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Israeli doctors to perform face transplant

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Dr. Eyal Gur, director of the Plastic Surgery Department at the Tel Aviv Ichilov hospital, and Dr. Arik Zaretsky, head of the Micro-Surgery Division of the Plastic Surgery Department, are preparing to undertake Israel’s first full face transplant, an operation which has only been performed 21 times around the world and is considered the most complex procedure in medicine.

While the patient has not been selected, some of the candidates are children, reported Israel Hayom. If a child is chosen, Israel will become the first country to conduct such an operation on a minor.

“The people being considered are holed up and isolated in their homes,” Gur said. “They do not allow themselves to go outside because of their appearance. I hope that we can help them change their lives dramatically—with the help of another person…whose family was generous and courageous enough to donate his organs for the sake of rescuing another human being.”

The operation could take anywhere from 24 to 36 hours.

JointMedia News Service

Oldest Synagogue in English-Speaking World Holds 250th Anniversary Celebration

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The Jewish community in Plymouth, England, assembled last week to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the opening of its local synagogue.

According to media sources, The Plymouth Synagogue is the oldest shul in the English-speaking world, and has conducted Ashkenazi services uninterruptedly during its more than two centuries of existence.
A number of prominent British officials visited the synagogue to celebrate its anniversary. The Lord Lieutenant of Devon—a large county located in southwestern England, to which Plymouth belongs— and the Devon High Sheriff, representing the Queen; the chief rabbi and the president of the United Synagogues; and the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews were among the officials present to honor the synagogue’s enduring commitment to servicing local Jews in Plymouth and beyond.

Jews originally settled in the English city in the eighteenth century; Plymouth’s synagogue first opened doors to worshippers in 1762. Most of its founding members were of Dutch and German origin, according to a local news report.

The synagogue has had its share of challenges over the years; it was one of the few Plymouth buildings to survive the Nazi Blitz during World War II. Generally, though, the shul has remained intact and relatively unaltered in its last 150 years, the Jewish Chronicle reported.

The Plymouth Synagogue’s honorary secretary, Anne Kelly, called the celebration held in the sanctuary’s honor “absolutely fantastic, brilliant”. She elaborated on some of the other notable figures who came to the event, and mentioned a few of the activities that took place to commemorate Plymouth’s years of service.

“I’ve had so many e-mails and messages from people saying what a wonderful, memorable event it was,” Kelly told the Plymouth Herald. “The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress have been extremely good supporters, and it was wonderful to have the Lord Lieutenant attend. We also had Oliver Colvile MP attend and a number of councillors along with 150 other guests.”

“The Chief Rabbi [Lord Sacks] came as well and took part in the service,” Kelly continued. “He gave it a magical touch and it was very moving religiously. We had afternoon tea at the Holiday Inn and many said they were able to catch up with people they had not seen in many years.”

Members of the Plymouth community have toiled to preserve the synagogue and its services over the years, and, for many of them, the celebration served as a form of acknowledgement and appreciation from the outside communities.

“I’m extremely proud to see [the shul] full today,” David Rappaport, who frequents the synagogue, told the Jewish Chronicle. “It’s like having the family come to visit. We feel very isolated down here, but aren’t Jews isolated everywhere?”

Rappaport added that the celebration had come at a pivotal time for Plymouth’s Jewish community, as the synagogue has struggled to continue providing services in recent years.

“Oh my word, we’re mixing with the bigwigs today,” he added while reflecting on the commemoration.  “I can’t believe how many people are here. I try to come every Friday night. It’s very difficult and we don’t always get a minyan.”

Today, The Plymouth Synagogue hires visiting clergy to accommodate its roughly 100 congregants.

“It’s very sad,” Rappaport finished.

The synagogue in Exeter—another city located in Devon County— is scheduled to hold its 250th anniversary celebration next year.

Israel Hatred: It’s for the Birds

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Pictured above: The evil Zionist oppressor apartheid-bird, also known as the hoopoe (Credit: Keta)Activists Enraged Over Inclusion of Israeli National Bird in UK Quiz

It seems that birds-as-Zionist-agents is a popular theme among Israel haters this month. Less than two weeks ago, Turks were up in arms as a European Bee-Eater, found dead in a farmer’s field, was assumed to be an Israeli spy. Their evidence? A tag on its leg (the kind ornithologists use to track bird migration) said “Israel,” and its unusually large nostrils, indicative of tampering by evil Zionist veterinarian-engineers. No word yet if the bird’s head was found to contain an Israeli-made camera, or a .50-caliber machine gun, because hey, why not? Not to be outdone in terms of lunacy (or should we say, loonacy?), British anti-Israel activists were infuriated after the Morning Star, a UK newspaper, included the Israeli national bird (the hoopoe) in its daily quiz.

The newspaper has “always been the newspaper you could rely on to support the cause of the Palestinians,” said Linda Claire, the chairwoman of Manchester’s Palestine Solidarity Campaign, in a letter to the editor. “Is the Star not aware there’s a cultural boycott going on?” Claire’s husband asked in another letter. As complaints began rolling in regarding these letters, the activists responded that “It was not the bird we object to but what this bird represents—the racist and apartheid State of Israel.”

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Researcher Documents and Covers Trial of Bosnian War Criminal Ratko Mladic

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Accused War Criminal Ratko Mladic in 1993 (PHOTO CREDIT: EVSTAFIEV MIKHAIL)While serving as a Goldfarb fellow with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Committee on Conscience, journalist Michael Dobbs Dobbs has assembled a comprehensive resource of the evidence amassed against Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic, whose trial for orchestrating the largest massacre in Europe since World War II began last week in The Hague.

This information is hosted on the Museum’s website at www.ushmm.org/mladic-files, and over the next few months Dobbs will provide regular reporting and coverage as the trial unfolds.

The Mladic Files: An Exploration of Atrocities in the Balkans  provides a multifaceted account of the case against Mladic, who has been indicted for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes committed during the 1992–95 Balkans conflict, including the Srebrenica massacre in 1995 that led to the deaths of some 8,000 Bosnian Muslims.

Dobbs hasincluded on the site maps and documentation that show where massacres were carried out and the efforts of the perpetrators to hide them; presents annotated pieces of key prosecutorial evidence; features interviews with principal participants, including victims, eyewitnesses and prosecutors, in the case, and more.

