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German gov’t, Jews disagree over funds

Orthodox Jewish community accuses federal government of discrimination for not funding Rabbinical Seminary in Berlin while providing money to more liberal seminary

Germany’s Orthodox Jewish community is accusing the government of discrimination for not funding the Orthodox Rabbinical Seminary in Berlin while providing money to the country’s only other seminary, which is more liberal.

For almost a year, Orthodox Jewish leaders have repeatedly asked the federal government to support their seminary with the same amount of annual funding that it gives the liberal Abraham Geiger Kolleg – about €300,000 ($410,000) through the German Interior Ministry – Rabbi Josh Spinner of the Orthodox Rabbinical Seminary told The Associated Press on Thursday.

‘A Horse for Hanukkah’ is filmmaker and author Myriam Halberstam’s first attempt to cater for Germany’s 200,000-strong Jewish community. It’s important to have a book in which ‘Jews are normal and nothing terrible happens to them,’ she says
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Now, Spinner said, he has decided to make his complaints public.

“What has begun as a simple request for funding has turned into discrimination and a case about what moral, historical and legal rights the German government has to choose its Jews,” said Spinner, who is a board member of the seminary. “We are expecting the government to treat all religious denominations equally.”

But Rabbi Walter Homolka, the director of the Abraham Geiger Kolleg – founded in 1999, 10 years before the Rabbinical Seminary – defended the German government’s stand, saying that the Orthodox seminary had only been around for a very short time and needed to prove the value of its education first.

“Otherwise, every religious group could come and say it wants money from the German government,” Homolka said.

Despite not providing the Rabbinical Seminary funds, the German Interior Ministry noted it supports the education of Orthodox rabbis in Germany by providing an annual grant of €500,000 ($685,000) to the Heidelberg Learning Center for Jewish Studies.

However, the Heidelberg school does not ordain rabbis, the school’s spokeswoman Desiree Martin said.

A spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry, who did not give her name in line with department policy, said the ministry was continuing talks about the issue but had no further comment.

Stephan Kramer, the general secretary of the Central Council of Jews – which represents both liberal and Orthodox Jewish communities – criticized the government for treating the two denominations “unequally” but said he wouldn’t go as far as saying the government was discriminating against the Orthodox community.

“It is obviously not correct that the liberal seminary gets extra funding which the Orthodox seminary does not get,” Kramer told the AP.

Around 250,000 Jews live in Germany today, far less than the country’s flourishing Jewish community of 560,000 – and its cultural and intellectual prominence – before the Third Reich. Some six million European Jews were killed in the Nazi genocide, including 200,000 from Germany.

According to Kramer, the majority of Jews in Germany who belong to religious communities can be described as living a traditional form of Judaism that’s “somewhere between liberal and Orthodox.”

“There are about a handful of communities who are truly Orthodox and the same amount of liberal communities,” Kramer said.

There is a separation of church and state in Germany. No religious group has the right to expect financial support from the government, but once the government decides to provide funding for one group, other groups can demand equal treatment and also demand funding, said Benjamin Ladiges, a lawyer familiar with the case.

Traditionally, the government collects church taxes from people who register themselves as Catholic or Protestant, then transfers the money to the churches. The government does not collect taxes from Muslims or Jews, but it does support the Central Council of Jews in Germany with €5 million grant annually for rebuilding Jewish life in Germany.

Recently, the German government also gave a €300,000 grant to train imams at a new program at the University of Osnabrueck which will last through 2013.

Al-Qaeda denies plot to target Muslim pilgrims

Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula denied on Sunday it would stage any action to coincide with the Muslim Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia after a Saudi minister said such an operation could not be ruled out.

“We are against any crimes against pilgrims … Hajj is a pillar of Islam and we are most eager (not to spill) the blood of Muslims, wherever they may be. Mecca is more sacred than any other place,” AQAP said in a statement posted on an Islamist website often used by militants. (Reuters)

 

Bush on post-presidency: I miss being pampered

Former President George W. Bush says he doesn’t miss much about the White House, just the pampering.

Bush told more than 3,000 people at a sprawling central Florida retirement community on Saturday that he misses the convenience of the presidential jet Air Force One and never waiting in traffic jams. The 43rd president said, most of all, he misses being commander in chief of the US military. (AP)

 

Allegations of racism and questions about an Israeli town’s character

By Joel Greenberg

SAFED, ISRAEL –

(Washington Post) In the winding stone alleys of this Galilee hill town, a centuries-old center of Jewish mysticism, a campaign is underway.

