Friday, 31 July 2009
"In general, through the Barcelona Process, Europe fuels the conflict by funding all the organizations that call Israel a regime of apartheid and accuse it of war crimes."
Key-note speech at the inaugural event of the European Forum of the Knesset, by Fiamma Nirenstein, Vice President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Italian Chamber of Deputies
Jerusalem, July 28, 2009
"[...] Europe is today damned by an incredible increase of anti-Semitism episodes, only in England the Community Security Trust, that provides security for the Jewish community have recorded 609 anti-Semitic crimes from January to June, while last years in the same period they were 276. The worst happened during the operation Cast Lead; the bias on Israel, I don’t have to tell you this, are the basic reasons of the growth either of anti-Semitism and political parallel positions against Israel in Europe. Nathan Sharansky has written about the double standards that show the anti-Semitism inside antisraelianism. [...]
In my fresh experience as a member of the Italian parliament and as a deputy president of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I found myself delegated as a member of Strasbourg’s Council of Europe, precisely at the Political Committee and its derivate, the Middle East Committee. The first plenary discussion about the Middle East that I have attended was for me a real shock. It was held at the end of January about Operation Cast Lead. I expected a generic sense of pain toward the civil population involved in the war, accompanied by the understanding of the unbearable situation of the people bombed by Hamas from Gaza; and therefore I imagined that there would have been a thoughtful, problematic discussion about the question of asymmetric war, an army fighting against the terrorist Hamas’ decision of aiming at civilians hiding beyond civilians. Nothing of this kind. I heard a long string of speeches, from the Swedish to the Spanish, from the British to the Russian representatives, who chose to focus not on the clash in itself, but rather on the supposed Israeli war crimes, the Palestinian suffering, and the occupation - as if Gaza were still occupied. I think that only the Canadian observer and myself voiced a different opinion. The rest expressed a deep antipathy toward the Jewish State, even beyond the expected. The representatives of almost all the European countries were actually mirroring the image of what was happening in the European squares, where marches took place, sometimes so incredibly aggressive to choose as slogan "Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas", as it has happened in the Netherlands.
In Italy, I will say it with pride, the Italy-Israel parliamentary friendship association, that counts a membership of more the 200 MPs, has been able on the contrary to organize a spectacular, courageous exit toward the square to support the Israeli right to self-defense; thousands of citizens were waiting for us in the square with Israeli flags, and the President of the Parliament, Gianfranco Fini, came out to greet us. The same attitude Italy has had about the Durban 2 conference in Geneva: our Parliament has been the first to vote unanimously for deserting the Conference, and our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Franco Frattini, has guided the little group of European countries (Germany, Holland and Poland) that declared the impossibility of joining the so called antiracism conference. But we cannot ignore that while standing and making a nice exit from the hall where Ahmadinejad was again calling for the extermination of the Jews, the European nations, except the Czech Republic, came back quickly into the Geneva assembly after he finished his speech.
The estrangement of Israel from Western Europe in my view is one of the most outstanding moral and diplomatic markers of our era. On the disintegration of any moral sympathy toward Israel, you can read the disintegration of Europe. The relations between Europe and Israel, do not only constitute a geostrategic axis that is aiming at the survival of a plurimillenary construction of democracy, and also at the physical survival of our civilization. It’s also the indicator, with other markers like low birthrate, aging population, fear and surrender in front of imported values that dismantle the conquers connected to the status of women and of sexual and cultural minorities, of the profound lassitude, the end of civilization weariness that holds in its grip the EU nations. It is also, as Ambassador John Bolton has written, the desire of being liberated forever from conflicts, war, from any problem that will recall the disgust and horror for itself that Europe felt after the Second World War. Since that time onward, Europe considers like a mistake anything connected to its own culture, to its own most intimate structure, its economic, familiar, national, juridical structure, its own civilization. Israel, felt as Europe rib, is a refused member of the family.
Moreover, the fact that religion has become a questionable, sometimes even laughable motivation, makes the State of the Jews become only an annoying incident. The Old Continent has a fantasy of having moved beyond history, and nowadays this attitude is enhanced by the USA new attitude. Sweden, which took over EU presidency on July the first, has been financing, according to “NGO-Monitor”, a precious watchdog organization of NGO activities, a radical NGO in the guise of human rights and humanitarian aids. Its activity is very relevant: Diakonia, Sweden’s largest humanitarian NGO, receives 9,3 million Euros and it distributes this money to some of the most radical centers, like the Alternative Information Center ("working with Peres Center for peace is morally disgusting") and Sabeel ("Israel places Jesus on the cross again, with thousands of crucified Palestinians everyday") [Swedish Christian NGO Diakonia's anti-Israeli activities, Swedish government funds fuel Mideast radical NGOs]. In general, through the Barcelona Process, Europe fuels the conflict by funding all the organizations that call Israel a regime of apartheid and accuse it of war crimes.
The Palestinians Center for Human Rights receives funds not only from the European Commission, but also from single countries like Norway, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland. This and a lot of other foundation program their appearances in public with booklets and researches so as to feed in coordinated times, always through funds that should encourage a peace culture, the culture of hate and war. I see this problem as a field of hard work for parliaments: discuss here where the citizens’ money go.The greatest confusion reigns in allocations of European programs, the names and possible conflicts of interest are hidden, the European Union deleted data in giving information to NGO Monitor. Lately a protest of the Israeli Ambassador to the Netherlands has brought the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to claim they will stop funding the organization "Breaking the silence", that we know is financed also by England and Spain: just one of the many organization of opposition on the Israeli soil financed by European nations. Here I cannot but underline, with respect with every opinion, how much whenever any intellectual, NGO, famous writer speak against the morality of Israel this become an enormously amplified argument, widely used for extreme and damaging statements all over the net, the media, the political spectrum of power and public opinion: sometimes you really have the impression that no sense of responsibility seems to be taken in consideration in front of the need of expressing one’s opinions and sometimes even simple impressions.
This attitude is perfectly consonant with a sort of categorical European imperative to help the Palestinians, however and whatever: in spite of the international boycott called on when Hamas won the elections, aid to Palestinians grew from about 1 billion in 2005 to more than 1.2 billion in 2006, and billions of dollars are arriving now, after three billion dollars have been raised at the conference of Sharm el Sheik following the war of Gaza. Arab country promised 1.65 billion dollars, the US 900 millions, the EU 436 millions. Now, after a conference on the 12th of July, held between the UNDP, the UN Agency that supervises the distribution, and the UNRWA, it came clearly out that several mechanism permit the funds to arrive in the hands of Hamas itself. Actually, I don’t think that all this generates more than a formal eyebrows rise.
Europe was stopped by watering down the Quartet’s three condition for dealing with Hamas and making the dialogue possible, only by the speech of Netanyahu at Bar-Ilan on June 14th. The same happened with a Belgian proposal that was about to introduce a EU clause in its resolutions saying that East Jerusalem should be the capital of a future Palestinian state. Nowadays, Europe is fascinated by the "settlement complete freezing" way chosen by Obama and feel encouraged on its traditional way, again expressed by Javier Solana last surprising speech that saw in the Israeli "occupation" the source of almost all the troubles of war, much more than Iran and Afghanistan. [...]
