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Sunday, 21 May 2017

'Netanyahu may be as great as David and Solomon'

Rep. Louie Gohmert says he told Israel's prime minister he could be one of the all-time great leaders of Israel – and recalls his response.

Speaking at the US Capitol at a special event marking the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem's liberation and unification, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) said he told the Israeli prime minister he could be one of the all-time great leaders of Israel – and recalled his response.

Gohmert was flanked by Martin Oliner, President of the Center for Righteousness and Integrity and of Religious Zionists of America. This is the text of his speech:

[Gohmert recalled telling Binyamin Netanyahu,] "I'm a student of history, I'm a student of the Bible. I'm not a prophet, don't pretend to be, never could be, but, I think you have a chance to be one of Israel’s greatest leaders." And Michelle Bachmann was with me and she said, 'Well, he is one of Israel's greatest leaders'. I said, No no no, I'm talking all-time greats. Going back to David, Solomon, Josiah, Hezekiah (for most of his time), on up to Ben Gurion, but all of them had one thing in common besides being Jewish. They all called upon the Nation of Israel to honor the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and that has not happened in a very long time.

And he said, last time I brought it up, he said – "Well, you may not be aware, but I've started a Bible study in my house since you last [were here]. I said I was aware, I was thrilled. And he said, "OK, here's something you could not know. My favorite hour each week is when my son comes over and we read Scripture and we talk about it. My favorite hour of the week".

Well, the first time I brought it up, he said, "That reminds me of that story about Ben Gurion, after he fought his way back up to Jerusalem. And he was challenged: 'What is your voucher for claiming this land?' And Netanyahu didn't use the word Bible, I'm sure it's Tanakh or Torah. He says, "He held up a Bible and said. 'This is my voucher'".

Well, it's quite a deed, I think.

So… We need to be the best friend Israel can have. I don’t think we have been as good a friend as we should have been. I think betraying the trust of Israel is not a good way to be a friend, but we need to work together. We have a democracy, a democratic republic in the middle of the Middle East, in the middle of countries that would like to see Israel gone.

AIPAC got mad at me the time I voted against three billion for Israel. It was not because of that. I would have voted for four, five, six – but we were giving Israel's enemies an equal amount and I think that's outrageous. You're not making any progress when you're giving Israel one amount and their enemies the same amount. That's a mistake.

Il also tell people here, if there were no Israel, we could never set up the kind of defense we need in that part of the world to protect us here, for the kind of money we're giving to Israel. And of course, you know most of it comes back to us for defense materiel.

I’m looking forward to the next three and a half years and hopefully far beyond that. I think Israel is going to be blessed and I think the best way for the United States to be blessed is not to be cursing Israel but to be a blessing to Israel, and that’s what I intend to be.

If you think the solution in Israel is two states out of the Promised Land, your faith in your God is much too small.

Israeli Education Group Reaches 1,000 French Students

(JTA) – An Israel-based Jewish educational group, Dirshu, has enrolled its 1,000th student in France into classes devoted to studying the Talmud, a central text of Orthodox Jewish tradition.

The current level of enrollment was reached two years after Dirshu, which was founded in 1997, began its current cycle of study in France, Rabbi Naftali Levy, Dirshu’s head of operations in France, told JTA Wednesday.

The organization, which is active in the United States, Canada, Israel and beyond, facilitates group and online learning sessions of segments from the Talmud as a means of reinforcing Jewish identity and knowledge among Jewish communities. The annual budget of its operations in France is roughly $80,000, a spokesperson for the group said.

France has 500,000 Jews and a network of Chabad-affiliated educational institutions that are among the country’s best schools.

However, Levy said, whereas France has thousands of young men who attend yeshivas, or religious seminaries, with intensive curricula, and a vibrant Jewish cultural scene, there is a “gap of knowledge among ordinary Jews with traditional or Orthodox backgrounds. We give them the means to deepen their knowledge,” he told JTA.

Read more: http://forward.com/fast-forward/372568/israeli-education-group-reaches-1-000-french-students/

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Church of Scotland moots Israel sanctions over West Bank homes


Members of the Church of Scotland are to be asked to back economic sanctions against Israel in protest against the growing number of settlements on the West Bank.

