Leon Symons

Amnesty apologies for Israel 'war crimes' accusation

By Leon Symons, January 14, 2010

Amnesty International has apologised to the co-chairs of the Northern Ireland Friends of Israel after alleging that they had defended “war crimes” committed by Israel.

Steven Jaffe and Terry McCorran had threatened to sue Amnesty’s branch in Northern Ireland unless the allegation was withdrawn. The threat drew a swift and unreserved apology from local director Patrick Corrigan.

In a letter to the Belfast Telegraph last month, Mr Jaffe and Mr McCorran criticised Amnesty’s support of attempts to indict Israeli MKs wanting to visit Britain on war crimes charges.

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Row over definition of Holocaust survivor

By Leon Symons, January 14, 2010

A row has broken out over the meaning of the term Holocaust survivor after an 85-year-old grandmother used it to describe herself when criticising Israeli action against Palestinians.

German-born Hedy Epstein was attacked by a senior figure in the Zionist Federation who dismissed her as a refugee “touted as a trophy survivor” to help vilify Israel.

The row exploded into a heated online exchange and a debate about whether historians had a proper definition of the term.

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Saving our lost Jewish communities in the UK

By Leon Symons, January 14, 2010

National communal organisations are facing a desperate plea to do more for small communities.

Ephraim Borowski, chairman of the Board of Deputies’ Regional Council, called on the Board, the Jewish Leadership Council and other bodies to provide more tangible support to the many small outposts of Jewish life around the country.

“The smaller the communities are, the more vulnerable they are likely to be,” he said.

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Israeli Rabbinate: we can annul conversions

By Leon Symons, January 14, 2010

An “explosive” document on conversions by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel has argued that Orthodox conversions carried out in Israel can be annulled at any time.

The 122-page submission was presented to an Israeli High Court hearing brought by a women’s rights group trying to reinstate thousands of conversions that had been annulled in 2008.

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Ancient Polish cemetery slated for destruction ‘saved by government’

By Leon Symons, January 7, 2010

An ancient Jewish cemetery slated for destruction has been saved by the Polish authorities.

The graveyard, in Wolberom, near Krakow, was supposed to have a $1 million school gym built on it. But the project was moved at the end of last year to a different site after skeletons were discovered on the grounds.

Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, praised both the local authorities and the government for the decision.

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Limmud: How unions strike out at Israel

By Leon Symons, January 7, 2010

The influence that activists in London have on the policies of Palestinians was highlighted during a session at Limmud 2009 on the delegitimisation of Israel.

Calev Ben-Dor, an analyst at the Tel Aviv-based Reut Institute in Israel, told his audience that there were very few Palestinians in London and that “the London narrative was taking over the Palestinians”.

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Former Nazi may be living in Britain

By Leon Symons, January 7, 2010

A new case of a former Nazi concentration camp guard believed to be living in Britain is being investigated by the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre.

The Centre’s director, Dr Efraim Zuroff, said the man, whom he would not identify, had been a guard at two camps where Jews were murdered.

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Three hurt in gas blast

By Leon Symons, January 7, 2010

Two men and an 11-year-old boy were taken to hospital after a suspected gas explosion in a house in Stamford Hill on Tuesday morning.

The 11-year-old was released while the two men were detained for treatment to burns to their faces and hands. Police, fire and ambulance staff, as well as members of the Hatzola strictly Orthodox emergency service, converged on the scene. The names of the injured have not been released. It is believed the men were working on flooring in the house in Craven Park Road.

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Limmud 2009 - even more sessions

By Leon Symons, December 31, 2009

Day four was very varied. I heard Dr Efraim Zuroff talking about the new threat to the memory of the Holocaust coming from eastern Europe in a fascinating session from the director of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesethal Centre. He has written four books on the Holocaust and delivered six sessions, so he was a very busy man. I am writing a news story about his lecture so I won't go into too much detail here, but Dr Zuroff is a very determined man who will carry the fight to those he perceives to be those who would diminish the significance of the Holocaust.

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Limmud 2009 - Value Judgments: British and Jewish values

By Leon Symons, December 30, 2009

Sarah Kaiser and Abigail Morris are two rising names to watch out for in the community. Sarah is the director of the Rene Cassin human rights organisation, while Abigail runs ResponsAbility, a cross-communal organisation that provides a bridge between the Jewish and secular worlds. They have already collaborated to publish a Jewish response to the government's proposed Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

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Limmud 2009 - the third day - should Jews fly to israel?

