memorial to the deportees.

Police reportedly believe that haredi Jewish extremists, who are opposed to the state of Israel, believing that it should not be established until the arrival of the Messiah, are responsible for the crime, which occurred early Monday morning.

Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev, who is a Holocaust survivor, called the vandalism a “blatant act of hatred of Israel and Zionism,” and said that it “crosses a red line.”

Israel Advocacy News June 6, 2012: Jewish leaders denounced the Free University of Brussels Recognition of BDS Movement as Legitimate Student Forum

ISRAEL ADVOCACY 101

ISRAEL & ZIONIST EDUCATION

Jews Lash Out Against Recognition of BDS as Student Forum

Jewish leaders denounced the Free University of Brussels for recognizing BDS as a legitimate student forum.
Israeli tomatoes

Israeli tomatoes
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The president of the Committee of the Coordination of Jewish Organizations in Belgium (CCOJB) denounced the Free University of Brussels (ULB) for recognizing the Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions movement against Israel as a legitimate student forum.

While the proposal was submitted about a year ago, it was recently included in the agenda of a Board meeting held on 21st May 2012. A debate was held with the majority of Board member voting in favor of recognizing BDS as a ULB student framework.

“I don’t understand the attitude of the administrative council,” Maurice Sosnowski, head of the CCOJB, told the Belgian daily La Libre, according to The European Jewish Press.

“This decision calls ULB’s credibility into question, as it is the sole European institution to have admitted a BDS presence in its walls,” he said. “Not even Great Britain and Ireland have taken such negative steps. I would add that it’s not really an organization, but a local branch of an international movement. Its creation was not at all accidental and was purely politically driven. We are far from having open debates (there) and rather in an isolated position.”

Sosnowski condemned the university saying, “Two years ago, BDS requested a stand at a welcome reception for students, but the Vice-Chancellor refused them at the time.” He added that, “in Belgium there is no longer an anti-boycott law, as opposed to in France where even (far-left wing anti-Israel politician) Martine Aubry has taken a firm stand against the boycott”.

“Few people at ULB seem to know that 39 Nobel Prize winners of different origins have spoken out against the BDS movement,” he continued. “The idea of an academic boycott is the worst thing to present itself in a university that wishes to have world-wide appeal. It is even worse considering that (Flemish Prime Minister) Kris Peeters is leading the Vice-Chancellors of Flemish universities in a trip to Israel to prepare for increased bilateral relations (with Israeli institutions). It’s not really the time for ULB to distance itself from its Israel counterparts”.

Israel Brief November 30, 2011: Adelsons give Birthright Israel another $5 million donation

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Adelsons give Birthright another $5 million

Source: JTA, 11-30-11

Sheldon and Miriam Adelson are contributing an additional $5 million to Birthright Israel, which the organization says will move 2,000 applicants from waitlisted to traveling this winter.

The contribution announced Wednesday, a day after the Adelsons were honored in Washington by the group, doubles their contribution for this year to $10 million.

“In light of this announcement, Taglit-Birthright Israel is now sending letters to 2,000 North American young adults who had applied for a trip this winter but were waitlisted, informing them that they will now be able to go on the free, 10-day educational trip in the coming months thanks to the new funding,” the group said. “Nearly 22,500 North Americans had registered for Taglit-Birthright Israel trips this winter and over 10,000 young adults had been waitlisted.”

The Adelsons’ foundation has given Birthright more than $100 million since 2007.

Adelson, a casino magnate, is a major giver to Jewish and conservative causes.

Israel Brief November 21, 2011: At ZOA dinner, Glenn Beck dishes out the pro-Israel meat

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At ZOA dinner, Glenn Beck dishes out the pro-Israel meat

Source: JTA, 11-21-11

Glenn Beck, left, and Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann both addressed the Zionist Organization of America's annual dinner in New York on Nov. 20. (Ben Harris) Zionist Organization of America President Morton Klein, right, with Glenn Beck, who was honored by the group on Nov. 20 (Ben Harris)
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Zionist Organization of America President Morton Klein, right, with Glenn Beck, who was honored by the group on Nov. 20 (Ben Harris)

REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK

NEW YORK (JTA) – The Zionist Organization of America’s annual dinner is a place where conventional thinking about the liberal proclivities of American Jews goes to die. But never quite like Sunday night — when Tea Party darling and Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann served as the opening act and Glenn Beck was swarmed like a rock star.

Beck, who was on hand to receive the ZOA’s Defender of Israel Award, made his way into the VIP reception at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan shortly after 5 p.m. and almost instantly was beset by a crush of admirers. He found himself wedged into a corner as a crowd of well-wishers surged forward to have their photographs taken with him. Bachmann and her fellow Republican congresswoman, Florida’s Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, were there, too — but it was clear who the star was.

