ARABIC’S FUTURE AS AN OFFICIAL LANGUAGE IN ISRAEL AT RISK, LEGISLATORS WARN

BY BEN LYNFIELD

JULY 12, 2017 01:54

Arab Mks say that should a bill proposing to eliminate Arabic’s official status in the country pass, it will be a “nakba of our language.”

A road sign in English, Hebrew, and Arabic points to the Israeli settlement of Susiya

 A road sign in English, Hebrew, and Arabic points to the Israeli settlement of Susiya. (photo credit:AFP PHOTO)
Elimination of Arabic’s status as an official language as is being proposed in a draft of a bill recently approved by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation would constitute “another nakba [catastrophe]” for Arabs, MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) said on Tuesday.
“It will be another nakba, the nakba of our language,” he said, using the Arabic term that refers to the mass displacement of Palestinians during the War of Independence.

“It would allow more degradation of Arabic in the public sphere and its disappearance from the public sphere, affecting our identity and status,” Jabareen added.

He made the remarks during Arabic Language Day in the Knesset, which he organized in order to combat the bill and strengthen Arabic’s status together with NGOs seeking to advance equality, including Sikkuy, the Abraham Fund and Mosawa.

In mixed hometown of slain Druse officer, stun grenades thrown at mosques

As part of the day’s events, the Knesset education committee discussed how Arabic is taught in Jewish schools and the economics committee’s subcommittee on public transportation addressed issues related to posting signs in Arabic. The main event was a roundtable discussion of MKs and NGO representatives on “language, identity, and equality.” Only a few Jewish MKs attended the discussion, including Anat Berko (Likud), who came late, made brief remarks on the importance of Arabic study and then left.

Since the state’s inception Arabic has held official language status although in practice it is not treated equally to Hebrew or even English, which is not an official language, said Yonatan Mendel, director of the Center for Jewish-Arab relations at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem. Arabic “is treated as inferior,” he said.

Mendel added: “English is a mandatory subject for school matriculation, while Arabic is not mandatory. Many official services are not in Arabic as well as many websites. It’s official on paper only. Israel understands its being official in a narrow way. Its status is fragile and weak.”

Canceling Arabic’s official status might accentuate the problem of government offices not using the language or having it on their websites, Mendel said. “But its worst implications are political and moral. For Arabs the erasure of Arabic will be parallel to erasure of their status as equal citizens. They might understand it as a step toward taking away their citizenship rights. It will not contribute to relations between Jews and Arabs.”

MK Oren Hazan (Likud), who supports ending Arabic’s official status, told The Jerusalem Post there is room for only one official language – Hebrew.

“We need a framework that will safeguard Jewish identity and the [Hebrew] language. The State of Israel is the state of the Jewish people and Hebrew has to be safeguarded as the only official language.” He said he supports Arabic having a “special status” without being official and is promoting legislation that would require the teaching of spoken Arabic in Jewish schools from first grade.

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation in May approved a new version of the “nation-state bill” that states “the national language is Hebrew” and demotes Arabic from being official to having a “special status.”

The bill says Arabic speakers have the right to linguistically accessible state services.

Education Committee chairman Ya’acov Margi (Shas) declined to say whether he would support the change of status. “When I get the bill I will formulate my stance,” he said.

MK Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) said a committee had been formed chaired by MK Amir Ohana (Likud) to advance the bill in coordination with coalition partners.

“We are concerned the final version will harm the status of Arabic and that this will be a humiliation for Arab citizens,” she said.

Svetlova addressed the roundtable discussion in fluent Modern Standard Arabic, which she learned 20 years ago as a student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

She recalled being asked by a university staffer at the time why she did not study a European language instead.

“We are in the Middle East, all the neighbors speak Arabic, not Italian. The goal is that each child speak the two languages. This will advance peace,” she said.

Referring to Arabic literary luminaries, Svetlova added: “It is not the language of terrorism; it is the language of love and culture; the language of Yusuf Idris, Najib Mahfouz, Emile Habiby and Mahmoud Darwish.”

jpost.com

CALLS MOUNT FOR PROBE INTO UMM AL-HIRAN OPERATION

Jerusalem Post

BY BEN LYNFIELD
24 JANUARY 2017 05:09

MK Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) said the Post report and other reports emerging about the incident appear to show that the scene of the police operation was a “complete mess.”

