Strong earthquake strikes Indonesia; 2 dead

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Strong earthquake strikes Indonesia; 2 dead

Motorists in Cilacap, Indonesia, are stuck in traffic as they try to reach higher ground amid fears of a tsunami after an earthquake. A tsunami warning was canceled.

(CNN)Two people were killed and seven others were injured when a strong earthquake hit Indonesia late Friday, authorities said.

The 6.5-magnitude quake was centered in Cipatujah, in the western part of Java, the US Geological Survey said, at a depth of 91.9 kilometers (about 57 miles).
Residents felt the quake about 190 miles away (305 kilometers) in the capital of Jakarta, where people briefly evacuated to the ground floor of their high-rises.

Residents gather outside their apartment blocks in Jakarta after the earthquake.

Tremors were also felt in the cities of Bandung, more than 63.5 miles away (102.1 kilometers) and Yogyakarta, more than 211 miles away (339.9 kilometers), authorities said.
A tsunami alert was issued after the quake, which Indonesian authorities recorded at 11:47 p.m. as 6.9 magnitude, according to Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for Indonesia’s National Disaster Management and Mitigation Agency
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The two victims were buried in rubble, one in Ciamis, in West Java, and the other in Pekalongan, in Central Java, emergency officials said.
A few hundred homes and buildings were destroyed or damaged, the officials said. Several hospitals were damaged. Seventy patients from Banyumas Hospital were moved to tents and another temporary shelter.

Patients are evacuated outside a hospital in Banyumas overnight after an earthquake.

Fears of a tsunami prompted people to evacuate their homes for higher ground, but there were no reports of tsunamis occurring along the southern coasts of western, central and eastern Java and the city of Yogyakarta.
The alert was lifted at 2:30 a.m., the spokesman said.
Most residents returned to their homes on Saturday and they were advised to seek temporary shelter if their dwellings aren’t safe. Several aftershocks continue to be felt in the areas hit by the quake, emergency officials said.
An earthquake on December 7, 2016, struck Indonesia’s Aceh province in Sumatra and killed at least 100 people.

THIS ARTICLE IS ABOUT HOW THE STOCK MARKET KILLS GOOD JOBS

I BELIEVE THAT STOCK MARKETS ARE A PONZI SCHEME THAT KILLS THE WORKING FAMILIES

 

About 4:15 PM, EST today I reblogged a story from the ‘Times Of Israel’ about a large Pharmaceutical Company based in Jerusalem that it is said is getting ready to cut about 10,000 jobs within the next two years. The headline spoke a simple reality, basically it said that the Stock values jumped once the news got out. Folks I posted that article because it was no surprise to me, and in reality, this is the expected obvious result of 10,000 people and their families losing their jobs, their incomes.

A young lady who is one of my readers, and I one of hers, left me a comment, her opinion about this article and I would like to share her thoughts and mine with you now. This young lady has an excellent Website that I hope you will take a few moments of your time to check into. I did something that I don’t ever remember doing and that is that I did a copy paste of her comment to me and my somewhat long comment to her, Ms. Laina. Ms. Laina’s Blog Site can be found at (the silentwaveblog.wordpress.com).

Years ago, my gut instincts told me that either severely restricting, totally revamping, or even maybe completely abolishing the stock market might be a good thing. Glad to know that 1) I’m not alone and 2) we might be onto something! 👏🏼👏🏼👍🏼

And this is my reply to Ms. Laina.

Yep, think about it, just like in this case, when a company announces lay off’s their stock value goes up. When a company breaks a union, their stock value goes up. When a company moves their production to a third world country, their stock values goes up. What is in common with all of these is that the total labor cost go down so the profits go up. When Wal-Mart and Target announced that they were going to give their employees a raise, their stock values took a dive. When a company moves from the U.S. to China or Indonesia they know that their costs are going to go down, labor cost, EPA costs go way down, there is no OSHA, all of these things increase profits so the stock value goes up. As I am sure that you have noticed, when a company cuts their costs by lets say 50%, there is no reduction in the cost of their products on the store shelves. It is all about the profit for the company executives and for the stock holders, all at the expense the workforce. The stock market is nothing but a Ponzi Scheme to rob from the poorest to give to the richest, it should be totally illegal, but that is never going to happen.

Rise of Hard-liners Alarms Moderates in Indonesia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

World

Rise of Hard-liners Alarms Moderates in Indonesia

Protesters take to the streets in Jakarta on April 28 to demonstrate against outgoing Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama. (Goh Chai Hin/AFP via Getty Images)

Jakarta, Indonesia- In¬mid-February, Muhammad al-Khaththath, leader of the hard-line Muslim Community Forum, held court on the top floor of a Jakarta fast-food joint. With key deputies gathered around, he explained the direction in which he hoped to push relatively secular, democratic Indonesia.

Sharia would become the law of the land, non-Muslims would lose their leadership posts and thieves, in accordance with Islamic law, would have their hands lopped off, he said. He also criticized Joko Widodo, Indonesia’s pluralist president.

Widodo “isn’t a liberal Muslim,” Khaththath said. “He’s a Muslim who doesn’t get it.”

Six weeks later, Khaththath was detained on treason charges, accused of plotting a coup. But in an April 19 runoff election for governor of Jakarta, his preferred candidate, fellow Muslim Anies Baswedan, defeated the Christian incumbent, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, after a campaign laden with religious overtones.

Since then, hard-line Islamist groups have gained stature; their ability to mobilize huge crowds was considered crucial to securing Baswedan’s lopsided victory. But a strong backlash also has emerged, led by moderate Muslims who worry that conservative Islamists are wrecking Indonesia’s tradition of religious tolerance.

Khaththath had taken over as the leader of a powerful protest movement against Purnama, a Widodo ally, in the months leading up to the gubernatorial election, after the previous leader was summoned by police on pornography charges.

But police came for Khaththath in late March, escorting him from his hotel room to the detention facility where he remains. A few weeks later, on the eve of the election, Khaththath managed to send a letter to his supporters.

“From my detention room, I tap on the sky door,” Khaththath wrote. He hoped the tap would be felt by “every Muslim heart” and would persuade the faithful to “choose a Muslim governor.”

Not every Muslim heart felt the tap, but enough did to secure a clean victory for Baswedan. The high-stakes election campaign was marked by the largest conservative rallies in generations, as well as by intensifying — and controversial — legal efforts by the Indonesian government to rein in the hard-line groups’ leadership.

Now that the election is over, many moderate Muslim leaders say they are treating it as a wake-up call about the growing power of Indonesian hard-line organizations and the need to take stern action to stop them.

“I am not worried about the candidates who won,” said Sidarto Danusobroto, a former speaker of the Senate and key adviser to the president. “I am worried about the groups that supported them — the Islamic Defenders Front and Hizbut Tahrir.”

“Islam is different from how the Islamic Defenders Front portrays it,” said Mohammad Nuruzzaman, head of strategic research for Ansor, a moderate Muslim youth movement that has been working with the police to break up hard-line Muslim gatherings.

In one of a number of efforts in the past few weeks to curb extremists, police officials and nationalist groups in the central Javanese town of Semarang prevented the Islamic Defenders Front from opening a branch.

“We have a tolerant city,” said Iwan Santoso, a representative from the Red and White, a group that takes its name from the colors of the Indonesian flag. “We don’t want students to be instigated.”

This past week, police in East Java, apparently acting at the urging of moderate Muslims or nationalists, shut down a planned university event featuring Felix Siauw, a Chinese Indonesian convert to Islam who has become a major hard-line preacher. In a Web video subsequently uploaded to his Facebook page, Siauw said, “We should have a nation of laws, and the laws should apply to all.”

But moderate Muslim and civil society groups increasingly are calling for bans on organizations that push for the creation of a caliphate. Nuruzzaman, of Ansor, compared such organizations to the Indonesian Communist Party, a boogeyman from Indonesia’s past.

“The goal of Communists and those who support the caliphate are similar — both want all countries in the world to be run under one system,” he said.

Last Tuesday, police announced that they were reviewing the legality of Hizbut Tahrir because of the international Islamist group’s embrace of a global caliphate. Muhammad Ismail ¬Yusanto, a spokesman for Hizbut Tahrir here, protested that its goal of establishing a caliphate does not violate the Indonesian constitution.

“All we do is convey Islam’s teachings,” he said in an interview. Besides, he argued, the constitution can be amended.

Hizbut Tahrir is banned in many countries around the world, including Germany, China, Egypt and numerous other Arab states. But it has operated for nearly 20 years in democratic Indonesia.

Some rights activists oppose banning the group. Andreas Harsono, Indonesia representative of Human Rights Watch, said that although Hizbut Tahrir’s ideology is deeply discriminatory — toward women, LGBT people and minority faiths — that does not mean the organization should be shut down.

“It is not illegal to say, ‘I want to discriminate against women,’ ” he argued, acknowledging that the case is “complicated.”

More worrying to Harsono are the Indonesian government’s efforts to pursue radical religious leaders for alleged offenses unrelated to their Islamist activism, or on exaggerated charges. Habib Rizieq, perhaps the nation’s most powerful hard-line figure, was brought in for questioning by police over pornographic images he is alleged to have exchanged with a woman who is not his wife, while Khaththath was charged with trying to organize a coup.

“It’s very concerning,” said Harsono, who said he knows of no evidence that Khaththath was plotting the violent overthrow of the government.

Marcus Mietzner, an associate professor at Australian National University, expressed concern that heavy-handed charges would harm Indonesia’s democracy.

“What they should not do is arbitrarily throw criminal charges at individual leaders that are either excessive, like the treason accusation, or unrelated, as the pornography case,” he wrote in an email. “This, in turn, will only increase the sense of victimization among conservative Muslims.”

That already appears to be happening. Achmad Sofyan, a Khaththath deputy who was also investigated by police, said: “It isn’t fair. The case was engineered.”

Mietzner suggested that the government has legal ways to handle hard-line groups but has opted for different tactics in part to avoid a messy public debate. If the state prosecuted these groups, “it would have to argue in front of the courts why Islam should not be Indonesia’s primary legal-political foundation,” he wrote.

For Nuruzzaman, it is crucial to oppose the hard-liners, whatever the difficulties.

“We don’t want the government to take repressive measures,” he said. Nonetheless, “we have to confront them.”

The Washington Post

Jakarta Ex-Governor Ahok Standing Strong In His Christian Faith Through The Storm

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘OPEN DOORS’ CHRISTIAN WEBSITE)

EX-GOVERNOR AHOK STANDING STRONG THROUGH THE STORM

April 26, 2017 by Open Doors in Prayer updates

Basuki Cahaya Purnama “Ahok,” a Christian and ethnic Chinese, and Jakarta’s first non-Muslim governor in 50 years, lost re-election on April 19. The next morning, his blasphemy trial continued with the prosecutor demanding a sentence of 1 year imprisonment and 2 years’ probation.

What is surprising in this development is that the prosecutor did not use the original charge of blasphemy, which had resulted in mass protests against Ahok for several weeks. Instead, he is now charged for “expressing hostile feelings or hatred towards a particular group.” In this case, the particular group refers to his political opponents.

“God gives the authority and so God alone can take it back,” said Ahok to his supporters after the quick count which confirmed his loss. “No one is allowed to rule without God’s permission. I once lost in the governor’s election in 2007, but then I still became Jakarta’s governor. So, don’t be sad. God knows best.”

As much as they could have anticipated the election results in the current political climate, the Christian community could not help but feel deeply sadden and disappointed. Pray for God to continue to work good for Ahok and his future. Pray also for peace to be restored and for God’s justice to prevail in Ahok’s trial.

Father, we pray Your protection over Ahok in the wake of this political defeat as he faces a trial because of his faith in Christ. As he proclaimed, You put him in office and even now, in the midst of defeat, You still know best. We pray now for the Christians in Jakarta, that You will protect and encourage them in this disappointment. We pray for peace to be restored following the bitter election season and we pray for Ahok’s protection and for justice to be accomplished as the trial progresses. In the name of Jesus, who “works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed” (Psalm 103:6). Amen.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin Urges IMF To Enhance FX Surveillance

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

Mnuchin urges IMF to enhance FX surveillance

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Saturday called on the International Monetary Fund to enhance surveillance of its members’ exchange rates and external imbalances, as large trade imbalances would hamper “free and fair” trade.

Mnuchin said the global economy continues to exhibit large and persistent external imbalances, “which contribute to the sentiment that the existing international monetary and trading system does not benefit all.”

“In our view, excessively large trade surpluses, like excessively large trade deficits, are not conducive to supporting a free and fair trading system,” he said in a statement to the International Monetary and Financial Committee, the IMF’s steering committee.

U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to impose measures to restrict imports, and attacked countries like China, Germany and Japan for running large trade surpluses with the United States and benefiting from weak currencies.

Mnuchin called on countries with large external surpluses and sound public finances – likely a reference to Germany – to expand fiscal stimulus to boost growth and help narrow trade imbalances.

He also urged the IMF to scrutinizes its member nation’s exchange rates and identify “specific policy adjustments” for each country to counter global imbalances.

“We look to the IMF to highlight where surplus countries can more forcefully contribute to support symmetric adjustment in pursuit of a fairer global system,” he said.

Mnuchin also urged countries to abide by their exchange-rate commitments, such as to refrain from competitive devaluation, not use monetary policies to target exchanges rates for competitive purposes, and to consult closely on exchange rates.

(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

Jakarta Indonesia’s Muslim’s Make Tomorrows Election About Religion And Race, Not Issues

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) Indonesia’s capital is on edge one day before a vote that has become a test of tolerance in the world’s most populous majority-Muslim nation.

The incumbent governor of Jakarta, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian, is facing a challenge by a Muslim former government minister backed by hard-line religious groups.
“There’s been quite a lot at stake, mostly because of how the election has been framed, (not) issues about how Jakarta will be run itself but rather questions of identity politics,” Ian Wilson, research fellow at Australia’s Murdoch University Asia Research Center, told CNN.
Tensions have risen since the first round of voting on February 15, when Ahok came in first with almost 43% of the vote, just ahead of former Education and Culture Minister Anies Baswedan.
Religious groups determined to see Baswedan take the governorship have been accused of stoking religious discord in the city ahead of the second round, analysts say, a startling turn in a country with a secular constitution and a long tradition of pluralism.
“I think a lot of Chinese Jakartans are feeling anxious about what will happen regardless of the outcome,” Wilson said.

