November 15, 2018

A year after signing power transfer deal, Yemenis divided over government’s performance

[SANA’A] Last week, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary-General Abdullatif Bin Rashid Al Zayani visited Yemen to mark the first anniversary of the deal that saw former President Ali Abdullah Saleh relinquish power to his longtime deputy, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

On November 23 last year, after 10 months of deadly protests calling for his ouster, Saleh was forced to sign the agreement initiated by the Saudi-led Gulf monarchies and backed by the West.

Analysts say Ban's visit to Yemen, which made him the first UN chief to visit the country, was mainly intended to push for launching the second phase of the power transfer deal, which includes holding an inclusive national dialogue, reorganizing the divided army and security forces, and rewriting the constitution.

“The UN chief's visit at this critical time was designed to demonstrate the entire international community’s support for Hadi and his power-sharing government, and deliver a warning message to those who are trying to hinder the process of transition,” Abdusalem Mohammed, chairman of the Abaad Studies and Research Center think tank, told The Media Line.

“The visit, which came as violence was raging between Gaza and Israel, was also aimed to deter any militant group from attempting to exploit the situation and stir chaos,” he added. 

With the passage of one year since the ouster of the former president, many Yemenis are assessing the performance of Hadi and his power-sharing government.

“Actually, nothing has changed at all,” accountant Saleh Ali, 27, told The Media Line. “The same policies are applied. Only officials have been replaced and that essentially does not make any difference by itself.”

“We were better off before the revolution erupted. It only helped divisions to deepen, tensions to heighten and poverty to increase,” said Ali, who wore traditional Yemeni clothing including a Janbiya — a dagger with a short curved blade worn on a belt. Other passengers on the same bus disagreed sharply with Ali. One went so far as to call him one of Saleh's thugs.

College student Rami Khalid, 23, told The Media Line, “I feel like I was not alive before the overthrow of Saleh. Thank God he's gone. Things have looked up since he was ousted.”

However, Khalid, who was chewing leaves of Khat, a narcotic plant chewed daily by more than half of Yemen's population, admitted that living standards had dropped, but said this will be temporarily.

“Hadi and the national unity government managed to get things back on track after tensions were running high and the country was heading toward a civil war,” Ali Al-Sarari, political and media advisor for Prime Minister Mohammed Basindwah, told The Media Line. “They managed to restore relative security across the nation and drive out Al-Qa’ida militants from their strongholds. Any citizen can clearly notice the difference in the public services such as tap water and electricity.”

During the uprising against Saleh, public services significantly deteriorated.

Al-Sarari says he believes the government’s biggest accomplishment so far was achieved in the area of combating corruption. “The new government revoked the long-term contract with [marine terminal operator] DP World which had deliberately undermined the strategic Aden Port. It has also managed to negotiate with the French oil company Total a rise in the ‘unfair’ price that Yemen's liquefied gas is sold for,” he said.

“Hadi and his national unity government have so far been successful at their job at the helm of Yemen,” said Abdusalam Mohammed of the Abaad Studies and Research Center. “In the transitional stage, they are not required to boost development or improve the struggling economy, rather to prevent the country from descending into a full-blown civil war, which they did.”

Dr. Yahya Al-Thawr, chairman of Modern German Hospital in Sana’a, agreed with Mohammed and added, “So far, their performance has been satisfactory. But many people want to see improvements in the economy and development, and that's impossible because these sectors need time to progress.”

“Hadi is steering Yemen toward a successful, national dialogue and resolving long-standing problems,” Al-Sarari said.

While Al-Thawr and Mohammed shared his thinking, although they noted that the transitional process is very slow, political analyst Abdul-Bari Taher says that the indications do not show that Yemen is heading toward reconciliation.

“There are many challenges and obstacles facing the transitional process in the country. The situation is very complicated: Militant groups are currently amassing weapons, and the media war between the political factions is at its peak. Even the mosque's podiums have been used to spark tensions instead of easing them,” Taher told The Media Line.

“Actually, the situation looks as if Yemen is heading toward war — not dialogue and reconciliation. I'm afraid that neither President Hadi nor the prime minister will be able to do anything to stop the simmering tensions,” said Taher.

Mohammed, Taher, Al-Sarari and Al-Thawr all agree that in the coming months Hadi will have to take bold measures to end the divisions and disunity in the army. They say reorganizing the military is imperative for creating a conductive environment and laying the groundwork for the upcoming national dialogue conference.
 
Perhaps because of its strategic location – three million barrels of oil pass through the country daily – the international community showed considerable support for Yemen's stability and for President Hadi.

In a meeting in Riyadh on September 4, friends of Yemen pledged $ 6.4 billion in aid for Yemen's transitional period. At another meeting in New York on September 27, additional pledges totaled $1.5 billion, bringing the total to $7.9 billion.

In October, key Defense Ministry officials told local media outlets that Yemen is expecting an arms shipment from the U.S. as a grant for the poorest Arab state. The shipment includes four highly-advanced drones.

Hungarian Jewish body to sue lawmaker for ‘Nazi’ speech

A Hungarian Jewish organization said it will file a complaint against a lawmaker who proposed drawing up a list of “dangerous” Jews in government.

“There is no alternative to legal recourse now,” the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation said  Tuesday in a statement about the parliamentary address the previous day by Marton Gyongyosi of the ultranationalist Jobbik party.

During a Parliament session on Israel’s latest clash with Hamas, Gyongyosi said that Jews in the government posed a national risk and should be monitored. He also said a census should be held of all Hungarian Jews.

Rabbi Slomo Koves, a Chabad emissary and director of the Budapest-based Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation, said his organization is initiating a “criminal procedure” against Gyongyosi's “open Nazism inside Parliament.” The statement did not specify the procedure.

Koves also called on Hungarian democratic parties to “take action” on Jobbik, a party that the Anti-Defamation League calls “openly anti-Semitic.”

Several lawmakers in Hungary wore yellow Stars of David on Tuesday as hundreds of protesters rallied to condemn Gyongyosi for his speech, according to The Associated Press.

Anti-Semitic camp calls for overthrow of Poland on republic’s Independence Day

Young Polish nationalists and anti-Semitic extreme rightists called for the overthrow of Poland at the republic's Independence Day march.

At Sunday's event, the groups established a new nationalist organization called the National Movement.

Many of the participants in the march waved green flags with Celtic crosses and phalanx. Green flags in prewar Poland were a symbol of anti-Semites.

The marchers earlier had laid flowers at the monument of Roman Dmowski, who along with Jozef Pilsudski contributed to regaining Poland's independence in 1918. Dmowski was known, however, for his anti-Semitism and considered the Jews to be one of the greatest enemies of Poland.

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski also laid flowers at Dmowski's grave and held his own march on Sunday under the slogan “Together for Independence.”

Earlier in the day Komorowski presented the state medal to Anne Applebaum-Sikorski, an American Jewish writer and journalist and the wife of Poland's foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, for her dissemination of knowledge about the recent history of Central and Eastern Europe.

Kidnapping plot against Tunisian Jewish community reportedly foiled

A network plotting to kidnap and ransom members of a southern Tunisia town's Jewish community was broken up by the country's national guard, a Tunisian newspaper reported.

The network was started by a police officer who was formerly responsible for protecting the Jewish community, according to the report  in Al Hacad, a Tunisian weekly. The officer was reportedly recruiting young Tunisians to take part in a kidnapping operation that aimed to force Tunisian Jews to leave the country. He had a car registered in Libya as well as firearms stockpiled.

A Jewish resident of the southern Tunisian town of Zarzis told JTA that extra security measures had been taken up by the national guard in the Jewish neighborhood, where about 100 Jews live.

“I was wondering why we had a new army truck stationed about 40 meters from our synagogue for the past week, and then I read about this,” he said.

The police officer reportedly was known for being involved in an Islamic extremist group and was plotting to carry out a kidnapping operation on a Friday evening when local Jews spend Shabbat on the beach.

After the plot was foiled, all those behind it were arrested. The case has been referred to the Court of First Instance in Tunis.

While relations between Muslims and Jews in Zarzis have been relatively calm in recent years, there have been past incidents where the Jewish community was the target of violence.  In 1982 the synagogue in Zarzis was torched, and Torah scrolls were destroyed in the blaze. The arson attack was considered a response to the Sabra and Shatila massacre in Lebanon.

Morsi removed Israel-friendly references from speech

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi removed from his prepared speech to the United Nations two positive references to peace with Israel.

Morsi's remarks, as prepared for delivery and distributed by the Egyptian mission to the United Nations on Sept. 26, included an endorsement of the Saudi-initiated Arab plan, which would exchange pan-Arab recognition of Israel for Israel's return to the 1967 lines and a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue.

It also included a recommitment to Egypt's prior international agreements, which include the 1979 peace accords with Israel.

Morsi removed these two elements in his spoken remarks, instead endorsing Palestinian statehood without noting whether his vision would accommodate Israel.

The discrepancy emerged in a JTA analysis this week; Morsi's speech, delivered on Yom Kippur, had not drawn much Jewish attention.

Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader who assumed the presidency in June, has made a point of not mentioning Israel in his public pronouncements.

He drew Jewish criticism in mid-October for appearing to say “amen” while nodding when an Imam pleaded to God to “deal harshly” with the Jews.

