What happens to basic decency during terror attacks coverage?


Let’s talk about decency.

 

Last week was the perfect example of the double-standards that dominate the global media – vowing to battle terror, but only when it’s outside Israel.

 

How can a Muslim extremist butchering innocent civilians be framed as a horrific terror attack when happening in Europe, and as a young teen being chased by police when happening in Israel?

 

To answer this question, we might need to go one step backwards, and ask ourselves how can a terror attack can even be called anything but what it actually is?

 

When terror strikes Israel, something strange happens to the global media. A terrorist becomes “a young teen,” his motive turns from hatred and extremism to “frustration from the ‘occupation’,” and he will never be neutralized and captured by heroic police officers, but “chased and killed by Israeli police.” Almost never will you read about the victims of the attack, because when it comes to Israel, the world turns upside down.

 

This severe issue of double standards was almost undetectable until Islamic terrorism started taking over Europe a few years ago. After years of Palestinian terror in Israel going almost unnoticed globally (as there was always a “justification” in the form of the “Israeli occupation and frustration,) we thought the tragedies that struck Europe would be a wake-up call to the world. These horrific attacks of innocent people outside of stadiums, on the street and in public transportation were supposed to be the tragic circumstances that will unite the world.

 

Sadly, it didn’t happen. The world, Israel included, united with Europe, but terror in Israel is still considered “justified.”

 

With every terror attack, we think “This is it. Now the Western World will unite against terror.” But sadly, Israelophobia gets in the way…


I recently stumbled upon a video of a lecture by journalist and public speaker Dennis Prager, at Oxford University. He was sitting in front of a room full of young men and women and asked the following question: “In the 1930’s was there a debate over the following proposition: that Great Britain is a greater threat to peace than Nazi Germany, or if Nazi Germany is a greater threat to peace than Great Britain?” Then, he said: “Nazi Germany was to Britain what Hamas is to Israel. Whether you agree with the Israeli policy or not – it is irrelevant.”

 

This is where international media lacks decency, and shows double standards and hypocrisy. Terror is terror is terror, no matter where. Justifications can always be found, because at the end of the day, news items are nothing but stories with carefully written plots. But just imagine what will happen if CNN or BBC will report an “armed teenager frustrated with Britain’s immigration policies was shot and killed by police after letting out his rage, resulting in 40 civilians killed.”

 

Can’t even imagine? This is what we see, to our deep sorrow, every time terror strikes us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palestinian Authority to sue UK over Balfour Declaration


With the 100th anniversary of a key Zionist declaration approaching, the Palestinian Authority said it plans to sue Britain for issuing the edict.

The P.A.’s foreign minister, Riyad al-Malki, told Arab League leaders in Mauritania on Monday that the Palestinian Authority will sue over the Balfour Declaration, saying it led to all “Israeli crimes” committed since 1948, according to The Times of Israel.

Signed on Nov. 2, 1917, by British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, the Balfour Declaration stated that the British government “views with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people and would use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object.”

The declaration, issued while the area that is now Israel was still under the control of the Ottoman Empire, represented a pivotal victory for Zionists and has been credited with helping pave the way for the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

The declaration, al-Malki said, “gave people who don’t belong there something that wasn’t theirs.”

The United Kingdom has not responded to the lawsuit threat, and media reports did not specify in what court the P.A. would file such a suit or what, if any, damages it would seek.

Also at the Arab League gathering, Mauritania’s head of state, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, called for fresh efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

British lawmaker accuses Israel of causing rise in jihadism


A British lawmaker who said Israel would eventually disappear accused the Jewish state of being a major cause in the rise of jihadism worldwide.

Following the statement Thursday by Jenny Tonge, a House of Lords member from the Liberal Democrat party, the Board of Deputies of British Jews called on the party’s head to fire her.

Tonge said “the treatment of the Palestinians by Israel is a major cause of the rise of extreme Islamism and Daesh,” using the Arab-language acronym of the Islamic State terrorist organization. She said Israel was provoking a generation of violent extremists who would have “a justified grudge” against Israel and Britain.

Board of Deputies Vice President Marie van der Zyl in a statement said it was “another outrageous speech” by Tonge on the Middle East.

“It is time for Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron to expel her once and for all from the party,” the statement said.

Tonge resigned in 2012 from the position of party whip, a task equivalent in the United States to speaker, after she spoke about Israel’s demise at an event promoting the boycott of the Jewish state.

“Beware Israel. Israel is not going to be there forever in its present form,” she said at the time. “One day, the United States of America will get sick of giving 70 billion pounds [approximately $92 billion] a year to Israel to support what I call America’s aircraft carrier in the Middle East – that is Israel. One day, the American people are going to say to the Israel lobby in the USA: enough is enough. Israel will lose support and then they will reap what they have sown.”

The United States in reality gives Israel $3 billion annually in defense assistance.

Theresa May, UK’s incoming prime minister, seen as friend to Israel


British Conservative Party leader Theresa May, who is expected to succeed David Cameron as prime minister when he resigns Wednesday, is being welcomed as a longtime friend of Britain’s Jewish community and a strong advocate for Israel.

May, 59, was named party leader Monday following weeks of jockeying and political turmoil surrounding the decision by voters to leave the European Union and Cameron’s subsequent decision to step down.

As the country’s home secretary, May was known to be a frequent guest at Jewish communal events, where she would praise Israel and British Jewry’s contributions to the country. The Community Security Trust and other Jewish groups thanked May for securing significant government funding to protect Jewish institutions in the wake of terrorist attacks in Europe.

Supporters recalled Monday that following the terrorist murders in 2015 at a kosher supermarket in Paris, May carried a sign to a Board of Deputies of British Jews meeting reading “Je Suis Juif” (I am Jewish) in solidarity with its victims.

In 2011, May banned from Britain the leader of the northern branch of the Islamic movement in Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah, for encouraging extremism.

May has also pledged to defend kosher slaughter, which is under attack in many parts of Europe on animal cruelty grounds.

“As Home Secretary for six years, Mrs. May is better placed than most of her Westminster colleagues to assess the threats facing British Jews,” Marcus Dysch, a columnist for the Jewish Chronicle, wrote Monday.

Ansel Pfeffer, writing in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper last week, noted that shortly after visiting Israel in 2014, May told the Conservative Friends of Israel that in the face of threats from Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS and Iran, Israel must “maintain a strong defense and security capability and be prepared to deploy it if necessary.”

At the same event, she also noted, “we must remember that there will be no lasting peace or justice in the region until the Palestinian people are able to enjoy full civil rights themselves.”

Eric Pickles, a member of Parliament and chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel, said Monday: “As a politician not known for hollow platitudes, Israel can rest assured that a UK led by Theresa May will be there in its moments of need.”

On Brexit


Should any country give its residents a chance to vote on how they feel things are going, probably a significant proportion would show their unease, unhappiness, and dissent to an even greater extent that did the Brits. Most never do and have never done so. In the past, the Brits have been notorious grumblers about everything, mostly about their rotten uncertain weather, a perpetual source of complaint. Since nobody controls the weather and can be blamed other than the weather forecasters, people grit their teeth and accustom themselves as best they can. Nobody gets harmed by the grumbling; it provides an outlet for frustration, inconvenience, and powerlessness. Disagreeable weather is hardly an excuse to leave home. In contrast, leaving Europe is quite a serious business not just for the Brits but for everybody else on the globe.

The insular Brits used to boast that they ruled the waves and that much of their empire colored maps red. They may feel more comfortable once more going alone than being a part of Europe not of their making. They were reluctant to join and now seem more reluctant to remain than stay subject to imposed restraints. They were one of only five founder members of the United Nations in which they have a privileged status in the Security Council and like any other member, the United Kingdom retains its sovereignty and independence irrespective, ignoring the UN’s disunity and feebleness as a governing body. Right now, the world’s attention is concentrated on the perils of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union. Even those who led the campaign to quit have a difficult time to justify their case to return to a splintered Europe that had brought about two disastrous world wars and might bring about an even worse third.

The idealism that once brought both the UN and EU into existence has almost disappeared in the contemporary global society. A great deal in human affairs is in mess that nobody predicted. Instead of a brave new world, it has not brought peace, security, prosperity, freedom and opportunity after all. Human nature has not acquired sweetness and light.  Yes, much has improved since 1945 but not everybody has benefitted. Progress has come at a heavy price And the pace of change has been relentless, perhaps exceeding the accustomed ability of humanity to adapt. The global problems get worse and more complicated Looking to the future, people are probably more frightened, worried, disturbed, and distrustful. Populism plays on all this and gets a good following. It has simple understandable solutions, mostly wrong and will make matters even worse. It goes after the vocal disaffected not the assumed silent majority and finds an eager gullible audience ready for different leadership. After all, the powers that be don’t seem to be all that keen to listen to dissent and their expert advisors appear to be too full of themselves to bother with common folk.

The powers that be take care to do well for themselves. And the populists who want to replace them will also make sure that they too will do even better for themselves. Power corrupts. The powerless are aware of this but hope that something might be done at last by those promising that they will curb injustice, secrecy, manipulation, corruption, exploitation, and maladministration and other blatant societal dysfunctions or at least provide well known safeguards before desperate protesters with little to lose take to the streets or resort to disruption to draw attention of policy makers and institutional reformers. Such protesters do not act out of ignorance or vengeance because daily they are the victims of such dysfunctions until they cannot stand systemic inhumanity. They raise issues of such complexity  that cannot be overcome overnight and need time, scarce resources, and changes in hearts and minds, although all that might satisfy is a simple change in law and law enforcement, or in representation , or in transparency, or in access to welfare and assistance.

The problem with experts is their assumed arrogance because of their superior knowledge and status. Even the best are human and make mistakes; they may not know enough or think too narrowly or exaggerate their competence. They may pose as being objective and impersonal but they can be as prejudiced, fixated, intolerant as the next person, protecting their own vested interests. They cannot avoid being who they are or limited within the circumstances. They have their own idiosyncrasies, emotions, and values. They are only human not gods. They may believe they are not partisan politically but by framing public policy or designing processes of execution they act politically bound to offend somebody or other likely to be affected. That is why it is better to have them on tap not on top. Blessed indeed is the society that can find the rare unassuming genius or the statesman who can rise to the occasion when needed and the government system that enables such leaders to overcome all the obstacles placed in their way. Even better may be the system that indicates they have overstayed their welcome.

Most living persons are unable to complain about alleged wrongdoing, harm, injustice, suffering, and mistreatment nor have anyone complain on their behalf. Their complaints are not investigated by any independent party. Many justifiable complaints have no form of redress or compensation. Many complaint offices have insufficient jurisdiction, finance, staffing, transparency, and follow up. Most complaints are unjustified and without merit. Only few reveal serious injury that calls for urgent remedial action for whole classes of ignored claimants. Almost all show the need for public education and explanation to improve communications, and also the fear by those in authority of being exposed to bad publicity. Every self-respecting responsible organization should have an ombudsman-like office to receive complaints about its performance.

Gerald E. Caiden, Emeritus Professor, Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, July 2, 2016.  

 Email: ncaiden3@gmail.com

In a post-Brexit Scotland, Jews warm up to a rising nationalist party


The last time that Scotland voted on whether to become independent from the United Kingdom, most of its 7,000 Jews thought doing so was a bad idea.

Worried that Scottish independence would encourage nationalism and embolden an already aggressive anti-Israel movement with deep roots in the pro-independence camp, Jews here were relieved when, during a 2014 referendum, 62 percent of Scottish voters supported remaining in the United Kingdom.

Less than two years after that supposedly definitive vote, Scotland and its Jews are preparing for yet another U.K. independence vote. This time around Scottish Jews may be more receptive to such a vote, thanks in part to anger over the June 23 Brexit referendum in which the U.K. voted to leave the European Union.

The head of Scotland’s government, Nicola Sturgeon, has called another U.K. independence vote “highly likely,” thanks to the Brexit results.

In contrast to English voters, who favored Brexit, most Scots voted to remain part of the E.U, and Scotland’s ruling Scottish National Party has said it would not allow Scots to lose their EU citizenship.

Many Scottish Jews are now more at ease with the idea of split from the U.K., due to vigorous trust-building actions by Sturgeon, who heads the ruling Scottish National Party, or SNP — an offshoot from Labour that is now Britain’s third-largest party.

“They have certainly engaged with the Jewish community very strongly,” Ephraim Borowski, director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, or ScoJeC, said of SNP, which Sturgeon came to lead in 2014.

Under Sturgeon’s predecessor, the former SNP party leader Alex Salmond, the city councils of Glasgow and Fife flew the Palestinian flag during Israel’s 2014 war in Gaza — a move many Jews interpreted as an act of solidarity with the terrorist group Hamas. At that year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, a popular arts festival, two Israeli troupes canceled their performances in response to pro-Palestinian protests.

Citing police figures, ScoJeC reported a record 50 anti-Semitic incidents in 2014 in Scotland and an “unprecedented number of Jewish people who expressed anxiety about their perception of increased antisemitism in Scotland.” The rise in hostility cannot “be excused as merely political protest” against Israel, the group’s report said.

At the Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation — a large Orthodox synagogue located at the foot of a range of green hills — the staple prayer for the safety of Israeli soldiers was dropped at least once that year so as not to offend non-Jews during the conflict.

“Discretion is the better part of valor,” Rabbi David Rose said at the time.

Salmond, who had called for applying sanctions against Israel, largely ignored pleas by Jewish community representatives to curb the vitriol, according to Howard Singerman, former treasurer of the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council.

But Sturgeon, his successor, is taking action, according to Borowski. He cited her “extremely strong message” during a conference on hate crime co-organized last year by the Chief Constable and the head of Scotland’s prosecution service.

“I don’t want to be the first minister, or even live in a country, in which Jewish people feel that they want to leave or hide their identity,” she said then.

She also distanced the SNP from “the unsavory and horrible creeds that call themselves nationalism.” If you choose to live in Scotland, she said, “it doesn’t matter where you’re from; it’s not about identity but about everyone who lives here sharing the responsibility to make Scotland as good as it can be.”

Sturgeon told Borowski she wanted her ministers “seen engaging with the Jewish community, not merely making statements.” She met with Israelis in Scotland, and attended Jewish communal events and met with Jewish students concerned about vitriol on campus.

Under Sturgeon’s leadership, ScoJeC saw its budget increased twice, once by 28 percent and then again by 20 percent on top of that.

Last year, the Community Security Trust, or CST, British Jewry’s watchdog on anti-Semitism, criticized an SNP lawmaker in the Scottish parliament, Sandra White, for retweeting an anti-Semitic caricature. It featured a sow labeled “Rothchild” nursing piglets labeled as Islamist terrorist groups, the CIA and Israel. Sturgeon called the incident “abhorrent” and apologized for it, as did White.

“Clearly, the Scottish leadership have realized that the anti-Semitism issue is a litmus test of sorts for Scottish society and we are seeing serious efforts to address the community’s concerns,” said Mark Gardner, the Glasgow-born director of communications of CST.

Other European parties “could do far worse than follow their example,” Gardner said.

Ahead of SNP’s bid for a second independence vote, Sturgeon’s Jewish charm offensive puts her on better footing with Scottish Jews than Salmond ever enjoyed.

Frustration over the vote for a British exit is palpable on the streets of Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, where 74 percent voted against leaving the EU. Many locals have hung Scottish and EU flags on the windows, and 52 percent of respondents to a Sunday Times poll said they would vote for independence from the U.K. following Brexit.

Many young Scots have taken to wearing a safety pin on their jackets – a gesture against the xenophobic rhetoric that the Brexit vote unleashed in England (but not in Scotland). Others placed placards reading “Everyone’s welcome” on windows overlooking Edinburgh’s narrow, cobbled and winding streets.

Edinburgh’s Rabbi Rose says members of his congregation are “taking out European passports” to make sure they remain EU citizens – an option open to many Scottish Jews because, unlike older U.K. Jewish communities, most of them are descended from Jews who left Eastern Europe from the 19th century onward. Some Jews in England are doing the same, The Independent reported.

At a breakfast at the Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation, Rose collects fees from about 12 congregants who’ve come for Sunday salmon, bagels and coffee. “This used to be worth a lot more last week,” he remarks with annoyance about the cup full of British pounds.

Following Brexit, the pound had its sharpest-ever two-day decline against the dollar, reaching $1.31 — a level not seen since 1985.

With the economy and political establishment in disarray, “Nicola Sturgeon is suddenly the only dependable figure for many Scottish Jews,” Howard Singerman of Glasgow remarked. A former Labour voter who has rejected that party over a series of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel remarks by various Labour leaders, he said he is considering voting SNP for its strong social platform. He never would have done so under Salmond, he said.

Scotland’s major Jewish groups have taken a formal position neither on Brexit nor on independence. For Singerman and many other Jews who define themselves as proud Scots, independence would be going a step too far.

