Newsletter : 18fx0406.txt
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Former Qatar Prime Minister: Israelis Have Right to Live in Their Land
By United with Israel
In a Twitter post on Wednesday, former Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber
Al Thani stated that Israelis have a right to live in their own land, The Jerusalem Post
Israelis have a right to live in their land in peace and safety, this is
my conviction. I've had this conviction for many long years, and I still do," Hamad wrote
in Arabic, the Post said.
Hamad also called on Qatari leaders to improve its relationship with other countries in
the region. "What we need now in our Gulf," he said, "is to advise each other and try to
reform the severed ties between our peoples," the Post reported.
Qatar's problematic situation has come about "because of a lack of strategy and clear
belief in dealing with our disputes and in outlining a desired future for generations to
come," he concluded, according to the Post. These surprising comments were made just a
couple of days after an interview appeared in The Atlantic, quoting Saudi Arabian Crown
Prince Mohammed bin Salman as saying that Israelis have a right to their own land.
Apparently pushing for a two-state solution, the Saudi prince said, "I believe the
Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land. But we have to have a
peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations." Ties
between Israel and the Gulf states have improved over the past year, triggered by the
common Iranian threat.
Ecological Disaster from 10,000 Burning Tires in Gaza
By DEBKAfile & IsraelNationalNews.com
Israel has called on the World Health Organization to act against the Palestinian plan to
set on fire 10,000 tires along the Gaza border with Israel on Friday.
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai,
sent a letter to the head of the WHO urging him to speak out and warn of the "ecological
catastrophe" threatening both southern Israel and the Gazan population itself. The black
smoke belching from the burning tires is intended to screen violent Palestinian rioters
from a line of fire from Israel troops guarding the border.
"The (Israeli) Ministry of Environmental Protection's readiness teams are increasing the
border area of the Gaza Strip towards tomorrow, with particle gauges, beyond the
firefighting teams, with a total of 9 or 10 teams on the ground," a representative told
the Maariv newspaper. "We will monitor the weather forecast and run different models of
particle dispersion. As necessary, we can give instructions to the residents and order
them to go indoors."
Mordechai, sent a letter to the head of the World Health Organization on Wednesday, urging
the body to take a stand against the "ecological disaster
The Hamas terrorist
organization, which controls the Gaza Strip, has issued an order to burn tens of thousands
of tires this Friday along the border with Israel," wrote Mordechai. "The burning of tires
in such a huge quantity will cause severe damage to the ecosystem in the area, will
severely harm the life, the flora, and health of the residents, and will add to the severe
damage to the aquifer and lead to unprecedented air pollution."
Iran: Negotiating with Israel Would be an 'Unforgivable Mistake'
By Reuters and Israel Hayom
Any move to negotiate with Israel would be an "unforgivable mistake," Iran's Supreme
Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Wednesday, days after Saudi Arabia's crown prince said
Israelis were entitled to live peacefully on their own land.
Saudi Arabia the birthplace of Islam and home to its holiest shrines does
not officially recognize Israel. But Mohammed's comments, quoted in the U.S. magazine The
Atlantic, are a further sign of an apparent thawing in bilateral ties.
Khamenei's remarks come amid a regional power struggle between Sunni Saudi Arabia and
Shiite Iran. The two back opposing sides in the conflicts in Yemen and Syria as well as
rival political groups in Iraq and Lebanon. "Movement toward negotiation with the
cheating, lying and oppressive regime [of Israel] is a big, unforgivable mistake that will
push back the victory of the people of Palestine," Khamenei said in a statement posted on
his official website.
The statement, which did not explicitly name Saudi Arabia, said it was the duty of all
Muslims to support Palestinian resistance movements and pledged continued Iranian backing
for the terrorist group Hamas.
After the Saudi crown prince's comments, his father, King Salman, reiterated Saudi
Arabia's support for a Palestinian state. Riyadh has long maintained that normalizing ties
with Israel hinges on an Israeli withdrawal from lands captured from Jordan in the 1967
Six-Day War territory Palestinians seek for a future state.
Khamenei issued Wednesday's statement in reply to a letter he recently received from Hamas
leader Ismail Haniyeh, which criticized the support of Arab governments for the United
States. In his statement, Khamenei called on the people of Muslim countries to defeat
Israel. "With an intense and planned struggle, they should force the enemy to retreat
toward the point of demise," he said.
Descendants of Nazis Organize Pro-Israel Marches Around the World
By Israel Hayom
Thirty-five cities in Europe, the United States and Latin America will hold marches to
mark Israel's 70th anniversary next month in a series of events being organized by March
of Life, a group of German Christians and descendants of Nazis who work to keep the memory
of the Holocaust alive and to combat anti-Semitism.