Loyola marymount commemorates Kristallnacht

On the night of Nov. 9-10, 1938, brown-shirted storm troopers torched and looted hundreds of synagogues and destroyed 7,500 Jewish businesses throughout Germany and Austria in what is known as Kristallnacht, “the night of broken glass.”

On Nov. 8, Loyola Marymount University (LMU), founded by Jesuits, will host its annual citywide commemoration of the Nazi pogrom, which many historians mark as the beginning of the Holocaust. At LMU’s Westchester campus, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin will give an address titled “Why the Jews? Ethical, Spiritual and Historical Lessons.” 

This is the sixth year that LMU has sponsored a Kristallnacht commemoration, part of the Catholic university’s long-standing ties with the Jewish community and its scholarly interest in Jewish studies.

Among the initiators of the commemoration was William Elperin, president of The “1939” Club, an organization of Holocaust survivors and their descendants that is underwriting the event.

“It seemed to me then, and even more now, that it is really important to teach the Holocaust to non-Jewish students at a non-Jewish university,” Elperin said. “It is really not productive to preach only to the choir.”

Indicative of the LMU leadership’s philo-Judaic outlook is its support of a full-scale Jewish studies program, under the direction of professor Holli Levitsky, and the recent appointment of the first full-time rabbi, Ilana Schachter, as campus coordinator of Jewish Student Life and Hillel rabbi.

Levitsky regularly leads her mostly non-Jewish students in her course “Holocaust in Poland” on a summer trip to key Polish cities and Auschwitz. Two student projects that grew out of this past summer’s trip, a creative dance and an original composition, will be performed at the Kristallnacht commemoration.

Following will be the talk by Telushkin, author of a dozen books on ethics, Jewish history, humor and mysteries. Cantor Sam Radwine will open the ceremony, Cantor Leopold Szneer will conclude it, and a kosher reception will follow.

LMU’s friendly relationship with the Jewish community goes back a long way. Founded in 1911, LMU established a law school in 1920, which set no quotas on admitting Jewish students, in sharp contrast to most private universities at the time.

Currently, enrollment of Jewish students on the Westchester campus runs 250 to 300, or roughly 2.5 to 3 percent of the total number of 9,852 undergraduate and graduate students.

Because only students who specifically register as “Jewish” are counted as such, it is a fair guess that there are more than the official count reflects, Schachter said.

No exact figures are available for Jewish faculty members at LMU, or for Jewish student enrollment at the affiliated downtown Loyola Law School, but the general assumption is that the percentages are considerably higher.

Schachter, 28 and a graduate of the local Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, said in an interview that the Catholic majority at the university shares the Jewish values of social justice and devotion to learning, and joins in the celebration of Jewish events.

 “There is an advantage to being at a relatively small college, where we tend to share things,” Schachter said. “For instance, celebrations of Jewish holidays are sponsored by the general Student Union, and during Sukkot, we had our Sukkah right in the middle of the campus.”

Much of extracurricular life at LMU revolves around service organizations, in which students of all faiths work together, such as this Friday’s Shabbat, devoted to fighting global hunger.

In return, Schachter officiates as chaplain at one of the Catholic service groups and said she enjoys “learning about Catholic tradition.”

LMU also has a sizable Muslim student population, but there have been no anti-Israel demonstrations on campus, in contrast to what has taken place at a number of California public universities.

 “We’re not a politically active campus,” Schachter said. “I am sure that feelings about Israel vary, but we have had no confrontations.”

Levitsky and Schachter jointly administer, and are equally excited by, a project tackling a frustrating problem shared by Jewish activists at every university — how to get uninvolved Jewish students to become more involved in Jewish programs.

Underwriting the effort is a $10,000 Student Engagement Fellowship Grant from The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

Goals of the program are to determine the needs of unaffiliated Jewish students and on that basis develop accessible and relevant Jewish campus experiences and events attractive to those students.

The Kristallnacht commemoration on Nov. 8 will start at 7 p.m. in the Roski Dining Room of University Hall. For parking, enter the LMU campus at the main entrance off Lincoln Boulevard.

The public is invited, and there is no admission charge, but reservations are required.

For more information, visit lmu.edu.

The happy mystery that is Ghana

In the village of Anloga, Ghana, where I stayed for three weeks this summer, when someone dies people gather in the streets and they dance.  Some wear red and black, considered mourning colors, and along with dancing they sing, and they eat.  Some of the funeral festivities last for days, filled with merriment and jubilation.

I first encountered a funeral while riding in a car down a main road.  People were crowded alongside the street and even in the road itself. They blasted music and howled out of car windows as we drove through the exuberant mayhem.

We asked what they were celebrating. When we were informed it was a funeral and not a wedding or some other happy occasion, we were completely perplexed.  But then it made perfect sense: after two weeks of being there, we finally realized that happiness is the Ghanaian approach to life.

When I was faced with the decision of how to spend my summer, I saw a world of possibilities—literally. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to several places with my family, so I wanted to go someplace unlike anywhere I’d ever been.  What immediately popped into my head was the polar opposite of the breezy palm trees and balmy weather of Beverly Hills – Africa.

A group called Global Leadership Adventures offered a community service trip that focused on African children, and it also offered the opportunity to learn about Ghanaians’ culture and lifestyle.  It ended up being enough to give me a sense of their life, but not all the mysteries of their culture could be solved.

Funerals are only one example of the multitude of differences between Ghanaian culture and Western culture. Buildings there are mostly one-story and made of concrete blocks or mud, with either tin or thatched roofs.  Fences are hand-woven palm fronds, and except for the one paved road we drove on during a three-hour trip from the airport, the ground was all dirt and sand.

Christianity is practiced as the main religion, but there were also several traditional, idol-worshiping religions.  The traditional religions use shrines and make sacrifices to idols.

Known for their history of being sold in the slave trade, Ghanaians work hard to honor their ancestors.  With several slave forts still intact and used as museums, they educate and inform the public without any bitterness over this horrifying past.  As an American tourist, I felt more uncomfortable and ashamed about the topic than did any Ghanaian I met.

In fact, over the course of my three weeks there, I observed that even in such deprived conditions, people are able to live as contently as if they had all they needed in the world, even though they’re only getting by on $1.25 a day.

Ghana is an oasis of stability amid a desert of unrest—Burkina Faso and Mali to the north, Cote D’Ivoire to the west, and Togo to the east are all known for ongoing civil war and extreme poverty. Because of its neighborhood, Ghana is often assumed to be the same.  But life there is not as unfavorable as people perceive it to be.

In 1957, Ghana became the first sub-Saharan colony to gain independence and become a country.  It has had its ups and downs, but is now a stable democracy.

Though it is considered a third-world country, it’s developing quickly—the per capita income (how much an average person earns annually) has progressively risen since 1983 and is now at an all time high of $402.30, according to the World Bank.  Still, it’s a pittance compared to the U.S., where the average per capita income is $48,100, or Israel, where it is $31, 005.

The easygoing outlook expressed in their funerals clearly translates into Ghanaians’ everyday actions as well.  Anywhere we went, people would wave and smile at us, and exclaim, “Mia woezo!” welcoming us in their local language, Ewe (pronounced eh-way).

My program was made up of nine teenagers, five Americans from California and Oregon, and one each from Spain, France, Switzerland and Lebanon.  We came from different backgrounds but we all wanted the same thing—to help.

Every weekday, we volunteered at a local basic school, building bricks and teaching kindergarteners. Brickmaking is grueling and labor-intensive, involving manually mixing cement and sand, then packing the bricks into molds and carefully easing them out while keeping them intact.

We were able to work through it because the bricks would build a room to replace the thatch-roofed, palm frond-walled hut that served as the school’s cafeteria.  Each morning we were greeted with wide smiles and keen eyes from children who were wearing the same threadbare uniform they’d worn all week.

Forty kids ages five and six were divided into two classes and sat in one concrete-walled classroom.  Cracked cement floors and creaking, peeling, wooden chairs scraped against one another as the children stood up to welcome us each day.

We walked around the room, checking that they were writing down the letters of the alphabet correctly on their scraps of lined paper.  They sat in their seats, eagerly anticipating our approval and maybe even a high five (or two!) if they had earned it.  That was all it took to put an ear-to-ear grin on their faces.

At another place we visited, called New Seed International, an orphanage and school for kids infected or affected by HIV/AIDS, the kids reacted the same way.  They jumped up and down and screamed with joy when we took pictures of them, regardless of their condition.

We also met the eight young boys of Father’s House, a home that fosters boys who used to work as child slaves on the Volta River.  It didn’t even register that I was in the presence of former child slaves who had endured such horrifying, deadly conditions —they were real, but they were as cheery and carefree as any other kid I’ve met.

Excitement and enthusiasm are also evident in their attitude towards religion.  About 69 percent of Ghanaians are Christian, and religion is such a major part of their lives that the topic would come up in every conversation with a Ghanaian about their culture. They were always quick to talk about how much their religion meant to them.

There are also Ghanaians who are Muslim, and others who practice traditional pagan religions.  We visited shrines on a small island to learn more about their beliefs.  The shrines — small, open-faced mud rooms with thatched roofs — looked like sets from a horror movie, with idols the size of small people stuck with knives, and blood – according to our guide, from animal sacrifices — splattered around.

