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September 30, 2014 / 6 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Holland’

Amsterdam Falafel Joint Takes Israelis for a Non-Kosher Ride

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

By the time they end up at Baba’s Grillroom in central Amsterdam, Israeli tourists tend to be somewhat distracted.

Situated near the famous Rembrandt Square, this popular and veteran falafel eatery is literally surrounded by pot-selling coffee shops that help make Amsterdam one of the top holiday destinations for Israelis — and especially for the young craving a cheap and top-quality high.

Giggly and thoroughly “mastoolim,” Hebrew slang for baked or stoned, they are likely to experience another dope-related phenomenon: The munchies. And that’s a problem for observant Jews in a city that is not exactly famous for its selection of kosher foods.

How fortunate, then, to chance upon the entrance to Baba’s place, with its promising signs in Hebrew and stars of David. Those sober enough to remain skeptical despite the Jewish symbolism are welcome to see Baba’s kosher certificate — a document signed by three rabbis from the United States.

The only problem is that one of the rabbis is deceased and the other two say they never certified any business in Amsterdam, according to a Jan. 9 report by the NIW Dutch Jewish weekly.

Acting on a tip, the paper sent one of its reporters, Jigal Krant, on an undercover mission that involved dressing up like an Israeli tourist and asking (in English) about the kashrut at Baba’s. Staff showed Krant a certificate signed by three rabbis. But the two living rabbis told NIW they had no idea their name was being used by Baba’s.

When NIW confronted the owners — two Egyptian Christians named Hanna Basta Tawadrous, 48, and Nermin Angali, 34 — they denied ever claiming they had a certificate, which NIW had photographed. Apparently, the new owners bought Baba’s approximately a year ago. To NIW they explained that their meat is kosher because it’s halal. (The NIW report did not investigate whether the meat is, in fact, halal.)

This article was written for JTA by Cnaan Liphshiz.

Dutch Christians Protest Pension Fund’s Boycott of Israel

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Approximately 350 Dutch Christian activists demonstrated early Monday in front of the headquarters of PGGM, manager of the largest pension fund in Holland, to protest its recent decision to pull out its investments in five Israeli banks, the European Jewish Press reported (EJP).

PGGM said it got rid of shares in Bank HaPoalim, Bank Leumi, First International Bank of Israel, Israel Discount Bank and Mizrahi Tefahot Bank  because they are involved in financing in Judea and Samaria, or what it called “occupied Palestinian territories.’’

.The protesters, members of the Christian Foundation for Israel, held Israeli flags and banners reading ’’Stop the Boycott of Israel’’ while distributing pamphlets to the PGGM employees. They were accompanied by Holland’s Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs, who denounced the fact that Israel is always singled out while PGGM ‘’should stop invest in many countries.’’

’We want PGGM to reconsider its decision,’’ Roger van Oordt, director of the Christian Foundation for Israel. ‘’

The pension group manages more than ($208 billion) in funds and has more than $150 million worth of investments in Israel.

PGGM’s move is the third high-profile divestment in Holland in recent months, according to EJP. In December, state-owned water company Vitens broke off its alliance with Israeli water group Mekorot, and earlier civil engineering group HaskoningDHV pulled out of a project to develop a waste water treatment plant in Jerusalem after the Dutch foreign ministry said it could conflict with international law.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the divestment decision was a “sanctimonious move intended to pander to a certain nefarious trend in public opinion.”

Last week, the Foreign Ministry summoned the Dutch ambassador in Israel, Caspar Veldkamp, for a clarification on the PGGM decision to divest from Israel. ‘’This decision is unacceptable and relies on false pretense,’’ the Ministry’s Deputy Director General of the MFA for European Affairs, Raphael Schutz, told the Dutch Ambassador.

Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans declared last week that his country opposes a boycott of Israel.

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.

Visiting Dutch Dignitaries Squabble over Israel’s Role in Gaza, PA

Monday, December 9th, 2013

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s Sunday visit started out fine, with a visit to Yad Vashem (with yarmulke), but then was spoiled by a major disagreement between the Dutch and Israeli premiers over a new security scanner that was to be installed with great fanfare on the Gaza border.

