October 22, 2018

L.A.’s Iranian Jews Call for Boycott of Iranian Muslim Singer’s Concert over Anti-Semitic Lyrics

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Local Jewish activists and community groups are calling for a boycott of a Dec. 16 concert by the popular Iranian Muslim musician and singer, Mohsen Yeganeh, who they accuse of using anti-Semitic and anti-Israel lyrics in a song.

“Our community is now recognizing that in this great country, while bigots are free to express bigotry, we are also free to shout down their hate, shame them, and hurt them in their pocketbooks,” said Sam Yebri, president of 30 Years After, a local Iranian Jewish nonprofit group.

Others who have publicly opposed the upcoming concert at downtown L.A.’s Microsoft Theatre include Sinai Temple, Nessah Synagogue and the Hebrew Discovery Center (HDC), a Jewish Iranian organization based in Reseda that created an online petition demanding that the concert be cancelled which has generated more than 4,000 signatures.

“As Jews living in Iran for hundreds of years, we did not have a voice or the right to speak out when anyone in the country spoke bad about us,” HDC’s Rabbi Netanel Louie said. “Now that we have a voice and a right in this country, we must speak out and make people aware of this hate generate against our people”.

One controversy stems from the Farsi language lyrics in Yeganeh’s song “Flock of Vultures,” which in English states, according to one translation, “Two triangles they put on top of each other, then they put a new name on the town, two triangles mean fear and prison, they are the enemies of smiling children.”

Local Iranian Jewish activists argue that the reference to the two triangles refers to the Star of David and that the vultures of the songs title refers to Jews. Another lyric — “just pray that our Friday night man can get back our land” — is believed to be a reference to the Iranian regime’s imams, who during Friday night prayers in Iran regularly call for Israel’s destruction and for Iran to recapture Israeli lands for Muslims.

“We (Iranian Jews) say it in loud and clear terms that we will not stand for attacks to our dignity and to the Jewish State based on hatred and lies, “ said George Haroonian, a local Iranian Jewish activist and former board member of the Iranian Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hills. “We know and understand Iranian culture and the political scene. Calling Israel and Jews a flock of vultures is pure and simple anti-Semitism!”

Iranian Jewish community members said they were also very upset with an online Farsi language video created by Aparat.com, an Iranian regime state-sponsored news website, that features Yeganeh’s song playing over a series of graphic images of dead or injured Palestinian children, anti-Semitic cartoons and more.

Various Anti-Defamation League local and national offices recently released statements on Twitter condemning the video’s content and Yeganeh’s song. Likewise the “Creative Community For Peace” an entertainment industry organization based in New York that fights cultural boycotts of Israel also released a statement on social media platforms condemning Yeganeh’s upcoming L.A. performance because of his anti-Israel song.

In a letter posted on Facebook, Sinai Temple wrote,  “Yeganeh is anti-Semitic in his lyrics, as well as his behavior/actions. An obscene music video … depicts Israel as a child-killing nation, flashing graphic images of maimed and dead children. In the video, he blatantly calls for he destruction of Israel and burns the Israeli flag. Yeganeh’s message is demeaning, divisive and hateful.”

Angela Maddahi, the Iranian Jewish president of Sinai, wrote an email to the theater opposing the concert and calling for it to be cancelled, but indicated that she had received no response.

The Journal’s emails and telephone calls to the Microsoft Theatre were not returned either. According to the venue’s website, tickets for Yeganeh’s concert range from $60 to $350 per person and the performance will be his second in the U.S. after a previous 2014 U.S. concert and other sold-out shows in Europe.

Yeganeh, 32, who according to his website is a self-taught musician and singer who took up his career while studying industrial engineering at the University of Tehran, also did not respond to emails sent to him for comment.

However, he was asked about the concert controversy Dec. 14 during an appearance on the Studio City-based Farsi-language radio station KIRN 670 AM. His response was that he has never tried to make people intentionally upset in his life and that the Iranian regime used his song in its video without his permission. He did not make any apology or further explanation.

The recent campaign against Yeganeh’s has galvanized many Los Angeles area Iranian Jews to speak out. This is a unique phenomenon for a community who for centuries in Iran and for decades in America remained largely silent on the sidelines during such controversies involving Iranian anti-Semitism. In the past, community members in Los Angeles and New York often were not actively speaking out against the Iranian regime’s anti-Semitism for fear of the Iranian regime’s potential retaliation against Jews still living in Iran.

