Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

Anti-Israel “peace” conference in Paris today to pursue a non-viable two-state solution

January 14, 2017

Representatives of 72 countries (but not of Israel or Palestine) will  meet at the French-hosted “peace” conference starting in Paris today. Even John Kerry will attend. But the two-state solution they seek can never work. It is essentially an anti-Israel (even if not all participants are anti-Semitic) conference which will seek to “impose”  a stop to settlements and promote a two-state solution. It may even be followed up  with some new resolution against Israel next week before the Obama administration exits the stage. In fact some think that the peace conference itself may produce a document which Kerry signs, and which contains text that tries to preempt any future US actions supporting Israel.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of Israel and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have been invited to come to France after the conference to learn of its conclusions, the French news agency AFP reported. Netanyahu, who has criticized the process, saying only direct negotiations between the two parties will be effective, has said he will not travel to Paris.

The Obama/Clinton, Obama/Kerry catastrophes in the Middle East have been particularly spectacular. (As of writing the Syrian cease fire is still holding and that is thanks to first, the absence of US involvement and second, the cooperation between Turkey, Russia and Iran). The Paris meeting may be the culmination of 8 years of failed US Middle East policy.

AP writes:

The Obama administration’s eight years of unsuccessful Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy will come to a crashing end this weekend, with chances for a Mideast peace deal at perhaps their lowest ebb in a generation. A Paris peace conference attended by Secretary of State John Kerry isn’t expected to produce any tangible progress.

At a time when President-elect Donald Trump’s administration is promising a fundamental shift toward Israel, the State Department said Kerry was only participating in the French-hosted event to ensure America’s interest in a two-state solution to the conflict is preserved. The blunt statement reinforced the dwindling hopes for a diplomatic breakthrough.

Kerry “feels obliged to be there because we have an interest in advancing a two-state solution, and we also have an interest in ensuring that whatever happens in this conference is constructive and balanced,” department spokesman Mark Toner said. …….

Kerry’s biggest decision in Paris may be a political one: Whether to sign the concluding document if it includes a specific warning to Trump against moving the embassy. The Palestinians, Arab nations and others are pushing the issue, fearing the U.S. move could spark a new conflagration in an already inflamed region. French officials say the warning could be in the document.

Kerry’s signature would be a shot across the bow of Trump’s foreign policy and further undercut President Barack Obama’s promises for a smooth transition of power. Republicans and even many Democratic lawmakers reacted angrily to the administration’s U.N. vote in December and a subsequent speech by Kerry on the Israeli-Palestinian impasse. The House of Representatives even condemned the Security Council resolution.

Israel is bracing for a new U.S. policy. On Friday, the West Bank settlers’ council said it will send a delegation to Trump’s presidential inauguration next week after receiving an invitation.

To find a solution requires the game to be changed.

I think it is time to abandon the two-state solution. A one state solution (which would have an inbuilt Palestinian majority) is also a non starter. But a single Federalist state containing a number of semi-autonomous states, and where the Jewish majority states structurally would outnumber the Muslim majority states could be a way out. For example 2 West Bank states with Muslim majorities, Gaza with a Muslim majority and 5 Jewish majority states could then give 8 states in a Federal configuration. The autonomy of the individual states could be similar to that of the US states.

A Federal Israel? with 5 Jewish and 3 Muslim states?

A Federal Israel? with 5 Jewish and 3 Muslim states?


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Ayatollah Khamenei’s 14 point plan to avoid a population implosion

May 31, 2014

It is becoming increasingly obvious that population implosions in many countries  – not population explosion – is what faces humans by 2100.

Iran has seen its fertility rate reduce from close to 7 children per woman in 1960 to around an implosion level of 1.8 per woman  at the current time. For a stable population the replenishment rate required is 2.1 children per woman. Through the 1980’s Iran ran a free contraception program and the birth rate plummeted. So much so that Iran is facing a coming crisis of population implosion.

The Ayatollah Khamenei has taken notice and issued a 14 point plan to increase the fertility rate.

Reuters: In his 14-point decree, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said increasing Iran’s 76 million-strong population would “strengthen national identity” and counter “undesirable aspects of Western lifestyles”.

