Why the United States Is Saying Goodbye To UNESCO

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

 

Why the United States Is Saying Goodbye to UNESCO

12:07 PM ET

The Trump Administration says the U.S. is withdrawing from the United Nations’ cultural body UNESCO, citing “anti-Israel bias” as one of its reasons.

“This decision was not taken lightly,” Heather Nauert, State Department spokesperson, said in a statement on Thursday. “[it] reflects U.S. concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO.” The withdrawal will take place on Dec. 31, 2018. The State Department said on Thursday that the U.S. will instead establish an observer mission at UNESCO, which is known for designating world heritage sites.

Director General of UNESCO Irina Bokova expressed her “profound regret” with the decision. “This is a loss to UNESCO. This is a loss to the United Nations family. This is a loss for multilateralism,” she said in a statement.

The news comes as the body picks its new director-general, with former French culture minister Audrey Azoulay and Qatari diplomat Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari as the main frontrunners. Here’s what to know:

What is UNESCO?

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization was created in 1945 with a mission to celebrate cultural diversity and foster intellectual cooperation and the free flow of ideas among the world’s nations. Among its first projects was to rebuild libraries, schools and museums destroyed during World War Two.

The agency is best known for its World Heritage program, which protects traditions and cultural sites across the globe, including India’s Taj Mahal and the United States’ Yellowstone National Park. It also works to improve education in poor countries, defend media freedom and promote scientific advances.

Why has Trump pulled out now?

The biggest strain is the body’s approach to Israel. This year, UNESCO declared Hebron in the West Bank as a Palestinian world heritage site — a move Israel says negates Judaism’s links to the town.

Israel had earlier recalled its ambassador to UNESCO in 2016, in response to the agency accepting resolutions that condemned Israel’s policies in religious sites in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and cited the Temple Mount as only a “Muslim holy site of worship,” Reuters reports.

Trump’s administration has been preparing to leave the body for months, Foreign Policy reports, and it might have been motivated by budget cuts. The President has repeatedly criticized what he considers to be the disproportionate contributions to international bodies like the U.N.

Has the U.S. done this before?

Yes. The organization ran afoul of the administration of Ronald Reagan, which withdrew the U.S. from the body in 1984 citing corruption and a pro-Soviet union, anti-U.S. bias. The administration also viewed UNESCO as a platform for Third World criticism of Israel and the U.S, the New York Times reports.

Under President George W. Bush, the U.S. rejoined the agency in 2003, citing its reformed bureaucracy, finances and efforts to expunge the worst of its biases.

That changed again in 2011 after UNESCO granted full membership to Palestine. This reinforced the notion of UNESCO’s long-running anti-Israel bias and under former U.S. President Barack Obama, UNESCO lost a chunk of American funding. But the State Department continued to maintain an office at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters so as to weigh in on policy.

“Russia Has Never Denied Israels Rights To Jerusalem, The Temple Mount Or The Western Wall”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE JERUSALEM POST)    (THIS IS A RE-POST FROM 11-06-2016 HAS ANYTHING REALLY CHANGED)

Moscow has never denied Israel’s rights to Jerusalem, the Temple Mount or the Western Wall, Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev said in advance of his visit to the Jewish state later this week.

“These rights are clear and it would be absurd to deny them,” he told Channel 2 anchorwoman Yonit Levy.

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He spoke warmly of Russia’s ties with Israel, despite Moscow’s votes against the Jewish state at the United Nations and its delivery of the S-300 missiles to Iran.


Benjamin Netanyahu Dimitry Medvedev. (Photo credit: RIA NOVOSTI / REUTERS)

Levy quizzed him about those controversial issues as well as his support for Syrian President Basher Assad and charges that his country had intervened in the US elections.

How does Russia explain its support of the UNESCO vote “to disregard the historic connection between the Jewish people and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem,” Levy asked Medvedev.

The issue had been blown out of proportion, he responded speaking in Russian, with a Hebrew translation by Channel 2.

There have been some ten votes by UNESCO Boards and Committees on such Jerusalem resolutions, Medvedev said.

“There is nothing new here,” he said, as he dismissed the significance of UNESCO texts that refer to the Temple Mount solely by its Muslim name of Al Haram Al Sharif.

“Our country has never denied the rights of Israel or the Jewish people to Jerusalem, the Temple Mount or the Western Wall,” Medvedev said.

“Therefore there is no need to politicize this decision,” Medvedev said, adding that such resolutions, were “not directed against Israel.”

Similarly, he said, there was nothing contradictory in Russia’s sale and shipment of the advanced S-300 advanced surface to air missile defense system to Iran.

Israel had opposed such sales because they significantly upgrade Iran’s ability to defend its nuclear sites against any attacks. It is particularly concerned because it does not believe that the Iran deal, put in place in 2015, will limit Tehran’s capacity to develop nuclear weapons.

Medvedev told Channel 2 that prior to the Iran deal, Russia respected the sanctions against Tehran and refrained from delivering the S-300. Now that the deal is in place and the sanctions were lifted, there was no reason not to complete the sale, he said.

Moving over to Syria, he referred to President Bashar Assad as the country’s only legitimate leader and added that Israel’s leadership preferred his rule to the prospect of a divided country under terrorist leadership.

“I know him (Assad) personally. There are those who love him and those who don’t. At present Assad is the only legitimate authority operating in Syria. Any regime change would have to occur legitimately,” Medvedev said.

“I remember that during my meetings with Israeli leaders, they told me they were not completely for Assad, but that there has to be someone in charge of the situation, rather than an uncontrolled break up of the country into enclaves ruled by terrorists,” Medvedev said.

Middle East terrorism, he said, is threatening his country from within.

“There are thousands of Russians fighting on behalf of ISIS and other Islamic Jihadist groups,” Medvedev said. “When they return they are experienced murders and terrorists. After their time fighting in Syria we don’t want them to organize something similar [within Russia],” he said.

Levy asked how the presence of the Russian air force in Syria impacted Israel’s ability to prevent the flow of weapons to Hezbollah.

Medvedev said that it was operating from the assumption that “all sides would not take steps to aggravate the conflict.”

With regard to the United States, he charged that it had not kept its commitments in Syria and that the relationship between Washington and Moscow was at a very low point.

Medvedev chuckled when Levy asked him if Russia had interfered with the US elections.

He quoted Russian President Vladimir Putin, when he stated that “the United States is not a banana republic.”