Rutte expected to inaugurate the scanner at the Kerem Shalom crossing, on the border with the Gaza Strip, but that’s probably not going to happen.

“Installation of the Dutch scanner, which would have been used to verify the contents of containers from Gaza destined for export, was postponed after the Netherlands made unexpected demands,” an Israeli official told AFP.

“Technically, there is no problem about the scanner at the Kerem Shalom crossing, through which goods originating in Gaza pass,” the official said, explaining: “The Dutch suddenly imposed political conditions, notably on the percentage of merchandise destined for the West Bank or abroad. These are political issues that need to be resolved at the highest level, which will delay the start-up of the scanner.”

In a lengthy, face to face conversation, Prime Minister Netanyahu told his Dutch counterpart that, as much as he would like there to be normal relations between the PA and Gaza, with goods traveling in both directions, the Arabs “sometimes use this to negative ends.”

Netanyahu gave the example of how the Hamas used too tons of cement which Israel permitted through its border with Gaza, to dig a terror tunnel into Israel, for the purpose of kidnapping Israeli civilians, to be used later in exchange with terrorist killers held in Israeli jails.

Netanyahu conceded that security considerations should not come at the expense of the civilian population in Gaza, but on occasion there’s no avoiding it.

According to Ha’aretz, the past two weeks have been marked by hectic disputes between the Netherlands and Israel over the use of the scanner the Dutch donated for use in the Gaza border crossing. Israeli security officials told the Dutch they wanted a separation between Gaza and the PA, and so the scanner must be used chiefly for goods being exported abroad, and not going to the PA.

The Dutch were making the case that the scanner was fool proof and should offer the guarantee Israel needed to accept shipments from Gaza to the PA. But the Israeli defense ministry stuck to its guns.

Prime Minister Rutte met with Israeli-Palestinian peace organizations Monday morning, and expressed his disappointment of the Israeli stubbornness.

“I don’t understand this decision,” he said. “The scanner was donated by Holland and positioned at Kerem Shalom precisely because of the Israeli security concerns.”

There was also a diplomatic spat Sunday concerning Judea and Samaria, where Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, who is traveling with Rutte, cancelled a planned event rather than accept an Israeli military escort, a Dutch foreign ministry official said.

Timmermans had planned to visit Palestinians in Hebron.

“It was the minister himself who decided to cancel that part of the visit,” Ahmed Dadou, a spokesman for Timmermans, told AFP in The Hague.

“It’s normal to be accompanied by the Israeli military in the part occupied by settlers but it’s not usual in the Palestinian part,” he said.

“Other foreign ministers have previously visited the city unaccompanied by Israeli soldiers in the Palestinian sector and Mr. Timmermans did not want to accept this new condition in order not to set a precedent.”

Netanyahu said that he had not been aware of the planned visit.

“These are not political directives,” he said, according to a statement by his office. “I do not know how we guard foreign dignitaries on visits. We have security details that do what is necessary. Minister Timmermans is a welcome guest.”

Timmermans instead visited a Palestinian dairy in another part of Hebron.

Finally an area of life a Dutchman fully comprehends.

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.

La Pen’s Right-Wing Party Makes Strong Gains in EU Election Poll

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

France’s right-wing National Front party headed by Marine Le Pen is leading the country’s two major parties in the polls for May’s elections to the European Parliament.

The Le Nouvel Observateur weekly reported that the party has the support of 24 percent of French voters, compared with only 22 and 19 percent respectively for the center-right UMP and Socialist parties.

The latest poll came as Alain Delon, one of France’s most celebrated actors, expressed his sympathy for the National Front and said he “approved” of the party’s rise, the European Jewish Press reported.

Other right-wing parties in other countries, such as Holland’s Freedom party headed by anti-Islamist Geert Wilder also might win more support. In Britain, the anti-immigration Independence also has won increasing popularity in polls.

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.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/council-of-europe-says-ritual-circumcision-wont-be-banned/2013/10/10/

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