It is being waged by the town rabbi, Shmuel Eliahu, who along with other area rabbis issued a religious ruling several months ago forbidding residents to rent apartments to Israeli Arab students from the local community college.

The rabbi has warned that the Jewish character of Safed, long revered as sacred, is at risk and that intermarriages could follow if the students mingle with the locals.

Last month, Eliahu called a public meeting to sound the alarm. On the agenda was “the quiet war,” a reference to the feared Arab influx, and “fighting assimilation in the holy city of Safed.”

Several days later, a building that houses Arab students was attacked by a group of young Jews, and an elderly Holocaust survivor renting a room to students received threats.

To civil rights advocates and other critics, the unsettling developments in this normally quiet community of 32,000 are a window into ugly currents of racism in Israeli society. The events here, the critics say, reflect a general atmosphere of growing intolerance under a government and parliament dominated by parties of the nationalist right.

Hagai El-Ad, executive director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, said that public attitudes have been legitimized by proposals in parliament that send a message of exclusion to Israeli Arabs. One bill authorizes rural Jewish communities to review applications for residence on the basis of social and cultural compatibility, language that critics say is code for keeping out Arabs.

But people in Safed dismiss the accusations of racism, saying that the issue is a culture clash between rowdy Arab students and the city’s strictly religious Jews who feel that their way of life is being threatened.

In a city park next to a college building on a recent afternoon, “Death to Arabs” was scrawled on a gatepost. The park is a hangout for the Arab students, who were scattered on benches during a break between classes.

Nasrat Ghadban, a student from the village of Arrabeh, said that he had been trying to find an apartment to rent in Safed but that his phone inquiries were repeatedly turned down.

When people hear my accent, they say they’re sorry, but they don’t rent to Arabs,” Ghadban said. “Other times, if they hear you have an Arab name, they say they have tenants already or that they’ll get back to you, but they never do.”

Similar accounts were heard from other Arab students, who make up about half of the student population at the school, the Tzfat Academic College. Because of a shortage of dormitory space, many Arab students commute from their villages. Some who have found apartments in Safed said they have recently felt uneasy walking the streets and preferred to stay in at night, fearing run-ins with religious Jewish youths.

Last month, a group of young Jewish men attacked apartments of Arab students near the old city of Safed. An indictment against two of the assailants said that before the attack, the group had talked about an increasing presence of Arabs in town and their alleged harassment of local Jewish women.

The mob gathered outside a building housing Arab students, shouted “Death to Arabs!” and “Stinking Muslims!” and hurled stones and bottles, smashing a window, according to the indictment. The Arab students threw stones back, and a shot was fired by one of the Jewish youths. He and the other indicted youth were charged with racist incitement, rioting and vandalism.

Eliahu Zvieli, an 89-year-old resident of the old city who rents a room to three Arab students, said he had received numerous phone calls and visits, including from Rabbi Eliahu, urging him to remove his tenants. One caller threatened to burn down Zvieli’s house, he said. A sign was posted on the gate calling the Arabs’ presence “a shameful disgrace.”

Zvieli, a Holocaust survivor from Hungary who endured forced-labor and prisoner-of-war camps, said he was not fazed. “I’ve been through a few things, and I’m handling it,” he said. “You can’t surrender to terror.”

Across the street at his food stand, Yosef Pe’er, bearded with a large knitted skullcap, said that providing housing for Arab students in the heart of the old city, where many strictly Orthodox and newly observant Jews live, is a provocation.

“This place has a particular character, and it’s preferable that it remain Jewish,” he said. Arab students drive by in cars blaring loud music on Friday night, during the Jewish Sabbath, and generally “don’t respect where they are,” Pe’er said.

Safed’s mayor, Ilan Shohat, said the students were “behaving like they were back in their villages.” He said the municipality had received complaints from religious residents after Sabbath weekends of disruptive behavior by students, ranging from playing loud music to smoking a hookah opposite a synagogue and badgering young women.

“Safed is not a racist city at all,” Shohat said. “There’s a cultural problem, which because of the Jewish-Arab divide in Israeli society, is interpreted by the residents as a provocation.”

Arab students denied the allegations of inappropriate behavior, saying that most stay home on weekends and that those in town were often at work at hotels, replacing Jewish employees who were off Saturdays. Some students noted that they had warm relations with their Jewish landlords, who they said treated them like family.