Anies Baswedan (2L) and his running mate pray during an event in Jakarta on March 4.

Mass protests against Ahok

Tensions began to build in November 2016 after Ahok made comments during a campaign speech, which were interpreted by some as an insult to the Quran and Islam.
Now Ahok is on trial for blasphemy and Islamic conservative groups are pushing hard against him. In March, during the campaign, large crowds of thousands of protestors massed in Jakarta’s streets to call for his imprisonment.
“(The vote) is being framed in these semi-apocalyptic terms — that if Baswedan loses it means this infidel, conspiratorial Chinese group will be in power and it will be a disaster,” Wilson said.
While Baswedan himself has taken a step back from the aggressive rhetoric of the first half of the campaign, analysts say, conservative Islamic groups have picked up the slack.

Jakarta's Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, inside the courtroom during his blasphemy trial on April 11.

“There was this grandma who died and she voted for Ahok and she was (reportedly) denied Muslim funeral rights,” Tobias Basuki, a researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, an Indonesian think tank, told CNN.
“(Islamist groups) are using a lot of very blatant religious messages. Very blatant. There are various messages showing people … making oaths in communities saying you cannot vote for a non-Muslim and so on.”
With polls showing a tight race between the two candidates and religious tensions running high, both camps have reasons to be anxious.
Wilson said there is a possibility things may descend into violence.

Thousands of Indonesian Muslims protest against Ahok on March 31 in Jakarta.

Anies for president?

It isn’t just religious tolerance that’s at stake though.
The eyes of Indonesia’s national leaders are fixed on the vote as well, and who will be in the powerful position of Jakarta governor during the next national election in 2019.
Ahok is an ally of Indonesian President Joko Widodo, also known as Jokowi — in fact, he was his running mate during Widodo’s own successful run for the governorship in 2012.
After Widodo’s 2012 win quickly led to a successful run for the presidency in 2014, Indonesian political insiders now see the Jakarta governorship as a step to the highest office in the land.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo (R) with Anies Baswedan (L) at the presidential palace in Jakarta on October 24, 2014.

A Baswedan win will be seen as a major blow to Jokowi.
“It would be a major political win for (former 2014 presidential candidate) Prabowo Subianto, who has been very transparent in his support for Anies,” Wilson said.
Whether Baswedan runs for the presidency in 2019, or supports a second run by Prabowo, Basuki said a win by the former minister in Jakarta would embolden Islamic groups.
“If Anies (is elected), the peddling of influence by these Islamic groups will be greater, and use of religion will be much more in vogue in local elections heading towards the 2019 vote,” he said.

Jakarta’s poor turn on Ahok

But despite the high religious and racial tensions in the Jakarta governor race, they aren’t the only reason Ahok is in trouble.
Greg Fealy, an associate professor in Australian National University’s Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, told CNN in February Ahok’s blunt, combative style of governing put a lot of Jakartans off.
“He’s a very combative, outspoken, reckless kind of character who has achieved a lot for Jakarta, but he’s a character who has created a lot of antipathy toward him,” he said.

Ahok flanked by his wife Veronica (R) and son Nicholas (L) show off their first-round ballot papers in Jakarta on February 15.

Not only that, but a lot of the poor Jakartans who voted for the joint Widodo/Ahok ticket in 2012 in hopes of a new style of government have been the target of large-scale evictions under the governor’s administration.
“They have very specific material grievances against the governor, they feel there was a betrayal of a political contract … I think that magnified feelings of injustice against those neighborhoods,” Wilson said.

Jakarta Indonesia: Hardline Muslims Protest There Being A Chinese Christian Governor

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

Jakarta vote: Indonesia hardliners call for Muslim governor

  • 8 hours ago
  • From the section Asia
Islamic hardliners demonstrate against Basuki Tjahaja PurnamaImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Hardline Muslims have been marching against Jakarta’s ethnic Chinese Christian governor for months

Tens of thousands of Indonesians have gathered in Jakarta to urge people to vote for a Muslim candidate to be the capital city’s next governor.

The incumbent, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, is an ethnic Chinese Christian currently on trial after being accused of insulting Islam.

Despite the court case, Mr Purnama is still expected to win Wednesday’s vote.

The campaign against him has been led by Muslim hardliners, stoking fears of growing religious intolerance.

Crowds gathered for mass prayers around the city’s Istiqlal Mosque on Saturday, urging people to cast their ballots for Muslim leaders.

Supporters of several Islamic groups held posters with messages such as “I’d prefer if my leader is a Muslim” and “It is forbidden to pick an infidel leader”.