“Love, love, love, love, love,” Ros-Lehtinen said, extending her hand to Beck, who responded by clasping hers in both of his. All around her, an expanding mass of people pressed in closer, seemingly eager to express the same sentiment….READ MORE

Israel Brief October 30, 2011: Kent State University president slams anti-Israel professor

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Kent State University president slams anti-Israel professor

Source: JTA, 10-30-11

The president of Kent State University decried the behavior of a professor who shouted “death to Israel” during a lecture given by a former Israeli diplomat.

Ishmael Khaldi, the former deputy consul general at the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco, was confronted by Kent State University history professor Julio Pino during a question-and-answer session following Khaldi’s speech at a campus event last week. Khaldi was speaking about his life as a Bedouin in Israel who rose through the ranks of the Foreign Ministry, as well as Middle East issues.

Pino, a convert to Islam and a tenured professor, asked Khaldi how the Israeli government could justify providing aid to countries like Turkey — to which Israel recently sent earthquake aid — with “blood money” from the deaths of Palestinian children. After briefly arguing with Khaldi, Pino left the auditorium shouting “Death to Israel.” An audience member responded by shouting “Shame on you” after him.

KSU President Lester Lefton said in a letter published on the university’s website that Pino’s behavior was “reprehensible, and an embarrassment to our university.”

Lefton wrote that he believed it as Pino’s right to pose a provocative question to Khaldi, but that while it was also Pino’s right to shout invective against Israel, “it is my obligation, as the president of this university, to say that I find his words deplorable, and his behavior deeply troubling.”

“We value critical thinking at this university, and encourage students to engage with ideas that they find difficult or make them uncomfortable. We hope that our faculty will always model how best to combine passion for one’s position with respect for those with whom we disagree. Calling for the destruction of the state from which our guest comes (as do some of our students, faculty and community members) is a grotesque failure to model these values,” Lefton’s statement said.

“We welcome President Lefton’s clear condemnation of Professor Julio Pino’s deplorable conduct,” said Nina Sundell, the Anti-Defamation League’s Ohio regional director. “Statements such as ‘Death to Israel’ extend beyond legitimate political discourse. When the statement is shouted by a university professor at a university student organization event on campus, it is even more harmful.”

Pino has courted controversy for years, writing an opinion column in 2002 in which he praised a suicide bomber. In 2007 he faced allegations that he was behind the website Global War, which bills itself as “a jihadist news service.” At the time, Pino refused to comment on the allegations, describing it as a freedom of speech issue. However, his department chair said that Pino had told him that he contributed articles to the site.

Arie Hasit: Keeping the Jewish flame alive, even from afar

FEATURED OP-EDS

Arie Hasit: Keeping the Jewish flame alive, even from afar

Students who participate in programs in Israel return home impassioned and engaged; the challenge is for Jewish communities abroad to reach these excited, newly captivated students to maintain their level of interest in their Jewish roots and Israel.

Source: Haaretz, 10-27-11

Like most Israelis, I spent Tuesday, October 18 glued to the television. I listened to the radio incessantly and checked my phone for news updates every few minutes. I wanted to keep as up to date about Gilad Shalit’s return to Israel as possible, and I wanted to share it with as many people as I could.

But more than anything, I wanted to share my excitement about the news with my friends and loved ones abroad.

Of course, I was not the only one excited about this historical event – my Facebook newsfeed was loaded with status updates and shared articles on the prisoner exchange. However, I was particularly pleased to see how many of my former students and campers from Jewish programs that I have worked with over the years were eager to share the news as well.

Over the last number of years, I have been involved with different programs that give Jewish high school students the opportunity to come to Israel from anywhere from six weeks to four months. Once in Israel, these students undergo a transformative experience.

As Jewish educators in Israel we have unique opportunities that our North American counterparts lack. For many participants, being abroad without parental supervision is an adventure, and a new culture and language give the experience added appeal. More importantly, we have students excited to be in Israel not for the beach, but to become more intimately acquainted with their Jewish roots….

I am proud of my students who have made aliyah, as well as those who volunteer in underprivileged communities and even become educators themselves. These individuals have been inspired by their time in Israel and wish to impart their values on another generation.

Although knowing that I, along with other educators in Israel, have had a role in these achievements, it is up to the Jewish community in North America to give these teenagers and others like them the opportunity to stay involved with Israel even after their return home.

birthright - Erez Ozir - February 11 2011 Birthright participants at the organization’s ‘Mega Event’ in Jerusalem, February 2011.
Photo by: Erez Ozir

It is inspirational events like the return of Shalit that remind us of the lasting impression that positive experiences in Israel can have on Diaspora youth, and maintaining their impassioned relationship with Judaism and Israel for years to come.

Arie Hasit is an educator at Ramah Programs in Israel and is beginning the Israeli bet midrash program at the Schechter institute.

 

Israel Political Brief September 22, 2011: Anti-Israel Durban III Conference Opens Major Democracies Boycott — Arab Nations Bash Israel

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Iran, Lebanon others bash Israel at Durban III

Source: JTA, 9-22-11

Representatives of Iran, Cuba and Lebanon blasted Israel at the Durban Review Conference at the United Nations.

