World Briefs 1-10-12

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Turkish Prime Minister cracks down on free speech

Click photo to download. Caption: Human Rights groups have raised concern as Erdogan's government cracks down on journalists. Credit: Randam.An ominous trend is taking hold in Turkey, human rights groups say, intimidating free speech by jailing journalists. According to the Turkish Journalists’ Union, 97 members of the news media are currently imprisoned, including editors and publishers. That number is said to rival China’s, the New York Times reported.

The charges for those jailed vary, but human rights groups call it a political purge of the governing party’s critics. 13 defendants appeared in state court last week on charges related to abetting a terrorist organization. The defendants included journalist Nedim Sener, who was investigating a terrorist network, said by prosecutors to be plotting to overthrow the government, only to be accused of being a member of it.

The trend paints a worrying picture of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who largely suffocated the military and infused religious conservatism into the Turkish government.

“Turkey’s democracy may be a good benchmark when compared with Egypt, Libya or Syria,” said Hakan Altinay, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “But the whole region will suffer if Turkey is allowed to disregard the values of liberal democracy.”

-JointMedia News Service

Italian teacher threatens to blow up synagogue

An Italian man threatened to blow himself up in a synagogue, Yedioth Ahronoth reported. The man, 55-year-old Renato Pallavidini, is a teacher who was previously convicted of denying the Holocaust.

Pallavidini taught high school in Torino and last month posted a picture of Mussolini shaking Hitler’s hand on Facebook, writing: "Take a look, you dirty bastard Jews who control us from the land of s—t and homosexuals called California. If you remove this picture, I will go to the synagogue next to my house, with my pistol, and gun down some parasite Jews."

Although the page was quickly removed, Italian authorities began to investigate the incident. Officers summoned him for questioning and searched his house. Pallavidini gave a statement to La Republica saying: "why do I need to explain what I write on Facebook? Since the Jewish communities attacked me, my attitude toward them has changed." He has since been fired from his teaching job.

-JointMedia News Service

1.4 million visitors flocked to Auschwitz in 2011

More than 1.4 million visitors visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in 2011. While seemingly positive news, the large amount of visitors is a strain on the preservation of the camps’ structures, the Associated Press reported.

The notorious death and labor camp in southern Poland has now become the most visited memorial site for the Holocaust. Most of the visitors last year were from Poland, but other nations represented in large numbers were Britain, Italy, Israel, Germany, France and the United States, museum staff said.

However, despite the fact that the museum welcomes the opportunity to educate all visitors about the Holocaust, the barracks and other structures are now severely dilapidated, due both to the passage of time and heavy visitation.

-JointMedia News Service

Thousands of Jews flock to Vietnam each year

Twenty-thousand Jewish tourists visit Vietnam every year, said Rabbi Menachem Hartman of Chabad Jewish Center in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), according to the Jerusalem Post. The tourists include Israeli, American and French Jews, as well as business people and Israeli government officials.

Furthermore, Vietnam’s government has long been offering opportunities to American Jewish and Israeli entrepreneurs, dozens of Israeli companies, and Israeli doctors. About 300 Jews live permanently in Vietnam, 200 Jews in HCMC and 100 in the capital, Hanoi.

“Vietnamese like us; they welcome us because they like to think of themselves as the Jews of Asia, as well as a nation of the book,“ Rabbi Hartman said.

-JointMedia News Service

Report: Israeli experts predict Iran nuke test in January 2013

Israel's defense establishment is preparing for a nuclear Iran and believes Tehran may have nuclear weapons within a year, the Times of London reported on Monday. It was quoting a report by the Tel Aviv University-linked Institute for National Security Studies.

The institute's report, which will be delivered to Prime Minister Netanyahu, composed scenarios for the day after an Iranian nuclear weapons test, predicted there would be a major shift in the balance of power in the Middle East.

The INSS experts also predicted that Iran would conduct a nuclear weapons test in January 2013 and that this would follow increasingly hostile demands by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which would include a redrawing of Iran's borders with Iraq and action against U.S. Fifth Fleet ships, Israel Hayom reported.

"The simulation showed that Iran will not forgo nuclear weapons, but will attempt to use them to reach an agreement with the major powers that will improve its position," the report said.

-JointMedia News Service

Jewish childhood friend of Pope John Paul II dies 

Click photo to download. Caption: Pope John Paul II was known for the strong relationship he forged with the Jewish community and Israel. Credit: PD-US. Jerzy Kluger, a lifetime friend of the late Pope John Paul II, died last week in Rome at the age of 90. He was a Jew who lost most of his family in the Holocaust.

