Austrian Jewish leader fears rise in antisemitism
(JNS.org) The leader of Austria’s Jewish community, Oskar Deutsch, said that antisemitic incidents in Austria doubled in 2012 and that he fears the rising antisemitism in the rest of Europe. In an interview with the Kurier newspaper, Deutsch said that the Jewish community had suffered 135 anti-Jewish incidents in 2012, compared to 71 in 2011. Deutsch named Hungary, Sweden, Norway, Finland, France and Greece as the countries where Jews are facing the greatest threats. “What is worrying now, since the murders in Toulouse, [is that] there has been an increase in antisemitism unrelated to the Middle East events,” Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, director of the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) Paris office, told JNS.org last month.
Israel to erect border fence in Golan
(JNS.org) Speaking on Sunday to his cabinet on the progress of the nearly complete 140-mile-long border fence with Egypt, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel will now build a fence along the border with Syria in light of the dangers emerging from there. “We intend to erect an identical fence, with a few changes based on the actual territory, along the Golan Heights,” Netanyahu said, according to Israel Hayom. “We know that on the other side of our border with Syria today, the Syrian army has moved away, and in its place, global jihadist forces have moved in. Therefore, we will defend this border against both infiltration and terrorism, just as we are successfully doing on the Sinai border,” he added. Despite the lack of a formal peace treaty with Syria and its ties to Iran and terror groups, Israel has enjoyed a level of peace and stability from its northeastern neighbor over the past four decades. However, amid several recent spillovers of the Syrian civil war into the Golan, as well as reports of an increasing radical Islamist presence within the country’s rebel groups, Israel is deeply concerned about who might eventually replace Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Apple in talks to buy Israeli navigation app
(JNS.org) Computer giant Apple is reportedly involved in initial talks to acquire the Israeli mapping and navigation application Waze for between $400 and $500 million. Technology industry sources estimate that Waze is worth around $1 billion, meaning that Waze is likely to try to get Apple to increase its offer, according to Israel Hayom. If a deal is reached, it would be one of the most expensive acquisitions of an Israeli company in recent years. Neither Apple nor Waze would comment on the matter. Apple’s own mapping and navigation app for the iOS 6 has been plagued with problems, and acquiring Waze was a possible solution suggested by Apple CEO Tim Cook.There are already 35 million Waze users around the world, and the application currently supports Apple’s iPhone, Android, and other phones. If the reported deal goes through, Apple would be able to add features to Waze and eventually make it part of its operating system.
A sweet partnership
(JNS.org) While Arab-Israeli political relations remain frosty, one store is managing to serve as an example of successful cooperation between the two sides while also making tasty ice cream. Bourza (meaning “ice cream” in Arabic), owned by Jewish kibbutznik Adam Ziv and Arab Muslim Alaa Sawitat, opened in July 2012 in the historic Tarshiha shuk of Ma’alot-Tarshiha in the upper Galilee.
Ma’alot-Tarshiha has a history of Arab-Jewish cooperation. The mixed city was formed in 1963 through the merger of the Arab village Tarshiha and the Jewish town of Ma’alot. Despite their pioneering cooperation, the owners are more concerned about making delicious ice cream. International tourists have flocked to the store to sample ice cream flavors with a Middle Eastern flair. Last summer’s big hit was hummus ice cream.
Rescued manuscripts proof of ancient Afghan
(JNS.org) The National Library of Israel on Jan. 3 introduced the “Afghan Genizah,” a group of ancient manuscripts rescued from Taliban caves, the Associated Press reported. The library’s recently acquired collection represents the first physical proof of a thriving Jewish community in Afghanistan. “We’ve had many historical sources on Jewish settlements in that area,” Haggai Ben-Shammai, the library’s academic director, said. “This is the first time that we have a large collection of manuscripts that represents the culture of the Jews that lived there.” The Hebrew term “genizah” refers to the storage of writings containing the formal names of God, which under Jewish law must be properly buried rather than thrown away. These manuscripts reveal the existence of an Afghani Jewish community 1,000 years ago. Judeo-Persian, in particular, was considered to be “the Yiddish of Persian Jews,” Ben-Shammai said. The collection contains biblical commentaries, personal letters and financial records, including the writings of 10th century Jewish philosopher Rabbi Saadia Gaon.