The dramatic diffusion of hate against Israel is directly connected with the loss of the most important principles of freedom, a Judeo-Christian conquer. You cannot forget it while working with Europe."
Source: Fiamma Nirenstein blog
Europe Reimports Jew Hatred, by Daniel Schwammenthal
"This is part of new government policy, first reported by the Post three weeks ago, to take a more proactive stance against NGOs very critical of Israel. Officials articulated this policy after receiving reports that Human Rights Watch, a consistently harsh critic of Israel, had engaged in fund-raising in Saudi Arabia, using its criticism of Israel as a sales pitch."
A long-overdue decision!
Source: article by Herb Keinon in JPost
Recent revelations about foreign government funding for local NGOs involved in political activity have triggered discussions by senior Israeli officials about the possibility of making such aid illegal, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
The senior officials are looking into whether it might be possible to ban donations from foreign governments to political NGOs, just as it is forbidden for foreign residents, let alone governments, to contribute to Israeli political parties.
One of the questions that will have to be addressed, according to an official involved in the discussions, is what constitutes a political NGO. While it seems that there is an obvious distinction between an organization like Hadassah, which funds hospitals, and one like Breaking the Silence, which has a perceived political agenda, the distinctions would have to be spelled out in legislation.
The discussion follows Post revelations that foreign governments are funding of Breaking the Silence, which last week added its voice to a number of NGOs that have issued scathing reports of the IDF's activities in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead.
Israel has already contacted the Dutch and British governments about their funding of the organization, and is expected to soon take up the matter with the Spanish government as well.
The Spanish Foreign Ministry's agency for international development cooperation budgeted €80,000 for Breaking the Silence in 2009. It allocated €100,000 for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and another €80,000 for the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, a group led by far-left activist Jeff Halper. Halper was arrested last year for setting sail from Cyprus for the Gaza Strip in a symbolic effort to break Israel's blockade of the Strip.
The Post has learned that the Spanish Foreign Ministry agency has also committed itself to giving 70,000 this year to Rabbis for Human Rights.
Ron Dermer, chief of policy planning in the Prime Minister's Office, decried the funding of political NGOs by foreign governments as a "blatant and unacceptable" intervention into Israel's internal affairs.
"Just as it would be unacceptable for European governments to support anti-war NGOs in the US, it is unacceptable for the Europeans to support local NGOs opposed to the policies of Israel's democratically-elected government," he said. Moreover, Dermer said, what makes it worse is that some of the NGOs are not merely opposed to specific policies, but "are working to delegitimize the Jewish state."
Juan Gonzales, the No. 2 at the Spanish Embassy in Tel Aviv, said money his government gave the NGOs was based on the principles of "Spanish cooperation" and that it was not always easy to judge and decide which groups should get funds. He said he did not know on what grounds it was decided to support the various NGOs in Israel.
Also among the left-wing groups known to receive foreign funding are Peace Now, B'Tselem and Machsom Watch, which focus on Israel's treatment of Palestinians and settlements.
Gonzales said there might be some instances where such donations might raise concern from one of the countries where the NGOs operate, and in that case Madrid would be open to a dialogue. The Spanish government had not received any complaint from Israel on the matter, he said. Israel's embassy in Madrid had no comment.
Breaking the Silence issued a statement earlier this week accusing the Foreign Ministry of a "witch hunt" in raising the issue with foreign governments, saying this testified to the erosion of the "democratic culture" in Israel. "Attempts to silence voices in Israeli society are dangerous," the group said. "It appears that the Foreign Ministry is getting ideas from the darkest regimes where anyone who points to failures is considered a traitor."
Shortly after it was revealed last week that the British, Dutch and Spanish governments had funded Breaking the Silence, the Foreign Ministry sent directives to all its representatives abroad to begin to raise the problematic nature of funding political NGOs with their local governments.
This is part of new government policy, first reported by the Post three weeks ago, to take a more proactive stance against NGOs very critical of Israel. Officials articulated this policy after receiving reports that Human Rights Watch, a consistently harsh critic of Israel, had engaged in fund-raising in Saudi Arabia, using its criticism of Israel as a sales pitch.
Another manifestation of the government's new policy toward the NGOs was the release by the government on Thursday of a 164-page report on Operation Cast Lead, meant to counter the numerous reports released over the last few weeks by various NGOs. The government paper is titled "The Operation in Gaza - Legal and Factual Aspects." The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that this report was the "definitive Israeli version" of the events in Gaza, and addressed a wide range of factual and international legal issues.
The report was prepared by officials in the Foreign, Justice and Defense ministries, as well as with the IDF. An indication of its target audience is the fact that the report was written in English, and not translated into Hebrew.
Foreign Ministry officials said the report aimed to do something that Israel has accused the various NGOs of omitting, namely describing in detail the context of the Gaza operation - documenting the Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians prior to the offensive, as well as Israel's efforts to prevent the attacks and avoid the conflict. According to a statement put out by the Foreign Ministry, the paper contains "an extensive legal analysis of the legal principles and of state practice regarding the use of force and examines in detail the application of the principles of necessity, distinction and proportionality. In particular, with photographic and video evidence, it documents the tactics adopted by Hamas in launching attacks from within civilian populations and describes the IDF precautions and efforts to limit civilian harm in such situations." The paper also gives details of the IDF investigations into allegations made by various groups of violations of the law.
Gerald Steinberg, the executive director of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, said the NGOs have for years "mixed false claims, pure speculation, and bias in their 'research reports,' without responses from the Israeli government. This detailed report represents a fundamental change, presenting a point-by-point refutation of NGO allegations, including white phosphorous use and denial of use of human shields by Hamas."
The report shifts the burden of proof to the NGOs, which "must now provide evidence for their claims that is more credible than testimony from Palestinians and a handful of anonymous Israeli soldiers," Steinberg said.
Matthew Wagner contributed to this report.
- UK funding political activity in Israel
- Israel targets U.K. funding of group that exposed 'IDF crimes' in Gaza
- Analysis: Is it wrong for human rights organizations to accept donations from foreign countries?
- Dutch officials deny Israeli complaints over funding of leftist group
- Holland to reevaluate its funding of anti-Israel NGO
- Group that exposed 'IDF crimes' in Gaza slams Israel bid to choke off its funds
- Christian European NGOs funding anti-Israeli "Breaking the Silence"
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
"Olmert's flatulence: Certain foods counteract the production of Ehud Olmert's deadly intestinal gas, most notably U.S. dollars." (Carlos Latuff)Background to this story:
Wiesenthal Center urges Norwegian FM to reprimand senior diplomat for antisemitic email
These drawings were posted by Norwegian diplomat Trine Lilleng on her blog and are by cartoonist Carlos Latuff. The idea that a European diplomat chose to post a drawing showing an Israeli P.M. destroying Gaza by breaking wind and defecating is appalling. Even more so because it is the work by Carlos Latuff who entered and won second prize in the 2006 viciously antisemitic Iranian Holocaust Cartoon Competition.
