Saturday, April 21, 2007

New Zealand concert honours Hitler

From JPost, Apr. 21, 2007, by TALIA DEKEL ...

A rock concert commemorating Adolf Hitler's birthday held in New Zealand's capital city has angered Jews and anti-racist groups....

The concert, which took place Friday night in Wellington, was organized by local skinheads belonging to the worldwide "Hammerskins" gang and neo-Nazi organization "Blood and Honor" - a group banned in several European countries.

An Australian Viking rock band featured at the event at an undisclosed location, the capital city's Dominion Post reported. The location of the event had previously been scheduled to take place at a local motorcycle gang's headquarters but was later changed for an unknown reason.
New Zealand police, who were aware of the event, said that it was not illegal, even though it had offended many members of the public.

...Wellington's Jewish community was disgusted that [the] event ... had taken place in New Zealand....Jewish community leader and Israeli honorary consul David Zwartz said the concert was "distasteful and offensive..."

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Mission to monitor arms smuggling to Hezbollah

From Guardian Unlimited, Wednesday April 18, 2007 by EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer ....

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The U.N. Security Council expressed ``serious concern'' at mounting reports of weapons being smuggled from Syria to Lebanon and authorized an independent mission to evaluate monitoring of the border between the two countries.

The council adopted a presidential statement late Tuesday reiterating its demand that Syria tighten its border and urging all countries, ``especially in the region,'' to enforce the arms ban on the Islamic militant group Hezbollah.

The Syrian- and Iranian-backed guerrillas based in southern Lebanon are prohibited from receiving arms shipments under a U.N. resolution that last summer's war with Israel.
The council also called on Lebanese political parties ``to show responsibility with a view to preventing, through dialogue, further deterioration of the situation in Lebanon.''

The statement came as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon headed to Europe and the Middle East on a weeklong trip that will end in Syria. Ban told reporters earlier Tuesday that his talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad and other officials in Damascus would emphasize the situation in Lebanon.

Lebanon has been paralyzed since November by a power struggle pitting Western-backed Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, who is supported by many Sunni Muslims, against the opposition, led by the pro-Iranian Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah. The sectarian tensions, brewing since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005, have been reinforced by allegations that Hezbollah is rearming.

Ban warned during a visit to Lebanon last month that arms smuggling from Syria could threaten the cease-fire in Lebanon. He reportedly told Lebanese security chiefs that Israel had provided him with evidence of trucks crossing from Syria to Lebanon and unloading weapons. He expressed the need for ``an enhanced monitoring capacity of the Lebanese armed forces to ensure that there will be no such smuggling activity.''

The council on Tuesday welcomed Ban's intention ``to evaluate the situation along the entire border and invites him to dispatch at the earliest, in close liaison with the Lebanese government, an independent mission to fully assess the monitoring of the border.'' The council reiterated its call to disband and disarm all militias and armed groups in Lebanon and said it would welcome any request by the Lebanese government for assistance ``to enhance Lebanon's border security capacities.''

....The Lebanese prime minister, who is opposed to Hezbollah and Syrian influence, says ``not one single case of arms smuggling across the border'' with Syria has been recorded. Hezbollah, however, has boasted that it replenished its stockpile of rockets after the war.

....The Security Council expressed "deep concern'' at statements by Hezbollah's secretary general, notably about the February arms shipment, which "are an open admission of activities which would constitute a violation of resolution 1701.''

...The council noted "with profound concern'' that there has been no progress on the issue of returning two Israeli soldiers abducted by Hezbollah, which triggered 34 days of fighting in Lebanon. It also encouraged efforts to urgently settle the issue of Lebanese prisoners detained in Israel.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Liviu Librescu - hero

From Wikipedia ...

Liviu Librescu (August 18, 1930April 16, 2007) was a Romanian-born Israeli professor, whose most recent position was Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics at Virginia Tech. ....

