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April 21, 2015 / 2 Iyar, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Switzerland’

The Circumcision Debate in Germany, Austria and Switzerland

Monday, July 30th, 2012

A German regional court held at the end of June that circumcision of males, practiced by Jews and Muslims, is a “bodily injury” of the child and punishable as a crime. German political leaders reacted against the opinion, and the probability that it would portray today’s Germany in a negative light. The court order will likely be nullified definitively by the German parliament and constitutional court, but anti-circumcision policies have spread to Switzerland and Austria as well.

A month later, on July 20, the German federal parliament, the Bundestag, passed a resolution calling for the protection of the rights of Jewish and Muslim parents to circumcise of their male offspring with medically-qualified personnel. A draft law guaranteeing these religious liberties has been proposed for introduction this autumn.

The action by German politicians was followed, however, by news that two medical institutions in Switzerland, the Children’s Hospital in Zurich and the St. Gallen teaching hospital, decided temporarly to suspend circumcision of infants unless medically necessary.

Then, on July 24, came an order by Markus Wallberg, governor of the western Austrian province of Vorarlberg, also prohibiting the circumcision of males for non-medical reasons in all public hospitals, pending clarification of the German situation.

The Cologne case originated in November 2010, when a four-year old Muslim boy was circumcised at a clinic in the city, on the request of his parents. After two days, because the child was bleeding, the parents took him to the emergency room at the University Hospital of Cologne.

The public prosecutor in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia filed a complaint against the doctor who performed the procedure. The lower, district court determined in June 2012 that the doctor was blameless, and the doctor was acquitted. The district court held that circumcision was a form of “bodily injury,” but was justified by the approval of the parents, the cultural prevalence of circumcision among Muslims, and evidence of medical advantages among circumcised males.

Medical researchers have affirmed that circumcised males are less susceptible to sexually-transmitted diseases and to penile cancer. Der Spiegel acknowledged that “It remains undisputed that circumcision leads to better hygiene and can also be helpful in preventing some forms of cancer,” but noted that while common in the U.S., Israel, Muslim countries, and elsewhere, male circumcision is less widespread in Europe. Currently, about 55 percent of newborns in the U.S. are circumcised. Only 11 percent of German males are circumcised.

The public prosecutor in North Rhine-Westphalia appealed and the case was moved up to a regional court. The regional court also rejected the charge against the doctor in the matter, ruling that the “grey area” of legal uncertainty about male circumcision left the practitioner innocent. The judges, however, reaffirmed that, as a precedent for the future, circumcision was a form of “bodily injury” that was not justified by the parents’ wishes, and was unnecessary for the health of the child.

The regional court determined that the child’s “right to physical integrity” was more important than the constitutionally-guaranteed religious rights of the parents. The judges held that the religious freedom of parents, and their right to decide how to raise their children, would not be restricted if they were compelled to wait until the child himself decided whether he wanted to be circumcised. As described by the German weekly Der Spiegel, the court concluded that “a child’s right to self-determination should come first.”

The regional court opinion did not apply to the whole of Germany. But the Berlin Jewish Hospital announced that in accord with the law, it would suspend circumcision for religious purposes.

The controversy brought universal condemnation of Germany by Jewish and Muslim representatives, who were joined by Christian religious leaders in condemning the court action. Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that the criminalization of circumcision could make Germany a “laughing-stock” of the world. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle pointed out that it would harm Germany’s efforts to present itself as a tolerant country. Many commentators agreed that the court opinion was especially problematic because of Germany’s history of anti-Jewish genocide during World War II.

Religious leaders were more severe in their comments. Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis, called the court decision the worst attack on Jews in Germany since the Holocaust. Noting that the opinion was based on the ostensible rights of the child, Rabbi Goldschmidt warned that “the language of the human rights” is a new medium for anti-Jewish prejudice.

