Good riddance

The vehemently anti-Israel peer told a Middlesex University debate to coincide with Israel Apartheid week: “Beware Israel. Israel is not going to be there for ever in its present form. One day, the United States of America will get sick of giving 70bn a year to Israel to support what I call America’s aircraft carrier in the Middle East – that is Israel. One day, the American people are going to say to the Israel lobby in the USA: enough is enough.”

She added: “It will not go on for ever, it will not go on for ever. Israel will lose support and then they will reap what they have sown.”

Tonge also sat passively as a former US Marine, Ken O’Keefe, told the audience that Israel “must be destroyed” and that the Mossad was “directly involved” in the 9/11 attacks in the US. When he was heckled by Jewish members of the audience, O’Keefe, who is under police investigation for alleged incitement, compared them to Nazis.

In the debate, Tonge claimed she was “certainly not antisemitic. It’s an injustice that concerns me the most. I am certainly anti- the Israeli government and the Israel lobby that supports that government. And when they go for you, they go for you in a big way. I bear the scars.”

Clegg said that Tonge’s remarks were “wrong and offensive and do not reflect the values of the Liberal Democrats. I asked Baroness Tonge to withdraw her remarks and apologise for the offence she has caused. She has refused to do so and will now be leaving the party. The Liberal Democrats have a proud record of campaigning for the rights of Palestinians, and that will continue, but we are crystal clear in our support for a two-state solution.”

Tonge herself said she had been quoted “completely out of context. They followed a very ill-tempered meeting in which Zionist campaigners attempted continually to disrupt proceedings. They mouthed obscenities at the panellists, to the extent that university security attempted to remove them from the premises. The comments I made were in protest at the treatment of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and the treatment of Israeli Arabs.

“I am disappointed the leadership of my party did not consult me before issuing a press release and seems always to abet the request of the pro-Israel lobby. Israel is acting against international law, the Geneva conventions, and Human Rights. They do this with impunity and if our political parties will not take action then individuals must. I have been asked to apologise but refuse to do so and resign the whip of my party.”

Her resignation was “absolutely welcomed” by Liberal Democrats Friends of Israel chair Gavin Stollar, who told the Jewish News: “We absolutely applaud Nick Clegg for taking this swift action. It draws a line under the smearing of Lib Dem policy on Israel and the Middle East”.

Tonge’s comments immediately sparked anger from Labour leader Ed Miliband, who Tweeted that there was “no place in politics for those who question existence of the state of Israel. Nick Clegg must condemn Jenny Tonge’s remark and demand apology.”

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks said he was “appalled” at Tonge’s remarks noting that they were “dangerous, inflammatory and unacceptable. I commend Nick Clegg for his decisive action. Views such as those expressed by Baroness Tonge have no place in civil public discourse.”

Board of Deputies CEO Jon Benjamin said that the resignation had been long overdue “and her position has frankly been untenable for some time. Allegations of Jewish political control, organ harvesting and sympathy for terrorists should have no place in the politics of a party that is now part of the government.”

Meanwhile, Hamas “martyrdom” supporting Azzam Tamimi this week joined Tonge and anti-Zionist Israeli academic Haim Bresheeth at a Queen Mary University of London debate on a “One State or a Two-State Solution”.

Tamimi said: “I’d be a martyr for my country, of course. If you’re not prepared to die for your country, then you are not a patriot.”

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British Aliyah Hits 26-Year High

Statistics released on Monday showed that 835 people of all ages made aliyah from the UK during the past 12 months compared with 625 for the previous year. This 34 percent hike represents the largest percentage increase for any large community.

This year also saw a 17 percent hike in new immigrants from North America to 3,767 and the same increase globally from 15,440 to more than 16,200. It was the first time in a decade that there was a worldwide rise in the number of new immigrants compared with the previous year.

Jewish Agency spokesman Michael Jankelowitz described both the UK and international increases as “very positive”, saying: “The fact I have been asked to comment by al-Jazeera shows why aliyah is important. It sends a message that Jews are united behind and the highest self-fulfilment of a Zionist is that he moves to Zion.” Expressing optimism about British aliyah in the coming years, he told the Jewish News: “British Jews are not running away from Britain. It is the pull of Israel not the push of what’s happening in the UK.”

The last time that more people made aliyah from the UK was in 1983 when 1,294 began new lives in the Jewish state, while 1969 saw the largest ever annual influx with 1,763.