The US, he said, was a large and strong country and could not be influenced in that way. “It doesn’t matter who will be elected, but what policy they will execute,” he said.

“Its clear [that either candidate] will act in the best national interest of the US,” Medvedev said.

He called Republican candidate Donald Trump brilliant and said he had never met him. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, he said, was professional and known to him from the times he met with her when she was US Secretary of State from 2009-2012.

Russia expects to have a “normal” and “productive” relationship with whichever of the two candidates wins the White House, Medvedev said.

With regard to the Russian initiative to hold a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Presdient Mahmoud Abbas, Medvedev said that Moscow was not looking to replace the United States or anyone else when it comes to the peace process.

On the other hand, he said, there are very discouraging signs with regard to that conflict and there have been no advancements to speak of on the Israeli-Palestinian track over the last few years.

“It’s very sad,” he said.

Road Trip to Hampi – The City of Ruins

(THIS ARTICLE IS FROM THE BLOG OF ‘NOMADONROAD’, PLEASE CHECK OUT HIS EXCELLENT BLOG SITE)

 

Road Trip to Hampi – The City of Ruins

Road Trip to Hampi – The City of Ruins

Traveling is a Drug one must admit. When one gets addicted, it kind of gets difficult to get rid of it. You will find excuses, inspirations and so on, to travel more, regardless to the destinations being close or far, I am sure all the travelers can relate to what I am talking about here.

So, it happened  one evening when me along with my friends – Bobby & Ajay  were watching this documentary called “Mysteries of Asia: Lost Temples of India” where they discuss about this particular place called “Hampi – The Ghost City” – which in the Southern part of India – Northern Karnataka, living in the same state we hadn’t been there. I know most of the time we tend to ignore the places we are close by or we grew up, rather we tend to take it for granted.

Hampi is within the ruins of Vijayanagara once a bustling city – Capital of the Vijayanagara Empire, Hampi got its name from the River Pampa which is now called as Tungabhadra – on the banks of which the city was built. The site was chosen because it had natural defenses, in the form of rocky hills on three sides and the river on the fourth. It was a thriving, bustling city till the second half of the 16th century, when it was laid siege to and ultimately overrun by the Sultan of Bijapur. As legend has it, the city’s temples were ravaged by the invaders and its sandalwood palaces burnt down in an attempt to wipe it clean from popular memory. And so Hampi was forgotten – its stone survivors overwhelmed by jungle growth; until British archaeologists stumbled upon it several many decades later. And here were are, Like all others who thong to this place to get a glimpse of our very own history,,,, As the Portuguese traveler Domingo Paes mentioned in 1522 AD, “This is the land of riches”…You will have to witness it to believe it !!!

I felt a little bad for not have explored this beautiful place however it’s never too late. Mostly I love travelling alone as I mentioned in my first post however as they say “More the merrier”. I was happier when my childhood friends, who also equally love travelling and exploring the unexplored agreed to join me. Hence, we decided overnight to travel and explore what this place had to offer. All we knew is this place wasn’t going to disappoint us for sure. I, Bobby and Ajay re-assembled at my place with our bags packed and left to Hampi at around 11:45 PM, this was in the month of September 2014, most ideal period of the Year to Visit Hampi J . Since it was an immediate travel plan we had not booked any accommodation, we thought we will figure out by the time we reach Hampi – by the time Bobby said that he googled and most recommendations was to stay at Hosapete town which is 12kms away from Hampi. We all concluded that we find accommodation at Hosapete

I always love trips like this when you don’t have plan so much. Travelling with your best buddies are always an advantage, you can stop the car any time you want, take pictures, eat and talk nonstop about any topic under the sun. Our journey took place and we loved every bit about it, excited to see the place for the first time we were just like those kids going to a fair.. 😂😂

Ajay, Bobby, Dev (Me)

Ajay, Bobby, Dev (Me)

By the time we crossed Bangalore it was around 1:00 AM in the Morning, we thought of giving a theme to this travel and called ourselves as “Wolf Pack” and themed it as “wolf pack – Trip to Enthralling Hampi”. Ajay had taken the Driver Seat, me – the navigator and Bobby as soon he got inside the car – he started sleeping 😂. Ajay is one person who can’t keep quiet and is perfect companion if you are driving at night – ideally he can speak about anything – name the topic, he would have something to talk about – we started talking about politics, work etc.

This being an unplanned trip of ours we dint do any homework about the places to explore. We decided to go old School without using much of a technology. The only place we kept in our mind was Hospete which we followed the route by asking the road side shopkeepers, daba’s and the passerby, keeping only one place in mind

I really didn’t keep a track of time nor the distance. I saw the road sign, I could see that we were only 80 KM away from Hosapete and the time was around 6:30 am, we reached Hosapete around 7:30 am and started searching for accommodation, we saw these two Hotels – “Shanbhag Towers” and other being “Hotel Priyadarshini” (mostly due to our Budget), we settled in for Priyadarshini because it had a nice Bar & Restaurant attached to it.

Even though we arrived quite early, the hotel staff were quite accommodative and helped with reservation. As soon we got our room, we took a quick nap, freshened up and headed for the Breakfast. Breakfast was quite good and started conversing with the Hotel staff related to Places to visit etc, one recommendation provided was to take Local Guide while at Hampi if you need to know the place, history etc., because Hampi being quite vast, we might miss certain important places.

After having quite a heavy breakfast – we set out to Hampi, as we got close to Hampi we started seeing the ruins, for some reason I started having chills while we passed through the ruins and the structures.

We finally arrived at Hampi – near Virupaksha Temple. Virupaksha Temple is part of Group of Monuments at Hampi, the presiding diety is Lord Shiva – one of the Hindu God. This temple was built by the Queen “Lokhamadevi” – wife of Vikramaditya II in order to commemorate the King’s victory over Pallava of Kanchipuram. We parked the car and the first thing we wanted to do was hire a Local Guide.

As we were passing by the Virupaksha Temple, we got to see some of the erotic carvings on the Temple Tower, in most case these carvings can only be seen on the outside walls but none on the inside walls. In its popular saying, they say that these carvings were meant for educational purpose in those days as temple’s were visited by large part of the population and these carving on temple pillars & walls formed a ideal place to spread awareness

 

Finally we found a Guide and started inquiring about the guide fee – it looks like the guide fee is standard/fixed – 1500 Rupees per day, we hired him and thus started our tour of Hampi. We started with Virupaksha Temple and the structures nearby, the guide was very knowledgeable was able to answer any queries which we put forth and was good with Camera as well. Oh I forgot to introduce him, our Guide’s name: Mr. Gurumurthy – if any is visiting Hampi and would like to have a Local Guide – in order to know history, places etc of Hampi, you can contact Gurumurthy on + 91 94815 66709.