“To date ‘The Mladic Files’ has not only provided a solid foundation for understanding what can be expected as the trial unfolds, but also provides insight to the thinking of the key players – victims, eyewitnesses and prosecutors” said  Michael Abramowitz, Director of the Committee on Conscience, the Museum’s genocide prevention program.  “This historic trial will play an important role in determining if Mladic’s actions constituted genocide. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum is pleased that, through our fellowship program, Dobbs has been able to collate and make accessible to the media and the public some of the key evidence that otherwise might have remained buried in the court’s files,” he added.

In addition, in the upcoming months, Dobbs will examine the core  issues of the the case, such as whether this genocide could have been prevented, whether bringing to justice those responsible for mass atrocities helps bring justice for the victims, and whether the system of international justice that has been evolving since the Holocaust, is still relevant today.

Dobbs will be posting his reports on the Museum’s site at www.ushmm.org/mladic-files, and is also maintaining a blog in cooperation with Foreign Policy magazine at  www.foreignpolicy.com.

As part of its genocide prevention efforts, the Museum has long shone a spotlight on the atrocities in the Balkans and in particular the massacre at Srebrenica. The Museum has been monitoring the arrests and trials of those accused of genocide and crimes against humanity in the region.

The Committee on Conscience, the Museum’s genocide prevention program, works to alert the national conscience, influence policy makers, and stimulate worldwide action to confront and work to halt acts of genocide and related crimes against humanity.

A living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum inspires citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. Federal support guarantees the Museum’s permanent place on the National Mall, and its far-reaching educational programs and global impact are made possible by generous donors. For more information, visit ushmm.org.

‘For The Sake of Jerusalem, Let Your Voices be Heard’

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19th Annual Israel Day Concert to be Held Following Parade  

20,000 people are expected to attend this year’s Israel Day Concert in Central Park, which will be held at Central Park’s Summer Stage (entrance at 5th Ave. & 72nd St.), Sunday, June 3, 2012. The concert, which coincides with the 45th anniversary of the miracle of the Six-Day War and Re-unification of Jerusalem, is scheduled to run from 2:30 to 7:30 PM, rain or shine, after the Salute to Israel Parade. Admission is free.
Dr. Joseph Frager (at left) of Jamaica Estates, long-time Organizer, and Dr. Paul (holding Concert poster) and Drora Brody (at right), of Great Neck Estates, Chairpersons, have announced the concert’s themes: “Jerusalem United Forever—never to be divided again,” and “Stopping Iran NOW,” from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Sephardic singing sensation, Avi Peretz, (2nd from left), of the Village of Great Neck, who is the Cantor of Cong. Ahavat Shalom of Great Neck, will once again be performing, among many other recording stars, accompanied by pianist extraordinaire, Ouri Bitan (in center).

Toronto Islamic School Temporarily Shut Down Following Discovery of Anti-Semitic Material

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Following the discovery of blatantly anti-Semitic material on its website, Toronto’s East End Madrassah has had its permit to deliver classes at the David and Mary Thomson Collegiate Institute has been suspended. (PHOTO: GOOGLE STREET VIEW)A Toronto school board has banned an Islamic Sunday school from resuming its operations until a police investigation into the school’s allegedly anti-Semitic and Islamist website content is completed, news sources have reported.

East End Madrassah had been holding classes in a Scarborough area public school for more than three decades until complaints were submitted to the police about the nature of the school’s curricula and teaching objectives.

“We’ve had a long relationship with this organization and there have been no problems to date, but of course when the situation came to our attention, it was something that we needed to investigate,” explained Toronto District School Board spokeswoman Shari Schwartz-Maltz.

The materials at the heart of the controversy surrounding the school were discovered on its website in early May. Jews were characterized as “crafty” and “treacherous” and accused of killing the Islamic prophet Muhammed, and Judaism was compared to Nazism. In addition, children were advised to engage in athletic activity and strive to keep fit in the event they had to perform an unexpected act of jihad, or suicide bombing.

The school took down the materials and issued an apology after news of the matter became known.

“We unreservedly apologize to the Jewish community for the unintentional offence that the item caused,” the Madrassah’s officials wrote in a statement. “Our curriculum is not intended to promote hatred towards any individual or group of people, rather the children are taught to respect and value other faiths, beliefs and to uphold Canada’s basic values of decency and tolerance.”

But Jim Spyropoulos, the Toronto school board’s coordinating superintendent of inclusive schools, suggested the school’s reaction was not enough to assuage concerns.

“What we said was, we needed to be satisfied with the outcome of the investigation and that they were in compliance with our policies and procedures,” Spyropoulos said, referring to the explanations the school board gave the Madrassah when giving it the boot, according to the Toronto Star.

He said the board needed to have “a deeper discussion so we can have a clear understanding of [the Madrassah’s] programming and curriculum, and how and why some of the statements that appeared on their website were there.”

The police are searching for specific evidence the school “publicly and ‘willfully’ [promoted] hatred against any identifiable group” and violated Canada’s Criminal Code, JTA reported.

Until then, the Madrassah’s permit to deliver classes at the public school will be suspended.

“The Islamic Shia Study Centre will not be able to permit TDSB property until the police investigation is complete and they are able to demonstrate that they comply with board policies and procedures,” said Ryan Bird, a Toronto District School Board spokesman, citing the name of the organization that runs the East End Madrassah.

Those who had notified authorities of the school’s website content were happy with the TDSB’s decision, but asked the school board and the police to take further measures to ensure Jews would be continually protected.

“We are pleased to note the TDSB has taken action in response to the alarming anti-Semitic hate taught to Muslim schoolchildren at Toronto’s East End Madrassah,” said Avi Benlolo, President and CEO of Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre. “We hope the school board will now go one step further and put a plan in place to ensure no group is ever targeted as the Jewish community has been, and that ancient hatreds are never again endorsed and encouraged in Toronto classrooms.”

Calling the school board’s reaction an “excellent first step,” the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs asked that the TDSB move forward and revoke the Madrassah’s permit to teach at public schools in the future.
“Given the presence of anti-Semitic passages in the curriculum, and the dubious activism of its religious leadership, it is clear that the Madrassah has disqualified itself as a partner with the School Board on any level,” the Centre said in a statement. “We are hopeful that the board comes to this conclusion in due course and that the Madrassah is not welcomed back into our public schools.”

Iran ‘committed to Israel’s annihilation,’ says top general

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Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, head of the Iranian armed forcesChief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi on Sunday said Iran remains committed to the “full annihilation of the Zionist regime of Israel to the end,” according to the Iranian Fars news agency.