Hardline protesterImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Hardliners insist that the city should be governed by a Muslim
mass prayer at Istiqlal mosqueImage copyright EPA
Image caption The event centred on the Istiqlal Mosque drew tens of thousands of people

The action follows big protests against Mr Purnama in December and a rally that turned violent in November, leaving one man dead and dozens of police and demonstrators injured.

Mr Purnama became Jakarta’s first non-Muslim governor for 50 years and the first ethnic Chinese to hold the position when he took over from Joko Widodo – now the president – in 2014.

He won popularity for his no-nonsense style, as well as his stances against corruption and in favour of public transport and greater access to healthcare and education.

But some Islamists rejected him from the outset because of both his religion and ethnicity.

His position has been undermined by the court case against him, with prosecutors arguing that he insulted Islam by misusing a Koranic verse.

Mr Purnama had said that Islamic groups using a passage of the Koran to urge people not to support him were deceiving voters.

The verse is interpreted by some as prohibiting Muslims from living under the leadership of a non-Muslim.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Purnama wept as his trial opened in December

Mr Purnama insisted his comments were aimed at politicians “incorrectly” using the verse against him, not at the verse itself.

Rights groups say the authorities have set a dangerous precedent in which a noisy hardline Islamic minority can influence the legal process.

Mr Purnama is facing two prominent Muslim challengers for the Jakarta governorship.

If none of the contenders gets more than 50%, a run-off election between the two top candidates will take place in April.

Christians represent less than 10% of the country’s 250 million people, and ethnic Chinese about 1%.

In 1998, a wave of anti-Chinese sentiment led to mobs looting and burning Chinese-owned shops and houses, leaving more than 1,000 people dead.

However, Muslims in Indonesia are largely moderate and the country’s largest Islamic organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama, had advised its members not to take part in the recent anti-Ahok protests.

Jihad In Jakarta?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE JAKARTA POST NEWS)

Leader of anti-Ahok rally summoned over Dec. 2 protest

  • The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Wed, February 8, 2017 | 05:16 pm

Leader of anti-Ahok rally summoned over Dec. 2 protestThousands of people led by the National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council’s Fatwa (GNPF-MUI) stage a rally against Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama in Jakarta on Nov. 4 over alleged blasphemy. (Antara/Akbar Nugroho Gumay)

The leader of a conservative Muslim group that has organized two rallies demanding the prosecution of Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama has ignored a police summons scheduled for Wednesday to probe the rally’s funding.

Police had summoned Bachtiar Nasir, who leads the National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council’s Fatwa (GNPF-MUI), as a witness in their investigation of fund-raising activities ahead of a rally on Dec. 2, suspected to be connected to money-laundering.

Bachtiar’s lawyer, Kapitra Ampera, said his client was ready for the questioning but added that he had found irregularities in the summons, as it was received less than three days before the scheduled questioning.

The lawyer said that according to Article 227 of the Criminal Law Procedures Code (KUHAP), a summons has to be sent no later than three days before the questioning.

“We received the letter on Monday, Feb. 6, at 11:34 p.m. and were asked to come today,” Kapitra said at police headquarters after asking for clarification on the letter.

(Read also: Rally ends on cautious note)

The GNPF-MUI, which includes the hard-line Islam Defenders Front (FPI), organized two large rallies late last year to demand the prosecution of Ahok in a blasphemy case. The first rally, held on Nov. 4, turned violent in the evening after President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo refused to meet protesters.

Police detained 11 people in the early morning of Dec. 2, ostensibly to prevent new violence, immediately charging them with treason. Protests that day in Jakarta and other regions remained peaceful. (wit)

Australia Expresses Regret For Offending Indonesia’s Military

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Australia expresses regret for offending Indonesia’s military

Australian Army soldiers assist Indonesian Army personnel during the Junior Officer Combat Instructor Training course conducted by the Australian Army’s Combat Training Centre in Tully, Australia, October 10, 2014. Australian Defence Force/Handout via REUTERS
By Colin Packham and Tom Westbrook | SYDNEY

Australia expressed regret on Thursday and promised a thorough investigation of “insulting” teaching material found at a west Australian military base that led to Indonesia suspending defense ties between the often uneasy Asia-Pacific neighbors.

Indonesia confirmed on Wednesday it had suspended military cooperation with Australia in December, a decision that was initially said to have been taken independently by the military.

However, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said on Thursday he had given his permission for the suspension of ties and that his defense minister and military chief had been asked to investigate.

Such military ties cover a range of activities from counterterrorism cooperation to border protection.

Jakarta and Canberra have had a rocky military relationship in recent years, and Australia stopped joint training exercises with Indonesia’s Kopassus special forces after accusations of abuses by the unit in East Timor in 1999, as the territory prepared for independence.

Ties were resumed when cooperation on counterterrorism became imperative after the 2002 bombing of two nightclubs on the resort island of Bali that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.

Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne said on Thursday an investigation into the offensive materials that were found at Campbell Barracks in the west Australian city of Perth would be concluded “imminently”.

“We have indicated our regret that this occurred and that offence was taken. I think that’s appropriate when a significant counterpart raises their concerns with you,” Payne told reporters in Sydney.

Australia would present the findings of the report to Indonesia’s government and military, Payne said.

Payne refused to reveal the exact nature of the offending material, although Indonesia media have reported that a senior Indonesian military officer training in Australia took offence at a poster questioning Indonesian sovereignty over the western half of the island of Papua.

Media have also reported that the same officer also found documents that ridiculed the founding ideology of Indonesia’s National Armed Forces.

Papua, where there is a long-simmering separatist movement, is a politically sensitive issue in Indonesia.

“We of course … recognize Indonesia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and that is our firm and stated position,” Payne said.

She said the offending material had been removed and that all training documents would be “culturally appropriate”.

Indonesia most recently suspended military ties with Australia in 2013 over revelations that Australian spies had tapped the mobile telephone of then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Indonesian and Australian officials stressed that the bilateral relationship had not stalled, unlike in 2013.

“I think our relations with Australia remain in a good condition. The problem has to be clarified first at the operational level so the situation will not heat up,” Widodo told reporters in Jakarta.

Australia needs Indonesia’s help to enforce its controversial immigration policy that includes turning back boats carrying would-be asylum seekers. Payne said there was “no indication” of any change”.

(Reporting by Colin Packham and Tom Westbrook; Additional reporting by Bernadette Christina Munthe and Kanupriya Kapoor in JAKARTA; Editing by Paul Tait)

Jewish Culture Surviving In The Amazonian Rain Forest

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

After their ancestors journeyed across an ocean from the edge of the Sahara to the center of the Amazon, their current numbers have dwindled in the wake of grim economic prospects and geographic isolation. Yet the pulse keeps beating for the Jewish community of Iquitos, Peru.

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“We as a community in Iquitos are trying to create a Jewish life, which is not easy, because the conditions for it do not exist,” said community leader Rebecca Abramovitz in an interview in Spanish.

Located in Loreto, Peru’s northernmost region, Iquitos is the largest city in the world unreachable by road. Visitors must either fly in or arrive by boat along the Amazon River.

Jews constitute only a fraction of a percent of the city’s population, which numbered just under 440,000 last year. The Jewish community of Iquitos consists of about 70 individuals, led by president Jorge Abramovitz, Rebecca’s husband. (There is also a smaller population of under 40 Jews in the city of Pucallpa to the south.)

The Iquitos community does not have a rabbi, and meets for worship in the Abramovitz house. Its members represent a fraction of the hundreds of people who once practiced Judaism by the banks of the Amazon.

Yet if their numbers are small, their story is compelling. They are the descendants of entrepreneurs who left Morocco for the promise of riches in the Amazon rubber boom in the late 19th century. Their Judaism has been revived by visits from rabbis elsewhere in Peru, as well as Argentina, the United States and Israel. Some have even undertaken another journey, to Israel, where they have made aliyah or are striving to do so.

Rebecca Abramovitz, wife of the president of the Jewish community of Iquitos, Peru, prepares a traditional Peruvian pastry called ‘bolitas’ as members of the community watch, in this April 2015 photo. (Facebook)

Earlier this year, a media report had forecast a bleak future for the community. But those members who stay in Iquitos continue to practice Judaism together, and regularly convene for events such as High Holiday services. In so doing, they preserve their ties with their ancestors who arrived in the Peruvian Amazon almost 150 years ago.

The first Jew to immigrate to Loreto was Alfredo Coblentz, a German Jew who arrived in the city of Yurimaguas, southwest of Iquitos, in 1880. In 1885, the first year of the Amazon rubber boom, the Pinto brothers — Moses, Abraham and Jaime — immigrated to Iquitos itself. While they only lived there for five years, “they opened the road for the arrival of new immigrants,” Abramovitz said.

The rubber boom caused a mass migration of people representing different countries and religions.


Rabbi Ruben Saferstein, of Buenos Aires. (Facebook)

“It brought businessmen and rubber workers from distinct regions of the world [to Iquitos], and among them, Jews from Morocco came,” said Rabbi Ruben Saferstein of Buenos Aires, who has been assisting the Jews of Iquitos for 15 years.

It was not an easy journey. Jews from Rabat, Tetuan, Tangier and Casablanca arrived in the Brazilian coastal city of Belen do Para and trekked along the Amazon — the second-longest river in the world, after the Nile — further inland to Manaus.

From there, Abramovitz said, “they scattered throughout the Peruvian Amazonian rainforest.”

Iquitos: Peru’s rubber boom town

“There was a tremendous amount of money to be made there, in the rubber industry in the Amazon, in Peru and Brazil,” said Rabbi Andrew Sacks, Jerusalem-based director of the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel for the Masorti Movement, who visited Iquitos last Pesach.