Close ups of drawings posted by the Norwegian diplomat on her now closed blog:
Latuff's explation : "Olmert's flatulence Certain foods counteract the production of Ehud Olmert's deadly intestinal gas, most notably U.S. dollars."
From her blog where just after showing so much compassion for the Palestinians and anger at Israel she writes about a "A Saudi Friday brunch on 77th floor" and about her deliciously glamorous abaya :
Tuesday, 28 July 2009
E-mail sent through Ministry account condemns Israel with "outrageous rhetoric and imagery that clearly demeans and diminishes the victims of the Holocaust, and that helps spawn hatred of Jews and the Jewish state".
Just days after a speech at the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research (ITF) where he called for more robust action against Holocaust denial and relativism, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Störe was urged by the Simon Wiesenthal Center to put his words into action and publicly condemn an anti-Semitic, anti-Israel e-mail sent by a senior Norwegian diplomat. According to the Israeli paper, Ha’aretz, while serving as First Secretary in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Trine Lilleng sent an email through her official government account that juxtaposed "images of slain children said to have been killed in the Israeli attack on Hamas in Gaza, …with photos of Jewish Holocaust victims" with a text that said "I always wondered why they didn't learn anything from the horror during WWII. Now I see what they learnt."
The Center expressed concern that Ms. Lilleng has yet to be reprimanded and has reportedly been promoted.
In a letter to Minister Störe, who is also the current ITF Chair, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the Center’s Israeli Director and Mark Weitzman, Director of the Center’s Task Force Against Hate and Terrorism, said, "It is just such outrageous rhetoric and imagery that clearly demeans and diminishes the victims of the Holocaust, and that helps spawn hatred of Jews and the Jewish state. It is a prime example of the kind of Holocaust relativization that you spoke out so strongly against at the ITF Plenary."
Center officials told Störe that, "it certainly behooves the head of the Ministry that she serves to publicly denounce her hate-spam and to take direct action to ensure that such behavior is not seen to be rewarded or to reflect Norway's official position on these issues."
This controversy comes on the heels of the controversial decision by Norway to celebrate the 150th birthday of Knut Hamsun, who in 1943, during the height of WWII and the Nazi Holocaust, met with Hitler and gave his Nobel Prize in Literature to Nazi Propaganda Minister Goebbels. Many considered this pro-Nazi collaborator as a traitor to his people and the Wiesenthal Center has protested what appears to be a whitewash of history.
Source: Simon Wiesenthal Center press release
Norway, Israel and the Jews blog has been following this affair:
- Støre’s Faustian pact: Trine Lilleng and the Saudi Prince
- Trine Lilleng still in Riyadh - possibly promoted
- Trine Lilleng - asset or liability for Jonas Gahr Støre?
- Five months since AJC Called on Norway to Repudiate Trine Lilleng for Nazi Analogy
- California professor uses Trine Lilleng’s photographs
- Diplomatic envoy Trine Lilleng
Monday, 27 July 2009
Website: http://www.shovrimshtika.org/ : Breaking the Silence (Shovirm Shtika)
* Funders in 2008 include the European Union (€43,514), the British government (NIS 226,589), the New Israel Fund (NIF -- $68,833 in 2008), the Netherlands (€19,999) ["Sources say Verhagen reproached senior figures in the Dutch Foreign Ministry upon learning this and gave instructions to launch an internal investigation on the matter. It showed that the embassy in Israel gave Breaking the Silence 19,995 euros to help put together its 2009 report, which discusses Operation Cast Lead and was released earlier this month. Had this figure been five euros higher, it would have required approval from The Hague."], the Spanish government, Oxfam, Christian Aid, the Moriah Fund, ICCO (Dutch church group) and SIVMO (Dutch).
* In 2007, NIF granted Breaking the Silence (BtS) $70,976 for “[r]aising public awareness of the destructive consequences that serving in the occupied territories has on Israeli society” (p.15). In 2008, BtS also received €54,393 from the EU’s EIDHR program for “Personal Encounters with Former Israeli Combat Soldiers.”
* Breaking the Silence “collects testimonies of soldiers who served in the Occupied Territories during the Second Intifadah,” claiming that the “testimonies portray a…grim picture of questionable orders in many areas regarding Palestinian civilians [which] demonstrate the depth of corruption which is spreading in the Israeli military… Israeli society continues to turn a blind eye, and to deny that which happens in its name.”
* BtS conducts tours to Hebron and the South Hebron Hills to “witness first hand the dire situation.” Criticized by Israeli police officials for “antagoniz[ing]...settlers in the hope that the settlers will attack them.”
* The NGO was active in promoting “war crimes” charges against Israel after the Gaza fighting in January 2009.
Sunday, 26 July 2009
These clever guys at the Dutch embassy in Israel ... choosing to give as much money as possible (19,995 euros) - short of the of 5 euros more (20,000 euros) which would have required government approval. Just for the great pleasure of demonizing Israel.
"Following protests by Israel, the Netherlands will reevaluate its funding of an organization that alleged that Israeli troops used Palestinians as human shields in Gaza. Acting on instructions from the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, the Israeli ambassador to the Netherlands, Harry Knei-Tal, met last week with the director-general of the Dutch Foreign Ministry and complained about the Dutch embassy's funding of Breaking the Silence.
The Israeli ambassador suggested that the Netherland's funding of the organization should be terminated. "The Dutch taxpayer's money could be better used to promote peace and human rights," a source quoted Knei-Tal as saying.
According to sources familiar with the situation, Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen [Dutch Foreign Minister deplores revived antisemitism in Europe] - considered one of Israel's staunchest supporters in the European Union - did not know that the embassy in Tel Aviv was funding Breaking the Silence. He learned about it after the organization's funding sources were published in an article in The Jerusalem Post [Europeans funding 'Breaking the Silence'].
Sources say Verhagen reproached senior figures in the Dutch Foreign Ministry upon learning this and gave instructions to launch an internal investigation on the matter. It showed that the embassy in Israel gave Breaking the Silence 19,995 euros to help put together its 2009 report, which discusses Operation Cast Lead and was released earlier this month. Had this figure been five euros higher, it would have required approval from The Hague.
The director-general of the Dutch Foreign Ministry told the Israeli ambassador that in light of the probe, funding for Breaking the Silence would be reevaluated because of the political sensitivities of the issues covered by the organization.
Breaking the Silence, which was founded by Israeli army veterans, has collected what it says are damning testimonies from soldiers who took part in the January offensive against Hamas in Gaza. The report contains almost 30 anonymous testimonies. An Israeli diplomat said that in the meeting last week, Knei-Tal said Israel was a democratic country and that such funds should go to places without democracy. Breaking the Silence was a legal and legitimate organization, he said, according to sources, but its funding by the Dutch was unreasonable "in light of the political sensitivities.""