Activists said today a substantial segment of the Iranian Jewish community in Los Angeles that are estimated to be 40,000 strong, typically patronize Iranian cultural and musical performances. They said they hope to send a clear message that hatred for Jews or Israel will no longer be tolerated.

Frank Nikbakht, an Iranian Jewish activist and head of the L.A.-based “Committee for Minority Rights in Iran” said he was not surprised at Yeganeh’s song lyrics expressing hate for Jews or Israel because the Iranian regime for nearly three decades has been indoctrinating young people in Iran with anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and Holocaust denial ideology.

“The specific policy of anti-Semitism in Iran dates back to the late 1990s,” said Nikbakht who has been monitoring anti-Semitic Farsi language media put out by the Iranian regime for more than 30 years. “It has been successful as far as being accepted by millions, including anti-regime factions even though there are indications that some people have been drawn towards the Jews, towards Israel and the minorities because of the regime’s excessive propaganda.”

This isn’t the first time that local members of the Iranian Jewish community have mobilized against performers from Iran perceived to be anti-Semitic. In 2015, various community activists launched a campaign against Akbar Abdi, a Iranian Muslim comedian who had used derogatory terms to describe Jews and who had traveled from Iran to perform Farsi language shows in Southern California and elsewhere in the country. These efforts ultimately led to the cancellation of his event.

Haroonian said many local Iranian Jewish activists will continue to voice their opposition to Yeganeh’s performances during his U.S. concert tour and work with American Jewish groups to expose his song’s message of hate.

He also said some local Iranian Jewish activists will be seeking to reach out to Farsi language media outlets and non-Jewish Iranian media personalities in an effort to educate them about Israel and anti-Semitism.

“We must say to all Iranian artists and entertainers that Jews have always supported and participated in the enhancement of Iran’s culture,” Haroonian said. “Your role should be one of ‘peacemakers’ and if you want to make a political statement, then have the decency to speak out about the whole story — not just the lies and hate propaganda”.

Abbas: Jews ‘Are Really Excellent In Faking and Counterfeiting History and Religion’

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a news conference following the extraordinary meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, Turkey, December 13, 2017. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas claimed that Jews are spreading lies about “history and religion” in a speech to the Organization for of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Wednesday.

Abbas railed against President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, stating that Jerusalem deserves to be the capital of Palestine. During the speech, Abbas said that Jews “are really excellent in faking and counterfeiting history and religion.”

“If we read the Torah it says that the Canaanites were there before the time of our prophet Abraham and their existence continued since that time—this is in the Torah itself,” said Abbas. “But if they would like to fake this history, they are really masters in this and it is mentioned in the holy Qur’an they fabricate truth and they try to do that and they believe in that but we have been there in this location for thousands of years.”

Abbas also claimed in his speech that Jerusalem “is a Palestinian Arab Muslim Christian city” and attempted to rebut the notion that the Palestinian Authority is a terrorist entity.

“The U.S. Congress issued 27 resolutions saying we are terrorists, even when we have signed an agreement with the U.S. and 83 other states on fighting terrorism,” said Abbas. “Despite that, Congress insists we are terrorists, and we are not; it is they who invented terrorism. We have complied with all understandings between us and successive U.S. administrations, including this administration, but these illegal resolutions on Jerusalem have crossed all red lines, which will not make it possible for us to keep our commitments unilaterally.”

Additionally, Abbas declared that the Palestinians were no longer interested in having the United States as a peace broker.

Tablet’s Yair Rosenberg pointed out that Abbas’ reference to Qu’ran specifically “mentions Jews,” therefore meaning that Abbas was using a longtime anti-Semitic trope of Jews fabricating history. Rosenberg also notes that this would be in line with other anti-Semitic comments from Abbas, including him stating a blood libel in 2016 that “Israeli rabbis had called to poison Palestinian water.”

The Trump administration fired back at Abbas over his speech, claiming that his type of rhetoric “has prevented peace for years.”

“We will remain hard at work, putting together our plan, which will benefit both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples,” a White House official told the Jerusalem Post.

Sinai Temple Letter Calls for Boycott of Anti-Semitic Singer’s Concert

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A letter from Sinai Temple is calling for the boycott of an anti-Semitic Persian singer’s concert on Saturday at the Microsoft Theater.