On the streets of Safed, memorial plaques commemorate Jewish fighters killed in the town during Israel’s war of independence in 1948. Safed’s Arab majority fled the fighting, changing it from a mixed city to a Jewish one. The sign plastered on the home of Zvieli, the man threatened for renting to Arab students, accused him of “returning Arabs to Safed.”

Yisrael Lee, an architect and a neighbor, said that the past still hangs heavy over the town. “Memories here are strong,” he said.

British politician: ‘Israel is the root cause of terrorism’

Liberal Democratic peer asks why world allows Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to continue – “Is it Holocaust guilt?”

LONDON – In the second attack on Israel by Liberal Democrat politicians in the same week that the party’s leader said the party got it wrong on Israel, Jenny Tonge claimed on Friday that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is the root cause of terrorism worldwide.

Possibly “Holocaust guilt” allows this treatment to go unchecked, Tonge said, adding that it might also be the “power of the pro-Israel lobby” in the UK and US.

The Liberal Democrat peer was speaking in the House of Lords at the Strategic Defense and Security Review, which sets out how the British government will deliver the priorities identified in its national security strategy.

On the issue of world conflict prevention, Tonge then said: “It is a disgrace to us all that problems such as Kashmir and Palestine are still alienating Muslims all over the world.

“The treatment of Palestinians by Israel is held up as an example of how the West treats Muslims,” she said, “and is at the root cause of terrorism worldwide.”

“Even [the Quartet’s Middle East envoy] Tony Blair has now admitted this publicly,” she claimed.

“Why do we let it continue? Is it Holocaust guilt? We should be guilty – of course we should. Is it the power of the pro-Israel lobby here and in the USA?” The peer went on say that “cynics might think” Britain is at the ready to help Israel attack Iran.

“Or is it the need, maybe, to have an aircraft carrier called Israel in the Middle East, from which to launch attacks on countries such as Iran? The cynic might think that that is why HMS Ark Royal and the Harriers [fighter jets] can be dispensed with [as part of UK defense cuts] – [since] we already have a static “Ark Royal” in a strategic position, armed to the teeth and ready to fight, provided that we do not offend Israel,” she said.

Tonge, a lifelong anti-Israel activist, continued: “I feel sorry for the people of Israel sometimes. Their government’s policies have made that country the cause of a lot of the world’s problems, yet now they are seen in the middle as the remedy and the base for the West to fight back.”

The party has distanced itself from Tonge’s comments, which “do not reflect the views of the Liberal Democrats,” a spokesman told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday. “Indeed, last week [party leader] Nick Clegg stressed that Israel’s right to thrive in peace and security is non-negotiable for Liberal Democrats.”

Last week, Liberal Democrat peer Lord Phillips told a meeting of the radical fringe group Palestine Solidarity Campaign in parliament that “Europe cannot think straight about Israel because of the Holocaust, and America is in the grip of the well-organized Jewish lobby.”

These two incidents came in the same week that Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told a meeting of Liberal Democrat supporters of Israel that his party had got it wrong on Israel.

“I’m not certain that we have always made ourselves clearly heard on this, so let me say it again now: Israel’s right to thrive in peace and security is nonnegotiable for Liberal Democrats.

“No other country so continually has its right to exist called into question as does Israel, and that is intolerable. There can be no solution to the problems of the Middle East that does not include a full and proper recognition of Israel by all parties to the conflict,” he said.

“Campaigning for justice for the Palestinian people has been heard loud and clear from the Liberal Democrats, [and] it should always have been accompanied, equally loudly and equally clearly, by an awareness of the security challenges faced by Israel, and of the right of Israel to defend itself against the threats that it continually faces,” Clegg added.

In February, Clegg sacked Tonge as health spokeswoman in the Lords after she suggested that Israel set up an inquiry to refute allegations that its medical teams in Haiti “harvested” organs of earthquake victims.

It is not the first time the Liberal Democrat politician has been sacked by the party for her comments on Israel.

In 2006, then party leader Menzies Campbell dissociated the party from Tonge and condemned her for “clear anti-Semitic connotations” after she said that “the pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the Western world, its financial grips. I think they have probably got a certain grip on our party.”

In 2004, Tonge was sacked as a spokeswoman on children’s issues after suggesting she could consider becoming a suicide bomber.

