Thursday, November 29, 2012

Canadian PM Harper pressured P.A. to drop U.N. bid

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper personally intervened to pressure the Palestinian Authority to drop its bid for upgraded status at the United Nations.

While in New York to accept an award and attend the opening of a new session of the United Nations at the end of September, Harper had "a short,  brusque meeting with [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas," the Globe and Mail newspaper reported Monday.

"In a little room at the United Nations, Mr. Harper skipped most of the pleasantries in a 15-minute meeting, according to sources briefed on the session, and told Mr. Abbas he had come to deliver a message: If you keep doing what you're doing, he said - referring to the Palestinian bid for upgraded status - 'there will be consequences,'" the newspaper reported.

"It was just one part of the bare-knuckle approach Canada has taken toward the U.N. bid, though largely out of public view," according to the newspaper

The P.A. is set on Nov. 29 to ask the U.N. General Assembly to approve Palestinian status as a non-member observer state. Abbas was rebuffed in an attempt last year to have the 15-member U.N. Security Council recognize a Palestinian state.

A source told the Globe that Canada has warned the P.A.'s envoys that their legation in Ottawa might be closed, and the Palestinian envoy,  Said Hamad, sent home.

In addition, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has told several people, including Palestinian representatives, that he would travel to New York personally to cast a vote against the U.N. bid, the Globe reported.

The more serious potential aspects of the "consequences" about which Harper warned have to do with money: Ottawa pledged $300 million in aid over five years to the P.A. starting in 2008, and that period is about to run out.

Meanwhile, Australia will abstain in the U.N. vote on the status of Palestine, despite the Prime Minister reportedly being intent on siding with Israel and America in voting against the motion.

Local media reports Tuesday suggested Julia Gillard was roiled by a backbench revolt inside the Labor Party, but Foreign Minister Bob Carr, who supported abstaining, denied the charges.

Expressing disappointment at the decision, Peter Wertheim, the executive director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said: "Rightly or wrongly, the decision to abstain will damage Australia’s international reputation for moral leadership on international issues, and thus our international standing.”

The opposition Liberal Party's Julie Bishop argued that the vote on whether to upgrade Palestine's status at the U.N. is "an attempt by Palestinian leaders to enable them to bring action against Israel through the international courts."

But Gillard and Carr issued a joint statement Tuesday backing the decision to abstain. "The Government’s position balances our long-standing support for the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and their own state with our concern that the only durable basis for resolution of this conflict is direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians," it said.

"Australia strongly supports a negotiated two-state solution that allows a secure Israel to live side-by-side with a secure and independent future Palestinian state." -- JTA

Hamas’ Lifeblood: Money

Saudi children in Jeddah deposit donations to aid the Palestinians of Gaza, January 2009.
(Omar Salem/AFP/Getty Images)
Saudi charities fund terrorists and their families—including Hamas’ late military chief Ahmed Jabari -- Gary M. Osen, Tablet

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The archbishop's Jewish father

The new Archbishop of Canterbury's father, Gavin Welby, was a man of mystery, with a flair for reinvention and a story to rival that of the Great Gatsby.

Gavin Welby, the archbishop's father
The new archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, didn't even know his father's real name. He was born Bernard Weiler, the son of a Jewish emigre and an erratic alcoholic who once dated a Kennedy.
 Jason Lewis, Telegraph, UK

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JCPA to Congress on budget: Remember the most vulnerable

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs is calling on Congress to think about “the most vulnerable among us” as it works on creating a budget and avoiding the fiscal cliff.

“We believe that deficit reduction should be carefully calibrated to ensure that the most vulnerable among us are protected, opportunity for all is promoted, and justice is pursued,” Rabbi Steve Gutow, president and CEO of JCPA, wrote in a letter that was delivered Monday to Congress.

“At this point, as millions remain out of work and the poverty rate continues to be unacceptably high, it is critical that the institutional pathways to prosperity remain open and wide,” the two-page letter said.

The letter, which lists numerous programs, calls on Congress to “support a balanced deficit reduction plan that promotes the health of our nation’s economy while also insuring the sustainability and effectiveness of anti-poverty programs.”

JCPA is the national policy umbrella group of the American Jewish community. -- JTA

World War II-era archbishop of Florence recognized as righteous gentile

Cardinal Elia Angelo Dalla Costa, the World War II-era Archbishop of Florence, has been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.

In an announcement issued Monday, Yad Vashem in Jerusalem said Dalla Costa was recognized as a righteous gentile earlier this year “for spearheading the rescue of hundreds of Jews in Florence during the Holocaust.” Dalla Costa died in 1961 at the age of 89.

