World news

Obama sends ‘let’s talk’ message

By Nathan Guttman, March 26, 2009

True to his campaign promise to reach out diplomatically to Iran, US president Barack Obama issued a public appeal to the Iranian leadership on the occasion of the Iranian holiday of Nowruz.

President Obama’s overture to Tehran marks the beginning of the US effort to engage with Iran, a strategy viewed with skepticism by Israel. The President’s public call for rapprochement comes days after senior administration officials were urged by Israel’s chief of staff not to shelve the military option against Iran.

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Men on death row for ‘Israel emails’

March 26, 2009

A man has been sentenced to death in Yemen having been accused of forging links with Israel.

Bassam al-Haidari, 26, was condemned after allegedly writing to Ehud Olmert, the then Israeli prime minister, offering to work as an agent for Mossad. Two other men were also convicted this week.

Israel denied any having had contact with the three men.

Ali Abdullah al-Mahfal, 24, was jailed for five years and Emad Ali al-Raimi, 23, was sentenced to a three-year term.

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The lawyer, the lies and the fast ladies

By Keren David and Dan Goldberg, March 26, 2009

He was a highly respected member of the Australian Jewish community, a human rights lawyer honoured as an “Australian National Treasure.”

But when, in 2006, former judge Marcus Einfeld, 69, drove his silver Lexus sedan at 60 kmh through a 50kmh zone, he was on a highway to a prison cell — and by the most bizarre route.

Rather than pay a $AU77 speeding fine — around £37 — Einfeld claimed that he had lent the car to an old friend, an American academic called Teresa Brennan.

But his alibi failed when police discovered that Professor Brennan had been dead for three years.

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Blair Foundation unites with World Jewish Relief

March 19, 2009

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair will make a rare appearance at a Jewish community event this month in a collaboration between his own Faith Foundation and World Jewish Relief.

Mr Blair, currently the Middle East envoy for the Quartet - America, Russia, Europe and the UN - will be the guest speaker at a communal breakfast in central London, where he will speak about the work of his foundation and its connection with WJR.

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Iran uses fake CIA report to 'kill off' Israel

By Jenni Frazer, March 19, 2009

A claim that a secret CIA document exists that forecasts Israel would not survive for more than 20 years has been denounced as "a ludicrous hoax".

The report was broadcast by the Iranian-backed Press TV station last week and has subsequently been cited as fact on many websites and blogs. Press TV - a propaganda vehicle for the Iranian government - has been attacked for "disinformation".

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Shechitah saved from EU ban

By Simon Rocker, March 19, 2009

Euro-MPs this week rejected proposals that could have curbed kosher meat production in some countries.

Shechitah defence campaigners successfully lobbied members of the European Parliament’s agricultural committee which met in Brussels on Monday.

Henry Grunwald, who chairs the coalition, Shechita EU, said: “It is positive that our efforts have again led towards the recognition of shechitah as one of the humane methods of animal slaughter.”

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US ex-diplomat who lashed out at Israel stands down

By Nathan Guttman, March 19, 2009

The ‘Israel lobby’ has been accused of derailing the nomination of veteran diplomat Charles (Chas) Freeman as the new chairman of the National Intelligence Council. Mr Freeman announced last week that he was withdrawing from the post, and attacked pro-Israel activists who, he argued, “plumb the depths of dishonour and indecency and include character assassination”.

Chas Freeman is known for his close ties to the Saudi Government and for his harsh rhetoric calling on the US to re-evaluate its pro-Israel policy in the Middle East.

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Scrolls ‘not written by Essenes’

March 19, 2009

A Hebrew University academic has caused uproar by claiming that the sect which wrote the 930 Dead Sea Scrolls didn’t exist.

Since the discovery of the scrolls in a cave near the Dead Sea in 1947, scholars have believed they originated with a Jewish sect called the Essenes. But Rachel Elior, a professor of Jewish philosophy, has claimed they were taken to Qumran in the 2nd century BCE by the Sadducees, the Jewish priests who date from the Temple era.

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Rabbinate in US ‘betray converts’

By Simon Rocker, March 19, 2009

An extraordinary row over conversions has broken out between one of America’s leading modern Orthodox rabbis and the umbrella body for the central Orthodox rabbinate.

Rabbi Avi Weiss, of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, New York, has accused the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) of creating an “alarmist climate” among converts after telling a woman he helped to convert that she must undergo a reconversion.

The RCA explained that the original conversion might not be universally accepted because one member of the rabbinic court that converted her was himself a convert.

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Student fines ‘unfair’

March 19, 2009

Jewish students at a top Canadian University are taking legal advice after being fined for “causing disruption to university life”.

Pro-Israel group Hasbara was fined $1,000 and suspended for 30 days, and student organisation Hillel was fined $500 by York University of Toronto.

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