Guardian ‘violated accuracy’ over the status of Jerusalem

Responding to a specific complaint, the commission overturned its earlier decision and ruled that the Guardian newspaper had “violated principles of accuracy” when it referred to Tel Aviv as the Israeli capital. The precedent-setting ruling finally provides clarity on the long-running issue.

While acknowledging Jerusalem’s status as Israel’s capital was “arguable,” the complainants successfully reasoned that Tel Aviv was not the Israeli capital, and should not be referred to as such.
Board of Deputies Vice-President Alex Brummer said: “This ruling is welcome. It is not for the press to determine national capitals. It is time that all media outlets recognised this without qualification.”
The Zionist Federation’s Alan Aziz also welcomed the decision. He said: “Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. It’s time the national media and UK government stopped treating Israel differently to other nations by not recognising its capital.”
The complaint was brought by pro-Israel media watchdog HonestReporting, after the Guardian published a correction on 22 April in which it “corrected” an earlier reference to Jerusalem being the capital of Israel.
Reacting to the judgement, HonestReporting’s CEO Joe Hyams said: “Fatuous claims over the status of Tel Aviv as a means to delegitimise Jerusalem as Israel’s rightful capital will now no longer be acceptable.”
The ruling will come as a blow to the Guardian, which has been heavily criticised by the Jewish community for its coverage of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies, acknowledged these problems. He said: “It is concerning when Guardian journalists take an unrelentingly antithetical line towards Israel. But to deliberately misrepresent facts is inexcusable.”Amir Ofek from the Israeli embassy in London added: “It was wrong to begin with, so why did the Guardian need a commission to tell them it was wrong? They should know it already.”
The ruling sets a precedent on British coverage of Israel and has already been used to force corrections from two other publications.
The Daily Mail this week corrected its reference to “the Tel Aviv government” to “the Jerusalem government,” and the Daily Telegraph corrected a reference to “the Israeli capital of Tel Aviv”.
Amendments made by all three publications were judged sufficient by the commission.
The capital of Israel has been a contentious issue in the British media for decades. The Jewish state proclaimed Jerusalem its capital in 1950, but the United Nations Security Council subsequently condemned the move, calling on states to withdraw embassies from the city

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‘No family should suffer as they have’

JEWISH Community leaders this week welcomed the convictions of two men for the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence and paid tribute to the tireless work of the teenager’s “inspirational” parents in pursuing justice.

Eighteen years after the killing of the 18-year-old in south London, a judge at the Old Bailey handed down minimum sentences of 15 and 14 years to Gary Dobson, 36, and David Norris, 35, the only individuals to have been brought to book for a crime described in court as having “scarred the conscience of the nation”.

Praise has poured in over the past 48 hours for Stephen’s parents Neville and Doreen, whose efforts were also credited by the Metropolitan Police with helping to change the way murders are investigated.

Gillian Walnes, executive director of The Anne Frank Trust, which has had a long association with the family, described the teenager’s parents as “inspirational in bringing about change and justice”.

She said: “I can’t say how delighted I am at this result after so many years of pain. We all screamed in the office when the news came in and I’ve received messages from across Britain and Israel expressing delight.”

In the mid-1990s, the Lawrence family created panels for an Anne Frank Trust exhibition which included a dedicated section to the tragic case. Walnes said: “We wanted to show in our exhibition how murderous racial hatred was still alive on the streets of the capital city, although, of course, not to be compared with the fate of Anne Frank and Holocaust victims.

“Before we even had the ability to scan photos, Doreen generously loaned us her precious pictures of Stephen as a child, along with some of his architectural sketches, so we could use these in an educational way to show how, like the writer Anne Frank, here was another talented and creative teenager senselessly killed through racial hatred. Doreen took a keen interest in the Anne Frank exhibition, coming to several openings, and both she and Neville have spoken at many of our events.”

The Trust also introduced Doreen to Tony Blair in 1997. Walnes added: “Doreen impressed Tony Blair so much that he vowed after that morning at Southwark Cathedral, that should he become prime minister in the forthcoming election, he would commission a proper inquiry into the police handling of Stephen’s death.¬†That, of course, became Sir William Macpherson’s Stephen Lawrence Inquiry.”

Adding the community’s voice to the tributes, Board of Deputies chief executive Jon Benjamin said: “The Lawrence family has, finally, achieved some sense of justice for the terrible loss of their son.

“One can only be in awe of their strength and perseverance in campaigning against indifference in the face of prejudice, something that we as a community should particularly applaud. No family should have to suffer as they have.”

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What’s in a word?

A “pathetically stupid” gaffe by a Tory MP this week sparked a communal debate over use of the word “Auschwitz” in any context.

Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith was addressing a Parliamentary committee investigating privacy and injunctions, when he said: “If the only way a business can stay afloat is by engaging in immoral or unethical behaviour, then that business should either change its model or go out of business. No one said that Auschwitz should have been kept open because it created jobs.”

The Richmond Park and North Kingston MP’s comment was made as he was flanked by actors Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan. The MP rejected arguments that newspapers should be given free rein to print stories about the private lives of famous people simply to sell more copies and remain financially viable.

Labour MP Margaret Hodge, a member of the Parliamentary Committee Against Anti-Semitism, expressed outrage at his use of the word Auschwitz in his argument. She said: “I think it’s a pathetically stupid comparison. He should think before he opens his mouth and hurls insults like that. It will cause a lot of distress to people.”

But, explaining his comments to the Jewish News, Goldsmith said: “I know there are people who believe it is wrong to cite the Holocaust in any analogy because it stands alone in its awfulness. For that reason, it would certainly have been wiser to cite something else. But I do want to make it clear that, despite the tabloid reporting of this, I absolutely wasn’t comparing or equating tabloid practices with Auschwitz. That is a tabloid fabrication designed, I suspect, to shift people’s attention away from the important issues being discussed at the inquiry, namely their own criminality.”

He added: “I believe anyone reading the answer I gave to the inquiry will see for themselves that I was making the wider point that there is no commercial case for breaching human rights. I accept there are some who believe I shouldn’t have used that example, and I respect that of course, but it is important that they also see that I did not demean the grotesque events of the war by equating them with something as trivial as media dishonesty.”

Daily Mail political editor James Chapman tweeted: “Having visited Auschwitz last month, I find comparison between death camps and errant newspapers by Zac Goldsmith deeply inappropriate.”

After being criticised for his comments on Twitter, Goldsmith acknowledged his poor choice of analogy, tweeting: “I could or should have made it citing something different.” But he added later: “No one can genuinely believe I equated tabloids to concentration camps.”

Association of Jewish Refugees chairman Andrew Kaufman was scathing. “The MP should apologise for his misguided remarks, which were extremely insulting to Holocaust survivors,” he said. “To draw such an analogy trivialises the terror that the Nazis wrought.”

Board of Deputies chief executive Jon Benjamin said: “Zac Goldsmith’s reference to Auschwitz in relation to the press is foolish. For someone in a position of public office to draw such comparisons is irresponsible.”

However, a spokesman for the Holocaust Educational Trust was more sanguine, saying: “Zac Goldsmith has said he should have cited a different example and we agree.”

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Israel’s bad rap

The Foreign Office is standing by a British-Palestinian musician whose lyrics label Israelis and Jews as “dogs”, sparking outrage from communal organisations.

According to the Foreign Office website, Shadia Mansour, 25, known as the “first lady of Arabic hip-hop”, talks of her pride in being able to “walk comfortably as an Arab in Britain”, where her culture is celebrated. The site states: “Shadia chooses to rap in Arabic to claim her identity as a Palestinian in the diaspora. She feels British society has supported her career. After an amazing experience performing her songs in Palestine, she appreciated all the more the freedom of speech she enjoys in the UK.”