The Divine Suha and Arafat’s Iconic Underwear

Monday, July 9th, 2012

http://fresnozionism.org/2012/07/the-divine-suha-and-arafats-iconic-underwear/ As you may know, Suha Arafat, the widow of the Original Terrorist, went to al-Jazeera with a few pieces of Arafat’s clothing and claimed that she had kept them in a ‘secure room’ since his death in 2004.  After a “nine-month investigation,” al-Jazeera breathlessly reported that

…tests reveal that Arafat’s final personal belongings – his clothes, his toothbrush, even his iconic kaffiyeh – contained abnormal levels of polonium, a rare, highly radioactive element. Those personal effects, which were analyzed at the Institut de Radiophysique in Lausanne, Switzerland, were variously stained with Arafat’s blood, sweat, saliva and urine. The tests carried out on those samples suggested that there was a high level of polonium inside his body when he died.

“I can confirm to you that we measured an unexplained, elevated amount of unsupported polonium-210 in the belongings of Mr. Arafat that contained stains of biological fluids,” said Dr. Francois Bochud, the director of the institute.

The findings have led Suha Arafat, his widow, to ask the Palestinian Authority to exhume her late husband’s body from its grave in Ramallah. If tests show that Arafat’s bones contain high levels of polonium, it would be more conclusive proof that he was poisoned, doctors say.

Well. A sensation! The diabolical Zionists poisoned him after all!

The only problem is that Suha apparently majored in French haute couture, not physics. And the staff of al-Jazeera like a good story more than a reasonable one.

The half-life of Polonium-210 is 138 days. This means that after 8 years, only about 4.3 x 10-7 — 0.00000043 — of the original amount of Polonium would be left. So even if Arafat’s iconic underwear had been loaded with the stuff after his death, it would be undetectable, or at least at much lower levels than the Swiss laboratory found.

As Johnny Cochran would have pointed out, there is a problem with the chain of custody of the evidence.

What is more interesting is the half-life of the money that Suha extracted from the Palestinian Authority (PA), which of course is supported by the US and the European Union.

When Arafat died in November 2004, hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, of dollars in his secret accounts went missing. Suha refused to release Arafat’s body for a week, until the PA agreed to pay her an adequate pension (estimates range from$12,000 to $100,000 monthly).

It’s doubtful that she needed it. Earlier that year, French prosecutors investigated $11.4 million of mysterious payments into her accounts:

The inquiry, disclosed by a satirical French weekly, Le Canard Enchaîné, and confirmed by unidentified judicial officials to The Associated Press, was opened in October after the Bank of France notified the Paris prosecutor’s office that Mrs. Arafat’s accounts at two banks in France had received relatively regular transfers of nearly $1.27 million each from Switzerland between July 2002 and September 2003. The newspaper also reported that about $2.5 million of the money had been diverted to an account of an interior decorating firm, Alberto Pinto.

The PA today is undergoing what it calls its “worst financial crisis” in three years, being unable to pay its employees. Most of these employees are part of its ‘security’ forces, who from time to time murder Israelis. Many of them are in Hamas-controlled Gaza, where they are either doing nothing or working for Hamas. Some are in Israeli prisons, having been convicted of crimes including multiple murder (they get paid anyway). And then there are the pensions paid to the widows of ‘martyrs’, suicide and otherwise.

Maybe Suha will make a donation?

Jewish Leader Chastises Swiss Policy on Iran

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

The general secretary of Switzerland’s Jewish community has reprimanded the Swiss government for failing to enact sanctions against Iran, despite full implementation by the EU and US.

“We regret the attitude of Switzerland, which one again stands in contrast to the policies of other Western states,” Jonathan Kreutner, general secretary of the 18,000-member Jewish community said in an interview with the Jerusalem Post.

“Especially at a time in which Western states are seeking to oppose the Iranian nuclear threat through intensified economic sanctions, we find Switzerland’s actions worrisome,” he said.

The Swiss government announced a sanctions package last week in which they froze the assets of 11 Iranian nationals and companies.

The Central Bank of Iran was untouched by the sanction, as was Iran’s primary oil and gas trade company in Switzerland.

Jewish Medals At TEFAF

Friday, April 6th, 2012

The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) March 16-25, 2012 (25 year anniversary) Maastricht, Netherlands http://www.tefaf.com/

It’s virtually impossible to ignore the financial aspects of TEFAF Maastricht, the annual arts and antiques fair in the historic city about two hours south of Amsterdam. More than 250 dealers from nearly 20 countries sell their wares—which span from Greek and Roman antiquities to contemporary sculptures—in the halls of the Maastricht Exhibition and Congress Centre, whose corridors are adorned by nearly 65,000 tulips.