Firouzabadi “reiterated the Iranian nation and supreme leader’s emphasis on the necessity of support for the oppressed Palestinian nation and its causes,” and noted, “The Iranian nation is standing for its cause that is the full annihilation of Israel.”

The top military official reminded those present that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei considers “defending Palestine a full religious duty and believes that any kind of governance and rule by anyone other than the Palestinians as an instance of usurpation,” Fars reported.

Israel Hayom courtesy of JointMedia News Service

Bank of Tokyo Freezes Iranian Assets in Accordance with U.S. Order

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The Bank of Tokyo’s headquarters in Japan. In compliance with a U.S. court order, the Japanese bank, which handles more than seventy percent of Japan’s oil transactions with Iran, has frozen $2.6 billion of the regime’s assets.A Japanese bank responsible for most oil transactions between Iran and the Asian nation has frozen $2.6 billion of Tehran’s assets in Japan, thus further isolating the regime as the West continues to step up sanctions to deter Iran from pursuing its nuclear ends.

Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ announced its decision on Thursday, saying it was acting on the order of a New York District Court.

“It is true that we have received the order from the U.S. court,” to freeze $2.6 billion of assets, a spokesman for the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ told the AFP.

The decision by Tokyo could potentially affect Japanese crude imports from Iran, according to the head of Japan’s banking lobby group, Reuters reported.

The bank order was given to enforce a five-year-old U.S. verdict on the regime.

In 2007, a Washington judge ruled that Tehran had provided financial assistance to Hezbollah to carry out an attack on army barracks in Beirut in 1983. U.S. and French Marines were stationed in the Lebanese capital as part of a peacekeeping coalition, and 241 soldiers were killed in the suicide bombing. Iran was ordered to pay $2.6 billion in damages to survivors and the victims’ families, but ignored the U.S. ruling, as it has done with several other cases in the past.

Mitsubishi UFJ issued a formal complaint about the court order last Wednesday, saying it felt the decision was “problematic” according to Japanese law.

“It is questionable if an order by a U.S. court applies to places where it has no sovereign power,” Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yukio Edano said at a press conference last Friday. “I don’t understand” the court’s order, the former practicing lawyer said, according to the Tehran Times.

 The bank refused to announce the amount of assets, or who they belonged to, but said Mitsubishi UFJ “handles a relatively large number of transactions for trade with Iran,” the AFP reported.

Japanese authorities are anxious to have the matter resolved.

“Iranian oil accounts for more than 10 percent of Japan’s oil imports,” Yasuhiro Sato, president of Mizuho Financial and chairman of the Japanese Bankers Association, said on Thursday at a monthly press briefing, Reuters said. “If banks can’t make settlements for Iranian oil, this will affect the nation’s energy policy.”

“The issue needs to be addressed by concerned parties including the government,” Sato added.

The Bank of Tokyo was the only Japanese bank to have been ordered by U.S. authorities to freeze Tehran’s assets, and banking experts have conjectured the bank was chosen because it deals most with Iranian holdings in Japan. Officials say the bank may be responsible for up to 80% of crude trade between the two countries.

As Western powers resumed talks with Iran over its controversial arms program this week, the looming power of economic sanctions and the biting effect of Japan’s move were in full relief. There appears to be no direct tie between the nuclear talks and the U.S’s decision to freeze Tehran’s assets at this time, however.

Japan is one of the biggest patrons of Iranian crude, but U.S. and EU sanctions have gradually reduced oil shipments between Tokyo and Tehran. Japanese imports have fallen by 40 percent over the last five years, and more than 20 percent during the last three months.

U.S. Ambassador: Military Ready to Take on Iran

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Ambassador Dan ShapiroAnother voice was added to the increasing international discourse concerning the possibility of a military option in addressing the Iranian nuclear threat when Dan Shapiro, the United States ambassador to Israel, told a group of lawyers at the Israeli bar association last week that America was making legitimate military preparations for a possible military strike on Tehran’s nuclear facilities.

“It would be preferable to resolve this diplomatically and through the use of pressure than to use military force,” Shapiro explained last Tuesday, according to The New York Times. “But that doesn’t mean that option is not fully available. And not just available, but it’s ready. The necessary planning has been done to ensure that it’s ready.”

Until this time, most American officials, including President Obama and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, have mentioned that diplomatic and economic pressures would be the first recourses towards handling Iran, while the military option would be left on the table. But no discussion of any actual military activity was ever brought up.

After Shapiro’s remarks were made public, several pundits began analyzing the ambassador’s words and the context in which they were made. Most agreed that the U.S. was attempting to reassure Israel and caution Iran that it was not bluffing about maintaining the military option, as talks between the West and Iran continued to intensify ahead of the meeting that was scheduled in Baghdad for Wednesday, May 23.

“Any expression that all options are on the table can only strengthen the negotiations,” said Dore Gold, a former adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and now president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, according to the Times. “There’s an irony in the situation, because a hawkish position on Iran probably makes a peaceful diplomatic outcome more likely, and that could be what he was trying to do.”

Amos Yadlin of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv said the words of the ambassador were carefully articulated to display a “credible” military option.

“If you’re saying that the military option is on the table and at the same time you transmit that a military option will be a doomsday and will be a World War III and the Middle East will be in flames, then nobody will take you seriously,” Yadlin noted, the Times also reported. “A serious military, even if it’s not on the plan for next week or next month, but strategically thinking that this is an option, they have to prepare a contingency plan, that makes sense.”

But some believed Shapiro’s remarks were not intended to be disseminated among a public audience. Though a top official from the Netanyahu administration, who spoke to the Times on the condition of anonymity, commended the ambassador’s statements, he clarified that they failed to achieve their desired goal of having provoked the Iranians to ratchet up negotiations with the West.

“Quite clearly he didn’t mean this to be public,” the official reportedly explained. “For the Iranians to understand that they really mean it, they have to hear it publicly and clearly.”

Meir Javendanfar of IDC-Herzliya suggested that Ambassador Shapiro was being even more politically astute in his words than other analysts had suggested. Not only was he trying to dissuade Tehran from dodging Western diplomatic efforts, but Shapiro was also trying to bolster the president’s record with Iran, Javendanfar explained.

“Republicans in the U.S. who have tried to hurt Obama’s credibility on Iran by saying that the president has been too soft on Iran and that Iran’s leadership don’t take his warnings regarding the existence of a possibly military option seriously” were another target of the ambassador’s address at the bar association, the Times cited Javendanfar as having said.

