Sam Fuld of the Israeli World Baseball Classic team reacting after striking out in a game against the Netherlands at the Tokyo Dome, March 13. Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images.

Team Israel suffers first loss in World Baseball Classic

Israel’s surprising squad in the World Baseball Classic lost its first game in the tournament, dropping a rematch with the Netherlands, 12-2.

Israel is now 1-1 in the second round of the 16-team quadrennial tournament and 4-1 overall. Israel likely must defeat powerhouse Japan on Wednesday to advance to the semifinals.

Didi Gregorius, the New York Yankees’ shortstop, homered and drove in five runs to power the Netherlands. The game was called after eight innings due to the mercy rule stopping a contest with a team trailing by 10 runs after seven innings or 15 runs when at least five innings have been played.

Israel was the lowest-ranked team to qualify for the showcase tournament, coming in at 41st in the world. But last week in the first round, the Israelis squeaked past third-ranked South Korea, 2-1, in extra innings, outscored fourth-ranked Taiwan, 15-7, and defeated ninth-ranked the Netherlands, 4-2, to finish first in Pool A with a 3-0 record.

This is the first year that Israel has qualified for the tournament. In 2012, its inaugural WBC squad narrowly missed advancing past the qualifiers.

Most of the players are American Jews, among them several former major leaguers. WBC rules state that players who are eligible for citizenship of a country may play on its team. Jews and their grandchildren, and the grandchildren’s spouses, have the right to become Israeli citizens.

Dutch anti-Islam pol visits Jewish ‘victim of Moroccan violence’

Geert Wilders, a right-wing lawmaker from the Netherlands who has spouted anti-Islam rhetoric, visited a Holocaust survivor who was beaten by assailants she said had an Arab appearance.

Wilders, leader of the Party for Freedom, visited 86-year-old Diana Blog in Amsterdam on Monday, he wrote on Twitter. He called her “a victim of Moroccan violence” in the tweet, which said he visited Blog with fellow Party for Freedom lawmaker Martin Bosma.

The Aug. 4 assault on Blog and her husband – both octogenarian survivors – shocked the Netherlands because of the victims’ ages and the cruelty of the perpetrators, one of whom beat Samuel Blog unconscious, breaking his hip and rendering him permanently blind, the couple said.

The assailants, who have not been caught, also threatened to cut Diana Blog’s finger because she had trouble removing a ring they wanted, the couple said, and one of the attackers called them a “dirty Jew.” They described the attackers as being fluent speakers of Dutch with an Arab appearance.

The largest group of immigrants to the Netherlands from Arab countries is Moroccans.

Bosma wrote on his Twitter account: “Beaten for two hours. Tied up naked. Husband hit till he was blind. Mrs. Blog is in a wheelchair.”

The Party for Freedom under Wilders, a supporter of Zionism who lived for two years on a moshav in Israel during the 1980s, advocates the triumph of Judeo-Christian values over Islam, which Wilders has called a fascist ideology.

Wilders’ party, which is the fifth largest in the Netherlands with 12 lawmakers out of 150, enjoys considerable support among Dutch Jews, though many of them accuse Wilders of encouraging xenophobia toward Muslims. Others further say he has demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice Jewish interests in going after Muslim ones, including in his party’s support for banning both kosher and halal slaughter.

Dutch deputy PM: Anti-Semitic abuse keeps me off social media

The deputy prime minister of the Netherlands said he has stopped interacting on social media because of anti-Semitic abuse against him.

Lodewijk Asscher, who has Jewish ancestors, in a post Tuesday on Facebook titled “Disrespectful Dog” lists the handles of several Twitter users who used anti-Semitic language against him.

One of the users wrote: “Asscher would rather crawl into a Muslim burrow than stand with his own nation! Just like his grandfather, who was happy to work for the occupier.”

Asscher, of the left-leaning Labor Party, wrote that the reference is actually to his great-grandfather, Abraham Asscher, who was a member of the Jewish council set up by the Nazis to control Dutch Jews ahead of their extermination in death camps. He sarcastically congratulated those who traced back his lineage for their “great interest in history.”

Another user wrote: “The Zionist dog Asscher skips U.N. meeting on racism, not anti-Semitism. The former doesn’t interest him.”

For many users, Asscher wrote, “my Jewish last name is a plausible explanation for my behavior and attitude,” such as simultaneously “giving Muslims too much and too little” attention.

Due to this discourse, he added, “I often no longer react to people who approach me on social media.” In conclusion, Asscher asked social media users to show the posts they intend to publish about him to their mothers or daughters before posting.

“If they also think it’s a good idea, go ahead and post,” he wrote.

Germany soccer game against Netherlands called off over bomb fears

A soccer game between Germany and Netherlands which German Chancellor Angel Merkel was due to attend in Hanover was called off two hours before its scheduled start on Tuesday over fears of a planned bombing.

The match was due to have been held four days after deadly attacks in Paris on Friday, when suicide bombers targeted the soccer stadium where Germany were playing France. 

“We had received specific indications that an attack with explosives was planned,” Hanover Police President Volker Kluwe told NDR state broadcaster. “We took them seriously and that is why we took the measures.”

Police vans with loudspeakers ordered fans to leave the Hanover stadium and heavily armed officers positioned themselves outside the arena.

Police also evacuated Hanover's TUI multi-purpose arena where a concert was about to start.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the threat was credible and cancelling the game was the right thing to do, but did not provide any details.

“I understand the question but I will not answer it,” he told a hastily convened news conference when asked what had forced the decision. He said divulging details could undermine security at other events.

“We will have such cases in the future, maybe not Hanover but somewhere else,” he said.

Lower Saxony interior minister Boris Pistorius said no explosives had been found and no arrests had been made.

After the attacks in Paris on Friday security measures in Hanover had been tight. In a show of solidarity, Merkel was set to attend with Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel and several government ministers.

“We were re-routed on our way to the stadium and are now in a safe area,” German team spokesman Jens Grittner said on Twitter. “We cannot say more at this moment.”

Interim German Football Association President Reinhard Rauballl said he called up the team in the bus some five kilometres (3 miles) from the stadium, telling them the game was cancelled.

Both the German and the Dutch teams were then rushed to a secure undisclosed location before the hosts left individually for their homes and the visitors for the airport.

“That we would go through this twice in four days is not something I could imagine,” Rauball, visibly shaken, told reporters. It is a sad day for Germany and a sad day for German football,” Rauball said. 

Two Dutch government ministers who were due to attend the match – Defence Minister Jeanine Hennes and Health and Sport Minister Edith Schippers – were also returning home.

World champions Germany had not initially wanted the game to go ahead after having played inParis on Friday as a wave of attacks hit the city, killing 129 people.

The contingent of 80 Germans, including players, coaches and staff, then spent the night holed up in the changing rooms of the Stade de France stadium, before heading for the airport on Saturday morning.

But the players, coaches and the national football association then decided to go ahead with the Hanover game in a gesture of solidarity with France.

Dutch lawmakers mull extra protection for Israeli tourists

Senior lawmakers for the Netherlands’ ruling party suggested beefing up security for Israeli tourists following a threat.

Han ten Broeke and Sjoerd Potters of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy made the suggestion in a parliamentary query they filed Thursday with the kingdom’s minister for foreign affairs and his counterpart in charge of social affairs and employment.

The query followed the publication on Facebook of a call to “smite down” Israeli tourists published by Younnes Ouaali, a café owner and a representative of the Dutch aid group World Wide Relief, as revenge for perceived attacks on Palestinians by Israel.

“What travel advice does the Israeli government employ for the Netherlands?” the lawmakers asked the ministers. “Are you planning to take extra measures for the protection of Israeli tourists?”

