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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Netherlands’

BGU Researchers Say Oxytocin May Promote ‘Lying for Your Team’

Monday, March 31st, 2014

A team of researchers at Ben Gurion University of the Negev have discovered that the hormone oxytocin can promote “group-serving dishonesty.”

According to findings published today (Monday) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), participants receiving oxytocin “lied more to benefit their groups, did so quicker, and did so without expectation of reciprocal dishonesty from their group members. A control setting ruled out that oxytocin drives self-serving dishonesty.”

The team, led by Dr. Shaul Shalvi at the university’s Department of Psychology, worked in cooperation with Carsten K.W. De Dreu of the University of Amsterdam’s Department of Psychology.

Shalvi is director of BGU’s Center for Decision Making and Economic Psychology (DMEP). He noted, “Our results suggest people are willing to bend ethical rules to help the people close to us, like our team or family. This raises an interesting although perhaps more philosophical question: Are all lies immoral?”

Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus and functions as both a hormone and a neurotransmitter to create bonding between couples and between mothers and babies. It also stimulates social interactions.

Researchers have found a correlation between increased oxytocin and greater empathy, lower social anxiety, more pro-social choice in anonymous games, reduction in fear response, cooperation in single-shot anonymous games and trust in interpersonal exchange. It also stimulates defense-related aggression.

The study was funded in part by the People Program (Marie Curie Actions) of the European Union’s Seventh Framework Program under a Research Executive Agency Grant Agreement and by the Netherlands Science Foundation.

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 PM – Unlike Germany, the Netherlands Will Not Separate Products from the Jewish State

Friday, October 4th, 2013

During a press conference with President Shimon Peres on Thursday, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte unequivocally stated that products made over the 1967 Green Line, will continue to be labeled “Made in Israel” in the Netherlands, according to a report in JPost.com.

The Dutch position is unlike that of the Germans, who definitely plan to demarcate and label Jewish products differently.

The Germans plan to label product made over the Green Line, the Golan Heights and even parts of Jerusalem, as not made in Israel. The Germans have a lot of experience in separating and marking Jews and Jewish products differently.

It has been pointed out that while the EU is being a stickler on products from Israel, it is not demanding the same for products from other disputed areas around the world. Double standards like that meet the definition of Antisemitism.

Dutch Jews ‘Vexed’ by Royal Event on Yom Kippur, Rabbi Says

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

A Dutch chief rabbi said his community was “vexed” because a farewell event for the Dutch queen was scheduled on Yom Kippur.

“Jews are again faced with a reality in which they don’t belong and that is painful,” Holland’s chief interprovincial rabbi, Binyomin Jacobs, told NRC Handelsblad on April 26. On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and inner reflection which is Judaism’s most holy date, Jews refrain from eating, drinking or operating machines, among other restrictions.

The Dutch daily reported that Jacobs said officials from the Dutch Royal House should have made sure Jews would be able to attend the Sept. 14 event, when thousands are expected to gather in Rotterdam to wish Queen Beatrix a happy retirement after 33 years on the throne.

Beatrix, who celebrated her 75th birthday on Jan. 31, announced the abdication in January in favor of her oldest son, Prince Willem-Alexander.

The committee planning the event is aware of the problem, NRC Handelsblad reported, but the date will likely not be changed because of “agenda issues” and because of limited availability of the conference center scheduled to hold the event – the massive Ahoy complex in the port city’s south, which has a capacity of 15,000 people.

Dutch Government Planning Ban on Kosher Slaughtering

Saturday, October 6th, 2012

The Dutch government is drafting a decree that would give it veto power over anyone who wants to practice ritual slaughter, or sh’chitah, in the Netherlands.

The draft decree, which was signed by Dutch Agriculture Minister Henk Bleker, was drawn up by the government to end two years of uncertainty about the future of the practice in the Netherlands. The Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad published the contents of the draft decree on Friday.

“If veterinarians are put in charge of shechita, then before long it would basically stop shechitah in the Netherlands,” Amsterdam Chief Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag told JTA.

The decree formulated by Bleker is based largely on a contract his office signed in June with representatives of the Jewish and Muslim communities.

