israel news

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This incident again raises the question of what counts as anti-Semitism.

I suspect that most statements made about Jews controlling the media are anti-Semitic outpourings, scapegoating Jews for the world’s problems, but censuring all discourse on this subject surely goes too far?

Why is Zionism such a powerful ideology amongst ordinary Americans? I suspect that the answer to this is complex, but surely it’s a question that should be open to discussion?

Highlights are courtesy of Father Roy.

Finnish lawmaker defends ‘Jews control U.S. media’ comment

Pertti Salolainen lawmaker for the ruling National Coalition Party – made the statements during a televised interview.

A Finnish lawmaker reportedly has dismissed criticism of his references to “Jewish control” over U.S. politics as “a pure analysis of foreign policy.”

According to the Finnish broadcaster YLE, lawmaker Pertti Salolainen sent the broadcaster an email on Saturday in which he denied he had made anti-Semitic statements when he said Friday that the United States had “a large Jewish population who have a significant control of the money and the media. The U.S. for internal political reasons is afraid to become adequately involved. This is a sad truth about U.S. politics.”

Salolainen – a lawmaker for the ruling National Coalition Party – made the statements during a televised interview for YLE, in which he offered his analysis as to why the United States had voted against upgrading the Palestinian Authority to nonmember state observer status at the UN General Assembly.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center on Friday urged the Finnish government to officially condemn Salolainen’s remarks. His statement “parroted the anti-Semitic canard that an evil cabal of Jews controls the media and the U.S. government,” the center said in a statement.

Mark Weitzman, the Wiesenthal Center‘s director of Government Affairs, wrote to Ritva Koukku-Ronde, the Finnish ambassador to the United States, “that such remarks can come from a pillar of the political elite in Finland is dismaying and astonishing; but that this remark was unchallenged makes it appear that such ideas are part of acceptable discourse in Finland.”

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This incident once again raises the thorny question of what counts as ‘anti-Semitism’. If someone referred to Syria as a ‘cancer’ in the Middle East, it might be considered unhelpful and belligerent but hardly racist!

I agree that the broadcaster’s choice of words was poor indeed, but he is entirely right about the role the country plays in polarizing groups of people against each other, and its a subject worthy of serious discussion.

I appreciate that political positions can simply be masks for racist ideologies, but the international community needs to find some way of dialoguing about the human and political situation in Israel/Palestine without becoming entangled in issues of race and religion.

Father Dave 

Irish broadcaster calls Israel a “cancer”

A popular Irish broadcaster and columnist said he is not anti-Semitic, after calling Israel “the cancer in foreign affairs” during a broadcast.

“Israel is the cancer in foreign affairs. It polarizes the Islamic community of the world against the rest of the world,” Vincent Browne said last week on his TV3 channel show, Tonight with Vincent Browne.

“Unless you deal with the problem of Israel and the Palestinians in that part of the world, there’s going to be conflict and disharmony. It’s a massive injustice — they stole the land from the Arabs,” he continued.

Browne said he would not apologize for the remarks, the Irish Independent reported, saying his criticism was justified, though he agreed his word choice was poor.

“What I resent is the suggestion that because you’re critical of Israel, you’re automatically anti-Semitic. I don’t think that’s acceptable,” he told the newspaper.

No complaints have been lodged against the broadcast, a TV3 spokesman told the Independent.

Israel’s deputy ambassador to Ireland Nurit Tinari-Modai told the Jewish Chronicle that the embassy had received calls and e-mails decrying the remarks.

“I would have never believed that the day would come when a presenter on Irish TV station would make racist, anti-Semitic remarks,” Tinari-Modai told the Chronicle.

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Father Roy writes:   The letter that Christian Leaders wrote to Congress recently (see below) is being “criticized” by Jewish Groups.  This is a serious matter.  Spread the word.  Christians need to be alerted.  The Jewish Council for Public Affairs “rejected” what the Christian Leaders called for in the letter.  The American Jewish Committee was OUTRAGED.  But that’s not the worst of it.  The Rabbinical Assembly called for a “re-evaluation” of the interfaith partnerships, between the assembly and the denominations represented in the letter.  Is that a threat?  Or a promise?  Whichever, this incident needs publicity.  We cannot let it fester.  The highlights in JTA’s report are mine.   Peace, Roy  

Religious leaders call on Congress to reevaulate military aid to Israel

(JTA) — Fifteen leaders of U.S. churches and other faith-based organizations have asked Congress to reevaluate U.S. military aid to Israel.

The religious leaders sent a letter to Congress members on Monday, calling for an investigation into possible violations by Israel of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act and the U.S. Arms Export Control Act, which would make Israel ineligible for U.S. military aid.

“As Christian leaders in the United States, it is our moral responsibility to question the continuation of unconditional U.S. financial assistance to the government of Israel. Realizing a just and lasting peace will require this accountability, as continued U.S. military assistance to Israel — offered without conditions or accountability — will only serve to sustain the status quo and Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian territories,” the letter, signed by leaders of the Lutheran, Methodist, UCC churches, and the National Council of Churches, said.

