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Monday, 22 January 2018

The case against Hizbollah: one party, one flag, one ideology

CST's new Research Briefing, The Case Against Hizbollah: one party, one ideology, one flag, explains why Hizbollah should be fully banned in Britain.

CST has long pressed for such a ban to be enacted. We have joined our Jewish communal partner groups in raising the issue repeatedly at meetings with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and with successive Prime Ministers, as well as with politicians and civil servants. CST strongly believes that Hizbollah’s long documented record of global anti-Jewish and anti-Israel terrorism means that it must be totally outlawed. Specifically, this requires the removal of the current artificial legal distinction between the group’s so-called ‘military’ and ‘political’ wings.
Hizbollah's ‘military wing’ is banned in the United Kingdom and the European Union, but the ‘political wing’ is allowed to operate. This is despite Hizbollah itself denying that any such distinction exists. Supporters of Hizbollah in the UK exploit this by claiming that their Hizbollah flags are being flown in support of the ‘political wing’, despite the actual flag prominently displaying an assault rifle at its centre and being used by Hizbollah fighters in Lebanon and Syria. 
Britain has suffered too much from terrorism for Hizbollah to continue in this semi-legal status, with its supporters free to wave its militaristic flag, complete with assault rifle, on British streets. Parliament will be debating this issue on 25th January, thanks to the efforts of Joan Ryan MP. This Research Briefing is a comprehensive explanation of why Hizbollah is indivisible and why it should be fully proscribed under the Terrorism Act 2000. You can download it here.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Israel's Indian Jews and their lives in the 'promised land'

The Bene-Israeli cricket club in Beer Sheva

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has just left India after a six-day official visit during which the two countries heralded a "new era" in ties. BBC Hindi's Zubair Ahmed travelled to Beersheba in Israel to meet a community of Indian-origin Jews who migrated there soon after the nation's creation. 
Naor Gudekar is 61-years-old, but he is still a fighting fit cricketer. He is also the administrator of Israel's first cricket club, which was founded by immigrant Indians like him 65 years ago in the desert city of Beersheba. 
Mr Gudekar is overseeing a practice session for the club team when we arrive at the grounds in what is a decidedly nicer part of the town. 
Around 20 people of varying ages are gathered there, some playing cricket while others are there just to socialise. All of them are Bene Israelis - Jews of Indian origin. 
The ancient Israeli city of Beersheba is home to thousands of Bene Israelis who migrated to the "promised land" soon after the state was created in 1948. 
Mr Gudekar himself is now part of a growing clan. Some of them followed him from India, while others were born in Israel. 

'Return to the promised land'

Most of the Bene Israeli population - thought to number around 80,000 - came from the western Indian state of Maharashtra. 
A few who migrated in the 50s and 60s recall that before leaving India they were readied for their "return to the promised land" by being taught Hebrew and a few basic Jewish prayers. 
But for many families, the migration did not go as smoothly as hoped. 
Mr Gudekar says that like many others of his community, his family were discriminated against because of their darker skin colour and because they could not speak fluent Hebrew.
They were allotted an inferior home, built of asbestos, and tin. Mr Gudekar says his father often regretted leaving their life in India. 
But, he says, going back was not an option as they had burned all their bridges with Mumbai. 

A Jewish Indian boy blows the 'Shofar' horn to gather devotees around the Torah at the Magen Abraham Synagogue in Ahmedabad on September 9, 2010, on Jewish New Year Rosh Hashana. Synagogue President Benjamin Reuben numbered the Jewish community in Ahmedabad at 130, with an approximate total of 4,500 members in India whereof the majority, approximately 4,000, live in the financial capital Mumbai.Image copyrightAFP
Image captionIndia still has a small Jewish community spread across the country

Dr Shalva Weil, who wrote a thesis on Bene Israelis and spent a lot of time with the community, said many of them had chosen to leave India as they were unsure how they would be treated in the newly independent state.
"Once India got independence I think Jews were anxious about their future. Don't forget Bene Israel received favours from the British. I think many of them were quite worried and, after all, they had always believed that Israel was their true Jewish home land."
But she agreed that the community faced discrimination as soon as they arrived in the country. 
"I don't think people had seen Indians in the 1950s. They were the darkest group in Israel which seems extraordinary today," she said. 
She said she spoke to people who alleged grocery shop owners would give them black bread, telling them that it was for black people. 
"Of course it's very ironic, because today black bread is more in demand than white bread," she added. 
But the biggest crisis faced by the community was in 1962 when the chief rabbinate prohibited Bene Israelis from marrying Jews from other communities. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is welcomed by his Indian counterpart Narendra ModiImage copyrightAFP

Dr Weil said the community was up in arms. "They used to conduct sit-in strikes outside the chief rabbinate's office saying they were Jews for more than 2,000 years and had the right to marry who they wanted." 
It took two years, but they finally succeeded in seeing their demands fulfilled. 
Many in the community are much happier today, and intermarriage between Jews from various communities is now common. 
Mr Gudekar's wife Elena, for instance, is Russian - and he says he has converted her into a cricket fan. His three young daughters are also ardent followers of the game, with one declaring herself an off-spin bowler.
And it's not just about being able to marry whomever they want. 
Many hold prestigious jobs in the government and private sectors. They also run for local elections and are vocal supporters of Israeli foreign policy.
And while they do not teach their children Hindi, Marathi or any of the Indian languages they grew up speaking, many in Mr Gudekar's generation say they want to keep their link to India alive.
In addition to cricket, which they play in India team jerseys, many of them are avid watchers of Bollywood films, and have even opened Indian food restaurants across the country. 
"We are both Israeli and Indian. India is our motherland and Israel our fatherland," he says proudly.
But Dr Weil believes that this may not be a feeling that extends to the younger generations of Bene Israelis.
"Bene Israelis feel more and more Israeli. If you look at younger people they act and sound like Israelis. They have little to do with their Indian roots," she says.

Saturday, 20 January 2018



by Melanie Phillips, Jerusalem Post

Apparently insulted by repeated slights from Britain’s political class and populace, President Donald Trump has decided to cancel his proposed visit there.
            Desperate to rescue the all-important post-Brexit US trade deal that might now be in jeopardy, Prime Minister Theresa May is seeking to “clear the air” with the president at the World Economic Forum in Davos next week (except, it seems, he won't have the time.
            Good luck with that one. Mrs. May herself has contributed to the hysteria about Trump’s fitness for office by publicly condemning some of his tweets. Rather more to the point, however, her government voted at the UN to reject his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
            That was astounding in two ways. First, Britain thus refused to defend America’s right to decide its own foreign policy against the UN’s wholly improper interference. Second, Britain failed to stand up for Zionism and Judaism against the lie which underpins the century-old attempt to exterminate the national home of the Jewish people—that the Jews have no rights in Jerusalem at all because the “Palestinians” are the true inheritors of the city and the land.
            The starkest proof that the “Palestinians” are driven by frenzied prejudice against Israel and the Jewish people was provided in the deranged rant last weekend by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Israel, he claimed, was a “colonialist project that had nothing to do with Judaism.”
            The Land of Israel is, of course, absolutely central to Judaism, and the Jews are the only people for whom Israel was ever their national homeland. Far from the two-state solution which the West chooses to believe Abbas supports, he was saying the Jews aren’t entitled to be in Israel at all.
            Obscenely, he claimed the Jews of Europe chose to remain in their home countries during the Holocaust rather than emigrate. Having denied the Nazi genocide, he then lied about the 850,000 Jews who were driven out of Arab lands after 1948, claiming the Israelis forced them to leave for Israel.
            Abbas thus outed himself as a virulent anti-Semite, unhinged conspiracy theorist and paranoid Holocaust denier. Some of us have been pointing this out for years. We’ve drawn attention to his Holocaust denial “doctoral” thesis, the hideous anti-Semitic caricatures published by his regime, his repeated attempts to write the Jews out of their own history.
            Yet the West (including many Jews) has nevertheless continued to treat this man as a rational, moderate statesman-in-waiting who would head a peaceful and civilized state of Palestine.
            Abbas’s speech has done two things.
            First, it has stripped the Palestinians’ Western backers of their fig leaves. They have been left supporting an openly unhinged Jew-hater. There is now no Palestinian Arab position they can pretend passes the basic smell test of decency and conscience. Second, it showed he realizes the game is up. Palestinianism is over.
            Sure, there will still be attacks on Israelis—maybe now even more so. But the reason Abbas threw diplomatic caution to the winds is that he can no longer manipulate the global community. All he can now do is beat the tribal drums of bigotry in the hope of inciting yet more anti-Jew frenzy in the Muslim world.
            For Trump has changed everything. He has refused to play along with the Palestinians’ lies and blackmail. Instead, he has started holding their feet to the fire. By recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he explicitly acknowledged the unique historic connection between the Jewish people, Jerusalem and the Land of Israel. That connection, which predated Islam and the short-lived Arab colonial occupation of the land, destroys the false claim of indigenous Palestinian entitlement upon which the war against Israel has rested.
            Trump has also cut in half the funds the US provides for UNRWA, whose unique and false perpetuation of fictional Palestinian refugee status is key to the Arab war against Israel. And if reports are to be believed, his peace plan will offer something well short of a Palestine state.
            No less crucially, Abbas realizes that the wider Arab world no longer cares about the Palestinians’ cause. Those Arabs have more urgent considerations, such as stopping Iran from taking over the region, and they need the US and Israel to help them.
            The British government is reportedly dumbfounded by Trump’s decision to cancel his visit. Of course it is. Parroting the shallow and vacuous prejudices of the age, it has absolutely no grasp of the significance of the US president it so despises.
            Britain now risks being left behind as the world shifts direction. Why should America continue to value its “special relationship” with a Britain that is still fighting the battles it fought so shamefully in 20th-century Palestine to help the Arabs suppress Jewish national self-determination—which even the Arab states no longer support? After that UN vote on Trump and Jerusalem, why should the US think Britain is on its side in the titanic battle for freedom, decency and Western values? And why should President Trump give preferential economic treatment to a country that believes he is quite insane while Mahmoud Abbas is entirely rational? 
            Britain is the mother ship of political liberty and justice in the West. Tragically, though, it has slipped its moral moorings. Until and unless it puts right its relationship with the Jewish people, it will continue to drift into the gathering storm.

The author is a columnist for The Times (UK).

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Tunisia: Jewish population determined to stay despite anti-Semitic violence

Tunisia has declared itself a multi-faith state. But the attack on the Jewish school in Djerba shows that radical anti-Semitism has its adherents in Tunisia, too – primarily in jihadist circles.

Jewish pilgrims face a wall in prayer
"It's part of the protest against rising prices." The laconic words of Elie Trabelsi, the head of the Jewish community on the Tunisian island of Djerba, commenting on his Facebook page about the attack on the community's school late on Tuesday evening. Persons unknown threw incendiary material from a moving car into the reception hall of the building. Nobody was hurt; the bombs caused only a small amount of damage.
The perpetrators were clearly taking advantage of the temporary reduction in Tunisian security forces on the island. They were withdrawn from Djerba, and many other provinces, because of the protests in a number of Tunisian cities. Tunisians have been protesting for days against tax increases and price hikes.
In recent weeks, incitements to violence against Jews in Tunisia were published on social media networks. "We must harass the Djerba synagogue until it is gone," said one post. "We must drive the Jews out of Tunisia and set fire to the synagogue in Djerba," said another.
Trabelsi had already voiced his opposition to pronouncements of this kind in early December last year. "These people always find a reason to incite others, using the pretext of a revolutionary cause," he wrote on Facebook. "I feel sorry for you," he said, addressing the perpetrators.
'A basically good relationship'
However, Jews and Muslims in Tunisia basically have a good relationship, Trabelsi told DW. "We live together like brothers. We visit and help each other." He says there's no difference between Arab and Jewish citizens: "We are all Tunisians – and nothing else."
Pilgrims fill the streets of Djerba
On the Tunisian island of Djerba, the first day of the annual Jewish pilgrimage to the synagogue is marked with a procession
Trabelsi suspects that the people behind the attacks are extremists. "The ones who threw the Molotov cocktails aren't real Muslims. They're malicious people who want to divide Arabs and Jews in Tunisia." He says there have been no comparable incidents in recent times: "Real Tunisians have never done anything like that." He suspects that last night's criminals were acting on the orders of a radical extremist movement.
The institutions of the Jewish community on Djerba have been targeted before. On April 11, 2002 an attacker drove a truck loaded with 5,000 liters of liquid gas into the al-Ghriba synagogue near the village of Er-Riadh. Nineteen tourists died in the explosion, most of them Germans.
Rapidly shrinking community
After that attack, many Tunisian Jews considered leaving the country, but only a few have actually done so.
So far, the majority have decided to remain in Tunisia – for the sake of the congregation, too, where every single member counts. Over the past few decades the Jewish community has seen a massive reduction in the number of its members. This dates back to World War Two when German troops occupied Tunisia: Many of the country's Jews were arrested and deported to German concentration camps. Thousands of them were killed.
The real decline began after the war had finished. In 1948 there were still more than 105,000 Jews living in Tunisia. In 2017 there were only about 1,500.
A man walks behind two special forces troops
Special forces stand guard outside of Ghriba synagogue during the pilgrimage 
Repercussions of the Middle East conflict
In 1956, the year the country gained its independence, Tunisia's president, Habib Bourguiba, declared: "The Tunisian nation is not only Muslim."
"We must give guarantees, and declare before the whole world that the Tunisian state respects religions, and guarantees that people will be able to exercise freedom of religious belief as long as this does not interfere with public order."
But even Bourguiba could not prevent the Arab-Israeli conflict affecting the mood in Tunisia as well. Under the French Protectorate, Jews enjoyed more rights than Muslims. Their passports, for example, did not say "Tunisian" but "Ward of France," a status the French refused to give to Muslim Tunisians. This also helped to poison the atmosphere, with the result that more and more Jews left the country for Europe or Israel.
The rhythm of the emigrations corresponds to the climaxes of the Middle East conflict. A much larger number of Jews than usual emigrated after the Six Day War (1967) and the Yom Kippur War (1973).
Multiculturalism requires tolerance
The Muslim theologian Abdelfattah Mourou, vice-president of Tunisia's Assembly of the Representatives of the People, is convinced that the Jewish presence is good for the country as a whole. "A unified culture leads to radicalism," he said in an interview with the media in 2017. "A multicultural society, by contrast, allows us to accept each other."
But the Tunisian state and its citizens – both Muslim and Jewish – now face a new challenge: militant jihadism. Several thousand Tunisians joined the terrorist organization calling itself "Islamic State" in Iraq and Syria. A large number of these militiamen have now returned to Tunisia. The terrorists have adequately demonstrated their willingness to use violence, as for example in the attack on the Bardo National Museum in 2015, and another on tourists on a beach near the city of Sousse that same year. Many people died in both incidents. Attacks like these are potentially directed at all Tunisians – and thus also against the Jews.
To protect them, the Tunisian government has stationed police guards outside many Jewish institutions, to watch them around the clock. Elie Trabelsi believes they will now increase security around his congregation's institutions on Djerba. "We trust that an event like this will not be repeated," he says.

Board of Deputies president answers critics over support for Trump on Jerusalem

Jonathan Arkush is accused of being 'wildly out of step' - but is also praised - as he explains to deputies the reasons he spoke in favour of the Trump statement on Jerusalem

    Jonathan Arkush
    Jonathan Arkush 

    Board of Deputies president Jonathan Arkush has defended his support for Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move its embassy there in the wake of criticism at Sunday's Board meeting.
    One delegate accused Mr Arkush of being "wildly out of step" and not having properly consulted relevant organisations. Another said the stance had tarnished his achievements. But other deputies congratulated the Board president, urging him to go further by pressing Britain to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem.
    Critics included Gerald Fox of Bedfordshire Progressive Synagogue, who said that although Jerusalem was "undeniably" Israel's capital, to move the US Embassy there prior to a peace agreement was neither constructive nor diplomatic.
    Mr Arkush had committed an error "by taking your personal views and presenting them as a consensus".
    Yachad delegate Amos Schonfeld said: "This is not the first time Jonathan that you have been wildly out of step with our community with regards to President Trump." Yachad had not been consulted and the statement represented just one opinion among many.
    In contrast, Natalie Shaw (Barnet Synagogue), wanted to be first in the room to congratulate Mr Arkush. "We believe in my constituency - and I have consulted my constituency - that you are 100 per cent right," she said.
    He was also backed by Western Marble Arch Synagogue delegate Mary Regnier-Leigh. Saying that the Trump statement on Jerusalem was "the only thing he's ever done of any use", she went on: "What we should be doing is reminding everybody in the world of the Eternal City and what it means to us - and the people of Israel, many of them survivors from the Holocaust and their children and grandchildren."
    In his presidential statement, Mr Arkush had written that he appreciated why some had found the timing and fashion of the Trump announcement "far from ideal. But it has to be kept in mind that the United States Congress back in 1995 passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act mandating for this to happen and that the delay in its implementation has not in itself been conducive to any negotiations on the future status of Jerusalem.
    "I do not think that recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in any way precludes a two state solution – the reality is that at least West Jerusalem has been Israel’s de facto capital since the foundation of the state."
    He went on: "By our democratic nature, we have to form our positions according to consensus and majority views. This is not always easy, and there will always be people who disagree with various aspects of policy, but such is the nature of democracy. It is worth noting that international Jewish organisations have similarly welcomed the recognition, and we have all tried to temper it with a call for peace."
    Following what Mr Arkush praised as the "restrained" comments from deputies, he told the meeting it was hardly an issue the Board could have remained silent on.
    "I think it's really important to separate the substance of this subject from the personalities. I have been pretty unsparing in the past in my criticism of the manner in which the President of the United States has said and done things - and I daresay that will continue."
    Mr Arkush had made a judgement call that he believed to be right. If he spoke only on non-controversial matters, it would signal a return to the days when the Board was considered irrelevant.


 Legend has it that the El Ghriba synagogue in Djerba, a small island town just off the coast of Tunisia, has roots going back to the Babylonian Exile. The kohanim, the rumor goes, wanting to preserve the parts of the Beit HaMikdash that they could carry, lugged a door and a stone from Jerusalem to Djerba to establish it as a Diaspora outpost. The current building was erected in the 19th century, and most historians peg the original structure as being around 2,000 years old, but the myth has persisted anyway, and each year, Jews from the around the world make a Lag B’Omer pilgrimage to El Ghriba, often described as the oldest synagogue in Africa.Amid violent protests against over government austerity and the rising cost of living, bombs were thrown into the synagogue, as well as two Jewish schools in the town, earlier this week, a community representative told a Tunisian news outlet. El Ghriba sustained damages, but neither of the schools did. No one was hurt.
Elie Trabelsi, the son of the synagogue’s president, Pérez Trabelsi, took to Facebook to spread the news: “There was a failed attempt to burn down a synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of Djerba through the use of Molotov cocktails, but thank God, no one was hurt and security and civil protection are now doing their duty.”
As of now, the bombings don’t seem to be connected to the content of the protests, but rather, were the work of opportunistic arsonists who took advantage of the thinly spread government security forces. “These acts were carried out at night and have nothing to do with the ongoing protests,” the ministry’s spokesman, Khalifa Chibani, told a Tunisian news outlet.
The Tunisian embassy did not respond to requests for comment.El Ghriba has, regrettably, seen worse: In 1985, a policeman charged with watching over the Simchat Torah celebration opened fire on the revelers, killing three, and in 2002, a suicide bomber who was eventually traced to al-Qaeda blew himself up in a truck outside the synagogue and killed 21. Before that attack, up to 8,000 travelers would come to Djerba, home of one of the most unique sects of Judaism in the worldThe number is now in the low hundreds, and in 2011, during the Arab Spring, the event was canceled altogether.The history of Jews in Tunisia is one of the odder collections of up’s and down’s you can find, and I encourage anyone to go and spend a little time researching it. In 1956, just before Tunisia wrested independence from France, 100,000 Jews called the country home; today, there are around 2,000, 700 of them in Djerba. Tunisia has been home to everyone from Max Azria, founder of the global clothing brand BCBGMAXAZRIA, to Victor Perez, a world champion flyweight boxer who died in a death march between Nazi sub-camps (not to mention an Israeli Supreme Court justice, a Chief Rabbi of France, and two cartoonists killed in the Charlie Hebdo shootings). It’s a history of insulation from dominant forms of Judaism that has resulted in a very specific brand of Sephardi ritual, and of being violently subject to the ever-changing whims of the government. Here’s to hoping this is just another chapter, and not the last.

Boris commits UK towards a divided Jerusalem - CUFI

A point of great concern - - - 
As Britain’s representative to the Palestinians is in Jerusalem, why is Britain’s Embassy to Israel not also in Jerusalem ??
In spite of what he says, does this not risk indicating that Britain perhaps does not support a two-state solution after all, but instead a one-state solution – ie. a Palestine with no Israel ???
(the Palestinians’ own governance is in Ramallah while Israel’s Knesset is in Jerusalem)

Jan 8, 2018 | News | 
Boris Johnson has said Jerusalem should ultimately be the “shared capital of Israeli and Palestinian states”, according to a statement released by the Foreign Office. 
Johnson, who met with Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister, Riyad al-Malki, on Monday said,
“I reiterated the UK’s commitment to supporting the Palestinian people and the two-state solution, the urgent need for renewed peace negotiations, and the UK’s clear and longstanding position on the status of Jerusalem.”
He continued, “It should be determined in a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and Jerusalem should ultimately be the shared capital of the Israeli and Palestinian states.”
There was no mention in the statement about Britain moving its embassy to Jerusalem.
The UK embassy to Israel is currently in Tel Aviv, despite Britain’s representative to the Palestinians being situated in Jerusalem.
petition by CUFI-UK has almost reached 25,000 calling for Britain to put right this hypocrisy and recognise Jerusalem as capital of Israel and move its embassy.
SIGN PETITION calling for Britain to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital