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Hungarian Jews vote to stay away from events marking Holocaust Memorial Year

WJC, Hungary's main Jewish umbrella organization voted on Sunday to boycott official Holocaust commemorations this year unless the role of locals in the Nazi deportation and killing of Hungarian Jews is made clear. The Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (Mazsihisz) decided to stay away from events marking the 70th anniversary of the deportation of 437,000 Jews from Hungary to the Nazi death camps.

András Heisler (standing) and other Mazsihisz leaders vote in Sunday's assembly
President András Heisler saidMazsihisz objected to plans for a Holocaust monument and memorial center in Budapest as well as the appointment of a new history institute director who seemed to excuse the Holocaust deportations. "If we do not get a real answer from the government on these issues, our decision will become final," he told journalists, adding he expected a reply within a few days.
A lack of consultation about the projects had upset Jewish communities, Heisler said, adding: "The unity that Hungarian Jews showed in that respect is unprecedented since the war."
Peter Feldmajer, Mazsihisz vice-president, said.“We will not attend the commemorations organized by the government in the future until the position of the government changes,” “The memorial year should be an open and real memorial, not whitewash the Hungarian fascist regime.”
In a letter read out at the Mazsihisz General Assembly meeting on Sunday, World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder said the WJC would "support whatever decision Mazsihisz sees fit to take in this respect." Lauder also expressed hope that the "controversial issues can be resolved by dialogue between Mazsihisz and the Hungarian government."
Almost seven decades since the end of World War II, anti-Semitism remains a sore point in Hungary, whose 120,000-strong Jewish community is one of the largest in Europe. Jewish leaders feel the country has not fully faced up to its wartime past.
The government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who at the World Jewish Congress Plenary Assembly in May 2013 pledged zero tolerance for anti-Semitism, is proposing the installation of a monument that depicts all of Hungary as a victim of the German occupation, which took place on 19 March 1944. However, Hungary was a close ally of Nazi Germany prior to this event, and deportations of Jews took place even before German troops entered the country. Germany only occupied the country after discovering that Budapest was secretly negotiating with the Allies to surrender.
Mazsihisz has also criticized an official memorial center under construction at a Budapest train station that was once a hub for the deportations to the death camps. It argues that the center plays down Hungarian collaboration in the Holocaust. The Jewish community also wants the government to remove the director of a new history institute because he called a 1941 deportation of tens of thousands of Jews "a policy procedure for foreign nationals."
Hungarian Jews say Budapest had stripped Jews of nearly all their rights even before the Nazi occupation. "It wasn't the Germans who locked me up in the ghetto, but Hungarian soldiers and fascists," Mazsihisz Executive Director Gusztav Zoltai, a Holocaust survivor, was quoted by ‘Reuters’ as saying.
Jobbik plans to hold rally at former synagogue
Meanwhile, the Hungarian government defended the right of the extreme-right Jobbik party to hold a political rally in a former synagogue in the city of Esztergom, despite protests from Mazsihisz and other Jewish groups.
The International Communications Office told the 'Jerusalem Post' that the government “does not comment on party rallies” and that Jobbik had a legitimate right to hold its rally wherever it wanted. “Official parties have the right to hold events at venues where the owners of the venue allow them to. In this case, the community center [which was a synagogue until 1945] in Esztergom is owned by the municipality,” the government spokesman said.
Mazsihisz said last week that it intended to block Jobbik from holding the rally by physical force, if necessary.


Greek party withdraws anti-Semitic candidate after protests

WJC, The leftist Greek party Syriza dropped a controversial candidate for the post of regional governor of Western Macedonia after he had made headlines with anti-Semitic statements. Syriza announced that journalist Theodoros Karypidis would not be running on the party’s ticket. In a brief statement, the party's secretariat revealed that Karypidis would no longer represent the party in the contest for the region’s governorship, despite being selected to do so less than a week earlier.
On his Facebook page, Karypidis (pictured) had alleged that Nerit, the acronym of Greece's new public broadcaster, was derived from the Hebrew word for candle, which he linked to the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, which commemorates the struggle of the Maccabees against the Greeks. “Samaras is lighting the candles in the seven branched candelabra of the Jews and lighting Greece on fire after his visit to the ThessalonikiSynagogue,” Karypidis wrote, adding that Samaras was "organizing a new Hanukkah against the Greeks.”
The synagogue visit to which Karypidis referred was an appearance Samaras made with World Jewish Congress and Greek Jewish leaders at Thessaloniki’s historic Monastiriotes Synagogue in March 2013 to commemorate the deportation of 50,000 of the city’s Jews to the Nazi death camps in 1943. It was the first such visit a Greek prime minister had made in the last 100 years.
Last week, both the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS) and the World Jewish Congress urged Syriza to withdraw Karypidis. In a statement, KIS welcomed the decision by Syriza: "The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece expresses its satisfaction for the most recent decision taken by the leadership ofSyriza, which actually places on the margins of Greek society those who disseminate views that incite racism, intolerance and anti-Semitism. With this decision, Syriza gives a strong and clear message towards the Greek society that anti-Semitism is to be condemned as a phenomenon of racism and bigotry that breeds hatred against Jews and in the same time constitutes a threat against democracy itself as well as against the principles and values of a free society."