In a letter that was posted to Facebook, the temple wrote that “[Mohsen] Yeganeh is anti-Semitic in his lyrics, as well as his behavior/actions.” They also linked to a song of his that “depicts Israel as a child-killing nation” and “calls for the destruction of Israel and burns the Israeli flag.”

The full letter can be read below:

A petition has also been issued, which has received 3,370 signatures so far.

That Time My Uber Driver Was Anti-Semitic

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

My husband, Danny, hopped into the front seat of the Uber and I got in the backseat.

I immediately noticed the smell of weed. Bobby, the driver, was tall, heavy and stoned.

Danny is a socializer. As I looked down at my phone, he asked Bobby about life as an Uber driver.

Bobby complained that people in San Diego were much friendlier than people in Los Angeles, then said how the houses in Beverly Hills were so huge — and how the Jews who live in those houses scare him, with their tiny hats.

“Why do they scare you?” Danny asked.

I shifted in my seat, feeling slightly uncomfortable. I figured Bobby might say something negative about Chasidim. I’ve heard many negative comments about them from Jews and non-Jews.

“Jews don’t eat in the same restaurants as us,” Bobby said. “They’re too good for that. And they control all the banks.”

I felt stiff, like I couldn’t move. I’d encountered anti-Semitism before, but not like this. I wasn’t surprised when a woman in back-country Florida once told me that her dad was cheap, “like a Jew.” Seeing anti-Semitic statements from online trolls doesn’t shock me. But we were in Los Angeles, one of the most diverse, liberal and Jewish places in the country.

“What do you mean?” Danny asked.

“Rabbi Finkelstein said that the Jews have all the money and that it was a lie that 6 million died in the Holocaust.”


“Oh, yeah. I went to the Museum of Tolerance, and I had to laugh. The Jews say 6 million died, but that is nothing. The Chinese — 25 million died. The Russians — 25 million died. You don’t see them crying about it. But we always have to hear about the Holocaust.”

I felt like I was going to throw up.

“The Jews, they don’t eat the same meat as us. They eat kosher,” Bobby continued. “They control the entire meat industry.”

As Bobby drove, Danny looked up “Rabbi Finkelstein” on his phone. He found a video featuring a white supremacist telling an actor with a horribly fake Yiddish accent that he hates Jews because they killed Christ and start all the wars and think non-Jews are uneducated cattle. The “rabbi” admitted that all of this was true.

“You see?” Bobby said. “The Jews are Luciferian.”

The knots in my stomach were getting tighter.

“Did you know that Hitler was Time magazine’s man of the year?” Bobby continued. “He created tons of jobs for Germans.”

“Are you saying Hitler was a good person?” Danny said.

“I’m just saying that Americans made him into some evil person, and he wasn’t.”

How could it get any worse than Hitler admiration?

And then Bobby made it worse. “Did you know that the Jews capture children, then drain their blood to make their matzo ball soup?”

I started giggling uncontrollably, out of nervousness. This was too much. Danny was cracking up, too.

When we finally reached our home, Danny and I couldn’t exit the vehicle quickly enough. We looked at each other in disbelief at what we’d heard.

Does this incident make me want to stop praying in public, eating kosher food or being a proud Jew?

I wondered: Should we report Bobby? If I did, and I got him fired, he knew where we lived. I feared for my safety. Maybe if we had encountered him in a safe, public spot, we would have tried to educate him. But we were in his car.

I’m still stunned that this could happen in L.A., that a person could feel comfortable saying these things to strangers in 2017.

We are not safe anywhere.

Does this incident make me want to stop praying in public, eating kosher food or being a proud Jew? Absolutely not.

I can’t change who I am. And why should I, just because there are lunatics out there?

All I can do is be kind to everyone, even if they are different than me. All I can do is be better than Bobby and all the other Bobbys out there, and try to understand people who are different from me rather than hating and mocking them.

Some part of me wishes I were fearless, that I would have spoken up from that backseat. But I was in shock.

Maybe next time. But let’s hope there won’t be a next time.

Kylie Ora Lobell is the founder of JewessMag.com, a website for Jewish women, and a freelance writer.

Alan Dershowitz cartoon in UC Berkeley paper criticized for being anti-Semitic

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

UC Berkeley’s student newspaper, The Daily Californian, is under fire for publishing an editorial cartoon of Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz that has been criticized for being anti-Semitic.

Dershowitz spoke at Berkeley on October 11 defending Israel from a liberal perspective. A few days later, The Daily Californian published the following cartoon:

“The Liberal Case For Israel” referenced in the cartoon was the name of Dershowitz’s event at Berkeley.