However, in her song Kuffiye Arabiyeh, (“The Kaffiyeh is Arab”), Mansour rails against a Jewish-style Arab head-dress, which is blue-and-white and has Stars of David.

In one verse, she raps: “Good morning cousins, y’all/welcome, come in/What would you like us to serve you/Arab blood or tears from our eyes?/Now these dogs are startin’ to wear it as a trend/No matter how they design it, no matter how they change its colour/The kuffiyeh is Arabic.”

She also sings: “Our dignity, they want it; everything that’s ours, they want it/Half your country, half your home; why, why?/No, I tell em/Stealin’ something that ain’t theirs, I can’t allow it.”

While at a summer school in Hebron, Mansour sung the following to an audience of children: “They came and destroyed our houses/They came and killed our children.” In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Mansour said her songs were “a musical intifada”. She added: “My music sometimes sounds hostile. It’s my anger… it’s non-violent resistance.”

A Foreign Office spokesman told the Jewish News that the videos on its website “highlight the great things about living and working in the UK in the run-up to the Olympics and feature opinions and ideas from a range of people. They are about promoting Britain’s open society. Shadia Mansour, featured in our latest video, is a well-known rapper and artist, a boundary-breaking female Muslim and has a large fan base. The video expresses her opinions, and her work is one person’s view of the situation in the Middle East. The Foreign Office does not tolerate anti-Semitism in any way.”

But Board of Deputies chief executive Jon Benjamin told the Jewish News: “Shadia Mansour takes pride in the fact that Arab culture is celebrated in Britain, but seems to characterise Jews who embrace the kaffiyeh as dogs and thieves. That is hardly a message of reconciliation.”

The Zionist Federation’s Harvey Rose told the Jewish News: “The Foreign Office must question its motives. Her hostility to Israel and the Jews is evident in her lyrics.”

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Suicide Bombers Families ‘Get ¬£8m in UK Aid’

According to Itamar Marcus, of Palestinian Media Watch, the families are on the payroll of the Palestinian Authority, which receives some £86million a year in aid from the Department for International Development. The PA gives about £8million to the families.

Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies, told the Jewish News: “Any aid payments should be directed towards the most needy and deserving, and to improving the lives of people unable to fend for themselves. It would be bad enough if aid fell into the hands of those who were not disadvantaged, but worse still if it actually ends up being used to prolong conflict and reward those who have committed acts of terrorism. Clearly every effort must be taken to avoid this and if absolute guarantees cannot be obtained, the payments should not be made.”

Harlow Conservative MP Robert Halfon added: “I am becoming increasingly concerned about the amount of aid to the PA that doesn’t seem to end up in the hands of vulnerable people. I’ve raised this issue in Parliament. These reports, if true, are truly shocking and I will be raising the issue with the minister for international development and in Parliament when it resumes in September.”

Liverpool Labour MP Louise Ellman said: “This is a matter of great concern. When I raised this issue before with the Department for International Development, I was given assurances that money was not reaching terrorists. I will raise this again in Parliament.”

According to the official Palestinian daily newspaper, al-Hayat al-Jadida, payments to the families of those killed fighting Israel, including suicide bombers, totalled 3.5 percent of the PA’s budget.

Marcus said: “Every terrorist in prison, including those whose acts led to the deaths of Israeli civilians, is on the PA payroll. The salary goes directly to the terrorist or the terrorist’s family, and prisoners receive their salaries from the day of arrest.”

However, a DfID spokesman dismissed the claims. “It is rubbish to suggest that the UK is supporting suicide bombers. The UK, along with the US, EU and other European countries, funds the PA to deliver essential services such as health and education to help the poorest and most vulnerable people in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. All payments go to help families based on need, not political affiliation.”