The ministers have two weeks to reply. The lawmakers also asked whether Ouaali’s statement will have repercussions for World Wide Relief – an international aid group active in several countries. The organization, whose website contains a map in which the territory of Israel is labeled as “Palestine,” was unreachable for comment.

On Thursday, during a guest appearance on popular talk show Pauw en Witteman, Younnes defended as nonviolent his suggestion to hit Israelis.

“I am not the issue. The terrorist state of Israel is,” he said. Ouaali said on the show that a police complaint filed against him for incitement by CIDI, a pro-Israel Dutch group, “is like having Hitler file a complaint.”

Esther Voet, a former director of CIDI and editor-in-chief of the Dutch Jewish NIW weekly, accused the television show of “moral bankruptcy” in inviting Ouaali and “giving Jew-hatred a podium.”

Ten Broek noted on Twitter that the presenter and panel “continuously and correctly referred” Ouaali to incitement in his message.

Dutch Jewish school closed after anti-terrorist raid in Belgium

The only Orthodox Jewish school in the Netherlands was closed on Friday as a precautionary measure after an anti-terrorism raid in Belgium left two suspects dead.

There was no concrete threat against the Cheider School in Amsterdam, Dutch national broadcaster NOS said, citing the school's Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs. School phones went unanswered Friday morning.

Jewish schools in Antwerp and Brussels are also temporarily closed after two terrorism suspects were killed in a raid in Verviers, Belgium, on Thursday.

Dutch Jewish schools and prominent Jewish monuments – including Amsterdam's Anne Frank House and Jewish Historical Museum – have had extra security since June, on advice of the country's national anti-terrorism office.

That followed a terrorism-related shooting at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, Belgium, in May that killed four.

Fugitive rabbi’s followers ‘overrun’ Dutch campsite

A Dutch municipality ordered the eviction of 270 Jews from a camping site that is overcrowded with followers of the fugitive rabbi Eliezer Berland.

The order was issued Friday by the island municipality of Texel in the country’s north in connection with the arrival of 300 Orthodox Jews from the Breslov Hasidic sect ahead of Yom Kippur to a Jewish-owned camping site with a capacity of 30 people, the Noordhollands Dagblad daily newspaper reported Friday.

The visitors came from various countries to spend the holiday with Berland, who was arrested in the Netherlands last month.

Berland, the founder of the Shuvu Bonim religious seminary, fled Israel to Morocco and from there to South Africa last year amid allegations that he molested two female followers, including a minor. Israel requested his extradition; he is staying in Holland while justice authorities review the request.

Berland and his followers arrived ahead of the weekend at Camping Dennenlust, which belongs to a Jewish couple, Avraham and Rivka Pranger.

Out of consideration for the religious sentiment of the campers, Mayor Francine Giskes gave the Prangers until Sunday for their site to adhere to its legal capacity, Noordhollands Dagblad reported. She consulted several mayors in the region on how to approach the matter.

Avraham Pranger told the daily that he and his wife did not know 300 people would descend on their small business and that the guests kept multiplying despite the couple’s request that they find an alternative arrangements.

“It all began with a reservation by a rabbi from Amsterdam and 30 of his followers,” he told the daily before Yom Kippur. “We are totally overrun, but these are fellow Jews and I can’t just chase them away. I think it’s through social media the message spread.”


5774: For Europe’s Jews, a year of upheaval and uncertainty

A laconic man who abhors hysteria, the president of France’s CRIF umbrella of Jewish communities is not naturally inclined to emphasize his community’s fear in public, preferring to underscore French Jewry’s achievements and capacity to prosper despite recent hardships.

But in a filmed interview posted this month on the CRIF website, Roger Cukierman was uncharacteristically candid in describing this summer as “a time of fear, which we shared with our Israeli brethren” who suffered weeks of bombardment from Hamas rockets.

The fear was not merely the significant uptick in violent attacks on Jews in recent months, but a mounting sense that public authorities could no longer be relied on to provide the community with protection. The events, he said, “left the Jewish community with the impression of being isolated within the nation amid attacks by another population.”

Across Europe, Jews have encountered measurable increases in anti-Semitic activity over the past year, prompting both increased immigration to Israel, or aliyah, and a creeping sense of uncertainty over the future of their communities.

Cukierman’s description of a growing Jewish sense of isolation is especially true in France, where Europe’s largest Jewish community lives in an often uneasy coexistence with a large Muslim population. But the situation is hardly unique.

In the Netherlands, where one of the chief rabbis saw his house vandalized for no less than the fifth time in July, several anti-Israel rallies in The Hague featured chants about killing Jews. Similar calls were heard at a rally in Belgium, where the community is still reeling from the slaying in May of four people at Brussels’ Jewish museum — the bloodiest attack on a Jewish institution in Europe since the 2012 murder of three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France. Just this week, arson was the suspected cause for a fire at a synagogue near Brussels.

Belgium also saw three instances in which Jews were denied professional services, including one case of a doctor who advised a 90-year-old Jewish woman from Antwerp to seek help in Gaza. In both the Netherlands and Sweden, people were beaten for displaying an Israeli flag.

The summer war “emboldened jihadists in a way never seen before, resulting in a coming-out of sorts,” said Manfred Gerstenfeld, a prominent Israeli scholar on anti-Semitism. “Mostly it intimidated Jewish communities, but it also produced some pushback.”

For example, in Greece, two years after its entry into parliament, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party was feeling a strong response from the establishment. With many of its leaders jailed or on trial since September 2013 for crimes linked to the racist violence encouraged by its members, the party must now contend with a new law that criminalizes Holocaust denial and increases penalties for “inciting acts of discrimination, hatred or violence.” 

Among the European leaders who spoke out forcefully against anti-Semitism in Europe was German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who last week addressed a Berlin rally against the hatred of Jews. Before a crowd of several thousands, Merkel called German Jews a “national treasure.”

Meanwhile, at Europe’s eastern edge, Jews also felt themselves under assault, though for much different reasons. In Ukraine, Jewish immigration to Israel skyrocketed as Jews fled the bloody battle zones where Ukrainian troops clashed with pro-Russian militiamen.

The intensity of the attacks on Jews — some European politicians have referred to it as “the import of the Middle East conflict to Europe” — caught several European governments off guard, exacerbating the Jewish sense of abandonment and prompting some Jews to take the quest for security into their own hands.

In Paris, where police consistently failed to enforce a recent ban on Gaza-related protests, officers stationed outside the Don Isaac Abravanel Synagogue, or the Roquette Synagogue, found themselves vastly outnumbered and besieged by dozens of young men who splintered off a nearby anti-Israel protest rally on July 13. Dozens of young Jews, many from the far-right Jewish Defense League, fended off the mob in a violent street brawl as six police officers waited for backup.

Similar scenes unfolded in the Parisian suburb of Sarcelles, where riot police acted as a buffer between an Arab mob and approximately 100 Jews who on July 19 had gathered outside a synagogue — many with clubs in hand — “to prevent a pogrom,” as local community leader Serge Najar described it.

In France, particularly in Paris, violent assaults against Jews became an almost daily occurrence in April and May, months before the onset of the latest round of hostilities between Israel and Hamas. Jewish Agency officials said the violence contributed to a dramatic increase in French aliyah.

More than 4,500 immigrants have left France for Israel this year, making France the No. 1 source of immigrants to Israel for the first time in decades, topping the United States and even the embattled Ukraine by a considerable margin.

The figures do not include the French Jews who left for countries other than Israel. Jewish communities from Montreal to Miami reported a rise in the number of French congregants in what some are calling “a silent exodus.”

“I left because this country is no longer the France I knew,” said Lionel Berros, a former kosher supervisor in his 40s who was born in Paris and moved to Netanya in July. “I used to take the bus to school wearing a kippah, but now have to cover it with a baseball cap and worry that maybe someone is going to kill my daughter at her school. I’m sad because of what happened to France, but am happy to leave it.”

Jewish leaders have hardly acquiesced to the dwindling of their communities. Cukierman has vowed that after 2,000 years of French Jewish history, the “Jewish presence in France will continue.”

Still, the increase in aliyah is significant and evident across the continent. While aliyah from Britain and Holland remained stable, 272 Belgian Jews immigrated to Israel in 2013, the highest figure recorded in nine years. Jewish emigration from Italy also rose, climbing to 209 in the first eight months of 2014 from 162 in 2013.

The identity of the suspected assailant of the Brussels museum attack — an alleged jihadist named Mehdi Nemmouche who reportedly honed his killing skills while fighting in Syria — “demonstrates the profound change in the nature of the threat we are facing,” European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor told JTA. “No longer the odd hate crime but trained killers with the ideology, know-how and weapons to carry out massive attacks.”

Immediately after the museum attack, EJC and the local Jewish community set up a crisis management center, the result of a two-year effort initiated after the Toulouse attack by the EJC’s Security and Crisis Center, the body responsible for providing medical, psychological and security services in times of crisis. In addition to the EJC effort, the governments of the Netherlands, Belgium and France, among others, allocated millions of dollars toward security for Jewish institutions.

“The threat is still being treated on an individual state basis, whereas what’s needed is a coordinated multi-state effort similar to the one launched against drugs or tax evasion,” Kantor said.

Fear was a factor also for many Jews in Ukraine, where a revolution that erupted in November brought with it a number of violent assaults by unidentified assailants who appeared to target Jews. The attacks ceased after the ousting in February of President Viktor Yanukovych, but they were replaced in the country’s east by an arguably worse fear — being caught in the crossfire between government troops and pro-Russian rebels.

Despite some disagreements about the political situation, Jews in Ukraine and Russia responded with a coordinated effort. In Ukraine, it included assistance to thousands of Jews affected by the war. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Jewish Agency and local Jewish communities and philanthropists all pitched in to help evacuate thousands of Jews from the battle zones.

In total, some 15 Jews died in the fighting, according to the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which along with local Chabad officials helped set up a refugee camp for the internally displaced.

And as in France and Belgium, the crisis in Ukraine also resulted in substantial growth in emigration, with 3,252 newcomers leaving for Israel in 2014 compared to 1,270 in the corresponding period last year.

Taken together, the crises prompted a sense that something fundamental had shifted for Europe’s Jews. Over the summer, Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet dissident who as chief of the Jewish Agency is the top Israeli official responsible for aliyah, suggested that the current period “may be the beginning of the end for European Jewry.”


Dutch hotelier cancels Israeli family’s reservation over Gaza

A Dutch hotelier apologized for canceling the reservation of an Israeli family over Israel’s actions in Gaza.

Mart Muis, who last week canceled the reservation of the Natzitz family from Kiryat Ono, Israel, at his bed & breakfast in Waterland, near Amsterdam, said he had “a moment of insanity” when he sent the email canceling the reservation, the Nieuw Israëlietisch Weekblad weekly reported.

Muis wrote he canceled the reservation, which was booked through the Israeli tour operator Sababa, “primarily because every day I get angrier and angrier when I see and read how much suffering and death and loss Israel is causing in Gaza. As long as this disproportionate violence of Israel continues, I will not accept guests from Israel.”

Discrimination on basis of nationality is illegal in the Netherlands.

Contacted by NIW, Muis expressed regret for the incident offered to host the Natzitz family for free. He added that he suffers from panic attacks and has hardly left his home since 2008.

“It is absolutely irrational, he said. “I am deeply ashamed that I ruined their vacation.”

Neta Natzitz said the cancellation did not seem impulsive.

“At first I heard the owner wanted to cancel the reservation because he feared our flight would be canceled,” she said. “The next day he canceled altogether because of the violence in Gaza.”

Eliese Friedmann, a senior researcher at the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, a Dutch watchdog on anti-Semitism, told NIW the family should file a complaint with police. The family told NIW they have not yet decided on whether to do this.

On Hague court visit, Palestinian FM accuses Israel of war crimes

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki accused Israel of war crimes following his visit to the International Criminal Court, which he said the P.A. would try to join this year.

Malki’s visit to the Hague-based court Tuesday came amid growing criticism of Israel from European leaders, including Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, because of civilian deaths in Gaza.

“In last 28 days, there is clear evidence of war crimes committed by Israel amounting to crimes against humanity,” Malki told reporters after meetings, including with prosecutors, at the ICC. He said Israel “must be held accountable.”

Malki said “the State of Palestine” hopes to be a member of the ICC before 2015, the RTL broadcaster reported.

“Israel left us no choice after its war crimes in Gaza,” he said.

If accepted to the ICC, the Palestinian Authority would be able to sue Israel for war crimes, but may in turn be exposed to similar lawsuits itself if Israel also seeks membership.

Israel is not a member of the court, which was created originally to probe individuals for war crimes and is considered a court of “last resort,” when all the other options are unavailable.

Legal action by the court against Israel could be started pending the unlikely passing of a resolution by the United Nations Security Council authorizing it to act, or if the Palestinian Authority is accepted as a member. In 2009, the P.A.’s bid to join following many civilian deaths during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead was rejected.

But in 2012, the U.N. General Assembly accorded the Palestinians Non-Member Observer State status. Legal experts are divided in their assessments on whether Ramallah would be accepted if it re-applied now.

The court can only intervene when a country is found to be unwilling or unable to carry out its own investigation.

Also Tuesday, the NRC daily published an Op-Ed by Timmermans in which he called Israel’s actions “unacceptable,” but also condemned Hamas’ diversion of financial resources away from humanitarian needs for the construction of tunnels to attack Israel.

At about noon, police detained several protesters who held a sit-down protest in front of the Israeli Embassy in The Hague after vowing on Facebook to block access to it. Police declared the area temporarily off limits for demonstrators.

Dutch watchdog reports record levels of online anti-Semitism

A Dutch watchdog group said it was observing record levels of anti-Semitic hatred online.

Meldpunt Discriminatie Internet, or MDI, said the current volume of reports on punishable hate speech against Jews is unparalleled during the organization’s 17 years in existence, the AT5 television channel reported Monday.

“Usually, we get three to five reports [of incidents] per week, but now we have received 73 reports,” MDI cofounder Suzette Bronkhorst told AT5. “We are talking about 200-300 incidents of anti-Semitic hate speech within 10 days,” Bronkhorst added. The jump is connected to Israel’s offensive in Gaza, she said, and largely consists of statements on Twitter.

One Twitter message flagged by MDI read: “I want all Jews, but really all of them, to drop dead until not a single one is left.” Another, belonging to the Twitter user “goldmocro,” identified as James Rodriquez, read: “Hitler needs to come back to kill the Jews. #FreePalestine.”

In France, the hashtag #PalestineVivraIsraelBrulera, or “Palestine will live, Israel will burn,” was ranked third-most popular among users from the Toulouse region on Tuesday.

Hashtags are words or phrases preceded by the number symbol that are used to index messages on Twitter and other social networks.

Dutch Jews seek ban on rallies featuring hate speech

Following repeated calls to kill Jews in protest rallies in The Hague, representatives of the Dutch Jewish community urged local authorities to crack down on anti-Semitic incitement.