“Given the importance of population size in sovereign might and economic progress … firm, quick and efficient steps must be taken to offset the steep fall in birth rate of recent years,” he wrote in the edict published on his website.

Khamenei’s order – which must be applied by all three branches of government – in effect replaces the “Fewer Kids, Better Life” motto adopted in the late 1980s when contraception was made widely available.

The 14 points are (AlMonitor):

  1.  Fertlity rate to be increased above replacement level
  2. Barriers to marriage are to be eliminated, the allowable age for girls to marry will be lowered and young couples will get state support for housing
  3. Improved medical facilities during pregnancy and medical treatment for male and female infertility will be made available and health insurance will cover childbirth.
  4. Public education will emphasise the importance of the family
  5. Islamic-Iranian values and lifestyle will be promoted and undesirable influences from abroad will be discouraged
  6. A healthy lifestyle is to be encouraged and addiction to drugs and pollution will be attacked
  7. Care for the elderly shall be improved
  8. Public education shall equip students with relevant and marketable skills
  9. An equitable distribution of dwelling space must be achieved across the population
  10. Actions shall be taken to retain the rural poulation in their villages and near the borders
  11. Immigration into and out from Iran shall be actively managed
  12. The Iranian diaspora outside of Iran must be encouraged to invest in Iran and for the country to make use of their skills and abilities
  13. A national identity must be strengthened and propagated to encompass especially those living in the border regions and even those outside the country
  14. The population policy is to be closely monitored

The slogan of “Fewer Kids, Better Life” has now changed to “More children, a Happier Life”

Iran - Israel total fertility rate Google public data

Iran – Israel total fertility rate Google public data

It certainly has not escaped notice in Iran that Israel has a steady fertility rate of about 3 children per woman.

Whether this will halt the trend is not certain.

Iran will not be alone in encouraging higher fertility rates. For some countries the population implosion is already approaching and a matter of great concern.

BusinessWeekJapan is expected to see its population contract by one-fourth to 95.2 million by 2050 … making it the fastest-shrinking country in the world. Former Eastern Bloc nations Ukraine and Georgia came in second and third …. 

……. “Europe, Korea, and Japan have gone into panic mode,” says Carl Haub, a senior demographer at the Population Reference Bureau. A declining population impacts a country’s economic growth, labor market, pensions, taxation, health care, and housing, according to the U.N. Globally by 2050, the number of older persons in the world will exceed the number of young for the first time in history, according to the U.N. The imbalance will create havoc in the pension systems and make it difficult to support retired and elderly persons, Haub says.

Related:

Without immigration OECD populations will be in decline and in crisis

The inexorable numbers – 10:10:10:100 is inevitable around 2100

China relaxes highly successful one-child policy

ktwop posts on demographics

Israel is not immune from the neo-Nazi disease

May 12, 2014

Most countries in Europe have an enormous guilt complex – both singly and collectively – over the persecution of Jews in their countries for many hundreds of years and the indifference to what was happening in Germany which allowed Hitler’s Holocaust to take place. This persecution started at least 2,000 years ago but was organised  and well established by the time of the First Crusade in 1096 as the European nation-states developed and practiced enforced conversions. The Spanish Inquisition in 1478 was primarily directed at Jews (and Muslims) forced to convert to Catholicism. Much of this guilt now devolves to the credit of the nation-state of Israel even though this nation-state exists only as a consequence of  a very successful terrorist campaign carried out by Irgun and Hagganah. In a sense the creation of the nation-state of Israel was an attempt by the European countries to do what Hitler had tried to do with the Holocaust  – export the “Jewish Question” to somewhere else.

With that history of persecution of their fore-fathers, it could be expected that Jews in Israel would be especially sensitive to the persecution of minorities. But the nation-state of Israel is not synonymous with the persecuted Jews of Europe. More than 90% of Israel’s population of 8.1 million was born after the country was formed. Since the formation of Israel in 1948 (14th May), Israel and Israelis have been more of persecutors than persecuted against. And the youth of Israel have never actually experienced any persecution themselves.Their religious fanatics are just as “radicalised” and just as bent on “revenge” or Holy war as the European Muslim youth now keeping the Syrian civil war alive. Past persecution is clearly no defence against idiocy.

Right-wing neo-Nazism is alive and well all over Europe and even in Israel. And just as idiot- Mullahs radicalise Muslim youth. idiot-Rabbis drive the Israeli neo-Nazis.

HaaretzThe writer and Israel Prize laureate Amoz Oz said on Friday that those responsible for hate crimes against Arabs and Christians are “Hebrew neo-Nazis.”

Speaking at a Tel Aviv event marking his 75th birthday, Oz said that terms like “hilltop youth” and “price tag” are “sweet names for a monster that needs to be called what it is: Hebrew neo-Nazis groups.”

Oz added that in his mind, perhaps the only difference between neo-Nazis around the world and perpetrators of hate crimes in Israel is that “our neo-Nazi groups enjoy the support of numerous nationalist or even racist legislators, as well as rabbis who give them what is in my view pseudo-religious justification.”

Of course Amoz Oz is now being castigated for even using the word “Nazi” in relation to Jews. But the reality is that Israeli politicians and religious leaders give tacit support to the persecution of and discrimination against Muslims. The indignation at the use of the word “Nazi” is the same as that against Kerry for calling Israel an apartheid state.

But, I think, their indignation is misplaced and they protest too much.

Israel moves closer to constitutional apartheid

May 5, 2014

John Kerry caused a bit of a fuss a few days ago by using the apartheid word with regard to Israel.

With immediate pressure from the Jewish lobbies in the US, he backed away from his use of the word. But there is little doubt that he meant it and that Israel – which already has two classes of citizenship in practice – is moving closer to a form of constitutionally sanctioned differentiation of nationality for Jews and non-Jews. Which is indistinguishable from a separate treatment of peoples by religion. Constitutionally sanctioned, religious discrimination it surely will be. Apartheid is not too strong a word.

Guardian

Binyamin Netanyahu will push ahead with a rare change to Israel’s basic laws – which amount to the country’s constitution – to insist Israel is “the nation state of one people only – the Jewish people – and of no other people”.

At Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said the civil rights of minorities, including Arabs, would be guaranteed, and the move was vital at a time when aspects of Israel’s legitimacy were “under a constant and increasing assault from abroad and at home”. …

The proposed law would be in addition to Israel’s declaration of independence of May 1948 – the anniversary of which is celebrated on Tuesday – which defines Israel as a Jewish state.

Most of Israel’s basic laws deal with procedural issues relating to elections, the appointment of the prime minister, state payments and the administration of the judiciary, but some laws have been more controversial, including the 1980 law that designated Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Despite the intention that the new law should guarantee full equal rights, critics say it strays into contentious territory in its explicit definition which, regardless of passport and citizenship, would codify a differential notion of nationhood.

Every religion which claims some kind of special position for its own adherents – inevitably and of necessity – denigrates and sanctions discrimination against all who do not follow the “true faith”. Which is of course the fundamental weakness of every organised religion which claims to be the “true faith”. There are as many Heavens as there are organised religions.

A “faith” – by definition – is unproven and unprovable and its “truth” is indemonstrable.

Camel stories in the Old Testament were made up and long after the purported events

February 4, 2014

I suppose there are some who still believe that the stories of the Old Testament are not just fables and are an historical account.  As fables they are almost as well known as the stories of the brother’s Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson. But they are not at all a bad bunch of stories – though I always thought that a father offering up his son as a sacrifice was a sign of an evil man and not of any kind of faith to be admired. And even as a child I felt that neither the cowardly Abraham nor his tyrannical God came out of that story very well. And the grown-up son (Isaac) who allowed himself to be bound up to satisfy a demented father only comes out as an idiot.

In any event I cannot remember that I ever thought the stories were factual accounts or were anything other than fiction (which itself makes me wonder at what age we come to separate fact from fiction). To “prove” that fiction about the long dead past is not factual is, of course, trying to prove a negative. Researchers have now shown that at the purported time of the Age of the Patriarchs (supposedly 2000 – 1500 BCE), camels did not exist in the purported habitat of the purported Patriarchs (Abraham, Joseph and Jacob). I find it interesting that camels  were actually moved up from Arabia to the Levant apparently to help with a change of copper mining technology. But it is of little relevance to proving or disproving the fictions embodied in the fables of the Old Testament.