NY Times urges Netanyahu to ‘stop playing games’

Editorial accuses prime minister of choosing domestic politics over peace

WASHINGTON – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prefers to maintain his coalition over making peace with the Palestinians, the New York Times charges.

“It’s time for him to stop playing games, reinstate the moratorium, get back to negotiations and engage seriously in a peace deal,” the paper said in a scathing editorial.The PM “spent a lot of time trying to persuade President Obama and others that he was serious about making peace with the Palestinians,” the NY Times wrote. “Only a hard-liner, like him, could pull it off. If only.”

The article, titled “Politics over peace,” argues that at this time it doesn’t look like Israel’s’ prime minister is willing to make the “hard choices” needed to secure a peace agreement.

“What is evident is that he has decided that mugging for his hard-line coalition is more important than working with President Obama to craft a peace deal,” the paper says.

The NY Times also slams the Netanyahu government for planning more construction in east Jerusalem. The paper says both sides to the conflict must do more, but that “the burden is on Mr. Netanyahu to get things moving again.”

To that end, the editorial urges the prime minister to extend the settlement construction freeze, arguing that “resuming the moratorium will in no way harm Israel’s security or national interest.”

U.S. offers Israel warplanes in return for new settlement freeze

Netanyahu presents security cabinet with Clinton’s incentive of 20 F-35 fighter planes and security guarantees in exchange for 90-day West Bank building moratorium.

(Haaretz) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s seven-member inner cabinet discussed Saturday an offer by the United States to reinstate a freeze on West Bank Settlement construction in return for a package of incentives.

Netanyahu presented Saturday the U.S. offer, which was discussed by Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday, to the forum of seven.

netanyahu - Reuters - November 11 2010

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at their meeting in New York, November 11, 2010.

Photo by: Reuters

According to the offer Israel would stop construction in the West Bank for 90 days. The freeze includes construction that began after the end of the first settlement moratorium on September 26.

The moratorium would not apply to construction in East Jerusalem. The U.S. will not ask Israel to extend the new moratorium when it expires.

Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian negotiator, said the Americans had not officially informed the Palestinians about the details of the proposal, “but they know we have a major problem in not including east Jerusalem”.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will put the U.S. plan before Palestinian
decision-makers and call for an immediate session of Arab League officials before announcing an official decision, Erekat said.

In return for an Israeli freeze, the U.S. government would deliver 20 F-35 fighter jets to Israel, a deal worth $3 billion. Moreover, if an Israeli-Palestinian agreement is achieved, the U.S. would sign a comprehensive security agreement with Israel. The U.S. and Israel are to discuss the nature of the new security arrangements in the next few weeks.

According to “The Cable” blog, White House Middle East adviser Dan Shapiro told a group of American Jewish leaders on Friday that U.S. was committed to fighting delegitimization of Israel, and listed recent efforts to advocate on behalf of Israel.

Such efforts included: curbing actions by the United Nations on the Goldstone Report; blocking anti-Israel UN resolutions concerning the Gaza flotilla raid; defeating international resolutions aimed at exposing Israel’s nuclear program at the International Atomic Energy Agency; and strengthening pressure on Iran and Syria in regards to their nuclear and proliferation activities.

U.S.-sponsored direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority broke down on September 26 when a 10-month Israeli freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank expired. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said he would not restart negotiations with Israel while settlement construction continues.

Britain’s top soldier–”Al-Qaeda cannot be beaten”

General Sir David Richards

 

(telegraph.co.uk) General Sir David Richards, new head of Britain’s armed forces, said the threat posed by ‘al-Qaeda and its affiliates’ meant Britain’s national security would be at risk for at least 30 years. He said defeating Islamist militancy was “unnecessary and would never be achieved”.

However, he argued that it could be “contained” to allow Britons to lead secure lives.

Gen Richards, 58, said the threat posed by “al-Qaeda and its affiliates” meant Britain’s national security would be at risk for at least 30 years.

The general, who will tomorrow lay a wreath at the Cenotaph in Whitehall in memory of Britain’s war dead, said the West’s war against what he described as a “pernicious ideology” had parallels with the fight against Nazi Germany in the Second World War.

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, the general disclosed that Prince William was unlikely to serve in Afghanistan but suggested that his brother Harry, training to be an Apache helicopter pilot, could return to front-line duty in Helmand province.