The appeal by the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, or CIDI, came Friday following two demonstrations in The Hague this month in which protesters made menacing statements about Jews.

“The Hague is known internationally as a city of peace and law,” CIDI wrote in the statement. “It is unfathomable that this could happen in this city.”

The statement was in reference to a demonstration by 150 people in the heavily Muslim Schilderswijk neighborhood of the Hague. Protesters who had gathered there on Thursday evening to demonstrate against Israel’s actions in Gaza chanted “death to Israel, death to the Jews” in Arabic.

The prosecutor’s office of the Hague said in a statement that a police officer who speaks Arabic was present at the demonstration but did not find that the calls “crossed the line.” But the prosecutor’s office will review video footage of the demonstration to determine whether the calls constituted incitement to hate and will punish the parties responsible if their actions violated the law, the statement said.

The CIDI, a watchdog monitoring anti-Semitism, was joined in its call by the Central Jewish Board, or CJO — the umbrella group representing Jewish communities and organizations in the Netherlands.

An earlier protest in the Schilderswijk on July 4 — four days before Israel launched its assault on Hamas — featured similar calls. That rally was to protest the arrest of Dutch Muslims who had fought with jihadists in Syria.

Bodies, black boxes handed over from Ukraine crash site

The remains of some of the nearly 300 victims of the Malaysia Airlines plane downed over Ukraine were making their way to the Netherlands on Tuesday as a senior Ukrainian separatist leader handed over the plane's black boxes to Malaysian experts.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told a news conference on Monday that a train carrying around 200 body bags was on its way to rebel-held Donetsk and then to Kharkiv, which is in Ukrainian government hands, from where the bodies would be taken back to the Netherlands to be identified.

The train left the crash site after the Malaysian prime minister reached agreement with the separatists for recovered bodies to be handed over to authorities in the Netherlands, where the largest number of victims came from. Early on Tuesday, senior separatist leader Aleksander Borodai handed over the black boxes in the city of Donetsk.

“Here they are, the black boxes,” Borodai told a room packed with journalists at the headquarters of his self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic as an armed rebel placed the boxes on a desk.

Colonel Mohamed Sakri of the Malaysian National Security Council told the meeting the two black boxes were “in good condition”.

The handover of the bodies and black boxes, and reports by international investigators of improved access to the wreckage of the airliner four days after it was shot down, occurred against calls for broader sanctions against Russia for its support for the rebellion, although Western leaders are struggling to agree on a united response.

Shaken by the deaths of 298 people from across the world,Western governments have threatened Russia with stifferpenalties for what they say is its backing of pro-Russianmilitia who, their evidence suggests, shot the plane down. At the United Nations, the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution demanding those responsible “be held toaccount and that all states cooperate fully with efforts toestablish accountability”. It also demanded that armed groups allow “safe, secure, fulland unrestricted access” to the crash site.

“We owe it to the victims and their families to determine what happened and who was responsible,” said Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who traveled to New York to negotiate the U.N. resolution. Australia lost 28 citizens in the crash.

The Kremlin said in a statement late on Monday that Vladimir Putin spoke to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on the phone, with both giving a “high assessment of the resolution passed by the U.N. Security Council on the investigation into the catastrophe.”

Meanwhile, European Union foreign ministers were scheduled on Tuesday to discuss further penalties against Russia, but the most they are expected to do is to speed up implementation of sanctions against individuals, and possibly companies, agreed in principle last week before the plane was brought down.

But Western leaders struggled to come to a united response against Moscow. France came under pressure on Monday from Washington and London over plans to deliver a second helicopter carrier to Russia.

Diplomats say more serious sanctions against whole sectorsof the Russian economy will depend largely on the line taken bythe Dutch, because of the high number of Dutch victims. “It is clear that Russia must use her influence on theseparatists to improve the situation on the ground,” the Dutch prime minister said.

“If in the coming days access to the disaster area remainsinadequate, then all political, economic and financial options are on the table against those who are directly or indirectlyresponsible for that,” said Rutte.


U.S. President Barack Obama said it was time for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia “to pivot away from the strategy that they've been taking and get serious abouttrying to resolve hostilities within Ukraine.”

He said Putin and Russia had a direct responsibility to compel separatists to cooperate with the investigation, and that the burden was on Moscow to insist that separatists stop tampering with the probe, he said. “What are they trying to hide?” Obama said at the White House.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry laid out on Sunday what he called overwhelming evidence of Russian complicity in the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines plane, and expressed disgust at how the bodies of the victims had been treated at the crash site.

But Russia's Defence Ministry challenged accusations that pro-Russian separatists were responsible for shooting down the airliner and said Ukrainian warplanes had flown close to it.

The ministry also rejected accusations that Russia had supplied the rebels with SA-11 Buk anti-aircraft missile systems – the weapon said by Kiev and the West to have downed the airliner – “or any other weapons”. Putin said in a televised address that the downing of the airliner must not be used for political ends and urged separatists to allow international experts access to the crashsite. RECOVERY EFFORTS

European security monitors said gunmen stopped them inspecting the site when they arrived on Friday, and Ukrainian officials said separatists had tampered with vital evidence,allegations echoed by Obama. But the spokesman for the European security monitors said they had unfettered access on Monday, and three members of Dutch disaster victims identification team arrived at a railwaystation near the crash site and inspected the storage of thebodies in refrigerated rail cars. Peter van Vliet, whose team went through the wagons dressedin surgical masks and rubber gloves, said he was impressed bythe work the recovery crews had done, given the heat and thescale of the crash site. “I think they did a hell of a job in ahell of a place,” he said. As they went about their work, fighting flared in Donetsk,some 60 km (40 miles) from the site, in a reminder ofthe dangers the experts face operating in a war zone. The government in Kiev denied sending the regular army into the center of Donetsk, which pro-Russian separatists captured inApril, but said small “self-organised” pro-Ukrainian groups werefighting the rebels in the city. Four people were killed in clashes, health officials said. The rebels’ military commander Igor Strelkov said on his Facebook page up to 12 of his men died in Monday's fighting. Donetsk is at the heart of a rebel uprising against rule byKiev, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has vowed toretake the city as part of what Kiev calls its “anti-terroristoperation” against the separatists. Television images of the rebel-controlled crash site, where the remains of victims had lain decomposing in fields among their personal belongings, have turned initial shock and sorrowafter Thursday's disaster into anger. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said an Australian investigation team was in Kiev but had been unable to travel to the site. He said there had been some improvement with the Ukrainian government offering access. “But there's still a hell of a long way to go before anyone could be satisfied with the way that site is being treated,”Abbott said. “It's more like a garden cleanup than a forensic investigation. This is completely unacceptable.”

Additional reporting by Peter Graff in Hrabove, Pavel; Polityuk, Natalia Zinets and Elizabeth Piper in Kiev, Jim Loney,; Doina Chiacu, Ayesha Rascoe and Mark Hosenball in Washington,; Michelle Nichols at the United Nations, Allison Lampert in; Montreal, Lincoln Feast and Jane Wardell in Sydney, William; James in London, Julien Ponthus, Elizabeth Pineau and Emmanuel Jarryin Paris, and Gabriela Baczynska in Kiev; Writing by Giles; Elgood and Peter Cooney; Editing by Bernard Orr

Leaders of Dutch party’s youth division seek circumcision ban

Two leaders of the youth division of the Dutch ruling party called for a ban on non-medical circumcision of boys.

Tom Leijte, the vice president of the JOVD youth movement of the VVD ruling party, and JOVD senior board member Matthijs van de Burgwal made the plea in an op-ed Wednesday in the Trouw daily newspaper.