And Jankelowitz said the steady increase from the UK over recent years could be attributed to a number of factors including a concerted effort by the Jewish Agency to publicise aliyah and positive stories coming back to the country from recent olim in addition to ideological reasons. He also pointed to the economic climate and the fact that a free Jewish education is available in Israel as playing a role.

Among those included in this week’s year-end statistics were 60 olim who touched down on Tuesday on a flight supported by the Jewish Agency. Jamie Lazarus and his wife Tamar, both 28, were on the flight along with their 16-month-old daughter Liat. He said: “Moving to Israel was always something that my wife and I wanted to do, to bring up our family in Israel and live in the Jewish homeland.” Jamie, who is set to start a job with Price Waterhouse Cooper while his wife attends an ulpan, said: “It’s a little bit surreal but a relief to be here after many years of planning. We are looking forward to beginning our new life in Israel.”

The British olim, along with olim who had arrived on separate group flights from France and South Africa, received their Israeli I.D cards within hours of their arrival at an event attended by Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky.

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French Court Admits Country’s Shoah Guilt

The statement on Monday said that while France had “solemn recognition of the responsibility of the state… the different measures taken since the end of the Second World War have made reparation as much as possible”.

The ruling was a result of actions taken by Madeleine Hoffman-Glemane, 75, whose case against the French government and national railways seeking reparations for the arrest and deportation of both herself and her father, to the tune of 280,000 Euros, instigated the council’s ruling.

The Paris court requested the council’s guidance on the case, and Hoffman-Glemane’s lawyer, Anne-Laure Archambault, said they would appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

Avi Bitton, a lawyer representing 600 different plaintiffs on this same issue, said: “We are simply asking to be treated like any other citizen who is a victim of asbestos poisoning or a road accident. When you suffer damage, you should be able to seek recourse.”

The council’s statement, recognising France’s guilt for the deportations supports the stance taken by former French President Jacques Chirac in 1995.

He said: “These dark hours forever sully our history and are an insult to our past and our traditions.

“Yes, the criminal folly of the occupiers was seconded by the French, by the French state.”

Serge Klarsfeld, president of the Association for Sons and Daughters of Jewish Deportees, said the decision was just and told reporters on Monday: “It is a decision that satisfies me. France is now showing it is in the avant-garde of countries taking responsibility for their past, which was not the case until the 1990s.”

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Israel criticises UN envoy report

Presenting a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva last week, Special Rapporteur John Dugard said: “Anyone who experienced apartheid has a sense of deja vu when visiting the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories].”

His 24-page report accuses Israel of ‘colonialism’ and violation of the Geneva Convention as well as General Assembly resolutions.
It catalogues a number of accusations against Israel ranging from destruction of Palestinian houses to preferential treatment for Jewish settlers in the West Bank.

Citing the existence of separate residential areas for Jews and Palestinians in Hebron, as well as separate roads for Jewish settlers and Palestinians in the West Bank and Jordan Valley, he claims Israel‘s actions violated international conventions.

He faced criticism from the Anti Defamation League and Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva Itzhak Levanon for barely mentioning the threat from Palestinian terrorists. The report was described as a “bias attack on Israel.”

ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman said: “To use the UN Human Rights Council as an institutional bludgeon against the state of Israel is a disgraceful abuse of power and an affront to the very concept of human rights.
In a letter to Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, ADL also expressed concern that the Council is considering appointing Dugard as a permanent investigator of Israel’s actions. The League previously called for his dismissal based on his previous assessments of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“We have repeatedly expressed our concerns with John Dugard’s persistent and undeniably biased attacks on Israel,” Foxman said.

Levanon added, “The obsessive accusations in the report, as formulated under a one-sided mandate, do nothing to solve the acute problems in the region.”

The Human Rights Council will this week decide on a resolution regarding the Israeli Palestinian conflict which could see the country put under permanent investigation by the UN.

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Court: Targeting Terrorists Legal

The unanimous decision of the three-man panel came in response to a petition made by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment in January 2002.

The groups had called for the judges to rule that such operations, known in Israel as targeted killings, were illegal, stating that “assassination has become within a short time an integral part of Israel‘s security policy”.

But the judges ruled that although terrorists could not be considered enemy combatants under international law they did not have the same protection under those laws as innocent civilians.

The court said: “A civilian, in order to enjoy the protections afforded to him by international law during an armed conflict, must refrain from taking a direct part in the hostilities.”

It added that an individual involved in terror activities “is subject to the risks of attack like those to which a combatant is subject.”

However, the court ruled that the army must follow certain principles before going ahead with such operations.

