World Briefs 2-21-12

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Egypt cranks up the heat on Syria as Jordan prepares for refugees

Click photo to download. Caption: Syrian President Bashar Assad (R) meets with the Chairman of the Russian Duma's International Affairs Committee, Aleksey Pushkov (L) in Damascus, Syria. According to the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), Pushkov expressed his country's support for the underway reforms in Syria and the need to continue efforts to reach a political solution to the crisis. Credit: EPA/SANABashar al-Assad’s crackdown on rebels continues in Syria. Government forces led an assault on resistance forces in Homs on Tuesday, with Irael Radio reporting 21 dead.

According to Israel Hayom, Aleksey Pushkov, the Chairman of the Russian Duma’s International Affairs Committee, met with Bashar al-Assad amidst massive protests in Damascus on Monday. Russia, although previously lightly chastising the government, has been largely supportive of the Assad regime.

The Egyptian state news agency, MENA, reported Sunday that Egypt was withdrawing its ambassador from Syria.

Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Amr Roshdy told reporters Sunday that the decision to recall the ambassador sent “a message of Egypt’s dissatisfaction with the situation in Syria.”

Roshdy also said that while other staff will remain in the embassy in Damascus, the move is in “the interest of the Syrian people.” Syria responded by also recalling its ambassador from Egypt.

JointMedia News Service

Iran flexes military muscle

Click photo to download. Caption: An Iranian ship crosses the Suez canal, Egypt, on February 22, 2011. According to a media report on February 18, 2012, two Iranian warships docked at a Syrian port. The vessels, a destroyer and a supply ship, are to provide maritime training to Syria's navy under an agreement between the two countries. Credit: EPA/STR The Iranian News Agency Mehr reported on Saturday that an Iranian destroyer and supply ship entered the Mediterranean Sea through the Suez Canal (with permission from Egypt), and docked at the Syrian port of Tartus. Iranian Navy Chief Adm. Habibollah Sayyari said that the naval detachment brought a “message of peace and friendship to the nations in the region,” but emphasized that they were also “a show of the Islamic Republic’s force and might,” Israel Hayom reported. Iran and Syria agreed to cooperate on naval training a year ago, and Tehran currently maintains no naval agreement with any other country in the region.

Media outlets reported on Saturday that Israel was closely monitoring the Iranian ships.

On Sunday, Iran’s Ministry of Petroleum announced that it will no longer supply oil to Britain and France. The announcement, reported in Le Monde, is an apparent attempt at retaliation for the two countries’ ban on Iranian oil. The move is not expected to harm Britain or France, according to the Wall Street Journal, as Britain already does not rely on Iranian oil and France recently ended its business with Iran as well.

Meanwhile, U.N. nuclear inspectors arrived in Iran on Sunday, to speak with Iranian nuclear officials and assess the status of Iran’s nuclear program. This meeting, which came a day after Israel faced international pressure against a potential attack on Iran, is expected to determine the fate of international tension surrounding Iran’s nuclear program, Reuters reported.

JointMedia News Service

Chabad breaks the ice with mission to Antarctica

Chabad has gone where no Jewish movement has gone before: Antarctica. Last Wednesday, Chabad emissary Meir Alfasi set sail from Argentina to Antarctica, heading off, he said, “on a mission from the Rebbe,” Israel Hayom reported.

“The Lubavitcher Rebbe issued a directive that the Tanya [the foundational book of Lubavitch Hasidism] be printed in every place where there are Jews, even if it is just one Jew living in a remote place,” Alfasi told Israel Hayom from the frozen continent. “There are several Jewish scientists living in Antarctica, as well as Jewish travelers, of course, who visit.”

One of the greatest challenges to Chabad emissaries in remote places is the religious requirement to pray in a minyan, or quorum of 10. The other great challenge is obtaining kosher food. Alfasi came well prepared, traveling with 10 Jews and packages of sliced bread, fruit, and vegetables.  

JointMedia News Service

Charlie Chaplin: Jew? Gypsy? Communist?

Click photo to download. Caption: According to recently released documents, MI5 investigated Charlie Chaplin's origins under the request of the FBI. Although his birth place was never found, one theory is that Chaplin's real name was Israel Thornstein.In documents recently released by Britain’s intelligence agency, MI5, it was revealed that in an effort to determine silent film star Charlie Chaplin’s communist affiliations, the FBI requested that MI5 look into Chaplin’s birthplace, the Associated Press reported. However, MI5 found no records to substantiate Chaplin’s claim that he was born in London in 1889. 

“It would seem that Chaplin was either not born in this country or that his name at birth was other than those mentioned,” MI5 concluded, according to the Associated Press. Although there was a longstanding rumor that Chaplin’s birth name was Israel Thornstein, MI5 agents could find no record of this name either. MI5 agents also speculated that Chaplin might have been born in Russia. Although they were never able to discover his birthplace, MI5 agents reportedly doubted concerns of his being a communist.

The United States government disagreed, however, and refused Chaplin re-entry into the States in 1952. Chaplin subsequently moved to Switzerland, and lived there until his death in 1977. 

JointMedia News Service

Report of attack against Barak false, Israel says

Israeli officials are denying a report by a Kuwaiti newspaper that Mossad and Singapore security forces foiled a terror attack targeting Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the Israel National News reported.

According to the Al-Jarida newspaper, Barak visited Singapore for an international aviation exhibition. Israeli officials reportedly told the newspaper that three Iranians, together with Hezbollah, tried to find out information about Barak’s schedule so that they could execute a shooting attack.

However, the Israeli embassy’s deputy chief of mission Michal Sarig-Kaduri told AFP that “The ministerial visit went according to plan and no unusual incident occurred. There are absolutely no grounds for this report.”

—JointMedia News Service

17 Polish Jews certified as kosher supervisors

Seventeen Polish Jews were officially certified as kosher supervisors in Krakow last week for the first time since the Holocaust. The certification occurred as part of a three-day training seminar run by the Jerusalem-based Shavei Israel organization.

The Polish Jewish community has been growing in recent years and so has the demand for locally produced kosher foods. Many of these Jews have come to be called “hidden Jews” because they lost touch with their Jewish heritage after the Second World War. Many of them were hidden and raised as Christians, or they converted. Later, many hid their Jewish identity under the communist regime. As generations passed, the Jewish heritage was even more forgotten until young Poles began rediscovering it in recent years. The 17 graduates are all in their 20s and 30s, according to a press release.

“Most Polish Jews grew up unaware of the laws of keeping kosher. By training a cadre of kosher supervisors, we are helping Poland’s Jews to reconnect with their heritage,” said Michael Freund, Founder and Chairman of Shavei Israel. 

—JointMedia News Service


Posted on February 21, 2012 and filed under Briefs, World.