Some of the most fascinating displays of wealth at TEFAF were small change, so to speak—or at least they used to be. Tucked away in display cases at booths are a trove of coins (used for currency) and medals (non-legal tender), that although less dazzling than the wall-dominating medieval paintings and life-sized contemporary sculptures, are no less worthy of close examination. In fact, four medals at two vendors (Nomos in Switzerland, and Tradart in Belgium and Switzerland) are of particular interest to those who are passionate about Jewish art.

A silver medal representing Tsar Alexander I of Russia (1801-1825), labeled “The Emancipation of Russian Jews,” shows Alexander on the front (obverse), wearing the eight-pointed star of the Order of St. Andrew, Russia’s patron saint. The tsar, identified by the inscription “Alexandro,” is shown in profile dressed in armor. On the reverse side of the medal, the Jewish community is personified by a bearded (and perhaps helmeted) man looking heavenward with his hands clasped in prayer—or, as the vendor, Tradart, describes it, “as a token of gratitude to the tsar for the laws of 1804 granting Jews relative emancipation.” A Latin inscription declares, “He freed the Jews from burden, February 9, 1805.”

In front of the figure, who is dressed in biblical rather than contemporary garb, is an altar of sorts, with laurel wreaths and a flame. According to Tradart, the medal is thought to have been struck outside of Russia, with a golden copy presented personally to Alexander I. “In that case, it would precede by many years any other issuance by the Jewish community of Russia,” according to the gallery. “Knowing that engraver, Paul Merker, came from Brunswick, it could substantiate the claim that it was commissioned by the Jews of Berlin.”

Another medal at Tradart’s booth is a rectangular bronze plate commemorating the inauguration of Frankfort’s synagogue. The Hebrew inscription, “house of prayer of the upright” (depending on how one translates the word Yeshurun), appears above a sun setting (or rising) over the Frankfurt synagogue. Some of the floral details adorning the arch over the Hebrew inscription and along the sides of the plate resemble the shape of the Hebrew letter Shin, the first letter of one of the divine names and, therefore, many mezuzah cases and other Judaica objects. And beneath the synagogue representation, another Hebrew inscription offers the Hebrew date of the inauguration.

The composition of the commemorative plate evokes the title page of Soncino’s editions of the Talmud (among other secular publishing designs). Three steps (which could symbolize any number of Jewish things) lead up the synagogue, which is circumscribed by an arch and two columns. The synagogue is represented in remarkable detail, but the artist has devoted equal—if not more—attention to the borders of the piece and the inscriptions. It’s worth noting, though, that some of the inscriptions seem to be confused, as some letters are slightly more elongated than they should be, and others are imprecisely formed.

A silver medal offered by Nomos also contains Hebrew inscriptions, but doesn’t necessarily have much to do with the Jewish community. The king appears in profile, wearing what might be the Order of the Golden Fleece (it’s tough to make out, but the interlocking shapes in the chain appear to be the iconic Burgundian ‘B’). Henry VIII was hardly a friend of the Jews (there were taxes and pogroms, among other oppressions), although by some accounts, Henry VIII enlisted Jewish scholars and their biblical expertise to justify his controversial divorce from Catherine of Aragon and subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn.

On the reverse side of the silver medal, inscriptions in Hebrew and Greek declare Henry VIII not only king, but “supreme head of the Church of England and Ireland,” according to Nomos. The Hebrew and Greek inscriptions, as the other two biblical languages besides Latin (which appears on the front of the medal), “affirm the legitimacy of Henry’s appointment,” according to the website of the British Museum, which owns one of two gold versions of the medal.

But a close inspection of the Hebrew inscription yields a different text. The word Messiah appears prominently, and although one can make out the term “community of England,” Ireland doesn’t appear. One term that is unaccounted for in the translation is Kush, and another 10-letter word doesn’t seem to be transcribed properly. More work can certainly be done on the inscription of this medal, although Richard Bishop’s Hebraica Veritas essay on the medal is very informative, particularly in its tracing of the humanism of the time and growing interests in Greek and Hebrew. A Hebrew font was developed in Venice by Teobaldo Mannucci in the very late 15th century, according to Bishop, and study of biblical Hebrew allowed scholars to understand the bible ad fontem (“at the source”)—although through a Christian lens, of course.