Iraqi Jewish Archive controversy aired at Jerusalem forum

JERUSALEM - The United States should not return the Iraqi Jewish archive that is currently on loan to the US government to Baghdad, the archive’s chief rescuer urged. 

A retired Middle East analyst at the Office of the US Department of Defense who was instrumental in securing the Iraqi Jewish archive and ensuring its shipment to the US for preservation, said that "sending the material back to Baghdad would be comparable to the US returning to the German government Jewish property that had been looted by the Nazis" because the material had been plundered from the Jewish community by the Saddam Hussein regime.
Rhode, who discovered the precious artifacts while on assignment to Iraq’s transitional government, made the remark at a World Jewish Congress/Israel Council on Foreign Relations symposium, "The Imperiled Legacy of Iraqi Jewry and the Struggle to Prevent the Return of its Archive to Baghdad."
The event examined the story about a trove of Jewish documents and holy books rescued from Baghdad documenting 2,600 years of a Jewish presence in Iraq. The archive, which consists of artifacts seized from Iraqi Jews and their institutions by the Baath regime during the 1970s and 1980s, was brought to Washington in 2003 after the fall of Saddam Hussein. It is scheduled to be returned to Iraq in June 2014 pursuant to an agreement made when the archive was discovered.
American Jews, including the WJC-United States, have taken the position that the archive must remain protected and accessible to Iraqi Jews around the world and that “it would be inappropriate to return the Iraqi Jewish archive to Iraq” this year. The American Jewish umbrella group the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations wrote a letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry late last year asking him to “consult with representatives of the Iraqi Jewish Diaspora” about the archive before any action is taken.
The Jerusalem gathering also explored the question of justice for Jewish refugees from Arab lands. Irwin Cotler, Canada's former minister of justice and attorney general, told a capacity audience of activists, diplomats, academics and students that it is "high time that the forced exodus of Jews from Arab lands be introduced to the international agenda after the unconscionable neglect of the issue for six decades."
A third panelist, Edwin Shuker, a London-based Jewish communal leader from Iraq and former president of the Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, shared with the audience his discovery that his school report card was among the documents retrieved from Baghdad by Rhode.

Jews lived in Iraq from Babylonian times, but in the 20th century the rise of Arab nationalism and the conflict in Palestine made their situation precarious. In 1941, local extremists in Baghdad killed hundreds and injured thousands of Jews in several days of rioting and looting that came to be known as the Farhud pogrom. After the establishment of Israel in 1948, the Iraqi government retaliated against the Jewish population with harsh and discriminatory laws. Most Iraqi Jews had fled Iraq for Israel by the early 1950s.
After World War II and the establishment of the State of Israel, the World Jewish Congress was perhaps the foremost organization assisting Jews in Arab and other Muslim countries. In the 1950s, the WJC negotiated the safe passage of Jewish refugees with a number of Arab governments, especially in North Africa. The issue of the 850,000 Jewish refugees from Arab lands continues to be a focus of the organization.

The WJC is committed to raising the plight of Jews who fled from, or still live in, Arab lands and their specific concerns with governments and international organizations. Where illegal seizure of assets took place, these should be returned to their former owners, or adequate compensation should be paid. Jews remaining in Arab lands, as well as other religious minorities, should be granted religious freedom and allowed to practice their faith according to their traditions.
Jewish communal sites in Arab countries must be preserved and respected. The cause of Jewish refugees from Arab countries was the subject of a November 2013 conference at the United Nations sponsored by the World Jewish Congress, Israel's Mission to the United Nations, the Presidents' Conference and Justice for Jews from Arab Countries.


Jewish Parliamentarians Urge Clemency for Pollard

NEW YORK – The International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians (ICJP) is urging US President Barack Obama to commute the sentence of long-imprisoned spy Jonathan Pollard.

“We, the members of the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians, write to urge you to use your power of clemency to commute Jonathan Pollard’s prison sentence to time served,” the ICJP’s steering committee wrote in a Dec. 19 letter to the American president. “Mr. Pollard committed a serious crime for which he deserved punishment. But, after serving more than 25 years in prison, it is our opinion that it is time for him to be released. He has paid a steep price, to be sure.”

The letter was signed by the chairman of the ICJP, US Rep. Eliot Engel, and seven other members of parliaments from around the world: MP Viviane Teitelbaum of Belgium, MP Luis Fishman Zonzinski of Costa Rica, MP Meyer Habib of France, MPs Pal Steiner and Tibor Szanyi of Hungary, Member of Knesset Nachman Shai of Israel and MP Oleksandr Feldman of Ukraine.