In and around Virupaksha temple we can see structures which are of the Jain period, Hemkut Jain temples, Ratnantraykut, Parsvanath Charan and Ganigatti jain temple, most of Idols are missing – ideally there are nothing inisde the structures. The entire hill surrounding the Virupaksha Temple is called as Hemakuta Hill. This place is one of best to see the sunrise and sunset and is a treat for photographers, another best place to see the sunset and sunrise is the Matanga Hill.

By this time we were feeling little tired, but I would once again like to say that Hampi is a treat for Photographers, so much to see and so much to capture – we might not know as where to start and where to end. we started inquiring about various things about the place and our guide Gurumurthy was always ready to answer with a smile.

We had now started to get down from the Hemakuta Hill, Next Place of significance was “Kadalekalu Ganesha” – it is one Largest Statue of Ganesha ( Hindu God, Son of Lord Shiva)  in Southern India carved in Granite, the name “Kadalekalu” means Bengal_gram/Chicpea – since the belly of Ganesha is in resemblence of Bengal Gram, one more thing to notice if you go behind the Idol you can see an Hand holding/supporting the Idol from the back – Popular belief or artistic represtation could be that it is Ganesha’s Mother Parvathi holding him from the back. It is also believed that some people try to cut open the tummy as they thought there was some treasure in that, you can still see the cut stone in front of the temple!. Now we started heading towards Gopura – Krishna Temple, on the way we met some localites – took some pictures, visited naturally formed Caves.

Krishna Temple – This temple was built during the reign of Krishnadevaraya after his successful campaign against Gajapatis of Orissa, the temple is in the abandoned state – This was abandoned after the fall of Vijaynagara empire. Krishna temple bazaar has been excavated through the last decade, and restoration work is still in progress

Krishna Temple Bazaar

Krishna Temple Bazaar

After completing Krishna Temple, we started towards the Lotus Mahal, Lotus Mahal – as the name suggests, its in the shape of the Lotus, according to our Guide – Lotus Mahal used to be a place where royal ladies used come and mingle, it used to also serve as meeting point for King and his ministers. There are several monuments nearby

Lotus Mahal

Lotus Mahal

On the way to Lotus Mahal, you can notice this building – according to the guide, this is the place where the finance team of the King used to reside – more to do with storage of coins etc.

Some more from the group Monuments of Hampi…

Finally we are here at the Massive Elephant stable and we can see that these are least destroyed structures in Hampi. This stable was used to park Royal Elephants. There are 11 domed tall chambers, the center one is decorated and huge.

The structure below Recently discovered …Radically different from the rest of tank constructions in Hampi, the Stepped Tank is made of made of finely finished black schist stone blocks. It seems the tank was made elsewhere and later brought and assembled at its current location. Practically every stone is earmarked for this purpose and some bears even ‘sketches’ by its architects. The purpose of this tank is not very sure, mostly it was used during the religious ceremonies by the royals.

We took rest for a while at the tank and started discussing with our guide Gurumurthy – various other aspects about other Structures near by – Every structure in Hampi has a story associated with it and we felt enlightened knowing the history through the ruins and it took us back in time.

This is the place where the king used to behead people whom he found to be cheating in Revenue Funds….Every year there used to be a Cabinet Meeting and if anyone found guilty was punished publicly….On a lighter note, this technique should be used for all Rapists 🙂…lol

 

The one below quite a gigantic tank or maybe bathing place – I can even term it as swimming pool  for visitors who used to visit the empire in those days – its really quite Massive.

 

We covered most of the major structures in and around the Lotus Mahal – now started heading towards the Vittala Temple, Vittala Temple ( Dedicated to Hindu God Vishnu ) is one of the ancient, well know monument in Hampi and it is quite close to the banks of Tungabhadra River – then Pampa River, the main attraction is the Chariot and the musical pillars. This monument was built during the reign of King Devaraya II. Here are some of the captures on the way to Vittala Temple.

Market No 3 - In front of Vittala Temple

Market No 3 – In front of Vittala Temple

 

On the way to the Vitalla Temple Complex, I would recommend that you visit Achyutaraya temple complex, this seems to be more less visited compared to Virupaksha and Vitalla Temple complex.

 

 

 

Here we arrive at the most awaited Vittala Temple Complex – as mentioned quite from far, the chariot is quite visible and forms the major attraction – it is considered one of the stunning architecture and only there of them are found in India – One in Orissa (Konark Temple), Second in Mahabalipuram (Tamil Nadu) and this being the third one. The “Chariot” never moved , unlike those wooden temple cars used in the temple festival ceremonies. What probably moved was its four wheels around its axle, all made of granite. There was a dome like superstructure over the chariot. That too is missing now. However you can see them on the first ever photographs of Hampi taken in 1856 by Alexander Greenlaw

The Musical Pillars: Large Mantapa is famous for its musical pillars which it houses and also called as Saregama pillars indicating the Musical notes emitted by them, you can hear the musical notes when the pillars are tapped gently.

 

This 5-meter or so tall ‘balance’ is located near the Vittala temple. Also called as Tula Bhara or Tula Purushadana, the king used to weigh himself with gold, gems, silver and precious stones, and distributed to the priests. It’s believed that this had been done during the special ceremony seasons like solar or lunar eclipses. You can spot three loops on top of the balance, into which the balance actually hung. Also in one of the pillars you can spot the king’s image carved along with his concerts. 

By this time I think we had more or less covered major sites of Hampi –  In order to cover the places we did even skip our lunch – we managed with snacks and fruits which were being sold on the streets. Ideally you cannot cover complete Hampi in a day, it is practically impossible as our Guide Mr Gurumurthy says that we might need a life time to know it completely but still you get to miss since new discoveries are continuously been done in the region, We felt we need to visit again to cover the places which we would have missed. Time was now close to Sunset, we went near by Thungabadra River to watch the Sunset.

Old Bridge...Thungabadra River...Some people say this is where the Enemy army got an entry inside HAMPI..

Old Bridge…Thungabadra River…Some people say this is where the Enemy army got an entry inside HAMPI..

Whenever we venture out on a trip, we three would have one photograph which majorly forms our Cover Pic, our Guide Mr. Gurumurthy shot this photograph for us and it came out really well.

There were three more monuments which we had skipped earlier since our Guide  recommended that we can visit them while on the way back to Hemakuta Hill (Near Virupaksha Temple – that is where we had parked our vehicle), We started towards the Hemakuta Hill, since the sun was setting in, we thought calling it off for the day once we see these structures:

  • The Lakshmi Narasimha Statue: This is the largest statue in Hampi. Narasimha is sitting on the coil of a giant seven-headed snake called Sesha. The heads of the snake acts as the hood above his head. The god sits in a cross-legged Yoga position with a belt supporting the knees…The original statue contained the image of goddess Lakshmi, consort of the god, sitting on his lap. But this statue has been damaged seriously during the raid leading to the fall of Vijayanagara.

 

  • Badavilinga Temple, Hampi : This is the largest monolithic Linga in Hampi. Located next to the Narasimha statue the Linga is housed inside a chamber with an opening in the front.A close look on this icon can reveal three eyes (depicting the three eyes of Siva) carved on it. Legend has it that this was commissioned by a peasant woman and hence the name (Badva means poor in local tongue).

 

The last monument to visit was Sasivekalu Ganesha (Mustard seed Ganesha) which is at the foothill of  Hemakuta Hill, Guide recommended that we see this before sun completely sets and will call off for the day.

Sasivekalu Ganesha

Sasivekalu Ganesha

Sasivekalu Ganesha

This concluded our day at Hampi, We thanked our guide Mr. Gurumurthy for wealth of information shared and we were craving for more. We thought we spend some more time on top of  Hemakuta Hill watching the sunset and take some good pictures, we had another 2 days left – we started planning for next 2 days

Enchanting Hampi

I got some power now…..Let me save u

I had now started thinking that we have such amazing places which were close to Bangalore where we grew up and we had never made a point to come and see it, nonetheless we were enjoying every bit the place had to offer, from history to art – art to scenic beauty. The sunset of all things stole my heart away, it was so beautiful, I got engrossed in it.

Meanwhile Plan for the next two days was done – we decided that we head towards our hotel, take some rest, freshen up and re-assemble for Dinner at the attached Bar and Restaurant. Plan was that, early morning we head towards PattadakalAihole and Badami. Our next 2 days tour which we had intended to travel is on a seperate post, please click_here

 

Here are Information which might be helpful for anyone visiting Hampi:

Right Time to visit Hampi:

October to Feb – Main reason being weather is cooler during this period, avoid going during summer, most of the temple complexes remain open from 6:30 am until 6:30 pm.

How to get to Hampi:

By Airplane: The nearest airport is Hubli which is around 140KMS from Hampi, fly to Hubli and then take a taxi or Bus, The Bus are normally operated by Karnataka State transport and would take around 4 -5 hours to reach from Hubli to Hampi. Please check Plane & Bus Timings accordingly ( refer http://www.ksrtc.in, redbus.in)

By Train: The train stops at Hosapet/Hospet junction, this place very close to the place where we had our accommodation. Train runs serveral times a week from Bangalore, Hyderabad and Goa. You can book you train tickets from IRCTC website https://www.irctc.co.in, currently other websites such as makemytrip.com, yatra.com do take train reservations.

By Bus: As mentioned earlier – Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation operates daily buses to Hospet from Bangalore, Mysore and Gokarna. From hospet you can reach hampi on a local bus.

By Car: Its around 350Kms from Bangalore, Drive till Chitradurga on NH-4, take a right turn on NH-13 towards Sholapur till Hospet, and then drive another 13km to reach Hampi (direction towards Hampi is well marked).

Moving in and around Hampi: I would strongly recommend that you Hire a Moped, Motorcycle or even a bicycle while at Hampi so that moving around becomes very easy unless you enjoy walking. Bicycle might cost around 150/day and Moped could be more or less around 250 – 300 per day

Contact of Guides:

  • Gurumurthy – +91 94815 66709.
  • Rama – +91 94491 19485

Stay: For a First time visitor, I would recommend staying at Hospet due to accessibility to railway Station, better Hotels, medical stores, clinics etc. as mentioned earlier Hampi is also not very far from Hospet. You get a wide range of hotels at Hospet from Budget to expensive ones. Use any of the booking sites such as www.Booking.com,  www.trivago.in etc.

You can find a cheaper guest houses across the river – “Virupapur Gaddi” it is also called as Hippie Island – I will cover this in a seperate post, we had been to this place quite recently. A lot cheaper guest houses are available here – I would not recommend staying here if you are on a short visit, you can avoid it since there is no road access from the archaeological site Hampi, only way to reach this place from Hampi is via the River, if the water levels are higher it might be too risky, there is road access via an alternate route which is 40Kms away – unless you intend to stay longer in Hampi for more than a week and explore all places nearby and would need a cheaper accommodation, you can look at this option, otherwise I would recommend staying at Hosapet/Hospet.

ISIS Destroys Historic al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul Iraqi, It Was 850 Years Old

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

ISIS Destroys Historic al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul, Iraqi Military Says

ISIS militants allegedly blew up the landmark al-Nuri mosque and its famous leaning minaret in Mosul where the terror group’s leader three years ago declared a “caliphate,” Iraq’s military said in a statement.

Reuters first reported the Iraqi military statement, which was then confirmed by NBC News. The statement said that Iraqi military forces, which are battling to retake the city from ISIS, were 80 yards away when the explosion occurred.

But ISIS, through its Amaq news agency, claimed that it was actually an American airstrike that destroyed the mosque.

U.S. military officials also blamed ISIS for the destruction of the mosque. A U.S. official said they did not conduct any planned or deliberate strikes in the area.

“As our Iraqi Security Force partners closed in on the al-Nuri mosque, ISIS destroyed one of Mosul and Iraq’s great treasures,” Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin, commander of the ground forces component of a coalition working to defeat ISIS in Iraq.

Image: Al-Nuri Mosque
The leaning Al-Hadba minaret, which is part of the al-Nuri mosque, is shown on June 19, 2017 in Iraq. File Mohamed El-Shahed / AFP – Getty Images File

The mosque and its Al Hadba Minaret, built in 1172, had been a symbol of the fight against ISIS in Mosul. ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a “caliphate” — in Iraq and Syria — from the site in 2014.