Some Scottish Jews, Borowski said, have an instinctive aversion to anything called or perceived as nationalist. Others simply think independence is either too costly or impractical. Many think their bid for separate EU membership would be blocked by members wary of their own separatist movements, including Spain, France, Belgium and Italy.

“As a Scottish Jew you can feel more trust toward Sturgeon,” said Evy Yedd, a co-president of the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council. But she remains suspicious of other SNP lawmakers and said she’s convinced that “the independence thing is a total and foolish waste of time.”

British Jewry welcomes return of repentant Labour MP suspended for anti-Semitism


British Jews welcomed the reinstatement of a Labour lawmaker who apologized for suggesting Israeli Jews should be moved en masse to America.

Naz Shah was re-admitted into the party two months after she was suspended for a comment she made on social media two years ago. She was one of at least 20 Labour figures who had been either suspended or kicked out of the party amid intense public scrutiny over the proliferation of anti-Semitic and vitriolic anti-Israel rhetoric after the 2014 election of Jeremy Corbyn to lead the party.

“Of all those suspended by the Labour Party for anti-Semitic actions, Naz Shah stands out as someone who has been prepared to apologize to the Jewish community at a local and national level, and make efforts to learn from her mistakes,” the Board of Deputies of British Jews wrote in a statement Tuesday. “In that regard, her reinstatement today seems appropriate and we would hope for no repeat of past errors.”

During a visit in May to a synagogue in Leeds, Shah told an audience that she wanted to make a “real apology” rather than a “politician’s apology.” She said: “I looked at myself and asked whether I had prejudice against Jewish people. But I realized I was ignorant and I want to learn about the Jewish faith and culture. I do not have hatred for Jewish people.”

Shah, on of nine Muslims in Parliament, was suspended for sharing a post on Facebook suggesting Israel’s Jews should be relocated to the US and tweeting the hashtag “#IsraelApartheid” and a quote saying, “Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.”

Corbyn, a left-wing activist who has called Hamas and Hezbollah his friends and recently seemed to compare Israel with the Islamic State terrorist group, on Monday said he was sorry for his 2009 endorsement of Hamas.

During a House of Commons Home Affairs Committee hearing on anti-Semitism, Corbyn disputed the assertion that Hamas is anti-Semitic but conceded it after a lawmaker quoted to him from the Hamas charter, which speaks of killing Jews.

“Ken Livingstone made remarks that are wholly unacceptable and wrong,” Corbyn also said when asked about the former Labour mayor, who in May said Adolf Hitler was a Zionist. He has doubled down on this assertion, which led to his suspension from Labour.

Corbyn rejected a question about whether he was fostering an atmosphere of anti-Semitism in the Labor Party that he heads.

“That is unfair. I want a party that is open for all,” Corbyn asserted. “A long time ago there were sometimes anti-Semitic remarks made, when I first joined the party and later on. In recent years, no, and in my constituency not at all.”

Jonathan Sacerdoti, director of communications at the volunteer-led Campaign Against Antisemitism, said “Corbyn’s evidence given to the Parliamentary inquiry was totally inadequate. It will only further worry British Jews.”

Separately, several thousand pro-Palestinian protestors on Sunday marched through London on Sunday during Al Quds day, an annual event held on the last Friday of the Muslim holy period of Ramadan to express support for the Palestinians and opposition to Israel.

This year, the protesters, some of whom were carrying flags of Hezbollah and Hamas, were for the first time met by a counter-demonstration in support of Israel outside the US Embassy.

A few hundred pro-Israel demonstrators echanged words with the marchers while lines of police kept them physically separated.

 

Have we taken leave of our senses?


As a British Jew in London, I got a rude awakening on the morning of June 24. Looking at my phone at 7 in the morning, I could hardly believe what I was reading in the notifications from the news sites I subscribe to.

I am rabbi to a congregation of more than 3,000 members, and barely anyone who had spoken to me about the European Union referendum campaign had indicated that they were going to vote to leave. Over the past few weeks, I had been part of a two straw polls in which people indicated how they were likely to vote, one at our Assembly of Rabbis, one among a large studio audience at a television debate on an unrelated religious issue on which I was a panelist. Both times, the indication was a large majority wanted to remain. The national polls had been saying that the result was likely to be close, but close in favor of Remain, not Leave. While sermons had been preached on the issues as how they might affect the Jewish community at our civically engaged synagogue, the synagogue had not taken a line on which way to vote as we knew that there was a small amount of diversity in opinion that had to be respected.

At 7 in the morning of June 24, I had to face the screaming evidence that I did not know my country. Britain, up to that point, felt safe for Jews to thrive in a multicultural outward looking, welcoming society. It was one where we felt connected to the rest of the world through our membership in the powerful and open European Union. Now it feels horribly uncertain. For the country to split so evenly on such a big issue is worrying, and the Jewish community is largely on the losing side of the argument. 

The statistics provide very strong evidence for this. Nationally, the Leave vote was 51.9 percent, the Remain vote was 48.1 percent. It means half the country’s citizens in a vote with a high 72 percent turnout do not agree with the other half. The Jewish community in Britain is concentrated in London. Of 264,000 of us, according to the 2011 census, more than 75 percent live in London, where the vote to remain was the substantial majority. In the area where almost all of the members of my synagogue live, and which is the area of the highest concentration of Jews in the country, the Remain vote was more than 80 percent.

On the afternoon of the announcement of the results, the conference of our national Movement for Reform Judaism began. It meant that I was now together with Jews from all around the country and, informally, this confirmed for me that most Jews had been on the Remain side.

Speaking to people around the conference, Brexit was, of course, a major topic of conversation. People’s reasons for voting Remain had been those of Britain’s middle class in general: the ability of their children to find employment if they wished throughout Europe; the ability of their companies to trade widely and easily; a comfort with immigration to Britain as a benefit to the economy and cultural richness of the nation.

But there were also more Jewish issues among the reasons for Remain: a strong discomfort with the far right-wing stance of some in the Leave camp whose success might encourage other similar groups across Europe that include Jews among the groups they reject; a sense that a Jew must be able to live elsewhere in case of emergency, a reality lived one or two generations previously by those with Jewish refugee ancestors; the knowledge that the European Union had enshrined the cessation of regular war between European nations within which Jews had been scapegoats in the past; and, from a more positive perspective, the unity of the European Jewish community, demonstrated in our European Union for Progressive Judaism, the Orthodox Council of European Rabbis and many other cooperative institutions and, of course, family and personal relationships across Europe.

Yet our country had rejected this. Many Jews have been talking about how little we know the parts of Britain that must feel economically disenfranchised, that feel under threat from the free movement of European people, that feel safer closed in.

At our Reform Movement conference, speaking privately with members of a synagogue in one of the northern cities that voted more than 70 percent to leave the EU, I heard they were sure their community in that city had voted with the majority. They experienced the disenfranchisement and disillusion with the EU just as much as their fellow citizens and felt that any Jewish community arguments to remain were of lesser value when you have lived for decades with uncertain employment and a low-wage, local economy.

Leaving the EU — and the process of leaving — will undoubtedly have an effect on the Jewish community. We expect it to be harder to raise funds for Jewish community life as the uncertainly of the economy makes our members naturally cautious. The British Jewish community has been thriving, with great new institutions and synagogues being built, especially in London, but our ambition may now be on hold.

We are concerned about Brexit encouraging the far right across Europe and possibly leading to continental European countries facing the same disunity Britain has just shown. A community so dedicated to bringing up our next generation is worried that our children’s future, their options for work and residence, and their ability to study abroad has just been constricted. Above all, we are worried that we didn’t really know how the rest of the country thinks.

Rabbi Mark Goldsmith is rabbi at Alyth Synagogue in Golders Green, London. He was ordained at Leo Baeck College in London in 1996 and is past chair of the Assembly of Reform Rabbis UK and the Rabbinic Conference of Liberal Judaism.

UK vows action after racist attacks on Poles and Muslims in wake of Brexit


Polish and Muslim leaders in Britain expressed concern on Monday after a spate of racially motivated hate crimes following last week's vote to leave the European Union in which immigration was widely regarded as a key factor in the outcome.

Police said offensive leaflets targeting Poles had been distributed in a town in central England, and graffiti had been daubed on a Polish cultural center in London on Sunday, three days after the vote.

Meanwhile, Islamic groups said there had been a sharp rise in incidents against Muslims since last Friday, many of which were directly linked to the decision for a British exit, or Brexit.

Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the attacks in parliament and said he had spoken to the Polish counterpart Beata Szydlo to express his concern and to reassure her Poles in Britain would be protected.

“In the past few days we have seen despicable graffiti daubed on a Polish community center, we've seen verbal abuse hurled against individuals because they are members of ethnic minorities,” Cameron said.

“We will not stand for hate crime or these kinds of attacks. They must be stamped out,” he added.

Immigration emerged as one of the key themes of the EU referendum campaign, with those who backed a British exit arguing membership of the bloc had allowed uncontrolled numbers of migrants to come to Britain from eastern Europe.

A few days before the vote, Sayeeda Warsi, a former minister in Cameron's ruling Conservative Party, quit the Brexit campaign accusing it of spreading lies, hatred and xenophobia.

There has been a large Polish community in Britain since World War Two and that number has grown after Poland joined the EU in 2004. There are about 790,000 Poles living in Britain according to official figures from 2014, the second-largest overseas-born population in the country after those from India.

OFFENSIVE LEAFLETS

Cambridgeshire Police said they were investigating after offensive leaflets were left on cars and delivered to homes in Huntingdon. According to the local paper, the Cambridge News, the cards, which had a Polish translation, read: “Leave the EU/No more Polish vermin”.

At the Polish Social and Cultural Association in London, which opened in 1974 and is home to the majority of Britain's Polish organizations, graffiti was painted on the side of the building calling on Poles to leave the United Kingdom.

“This is an outrageous act that disgusts not only me and the Polish community but everyone in Hammersmith & Fulham,” local lawmaker Andy Slaughter said on Twitter.

The Muslim Council of Britain, an umbrella group for many of the organizations which represent the country's 2.7 million Muslims, said more than 100 hate crimes had been reported since the result of the referendum.

“Our country is experiencing a political crisis which, I fear, threatens the social peace,” said Shuja Shafi, the MCB Secretary General.

Fiyaz Murghal, the founder of a group which monitors attacks on Muslims, said it had received details of some 30 incidents including a Muslim councillor in Wales who was told to pack her bags and two men shouting “We voted for you being out” at a Muslim woman wearing a hijab as she went to a mosque in London.

“The Brexit vote seems to have given courage to some with deeply prejudicial and bigoted views that they can air them and target them at predominantly Muslim women and visibly different settled communities,” Murghal said.

Ex-London Mayor Ken Livingstone accuses Israel of ethnic cleansing, but not Nazism


Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone told a Parliament committee that he does not believe Zionism or the policies of the Israeli government are at all analogous to Nazism.

Livingstone also reiterated that he regretted saying Adolf Hitler supported Zionism because of the furor his remarks sparked, not because he disavows them.

“I therefore do regret raising the historical points about Nazi policy in the1930s when the specific issue of Hitler was raised by (reporter) Vanessa Feltz,” Livingstone said in a written statement filed with the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee hearing on anti-Semitism. “I regret it because there was an hysterical response from opponents of the Labour Party and of its current leadership, which will not have aided Labour’s campaign for the 5 May elections. I am horrified by the way my remarks have been interpreted and twisted. I cannot think of a worse insult than to be called a racist or an anti-Semite. And I am sorry if what I said has caused Jewish people, or anyone else, offense. That was not my intention.”

In a radio interview in April with the BBC, Livingstone had said, “Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism.”

He made the remarks in defense of Labour Party lawmaker Naz Shah, who was suspended a day earlier over a Facebook post in 2014 suggesting that Israelis should be moved en masse to the United States. Days later, Livingstone was suspended from the party for the remark.

In recent months, Labour has suspended at least 20 members, including at the senior level, for anti-Semitic or vicious anti-Israel invective that critics say party leader Jeremy Corbyn had not done enough to curb.

The inquiry into anti-Semitism was launched in April to determine whether anti-Jewish prejudice has increased in the U.K. and to assess the particular dangers facing Jews.

Livingstone objected to the fact that in its questioning, the committee dwelled on the BBC interview in which he made the Hitler remarks rather than asking him about anti-Semitism and racism because of what he called his “long track record” of fighting both.

“Instead, the overwhelming majority of questions asked of me were about my views on the history of Germany in the 1930s, Hitler, the Nazis, Israel, Zionism and the Labour Party. Committee members seemed to be obsessed with these issues,” he wrote.

Livingstone also wrote: “To avoid any other misunderstanding, I do not believe that Zionism or the policies of Israeli governments are at all analogous to Nazism. Israeli governments have never had the aim of the systematic extermination of the Palestinian people, in the way Nazism sought the annihilation of the Jews.”

He did accuse Israel of ethnic cleansing, continuing: “However Israel’s policies have included ethnic cleansing. Palestinians who had lived in that land for centuries were driven out by systematic violence and terror aimed at clearing them out of what became a large part of the Israeli state.”

Livingstone served as mayor twice, from 1981 to 1986 and from 2000 to 2008.

Brexit splits UK from Europe and Labour from its party leader


Only a week ago, Jeremy Corbyn seemed to have survived his biggest public relations debacle as the leader of Britain’s Labour Party:  the proliferation of anti-Semitic rhetoric among its members.

Yet this week, the British vote to leave the European Union achieved what Corbyn’s opponents failed to do in their attacks against him over anti-Semitism.

On Tuesday, 172 Labour lawmakers among the total 229 in the Parliament said they had no confidence in Corbyn, opening the door to a challenge that if co-signed by 51 lawmakers will lead to internal elections.

The previous day, the party’s leadership abandoned Corbyn in a mass walkout over his perceived failure to effectively lobby against the Brexit, which a majority of voters supported in Thursday’s referendum.

Relying on strong popular support in the Labour rank-and-file and ignoring calls to resign by former supporters who quit in protest of his leadership, Corbyn is holding on to his seat. Critics say he risks splitting and ruining a party that used to be a natural political home for British minority groups, including many from the Jewish community.

On Monday and Tuesday, 24 Labour shadow ministers – senior lawmakers who hold key portfolios within the opposition party – resigned their roles, citing Corbyn’s handling of the Brexit vote. A former Euro-sceptic, Corbyn led a “stay” campaign that was so lackluster and low-key that he faced accusations within his party of deliberately sabotaging the party position.

Prime Minister David Cameron, a Conservative who campaigned vigorously for a stay vote, announced his resignation following the referendum’s result, citing a need for leadership that reflects the will of the majority of British voters.

Corbyn, however, dug in his heels. After the walkout and no-confidence vote, he issued a defiant statement saying he would not betray those who voted for him by resigning.

“I was democratically elected leader of our party for a new kind of politics by 60% of Labour members and supporters, and I will not betray them by resigning. Today’s vote by MPs has no constitutional legitimacy,” he said.

Among the Labourites bolting over the Brexit issue was Luciana Berger, a Jewish lawmaker who had resisted repeated calls by Jews and non-Jews to distance herself from Corbyn over the anti-Semitism issue in the party.

“I have always served the Labour leader and our party with loyalty,” Berger wrote in her resignation letter, in which she also noted Corbyn “always served with great principle” and has shown her “nothing but kindness.” Berger, the shadow minister on mental health, said she was resigning “with deep sadness” because “loyalty to the party must come first” and because “we need a Labour leader who can unite our party.”

Like other senior Labour lawmakers, Berger stuck with Corbyn throughout the anti-Semitism controversy “because she wanted to make a difference in her field of political engagement,” David Hirsh, a British Jewish columnist and prominent sociologist at the University of London, told JTA.

She was able to do so, added Hirsh, who is a Labour member and critic of Corbyn, because “while the anti-Semitism issue certainly hurt Corbyn, he had temporarily defused it” by setting up an internal inquiry. But the Brexit vote “has led to such a political and economic crisis in Britain that Corbyn’s Labour opponents did not feel they could remain silent any longer.”

With the Conservative Party in turmoil over Cameron’s resignation, elections may be around the corner, possibly this year. Corbyn is widely seen as too radical to be voted into a position of power.

“Corbyn cannot win a general election, so Labour politicians no longer feel they have the luxury of waiting to see what happens. They feel they need to act now,” Hirsh said.

The attempted coup against Corbyn comes amid a widening split within Labour between its moderate center and the left-of-center camp supporting Corbyn. A hard-core socialist that has major traction with anti-establishment voters, Corbyn used to vote left of Labour before he came to lead the party. His rise within Labour coincided with an influx into the party of tens of thousands of his supporters – a process that many observers said also led to the proliferation of anti-Semitic speech and conspiracy theories.

Under fire by senior party members who accused him of either doing too little to curb the phenomenon or of contributing to it with his open endorsement of anti-Israel terrorists, Corbyn took a serious beating in the mainstream media. The pressure mounted after Ken Livingstone, a former mayor of London, said Adolf Hitler was a Zionist. Livingstone was suspended from the party.

Hirsh said the influx of left-of-center supporters may mean that Corbyn is correct in asserting that he represents the majority of Labour members. But the growing gap between his supporters and a substantial part of Labour’s leadership and establishment risks tearing apart Labour, splitting it into centrist and radical factions, he added.

The concern over a split in the Labour Party into a radical and moderate wing also exists for the Conservative Party, which is also divided on the Brexit issue.

If radical Conservatives prevail, it will be at the expense of Cameron’s camp, which many British Jews credit with leading an essentially liberal democratic line and resolute opposition to racism. A right-of-center victory could encourage xenophobia – a prospect the Board of Deputies of British Jews already warned about in the wake of the Brexit vote.

Corbyn himself has stressed that he rejects all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. But like many British Jews and the community’s leadership, Hirsh insists that “the Corbynite wing of the Labour Party carries anti-Semitic ways of thinking.” To the extent that it is successful in mainstream politics, he added, “it will carry that with it into British political life.”

The Brexit: Six things you need to know


Great Britain and the rest of Europe woke up to a new reality Friday as a slim majority of British voters said their country should leave the European Union. Markets trembled, British currency crashed and British Prime Minister David Cameron announced his pending resignation. It was a major blow to an alliance formed specifically to avoid a repeat of the nationalist rivalries that led to the First and Second World Wars.

Although Britain’s Jews appeared as split as the rest of the country over the “Brexit,” at least one prominent Jewish voice — Stephen Pollard, editor of The Jewish Chronicle newspaper, welcomed the vote as “a wonderful day for Britain — and its Jews.” Pollard’s argument: Britain is now free to chart its own course when it comes to Jewish interests, curbing extremism and supporting Israel. “[A]way from the Brussels bartering and negotiations that lie behind the EU’s foreign policy, Britain will be free to carve out an even more supportive stance, should we wish to,” he wrote.

But Pollard hardly spoke for all British Jews, and the impact of the vote may not be as clearcut as he makes it out to be. Here are six things you need to know about the Brexit vote:

No comment, please — we’re British Jews.

The representatives of British Jewry have remained strictly neutral on the Brexit issue because it divides their community of approximately 250,000 people as cleanly as it does the general population, according to a Jewish Chronicle survey from last month. And while prominent British Jewish figures like sociologist David Hirsch lamented the result as the outcome of xenophobia and fear, other notable British Jews celebrated it as a release from Brussels’ dictates – including the Conservative European Parliament lawmaker Daniel Hannan.

It’s not over. 

The June 23 referendum, in which 52 percent voted in the affirmative, is not binding. The prime minister may put the issue up to a vote in Parliament, where a majority is believed to be in favor of remaining. That said, shoving this policy down voters’ throats would be highly controversial, if not incendiary. But then again, so is leaving the EU.

Goodbye, chum. 

Cameron, who bet his political future on a remain vote and announced his resignation following the result, has been an exceptionally good friend to British Jews and to Israel, his critics and supporters agree. Under him, Britain began drafting laws outlawing the boycott effort against Israel and he has allocated an extra $17 million toward protecting Jewish communities.

Hello, mates.

The people likeliest to replace Cameron within the Conservative party have serious pro-Israel and pro-Jewish credentials, too. Boris Johnson, a sharp-tongued former mayor of London who supported Brexit, last year dismissed those seeking to isolate Israel through BDS as “lefty academics” who were unlikely to have influence in Britain, prompting his Palestinian hosts to cancel meetings planned for him in the West Bank. Michael Gove, another Conservative Brexit supporter and Britain’s justice secretary, has had a central role in anti-boycott legislation.

Collateral damage.

The vote hurt not only the leader of the Conservative party, but also Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Labour. A former supporter of less EU intervention in British politics, he nonetheless supported remaining in the European Union and campaigned for this outcome. Now, he is facing internal criticism over his perceived failure to deliver. The many Labour voters who supported Brexit are cited by his rivals within Labour as further proof that Corbyn, who is already facing internal opposition over his downplaying of Labour’s anti-Semitism problem, suffers from leadership issues.

Good news for Trump?

The Brexit vote shocked Britain because many deemed it unthinkable or undoable, believing that, despite the polls, Brexiters would eventually vote to Bremain so as not to rock the boat or cause a currency crash (it happened: the pound dropped to a 31-year low of $1.35 against the dollar). Donald Trump, in Scotland Friday for the opening of one of his golf courses, was quick to interpret Brexit as a hopeful sign for his own presidential bid, which has taken him from Republican Party dark horse to presumptive nominee during a campaign focused on isolationism and opposition to immigration. “I really see a parallel between what’s happening in the United States and what’s happening here, people want to see borders,” he said in Scotland. “It’s happening in the United States, it’s happening by the fact that I’ve done so well in the polls.”

He wasn’t the only one seeing parallels: Bill Kristol, the prominent Jewish neoconservative, said the surprising outcome could reflect a tendency on the part of pollsters to undercount the right-wing vote — as they did when Cameron and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu won elections in 2015  — and that Trump may be doing better than it seems.

British Jewish leaders keep mum on wisdom of Brexit


Britain’s Jewish leaders had mixed reactions to the country’s surprising vote in favor of leaving the European Union, with few offering an opinion on whether or not leaving the EU is a good idea.

Several praised Prime Minister David Cameron, who announced after the vote that he would resign, for his record on Jewish issues and voiced hope that Thursday’s referendum will put an end to the divisions caused by the so-called “Brexit” campaign.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement praising Cameron but offering no opinion on the nonbinding vote in favor of leaving the EU.

In a notable exception to the lack of opining by Jewish leaders, Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard in an Op-Ed in his paper critiqued what he described as “bizarre myths” about “what Brexit will mean for Israel and British Jews.”

Pollard said the country’s departure from the EU will not hurt its relationship with Israel, but could even improve it, saying “one could argue that, away from the Brussels bartering and negotiations that lie behind the EU’s foreign policy, Britain will be free to carve out an even more supportive stance, should we wish to …”

He also argued that leaving the EU would not lead to increased anti-Semitism, suggesting that, “far from Brexit hurting minorities, the real problem for minorities comes … when the mainstream loses touch with people and the only vehicles left to make a point are extremists.”

“Our freedom from the EU will make extremism less, not more, likely, as the pressure cooker is released,” he said.

The UK’s Jewish News reported that the Board of Deputies of British Jews said in a statement that it hoped the country “will now come together” after a “divisive and bruising” campaign, and “will nonetheless continue to work with colleagues and organisations across Europe as part of our broader programme of advocacy on international issues of concern to the Jewish people.”

Sir Mick Davis, chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council, told the Jewish News he was sad to learn of Cameron’s resignation, because Cameron “has always been a loyal friend of the Jewish community and a visible and vocal supporter of the State of Israel. He has worked constructively with us, engaging on issues of concern to British Jews.”

Noting that the Brexit debate has “sharply divided our country,” the UK’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said, according to the Jewish News, that “the time for disagreement and division is now over.”

While not specifically addressing the Brexit, Reform Judaism’s Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner told the Jewish News that she hoped the country would “continue to be an outward facing society, confident of its place in the world” and called for Britons to “reject isolation.”

Polls close in UK referendum, UKIP leader sees Remain victory


Polling closed in Britain's bitterly fought referendum on whether to quit the European Union on Thursday, with a prominent Leave campaigner saying he expected to lose and an early survey suggesting voters had chosen to remain in the bloc.

The survey by pollster YouGov showed Remain ahead by a margin of 52 to 48 percent. Unlike a classic exit poll, it was based on online responses by a pre-selected sample of people rather than a survey of voters as they left polling stations.

Nigel Farage, head of the UK Independence Party and a leading voice in favour of leaving the EU, told Sky News he did not expect to be on the winning side.

“Turnout looks to be exceptionally high and looks like Remain will edge it,” he said according to the broadcaster. Sterling rose 0.75 percent to $1.4987 on the Farage comments and the poll.

The four-month campaign has sharply polarised the nation and the final outcome of the vote could change the face of Europe.

If Britain becomes the first state to leave the EU, the so-called Brexit would be the biggest blow to the 28-nation bloc since its foundation.

The EU would be stripped of its second-biggest economy and one of its two main military powers, and could face calls for similar votes by anti-EU politicians in other countries.

If it votes to stay, Britain has been promised a special status exempting it from any further political integration, but European leaders will still have to address a sharp rise in euroscepticism across the continent.

A Brexit vote would also deal a potentially fatal blow to the career of Prime Minister David Cameron, who called the referendum and campaigned for the country to stay in, against a Leave camp led by rivals from within his own Conservative Party.

Results are due to be announced by most of the 382 individual local counting areas between around 0000 GMT and 0300 on Friday.

There is no exit poll because the margin of error for an event which has no precedent is too large. Turnout in each counting area will be announced, beginning at around 2230 GMT.

The vote came on a day when London and parts of southeast England were hit by torrential rain, causing floods and widespread transport chaos.

Five London polling stations opened late as staff struggled to get there, and two closed briefly because of flooding but were quickly re-opened in back-up locations.

“In London/southeast and want to vote in the #EURef? Make sure you plan now to get back to your local polling station by 10pm!” the Electoral Commission said on Twitter, as crowds of frustrated commuters struggled with train cancellations.

Among those affected was former London mayor Boris Johnson, a leading voice in the Leave campaign, who cast his vote with just 25 minutes to spare after returning to the capital from his daughter's graduation in Scotland.

“Let's see, let's see. It's in the hands of the people now,” he said when asked how he felt about the vote.

CAMERON'S FATE

The Leave campaign focused on warnings that Britain would be unable to control immigration levels as long as it was an EU member. Remain said a Brexit would cause economic chaos, impoverish the nation and reduce its clout on the world stage.

The killing of pro-EU lawmaker Jo Cox, a 41-year-old mother of two who was shot and stabbed on a street in her electoral district in northern England a week ago, prompted soul-searching about the vicious tone of the campaign.

Her suspected murderer told a court his name was “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain”. Campaigning was suspended for three days out of respect for Cox, resuming on Sunday.

An Ipsos MORI poll for the Evening Standard newspaper found support for Remain on 52 percent and Leave on 48 percent. A Populus poll put Remain 10 points ahead on 55 percent. Both were conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday and published on Thursday.

Cameron called the vote in 2013 under pressure from the rebellious anti-EU wing of his Conservative Party and the surging UK Independence Party (UKIP), hoping to end decades of debate over Britain's ties with Europe.

Unless Remain wins by a wide margin, he could struggle to repair the rifts in his party and hold on to his job. He has said he would stay in office but in the event of a vote to leave he is likely to face calls to resign.

Johnson is the bookmakers' favourite to replace him.

A Brexit could also cause the United Kingdom to break up because Scotland, where sentiment towards the EU is much more positive than in England, could hold an independence referendum if it was being dragged out of the EU against its will. Scots voted by 55 to 45 percent against independence in 2014.

OBAMA V TRUMP

After months of non-stop tit-for-tat confrontation between the sides, any substantive debate was over on Thursday. Due to legal restrictions, there were no large-scale campaign events and no television programmes rehearsing the arguments.

Traders, investors and companies were braced for volatility on financial markets whatever the outcome of a vote that has both reflected, and fuelled, an anti-establishment mood also seen in the United States and elsewhere in Europe.

Britain is divided on EU membership along broad age and education lines, polls show. Older and less educated voters tend to favour exit and younger voters and those with higher levels of education lean towards staying.

Whatever the outcome of the vote, the focus on immigration to Britain, which has increased dramatically in recent years, could worsen frictions in a country where the gap between rich and poor has also been widening.

Foreign leaders, from U.S. President Barack Obama to Chinese leader Xi Jinping, have called on Britain to remain in the EU, a message supported by global financial organisations, many company bosses and central bankers.

International banks have warned that the value of the pound could fall dramatically if Britain votes to leave and traders expect markets to be more volatile than at any time since the 2008-9 financial crisis.

Citing Kindertransport, British Jewish clergy urge UK to take in more refugees


More than 100 British Jewish clergy signed a letter urging the United Kingdom to take in more Syrian refugees.

In a letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron, the rabbis and cantors referenced the 10,000 Jewish children that the United Kingdom rescued from the Nazis between 1938 and 1940.

Two of the people delivering the letter Monday were themselves members of the Kindertransport rescue operation that brought Jewish children to the U.K.,  the British newspaper The Guardian reported.

Many of those who signed identified themselves as the children of Holocaust refugees.

“(W)e know that now it is our turn to open our gates to refugees who are fleeing from tyranny and evil, often with only the clothes on their backs, and their children in their arms,” the letter stated.

“We were heartened to hear that 20,000 refugees will be welcomed into the U.K. over the next five years. Yet we look again to World War II, where we find that immediate action could have saved many more children’s lives. Let the Kindertransport be our inspiration. 10,000 legitimate refugees, at the very minimum, should be offered asylum in Great Britain in the next 6 months.”

The letter, which also urged the government to allow refugees to work in the U.K., said the British Jewish community is willing to find homes for refugees and raise money to feed, clothe and educate them. It was organized by Tzelem UK, an activist group that organizes Jewish clergy on social and economic justice issues.

The letter also referenced the Exodus from Egypt.

“As Rabbis and Cantors we regularly read the story of a band of refugees who escaped from a tyrant with only the clothes on their backs and a bit of flat bread,” it said. “They crossed a sea, and they dreamed of a promised land. We call this the exodus, and it is our founding beacon for hope, and our constant reminder in every generation to open our hearts and our doors to the stranger at our gates.”

Netanyahu and Hammond face off over Iran deal


An on-camera, testy exchange between British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu laid bare on Thursday tensions over the nuclear deal between foreign powers and Iran.

A day after telling Britain's parliament that Israel would not have been satisfied with any accord with Iran, Hammond met with Netanyahu to try and calm fears over Tuesday's landmark deal, meant to curb Tehran's nuclear program.

But their statements to reporters before their meeting began strayed from the routine, short diplomatic remarks to a full-on 20-minute face-off, in which both Netanyahu and Hammond appeared at times irate – and by the end amused.

Netanyahu reiterated his objections to the deal, saying it would allow Tehran eventually to obtain nuclear weapons whether by abiding by the agreement or “by cheating and overcoming a porous inspection mechanism.”

Sanction relief, he said, would fund Iranian aggression in the region. Israel is alarmed about Tehran backing its enemies Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria and has accused Tehran in the past of being behind attacks on Israeli and Jewish targets abroad, allegations Iran has denied.

Hammond in his statement gave a sharp retort. “You said we will lift the sanctions today. We will not lift any sanctions today,” he told Netanyahu, adding oversight would be effective.

“We have no illusions about Iran's role in the region, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't act to tackle the threat of nuclear proliferation,” Hammond added and went on to describe his country's commitment to Israel's security as “unshakeable,” stressing his government's fight against antisemitism.

But rather than end the photo-opportunity as scheduled Netanyahu chose to reply and said a campaign against antisemitism should have included condemnation of calls by Iran to “annihilate the Jewish state”.

Days before the agreement was signed, crowds rallied in Tehran and called 'Death to Israel,' Netanyahu said. “There is no requirement for any change of behavior on the part of Iran which is what makes this deal so fundamentally flawed.”

Hammond too chose to continue the debate. “We have always been clear that this deal was about the nuclear file.”

“We will judge Iran not by the chants of the crowds on the streets of Tehran, but by the actions of its government and their agents around the region, and we are not naive about this.”

UK police ‘stop plane on runway’ to detain Syria-bound teenager


British counter-terrorism officers stopped a plane as it taxied towards the runway at Heathrow to prevent a 15-year old girl from traveling to Syria to join Islamist fighters, the Evening Standard newspaper said on Wednesday.

The girl, from east London, had saved up and bought a ticket to Istanbul without her parents' knowledge, the paper said.

She was removed from the flight and has since returned home but another girl, also aged 15, who was taken off the plane with her, managed to leave before police could intervene, it added.

Asked about the report, police said they had received reports about a girl missing from Tower Hamlets on Dec. 6.

“Officers were able to locate her and she has since returned home safely,” a spokeswoman said, without elaborating.

No further details were immediately available.

A British Airways spokeswoman confirmed that one of its flights to Istanbul had had to turn back on Dec. 6.

“There was a flight that had to turn back because two passengers were removed from the plane,” she said.

Officials estimate that over 500 British citizens have travelled to Syria, where the Islamic State group has seized large swathes of territory, and London's police chief Bernard Hogan-Howe has said some 250 have since returned.

Prime Minister David Cameron has warned that returning militants could launch attacks at home.

Ahead of historic vote, many Scottish Jews wary of independence


Bright blue signs scream “Yes” while red ones urge “No, thanks” in the streets of Scotland’s largest city just days before a vote on whether to secede from the United Kingdom.

But at Frank Angell’s house, his windows are empty and his yard is bare.

A former local council candidate for the Scottish National Party, the main political movement behind the independence push, Angell is a vocal supporter of the Yes campaign, attending rallies and touting the economic potential of an independent Scotland.

But in his local Jewish community, Angell is one of only a handful of supporters of independence.

Most of the affiliated Scottish Jewish community appears to want to remain part of the United Kingdom — among them Angell’s wife, Elaine. Hence the lack of signage on their lawn.

“The SNP has a history of pro-Palestinian support,” Elaine Angell said. “[UK Prime Minister] David Cameron is very strong. He’s pro-Israel. He’s always been pro-Israel.”

On Thursday, Scotland will vote on whether to become an independent country or continue more than three centuries of union with England. The campaign has proved a divisive one here, with recent polls showing the country nearly split evenly on the secession question.

Supporters of independence believe that Scotland would be better able to allocate resources to the local population as a separate country while leaving a smaller military footprint than the United Kingdom. Opponents argue that the country is better served by the U.K.’s greater global influence and worry about the financial and political uncertainties of independence.

“It’s historical, cultural, but also practical, economical,” Angell told JTA. “The way the economy has gone in Britain has been to pander to a very rich minority and allow a lot of tax avoidance. I also object to the money being spent on nuclear weapons because I’m anti-nuclear.”

Many Scottish Jews say they are wary of secession, citing anti-Israel statements by the Scottish government, historic and family links to the United Kingdom, and the potential economic risks of independence.

“The Jews in Scotland have been well received,” said Malcolm Livingstone, chairman of the Glasgow Jewish Community Trust. “It’s only in recent times that extreme Palestinian groups have upset that. The Scottish Parliament has shown serious signs of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish attitudes.”

Scotland’s 2011 census counted fewer than 6,000 Jews — about 0.1 percent of the population — most of them living in and around the industrial metropolis of Glasgow. Including unaffiliated Jews, the total could be more like 10,000, according to the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities director, Ephraim Borowski.

The community hasn’t been polled and Borowski’s group has no official position on the referendum. But he says official condemnations of Israel during the war in Gaza this summer may have pushed some Jews to oppose independence.

During the war, the Scottish government released eight statements criticizing Israel’s actions in Gaza. On Aug. 5, it called for an arms embargo against Israel to protest civilian deaths in Gaza. Glasgow’s City Hall flew the Palestinian flag for a day in August.

“I do know of people who have said explicitly that they intended to vote yes and now intend to vote no, and that’s connected with the much more explicit obsession with Israel and the Mideast,” Borowski told JTA.

The anti-Israel resolutions in Scotland have come alongside a spike in anti-Semitism here. More than 35 anti-Semitic acts occurred in July and August, according to Borowski’s group, compared to 14 in all of 2013. While the Scottish National Party, which is leading the independence charge, has condemned anti-Semitism, some Jews worry that nationalist feeling has encouraged it.

“Nationalism in Europe has not done well with the Jews,” Livingstone said. “I’m not suggesting for a minute that the SNP is like the nationalist parties in Germany, but within nationalist politics there’s always an element that tends to blame minorities for things that go wrong.”

Angell told JTA he has never encountered any anti-Israel sentiment at party conferences. Last month, Scotland’s second-ranking government official, the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon, wrote Angell a letter saying an independent Scotland would support a two-state solution and oppose boycotts of Israel.

“The foreign policy of an independent Scotland has yet to be written, but I know from the membership of our party that our attitude toward every nation and every group is a positive one,” said Vincent Waters, the SNP city councillor for Giffnock, a heavily Jewish Glasgow suburb. “We don’t have countries or ethnic populations that we favor one over the other.”

With a population of approximately 5.3 million, Scottish foreign policy isn’t likely to have a big impact on Israel. But Ben Freeman, 27, who grew up in Glasgow and founded an anti-discrimination nonprofit, says his country should support Israel as a matter of principle.

“It does matter because it’s our country,” Freeman said. “I don’t want to be part of a country that’s anti-Israel. I don’t want to be part of a country that’s anti-Semitic.”

Some Scottish Jews says they feel more of a connection to Britain as a whole than to Scotland. Unlike Scottish families who can trace their lines back to the country’s ancient clans, many Jews came here in a wave of immigration from Eastern Europe only a century ago, 200 years after England and Scotland formed a political union in 1707.

“Perhaps being a fourth-generation immigrant I have a different attitude toward being Scottish. None of my family was here in 1707,” Joel Conn said. “There’s a lot more that makes us British than makes us Scottish.”

Jews who support independence cite parallels between the Jewish and Scottish stories. Scottish nationalists have desired independence since the earliest rebellions against English rule in the 1200s, much as Jews longed for Zion over centuries of living in exile. And like Judaism, Scotland’s Presbyterian ethos historically encouraged education and literacy.

Joe Goldblatt, a native Texan who moved to Scotland six years ago and gained citizenship in July, was passing out fliers supporting independence last week in Edinburgh. Approaching a mother with a baby in a stroller, Goldblatt offered a pin to the “wee bairn,” or little kid.

“What’s the basis for all Jewish thought? Freedom,” said Goldblatt, a professor at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh. “It surprises me when my fellow Jews want to be shackled to the old political tissue, as if they’re saying, ‘The pharaoh has been pretty good so far. Let’s not rock the boat.’ ”

Scotland’s Jewish population is declining as young people move to cities with larger Jewish communities in London, Manchester or Tel Aviv. Between 2001 and 2011, the community’s numbers declined nearly 10 percent.

But though many Jews oppose independence, Freeman doesn’t think a yes vote will cause a mass Jewish exodus.

“Those who will leave will leave and those who will stay will stay,” Freeman said. “I’m leaving in two years, but I want the best for the country of my birth, and I feel the country of my birth should not be independent.”

On last visit before vote, British PM Cameron appeals to Scots to keep Britain intact


British Prime Minister David Cameron used his last visit to Scotland before a historic independence referendum this week to implore Scots to remain part of the United Kingdom, warning on Monday that a breakaway vote would be irreversible.

With opinion polls suggesting the referendum remains too close to call, Cameron, the leader of the ruling Conservative party, which draws most of its support from England, pleaded with voters not to use the referendum as a protest vote.

[Related: Why Scottish Jews are nervous over referendum]

“There's no going back from this. No re-run. If Scotland votes 'yes' the UK will split and we will go our separate ways forever,” he told an audience packed with Conservative party supporters in Aberdeen, the center of Scotland's oil industry.

“Don't think: I'm frustrated with politics right now, so I'll walk out the door. If you don't like me I won't be here forever. If you don't like this government it won't last forever. But if you leave the UK that will be forever.”

Cameron's trip was a last-ditch effort to try to persuade Scotland's many undecided voters to reject independence. Up to 500,000 people out of more than 4 million registered voters are estimated to be unsure how they will vote.

Campaigning in Scotland is fraught with difficulty for Cameron, whose right-leaning party is unpopular with Scots who have traditionally voted for the left-leaning opposition Labour party and harbor bitter memories of former Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher's 1979-1990 stint in power.

Cameron's Conservatives have only one of 59 British parliamentary seats in Scotland, and the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) has elbowed Labour aside in recent years to emerge as the dominant political force.

Cameron, his voice at times faltering with emotion, spoke after a video was shown extolling British achievements and some of the most prominent figures of British history from Winston Churchill to Alexander Fleming, a Scot who discovered penicillin.

“Independence would not be a trial separation. It would be a painful divorce,” Cameron said, standing in front of a giant Union Jack flag and a poster saying “Lets stick together”.

“Head and heart and soul, we want you to stay.”

Cameron has conceded his public image as a privileged Englishman with aristocratic roots does not make him the best person to advocate against Scottish independence.

Scottish nationalists criticized him for staying away in the early months leading up to the vote as complacent, and now that he is showing his face, they portray him as a condescending Englishman in no position to advise Scots on how to vote.

Details of his visits north of the English border are not revealed until the last minute for security reasons and critics say his advisers try to minimize his contact with the public to avoid nationalist heckling. The visit was expected to last only hours.

CONFIDENT PRO-INDEPENDENCE LEADER

Alex Salmond, the pro-independence SNP leader, was out campaigning too on Monday in Edinburgh where he met business leaders who back the breakaway campaign.