The full text of the letter follows:

Dear Mr. President:

We, the members of the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians, write to urge you to use your power of clemency to commute Jonathan Pollard’s prison sentence to time served. Mr. Pollard committed a serious crime for which he deserved punishment. But, after serving more than 25 years in prison, it is our opinion that it is time for him to be released. He has paid a steep price, to be sure. As has been brought to your attention in the past, Mr. Pollard has served a disproportionate sentence compared to perpetrators of similar crimes. While we would not expect preferential treatment for him over those guilty of commensurate infractions, he should be treated comparably.

Mr. President, Jonathan Pollard’s release is overdue and justified on humanitarian grounds given his current poor state of health, and on fairness grounds given the outcomes of similar cases within the United States justice system. We urge you to do what is right and grant clemency to Mr. Pollard so that he can be released for time served.


Eliot L. Engel, Congressman, United States Oleksandr Feldman, MP, Ukraine

Luis Fishman Zonzinski, MP, Costa Rica Meyer Habib, MP, France

Nachman Shai, MK, Israel Pal Steiner, MP, Hungary

Tibor Szanyi, MP, Hungary Viviane Teitelbaum, MP, Belgium

About the ICJP

The International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians, an initiative of the World Jewish Congress, was founded as an independent, informal association of Jewish parliamentarians and elected officials from around the world who meet periodically to promote democracy and human rights and combat racism, anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry. It serves as a platform to support Israel, support an enduring Middle East and security of Jewish communities around the world and explore best practices.

French Jewish leader laments ‘climate of anti-Semitism’

On the 70th anniversary of the French Jewish umbrella body CRIF, its leader Roger Cukiermanlashed out at both extreme-left and extreme-right parties, accusing them of fostering anti-Semitism.

WJC, The deadly shooting at Toulouse Jewish school in 2012 was a 'national tragedy' according to President Sarkozy
The French Jewish umbrella organization CRIFis celebrating the 70 years of its existence. A delegation by Jewish leaders led by World Jewish Congress Vice-President RogerCukierman, who heads the CRIF, was receivedon Monday in Paris by French PresidentFrançois Hollande.
In a series of interviews, Cukierman lamented a “climate of anti-Semitism” in France and singled out both extreme-right and extreme-left parties for contributing in different ways to increase resentment against Jews. He slammed the anti-Zionist attitude of the Leftist Front, an alliance of Socialist and Communist parties, and the fact that far-right leader Marine Le Pen had never distanced herself from controversial statements made by her father, the former National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, who once called the Nazi gas chambers “a detail of the history of World War II.”
“Behind the National Front stand all the anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers,” Cukierman said in an interview with ‘RTL Radio’.
He also attacked the comedian Dieudonné, an outspoken supporter for the National Front, as an “anti-Semitism professional” who was using his reputation to “fabricate and disseminate anti-Semitism. That is very worrying,” the CRIF president said.
Receiving the CRIF delegation at the Elysée Palace, President Hollande said he understood the special bond of French Jews with Israel, which was “natural”. He also said that “France needs its Jews.”


Magical Songs

Written by Revital Belz, a member of ajudaica, When I was in labor with my son I was a nervous wreck! My husband, who is generally very calm, was doing his best to keep me relaxed. Finally – and to my surprise – he found a trick. He started singing the song that was played at our wedding. Music really does have a magical effect!
Perek Shirah: When I was in tenth grade two of my friend’s and I decided to go to Florida on winter vacation. We were a group of three Orthodox-Jewish girls. On the plane on the way back there were two religious women sitting in front of us. I noticed that they were both learning something the entire ride. The book they were reading from was beautifully decorated with pictures of animals and nature. The women were also clearly quite emotional while they were reading. Finally towards the end of the flight I gained the courage to ask them what they were reading. The women were more than happy to talk. They explained that they were reading Perek Shirah “Chapter of Songs” a compilation of biblical and rabbinic verses in order to sing G-d’s praise. The book is organized into chapters based on who is singing the praises – sometimes animals, heavens or man. That explained all the beautiful pictures. The women also explained that many people recite Perek Shirah (the entire book!) for forty consecutive days in order to merit various things such as a spouse, children, or health. The woman on the plane opened up to me and said that they were actually both in their late thirties and single. They had been dating for years and started saying Perek Shirah 35 days ago in the hopes that they might finally merit to meet someone. I never expected the flight home from Florida to be so emotional, but that story will probably stick with me forever.

Psalms: One of the most well memorized books is the Book of Psalms. The most common opinion is that they were written by King David when he was running away from Saul. The fact that they were written by a man during a perilous period is quite apparent from the text. People of many religious recite psalms in times of need, and it is not uncommon for people of faith to memorize countless verses. When I was in University I had two Christian friends – Caleb and Marissa – they got together every Sunday evening to sit and recite Psalms together. On one occasion I walked by Marissa’s room. From the rhythm it was clear that they had memorized much of what they were reciting. Caleb, who came from a very religious family, told me that he actually knew the entire book by heart!
I have lived in Israel for the past four years. I frequently travel by bus early in the morning, and I am always amazed by what I see. On almost every bus route that I have been on between the hours of six and nine in the morning I tend to see most people doing one of two things. As would be expected anywhere, I see many people who are dozing off, trying to catch a little extra sleep before getting to work. However, what I find amazing is the number of people I see with an open book of psalms in hand reading the words intently. What is even more impressive is the diversity of the people who chose to spend their morning bus ride reciting psalms. Though I probably shouldn’t have interrupted, my curiosity took over as I approached one woman just last week. She was a pale blonde older woman wearing a mini skirt and a tank top. I watched this woman as she recited psalm after psalm after psalm. There was something about the way that she was focused that told me that she had a story. I watched her for about twenty minutes hoping she would take a break at some point so I could talk to her, but alas, she showed no sign of ending her prayers any time soon. Finally, I got up and approached her, tapping on her shoulder and noting exactly what I observed. I asked her if there was anything in particular that she was thinking of and told her that I would be happy add my own prayers as well. I will admit that the woman looked a bit startled by my imposing but then she did open up. The lady explained that she was praying for her daughter, who had been trying to conceive for twelve years unsuccessfully. The woman explained that saying the psalms was the only thing that gave her comfort – as she felt it was the only thing she could really do. Through tears the woman said “Psalms are magical, my mother prayed that she would be pregnant with me.”


PM Netanyahu addresses Jewish Federations of North America

In the deal being proposed now, Iran does not roll back its nuclear weapons-making capacities at all, but the P5+1 are rolling back sanctions. That's a bad deal. It's a dangerous deal because it keeps Iran as a nuclear threshold nation.
I want to start with the most important thing: the most important thing is to assure the security and the future of the Jewish state, the one and only Jewish State of Israel.

For decades we have been struggling mightily against a regime that calls for our destruction and it pursues nuclear weapons in order to achieve our destruction. Others' destruction too, but first ours. It is a vital interest for other countries – the United States, the Europeans, many others, the Arabs, in my opinion the Chinese and the Russians as well – but for us it's a matter of our existence.

The international community has placed demands on Iran to cease and desist the building of capabilities to produce atomic bombs that will threaten us and threaten the peace of the world. They put together a sanctions regime that has brought Iran to its knees, crippling sanctions. The purpose of those sanctions was to get Iran to dismantle – dismantle – its nuclear enrichment capabilities, which are used for atomic bombs and its heavy water plutonium reactor, which is used for atomic bombs.

This is what the sanctions are for. They're not for preventing civilian nuclear energy or medical isotopes. I suppose Iran is building those ICBMs in order to launch medical isotopes to the Iranian patients orbiting the Earth. It is to prevent fissile material – that's the material that you put inside an atomic bomb – that's what those sanctions were about. To dismantle the centrifuge installations, underground military installations, centrifuge halls, and the plutonium reactor.

Now there's a deal. Why the Iranians came to deal is obvious: because the sanctions are biting their economy, crippling that regime. So they came to the table because they have to. And what is being offered now, and I'm continuously updated in detail, I know what I'm talking about. What is being proposed now is a deal in which Iran retains all of that capacity. Not one centrifuge is dismantled. Not one. Iran gets to keep tons of low enriched uranium, and they can take these centrifuges, which are not dismantled, in the halls, underground – using advanced centrifuges that they've already installed, some of them, that are not dismantled – and they can rush within a few weeks, maybe a couple of months, that's all, and create at the time of their choosing, the fissile material for a bomb.

Iran does not give up anything of that. It makes a minor concession that is meaningless in today's technology and in their current capacities. In other words, none of the demands of the Security Council resolutions, which the P5+1 powers passed are met. None of them! But what is given to them is the beginning of the rollback of sanctions. This means that the sanctions that took years to put in place are beginning to roll back with several billions of dollars of assets that are freed up; the automotive industry contracts that is central to Iran's economy freed up; petrochemical industry freed up; matters that involved gold and even petroleum revenues freed up some.

There are people here who deal in the marketplace. The price of anything is determined by future expectations. The pressure on Iran today is based on future expectations. That's the pressure that's built up in Iran. That's the pressure in the international community. But when you start letting up sanctions, rolling back sanctions, you are signaling in Iran that it's reversed. For the first time, you go down. And people understand it's over.

This is the deal that is proposed now. Iran does not roll back its nuclear weapons-making capacities at all, but the P5+1 are rolling back sanctions. That's a bad deal. It's a dangerous deal because it keeps Iran as a nuclear threshold nation and it may very well bring about a situation where the sanctions are dissolved or collapsed. It's a bad and dangerous deal that deals with the thing that affects our survival. And when it comes to the question of Jewish survival and the survival of the Jewish state, I will not be silenced, ever. Not on my watch.

When the Jewish people were silent on matters relating to our survival, you know what happened. This is different. We are the Jewish state. We are charged with defending ourselves and we are charged with speaking up. And it is time now to speak up – all of us. All of us have to stand up now and be counted. I can think of nothing that is as important and as crucial.