Israel's Holocaust memorial said that during the Holocaust, Florence was the scene of a major rescue effort led by Dalla Costa and Jewish leaders, including Rabbi Nathan Cassuto.

“This Jewish-Christian network, set up following the German occupation of Italy and the onset of deportation of Jews, saved hundreds of local Jews and Jewish refugees from territories which had previously been under Italian control, mostly in France and Yugoslavia,” the Yad Vashem statement said.

It said Dalla Costa had “played a central role in the organization and operation of a widespread rescue network, recruited rescuers from among the clergy, supplied letters to his activists so that they could go to heads of monasteries and convents entreating them to shelter Jews, and sheltered fleeing Jews in his own palace for short periods until they were taken to safe places.”

A number of testimonies bear witness to his personal involvement in rescue activities, according to Yad Vashem. For example, Lya Quitt testified that she “fled from France to Florence in the beginning of September 1943 and was brought to the Archbishop's palace where she spent the night with other Jews who were being sheltered there. The following day they were taken to different convents in the city.”

Yad Vashem said it could not find any next of kin for Dalla Costa, so his Righteous Among the Nations medal would be kept at Yad Vashem. -- JTA

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

From Israel a new lab test to ID early lung cancer

If a certain percentage of the cells show abnormal fluorescent patterns, that indicates lung cancer
Israel’s BioView is pairing its imaging technology with fluorescent DNA markers to help doctors find this deadly cancer before it’s too late. -- Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs  

To read more, click here.

Reform congregation websites hosted by URJ are hacked

The websites of several congregations hosted by the Union for Reform Judaism were hacked and linked to anti-Semitic websites.

Following the weekend hacking, the URJ pulled down the websites for scanning and clean-up, according to Mark Pelavin, the URJ's senior advisor to the president.

In an e-mail to JTA, Pelavin said the sites were set to be brought back online by Monday evening, adding that URJ made some changes to its security protocol.

The hackers appear to be a group calling itself Moroccan Ghosts, according to Jeffrey Salkin, the Anti-Defamation League's New Jersey community director.

Since March, Moroccan Ghosts has hacked some 82 websites, mostly in the United States, but also in France, Britain, Vietnam, South Africa, Germany, Spain and China, the ADL said. The Facebook page of Moroccan Ghosts includes graphics reading "Free Palestine," as well as an Israeli flag ripped in half and on fire.

A member of the group, a 17-year-old hacker from Morocco who calls himself King Neco, in an interview from over the summer with Eduard Kovacs on the Softpedia website, identified as part of the organization's objectives "Defending Palestine and Jerusalem 'al Qods.' " --JTA

Dutch TV airs fake Netanyahu speech about targeting Gaza civilians

A Dutch news show stirred controversy with a fake video of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bragging to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about civilian deaths in Gaza.

“We are trying to maximize the number of civilian casualties. We prefer that,” Netanyahu is seen telling Clinton in the video, which the broadcaster Vara aired on Nov. 21 as part of the satirical corner of the prime-time news show De Wereld Draait Door. Approximately 1.5 million viewers watch the show every evening.

The video, made to appear genuine through seamless splicing of sound bites from previous speeches by Netanyahu, was spread by thousands of Twitter and Facebook users who advertised it under the headline “Netanyahu finally tells the truth.”

“We are conducting these surgical operations against schools, mosques, hospitals, children,” Netanyahu is heard saying, adding, “This is something I don’t have to explain to Americans.”

De Telegraaf, the Netherlands’ largest-circulation daily, reported that the video irked Israel’s supporters here.

“The video is tasteless but the show’s satirical corner spares no one, so this isn’t about agenda,” said Esther Voet, deputy director of the pro-Israel Center for Information and Documentation on Israel. “The problem is that the clip is humorless and technically a good forgery, so many people don’t understand its satirical nature.”

Timon Dias, a Sri Lanka-born columnist for the Dagelijkse Standard -- the Dutch equivalent of the Huffington Post -- said the video is “reminiscent of the many blood libels that already exist about Israel and Jews.” -- JTA

Poland’s Real Jewish Revival

(Photoillustration IvyTashlik; original photo Shutterstock Shutterstock)

Their parents and grandparents hid their Jewishness, but now some Poles are converting back to Judaism -- Denise Grollmus, Tablet

To read more, click here.

Polish court reportedly rules against allowing ritual slaughter

A constitutional court in Poland reportedly has ruled against allowing Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter in the country.