Source : article byBarak Ravid in Haaretz
- Anti-Israel campaigning by Dutch Christian NGO and Oxfam
- Dutch government split on Israel ties
Friday, 24 July 2009
Source: Norway, Israel and the Jews blog
When Nina Witoszek first arrived in Oslo, she was surprised at how much support the political left were willing to give the oppressive regime she had left behind in Poland. The poor woman was yet to learn exactly how deep the rabbit hole went. Now, years later, her insights and understanding makes her a key participant in debates on Norwegian society. Below, an unauthorised translation from Witoszek’s op-ed in today’s Aftenposten - Norway’s second largest daily:
Protest: Why were the protests against the war in Gaza so much larger than the ones against the terror of Iran’s regime?
Europe has learned little from history
Nina Witoszek, professor and author
Leszek Kolakowski, an Oxford-philosopher and one of the wisest men on earth, used to say: "England is an island in Europe. Oxford is an island in England. All Souls College is an island in Oxford. And I am an island in All Souls." He died there on July 17, 81 years old.
For me he was less of an island and more of a lighthouse who has sent lifesaving light to those who are about to drown on the stormy seas of modernity. If Arne Næss was a philosopher behind the green bible of modernity, Kolakowski was the sharp anatomist of totalitarianism who revealed its fatal attraction. He started as a rabid Marxist at the university of Warsaw, but instead of dreaming about the final triumph of communism, he mercilessly analyzed its inevitable transformation from a beautiful vision to a bestial, de-civilizing project.
Expelled. After having been expelled from Poland for his "revisionism", he wrote The Main Current of Marxism (1972), the most brutal and brilliant detonation of Marxism in political philosophy. He was obsessed with the paradox of liberal society - its tendency to become its own enemy by tolerating forces which would destroy individual liberties.
The contemporary dream of Europe is concerned with a continent which, according to progressive philosophers and sociologists like Habermas or Beck, ought to be maximally tolerant and open. It is a Europe which hates war and desires to leave its demonic history behind.
But this Europe worried Kolakowski because it reminded him of Switzerland and Sweden. Both countries have become idols of modernity due to their tolerant pacifism and wealth, which covered lies, cowardice and collaboration with the devil. And both were completely unable to resist the totalitarian evil of the Nazi-regime. They waited for the Americans, Russians, British and Poles to do the dirty work for them.
This is then a Europe which has learned little from history and has become blind to the global advance of totalitarianism.
We saw how the war in Gaza last year led to violent demonstrations and hateful declarations against Israel. Six months later hundreds of demonstrators were killed or arrested in Teheran when they protested against the results of the Iranian presidential elections. There have hardly been any solidarity actions for the opposition to the newly elected totalitarian regime. Was this because the protests were discerned to be an internal Iranian affair?
Three explanations. I have three Kolakowski-inspired explanations for the tepid response of the European elites to Iran’s anti-authoritarian rebellion. One is that Europe’s progressive circles admire Islam a religion of poor underdogs, and Ahmadinejad is the king of the underdogs.
The other is that our pro-Islamic attitudes actually disguise an anti-Arabic (and anti-Persian) racism: maybe we expect nothing of "Muslim barbarians" in Palestine or Iran, while we demand from a besieged Israel a European tolerance for fanatical Islamists?
The third explanation is that our cultural elites might be continuing their romance with totalitarian leaders and movements. Maybe they do not cry out against Ahmadinejad because they perceive the Iranian rebellion against Imams as an expression of the bourgeois ideology of the middle classes? Maybe Ahmadinejad - the man who speaks openly of annihilating Israel - in fact is a beloved tyrant who has replaced Stalin or Hoxha?
What would Kolakowski have said? Today we need the clarifying light from his lonely island more than ever - but the light has gone out.
Thursday, 23 July 2009
Source: article by Brett Kline in JPost
"Rafy Abitbol was the only member of the family to attend the verdict in the Paris court last Friday evening that brought an end to the brutal trial for the torture and murder of his brother-in-law Ilan Halimi in February 2006. He left his wife and Halimi's other sister and their mother at the dinner table and headed over to the Palais de la Justice on the Ile de la Cité almost reluctantly, leaving the others to observe Shabbat, something he has never been keen on. Wearing a blue blazer and sitting motionless and expressionless in the plaintiffs' box, Abitbol listened as Youssouf Fofana, the leader of the gang who kidnapped and tortured Halimi, 23, was handed a life sentence with a mandatory 22 years to serve, the maximum sentence applicable under French law.
Fofana clapped his hands softly upon hearing the verdict, which had been expected. The gesture was noted by the press and public on hand for the first and only day that the trial had been opened to the public. But 25 other names and verdicts followed, ranging from 18 years to six months suspended sentences. Two people were acquitted. What must be explained is that in France, after three years already served, plus good behavior and other factors, a sentence of 18 years can mean nine years or less, and nine years can mean as little as 18 months.
This means that the superintendent of the building where Halimi was held captive and tortured will walk after perhaps five years and the girl used as bait will go free after only 18 months in prison. Eight people are being released now, including those who served their three years for not calling in a vicious kidnapping that led to a murder.
Obsessed with obtaining money by any means necessary, they might soon bump into Halimi's mother on the street as Ruth Halimi wanders through life, mourning her son. At his reburial in Jerusalem's Har Hamenuhot cemetery in 2007, a representative of the American Jewish community, speaking at the ceremony, said that Halimi had died a martyr for the Jewish people. The American Jew did not know what he was talking about. Halimi did not die a martyr; he died for nothing - a nice, good-looking ordinary Jewish guy from a modest Sephardi family of Moroccan and Tunisian origin, who liked Israel but was really crazy about the United States. The debate in his family was not about making aliya; it was about whether to head for New York or Miami.
WHAT THE press labeled the "Gang of Barbarians," picking up on Fofana's own glib words when he was arrested after fleeing to the Ivory Coast and being brought back to France, was really a loose association of marginal characters.
They ranged from small-time criminals with prison time under their belts to local tough guys and girls, many of black African and North African Arab backgrounds, but also Gallic French. Their spotty educations fit their general level of intelligence. Like many in France, they thought all Jews were rich, and like marginalized people everywhere, they hated the police. This was also not their first kidnapping.
As they hung out in the hallway and mostly abandoned basement of the building on Rue Prokofiev in Bagneux, a fairly nice working-class suburb just south of Paris, like the disenfranchised all over the world, they dreamed of how to get their hands on other people's money.
Fofana, a charismatic man who prayed in the local mosque regularly, and who had been doing shady deals with the building superintendent, Gilles Serrurier, 42, had the answer: kidnap a Jew and hold him for ransom. Using pretty, buxom, dark-haired 17-year-old Yalda, of Iranian origin, to visit Halimi's store as bait with the promise of sexual adventures, they got Halimi to Bagneux on January 21, 2006.