We shall continue to work with the rest of the world, and it's good that we have now a few days because this is not only in the interest of Israel; this is in the interest of the entire world. Yes, we speak up, but I thinkthere are other nations in this region and perhaps beyond who can now unite and say: we do not want a nuclear Iran and we stand together to make sure that Iran dismantles its enrichment capacities, its heavy water plutonium reactor, all the things that they need to make nuclear weapons. They're not entitled to it and it is possible right now, given the precariousness and vulnerability of the Iranian economy, to press forward the demand for Iran to dismantle its nuclear bomb-making capacity....

I mentioned Iran, and I mentioned those ICBMs. What is Iran targeting when it's building those ICBMs? Not us. They already have rockets to reach us and missiles. They need those ICBMs to reach North America. It'll take them a few years – not many by the way. And they could be nuclear tipped ICBMs. That's the plan coming to a theater near you. Do you want that? I don't hear you. Well, do something about it. We are. This is the greatest threat. I began with it, I continue with it. Iran must end enrichment at all levels, because they don't need it. They must take out from their territory all the fissile material. They must stop the construction of the heavy water reactor in Arak. And Iran must dismantle the considerable military nuclear infrastructure, including the underground facilities and the advanced centrifuges.

It's not my position. This has been the position of the international community. I stress it again. So here's what you see over time: what you see is as you go from 2005, 2004, Iran is steadily building its nuclear weapons capability and the international community is steadily diminishing and reducing its demands. It's almost a perfect scissor's movement.

That's the bad news. The good news is that parallel to the increase in Iranian capabilities, just to give you an idea, they had I think in 2005 around 170 centrifuges. You know how many they have today? About 18,000. That's not 100% increase – it's a hundred fold increase. This in the face of all international resolutions. That's not surprising because this is a regime that, in the face of all international resolutions, murders tens of thousands of innocent people, including children, in Syria. It participates, its keeps Assad going.

There is no Assad regime; there's an Iranian-propped Assad regime. It's a regime that practices terror as we speak on five continents; a regime that supplies Hamas and Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah with endless rockets to fire on Israeli civilians; a regime that remains committed to our destruction and subverts just about every single country in the Middle East, and let me tell you, beyond the Middle East. It's a regime that tries to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington and sends its killers either directly or through its proxy, Hezbollah, to Bangkok, to Nigeria, to Bulgaria, everywhere. This regime cannot be allowed to have nuclear weapons.

So the good news is that the international community did do something powerful and the powerful thing was to get those sanctions that followed Iran's building of its capabilities and now, when Iran is on the ropes, now when Iran has to come to negotiate, now when Iran understands that if they don't make a real compromise, they'll get more sanctions – now you let it out? Now you say, well, if we don't acquiesce to their demands, they'll continue? They can't continue because their economy will collapse. And even if they do, they'll maintain their capabilities now? I always said that the combination of crippling sanctions and a military option – that has the power to stop Iran and everything I see tells me that. I think it's important to have steady nerves and a firm purpose and stop this program. We can do it.

In any case, you know that the idea of the Jewish state and the purpose of the Jewish state is to enable Jews to defend themselves. This is something that we could not do before we had the Jewish state. But we can do it now and we shall always, always defend ourselves and defend our state.

I heard the learned commentaries of experts who explained to us that Israel cannot defend itself. They must know something I don't know. This is our purpose. This is our goal. This is our way of assuring our destiny. And we have not come nearly four millennia in our odyssey over time, from the time that Abraham set foot in this country to the present, to have the likes of the ayatollahs threaten our life. We will always defend ourselves and our state.

We also want to see peace with our Palestinian neighbors. I want to see peace with our Palestinian neighbors. I am ready for a historic compromise. We need to end this conflict once and for all, and to end it, there's a simple principle. That principle is: two nation-states, two states for two peoples. Not one state for one people, the Palestinians, and then another state for two peoples. No. Two states for two peoples, which means that if the Palestinians expect us to recognize the Palestinian state for the Palestinian people, they must recognize the Jewish state for the Jewish people.

Now, you've got to ask yourself a simple question: not why am I raising this obvious, simple, basic demand; but why have they persisted in refusing to accept it? Why? Why do they refuse to accept the simple principle of a Jewish state? Now, I'm not asking it for them to affirm our identity. I don't need that. I know our history, believe me; I know our attachment to this land; I know our own nationhood. I'm asking it because I want them to give up any demands, any national demands, any claims on the Jewish state.

That's what peace is about. It's not to make a Palestinian state from which they continue the conflict to try to dissolve the Jewish state, either through the "right of return" or through irredentist claims on our territory in the Negev and the Galilee or anywhere else. It's to finally come to grips with something they have refused to come to grips with for close to a century – that the Jewish state is here by right, that is has a right to be here. And they must recognize that right and teach their children to recognize that right and to accept it.