The Warsaw court’s ruling, which was made known on Tuesday, said the government had acted unconstitutionally when it exempted Jews and Muslims from stunning animals before slaughtering them as their faiths require, according to Piotr Kadlcik, president of the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland.

Kadlcik told JTA that in addition to the special exception announced by the Polish Ministry of Agriculture, Jewish ritual slaughter, or shechitah, is permissible under the 1997 Law on Regulating the Relations between the State and the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland.

“It appears there is a legal contradiction here and it is too early to tell what this means,” he said. "We are seeking legal advice on this right now."

Poland has approximately 6,000 Jews, according to the European Jewish Congress.

According to Kadlcik, Poland has no kosher slaughterhouses but locally slaughtered kosher meat is nonetheless served at kosher cantines across the country.

“I’m not sure we will be able to keep serving meat there,” he said. -- Cnaan Liphshiz, JTA

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

More travel restrictions for women in Saudi Arabia

A fully veiled Saudi woman walks into a mall in Riyadh.
Women's "guardians" are notified whenever one leaves the country.
When word started spreading last week that Saudi women -- already some of the most oppressed and restricted in the world -- were being monitored electronically as they left the country, activists were quick to express their outrage.

"It's very shameful," said Manal Al-Sharif, who became an icon of female empowerment in 2011 after defying the conservative kingdom's driving ban and encouraging other Saudi women to do the same.

Al-Sharif was one of the first prominent Saudis to start tweeting about the electronic monitoring issue -- describing the shock experienced by a couple she knew after the husband received a text message alerting him his wife had left Saudi Arabia, even though they were traveling out of the country together.

What surprised and disturbed them most, Al-Sharif told CNN, was the fact that the husband had not registered with the Interior Ministry to begin receiving such notifications. -- Mohammed Jamjoom, CNN

To read more, click here.

Women traveling alone are not allowed to enter the country unless they will be met at the airport by a husband, a sponsor or male relative. The Saudi Embassy advises women to dress conservatively in public; that means wearing ankle-length dresses with long sleeves and not pants. In many areas, particularly the capital, Riyadh, women are pressured to wear a full-length black covering called an abaya and to cover their heads. Women in restaurants not accompanied by a male relative often are not served, and religious police known as the Mutawwa travel in public watching for violations of social mores. Any public display of affection is considered offensive. A woman traveling with a man who is not her husband, sponsor or a male relative can be arrested. -- Jean Mann, Demand Media

To read more, click here.

Gaza imam’s edict: Violating cease-fire would be a sin

A Muslim imam in Gaza has issued a religious edict, or fatwa, that says it is a sin to violate the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Suleiman al-Daya issued the fatwa on Saturday night, according to Haaretz, after a top Hamas official said the terrorist organization would continue to stockpile arms although it was prohibited under the agreement brokered last week by Egypt. 

"Honoring the truce, which was sponsored by our Egyptian brethren, is the duty of each and every one of us," al-Daya said in his edict. "Violating it shall constitute a sin." -- JTA

American Networks Pick Up New Israeli Shows

Keshet Media Group
Israeli broadcaster Keshet continues to attract American television networks to its shows — though not necessarily American audiences.

With the exception of Showtime’s “Homeland,” the network has had no significant hit here. Its most recent export, the reality series “3,” succumbed after just two airings.

Not to worry. CBS just optioned “Mother’s Day,” a show about a 40-year-old single mom of three who has to juggle love, friendship and her career — and does so by lying.

Keshet sold two other shows as well. NBC closed a deal for M.I.C.E. (an acronym for “money, ideology, coercion and ego”) with Peter Berg of “Friday Night Lights” executive producing, writing and directing at least the pilot. It’s based on “Gordin Cell,” about a decorated Israeli Air Force pilot unaware that his immigrant parents are Russian spies.

ABC has given a go-ahead for “Tribes,” based on the series “Your Family or Mine.” A young couple come to realize they didn’t just marry each other, they married each other’s families. -- Curt Schleier, Forward

To read more, click here.

Amnesty International takes disciplinary action over official's tweet targeting Jewish parliamentarians

The leading human rights group Amnesty International (AI) has started disciplinary action against a senior member of staff at its London headquarters after he posted an offensive tweet targeting Jewish members of the British parliament. In a message he posted on Tuesday, Kristyan Benedict, AI’s campaign manager, said “Louise Ellman, Robert Halfon and Luciana Berger walk into a bar... each orders a round of B52s #Gaza.” Benedict was alluding to B-52 long-range strategic bombers, which is also the name of a popular cocktail, in his reference to three Jewish members of parliament. -- World Jewish Congress

To read more, click here.