The rest is history: a brutal 24 days of cutting, burning and beating Halimi, who was tied up in the basement room that the superintendent had turned over to the gang after he was promised money. How much? Fofana offered him 1,500 euros, about $2,300. After the ransom deal went bad, Fofana and three or four other guys went especially berserk on Halimi, for one reason only - because he was Jewish. No one ever saw a penny.
The police, who had botched the case badly by telling the family to cut off contact with Fofana, found Halimi brutally beaten, bloody, with his head shaven, naked and staggering in a suburban railway station. He died on the way to the hospital, unable to utter a word.
The story, when it finally reached the French press, shocked the nation, but most Gallic French did not care for the accusations of anti-Semitism from the Jewish community. "This is not the extreme Right, nor the extreme Left, so how can it be anti-Semitic?" said one TV journalist, in an example of classic French inductive logic. "It's just a sick, violent story." [...]
What Jewish community officials had been hoping for happened. Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie has asked the high court in Paris to hold a new trial for 14 of the 25 defendants, because of the light sentences handed down last Friday. [...]
Abitbol [Gil Taieb, vice president of the Jewish Social Fund] had always thought that holding the trial in public would have changed something, would have made more French people interested in it. He looked around at the army of journalists in the courtroom and at the TV cameras lighting up the hall downstairs as lawyers gave statements, but the next day noted that the stories were short and focused on Fofana, with little on the short sentences for the accomplices. It was the facts, nothing but the facts.
"The jury reduced the sentences demanded by the prosecutor because I think they felt sorry for the defendants," said Prasquier. "They are young, not very intelligent and have faced tough circumstances in their lives. And I think the role of anti-Semitism in this was downplayed by the prosecutor. In a sense, these young people have become the victims of the French systems, the great losers. Their passive complicity was considered normal."
What that means is that while four or five guys did the actual beating and burning, everyone else played a role and knew what was going on, and said nothing, and the jurors decided that was less bad. Maybe they were afraid to talk, to call the police, afraid of repercussions in the projects or on the street, where nobody likes the police, anyway.
And the closed-door trial?
"The courts could have made this a learning experience for the French public," said Prasquier, "to learn about how evil anti-Semitism can get in modern France, to learn what it means for French values and what is going on in some of the suburbs."
Taieb was not so diplomatic. "This is an embarrassment for the French court system and for France, because it shows that collaboration is possible," he said. "These guys can participate in a brutal crime and get away with murder."
Prasquier and Taieb were present in court on Friday night, but most of the Jewish community was not, including the French Jewish radio stations and print outlets, which were totally absent. The obvious excuse would be Shabbat, but not everyone is observant. So how is it that the editors, who had made a big deal of the case before the verdict and are still doing so with daily interviews, were not present for the action, in front of the box full of defendants guilty of the most horrific act of anti-Semitism in France since World War II?
"Frankly, I don't understand where all the Jewish press was," said Taieb. "I know all the editors; they should have been there. This is not good. And the fact that the verdict fell on a Friday evening, on Shabbat... well, did the court plan this, so the family wouldn't show [up], or the press? It is hard to imagine this in France, but in Judaism we say there are no coincidences. I was very disappointed to see the hall and courtroom packed with the French press, and no French Jewish press." [...]
The press has not bothered going over the details. Radio, TV and print accounts gave factual accounts of the verdicts, quoted the prosecutor saying the sentences were correct and interviewed the defense attorneys and then Francis Szpiner, the Halimis' lawyer.
Since then, the story has once again exploded, following the Justice Ministry's decision to hold another trial. The decision almost appears to have come on cue. Defense lawyers say the trial was fair, prosecutors say the light sentences brought dishonor to the country, and on Monday the retrial was announced. [...]
"Certain Gallic French and Arabs felt strongly about this affair from the very beginning when Ilan was killed and have expressed their anger, but I believe you really have two different visions and ideals of France being formed around the trial, for the little people know about it," said Michael Sebban, an author and former public high school philosophy teacher in Saint Denis, a tough suburb north of Paris. Sebban, an Orthodox Jew, now divides his time between Paris-Bordeaux and Jerusalem.
"For most French, this is a reality show killing, and for the Jews, it is a tragedy," he said. "The French do not feel concerned on a personal level, while Jews feel like it was the boy next door. As if they were not living in the same country." [...]
Ih the hall of the courtroom, Myriam and a small group of friends appeared to be some of the very few Jews among the public, and they were looking around as if they were about to be attacked.
"I really feel uneasy here," she said, unwilling to give her last name. "They have killed so many Jews, they have killed..." Her jaw drops, and her friends offer only blank stares. One of them goes off and insults the defense lawyer, who was busy making statements in front of all the TV cameras. Instead of ignoring him, the lawyer, well-spoken and sure of himself, exploded in anger.
"Who the hell are you, what are you doing here?" he yelled right in the face of the short, swarthy young man, who was not expecting such a strong response, and who backed off, stammering. The cameramen loved it and moved in, filming every moment. "I am defending my clients and the French legal system, and you are calling me a jerk and an anti-Semite? You are an idiot. Get out of here," the lawyer yelled. The threat of violence was there, but the altercation had no value, except for the cameras, and the lawyer knew it. That night and the next day, the hallway clash between the lawyer and the not-too-bright, frustrated young Jewish guy was prominently featured on every TV report in France. It looked good.
The light sentences for the accomplices have been reported only in the written press, and only because the Jewish community has made statements saying that justice was not done. In other words, this was a Jewish affair, and only a Jewish affair.
The left-leaning daily Liberation buried a small story on page 13 with a headline, "Jewish organizations call for a new trial." "Only the maximum sentence for Fofana satisfies them..." the story reads. The implication was clear. While the rest of France wanted to put this story to rest, the Jews wanted their pound of flesh. This is France, and the French are polite. Nobody would ever say that face-to-face. But that is how it read between the lines. [...]
While a new trial may be good for justice for the Halimi family and good for the justice system in France, it might not be good for France's Jews, especially the young people living in touch-and-go areas. Have community leaders really thought of that?"
- Ilan Halimi's murderer sentenced to life in prison
- Trial of Ilan Halimi’s barbarian murderers opens in Paris
- The murder of Ilan Halimi in Paris three years ago
- Echoes in the beating of Rudy Haddad
Tuesday, 21 July 2009
It has been a terrible month for Israel's reputation in Great Britain. The government has announced a partial arms embargo in protest of Operation Cast Lead. The Charity War on Want has held a launch event for a new book entitled Israeli Apartheid: A Beginners Guide. The Guardian has featured commentaries promoting the apartheid analogy as well as accusing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of using Nazi language to defend settlement policy. The BBC and other media outlets have given massive coverage to the recent Breaking the Silence report slamming the IDF for committing "war crimes." Barely a day goes by without a new front being opened against the Jewish state.
Those of us who follow such matters are always in danger of getting too close to our subject. But, given that the IDF is not involved in combat operations, I for one have never seen a period like it. On Friday, the Guardian ran two anti-Israel opinion pieces on one and the same day.