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Bishop Says Jews Use Holocaust For Propaganda

Faith leaders were horrified by quotes attributed to senior Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek in which he allegedly claimed that Jews use the Holocaust as “a weapon of propaganda, to obtain benefits which are often unjustified”.

While acknowledging that the majority of people who died in Nazi concentration camps were Jewish, the Polish clergyman said other victims should also have memorial days. He was quoted as saying: “It is not right to expropriate that tragedy for propaganda. The Jews enjoy good press because they have powerful financial means behind them, enormous power and the unconditional backing of the United States, and this favours a certain arrogance that I find unbearable.”
The bishop later told Polish television he had been misquoted by an Italian Catholic website and explicitly denied that he had called the Holocaust a “Jewish invention”.

Reverend Dick Pruiksma, general secretary of the International Council of Christians and Jews, has asked the group’s sister organisation in Poland to clarify the bishop’s comments. Pruiksma said: “We request that they intervene to convert the bishop to more sensible and sound insights.” He also branded the bishop’s comments “an accusation against Jews, not a justification for the suffering of non-Jews”.

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) has approached the Vatican, which has so far declined to comment, and the Cardinal of Krakow about Pieronek’s remarks.
Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies, said: “In denying that intolerance and historical revisionism exist, the Bishop is actually demonstrating, through his intolerant language, that it does. We naturally hope that his is a minority voice, but all people of good conscience should condemn these comments.”

Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League, said: “It is so sad that, 65 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, a Polish cleric still engages in anti-Semitic rhetoric because so much Jewish blood was shed on Polish soil.”
This is the latest in a series of incidents to cause tension between the Jewish and Catholic communities, following British Bishop Richard Williamson’s denial of the Holocaust and the Vatican’s plan to beatify the wartime Pope Pius XII.
Reverend Dick Pruiksma acknowledged “there are so many problems that have put a strain on Jewish-Catholic relations” but added: “Relations between the religions will not be damaged by one bishop.”

David Gifford, chief executive of the Council for Christians and Jews, said that the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and the Jewish community was strained, but insisted there were still “good relations” between the two communities in Britain.

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Can The Board Remain Relevant? Yes

That wry observation followed the untimely publication of an obituary, and while Mr Gordon generously concedes that the Board of Deputies still performs a necessary service and does so “fairly effectively”, he clearly feels that his departure marks the beginning of the end for the Board.

In fairness, he actually dates this decline to 1966, strangely better known as the year of England‘s World Cup victory, than for the schism within the Board of Deputies that resulted from the disaffiliation of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations.

I believe that, in fact, the split took place some years later, in 1971. But as we are an organisation that looks at the present and future of the community rather than its past, I will not dwell on it.

Where Mr Gordon is most definitely wrong, however, is in his understanding of how the Board works, what is its primary purpose and how it is perceived by wider British society.

While our eight annual Board meetings provide an invaluable forum for discussion and debate, it is self-evident that much of the Board’s work goes on outside of this arena.

Lobbying government, responding to policy consultations, guiding and advising policymakers on issues of the day clearly do not all take place on a Sunday morning in Bloomsbury, as Mr Gordon must know.

In fact, a huge volume of work is undertaken by Deputies expert in their fields and by the Board’s highly professional and knowledgeable staff.

The Board has never been busier and the sheer effort of reporting all of this activity to the Deputies may perhaps have transformed the meetings that he so fondly remembers, but modern methods of communicating information mean that we are able to inform more people than ever of our work.

As he notes, the Deputies are indeed democratically elected – by synagogues and other communal organisations ranging from the Union of Jewish Students, Limmud, the Jewish Committee for HM Forces through to AJEX and the Holocaust Survivors‘ Centre (to name but a few). All ages and most affiliations and interests are represented. The democratic process gives the board its mandate and its credibility with government, other faith communities, the media and beyond.
But the Board does not simply represent those formally affiliated to it. We serve all British Jews, have as much regard for the interests and concerns of the Charedim as we do for other parts of the community. And we consult with them all, whether they like to admit it publicly or not.

Some issues, such as our work on the guidelines for religious charities, affect all parts of the community. Some, such as those relating to immigration and marriage visas, have very little or absolutely no relevance beyond the Charedi community, and yet we still work on them.

Of course it can be a challenge to represent the diversity of opinions that exist within the community, but that diversity can also help us explain why the one-size-fits-all approach often advocated by government simply cannot be applied to faith communities such as ours. For this reason we have welcomed and embraced efforts from within the Charedi community, which of course is also not a monolith of uniform thought, to organise itself to speak with greater clarity and unity so that communal representation can be more effective.

Mr Gordon is correct, of course, about the relative growth of the Charedi community, but even with its high birth rates, it still currently represents less than 15 percent of British Jewry. Other parts of the community, as he concedes, remain vibrant.

The uptake of Jewish school places has never been higher. Jewish learning, cultural activities and initiatives like Limmud are setting world standards for Diaspora communities.

And it is precisely these other parts of the community, where the threat of assimilation may be more acute, that need and deserve professional and effective representation to ensure that living a Jewish life in Britain in 2010 and beyond remains the preferred choice for us and for future generations.

-Jon Benjamin is chief executive of the Board of Deputies쇓

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Oliver Stone: Hitler was just a ‘scapegoat’

The Oscar-winner made the comments ahead of the launch of his television documentary series that aims to provide an alternative view of history from that taught in American schools and depicted in the media.

The director, in the trailer for The Secret History of America, said he would put infamous historical leaders like Hitler and Josef Stalin in context. He said: “I’ve been able to walk in Stalin’s shoes and Hitler’s shoes, to understand their point of view. You cannot approach history unless you have empathy for the person you may hate.”

Stone told a press conference of American television critics: “We can’t judge people as only bad or good.” He added: “Hitler is an easy scapegoat throughout history and it’s been used cheaply. He’s the product of a series of actions. It’s cause and effect.”

Trudy Gold, chief executive and senior historian at the London Jewish Cultural Centre, said: “The human condition is frail enough without populist film makers getting on the band wagon.

“Stalin and Hitler were two of the worst mass murderers in history. Of course we can study condition and cause and effect, but let’s get real. They did evil and, as Judaism says: ‘When you do evil, you are evil.’”

Jon Benjamin of the Board of Deputies criticised Stone for taking a “simplistic approach” of history.

He said: “Clearly Hitler and Stalin were complex figures, the products of their time, as well as their own men. But this simplistic approach can only help to airbrush the evil of both men for future generations. How ironic that Stone, a critic of the establishment, should cast himself as an apologist for totalitarianism.”

Peter Kuznick, a history professor at American University in Washington DC and a writer of the programme, which will be broadcast on the US channel Showtime, insisted the series would not portray Hitler in “a more positive view”. He added: “But we are going to describe him as a historical phenomenon”.
Holocaust survivor Roman Halter said empathising with Hitler was “terribly wrong”.

He said Stone’s documentary was “turning history upside on its head” and that people would only call Hitler an “easy scapegoat” out of ignorance and stupidity.

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‘Jews To Blame For Swine Flu’

Speaking to Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf Saturday, Desiree Rover said the virus is a conspiracy of pharmaceutical companies, intent on increasing their profits through the sale of swine flu tablet Tamiflu and decreasing the population by spreading the sometimes deadly strain.

Rover, 61, a ‘natural healer’ with no medical training, proposed the conspiracy can be traced to the Khazar Jews, a group who are believed to have converted 1,200 years ago.

De Telegraaf quoted Rover as saying descendants of the group are now “praying to another god; Lucifer, Satan or however you want to call him” and “are called Rockefeller, Rothschild, Brzezinski and Kissinger”.