Abbas officially changes PA name to ‘State of Palestine’
(JNS.org) Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has signed a presidential decree to officially change the name of the PA to “State of Palestine,” the Associated Press reported. While largely a symbolic gesture, the move does represent the first concrete steps Abbas has taken since the resolution that upgraded the Palestinians’ United Nations status to a nonmember observer state in November. Abbas and other Palestinian leaders have also threatened to file war crimes indictments against Israeli leaders at the International Criminal Court.
Meanwhile, Abbas’s Fatah party on Jan. 2 held its first rally in Gaza since Hamas ousted it from power in that area in 2007, further indicating a thaw between the Palestinian factions. More than 100,000 people turned out to celebrate the anniversary of Fatah’s founding in 1965. Fatah has also broadcast messages on its Facebook and Web pages that incite hatred, glorify terrorism and envision a world without Israel. Fatah displayed a map on its Web page showing a world without Israel, despite statements from Abbas and other Fatah officials that their party and the PLO have both recognized the Jewish state since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.
NJDC slams addition of Paul to Foreign Relations Committee
(JNS.org) The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) is opposing the Jan. 4 appointment of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, saying the move “should be raising red flags and provoking severe concern across the pro-Israel community” due to his opposition to foreign aid.
NJDC noted in a press release that Paul “twice pushed for ending U.S. ‘welfare’ (in his words) for Israel,” adding that the senator “has been a staunch opponent of general U.S. foreign aid—which has long been supported by the pro-Israel community—and even used his leadership [political action committee] to push his anti-foreign aid agenda during the 2012 campaign.”
Rand Paul is currently visiting Israel and was therefore unable to immediately respond to a request for comment from JNS.org. Reacting to Paul’s Israel trip, Christians United for Israel (CUFI) Executive Director David Brog had said, “If Senator Paul returns from his visit and demonstrates that he has become a true friend to Israel—in both word and in deed—then Christians United for Israel will be among the first to congratulate him and welcome him ‘home.’”
Saudi police detain dozens for celebrating Christmas
(JNS.org) Saudi religious police stormed a house in the province of al-Jouf and detained more than 41 guests for “plotting to celebrate Christmas,” according to the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar. Reports indicate that the alleged Christmas gathering took place at the home of an Asian diplomat that included 41 Christians and two Muslims. According to the police statement, all were said to be “severely intoxicated.” It is unclear whether or not they have been released since their arrest. Saudi religious police are known to arrest people on a “whim” for violating Sharia law, Al-Akhbar noted. Nearly all Christians living in Saudi Arabia are western expats and foreign workers from Africa and Asia, who are prevented from obtaining citizenship. Saudi Arabia does not permit these Christians to practice their faith openly, including bringing non-Islamic religious materials such as copies of the Bible from abroad.
Al-Qaeda offers bounty for Jewish U.S. ambassador
(JNS.org) Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, known as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), is offering a substantial bounty to anyone who kills the U.S. ambassador to the country — who is Jewish — or any American solider in Yemen, the Associated Press reported the group offered $160,000 for the ambassador, Gerald Feierstein, and $23,000 for an American soldier. The U.S. government considers AQAP to be the international terrorist group’s most dangerous branch and believes the group was behind the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in September that killed Amb. Christopher Stevens. On numerous websites, much is made of Feierstein’s Jewishness, with the usual conspiracy claims of Zionist control of foreign countries and connections to the Mossad, according to the Jewish Press.
Israelis pessimistic about peace
(JNS.org) Forty-five percent of Israelis do not believe that a two-state solution will bring an end to the conflict with the Palestinians, compared with 40 percent who approve of a two-state solution, according to a new Israel Radio poll cited by Israel Hayom on Jan. 3. Additionally, a recent Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs survey showed that 76 percent of all Israelis and 83 percent of Jewish Israelis do not believe that a withdrawal to the 1967 lines and a division of Jerusalem would solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Amid this pessimistic sentiment in the Jewish state—which follows the Palestinians’ unilateral move of seeking and obtaining an upgrade to nonmember observer state status at the United Nations in November—the U.S. has renewed its call on Israel and the Palestinians to resume direct peace negotiations, citing the New Year as an opportunity to return to the negotiating table.