 Umm-al-Hiran
 Police in Umm-al-Hiran. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Eyewitness accounts published in The Jerusalem Post in which residents of the Negev Beduin village of Umm al-Hiran said police fired at a police vehicle during the January 18 demolition operation there have sparked sharp criticism by an opposition lawmaker of the government’s handling of the incident.

MK Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) said the Post report and other reports emerging about the incident appear to show that the scene of the police operation was a “complete mess.” She also blasted Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan for rushing to say that it was a terrorist ramming attack that killed Sr.-St.-Sgt.- Maj. Erez Levi and wounded at least one other policeman.

The accounts published in the Post contradict the police version of events that led to the deaths of Levi and driver Yacoub al-Kaeean during the court-ordered demolition operation.

In remarks to the Post, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld implied that the eyewitness accounts of Sabri Abu al-Kaeean and Tayseer Abu al-Kaeean, which were reported in the Post on Monday, were not credible. “The incident is being looked at and examined. It has nothing to do with Beduin who were there. Beduin also said there were no stones [thrown during the operation] and we know that there were stones thrown at police.”

Asked if police had fired on fellow officers, Rosenfeld said: “The incident is still being examined and looked into, but in terms of the Israel Police, they responded based on the threat, the incident and what was taking place at the scene.”

A policeman who was injured during the incident is recovering in Soroka-University Medical Center, where staffers described him as “lightly wounded.” The policeman, whose identity is not being revealed, may have information about what happened during the operation, but Rosenfeld said that he is barred from giving interviews to the media.

He added that the incident in which the policeman was hurt “is still being looked into and examined, but as far as I know, he wasn’t hurt by ‘friendly fire.’” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel Police Commissioner Insp-Gen. Roni Alsheich and Erdan have all said it was a terrorist ramming attack by Yacoub that killed Levi and wounded other policemen. Police said they are investigating whether Yacoub was a member of Islamic State. Umm al-Hiran residents dismiss this and say Yacoub’s car went out of control only after he was shot by police. Police aerial footage from a drone appears to support that conclusion.

On Monday night, the High Court of Justice ordered police to release Yacoub’s body to his family for his funeral to take place on Tuesday. The court rejected the state’s position that “due to tensions in the Negev area” the body should be returned only if the family agreed to a nighttime burial with a limited number of participants.

Svetlova said the Post’s report underscores the need for an independent commission of inquiry into the Umm al-Hiran affair.

“The matters revealed now and coming out to the press and public, and the report that it’s possible police fired on a police vehicle and that there was a complete mess there, points at how much Likud ministers and other irresponsible politicians rushed to draw premature conclusions.

“Who will pay the price for their incitement against the Arab public and who will bear responsibility for the things that were said?” she asked. “It was said with complete certainty that it was a terrorist attack and it was also attributed to ISIS. But the more we learn, a much more complex picture emerges. Mahash [the Justice Ministry’s Police Investigation’s Department] is investigating it, but I would prefer an independent inquiry commission that will arrive at the truth. The citizens of Israel deserve to know the whole truth.”

The Public Security Ministry declined to comment.

Criticism of the operation also emerged from the Right on Monday.

Former defense minister Moshe Arens termed the demolitions “a human tragedy that should not have been permitted to occur.

“We are in the process of having the Beduin population become loyal citizens of the State of Israel and that doesn’t move things in that direction at all,” he told the Post. “From a human point of view, it’s a very unfortunate incident, something that should not have been done. Even if the High Court of Justice gave its okay, it should not have been done.

“Although there are many differences with Gush Katif, there’s a common denominator of people living in their homes for many years and suddenly being forcibly uprooted. There are High Court decisions that don’t take into account the suffering involved in carrying out the decision, and in Umm al-Hiran, it led to loss of life as well.”

Arens said of Yacoub: “He could be innocent. There’s an investigation, so I’m trying to keep an open mind, but right from the beginning it was not at all clear exactly what happened. I can see that in this situation maybe mistakes have been made and possibly, [Yacoub] Abu al-Kaeean had no intention of hurting anyone, and people misinterpreted the movement of his car as an attempt to hurt the police.

“It’s quite possible there was a misunderstanding there, a mistake was made and two lives were lost in the process.”