It stated that the IDF needed strong evidence that an individual was involved in hostilities, that if the army could prevent an attack through other means without unacceptable risk to soldiers’ lives it should do so, and that collateral damage must be proportional.

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Cabinet Meets Over Kassams

Yaakov Yaakovov was killed on Tuesday as the Palestinian rocket bombardment from Gaza continued unabated this week.

And as IDF troops and tanks yesterday rolled into the area surrounding Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s security cabinet approved tough measures to prevent the rocket attacks. The IDF is expected to submit a list of objectives for approval by ministers before the end of the week.

Yaakovov was the second person to die in less than a week as Kassams rained down on the town and surrounding areas.

The 43-year-old, a forklift truck operator, had been at work when a rocket struck his factory at around 8am on Tuesday morning. He was hit by shrapnel and received severe head injuries.

He died that night in the Soroka Hospital in Beersheba, just six days after 57-year old Fatima Slutzker was also killed during a Kassam attack on the Negev town.

Colleagues of Yaakovov said they had taken shelter in a refrigeration room when they heard the air raid siren but he had been the last person and did not make it in time.

Following his death, members of his family appealed to the Prime Minister to take action, telling him that ‘Sderot was crying’.

Many people have left the town, which has borne the brunt of more than 1,200 Kassams fired into Israel by terrorist rocket cells since the disengagement from Gaza last summer.

But workers in the local industrial area have spoken of their fear of the attacks.

Moti Sheetrit, a chief electrician at the factory hit by a rocket, told Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronoth: “People who leave for work don’t know if they’ll return safely. The feeling is really bad, because everyone can get hurt. But there is no choice but to continue working.

“I sent my children to Eilat, but I come to work because I have to bring money home. I can’t escape reality.”

A car carrying United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, who is on a tour of the region, was surrounded by Yaakovov’s colleagues when she came to visit the site of the attack.

Residents accused the UN of anti-semitism over its failure to condemn the rocket attacks despite strong criticism of Israel’s retaliation.

Arbour said she believed Israel “has a responsibility to defend its citizens, but has to do so only by legal means.”

As IDF operations aimed at halting the launching of rockets from northern Gaza stepped up yesterday, four more Kassams hit Sderot in the morning, including one that landed near a school playground. Several students had to be treated for shock.

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Anger Over UN Vote

When the old UN Commission on Human Rights was dismantled and restructured as the Human Rights Council those who felt the original body had become a forum for Israel-bashing hoped that things would change.

But a resolution proposed by a bloc of Muslim countries and passed on Friday by 29-12 votes will mean the new body will discuss alleged human rights abuses by Israel each time it meets. The sponsors, including Iran, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria were able to win easy passage for resolution despite opposition from western nations and five abstentions.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Itzhak Levanon accused the Council of falling into the “old infamous habits of the Commission”, adding: “Voting ‘yes’ essentially means that no lessons have been drawn. It means that there is no fresh beginning.”

Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham H. Foxman accused the Council of “taking two steps back to restore the old institutionalized myopic focus on Israel“.

And Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the head of the Wiesenthal Centre, said: “By a vote of 29-to-12, Arab and Muslim countries have enshrined the UN’s cynical business-as-usual vis-à-vis human rights, meaning that instead of taking action on genocide in Darfur and a score of other global human rights abuses, only Israel will be singled out at every meeting of the HRC

“Such outrageous actions only serve to further erode confidence that the United Nations will ever be able to play a role in bringing about a peaceful Middle East.”

The resolution was also criticized by Harold Tanner, Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations.

He said: “We thank those states that cast a principled vote against it – the European Union members, Japan, Romania, and Ukraine – as well as those that abstained, including Cameroon, Ghana, Guatemala, and the Republic of Korea.”

A leading American organisation also warned the Council to beware it did not discredit itself in the same way as its predecessor.

Peggy Hicks, global advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, said: “The council’s singling out the Occupied Palestinian Territories for special attention is a cause for concern. The human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories deserves attention, but the new council must bring the same vigour to its consideration of other pressing situations.”

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Canada Hit By Anti-Semitic Graffiti Attacks

Swastikas were daubed in seven separate incidents of vandalism near a Jewish school and community centre in the Snowdon area of Montreal in the past week, according to B’nai Brith Canada.

At two of the sites the vandals had spray-painted the internet address of a Russian national socialist website that features a photograph of Adolf Hitler and excerpts from Mein Kampf.

Allan Adel, National Chairman of the League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith, said: “Nothing less than a zero tolerance policy towards incidents of this nature ought to be tolerated and we therefore reissue our call to all politicians at all levels of government to work with the community”.

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