Breaking News -- European Union
|Anti-Semitic Attacks Increase by 71% in Holland
by Jack Moore
The armed protection of Jewish sites by the military and police officers in Europe is only diverting attention away from rising anti-semitism, according to Holland's top Jewish leader.
Rabbi Benjamin Jacobs, the leader of the country's 30,000-strong Jewish population, noted that attitudes towards the Jewish population within the country are starting to shift for the worse, warning that implementing the security measures, while necessary, is akin to taking an aspirin for a headache.
Jacobs’ comments come as the country’s main anti-semitism watchdog, the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI), this month announced that it had recorded 171 anti-semitic incidents in 2014, compared to 100 in the year prior, representing a 71% increase.
Half of all the incidents took place during last summer’s conflict between Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip. The body said that many of the victims of such attacks were those who visually conveyed their Jewish faith by wearing kippahs and other symbols.
“The soldiers, the police in front of buildings in Holland does not solve the problem,” Jacobs says. “If someone has a headache and they take an aspirin, it’s not solving the problem, it’s just pushing away the headache.”
“So how do we solve the problem? Education. We should make sure in schools that children get the right education,” he adds. “There are certain schools where we do not talk about the Holocaust anymore and that should not be tolerated.”
Jacobs, who lives in the city of Amersfoort southeast of the Dutch capital, Amsterdam, details the different anti-semitic incidents he has faced, receiving verbal and physical abuse on a number of occasions in the last few years, something he says would never have happened two decades ago.
“If I look back, 40 years ago never ever someone could call me a dirty Jew. 20 years ago also not. But slowly we see that it is getting worse,” he says.
Despite having insults such as “dirty Jew” and “Hitler” shouted at him, bricks thrown through his windows and cars regularly beeping him, Jacobs reveals that he has always experienced a large amount of local support following the attacks.
“I’m not scared by nature but I’m worried about it. This intolerance is no good. Do I see a lot of darkness? Yes. I also see a lot of light. I don’t forget the flowers. I don’t forget the support of the people.”
Jewish communities in Europe have suffered a number of terror attacks by radical individuals in the last year. Last May, a lone gunman opened fire at a Jewish museum in the Belgian capital, Brussels, killing four people; Amedy Coulibaly, an ISIS supporter, attacked a Kosher supermarket in Paris in January killing four Jewish hostages and in February a Jewish man was killed when a lone gunman opened fire on Copenhagen’s main synagogue.
The attacks have forced European governments to implement additional security measures at Jewish institutions, such as synagogues, and have led to calls from Europe’s top Rabbi for every Jew on the continent to be able to carry a gun and defend against anti-semitic attacks.
While considering the idea of moving to Israel, Jacobs is defiant that his decision to stay or leave Holland will not be dictated by threats directed towards him and the Jewish community.
“I am Dutch, generation after generation, if I want to leave here it is my decision. It is to be made by me, myself and not by terror. I do not want to be the captain leaving the first ship. Besides the fact that I decide, I am a Rabbi and I am here for my people,” he concludes.
'EU Boycotts Israel, Not Murderers in Syria or Gaza'
by Reut Hadar, Ari Yashar
Minister Katz condemns EU 'settlement' label call as 'anti-Semitic,' asking 'what do Medjool dates have to do with politics?'
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) condemned the request by 16 of the 28 EU states to have "settlement" products from Judea and Samaria labeled, in an economic attack on Israel that was revealed on Thursday.
Writing on his Facebook page, Katz noted Friday that "European Union foreign ministers decided to boycott Israeli produce whose 'source is in the settlements'! Not Syrian produce of (Bashar al-)Assad, not Gaza (produce) of the Hamas murderers, or of any other murderous terror regime in the world. Only Israeli produce."
"What do select Medjool dates raised in the Jordan valley, or products made in Ariel and Ma'ale Adumim (most while providing a livelihood to Palestinian workers), have to do with politics?" posed the minister.
Katz berated "European hypocrisy, nourished by a combination of ancient anti-Semitism and new Islamic influence."
The 16 EU foreign ministers who signed on a letter calling for EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini to press the labeling represented Britain, France, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Malta, Ireland, Portugal, Slovenia, Croatia, Finland, Denmark, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Austria and Belgium.
Continued Jewish presence in Israel's Biblical heartland "threatens the prospect of a just and final peace agreement," they claimed in the letter, adding that labeling would make it clear to consumers what they were buying as endorsed by EU leaders at a summit in 2012.
Despite the EU claims, the 2012 Levy Report proved proved conclusively that the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria is legal according to international law. Even though the report was commissioned by Binyamin Netanyahu's government, it has yet to be adopted.
Yesh Atid chairperson Yair Lapid slammed the labeling call, declaring "there is no difference between products manufactured beyond the Green Line and products manufactured within the Green Line," in terms of the economic damage to Israel.
"This kind of a call is a stain on the European Union and Israel should fight to prevent this dangerous process," he added.
Likewise a senior Israeli diplomat told the EU "labeling products from Judea and Samaria is a yellow badge," referencing the "Jude" stars the Nazis forced Jews to wear during the Holocaust. Thursday marked Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Europe Braces for Brinkmanship Over Greece as Country Moves ‘Ever Closer to the Abyss’
by Marcus Walker
Three scenarios loom as possibilities: an easy deal, a hard deal, or no deal.
