JTA NEWS
19 July 2018 - 8 Av 5778 - ח' אב ה' אלפים תשע"ח
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Celebrating Thailand’s National Day in Israel E-mail

The Royal Thai Embassy in Tel Aviv hosted a reception on 5 December to mark the occasion of the National Day of the Kingdom of Thailand. Many distinguished guests from the Israeli Government, the diplomatic corps, the public and private sectors and the Thai community attended the event at the Hilton Hotel.

In special attendance was Ayoub Kara, Minister of Communications; guest of honour Meron Reuben, Chief of State Protocol, and Gilad Cohen, Deputy Director General, Head of Asia and Pacific Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Ms Penprapa Vongkovit, Thailand’s Ambassador to Israel, delivered a speech emphasising the importance of 5 December as Thailand’s National Day, the Birthday Anniversary of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and Thailand’s Father’s Day. In addition, the United Nations General Assembly has declared 5 December as “World Soil Day”.

It also marked a very special occasion for Thais: a sandal-wood-laying ceremony to bid a sad final farewell to His Majesty the late King Bhumibol, which was held at the Thai-Israel Friendship Pavilion in Ben Shemen Park, Modi’in.

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Shimon Biton sentenced to death for Thailand killing E-mail

An Israeli man has been sentenced to death for murdering and dismembering a countryman in a fit of jealousy in Nonthaburi, Thailand, in 2016.

Shimon Biton, 50, admitted to killing 63-year-old Eli Cohen and burying parts of his body in freshly poured concrete under the stairs in his home, as reported in the December 2016 issue of Jewish Times Asia.

Biton was arrested along with his 17-year-old son when police found traces of blood and then discovered some of Cohen’s remains in concrete at their home in the Phattharawan housing estate in Bang Bua Thong district of Nonthaburi in November 2016.

Biton, who has a long criminal record and was a former police informant in Israel, told police he had killed Cohen, reportedly a friend, after discovering that Cohen had had an affair with Biton’s wife, Nantiya Saengurai.

Ms Nantiya disappeared before the killing took place. Her family believes she is also dead and they suspect Biton of involvement in her disappearance after he gave them conflicting accounts about what had happened to her.

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Drug smugglers jailed in Auckland Print E-mail

A New Zealand court sentenced three Israelis to prison for attempting to smuggle drugs into the country. Victor Borisenko, Vladislav Pischako and Guy Shalom were each sentenced to eight years and three months for bringing US$2.5 million worth of MDMA crystals, or Ecstasy, into the country.

The three, all in their midtwenties, flew to Auckland from Singapore in early 2017. X-ray scans at the airport revealed the 8.7 kilograms (19 pounds) of drugs hidden beneath wooden false bottoms in their suitcases.

Peter Lewis, customs manager at Auckland Airport, warned: “Criminal syndicates may think they can get away by sending drug couriers during peak travel times because Customs is focused on clearing passengers. While this is true for our legitimate travellers, we wear two hats and are just as focused on catching criminals.” He added that New Zealand has one of the world’s highest street values for Ecstasy.

(Issue Feb 2018)

 
Bahrain interfaith group visits Israel E-mail

An interfaith group from the Gulf state of Bahrain paid an unprecedented public visit to Israel in December, receiving a warm welcome but generating uproar across the Arab world.

The visit came at a time when Israel was boasting of warming, albeit covert, ties with moderate Arab countries in a shared front against archrival Iran. But the heavy criticism unleashed on Arab social media, along with the low profile the group took, showed the limits to how far that goodwill can go.

The 25 participants, including Sunni and Shiite Muslims as well as Buddhists, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs, were guests of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a US-based Jewish human rights group. The group gathered at a restaurant overlooking Jerusalem’s Old City walls for dinner and a candle-lighting ceremony marking the first night of the festival of Chanukah.

While organisers and participants said the three-day trip was non-political and unconnected to the Bahrain government, it was nonetheless a possible test case for other Gulf Arab nations in seeing what could happen if they move toward recognising Israel.

“People have been asking us, ‘Oh why have you been here now, after there was an announcement made by the White House?’,” Betsy Mathieson, president of “This is Bahrain”, told The Associated Press, referring to President Donald Trump’s declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

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Xi’s vision for China’s global future, and what it means for Israel E-mail

On 24 December, the Israel Asia Center, in partnership with the Chinese Media Center, held an event in Tel Aviv to explore the outcomes of last October’s Chinese Communist Party National Congress, and the implications for the global economy and Israel.

In October, the Chinese Communist Party leadership gathered for its 19th Party Congress – the country’s most important event, occurring every five years. What emerged from the Congress were not just a new Central Committee, Politburo and Standing Committee of the Politburo (SCPB) – the most powerful organ in the world’s most populous nation – but a blueprint for China’s economic development and transformation as a global leader by 2050, a roadmap to “make China great again”, and a clear message that President Xi is China’s most powerful leader since Chairman Mao Zedong, according to the event organisers.

The Tel Aviv event in December featured an interactive panel discussion that explored the “grim challenges” cited by President Xi that China is current grappling with, China’s economic reforms, the increasingly dominant role President Xi Jinping and China are playing on the global stage, and what this all means for Israel. The event also looked at the potential of a China that will play a more assertive role in the Middle East, and what the impact will be on the Israeli economy in this “era of Xi Jinping thought”.

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