Related: ISIS Leader Al-Baghdadi May Have Been Killed, Russia Says

Iraqi forces earlier Wednesday moved through Old Mosul to recapture the mosque, which a senior security official said has a symbolic importance for the terror group. U.S. coalition aircraft have been providing airstrikes as Iraqi forces have fought to retake Mosul from the ISIS group, which seized the city in 2014.

Later Wednesday a security official said Iraqi forces were forced to withdraw from areas close to the mosque after facing heavy resistance from ISIS snipers.

The U.S. military statement did not mention airstrikes.

“The responsibility of this devastation is laid firmly at the doorstep of ISIS, and we continue to support our Iraqi partners as they bring these terrorists to justice,” Martin said in a statement.

The Iraqi offensive to retake Mosul began in October. Iraqi forces entered Mosul for the first time in two years in November, and on Sunday Iraqi forces started storming the Old City, which is believed to be the group’s final stronghold in the city.

Image: Mosul Mosque
This aerial view taken on June 21, 2017 and provided by Iraq’s Joint Operation Command reportedly shows destruction inside Mosul’s Nuri mosque compound. Handout / AFP – Getty Images

The Al Hadba Minaret has been leaning about 253 centimeters (a little more than 8 feet) off its axis for several years and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 2012 announced plans to help come up with a plan to stabilize it, the group said.

If ISIS did blow up the historic mosque, it would just be the latest instance of the terror group destroying or damaging historic sites after it took control of large swaths of Iraq and Syria.

The group destroyed antique temples and statues in the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria, a 2,000-year-old city that is home to a UNESCO world heritage site, after taking control of that city in 2015.

Play

JUNE 13: U.S. Humanitarians Risk Their Lives to Save Injured Civilians on ISIS Front Line 1:31

The Syrian army, aided by Russian forces, drove ISIS out of Palmyra last year and the liberation was celebrated with an orchestra concert there. When Syrian forces took control of the city in March of 2016, Syrian and forces found it rigged to explode, a chief Russian sapper said at the time.

But in December ISIS said it recaptured the city from Syrian forces, The Associated Press reported.

The terror group also laid waste to the archaeological site of Nimrud in northern Iraq and smashed relics in a Mosul museum, officials have said.

The U.S.-led coalition to defeat ISIS, the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, is providing Iraqi forces with equipment, training, and fire support.

U.S. Lt. Gen. Steve Townsend, U.S. and coalition commander in Iraq and Syria, called the destruction of the mosque another reason why the group must be eliminated.

“I was just in Mosul Wednesday afternoon and close enough to see the mosque and its famous leaning minaret. Little did I know it was for the last time,” Townsend said in a statement. “This is just another example that ISIS is a cruel, heartless and god-less ideology that cannot be permitted to exist in this world.”

Israeli Archaeologist Censured By Islamic Guards On Temple Mount

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ALGEMEINER NEWS)

 

JANUARY 4, 2017 9:24 AM

Israeli Archaeologist Censured by Islamic Guards on Temple Mount

avatarby JNS.org

The Temple Mount. Photo: Wikipedia.

The Temple Mount. Photo: Wikipedia.

JNS.org – A preeminent Israeli archaeologist was censured by Islamic guards on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount for using the term “Temple Mount” while delivering a lecture to a group of students.

Dr. Gabriel Barkay, who gained international fame for his archaeological discoveries as part of the Temple Mount Sifting Project, was delivering a lecture to a multi-faith group of students from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) on the Temple Mount Sunday when guards from the Islamic Waqf approached him, attempting to have Barkay ejected by Israeli police for repeatedly using the name “Temple Mount,” according to The Times of Israel.

Israeli police told the Islamic guards, who patrol the site for the Jordanian-run Islamic Waqf, that they had no grounds to eject Barkay, while also telling the Israeli archaeologist to refrain from using the term for the rest of the visit. Barkay proceeded to refer to the site by its initials “TM,” the report said.

The incident comes amid Palestinian attempts to erase Jewish connection to Jerusalem’s holy sites. In October, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) passed a series of Palestinian-backed resolutions that referred to the Temple Mount exclusively by its Muslim names – Haram al-Sharif and Al-Aqsa Mosque – while ignoring any Jewish or Christian ties to the holy site.

The Temple Mount Is On Israeli Land So Jews, Christians And Muslims Should Be Allowed To Pray There If They Want Too!

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF HAARETZ NEWS)

Israeli Ministers Join Call to Permit Jewish Prayer at Temple Mount: ‘Status Quo Discriminates Against Jews’
Ministers and Knesset speaker attend conference on changing status quo at Jerusalem’s most politically sensitive site against backdrop of right-wing pressure on Netanyahu to reverse ban on their visits.

Nir Hasson Nov 07, 2016 5:36 PM

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An ultra-Orthodox man looks at the Western Wall and the wooden ramp leading up to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, December 12, 2011. Ronen Zvulun, Reuters
Israel Police to Netanyahu: Let lawmakers visit Temple Mount again
Record number of Jews visit Temple Mount for holidays
Palestinian envoy: UNESCO vote was about ‘occupation,’ not Temple Mount
Israeli parliament speaker Yuli Edelstein joined three cabinet ministers and three lawmakers for the launch of a new Knesset “Temple Mount Lobby” on Monday during a conference on the prospect of altering the status quo at the Jerusalem holy site.
The session was held against the backdrop of increasing demands by right-wing lawmakers and cabinet ministers for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to end his yearlong ban on their visits to the Temple Mount, who said last month that he would revisit the issue with security officials.
Netanyahu had banned these visits as part of an agreement with Jordan’s King Abdullah in response to the outbreak of a wave of Palestinian attacks a year ago.
The prime minister had also ordered lawmakers to avoid discussing the Temple Mount in an attempt to calm the violence attributed to Palestinian claims that Israel intended to change the status quo and permit Jewish prayer at the site.
Most had kept quiet on the subject for months, until Monday’s event.
“In my opinion, our right to the Temple Mount is unshakable,” said Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan. “The Temple Mount is the Jewish people’s holiest site. I have said many times, the current status quo at the Temple Mount discriminates against the Jewish people.”
The Temple Mount, holy to Judaism as the site of two ancient temples, is a flash-point of conflict with the Muslim world, which reveres the plaza as the Noble Sanctuary and site of the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock shrine. The area is a frequent source of Israeli, Palestinian tensions and violence.
Since the Six-Day War, Israeli policy has barred Jewish prayer at the site while permitting worship at the Western Wall below.