From Five Kinds Of Hamburger To Mini Merguez

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Armed with a clever name, an award-winning chef, and a remarkable menu, Meat Me is poised to take the world of Kosher cuisine by storm.

Meat Me opened its doors half a year ago on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, and it has slowly been gaining a reputation among high class kosher diners as an excellent place for a lunch, dinner, or party. The restaurant is not very large and the décor provides a cozy and comfortable setting without being cramped. The walls are covered with large works of art and hanging tapestries and the atmosphere is relaxing as the veteran staff makes the experience of eating there a pleasure – and that allows one to focus on the best part of Meat Me, the fantastic food.

Meat Me is the latest project of culinary master Chef Serge Gorge. Born in Luxemburg, raised in Eilat, and trained in Switzerland, Chef Gorge has been the executive chef at restaurants around the world, and he has seamlessly blended together the various flavors of his international experience to craft Meat Me’s unique and exciting menu. The menu features some exquisite French dishes, like the Vole au vent de riz a la Parisienne appetizer ($19), but also keeps everyone at the table happy with its distinctly American hamburger options (the restaurant offers five types of burgers – including bison [$21]). “The hamburgers have been one of the most popular dishes,” says Gorge, “but people have been trying everything on the menu.”

My favorite menu offering is the appetizer sampler plate (for two people, $29), which contains tasters of five of the restaurant’s fantastic appetizers including mini peking duck and mini merguez (a spicy lamb based sausage), accompanied by three delicious dipping sauces.

Meat Me’s Peking duck

For the main course, my wife and I ordered two of the restaurants several steak options, and although we like our steaks prepared very differently, we were both extremely pleased with our dishes. The pepper encrusted rib-eye filet with brandy flambé peppercorn ($35) is served in a peppercorn sauce that is so rich and creamy it’s hard to believe it’s not dairy. For dessert we tried the molten chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream, a kosher restaurant mainstay that Meat Me has successfully mastered.

The front of the restaurant is comprised of a traditional bar as well as a sushi bar and a full array of sushi is available. Offering sushi on the menu is no longer enough of a novelty to be impressive on its own, but the sushi at Meat Me – while clearly not the focus of the restaurant – is made with extremely fresh ingredients and adds another appealing option for diners.

The restaurant is co-owned and operated by Gorge’s wife Yardena, and the two make quite the team. “She is really the boss,” says Chef Gorge, “she leaves me free to be in the kitchen and prepare my dishes.”

One of the advantages of Meat Me’s location is their ability to serve meals on Shabbos and Pesach. The restaurant offers diners the ability to prepay and then join them for a Friday night meal. They are also becoming kosher for Pesach, and in addition to being open on Chol HaMoed they are ambitiously offering Seder meals.

Meat Me is a restaurant that should be on everyone’s radar when looking for a place for a fine meal in New York City.

Visit www.meatmeny.com to see full menus, make reservations, and learn more about Shabbos and Pesach meals.

Hamas Official to Speak at Human Rights Council

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

The Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported today that senior Hamas official Ismail al-Ashqar is set to speak before the United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday.

Al-Ashqar arrived in Switzerland on Sunday, ahead of a talk which will address the issue of Hamas members being held in Israeli jails.

Economic Volatility, Hyper Consumption And The ‘Wealth Of Nations’

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Adam Smith published his Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations in 1776. A revolutionary book, Wealth did not aim to support the interests of any one particular class, but rather the overall well being of an entire nation. He sought, as every American high school student learns, “an invisible hand,” whereby “the private interests and passions of men” will lead to “that which is most agreeable to the interest of a whole society.”

Still, this system of “perfect liberty,” as he called it, could never be based upon encouragements of needless consumption. Instead, argued Smith, the laws of the market, driven by competition and a consequent “self-regulation,” actually demanded explicit disdain for any gratuitous or vanity-driven consumption.

What does this all mean for better understanding of the current economic dislocations and volatility? Above all, it suggests that modern commentators and pundits often speak in blithe disregard for Smith’s true beliefs, ignoring that his primary concern for consumption was always tempered and bounded by a genuine hatred for “conspicuous consumption” (a phrase to be used more pointedly by Thorsten Veblen in a later century).