Finding Israel’s First Camels

Camels are mentioned as pack animals in the biblical stories of Abraham, Joseph, and Jacob. But archaeologists have shown that camels were not domesticated in the Land of Israel until centuries after the Age of the Patriarchs (2000-1500 BCE). In addition to challenging the Bible’s historicity, this anachronism is direct proof that the text was compiled well after the events it describes.

Now Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef and Dr. Lidar Sapir-Hen of Tel Aviv University‘sDepartment of Archaeology and Near Eastern Cultures have used radiocarbon dating to pinpoint the moment when domesticated camels arrived in the southern Levant, pushing the estimate from the 12th to the 9th century BCE.  …. 

Archaeologists have established that camels were probably domesticated in the Arabian Peninsula for use as pack animals sometime towards the end of the 2nd millennium BCE. In the southern Levant, where Israel is located, the oldest known domesticated camel bones are from the Aravah Valley, which runs along the Israeli-Jordanian border from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea and was an ancient center of copper production. At a 2009 dig, Dr. Ben-Yosef dated an Aravah Valley copper smelting camp where the domesticated camel bones were found to the 11th to 9th century BCE. In 2013, he led another dig in the area.

To determine exactly when domesticated camels appeared in the southern Levant, Dr. Sapir-Hen and Dr. Ben-Yosef used radiocarbon dating and other techniques to analyze the findings of these digs as well as several others done in the valley. In all the digs, they found that camel bones were unearthed almost exclusively in archaeological layers dating from the last third of the 10th century BCE or later — centuries after the patriarchs lived and decades after the Kingdom of David, according to the Bible. The few camel bones found in earlier archaeological layers probably belonged to wild camels, which archaeologists think were in the southern Levant from the Neolithic period or even earlier. Notably, all the sites active in the 9th century in the Arava Valley had camel bones, but none of the sites that were active earlier contained them.

The appearance of domesticated camels in the Aravah Valley appears to coincide with dramatic changes in the local copper mining operation. Many of the mines and smelting sites were shut down; those that remained active began using more centralized labor and sophisticated technology, according to the archaeological evidence. The researchers say the ancient Egyptians may have imposed these changes — and brought in domesticated camels — after conquering the area in a military campaign mentioned in both biblical and Egyptian sources.

……. The arrival of domesticated camels promoted trade between Israel and exotic locations unreachable before, according to the researchers; the camels can travel over much longer distances than the donkeys and mules that preceded them. By the seventh century BCE, trade routes like the Incense Road stretched all the way from Africa through Israel to India. Camels opened Israel up to the world beyond the vast deserts, researchers say, profoundly altering its economic and social history.

Another Israeli assasination? Iranian deputy minister killed

November 11, 2013

It may be just my perception. But I don’t think it is so far-fetched that Israeli foreign policy in support of its perceived security interests is supremely pragmatic and uncluttered by any ethical concerns. In matters of security of the Israeli State, it seems that ethics is just not relevant. While most of their diplomatic efforts are often channeled through friendly nations (the US or France ..) it does not seem unlikely that they also have extensive covert activities as a back-up.

That Israel conducts targeted killings as an almost routine activity does not seem implausible and has led to much speculation. The alleged poisoning of Arafat (by radative polonium) has also been put down to Israeli agents. The possibility of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons and rendering their own relatively toothless is serious enough that systematically assassinating key figures in Iran’s nuclear programme would seem justified to Israel.

This particular killing is apparently of a relatively unimportant deputy minister — but who knows?

BBC: An unknown attacker has shot dead Iran’s deputy industry minister. Safdar Rahmatabadi was driving in Tehran’s Sabalan Square late on Sunday when he was shot once in the head and once in the chest, the state news agency IRNA reported. A police officer told the agency that the attacker appeared to have been inside Mr Rahmatabadi’s vehicle and spoke to him before opening fire. …..

Assassinations of officials are not unheard of in Iran, in particular scientists connected with the country’s nuclear programme. In January 2012 a car bomb killed university lecturer Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, who also worked at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility. 