Commissioners — or delegates — will vote on a tough new stance at the general assembly of the Church of Scotland, which opens in Edinburgh today.

Four years ago the Israeli government condemned the kirk for boosting political extremism and challenging the country’s right to exist.

Should the latest policy be approved when they convene on Monday, the church will lobby the UK government to begin a boycott of Israeli goods.

An intervention by the Rev Tom Gordon, chaplain of the Marie Curie Hospice in Edinburgh, is asking the church to “condemn all infringements of international law, including the expansion of the illegal settlements, which are obstacles to peace, and urge the adoption of economic measures to pressure the state of Israel to comply with international law”.


Mr Gordon’s counter motion was published last night and follows a report by the kirk’s world mission council that drew criticism from Scotland’s Jewish community when it was issued four weeks ago.

This earlier document discussed how the church might “creatively resist the occupation of Palestinian territory” but stopped short of recommending sanctions.

It was, however, met with the “considerable reservations” of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities. The council was not available for comment on the proposed amendment.

In 2013, a ten-page report published by the kirk said the Jews’ claim to the land of Israel could be invalidated by their treatment of Palestinians. It recommended that the general assembly considered “economic and political measures involving boycotts, disinvestment and sanctions against the state of Israel focused on illegal settlements”.

After the report was widely criticised, it was extensively rewritten by the church. The next year, in a symbolic gesture of friendship, the chief rabbi addressed the General Assembly.

In January, Israel approved the construction of 2,500 homes in West Bank settlements, a sign of a policy shift after Donald Trump’s election as US president. Most of the construction is in settlement “blocs” that are likely to remain part of Israel in a final agreement with the Palestinians.


However, 900 of them would sit more than 12 miles into the West Bank. It will be the largest batch of construction since 2012, when Israel announced 3,000 new homes after the Palestinians joined the United Nations.

This year’s week-long conference begins this morning and will include an address by Princess Anne, the first member of the royal family to serve twice as a high commissioner in the Church of Scotland.

Church of Scotland moots Israel sanctions over West Bank homes

https://feeds.thetimes.co.uk/web/imageserver/imageserver/image/methode%2Ftimes%2Fprod%2Fweb%2Fbin%2Fb18b0584-3cdc-11e7-8a07-589c316ac3ec.jpg?crop=3366,1893,10,336&resize=1370<

Members of the Church of Scotland are to be asked to back economic sanctions against Israel in protest against the growing number of settlements on the West Bank.

Commissioners — or delegates — will vote on a tough new stance at the general assembly of the Church of Scotland, which opens in Edinburgh today.

Four years ago the Israeli government condemned the kirk for boosting political extremism and challenging the country’s right to exist.

Should the latest policy be approved when they convene on Monday, the church will lobby the UK government to begin a boycott of Israeli goods.

An intervention by the Rev Tom Gordon, chaplain of the Marie Curie Hospice in Edinburgh, is asking the church to “condemn all infringements of international law, including the expansion of the illegal settlements, which are obstacles to peace, and urge the adoption of economic measures to pressure the state of Israel to comply with international law”.

Mr Gordon’s counter motion was published last night and follows a report by the kirk’s world mission council that drew criticism from Scotland’s Jewish community when it was issued four weeks ago.

This earlier document discussed how the church might “creatively resist the occupation of Palestinian territory” but stopped short of recommending sanctions.

It was, however, met with the “considerable reservations” of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities. The council was not available for comment on the proposed amendment.

In 2013, a ten-page report published by the kirk said the Jews’ claim to the land of Israel could be invalidated by their treatment of Palestinians. It recommended that the general assembly considered “economic and political measures involving boycotts, disinvestment and sanctions against the state of Israel focused on illegal settlements”.

After the report was widely criticised, it was extensively rewritten by the church. The next year, in a symbolic gesture of friendship, the chief rabbi addressed the General Assembly.

In January, Israel approved the construction of 2,500 homes in West Bank settlements, a sign of a policy shift after Donald Trump’s election as US president. Most of the construction is in settlement “blocs” that are likely to remain part of Israel in a final agreement with the Palestinians.

However, 900 of them would sit more than 12 miles into the West Bank. It will be the largest batch of construction since 2012, when Israel announced 3,000 new homes after the Palestinians joined the United Nations.