He said the British military and the Government had been “guilty of not fully understanding what was at stake” in Afghanistan and admitted that the Afghan people were beginning to “tire” of Nato’s inability to deliver on its promises.

However, he said the sacrifice being made by the Armed Forces in Afghanistan, where 343 soldiers have been killed since 2001, “has been worth it”. Progress was being made and Nato was “in the right parish”. He said: “Don’t give up folks, it’s all to play for.”

The general also dismissed suggestions that troops badly injured fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan would ever be “forced” to leave the Armed Forces, but said most of those seriously wounded wanted to leave to begin new careers.

He rejected claims by former senior Royal Navy chiefs who said scrapping the aircraft carrier Ark Royal and the Harrier force would jeopardise the security of the Falkland Islands. But it is the general’s assertion that victory against militant Islam cannot be achieved that is likely to prove most contentious.

The general said: “In conventional war, defeat and victory is very clear cut and is symbolised by troops marching into another nation’s capital. First of all you have to ask: do we need to defeat it [Islamist militancy] in the sense of a clear cut victory? I would argue that it is unnecessary and would never be achieved.

“But can we contain it to the point that our lives and our children’s lives are led securely? I think we can.”

He also said the real weapon in the war against al-Qaeda was the use of “upstream prevention” as well as “education and democracy”. The problems that gave rise to militant Islamism were unlikely to be solved soon, he added.

On the issue of future wars, the general said he could see no case for military intervention in other countries “at the moment” but added that he would be “barmy to say that one day we wouldn’t be back in that position”.

Clinton offers Netanyahu security pledge on peace talks

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) pose for photographers before their meeting in New York, November 11, 2010. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) pose for photographers before their meeting in New York, November 11, 2010.

By Jeffrey Heller

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton assured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday that Israel’s security requirements would be fully taken into account in any future peace deal with the Palestinians.

In a move that could allow Netanyahu to persuade his governing coalition to back a new freeze on Israeli settlement construction, Clinton and the visiting Israeli leader ended a marathon round of talks in New York with a strong declaration of Washington’s “unshakable commitment to Israel’s security and to peace in the region.”

“The prime minister and the secretary agreed on the importance of continuing direct negotiations to achieve our goals,” the two sides said in a joint statement, which did not mention the settlement issue directly.

But Clinton repeated that the peace talks — which have hit an impasse over the settlement issue — could yet yield an independent Palestine living next to Israel “with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.”

“Those requirements will be fully taken into account in any future peace agreement,” the joint statement said.

It added that any future Palestinian state should be based on its 1967 borders with “agreed swaps” of territory, holding out the prospect that Israel might retain some of the occupied West Bank in exchange for giving the Palestinians other Israeli territory.

Israeli officials said Netanyahu has pushed Clinton for broad new U.S.-Israel understandings on Israel’s security needs in any eventual peace agreement.

“The chances of reaching a peace agreement will be improved significantly by achieving comprehensive security understandings between Israel and the United States,” Netanyahu said before Thursday’s talks began.

Israel wants a long-term military presence in the Jordan Valley along the eastern border of a future Palestinian state as well as financial help to pay for security arrangements that would be necessary if a peace deal is achieved.

Thursday’s talks marked the Obama administration’s latest attempt to restart the direct peace talks that began in Washington on Sept. 2 but were suspended by the Palestinians three weeks later when Netanyahu refused to extend a 10-month limited building freeze in West Bank settlements.

(Writing by Andrew Quinn; editing by Mohammad Zargham and Stacey Joyce)

Israeli military invades Palestinian village after Israeli Settlers attack family

(imemc.org) On Thursday morning, in Tiqua village, near Bethlehem, a Palestinian family was attacked by Israeli settlers, which led to a clash between the residents of the village and Israeli forces.

According to Ma’an News, the incident happened when a Palestinian mother taking her two children, age 10 and 11, to school, was attacked by Israeli settlers, who threw stones at the family.

The three civilians were injured during the attack, which was followed by an Israeli military invasion of the town. Villagers angered by the incident were seen burning tires and throwing stones at the invading Israeli troops. According to the Israeli military, a crowd of around 50 Palestinians gathered to confront the invading troops.

Local witnesses said that when the Israeli forces raided the village, they fired tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets at the residents.

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  1. News Trend says:

    The Pernicious Delegitimization Game…

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010 A persistent undertone of angst at this week’s Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly in New Orleans centered on international efforts to delegitimize Israel. Many of th……


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