The cartoon has been accused of being anti-Semitic:

Some defended it:

The Daily Californian has not responded to the Journal’s requests for comment.

UC Berkeley initially blocked Dershowitz from speaking, citing a new policy that requires invitations for speakers who weren’t invited by campus faculty and staff to notify the administration eight weeks prior to the event. Dershowitz argued that the policy was skewed against pro-Israel speakers like himself because the Berkeley faculty only invites anti-Israel speakers. Berkeley relented and let him speak.

After Dershowitz’s event, someone drew a swatstika on a photo of Dershowitz on a flyer:

It is not known who put the swatstika on the flyer.

Dean of Berkeley Law School Erwin Cherwinsky sent a letter condemning the swatstika, writing, “Several of our students expressed their disagreement with him [Dershowitz] and did so in a completely appropriate way that led to discussion and dialogue. I was pleased to hear of how this went, but then shocked to learn of the swastika drawn on a flyer that someone had posted about him.”

Dershowitz is a liberal Democrat and a staunch supporter of Israel. He has written books that include The Case for Israel and The Case Against Israel’s Enemies.

Sukkah At Kansas State Vandalized

An anti-Semitic poster was hung on the Kansas State University campus. Photo via WikiCommons.

A sukkah that was residing on the Kansas State University (KSU) campus was vandalized on Friday evening.

The sukkah was built on October 3 and was intended for Jewish students to gather and eat during Sukkot, but on Friday graduate student Glen Buickerood, a Hillel liaison, noticed that the “the Sukkah was gone.”

“The chairs and tables stood where the Sukkah had been,” Buickerood wrote in an email to campus leaders. “The stakes were still in the ground. Stakes that had been tied to the Sukkah had been pulled out.”

The Sukkah ended up being wrapped around Buickerood’s car, which damaged the vehicle. Buickerood added in his email that he believes that the sukkah was an act of anti-Semitic vandalism.

“This was a direct response to what the Sukkah stands for and represents,” Buickerood wrote.

KSU President Richard Myers issued a statement condemning the incident.

There is no place in our community for hateful, criminal reactions to religious expression,” said Myers “Many who live or work on our campuses, particularly those of the Jewish community, are experiencing significant pain and fear as a result of this act. Our hearts go out to those in the K-State family who have been negatively affected.”

The sukkah has since been rebuilt and on Wednesday the campus will be hosting a Sukkot Solidarity Dinner as a response to the vandalism.

According to an Anti-Defamation League (ADL) study in April, anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses increased by 86% by that point in 2017. ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt is quoted on the site as saying, “Clearly, we have work to do and need to bring more urgency to the fight. At ADL, we will use every resource available to put a stop to anti-Semitism. But we also need more leaders to speak out against this cancer of hate and more action at all levels to counter anti-Semitism.”

The Temple Mount, California edition: Anti-Semitic sermons test Muslim-Jewish bonds

Sermons infused with anti-Semitic language delivered by imams in two California mosques on the same day have reignited tensions in Jewish-Muslim relations after leaders of the two religious groups around the state have worked aggressively to ease lingering conflicts.

The July 21 remarks by Imam Mahmoud Harmoush of the Islamic Center of Riverside and Imam Ammar Shahin of the Islamic Center of Davis drew strong condemnation from Muslim and Jewish leaders, fearful that such incendiary language could erode relations.

The effect was like picking at a scab on a slow-healing wound. Since the terror attacks of 9/11, American Jewish and Muslim groups have made a concerted effort to forge bonds of understanding and cooperation. Those have been nursed along despite the ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, not to mention the enduring friction between Israelis and Palestinians. More recently, efforts to stigmatize Muslims generally have encouraged Jews and Muslims to push for closer relations.

The angry sermons from the pulpits in Davis and Riverside tested the strength of those developing bonds.

“It is critical to understand the mosque, a sanctuary for worship and spiritual growth, has no place for divisiveness or hate. Paranoia as a result of political unrest does not justify making these allegations against an entire religious group,” the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), a national nonprofit dedicated to increasing understanding of Muslims, said in condemning the two sermons.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) and the American Jewish Committee, among others, expressed outrage over the sermons, with the ADL calling them “anti-Semitic and dangerous.” The Zionist Organization of America called for Shahin’s firing, and the Wiesenthal Center has urged the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate the Davis Muslim leader.