Meanwhile, the Public Committee against Torture in Israel and Adalah, the Arab rights organization, have asked the police to investigate the circumstances of the wounding of Joint List leader Ayman Odeh during the demolition operation. Police said at the time that Odeh was injured by a stone.

But in a letter to the Justice Ministry, the two rights groups wrote that when Odeh and other activists heard gunfire, they tried to make their way to the scene of the shooting to understand what happened. “They were blocked, however, by police officers who cursed and struck them even after it was made clear an MK was among the group,” they said in a press release.

“One officer sprayed MK Odeh in the face with pepper spray at point-blank range. Subsequently, as MK Odeh and the activists were retreating from the village, police fired rubber bullets and illumination flares at them, at which time MK Odeh was struck in the head and the back.”

Umm al-Hiran resident Aga Abu al-Khaeean, whose house was demolished in the January 18 operation, told the Post that day that she saw policemen hitting and shooting at Odeh.

Insights from an Israeli Member of Knesset – A Frank Discussion with MK Ksenia Svetlova

04.07.2016

 

 

“Israel has strayed from the route”

 Ksenia Svetlova

Ksenia Svetlova. Photo Twitter

“I am a product of this country,” 38-year-old Knesset member Ksenia Svetlova exclaims proudly, “I have been living here for 25 years.” A Russian-born immigrant to Israel, she studied Middle Eastern History at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and went on to become a respected Arab affairs correspondent for a number of international media. She speaks four languages and is currently completing a doctorate. Her decision to enter politics, as a member of the Zionist Union party, was the “intolerable” diplomatic and socioeconomic situation in the country. “The time came for me to roll up my sleeves and try to improve the situation from the inside.” Listed in 21st place, she found herself in the Knesset when the party won 24 seats in the March 2015 elections.

Svetlova’s story is an amalgamation of parcels of history of Jewish immigration to Israel. Israel comprises many immigrant communities, yet her story stands out for its remarkable achievements. She explains that her mother decided to move to Israel when she was 14, feeling “something bad would happen in Russia”. She alludes to the fact that they were Jewish. They immigrated to Israel to reach their motherland. “You always lose something when you leave a place,” she says of her native Moscow.

A leftist and a reformist, Svetlova is considered a ‘rare breed’ of a politician at a time when being in the opposition is not easy. Yet she has remained true to her instincts. She opposes religious coercion and endorses progressive denominations of Judaism. She does not subscribe to the non-egalitarian nature of Jewish orthodoxy in Israel, and believes that people should be able to choose a pluralistic form of religion. This outlook evolved after she was refused a divorce for two years by the Chief Rabbinate. In Jewish religious law, a husband must present his wife with a “get” (divorce) document to effect the divorce, a system perceived by some as favouring men and being open to abuse. “I am trying to raise awareness of how intolerant the religious parties can be towards those different from them.”

“We cannot give up. It is not easy to be in the opposition but I am an optimist. Today, we have more hate for the other than we have love for ourselves,” she says of the current climate of racism and xenophobia.

She recently returned from a J Street conference in Washington DC. “It was the highlight of my trip,” she says of the annual event organized by the US-based lobby group that seeks to end the Israeli-Arab conflict through diplomatic means. “Although in 2015 there was gloom at the J Street conference after the Zionist Union, a centre-left party, lost the elections, our position has not changed.” She stresses the shared values between her party and J Street. “I have no magic solution,” she says honestly about the ongoing conflict, “but hope comes out of despair.” She supports the two-state solution and regional discussion towards peace with all of Israel’s Arab neighbours.

Her decision to study Arabic at university stems in part from the fact that her father was an art historian and she was impressed in her youth by Islamic architecture and the art of Ancient Egypt. “How can we live in a region and not understand the language which is spoken there?” she wonders, incredulously. “We must try to learn history and not just through the eyes of the conflict.”

As a mother of six-year-old twins, she ponders what type of country she is leaving for her daughters. She hopes that they will be able to live in Israel and not be “forced to leave in 20 years’ time. We should not lose our humanity or empathy due to the conflict. We should not forget who we are.”