But Shmuel Bar of the same Israeli institution seemed to echo the frustration with the U.S. latent in the comment given by the anonymous security official of the prime minster’s office, saying America was not sending a strong enough message to Iran.

“What actually the U.S. administration is doing is blowing hot and cold,” said Bar, the Times similarly reported. “Actions do speak louder than words. The actions say the U.S. has a very strong aversion to any kind of military action.”

Jonathan Tobin of Commentary magazine was similarly skeptical the Ambassador Shapiro was faithfully delivering the U.S. position about its military readiness.

“Like much of what the administration has said and done in recent months, Ambassador Shapiro’s comments seem to be geared more toward convincing Israel to refrain from its own strike on Iran — for which the IAF has proclaimed its readiness — than a genuine demonstration of an American will to act to forestall the threat,” Tobin wrote in an op-ed. But the senior online editor of the neo-Conservative publication said the answers to all questions surrounding Shapiro’s statements would be answered in no time.

” … Rather than judge the administration on its words, it is far wiser to judge them on what happens in the coming negotiations,” Tobin continued in “Was Ambassador’s Iran Threat Credible?” “If, as the Iranians expect, the EU, Russia and China, with President Obama, as always, leading from behind, make ‘progress’ in the coming weeks toward a deal that will leave Iran’s nuclear infrastructure in place, we will know the ambassador’s statement was merely an empty threat.”

NATO Ministers Meet With American Jewish Committee in Chicago

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Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev (L) met with AJC leaders – Harry Seigle, Daniel Schwammenthal, Allan Reich and Jack Levin – during the NATO summit in Chicago.AJC, the premier global Jewish advocacy organization, held a series of private meetings with high-level government officials attending this week’s NATO Summit. The meetings were an extension of AJC’s ongoing diplomatic activity around the world.

“Chicago hosting NATO was the perfect opportunity for our city’s AJC leadership to engage directly with the leaders of countries, many of whom have long been known to us, and all of whom are important to our concerns as Americans and as Jews,” said Dan Elbaum, director of AJC Chicago. “We were pleased with our friendly and intensive discussions.”

Over a two-day period, AJC Chicago leaders met privately with, among others, Bulgarian President  Rosen Plevneiev; Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird;  Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs; Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Boguslaw Winid; Romanian Foreign Minister Andrei Marga; and Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Garcia-Margello.

Topping the agenda in each meeting was Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons capability, which AJC, like the U.S. and EU, views as a grave threat to global security. An AJC full-page ad on the Iran nuclear threat appeared in Monday’s Chicago Tribune. AJC encouraged the NATO ministers to continue to stand firm in implementing ever-increasing sanctions against Iran and, at the same time, to keep all options credibly on the table.

Other pressing issues discussed included the implications of political upheavals across the Arab world, how to restart the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and the importance of a vibrant transatlantic partnership and robust NATO. AJC took a leadership role as a NGO in advocating for the successful expansion of NATO to include Central European countries formerly under Soviet domination.

European Jewish Congress Seeks Ban on Greek Neo-Nazi Party

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The European Jewish Congress is calling on the governments of Europe to take strong measures against the resurgence of anti-Semitism and right-wing extremism, with a specific focus on legally banning a “neo-Nazi” style political party that has made unexpected electoral gains in Greece.

EJC President Moshe Kantor is scheduled to meet this week with the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic to gain his backing for “emergency measures” designed to shield Europe’s Jewish communities from violent hate crimes. The proposed measures are speculated to include new legislation, intelligence-sharing and the implementation of a publicity campaign identifying anti-Jewish threats.

Kantor has especially voiced his worries over the Golden Dawn Party, which performed well in Greece’s government elections several weeks ago. The party’s head has stated that there is no truth to the historical belief that Nazi-directed concentration camps murdered their captives via gas chambers and ovens during the Holocaust.

While Golden Dawn insists it is not neo-Nazi, its election campaign was centered on an anti-immigration platform, that has aroused serious concerns among Greece’s minority communities. “The rise of Golden Dawn should have sent shock-waves through Europe,” Kantor stated. “Before calling on European leaders to act against hate on the street, they must clear their own house and that means banning and ostracizing any politicians and political parties that preach hate and violence.” Kantor went on to decry the “visceral hatred” disseminated by the Golden Dawn party, saying that such speech “is surely outside the boundaries of appropriate political discourse.”

Kantor was confident he would receive a positive response from the Czech Prime Minister, as the Czech Republic is one of Israel’s strongest allies in the European Union. The Czechs have previously advocated for a stronger relationship between the European Union and Israel.

“The current economic crisis in Europe creates ripe conditions for anti-Semitism,” Kantor declared, “and radical Muslim communities across the continent are ready to attack Jews, because of the tension between Israel and the Palestinians and other Middle East countries.”

According to a recent report on anti-Semitism, there were fewer attacks targeting European Jews in 2011 than in the preceding years, but they tended to be more violent. “It is a very dangerous trend,” Kantor said.

Ohr Somayach Pre-Shavuot Yom Iyun Emphasizes Uniqueness of Torah

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Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky regaled the crowd with his blend of uplifting thoughts and humorous comments.A pre-Shavuot Yom Iyun presented by the renowned outreach organization Ohr Somayach International attracted a large and enthusiastic crowd to Manhattan’s Town Hall this past Sunday afternoon. Four prominent speakers – Rabbis Dovid Gottlieb, Akiva Tatz, Dovid Orlofsky and Nota Schiller – fascinated the audience with penetrating insights into the uniqueness of the Torah and the singular quality of the holiday that commemorates its presentation to the Jewish people.

Rabbi Gottlieb, who in addition to serving as a Torah lecturer at Yeshiva Ohr Somayach in Jerusalem is a Doctor of Philosophy, noted that while Shavuot is the anniversary of the day that Klal Yisrael received the Torah, the preceding day was notable because that was when the Jewish nation declared “We will do and we will listen (Na’aseh V’Nishma)” regarding the Torah’s commandments. “If a student who is just beginning to learn Torah would ask how it is possible to accept a binding document without first investigating its contents,” Rabbi Gottlieb said, “we would answer him that – in the same way that one tends to automatically accept the pronouncements of a doctor or professor due to their inherent wisdom – so too we accepted the Torah immediately when offered us by Hashem.”