In an Aug. 1 statement, Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside) said Harmoush’s sermon was “dangerous, offensive, and entirely inconsistent with the tolerant and respectful views routinely expressed by local Muslim leaders.” That same day, Rep. Brad Sherman, a Jewish Democrat who serves the San Fernando Valley, said Harmoush’s words were “nothing short of hate speech.”

Both sermons referred to last month’s conflict at the Temple Mount, where a shooting of two Druze Israeli police officers led the Israeli government to install metal detectors for entrance to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is part of the Temple Mount compound in the Old City of Jerusalem. After two weeks of internal and international outrage from Muslims, the metal detectors were removed.

In his sermon, Shahin said, “Oh Allah, liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Jews.”

Quoting a hadith, a saying of the Prophet Muhammad that is distinct from the text of the Quran, he said, “Oh Allah, count them one by one and annihilate them down to the very last.”

Harmoush used similar language when he said in his sermon, “Oh Allah, liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque and all the Muslim lands from the unjust tyrants and occupiers. Oh Allah, destroy them, they are no match for you.” 

Further, he condemned “the occupying forces of the Israeli army [that] have intervened and indeed took over the holy place and shut it down.”

“These statements are anti-Semitic and dangerous,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL, said referring to the two sermons. “We reject attempts to cast the conflict in Jerusalem as a religious war between Jews and Muslims. At this time of heightened tension, it is more important than ever for the Jewish and Muslim communities to come together to condemn the use of stereotypes and conspiracy theories, and to rebuild trust so that people of all faiths can coexist with mutual respect in the Holy Land and around the world.”

Imam Ammar Shahin


Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the SWC, called on Muslim leaders to denounce the two sermons as a more effective way to blunt anti-Semitic speech than criticism from the outside.

“Whatever changes need to take place, they cannot be forced from Christian leaders or Jewish leaders,” he said. “That change has to come from within and it has to be brought about by leaders within the Muslim community.”

If the language of the Riverside and Davis imams stood out as particularly inflammatory, the sentiments were not unique.

While his July 28 sermon at the King Fahad Mosque in Culver City in English and Arabic did not explicitly promote violence, Sheikh Ahson Syed retained a distinct negative bias toward non-Muslims and repeatedly referred to Israeli soldiers, in English, as “Zionist terrorist soldiers.”

The sermon was recorded and posted to YouTube by the mosque, and the Journal commissioned a translation of the Arabic portion.

In Arabic, he said, “O God help our brothers in Palestine to get victory and get rid of the enemies who occupy their land. O God reinforce Islam and the Muslims, take down the shirk and the mushriks and kill enemies; enemies of Islam.”

In Islamic religious thought, a shirk is an idolator and mushrik refers to Christians and Jews, those who worship someone other than Allah.

Unlike leaders of some other religions, imams are appointed to lead prayers and are not required to have had formal seminary or theological training. Nor does Islam have any central authority that specifies what imams can say or not say in their sermons.

As a consequence, it is difficult to quantify how often fiery rhetoric is part of sermons delivered in mosques in California or elsewhere. Mahomed Akbar Khan, director of interfaith and outreach for King Fahad Mosque, said mosques entrust their imams and speakers to deliver sermons however they want.

“It’s generally free rein,” he said. “The questions we ask [when choosing speakers] is, ‘Is this person qualified and is this person respected in the community?’ If there are any inappropriate comments, we make it clear that it is not the stance of the mosque. But every mosque is different.”

Despite the language of the Riverside and Davis sermons and in mosques elsewhere, hate speeches in American mosques are “few and far between” and for the most part, haven’t been proven to lead to violence, said Kenneth Lasson, a law professor at the University of Baltimore, who wrote a 2005 paper on hate speech and incitements in mosques.

“It’s rare a congregation would go out to commit violence after hearing a sermon,” he said, adding that while he would prefer civility in places of worship, hate speech is protected as free speech if no violence happens as a result of it.

“That connection must be proven,” Lasson said. “In the cases in California, there appears that there have been no consequences other than hard feelings.”

Nonetheless, Aziza Hasan, executive director of NewGround, an organization that works to improve Muslim-Jewish relations, said the sermons reveal deep-seated differences between the communities.

“I think it blows the lid off that this is real,” Hasan told the Journal. “There are feelings between these two communities and this is how it has manifested.”

One member of NewGround, Jewish activist Tuli Skaist, reached out to Shahin to challenge his use of “such hateful rhetoric,” as he said in an op-ed posted at jewishjournal.com.