Palestinian protesters react during clashes on the compound known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City September 6, 2013. Ammar Awad, Reuters
Monday’s Conference of Zion Seekers was the 10th annual such meeting but the first to be held at the Knesset. The event fell on the anniversary of the Jewish sage Rambam’s visit and prayer at the Temple Mount 850 years ago. It was organized by Yehudah Glick, a veteran activist for greater Jewish access and prayer rights at the site.
Glick was shot and seriously wounded by a Palestinian assailant as he exited the same conference two years ago in Jerusalem.
Temple Mount activists said on Sunday that the past year has seen a rise in the numbers of Jews ascending to the Mount – over 14,000, compared to 11,000 the previous year.
Environmental Affairs Minister Zeev Elkin applauded the Temple Mount advocacy groups, adding that “often you are doing the work that the government doesn’t do.”
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel called on Netanyahu renew permits for Knesset members and cabinet ministers to visit the Temple Mount. He said Israeli security officials supported this demand, “but unfortunately the prime minister’s advisers and he himself unjustifiably prevent this from happening.”
Ariel said that the Mount must be opened to the Jewish people, adding, “enough of the shame.”
Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan demanded the publication of rules he conceived when he was Deputy Religious Services Minister to arrange for Jewish prayer at the Temple Mount.
“The Temple Mount is a place where members of other faiths may visit, but only those of the Jewish faith are denied prayer at the Temple Mount,” he said. “We must not agree to this shame. We have to call upon the government and Knesset to permit Jewish prayer, to make Jewish prayer something normal and permitted.”
The founder of the Return to the Mount movement, Rafael Morris, stated: “When we can say the Temple Mount is ours and only ours and there isn’t room there for anyone else, then we can be victorious in Amona, then we can conquer not only the Temple Mount but Jordan, and Syria, too, and establish a real Jewish state over all the land of Israel.”
Erdan’s appointment as Public Security Minister marked a turning point in police handling of Jews seeking to visit the Temple Mount.
Activists said that conditions for these visits have grown more flexible in recent months and restrictions against prayer are enforced less strictly than in the past.
read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.751583

“Russia Has Never Denied Israels Rights To Jerusalem, The Temple Mount Or The Western Wall”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE JERUSALEM POST)    (THIS IS A RE-POST FROM 11-06-2016 HAS ANYTHING REALLY CHANGED)

Moscow has never denied Israel’s rights to Jerusalem, the Temple Mount or the Western Wall, Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev said in advance of his visit to the Jewish state later this week.

“These rights are clear and it would be absurd to deny them,” he told Channel 2 anchorwoman Yonit Levy.

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He spoke warmly of Russia’s ties with Israel, despite Moscow’s votes against the Jewish state at the United Nations and its delivery of the S-300 missiles to Iran.


Benjamin Netanyahu Dimitry Medvedev. (Photo credit: RIA NOVOSTI / REUTERS)

Levy quizzed him about those controversial issues as well as his support for Syrian President Basher Assad and charges that his country had intervened in the US elections.

How does Russia explain its support of the UNESCO vote “to disregard the historic connection between the Jewish people and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem,” Levy asked Medvedev.

The issue had been blown out of proportion, he responded speaking in Russian, with a Hebrew translation by Channel 2.

There have been some ten votes by UNESCO Boards and Committees on such Jerusalem resolutions, Medvedev said.

“There is nothing new here,” he said, as he dismissed the significance of UNESCO texts that refer to the Temple Mount solely by its Muslim name of Al Haram Al Sharif.

“Our country has never denied the rights of Israel or the Jewish people to Jerusalem, the Temple Mount or the Western Wall,” Medvedev said.

“Therefore there is no need to politicize this decision,” Medvedev said, adding that such resolutions, were “not directed against Israel.”

Similarly, he said, there was nothing contradictory in Russia’s sale and shipment of the advanced S-300 advanced surface to air missile defense system to Iran.

Israel had opposed such sales because they significantly upgrade Iran’s ability to defend its nuclear sites against any attacks. It is particularly concerned because it does not believe that the Iran deal, put in place in 2015, will limit Tehran’s capacity to develop nuclear weapons.

Medvedev told Channel 2 that prior to the Iran deal, Russia respected the sanctions against Tehran and refrained from delivering the S-300. Now that the deal is in place and the sanctions were lifted, there was no reason not to complete the sale, he said.

Moving over to Syria, he referred to President Bashar Assad as the country’s only legitimate leader and added that Israel’s leadership preferred his rule to the prospect of a divided country under terrorist leadership.

“I know him (Assad) personally. There are those who love him and those who don’t. At present Assad is the only legitimate authority operating in Syria. Any regime change would have to occur legitimately,” Medvedev said.

“I remember that during my meetings with Israeli leaders, they told me they were not completely for Assad, but that there has to be someone in charge of the situation, rather than an uncontrolled break up of the country into enclaves ruled by terrorists,” Medvedev said.

Middle East terrorism, he said, is threatening his country from within.

“There are thousands of Russians fighting on behalf of ISIS and other Islamic Jihadist groups,” Medvedev said. “When they return they are experienced murders and terrorists. After their time fighting in Syria we don’t want them to organize something similar [within Russia],” he said.

Levy asked how the presence of the Russian air force in Syria impacted Israel’s ability to prevent the flow of weapons to Hezbollah.

Medvedev said that it was operating from the assumption that “all sides would not take steps to aggravate the conflict.”

With regard to the United States, he charged that it had not kept its commitments in Syria and that the relationship between Washington and Moscow was at a very low point.

Medvedev chuckled when Levy asked him if Russia had interfered with the US elections.

He quoted Russian President Vladimir Putin, when he stated that “the United States is not a banana republic.”

The US, he said, was a large and strong country and could not be influenced in that way. “It doesn’t matter who will be elected, but what policy they will execute,” he said.

“Its clear [that either candidate] will act in the best national interest of the US,” Medvedev said.

He called Republican candidate Donald Trump brilliant and said he had never met him. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, he said, was professional and known to him from the times he met with her when she was US Secretary of State from 2009-2012.

Russia expects to have a “normal” and “productive” relationship with whichever of the two candidates wins the White House, Medvedev said.

