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August 22, 2014 / 26 Av, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

Dutch Funds Divest from Israeli Banks but not from Occupied Tibet

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

A Dutch pension administrator has divested from five Israeli banks over their activity in the Judea and Samaria as a matter of “responsible investment policy” but it retains its investments in Chinese banks operating in Tibet on land widely seen internationally as land occupied by China.

The pension investment company PGGM announced its decision to divest from Bank HaPoalim, Bank Leumi, First International Bank of Israel, Israel Discount Bank and Mizrahi Tefahot Bank on Tuesday on its website.

The text cited the banks’ “involvement in financing Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. This was a concern, as the settlements in the Palestinian territories are considered illegal under international humanitarian law.”

PGGM had a marginal investment of several dozen millions of dollars in Israeli banks out of billions it invests all over the world, according to the NRC Handelsblad daily. The paper reported PGGM was Holland’s second-largest pension administrator.

In its statement, the company also cited its “responsible investment policy,” which excludes investing in bodies involved in “violations of fundamental human rights and labor rights.”

But according to a document released by the company in 2013, PGGM investments abroad include two Chinese banks – Bank of China and China Construction Bank — with offices and activities in Tibet, which is widely seen internationally as land occupied by China. PGGM also invests in China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation, or Sinopec, which is exploring for oil in Tibet.

PGGM’s international investments also include the Malaysian palm oil producer Sime Darby, which last year paid a million dollars in reparations to villagers in Liberia amid accusations that the firm had violated their human rights and confiscated their property.

PGGM spokesperson Maurice Wilbrink declined to answer JTA’s questions on the scope of his company’s investments in Chinese firms active in Tibet, explaining the figures were confidential.

Dutch Christians’ Mega-Menorah Helps Jews Come Out of their Shell

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Amsterdam’s Chabad Rabbi Binyamin Jacobs lit the candles on the first night Hanukkah Wednesday on a 36-foot menorah with a six-ton base that was made with donations by Christian Zionists.

Klaas Zijlstr designed and built the menorah, in the shape of a Star of David, in his metal workshop in the northern tip of the Netherlands. Possibly the largest in all of Europe, the handiwork of a Protestant metal contractor is meant to be a sign of solidarity by Christian Zionists with the Jewish people.

“It’s exactly like the rabbi wanted,” Zijlstra said.

Rabbi Jacobs helped Zijlstra and a group called Christians for Israel design the nine-branch candelabrum so it could be used for the eight-day holiday, which began Wednesday night and which was lit in front of hundreds of Christians and Jews during a public ceremony in Nijkerk, not far from Amsterdam.

Though commonplace in the United States and even in Russia, public Hanukkah events are a recent and revolutionary development in the Netherlands. Here they signify the growing self-confidence and openness of a Jewish community whose near annihilation in the Holocaust left a deeply entrenched tendency to keep a low profile.

“Twenty years ago, this wouldn’t‎‎ have been possible,” said Arjen Lont, the Christian Zionist businessman who donated $40,000 to build and transport the menorah. “It requires a lot of openness.”

Lont says the purpose of the giant menorah, which can be used either with electric bulbs or oil lamps, is to send a message.

“After unspeakable suffering, the horrors of the Holocaust and most recently the attacks on Israel, Jews may feel they are alone,” Lont told JTA. “This is our way of saying you are not alone; we are behind you.”

The first public Hanukkah lighting ceremony in the country was organized in 1989 in Buitenveldert, near Amsterdam, by the wife of a Chabad rabbi, according to Bart Wallet, a historian of Dutch Jewry at the University of Amsterdam.

Today, such events are held annually in 19 municipalities, from the northern city of Leeuwarden, near Berlikum, to the southern border city of Maastricht, according to Rabbi Jacobs.

He said that public menorah lightings in the country signify the Jewish community’s confidence in asserting its place in Dutch society.

“Nowadays it’s also saying we are here; we are also a part of the fabric of religious communities and society,” he explained.