The contract constituted the Dutch government’s compromise on regulating ritual slaughter. The Dutch lower house passed a total ban last year, but it was scrapped by the Senate out of consideration for freedom of worship. The ban was on all slaughter of conscious animals – a requirement of both Jewish and Muslim law.

The contract said animals that are still conscious after 40 seconds of the cutting of their throats would be stunned, which would prohibit their consumption by kosher or halal consumers.

The contract introduced regulations such as to the size of the knife to be used and where the animal’s neck would be cut, but did not require that a veterinarian would oversee the procedure.

Earlier this week, Ralbag wrote to Bleker to ask that the minister wait until Nov. 1 before issuing any final decree. Bleker, a member of a caretaker government, is expected to be replaced in the coming weeks.

Ralbag said he needed more time to formulate his concerns about the draft. He has not received the minister’s answer to his request, he said.

Ralbag had said the contract, signed by the Organization of the Jewish Communities in the Netherlands, was “flawed,” and warned it could ultimately eliminate the practice of kosher slaughtering. He added, however, that it did not contradict Jewish Halacha.

Last month, Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, said the contract was a “model” for ensuring religious freedom in Europe.

Why the EU Refuses to Classify Hezbollah as a Terror Org.

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

The Lebanon-based Islamic organization Hezbollah is one of the most dangerous groups in the world. Recently, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah incited violence against American and European interests over the movie The Innocence of Muslims. And yet, the European Union refuses to follow America’s example and classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organization – a move that would enable the E.U. to freeze the group’s assets in Europe.

Several people, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, have been killed, ostensibly in retaliation for the movie, which is perceived to be critical of Muhammad, the 7th century Arab warlord who founded Islam. Instead of calling for calm, Hezbollah leader Nasrallah called for prolonged protests: “The whole world needs to see your anger on your faces, in your fists and your shouts.”

Hezbollah is also involved in terrorist activities in Syria. During a meeting on September 7 in Paphos, Cyprus, the foreign ministers of the 27 member states of the European Union discussed the situation in Syria, including the position which the E.U. should take regarding Hezbollah. While Britain and the Netherlands urged other E.U. governments to join the United States in imposing sanctions on Hezbollah, they were unable to convince the other E.U. members. Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal said that Hezbollah should, further, be branded a terrorist organization; he was, however, was isolated with this stance.

This does not come as a surprise, considering the E.U.’s earlier refusal to condemn Hezbollah for terrorism. Last July, Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, visited the E.U. capital, Brussels, to persuade the E.U. to follow America’s example and classify Hezbollah a terrorist organization. Lieberman met resistance – a lot. He was attempting to isolate Hezbollah after the July 18 suicide bombing at the airport of the Bulgarian coastal resort of Burgas – an attack, and clearly a terrorist one – in which five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver were killed.

According to Israeli and American intelligence sources, the terrorist attack was the work of Hezbollah, upon orders from Iran. Nevertheless, the Cypriot minister of Foreign Affairs, Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, who currently holds the rotating E.U. presidency said that there is “no tangible evidence of Hezbollah engaging in acts of terrorism.” Hence, there was “no consensus for putting Hezbollah on the list of terrorist organizations.” He emphasized that Hezbollah was an organization with a political as well as an armed wing and that it has representatives in the Lebanese parliament and government.

In 2008, the Netherlands declared Hezbollah and all its branches terrorist entities. Britain considers only its armed wing a terrorist group. Consequently, Hezbollah can operate freely all over Europe, except in the Netherlands. Apart from the Netherlands and the United States, only Canada, Australia and New Zealand have classified Hezbollah as a terrorist group. The European Parliament did the same in a 2005 resolution, but as the latter was non-binding the E.U. has ignored it.

Jacob Campbell, a researcher at the British Institute for Middle Eastern Democracytold the Jerusalem Post: “Within just days of the Burgas bombing – almost undoubtedly perpetrated by Hezbollah – the Presidency of the E.U. Council explicitly ruled out the possibility of listing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, insisting that there is no ‘tangible evidence’ to link Hezbollah to terrorism. This ludicrous statement was made despite an earlier resolution adopted by the European Parliament, which cites ‘clear evidence’ of terrorist acts committed by Hezbollah. On this issue, as in so many others, Brussels appears to have its head buried firmly in the sand.”