While some speakers in the Thursday morning session made reference to what Iran’s representative called “the stonewalling behavior” of a few nations — the more than a dozen countries that are boycotting Durban III out of concern for anti-Israel bias — most speakers used the session as an opportunity to herald the progress of their own countries in combating racism. That included, for example, the representative from Zimbabwe, who called his nation “a tolerant and peace-loving country.”

In his own remarks at the session, Amnesty International’s representative, Jose Luis Diaz, accused many participating countries of being in a “state of denial” about human rights abuses and racism in their countries, saying nations were using the conference to “score political points.”

“We find it striking that while virtually everyone agrees that racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance affect all parts of the world, rare are the governments that admit that these phenomena are a real problem in their countries,” he said. “We believe that if there has not been more progress in the struggle against racism, this is in good part due to the tendency of states to play politics with the issue — using it to score points against other states — coupled with the readiness of many governments to bury their heads in the sand about the extent of the problem at home.”

Thursday’s conference was called to mark the 10th anniversary of the U.N. World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held in Durban, South Africa in 2001. The ostensible purpose of that gathering a decade ago was to talk about racism, but it quickly turned into an Israel-bashing extravaganza.

Israel, the United States, Jewish groups and some European countries have denigrated the Durban process since, skipping the 2009 Durban Review Conference in Geneva as well as this week’s gathering in New York.

As an alternative, Jewish groups organized a counter-conference nearby on Thursday to spotlight the hypocrisy of the Durban process.

Durban III opens amid boycott by major democracies

Controversial UN anti-racism event missing key European nations, US, Australia; Ban Ki-moon condemns use of platform for anti-Semitism

Source: Jerusalem Post, 9-22-11

The absence of the world’s leading democracies at the  UN-sponsored Durban III anti-racism ten-year commemoration event, which opened in New York on Thursday, sparked controversy at the UN General Assembly meeting and served as a setback for the Durban process.

Dubbed Durban after the city in South Africa where the first conference took place in 2001, the anti-racism process has become, according to many of the 14 countries that pulled out of Durban III, a political event to gut the advancement of human rights and foment hatred of the Jewish state.

Anne Bayefsky, a leading human rights scholar, who organized a counter-conference on Thursday to challenge the misguided notion of  the UN event, sees no reason to honor an anti-racism conference that has become infected with racism. Bayefsky cites the example from Durban I where a  sizable number  of conference participants openly championed the Hitler movement’s elimination of European Jewry and advocated a Nazi solution for Israel’s Jews.  Scores of banners in massive street demonstrations in Durban  stated  “Hitler should have finished the job,” and handouts with Hitler’s face read, “What if I had won? The good things: there would be no Israel.”

The world leaders from the 179 countries who participated in Durban III  adopted a political declaration ,which purports to renew “ their commitment for real action to prevent and combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and to focus on the concerns of the victims.” According to critics, the Durban political declaration, which was reaffirmed at the commemoration event, singles out and attacks only Israel for criticism and alleged violations of human rights.

Ambassador Isabelle Pico from Monaco, who represented Western Europe’s countries, alluded to the noticeable lack of their member countries at the event. “While a number of countries from our group are not participating and in spite of the fact that some countries do not participate in this process,” Western European countries will continue to promote  equality.

France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Austria, Italy and Germany skipped the Durban III event because those countries’ foreign ministries viewed the Durban III planning process and Thursday’s commemoration event to be contaminated with anti-Semitism, racism, and hatred of foreigners. The Eastern Europe nations of  Poland ,Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic boycotted the commemoration event for similar reasons. The United States, Israel, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand pulled the plug on their participation in the event as well .

While no country or individual leader was cited during the speeches, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon indirectly referenced the second Durban 2009 conference and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s tirades against Israel.

Ban Ki-moon said “we should condemn anyone who uses this platform to subvert with inflammatory speech.” He added that “we are aware that the Durban conference caused immense controversy, “ and alluded to the year 2009.

Ban Ki-moon was the only speaker to tell the General Assembly to take a stand against “anti-Semitism” He also called on the member states to fight Islamophobia and persecution against Christians and discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation.

The other diplomatic speakers were from Sudan, Indonesia, and Jamaica.

Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said “the lead up to this commemoration has been undoubtedly challenging, in no small part because the issues are complex and sensitive. No country can claim to be free of racism but we must be resolute in finding the courage to unite and move ahead together.”

In a New York Daily News opinion piece in August titled  “Meet the UN’s anti-Israel ‘anti-discrimination’ czar, Navi Pillay”, Anne Bayefsky, the expert on the UN, wrote that Pillay has “ been distracted by her anti-Israel and anti-American agenda since taking office in 2008. Pillay is perhaps best known for her unremitting defense of the notorious Goldstone report and for having questioned the legality of the killing of Osama Bin Laden.”

