Leon Symons

UCU's 'fig-leaf' Shoah talks

By Leon Symons, December 23, 2009

Anger has greeted the news that the University and College Union, at the forefront of the campaign for an academic boycott of Israel, is holding three seminars on antisemitism next month.

The last of the seminars is set to be held at UCU headquarters on January 27 — Holocaust Memorial Day. All three will be chaired by Tom Hickey, the leading proponent of UCU’s boycott push.

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'Class act' wins claim over US

By Leon Symons, December 22, 2009

A former senior educator has won his claim for unfair dismissal against the United Synagogue.

Jeffrey Leader, former director of education of the US’s Agency for Jewish Education and an employee for more than 20 years, was one of six people made redundant there as part of a cost cutting exercise that saw 17 people shed from the US. He brought the case because he claimed the redundancy process was unfair and he was given insufficient time to consult about alternative employment.

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Police death motorist walks free

By Leon Symons, December 17, 2009

An Israeli has walked free from court after admitting causing the death by careless driving of an off-duty motorcycle police officer.

Liron Shnaider, 26, of Finchley Road, Golders Green, north west London, was given 20 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, and 100 hours’ community service when he appeared for sentencing at Isleworth Crown Court on Monday.

He was also disqualified from driving for two years and must sit tests before he can drive in Britain again.

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Minister shares platform with far-right leaders

By Leon Symons, December 17, 2009

A government minister has spoken at the same controversial Palestinian-organised conference which invited an extremist Hungarian far-right leader.

Mike Foster, Minister of State at the Department for International Development, was invited by the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) to a conference in London on Wednesday to mark the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

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Travel agent delays payoff for ex-worker

By Leon Symons, December 17, 2009

A north-WEST London travel agency is facing a mounting bill because its owner has not paid a former employee a settlement awarded by an employment tribunal.

Expert Travel in Golders Green, was taken to the tribunal in Watford last year by Karen Darzy, a part-time secretary, for unlawful deduction of earnings and failure to provide written terms of contract. Mrs Darzy worked at Expert from June to December, 2007.

Mrs Darzy, a 37-year-old mother from Hendon, north west London, was awarded £767 by the tribunal. But Expert joint owner Stephanie Lipman did not pay.

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Manuscript fragment reveals Jewish 'exorcism'

By Leon Symons, December 17, 2009

A fragment of a manuscript measuring 6in by 5in has lifted the veil over the long-vanished world of Jewish exorcism.

The fragment, containing 150 words of a handwritten Sephardi Hebrew prayer of exorcism from the 18th century, is almost certainly unique, according to the academic who discovered it.

Dr Renate Smithuis is the official cataloguer of Manchester’s John Rylands Library Geniza, a treasure trove of 11,000 manuscript fragments rescued from a 1,000-year-old storeroom at the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo, now held at the University of Manchester.

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JNF appoints new chief executive

By Leon Symons, December 17, 2009

JNF, Anglo-Jewry’s leading charity for Israel, has appointed a new chief executive. Elliot Conway, currently director of the Interparliamentary Council on Antisemitism, will take up his post in the New Year.

His appointment will draw a line after a turbulent period in the charity’s history which saw the departure of the previous chief executive Simon Winters and chair Gail Seal and a lengthy and costly court action involving Keren Kayemet L’Israel.

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Expel this race-row union, says Board

By Leon Symons, December 10, 2009

The union that sits on the official Government Group on Antisemitism and Higher Education is facing calls for its expulsion because it hosted a man who made an antisemitic speech.

The University and College Union (UCU) invited Bongani Masuku, international secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), to tour UK universities this week and to speak at an invitation-only conference last Saturday, arguing for a boycott of Israel.

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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.

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Conference guest guilty of hate speech

By Leon Symons, December 4, 2009

One of two South African guests believed to have been invited to a University and College Union conference in London to discuss a boycott of Israel has been found guilty of hate speech.

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has upheld a complaint against Bongani Masuku, the international secretary of COSATU, the South African trade union federation, made by the South African Board of Deputies.

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Prayer call by women of the wall

By Leon Symons, December 3, 2009

Israel’s Women of the Wall organisation has said it will launch a major demonstration to try to break a 20-year-old law banning women from praying directly in front of the Western Wall.