Earlier in November a public prosecutor and his driver were killed in the restive frontier province of Sistan Baluchistan, which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, Mr Rahmatabadi, whose portfolio also included mining and commerce, was seen as a low-profile official. He served in a similar role under the country’s previous President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. 

The shooting comes as Iran, under newly-elected President Hassan Rouhani, engages in talks with six world powers on its nuclear programme. Tehran maintains it is enriching uranium for civilian uses but Western countries have long suspected Iran of a secret nuclear weapons programme.

France does Israel’s bidding and “spoils” nuclear deal with Iran

November 10, 2013

The French – Israeli nuclear cooperation goes back a long way to 1956. That Israel’s “secret” Nuclear Weapon’s programme has long been assisted and enabled by the French is also one of those open secrets that is never officially acknowledged.

HaaretzMay 9, 2007

Israel and France once made a secret deal to produce a nuclear bomb together, according to a new biography of Vice Premier Shimon Peres. The deal was later cancelled, but the disclosure in the book by historian Michael Bar-Zohar sheds new light on the depth of France’s involvement in Israel’s nuclear program.

Bar-Zohar told Reuters his information came from recently released documents from Israeli and French government archives relating to the key role Peres, now 83, played in launching Israel’s nuclear project more than half a century ago. The book divulges new details of how Peres served as a behind-the-scenes architect of Israel’s military might, securing weapons secretly and buying an atomic reactor from France. …

Experts believe Israel has used the Dimona reactor it built with French help in the 1960s to produce as many as 200 nuclear warheads. Israel neither confirms nor denies it has atomic weapons, saying only it will not be the first country to introduce them to the Middle East. …..

The most significant, experts say, is a secret agreement Peres signed in 1957 with then French Prime Minister Maurice Bourges-Maunoury in Paris, several months after the deal for the reactor was concluded. “It stated in so many words that the two nations would cooperate in research and production of nuclear weapons,” the book says.

France ultimately scrapped that agreement several years later under the weight of enormous United States diplomatic pressure for it to cease its nuclear cooperation with Israel.

The so-called formal scrapping of the deal has long been recognised as a public relations gesture which has little to do with actual cooperation on the ground. Now Israel probably has something in excess of 100 and maybe up to 200 nuclear warheads.

Federation of American ScientistsIn the fall of 1956, France agreed to provide Israel with an 18 MWt research reactor. However, the onset of the Suez Crisis a few weeks later changed the situation dramatically. Following Egypt’s closure of the Suez Canal in July, France and Britain had agreed with Israel that the latter should provoke a war with Egypt to provide the European nations with the pretext to send in their troops as peacekeepers to occupy and reopen the canal zone. In the wake of the Suez Crisis, the Soviet Union made a thinly veiled threat against the three nations. This episode not only enhanced the Israeli view that an independent nuclear capability was needed to prevent reliance on potentially unreliable allies, but also led to a sense of debt among French leaders that they had failed to fulfill commitments made to a partner. French premier Guy Mollet is even quoted as saying privately that France “owed” the bomb to Israel.

On 3 October 1957, France and Israel signed a revised agreement calling for France to build a 24 MWt reactor (although the cooling systems and waste facilities were designed to handle three times that power) and, in protocols that were not committed to paper, a chemical reprocessing plant. This complex was constructed in secret, and outside the IAEA inspection regime, by French and Israeli technicians at Dimona, in the Negev desert under the leadership of Col. Manes Pratt of the IDF Ordinance Corps.

That Israel is not happy that Iran may reach a deal with the West and get sanctions lifted and be able to continue with the bulk of their nuclear program is only to be expected. That Israel would turn to France to be the spoiler in the discussions with Iran is also not surprising. And it is patently obvious that France is doing Israel’s bidding and is being intransigient at the Geneva discussions.

But how long can or will France be ready to continue in their “spoiler” role? Francois Hollande has enough troubles of his own not to also wish to be seen as Netanyahu’s poodle.

Perhaps a year?