She continues: “Israel is in free fall. Look at who our allies are today: Saudi Arabia and Russia.” She believes Israel should draw inspiration from more democratic allies. She recognizes that no country is perfect but believes there is a lot to fix in Israel. One thing is certain, she and her regional parliamentarians have their work cut out for them.

Female MK blasts Bnei Brak chief rabbi: Don’t hide Queen Esther

MK Svetlova criticizes Bnei Brak Chief Rabbi for posting public banners requesting girls not congregate in the streets during Purim.

By Chaim Lev, Shoshana Miskin

First Publish: 3/21/2016, 11:22 AM

Ksenia Svetlova

Ksenia Svetlova
Photo: Knesset spokesperson

This year, like every year, posters signed by the Rabbi of Bnei Brak, Rabbi Moshe Yehuda Leib Landau, have been plastered throughout the city requesting that women, for modesty purposes, not congregate in the streets during the Purim holiday.

“From experience on what happens on Purim in the street, I am turning to the parents and educators in (the Land of) Israel to warn girls not to congregate in the streets of the city on Purim. They may celebrate indoors in their homes with their families,” the poster read.

This year, the poster’s message aggravated MK Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) who demands that the Bnei Brak municipality remove what she calls the “signs of exclusion”.

“The Purim miracle would not occur if it happened today, as Esther would be imprisoned in her house and so unable to rescue the people of Israel,” wrote MK Svetlova on her Facebook page.

Svetlova claims that the Bnei Brak municipality should remove the posters which degrade Jewish culture, heritage and the great women in history, “Sadly, the prophetess Deborah, Yael the heroine and Ruth the Moabite would not even receive minor recognition should they have lived in today’s Haredi communities.”

“Another thing to think about: If such behavior were customary during the time of the Megillah, we would not even hear about Queen Esther, and the miracle of Purim would probably never happen. I challenge (the public) to share this (Facebook) post, until the humiliating and excluding signs are replaced with calls for all the women and men of the city to celebrate the holiday. The holiday exists thanks to a woman who did not ‘stay away’ from the streets,” she added.

The poster’s in Bnei Brak

MKs call for government recognition of independent conversions

A charged committee meeting discusses ‘ticking bomb’ of 350,000 FSU immigrants who can’t convert to Judaism through state religious authority

March 9, 2016, 11:14 am
FSU immigrant David (in blue sweatshirt) gives testimony at the Knesset's Aliya Committee on March 8, 2016. Also pictured, from left: Giyur KaHalacha's Rabbi Seth Farber, Eli Cohen, director, and lawyer Elad Caplan. (Michael Shapochnic, Giyur KaHalacha)

Born in Moldova, David immigrated to Israel with his family as a child in 1997, where they qualified for citizenship under the Law of Return. But not as Jews.

“There, we were Jews,” David said Tuesday at the Knesset, referring to the country of his birth. In many ways, his family spans Eastern European Jewish geography: He was born in Moldova, his parents in Romania, and his grandparents, two of whom were Jewish, in Russia.

The Law of Return offers Israeli citizenship to people with at least one Jewish grandparent. But Jewish law has a different criterion for who is a Jew: a Jewish mother or a recognized conversion.

At the Aliya, Absorption and Diaspora Committee meeting, David related that only as a teen did he begin to question his identity vis a vis Judaism and the Jewish state.

“I began to slowly understand I’m not Jewish, slowly ask why did we come here, to Israel? Are we Jews? Why don’t we have holidays at home? Not everyone asks these questions — and parents don’t always have the answers,” said David.

‘My mother doesn’t light Shabbat candles, but my daughter will. I didn’t have a bar mitzva, but my son will’

David spent a year at Yemin Orde, a pre-military youth village which helps immigrant youth streamline into Israeli society, where he learned to put his halachic status into a Jewish historical perspective. When he joined the IDF the following year in the elite Duvdevan unit, he also entered Nativ, its conversion program, with the mindset that, “My mother doesn’t light Shabbat candles, but my daughter will. I didn’t have a bar mitzva, but my son will.”

David said the Nativ program was very inclusive, and that the message he was given was: “You are Jews, but must correct something. We’re all in the same boat.”

After four years of study, during which he told his mother he could no longer eat from her kitchen, studied, and performed a required post-army stint at a yeshiva, he was rejected at what was meant to be his final appearance in front of the rabbinical court. From the stress of the occasion, David says he mis-answered a few questions about halacha, or Jewish religious law.