With regard to the Russian initiative to hold a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Presdient Mahmoud Abbas, Medvedev said that Moscow was not looking to replace the United States or anyone else when it comes to the peace process.

On the other hand, he said, there are very discouraging signs with regard to that conflict and there have been no advancements to speak of on the Israeli-Palestinian track over the last few years.

“It’s very sad,” he said.

Stand Up For Israel Against The UN’s Ignorance, Stupidity And Cowardliness

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE INTERNATIONAL FELLOWSHIP OF CHRISTIANS AND JEWS)

Standing for Israel’s Biblical History

October 20, 2016

Dear Friend of Israel

UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, was formed in 1945 in a world that had just been torn apart by a devastating war. It was founded with worthy aspirations: to foster peace and respect for human rights through the promotion of education, science, and culture.

Somewhere along the line, UNESCO lost its way. Like its parent organization, it became dominated by countries that showed no respect for peace or human rights, and that displayed an overwhelming hatred toward one particular nation: Israel.

This hatred was displayed again recently, when UNESCO passed an absurd resolution denying the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount and Western Wall in Jerusalem. By adopting this resolution, UNESCO denies what all Christians and Jews, and all people with any knowledge of history, know already: Jewish claims to a home in the Holy Land, and to Jewish holy sites located there, have an irrefutable biblical, historical, and political basis.

First and foremost is the biblical claim that God promised the land to Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 13:15). Second, there has been an uninterrupted Jewish presence in the Holy Land for thousands of years. Third, numerous international agreements and resolutions have conferred political and legal legitimacy on the Jewish state. And finally, there is the fact that Jews, through vast amounts of hard work and ingenuity, made Israel the vibrant, successful, productive nation that it is today.

By denying Judaism’s claim to these sites, UNESCO violates the very principles of religious tolerance and pluralism that the organization professes to champion. It also supports a radical Islamist agenda that states Jews have no legitimate claim to these sites – the resolution refers to Israel as “the occupying Power” and references Israeli “escalating aggressions,” with no reference to Arab terrorism. It fosters a culture of hatred against and misinformation about Israel, and makes peace that much more difficult to attain.

This appalling and biased resolution must be challenged. Today, I ask you to sign our petitiondemanding that UNESCO repeal it, and forward the petition to your friends, family, and church members. By doing so, you’ll be adding more voices to the vast chorus of freedom-loving people who recognize Israel for what it is: a bastion of democracy in the midst of the tyrannical regimes of the Middle East.

Israel needs our prayers now more than ever, so please act today. And continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and for the day when UNESCO, the United Nations, and the entire world will treat Israel as a full and equal member of the community of nations.

With prayers for shalom, peace,


Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

The Great Wall Of China’s Repair Work Is Called “Brutal And Ugly” By Locals

(This article is courtesy of the Shanghai Daily News)

Chinese outrage over ‘ugly’ restoration of Great Wall

中国”最美野长城”被抹平引发众怒

CHINESE social media users were in an uproar Friday over restoration of a 700-year-old section of the Great Wall that has been covered in concrete, turning it into a smooth, flat-topped path.
Known as one of the most beautiful portions of the “wild”, restored wall, the eight-kilometer (five-mile) Xiaohekou stretch in northeast Liaoning province was built-in 1381 during the Ming Dynasty.
Photos posted online showed that its uneven, crumbling steps and plant growth had been replaced as far as the eye could see with a white, concrete-like cap.
“This looks like the work of a group of people who didn’t even graduate from elementary school,” said one user of China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform. “If this is the result, you might as well have just blown it up.”
“Such brutal treatment of the monuments left behind by our ancestors! How is it that people with low levels of cultural awareness can take on leadership positions?” asked another. “Why don’t we just raise the Forbidden City in Beijing, too?”
Even the deputy director of Liaoning’s department of culture Ding Hui admitted: “The repairs really are quite ugly,” according to state broadcaster CCTV.
The Great Wall is not a single unbroken structure but stretches for thousands of kilometres in sections from China’s east coast to the edge of the Gobi desert.
In places it is so dilapidated that estimates of its total length vary from 9,000 to 21,000 kilometers, depending on whether missing sections are included. Despite its length it is not, as is sometimes claimed, visible from space.
Emergency maintenance was ordered for Xiaohekou in 2012 to “avoid further damage and dissolution” caused by “serious structural problems and issues due to flooding” and was completed in 2014, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage said in a statement on its website in response to public and media outcry.
The government body has begun an investigation into the approval, implementation and outcome of the maintenance work, stating that it would deal with work units and personnel found to be at fault severely, “without justifying their mistakes”.
Around 30 percent of China’s Ming-era Great Wall has disappeared over time as adverse natural conditions and reckless human activities — including stealing the bricks to build houses — erode the UNESCO World Heritage site, state media reports said last summer.
Under Chinese regulations people who take bricks from the Great Wall can be fined up to 5,000 yuan ($750), but plant growth on the wall continues to accelerate decay, and tourism, especially to undeveloped sections, continues to severely damage the world’s longest human construction.

Belgium: Catholic School Teacher’s Anti Jewish Cartoon Is Praised By Administration

(This story is courtesy of the Times Of Israel News Paper)

FIRST PERSON / I’ve seen how anti-Israel vitriol has mainstreamed classic anti-Semitism

How my reporting about an anti-Semitic cartoon changed my views of Belgium — for the worse

Luc Descheemaeker was denounced by UNESCO, Germany and the US, but his school says it’s ‘proud’

August 26, 2016
Belgian cartoonist Luc Descheemaeker posted this image to his Facebook page after it won a prize at Iran’s widely condemned Holocaust mockery cartoon contest om May 2016. (Facebook)

AMSTERDAM (JTA) — I used to think I had a pretty good understandingof what it means to be Jewish in Belgium.

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A longtime observer of that polarized binational country, whose dysfunctions and successes often reflect those of the European Union headquartered in its capital, Brussels, I have family ties there and am fluent in the local languages.

But I had to readjust my understanding of Belgian Jewry’s circumstances this month while reporting on a local Catholic school’s stated pride in and support for a teacher who had published anti-Semitic caricatures, and who recently won a cash prize at Iran’s Holocaust mockery cartoon competition.

Shielded by education officials’ wall of silence and celebrated in mainstream Belgian media as a champion of free speech, Luc Descheemaeker was able to pass off anti-Semitic imagery as legitimate criticism of Israel in a way that I had thought impossible in an established Western democracy in the heart of Europe.