Rabbi Gottlieb posited that, while we are initially obligated to accept the Torah, we are then expected to “listen” by striving to understand it as fully as possible, and he asserted that taking definite actions – performing mitzvot – enables us to gain the understanding we seek. The rabbi recounted how he once met a young woman who felt overly confined by all the halachic restrictions of Shabbat when she first studied them, but months later – after she had personally experienced the spiritual bliss of the holy day – she viewed Shabbat as a vehicle of freedom from the mundane atmosphere of the workweek.  Rabbi Gottlieb stressed that it is important for us to transform ourselves into “doers” of Hashem’s will, citing as a perfect example the prophetess Ruth, who sacrificed the privileges of being a Moabite princess to become a Jew who carries out G-d’s desires.

Rabbi Dr. Akiva Tatz, a popular speaker on in-depth Torah topics who also previously practiced medicine, focused his lecture on the belief that the Torah – as written by Hashem – is the blueprint of the world. “In the same way that the genetic code is the mechanism that produces living things,” Rabbi Tatz said, “the Torah is the actual reason that every aspect of creation exists.” In this regard, Rabbi Tatz pointed out that the Hebrew word davar means both “word” and “thing,” alluding to the fact that every item in the world is actually rooted in the “word” of the Torah. He also noted that there is no word in the Torah itself for “nature,” as everything is from Hashem and not “natural,” and there is no Torah-stated word for “doubt,” since everything connected with Hashem is definite in its essence.

Continuing to hold the audience spellbound with his brilliant insights, Rabbi Tatz explained that the Oral Law, as explicated by the sages, sets out the details of everything in the world as an extension of the written Torah’s overall foundation. As an example of this concept, the rabbi related a Talmudic story about a certain sage, Rabbi Nechunyah, who had dug a number of wells for the public’s welfare, following which his daughter fell into one of those wells. When another sage, Rabbi Chanina Ben Dosa, was approached by community members seeking advice about her precarious situation, he replied that everything would be fine, because the child of a man who performs righteous acts for other people could not possibly die as a result of one of those acts. “Rabbi Chanina Ben Dosa’s pronouncement created the reality that the girl would live,” Rabbi Tatz declared. “In fact, after Rabbi Chanina passed away, Rabbi Nechunya’s son died of thirst, because without the sage being alive to make a new pronouncement, Hashem allowed the course of nature to revert to its ‘regular’ rules.”

Regaling the crowd with pointed insights mixed with his trademark humor, the well-known lecturer Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky quoted a Gemara in Mesechta Shabbos that states “Hashem held Mount Sinai over the heads of the Jewish people like a barrel” and forced them to accept the Torah, threatening to drop the mountain on them if they did not. Rabbi Orlofsky asked why it was necessary for Hashem to do this if the nation had previously declared “We will do and we will hear.” He answered that the Jews had only accepted the written Torah at that point, and they needed to be pushed by Hashem to accept the Oral Torah as well, so that they could carry out the commandments in complete accordance with His will. Rabbi Orlofsky noted further that the Gemara compares the mountain to a barrel because a barrel preserves the food contained within it. “We can only preserve authentic Judaism if we follow the directives of the Torah without any deviation from its specifics,” the speaker emphasized, concluding that the study of Torah – which Shavuot puts a focus on – is a crucial means of staying connected to Judaism.

The final speaker was Rabbi Nota Schiller, one of the two Roshei Yeshiva of Yeshiva Ohr Somayach. Noting that Shavuot is the one Jewish holiday that is most readily ignored by non-observant Jews, Rabbi Schiller stated that this is the case for two reasons, the first being that – unlike other Yomim Tovim – Shavuot has no specifically mandated mitzvah (such as eating matzah or taking an etrog) connected with it, and thus it is difficult for many Jews to identify with such a holiday. The rabbi suggested that the second reason for Shavuot’s “lack of popularity” is due to the fact that it highlights the Giving of the Torah, which created a new sense of obligation upon Klal Yisrael to follow the commandments. “One gets greater reward for committing an act because Hashem commanded him to do so,” Rabbi Schiller expounded, “than for committing it out of his own volition. This is because our ego makes us feel resistant to obligations placed on us from the outside, and it is a great accomplishment to overcome that resistance.” Thus, the Rosh Yeshiva explained, non-affiliated Jews chafe at the feeling of having to be obligated by the Torah.

Quoting Rabbi Yaakov Emden as having declared that the survival of the Jewish people during the current Exile is a greater miracle than the Exodus from Egypt, Rabbi Schiller asserted that such survival has only been possible through our fidelity to the Torah. “Hashem’s instructions for the ‘game of life’ are absolutely accurate,” he intoned, “and the details of the Oral Law give us the practical resources to deal with an ever-changing world.” Rabbi Schiller concluded by stating that the popular custom of remaining awake throughout the first night of Shavuot to learn Torah “with a passion” should spur us to make our Torah study tangible by engaging in mitzvot and living a Torah-centered life.

The Top 12 Ways Israel Feeds the World

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Senegalese farmers learning how to install the Tipa irrigation kit.Food security is a major concern for our rapidly growing planet. As resources dwindle and the population rises, smart solutions for better agriculture and safer food storage are essential.

No other single country – certainly not one as young and as tiny as Israel – has contributed more breakthroughs in this area than the Jewish state.

Since the 1950s, Israelis have not only been finding miraculous ways to green their own desert but have shared their discoveries far and wide through channels including MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

ISRAEL21c highlighted dozens of food-related advances pioneered by Israelis. Here is the news magazine’s list of the 12 major ways Israel helps feed the world.

1. Drip irrigation
Probably no other advancement has been quite as significant. While the concept of drip irrigation existed well before Israeli statehood, it was revolutionized by Israeli water engineer Simcha Blass, who serendipitously discovered that a slow and balanced drip led to remarkable growth. He created tubing that slowly released water where it was most effective, and in 1965 Kibbutz Hatzerim built a whole new industry, Netafim, based on his invention.

Israeli drip and micro-irrigation solutions rapidly spread worldwide. The newest models are self-cleaning and maintain uniform flow rate regardless of water quality and pressure.

Just one recent example of how this method has impacted food supply in foreign countries is Tipa, literally “Drop,” an Israeli-developed kit that has allowed 700 farming families in Senegal to reap crops three times a year instead of just once, even on infertile land.

Tipa is “a simple drip irrigation system that uses gravity when there is no water supply or water pressure coming to rural areas,” MASHAV’s Ilan Fluss told ISRAEL21c. The organization has similar activities in Kenya, South Africa, Benin and Niger.