In Ghana, there is no such thing as not having a religion. When I told people I was Jewish, they asked me lots of questions, and when they found out that we believe in the Torah – their Old Testament—they approved.   What was harder for them was when some of the teens on my program told them they didn’t identify with any religion at all – the Ghanaians were surprised, and asked how it was possible to live a life without faith.

Ghanaians also express their vitality by means of color.  All around the streets are women dressed in brightly patterned fabrics sold in the markets. The colors of their national flag have symbolic meaning, as I learned from a Ghanaian friend, Faustina, an 18-year-old girl who worked at our home base, helping out with the laundry.

In the flag, Faustina said, red represents the blood shed in Ghana’s struggle for independence. Yellow is for the gold the country has that gave it its nickname “the Gold Coast,” and green symbolizes the country’s rich vegetation.

A black star in the center represents their dark skin, in which they have much pride. In fact, during my time in Africa I was the most aware of the color of my skin that I’ve ever been.  It didn’t occur to me before I arrived how impossible it would be to blend in.  With light skin, everyone knew that we were foreigners, but I never felt uncomfortable or unwelcome because of it.

I did feel guilty and ashamed, though, when we visited slave forts, where Ghanaian men, women and children were held in prisons until they were sold.  We saw one in Keta, just 20 minutes from Anloga, built by the Danes in the 18th century, and also the famous Cape Coast Castle in Cape Coast, about seven hours away to our  west. Seeing the cramped living quarters — hundreds, sometimes thousands of slaves were kept in a room smaller than Shalhevet’s Bet Midrash – left us unnerved.

The Ghanaians never seemed to resent us for what our ancestors had done.  They still welcomed us warmly.  But in spite of the bright sunlight and lively conversation, the forts made us uncomfortable.

Although the Ghanaians we met seemed happy enough to have us there, I often wondered if they thought it was intrusive and meddlesome of us to come to their country to help.  I tried to put myself in their shoes—or rather, in their bare feet — and I guessed that like anyone, they were not about to reject assistance.

I asked Mercy, the program’s cook, and Lamisi, a laundry assistant, whether they’d ever been to the U.S.  They looked at me as if I were crazy, then laughed.  When I asked where they had been, Mercy said she’d been to the neighboring countries of Togo and Benin, while Lamisi had never left Ghana.

When I asked if they had any desire to go to the U.S., they gave a shrug and said that there was no reason to go, because they had everything they needed right there in Ghana.

It’s baffling to me that the Ghanaians I met could be so content and satisfied with their lives when most of them have practically nothing.  Coming from a city where people get BMWs for their 16th birthday, dream of travel and careers in fashion or Hollywood, and think a lot about having the newest technology, their lack of material concerns was difficult to fathom.  They don’t have the same opportunities, ambitions, or material things, yet they’re content.

After weeks of brick building, playing with kids, eating their local cuisine, and seeing all I’d seen, I was left wondering: what do Ghanaians dream of?  Clearly it’s not iPhones and fashion shows.  What do they aspire to become, and what fulfills them?  And what would it take for an American teenager to find out?

I asked questions, but politeness trumped my curiosity.  It wasn’t awkward, I just didn’t know enough about the culture to know what was acceptable to ask.  All I could do was witness it for myself and recognize the differences.

I now understand that the spectrum of cultures in the world is still as large and diverse as the world itself, and no matter how much time one spends with a foreign culture, it might not be enough time to understand them completely.  While I was able to get a sense of what life was like for the average Ghanaian, I didn’t get much depth.

Maybe that day when we learned about Ghanaian funeral festivities, what we actually came to understand was that we didn’t, in fact, understand.  Perhaps three weeks couldn’t solve the mystery that is Ghanaian culture.  For the nine Western teenagers living in Anloga for the summer, Ghana will remain a happy mystery, a set of questions with answers obvious only to them.

As Morsi and Brotherhood spur alarm, what to do about Egypt?

Jewish groups looking for signals from Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi regarding his views were appalled when one finally came — in the form of a nod and what appeared to be a muttered “amen” to an imam’s call for God to “deal harshly” with the Jews.

Morsi's nod at Friday prayers Oct. 19 and a separate call from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's top leader for Muslims to unite and use force against Israel in a “holy Jihad” have drawn expressions of alarm from Jewish groups.

The Anti-Defamation League released a statement expressing its “deepening concern over the anti-Semitic rhetoric coming from the highest echelons of Egyptian society.” The Zionist Organization of America and the Simon Wiesenthal Center called on the Obama administration to cut off ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement behind Morsi's Freedom and Justice Party, though the new Egyptian president formally resigned the party's head after his election.

The American Jewish Committee said it is reaching out to Egyptian officials for further clarification.

“AJC has a longstanding relationship with the Egyptian government, we are determined to maintain that relationship throughout his transition,” said Jason Isaacson, the AJC's international affairs director. “Whatever the views of Egyptian leaders, the fact remains Egypt is a neighbor of Israel, maintains a peace treaty with Israel and requires constant attention.”

Morsi, who assumed office in June, has done little since then to assuage concerns that his Muslim Brotherhood background would severely alter the most populous Arab nation’s relationship with the West and, more particularly, its peace with Israel.

“Anyone who thought the Muslim Brotherhood would moderate simply because it won elections doesn't understand how ideological the organization is, and doesn't understand how it is structured to resist moderation,” said Eric Trager, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Trager described a system in which it takes five to eight years to attain full membership in the Brotherhood, and during which aspirants are subject to tests that weed out moderates.

Jewish concerns about how Morsi will handle relations with Israel have mounted in recent weeks.

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 27, Morsi did not mention Israel by name once, although he spoke at length about the Palestinian cause. His only reference to Israel was as “a party in the international community” that denied Palestinian rights.

The text of Morsi's speech as prepared and distributed in advance by Egypt’s mission to the U.N. included a positive reference to the Arab League's 2002 peace initiative, which called for comprehensive peace and recognition of Israel in exchange for Israel’s withdrawal to the 1967 lines and a resolution to the Palestinian refugee issue in exchange. Yet Morsi, JTA has discovered, omitted that part in the speech he delivered.

Also removed in the remarks Morsi delivered was a vow that was included in the advance text to uphold international commitments — an assurance that the United States has sought, particularly as it relates to the 1979 peace treaty with Israel.

Next, in October, in a public message, Mohammed Badie, the Muslim Brotherhood’s supreme guide, reportedly said that “Zionists only understand the language of force” and “increased their corruption throughout the world, shedding the blood of the people, trampling sanctuaries and holy places, desecrating even their own sanctuaries through their actions.”

Then, on Oct. 19, Morsi attended Friday services at a mosque in Mersa Matruh, an Egyptian seaport, at which the imam – a prominent local Brotherhood figure – prayed to God to “deal harshly with the Jews and those who are allied with them.” The Middle East Media Research Institute published video of the event in which Morsi appeared to nod and mouth “amen” to those words.

“The drumbeat of anti-Semitism in the 'new' Egypt is growing louder and reverberating further under President Morsi and we are increasingly concerned about the continuing expressions of hatred for Jews and Israel in Egyptian society and President Morsi's silence in the face of most of these public expressions of hate,” the ADL said in a statement.

Morsi and the Brotherhood also have been consolidating their power. In August, Morsi replaced the leadership of the military — long seen as a bulwark of support for maintaining strong ties wit the U.S. and upholding the peace treaty with Israel. He has also removed limits on the presidency that the junta that controlled Egypt after Hosni Mubarak’s ouster in early 2011 had inserted.

Joel Rubin, the director of government affairs for the Ploughshares Fund, said that much of this posturing has to do with internal political considerations as the Brotherhood seeks to consolidate its leading role in the Egyptian polity.

“He’s making a priority of maintaining the leadership profile,” said Rubin, who previously worked on Middle East issues as a congressional staffer and at the State Department. “He has a political base he speaks to.”

Trager said that the offending statements of the sort delivered by the imam were not uncommon in Egypt.

“What is as disturbing is that these prayers are ubiquitous in Egypt and a common feature,” Trager said. “It’s awful, the president sitting there and saying amen, but you have tens of millions of Egyptians saying amen.”

A poll in September commissioned by The Israel Project found 74 percent of Egyptians disapprove of the fact that Egypt maintains diplomatic relations with Israel. The poll, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, was based on face-to-face interviews with 812 Egyptians and had a margin of error of 3.5 percent.

There are already disagreements between Congress and the Obama administration over how best to deal with the new Egyptian government. The State Department announced in September plans to maintain the $1.3 billion in military assistance to Egypt and to increase economic assistance and support for democratization programs.

Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), the chairwoman of the foreign operations subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, immediately put a hold on $450 million in emergency aid,  saying “I am not convinced of the urgent need for this assistance and I cannot support it at this time.”

James Phillips, a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation, said that giving the emergency aid “sends the wrong signals to the Egyptian government.” He noted the two days it took for Morsi contain mob attacks on the U.S. embassy on Sept. 11 and publicly criticize them. “He has proven himself to be someone who can’t be counted on,” Phillips said.

But Rubin said the assistance, primarily designated for the military, helps bolster Egyptian moderates. Still, he said that it was appropriate for the Obama administration to make clear its unhappiness with anti-Semitic and anti-American pronouncements. He noted Obama’s declaration in an interview with Telemundo recently that Egypt was neither ally nor an enemy — a significant downgrading of the status of Egypt, which has long been one of the leading recipients of U.S. aid.

“We should be comfortable in telling Morsi what we think is appropriate and telling him what we think the government of Egypt needs to be saying and not saying regarding Israel,” Rubin said.

Steven Cook, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that the U.S. should closely watch areas where tensions between Israel and Egypt could flare up.

“There are certain discrete things the U.S. can do, like help manage the situation in Sinai,” he said, noting the increase in tensions after attempted terrorist attacks from the Egyptian peninsula bordering Israel. “That’s the flashpoint where political leaders have to do things are rational from their perspective, but that could lead to” an outbreak of conflict.

Israeli tourist suffers ‘anti-Semitic abuse’ in Polish taxi

An Israeli tourist visiting Poland reportedly filed a complaint with police against a taxi driver for making anti-Semitic remarks.

The tourist, Clila Bau, visited Poland last week with her sister, Hadas, according to the online edition of the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza.

The two came to Krakow to attend an exhibition of the works of their father, Joseph Bau, a Jewish artist who survived the Holocaust in Poland thanks to Oskar Schindler.

After the Oct. 16 event at Krakow’s Schindler Museum was concluded, Cila Bau boarded a taxi cab belonging to the company Mega Taxi.

When the driver learned she was from Israel “the journey turned into hell,” Clila Bau is quoted as saying.

She said the driver “yelled” that in Israel, Jews stole land from Arabs, and the Jews should be thankful to Poles for “taking them in when everybody else threw them out.”

When they reached the destination, the driver threw her suitcase out of the car and told her to “get out and never come back,” according to her account in Gazeta Wyborcza.

The online edition of Gazeta Krakow quoted the driver as denying that he hurled anti-Semitic insults at Bau. “We had a discussion on ideology,” the paper quoted him as saying.

Boaz Pash, the chief Orthodox rabbi of Krakow, said that anti-Semitic incidents in Krakow are “unusual and less common than in other European countries.”

Pash said that in six years of living in Poland, he has received very few negative reactions. “This incident sounds very unpleasant, but you can find hooligans anywhere,” he said.

Israelis possibly targeted by bomb-makers in Cyprus

Cypriot authorities discovered a small amount of explosives that may have been intended for use against Israeli targets. 

A Cypriot tabloid, Alithia, reported on Thursday that agents of Cypriot security services had discovered 100 grams of explosives at the port in Limassol, which were intended to target cruise ships carrying Israelis. The explosives, according to the report, came in the form of a pink powder.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an expert on terrorism with ties to the Cypriot government told JTA that “unless there are other packages,” the small amount found could suggest the charge was meant to target one person in a car bomb or other small explosives devices.   

“The find may not be linked to Israelis at all, but a way for the police to send a message that they know about a pending hit,” the source said.

Last month, Israel asked security forces around the world, including in Cyprus and Greece, to increase protection for Israeli tourists ahead of the High Holy Days.

In July, Cypriot police arrested a Swedish passport-holder of Lebanese descent who was allegedly tracking the movement of Israeli tourists on the island.

Australia UN Security Council seat

Australia won a temporary two-year seat on the UN Security Council despite critics suggesting its support for Israel would hamper the bid.

The country, which was up against Finland and Luxembourg for one of two seats in the 2013-2014 term, won 140 votes in the first round of Thursday's secret ballot of all 193 members of the UN General Assembly. At least 129 votes were needed to secure a seat.

Michael Danby, a Jewish government legislator, said the victory was “vindication” that the government “does not need to compromise Australian democratic values to win this position.”

“Never once,” he said, did Australia compromise its support for Israel. Critics, however, point to the government's changed voting pattern on Israel-related UN votes under Labor as compared to the virtual wall-to-wall support for the Jewish state under the previous Liberal government.

Australian Jewish leaders, who previously had declined to comment on allegations that the government's support for Israel could cost Canberra the seat, rushed to congratulate the Labor Party.

The magnitude of Australia's win “refuted decisively” those who claimed the bid was compromised by Australia's support for America and Israel, the leaders of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry said in a statement on Friday.

“Australia does not need to weaken its adherence to its long-standing principles and allegiances in order to win international respect and support,” said the Danny Lamm, the group’s president, and Peter Wertheim, its executive director.

Philip Chester, president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, said he hoped that Australia would discourage moves at the UN by the Palestinians for unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.

Colin Rubenstein, executive director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, said he hoped Australia would use the seat to address the UN's “systematic, entrenched and obsessive biases against Israel” and  an impediment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The election is the first time since 1986 that Australia has won a seat on the UN Security Council. Israel is bidding for a temporary seat in 2018.

Jewish leader unveils model bill on regulating shechitah in EU

European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor has unveiled a model bill designed to set “strict legal terms” on religious freedoms in order to enshrine them in Europe.

Kantor, who is also co-chairman of the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation, or ECTR, presented the model bill on Oct. 15 at the European Parliament.

Designed to delineate the legal boundaries of tolerance in light of “anti-Semitism, racism and attempts to limit freedom of worship in Europe,” the document proposes to enshrine Jewish and Muslim religious slaughter practices, shechitah and halal, as well as ritual circumcision. It also recognized the state’s right to regulate these practices.

Citing “overriding” public safety reasons, the bill proposes to ban burkas and other face-covering headgear. Kantor said he hoped parliaments of European Union member states adopt the principles laid down in the model bill in legislation, as “only by defining the boundaries of real tolerance can we ensure it.”

The model bill was co-authored by Aleksander Kwaśniewski, a former Polish president and co-chair of ECTR, a Brussels-based NGO comprised of Nobel Peace Prize laureates, several former heads of states and others recognized for adding to tolerance.

Under the model bill, “migrants who refuse to learn the local language may face deportation due to their unwillingness to integrate,” said Prof. Yoram Dinstein, one of the documents’ co-authors and an Israeli expert in international law.

“Many support tolerance as an abstract idea but find it hard to specify how it should be applied,” he told JTA. “This document tries to translate aspirations into practice.”

Peres receives credentials of Egypt, Jordan envoys

The new ambassadors of Egypt and Jordan presented their credentials to Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Egyptian envoy Atef Mohamed Salem Sayed Elahl and Jordanian envoy Walid Khalid Abdullah Obeidat were among six new ambassadors to present their credentials to Peres in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

“II came with the message of peace and I came to confirm that we are really working for mutual trust and transparency,” Elahl told Peres. “We are committed to all the agreements we signed with Israel, and we are also committed to the peace treaty with Israel. We have to go with our new generation to the peaceful future.”

“We have the highest respect for your people and for your history,” Peres told the new Egyptian envoy that Israel has “the highest respect” for the Egyptian people and the country's history.

“I know there are people who try to frustrate peace,” Peres said, “and I believe that our governments will do whatever they can to keep the peace between us deep, sincere, strong and serious for the sake of your people and for the sake of our people.”

The Jordanian ambassador post has been vacant for two years. Obeidat accepted the post despite strong objections from his clan, which excommunicated him. 

“The foremost priority in our foreign policy still remains the peace process and achieving peace between all neighboring countries, including the establishment of an independent sovereign Palestinian state living side by side with the State of Israel and forming a region that is economically viable, a region that has political stability and a region that works and looks for a bright future,” Obeidat told Peres.

He also said it is important to Jordan to preserve the rights of all those who want to visit Christian and Muslim sites in Jerusalem.

Iran further expanding enrichment capacity, Western diplomats say

Iran is believed to be further increasing its uranium enrichment capacity at its Fordow plant buried deep underground, Western diplomats say, in another sign of Tehran defying international demands to curb its disputed nuclear program.

But they said the Islamic Republic did not yet appear to have started up the newly-installed centrifuges to boost production of material which Iran says is for reactor fuel but which can also have military uses if processed more.

“Iran continues to build up enrichment capacity,” one Western official said.

A diplomat accredited to the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said: “We think that they have continued installing centrifuges at Fordow. We think that their pace has continued the same as it was, which was pretty rapid.”

If confirmed in the next IAEA report on Iran's atomic activities, expected in mid-November, it would suggest Iran is steadily moving towards completing installment of centrifuges at the Fordow subterranean centrifuge site.

The work may be “near complete,” the Vienna-based diplomat said, in remarks echoed by another envoy.

There was no immediate comment from Iran or the IAEA, the U.N. nuclear agency based in the Austrian capital.

Fordow – which Tehran only disclosed the existence of in 2009 after learning that Western spy services had detected it – is of particular concern for the United States and its allies as Iran uses it for its higher-grade enrichment.

Iran says it needs uranium refined to a fissile concentration of 20 percent, compared with the level of up to 5 percent it produces at its main enrichment facility at Natanz, to make fuel for a medical research reactor in Tehran.

STALLED DIPLOMACY

But it also takes Iran a significant technical step closer to the 90 percent concentration needed for bombs, explaining the West's growing concern about the Islamic state's stockpile of the material.

A U.S.-based think-tank, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), this month said Iran would currently need at least two to four months to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one nuclear bomb, and additional time to make the device itself.

Last week, Iranian officials said Tehran would negotiate on halting higher-grade enrichment if given fuel for the research reactor, in a possible attempt to show flexibility in stalled nuclear talks with world powers.

The IAEA said in its last report on Iran in late August that the country had doubled the number of centrifuges to 2,140 at Fordow since the previous report in May. More than 600 remained to be installed, the report showed.

Since then, diplomats said they thought Iran had put in place more centrifuges at the site near the holy Shi'ite Muslim city of Qom, about 130 km (80 miles) from Tehran and located deep under soil and rock for protection against any attack.

“They continue sort of unabated,” one envoy said.

But they said Iran was still operating the same number of machines as it has been since early this year, nearly 700 centrifuges.

It was not clear when the new equipment would be launched or whether Iran was holding back for technical or political reasons. It is also not known whether the centrifuges which are not yet operating will be used for 5 or 20 percent enrichment, or both, the diplomats say.

Any move by Iran to increase the number of working centrifuges – and the production rate – would be swiftly condemned by its foes in the West and Israel and may further complicate diplomacy aimed at resolving the dispute.

Iran says its nuclear program is a peaceful project to generate electricity but its refusal to limit the work and lack of transparency with U.N. inspectors have been met with increasingly tough Western sanctions targeting its oil exports.

European Union governments imposed sanctions on Tuesday against major Iranian state companies in the oil and gas industry, and strengthened restrictions on the central bank, cranking up financial pressure on Tehran.

Editing by Jon Hemming

Rice at U.N. echoes Obama on Palestinians’ unilateral statehood bid

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, reiterated President Obama's comments to the world body on unilateral Palestinian efforts toward statehood jeopardizing the peace process.

“Unilateral actions, including initiatives to grant Palestinians non-member state observer status at the United Nations, would only jeopardize the peace process and complicate efforts to return the parties to direct negotiations,” Rice said in remarks Monday at the U.N. Security Council’s Open Debate on the Middle East, citing Obama’s comments to the U.N. General Assembly last month.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said last month that he would seek an upgrade in status at the U.N. that was something less than full statehood but would delineate state borders. Palestine now has a permanent observer mission. 

Rice also said that any unilateral effort toward full Palestinian statehood “will neither improve the daily lives of Palestinians nor foster the trust essential to make progress towards a two-state solution.”

Also at the open debate, Israel's U.N. ambassador, Ron Prosor, said that “The Palestinians’ unilateral actions are a clear breach of every agreement that they have signed with Israel, including the Oslo Accords, the Interim Agreement and the Paris Protocol.”

Prosor asked U.N. members, “Would you make painful sacrifices — would you give up tangibles — in exchange for pieces of paper that the other side has proven more than willing to throw in the garbage?”

Abbas’ request is expected to be debated in mid-November, according to Reuters.

Jewish legislator slams Australia’s U.N. Security Council bid

A Jewish legislator in Australia slammed the Labor government's hypocrisy on Iran in Canberra's attempt to win a U.N. Security Council seat this week.

In an opinion article in the Herald Sun on Monday, the Liberal Party's Joshua Frydenberg cited the government's decision to send two representatives to the Non-Aligned Movement's summit in Tehran in August despite the fact that Australia is not a member of the Non-Aligned Movement and “our friends” America and Canada had boycotted it.

“Our high-level delegation was present just at the time Australia is enforcing numerous financial, export and travel sanctions against the Iranian regime,” Frydenberg wrote. “The hypocrisy of the government's vote-winning strategy was laid bare.” 

The United Nations' 193 members will vote in a secret ballot Thursday for 10 temporary seats at the Security Council. Australia is competing against Finland and Luxembourg for two seats for the 2013-2014 term.

Frydenberg also argued Australia's foreign aid priorities had been skewered and “key relationships put on ice” as the government orchestrated a “crude attempt to win votes.”
Although he said Iran's president “frequently rails against the U.S. and the West,” Frydenberg didn't refer to Israel specifically. He later told JTA that the government's decision to change its voting pattern at the U.N. on Israel-related resolutions was “regrettable and a blatant attempt to boost its Security Council campaign.”

Israel's ambassador said its representative would back Canberra's bid.

Syria pushes world refugee total towards record, U.N. says

With tens of thousands fleeing Syria every month, the number of refugees worldwide in 2012 is set to be the highest this century, a senior United Nations official said on Monday.

Antonio Guterres, the body's High Commissioner for Refugees, told his UNHCR agency's executive committee that its ability to cope was being stretched to the limit.

“Already in 2011, as crisis after crisis unfolded, more than 800,000 people crossed borders in search of refuge — an average of more than 2,000 refugees every day,” the former Portuguese prime minister said.

That total had been the highest since the turn of the century “and so far this year more than 700,000 people have fled from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Sudan and Syria”, Guterres said.

Last Friday, another UNHCR official said the total from Syria could reach 700,000 this year, nearly four times its earlier estimate as government troops battle rebels across the country.

About 294,000 refugees fleeing 18 months of fighting have already crossed into Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey, or await registration there, Panos Moumtzis told a news briefing.

He said 100,000 people had fled Syria in August, 60,000 in September and at the moment 2,000 or 3,000 were crossing daily into neighbouring countries.

The new refugees are joining some 42 million around the globe who have fled across borders to escape violence. Many of these have been in temporary shelter provided by the UNHCR for a decade or more, some for even longer.

Amid the global economic crisis and with budgets of governments stretched, Guterres told the executive committee that the cost of helping refugees was escalating fast while long-lasting crises like Afghanistan and Somalia continued.

“We are at a moment when the demands on us are rising while the means available to respond have remained at a similar level to last year,” he said.

“Our operations in Africa, in particular, are dramatically underfunded. At this moment, we have no room for unforeseen needs, no reserves available. In today's unpredictable operating environment, this is a cause for deep concern.”

Reporting by Robert Evans; Editing by Robert Woodward

Ahmadinejad meets Farrakhan, other religious leaders

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with Nation of Islam leader the Rev. Louis Farrakhan and other religious leaders.

The meeting on Tuesday in New York City was reported in an English translation of the Iranian president’s Web page, according to the Daily Caller, an online news site.

According to Ahmadinejad’s web page, the night before his address to the UN General Assembly, Farrakhan and seven other leaders of “Abrahamic religions” listened to the Iranian president’s desires for a new world order, the major theme of the Iranian’s UN speech, the website reported.

None of the other participants at the meeting were identified.

Ahmadinejad reportedly made his case for his country’s nuclear program. Iran, he said, has a right to develop clean energy. He also stressed that “US animosity” against his country stemmed from Washington’s desire to control Middle East energy resources.

“He further pointed to the western countries contradictory approach regarding their opposition to the atomic bombs and said if they are true with their claims why do they not destroy their own nuclear bombs first?” Ahmadinejad’s web page said.

The New York Post also reported that Ahmadinejad met at the Warwick Hotel, where he was staying, with Farrakhan and members of the New Back Panther Party.

“This is part of reaching out to the fringe that supports him,” Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, told JTA.

Netanyahu’s Iran cartoon bomb timed to make big impact

The “Bibi bomb” was born of days of discussions between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a brains trust of close advisers on how to make a powerful impact in yet another speech on Iran's nuclear program.

“The diagram made his address special,” a senior official in Netanyahu's entourage said on Friday about the cartoonish drawing of a bomb the Israeli leader, who is nicknamed “Bibi,” used at the U.N. General Assembly as a prop to illustrate what he sees as Iran's drive for an atomic weapon.

It may have raised a titter on Twitter, where the New Yorker magazine quipped, “if Wile E. Coyote ever gets hold of this, the Roadrunner is toast.” But the graphic got what Israel was hoping for – attention.

Such a Looney Tunes analogy would not have been lost on Netanyahu, who was educated in the United States, and at least one of his top advisers, Ron Dermer, who was born there and immigrated to Israel.

But on the world stage at the U.N. General Assembly, Netanyahu took out a marker and dramatically drew a red line just below a label reading “final stage” to a bomb, in which Iran would be 90 percent along the path to having sufficient weapons-grade material.

“I tried to say something yesterday that I think reverberates now around the world,” Netanyahu said at a meeting on Friday with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Iran denies allegations by Israel, widely believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear power, that it is enriching uranium in order to build a weapon.

“USEFUL TOOL”

So who was the father of the “Bibi bomb?”

The Israeli official would not say.

“He's got a small group of close advisers,” the official said. “In different meetings, people throw out all sort of ideas. Ultimately, the prime minister makes a decision which ideas to accept.”

The team met for days, proposing “countless drafts” and a decision was made that “by using the diagram, the people would get the message – people would understand”, the official added, calling the drawing “a useful tool.”

He said he did not know who actually drew the bomb or if it had been copied from a computer graphics program. And, as with any Netanyahu speech, it's unclear until the last moment what stays in and what is left out.

“He's making changes until the very end. He was making changes as he was being introduced in Congress last year,” the official said about Netanyahu's address to a joint meeting of the U.S. legislature in May 2011.

Netanyahu has also done some public sketching in the past.

While he was finance minister from 2003 to 2005, Netanyahu illustrated the burden of Israel's bloated public sector on the economy by drawing stick figures of a thin man – private enterprise – carrying the weight of a heavy man on his back.

At a news conference in April, he used a tablet, projected onto a large screen, to draw a tree whose fruit and stability he said symbolized his government's achievements.

AUDIO-VISUAL AIDS AT THE U.N.

It is not the first time visual or audio props have been used to make a point at the United Nations.

During the 1962 Cuban missile crisis U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson unveiled during a televised U.N. Security Council meeting photos taken by U-2 spy planes of Soviet missiles and launch pads on Cuba and dramatically confronted Soviet Ambassador Valerian Zorin with the charges.

In 1983, U.S. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick played an audio recording of a Soviet interceptor pilot involved in the shooting down of Korean Airlines flight 007 over the Sea of Japan, which killed all 269 passengers and crew. Afterward, it was impossible for the Soviets to deny their involvement.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's February 2003 speech to the U.N. Security Council in which he presented intelligence about Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's alleged nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs was less successful.

Perhaps attempting to follow in Stevenson's and Kirkpatrick's footsteps, Powell's speech employed images, audio recordings, even a vial of white powder that was intended to look like enough anthrax to kill the entire U.S. Senate.

That speech, based on evidence now known to have been erroneous, did nothing to sway the skeptical French, Russians and Germans. They eventually forced the frustrated United States and Britain to abandon their efforts to secure a green light from the United Nations for the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.

In 2009, the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi held up a copy of the U.N. charter and tossed it over his shoulder during a rambling 1-1/2 hour speech to the General Assembly. It was his first and last U.N. speech.

Also that year at the General Assembly, Netanyahu displayed a copy of the blueprints for the Nazi death camp Auschwitz to decry Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust.

Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau; editing by Christopher Wilson

In Scandinavia, kipah becomes a symbol of defiance for Malmo’s Jews

Across Scandinavia, the kipah is becoming a symbol of Jewish defiance.

On Sunday, about 70 Danish Jews took a double-decker bus from Copenhagen on a 10-mile bridge across the Strait of Øresund, on the Baltic Sea, to go to Malmo in a show of solidarity with the embattled Jews of that Swedish city. All the men on the bus wore kipahs, a rarity in Scandinavia.

Last December, a small group of Malmo Jews violated security protocol by keeping on their kipahs on the street after attending synagogue, according to Fredrik Sieradski, a spokesman for Malmo’s 700 or so Jews, and then made a regular habit of it every few weeks. New marchers join every time.

And in August, hundreds of people from across Sweden went on public “kipah walks” in Malmo and Stockholm.

It’s not just in Scandinavia. In early September, a flash mob wearing kipahs gathered in Berlin after a rabbi and his 6-year-old daughter were attacked. The yarmulke-clad crowd included not just Jews but Christians, Muslims, local celebrities and politicians.

But in Scandinavia, where the Jewish communities of Denmark, Sweden and Norway are relatively tiny and used to keeping a low profile, the shift to public demonstrations against anti-Semitism marks a turning point. Sunday’s bus trip marked the first time that Scandinavian Jews from another country had come to Malmo to express solidarity. Malmo, Sweden’s third-largest city and the site of some of the country’s highest profile attacks on Jews, has been a focal point for the demonstrations.

“The community here used to keep a low profile, but there’s a feeling that we are lost if we do nothing now,” Sieradski told JTA.

He attributed the change in Malmo to “a slow build-up” of frustration since 2009, when Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza sparked anti-Israel and anti-Semitic demonstrations in the city, leaving Jews with the feeling that they were under threat and without sufficient protection from the authorities.

“This build-up has finally reached a critical mass,” Sieradski said.

The need for Jewish response became impossible to ignore in 2009, community leaders say, when Israeli tennis players showed up to compete in the Davis Cup, which Malmo was hosting. Anti-Israel demonstrations erupted and quickly morphed into violent, anti-Semitic riots.

Some 50 to 100 anti-Semitic incidents occur here annually, according to police and community statistics. Many of the perpetrators are first- and second-generation Muslim immigrants, who make up 30 to 40 percent of Malmo’s population of 300,000. Sieradski says that wearing a kipah in Malmo can lead to insults, harassment and vandalism.

Rabbi Shneur Kesselman, a Chabad envoy to Malmo, has been targeted many times since coming here in 2004. Last week, someone carved the word “Palestina” into his new car.

“I had no idea it would be like this before I came here, and I probably wouldn’t have come had I known,” said Kesselman, who has four children. “But it would be very bad for the community if I left.”

Making matter worse, Malmo Mayor Ilmar Reepalu has advised Jews who want to be safe in Malmo to reject Zionism. Though he has condemned anti-Semitism, Reepalu has called Zionism a form of “extremism” comparable with anti-Semitism, said the Jewish community had been “infiltrated” by anti-Muslim agents and denied that Muslims perpetrated the attacks on Malmo Jews.

During her visit to the country in June, Hannah Rosenthal, the Obama administration’s special envoy for combating anti-Semitism, said that Reepalu had made “anti-Semitic statements.” Malmo under Reepalu, she said, is a “prime example” of “new anti-Semitism,” where anti-Israel sentiment serves as a thin guise for Jew-hatred.

Reepalu’s unsympathetic stance has been among the key factors that have galvanized Scandinavia’s Jews. Aboard the bus on Sunday from Copenhagen to Malmo, the mayor was a subject of frequent condemnation.

Finn Rudaizky, a Copenhagen alderman and former leader of Denmark’s Jewish community, said he felt there was “a Jewish duty” to show the Malmo community it was not alone.

“Leadership especially matters in conflict situations,” he said. “Reepalu’s approach is complicating the situation.”

“Reepalu needs to be fired,” said Anya Raben, a young Jewish woman from Copenhagen. “He is a problem, and the fact he still holds his post is scandalous.”

Following the 30-minute drive through the tunnel and bridge that since 2000 have connected Copenhagen to Malmo, the passengers disembarked at Malmo’s main Jewish cemetery and attended a Holocaust commemoration ceremony.

One of the headstones there is a testament to the strong bonds that connect the Jewish communities of Copenhagen and Malmo, despite cultural and language barriers. Born in 1943, Golde Berman was 4 months old when thousands of Jews fled Nazi-occupied Denmark to neutral Sweden en masse aboard boats in a famous rescue operation. Sweden’s Jewish communities mobilized to absorb the refugees from Denmark by sharing their homes and food and raising funds. Gothenburg’s Jewish community gave up some of its offices in favor of a Danish school for the refugees’ children. Many refugees stayed in Malmo. 

Little Golde, however, was in a hospital on the day of departure, Oct. 1, 1943, and her parents left her behind. She died in December. The Danish Red Cross transported her small body to her parents in Malmo, where she was buried.

It was Golde’s brother-in-law, Martin Stern, who spearheaded the solidarity visit from Copenhagen and covered most of the costs.

“Now it is the Danish Jews’ turn to return the favor, when the Jews of Malmo are in their hour of need,” Stern said.

Some Danish Holocaust-era refugees were on the solidarity bus from Copenhagen.

“Fortunately, the attitude in Malmo was different when I was a little boy,” Allan Niemann, the president of B’nai B’rith Denmark who was in Malmo in exile in the 1940s, said in a speech at the cemetery. “If Mayor Reepalu were in place then, I’m not sure I would be standing here.”

Sunday’s bus trip was just the latest Jewish demonstration in Sweden. Earlier this month, some 1,500 people rallied in support of Israel in Stockholm and Gothenburg, Sweden’s two largest cities. Many of the demonstrations have been organized using social media and other grass-roots strategies.

Community members say their newly vocal stance is beginning to have an effect. Malmo’s handling of anti-Semitic incidents has improved noticeably since the rallies and solidarity actions began, Kesselman said.

He also credited Rosenthal’s visit to Malmo in April, during which she met with Reepalu, prompting Malmo police to follow up on complaints of verbal anti-Semitic abuse. Suspected perpetrators whose identities are known are now brought in for questioning, he said.

“The decision by the political leadership of our community to step up the pressure has yielded yet another change,” Kesselman said. “Now people stop me on the street to say they support us Jews, to encourage us to continue to stand up for our rights. It changed the balance.”

World Bank: Urgent action needed to avoid PA fiscal crisis

The World Bank called on donors to act “urgently” to prevent a “deepening fiscal crisis” in the Palestinian territories.

Israel also needs to remove barriers to developing the West Bank economy, the World Bank said.

In a statement about its report published this week on the PA’s economy, the World Bank called for “immediate donor action coupled with freeing of untapped West Bank resources.”

Yet, “even with this financial support, sustainable economic growth cannot be achieved without a removal of the barriers preventing private sector development,” Mariam Sherman, World Bank Country Director for the West Bank and Gaza.said in the statement.

She added this applied “especially” to Area C – a non-contiguous area which makes up 60% of the West Bank and is under full Israeli control. Approximately 5.8% of the Palestinian population of the West Bank lives in Area C. 

Entitled “Fiscal Crisis, Economic Prospects: The Imperative for Economic Cohesion in the Palestinian Territories”, the report highlights the untapped resources of the West Bank as a potential source of private sector growth.

EU Parliament committee certifies Israeli pharmaceuticals

A committee of the European Parliament has endorsed measures to simplify the sale of Israeli pharmaceuticals within the European Union.

“EU-certified pharmaceuticals could be exported to Israel and vice-versa without requiring additional certification in the importing country under a mutual recognition deal endorsed by the International Trade Committee on Tuesday,” that committee said in a Sept. 18 statement.

To take effect, the move must be approved by the European Parliament plenary in October. Fifteen of the committee’s members voted in favour and 13 voted against the measure, which is part of the European Union’s Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance (ACAA) with Israel.

The European Council approved the agreement in March 2010, but its implementation has been blocked amid protests by pro-Palestinian organizations. The agreement was part of the of the 1995 EU-Israel trade contract, and is not a part of the upgrade in relations which Israel is seeking.

European Friends of Israel – a Brussels-based organization consisting of parliamentarians from across the continent – called the vote “a major step in improving the life of European consumers by reducing the costs of medicine and increasing the quality and quantity of medical products.”

Also on Tuesday, the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) grouping in the European Parliament, the parliament’s second largest group, said that goods manufactured in Israeli West Bank settlements “do not comply with EU law.”

S&D vice president Véronique de Keyser said in a statement that “products produced in the occupied territory cannot be considered ‘lawfully traded.’”

Parallel universe: A Jewish what if

In 1901, a sixteen year old Jewish girl from Hungary, Kati Berger, along with several brothers and sisters, arrived at Ellis Island in New York.  A brother and sister who remained in Europe, eventually both perished in a Nazi death camp in 1942.

Young Kati settled in Mount Vernon, New York, and subsequently met and married a young trolley car conductor , a devout Catholic from Italy, John Branca.  The Brancas ultimately  became  the proud parents of  sixteen  children, but Kati secretly kept her Jewish heritage to herself, never telling her children that by Jewish law, they indeed were Jewish.  Their children all grew up to be observant Catholics.

A son, Ralph, born in 1926, grew to be a great athlete and in 1943, signed a major league baseball contract to pitch for the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Ralph won 21 games for the Dodgers in 1947, and was selected for three All-Star games.

In 1951, Ralph went from being famous to infamous, because of one pitch that he threw.  That year, the Dodgers and the New York Giants finished the season tied for first place, with identical records, and so a three game playoff  was scheduled to determine who would play the New York Yankees in the World Series.  On Monday, October 1, Ralph Branca started and lost game one.  Game two saw Brooklyn win big, and so game three would determine who would win the National League title.

In one of the greatest baseball  games ever played, the Dodgers held a 4-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning.  Don Newcombe, the Dodger ace, pitched brilliantly but became exhausted, giving up a run with two runners on base, when the Dodger manager elected to go to the bullpen.  Ralph Branca was brought in to relieve Newcombe, and to face the Giant's Bobby Thomson.

On Branca's second pitch, Thomson hit the “shot heard round the world”, a three run homer that won the game, won the pennant and broke the heart of Brooklyn!  Branca was traumatized and at age twenty five, his once stellar career was basically over.

What's the point of retelling a baseball story that has been rehashed for 60 years?  Well, what if Kati had  told her children that indeed she was Jewish and what if her children grew up as observant Jews?  The point is that Rosh Hashonah, the Jewish New Year started at sundown on Sunday, September 30 and into Monday, October 1.  What if Ralph Branca, as an observant Jew, said he would not pitch the first playoff game on Monday.  The Dodgers had a deep pitching staff and certainly another pitcher had a strong chance of winning game one.  Since they easily won game two, then game three would not have been necessary.  Bobby Thomson would not be famous, and Ralph Branca would not be infamous.

What if Kati had served blintzes and borscht, instead of lasagna and linguini, then the Dodgers might have won the pennant!

George Karp was born 5699 in Brooklyn, and Bar Mitzvahed at Hebrew Alliance in Brighton Beach.  He has just returned from Jerusalem and finalized this article on his flight back home.  George has 10 grandchildren all eating blintzes and carrying on our tradition.   George Karp is a Certified Financial Planner in Boca Raton, Florida, helping families with life insurance, estate planning, and  legacy issues..

Israel, Syria trade accusations at U.N. nuclear meeting

Syria, itself suspected of illicit nuclear activity, accused the West at a major U.N. meeting on Wednesday of double standards in implicitly condoning an Israeli atomic arsenal and warned of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

Israel hit back at the annual assembly of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) by saying Syria and its ally Iran were “known for their clandestine pursuit of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.”

The Jewish state also made clear its view that the volatile region was not yet ready for creating a zone free of such weaponry, which Arab states have been pushing for.

“Such a process can only be launched when peaceful relations exist for a reasonable period of time in the region,” Israeli atomic energy commission head Shaul Chorev said. “Regrettably, the realities in the Middle East are far from being conducive.”

The United States said last week Syria was using the “brutal repression” of its people waging an uprising as an excuse not to address international concerns about its past nuclear work.

U.N. inspectors have long sought access to a site in Syria's desert Deir al-Zor region that U.S. intelligence reports say was a nascent, North Korean-designed reactor designed to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons before Israel bombed it in 2007.

The IAEA has also been requesting information about three other sites that may have been linked to Deir al-Zor, which Syria says was a conventional military site.

Syrian Ambassador Bassam Al-Sabbagh, in a rare public comment on the issue, insisted that his country was ready to cooperate with the U.N. agency and he sought to turn the tables on Damascus's accusers by hitting out at Israel.

Israel is believed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal, although it refuses to disclose any capability. Like its ally the United States, the Jewish state sees Iran's nuclear program as the most urgent nuclear proliferation threat.

“HOSTILE MIDDLE EAST”

Clearly referring to Washington and its allies, Al-Sabbagh told the IAEA's General Conference in Vienna:

“The fact that some influential states … condone Israel's possession of nuclear capabilities and its failure to subject them to any international control exposes clearly the extent of double standards used by those states.”

He said that this “poses a threat to the region's security and stability and may even spark a nuclear arms race there” and that Israel was the main obstacle to ridding the region of atomic weaponry.

Israel has said it would sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and renounce nuclear weapons only as part of a broader Middle East peace deal with Arab states and Iran that guaranteed its security.

Chorev, the Israeli delegate, said the concept of a region free of weapons of mass destruction “is certainly much less applicable to the current volatile and hostile” Middle East and would require a significant transformation in the region.

Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful, denying Western and Israeli suspicions that it wants to develop an atom bomb capability. Syria also denies any such ambitions.

IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said this year that Syria had asked for understanding of its “delicate situation” in response to requests for Syrian cooperation with his inspectors.

President Bashar al-Assad is fighting an 18-month-old revolt in which more than 27,000 people have been killed.

Chorev said the situation in Syria was a reminder of the need to secure nuclear materials and added that the whereabouts of atomic fuel intended for the destroyed Deir al-Zor reactor was an “enigma”.

Editing by Rosalind Russell

Afghan militants say deadly blast was revenge for film

Afghan militants claimed responsibility on Tuesday for a suicide bomb attack on a minivan carrying foreign workers that killed 12 people saying it was retaliation for a film mocking the Prophet Mohammad.

A short film made with private funds in the United States and posted on the Internet has ignited days of demonstrations in the Arab world, Africa, Asia and in some Western countries.

In a torrent of violence blamed on the film last week, the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed in an attack in Benghazi and U.S. and other foreign embassies were stormed in cities in Asia, Africa and the Middle East by furious Muslims. At least nine other people were killed.

On Tuesday, a suicide bomber blew up a minivan near the airport in the Afghan capital and a spokesman for the Hezb-e-Islami insurgent group claimed responsibility.

“A woman wearing a suicide vest blew herself up in response to the anti-Islam video,” said militant spokesman Zubair Sediqqi. Police said the woman may have been driving a Toyota Corolla car rigged with explosives, which she triggered.

But the claim will raise fears that anger over the film will feed into deteriorating security as the United States and other Western countries try to protect their forces from a rash of so-called insider attacks by Afghan colleagues.

Thousands of protesters clashed with police in Kabul the previous day, burning cars and hurling rocks at security forces in the worst outbreak of violence since February rioting over the inadvertent burning of Korans by U.S. soldiers.

The protesters in Kabul and several other Asian cities have vented their fury over the film at the United States, blaming it for what they see as an attack on Islam.

The outcry saddles U.S. President Barack Obama with an unexpected foreign policy headache as he campaigns for re-election in November, even though his administration has condemned the film as reprehensible and disgusting.

In response to the violence in Benghazi and elsewhere last week, the United States has sent ships, extra troops and special forces to protect U.S. interests and citizens in the Middle East, while a number of its embassies have evacuated staff and are on high alert for trouble.

Despite Obama's efforts early in his tenure to improve relations with the Arab and Muslim world, the violence adds to a host of problems including the continued U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan, Iran's nuclear program, the Syrian civil war and the fall-out from the Arab Spring revolts.

PROTESTS, BANS

The renewed protests on Monday dashed any hopes that the furor over the film might fade despite an appeal over the weekend from the senior cleric in Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest shrines, for calm.

Afghan police said among the 12 dead in the Kabul bomb attack were eight Russians and South Africans, mostly working for a foreign air charter company named ACS Ltd.

It followed a bloody weekend during which six members of Afghanistan's NATO-led alliance, including four Americans, were killed in suspected insider attacks carried out by Afghans turning on their allies.

Protesters also took to the streets in Pakistan and Indonesia on Monday and thousands also marched in Beirut, where a Hezbollah leader accused U.S. spy agencies of being behind events that have unleashed a wave of anti-Western sentiment in the Muslim and Arab world.

Authorities in Bangladesh have blocked the YouTube website indefinitely to stop people seeing the video. Pakistan and Afghanistan have also blocked the site.

Iran has condemned the film as offensive and vowed to pursue those responsible for making it. Iranian officials have demanded the United States apologize to Muslims, saying the film is only the latest in a series of Western insults aimed at Islam's holy figures.

The identity of those directly responsible for the film remains unclear. Clips posted online since July have been attributed to a man named Sam Bacile, which two people connected with the film have said was probably an alias.

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, a Coptic Christian widely linked to the film in media reports, was questioned in California on Saturday by U.S. authorities investigating possible violations of his probation for a bank fraud conviction.

Reporting by various bureaus; Writing by Robert Birsel

Iran commander: If Israel attacks, ‘nothing will remain’

Iran’s top Revolutionary Guard commander warned that “nothing will remain” if Israel takes military action against Iran over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear activities.

“Our response to Israel is clear: I think nothing will remain of Israel” should it attack Iran, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari said Sunday, providing more specifics than are typically included in Iranian threats, according to The Associated Press.

“Given Israel’s small land area and its vulnerability to a massive volume of Iran’s missiles, I don’t think any spot in Israel will remain safe,” he said.

Jafari also warned that Iran might close the Straits of Hormuz if it is attacked, withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and hit U.S. bases in the Middle East, AP reported.

“The U.S. military bases sprawled around Iran are considered a big vulnerability. Even the missile shields that they have set up, based on information we have, could only work for a few missiles, but when exposed to a massive volume of missiles the shields will lose their efficiency and will not work,” he said.

Jafari's comments come as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been calling for the United States to set “red lines” on Iran's nuclear program.

Anti-American fury sweeps Middle East over film

Fury about a film that insults the Prophet Mohammad tore across the Middle East after weekly prayers on Friday with protesters attacking U.S. embassies and burning American flags as the Pentagon rushed to bolster security at its missions.

The obscure California-made film triggered an attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya's city of Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans on Tuesday, the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 al Qaeda attacks on the United States.

In Tunis, at least three people were killed and more than two dozen wounded, state television said after police gunfire near the U.S. embassy in the city that was the cradle of last year's Arab Spring uprisings for democracy. At least one person died in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, a doctor said, after some of thousands of protesters had leaped into the U.S. embassy.

As U.S. military drones faced Islamist anti-aircraft fire over Benghazi, about 50 marines landed in Yemen a day after the U.S. embassy there was stormed. For a second day in the capital Sanaa, police battled hundreds of young men around the mission.

In Khartoum, wider anger at Western attitudes to Islam also saw the German embassy overrun, with police doing little to stop demonstrators who raised a black Islamist flag. Violence at the U.S. embassy followed protests against both Washington and the Sudanese government, which is broadly at odds with the West.

The wave of indignation and rage over the film, which portrays Mohammad as a womanizer and a fool, coincided with Pope Benedict's arrival in Lebanon for a three-day visit.

The protests present U.S. President Barack Obama with a new foreign policy crisis less than two months before seeking re-election and tests Washington's relations with democratic governments it helped to power across the Arab world.

He was at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington to greet a flight bringing home remains of the four dead from Benghazi.

It also emerged that Libya had closed its airspace over the second city's airport for a time because of heavy anti-aircraft fire by Islamists aiming at U.S. reconnaissance drones flying over the city; Obama vowed to bring the ambassador's killers to justice.

The closure of the airport prompted speculation that the United States was deploying special forces in preparation for an attack against the militants who were involved in the attack.

A Libyan official said the spy planes flew over the embassy compound and the city, taking photos and inspecting locations of radical militant groups who are believed to have planned and staged the attack on the U.S. consulate.

There were protests in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

MARINES TO YEMEN

The Pentagon said it had sent a “fast” platoon of Marines to Yemen to bolster U.S. embassy security after clashes in Sanaa.

U.S. embassies were the main target of anger and protest but most embassy staff were not at work because Friday is the Muslim weekend across the Arab World.

The frenzy erupted after traditional Muslim Friday prayers. Fury over the film has been stoked by Internet video footage, social networks, preachers and word-of-mouth.

Protesters clashed with police near the U.S. embassy in Cairo. Two Islamist preachers in Egypt told worshippers that those who made the movie deserved to die under Islamic law but they urged protesters not to take their anger out on diplomats.

In the restive Sinai peninsula, militants opened fire on an international observer base near El Gorah, close to the borders of Israel and the Gaza Strip, and burned tires blocking a road to the camp, a witness and a security source reported. The source said two members of the force were wounded.

The Sudanese who broke into the German embassy in Khartoum and hoisted an Islamic flag, while one person was killed in protests in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.

Police in the Sudanese capital had fired tear gas to try to disperse 5,000 protesters who had ringed the German embassy and nearby British mission. A Reuters witness said police stood by as a crowd forced its way into Germany's mission.

Demonstrators hoisted a black Islamic flag saying in white letters “there is no God but God and Mohammed is his Prophet”. They smashed windows, cameras and furniture in the building and then started a fire.

Staff at Germany's embassy were safe “for the moment”, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in Berlin. He also told Khartoum's envoy to Berlin that Sudan must protect diplomatic missions on its soil.

Sudan's Foreign Ministry had criticized Germany for allowing a protest last month by right-wing activists carrying caricatures of the Prophet and for Chancellor Angela Merkel giving an award in 2010 to a Danish cartoonist who depicted the Prophet in 2005 triggering protests across the Islamic world.


Additional reporting by Mohammed Ghobari in Sanaa, Samia Nakhoul in Beirut, Ulf Laessing and Khalid Abdelaziz in Khartoum, Gareth Jones in Berlin, Suleiman Al-Khalidi in Benghazi, Marie-Louise Gumuchian in Libya, Sami Aboudi in Dubai, Raissa Kasolowsky in Abu Dhabi, Aref Mohammed in Basra, Iraq, Siva Sithraputhran in Kuala Lumpur, Anis Ahmed in Bangladesh, Regan Doherty in Doha, Roberto Landucci in Italy and Mirwais Harooni in Kabul; Writing by Philippa Fletcher; Editing by Peter Millership and Alastair Macdonald

Iranian diplomat in Brazil: Soon there will be no place for Zionists

A Brazilian newspaper has published an opinion article by an Iranian diplomat asserting that “there will soon be no place for Zionists in the Middle East.”

Ali Mohaghegh, first secretary of the Iranian embassy in Brasilia, made the asertion in article published last month in the newspaper Folha de S. Paolo. “This [Israeli] regime that once sought to dominate the land between Nile and the Euphrates, now needs to hide behind a wall,” Mohaghegh wrote. He added: “The Zionist regime of Israel is the foremost reason for international terrorism.”

CONIB, the representative body of Brazilian Jewish communities, condemned the opinion piece published as “unacceptable.”

Several responses to Mohaghegh have appeared in Brazilian media, including in Folha.

Flavio Morgenstern, a translator and writer for the commentary site Papo de Homem, accused the paper of “ceding inches to anti-Semitism.”

Writing in O Globo, another major Brazilian daily, Osias Wurman, Israel’s honorary consul in Rio de Janeiro, accused Iran of state terrorism.

Vatican steps up condemnation of Libya violence

The Vatican significantly sharpened its condemnation of the violent attack in Libya that killed the U.S. Ambassador to Libya and three other U.S. State Department personnel.

The comments came as Pope Benedict XVI began a two-day visit to Lebanon on Friday.

“The very serious attack organized against the United States diplomatic mission in Libya, which led to the death of the ambassador and of other functionaries, calls for the firmest possible condemnation on the part of the Holy See,” said a statement Thursday by Vatican chief spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

“Nothing, in fact, can justify the activity of terrorist organizations and homicidal violence. Along with our sadness, mourning and prayers for the victims, we again express the hope that, despite this latest tragedy, the international community may discover the most favorable ways to continue its commitment in favor of peace in Libya and the entire Middle East,” the statement added.

The remarks update a Vatican statement that had not mentioned the murders of the diplomats and had come under criticism for not having condemned the violence in firm enough terms.

The violence broke out in Libya and other countries after reports of an American-made anti-Islam film trailer on YouTube. The Libyan attack was likely a spontaneous one followed by an organized attack a few hours later that was possibly led by anti-American infiltrators into the country, the New York Times reported on Friday.

In the Vatican’s initial statement, Lombardi had decried the “tragic results” of “unjustified offense and provocations” against Muslim sensitivities.

The Pope’s visit is aimed at promoting dialogue and peace in the region. Persecution of Christians in the Middle East is a particular concern of the Vatican.

Iran’s supreme leader blames ‘evil Zionists’ for anti-Islam film

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, blamed “evil Zionists” and the U.S. government for the anti-Islam film that has sparked violent protests in Muslim countries.

In a statement issued Thursday, Khamenei said that the film “showed the fury of the evil Zionists at the daily-increasing radiance of Islam and Holy Qur’an in the present world.”

He added that the “prime suspects in this crime are Zionism and the US government” and demanded that American politicians make those behind the film “face a punishment proportionate to this great crime.”

Khamenei’s statement made no mention of the killings in Libya of four U.S. diplomatic personnel, including the American ambassador to the country.

The statement also made no direct mention of false claims by the film’s producer that he was Israeli and that the film was funded by 100 Jews. These claims, initially reported by media outlets that had interviewed the producer via phone, were quickly shown to be false.

An unnamed federal law enforcement official said Thursday that authorities had identified Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, an Egyptian Coptic Christian from Southern California who has a criminal record, as the key figure behind the movie.

As of Friday, the English-language website of Iran’s Press TV was continuing to repeat the false reports that Jews were behind the film.