The organisation’s chair, Anat Hoffman, told an audience of New Israel Fund supporters in London this week: “We will be there again at the Wall on December 18, believing that the Wall is the holiest place for Jews, believing it should be open to all.”

Last week a woman was arrested and then released after a group of 40 women, wearing tallitot and kippot read from the Torah.

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Rare, looted relief finally paid for by Berlin museum

By Leon Symons, December 3, 2009

Israel and Magen David Adom, Israel’s emergency medical service, will benefit from the latest restitution case involving Nazi-looted art.

A 570-year-old alabaster relief of Christ carrying the cross, described as one of the most important medieval portrayals of the Passion, was owned by Harry Fuld of Frankfurt, who made a fortune from telephones and telecommunications equipment.

In 1932 his business, which had passed to his son Harry Jr, was appropriated by the Nazis. In 1936, his art collection met the same fate.

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Stalker to be sent for psychiatric testing

By Leon Symons, December 3, 2009

A man who persistently stalked a young mother has been ordered to undergo a psychiatric assessment before a judge determines his sentence.

Elliot Fogel, 34, formerly of Edgware but now living in Isleworth, appeared at Wood Green Crown Court on Monday for sentencing. At an earlier hearing, he pleaded guilty to storing material on his computer that broke an indefinite restraining order banning him from any contact with the mother, Claire Waxman.

The material included 40,000 searches for Mrs Waxman on Google; her wedding picture, which appeared on his desktop; and her new home address.

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ZF slams Goldstone letter in The Times

By Leon Symons, December 3, 2009

The Zionist Federation has criticised the authors of an “open letter” to Prime Minister Gordon Brown calling on him to endorse the Goldstone Report on Israel’s action in Gaza.

The letter, with nearly 700 signatures and published in The Times on Tuesday, said that British Jews did not “speak with one voice” on Goldstone.

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Academic: Doctors who circumcise should be struck off

By Leon Symons, December 3, 2009

Critics have rounded on an academic who has warned that doctors could be guilty of negligence and be breaking the Human Rights Act for performing circumcisions for anything other than medical reasons.

Dr David Shaw, an expert in medical ethics at Glasgow University, called for the General Medical Council (GMC) and the British Medical Association (BMA) to tighten up the advice they give doctors about circumcision.

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Race rant diplomat back at Foreign Office

By Leon Symons, December 3, 2009

A senior diplomat convicted of racially aggravated harassment for a foul-mouthed anti-Israeli rant in a gym has been given a new role at the Foreign Office.

Rowan Laxton, 48, the then head of the South Asia desk at the FO, was exercising in a gym when saw a television report during Israel’s action in Gaza and shouted “f------ Israelis, f------ Jews”.

Two men exercising elsewhere overheard him, complained to staff and Mr Laxton was arrested and charged subsequently. He was also suspended from his post at the FO.

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UCU hold 'boycott' meeting

By Leon Symons, December 3, 2009

The spectre of a wide-ranging boycott of Israel has been raised again by the University and College Union.

The UCU is holding a conference tomorrow (Saturday) in London in which it will debate whether or not to hold a boycott. But the conference, its location and full agenda has been shrouded in secrecy, with no publicity and inquiries about it going unanswered.

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Internet hate duo 'may have been wrongly convicted'

By Leon Symons, November 27, 2009

The first convictions in Britain for publishing racially inflammatory material on the internet were wrong because the publications were outside the jurisdiction of British courts, the Court of Appeal has been told.

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UCL bans Muslim hate preacher

By Leon Symons, November 26, 2009

A lecture due to be given on Monday by an Islamist preacher with extreme views on homosexuals and women has been cancelled.

University College London’s Islamic Society had invited Abu Usamah to give the first lecture in its “Pearls of Wisdom” week. The title of his talk was “In pursuit of knowledge”.

Mr Usamah’s views became widely known after he appeared two years ago in a Channel 4 documentary Undercover Mosque.

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Minister: how my father escaped Nazis

By Leon Symons, November 26, 2009

Justice Minister Michael Wills has revealed how his father fled Nazi-occupied Vienna and its impact on his role in the government’s Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

Mr Wills, who this week launched a report composed of Jewish groups’ responses to the bill, said: “Human beings don’t always learn from the past and that’s why this debate and this Jewish contribution is so important.”

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