2. Grain cocoons
Israeli-designed GrainPro Cocoons provide a surprisingly simple and cheap way for African and Asian farmers to keep their grain market-fresh.

The huge bags, invented by international food technology consultant Prof. Shlomo Navarro, keep both water and air out. They’re used all over the developed world, including Africa and the Far East, and even in countries that have no diplomatic ties to Israel, such as Pakistan.

As much as 50 percent of every grain harvest and 100% of every pulse harvest is lost to pests and mold, Navarro told ISRAEL21c. Subsistence farmers in developing countries tend to store their crops in primitive baskets or bags, which are not effective in keeping hungry bugs and micro-contaminants out. The Cocoon solves that problem, even in extreme heat and humidity.

3. Biological pest control
On Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, a company called Bio-Bee breeds beneficial insects and mites for biological pest control and bumblebees for natural pollination in greenhouses and open fields. Subsidiary Bio-Fly sells sterile Mediterranean fruit flies to control this major pest in fruit trees.

R&D manager Dr. Shimon Steinberg told ISRAEL21c the company’s top seller worldwide is the two-millimeter-long, pear-shaped orange spider that is a highly efficient enemy of the spider mite, a devastating agricultural pest.

“Sixty percent of California strawberries since 1990 are treated with this predatory mite from the Holy Land,” he reported. In Israel, Bio-Bee products have enabled sweet-pepper farmers to reduce the use of chemical pesticides by 75 percent.

Bio-Bee exports eight different species of biological control agents, plus pollinating bumblebees, to 32 nations from Japan to Chile. Bio-Fly collaborates with Jordanian and West Bank Palestinian Authority agricultural experts.

4. Dairy farming
Hof Hasharon Dairy Farm, SAE Afikim and SCR Precise Dairy Farming all make advanced systems for herd management, monitoring and feeding used on dairy farms worldwide.

SAE Afikim is one of 10 Israeli companies involved in a five-year project in Vietnam to implement every aspect of a vast $500 million dairy farm project. It’s the largest project of its kind in the world.

The operation will encompass 30,000 cows at 12 state-of-the-art mega-dairies and a milk processing plant supplying 300 million liters per year. By the end of 2012, 500,000 liters are expected to be produced daily.

In the meantime, China is sending groups of dairy farm manager trainees to Israel to learn how to boost milk production there as well.

5. Tailor-made farm solutions
Kibbutz-based Agricultural Knowledge On-Line (AKOL) makes unique software to help producers grow fruits and vegetables, raise poultry and dairy cows, manage vineyards and make olive oil.

Hosted in IBM’s “cloud,” AKOL’s latest project gives farmers anywhere in the world access to information from Israeli experts. Hundreds of thousands of farmers can obtain tailor-made solutions, arrange group purchases of supplies and communicate with colleagues.

CEO Ron Shani told ISRAEL21c that AKOL applications advise farmers on when to plant, irrigate and harvest; how to cope with drought; how to choose the crops best for their area; how to implement ideal storage and temperature control procedures based on climate; and how to track the growth of chickens, livestock and fruit, among other ideas for running a modern, professional farm.

6. A better potato
It took nearly 30 years of research, but Hebrew University’s Prof. David Levy developed strains of potatoes that thrive in hot, dry climates, and can be irrigated by saltwater.

Potatoes are one of the top sources of nutrition in the world, but they never before grew well in hot, desert regions like the Middle East. Now farmers in these regions can grow potatoes as a cash crop.

Levy told ISRAEL21c that he also intended his research to enhance understanding between Israel and its neighbors, as scientists and officials from Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, and Morocco meet with Israeli scientists to share knowledge and build bridges of information and technology.

7. Squeezing every drop of water from the air
Tal-Ya Water Technologies developed reusable plastic trays to collect dew from the air, reducing the water needed by crops or trees by up to 50 percent.

The square serrated trays, made from non-PET recycled and recyclable plastic with UV filters and a limestone additive, surround each plant or tree. With overnight temperature change, dew forms on both surfaces of the Tal-Ya tray, which funnels the dew and condensation straight to the roots. If it rains, the trays heighten the effect of each millimeter of water 27 times over.

Inventor and CEO Avraham Tamir told ISRAEL21c that the trays also block the sun so weeds can’t take root, and protect the plants from extreme temperature shifts. “Farmers need to use much less water, and in turn much less fertilizer on the crop,” which translates to less groundwater contamination.

8. Unparalleled crop protection
Two years ago, Hebrew University’s tech-transfer company teamed with Makhteshim Agan, a world leader in crop protection products, to develop and commercialize slow-release herbicides and a targeted insecticide that doesn’t harm beneficial insects.

The total worldwide herbicide market is valued at more than $15 billion, of which approximately a quarter is dedicated to soil-applied herbicides and other pesticides. The Israeli approach incorporates herbicides into micelles or vesicles, which are absorbed onto negatively charged clay minerals to enable a slow and controlled release, reducing leaching to deeper soil layers. This enhances efficiency and reduces the required doses.

The novel insecticide kills caterpillars of night-flying moths – a common scourge for farmers worldwide – but unlike common commercial preparations, has minimal or no effect on any other creature. High levels of control can be achieved with much less product, greatly minimizing environmental impact.

9. Fishing in the desert
Overfishing is a serious threat to the food supply, a grave situation since fish is the main source of protein for hundreds of millions of people. But what if fish could be raised virtually anywhere, even in the desert? That is just what the Israel’s GFA (Grow Fish Anywhere) Advanced Systems has made possible.

The Israeli “zero-discharge” system eliminates the environmental problems in conventional fish farming, and doesn’t depend on electricity or proximity to a body of water. Specially developed microbes purify fish waste byproducts right in the tank, with no need for spillage and refilling.

The largest facility using GFA technology, in New York, produced about 100 tons of sea bream, bass and tilapia in 2010.

10. Food from greenhouse gas
Israel’s Seambiotic clean-tech company recently launched a commercial algae farm in China and does business in the United States and Italy as well.

People don’t eat algae, but algae ponds nourished by power-plant effluent conserve farmed produce for human consumption because they generate 30 times more feedstock for biofuel than do land-based crop alternatives.

Plus, the tiny plants, which thrive on carbon dioxide and sunlight, produce a valuable nutraceutical food additive that is especially popular in the Far East.