Dutch Jewish reticence toward public displays of faith dates back at least to the 19th century, according to Wallet, when Dutch rabbis decreed that no Jewish rituals should be held in the public domain. At the time, Dutch Jews were keen on integrating into a democratic society as equal citizens, and they considered it counterproductive to showcase religious customs that set them apart from their compatriots.

The tendency was greatly reinforced after the Holocaust, when three-quarters of Holland’s population of 140,000 Jews perished — a higher percentage than anywhere else in occupied Western Europe. Today, about 40,000 Jews live in the Netherlands.

Wallet says things began to change in the 1970s, when Dutch Jews began displaying greater activism around anti-Semitism and Israel.

Even today, however, many Dutch Jews retain a sense of reticence when it comes to public displays of religion.

“There’s nothing wrong with these Hanukkah events, but to me they don’t seem familiar,” said Jaap Hartog, chairman of the umbrella group of Dutch Jewry, called the Dutch Israelite Religious Community, or NIK. “To me, Hanukkah is more a holiday that you celebrate at home with your family. The public candle lightings are more of an American thing.

“On a personal level, I’m not too keen on participating.”

Initially, Chabad rabbis organized candle lighting ceremonies as part of their efforts to reach lapsed Jews, but today the menorah lightings are not organized exclusively by Chabad. Nathan Bouscher, a Jewish activist who is not himself religious, has co-organized candle lightings at the Dam, Amsterdam’s best-known square.

“It’s a way to build bridges between Jews and the non-Jewish environment, but also within the community and between Dutch-born Jews and the thousands of Israelis who live here and the tourists from Israel,” Bouscher said.

Back at Zijlstra’s metal workshop, his menorah is attracting attention from neighbors. During the test run last week, a few of them stopped by to admire his handiwork and congratulate him.

Norway Official Wants to ‘Educate’ Jews against Circumcision

Monday, November 25th, 2013

The anti-circumcision bill in Norway, which the country’s foreign minister vows will not become law, is being pushed by the country’s child welfare adviser who wants Jews and Muslims to understand that causing pain is tantamount to a sin far worse than violating the Jewish law of circumcision.

New legislation on non-medical circumcision of boys under 18 is scheduled to be introduced before mid-April.

“With good information about risk, pain and lack of health benefits of the intervention, I think parents from minorities would voluntarily abstain from circumcising children,” Anne Lindboe, Norway’s Children’s Ombudsmen, told the Norwegian Aftenpost daily last week.

Her claims are questionable to say the least, but lest she be accused of trying to negate religious practice, she has a solution to those Jews who insists on upholding the ritual that is the physical bond among Jews since Abraham and which is the bond with God, for which Jews have been cursed and killed.

Her solution, reported here, is simply to perform a “symbolic ritual,” presumably one in which the baby will not cry, God forbid.

It would be easy to criticize her for ignorance of Judaism, but why expect a non-Jewish pediatrician from one of the most anti-Semitic countries in Europe to understand Jewish law and belief?

Lindboe is a pediatrician. She has seen children abused and even killed by parents, some of them mentally disturbed, drunk or simply wicked, and she puts them in the same basket as normal parents who circumcise their baby boys.

“We introduced a law on violence against children even though we had reason to believe that individuals would still be beaten and mistreated,” she told the newspaper,, dismissing concerns raised in Norwegian media that a ban on ritual circumcision would mean that parents would perform it illegally.

“If 15 years is set as the minimum age, we expect Norwegian parents follow and respect the law,” said Lindboe, a longtime advocate of the criminalization of ritual circumcision, which she considers a form of abuse and infringement of children’s rights to “physical integrity.”

“I think it’s disrespectful towards minorities to assume that they are going to break the law,” she added, showing an unbelievable ignorance of the very concept of any religion.

Her thinking, so to speak, reflects a modern and sterile philosophy that there is no such thing as “religious law” if a government views it as wrong.

Her attitude also reflects a modern view, often Christian, that no one has to suffer in life. Smile, have a nice day and don’t struggle with everyday difficulties that cause pain.

It is the same type of bleeding heart mentality that is behind “engagement” with monsters like Syrian President Bassar al-Assad and with masters of evil, such as the Islamic regime in Iran.