The UN-sponsored Goldstone report accused Israel of war crimes in 2008/2009 during operation cast lead in the Gaza Strip. The report’s main author, lawyer Richard Goldstone, has retracted the finding of war crimes against Israel and shifted the blame to Hamas,  the terror entity that controls Gaza, as the responsible party for transgressions of human rights and international law.

 

Durban III conference opens in New York amid allegations of anti-Israel bias

Counter-convention draws Jewish leaders and prominent supporters of Israel; 13 countries refuse to take part in Durban III

Source: Ha’aertz, 9-22-11

As the Palestinian statehood bid draws increasing support at the United Nations convention in New York, key member states have distanced themselves from a conference marking the ten-year anniversary of the Durban anti-racism conference in South Africa, in which both the United States as well as Israel stepped out due its alleged anti-Israel agenda.

Israel has asked friendly nations to stay away from this year’s event.

The 2001 anti-racism conference was criticized for its harsh language against Zionism’s “racist practices,” calling the Zionist movement one that is “based on racial superiority.” The draft document containing these statements prompted the U.S. and Israel to withdraw their delegations.

In 2009, the “Durban II” conference was held in Geneva, and made headlines after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave a speech in which he attacked Israel and denied the Holocaust.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attended the conference Thursday, and urged all countries to “stand firmly” against anti-Semitism and Islamophobia and reject discrimination against Christians.

Thus far, 13 countries have announced that they will not attend the conference, dubbed “Durban III.” U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement on Thursday that “the British Government has decided that the U.K. will not attend the UN meeting.”

He added that the 2001 conference,” and the anti-Semitic atmosphere in which it was held, was a particularly unpleasant and divisive chapter in the UN’s history. It is not an event that should be celebrated.”

The countries who pledged not to attend the conference include nine EU countries, as well as Australia, Canada, and the U.S.

Iran’s Ahmedinejad, however, is expected to take part once more.

A counter conference was held at the Millennium Plaza hotel in New York on Thursday to protest the Durban III convention and its allegedly anti-Israel and anti-Semitic agenda.

High profile speakers included Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor, President of the World Jewish Congress Ron Lauder, Israeli Minister of Information and Diaspora Yuli Edelstein, Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz, actor Jon Voight, former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, former Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dore Gold, and others.

Wiesel, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, recalled the original Durban conference, saying, “I almost became part of Durban I. Kofi Annan was the Secretary General. He called me and I said, of course.”

However, once Wiesel saw the program, he realized he could not participate. He told the former UN chief, “Durban I is supposed to be conference against anti-Semitism, but it became conference of anti-Semitism. I resigned in protests and told Kofi I am sure it will become an embarrassment to the UN.”

After the conference, Annan sent the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate a message saying “Elie, you were right.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, spoke as well, saying “Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is going to speak to the General Assembly today, Abbas speaks tomorrow. This is not an aberration that can be corrected, this is not a minute flaw – this is every day (at the UN).”

Bolton warned that “the pervasiveness of this anti-Israeli feeling, anti-Americanism, is there every day. Don’t be shocked about what’s happening. The Durban III declaration that will be adopted today – it’s part of the initiative that is going on for some time, the central objective of which is delegitmization of the state of Israel.”

Alan Dershowitz addressed the crowd as well, saying “the reason there is still no peace in the Middle East can be summarized in two letters: UN.”

The Harvard professor continued his attack on the UN, saying “rights of women, children, gays, were ignored, because the UN was too busy debating whether Zionism is racism. The UN has encouraged anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry.”

The American Civil Liberties Union slammed the Obama administration for refusing to participate in the Durban III conference, saying in a statement on Thursday that “the absence of the United States in today’s proceedings is disappointing; it contradicts the administration’s stated position to push for positive models to advance human rights, and sends the wrong message to the global community regarding the U.S. commitment to fight racial injustice everywhere.”

The statement called on the United States to “lead by example and translate their stated commitment to end racial discrimination into concrete laws and policies.”

Israel Brief September 21, 2011: Hundreds gather for pro-Israel rally at U.N.

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Hundreds gather for pro-Israel rally at U.N.

Source: JTA, 9-21-11

Several hundred supporters of Israel gathered near the United Nations to protest the Durban III meeting and oppose the Palestinian statehood bid.

Wednesday’s rally was organized by the pro-Israel Christian group Eagles’ Wings.

Many leading Jewish groups have decided not to mount demonstrations in response to the Palestinian statehood bid or to what they see as the U.N.’s increasingly irrelevant Durban III meeting.

Some Jewish groups dropped out of Wednesday’s rally due to the involvement of the Jerusalem Institute for Justice, an organization led by messianic Jews.

Roz Rothstein, the CEO of StandWithUs, one of the few Jewish groups to co-sponsor the rally, said that Durban III was worth protesting.

“Even if its one day long, even if it is one paragraph long. We’ll fight them,” Rothstein told the JTA.

Some of the rally’s speakers criticized President Obama’s policies.