“They looked at me like I was the last person alive who should be a Jew,” David said. He was told that he “definitely” would pass the next time. David said that the majority of his Nativ class didn’t pass, even after three or four appearances.

Currently, only 30 to 40 percent of those who begin the state conversion authority’s program stay with it until conversion. Only 50% make it past the first interview with the rabbinical court, “and it is because of the rabbinical courts’ approach,” said Prof. Binyamin Ish Shalom, a longtime conversion activist.

Two potential IDF converts to Judaism at an Orthodox kindergarten (Gershon Elinson)

Two potential IDF converts to Judaism at an Orthodox kindergarten (Gershon Elinson)

With 350,000 non-Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union in Israel and an additional 100,000 second-generation non-Jewish children, the Knesset committee meeting on Tuesday discussed this “ticking bomb” — the systemic inability of the established religious authority to bring its cohorts through conversion, and the resultant disenfranchisement of thousands of Israeli citizens.

With widespread acrimonious finger pointing, Tuesday’s charged Knesset meeting was attended by politicians pushing for a solution for Israeli citizens of Jewish background, and rabbis who said the current conversion authority was the best solution — or the biggest obstacle.

‘I know people who left the country after their failure at the rabbinic court’

After the rabbinical court’s rejection, David said, he felt “distanced” from Judaism, emotionally and spiritually. “I know people who left the country after their failure at the rabbinic court,” he said.

David, however, did end up undergoing a halachic conversion to Judaism — although he is still not considered a Jew by the civil State of Israel nor by its religious authority.

With increasingly inflexible requirements from the state authorities, the past few years has seen the advent of unrecognized independent but halachic conversion courts, such as the controversial ultra-Orthodox court in Bnei Brak under Rabbi Nissim Kurelitz, and the Modern Orthodox new kid on the block, the network of Giyur Kahalacha courts.

Established six months ago by luminaries of Israel’s National Zionist religious world, Giyur Kahalacha sees itself as a halachic answer to immigrants — especially those with Jewish ancestry — who are not able to complete the state’s stringent conversion programs.

Convert 'Katya' and her daughter sit before the independent Giyur Ka'halacha conversion court, led by Rabbi Nahum Rabinovitch (center) on Monday, August 10, 2015. (courtesy)

Convert ‘Katya’ and her daughter sit before the independent Giyur Ka’halacha conversion court, led by Rabbi Nahum Rabinovitch (center) on Monday, August 10, 2015. (courtesy)

Although their converts must acknowledge that the program is currently not recognized by the State of Israel for Jewish status purposes, nor by the chief rabbinate for lifecycle events, Giyur Kahalacha has already converted 150 out of 600 people who have approached the organization so far.

At the Knesset meeting, Giyur Kahalacha representatives projected that it would soon be the largest converting court in the world. (The state religious authority annually converts some 3,600.)

The number of those reaching out to Giyur Kahalacha shows the frustration of potential converts with the religious authorities, said Eli Cohen, a former IAF pilot and high-tech businessman who now works with the movement.

Giyur KaHalacha's Rabbi Seth Farber (left), Eli Cohen, director, and convert David at the Knesset's Aliya Committee meeting on March 8, 2016. (Michael Shapochnic, Giyur KaHalacha)

Giyur KaHalacha’s Rabbi Seth Farber (left), Eli Cohen, director, and convert David at the Knesset’s Aliya Committee meeting on March 8, 2016. (Michael Shapochnic, Giyur KaHalacha)

Why this matter is pressing for discussion at the Knesset, Cohen said, is that for FSU immigrants with Jewish heritage, beyond the religious authority, it is the state recognition of their Jewishness that is of utmost importance to their identities as Israeli citizens.

It is clear, however, that there is already concern among Knesset members and rabbis that these new converts present facts on the ground that will soon cause a cataclysm.

Isaac Herzog addresses the Knesset on February 10, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Isaac Herzog addresses the Knesset on February 10, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) said, “We are coming to the point at which we say in this situation, there should be a parallel conversion system because the current system doesn’t answer the need.”

But the head of the conversion authority, Rabbi Yitzhak Peretz, said Tuesday that his institution does not recognize the Giyur Kahalacha converts and, with some 2,000 FSU converts a year, he does not foresee a need.