There's something in the air. The Israel-haters smell blood, and they're going in for the kill. It could be that we are on the threshold of a new era. But why now?
The simplest explanation is that the relentless, unremitting stream of anti-Israeli invective that has been pumped into the public mind in Britain over the last decade or so was always going to reach critical mass at some point. There is nothing particularly significant about the timing. The clock has been ticking for years. Israel's time has simply come.
Ultimately, the simple explanation may be the best explanation. But there are a number of other factors now at play which may have helped bring the situation to a head.
First, the election of Barack Obama is perceived by many British opinion formers as heralding a refreshing new approach to Israel from the United States. For linguistic and historical reasons, political change in America is keenly felt in Britain. Obama's comments calling for a freeze on the settlements have provided the pretext for a renewed assault on Israel in general using the American president's huge popularity as cover.
Second, the election of Netanyahu combined with the appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as foreign minister have offered new opportunities to make the attack personal. Even for Israel's most virulent detractors, it was not easy to mount a hate campaign against Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni. Netanyahu has been demonized in Britain for years. Lieberman is portrayed as little better than a skinhead. The wolves have been thrown fresh meat.
Third, Foreign Secretary David Miliband has recently recast the tone of British pronouncements on the Middle East and relations with the Islamic world in a way that serves the broader agenda of Israel's opponents. For example, in a speech in Oxford in May and reported in the Guardian, he spoke of abjuring distinctions between "moderates and extremists" - a line that, despite Foreign Office denials, was widely interpreted as potentially paving the way for talks with Hamas and other militant groups. He also referred to "ruined crusader castles," "lines drawn on maps by colonial powers" and to the failure "to establish two states in Palestine." Miliband cannot be held entirely responsible for the way his words are interpreted. But it is precisely in such guilty, post-colonial terms that Israel's opponents in Britain have always talked. To hear their own kind of language echoing back at them from the leading figure in the UK foreign policy establishment is likely to embolden them further.
Fourth, in a country whose opinion formers still fulminate about the invasion of Iraq - sometimes portrayed as a venture inspired by Israel and Zionist neoconservatives in America - the Netanyahu government's hard line stance on Iran has got the alarm bells ringing again. Are we going to get sucked in to yet another war in the Middle East for the benefit of Israel, they ask.
Fifth, Netanyahu's new emphasis on insisting that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a specifically Jewish state is pushing Israel's opponents against the wall and forcing them to declare themselves with greater clarity. Of course, this does not just apply to Britain. But as a country whose opinion forming classes rank among the most hostile to Israel in the Western world, the move has provoked a particularly hysterical reaction. Since the Palestinians have made it clear that they have no intention of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, British opponents of Israel have been forced to choose between accepting that Palestinian rejectionism forms the real root cause of the conflict or themselves rejecting the Jewish character of Israel and the whole Zionist enterprise to boot.
Put all of these factors together and it becomes easier to understand why a situation which was awful to begin with has deteriorated so rapidly. The obvious question now is where next. With the partial arms embargo in mind, we should obviously be watching for an extension of formal sanctions. Outside the governmental sphere, it is a racing certainty that unions will renew efforts for trade and academic boycotts. Media hysteria will grow as each new assault on Israel's integrity helps legitimize and validate the next. For the Jews of Britain, the prospect of increasing anti-Semitism against this backdrop is all too real.
The darkness is closing in.
Source: article by Robin Shepherd in TJP
The writer is director of international affairs at the Henry Jackson Society in London. His book, A State Beyond the Pale: Europe's Problem with Israel, will be published in September.
Sunday, 19 July 2009
"Langer, 79, who left Israel in 1990, frequently compares Israel with apartheid in South Africa, and praised the speech of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the Durban II UN conference on racism in Geneva in April."
""An aggressive verbal attack on the Jewish state is rewarded for the first time by the German state. Is that really the intention?" (Dr. Dieter Graumann, vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany)
"Critics in Austria and Germany assert that Langer's efforts to delegitimize Israel meet the criteria outlined in the European Union's working definition of anti-Semitism."
German President Horst Köhler issued on Thursday the Federal Cross of Merit, first class - the country's most prestigious award - to Israeli attorney Felicia Langer, a vociferous critic of Israel who lives in Tübingen, Baden-Württemberg.
Langer, 79, who left Israel in 1990, frequently compares Israel with apartheid in South Africa, and praised the speech of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the Durban II UN conference on racism in Geneva in April.
When asked about the award and the parallels she has drawn between Israel and South African apartheid, she told The Jerusalem Post that the Federal Cross of Merit was a "recognition of my work," and "what Israel is practicing in the occupied territories is apartheid." In an interview with the Junge Welt, a Berlin-based Stalinist daily, she termed Israel "the apartheid of the present" and "the Israeli regime."
Asked about her interview with the Muslim Markt Web site, in which she argued that Defense Minister Ehud Barak, as well as other leading Israeli politicians and generals, should be convicted of war crimes at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Langer told the Post that she considered Israeli officials "war criminals" and stood by her comments. She also said the "official translation" of Ahmadinejad's threat to "wipe Israel off the map" did not contain a statement advocating the obliteration of Israel.
When asked why Köhler had awarded Langer with Germany's highest distinction, his press spokesman, Stefan Schulze, declined to comment and deferred the matter to the State Ministry in Baden-Württemberg.
In an e-mail to the Post, Uwe Köhn, a spokesman for the state of Baden-Württemberg, wrote, "The honor bestowed on Felicia Langer recognizes her humanitarian service, independent of political, ideological or religious motivation. Most important is her dedication to people in need, regardless of nationality or religion, given her own background as massively affected by the Holocaust. The decision to present the Order of Merit was made on the recommendation of the lord mayor of Tübingen, where Ms. Langer lives, with confirmation from all the usual departments involved in bestowing such honors, including the Foreign Ministry. The honor will be conferred by President Köhler and presented by Undersecretary [Hubert] Wicker."
Read the full piece here
Source: article by Benjamin Weinthal in JPost
Friday, 17 July 2009
Yesterday several newspapers, among them Norway’s largest daily Verdens Gang, published paper - and internet articles on a recently published report from the Israeli NGO "Breaking The Silence". Today Aftenposten, Norway’s second largest newspaper, follows up on the NGO report with an article by journalist John Harb, as well as an editorial (see below for unauthorized translation). Both VG and Aftenposten repeat the salient features of the NGO report, without confronting the shortcomings and inadequaties of the report. Neither newspaper makes much of an attempt at producing a balanced story.
If Norwegian newspapers had wanted to, they could have identified a number of aspects both of the NGO and the report, which are relevant to how much weight the NGO’s report can be estimated to carry. On methodological issues alone the following have been pointed out, among others by NGO monitor:
* The report focuses narrowly on the testimonies of around thirty combatants(out of hundreds of thousands in the IDF) and even Breaking the Silence admits thereport does not claim to provide a broad, comprehensive review.