The article, “High Time to Ban Circumcision of Underage Boys,” cites the 1993 banning of female genital mutilation.

“Religion in the Netherlands cannot serve as an argument for maiming people for life,” the authors write. “It is high time that, following the banning of circumcision of girls, that circumcision of boys under 18 also be forbidden.”

The VVD, or People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, is a center-right party also known as Holland’s liberal party. Its youth department, JOVD, was founded in 1949. Prime Minister Mark Rutte launched his political career heading JOVD from 1988-1991.

Rabbi Yanki Jacobs and Daniel Ascher of the Netherlands Chabad on Campus organization said that by endorsing the ban, the young politicians had forgotten the party’s liberal values.

“We are afraid of the anti-liberal argumentation of the Liberals,” they said in a statement. “We are seeing a process of ongoing regression among Liberals.”

Ritual circumcision of underage boys increasingly has come under attack in Scandinavia and northern Europe, both by left-wing secularists as well as right-wingers who fear the influence of immigration from Muslim countries.

The Royal Dutch Medical Association called for banning non-medical circumcision of boys in 2010, arguing that it introduced unnecessary risks and violated the rights of underage patients.

A Jewish ritual circumcision, or brit milah, takes place eight days after a boy is born. Muslim circumcisions of boys occurs later in life but typically before the boy turns 10.

In 2012, a German court in Cologne ruled that ritual circumcision of minors amounted to a criminal act. The ruling was overturned but triggered temporary bans in Austria and Switzerland.

Since then, several political parties in Norway, Sweden and Finland have voted in favor of banning the practice.

Survey: Dutch favor Arab recognition of Israel as Jewish state

More than two-thirds of respondents to a survey in the Netherlands said Arab countries should recognize Israel as the Jewish state.

Some 68 percent of 4,200 adults polled last month told the leading Dutch polling company they believed that Arab countries “should recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish People,” according to a statement by the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, the Dutch pro-Israel lobby group that commissioned the poll.

But the poll, whose results were published earlier this month, also showed that 23 percent of respondents believe Israel bears most of the blame for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict compared to 15 percent who blame the Palestinians. Forty-three percent of respondents said both parties were equally responsible.

A statement that the Netherlands should be more supportive of Israel than of the Palestinians received the approval of 16 percent of respondents, nearly double the number who backed more backing for the Palestinians.

Thirty-six percent of respondents said neutrality was the best policy for the Netherlands and 33 percent said the Netherlands should support both Israel and the Palestinians equally.

The two-state solution was selected as the preferred resolution of the conflict by 59 percent of respondents, whereas 14 percent of respondents said Palestinians should realize their national ambitions in Arab states. Eight percent said Jews needed to return “to their land of origin.”

Among attitudes toward Jews, 38 percent of respondents said they were positive or very positive and 6 percent said they were negative.  Fifty-two percent said their attitude toward Jews was neutral.

EU adds Hezbollah’s military wing to terrorism list

The European Union agreed on Monday to put the armed wing of Hezbollah on its terrorism blacklist, a move driven by concerns over the Lebanese militant group's involvement in a deadly bus bombing in Bulgaria and the Syrian war.

The powerful Lebanese Shi'ite movement, an ally of Iran, has attracted concern in Europe and around the world in recent months for its role in sending thousands of fighters to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government, an intervention that has turned the tide of Syria's two-year-old civil war.

Britain and the Netherlands have long pressed their EU peers to impose sanctions on the Shi'ite Muslim group, citing evidence it was behind an attack in the coastal Bulgarian city of Burgas a year ago that killed five Israelis and their driver.

Until now, many EU capitals had resisted lobbying from Washington and Israel to blacklist the group, warning such a move could fuel instability in Lebanon and in the Middle East.

Hezbollah functions both as a political party that is part of the Lebanese government and as a militia with thousands of guerrillas under arms.

Lebanese caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour said the decision was “hasty” and could lead to further sanctions against the movement that would complicate Lebanese politics.

“This will hinder Lebanese political life in the future, especially considering our sensitivities in Lebanon,” he told Reuters. “We need to tighten bonds among Lebanese parties, rather than create additional problems.”

The blacklisting opens the way for EU governments to freeze any assets Hezbollah's military wing may have in Europe.

“There's no question of accepting terrorist organizations in Europe,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters.

Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said in a statement that the EU had taken an important step by “dealing with the military wing of Hezbollah, freezing its assets, hindering its fundraising and thereby limiting its capacity to act”.

In the United States, Secretary of State John Kerry said Syria was an important factor behind the EU vote.

“A growing number of governments are recognizing Hezbollah as the dangerous and destabilizing terrorist organization that it is,” he said.


By limiting the listing to the armed wing, the EU was trying to avoid damaging its relations with Lebanon's government, but the split may complicate its ability to enforce the decision in practical terms.

Hezbollah does not formally divide itself into armed and political wings, and Amal Saad Ghorayeb, who wrote a book on the group, said identifying who the ban would apply to will be difficult.

“It is a political, more than a judicial decision. It can't have any real, meaningful judicial implications,” she said, adding it appeared to be a “a PR move” to hurt Hezbollah's international standing, more connected with events in Syria than with the case in Bulgaria.

Israel's deputy foreign minister Zeev Elkin welcomed the step, but said the entire group should have been targeted.

“We (Israel) worked hard, along with a number of countries in Europe, in order to bring the necessary materials and prove there was a basis for a legal decision,” he told Israel Radio.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague sought to allay concerns about the practical impact of the decision, saying it would allow for better cooperation among European law enforcement officials in countering Hezbollah activities.

Hezbollah parliamentary member al-Walid Soukariah said the decision puts Europe “in confrontation with this segment of people in our region”.

“This step won't affect Hezbollah or the resistance. The resistance is present on Lebanese territory and not in Europe. It is not a terrorist group to carry out terrorist attacks in Europe, which is forbidden by religion.”


The Iran-backed movement, set up with the aim of fighting Israel after its invasion of Lebanon three decades ago, has dominated politics in Beirut in recent years.

In debating the blacklisting, many EU governments expressed concerns over maintaining Europe's relations with Lebanon. To soothe such worries, the ministers agreed to make a statement pledging to continue dialogue with all political groups.

“We also agreed that the delivery of legitimate financial transfers to Lebanon and delivery of assistance from the European Union and its member states will not be affected,” the EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said.

Already on the EU blacklist are groups such as Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that rules the Gaza Strip, and Turkey's Kurdish militant group PKK.

Their assets in Europe are frozen and they have no access to cash there, meaning they cannot raise money for their activities. Sanctions on Hezbollah go into effect this week.

Hezbollah denies any involvement in last July's attack in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian interior minister said last week Sofia had no doubt the group was behind it.

In support of its bid to impose sanctions, Britain has also cited a four-year jail sentence handed down by a Cypriot court in March to a Hezbollah member accused of plotting to attack Israeli interests on the island.

The decision also comes at a time of strained relations between the EU and Israel after Brussels pushed ahead with plans to bar EU financial aid to Israeli organizations operating in the occupied Palestinian territories.

EU foreign ministers held a video conference with Kerry who announced on Friday that Israel and the Palestinians had tentatively agreed to resume peace talks after three years.

Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Oliver Holmes, Stephen Kalin and Reuters Television in Beirut; Editing by Will Waterman

Sports-related incidents spark slight rise in Dutch anti-Semitism

The doubling of sports-related anti-Semitism last year led to the first increase in overall anti-Semitic incidents in three years in the Netherlands.