The GuardianSunday 10 November 2013

Three gruelling days of high-level and high-stakes diplomacy came to an end in Geneva with no agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme, after France blocked a stopgap deal aimed at defusing tensions and buying more time for negotiations. …

The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, also sought to play down the disagreements that had surfaced with France, and the divisions between the six-nation group, known as the P5+1. ….

….. other diplomats at the talks were furious with the role of the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, whom they accused of breaking ranks by revealing details of the negotiations as soon as he arrived in Geneva on Saturday morning, and then breaking protocol again by declaring the results to the press before Ashton and Zarif had arrived at the final press conference.

But there is also a purely commercial aspect to the French “spoiling”. The animosity between Saudi Arabia and Iran is not to be underestimated and the the French desire for being Saudi’s preferred supplier is almost without limit. Upsetting Iran gains them brownie points with Saudi. They are on much safer ground here since Saudi does not have the capability of running its own nuclear programme in any foreseeable future. Nuclear power plant in Saudi supplied by France would not pose any great threat to Israel.

But one day – when the balances are different –  Saudi  may well have enough money to buy a few warheads and I would not be surprised if France is then at the front of the pack of potential vendors.

Saudi GazetteOctober 03, 2013

French companies AREVA and EDF hosted a number of Saudi business and industry representatives at their Second Suppliers Day event held in Jeddah on Tuesday to take part in the framework of the sustainable energy program suggested by King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-CARE) focused on nuclear and renewable energy sources. …. 

Speaking to the Saudi Gazette, the French Ambassador to the Kingdom said “the aim of this meeting is very clear, France has been the first country to sign government to government agreement on nuclear and energy because we do think that taking it into account the huge program the Saudi government wants to implement in the nuclear field and France has a lot to bring in terms of the best nuclear technology in the world.”

Besancenot added that Saudi Arabia is a strategic partner of France in the region and the bilateral relationship is of paramount importance in the economic field as “we are seeing that bilateral trade has doubled over the last five years.” He stressed that France is ready to be Saudi Arabia’s strategic partner in the field of nuclear and renewable energy. He also highlighted the competencies of France’s nuclear energy industry and its ability to support the Kingdom goal.

Genetic study shows Ashkenazi Jews descend from men from the Levant and their European wives

October 8, 2013

Social distinctions between Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews. and the Ashkenazim still persist and of course the Ethiopian Jews are a class apart. This latest study published in Nature Communications which shows that the Ashkenazim derive from male ancestors from the Levant who moved to Europe and took local women as wives will not be without its detractors.

Marta D. Costa, Joana B. Pereira, Maria Pala, Verónica Fernandes, Anna Olivieri, Alessandro Achilli, Ugo A. Perego, Sergei Rychkov, Oksana Naumova, Jiři Hatina, Scott R. Woodward, Ken Khong Eng, Vincent Macaulay, Martin Carr, Pedro Soares, Luísa Pereira and Martin B. Richards, A substantial prehistoric European ancestry amongst Ashkenazi maternal lineages, Nature Communications 4, Article number: 2543, doi:10.1038/ncomms3543

Abstract:The origins of Ashkenazi Jews remain highly controversial. Like Judaism, mitochondrial DNA is passed along the maternal line. Its variation in the Ashkenazim is highly distinctive, with four major and numerous minor founders. However, due to their rarity in the general population, these founders have been difficult to trace to a source. Here we show that all four major founders, ~40% of Ashkenazi mtDNA variation, have ancestry in prehistoric Europe, rather than the Near East or Caucasus. Furthermore, most of the remaining minor founders share a similar deep European ancestry. Thus the great majority of Ashkenazi maternal lineages were not brought from the Levant, as commonly supposed, nor recruited in the Caucasus, as sometimes suggested, but assimilated within Europe. These results point to a significant role for the conversion of women in the formation of Ashkenazi communities, and provide the foundation for a detailed reconstruction of Ashkenazi genealogical history.

There is a belief that all Ashkanazim are descended from just 4 women who migrated to Europe but this study contradicts that. The NYT reports that some opposition to the results is already evident:

….. The finding establishes that the women who founded the Ashkenazi Jewish community of Europe were not from the Near East, as previously supposed, and reinforces the idea that many Jewish communities outside Israel were founded by single men who married and converted local women.

The study, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, is based on a genetic analysis of maternal lineages. A team led by Martin B. Richards of the University of Leeds in England took a fresh look at Ashkenazi lineages by decoding the entire mitochondrial genomes of people from Europe and the Near East. ….

This uncertainty seemed to be resolved by a survey published in 2006. Its authors reported that the four most common mitochondrial DNA lineages among Ashkenazis came from the Near East, implying that just four Jewish women were the ancestresses of nearly half of today’s Ashkenazim. Under this scenario, it seemed more likely that the Ashkenazim were the result of a migration of whole communities of men and women together. ….

With the entire mitochondrial genome in hand, Dr. Richards could draw up family trees with a much finer resolution than before. His trees show that the four major Ashkenazi lineages in fact form clusters within descent lines that were established in Europe some 10,000 to 20,000 years ago. The same is true of most of the minor lineages.

“Thus the great majority of Ashkenazi maternal lineages were not brought from the Levant, as commonly supposed,” Dr. Richards and colleagues conclude in their paper. Overall, at least 80 percent of Ashkenazi maternal ancestry comes from women indigenous to Europe, and 8 percent from the Near East, with the rest uncertain, the researchers estimate. …

Dr. Richards estimates that the four major lineages became incorporated into the Ashkenazi community at least 2,000 years ago. A large Jewish community flourished in Rome at this time and included many converts. This community could have been the source of both the Ashkenazim of Europe and the Sephardim of Spain and Portugal, given that the two groups have considerable genetic commonality, Dr. Richards said.

EurekAlert: In the vast majority of cases, Ashkenazi lineages are most closely related to southern and western European lineages – and that these lineages have been present in Europe for many thousands of years.

This means that, even though Jewish men may indeed have migrated into Europe from Palestine around 2000 years ago, they brought few or no wives with them. They seem to have married with European women, firstly along the Mediterranean, especially in Italy, and later (but probably to a lesser extent) in western and central Europe. This suggests that, in the early years of the Diaspora, Judaism took in many converts from amongst the European population, but they were mainly recruited from amongst women. Thus, on the female line of descent, the Ashkenazim primarily trace their ancestry neither to Palestine nor to Khazaria, but to southern and western Europe.

Could twitter diplomacy be today as ping-pong was then.. ?

September 7, 2013

Forty odd years ago it was ping-pong diplomacy which was used to break the stalemate of the the China -US section of the cold war. (And where would Forrest Gump have been without it?)

The era of Ping-Pong diplomacy had begun .. (in 1971) ….  when the American team—in Nagoya, Japan, for the World Table Tennis Championship—got a surprise invitation from their Chinese colleagues to visit the People’s Republic. Time magazine called it “The ping heard round the world.” And with good reason: no group of Americans had been invited to China since the Communist takeover in 1949.

It could be an electronic “ping” from Iran to Israel in the 21st century.

Now it is Iranian tweets. Israel is “perplexed and pleased” at the messages from the new Iranian President and his Foreign Minister sending Rosh Hashanah wishes to Jews around the world.

Hassan Rouhani.

Hassan Rouhani. Photo: REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

Jerusalem Post:

Israelis reacted with a mixture of pleasant surprise and wary skepticism on Friday to reports that the new Iranian president and his foreign minister had both issued greetings to mark the Jewish New Year.

Relations between the two countries have been dire for years, with Israel threatening to attack the Islamic Republic over fears it is planning to build nuclear weapons that could one day jeopardize the survival of the Jewish state.

Haaretz: 

After sending out Rosh Hashanah wishes to Jews around the world, Iran’s foreign minister tweets that Iran doesn’t deny the Holocaust in response to a tweet by Nancy Pelosi’s daughter.

Reuters:

In a change of tone, his successor Hassan Rouhani and the new foreign minister, Javad Zarif, appeared to issue tweets in English wishing Jews a good Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish new year that is being celebrated this week. Iran has long declared an official respect for the Jewish faith while condemning Israel.

“Happy Rosh Hashanah,” tweeted Zarif on a profile that notes his career as a diplomat, academic and “Uni of Denver alum”.