He predicted Scotland would vote for independence and that the next time Cameron visited would be to discuss the details of the 5-million strong population's divorce settlement from the United Kingdom.

“The next time he comes to Scotland it will not be to love-bomb or engage in desperate last-minute scaremongering,” Salmond said in a statement. “It will be to engage in serious post-referendum talks.”

Independence supporters say it is time for Scotland to choose its own leaders and rule itself, free of control from London and politicians they say ignore their views and needs.

Cameron repeated the anti-independence “Better Together” campaign's core message: that by staying in the United Kingdom, Scotland can take advantage of the benefits of belonging to a larger, more influential entity while enjoying an ever-increasing measure of autonomy.

“No” campaigners counter that Scotland is more secure and prosperous as part of the United Kingdom and say the end of the union would destroy three centuries of bonds and shared history as well as bring in economic and financial hardship.

Cameron's visit comes after David Beckham, the retired footballer, added his name to a petition of English celebrities who say they want the Scots to stay. The celebrity group, “Let's Stay Together”, is organizing a public rally on Monday evening in London's Trafalgar Square.

It was the pro-independence camp's turn on Sunday night when a host of Scottish rock stars including the band Franz Ferdinand and Mogwai played a concert in Edinburgh.

Singer Amy McDonald told the audience: “People fight and die for this (independence) and all we have to do is put a little cross in a box. Scotland, you know what to do.”

Opinion polls indicate the vote is hard to call.

Out of four recent polls, three showed those in favor of maintaining the union had a lead of between 2 and 8 percentage points. But an ICM poll conducted over the Internet showed supporters of independence in the lead with 54 percent and unionists on 46 percent. More than 4 million Scots as well as English and foreign residents, from the Highlands and Islands to Glasgow's gritty inner city estates, are eligible to vote.

The question on the ballot paper will ask simply: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

Additional reporting by Alistair Smout and Angus MacSwan in Edinburgh and Sarah Young, William James and Kate Holton in London; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

Islamic State releases video showing beheading of UK hostage David Haines


Islamic State militants fighting in Iraq and Syria released a video on Saturday which purported to show the beheading of British aid worker David Haines.

Reuters could not immediately verify the footage. However, the images were consistent with that of the filmed executions of two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, in the past month.

Haines, a 44-year-old father of two from Perth in Scotland, was kidnapped last year while working for the French agency ACTED.

The video entitled, “A Message to the Allies of America,” opened with UK Prime Minister David Cameron talking about working with the Iraqi government and allied Kurdish Peshmerga forces to defeat Islamic State.

“This British man has to pay the price for your promise, Cameron, to arm the Peshmerga against the Islamic State,” said a masked man dressed in black with a British accent, standing over Haines, who was shown kneeling and wearing an orange jumpsuit.

The video then showed the beheading of the kneeling man.

At the end of the video, another hostage was shown and the masked man said he would be killed if Cameron continues to support the fight against Islamic State.

Cameron condemned the killing and said he would bring the killers to justice.

“This is a despicable and appalling murder of an innocent aid worker. It is an act of pure evil. My heart goes out to the family of David Haines who have shown extraordinary courage and fortitude throughout this ordeal,” he said in a statement released by Downing Street.

“We will do everything in our power to hunt down these murderers and ensure they face justice, however long it takes.”

In Washington, White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said she had no comment on the video and referred queries to the British government.

In the video, Haines also spoke, saying Cameron was responsible for his execution. “You entered voluntarily into a coalition with the United States against the Islamic State, just as your predecessor, Tony Blair, did,” he said.

“Following a trend amongst our British Prime Ministers who can't find the courage to say no to the Americans. Unfortunately, it is we, the British public, that will in the end pay the price for our Parliament's selfish decisions.”

Foley and Sotloff made similar speeches to U.S. President Barack Obama which have been dismissed as scripted by Islamic State and delivered under duress.

The purported executioner appeared to be the same British-accented man who appeared in videos with Foley and Sotloff, and it showed a similar desert setting. In both videos, the captives wore orange jumpsuits.

HELPING VICTIMS

The United States resumed air strikes in Iraq in August for the first time since the withdrawal of the final U.S. troops from the country in 2011.

The raids followed major gains by Islamic State, which has declared an Islamic Caliphate in areas it controls in Syria and Iraq.

Obama is now calling for a coalition of Western and Middle Eastern countries to fight Islamic State and has said the U.S. intends to bomb Islamic State positions in Syria.

Britain has delivered humanitarian aid, carried out surveillance, given weapons to Kurds and promised training in Iraq. On military action, Britain supports U.S. air strikes and Cameron has repeatedly said Britain itself has ruled nothing out except combat troops on the ground.

Haines' family appealed earlier on Saturday to his captors to respond to their messages.

“We are the family of David Haines,” relatives said in a statement released by Britain's Foreign Office.

“We have sent messages to you to which we have not received a reply. We are asking those holding David to make contact with us.”

Paris-based ACTED has previously said Haines had been engaged in humanitarian work since 1999, helping victims of conflicts in the Balkans, Africa and the Middle East and that he was taken hostage in March 2013 in Syria.

Additional reporting by Guy Faulconbridge in London; Editing by Bernard Orr

London theater will host Jewish film fest after all


A London theater that refused to host a Jewish film festival because of the event’s Israeli government funding has reversed course.

The Tricycle Theatre decided to continue serving as a venue for the UK Jewish Film Festival after the theater’s initial refusal earlier this month sparked criticism, The Telegraph reported.

The Tricycle earlier said it would not host the UK Jewish Film Festival, which it has hosted for eight years, unless the annual festival eschewed funding from the Israeli embassy, which the theater described as “party to the current conflict” in Gaza.

Festival organizers said the demands were “entirely unacceptable.”

On Friday, the festival and theater issued a joint statement saying that the Tricycle’s initial decision “provoked considerable public upset” and that the theater has “invited back the UK Jewish Film Festival on the same terms as in previous years with no restrictions on funding from the Embassy of Israel in London.”

The ban had divided the artistic community, with opponents branding the theater “anti-Semitic,” according to The Telegraph.

Glasgow city council flies Palestinian flag


The city council of Glasgow, Scotland, displayed a Palestinian flag on its building in solidarity with casualties in Gaza.

The council raised the flag over the City Chambers Friday, the Jewish Chronicle of London reported, in support of “innocent people who are being hurt in Gaza,” the council said.

In a letter to the mayor of Bethlehem, Glasgow’s lord provost, or mayor, Sadie Docherty, said the move was a gesture of “solidarity with Bethlehem and Palestine.” Glasgow is twinned with Bethlehem, which is in the West Bank.

Jews in Glasgow have expressed anger at the move. In a statement, Paul Morron, president of the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council, said the decision had angered and hurt the city’s Jews.

“Flying the flag is the worst kind of gesture politics,” he said. “It does nothing to alleviate the suffering on either side of the conflict, nor does it bring peace closer by one single minute.”

The council said it had offered to meet Jewish representatives to discuss the issue.

Galloway probed for declaring his British constituency an ‘Israel-free zone’


Police in Britain are looking into complaints against a lawmaker who called for his constituency to be “declared an Israel-free zone.”

George Galloway of the far-left Respect Party made the call during a speech over the weekend in Leeds, prompting an investigation by West Yorkshire Police.

“We don’t even want any Israeli tourists to come to Bradford even if any of them had thought of doing so,” Galloway said. “We reject this illegal, barbarous, savage state that calls itself Israel — and you have to do the same.”

Galloway also said that Israeli goods, services and academics were likewise unwelcome. “We have declared Bradford an Israel-free zone,” he added.

A spokesperson for West Yorkshire Police told the BBC police has received two complaints againt Galloway in connection to his speech in Leeds.

Discrimination on the basis of nationality or race is illegal in Britain, as is inciting to hatred.

Galloway has said Israel should be abolished and replaced with a bi-national state. He called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas an “American stooge.”

Asked about Galloway’s statement, David Ward of the left-wing Liberal Democrats party said “Israel-free zone was a nice sound bite,” but any boycott had to be nationwide.

Last year, Ward was suspended from his party for three months for writing that he was “saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.”

Ward is now facing new disciplinary scrutiny for writing last month on Twitter: “The big question is – if I lived in #Gaza would I fire a rocket? – probably yes.”

On Thursday, Nick Clegg, a British deputy prime minister and the leader of Ward’s party, said the government would announce a suspension of Britain’s arms export licenses to Israel if it resumes its attacks in Gaza.

Jewish Flash Mob in London


Pro-Israel flash mob demonstrations are spreading like brushfire. On