Ervin Kohn, president of the Jewish Community of Oslo, told JTA he did not expect her campaign to lead to a ban on ritual circumcision in Norway. The country’s new Foreign Minister Børge Brende has promised the Simon Wiesenthal Center that “the Norwegian Government recognizes the importance of ritual male circumcision for the Jewish community in Norway…[and] it will not propose a ban on ritual circumcision.”

Regardless of whether Norway keeps its promise, the anti-circumcision campaign is alive and well around the world, even  though Germany passed legislation last year to protect Jews and Muslims’ right to circumcise their children.

As reported here and here, the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly passed a non-binding resolution to ban ritual circumcision.

Some politicians in Quebec, a long-time bastion of anti-Semitism, have floated the idea of a ban.

Jews in Quebec have no fear of a ban, but more worrisome is the thinking, or lack of thinking, in which intelligent people want to see the world as the cover of a Saturday Evening Post magazine from the 1950s, or as a Woodstock festival, where no one has to struggle and everyone lives in complacence.

The problem with the dream world is that it leaves it defenseless against the Assads and Ayatollahs.

Linboe’s “no pain” world  that she wants to replace religious circumcision, about which she knows only a bit of the physical side and less than nothing about the metaphysical side, is a world that pretends evil does not exist and therefore does not have to be fought.

The Wiesenthal Center has said about all of the campaigns to ban circumcision, “Historically, such draconian actions were taken by tyrants, dictators and mass murderers. Today we are confronted with such initiatives being proposed and passed in democracies.”

The results are the same, but that doesn’t matter to the anti-circumcision crowd. The only thing that matters is that they don’t feel the pain when an Iranian or Hezbollah nuclear bomb blows up in their back yard.

French Politicians, Clergymen Back Petition Defending Circumcision

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

More than 5,500 people, including prominent French politicians, scholars and clergymen, have signed a petition against attempts to ban the ritual circumcision of boys in Europe.

Titled “No to a ban on circumcision,” the petition was published on Oct. 16 by CRIF, the umbrella organization representing France’s Jewish communities, following the Oct. 1 passage of a Council of Europe resolution that calls male ritual circumcision a “violation of the physical integrity of children.”

Among the petition signers are Anne Hidalgo, a candidate in next year’s Paris mayoral elections, the director Claude Lanzmann and former government ministers Claude Goasguen and Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet.

By Thursday, the petition had more than 5,500 signatures.

The non-binding resolution by the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly “targets European Jewish communities that are already exposed to the unprecedented resurgence of anti-Semitism,” the petition reads. “It is inconceivable to those who survived the Holocaust” and “dangerous because it stigmatizes Jews.”

Other co-signatories include Patrick Dubois, a French Catholic priest and Holocaust scholar, and Alain Massini, a well-known Protestant pastor.

The text of the petition also characterizes the resolution as “insulting” because it “equates between circumcision and [female genital] mutilation.”

Lithuania’s Support of Ritual Slaughter May Turn the Tide

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

The Lithuanian parliament has taken the first steps to legal ritual slaughter in what could be move that turns the tide against the wave of initiatives in Europe to defend the “rights of animals” as a higher priority that freedom of religious practices.

“The fact that Lithuania currently holds the Presidency of the European Union means that this law will have an extremely strong symbolic significance for the rest of Europe,” said Jewish Congress president Dr. Moshe Kantor.

The bill passed its first reading in the parliament by a lopsided margin of 51-2.

Religious slaughter was banned in Poland on January 1 after its Constitutional Court deemed it incompatible with animal rights legislation, and there have been other attempts in Europe to ban religious traditions like circumcision.

“We face significant opposition to our traditions in Europe, but we are glad to be winning some significant victories for freedom of religion on our continent,” Kantor said. “Freedom of religion is one of the EU’s founding pillars and those who fight against it are compromising the principles of tolerance and mutual respect which the new Europe is supposed to be built upon.”

Council of Europe Says Ritual Circumcision Won’t Be Banned

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

The Council of Europe has assured President Shimon Peres that Europe will not ban religious circumcision despite last week’s non-binding resolution of the Council’s Parliamentary Assembly that cited circumcision of males as a violation of human rights and equated it with female genital mutilation.