Luxurious mansions soon lined the streets of Iquitos, including the Casa Fierro (Iron House) designed by Gustave Eiffel, whose namesake tower in Paris earned architectural immortality. The Casa Fierro remains an Iquitos landmark.

But the rubber boom also had adverse effects. One Iquitos-based company with a British board of directors, the Peruvian Amazon Company (PAC), was the subject of critical reports by Roger Casement, the British consul in Peru. Casement found that the PAC abused its indigenous workers. After public outcry, the company closed in 1913.

The Amazon rubber boom itself had collapsed by 1912, owing to several factors, including a drop in the price of rubber; the emergence of larger zones of production, such as Indonesia; and the arrival of synthetic rubber.

Many Jews in Iquitos returned to their countries of origin — but not all.

By January 1909, enough Jews had begun residing in Iquitos to establish a formal community, the Sociedad Beneficencia Israelita de Iquitos.

In Iquitos, Jews achieved success in both business and public life. Several became mayors of the city, including Victor Israel (who was also the first community president) and Joseph Dreyfus. Some founded businesses — La Casa Israel, Khan, and Cohen, along with Solomon Joseph and E. Strasberger.

The Jews who stayed after the boom were in an uncertain position. The rubber industry that fueled their commerce with Europe had vanished, and their legacy as Jews was in question.

“The great majority of Jews who came [to Iquitos] were men who could not leave Jewish descendants because they could not take Jewish women as wives, and settled down with women of the region,” Abramovitz said. However, she added, “they undoubtedly tried to keep their Jewish identity and pass it on to their children.”


The community celebrates Purim, 2016. (Facebook)

Each year, she said, the Jews of the region celebrated Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with religious services.

But their numbers plummeted.

Abramovitz said that emigration to the capital of Lima was “massive” in the 1950s, and by the 1960s, centers of Jewish life in almost every Peruvian province had disappeared.

“Our community stayed dormant for many years,” she recalled.

A sleeper community awakens

It was not until the 1980s that the community of Iquitos was able to reawaken.
When several community members traveled to Lima, Peru’s capital, for medical treatments in 1987, they made contact with Rabbi Guillermo Bronstein, chief rabbi of the Asociacion Judia. Lima has the largest population of Peruvian Jews (3,000), and with about 223 families, Bronstein’s synagogue is the largest in the capital.

In a Skype conversation from Lima, Bronstein told The Times of Israel he felt “curiosity” and that he exchanged letters with the community of Iquitos before deciding to visit in 1991. Then, Bronstein found a community of people who wished to identify as Jews but were not recognized as Jews.


The community lights Hanukkah candles with Rabbi Ruben Saferstein. (Facebook)

As Sacks described it, “there is a large percentage of people in that town who have a Jewish grandparent or great-grandparent, [and are now] practicing Catholics, who have recently connected to a Jewish community or to the Jewish world.”

When Bronstein made his first visit to Iquitos, he laid the groundwork for the community to formally confirm its Judaism — individually and collectively. Members organized themselves as a kehila, a Jewish community of partners recognized by the Republic of Peru. They achieved this status about a year and a half later, in 1994.

Bronstein then helped the kehila prepare for a formal conversion by a beit din, or rabbinical court. This process took much longer.

“It was 11 years after [my first visit],” he said. “It was very difficult. I couldn’t visit there [more than] two or three times in 11 years. I sent them materials, siddurim [prayer books]. They wrote to me with their [preparation] work.”


Rabbi Guillermo Bronstein speaks at a 70th anniversary gathering of the Peruvian Biblical Society. (Facebook)

These were not the only challenges.

“Circumcision was the hardest of all,” Bronstein said. “The adults did not have a mohel [circumciser].” And, he added, a mohel he located in Lima “was not going to go for less than a month for 40 to 50 people.”

‘Circumcision was the hardest of all’

By August 2002, Bronstein had found a qualified mohel willing to travel to Iquitos. A beit din followed, assisted by Rabbi Claudio Kupchik of Temple Beth El of Manhattan Beach.

“If we had not had the help of Rabbi Guillermo Bronstein, the community of Iquitos would not still exist,” Abramovitz said.

About a century after Jews had first arrived in Iquitos, the kehila and its members were formally recognized. Over the next few years, the congregation benefited from outreach by rabbis from other countries.


Rebecca Abramovitz holds the Iquitos Torah scroll in 2010. (Facebook)

In December 2004, Bronstein presided over a second beit din with his brother Marcelo, who serves as a rabbi in New York, as well as Saferstein, of Buenos Aires. Over three days, they evaluated around 180 candidates from Iquitos and neighboring regions.

In February 2009, the kehila received a Torah scroll over 100 years old from Rabbi Fabian Zaidemberg of La Asociacion Israelita de las Pampas in Argentina. David and Nilma Igdaloff, an American Jewish couple, had donated the Torah to Zaidemberg after it had been rescued from Nazi Germany.