“If someone has a problem with the Knesset, should he make a new Knesset? Soon there will be a state in which everyone will make their own synagogue; everyone will do their own kashrut,” said Peretz.

There are currently some 15 independent conversion courts across the country, said Peretz. If they were all to be recognized, “then there won’t be one people, there will be 100 peoples… There will be chaos,” said Peretz.

MK Moti Yogev of the Jewish Home party echoed Peretz’s concerns, but said that while the chief rabbinate should be the sole religious authority, especially in cases of conversion and divorce, “there must be an effort for leniency, with faith and responsibility, to keep the Jewish people together.”

‘There won’t be one people, there will be 100 peoples… There will be chaos’

With a rich family history and constituency of voters with similar backgrounds to support her, Zionist Camp MK Ksenia Svetlova dismissed the notion that the state conversion authority is a force for cohesion within the Jewish people.

“The rabbinate has turned into the lords of the people, not its servants,” said Svetlova. She said that many immigrants from the former Soviet Union had lived their entire lives believing they were Jews.

“They suffered anti-Semitism as Jews,” she said, and suffered in many other ways as Jews, “and here — oops! [They are asked by officials,] ‘Who are you, goyim?’ We must stop the torture,” she said.

Svetlova said the situation is so ludicrous that even the Biblical prototype of Jewish conversion would not have taken place in today’s strict rabbinical courts.

“Ruth the Moabite would not have been converted today. She wouldn’t have been accepted into the Jewish people,” said Svetlova. “People want to be Jews — so let them!”

Former Shas MK Haim Amsalem, now running at the head of his own party, Am Shalem, in the Knesset in 2010. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Haim Amsalem in the Knesset in 2010. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

After trying to reform the system from within both the rabbinic authority and the Knesset, former Shas MK Rabbi Haim Amsalem said that he doesn’t see any hope of meeting the need presented by the hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens with Jewish heritage. Furthermore, he said, by disenfranchising potential converts from Judaism through its refusal to recognize these independent conversion courts, the state establishment is “supporting assimilation.”

“Who are those who knock on our doors? Ninety-seven percent are those with Jewish roots, who have bound their fates with the Jewish people. We are rejecting them,” he said. Quoting other rabbinic sources, Amsalem said it is worse to reject one who wants to become a Jew than to “mistakenly” convert someone.

“We must give government recognition to the independent courts and the converts,” said Amsalem.

Likud MK Avraham Neguise, chairman of the Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs. (Government Press Office)

Likud MK Avraham Neguise, chairman of the Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs. (Government Press Office)

The head of the committee, Likud MK Avraham Neguise, an Ethiopian immigrant, is also no stranger to the political and emotional struggle involved in conversion. In concluding the discussion, Neguise called for the conversion authority to begin talks with Giyur Kahalacha. More importantly, he called on the Interior Ministry to recognize these halachic converts as Jews.

Until then, David, like the other Giyur Kahalacha converts, understands that their Jewish identities only go so far.

“I am not registered as a Jew anywhere in Israel, even though I went through a halachic conversion,” he said.

And so, ahead of his upcoming marriage, David also knows that the only ways for him to have a halachic marriage is to leave the Jewish state — or be wed illegally by a Giyur Kahalacha rabbi.

Amid uproar, Shas MK pulls bill to mark Victory Day on Hebrew date

jpost.com

By LAHAV HARKOV

Lawmaker decided to remove the bill from the agenda in order not to offend WWII veterans.

MK Yoav Ben-Tzur removed his bill that would have Victory Day be marked on its Hebrew date – 26 Iyyar – as opposed to its Gregorian date – May 9 – from the Knesset’s agenda on Wednesday, following protestations by immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

Victory Day marks Germany’s capitulation to the Soviet Union in 1945, and was a major holiday in the Soviet Union. In Israel, Victory Day has been a national holiday since 2000. Veterans of World War II mark the day by marching in parades and participating in ceremonies.

(Most Western countries mark the victory over the Nazis on V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day), on May 8, because of time zone differences when the German surrender was signed.) The explanatory portion of Ben-Tzur’s bill, which was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation earlier this week, says: “In a Jewish state, which rose from the ashes, there is great importance in marking Victory Day on the Hebrew date and not the secular date. It is more than a symbolic statement and is an expression of the victory of our spirit.”