“In these turbulent times, with so much hate in the world, it seems to me that faith leaders ought to be in the firefighting business,” Skaist wrote. “We must fight the inflammatory flames of hate with the sweet waters of love. We must fight intolerance in the world by urging our people to be more kind and more tolerant.”

In his response to Skaist, Shahin accused the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), an organization that translates speeches in Arabic into English, bringing them to a wider audience, of taking his remarks out of context.

But he apologized for his sermon, writing, “Thank you for your comments and concerns, I will keep them in mind. As you know, when we speak with emotion, words might not be put in the right places or understood correctly.

“My apology to all your community for any harm that my misinterpreted words might have caused.”

In a subsequent press conference, Shahin appeared with Davis Mayor Robb Davis and Rabbi Seth Castleman, chairman of the Sacramento Area Council of Rabbis, and apologized, acknowledging that he allowed his emotions to get the better of him.

“I understand that speech like this can encourage others to do hateful and violent acts, for this I truly apologize,” Shahin said. “Words matter and have consequences.”

In his online op-ed for the Journal, Skaist wrote, “Let me be clear: The imam was wrong; his words were dangerous and inexcusable. Such words should not be tolerated by his community or any other. At the same time, here is a man that is not full of hate, but who simply got carried away with passion, used words that he shouldn’t have, and had them distributed to the world in a two-minute ‘got you’ sound bite.”

MEMRI denied that Shahin’s remarks were edited or mistranslated and called him “one of a group of extremist preachers who have been exposed by MEMRI to be delivering incitement to hatred and violence.” The organization said accusations of misrepresenting Shahin reflects an effort by the Islamic Center of Davis “to deflect responsibility from themselves by issuing all kinds of mendacious and libelous statements against the entity that exposed them.”

In addition to his position at the Davis mosque, Shahin is an instructor at the Zidni Islamic Institute in Brentwood. Egyptian-born, he graduated from the Institute for Preparation of Preachers with a bachelor’s degree in Islamic Studies and earned an associate degree from Al-Forqan Institute, according to the Zidni Institute.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Center of Riverside (ICR) said it conducted an internal inquiry, reviewing Harmoush’s remarks and finding that his critics had misinterpreted his words.

Imam Harmoush was careful to focus his remarks on the actions of the Israeli government in and around Jerusalem,” the center said in a statement. “In fact, those parts of the sermon which have been cited as objectionable were routinely mistranslated and/or taken out of context. Nonetheless, Imam Harmoush unequivocally stated in the sermon that Islam does not call for aggression against any peaceful people.

“ICR believes that the Imam’s remarks were neither anti-Semitic nor discriminatory, but rather intended to address the unfortunate closure of the Mosque in Jerusalem to Muslim worshippers,” the statement said.

In a brief interview with the Journal, Harmoush did not disavow any part of his sermon but conceded that his words might have an unsettling effect on others.

“Oh, I learned that sometimes you have to not only have a sixth sense, but maybe a seventh sense,” he said. “Some people are very sensitive but maybe they cannot handle the truth or information, and unfortunately, we are living in a very sensitive society. Sensitive in a way we have to be careful, so we don’t need to hurt anybody’s feelings. Sometimes I talk to adults, children, male or female, and we have to be careful not to hurt anyone’s feelings.”

Imam Mahmoud Harmoush


According to MEMRI, Harmoush was born in Syria and has been living in the United States since the 1980s.

According to the ICR statement, Harmoush regards himself as an interfaith leader, and on July 31, 10 days after delivering his sermon, he met with Rabbi Suzanne Singer of the Riverside congregation Temple Beth El to discuss the controversy over his sermon.

Having organized an interfaith event at her synagogue this spring in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order banning Muslims from certain countries from entering the United States, Singer said she was eager to talk to Harmoush, despite her discomfort over his sermon. Ibrahim Massoud, chairman of the mosque, also participated in the meeting.

In an interview, Singer said the meeting confirmed what she had suspected after watching Harmoush’s sermon online, that she and Harmoush have strongly different ideas about the founding of the State of Israel and Jewish intentions in the Middle East. Although they did not agree on many things, she said, they agreed to meet again to try to bridge this divide.

“I said it may be a good idea for us to talk about our different narratives around Israel,” Singer said.

As to what the future holds, Singer said she would not allow the two sermons to stop her from building interfaith relationships with willing Muslim partners.

“Obviously, I’m quite distressed about this,” Singer said. “I don’t think it represents the Muslim community [in Riverside].”

Reuven Firestone, a professor of medieval Judaism and Islam at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, said the views expressed by Harmoush, Shahin and others are popular in the Muslim world, no matter how they are interpreted by others.

“These kinds of views have been encouraged by governments for decades in attempts to deflect criticism away from them,” Firestone said. “And there are plenty of harsh statements about Jews in Muslim religious sources that can be harvested when there is an interest in finding scapegoats.”

The challenge now for those who have worked hard to repair and improve relationships, said NewGround’s Hasan, is for religious leaders to hold one another accountable for hateful comments made by their communities but not to let them derail interfaith work.

“This is a huge opportunity for us to have those hard conversations and not sweep things under the rug,” she said.

ADL reports spike in anti-Semitism since 2016

A view of the Lawrence Family JCC in San Diego. Screenshot from YouTube

Anti-Semitic acts have become significantly more widespread in the United States since the beginning of last year, nearly doubling in the first quarter of 2017, according to a national report by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

The U.S. saw a 34 percent uptick in anti-Semitic incidents in 2016, with an additional 86 percent increase in the first three months of this year, according to the ADL’s annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, released on April 24. The audit shows a year-over-year comparison of harassment, vandalism and assault linked to Jew-hatred.

In addition to the national report, the ADL released a companion report for incidents in its Pacific Southwest region, which includes Los Angeles. In California, the audit noted 211 incidents of anti-Semitism in 2016, up 21 percent from 2015.

The reports come on the heels of a pair of polls conducted by the ADL, published earlier this month, that found 14 percent of Americans hold anti-Semitic beliefs.

CR_XXXX_2016-17 Audit-graphics_Q1_v3Amanda Susskind, Pacific Southwest regional director for the ADL, noted a number of alarming trends in the audit, some of which she said likely are tied to the national political environment and the November election of President Donald Trump.

“We believe the 2016 presidential election and the heightened political atmosphere may have played a role in some of the increase,” she told the Journal.

Though the reports provide only a rough assessment of anti-Semitic acts, Susskind pointed to some causes for concern, namely, the proliferation of swastikas as a hate symbol and, among youth, “a feeling of freedom to express themselves verbally in hateful ways.”

The regional audit notes a Riverside County elementary school vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti, including the words “Burn Jews,” and an Indio high school student who wore a Nazi uniform to high school for Halloween.

Susskind said the president’s failure to appropriately check his supporters who express virulently anti-Semitic views helped create a permissive atmosphere for hateful speech.

“I have no doubt that it trickled down into the mainstream and ultimately into the school yards and playgrounds, where kids are starting to become more loose-lipped,” Susskind said.

Nationally, the ADL reported “a doubling in the amount of anti-Semitic bullying and vandalism at non-denominational K-12 grade schools.”

“Seeing [anti-Semitism] in K-12 is pretty disturbing,” Susskind said. “Not that it’s not disturbing in college, but it’s newly disturbing to us this year.”

As for the swastikas, she said, “I hope it’s an anomaly.”

She noted an “extraordinarily large” number of incidents where swastikas were etched into cars, presumably owned by Jews. The regional report makes note of swastikas scratched into cars in heavily Jewish neighborhoods, including Hancock Park, Beverly Hills and Woodland Hills.

The national audit makes particular note of an uptick in anti-Semitic activity since the presidential election. Of the 1,266 acts included in the report “targeting Jews and Jewish institutions” in 2016, almost 30 percent of them occurred in November and December.

During the first three months of 2017, there were 541 incidents, far more than the 291 reported during the same time period the previous year. The 2017 count includes a national wave of phony bomb threats against Jewish institutions.

“There’s been a significant, sustained increase in anti-Semitic activity since the start of 2016, and what’s most concerning is the fact that the numbers have accelerated over the past five months,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a press release.

Susskind was careful to indicate that the incidents in the audit represent only those reported to the ADL or that ADL staffers read about and followed up on, and also that the information was anecdotal rather than scientific.

Moreover, she said there are other arenas where anti-Semitism is entrenched that are not included in the reports.

Susskind said the ADL continues to monitor cyberhate, for instance, which has not abated since the election. She said haters are emboldened when the White House fails to condemn acts of anti-Semitism quickly and strongly.

“There’s a failure of leadership consistently, and in that vacuum, hate rushes in,” she said.