By Leon Symons, December 30, 2009

There are just so many sessions, it is quite difficult at times to know quite where to go. But I changed the habit of a lifetime and made a decision: Should Jews fly to Israel?

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Limmud: The JFS debate

By Leon Symons, December 30, 2009

The first public debate on the Supreme Court ruling that JFS broke the Race Relations Act has been held at the Limmud Conference and showed that the gulf dividing Anglo-Jewry over the issue might have closed a fraction.

Rabbi Danny Rich, chief executive of Liberal Judaism, declared that his organisation would be implacably opposed to any attempt by the Board of Deputies to try to engineer changes to the governments proposed Equality Bill that would return JFSs admissions policy to what it was before the court saga.

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Top surgeon tells Limmud of campaign to have him struck off

By Leon Symons, December 30, 2009

One of Britain’s leading cancer surgeons has told a conference how his support for the Israel Medical Association sparked a campaign to have him struck off by the General Medical Council (GMC).

Professor Michael Baum told a packed session at the annual Limmud conference at Warwick University that colleagues — including Jews — in the medical profession had turned on him after he challenged the accusation made by some that the Israel Medical Association (IMA) was complicit in the torture of Palestinian prisoners.

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How Jimmy Carter put the wire around Begin

By Leon Symons, December 30, 2009

After Egyptian president Anwar Sadat’s historic visit to Jerusalem to address the Knesset, peace talks between Israel and Egypt became bogged down. President Jimmy Carter stepped in and invited the two leaders to Camp David.

They arrived on September 5, 1978, and, according the National Archive papers, remained behind the barbed wire fences that Mr Begin described later as “a concentration camp de luxe” with no news from outside and, more importantly, no leaks from within.

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Revealed: how the Iron Lady barred Whitehall PLO link

By Leon Symons, December 30, 2009

The Palestine Liberation Organisation provoked a spat between newly-elected prime minister Margaret Thatcher and Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington, according to papers just released by the National Archive.

The papers also show her unswerving commitment to Israel and recognition of its position as the West’s

primary ally in the region, even at such an early stage in her leadership.

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Limmud 2009 - the busiest day

By Leon Symons, December 29, 2009

What a busy Monday that was. It seems the pattern here is very long days and short nights - especially as I've woken up this morning (Tuesday) to find I have no heating in my room. The Bar is humming until the wee small hours as the central meeting place and really is the crossroads of Limmud.

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Limmud 2009 - the first day

By Leon Symons, December 28, 2009

We're up and running. Limmud Day One was long and very interesting. There is a rhythm to the day with a constant flow of people to the different venues around the University of Warwick campus.

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It's the big one - Limmud 2009

By Leon Symons, December 27, 2009

Good morning Limmud 2009. This is my first time at Limmud and already I can feel the buzz. I am the JC's resident reporter here and I will be giving you the colour and the atmosphere and the fun every day from now until Thursday, as well as news stories in the JC this week and next. My daughter Gabi and I arrived at about nine o'clock on Saturday evening to avoid the rush and it was a very wise decision as there was absolutely no-one in registration. We were through in minutes and into our rooms, which are on the University of Warwick campus and are clean and functional.

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BBC monitor: Bowen is 'biased'

By Leon Symons, December 23, 2009

A press monitoring group has claimed in a new report that much of BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen’s reporting during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza was biased against Israel.

BBC Watch, which produced the report, has made an official complaint to the BBC on the back of its findings.

Run by Jerusalem-based lawyer Trevor Asserson, BBC Watch monitored the corporation’s output on the operation from December 28 last year, one day after it started, until January 30, three days after the ceasefire.

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Miliband attacked by Muslim leaders over Livni

By Leon Symons, December 23, 2009

The Muslim Council of Britain has attacked Foreign Secretary David Miliband for saying he would change the law of universal jurisdiction in the wake of the Tzipi Livni arrest warrant row.

In a long letter to Mr Miliband, MCB general secretary Mohammad Abdul Bari said: “We regret to have to say that the process that the government appears to have chosen to follow on this issue is fundamentally flawed.”

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