* All testimonies recorded in the report are anonymous and therefore entirely unverifiable. It is also impossible to know whether the soldiers who are quoted had thenecessary knowledge to distinguish between different types of weapons and the circumstances in which they were used.
* Testimonies are further compromised by the absence of any details of where and when alleged incidents occurred.
* The report frequently relies upon second hand evidence and hearsay. E.g. Testimony 44: "As for looting I can say I heard but didn’t actually see anything. I can’t really prove anything…again, I wasn’t witness to such cases but I heard peopletalking, that soldiers shot at people here and there." [...]
So alas, no critical perspective on the NGO "Breaking the Silence", not a single critical comment on their report, nothing but same criticism of the IDF and the Israeli authorities which Aftenposten has treated her readers to since before the Gaza war. All this while Norway finances Hamas, Hezbollah, Fatah and a host of Israeli-critical NGOs, all this while Norwegian newspapers write more about Israel than they do about Afghanistan, where Norway does not count the dead.
If there is antyhing which will not stand, it is the state of Norwegian journalism.
Read the full piece here (Norway, Israel and the Jews)
- Europeans funding 'Breaking the Silence'
- Shimon Peres: EU sympathy for Hamas diminishes chances of peace
- Norwegian NGO Funding: Boycotts and Apartheid Rhetoric instead of Peace and Coexistence
- The "riddle" of Knut Hamsun
- Norway does not count Afghan casualties
- Mads Gilbert: 80-90% of Cast Lead casualties were civilian
- Sri Lanka not as interesting as Gaza
Thursday, 16 July 2009
The umbrella group of Jewish organizations in France, CRIF, said Wednesday it was "stunned" to learn that French diplomats at the Consulate in Jerusalem have planned to take part in a Bastille Day celebration, France’s national holiday, in Gaza.
"To celebrate the holiday marking freedom in a place where French-Israeli citizen Gilad Shalit is detained since 3 years is an insult to the symbol of this national holiday and a provocation towards his family," CRIF said in a statement.
Israel objected to France's plan to hold a Bastille Day celebration in Gaza particularly in light of the fact that Shalit, who was abducted in a 2006 cross-border raid, has dual French-Israeli citizenship. During a Bastille Day celebration at the French embassy in Tel Aviv, France’s ambassador Jean Michel Casa declared that Shalit must immediately be freed, a sentiment shared by President Nicolas Sarkozy. The French Consulate in East Jerusalem serves as liaison with the West Bank and has a small delegation in the Gaza Strip.
Source: article by Joseph Byron in EJP
Wednesday, 15 July 2009
Israel furious over Hamas leader's trip to Switzerland
The Foreign Ministry is furious over news that Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas official based in the Gaza Strip, recently headed a Hamas delegation to Switzerland for talks with Swiss diplomats. A senior Foreign Ministry official said the visit will further destabilize already shaky relations between Jerusalem and Bern, after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Switzerland in April for the "Durban 2" United Nations anti-racism conference.
China's news agency broke the story of Zahar's visit nearly two weeks ago.
Officials at the Israeli Embassy in Bern were surprised by the report, since they knew nothing about the June visit. The embassy has requested clarifications from the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, but Israeli officials say the responses have not been satisfactory. One Jerusalem officials said it was many days before the Swiss confirmed the Hamas visit to the embassy. Swiss officials told Israel's ambassador in Bern, Ilan Elgar, that the Hamas delegation was invited to Geneva by a nongovernmental research institute. The Foreign Ministry source, however, noted that Swiss diplomats, including the Swiss envoy to the Middle East, met with the delegation during a conference at the institute.
When Elgar requested official clarification regarding the visa issued to the delegation, he was told by the Swiss foreign ministry, "In Switzerland, Hamas is not considered a terrorist organization."
Tensions between Jerusalem and Bern began to build about a year and a half ago, when the Swiss foreign minister went to Iran to sign a major gas purchase contract. In May, in the wake of Ahmadinejad's visit to Geneva and the official working meeting with him held by Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz, Israel recalled Elgar to Jerusalem for consultations in protest.
Source: article Barak Ravid by in Haaretz
- Hamas statements on Israel (2006-2007)
- Nonie Darwish and Tawfik Hamid discuss Hamas at European Parliament
- France halts Hamas broadcasts to Europe
- Nizar Rayyan: Hamas "Human Shield" strategist succumbs to his own stratagem, by Ely Karmon
- Proportionality: international law and practice, Hamas' behavior, Israeli conduct
- EU says Gaza reconstruction won't happen under Hamas rule
- Different values: Israeli soldier and Hamas/Hezbollah 'soldier'
Monday, 13 July 2009
""We find them biased and one sided." Haim Shibi feels that the International Federation's recent actions represent "a popular mood of pushing Israel into the corner." He said it reflects the European sentiment to portray Israel as an aggressor and support the Arab world. He recalled many efforts made by the NJIF that were not supported by the international union that is supposed to fostered unity between journalists from across the world, including NFIJ's proposal to build a media club for Israeli and Palestinian journalists to work together."
Though the National Federation of Israeli Journalists was expelled last month from an international union for not paying dues, the Israeli federation suspects it was due to more than just finances.
The 800-member National Federation of Israeli Journalists was dismissed by the International Federation of Journalists, in a unanimous vote conducted at an executive conference meeting in Oslo on June 7. Based in Belgium, the International Federation represents 600,000 journalists in 123 countries.
According to a June 11 letter from International Federation General Secretary Aidan White, the union "plans to continue to support Israeli journalists despite its decision at the weekend to expel the National Federation of Israel Journalists (NFIJ) from membership of the International Federation of Journalists for nonpayment of fees. This difficult decision was taken after the NFIJ rejected an International Federation offer to waive three years of debt."
Haim Shibi, an active member of a journalists' union in Jerusalem who is involved with both the international and national journalists' unions, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday the tensions between the Israeli union and the international organization began to grow during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
The National Federation of Israeli Journalists temporarily suspended the Israeli group's membership shortly after the war. The Jerusalem union soon began repaying its dues, while the Tel Aviv union did not, Shibi said. "I thought at that time we should not quit or walk out," he said.
In January, the International Federation began issuing a series of letters condemning Israel for refusing to allow journalists to enter Gaza to cover Operation Cast Lead. The International Federation also published a report criticizing Israel's actions in Gaza and urging International Federation members and affiliated organizations to speak out against Israel's treatment of foreign journalists during the war. According to Shibi, the International Federation report about Gaza was compiled without any Israeli input.
"No one called us to hear what we had to say," he said. Israeli journalists had things to say about the balance of rights of journalists to cover the war and the pressures coming from the army and the state, but the report was compiled without consulting a single Israeli source, he said.
"They are an organization fighting for ethics in journalism," he said. "Whoever may be the offended party, [everyone] has a right to say his piece; we were left out of the discussion completely."
"He [White] is kicking out the most free and fighting press corps in the region."
Shibi also mentioned that the International Federation had hosted a series of conferences in Europe about current media issues, but the Israeli unions were not invited.