This year’s week-long conference begins this morning and will include an address by Princess Anne, the first member of the royal family to serve twice as a high commissioner in the Church of Scotland.

Egypt's Jews converted in order to survive

This is an interesting article in History Today by an Egyptian academic, Haythem Bastawy. He claims that there are a lot more Jews in Egypt than people think. However, none of these converts still practise Judaism in secret or wish to be identified as Jews: it is a stigma. In his  bizarre account of the genesis of the Jewish state project, the Jews' insistence on defending themselves is to blame for worsening relations with Christians and Muslims. (Israel is also supposedly to blame for the rise in anti-Jewish hatred against Mizrahim. ) However, Bastawy's main point is correct: It is a mark of Muslim intolerance  that Jews (particularly celebrities like Leila Mourad and Togo Mizrahi) converted to Islam (The actors Basma Darwish and Karim Kassim have Jewish ancestry). * The few Jews in Egypt today are all married to Muslims or Christians. The actor Omar Sharif is an example of a Christian who converted to Islam. (With thanks: Geoffrey, Paula)


 The actress Basma  is the grand-daughter of Jewish communist convert Youssef Darwish
 
Whenever Egypt is mentioned today in conversation, it is often with an assumed Islamic identity in mind. A minority of Christian Copts sometimes creeps into the discussion later on as an afterthought. This assumption is often accompanied by the rather unconscious or indirect presumption that there are few Jews in Egypt today, if any. This is not true.

It is easy to understand however why this is the mainstream account. The Second Exodus from Egypt occurred in 1956, under Colonel Nasser's orders, stripping all Jews of their Egyptian citizenship and expelling them from Egypt. The vast majority of Egyptian Jews fled to one of three destinations of refuge: Israel, Mediterranean Europe (mainly France and Italy) and the Americas (primarily Argentina (huh? - ed). This was, however, neither the beginning of trouble for Egyptian Jews in modern times, nor its end.

Although the strong rise in anti-Jewish sentiment was slow and steady since the 19th century in concurrence with the circulation of Theodor Herzl's project for a Jewish state, the tide started to turn from the 1920s onwards. Jewish settlers in the Holy Land multiplied in numbers as they increasingly faced persecution in Europe, particularly in Germany, Italy (Italy? ed) and Russia. Zionist militias were formed from newly arrived Jews to guard and perform militant operations in Palestine, which only served to worsen the atmosphere and increase animosity between Jews, Christians and Muslims in Palestine. The press in neighbouring colonially oppressed countries steered public opinion against Jews and Jewish settlements, perceiving them as an intruding threat of another form of colonialism. There were also calls for fraternal solidarity between Muslims against a 'Jewish' other. The Jewish state project was ironically providing a refuge to European Jews at the expense of their native North African and Eastern Mediterranean Jewish counterparts. Hate-induced incidents were on the rise in Egypt at the time and the declaration of the state of Israel in 1948 was just the justification Egyptian authorities had been looking for to officially persecute Jews as potential spies and sponsored 'terrorists'.

This is where many Jews started to remove themselves from the record in order to survive a tsunami of persecution. This came through conversion, at least in principle. For celebrities, whose careers were threatened by public hostility, public conversion was their tool to get accepted. One of the most notable and recorded cases is that of the singer, Leila Mourad, who converted to Islam in 1947. Some Jews sought the protection of Muslim spouses to help them blend in.
Some decided to just pass under a Muslim name, as in the case of the Alexandrian cinema pioneer, Togo Mizrahi, who changed his name to Ahmed Al Meshriqi, while others chose specifically neutral names for themselves and their children to avoid notice by the authorities. By the time the official order for the expulsion of the Jews was issued in 1956, many Jews (but not the majority) had converted, at least in principle, and/or intermarried with Muslims, and were not affected directly by the Second Exodus.

Adapting for survival was not new to Egyptian Jews, nor is it new for Egyptians in general. Youssef/Joseph, the keeper of the granaries, went by a non-Hebrew name when he got to public office. Furthermore, and in the case of Egyptians as a whole, when Alexander the Great invaded Egypt, the Egyptians decided to marry ancient Egyptian and Greek gods, creating the hybrid religion and culture of Hellenistic Egypt. And when the Arabs invaded Egypt in the seventh century, the majority of Egyptians had to convert, at least in name, but kept many of their ancient rituals and traditions alive. Spring Day or Sham El Nessim, for instance, is a current national holiday and dates back to the days of the pharaohs.