“Obama built up the reputation of Mahmoud Abbas, and as a result the Palestinian Authority now believes it no longer needs to negotiate with Israel,” said the deputy speaker of Israel’s Knesset, Danny Danon.

The remaining speakers were mostly Christian, although Rabbi Yaakov Kermaier of the Fifth Avenue Synagogue also spoke.

Many of the rally attendees were evangelical Christians and messianic Jews.

Amy Liantonio, 25, a messianic Jew who came from Philadelphia for the rally, said she was disappointed that there was not more Jewish support for the event.

“I wish they were here,” she said.

Israel Brief September 20, 2011: Columbia University Never Invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Dinner

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Columbia U Never Invited Ahmadinejad to Dinner

Source: JTA, Virtual Jerusalem, 9-20-11

Columbia University clarified that a Fox News report suggesting that Columbia’s president was involved in an event next week for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was false.

An Israeli group, the Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center in Tel Aviv, had sent a letter to Columbia President Lee Bollinger condemning his alleged involvement with the event, saying the university could be liable to legal repercussions. JTA reported the sending of that letter.

The erroneous Fox News report was based on a story in the Columbia student newspaper that reported that members of Columbia’s International Relations Council and Association were invited via e-mail to a private meal Sept. 21 with Ahmadinejad. Some 15 students will attend the dinner, which is still tentative, according to the Columbia Spectator. The dinner is not a Columbia event.

Ahmadinejad is coming to New York to participate in the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly next week. His controversial address at Columbia in 2007 embroiled the campus in a debate over freedom of speech and academic freedom.

When Bollinger hosted Ahmadinejad at the university in 2007, he drew much criticism, even after he introduced the Iranian leader with a scathing rebuke of Iran’s human rights record.

Via jta.org

Israel Brief September 15, 2011: Hillel & JAFI Introducing Advocacy Program ‘Talk Israel’ to US College Campuses

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‘Talk Israel’ tents coming to U.S. college campuses

Source: JTA, 9-15-11

The Jewish Agency for Israel and Hillel are erecting white tents on 20 campuses throughout North America to serve as forums to discuss Israel and the Middle East.

The “Talk Israel” program will take place Sept. 20 and 21 at universities including the University of California-Berkeley, Columbia, Cornell, George Washington and the University of Maryland.

The tents will serve as campus venues for students to engage in respectful dialogue and raise questions and issues relating to the peace process and the Palestinian Authority’s statehood initiative at the United Nations.

“This is our answer to the war against Israel’s legitimacy that is being waged around the world; to bring Jewish students to Israel and to foster in them a sense of belonging, identity and pride,” Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky said in a statement.

Full Text September 13, 2011: Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs Statement on Cameron Johnson’s Anti-Semitic Remark at York University Lecture

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Statement on the Recent Controversy at York University

Source: Newswire, 9-13-11

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs was recently made aware of a lecture given by Professor Cameron Johnston yesterday at York University, which reportedly included an anti-Semitic remark.

In response, Sheldon Goodman, the GTA Co-Chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs issued the following statement:

“Upon hearing of this incident, we immediately contacted York University as well as Professor Johnston directly. While York is currently looking into the matter, it appears that a very unfortunate misunderstanding has taken place. We believe Professor Johnston’s use of an abhorrent statement was intended to demonstrate that some opinions are simply not legitimate. This point was, without ill intentions, taken out of context and circulated in the Jewish community.

“Professor Johnston, himself a member of the Jewish community, may regret his wording but should not see his reputation tarnished. This event is an appropriate reminder that great caution must be exercised before concluding a statement or action is anti-Semitic.”

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs is now the spokesperson for all issues concerning the organized Canadian Jewish community, including those formerly handled by the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Canada-Israel Committee, and the Quebec-Israel Committee.

Statement from Professor Cameron Johnston
September 13, 2011

In lecture, I discussed that the course focuses on the texts and not “opinions”.  In fact, I stated that for this course opinions are not relevant and I questioned the common idea that everyone is entitled to their opinion.

I pointed out that everyone is not entitled to their opinion by giving the example of someone having an anti-semitic opinion which is clearly not acceptable. This was an example of the fact that opinions can be dangerous and that none of us really do believe that all opinions are acceptable.

For the record, I am also Jewish which undoubtedly influenced my choice of this example of a reprehensible opinion.

Regards,
Cameron Johnston

Israel Brief August 22, 2011: Jon Voight Visits Israel Rocket Attack Victims

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Jon Voight Visits Rocket Attack Victims

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, 8-22-11

The people who are hospitalized in the Soroka Hospital in Be’er Sheva after being wounded in the rocket attacks over the weekend received a surprise visit on Sunday from none other than American actor Jon Voight.

Israel’s Channel 2 News reported that Voight came to the hospital to express his support for Israel and to strengthen those who were wounded.

“I am here to express my love and my loyalty to Israel,” Voight told Channel 2, emphasizing that he sees in his presence in Israel a mission, and that part of his job is to prevent the misperception of Israel in other countries.

“I’m here to fight the propaganda and lies distributed against Israel,” he said, adding, “Chabad has given me the opportunity to visit the wounded and I was glad to come.”

Voight, an ardent supporter of Israel, visited the country in January along with Republican politician Mike Huckabee.

During that visit Voight said that Jonathan Pollard did not have a fair trial due in part to anti-Semitism. He revealed the secret conversation between Pollard and his father that could have changed everything.

In the past, Voight authored a scathing open letter to U.S. President Barack Obama, accusing him of “putting Israel in harm’s way.”

via israelnn.com

Israel’s Boycott Bill and the U.S.-Israel Alliance

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Source: The Atlantic, 7-19-11

Is Israel’s step away from free speech also a step away from its most important ally?

koplow july19 p.jpg

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a Likud party meeting in Jerusalem / Reuters

The vote last week by the Israeli Knesset to pass the “boycott bill,” which subjects anyone calling for a boycott of Israel or the settlements to lawsuits and severe penalties, was intended, according to its sponsor, Likud member Zeev Elkin, to make it easier to fight back against those seeking to delegitimize Israel and to ensure Israel’s accepted place in the global community. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted on Wednesday that the ban on calls for a boycott is not a violation of democratic principles and does not tarnish Israel’s reputation. He called the condemnations of Israel over the law unfair “attacks on a democracy’s attempt to draw a line between what is acceptable and what is not.” Netanyahu and the law’s supporters may indeed believe that banning Israeli citizens from calling for boycotts will strengthen Israel’s standing in the world by eliminating what they see as a potential fifth column of enemies within, but the unfortunate reality is that this law will have the exact opposite effect of that which Elkin intended. By enacting a law with such anti-democratic overtones, and that explicitly embraces the settlements as equivalent with Israel proper, Israel is putting its global status in peril by endangering its crucial support from the United States….READ MORE

Simcha Katz: OU president slams US Jewish groups over anti-boycott law

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Source: Jerusalem Post, 7-19-11

Orthodox Union head urges US Jews, who don’t pay Israel taxes or serve IDF, to keep from criticizing Israeli policy.

OU President Simcha Katz
Photo by: Marc Israel Sellem

The president of the Orthodox Union on Monday slammed the US Jewish groups who recently chastised Israel over the anti-boycott law.

“We live in the United States, we haven’t served in the army, we don’t pay taxes [in Israel], so it would be inappropriate for us to publicly, in some fashion, criticize Israel on what they do to protect themselves,” said Simcha Katz.

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The new law, which passed in the Knesset last Monday, enables citizens to file civil suits against people or organizations that call for economic, cultural or academic boycotts against Israel, Israeli institutions or regions under Israeli control, and prevents the government from doing business with companies that initiate or comply with such boycotts.

American Jewish groups ranging from J-Street to Zionists of America, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the ADL, Americans for Peace Now and the New Israel Fund all spoke out against the law.

“On a personal level,” Katz noted, “I fully agree with the anti-boycott legislation. It was based on US legislation, which has criminal components to it. This doesn’t have criminal components to it; essentially, it’s a financial potential component.

“I was reading that Telrad, one of the companies in Israel, was selling products to the Palestinians – but part of the deal was that they couldn’t buy from Judea and Samaria. I find that outrageous,” said Katz.

“On a personal level, I’m fully in support of that particular law. Generally we support the Israeli government per se. The OU hasn’t taken a position, and generally we are supportive of what the Israeli government in power does,” he reiterated.

The OU was notably silent on last year’s conversion bill controversy as well, a topic Katz said his movement was not an expert in, so there was no point in getting involved.

“Look, we’re into tachles, to accomplishing things, we do things in the field – that’s what we’re interested in. So we want to be very supportive of the Israeli government, [and] meanwhile we’re involved in a lot of activities.

Press releases are not what we’re interested in.”…READ MORE

The Brouhaha over Israel’s Boycott Bill

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Source: Gill Hoffman, Jerusalem Post, 7-15-11

Both the Left, the Right had an interest in keeping the bill at the top of the news, but only the PM had a vested interest in keeping quiet.

The penalties for violating the anti-boycott law are severe. They include a fine of up to $50,000 or five times the value of the product boycotted – whichever is greater – and imprisonment for up to five years and in some cases up to 10. Companies that comply with boycotts can also lose their export privileges and be barred from operating.

It is no wonder the law that passed in the Knesset Monday night attracted so much attention and dominated the headlines this week. There’s only one problem. The penalties referred to above are part of the Export Administration Act of 1979 – in the United States, not in Israel.

The American law was intended to prevent US companies from supporting the boycott of Israel instituted by the Arab League. The US Department of Commerce website lists examples of violations of the law by companies, based in several Muslim countries, that were punished.

Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting, Sunday.
Photo by: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters
The Israeli law, by contrast, has no criminal element or stated penalty. It merely allows citizens to bring civil suits against people and organizations that call for economic, cultural, or academic boycotts against Israel, Israeli institutions, or “regions under Israeli control.” It also prevents the government from doing business with companies that initiate or comply with boycotts.

So why was there such a brouhaha over the boycott bill? The answer – as usual – comes down to politics. Both the Left and the Right had an interest in keeping the bill at the top of the news.

There was just one man who had a vested interest in keeping things quiet: Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

The Left has an interest in painting Netanyahu as a right-wing extremist who conspires with the settlers against the legal establishment, the rule of law, and the international community. They want the public to think the world is upset at the Israeli government and that the Jewish state is becoming increasingly isolated. Left-wing organizations intensified their efforts against the boycott bill after it had already passed, in an effort to create a public atmosphere that would encourage the High Court to reject the bill and discourage wavering MKs from supporting bills that would take action against those organizations, which will come to a vote next week. The ultimate goal of the Left is to persuade centrists that Netanyahu has resumed his battles against the elites, which helped end his first term prematurely.

Netanyahu was toppled by the Right following the Wye River Accord, but it was the centrists who laid the foundation for his downfall. The Right has an interest in targeting those very same elites in the legal establishment, who are extremely unpopular among that constituency, and the international community, which is seen by the Right as hopelessly anti-Israel. Sponsors of such legislation would be more popular among the hawks loyal to Likud activist Moshe Feiglin, who dominate the party’s membership that will choose its next Knesset slate.

Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) initiated the bill following reports that companies had accepted contracts to build the new Palestinian city of Rawabi that were contingent on accepting boycotts of Israeli settlements.

Efforts by actors to boycott a new cultural center in Ariel also inspired the bill. But Elkin blames the media attention on the Left. Had the Kadima MKs who initially sponsored the bill with him not been persuaded to turn against it, he said, he would have been able to pass it by consensus without making waves.

Stuck in the middle, between media-hungry politicians and non-governmental organizations on both the Left and the Right, was Netanyahu, who apparently tried unsuccessfully to hide. On Sunday afternoon, he told Elkin that he wasn’t sure whether the bill should be postponed because of the Quartet meeting taking place in Washington and because of the legislation’s legal ramifications. Elkin told him he was willing to wait a week to prevent diplomatic damage to Israel, but that delays would only increase pressure.

Hours later, Netanyahu’s associates briefed Hebrew newspapers ahead of their deadlines, without his knowledge, that he would likely support a delay. But when he emerged from a late-night inner security cabinet meeting about the Quartet, the prime minister said he had made no such decision.

The newspapers were forced to spend vast sums on printing second editions with opposite headlines in the middle of the night. Only The Jerusalem Post had the right headline from the start, because a different Netanyahu aide had provided correct information. When the Post objected to not being given the same late-night briefing as the other newspapers, the prime minister’s spokesman said it was the first time a reporter had complained about being the only one with the correct headline.

Netanyahu did not delay the vote, but he also didn’t show up for it. A source close to him said he was visiting his father-in-law, Shmuel Ben-Artzi, on his death bed at Hadassah-University Medical Center, Ein Kerem, but the mystery of the prime minister’s whereabouts was perpetuated by his spokesman saying he “could not address the issue” of Netanyahu’s absence. The prime minister didn’t show up at the Knesset at all that day, missing a vote of no-confidence in his government for the first time.

In his Knesset speech Wednesday, Netanyahu came out firmly in support of the bill and said it never would have passed without his blessing. But he also made a point of defending the High Court in his speech and later leaking that he would not back Israel Beiteinu’s bill to form a parliamentary inquiry committee for investigating NGOs, or Elkin’s new proposal to initiate hearings for High Court judges.

Netanyahu was careful to not open up a front against the legal establishment and elites, but also to not be seen as being dragged behind hawks in his coalition. When he returned to the Prime Minister’s Office two years ago, he vowed to learn from the mistakes he made in his first term. But two of those mistakes – fighting the elites and not keeping his coalition strong – clashed this week.

Benjamin Netanyahu defends anti-boycott law

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Source: JTA, 7-13-11

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended Israel’s new anti-boycott law from criticism that it damages Israel’s image and is anti-democratic.

“What stains (Israel’s) image are those savage and irresponsible attacks on a democracy’s attempt to draw a line between what is acceptable and what is not,” he told the Knesset on Wednesday, according to Haaretz.

The law allows for monetary sanctions against those who encourage boycotts against Israel or areas it controls, such as West Bank settlements. The bill would allow those damaged by boycotts to sue those who advocate such measures.

Netanyahu, who was absent Monday night when the Knesset approved the law by a vote of 45 to 38, expressed his firm support for the law.

“Don’t be confused – I authorized the bill. If I hadn’t authorized it, it wouldn’t have gotten here,” Netanyahu said, according to The Jerusalem Post. “I am opposed to boycotts against Israel and boycotts against groups within Israel. I oppose boycotts of Arabs, of haredi people and of any citizens of Israel.”

The leader of the opposition Kadima Party, Tzipi Livni, blasted Netanyahu during the Knesset session, which was called by her party. “You are leading Isreal into the abyss,” she said, according to Haaretz.

A variety of left-wing NGOs and civil rights groups are pursuing efforts to get the Israeli Supreme Court to overturn the anti-boycott law. NGO Monitor, a pro-Israel watchdog group criticial of left-wing NGOs, also expressed concern about the new law.

Leaders of a number of American Jewish groups also have criticized the law as an abridgement of freedom of expression.

“The anti-boycott law is undemocratic,” the American Jewish Committee said in a statement Wednesday. “It ironically has already harmed, rather than helped, our community’s overall efforts to defeat those groups who challenge Israel’s legitimacy.”

On the right, the Zionist Organization of America said it opposes such laws in principle. On the left, Jewish Voice for Peace, which has sponsored and supported targeted boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaigns, called the law “anti-democratic.” Other U.S. groups, including the Union for Reform Judaism, the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Americans for Peace Now, J Street, Ameinu and the New Israel Fund have also come out against the law.

A spokesperson for the European Union’s foreign policy chief also raised concerns about the new law on Wednesday.

“The EU recognizes Israel’s sovereignty in the legislative process. Furthermore, the EU does not advocate boycotts,” the spokesperson for Catherine Ashton, the foreign policy chief, said in a statement. “However, as part of such fundamental values as free expression and speech that the EU cherishes and shares with Israel, we are concerned about the effect that this legislation may have on the freedom of Israeli citizens and organizations to express non-violent political opinions.”

Israel’s approval of anti-boycott bill drawing protests, legal challenges

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Source: JTA, 7-12-11

The Israeli parliament’s adoption of a controversial anti-boycott bill has been greeted with a firestorm of protest from liberal Israeli NGOs and civil rights groups.

On Tuesday, a day after the Knesset voted 47-38 to enact the measure following six hours of contentious debate, the liberal Gush Shalom movement appealed to the nation’s Supreme Court to overturn the law. Other Israeli nongovernmental organizations are vowing legal challenges, too.

“The Boycott Law will lead to unprecedented harm to freedom of expression in Israel and will bring justified criticism against Israel from abroad,” Hagai El-Ad, executive director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, said in a statement issued following the vote. “We will all have to pay the price for this atrocious law.”

The bill, which was initiated by Likud lawmaker and ruling coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin, allows for civil lawsuits against individuals and groups calling for boycotts targeting Israel or areas under its control. Those damaged by boycotts would be able to claim monetary damages from boycott advocates. The law also would force the government to stop doing business with companies that comply with such boycotts.

Elkin’s proposal came months after some prominent Israeli artists had called for a boycott of a new cultural center in the West Bank city of Ariel, and some academics had urged a boycott of academic institutions in the West Bank. In addition, an Israeli construction company was hired to help build a new Palestinian city in the West Bank after it agreed not to use products from the settlements.

“It’s a principle of democracy that you don’t shun a public you disagree with by harming their livelihood,” said Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz of the Likud Party during the debate over the new law. “A boycott on a certain sector is not the proper manifestation of freedom of expression. It is an aggressive move meant to force a sector that thinks a different way to capitulate. Boycotts are aggressive and wrong.”…READ MORE

Israel Anti-boycott bill becomes law after passing Knesset

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Bill to provide civil penalties for anyone calling for boycott on Israel, settlements; Knesset legal adviser: Legislation may fail High Court test.

The Knesset adjourning for its spring break.
Photo by: Courtesy

The “Boycott Bill” was approved in its final reading in the Knesset on Monday night, after a plenum discussion that lasted nearly six hours and uncertainty throughout the day as to whether a vote would take place.

The bill passed with 47 in favor and 38 opposed, despite the fact that most Shas lawmakers were absent because of MK Nissim Ze’ev’s daughter’s wedding.

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In addition, many cabinet members – including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – did not attend the vote and the Independence faction chose not to participate.

Netanyahu’s spokesman would not comment on why the prime minister did not vote.

Earlier on Monday, the legislation’s sponsor, coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), and like-minded MKs held a press conference in support of the anti-boycott bill, after Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and his deputies voted five to three to bring it to the plenum.

“This bill defends the State of Israel,” Elkin said. “We have no right to ask our allies to do the same, if an Israeli citizen can do as he wishes.”

The new law allows citizens to bring civil suits against persons and organizations that call for economic, cultural or academic boycotts against Israel, Israeli institutions or regions under Israeli control. It also prevents the government from doing business with companies that initiate or comply with such boycotts.

Elkin defended the measure, calling it “vegetarian” and saying that its meat was removed when the clause making boycotts a criminal offense was removed.

“The law says that if you harm me [with a boycott], I have the right to ask for damages, and if you boycott the State of Israel, don’t ask it for benefits,” he said. “It was significantly softened.”…READ MORE

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