......At age 76, Librescu was among the thirty-two people who were murdered in the Virginia Tech massacre on April 16, 2007. ..... Librescu held the door of his classroom shut ... although he was shot through the door, he was able to prevent the gunman from entering the classroom until his students had escaped through the windows. A number of Librescu's students have called him a hero because of his actions, with one student, Asael Arad, saying that all the professor's students "lived because of him". Librescu's son, Joe, said he had received e-mails from several students who said he had saved their lives and regarded him as a hero. His death came on Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

'Irresponsible and Disrespectful Vatican should open its archives'

From JPost, Apr. 17, by ETGAR LEFKOVITS ...

A prominent evangelical Christian leader in Israel on Monday called on the Vatican to open its archives if they have any evidence that Pope Pius XII did not remain silent during the mass murder of six million Jews during the Holocaust.

The remarks come a day after the Vatican ambassador to the Holy Land, Monsignor Antonio Franco, reversed an earlier decision not to attend the annual state ceremony at Yad Vashem marking Holocaust Remembrance Day due to a photo caption at the Holocaust museum referring to the silence of the pope during World War II.

"This is not Yad Vashem's narrative but a generally accepted historical narrative," said Rev. Malcolm Hedding, the executive director of the International Christian Embassy, a Jerusalem-based evangelical organization. "If the papal nuncio wants to protest then he must prove his case and show us otherwise by opening the Vatican archives," he added. Yad Vashem and Jewish groups have long urged the Vatican to open its wartime archives but to no avail.

Franco said Monday that he changed his mind about going to the ceremony after determining that there was room for dialogue with Yad Vashem on the issue. ..."I went to the ceremony because I felt that there is a basis on which to continue to work together towards clarification of the issue," he added.

Yad Vashem has repeatedly said they would readily reexamine Pius XII's conduct during the Holocaust if the Vatican opened its World War II-era archives to the museum's research staff or if any new documentation came to light on the issue.

The unusual open diplomatic wrangling, which threatened to upset already delicate relations between Israel and the Vatican, came as the Vatican presses ahead with its plans to beatify the wartime pope [call him a "saint"] over the objection of the State of Israel and Jewish groups around the world.

In the interview, Franco brushed off suggestions that their archives be opened, and suggested that most of the material on the issue was already out in the open.

...The role of the Holocaust-era pope, who reined from 1939 until his death in 1958, has long been controversial, and the Vatican has struggled to defend him over his silence during the mass murder of six million Jews.

....the evangelical leader said the papal nuncio's threatened boycott of Israel's official state ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day was "totally unacceptable" behavior that bespoke a lack of understanding of the enormity of the Holocaust. "The papal nuncio's blurring of a historical debate with the respect and memory of Holocaust martyrs was deeply irresponsible and disrespectful to the memory of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust," Hedding concluded.

Liebler on WJC: ‘Satisfaction in clearing my name is balanced by deep sadness'

From The Jerusalem report, April 16, 2007, by Netty C. Gross ...

In the end...Dr. Israel Singer's fall from grace was as swift as his ascendance to power was spectacular. The Brooklyn-bred Orthodox rabbi and professor of political science who boldly negotiated multimillion dollar restitution deals with European heads of state as secretary general of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), was abruptly dismissed from his position in mid-March.

Doing the firing was billionaire WJC president Edgar Bronfman, Singer's close friend and benefactor for the past three decades. In a widely circulated March 14 letter to European WJC affiliates and leaked to the media, Bronfman wrote that Singer "helped himself to cash from the WJC office, my cash," and that he spent "many weeks of crying" after finding out that "I was so badly used by a man I used to love." Singer has denied any wrongdoing.

Back in Jerusalem, Isi Leibler, 72, a millionaire businessman who played a starring role in exposing the financial improprieties at the WJC, quietly watched the unfolding saga. A veteran Jewish leader (president of the Executive Council of Australia for eleven years; WJC Board of Governors chairman in 1989; WJC senior vice president in 2001), Leibler was ousted from the WJC in September 2004 by Bronfman, after publicly questioning management practices at the organization and demanding explanations for $1.2 million in WJC funds, which turned up in a Swiss bank account controlled by Singer. The money was returned but the transfer was never fully explained and though an investigation by the New York State Attorney General's office found no criminality, Singer was accused of violating his fiduciary duties and was forced to resign as chair of the WJC governing board.