The International Federation focused on the question of payments and how much the Israeli union should pay for membership. According to an International Federation document, the Israeli union was offered a special reduced fee extended to countries facing economic hardships.
Shibi said the Israeli union felt that it was not being accepted in the international framework. The National Federation of Israeli Journalists felt it should not pay "until we are full and equal members," he said. "No taxation without representation."
"The action against the NFIJ, which brings together autonomous groups in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa, was taken after numerous actions over the past three years to try to resolve disputes with some NFIJ leaders who have criticized the IFJ [International Federation] for its condemnation of actions by Israeli military and government over attacks on media in Lebanon and Gaza," White explained, in the letter announcing that the National Federation of Israeli Journalists would no longer be a part of the international union. Though the NFIJ has been given the opportunity to appeal at the international organization's general assembly in Spain in May 2010, Shibi said he does not think the national Israeli union is in a rush to do so.
"We don't feel guilty,' he said. "We find them biased and one sided." Shibi feels that the International Federation's recent actions represent "a popular mood of pushing Israel into the corner."
He said it reflects the European sentiment to portray Israel as an aggressor and support the Arab world. He recalled many efforts made by the NJIF that were not supported by the international union that is supposed to fostered unity between journalists from across the world, including NFIJ's proposal to build a media club for Israeli and Palestinian journalists to work together.
In response to the notice that Israel will no longer participate in International Federation programming, Shibi, along with four of his colleagues, issued a letter to the international union on June 8.
"We see this step as biased - unfair - and one sided. The opposite of what we expect from an organization dedicated to ethics in journalism... It became clear that the IFJ did not wish to lead the two sides, Arabs and Israelis, into a carefully planned and jointly made regional media club but rather opted to slowly push the Israeli members out. Yes this was not only about money. It was about full and equal membership which we were denied. And no - there was no lack of respect to the IFJ on our part," they wrote.
Source: article by Daniela Feldman in JPost
Sunday, 12 July 2009
"Ilan Halimi who was found naked, handcuffed and covered with burn marks near railroad tracks in the Paris region on February 13, 2006. He died on the way to the hospital after being held captive for more than three weeks. A month after the start of the trial, Fofana admitted to having stabbed and set fire to Halimi, pouring flammable liquid over him and setting it alight."
PARIS (EJP) --- Youssouf Fofana, 28, leader of a gang called "The Barbarians", was sentenced to life in prison by a Paris court for the brutal murder Ilan Halimi, a 22-year-old man who was targeted because he was Jewish. Fofana's sentence means he will have no possibility of parole for 22 years.
Fofana, 28, was one of 27 people on trial in the kidnapping, torture and murder of Ilan Halimi who was found naked, handcuffed and covered with burn marks near railroad tracks in the Paris region on 13 February 2006.
He died on the way to the hospital after being held captive for more than three weeks.
As the verdict was announced, Fofana mimicked applause.
His main accomplices, Samir Ait Abdelmalek and Jean-Christophe Soumbou, were given sentences of 15 and 18 years, respectively. Another man who was a minor at the time also received a 15-year prison term, while Emma, a young girl used to attract Halimi, was sentenced to nine years in prison. The 22 others were convicted of a variety of crimes, including kidnapping by an organized group, sequestration that resulted in death, or failing to assist a person in danger. Those acting as jailers received 10 to 12 year terms. Two people, a man and a woman, were acquitted.
A lawyer for the Halimi family, Francis Szpiner, immediately called on France's justice minister to appeal the verdict because, he said, the sentences that went to the top lieutenant's of Fofana were too light and did not reflect the gravity of the crime. "I regret the court was particularly indulgent toward those who assisted and aided Youssouf Fofana," Szpiner said after the verdict was pronounced.
Overall, the sentences were slightly less than those sought by prosecutor Philippe Bilger. The verdicts came after three days of deliberation following a more than 2-month-long closed-door trial, by a juvenile court because some of the defendants were minors at the time of the crimes. The trial opened on April 29 and was closed to the public, and the jury had been deliberating for three days in a secret location.
Halimi's horrific death revived worries in France about lingering anti-Semitism and led to deep anxiety in France's Jewish community, the largest in western Europe.
Friday night, as the verdict was announced, scores of police, some in full riot gear, took up posts around the Palais de Justice in central Paris.
The case has attracted intense public scrutiny. While most of the trial took place behind closed doors because some of the accused were underage at the time of the crime, the courtroom was being opened for the verdict. Halimi's mother, Ruth, said that she believes the proceedings should have been open to the public.
A month after the start of the trial, Fofana admitted to having stabbed and set fire to Halimi, pouring flammable liquid over him and setting it alight.
Halimi's family lawyers say the young man was targeted because he was Jewish. Critics say French police initially ignored the possibility of anti-Semitic motives in the killing, which, as the case wore on, prompted fears of resurgent anti-Semitism in France.
Sammy Ghozlan, director of the National Bureau of Awareness against Anti-Semitism, said that authorities should do more to prevent the spread of racism and anti-Semitism in impoverished French suburbs, "where the hatred of Israel is triggering anti-Jewish action."
Fofana fled to Ivory Coast after the killing. He was arrested there and extradited to France.
Halimi's body was reburied in a cemetery in Jerusalem in 2007.
"I regret the court was particularly indulgent toward those who assisted and aided Youssouf Fofana," Francis Szpiner, a lawyer for the Halimi family, said after the verdict was pronounced.
Source article by Joseph Byron in EJP
Friday, 10 July 2009
Muslims in Brussels are being urged by a Belgian NGO, INTAL, to boycott Israel and Israeli dates during Ramadan. It seems that it is the first time ever that in Belgium - a country of Christian culture - (and in Europe) Muslims are being specifically targeted by non-Muslims with a view to boycotting the Jewish State. Muslims account for 30% of the population in Brussels, which is also the "capital of Europe". Israeli dates are very popular in Europe.
Boycott Israel: don't buy large dates !
Boycottons les dattes israéliennes - Action de sensibilisation à l'occasion du Ramadan (Let's boycott Israeli dates - an awareness campaign during Ramadan)
Already in 2003, Oxfam Belgium, a highly politicised European NGO, was responsible for the infamous poster calling for the boycott of Israel by showing a bleeding orange, with the caption "Israeli fruit tastes bitter". INTAL's campaign goes one step further : it draws from the Oxfam Belgium poster, but is firmly set on political-religious ground : referring to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and even giving the start date. INTAL also proposes to go on July 16 at 5 a.m. to the fruit market to try to dissuade grocery shops from stocking "large" Israeli dates (supposedly non-Israeli dates are smaller).
Both campaigns are reminiscent of the 1370 Catholic legend that "holy communion wafers began to bleed after being stabbed with daggers by the Jews of Brabant at the synagogue in Brussels".
We urgently request your direct intervention to expunge any link of this campaign to Oxfam International and that Oxfam International instruct its Belgium operation that this boycott of Israeli farmers violates Oxfam's mission statement and should therefore be terminated immediately.
More on INTAL: