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February 1, 2015 / 12 Shevat, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Spain’

Europe’s Financial Crisis Weighs on Israel’s Economic Outlook

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

The austerity package passed by Spain’s parliament last Thursday has done little to calm economic jitters worldwide, with the effects being felt in Israel as the Bank of Israel (BoI) is set to decide today whether to lower its key interest rate for a second straight month.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservative People’s Party pushed through the controversial plan to cut state spending by some $80 billion, despite stiff resistance from opposition parties. The package includes a rise in the Value-Added Tax (VAT) rate from 18 percent to 21 percent and the reduction of unemployment benefits. Spain is struggling with an unemployment rate of around 25%, and has sought to ease its banking crisis by obtaining a bailout from the Eurozone.

On the same day that the austerity package was passed, German parliament approved an aid package for the Spanish banking sector worth approximately $146 billion. Many commentators in Germany expressed concern over the utility of another bailout. German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung commented: “The reality is that Spain is getting aid with loosened conditions. Soon Italy will ask, too. And the other reality is that, instead of investors, once again (mainly German) taxpayers will have to pay for the faulty speculation of banks.”

In Israel, the opening of the trading week on Monday morning saw the shekel-dollar exchange rate crossing the NIS 4/$1 line. The current shekel-dollar rate is at a three-year high, while the shekel-euro rate is 0.68% lower, at NIS 4.8705/€1. Later on Monday, the BoI is expected to announce its key interest rate for August, with some analysts speculating that the rate will be lowered for a second straight month, from 2.25% to 2%. Last month, the BoI cut the rate from 2.5% to its current rate.

Moti Bassok and Ram Ozeri, writing in Haaretz, explained that while a cheaper shekel makes Israeli imports more enticing, lower interest rates diminish foreign demand for shekel-based investments – which in turn tends to lower the shekel’s value. Supporters of an interest rate cut cite recent slower economic growth and weak foreign trade figures. The recent performance of Spanish government bonds have heightened fears that Spain will require much more assistance than last week’s $146 billion bailout, and Spain’s fiscal difficulties are causing the Euro to tumble, reaching a new low of approximately $1.2083/€1.

Israel is watching the continuing European debt crisis warily, as the European Union is Israel’s top trading partner. But despite Europe’s economic woes and trepidation in Israel, the EU is set to intensify relations with Israel by approving up to 60 new cooperative initiatives, according to AFP.

The initiatives are expected to be endorsed on Tuesday at the the annual Israel-EU Association Council meetings in Brussels. Predictably, they are sparking indignation from certain corners, as they come only two months after the EU’s statement condemning Israel for actions that “threaten to make a two-state solution impossible” – ie. settlement building, “settler extremism,” and “provocations against Palestinian civilians.”

According to AFP, the initiatives will include heightened cooperation in the energy and transportation sectors, and more closely-coordinated relations with a variety of EU agencies.

A European diplomat, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, was critical of increasing bilateral relations, saying: “Once again we’re hearing critical words on the one hand but it’s business as usual on the other…EU statements on the peace process are no more than theatre.”

Paul Hirschson, deputy spokesman at Israel’s foreign ministry, pointed out that the increased cooperation “is related to the existing work plan rather than some sort of upgrade, because that way the EU would have to find a way of delinking it from the peace process.”

In 2008, Israel’s attempt to enhance ties with the EU was stifled when the bloc suspended discussions because of Israel’s offensive against the Hamas regime in Gaza. It thereafter declared that any progress in bilateral relations would be conditional on progress in the Middle East peace process.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman left for Brussels on Monday and will be attending a meeting of the Israel-EU Association Council.

Report: Online Anti-Semitism in Spain Doubled in 2011

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Online anti-Semitism in Spain doubled in volume last year, according to a Spanish Jewish community monitor.

In a report on anti-Semitism in Spain in 2011, the Observatory on Anti-Semitism in Spain counted more than 1,000 anti-Semitic sites and web pages that the observatory says were created in Spain. In 2010 the observatory counted only 400 such sites. The observatory includes Spanish Facebook pages and groups in its reports.

The document on 2011 is the observatory’s third annual monitor report. The observatory was co-founded by the Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain.

The observatory received a total of 57 reports of anti-Semitic incidents in 2011. Of those, it deemed 42 to be anti-Semitic. In 2010, the center received half this number of reports.

“There is growing public awareness of the [observatory] initiative,” a Jewish federation spokesperson said.

A few of the incidents reported involved heckling of Jews in public. On Sept. 17, a group of youths confronted members of a Jewish cultural group at a mall in Saragossa. The youths allegedly told the group that Jews were “fascists, racist murderers” and that “there should be no Jews in the world.”

Spain, a nation of some 47 million people, has approximately 50,000 Jews.

The similarly-sized Dutch Jewish community registered 123 anti-Semitic incidents in 2011 throughout the Netherlands, with a population of 17 million people. During 2011, “there has been notable progress in the legal field, as well as increased efforts in the fight against anti-Semitism,” the report said.

The observatory nonetheless called on the political establishment to address “ambiguous wording” in the penal code. This, according to the observatory, leads to “contradictions” in the fight against hate crimes.

Radical Islam Spreading in Spain

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

Two Islamists have been arrested in Spain on charges of torturing and murdering two fellow Muslims for “abandoning radical Islam.”

The arrests came just days after Spanish newspapers reported that jihadists in Spain are travelling to Syria to help overthrow the government there.

Spanish authorities say the incidents, on top of many others in recent months, point to the accelerating spread in the country of radical Salafi Islam, which Spain’s National Intelligence Center, the CNI, in a leaked secret report — corroborated by the Spanish Institute for Strategic Studies, an organization tied to the Spanish Ministry of Defense, in its own recently published a 43-page report entitled, “Islamist Movements in Spain” — states is increasingly posing the greatest threat to national security.

Rachid Mohamed Abdellah and Nabil Mohamed Chaib, both of whom are Spanish citizens of Moroccan origin, were jailed after being questioned by Judge Eloy Velasco at the National Court (Audiencia Nacional) in Madrid on June 28.

Police say the two men, aged 25 and 30 respectively, are members of an Islamist cell based in the city of Melilla, a Spanish exclave on the northern coast of Morocco. They are accused of torturing and murdering two other members of the cell who “adopted Western behavior and tried to disengage from radical Islam.” Spanish authorities say the murders were meted out according to Islamic Sharia law, which calls for the killing of “infidels.”

Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz said the suspects are “capable of carrying out especially brutal attacks,” and share “the same radical orthodoxy” of the Islamists who carried out the March 2004 Madrid train bombings in which 191 people were killed and 1,800 wounded.

At a news conference following the arrests, the Director General of Spanish Police, Ignacio Cosidó, said: “They were part of an extremely radical group, and had committed a double murder of two members of their own organization who had shown signs of wanting to leave. Their ideology is clearly jihadi and they believe in terrorism as a means to achieve their objectives. Therefore, they posed a threat of the highest order.”

Abdellah and Chaib were arrested in the Melilla neighborhood of Cañada de Hidum after an extended confrontation with police, who – pelted with rocks and bottles by local Muslims – were forced to call for reinforcements.

Spanish police further state that the cell was composed mainly of Spanish citizens of North African origin living in Melilla, and Moroccans living in Farkhana, Morocco. The suspects were engaged in recruiting and indoctrinating Muslim youths for training in jihadist camps or war zones in places such as Afghanistan. The cell was notable for its secrecy and for the adoption of strong internal security measures aimed at keeping its activities clandestine.

Members of the cell were forced to live a life of submission to the Takfiri branch of Islam, a violent offshoot of fundamentalist Saudi Salafism, that seeks to establish an Islamic Caliphate [empire] in the Middle East and large parts of Europe. Among other beliefs, Takfiris consider violence to be a legitimate method to achieve their religious and political goals.

The arrests come just days after the Madrid-based newspaper El País reported that jihadists from Ceuta, another Spanish exclave in northern Morocco, have been travelling to Syria to help overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad. The report states that one of the jihadists, a 33-year-old taxi driver, Rachid Wahbi, was killed just days after arriving in Syria.

Spanish police say the jihadists, many of whom are Spanish citizens, have been travelling from Ceuta to Málaga and then on to Madrid, from where they board flights to Istanbul. Once in Turkey, they make contact with jihadists who facilitate their entry into Syria.

Police believe the jihadists from Ceuta involve Takfiris who, in the Los Caracolas district of the city, attend a mosque considered the most radical of the 33 mosques in Ceuta because of its links to Salafism. Spanish police say the jihadists also meet regularly in homes in the Condesa neighborhood of Ceuta, where they watch videos on jihad.

Separately, nine Islamists accused of planning terrorist attacks aimed at “liberating” Spain for Islam were found not guilty by the National Court in Madrid in April 2012.

Foster Son of Jewish Mom Leads Italy to Final

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Mario Balotelli, who scored two amazing goals against Germany June 28, to take Italy into the Euro 12 soccer championship final against Spain on Sunday (which they lost 4-0, and were totally outclassed by the world champion) – grew up as the foster son of a Jewish mother.

Balotelli talked about his adoptive Jewish mother when the Italian national squad visited Auschwitz ahead of the start of the games (Many teams did it this year, possibly because the games were held this year in both Poland and the Ukraine. It’s probably a good thing to let the players know what their hosts are capable of.)

JTA reported that “a white supremacist website called Stormfront attacked Balotelli, who is black, with vicious racist and anti-Semitic insults.”

He's black and Jewish -- I wish he played for Israel...

He’s black and Jewish — I wish he played for Israel…

“He’s black and Jewish he should play for Israel not Italy,” wrote one commenter on Stormfront, as reported by JTA.

I searched the Stormfront site, a huge message board system, really, for the comment, which, frankly, didn’t register as so vicious and racist on my scale. But all I found there was another picture of Balotelli and his mom, with the statement: “Filthy disgusting nation wreckers.”

There was another message, celebrating the fact that JTA gave Stormfront a plug…

Oh, those Nazis and Jews, when will they ever learn to get along…

I’ve been a fan of the Italian team since 2006, when they made millions of Germans cry at the semifinals, scoring two consecutive goals in the last two minutes of an overtime period. This year, thanks to Mamma Silvia Balotelli’s kid, they did it again to the Germans, and made my day.

“At the final whistle, the Italy striker embraced Silvia Balotelli, who brought him up from the age of two after he was born in Italy to Ghanaian immigrants,” reported the website Footballcracy.

“After the game, when I went to my mum I said ‘these goals are for you‘,”Balotelli told reporters. “I waited for this moment for so long and I wanted to make my mamma happy. Tonight was the most beautiful of my life – but I hope that this Sunday is even better.”

Well, it wasn’t, Italy lost to Spain, 4-0 in Kiev, Ukraine, to my chagrin, too.

An article on Moked, the website of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, called the embrace “an emotion for all Italians and a special emotion for Italian Jews.”

JTA reported that Balotelli, who plays for Manchester City, was born Mario Barwuah to Ghanaian immigrant parents in Palermo. He suffered from health problems as a small child and eventually his financially strapped parents placed him in the care of Francesco and Silvia Balotelli.

A writer in the Italian Jewish monthly Pagine Ebraiche called Balotelli “the symbol of the commitment that brings together the experience of immigration, of acceptance and of success. But [he is] also a tribute to his adoptive mother, the Italian Jew who welcomed the child and whose family suffered during the dark years of the Shoah.”

See? It all comes together in the end. Wish they’d have beaten Spain, though, payback for 1492.

Eurocrisis: Russia Offers Its Services

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Europe’s politicians will not admit it openly but they are afraid that the dire economic situation in countries such as Greece and Spain might lead to revolution. In two weeks’ time, the Greeks will go to the voting booths again. The far-left Syriza party is leading in the polls. During the past months, violence has hit the streets of Athens and Thessaloniki. Desperate people are committing suicide in public, reminding Europe’s leaders that the so-called Arab Spring, which toppled many Arab regimes, was triggered in December 2010 by the self-immolation of a street vendor in Tunisia.

Later this month, Greece needs a new round of €5.2 billion in bailout funds from the other European Union countries. In return, the Greeks must pass €14.5 billion worth of austerity measures. With a newly elected Greek parliament unwilling to introduce them, however, and with Greek politicians threatening to annul prior loan agreements, other countries are unwilling to come forward with new funds. Meanwhile, Greek citizens are moving their money out of the country, exacerbating the situation of Greece’s banks. The prospect of a bankruptcy of Greece, and of the country leaving the eurozone, seems ever more likely. Grexit – as the European media call the scenario of Greece leaving the euro – is a possibility. But how will the Greek people react? If the level of anger and frustration keeps rising in Greece, the country might descend into chaos.

The situation is equally unstable in Cyprus. The economic situation of this strategically located country is inextricably intertwined with that of Greece. A collapse of Greece will drag Cyprus along with it. Economists expect that to keep Cyprus afloat, it will need between €25 and 50 billion from the other EU countries. If the EU does not provide the money, others might. Last December, Russia already gave Cyprus a bilateral loan of €3 billion. Russia is definitely capable of bailing Cyprus out. The Russians, however, are likely to want something in return. If Russia steps in, the strategic situation in the entire Eastern Mediterranean could change. Given the large gas supplies in the waters around Cyprus, Turkey, too, is interested in gaining a stronger foothold in Cyprus. Can Israel tolerate this?

Greece and Cyprus are not the only countries in Southern Europe that are heading for political instability. In Portugal, Spain, and Italy there have also been street protests in response to austerity measures. The EU is particularly worried about Spain. Last week, the Spanish Socialist former Prime Minister Gonzalez said that his country is in a “state of total emergency.” Spain is heading full speed for a debacle.

Last month, panic-stricken Spanish citizens withdrew more than €70 billion from Spanish banks and moved it to foreign safe havens. While Greece is confronting Grexit, Spain is already in the grip of what the European media call Spanic. The Spanish banking sector is about to collapse. Bankia, Spain’s third largest bank, urgently needs the Spanish government to bail it out with €21 billion. Bankia, a state-owned institution which was formed last year out of the ruins of seven regional banks which could no longer shoulder the huge losses of the Spanish real estate crash, is virtually bankrupt. To save the Spanish banks, however, the debt-ridden government in Madrid needs at least €90 billion.

Meanwhile, with youth unemployment higher than 50%, Spain’s younger generation has no prospects whatever. They have nothing to lose and, hence, can be easily persuaded to rebel against a political system that seems incapable of offering them hope for a better future. This is a politically dangerous situation, which the United States should be taking into account. The whole of Southern Europe might soon be in turmoil.

If Spain goes down the drain, Italy is bound to follow. And if Italy, the third largest economy in the EU, goes, France is likely to go as well. The Europeans are preparing for disaster. In May, economic activity in the eurozone countries, including France and Germany, contracted at the fastest rate since June 2009.

Last week, the heads of government of the eurozone countries met in Brussels for their 19th emergency gathering since the eurocrisis began two years ago. Spain, Italy, and France have stated that they want the European Central Bank to intervene by issuing eurobonds, pooling the sovereign debts of all 17 eurozone countries.

Where Persecuted Jews May Go: In Memoriam, Benzion Netanyahu (1910-2012)

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Throughout history political systems have come to an end when citizens of countries lose faith in them. The state of Israel has not had to face this situation in the extreme, but it has been challenged by so-called “post-Zionism.” Among the themes derogatory towards Israel are that Zionism — the movement of Jewish self-determination which led to the establishment of the state of Israel — is a colonial enterprise; that a Jewish state is by nature undemocratic; that it is basically immoral as it was founded on the domination, or even the ouster — by force and other means — of another people; that the creation of Israel caused a catastrophe for Palestinian Arabs; that Israeli occupation of disputed territory is a violation of human rights; that Israel is an imperialistic power and a threat to world peace.

This criticism is deficient in many respects. It is a quaintly insular view of Israel — a country in a world of globalization and complex interdependence, confronted by continual hatred so that it must always be prepared to defend itself. Its proponents are singularly naïve in their expectations of a perfect social and politically egalitarian, secular society, and are guilty of prejudice against devout religious believers in a way they are not toward followers of other faiths. Moreover, these critics misunderstand Zionism, a word coined by Nathan Birnbaum in 1891, which in fact includes a pluralistic variety of approaches.

What particular aspects of the different views of Zionism are unacceptable to the critics? Do they want to eliminate the state of Israel? Proponents of Zionism saw that Jews in the Diaspora had been excluded from world history, and so believed it was necessary to establish a state for the Jewish people as a national unit. The Israeli Declaration of Independence speaks of “the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate like other nations.” Advocates varied about the solution: “territorialists” wanted any suitable areas including Uganda where persecuted Jews might go; others demanded a state in Palestine or Eretz Israel [the Biblical Land of Israel]; practical Zionists proposed settlements; others urged a solution by political and diplomatic means; socialists disputed with the political right; nationalists disagreed with internationalists, and the religious coexisted with the free-thinkers.

The post-Zionists argue that Zionism is a colonialist concept essentially founded on injustice towards the local Arabs, and that the differences in Israel now in status, income, and rights between Jews and Israeli Arabs means that the state is therefore undemocratic. The logical conclusion for these critics would be that Israel would be more democratic if it were less Jewish. Herzl and many others would have disagreed with this conclusion. He wrote in his diary in1895 that Jewish settlement would bring immediate benefits to the land, and that “we shall respectfully tolerate persons of other faiths and protect their property, their honor, and their freedom with the harshest means of coercion.”

The fundamental external reality — which seems to escape those who challenge the legitimacy of Israel — is that many Arab countries and Palestinians, having warred and engaged in constant hostility, still refuse to recognize Israel’s legitimacy. Necessarily, security is vital; the problem is to what extent should this interfere with Arab claims to the land and rights? The present mainstream view is that a secure Israel is better than a territorially extended one.

Certainly a variety of opinions exist within Israel on the nature of the economy and the free market, on the cultural identities that make up the mosaic of its society, and on the inequalities both within the Jewish community and between Jews and non-Jews. But to conclude that Zionism is a colonialist or racist movement is to go far beyond rational analysis, and to touch on the periphery of antisemitism.

Although attitudes toward the Arabs in the territory differ, there has never been any official policy to expel them from the territory. In spite of this, Israel’s critics persist in the allegation that Zionism has promoted this view. They are mistaken in this belief as they are in their aversion to the exercise of Israeli power to defend itself, while at the same time shirking any realistic alternative proposals.

The main assertions of critics are that Israel is too nationalistic — that it should no longer be a Jewish state but rather a democratic one, implying an incompatibility between the two; and that Israel should end its occupation of captured territory, even as it stands threatened by many countries that have repeatedly announced they would like to displace it. These critics also conveniently ignore the continual Arab rejection of any compromise solution to the conflict and their repeated rejection of all partition proposals and resolutions. Post-Zionism tends to become anti-Zionism — the denial that Israel has a legitimate right to exist but comfortable with the right to exist of other newly-created states, such as Moldova, or Bangladesh.

Benzion Netanyahu, Father of Prime Minister Benjamin, Dies at 102

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Benzion Netanyahu, the father of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Entebbe rescue hero Yoni Netanyahu, died Monday at his Jerusalem home at the age of 102. The elder Netanyahu was visited by his son Benjamin for the last time on Sunday at the family home on 4 Haportzim Street.  He will be laid to rest on Monday at 5pm at Jerusalem’s Har Menuchot Cemetery.

Benzion Netanyahu served as secretary to Revisionist Zionist proponent and Beitar leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky, served as editor for the Encyclopaedia Hebraica, and served as professor emeritus at Cornell University.

Born in Warsaw on March 25, 1910 as Benzion Milikovsky, he and his family immigrated to Israel in 1920.  In 1944, he married Tzila Segal, with whom he had three sons: Yonatan, born 1946, a former commander of the elite Sayeret Matkal who was killed in the 1976 Operation Entebbe rescue of 102 Israeli and other hostages, Benjamin, born 1949, and Ido, born 1952, a radiologist, author, and playwright.

Working as the secretary of Zionist icon Ze’ev Jabotinsky, Netanyahu maintained a belief in Jewish sovereignty over the Greater Land of Israel, including parts of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt.  He was one of the signers of a petition against the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine in 1947.

Benzion’s strong Zionist values were a major part of Benjamin’s upbringing.  The prime minister’s father imparted on him the importance of protecting Jewish heritage sites such as Hebron.  He advocated a tough stance in the region, and predicted that threats to world peace would emerge from parts of the Muslim world harboring violence, terror, nuclear power, and oil.

According to a report in Haaretz, Prime Minister Netanyahu stated that his father predicted a Muslim attack on the Twin Towers in New York, as well as the rise of tyrannical Islamic regimes which would make efforts to attain nuclear weapons.

In his last interview with Channel 2 news – at the age of 99, Benzion stated that his powerful son does not support a Palestinian state.  “He supports the kind of (diplomatic) conditions they (the Palestinians) would never in the world accept,” Benzion said.  “That’s what I heard from him.  Not from me – he put forth the conditions.  These conditions – they will never be accepted, not even one of them.”

“No, No, Herzl and Landau did not toil in order to build a Palestinian state,” Benzion told the reporter.  “This land is a land of the Jews, not a land of the Arabs.  There is no room here for Arabs, there will not be, and they will never negotiate to terms (which would create a Palestinian state).”

Moreover, Benzion believed that Arab citizens are a threat to the fabric of Israel, and that they would conflict with the Jews by nature.  “The tendency to conflict is in the essence of the Arab.  He is an enemy by essence… His existence is one of perpetual war,” Benzion is quoted by the Associated Press as telling Maariv in 2009. “The Arab citizens’ goal is to destroy us. They don’t deny that they want to destroy us.”

Benzion was a strong opponent of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Jewish communities in Gaza known as Gush Katif.  The forced expulsion of Jewish residents who wanted to remain in the area was a “crime against humanity”, according to Benzion.

As an academic, Netanyahu specialized in Medieval Spanish Jewry.  In his controversial book on the subject, he rejected the theory that the Spanish Inquisition was a result of Jewish isolationism or separatism, saying Spanish Jews were interested in assimilating into Christian society and Spanish culture, and were forced into being Marranos when their efforts to shed their Jewishness did not afford them full acceptance.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/benzion-netanyahu-father-of-prime-minister-benjamin-dies-at-102/2012/04/30/

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