France is one of the countries that oppose the efforts to blacklist Hezbollah. France, the former colonial power in Lebanon, wants to preserve its diplomatic influence in that country. In 2011, Najib Mikati, a Hezbollah-backed politician, became Prime Minister of Lebanon after Hezbollah toppled the previous government. Even deadly attacks by Hezbollah on French nationals have not persuaded the French government to designate the group as terrorist. Last year, Alain Juppé, the then Foreign Minister of France, accused Hezbollah of attacking French U.N. peacekeepers in Lebanon. However, with Hezbollah constituting part of the Lebanese establishment, the French are reluctant to act against it.

The German government, too, refuses to draw the obvious conclusion regarding Hezbollah, although the German domestic intelligence agency, the Bundesverfassungsschutz, has warned that Hezbollah has over 900 active members in Germany. In 2008, the German Interior Ministry restricted the reception of the programs of the Hezbollah television station Al-Manar in German hotels. Al-Manar is used by Hezbollah to recruit terrorists and communicate with sleeper cells around the globe.

The Netherlands: The Holocaust As Memory Battlefield

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

There are few societies where the contradiction between Holocaust distortion and Holocaust commemoration is as pronounced as it is in the Netherlands. This phenomenon came to the fore earlier this month on National Memorial Day, May 4, designated to commemorate the many victims of the German occupier. One hundred thousand Dutch Jews – more than 70 percent of the country’s pre-war community – were by far the largest group of victims.

The small town of Vorden decided that those participating in the ceremony for Dutch victims could also jointly visit the graves of German soldiers who are buried there. Originally it was intended that the local choir would sing a German song at the graves. That part of the program was soon scrapped. A Jewish organization went to court and obtained an injunction which forbade the mayor – who is a main proponent of whitewashing the war past – to participate in the visit to the German graves. A number of Jews hired a small plane that flew over the town with a banner reading: “Vorden Went Wrong.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center denounced the Vorden authorities: “By honoring the German soldiers who occupied the Netherlands on behalf of the most murderous regime in human history…the local authorities of Vorden have basically rewritten the history of the war, erasing the critical distinction between victims and perpetrators. Such a decision is apparently based on the erroneous assumption that forgiveness automatically leads to reconciliation, ignores the horrific nature of the Nazi regime and is an insult to its victims.”

The Vorden incident did not stand alone. The National Committee for Commemoration chose a 15-year-old boy to read his poem at the National Ceremony in Amsterdam. It commemorated his uncle, after whom he was named, who had joined the Waffen SS. After protests, the reading was cancelled.

Dutch whitewashers and distorters of the Holocaust and the Second World War come from different backgrounds. A number of them are family members of those Dutch who collaborated with Nazi Germany. The Netherlands had 25,000 Waffen SS volunteers, the largest contingent in Western Europe. And there were many other collaborators not limited to members of the Dutch Nazi party.

Related phenomena are the defacing of Holocaust memorials and Jewish sites, swastikas painted on buildings, and anti-Semitic and Holocaust denial postings on Dutch Internet sites Dutch Prime Minister Marc Rutte, who was educated as a historian, said, while he was the parliamentary leader of the liberal faction, that Holocaust denial should not be punished.

On the other hand, it is difficult to find another country where so much attention is given to commemorating its destroyed Jewish communities. Many municipalities clean and maintain Jewish cemeteries on a regular basis. Some organizations and individuals even re-erect fallen gravestones and repaint the lettering.

Not only are there monuments for the murdered Jews in many towns, there are even plans for new ones. Memorial “stumbling” stones embedded in pavements in front of homes where Jews lived before their deaths have been placed in tens of towns and more are planned for the future.

Jewish monuments are “adopted” and cleaned by schoolchildren in some towns. Many synagogues that were no longer in use after the Second World War have been restored in past decades and serve as cultural centers and the like. A few even host Jewish services. There are many other annual memorial activities.

Prime Minister Rutte best embodies the ignorance and ambiguity of many authorities. At the beginning of this year the continued lack of an apology for the Dutch wartime government’s almost total disinterest in the fate of the Dutch Jews became a public issue. Two Freedom Party parliamentarians, Geert Wilders and Raymond de Roon, submitted questions on this matter to the prime minister. Rutte refused to apologize. The reasons he gave were entirely irrelevant to the questions he was asked.

