World news

Spain on a mission to promote Jews’ legacy

By Simon Rocker, May 21, 2009

Does Spain’s love of olive oil have anything to do with the great Jewish civilisation that once flourished in the country? It is a question that intrigues Diego de Ojeda, director general of Casa Sefarad Israel, the official Spanish agency for ties with Israel and the Jewish people.

“I wonder to what extent the fact we fry in olive oil is a product of kosher rules, in having not to fry in butter,” he said.


Cash crisis crippling US schools

By Gary Rosenblatt, May 21, 2009

Jewish day schools, found to be the most effective means of maintaining affiliation among young people in an increasingly assimilated American community, are in serious economic crisis.

Two burning questions are emerging: Can they survive? And who cares?

There are about 200,000 youngsters attending some 700 day schools and yeshivot in the US, about 80 per cent of which offer an Orthodox curriculum.

Ten per cent are Conservative schools, eight per cent are “community”, or non-denominational, and the rest are Reform.


‘Mossad spies’ hunted down

May 21, 2009

Security authorities have arrested the deputy-mayor of a Lebanese town, accusing him of spying for Israel.

According to the Al-Akhbar newspaper, 61-year-old Ziad al-Homsy was asked by the Mossad to gather information on three Israeli soldiers missing since the Lebanon War in 1982. Al-Homsy is an anti-Syrian activist and a former spokesman for slain Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s al-Mustaqbal party.

Meanwhile, on Monday, two other men accused of espionage escaped across the border to Israel with their children, claiming asylum.


Anti-racism law drafted

By Thomas Land, May 21, 2009

Hungary is to introduce legislation outlawing Holocaust denial and any public expression of racism within weeks.

The move follows an upsurge in racist violence, described by Interior Minister Tibor Draskovics as “political terrorism”. This includes the murder and attempted murder of several Gypsies and a recent neo-Nazi demonstration on Holocaust Remembrance Day, during which speakers said the Holocaust was a myth. They spoke under a giant placard proclaiming that “The truth will make free”, a reference to the Auschwitz sign “Arbeit macht frei” (Work brings freedom).


Argentina knife attack

By David Labi, May 21, 2009

Argentinian Justice Minister Ánibal Fernández has denied that there was “an outbreak of antisemitism” in the country, after a Jewish crowd was attacked by a knife-wielding gang.

The incident took place during an event marking Israel’s 61st anniversary in Buenos Aires last week, attended by 500 people. Twenty men emerged from a subway entrance armed with sticks, knives, a flail and a banner accusing Israel of genocide, and began assaulting crowd members.


First black woman rabbi ordained in US

By Miriam Shaviv, May 21, 2009

Alysa Stanton is used to heads turning when she enters a synagogue; African-American Jews are still a relatively rare sight in mainstream American congregations. But next month she will be even more visible, because she will be sitting in the rabbi’s chair.

Stanton is about to be ordained by the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, making her the first ever female African-American rabbi. Soon after, she will join a small Reform congregation in North Carolina as its spiritual leader.


Netanyahu meets Obama: Israelis do not want rift

By Shmuel Rosner, May 21, 2009

Ariel Sharon learned two important lessons between his failed tenure as defence minister in the early ‘80s, and his much more successful term as prime minister, starting in 2000. First, maintain eye contact with Israel’s centre, and make sure that even the liberal left doesn’t really hate you. Second, make sure to work closely with the US government. These two cannot guarantee personal success, but they are key to having relative political calm.


Netanyahu meets Obama: Smiles, but tension ahead

By David Landau, May 21, 2009

Benjamin Netanyahu flew home from Washington with a significant and unpredicted achievement: President Obama, with the Israeli leader by his side in the White House, set a deadline for his new policy of dialogue with Iran. By the end of the year, the President said, “we should have a fairly good sense as to whether they are moving in the right direction”.


Eurovision fiddler: is he really one of us?

By Keren David, May 21, 2009

He’s the Norwegian fiddler with the distinctive eyebrows who ended his country’s lamentable record at the Eurovision Song Contest when he won by scoring more points than any country before.

But is Alexander Rybak Jewish? Rumours are flying around cyberspace, but few seem to know the truth.


Facebook bans some Holocaust-denial groups, but not all

By Dan Goldberg, May 14, 2009

Facebook, the social networking website, has removed two online groups promoting Holocaust denial.

The development on Monday came despite spokesman Barry Schnitt suggesting last week that the website would only ban users viewing such groups in countries where Holocaust denial is a criminal offence, such as Israel and Germany.

Members of the two banned groups — titled “The Holocaust is a Holohoax” and “Based on Facts… There Was No Holocaust” — were using Facebook as “a forum to promote hate”, Schnitt said.