The reported greetings came just as Israel was settling into a long holiday weekend and there was no official reaction.

But of course Iran has always held that it is Israel and not Jews that Iran is opposed to. Reuters continues:

Confusing matters, Israeli news websites quoted an official in the Iranian president’s office denying any New Year greetings had been sent and saying Rouhani’s English-language Twitter account, used during his election campaign, was not active.

There was no denial from Zarif and the minister went further to push back on a comment that Iran denies the Nazi Holocaust: “Iran never denied it. The man who was perceived to be denying it is now gone,” he tweeted, apparently meaning Ahmadinejad.

On Facebook, he wrote: “We condemn the massacre of Jews by the Nazis and we condemn the massacre of Palestinians by the Zionists.”

Iran is home to the second largest Jewish community in the Middle East – albeit only a few thousand people following mass emigration last century. It denies Israel’s right to exist but even Ahmadinejad embraced some Jews – as long as they rejected the Zionist movement that established the Israeli state.

Neither Rouhani or Zarif mentioned the word “Israel”.

Perhaps it is the right time – with Syria in the background – for an Israeli “pong” to Iran’s “ping”.

Israel Education Ministry bans sex education material in text books

September 3, 2013

One has to conclude that everything is circular. If you go far enough to the Right you approach the Extreme Left. If you go to the extremes of one religion you approach the extremists of another.

Ultra-orthodox Imams and Rabbis, invariably male, seem to share a similar view of women and sex and sex education.

The Orthodox religious right in Israel has just got its way in its effort to return to good old-fashioned prudery.

Haaretz reports that “Chapters on human reproduction don’t accord with state religious school system’s educational doctrine for junior high schools, says Education Ministry”.

The Education Ministry has asked textbook publishers to eliminate chapters on human reproduction, pregnancy prevention and sexually transmitted diseases from science textbooks used in state religious junior high schools as well as from their teacher manuals.

The Guardian writes:

State education in Israel is divided into religious and secular sectors for Jewish children, with separate schools for Arab children. Many ultra-Orthodox Jews send their children to segregated private schools, with strict controls on curricula, behaviour and dress. Around a quarter of Israeli children attend ultra-Orthodox schools, according to 2010 data – a figure that is steadily rising.

Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Israeli Religious Action Centre, which advocates progressive Judaism, described the education ministry’s move as a “slippery slope. When we start filtering science for modesty reasons, that in the end will hinder our ability to teach science to Israeli children,” she said. …. The move should be seen in the context of the growing influence of rightwing rabbis in Israel. “Modesty considerations are being used as a political tool to keep women ‘in their place’,” she said.

Some elements of the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel have campaigned in recent years to remove images of women from advertising hoardings, and impose gender segregation on buses and in other public spheres.

The education ministry said the changes did not cover pictures of women. “The image of women has a place and expression in school textbooks,” it said.

But what the ultra-Orthodox want in Israel is not so very different from what Hamas wants in Gaza.

Israel National News reported in June this year:

A new law passed by the Hamas government in Gaza banning co-ed schools has left many Christians fearful that their schools are in danger of closure, according to the Beirut-based Al-Akhbar daily.

The new law, which mandates gender segregation in all schools, also bans men from teaching at girls’ schools. The law will likely force Christian educational institutions to close their doors to Muslim and Christian students alike, reported the newspaper.

Mutassim Minawi, director of public relations at Gaza’s education ministry, …… argued that “the Gaza Strip’s culture is conservative and does not favor gender mixing. The majority of Palestinians in Gaza praised the law and only leftist parties criticized it.”

Several months ago, Gaza’s Hamas terrorist rulers took another step towards the implementation of strict Islamic sharia law in the region by introducing a strict dress code for female students at the Al-Aqsa University. A letter distributed to students in November stated that all students should wear “modest clothing” on campus.

Since violently taking over Gaza in 2007, Hamas has enforced a stringent interpretation of Islamic law in Gaza. The terror group has banned women and teenagers from smoking hookahs in public, ordered that women’s clothing stores are not allowed to have dressing rooms, men cannot have hairdressing salons for women and that mannequins shaped like women must be dressed in modest clothing.


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