President Peres wrote on Monday to Thorbjorn Jagland, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, to protest the resolution. Although it has no legal significance, the Council is very influential on decisions by the European Union.

Jangland said male circumcision did not violate human rights, and Daniel Holtgen, the Director of Communications at the Council of Europe, sent a tweet quoting Jagland as saying, “Female genital mutilation violates human rights. Male circumcision does not.”

The resolution angered Muslims as well as Jews. It called for European states to “promote further awareness in their societies of the potential risks of some of these procedures,” which the assembly lists as the circumcision of boys, early childhood interventions in the case of intersexual children and the coercion of children into piercings, tattoos or plastic surgery.

Marlene Rupprecht, the rapporteur behind the resolution, claimed the text did not aim to “stigmatize any religious community or its practices” but simply called for public debate “aimed at reaching a wide consensus on the rights of children to protection against violations of their physical integrity.”

While Jagland’s statements were good news for Jews and also for Muslims, it is scary that we are so susceptible to the threat of a ban on circumcision that we have to be grateful to someone deciding to suspend what would be a death sentence to Judaism.

Jews have died rather than accept decrees against circumcision, but today’s trend to use “human rights”  and “animal rights” to disguise campaigns that deprive Jewish rights is more subtle and devious than the open anti-Semitism of the past.

A judge in a German province earlier this year banned circumcision, leading to an uproar that prompted the national parliament to make it clear that ritual circumcision is legal.

The anti-circumcision movement is increasingly popular in Scandinavia, where the influx of Muslims also is a factor behind the campaign to prohibit the religious rite.

Jews and Muslims are constantly threatened with a ban on local slaughtering of animals according to Jewish and Muslim laws, which prohibit the method of stunning before using the knife. There are some leniencies in Muslim law.

The most recent controversy is in Poland, which banned ritual slaughter this year but where Jews now have to be thankful to the Catholic Church for supporting the rights of Jews and Muslims to slaughter animals according to religious laws.

The Polish parliament in July rejected a bill, sponsored by the government, to legalize kosher slaughter, but Pope Francis recently has voiced concern over the ban.

“Animal rights” supporters have successfully campaigned in Sweden, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland to outlaw kosher slaughter.

The European Union’s official policy states, “European Convention for the Protection of Animals for Slaughter” generally requires stunning before slaughter, but allows member states to allow exemptions for religious slaughter.”

Holland two years nearly outlawed kosher slaughter after the Animal Rights Party managed to convince the Lower House of parliament to pass a bill, which was rejected by the Upper House, to ban the practice.

Israel is the only country that comes to mind where Jewish rights still are unquestionably more important than “animals’ rights.”

As for circumcision, the only argument might be over “Metzitzah b’peh.”

Will Israeli Embassies in Europe Expand Services to Include Brit Mila and Shechitah?

Friday, October 4th, 2013

In response to the latest European ban on Brit Mila (circumcision), MK Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) has put forward the proposal to utilize the diplomatic immunity and extraterritorial status of Israel’s embassies, and allow Jewish families in Europe to perform their Brit Mila ceremonies within the Israeli embassy’s walls.

Jewish Home Knesset Member Nisan Slomiansky

Jewish Home Knesset Member Nissan Slomiansky

Slomiansky wrote to Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin stating, “We are witnessing the winds of Antisemitism again blowing through Europe, this time under the guise of humanism and health. It started with the ban on Shechitah (kosher slaughter of animals) that began in a few countries such as Sweden and Poland and it is now expanding throughout Europe. Throughout Jewish history, since the time of Abraham, Jews have given everything to fulfill Brit Mila, and we will continue, with Israel, to do so.”

Slomiansky said that Israel must let European Jews know that in every European country where Brit Mila is banned, Israel will open the embassies to them, where, on Israeli soil, they can perform Brit Mila without breaking the (local) laws.

One wonders if the Israeli embassies will soon be building Shechitah facilities too.

Maybe its just time for European Jewry to return home to Israel.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israel/will-israeli-embassies-expand-services-to-include-brit-mila-and-shechitah/2013/10/04/

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