For Adam Smith, it was only proper that the market regulate both the price and quantity of goods according to the final arbiter of public demand, yet, he continued, this market ought never to be manipulated by any avaricious interferers. In fact, Smith plainly excoriated all those who would artificially create or encourage any such contrived demand as mischievously vain meddlers of “mean rapacity.”

Today, of course, where engineered demand and hyper consumption are permanent and allegedly purposeful features of the market, especially here in the United States, we have lost all sight of Smith’s “natural liberty.” As a result, we try, foolishly and interminably, to build our economic recovery and vitality upon sand. Below the surface, we still fail to recognize, lurks a core problem that is not at all economic, fiscal or financial. Rather, as Adam Smith would have understood, it is a starkly psychological and deeply human dilemma.

Wall Street’s persisting fragility is largely a mirror image of Main Street’s insatiable drive toward hyper consumption. This manipulated drive, so utterly execrable to Adam Smith, has already become so overwhelming that many learned economists warn us sternly against saving too much.
If only we could all buy just a little more, they argue, life in America would be better. Retail sales are the authentic barometer of the “good life.”

Collectively, our national economic effort is always oriented, breathlessly, toward buying more. Many of our country’s troubling and troubled economic policies are a more-or-less direct consequence of this sorely misdirected effort. Until we can get an effective reversal of the frenetic public need for more and more things, any recovery will remain transient and partial.

Not from the start has contrived demand been a basic driving force of our economy. Obviously, before television and before our newer surrenders to an avalanche of high-tech gadgets, such demand would not have had any such compelling power. Nonetheless, for the foreseeable future, it will take herculean efforts to detach healthy patterns of consumption from a distressingly ceaseless barrage of advertisement.

At the recently played Super Bowl, millions of viewers watched the proceedings not for the gridiron activity, but for the commercials. In a society that has now come to loathe any genuine hint of intellect or serious thought, even in universities, television commercials are hailed unashamedly as a discrete and clever genre.

What kind of an economy must rely on engineered consumption for both its buoyancy and its survival? Writing during the middle of the nineteenth century, the American Transcendentalist philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, spoke presciently of “self-reliance.” Foolish “reliance upon property,” Emerson had understood, is the unwanted result of “a want of self‑reliance.”

Today, still living apprehensively amid urgings of imitation and a delirious collectivism (“rugged individualism” is a plainly silly myth still dutifully recorded in primary school textbooks), the always-fearful American wants more or less desperately to project a “successful” image. This projection, in turn, remains founded upon material acquisition, upon a cornucopia that is recognizably laden with “all the right things.”

The relentless conformist call of American mass society insidiously undermines our core economy. This deafening cry, one that would have scandalized Adam Smith, is proclaimed throughout the land as gospel truth. Everywhere, it reigns triumphal.

To create a robust economy and a stable stock market, we Americans will first have to reorient our society from its corrupted ambience of mass taste. Surely, there is still great beauty in the world, but it is best for us not to search for it exclusively on television, at the movies or on Facebook.
In that large part of America that knows very little of Wall Street, there is often great fragility, restless anxiety and palpable unhappiness. Taught again and again that respect and success will lie comfortingly in high salaries, and in corollary patterns of high consumption, the dutiful American mass now celebrates fitting in. At the same time, it generally abhors real literature, serious learning and any tilt toward “self reliance.”

Ritualistically, in yet another stupefying pretense of democracy, we Americans will turn again and again to elections. Stubbornly patriotic, these transient diversions will certainly offer us a more or less pleasing amalgam of searing anger, hackneyed gossip and reassuring clichés. But as a convenient activity that serves to obscure an otherwise-evident plutocracy, these cheerfully prescribed excursions into politics will have little meaningful or enduring effect upon the sustainability of our economic markets.

As with hyper-consumption and engineered demand, no politics can ever rescue our economy. Adam Smith would have agreed.

 

LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), and is Professor of International Law at Purdue University. The author of ten major books and several hundred scholarly articles on world affairs, his columns appear in many major American and European newspapers and magazines. Professor Beres was born in Zürich, Switzerland, on August 31, 1945.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/louis-bene-beres/economic-volatility-hyper-consumption-and-the-wealth-of-nations/2011/05/25/

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