I think this conflict began in 1921. My grandfather came here in 1920 in Jaffa, got off the boat to a little boat and then in a dinghy came to Jaffa port; went from there to the Jewish immigration office in Jaffa. In 1921, a mob attacked this immigration house because the Palestinian Arabs were opposed to any Jewish immigration at all. This was followed in 1929 by the massacre of the ancient Jewish community of Hebron. Horrible, disembowelment of children, beheading of babies, horrible. And that was followed by system attacks on the Jewish community from 1936 to 1939. And that was followed by systemic efforts by the Palestinian leadership, led by the Grand Mufti, Haj Amin el-Husseini, during the war years in Berlin with Hitler to advocate the Final Solution. Don't expel the Jews, he said, destroy them. And that was followed finally after the tragedy that befell our people, with a declaration and a resolution by the United Nations for two states – a Jewish state. They didn't say a Palestinian state, by the way. They said an Arab state, but that's all right. We accepted and they refused. And then from 1947 until 1967, system attacks on us, an attempt to snuff out the life of the Jewish state by three Arab countries and several Arab armies in May of 1967 that we foiled in the great victory of the Six Day War.

So from 1921 to 1967, nearly half a century – 46 years – there were systemic attacks on the very nature of a Jewish state. Not on settlements – there weren't any. Not on our presence in the territories – we weren't there. What was this conflict about? Not on the absence of a Palestinian state. They rejected it; we accepted it. This conflict was not about settlements, about territories, even though these issues will have to be resolved. It wasn't even about a Palestinian state. It was and still is about the Jewish state. They have to recognize the Jewish state.

And you know, afterwards, when we left Gaza, every square inch of it, and they kept on firing rockets at us, and we asked them: why are you firing rockets at us? Is it to liberate Judea and Samaria, the West Bank? They said, yeah, sure, but that too. We said, what do you mean, that too? They said, well, it's to liberate Palestine – Ashkelon (they call it Majda), Ashdod, Beer Sheva, Jaffa. So that's the bad guys, the guys who are lobbing the rockets on us. What about the other part of Palestinian society, those who don't engage in terror (and it's good they don't engage in terror)? I ask them, so will you recognize the Jewish state? We recognize the Israeli people, we recognize the State of Israel. No, no, no, that's not what I asked. Will you recognize the state of the Jewish people? You have a state. Palestinians can go there if they choose. We have a state. Jews can come here – a Jewish state – if they choose. Do you recognize that? No. Do you recognize that you won't have any national claims wherever the border is drawn? No answer.

This conflict is about the Jewish state. Have I made that point, you think, subtly enough? You get it. Alright. So now let's ask the second question. Because, you know, since 1921 until today it's almost a century of unremitting incitement and an education of hatred. Now, I don't mean in Hamas or Islamic Jihad. I mean in the Palestinian Authority: textbooks, schools, kindergartens. I showed John Kerry a teacher teaching young kids – four year olds, five year olds. What will you be? Shaheedim, martyrs (that's suicide bombers)? And what will you struggle for? Palestine? What is Palestine? From Kiryat Shmona to Umm-Rash-Rash (that's Eilat). From the river to the sea.

That's what they teach. In their textbooks, Israel disappears. It completely disappears. In their state-controlled media – what a wonderful term – in their state-controlled media, they control everything. That's what they put forward.

We had a wonderful initiative that President Peres and I put forward to bring the Barcelona team, the soccer team, to Israel to play with the Palestinians and then to play with Israel, combined Jewish-Arab games in Israel. In the Palestinian territory, they played in Hebron. When they came to President Peres a day later, there was a song in Hebrew, in Arabic, we talked of peace, we talked of two states for two peoples, we had an exhibition game – Jewish children, Arab children from Israel. That was Israel. A day earlier in Hebron, in the soccer stadium, the Palestinian football federations, an official arm and an official spokesman and he said to the Barca team: welcome to Palestine. Palestine is from the river to the sea, from Lebanon to the Red Sea, from Eilat to Rosh Hanikra, the Arab name for Rosh Hanikra.

There is a century of this. The minimum thing that we can demand, aside from demanding the end of incitement, but to get a deal is that the official position of the Palestinian leadership recognize the Jewish state. That's a minimum, but I don't delude myself. This will be a long process. But it must begin with that. Otherwise, what are we saying? That this plan to dissolve Israel in stages will continue? Of course not. But we also have to recognize that it may not take root. It may not. We have at best a cold peace. I hope for a warm one. By the way, a cold peace is better than a hot war. But a warm peace is better than a cold peace. I hope for a warm peace, beginning with that recognition of the Jewish state and the abandonment of the "right of return" and all those other fantasies that are still harbored in Palestinian culture.

But we have to know that even if the Palestinian leadership puts an end to 90 years of rejection, and even if they recognize the Jewish state, we know that in this volatile and violent region, that can be reversed. We know thatin our region, there can be no durable peace that is not based on security. A peace agreement that is not based on absolute, robust security arrangements for Israel, by Israel, will not stand the test of time. We want a peace that endures. We need a peace based on security. That's the other fundament. We need security to defend the peace. But we also need security to defend Israel in case the peace unravels. And in our region, peace has a tendency to unravel now and then, if you haven't watched around us. You have.