There is little mention anywhere of the descendants of Egyptian Jews who converted. The 2014 count of Jews in Cairo, and perhaps all of Egypt, was 40 elderly females out of an Egyptian population that surpassed 80 million.
Parents and grandparents do not disclose much of their heritage to their children and grandchildren for fear of bringing upon them the old plague of persecution.

The older generations are not to blame for this conscious act of forgetting history and heritage: warning signs against remembering often make themselves felt. The slightest link or encounter with Judaism or Israel often led to the severest repercussions upon a person and their family, no matter what faith they practised. Waguih Ghali, a Coptic Christian from Cairo who fled Egypt in fear of arrest by the military coup regime after coming under suspicion of being a communist, is one such example. While living in London, he worked as a journalist for the Guardian and agreed to report briefly from Israel. When his passport expired, the Egyptian government refused to renew his passport because of his association with Israel. He lived the rest of his life in depressive nostalgia, publishing his only novel, Beer in the Snooker Club, in 1964 and committing suicide five years afterwards.
Omar Sharif was born Michel Demitri Shalhoub
 
Omar Sharif is another example of the Egyptian regime's intolerance. He was born in Alexandria as Michel Demitri Shalhoub to a Christian family, which traced its roots back to Lebanon. He converted to Islam in his youth, at least in principle, in order to be allowed to legally marry his lover and fellow actress, Faten Hamama. He left for Europe a few years later, however, in a form of self-exile after becoming disenchanted with the new military regime and his marriage consequently broke down. In 1968, the authorities turned him from hero to enemy of the state because of his Funny Girl 'onscreen romance' with Barbara Streisand, a Jew. Unlike Ghali, Sharif did not commit suicide, but took to gambling and heavy drinking like some of Ghali's characters in Beer in the Snooker Club, arguably until the end of his life.

The third generation of the Jews who had to go through such transformations and conversions are not always aware of their heritages. Some families never talk about it, some retell only part of their stories, some mention it secretly or in passing, but none are allowed to completely relive their heritages or properly learn them. It is a process of oblivion as a tool for survival. Oblivion or death.

The post-monarchy pan-Arabist military regime of Egypt broadcasts a monolithically Islamic image of Egypt, synonymous with a false 'Arab' identity. The military junta denies the older, richer, multifarious, multi-layered history of Egypt, but ironically does not see any contradiction in doing so while selling Egyptian antiquity in tourism tickets. Sadly, this contradictory denial of pre-Islamic history is something the Egyptian military shares with the Saudi Arabian state, albeit not on the same extreme level. Indeed the Coptic Christian minority faces a lot of threats and challenges. In recent months, whole families have been displaced from Northern Sinai by armed militias and churches have been targeted in terrorist attacks in Alexandria and Tanta. This is a terrible state for a country of such diverse history and demography. 

Read article in full

 *Nada Kamel, director of Salata Baladi, had a Jewish mother called Mary Rosenthal.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Christians and Jews: ‘Export peace, don’t import conflict’


Click to enlarge

Investing in peace: members of the Board of Deputies and Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) at the event in London, last week

A NEW initiative, “Invest in Peace”, launched by the Board of Deputies and Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI), is an opportunity for Christians and Jews to “export peace rather than importing the conflict” between Israel and Palestine, the Board of Deputies has said.

The first series of events took place last week. Speakers from the Parents Circle-Families Forum, who have lost children in the conflict, addressed audiences hosted by Hinde Street Methodist Church, in London, and two synagogues. Robi Damelin’s son, David, was shot by a Palestinian sniper while serving in the Israeli army; Bassam Aramin’s ten-year-old daughter, Abir, was killed by an Israeli soldier.

The deputy general secretary of CTBI, the Revd Peter Colwell, said that the approach “aims to build bridges and create a sense of hope”.

Anthony Silkoff, the Board’s interfaith and social-action officer, said on Monday that both partners in the initiative had acknowledged that “the interfaith conversation between Christians and Jews is often dominated by Israel and Palestine; but also they tend to be quite negative ones.”

One response was to “work on the things you agree with, and we do that extensively”. The other was to “tackle the elephant in the room head on, to show that Christians and Jews can have conversations about Israel and Palestine and they can be constructive and helpful. The core principle of this project is: we do not want to import this foreign conflict into this country, but export peace.”

He went on: “It is not enough to just be pro-Israel or pro-Palestine: you have to be pro-peace. I do not think there was anyone in the room who was not convinced of that.”

It was “particularly powerful and poignant”, he said, to have one of the events hosted by Hinde Street Methodist Church, given that the Board had last year expressed concern about an exhibition hosted there, featuring a replica checkpoint. The Board had been “very impressed” by the church’s response, and hosting the event was one outcome of this conversation.

Further events are planned for the autumn; for more information, contact the Board of Deputies, at www.bod.org.uk.

Israeli envoy evokes spirit of Scottish independence veterans in friendly overture to critical SNP


For use in UK, Ireland or Benelux countries only.Handout photo issued by the BBC of Israel's ambassador to Britain Mark Regev on the BBC One current affairs programme, The Andrew Marr Show. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday May 1, 2016. Mr

ISRAEL's envoy to Britain has evoked the spirit of historic independence champions as he seeks to repair relations with Scotland on his first Holyrood visit.

Amid protest rallies, Ambassador Mark Regev cited support for the Jewish State from nationalist figures such as Winnie Ewing and the late Willie Macrae as he used an Edinburgh speech to say his country had the same rights to independence as any other.

His clear overture of friendship to the ruling SNPgovernment came after years of intense criticism of Israel by Scottish politicians, including prominent Nationalist and Labour MSPs.

Speaking before Mr Regev's speech, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said her external affairs minister, Fiona Hyslop, would deliver a "strong message on justice for Palestine" to the envoy.

Mr Regev, however, in his speech stressed long historic supportive links from Scotland to Israel across party lines.

He cited the "the Balfour Declaration", the statement in support of a Jewish homeland, by Scottish Conservativestatesman Arthur James Balfour after World War One as key to the founding of his state.

He also stressed the roles played by Scots such as trade unionist Mannie Shinwell and former Prime Minister Gordon Brown in backing Israel.

And, speaking after one MSP, Sandra White, had turned up in a Palestinian scarf or keffiyeh, he stressed Scottish nationalists had once favoured Israel. He said: The veteran Nationalist parliamentarian Winnie Ewing spoke passionately of her attachment to Israel.

She was amazed at how the Jewish people had beaten the odds and built a successful and independent country

"And it was her fellow Nationalist Willie MacRae who helped to draft Israel's maritime law and who served as an emeritus professor of the University of Haifa."

The diplomat struck a slight different tone, saying: "That is why I found it unfortunate to hear of individuals in this parliament earlier this week and today referring to Israel's day of independence as a day of catastrophe.

"I would like to remind those people that the Jewish people have the same right to sovereignty and independence as other peoples.

"In fact, had the Palestinians not rejected the UN Partition Proposals in 1947, things could have been very different:

"Indeed, they could have been celebrating in parallel to us 69 years to their independence!"

Mr Regev had been followed by protestors who dubbed him "the man with the answer to every atrocity" because of his former role as spokesman for the Israeli government during recent conflicts in Gaza.

It was ongoing problems in Gaza which provoked Ms Sturgeon's remarks. She had been fielding a question from Labour frontbencher Anas Sarwar on the issue during first minister's questions. Mr Sarwar urged her to raise the Palestinian exclave, which is controlled by hardliners from Hamas, with Mr Regev.

Speaking to the First Minister, the Glasgow list MSP said: "Can she deliver a very loud and clear message: that, after 50 years of Palestinian oppression, the illegal occupation of the West Bank, the illegal expansion of settlements and the illegal siege of Gaza must end; that the free access of food, medicines and supplies into the Gaza strip must be allowed; and that the ambassador must understand that without justice, equality and freedom, there can never be peace?After 50 years of Palestinian oppression, the illegal occupation of the West Bank, the illegal expansion of settlements and the illegal siege of Gaza must end; that the free access of food, medicines and supplies into the Gaza strip must be allowed; and that the ambassador must understand that without justice, equality and freedom, there can never be peace?"