Kluger died on Dec. 31 after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for three years, his wife said according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Originally from Wadowice in southern Poland, Kluger was a World-War II veteran who lived in Italy with his wife following the war. Kluger had known Karol Wojtyla, later Pope John Paul II, from the age of five. They went to school and played together, and kept in touch over the years.

Pope John Paul II is known for his efforts to foster a positive relationship with the world's Jewish community and for publicly removing blame from the Jews for Christ's death. He died in 2005.

“Even when he was a young boy, he would already show great concern for social equality, especially for the Jews,” Mr. Kluger previously told the Associated Press.

--JointMedia News Service

Polish museum buys Lego concentration camp toy set

The Polish Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw acquired a Lego concentration camp toy set created by artist Zbigniew Libera, the Los Angeles Times reported. The set was created in 1996 and has been considered very controversial, as it appears to make fun of the Holocaust. However, Libera's other "death camp" toys have since been displayed in countless museums around the world.

The particular piece to be displayed by the Polish museum displays a scene of crematoriums, barracks and skeletal prisoners being beaten by guards. It is all made from Lego pieces. Even Lego Group, the company that commercially manufactures Lego toys, tried to stop the display of the piece.

"I understand that Lego must defend its good name, but this is not a product being offered in a store," Libera said according to the source. "This is censorship all over again. I created this work to inspire discussion, not to suppress it."

The Museum bought the piece for about 55,000 Euros ($71,800) from a Norwegian private collector, the Austrian Times reported.

--JointMedia News Service

EU to impose embargo on Iranian oil imports

EU countries agreed to ban imports of Iranian crude oil and are working out when the embargo will take place, Yedioth Ahronoth reported. Iran supplies about 450,000 crude oils barrels per day to EU member states, making it the second-largest market for Iranian oil after China.

The idea for the ban has been discussed by EU diplomats since December as an effort to pressure Iran to abandon its nuclear program. The United States government has said the move that would "tighten the economic noose on Tehran."

The U.S. has also imposed sanctions on Iran recently by cutting funding to financial institutions that work with Iran's Central Bank, thereby impeding Tehran's ability to pay for crude oil. The U.S. government also urged other international buyers of Iranian oil to reduce their purchases, arguing that a concentrated international effort would have more impact.

However, according to Mohsen Qamsari, Iran's international director of the National Iranian Oil Co (NIOC), the Iranian government claims it will not be impacted by such an embargo because it can get other buyers for its oil.

"My wish is that won't happen," Qamsari said. "We've been trying to separate our crude oil business from politics."

 --JointMedia News Service

Israel to Europe: Step up security for our citizens

Israel on Thursday asked European governments to beef up the security of Israeli tourist groups fearing that terrorists would target Israelis traveling abroad.

Danny Shenar, head of security at the Transportation Ministry, explained that "we are in constant contact with different countries on this or that travel warning, and I know that the security at the airports is excellent but tourist sites are less secure, so I decided to take the initiative and address my colleagues and ask them to increase supervision." 

Shenar emphasized that there were currently no specific or general terror alerts. Local security forces in Europe will monitor Israeli tourists, mainly those destined for ski resorts and popular vacation spots.

The security measure was taken just ahead of the anniversary of the assassination of Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh. Mughniyeh was killed in a car bombing on February 12, 2008, and Israel fears that Hezbollah, which blames Israel for the assassination, will retaliate in a terror attack against Israelis traveling abroad.

-JointMedia News Service

“Nothing to lose” by getting on Israel’s good side, Musharraf says

Click photo to download. Caption: Musharraf says that Pakistan could benefit from a relationship with Israel. Credit: World Economic Forum.In his first interview with an Israeli newspaper, former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf said that Pakistan has “nothing to lose” by forming a closer relationship with Israel, Haaretz reported.

Musharraf, who has been on self-imposed exile in London since 2008, vowed to return to Pakistan to run in the next national elections. In an interview with Haaretz, Musharraf opened up about his history with Israel, as well as how he would work on relations were he to return to the presidency.

"I felt I needed to test the waters in Pakistan when it came to Israel. Yes. We have been anti-Israel in Pakistan because of Palestine,” he said, “But…I think it's necessary to understand the changing environment … Pakistan has to keep demanding the resolution of the Palestinian dispute ... [but] Pakistan also needs to keep readjusting its diplomatic stand toward Israel based on the mere fact that it exists and is not going away."

-JointMedia News Service







Posted on January 9, 2012 and filed under Briefs, World.