Now for this genuine peace of a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state, for this peace I am willing to make difficult decisions. I am willing to be both creative and flexible. But I cannot compromise and will not compromise on the safety and security of the one and only Jewish state. And the Palestinians, of course, will have to compromise too. They'll have to compromise and accept the legitimacy and necessity of robust security arrangements that ensure that Israel's security border does not begin four miles from Ben-Gurion airport and a few hundred meters from this hall.

You know, Israel is the most challenged country on Earth. There is no other country, no other power, that is challenged for its very survival as we are, and we are one of the smallest countries on Earth. We need to have very robust security arrangements, and these are the two essential foundations for a secure peace – mutual recognition of two nation-states and robust security arrangements. This is what we need – and we need many other things. For example, we have this huge, historic attachment to our capital, Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people. It's always been our capital; it always will be our undivided capital.

But I don't want to do the negotiations here. I do want to say that I hope that this current round of talks will lead to peace. I hope the other side, like me, is ready to make tough decisions for peace. I stood at Bar Ilan University and I expressed my willingness to recognize a Palestinian nation-state alongside their recognition of a Jewish nation-state. That wasn't easy. In my previous government, I agreed to an unprecedented freeze on construction in the settlements. Believe me, that wasn't easy. But there is something even harder, maybe the toughest decision I made. I agreed to the release of terrorist prisoners. They served 20 years. They killed a lot of people.

I've made difficult choices to try to advance the peace, but it must be a two way street. It cannot be that the Palestinians are forever pampered by the international community; that their incitement goes by without a tick; that their refusal to recognize a Jewish state goes by without a bat of an eyelash; that their inefficacy in fighting terrorism is accepted or lionized as a great capacity. It's time that the international community, certainly the serious members of the international community, understand this is a two-way street because peace is not a one-way street and it won't be. To stick, it's going to be very tough, not only for Israel. Everybody says that. It's going to be very tough for the Palestinian leadership. It must be, otherwise it's not a genuine peace. And we don't want a fake peace. We've had enough.

So the question is, will they rise up to it? I don't know. It's in their interest. I hope that they stand up, not only for themselves – and I think they would if they accepted what I'm saying, but they would ensure a future for their children and for their grandchildren and for future generations. But they must be able to give the Bir Zeit speech. A Palestinian leader must do what Anwar Sadat did. He said, it's over, it's gone. No more war. No more bloodshed. But he was speaking for Egypt. A Palestinian leader must stand and say, I accept the Jewish state. That's a simple litmus test of seriousness...


900 early Holocaust interviews available online. Digitized Holocaust interviews: A resource for researchers and educators

Marking 75 years since the Kristallnacht attacks of November 9-10, 1938, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Oral History Division launched a new website where the public can search and access 900 previously unavailable Holocaust-related voice recordings and transcripts. 
One of the earliest-recorded oral history archives of the Shoah, this new resource will provide educators with an invaluable teaching tool and will benefit the study, research and production of materials relating to the Shoah. The public can access the materials online, through a new website created with the assistance of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Multimedia Department.

Even before the website's formal launch, several families were surprised to discover in the collection their relatives’ Holocaust testimonies, which in some cases they didn't know existed.

• The Nordlicht family discovered the testimony of Tova Gusta Nordlichtand for the first time heard her account of the resistance in Poland. Her grandson Gal wrote to the Oral History Division: “I never heard this story before, and it was incredible to hear it after all these years.”

• The descendants of Laslo Samushi discovered his testimony concerning the rescue of Jewish children in Hungary from 1944 until the liberation.

• The Even Dar family discovered an interview with their grandfather Simcha Even Dar. This is the only recorded documents the Even Dar family has of Simcha’s involvement in the Bricha (the underground organized effort that helped Jewish Holocaust survivors escape post-World War II Europe to pre-state Israel) and Aliyah Bet (immigration by Jews to pre-state Israel in violation of British restrictions).

Interviewees of particular interest to the Israel Foreign Ministry includeAsher (Arthur) Ben-Natan, Israel's first ambassador to Germany, andEhud Avriel, one of Israel's early ambassadors to Africa.

Prof. Dalia Ofer, the Max and Rita Haber Prof. of Holocaust and Contemporary Jewry, Emeritus at the Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry: “These on-line testimonies are an outstanding contribution that will help spread knowledge and understanding of the Jews’ daily lives and their struggle to survive during the dark period of the Holocaust. It represents the dedication of the Oral History Division of the Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry to enable the public, who often sought out the university's' collections, to use the testimonies as part of their regular study and interest in the life of the Jews during this period.”

The Oral History Division is part of the Hebrew University’s Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry. The Holocaust collection has been made available through the generous support of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.