Thus the Netherlands, in its refusal to acknowledge the wartime misconduct of its authorities, remains far behind all other Western European governments.

Much of what has been described above exists in other countries as well, but nowhere is the dichotomy between commemoration and denial as clearly visible as in the Netherlands.

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He has authored or edited 20 books, several of which address anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism.

A Jewish Palimpsest In Maastricht, Netherlands

Friday, May 4th, 2012

Three Medieval Jewish manuscripts
Regional Historic Center Limburg
Sint Pieterstraat 7, Maastricht, Netherlands
http://www.rhcl.nl/

One of my favorite places when I was growing up in Boston was the used bookstore on Beacon and St. Mary’s streets. Boston Book Annex could play a used bookshop on television; it was dimly lit and cavernous, crawling with cats, and packed with a dizzying array of books, many of which sold three for a dollar. But used bookstores of this sort, however picturesque and inviting, are a relatively modern phenomena. In the Middle Ages, for example, I would never have been able to afford even a single used book unless I had been born into an aristocratic family. (Full disclosure, I was not.) Pre-Gutenberg, books might as well have been worth their weight in gold, and even if peasants somehow managed to become literate (which they didn’t), they couldn’t just walk across the street and find a public library. It is within this context that one can begin to understand a palimpsest, or a manuscript that has been repurposed and retooled.

Due to the high price of vellum (animal skin used for book pages), some book owners would decide they weren’t too keen on the text they had inherited or purchased, and they would have the text scraped off the pages. A scribe would then write the new text on top of the old one, which might still appear ghostlike beneath the new text (not unlike a poorly erased Etch A Sketch). New technologies, which are far more effective and less invasive than their predecessors, have allowed scholars to decipher the old texts, although they are barely visible.

One particularly compelling example is the Archimedes Palimpsest Project, which focused on a mathematical work by Archimedes that had been erased by monks after it was acquired by a monastery. Perhaps unaware that he was defacing an otherwise lost work by Archimedes, the monk wrote a new religious text on top of the old one. The restored and carefully imaged text was part of the exhibit “Lost and Found: The Secrets of Archimedes,” which was open from October 16, 2011 to January 1, 2012 at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.

The palimpsest that Johan van de Walle, head of library at the Historisch Centrum Limburg on Sint Pieterstraat in Maastricht, showed me on my recent trip to the Netherlands had undergone something like the opposite kind of journey as the Archimedes book. Whereas the Archimedes text began as a scientific work and was then appropriated in a sacred context, the palimpsest in Maastricht was first a biblical text, and was subsequently turned into a tax register.

The Regional Historic Center Limburg, where Walle works, is itself a sort of palimpsest. Based in an early 14th century Franciscan monastery, which was turned into a state archive in the late 19th century, the archive—whose building has also served as a prison, a sauerkraut factory, and an artist’s studio, according to its website—still contains several tombs, and its documents span more than 11 miles.

First half of the 14th century. Leaf from a manuscript copy of Genesis 42:35 to 43:12. (“Membrum disjectum,” or disjointed element.) Photo by Menachem Wecker.

Walle showed me three Hebrew documents, all of which dated back to the 14th century. The first manuscript comes from a book of Genesis. Mislabeled in the archive as representing Genesis 42:35 to 43:27 (it in fact starts midway through verse 35 of chapter 42 and only goes until midway through the verse 43:12), the manuscript contains a few interesting elements. Whether a result of decay or scribal error, some of the letters are poorly formed (like the first line, for example), but more noteworthy, the scribe struggled with fitting the text on the lines.

On several occasions (for example, the last word on the third line of the right column), the scribe tried to fit a word into the line, only to run out of room and begin the word again on the subsequent line. Other times (such as the seventh line of that column), the scribe anticipated running out of room, so he extended a letter to fill out the rest of the line.

At the end of the first column, another interesting thing happens. The scribe, per usual, had to truncate the last word of the line, but instead of beginning the next line with a new word, he instead repeated the second to last word again. The truncated word, which is sandwiched between two iterations of the same word, isn’t even the correct partial word sequentially. And perhaps most atrociously, the scribe misspelled a word (he left out the final letter) 15 lines down the second column.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/arts/a-jewish-palimpsest-in-maastricht-netherlands/2012/05/04/

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