"Since the beginning of this movement in 2007, marches have been held in 20 nations and in
more than 350 cities in cooperation with Christians from different churches and
denominations, as well as many Jewish communities," the organization said in a statement.
This year's marches will culminate with the March of the Nations, in which 6,000
participants will parade through Jerusalem's city center on May 15, exactly 70 years since
the end of British rule and the official establishment of Israel. The Independence Day
events began this week with a 5-kilometer (3-mile) march by 600 participants from Konstanz
in southern Germany to Kreuzlingen in northern Switzerland.
Pastor Jobst Bittner, who founded the March of Life, said, "We created this organization
to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive and to fight anti-Semitism and support Israel.
Unfortunately, anti-Semitism has not disappeared and it has now reared its ugly head. That
is why we are marching around the world to celebrate Israel's 70th anniversary, and we are
going to have all the marches culminate with a large march in Jerusalem."
The organization plans to bring Holocaust survivors to meet descendants of Nazis as part
of the event, and also bring together German, Israeli and Polish teens to meet at the Yad
Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. The organization says it will also have a closing
gala at the Sultan's Pool on Mount Zion on May 15, "with live television broadcasting for
millions of viewers worldwide."
The March of Life organization has three stated goals: "Remembering working through
the past and giving survivors of the Holocaust a voice; reconciliation healing and
restoration between descendants of the victims and perpetrators; and taking a stand for
Israel and against modern anti-Semitism."
Iceland Welcomes its First Rabbi While Considering a Ban on Circumcision
At a windswept harbor of this Nordic capital, a bearded man wearing a black hat dips
eating utensils into the icy water while hissing from pain induced by the bitter cold.
Perplexed by the spectacle, a caretaker helpfully offers to let the man and his three
companions use a washing basin to clean their dishes instead of precariously bending over
the freezing water. "Thank you, but we need to do it in the sea," one of the men,
27-year-old Avi Feldman of New York, tells the caretaker. "It's for religious reasons."
Feldman and his companions, a journalist and two relatives who are visiting him here for
the holidays, haul the wet dishes back to a car parked at the foot of one of the many
snow-capped volcanoes surrounding this gray but picturesque capital city.
The exchange last week was Feldman's first attempt since registering as a resident of
Iceland at explaining to a local a potentially awkward Jewish religious custom: in this
case, "tevilat kelim" immersing utensils acquired from non-Jews to make them
But it won't be the last explanation coming from the New York native, who this year became
Iceland's first resident rabbi in documented history. Feldman and his wife, Mushky, and
their two small daughters settled in the country as its parliament prepares to vote on a
bill that would outlaw nonmedical circumcision of boys.
Measuring his words on the subject, Feldman, a Chabad rabbi, told JTA before his arrival
only that he and his wife "hope to bring awareness to local Icelandic people and
especially to lawmakers in their decision on rules." He also said the bill is a "matter of
great concern" for those who "value religious freedom." According to Feldman, the issue is
not rooted in any hostility to Judaism in Iceland.
Hotly opposed by the several hundred Jews and Muslims who live in this Christian nation
of 330,000 citizens, the bill has wide support in the parliament and population, according
to polls, and is expected to pass when brought to a vote at a date that has yet to be
This is part of the reason that leaders of European Jewry view the bill as a dangerous
precedent amid a two-pronged attack on fundamental customs of Judaism and Islam
including circumcision and ritual slaughter of animals, which already is illegal in
Iceland. As European nationalists hostile to Islam or Judaism target such customs, so do
secularists and progressives who find the rituals intolerably cruel.
In the rest of Europe, the debate about such bans is informed by the continent's sad
history of centuries of virulent anti-Semitism. "In Iceland there isn't this awareness"
because the country never had more than a few dozen Jews, according to Hannah Jane Cohen,
a Jewish-American journalist from New York who moved to Iceland last year. "If you try to
explain that the Nazis also banned it, it comes across as exaggerated."
To Sigal Har-Meshi, an Israel-born mother of three boys who has been living in Iceland for
14 years, "it's an insult," she told JTA at a chic café near Reykjavik's
university. "It's my country telling me and my husband we are not only barbarians, but
criminals just because I'm Jewish." At the same time, she shares the reservations of many
Jewish mothers with regard to circumcision.
"It's pretty shocking, I don't feel 100% comfortable with it, either," said Har-Meshi, a
successful jeweler who first came to Iceland as a tourist in 1986 and married a local
non-Jew. Her teenage sons suffered taunts at school and "don't feel comfortable showering
in public" in a country that had fewer than 20 nonmedical circumcisions of boys since
2007, she added.
Against this backdrop, the arrival of a Chabad rabbi to Iceland is "great news," said Mike
Levin, a Chicago native who is the unofficial leader of the Jewish community of Iceland.