As Descheemaeker’s advocates circled the wagons around him — his school praised him as working to preserve, not distort, the memory of the Holocaust — I saw firsthand how anti-Israel vitriol has mainstreamed classic anti-Semitism in a country where Jews are leaving partly because they feel their children can no longer comfortably attend the public schools.

My Belgian eye opener began with a post on The New Antisemite blog, which tracks anti-Jewish sentiment in Europe. It said the vice director of the Sint Jozef Institute highschool near Antwerp had told a Belgian Jewish publication that she was “very proud” of Descheemaeker after he won $1,000 and a special mention at the Second International Holocaust Cartoon Contest in Tehran.

Belgian cartoonist Luc Descheemaeker shared news of his prize at the Iranian Holocaust cartoon contest in May on his Facebook page. (Facebook)

Belgian cartoonist Luc Descheemaeker shared news of his prize at the Iranian Holocaust cartoon contest in May on his Facebook page. (Facebook)

The winning entry by Descheemaeker, a plastic arts teacher who retired this year, was a drawing of the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” over Israel’s security barrier along the West Bank. The German sentence, which means “work sets you free,” was featured on a gate of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Poland.

Previously, I found, Descheemaeker had published at least two cartoons that used classically anti-Semitic imagery. In one, an Orthodox Jew waits to bludgeon a peaceful Arab baby and his mother with a giant Star of David. In another, the Jew is waiting to startle a jihadist who is holding a shopping bag while wearing an explosives vest — presumably so she blows herself up.

The Forum of Jewish Organizations of Belgium’s Flemish Region condemned Descheemaeker’s Arbeit Macht Frei cartoon as “an example of modern anti-Semitism” and his earlier work featuring depictions of Jews as “classically anti-Semitic.”

Additionally, the cartoon contest in which he participated was decried as anti-Semitic by UNESCO, Germany and the United States, among others.

And finally, comparing Israeli policies to those of Nazi Germany is an example of anti-Semitism, according to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance – an intergovernmental organization with 31 member states, including Belgium.

I was skeptical of the blog’s report about the school’s endorsement of Descheemaeker because Western European educational institutions rarely seek to associate themselves with his brand of imagery.

Belgium has made discernible progress in recent years in coming to terms with the Holocaust-era complicity of its authorities and population. Surely, I thought, Descheemaeker would not get support and praise from a prestigious Catholic school there.

My first surprise was the reply I received from the school to my query over Descheemaeker. Yes, confirmed the school director Paul Vanthournout – “we are proud of Luc Descheemaeker,” though not, per se, over his winning the award in Iran or his cartoons, he said. Vanthournout declined to comment on these activities, which he said had nothing to do with Descheemaeker’s teaching position, but assured me that Descheemaeker “is not an anti-Semite.”

As proof, the school director cited an award that Descheemaeker won in 2002 from Belgium’s Queen Paola for staging a student show based on Art Spiegelman’s Holocaust memoir “Maus.”

I wanted to see whether the school can get away with defending the maker of blatant anti-Semitic imagery by claiming to be neutral on its celebrated teacher’s extracurricular activities. So I repeatedly queried the board of education, the royal house, the Queen Paola Foundation, the municipality where the school is located and Belgium’s federal center against discrimination. I received one written response, from the foundation, saying it had no comment for me.

This see-no-evil approach from government offices in a country whose leaders often declare a zero-tolerance attitude to anti-Semitism surprised me. But the real shock was the response from the Belgian media to JTA’s coverage of the affair.

De Morgen, one of Belgium’s largest and best-respected dailies, ran an article that omitted reference to Descheemaeker’s caricatures of Jews. It described the Iranian competition as a “controversial” affair “themed on the Holocaust,” which the paper said was instituted as a statement about freedom of expression following the publication of insulting caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in Denmark.

(UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations, had called the contest “a mockery of the genocide of the Jewish people.”)

Descheemaeker, who is described in the paper as an internationally acclaimed caricaturist, is quoted as saying in reaction to the uproar created by his work: “There is still such a thing as freedom of expression.”

Knack, a popular news site, took the same editorial line.

(Descheemaeker did not respond to JTA requests for an interview sent through his school, on social media and via email.)

Confused, I reached out to Joel Rubinfeld, founder of the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism and former president of the CCOJB umbrella group of French-speaking Belgian Jewish communities. I wanted to know whether Belgian education officials were more tolerant of expressions of anti-Semitism than their counterparts from other Western European countries.

Joel Rubinfeld, Director of the Belgian League against Anti-Semitism (Maryll Israel/JTA)

Joel Rubinfeld, Director of the Belgian League against Anti-Semitism (Maryll Israel/JTA)

“It’s a problem,” he said. “We’ve encountered a number of cases where schools did not take the necessary measures when Jewish pupils were targeted in anti-Semitic bullying, for example.”

A teacher who last year told a Jewish high school student, “We should put you all on freight wagons,” was allowed to keep his job following an internal inquiry. It ended with him apologizing while denying any anti-Semitic intent in the first place.

Cases involving anti-Semitic abuse among students are regularly ignored at Belgian schools, “which don’t apply the measures necessary to make these cases stop,” Rubinfeld said.

One student was forced to leave his public school and was enrolled in a private Jewish one last year following harassment, which included a threat to “break his skull” if he showed support for Israel. Also last year, the Belgian media reported on the online shaming by classmates of a pro-Israel high school student. He also left the public education system for a Jewish school.

As Belgian Jews continue to grapple with the anti-Semitism problem in their country — in 2014, a suspected jihadist was arrested for the shooting deaths of four people at the Jewish museum in Brussels — a growing number are deciding to look for a new home.

Last year, 287 Jews immigrated to Israel from Belgium, which has a Jewish population of about 40,000. It was the highest figure recorded in a decade. From 2010 to 2015, an average of 234 Belgian Jews made aliyah annually — a 56 percent increase over the annual average of 133 new arrivals from Belgium in 2005-2009, according to Israeli government data.

“In Belgium, the choice for Jews is often between abuse or ghettoization,” Rubinfeld said. “It’s not surprising that a growing number of Belgian Jews are finding alternatives to both.”

Belgian cartoonist Luc Descheemaeker posted this image to his Facebook page after it won a prize at Iran’s widely condemned Holocaust mockery cartoon contest om May 2016. (Facebook)
FROM THE TIMES OF ISRAEL

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