MKs who immigrated from the former Soviet Union said that their communities opposed the proposal.

Yisrael Beytenu faction chairman Robert Ilatov explained that “the Jewish connection is clear and understood, but this is a day that veterans, who fought shoulder to shoulder in Europe, mark on the same date around the world.

“To isolate this day from the international pride, friendship and brotherhood of fighters from different countries empties it of all content,” Ilatov added. “The ninth of May is a very symbolic date.”

MK Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union), whose grandmother was a Soviet Army doctor in WWII, accused Ben-Tzur of trying to “take the veterans’ holiday away from them.

“Instead of taking care of their needs, help them and celebrate with them, Shas lawmakers decided… to harm those who brought the great victory, and to them and to us, the date is symbolic and important,” she said.

Ben-Tzur decided to remove the bill from the agenda in order not to offend WWII veterans.

“The decision to postpone the vote comes from an understanding that there is a large public that may be offended by the current draft of the bill,” he said.

The Shas MK said MK Yoel Razbozov (Yesh Atid) explained the symbolism of the secular date to him.

“I do not and did not mean to hurt the feelings of WWII veterans. The opposite is true. Their courage should be respected and appreciated,” he said. “At the same time, it is important to clarify that, according to the proposal, we should recognize the Hebrew date as a Jewish and democratic state, while remembering the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust.”

Ben-Tzur said he will update the bill so that both the Hebrew and secular dates will be considered Victory Day.

This is not the first time Shas has offended Russian-speaking Israelis’ sensibilities.

In 2013, Shas put out a campaign ad saying the party would protect the integrity of the conversion process, which sparked an uproar.

The ad featured a blonde woman under a marriage canopy with a dark-skinned man, who is surprised to find that she is not Jewish.

The woman says, in a Russian accent, that she will simply dial “*conversion” and become Jewish on the spot.

Netanyahu and Edelstein file complaint against Arab MKs

israelnationalnews.com

In an unprecedented move, Prime Minister and Knesset Speaker file complaint against Arab MKs who met with family members of terrorists.

By Ido Ben Porat

First Publish: 2/5/2016

 

Edelstein and Netanyahu

Edelstein and Netanyahu
Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

In an unprecedented move, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein on Thursday evening announced they would file a personal complaint with the Knesset Ethics Committee against the Arab MKs who met with family members of terrorists who murdered Israelis.

The three MKs in question are Jamal Zahalka, Hanin Zoabi and Basel Ghattas – the three representatives of the Balad party in the Joint List.

Edelstein said that the MKs’ actions constitute incitement and encouragement to murder.

“It is inconceivable that while innocent civilians are being slaughtered in the streets of Israel, Knesset members pay condolence visits and, in their audaciousness, even dare to bring to the Israeli government requests by the murderers’ families,” he said.

“I consider it serious harm to the Israeli Knesset and the State of Israel and hope that these things will permeate into the hearts and the wisdom of the High Court judges the next time they discuss petitions against the disqualification of candidates who do not deserve to be in the Knesset,” added Edelstein.

Netanyahu said that Knesset members who go to console families of terrorists who murdered Israelis are unfit to serve in the Israeli Knesset.

Edelstein and Netanyahu’s complaint to the Ethics Committee follows one filed earlier on Thursday by MKs Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) and Amir Ohana (Likud).

The complaint states that “the issue is not a matter of left or right, but rather a matter of terrible acts that harm the Jewish and democratic State of Israel.”

“I am not content with condemning the visit to families of the terrorists. Sympathetic coverage in Arabic media shows an increase in activities that harm Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. And so I filed a complaint to members of the Ethics Committee against the Balad faction of the Joint List,” said Svetlova.

Ohana accused MKs Zahalka, Zoabi and Ghattas of being open supporters of terrorism in the Israeli Knesset.

“There is no more question about which side they chose. …The only benefit of their being in the Knesset is that the people of Israel better understand the views of the people who elected them to the Knesset – because they were not elected by Norwegians.”

Ohana continued, “The problem is not the law – which unequivocally determines that (a supporter of terror is one who) explicitly or implicitly supports an armed struggle against Israel. The problem is in the interpretation of the Supreme Court, which until now repeatedly overturns decisions of the Election Committee and allows them to join the Knesset.”