In its annual monitor report on anti-Semitism, released Thursday, the Hague-based Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, or CIDI, counted 114 cases in 2012 compared to 113 cases the previous year. Thus, “2012 put an end to a two-year decline registered in 2010 and 2011 in the overall number of anti-Semitic incidents,” the Dutch-Jewish watchdog group reported.

Sports-related incidents accounted for 10 percent of the total figure in 2012, compared to less than 5 percent the previous year. Six of the cases documented in 2012 involved violence or physical intimidation compared to four incidents in 2011.

Two people told CIDI they intended to leave the Netherlands because of anti-Semitism, the report also said. Earlier this month, Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said that “even in the city of Amsterdam, anti-Semitism is being justified because of real and perceived injustices in the Middle East.”

Dutch Jewish museum wins national popularity contest

Holland’s Jewish Historical Museum won a $130,000 prize for finishing first in the country’s national museum contest for 2013.

The Jewish museum, which was established in 1932, received 40 percent of the popular vote in the online competition among four museums. Some 29,000 people voted through the contest’s website, according to a report Thursday on Amsterdam’s AT5 television station.

The Jewish museum received almost double the votes that went to the second most popular museum — The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision.

The four finalists for the 2013 Museum Prize — the most prestigious public prize in Holland’s developed museum scene — were selected by a panel of experts out of a list of 43 nominations. In 2013, the panel accepted nominations for museums that “best represented a group or community.”

One of the reasons the Jewish museum was popular with voters is a website it set up which contains a database meant to help Jewish families trace their genealogies and reconnect with lost members.

The cash prize will be given to the Jewish museum by the Bernhard Culture Fund and BankGiro Loterij, an initiative for the promotion of the arts in the Netherlands.

Dutch church official apologizes for commemoration of German soldiers

A Netherlands church official apologized to a Jewish group for a memorial ceremony that commemorated Holocaust victims with soldiers who died fighting for Nazi Germany.

Rob Mutsaerts, a bishop from Den Bosch in the southern Netherlands, in a letter last week expressed his regret to the small Jewish organization JFN.

Mutsaerts apologized for a sermon delivered Oct. 20 in a church in nearby Geffen in which Pastor David van Dijk read out the names of German soldiers who died in Geffen during World War II along with the names of local Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust.

“You are shocked, and those are feelings we cannot change,” Mutsaerts wrote . “We would like to extend our apologies for the pain and sorrow that the naming of all the names has unintentionally caused to Jews.”

Van Dijk’s sermon was delivered after city officials canceled the planned unveiling of a monument in Geffen displaying the names of the German Wehrmacht soldiers along with the Holocaust victims. All the names were removed from the monument following protests by Jewish organizations and individuals.

A Dutch rabbi, Wim van Dijk, demanded that the names of his relatives be removed from the monument.

The pastor read the names jointly in church as a sign of “reconciliation” shortly after the unveiling of the monument without the names.

European Parliament members urged not to visit Iran

Jewish and non-Jewish organizations urged the European Parliament to cancel a planned visit to Iran by some of its lawmakers.

B’nai B’rith International President Allan Jacobs said the visit by 15 of the parliament’s lawmakers on Oct. 27 would be “counterproductive” to efforts to isolate Iran in response to its perceived efforts to gain nuclear weapons and the regime’s human rights violations. The American Jewish Committee also condemned the visit.

On Tuesday, the vice president of the European Parliament, Alejo Vidal-Quadras, also had decried the visit.

“We believe that any formal delegation from the European Parliament or any national parliament in Europe to Iran will be extremely counterproductive,” he said.

The Oct. 27 visit was announced last month by the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with Iran as a means to “build bridges” with that country.

In the Netherlands, the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, or CIDI, a watchdog group on anti-Semitism, called on the Dutch representative to cancel her participation in the delegation.

A joint statement by CIDI and the Iran Comite, a Dutch nonprofit monitoring Iranian human rights violations, said the visit would “legitimize Iran’s objectionable politics, also in the eyes of the Iranian population.”

The Vienna-based European Stop the Bomb coalition also called for the visit to be canceled, as did U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) in a letter they sent to European Parliament President Martin Schulz. The senators urged Schulz to reconsider the visit “given Iran’s continued human-rights offenses and failure to suspend its nuclear program.”

Salmonella outbreak linked to smoked salmon brand sold by Costco

Smoked salmon tainted with salmonella bacteria has sickened hundreds of people in the Netherlands and the United States, sparking a major recall, health authorities said Tuesday.

The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment said the salmon has been traced to Dutch company Foppen, which sells fish to many major Dutch supermarkets and to stores around the world, including the United States.


Yad Vashem to scan documents on Dutch Righteous among the Nations

The government of the Netherlands and Yad Vashem have agreed to digitally archive documents connected to Dutch rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust.

The documents will be scanned by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust commemoration authority, in the next two years, Yad Vashem deputy spokesperson Yifat Bachrach-Ron told JTA.

Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev and Caspar Veldkamp, the Dutch ambassador to Israel, signed the agreement on starting the process Monday at Yad Vashem.

Yad Vashem has recognized 5,204 Dutch residents as Righteous among the Nations—its title for non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews. It is the highest figure of any Western European nation and second highest in total. Poland tops the list with 6,339 righteous gentiles.

During preparations of documents connected to Dutch recipients of the title, Yad Vashem researchers discovered the last known letter of resistance fighter Hein Sietsma, who along with his fiancee, Berendina (Diet) Eman, helped save dozens of Jews in The Hague before being caught and murdered in the Dachau concentration camp.

Siesma and Eman were recognized as Righteous among the Nations many years ago, but their file contained a small envelope that had not been opened. The envelope contained a letter that Siesma managed to send to his fiancee, folded into a one-centimeter package.

“Even if we never meet each other again on this earth, we will never be sorry for what we did,” the letter read. “We will never regret that we took this stand, and know, Diet, that of every human being in the world, I loved you the most.”

Anti-Semitic incidents drop in Netherlands, report finds

Anti-Semitic incidents recorded in the Netherlands dropped by nine percent this year, according to the annual monitor report by the country’s watchdog on anti-Semitism.

The Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, or CIDI, attributed the overall drop in recorded incidents to a decrease in the amount of hate mail reported.

However, the Hague-based organization registered a sharp rise in real-life anti-Semitic incidents – from 31 in 2010 to 55 last year.

In total, CIDI registered 113 anti-Semitic incidents in 2011, compared to 124 the previous year. CIDI found 18 cases of hate mail in 2011, compared to 47 in 2010.

The organization’s records for 2011 speak of 28 people who had suffered anti-Semitic, non-physical abuse on the street or in the public sphere. In 2009, CIDI learned of only 20 such incidents. That year saw anti-Semitism incidents of all categories skyrocketing worldwide in connection with Israel’s attack on Hamas in Gaza.

“There was no comparable external cause in 2011,” the CIDI report, compiled by researcher Elise Friedmann, said. The Netherlands has a Jewish population of some 40,000 people.

In 2010, CIDI recorded nine cases of in-person anti-Semitic confrontations. The threefold increase in 2011 is attributable to greater awareness to the need to report such incidents, according to a press release by CIDI.

“The Dutch government has been promising since 2008 to apply an improved and more uniform system for the registration of anti-Semitic and xenophobic incidents. To date, there are no signs of this,” CIDI said.

Dutch Police do not register or flag reports of xenophobic incidents at the time of deposition. Police compile their annual hate crime report by applying a search engine to the texts of all complaints.

CIDI has called this procedure “inadequate” and called on Dutch police to implement an immediate flag system, like the one used in Britain and elsewhere.

Anti-Semitism limited in Norway, survey shows

More than a third of Norwegians believe that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is similar to how Nazis treated Jews, according to a survey of attitudes toward Jews in Norway.