Montreal radio host suspended over caller’s anti-Semitic statements

A Montreal radio host was suspended for indulging a caller who made anti-Semitic statements on the air.

Jacques Fabi on his show last week on CHMP 98.5 FM did not criticize the woman during her four-minute call for comparing Israelis to dogs and saying that the Holocaust was "the most beautiful thing that happened in history," the QMI news agency reported.

After the caller made the Holocaust comment, Fabi replied, "I wouldn't dare say something like that." Later he said, "You know that in this democratic country, you can't ever say anything offensive toward Israelis because it could cost you dearly. You can't ever have negative views of any nature toward the Jewish people, or there will be serious consequences. That's how it is."

A few minutes later, Fabi said that one must "wear white gloves when talking about this nice Jewish population of Montreal." According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., he also said, "If you asked me if the Jewish population can sometimes be annoying, I would say yes."

At no point did Fabi reproach the caller for making the anti-Semitic remarks or denounce the remarks themselves.

David Cote, a CHMP spokesman, told the QMI news agency that Fabi's comments were "unacceptable" and that the station has issued "sanctions" against him.

QMI reported that Fabi has been suspended, but it was unclear for how long.

B'nai Brith Canada is demanding an apology from the station and has sent letters of complaint to broadcast regulators. -- JTA

Monday, November 26, 2012

Kids under fire attend school via computer

While images of rockets from Gaza being shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome missile interception system have dominated the news, a quieter success story is transforming the beleaguered southern part of the country.

School may be suspended during the height of the fighting, but learning continues for many students – even in bomb shelters – thanks to technology that has been tested and deployed in recent years by World ORT, the world’s largest Jewish vocational training organization.

In the past week, World ORT Representative in Israel Avi Ganon, who manages the organisation’s Kadima Mada Technology Excellence Program, and several of his most dedicated staff members, have been dodging missiles as they shuttle between World ORT’s after-school programs in southern Israeli communities like Kiryat Gat and hand out laptops for students to use at home and in bomb shelters.

This emergency program is co-funded with the Jewish Federations of North America. So far, Ganon and his team have distributed 88 laptop computers in Kiryat Gat, 24 in Sha’ar HaNegev and 30 in Beersheba so that kids can stay connected.

 The laptops can be used for any purpose – they belong to the students themselves – although one suggested program stands out: a special adaptation of Kadima Mada’s innovative distance-learning system that has so far been used to enable sick pupils to “attend” school via laptop from their hospital beds.

As part of the emergency initiative, Kadima Mada is making available free “hours” of lessons on its platform to students in shelters, as well as additional hours to students already studying in the Soroka (Beersheba) and Barzilai (Ashkelon) hospitals under siege.

A total of 34 hospitals – including seven psychiatric units – are now covered by the program, which addresses Israeli law that requires children staying longer than 3 days in the hospital attend some sort of “school,” virtual or otherwise.

The need for the emergency expansion is clear. According to World ORT’s statistics, 10 of the organization’s schools, serving thousands of students in cities including Ashkelon, Ashdod and Gan Yavneh, have been closed due to the hostilities, as has been its “YOUniversity” Center of Excellence in Kiryat Gat. The latter is a World ORT-backed after-school education enrichment program that teaches science and technology to teenagers in five Israeli development towns: Safed, Nazareth, Dimona and Nahariya, in addition to Kyriat Gat.

Since students currently can’t get to the center’s Kyriat Gat location, this week the professor who teaches YOUniversity’s Applied Physics course brought the class to them, enthralling 20 teens in a local bomb shelter. Another YOUniversity plan will tomorrow bring a bus of students from Kyriat Gat to the center’s Nahariya campus for a day of R&R – enjoying the beach, going horseback riding, relaxing at the country club – as well as the usual high-level science activities.

Kadima Mada has partnered with the Israeli Ministry of Education and the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galilee on an ambitious program to create 1,000 “smart classrooms.”

The Schulich Canada Smart Classroom project is outfitting schools with interactive whiteboards, in-class voting “wands” and tablet computers for teachers to monitor their students’ progress in real time. Several hundred classrooms are already up and running. The project, which began in 2007, is due to be completed in 2013 at a cost of nearly $30 million.