“We request, therefore, that Congress hold Israel accountable to these standards by making the disbursement of U.S. military assistance to Israel contingent on the Israeli government’s compliance with applicable U.S. laws and policies.”

“We write to you as Christian leaders representing U.S. churches and religious organizations committed to seeking a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians,” the letter said, adding that the organizations have “worked alongside our Palestinian Christian sisters and brothers to help build a peaceful and resilient Palestinian civil society.” The signatories said they were writing to Congress “to express our grave concern about the deteriorating conditions in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.”

“Unfortunately, unconditional U.S. military assistance to Israel has contributed to this deterioration, sustaining the conflict and undermining the long-term security interests of both Israelis and Palestinians,” the letter said, citing the 2011 State Department Country Report on Human Rights Practices covering Israel and the Occupied Territories.

The letter called on Congress to hold hearings “to examine Israel’s compliance, and we request regular reporting on compliance and the withholding of military aid for non-compliance.”

The letter also decried what it called “a troubling and consistent pattern of disregard by the government of Israel for U.S. policies that support a just and lasting peace,” citing Israel’s failure to halt settlement activity despite repeated U.S. government requests.

The letter was criticized by Jewish groups.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs rejected the call to reevaluate foreign aid to Israel. “U.S. aid to Israel is not ‘unconditional,’ as the letter claims. It reflects the shared values of America and Israel and furthers our shared goals for peace and security and is vital to advance the security of both peoples,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow.

The Rabbinical Assembly, the international umbrella organization of Conservative rabbis, called for a reevaluation of the interfaith partnerships between the assembly and the denominations represented in the letter.

“The letter calling for hearings and reassessment was issued without outreach to longtime partners in public advocacy within the Jewish community. It was released on the eve of Shabbat, just before a long weekend of Jewish and American holidays. And it was distributed at a time when Congress is out of session, in the midst of the general election campaign,” the Rabbinical Assembly said in a statement. “We find these tactics to be disrespectful of channels of communication that have been constructed over decades, and an essential declaration of separation from the endeavor of interfaith consultation on matters of deep concern to the Jewish community. Indeed, we find this breach of trust to be so egregious that we wonder if it may not warrant an examination on the part of the Jewish community at large of these partnerships and relationships that we understood ourselves to be working diligently to preserve and protect.”

The American Jewish Committee said it was outraged by the Christian leaders’ call. “When the world currently is focused on the Iranian nuclear threat to the entire Middle East and the world, Christian leaders have chosen to mount another political attack on Israel,” said Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations. “When religious liberty and safety of Christians across the Middle East are threatened by the repercussions of the Arab Spring, these Christian leaders have chosen to initiate a polemic against Israel, a country that protects religious freedom and expression for Christians, Muslims and others.”

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Father Roy writes:   This article was published today in a leading Israeli newspaper.  I’ve done a bit of highlighting.  Let’s notice that Iran is not calling for Israel to be “wiped off the map”.  Iran is presenting itself as “an effective partner for settling global problems”.   Peace, Roy

Iran calls on Non-Aligned movement to push for Israel war tribunal

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi quoted as saying such an initiative would also stop Israel from committing further alleged war crimes against Palestine.

Iran called on member states of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Wednesday to push for opening a war tribunal against Israel, the news network Khabar reported.

The network quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi as saying that such an initiative would also stop Israel from committing further alleged war crimes against Palestine.

Salehi further called on NAM for formation of a committee for securing the rights of the Palestinians.

Iran also announced plans to propose the formation of a Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) troika, plus two neighbor states, to help settle the Syria crisis.

“Our specific proposal to the NAM is formation of a troika committee for Syria consisting of Egypt, Iran and Venezuela,” a head of the parliament’s foreign policy commission, Alaeddin Bouroujerdi said. Also on the committee would be Iraq and Lebanon – both neighbors of Syria – Boroujerdi said.

“During my visit to Damascus last week, President (Bashar) Assad said he would welcome any Iranian plan in this regard,” the lawmaker added.

Iran is a staunch supporter of Assad, and has called for negotiations between the Syrian government and opposition

The Iranian foreign minister had earlier said at the ongoing NAM conference in Tehran that Middle East peace could not be secured “by blind and discriminatory support by world powers for Israel’s state terrorism and its policies of occupation, aggression, threats, torture and devastation.”

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was also in Tehran for the summit on Wednesday, and was set to meet Iranian lawmakers in the parliament. A luncheon with Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani was also scheduled. Ban will also meet President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and chief nuclear negotiator Saeid Jalili.

During his visit to Tehran, which had caused some criticism in the United States and Israel, the UN chief is supposed to talk with the Iranian leaders both about the country’s controversial nuclear projects and alleged human rights violations.

Iran, in return, hopes to persuade Ban that Western accusations against the Islamic state on Iran’s nuclear programs were unjustified. It also plans to again present itself as an effective partner for settling global problems.

Iran also plans take the UN chief to the historic city of Isfahan in central Iran and avail its of the occasion to also show him the two uranium conversion and enrichment sites, both located near Isfahan.

A UN spokesman in New York, however, said that Ban would not inspect any nuclear sites during his Iran visit.

North Korea’s ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong Nam, also arrived in Tehran on Wednesday for the summit.