The recent survey found that 38 percent of Norwegians feel that way about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. It also indicates that 25 percent of Norwegians believe Jews exploit the memory of the Holocaust to their own advantage and 26 percent think Jews “consider themselves better than others.”

Some 12 percent of the Norwegian population “can be considered significantly prejudiced against Jews,” according to the survey, which was published last month by the Oslo-based Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities. The survey said the prevalence of anti-Semitic notions in Norway is limited and comparable to that of Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden.

TNS Gallup collected data from 1,522 respondents last November for the survey.

Seventy-six percent of those who demonstrated anti-Jewish attitudes in the survey displayed similar attitudes toward Muslims.

Meanwhile, the Simon Wiesenthal Center on Wednesday urged the Norwegian Justice Ministry to “protect threatened children” in Norway’s school system following an unconfirmed report about alleged schoolyard abuse against a Jewish teenager in Oslo. The report, which appeared on the blog Norway Israel and the Jews, said a classmate of the 16-year-old Jewish boy branded him by placing a hot coin on his neck. The blog said the boy’s father was Israeli.

The head of Oslo’s Jewish community, Ervin Kohn, told JTA that he had not heard about the incident prior to the blog posting. Øivind Kopperud, a researcher at the Oslo-based Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities, said his watchdog organization was unaware of the attack.

Agreement will allow ritual slaughter in the Netherlands

Dutch Agriculture Minister Hans Bleker signed an agreement with Jewish and Muslim religious leaders and slaughterhouses which will prevent a ban on ritual slaughter.

Under the agreement signed Tuesday, animals can continue to be ritually slaughtered as long as they lose consciousness within 40 seconds of their throats being cut. After 40 seconds they must be stunned, which is prohibited under both Jewish and Islamic law. 

The agreement comes following Animal Rights Party leader Marianne Thieme withdrawal last December of a bill that would have required stunning of all animals before slaughtering, after a majority of senators expressed their objection to the ban on kosher slaughter, or shechitah. The measure had passed the lower house of the Dutch parliament in June 2011.

Dutch law had required animals to be stunned before slaughter but made an exception for Muslim halaal and Jewish shechitah. The Animal Rights Party says that more than two million animals are ritually

The European Union requires animals to be stunned before slaughter but makes exceptions for religiously mandated ritual slaughter. Nevertheless, ritual slaughter is banned in Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.

Dutch Senate to appoint ritual slaughter commission

The Dutch Senate has delayed its vote on banning ritual slaughter and will appoint a commission to study putting new standards for such slaughter into place.

Undersecretary for Agriculture Henk Bleker said Wednesday that he will appoint the commission to establish standards for ritual slaughter, including how long an animal can remain conscious, The Associated Press reported.

The upper house of the Dutch government froze the vote after a majority of senators expressed their objection to the ban on kosher slaughter, or shechitah. The measure had passed the lower house of the Dutch parliament in June.The Senate had been scheduled to vote on Dec. 20.

Proposed by the Animal Rights Party and supported by the anti-Muslim Party for Freedom led by Geert Wilders, the bill requires that animals be stunned before slaughter. Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter must be performed with the animal fully conscious.

Animal Rights Party leader Marianne Thieme said she would submit a new bill banning ritual slaughter to parliament if the current one is defeated by the Senate in January, when it is likely to vote on the measure.

The European Union requires animals to be stunned before slaughter but makes exceptions for religiously mandated ritual slaughter. Nevertheless, ritual slaughter is banned in Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. 

About 1 million animals are ritually slaughtered each year in the Netherlands, according to The Jerusalem Post, of which a few thousand undergo shechitah.

Historic mikvah to be displayed at Holland museum

A mikvah uncovered during construction will be restored in a museum as the oldest testament to Jewish life in Holland to date.

The Jewish ritual bath will be restored this week in the Limburgs Museum in the city of Venlo, the same southeastern Netherlands city in which it was uncovered several years ago.

The mikvah dates to the13th century, more than 300 years before it was believed that the first significant Jewish community in Holland was created by Jews who fled the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal, during the late 16th century.

“This mikvah proves there was a Jewish presence in Holland more than 700 years ago and proves that although the Jewish community may have been small, they had a mikvah, a testament to a flourishing and dedicated community,” said Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs, the chairman of the Rabbinical Council for Netherlands and a member of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe.

According to archeologists, the mikvah was in use for several decades before it was put to other uses. It is believed that the Jews were driven out of the area in the wake of a deathly plague.

The mikvah, weighing approximately 180 tons, will be placed in a newly constructed wing of the museum created especially for the purpose of displaying the mikvah and educating about it and Judaism, according to the Rabbinical Centre of Europe.

Czech Republic, Italy, Netherlands on board with Durban III boycott

The Czech Republic became the first European Union country to say it would boycott the United Nations-sponsored Durban III conference.

Shortly after the Czech Republic announced July 22 that it would not send a delegation to the Durban III conference set for Sept. 22 in New York, Italy and The Netherlands announced that they also would stay away.

The conference is marking the 10-year anniversary of the U.N.‘s World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, during which the delegations from the United States and Israel walked out in protest as the tenor turned increasingly anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.

The Netherlands, Italy and the Czech Republic wanted to include in the final statement of the meeting in September “that all participating states emphatically distance themselves from the linking of subjects that have nothing to do with the fight against racism,” but “because it is not possible to get such a guarantee, the three countries now see themselves forced to no longer participate in the preparations for the celebration, and also not to attend it, ” The Netherlands Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement, according to NIS News.

Italy’s foreign minister cited anti-Israel political manipulation that made it impossible for Italy to attend the event. In a statement released Friday, France Frattini noted longstanding reservations about the “Durban process.”

“The process has been transformed from a forum for debate on and coordination of international action against racism, discrimination and xenophobia into a tribunal for accusations against Israel,” he said, adding that Italy had refused to take part in the Durban II conference in 2009 and voted against convening the 10th anniversary event.

Israel, the United States and Canada already have said they will not attend Durban III.

The countries that voted at the United Nations in November against the Durban III session were Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, the Netherlands, Palau, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Among the countries abstaining were Austria, Belgium, France, Greece, Hungary and Spain.

UN Watch, a nongovernmental organization affiliated with the American Jewish Committee, commended the Czech Republic for its decision.

“The Durban process was marked by ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism, and that is not something that should be commemorated,” said UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer.

Briefs: Hamas kills off faux Mickey Mouse; Rabbi named to new British cabinet

Click for Hamas TV
Hamas Kills Off Its ‘Mickey Mouse’

Hamas plans to replace the Mickey Mouse look-alike that was killed off in its controversial children’s program.

Reuters this week quoted producers at Hamas’ Al-Aqsa Television as saying that Farfur, which drew international outrage by calling on young viewers to fight Israel and promote radical Islam, would be succeeded by other famous characters.

Farfur was a clone of the Walt Disney cartoon.

Farfur, the star of a show called “Tomorrow’s Pioneers,” suffered a grisly end last week at the hands of an actor posing as an Israeli security agent. Hamas said he had been “martyred.”

Chabad Creates Sderot Relief Fund

Yosef Eliezrie was counting the hours in isolation at Children’s Hospital of Orange County, where he was recovering from shingles and the lingering side effects of leukemia treatment. At the same time, he was thinking about the rockets falling on Sderot and wondering what he could do to help.

So he spoke with his father, Rabbi David Eliezrie, one of the main Chabad voices in Southern California. They decided to create the Chabad Sderot Relief Fund, and the younger Eliezrie set out to build a Web site where people could donate. It went live last week at

“It’s really something that is in my heart,” said Yosef, 21, who is coordinating the project. “I heard peoples’ stories and was devastated. I wanted to do what I could.”