Europe is losing hope that Greece will adopt the economic policies needed to unlock bailout funds before it runs out of money.
Policy makers across the euro currency zone are bracing themselves for brinkmanship in coming weeks that could lead to a resolution—of one kind or another—but only in the face of further political and financial turmoil in Greece.
“Greece is moving ever closer to the abyss,” Slovakia’s Finance Minister Peter Kazimir said this week. Financial markets seem to agree: Yields on Greece’s three-year bonds shot up to nearly 28% on Thursday as investors priced in a high chance of default.
The eurozone usually avoids the abyss at the last minute through what it does best: political fudges.
But the gap between Greece’s antiausterity government, led by the leftist Syriza party, and the country’s creditors, led by fiscally conservative Germany, is so big that even a fudge would require spectacular U-turns by one or both sides.
The impasse is the “logical culmination” of a deeply troubled Greek bailout program “that was never politically sustainable,” says Gabriel Sterne, head of global research at consultancy Oxford Economics.
How will the deadlock end: Deal or no deal? Euro or drachma? Default, capital controls, a referendum? Here are the three main scenarios.
A deal, the easy way
By the end of April, Greece is supposed to draw up a list of economic overhauls with technocrats representing its main creditors: other eurozone governments, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Central Bank. Passing those measures into law would unlock billions of euros in near-term funding that would keep Greece solvent until summer. By then, Greece would also agree a new medium-term financing arrangement, also tied to economic policy conditions.
Almost nobody in official Europe now expects a deal in April. A deal might not happen in May either. Or June. Or until Greece’s cash runs out, which given its ability to delay public spending, might not happen until July.
The reason for the delay is that the lenders’ conditions for releasing fresh money include market-oriented overhauls that contradict Syriza’s election promises and deeply held convictions. Labor-market deregulation, pension cuts and fiscal belt-tightening challenge the raison d’être of a government that believes Greece has been subjected to an overdose of such measures already, and was elected to stop them.
This is why Greece’s talks with creditors have moved at the pace of a kohlios, or Cretan snail, since February. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is torn between creditors’ insistence and his party’s resistance. Wanting neither a rupture with Europe nor a split in Syriza, he is delaying the moment of truth.
“This government is only likely to accept some of the measures that lenders want under extreme duress,” says Nick Malkoutzis, founder of Greek analysis site MacroPolis. “Even then, it might not be able to withstand the pressure.” Some Syriza lawmakers, he says, will revolt: “The question is how many.”
A deal, the hard way
The easy way only works if it comes before a big financial disruption. But the high risk that any accord that satisfies lenders will split Syriza leads many observers to expect Greece to drag out the talks until it is forced to settle. That could happen if the government can’t make essential payments—such as repaying IMF loans that fall due in coming months.
Accelerating deposit flight from Greek banks could also force Athens’s hand. But that would depend on the ECB taking the momentous decision that it can no longer justify using increasing amounts of central-bank lending to keep Greek banks alive while political deadlock continues.
Capital controls of some kind—ranging from limits on wiring euros abroad to freezing bank accounts—might be needed to shore up Greece’s financial system if the political impasse persists, says Mr. Sterne of Oxford Economics.
Capital controls would also be likely following any Greek debt default, economists say. Their effect would be to brake or freeze economic activity in Greece, plunging the already depressed country into an even deeper slump. Pressure would mount on Mr. Tsipras to meet lenders’ conditions.
Some Greek politicians have suggested the government might resort to a referendum, to ask the Greek people to make the hard decision at the center of the country’s dispute with Europe: Should the country accept deeper retrenchment as the price of euro membership? Asking voters directly might help Mr. Tsipras to keep his party together, although many in the party would be torn about which answer to campaign for.
But during the time needed for a referendum campaign, deposit flight could worsen, meaning that a plebiscite would likely take place against the backdrop of economically damaging capital controls, says Mr. Malkoutzis of MacroPolis.
Some European officials hope Mr. Tsipras will opt to split Syriza, dumping its most hard-line antiausterity elements, and form a pragmatic governing coalition with centrist parties that would sign up to lenders’ terms. Given Syriza’s strong popularity, other parties’ weakness, and Mr. Tsipras’s aversion to a schism, that option currently looks like wishful thinking in Brussels and Berlin, rather than a realistic near-term path.
Greeks’ exhaustion after five years of drastic austerity—unmatched in scope elsewhere in Europe’s crisis-hit periphery—mean it is also possible that no government in Athens can deliver what creditors want. After all, the IMF’s demands on pension cuts, labor deregulation and tax hikes were too much for Greece’s conservative-led government last year, which was far more cooperative with lenders than Syriza.
If Athens goes to the brink and beyond, hoping against all experience that German Chancellor Angela Merkel will agree to lend Greece money without tough overhauls, the likely result would be capital controls followed at some point by the printing of a national currency and Greece’s exit from the eurozone. No country can long maintain a currency in which it can’t finance its state or its banks.
Few in Greece or Europe want “Grexit,” but that outcome will be hard to avoid if what is politically essential in Germany—the fundamental principle of austerity and overhauls in exchange for funding—proves politically impossible in Athens.
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