World ORT is active in 100 countries and has benefited more than three million people – Jews and non-Jews – since its founding in 1880. Its initiatives annually reach some 200,000 people, both young and old, Jewish and non-Jewish, through a network of schools, colleges, training centers and programs in Israel, Russia, Argentina and many other nations. -- Brian Blum, Israel21c

Proposed measure would ensure kosher food goes to neediest pantries

Two New York lawmakers introduced legislation to ensure that kosher food pantries receive enough food as part of the federal Emergency Food Assistance Program.

Under the legislation introduced Monday by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Joe Crowley, both Democrats, the Department of Agriculture would target, label and track the distribution of kosher food to guarantee that meals are directed to kosher food banks most in need. Kosher meals currently are not tracked to make sure they end up in kosher pantries or specific communities.

“With food insecurity in New York reaching disturbing, historic highs and food banks facing extreme shortages of kosher meals, many families are at risk of hunger and malnutrition,” Gillibrand told JTA. “We must take steps to help the neediest observant families and children get access to nutritious food during these difficult times."

Crowley said, "Our legislation will help make it easier for these food banks to provide kosher meals and food items, helping them to better meet the needs of the communities they serve.”

According to William Rapfogel, CEO of New York's Met Council human services agency, nearly 400,000 poor or near-poor Jewish households citywide are struggling to get by and approximately 52,000 Jewish children are living in poverty. -- JTA

Canadian Islamic group charges Jewish school uses racist textbook

A Canadian Islamic organization is accusing a Toronto-area Jewish day school of using a textbook that vilifies Muslims.

In a Nov. 19 letter to Jewish groups, the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR-CAN, charges that a textbook used at the Joe Dwek Ohr HaEmet Sephardic School employs "inflammatory and hateful terms in describing Muslims."

CAIR-CAN alleges that the book, "2000 Years of Jewish History," describes Muslims as "rabid fanatics" with "savage beginnings."

"The entire chapter devoted to Islam presents a pernicious andextreme portrayal of Muslims and the Islamic faith. The material further denigrates the Prophet Muhammad as a 'rabid Jew-hater,' and falsely portrays Islam as inherently anti-Semitic and devoted to hating Jews," the group said in its letter to the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center For Holocaust Studies and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, or CIJA.

It said the text is used in grade 7 and 8 girls' classes at the Orthodox Jewish day school and "leaves impressionable young Jewish readers with a sense of suspicion and even intolerance towards their fellow Canadians."

The group wants the Centre for Jewish Education of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto to investigate.

No one from CIJA, the Wiesenthal Center or Ohr HaEmet responded to JTA's requests for comment.

CAIR-CAN's salvo comes on the heels of an investigation by Toronto-area police of a local Islamic school. Earlier this month, police cleared the school of hate crimes allegations following a complaint by Jewish groups. York Regional Police found that teaching materials at the East End Madrassah attacked Jews and "suggested intolerance," but were not criminal.

Part of the madrassah's curriculum encouraged boys to keep fit for jihad, compared Jews to Nazis, and referred to "Jewish plots and treacheries."

The complaint "prompted change" at the madrassah, noted CAIR-CAN in its letter, adding that the group "welcomes that change."

When police began their probe, the Toronto District School Board,  which rented space to the school, revoked its permit and the madrassah had to relocate. -- JTA

Israeli Doctors Uncovering Autism Links

Tel Aviv University campus
A new Tel Aviv University and Sheba Medical Center study has demonstrated that autism spectrum disorders share a common root cause with psychiatric illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar, the Jerusalem Post reported. Dr. Mark Weiser of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Sheba Medical Center has discovered that a family history of psychiatric diseases such as bipolar and schizophrenia is a risk factor for autism.

Based on studies conducted in both Israel and Sweden, children whose parent or sibling had schizophrenia were 2.6 to 2.9 more likely to have autism, while children whose parent or sibling had bipolar were 1.6 to 1.9 more likely to have autism, Fox News reported. Three data sets, two based in Sweden and one based in Israel, were used for this study to uncover the link between these mental illnesses. “We found the same results in all three data sets,” Weiser noted. -- Rachel Avraham, United with Israel

To read more, click here.

Opinion: The war on men

The battle of the sexes is alive and well. According to Pew Research Center, the share of women ages eighteen to thirty-four that say having a successful marriage is one of the most important things in their lives rose nine percentage points since 1997 – from 28 percent to 37 percent. For men, the opposite occurred. The share voicing this opinion dropped, from 35 percent to 29 percent.

Believe it or not, modern women want to get married. Trouble is, men don’t.
 -- Suzanne Venker, Fox News.

To read more, click here.