MKs, IDF accuse media of fomenting conflict in West Bank; journalists’ groups say security forces are increasingly violent towards reporters.

“With all the importance of the press in a democratic country,” MK Moti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) began, “we cannot get confused and must always give priority to the IDF’s operational freedom of action, because they are acting to save lives.”Yogev accused the press of behaving like an “imbalanced theater.”

MK Yisrael Eichler (UTJ) compared the press to a car, saying that in some cases it is helpful and brings progress, and in other cases it can be destructive.

According to Eichler, a former journalist, objective reporters should be given freedom of action, but reporters who “take a side in the conflict” should be given less access.

MK Michael Oren (Kulanu) said there is no justification for violence against journalists, but added: “We cannot ignore the fact that the press takes an active, one-sided and tendentious stance in covering the conflict, and therefore, it is part of the game.

“We know with certainty about many cases that were staged and orchestrated, so the media needs to ask itself if it is truly balanced,” Oren stated.

IDF Spokesperson’s Unit representative Lt.-Col. Peter Lerner said forces in the field sometimes have to deal with “media traps” or events that would not have happened if the press was not present.

Lerner explained that the IDF works to allow the press to act freely, while considering operational limitations, and that aim is backed by military orders and regulations.

“We make sure to be in the field to help the press and when necessary, we act to prevent violent incidents,” Lerner stated. “The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit gives instructions and simulations at all levels in the field, under the assumption that [operations] will be covered [by the press] and documented.”

Lerner admitted that there was an increase of violent incidents in recent months, but said they are exceptions that do not reflect the general situation.

He also pointed out that an officer who was violent toward the press was fired.

Zionist Union MK Ksenia Svetlova, a former Arab affairs reporter for Russian-language media who has written for The Jerusalem Post, initiated the discussion and said, “Freedom of action for the media is a central component in a democratic state. Unfortunately, recently, it seems that some reporters are seen as the enemy or as a foreign agent acting against the State of Israel.”

She added, “Violence against the press hurts Israel’s good name in the world.”

Foreign Press Association secretary Gila Sugarman said that in the past two years there has been an increase in physical violence against journalists and their equipment.

Union of Journalists in Israel chairman Yair Tarchitsky called the phenomenon fairly common and said the violence generally comes from low-level soldiers or police officers who are not aware of the way they should treat the press.

“The general feeling is that they see journalists as an annoyance,” he said. “Security forces have to understand the job of the press in a democratic country, even if the truth is uncomfortable for the country.

Our job is to reflect reality as it is to the broader public.”

Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) closed the meeting by calling the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit to review the complaints from press representatives and make sure that they are present in sensitive situations to hold a dialogue with reporters.

“IDF commanders are not trained or authorized to deal with the press; it’s not their responsibility,” Hanegbi said.

“They are focused on security and executing their operational orders. The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit must send people to events with the potential for conflict, in order to avoid obstacles to reaching operation goals, on the one hand, and harm to journalists’ work, on the other.”

Hanegbi also said he will discuss the issue with Interior Committee chairman David Amsalem (Likud), whose panel is responsible for overseeing police and border police actions, to hold a similar discussion about complaints of police treatment of the press.

We still have a long road ahead of us

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photo: MK Ksenia Svetlova’s press office

State recognition of rights of non-Orthodox won at cost of original fight of Women of the Wall

Dear friends,
Women of the Wall have won an important battle in the struggle for equality and recognition of all religious movements of Judaism.

Two months ago, I had the great honor to light the Chanukah candles with Women of the Wall at the Western Wall.
Today I was very pleased to learn that, after three years of negotiations, and in fact after 27 years of hard struggle, the two sides reached a compromise that is acceptable for both Women of the Wall and the rabbinate.

Western Wall belongs to all Jewish people, men and religious orthodoxy do not have any privileged on everybody else!
However, we still have a long road ahead of us. The state must protect the rights of all Judaism movements, as well as it protects the rights of the Orthodox.

Failure to recognize the various religious streams of Judaism harms not only the Israelis, but also has a negative impact on relations with the Jewish people in the Diaspora, as Jewish and democratic State of Israel also belongs to them!