Tuesday, 6 July 2010

German Parliament Demands End to Gaza Blockade

Germany’s Parliament has passed a cross-party motion demanding that Israel end its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

In the joint motion passed July 1, five mainstream parties said the isolation of Gaza was not in Israel’s security interests. The text also decried weapons smuggling into Gaza and rocket attacks against Israel, and said they, too, must be stopped.

Joining in what has been described as a rare show of united criticism of Israel in Germany were the conservative Christian Democratic Union party of Chancellor Angela Merkel; its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union; the center-right Free Democratic Party, which is in the governing coalition; the opposition Social Democratic Party; and the Green Party.

Ahead of the vote, the Central Council of Jews in Germany expressed “great concern” about a growing political tendency in Germany to “hold Israel alone responsible” for the escalation in tensions in the Middle East.

The vote suggests that mainstream German politicians want to close the gap between official longtime support for Israel and growing public disaffection with Israeli policies.

According to the Deutsche Welle German public news agency, the socialist Left Party also backed the motion. Three members of the Left Party had been on the Turkish flotilla that challenged the joint Israeli naval blockade in late May. Nine people were killed and several dozen injured after Israeli naval forces boarded one of the ships to
redirect it to an Israeli port on May 31.

Israel already has eased the blockade, allowing the overland delivery of most civilian goods.

Latvian March to Mark Nazi Invasion Condemned

Latvian leaders and international Jewish groups condemned a scheduled march in Riga to mark the anniversary of the Nazi invasion of Latvia.

A Latvian district court ruled Tuesday that a small group of ultra-rightists could for the first time since World War II celebrate the Nazi occupation of the country, overturning a Riga City Council ban on Thursday’s event.

Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis and Foreign Minister Aivars Ronis said in a joint statement Wednesday that they were upset by the ruling and that “freedom of expression cannot extend to Nazi propaganda.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is scheduled to visit Latvia on July 4 for a commemoration of the genocide of Riga’s Jews.

The Anti-Defamation League in a statement Wednesday condemned the march. Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director, in the statement pointed out that the Nazi invasion of Latvia 69 years ago led to the murder of 90,000 Latvians, including 70,000 Latvian Jews and 2,000 Roma.

“To celebrate this anniversary and present the Nazis as the ‘liberators’ of Latvia is the height of insensitivity to the victims of Nazism in Latvia and across Europe,” Foxman wrote.

“We appreciate the statement of Latvia’s prime minister and the foreign ministry condemning this event. However, we are concerned that this incident is part of a larger trend among nationalists in the Baltics and elsewhere in Eastern Europe to equate the Nazi genocide with the repression and crimes of the Communists.”

Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Israel, also criticized the march.

“To celebrate the anniversary of the Nazi invasion of Riga on July 1 is to celebrate the mass murder of all those victimized by the Nazis in Latvia—primarily Jews, but also Communists, Gypsies and the mentally ill,” Zuroff said in a statement.

Pope Under Fire for Yom Kippur Eve Speech

Pope Benedict XVI has come under fire from Jewish groups in Britain following a report that his address to Parliament will occur on the eve of Yom Kippur.

The Cabinet Office has rejected requests to change the Sept. 17 speech to earlier in the day or to a different day during the pope’s four-day visit to Britain, according to the Jewish Chronicle.

Though the speech at Westminster Hall is scheduled to end before the start of the holy day, Jewish leaders have said it will impinge on preparations for Yom Kippur and will not allow Jewish leaders and lawmakers to eat before the start of the 25-hour fast.

“Sunset on the 17th is Yom Kippur. All that means is the event in Westminster Hall needs to finish in time for Jewish representatives to return home,” a spokesperson for the Conservative government told British media. “That’s always been planned for. There’s no argument around that. The Church and parliamentary authorities have agreed the timing on the day.”

Speaker of the House of Lords Baroness Helen Hayman is among the members of Parliament working to change the date of the speech.


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