Kudos For Cotler
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin presented Mount Royal MP Irwin Cotler, the international chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism, with an award Dec. 16 for “outstanding service in the fight against anti-Semitism.” It was presented in a Knesset ceremony in conjunction with the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism, attended by some 500 international delegates, including a sizable Canadian delegation of parliamentarians and NGO members. The previous day, the former justice minister received the prestigious Menachem Begin Prize at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem for leadership in international law and human rights.
Chief rabbi visits vandalized mosque
Israeli chief rabbi Yona Metzger visited the West Bank village of Yasuf where a mosque was vandalized. He was under the protection of the Israel Defence Forces and Palestinian police. Palestinian protesters hit Rabbi Metzger with rocks as he left the village. “I came here to express my revulsion at this wretched act of burning a place holy to the Muslim people,” he said. “This is how the Holocaust began, the tragedy of the Jewish people of Europe.” Vandals assumed to be extremists raided a mosque in Yasuf before dawn Dec. 11, burning furniture, prayer rugs and holy texts and defacing the mosque’s walls. Rabbi Metzger’s visit came a day after a delegation of rabbis and Israelis from the West Bank tried to enter the village to help refurbish the mosque and to deliver copies of the Qur’an to replace the Muslim holy books burned in the attack. The group from Gush Etzion, which is south of Jerusalem, was detained at a checkpoint, where they met with village elders.
Turkish president to visit
Turkey’s president accepted an invitation from his Israeli counterpart to visit. Abdullah Gul and Shimon Peres met last Friday on the sidelines of the climate conference in Copenhagen. Gul’s agreement to visit comes following months of tensions between Israel and Turkey sparked by disagreements over Israel’s war in Gaza last winter with Hamas. Gul said Turkey was ready to resume its mediating role between Israel and Arab countries, Israel Radio reported. It didn’t report whether a date had been set for the visit.
MKs threaten U.K. boycott
Israeli lawmakers are threatening to boycott British products in retaliation for special labeling of products from the West Bank. One-third of Israel’s 120 lawmakers have signed a petition that will be delivered to Britain’s Parliament, according to reports. The petition drive is being led by the Kadima Party’s Ronit Tirosh, who said she would draft a bill requiring British products to be labelled. Tirosh also called for a boycott of British airlines. Earlier this month, the British government issued an advisory allowing retailers to label products originating from the West Bank as being produced in Israeli settlements or by Palestinians.
PLO extends Abbas’ term
The PLO extended the term of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Meeting in Ramallah, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Council agreed to keep Abbas in office until new elections can be scheduled. His term expires Jan. 25. Palestinian elections scheduled for next month were cancelled when Hamas refused to allow the vote to go forward in the Gaza Strip, which it controls. Abbas, 74, has said he won’t run for re-election. Hamas doesn’t recognize the extension, Al Jazeera reported. The Central Council also agreed last week that peace talks with Israel couldn’t resume until Israel halts all building in settlements, including east Jerusalem.
Israeli wins Chess World Cup
Israel’s top-ranked player won the 2009 Chess World Cup. Boris Gelfand, a grand master from Rishon LeZion, defeated former world champion Ruslan Ponomariov of Ukraine in a playoff Dec. 14 in the Russian town of Khanty-Mansiysk to take the $120,000 (US) top prize. Gelfand, 41, was the No. 1 seed among 128 players in the event, which had a prize pool of $1.6 million. Ranked sixth in the world, Gelfand is now eligible to compete in the 2010 World Championships as one of the eight best players in the world. He immigrated to Israel from Belarus in 1998.