About the Oral History Division:

The Oral History Division archive contains the memories of individuals from Israeli and Jewish society throughout its modern history. The archive contains rare testimonies from Holocaust survivors, key individuals in the Zionist movement, organizations such as the United Jewish Appeal, men and women who grew up under the British mandate in Palestine, under Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, or in various Jewish communities throughout the world.

The Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry [ICJ] began collecting oral histories for the purposes of historical research in 1959. These early interviews, covering a wide range of subjects and conducted according to highly professional standards, granted the ICJ the distinction of being the most important academic collection of oral documentation in Israel. The Oral History Division’s collection of more than 10,000 interviews in 20 languages constitutes a unique treasure of Jewish memories that will provide future researchers with an invaluable social history of the Yishuv, the State of Israel and Jewish communities in the Diaspora. Researchers can visit the Division to read transcripts and listen to recordings. Digitized interviews are also being made available on the web.


Prestigious Isaiah Award Presented to Dr. Alexander Machkevitch in Madrid

Previous recipients of the award include U.S. President Bill Clinton and actress Sharon Stone

Madrid, Spain,  Dr. Alexander Machkevitch was honored with the prestigious Isaiah Award from Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal at a special ceremony today at the International Leadership Reunion Summit in Madrid.

The Isaiah Award, given in the name of the Jewish People and the People of Israel, is one of the highest honors bestowed by Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal. It is presented to leaders who have shown great commitment to the Jewish concepts of Tikkun Olam, which means healing the world, and Tzedakah, creating justice through giving and philanthropy to help disadvantaged populations improve their lives. Bill Clinton and Sharon Stone were former recipients of the same award.

Dr. Machkevitch was presented with the Isaiah Award in recognition of his unique work as a philanthropist and leader in the Jewish community and in particular the outstanding work he has done to promote religious tolerance and the strengthening of Muslim-Jewish relations. As the former President of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress and as a private philanthropist, he has worked to enhance interfaith dialogue and promote Jewish life in Eurasia, which includes Former Soviet Union (FSU) countries, and across the globe.

As head of the Euro-Asia Jewish Congress, Dr. Machkevitch gave new priority to a series of charitable and academic programs, dedicated to Jewish heritage and nurturing tolerance among various cultural and religious groups of that multicultural region. Originally from Kazakhstan, he proudly supported the restoration and construction of synagogues, churches and mosques in several countries in the FSU, summer camps for children of different cultural and religious backgrounds, and academic scholarships for students, both Jewish and non-Jewish.

“Dr. Machkevitch’s work in interfaith relations, particularly in the FSU, has been singular. He has been a long-standing supporter of Israel and Keren Hayesod, where he has held prominent and groundbreaking leadership positions, and today serves as the President of Keren Hayesod in the FSU,” said Greg Masel, Director General of Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal. “We are truly honored to present the Isaiah Award to this remarkable man and I’m sure the world and the Jewish People will continue to benefit from his generosity.”


Huge cache of art works seized by Nazis discovered in Munich apartment

WJC, A cache of works, many by artists the Nazis considered “degenerate,” has been discovered in a moldy storage room in Munich. The 1,500 paintings, prints, sketches, engravings and etchings are estimated to be worth billions of dollars. They were hoarded by an elderly man who sold some of them to cover every day expenses.
Included in the cache are works by such artists as Pablo Picasso, Max Beckmann, MarcChagall, Emil Nolde, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Oskar Kokoschka, Paul Klee and Henri Matisse. It is believed that they were confiscated or stolen by the Nazis from Jewish owners. The Nazis regarded Impressionist, Cubist and Modernist pieces as ‘degenerate art'.
The magazine ‘Focus’ reported that official searches had been underway for at least 200 of the works. An art historian is now tracing provenance and estimating values.
Reportedly, an art dealer snapped up the works in the 1930s and 1940s. Cornelius Gurlitt's father HildebrandtGurlitt had in the run-up to World War II been in charge of gathering up 'degenerate art' for the Nazis. For 50 years, Cornelius apparently hoarded the works in a dark storeroom in his home in Munich, on homemade shelves. They were found by customs officials alongside rotting food and trash. According to ‘Focus’, investigators made the discovery already in 2011, but the authorities kept silent while searching for more information.
“Now we need to quickly find out whether there are legitimate owners or heirs. Belated justice is better than none,” Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany and a vice-president of the World Jewish Congress, told the newspaper ‘Bild’.
The works have not been publicly identified by investigators, who are working to reunite them with the families of their rightful owners. However, one painting is known to have been 'The Lion Tamer' (pictured left), by German artist Max Beckmann. Cornelius sold it through an auction house for nearly US$ 1 million shortly before the collection was seized. Another is a portrait of a woman by the French master Matisse that belonged to the Jewish connoisseur Paul Rosenberg.
Rosenberg had to abandon his collection as he fled Paris when France fell to the Nazis in 1940. His granddaughter Anne Sinclair, ex-wife of former IMF bank chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, has been fighting for decades for the return of her grandfather’s pictures, but is said to have not known of the existence of this painting.

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