Condemning the hypothesis, director of the Dutch Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel Ronny Naftaniel told the Jewish News the article “had the smell of” implying the drug companies are operated by Jewish groups who are using the community’s panic as a wage-garnering coup.

Naftaniel’s group, an anti-Semitic watchdog in the Netherlands, are arguing that the comments were “libelous”, adding that the centre is considering filing an official complaint against Rover. Naftaniel also noted the healer is a common speaker at various events in Holland, and is known to “stir controversy during her appearances”.

He said: “These types of comments are not new, but they are dangerous whenever they are spoken. Her claims had absolutely no scientific evidence to support them, they were conspiracy theories.

He added: “This woman is no doctor, and she should take better care when speaking about subjects she obviously knows very little about.”
Responding to criticisms, De Telegraaf ran an article in it’s publication on Sunday providing counter arguments against Rover’s claim, interviewing Naftaniel who told the paper he believed her statements were “completely false and libelous”.

Jon Benjamin, director general of the Board of Deputies, told the Jewish News: “These absurd claims belong in the middle ages when ignorant superstitious yokels propagated such blood libels. It is regrettable if they are given any currency by being repeated.”

Jonathan Hoffman, co-Vice Chair of the Zionist Federation, added: “This accusation takes us back to medieval times when Jews were accused of well poisoning, sacrificing children and host desecration. I cannot imagine why De Telegraaf saw fit to print the deranged rantings of this conspiracy theorist.”

Meanwhile, swine flu has spread in the Jewish state, with the Israeli Health Ministry confirming that 2,000 residents have fallen victim to the virus. In an effort to counteract the pandemic, a group of about 50 rabbis took to the skies Monday for an airborne minyan. Praying onboard the flight which circled over Israel, the gathering saw shofars blown as rabbis davened, with participant Rabbi Yitzhak Basri telling Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot: “The purpose of the flight was to stop the [swine flu] epidemic so that people will not keep dying from it.”

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German Amazon To Be Sued Over Holocaust Denial Books

The move was welcomed by Jewish community leaders in Britain, citing a “moral responsibility” against inciting hatred or advocating revisionism of the Shoah, which is an offence punishable by five years in prison in Germany.

According to research conducted by the AJC, about 50 books, including Wilhelm Staglich’s The Auschwitz Myth – Legend or Reality, are currently for sale on Amazon.de, the German branch of the site. Staglich’s book, along with works cited by the AJC written by Germar Rudolf, Udo Walendy, Jurgen Graf and Carlo Mattogno, are also available for sale on the UK‘s branch of the retailer, Amazon.com.uk.

Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies, told the Jewish News: “Amazon does have a moral responsibility not to propagate the sorts of views that encourage racism and intolerance.”

He added: “Holocaust denial has been criminalised in countries like Germany and
Austria, where the historical resonance of the Nazi era is particularly profound. It is not a criminal offence in the UK and the consensus is that the law does not need to be changed, provided there remains sufficient protection under the laws relating to incitement. That does lead to instances where, under the right of free speech, some thoroughly unpleasant literature is available from otherwise respectable sources.”

AJC-Berlin director Deidre Berger said in a statement: “It is unacceptable that books are for sale on Amazon.de, that normally are only available under the counter in far-right extremist shops. We cannot let the spread of internet sales erode laws that ban Holocaust denial and incitement to hatred of minorities in Germany.”

A spokeswoman for Amazon.de responded that while books may be on offer which contain “questionable content with regards to the Nazis”, the company believes “that the correct answer to controversial literature is not to ban it, but to engage in discussion over the controversy”.

The spokeswoman also denied allegations by the AJC that the site was selling books marked strictly for readers over the age of 18.

Member of the German Parliament Sebastian Edathy, head of the Bundestag’s interior affairs committee, criticised Amazon’s response, saying in a statement it was “shocking that an international book dealership is not prepared to remove books that stir up anti-Semitism and undermine the democratic consensus”.

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