A third beit din was held in 2011. And, as the Jews of Iquitos continue to rediscover and reconnect with their roots, there is an increasing interest in making aliyah.

Obstacles toward immigration to Israel

The story of the Amazonian aliyah is an unfolding one and includes community members now living in Israel as citizens, members who would like to make aliyah, and individuals in Israel who are not currently recognized as Israeli citizens.


The historic Jewish cemetery in Iquitos, April 2013. (Facebook)

The Interior Ministry has recognized Iquitos as a Jewish community and its members as eligible for aliyah, but it took a “long battle,” said Sacks, the director of the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel.

The majority of olim from Iquitos live in Ramla.

“The mayor was happy to receive them,” Sacks said. “There were social, employment programs. They were absorbed in order to be more successful.”

However, Sacks is unhappy with the Interior Ministry and its treatment of Jews from Iquitos who wish to join their fellow Iquitenos in Israel.

“The pace of aliyah has slowed to a trickle,” Sacks said. “There have been all sorts of excuses. I found it to be a problem.”

 

Petitioning the Supreme Court

The Legal Aid Center for Olim, a project of the Israel Reform Movement, has petitioned the Supreme Court to hear a case involving two sisters from Pucallpa who converted to Judaism in Iquitos in 2011. They have been in Israel since February 2014.

“At the moment one of the two sisters from Pucallpa has a working visa after she began a serious relationship with an Israeli and in fact has given birth to his child,” said Nicole Maor, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Center for Olim. “The other sister is here with no status at all, under the protection of a Supreme Court order preventing her deportation.”

The Interior Ministry “has argued that the community in Pucallpa was not a ‘recognized’ community at the time of the conversion and therefore although the conversion itself was performed in Iquitos, they refuse to recognize them,” Maor said.

‘The great majority of Iquitenos have gone to live in Israel’

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the petition in January 2017.

Asked how strong the current desire is to make aliyah among the Jews of Iquitos, Sacks said, “Almost all of the young ones desire to leave. The opportunity to advance professionally and socially is very limited. They seek a second chance everywhere in Latin American countries. Many have gone, and in fact would go, to Israel.”

“The jungle is not a pleasant place to live,” he said. “The opportunities are rather limited. People realize, they are the third generation of a Jewish grandfather, grandmother, and eligible to make aliyah. Many did, many converted to Judaism and ultimately made aliyah. About 150 left for Israel.”

Indeed, he noted, the current community in Iquitos is “much reduced, owing to aliyah.”

“The great majority of Iquitenos [people from Iquitos] have gone to live in Israel,” Saferstein said. “There are some other people who are waiting for their conversion process, and desire to go to Israel, as well, to live there.”


The Jews of Iquitos wave an Israeli flag. (Facebook)

Saferstein expressed hope for another beit din to visit Iquitos in January 2017, but said that economic assistance is needed for this.

Despite gloomy predictions for the future of Iquitos’s Jews due to their shrinking population, Bronstein, who led the first beit din 14 years ago, is more hopeful.

‘They will continue with their Jewish identity. Even if three, four, five people remain, they have the structure, the community’

“They will continue with their Jewish identity,” he said. “They already have an organization. They are smaller, but I believe they will continue. Even if three, four, five people remain, they have the structure, the community.”

Last year, Sacks experienced this community firsthand.

“When I arrived at the airport, probably most of the community, around 40 people were there, with Israeli flags, singing, welcoming me,” he said.

Asked whether the community identifies as Sephardic, he said, “Many of them have a great-grandparent who was Sephardic (usually from Morocco), but the Jews are removed from many of those traditions. They have been Jewishly educated, primarily by Masorti rabbis. So, while they have some Sephardic tunes, it is very much a mix.”

On Shabbat, he said, “The davening was identical to pretty much any other synagogue.”

He joined the community for a Passover seder in the Abramovitz house, with fish and vegetarian options, “no bread on the table” and locally-flavored charoset.


The community gathers for holiday dinner this past Rosh Hashanah. (Facebook)

“They kashered everything,” he said.

He noted a community custom. An Israeli flag is displayed atop a table “every year till the last Jew from Iquitos who wishes to make aliyah is able to do so,” he said.

More recently, the community has been busy again, this time for the High Holidays.

In an October 3 photo of the Rosh Hashanah dinner, over 30 community members are sitting down to eat at tables, welcoming the new year 5777. There are national and international symbols — Peruvian and Israeli flags — as well as religious and cultural decorations such as cutouts of shofars and a glowing Star of David.

As the Jews of Iquitos celebrated the new year, it showed that even in the isolation of the Amazon, a Jewish community can survive. Though its numbers may be diminished, inextinguishable sparks of communal life continue to be stoked on the edge of the rainforest.