Sderot, near the northern Gaza border, has been under a constant barrage of Qassam rockets. Last month, two Israelis were killed there by rocket fire. Money donated through the Web site will be sent to Chabad Sderot and used to distribute food, rebuild homes and fortify schools.

— Brad A. Greenberg, Contributing Writer

Israel Cracks Hamas Ring in Jerusalem

Eleven Palestinians from East Jerusalem are in custody on suspicion of raising money for Hamas terrorism and to enlist the support of Israeli Arabs, the Shin Bet announced Monday. The suspects — 10 of whom have Israeli identity cards — are accused of trying to establish virtual Hamas control of the Temple Mount by bankrolling renovations around two major Muslim shrines there. That was a direct threat to the prestige of Jordan, an Israeli ally that formally oversees the administration of the Temple Mount’s mosques. It was not immediately clear how the detainees would plead to the charges. Hamas declined comment.

Israel has stepped up its scrutiny on suspected Hamas activities in Jerusalem since the terrorist Islamist group swept Palestinian legislative elections in January 2006.

Katsav Complainant Considers Civil Suit

A woman who accused former Israeli President Moshe Katsav of rape is considering a civil suit. Complainant A., whose name has been withheld for privacy reasons, responded angrily to the attorney general’s plea bargain in which Katsav confessed to minor sexual misconduct in exchange for the dropping of rape charges. The complainant’s lawyer, Kinneret Barashi, said Tuesday that a claim for civil damages could be her client’s best recourse.

“We definitely disagree with the plea bargain and are considering this other option,” Barashi told Israel Radio.

Katsav has denied any wrongdoing in the affair.

Israel’s Finance Minister Quits Amid Probe

Israel’s finance minister formally quit over a fraud and embezzlement investigation against him. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert informed his Cabinet on Sunday that Abraham Hirchson told him he was relinquishing the finance portfolio. Hirchson took a leave of absence in April after police started probing allegations that he pocketed funds while in a previous post. Hirchson has denied wrongdoing. Leading candidates to replace him include Roni Bar-On, currently Israel’s interior minister, and former Justice Minister Haim Ramon.

But Ramon’s prospects have been clouded by his conviction on charges of sexual misconduct after he admitted to forcing a kiss last year on a female soldier.

Poll: Most Israelis Still Favor Two States

Most Israelis still would support a two-state peace settlement with the Palestinians despite recent events, a poll found. According to a Peace Index survey released this week by researchers at Tel Aviv University, 70 percent of Israeli Jews want to see a peace deal that would create a Palestinian state, though 55 percent believe it is not achievable at this time. The findings suggest that Israelis’ preference for a two-state settlement persists despite Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip last month, which prompted a dramatic split with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction. The poll found that 26.5 percent of respondents do not want a two-state solution. About 67 percent of respondents said Israeli moves to shore up Abbas should be conditioned on his security forces cracking down on terrorism.

The survey, conducted last week, had 580 respondents and a 4.5 percent margin of error.

Israel Begins PA Tax Handovers

Officials said Monday that Israel had transferred some $120 million to the new Palestinian Authority government set up by President Mahmoud Abbas after he broke with Hamas last month. Israel, which collects some $50 million in customs dues every month on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, began withholding the money after Hamas swept Palestinian Authority elections in January 2006. The funds have accrued and now amount to upward of $700 million. Israeli officials said they expect the remainder of the money to be handed over in stages over the next six months under a mechanism meant to ensure that none of it reaches Hamas.

Israel also said it will resume its monthly tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority this week.

British PM Appoints Rabbi

Britain’s new prime minister appointed Rabbi Dame Julia Neuberger to his Cabinet. Neuberger will advise Prime Minister Gordon Brown on issues relating to the voluntary sector, especially in the arena of public health services, the area on which she speaks for the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords.

The appointment was announced over the weekend as Brown unveiled the remainder of his Cabinet choices. As Britain’s first female rabbi to have her own congregation and synagogue, Neuberger is Britain’s best-known female rabbi.

Dutch Auschwitz Panel Wants Victims’ Wall

The Netherlands Auschwitz Committee wants to erect a Wall of Names listing the 110,000 Dutch murdered by the Nazis in concentration camps.

The committee wants the memorial to stand in the Wertheim Park in Amsterdam, near the Jan Wolkers Auschwitz monument. The wall, to be completed by 2009, would feature mostly the names of Jews but also would include resistance fighters and political prisoners, according to Dutch press reports.

Jewish U.S Soldier Buried

More than 1,000 mourners attended the funeral of a Jewish soldier from South Florida who was killed in Iraq.

U.S. Army Specialist Daniel Agami, 25, affectionately known in his unit as “G.I. Jew,” was killed in Baghdad on June 21 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle.

Agami was buried last week with full military honors at the Star of David Cemetery in North Lauderdale, Fla. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star and the Army Commendation Medal.

Agami was a graduate of the Hebrew Academy Community School in Margate. Rabbi Yossi Denburg, dean of the school, said at the funeral that Agami “kept kosher while in the Army, he slept with an American and Israeli flag over his bunk, his rifle had a sign titled ‘The Hebrew Hammer’ and he named the U.S. Army-issued yarmulke his ‘Combatika.’ “

The Hebrew Academy has set up a scholarship fund in Agami’s name.

Capt. Jared Purcell, an army public affairs officer in Baghdad, said that in addition to his role as a combat soldier, Agami was a mentor to orphaned children in Iraq.

Renewal Gathering Draws 700

Nearly 700 Jewish Renewal practitioners are attending the movement’s biannual international gathering this week in Albuquerque, N.M. They have come to pray, study and create a “sacred community” at the 13th biannual Aleph Kallah hosted by Aleph: The Alliance for Jewish Renewal.

Aleph’s executive director, Debra Kolodny, said there are 140 members of the Renewal rabbinic association, Ohalah, and 115 candidates enrolled in Aleph’s training program for rabbis, cantors and rabbinic pastors.

Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shelomi, the 88-year-old founder of Jewish Renewal, sent a taped address to the opening-night session.

Only 43 of the participants are non-American, hailing from a handful of other countries.

Abraham Klausner, Advocate for Survivors, Dies

Rabbi Abraham KlausnerRabbi Abraham Klausner, the first Jewish chaplain (photo, left) in the U.S. Army to enter Dachau after its liberation, died at age 92. Klausner died June 28 at his home in Santa Fe, N.M., several years after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, his wife told The Associated Press. Klausner had been a leading advocate for Holocaust survivors, collecting and publishing lists of survivors in volumes called “Sharit ha-Platah,” or “Surviving Remnant,” to try to reconnect children of the Holocaust to their families.

“He saved the lives of thousands of Jewish survivors and brought them together as much as he could with any families that would still be alive,” his wife, Judith Klausner, said.

Born in 1915, Klausner was the leader of Temple Emanu-El in Yonkers, N.Y., for a quarter century, until he retired in 1989.

Study: ‘Nachas’ Pays Off

Researchers at Haifa University’s school of social work, having monitored 216 pairs of grandchildren and their grandparents, reported Tuesday that there was a definite “quid pro quo” element in the emotional interaction between the two groups.

“The study results reveal that not only did grandchildren who were taken care of by their grandparents express a desire to help, they were actually very involved in helping with day-to-day things like transportation, shopping, nursing care, emotional support and initiating visits,” the university said.

While granddaughters tend to express greater desire than their brothers to aid their grandparents, in actuality the sexes are equally helpful, the researchers found. They recommended that families treat grandchildren as a key factor in caring for elders.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.