11. Reintroducing carp to Africa
Half a century ago, Lake Victoria carp was a significant part of the diet of the nearby Ugandan villagers. But when Nile perch was introduced to the lake, it decimated most of the smaller fish including the carp. Villagers had neither the equipment nor the expertise necessary to start fishing the huge perch, and symptoms of protein deficiency started becoming apparent in their children.

Prof. Berta Sivan of Hebrew University came to the rescue with a multiyear project near to help these African families. Her team was able to apply techniques developed over many years for Israeli fish farmers.
The Israeli project not only successfully spawned carp on Ugandan fish farms, but also provided training on how to dig and fill ponds and raise the small fish. Now local children have an abundant supply of protein to eat with their fruit and vegetables.

12. Hardier seeds for better crops
Hebrew University agricultural scientists Ilan Sela and Haim D. Rabinowitch developed TraitUP, a trademarked technology that enables the introduction of genetic materials into seeds without modifying their DNA. This method immediately and efficiently improves plants before they’re even sowed.

The university’s Yissum Research Development technology transfer company licensed the seed treatment technology to Morflora Israel for curing fruit-tree diseases in orchards and groves, and for seedling treatment in the nursery.

“The new ability to deliver traits within days instead of years, and to offer a treatment with results similar to breeding to all current species, answers a long and unmet need that will revolutionize modern agriculture and significantly impact the vegetable and commodity crop markets,” said Dotan Peleg, CEO of Morflora.

Chareidim vs. Progress?

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Now here’s a guy who clearly understands the issues! Let’s see if he's feeling so witty when the stadium is rented for some kind of Islamic convention. (PHOTO CREDIT: MO GELBER)This Sunday was the big asifa at Citi Field, called together to address the perils of the Internet. With over 50,000 in attendance, this is clearly an issue of major concern. After all, when’s the last time you heard of 50,000 Jews agreeing on anything? I can’t even remember reaching a consensus on pizza toppings with just a handful of friends, let alone a stadium-full. Let’s set aside for a moment the overwhelming irony that this gathering gained so much of its momentum by virtue of the Internet, and the fact that some of you will wind up reading this very article online.  The mainstream media (with whom we are proud to not affiliate ourselves) have dubbed this the “anti-Internet rally,” in an effort to portray the chareidi community as a bunch of backward, Luddite illiterates, but the truth is not so simple. Portraying the ultra-Orthodox aversion to the Internet as fear of knowledge and/or contempt for technological advancement is the ultimate straw man argument. As someone who is both a Torah observant Jew and an Internet user, I think I can explain.

The Internet, or a non-trivial percentage of it, is an intellectual cesspool. Anyone who would argue otherwise is either being disingenuous, or hasn’t been on the Internet for very long. In addition to the illicit content (which according to reports by Forbes and Time Magazine constitutes approximately 4% of websites – much less than we would have guessed, but still a lot), the sheer idiocy on display is overwhelming. One need look no further than YouTube (or MySpace, or Facebook, or Twitter*) to understand this basic truth, that the Internet is where brain cells go to die. So much of the Internet’s “culture” is so toxic that…well, it’s less like the culture you find at the Met, and more like the “culture” you find in a poorly cared-for pair of sneakers (i.e. the kind that involves a cotton swab and a Petri dish).

Now the Internet may be full of garbage, but there’s also a great deal of worthwhile content, and features that can be used to enhance one’s quality of life. You can use the Internet to video chat with your grandmother who lives halfway around the world. You can learn about virtually anything via the Internet. There are even divrei Torah online, by gedolei hador! In addition to all the schmutz, there are people, including G-d-fearing Jews, making legally and ethically legitimate livelihoods by way of the Internet.

It’s like someone went to an open sewer trench with a sack full of diamonds, and dumped all the diamonds into the muck. There are two basic responses to this scenario, both of which are understandable. One type of person will put on a set of waders (those rubber boots attached to chest-high waterproof trousers), make his way into the murky waters, and retrieve the gems. Another type of person feels that his life is already rich enough, and he doesn’t need to risk becoming covered in filth. Personally, I side with the former group, though I see no need to demean the latter. And of course, there is a third type of person, a person who, seeing the diamonds, dives head first into the trench, caring not one bit for his health and lacking any semblance of decorum. These are the ones for whom we should worry, and whom, it stands to reason, the asifa was created to rescue. And then there are those who don’t even know about the diamonds, and just dive in because they love swimming in garbage. For such individuals, the existence of the Internet is more or less inconsequential in influencing their behavior. Such people would find a way to defile themselves, regardless; the Internet just makes it more convenient.

In short, the Internet is neither inherently good nor inherently evil. It’s just a reflection of society, after society has had a few too many drinks. Used in a sober state of mind (or, for those who simply don’t trust themselves, with a content filter), it can help provide the means to accomplish great things, in the realms of both Torah and secular achievement.

Every day, there are people who use their automobiles, and their personal phones, in the commission of crimes. So unless my Chareidi brothers are ready to hand me their car keys and their iPhones (note: our address is on page 5), they may wish to reconsider their stance.

I would also propose that my fellow journalists consider offering a less biased, more nuanced look at what ultra-Orthodox leaders are actually saying, but why waste my breath? I’m an editor, not a miracle worker. (Believe it or not, there is a difference.)

*The obvious exceptions, of course, being the Jewish Voice’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Look us up!

Forecasting the Jewish Vote in 2012

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Asked whom they would vote for were the election held today, 61 percent answered Obama, 28 percent Romney, and the rest were undecided. Clearly, Jews are far more pro-Obama than the general population, among whom the two candidates are running neck-and-neck.The question returns every presidential election year: is the Jewish vote up for grabs?

For longer than anyone can remember most American Jews have supported Democratic candidates, and quadrennial Republican hopes to break the trend have remained unfulfilled. The best the Republicans have done in the postwar era was in 1980, when Ronald Reagan captured 39 percent of the Jewish vote. Despite all the talk about his relations with Reverend Wright and his alleged coolness toward Israel, Barack Obama won 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008.

Will 2012 be any different? A recent AJC poll of Jewish opinion provides an indication at this stage of the campaign. It suggests not only how many, but which Jews, are likely to vote Democratic or Republican. Conducted by Knowledge Networks, the survey included a representative sample of 1,074 respondents.