Judaism is not among Iceland's recognized state religions, so there is no way of gaining
official status for his community. A group of a few dozen people without a synagogue, they
celebrate Jewish holidays and events together at hotels, restaurants, picnics and at each
Some years, community members brought leavened bread to get-togethers on Passover, when
the consumption of such food is forbidden, Levin and Har-Meshi recalled. But other events
were supervised by visiting rabbis from Chabad, who imposed a strictness that was foreign
and unwelcome at this highly secularized community, where the Feldmans are the only
Unlike the mink whale meat that is sold here in many supermarkets and restaurants, kosher
meat is nowhere to be found in Iceland. But it does have world-famous kosher fish, most
notably salmon. It was the main course at one of the largest Passover Seders in the island
nation's history: a gathering of 100 last week at a local hotel, followed by a second
Seder for 50 people. "On a community level, it will give us representation to the outside
world," Levin said of the Feldmans' arrival. "Recognition. And perhaps also state funding,
visibility, a synagogue, a Jewish kindergarten."
The Feldmans said they are looking into opening a Chabad house and synagogue. In
parallel, they are negotiating the import of kosher meat through local distributors. They
represent a Hasidic movement with a mission to build Jewish communities in sometimes
Levin, a carpenter in training who recently sold his popular catering firm for offices,
said he is also "happy to be relieved" of the duties that come with leading a small Jewish
community, with the usual bickering and logistical problems they entail. A follower of
Conservative Judaism with cantorial skills, Levin said he never really sought to become
the national leader of a Jewish community. "But someone had to do it," he said.
The proposed ban on circumcision, though, risks undoing decades of community building,
Levin said. "It definitely doesn't feel good. It sends a bad message," he said.
The leaders of the Jewish communities of four Nordic countries warned in a joint statement
that a ban "will guarantee" that no Jewish community is established in Iceland and make it
"the only country to ban one of the most central, if not the most central rite in the
Jewish tradition in modern times." The February 13 statement also noted how the Nazis
imposed bans on circumcision.
Iceland, however, is hardly the only European country where Jewish circumcision, or brit
milah, and ritual slaughter, or shechitah, are being attacked. A law banning shechitah
passed in the Netherlands in 2011. Tellingly, it was submitted by the ultra-progressive
and small Party for the Animals, but it passed thanks to the support of the large and
Populist Party for Freedom an anti-Islam movement. Ultimately the law was scrapped
by the Dutch Senate. Last year in Belgium, shechitah was banned in two of the country's
three regions with similar alliances.
In Sweden, where progressives have spoken out for years against ritual circumcision, a
draft motion against it was submitted to parliament in 2013 by a far-right, anti-Islam
party. Iceland for the first time is seeing the arrival of relatively large numbers of
Muslims asylum seekers and other immigrants, often from the war-torn Middle East.
"This comes with some tensions," Har-Meshi said.
Still, xenophobia appears to have had a negligible role in Iceland's bill on circumcision,
which lawmakers from four political parties introduced in January. Together, the parties
account for 46% of the parliament's 63 seats.
Seeking a prison sentence of up to six years on offenders regardless of where the underage
circumcision is performed, the bill equates the practice with female genital mutilation,
calling both human rights violations. Circumcision, the bill also says, places subjects at
an elevated risk of infection and causes "severe pain."
"It's concerning the community in Denmark," Andrew Baker, the personal representative on
combating anti-Semitism for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said
in February during a symposium in Vienna on anti-Semitism. "They fear it will set a
precedent. Nordic countries will somehow look one to another and it will open the door."
In Denmark, a petition favoring a brit milah ban has received 68% of its target of 50,000
signatures. Once the target number is reached organizers have until August to
collect signatures the petition will go up for a vote as a draft resolution in the
Stopping short of calling the proposed ban in Iceland a form of anti-Semitism, Baker
said, "We have acknowledged the kind of public discourse that accompanies these debates"
a reference to an anti-Semitic caricature that appeared in 2013 in a Norwegian
paper, among other materials.
Occurring simultaneously with efforts to ban ritual slaughter, the campaigns to ban
circumcision in Iceland and Denmark are the latest development in an escalation that
occurred in 2012, when a German court in Cologne ruled that ritual circumcision of minors
amounted to a criminal act of child abuse. The ruling triggered temporary bans in Austria
and Switzerland but was overturned.
Seen in this context, it's easy to understand why Jewish communities are up in arms over
the bill in Iceland, Baker said in an address in Vienna on February 20. He also noted that
the audience for his talk outnumbered Iceland's Jewish population, drawing chuckles. "So
here we are," he said, "fighting for the protection of an element of religious practice on
behalf of frankly a handful of people who may themselves never exercise it."
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