Still, Bronfman and newly appointed WJC Secretary General Stephen Herbits stood by Singer (finding him a new WJC title) and accused Leibler of besmirching the organization, even going so far as to file a $6 million libel suit in Tel Aviv District Court.

But the tables rapidly turned. Unpopular with WJC affiliates, the lawsuit was withdrawn last November and the court ordered the WJC to pay Leibler $55,000 in legal fees. Singer was ousted two months later.

Meanwhile a 2005 audit by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, looking at the organization's finances for the past decade, reportedly failed to account for $3.8 million and the Internal Revenue Service is now investigating.

...Isi Leibler:

...I am pleased that on the one hand those who were demonized and dismissed for demanding an independent audit of the WJC back in August 2004 have been proved right. Our objective was reform. But satisfaction in having my position vindicated is balanced by a deep sadness that a venerable organization to which I gave so many years of my life, and which plays an important role for world Jewry, is close to a meltdown. It could have been avoided. My constructive criticism should have been handled internally without providing scandalous media coverage and fodder for anti-Semites. Some European media coverage [of Singer's dismissal] has anti-Semitic overtones.

..... It's time for new elections and new faces to implement the reform to which the WJC has pledged. I also think Singer should retire immediately as president of the Claims Conference [a major Holocaust restitution organization based in New York where Singer has a non-salaried position]. It's a shocking disgrace that [Conference board chair] Julius Berman has dismissed Singer's ouster from the WJC as irrelevant to the Conference. It reflects a lack of moral compass.

....A person who works in a nonprofit must understand that public funds are sacrosanct. When fiduciary responsibilities are being breached, there is an obligation to speak up no matter who you are.

...It would be a tragedy if donors stopped contributing to Jewish charities. But donors must also be diligent before contributing, and satisfy themselves that reform is taking place and that their gift is being used exactly for the purpose intended.

...[Singer and Bronfman] ... were a unique combination. Singer was aggressive and charismatic, while Bronfman provided the financial and political muscle. They achieved a great deal in the fight for Holocaust restitution and the battle against anti-Semitism. The seeds of disaster, however, were sown when these two individuals were allowed to act unfettered, without accountability to their constituency.

Holocaust website draws Iranian visitors

From the network, April 16, 2007 [Source: AFP] ...

THOUSANDS of Iranian surfers every month visit a new Holocaust website in Farsi run by Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, despite their leadership's questioning the Nazi genocide of Jews, the museum said.

...The website was put online by Yad Vashem in Jerusalem in January, and has so far had some 25,100 visits, including 12,170 from inside Iran, spokeswoman Estee Yaari said. It includes 20 historical chapters on World War II, the Nazi regime, the systematic killings and photos from the Nazi death camps and ghettos. "We believe that making credible, comprehensive information about the Holocaust available to Persian speakers can contribute to the fight against Holocaust denial," said Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev.

...."The possibility for anybody in Iran to reach objective and balanced information in Farsi is very important... the opposition in Iran is important and people are looking for information," Mr Shalev said. According to emails translated by Yad Vashem, most Iranian surfers who visit the site say they are staunch opponents of their country's leadership. "The world should not allow people such as Ahmadinejad to fulfil their evil intentions," wrote one....

French election

From The Australian, April 17, 2007 by Emma-Kate Symons, Paris ....

Le Pen brands Sarkozy as 'scum'

JEAN-MARIE Le Pen unleashed a vicious attack yesterday on his chief rival in the French presidential elections, labelling Nicolas Sarkozy a "scum politician" and an "American" who despised French blood and wanted to steal the extreme right's votes. [What a great endorsement. If Le Pen is against him, he must be doing something right. See the article appended below on Sarkozy. - SL]

With up to one in four voters still undecided less than a week before the April 22 vote, and Mr Le Pen hopeful of a repeat of 2002 when he made it to the second round of the election against Jacques Chirac, the National Front leader abandoned earlier suggestions of a rapprochement with Mr Sarkozy.

....The use of the word "scum" - racaille - was carefully chosen by Mr Le Pen. In 2005, before the riots in housing estates across France, Mr Sarkozy earned the hatred of unemployed youths in the French suburbs when he labelled them "scum".

In front of 5000 tricolour-waving supporters at a Paris sports complex, Mr Le Pen delivered a vintage nationalist rant on the French decline ("total economic and social disaster"), melding anti-Americanism and anti-Israel sentiments with his traditional attacks on immigration "which if we do nothing we will be submerged by".

He repeated his ridicule of Mr Sarkozy as a child of Hungarian and Greek immigrants, before castigating him for being too "Atlantic" in foreign policy, "warlike" and "proud to be called Sarkozy the American ....If the United States or Israel went down the path of belligerence, would you engage France at their side in a war against Iran?" Mr Le Pen demanded.

....Mr Sarkozy, on a campaign sweep in Mr Le Pen's traditional southern heartland in the department of Vaucluse in Provence, which voted 29 per cent National Front in 2002, seemed unperturbed by Mr Le Pen's attacks. Stressing his law-and-order credentials and desire to attract those who believed in the value of work and "the pride of being French", Mr Sarkozy again sought the votes of extreme right sympathisers.

..."It is not Le Pen who interests me, it is his electorate. What interests me is the future. I do not want Jean-Marie Le Pen in the second round, like in 2002. There is another possibility than to abstain or vote National Front." Mr Sarkozy's strategy appears to be working, with some polls saying he could attract 20 per cent of Mr Le Pen's base.

In private discussions with his closest campaign advisers, however, Mr Sarkozy remains convinced he will face the Socialist Party's Segolene Royal in the second round on May 6.
In her final week of campaigning, the telegenic Socialist leader who wants to be France's first woman president, said she was convinced, despite lagging in the polls, that she would win what she says will be a "planetary event".

For some background, see this from The Heritage Foundation, WebMemo #1241, October 31, 2006, by Sally McNamara, Senior Policy Analyst in European Affairs in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom ...

Regime Change in Paris: How Nicolas Sarkozy Could Reinvigorate U.S.-French Relations spring 2007 the president of France could well be Nicolas Sarkozy, the man who The Washington Post described as “not your everyday French politician.” For a start, the current French Interior Minister and leader of the UMP conservative party is pro-American. He understands that the war on terrorism is the world’s fight and not one America should have to bear alone. He grasps the nature of the threat facing Continental Europe from Muslim extremism and favors fighting terrorism head-on and without apology. His worldview is not one that ends in the Michelin-starred restaurants of Paris. Further, he is vocally enthusiastic about the Anglo-Saxon economic model and keen to shake up the statist, government-centered French economy with a hefty dose of innovation and entrepreneurialism. So if Nicolas Sarkozy does become president next year, what exactly will it mean for U.S. interests?

Sarkozy and U.S. Foreign Policy
... Having openly flaunted his ambitions for some time, Mr. Sarkozy has used his many elected and appointed political offices to set out a powerful manifesto for the presidency. And for American strategic interests, it is a good one.

As chief pretender to the throne, Sarkozy has recently taken it upon himself to conduct his own foreign policy while abroad, independent of the traditional Gaullist line. Chirac’s well-reported fury at Sarkozy’s pro-American rhetoric during a U.S. visit in September 2006 indicates just how far Sarkozy is willing to go to distance himself from what he sees as the ancien régime.

....It is an open secret that Sarkozy was critical of Chirac’s vocal opposition to the Iraq War in 2003, an issue that dogs Franco-American relations to this day. In his September 2006 interview with Le Monde, Sarkozy said that this period marked a “crisis” for Franco-American relations and that “Americans felt that they were abandoned by a nation with which they had felt close historical ties and shared values.” Chirac, in turn, described Sarkozy’s comments as “irresponsible” and “lamentable.”

Sarkozy’s stance on the Israeli-Lebanon war represented another break with French foreign policy. Sarkozy was not afraid to condemn Hezbollah as the aggressor and spoke up for Israel’s right “to defend herself.” While urging that Israel should “maintain level headedness and restraint,” he refused to join the European Union (EU) chorus calling for a total ceasefire. In fact, his policy was remarkably similar to that of the United States and marked Sarkozy as a sensible voice on the Middle East in Europe.

Sarkozy’s efforts to combat disturbingly high levels of anti-Americanism in France have great significance for the overall war on terrorism. One year after the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, more than half of the French people believed that the U.S. motivation for the war on terror was to dominate the world. Today, 76 percent of the French people believe that the war in Iraq and removal of Saddam Hussein has made the world a more dangerous place. For his part, Sarkozy has publicly acknowledged that Paris could just have easily been the target of the 9/11 terrorists and is adamant that anti-Americanism is not “a French thing.” Sarkozy’s “new” foreign policy is sending a powerful message right to the heart of Europe. His warm relationship with German Chancellor Angela Merkel quashes any prospect of the sort of anti-American axis between Berlin, Rome, and Paris that left-wing Italian Prime Minister Roman Prodi might have hoped for.

In all, the gulf growing between Chirac and his potential heir favors the United States. Ahead in the polls, Sarkozy may well be the next president of France. His victory would mean the chance for America to work more effectively with a medium-sized foreign power in ad hoc coalitions, such as in Afghanistan, and also that the U.S. would have a more genial partner within the EU and the United Nations Security Council. With huge foreign policy questions such as Iran and North Korea taking center stage, America will benefit from a more cooperative approach from the Élysée Palace.

The White House should relish the prospect of a potential ally in Europe who rejects the rabid anti-Americanism that has become an integral part of modern French politics....

Nicolas Sarkozy represents the best hope for a French administration that would work more closely with the United States on the world stage. His rejection of the crude anti-Americanism that has dominated U.S.-French relations since the Iraq War is brave and refreshing and should win Sarkozy friends in Washington. Sarkozy has also demonstrated a tougher stance on the global war on terrorism than any of his leading competitors for the presidency.

However, the United States should not expect an immediate sea change in French foreign policy if Sarkozy comes to power. He will face opposition from powerful vested interests in the French political establishment that will resist fundamental changes in Paris’s approach toward Washington. Sarkozy is also likely to stick to the trusted model of the Franco-German alliance and will push for more, not less, centralization of political power in Europe.

His European policy aside, Nicolas Sarkozy will be a breath of fresh air on the international stage, but whether he has the drive, determination, and leadership ability to fundamentally transform the U.S.-French relationship remains to be seen.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Alleged Nazi war criminal loses extradition appeal

From The Australian, April 16, 2007, by Elizabeth Gosch ...

EXTRADITION proceedings against Charles Zentai will resume after the accused Nazi war criminal lost an appeal to the full bench of the Federal Court today.

The 85-year-old Hungarian man has been fighting efforts by the Hungarian Government to extradite him from Perth to face a charge of murdering a teenage boy in Budapest during World War II, since he was arrested in July 2005. In the latest instalment of his marathon legal battle, Mr Zentai appealed a Federal Court decision against him late last year. He and accused Irish fraudster Vincent O’Donoghue had argued the Perth Magistrates Court did not have the authority to deal with their cases. Judge Antony Siopis ruled against them in September last year and yesterday Mr Zentai's appeal to the full bench of the Federal Court failed, paving the way for him to face an extradition hearing at Perth Magistrates Court. Justice Brian Tamberlin dismissed the appeal in a video-link. “The appellants have failed to make out their case,” he said.

However Mr Zentai's son Ernie Steiner said his father was likely to appeal the decision in the High Court. “I think it will be most likely that we will take it to the High Court. We just need to discuss the matter with the lawyers,” Mr Steiner told The Australian. “We were quite hopeful that the decision would go my father's way. We still don't think it is hopeless.” Mr Zentai was not in court yesterday due to ongoing health problems. The great-great-grandfather suffers from a neurological disorder called peripheral neuropathy and also has heart trouble. “He is still deteriorating,” Mr Steiner said. “He has been hospitalised several times in the past few months.”

Mr Zentai was a warrant officer in the Hitler-aligned Hungarian army in 1944 when 18-year-old Peter Balazs was taken from a tram for not wearing the Yellow Star of David. It is alleged Mr Zentai and two accomplices took the man to an army barracks in Budapest and tortured him before killing him and dumping his body in the Danube on November 8, 1994. Mr Zentai maintains he left Budapest with his regiment on November 7, 1944.