Looked at collectively, American Jewry seems just about as Democratic and liberal as ever. A majority of the respondents, 52 percent, say they are Democrats, 19 percent declare themselves Republicans, and 26 percent are Independents—two-thirds of whom say they feel closer to the Democrats. Almost half—46 percent—are liberal or lean liberal, while just 19 percent are conservative or lean conservative. The rest say they are moderates.

Asked whom they would vote for were the election held today, 61 percent answered Obama, 28 percent Romney, and the rest were undecided. Clearly, Jews are far more pro-Obama than the general population, among whom the two candidates are running neck-and-neck.

But Jewish opinion looks considerably more complicated when the sample is broken down by issue priorities.

The survey asked respondents to identify the three issues they consider most important in deciding their presidential vote. The one most often mentioned was the economy, listed by 80 percent. Within this group, the percentages supporting Obama and Romney are virtually identical to the overall Jewish breakdown. A pro-Obama tilt is even more pronounced among the 57 percent who chose health care as a key issue—which received the second-highest mention. Fully 72 percent of this group says it would vote for Obama, with just 19 percent backing Romney.

But the picture was different for roughly a quarter of the Jewish sample, which has other priorities. Among the 22 percent who cited U.S.-Israel Relations, Romney had a plurality of 45 percent, versus 42 percent for Obama. Similarly, the 26 percent of respondents who listed national security as a priority issue gave Romney a 44 percent plurality, with Obama getting 42 percent. And although Obama defeats Romney among the 15 percent that cites Iran’s nuclear program as a priority, the gap was narrow, 48 percent to 46.

Within the Jewish population a group that is less enthusiastic about Obama than Jews as a whole are those who attend religious services once a week or more, a category with heavy Orthodox representation. Only 53 percent of them would vote for the president, eight points lower than the overall percentage for Obama. Frequent synagogue-goers consider national security, the Iranian threat and Israel, rather than the economy, as top concerns, and are inclined to oppose Obama.

The survey also asked the undecided whether they were leaning towards Obama or Romney, and found that 50 percent of them would choose Obama, while 39 percent would vote for Romney. Comprising the undecided are 26 percent of the Orthodox, 10 percent of Conservative and 11 percent of Reform Jews.  

Interestingly, Obama came out ahead with 47 percent of Orthodox to 22 percent for Romney, with 31 percent still undecided. Among Conservative undecided Obama gets 43 percent to 56 percent for Romney, and for Reform Jews it’s 54 for Obama and 46 for Romney.

In the end, there is little likelihood of a mass transfer of Jewish support from the Democrats to the Republicans, but even a small, incremental erosion of Jewish support for Obama could make a difference in key swing states, such as Florida and Ohio.

Like other Americans, the undecided Jews will be heavily influenced by the direction of the economy, but also by security concerns, Iran, and U.S.-Israel relations. And recalling 2008, when an economic collapse and a controversial Republican vice-presidential nominee played major roles, let’s not rule out the unexpected.

Facebook Co-Founder’s ‘Convenient’ Renunciation of U.S. Citizenship Draws Backlash from Politicians

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Facebook co-founder and ex-American, Eduardo SaverinThe decision by Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin to leave America and renounce his U.S. citizenship – on the eve of the social network site’s going public – has drawn a firestorm of outrage from the public in general, and two prominent senators in particular.

Saverin, who was born in Brazil to a well-to-do Jewish family and raised in Miami, Florida, is a partial owner of Facebook. He moved to Singapore in 2009 and renounced his U.S. citizenship in September. The general perception is that – with the skyrocketing popularity of Facebook and the expectation that its net worth will reach unprecedented heights now that it is available as an IPO – Saverin is sneakily attempting to avoid having to pay at least $67 million in taxes, since Singapore, unlike the United States, has no capital gains tax.

In response to Saverin’s moves, Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Bob Casey (D-PA) have unveiled a comprehensive plan that would enable the American government to re-impose taxes on expatriates like the Facebook executive even after they flee the United States and take up residence in a foreign country. Their plan would also bar individuals like Saverin from reentering the country so long as they continued to avoid paying their taxes in full.

“Mr. Saverin has decided to ‘defriend’ the United States of America just to avoid paying his taxes. We aren’t going to let him get away with it so easily,” Schumer said in a blistering public statement. “It’s infuriating to see someone sell out the country that welcomed him and kept him safe, educated him and helped him become a billionaire. This is a great American success story gone horribly wrong. We plan to put a stop to this tax avoidance scheme. There should be no financial gain from renouncing your country.”

 Joining him in the chorus of protest, Senator Casey insisted, ”We simply cannot allow the ultra-wealthy to write their own rules. Mr. Saverin has benefited greatly from being a citizen of the United States but he has chosen to cast it aside and leave U.S. taxpayers with the bill. Renouncing citizenship to simply avoid paying your fair share is an insult to middle class Americans and we will not accept it.”

Schumer and Casey’s proposal is called the Ex-PATRIOT Act (“Expatriation Prevention by Abolishing Tax-Related Incentives for Offshore Tenancy” Act). Under the proposal, any expatriate with either a net worth of $2 million or an average income tax liability of at least $148,000 over the last five years will be presumed to have renounced their citizenship for tax avoidance purposes. The individual will then have an opportunity to demonstrate otherwise to the IRS by meeting specific IRS requirements. If the individual has a legitimate reason for renouncing his or her citizenship, no penalties will apply. But if the IRS finds that an individual gave up their passport for substantial tax purposes, then it will prospectively impose a tax on the individual’s future investment gains, no matter where he or she resides. This would eliminate any tax benefit and financial incentive from renouncing one’s citizenship. The rate of this capital gains tax will be 30 percent, in keeping with the rate that is already applied on non-resident aliens for dividends and interest earnings.

According to the proposed act, so long as the individual avoids these taxes, they would be inadmissible to the United States forever. The Ex-PATRIOT Act would improve current law to ensure such an individual cannot reenter the United States after renouncing his or her citizenship. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 was intended to bar any such individual from reentering the U.S. However, this statute was written in a manner that inhibits its enforcement.

 In 2011, a record number of 1,780 people gave up their U.S. passports—a dramatic rise from the 235 persons who did so in 2008. Yet no individual has ever been barred from returning to the United States based upon a finding of renunciation of citizenship for tax purposes. Without an immigration bar of re-entry, those thousands of individuals who renounce their US citizenship can simply return to the United States for 60 days per year, without any tax responsibility. The Ex-PATRIOT Act would end this loophole, and close the doors of the U.S. forever to individuals like Saverin if they continue to avoid paying their taxes.