World news

Chasidim stop bike lanes

By Paul Berger, December 10, 2009

For some New Yorkers, cycling is a religion.

So, when the city’s department of transport removed a bike lane that cut through the Chasidic area of Williamsburg last week, it was seen as a sacrilege.

“They illegally sold out the citizens of New York,” said Baruch Herzfeld, a modern Orthodox Jew who owns the Traif Bike Geschaft repair and rental shop on the southern edge of “hipster”, or bohemian, Williamsburg.

Mr Herzfeld and other bikers are enraged because, it appears, New York’s mayor Michael Bloomberg struck a back-room deal with Williamsburg’s Satmar community.


Irish slammed for Gaza ban

By Anthony Garvey, December 10, 2009

The Israeli government has been sharply criticised in the Irish parliament for refusing Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin permission to visit Gaza.

Some members called the refusal “intolerable” and “an insult”, while the chair of the parliament’s committee on European affairs, Bernard Durkan, claimed the decision “serves to give the impression that Israel is unwilling to let the outside world see the suffering that is going on”.


Sacha Baron Cohen sued for £70m

By Jessica Elgot, December 7, 2009

Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen is being sued for £70m after a Palestinian activist claimed his film, Bruno, “ruined his life”.

In Mr Baron Cohen’s latest movie about a gay Austrian fashion designer, his character Bruno travels to the Ein El-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon to meet a man claimed in the film to be a “terrorist group leader, Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade”.

Mr Baron Cohen later claimed on David Letterman’s US chat show that the production team found Aymna Abu Aita through a contact in the CIA.


Britain 'will back EU draft to divide Jerusalem'

By Jessica Elgot, December 7, 2009

Foreign ministers of the European Union will meet in Brussels today to discuss a Swedish proposal to name east Jerusalem as a future Palestinian capital.

Britain is expected to back the proposal, along with Ireland, Belgium, and Malta, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Italy, France, Holland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Romania, Poland and Slovenia have all come out against the strong wording used in the draft.

The proposal for the Council for Foreign Affairs recommends dividing Jerusalem, so that east Jerusalem can be the capital of a future Palestinian state.


Goldstone wins international prize

By Leon Symons, December 4, 2009

Richard Goldstone, the South African judge who wrote the controversial report that criticised Israel’s actions in Gaza but failed to refer to its right to defend itself, has won an international award.

Judge Goldstone has been awarded the first annual Stockholm Human Rights Award, presented jointly by the International Legal Assistance Consortium, the Swedish Bar Association and the International Bar Association, for “an outstanding contribution to promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms”. He was presented with the award in Stockholm.


David Miliband: UK should talk to Hizbollah

By Jessica Elgot, December 3, 2009

Foreign Secretary David Miliband says that Britain should reopen dialogue with Hizbollah, according to an interview in a Lebanese newspaper.

But the Foreign Office said there was no change in any policy towards Hizbollah and that Mr Miliband's words had been "completely misrepresented".

Beirut newspaper the Daily Star reported that Mr Miliband said he believed "carefully considered contact with Hizbollah's politicians, including its MPs, will best advance our objective of the group rejecting violence to play a constructive role in Lebanese politics.


Antisemitic incidents on the rise in Australia

By Dan Goldberg, December 3, 2009

Antisemitic incidents in Australia have reached record levels, although the number of physical assaults on Jews have dropped, according to an annual report.

Jeremy Jones, who has been collating data on antisemitic incidents in the country since 1989, told the annual conference of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) on Sunday that an unprecedented 962 reports of anti-Jewish violence, vandalism, harassment and intimidation were received by Australian Jewish organisations between October 1, 2008 and September 30, 2009.


Seeking tales of Jews fleeing from Arab countries

By Sue Fishkoff in San Francisco, December 3, 2009

Joseph Samuels, born Yosef Sasson in Baghdad, was 18 years old when he fled Iraq for the new state of Israel.

It was 1949, and life was becoming increasingly difficult for Jews in Iraq, as it was throughout the Arab world. Yosef’s parents urged him to leave, promising they would follow.

He took a train to the coast with his younger brother, where they crammed into a smuggler’s boat with 16 other Jewish youths. They rowed secretly to Iran, where the Sasson boys were airlifted to Israel.


Lubavitch reopens debate on messianic beliefs

By Paul Berger, December 3, 2009

A Lubavitch website has reopened a debate over the exclusion of some Chabad rabbis from an Orthodox rabbinical organisation.

The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), which is the main association of Orthodox rabbis in the US, inserted a clause in its membership application some years ago that barred rabbis “with messianic beliefs” from joining the group.

The clause refers to the belief among some in the Chabad movement that the last Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who died in 1994, may one day return as the messiah.


Demjanjuk trial opens - and closes

By Toby Axelrod, December 3, 2009

The gathering began at 6am on Monday, outside the Munich District Court: journalists and members of the public, huddling together against the pre-dawn chill.

Ultimately, against expectations, most would be let into courtroom 101/1 to witness the opening day of the Nazi war crimes trial of John Demjanjuk, charged as an accessory to the murder of 29,700 Jews at the Sobibor death camp in Poland in 1943.