World news

Israelis and Hamas have secret talks in Switzerland

By Keren David, August 20, 2009

A secret “peace conference” held in Switzerland earlier this month brought together senior establishment figures from Hamas, Fatah and Israel to discuss a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.

The meeting was organised by London-based group the Next Century Foundation, which describes itself as a “second track” diplomatic foundation working towards conflict resolution. Its first objective is to provide a forum for Israelis and Palestinians.


Analysis: The halo drops from Human Rights Watch

By Noah Pollak, August 20, 2009

Over the past few years, non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch has managed to portray Israel as one of the greatest human rights violators on earth. The group has produced dozens of heated condemnations of Israel over the Gaza blockade yet only criticised Egypt, which also maintains the blockade, a few times in passing — and Egypt has not even been under rocket attack.

During the 2006 Israel-Hizbollah war, HRW officials repeatedly accused the IDF of intentionally targeting civilians, a claim utterly without substance.


Syrian missile test fails, killing 20

By Anshel Pfeffer, August 20, 2009

Reports of a major failure in a missile firing test in Syria has drawn attention once more to the military co-operation between North Korea, Iran and Syria.

According to the report by the Japanese news agency Kyodo, two improved Scud missiles were fired in a test at the end of March. Both missiles veered off-course, and one of them landed in a marketplace in a town near the Turkish border, killing 20 people and wounding 60.

North Korean and Iranian experts reportedly participated in the trials.


Hebrew school opens - but it is not Jewish

By Paul Berger, August 20, 2009

After a bumpy start and a last-minute scramble to find a home, New York’s first state-funded primary school to specialise in the teaching of Hebrew will open its doors on Monday.

The Hebrew Language Academy is open to Jews and non-Jews alike. Because it is publicly funded and America has a strict separation between church and state, the school had to be vetted by New York State’s board of education to ensure there would be no religious instruction.


Cautious optimism as PA economy booms

By Ben Lynfield, Nablus, August 20, 2009

For now, the store owners are smiling in Nablus, a city usually known for its violent uprisings, armed gunmen prowling the streets and hard-hitting clampdowns by Israeli soldiers.

The economy is lifting off after Israel eased or removed the checkpoints ringing the city, a process also underway elsewhere in the West Bank. In a recent report, the International Monetary Fund forecast a seven per cent growth rate for the West Bank for 2009.


Denier Fredrick Toben jailed in Australia

By Dan Goldberg, August 20, 2009

Dr Fredrick Toben, the Holocaust denier who avoided extradition from Britain to Germany last year, is finally behind bars in Australia.

Toben, 65, the director of the Adelaide Institute in South Australia, was found guilty in May on 24 counts of contempt of a 2002 court order to remove antisemitic material from his website.

This included claims that gas chambers did not exist at Auschwitz and that the Holocaust was “a lie”.


Swedish reporter: "I don't know if IDF story is true"

By Jessica Elgot, August 19, 2009

The reporter who penned the Israeli organ trafficking story for a Swedish newspaper has said he does not know whether the report is true.

Journalist Donald Bostrom, who wrote that IDF soldiers were killing Palestinians for their organs in Swedish daily Aftonbladet, told Israel Radio: "Whether it's true or not - I have no idea, I have no clue."

"I have a personal opinion; it concerns me that it's true.”


"Blood libel": IDF organ trafficking claim

By Jessica Elgot, August 19, 2009

A Swedish newspaper has claimed that IDF soldiers murdered Palestinian youths to sell their organs, prompting a shocked Israeli government to call the suggestion a “blood libel.”

The Israeli Foreign Ministry called the article in the Swedish daily Aftonbladet “a shocking example of Israel’s demonisation.”

The paper, which is Sweden's biggest-selling daily, ran the headline "They plunder the organs of our sons" and a double-page spread devoted to the article.


Liechtenstein's banks "helped Holocaust victims"

By Jessica Elgot, August 18, 2009

The Prince of Liechtenstein has outraged Jews in Germany by apparently using the Holocaust to defend its secretive banking practices.

Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein, 64, slammed the German government for putting pressure on the alpine principality to clamp down on wealthy Germans who use the confidential Lichtenstein banking system to evade taxes.

The prince claimed many Jews had been saved during the Holocaust because they were able to buy their safety using secret bank accounts.


Virgin Atlantic "in talks" with El Al

By Jessica Elgot, August 13, 2009

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic is reported to be in talks with El Al about a possible deal between the two airlines.

A number of options were under consideration and a takeover or substantial investment in El Al by Virgin Atlantic had not been ruled out, a source told Globes Online

But Shoma Amin, a spokeswoman for Virgin Atlantic was quick to deny rumours.She said: "We explore many opportunities but can confirm we will not be taking over or investing in El Al."