100 anti-Semitic incidents reported in US post-election, watchdog finds

One hundred anti-Semitic incidents occurred in the 10 days following the presidential election, representing about 12 percent of hate incidents in the U.S. recorded by a civil rights watchdog.

The report released Tuesday by the Southern Poverty Law Center looked at 867 hate incidents that occurred in the 10 days following the election of Donald Trump. The incidents targeted various minority groups, including Jews, immigrants, African-Americans, Muslims and the LGBT community. Incidents counted had been submitted through the watchdog’s website or reported in the media.

Of the 100 incidents classified as anti-Semitic, 80 were “vandalism and graffiti incidents of swastikas, without specific references to Jews,” while others targeted Jews more overtly, such as the harassment of  individuals or vandalism of a synagogue, the report said. Many of the vandalism incidents included references to Trump, the nonprofit said.

The report referred to an attack prior to the election on a historically black church in Mississippi as “a harbinger of what has become a national outbreak of hate, as white supremacists celebrate Donald Trump’s victory.”

JTA has reported on anti-Semitic incidents following the election, including acts of vandalism featuring swastikas and Trump-related themes left in public areas as well as on the homes of Jewish individuals.

Earlier this month, the head of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, said anti-Jewish public and political discourse in America is worse than at any point since the 1930s.

The election season saw the rise of the “alt-right,” a loose far-right movement whose followers traffic variously in white nationalism, anti-immigration sentiment, anti-Semitism and a disdain for “political correctness.”

Many alt-right members, including prominent white nationalists, have been vocal in their support for Trump, who has called for a ban on Muslim immigration to the U.S. and likened Mexican immigrants to rapists.

The president-elect said last week that he did not want to “energize” white supremacists and denounced an alt-right conference in Washington, D.C., where speakers railed against Jews and several audience members did Hitler salutes.

The Southern Poverty Law Center report said that the 867 incidents “almost certainly represent a small fraction of the actual number of election-related hate incidents,” citing a Bureau of Justice Statistics estimate that two-thirds of hate crimes are not reported to the police.

The document also noted that 23 of the incidents reported were anti-Trump, including harassment of supporters of the president-elect.

Anti-Semitic incidents on US college campuses doubled in 2015, ADL reports

Anti-Semitic incidents on American college campuses nearly doubled in 2015, the Anti-Defamation League reported.

In addition, the number of anti-Semitic assaults across the country increased by more than 60 percent, according to the audit of such incidents released Wednesday.

A total of 90 incidents were reported on 60 college campuses last year, compared with 47 incidents on 43 campuses in 2014. Campus anti-Semitic incidents accounted for 10 percent of the total.


In one incident in January, swastikas were spray-painted on the exterior wall of a Jewish fraternity at the University of California, Davis on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz from the Nazis.

In another in November, students chanted anti-Semitic slogans at a protest at City University of New York’s Hunter College in Manhattan after organizers on Facebook called for participants to oppose the school’s “Zionist administration.” Protesters, who ostensibly gathered to fight for free tuition and other benefits, shouted, “Zionists out of CUNY! Zionists out of CUNY!”

The ADL audit recorded a total of 941 anti-Semitic incidents in the United States in 2015, an increase of 3 percent over the previous year.

Fifty-six of the incidents were assaults, the most violent category recorded in the audit, up from the 36 reported in 2014.

The incidents of assault included attacks on visibly Jewish men as they returned home from synagogue in New York and Florida, and a kippah-wearing high school student in Denver who was struck with a rock by an assailant who also called him “Jewboy” and “kike.”

A high school student wearing a kippah was approached by two other high school students who made statements including, “Hey Jewboy, come over here,” and, “Hey Jewboy, do my bills for me.” One of the assailants then shouted, “Hey you kike, when I talk to you, you talk back,” before throwing a large rock that hit the victim in the back.

Anti-Semitic incidents were reported in 39 states and the District of Columbia in 2015. In addition to the assaults, 377 of the incidents were vandalism, up from 363 in 2014, and 508 were harassment, threats and other events, down by five incidents from the previous year.

Continuing a long-standing trend, the most-Jewish states had the most anti-Semitic incidents. But amid the upward national trend, New York, the state with the largest Jewish population, and California saw declines. New York, which has the biggest Jewish population, had 198 incidents in 2015, down 17 percent from 231 in 2014. California recorded 175 incidents, down from 184.

“We are disturbed that violent anti-Semitic incidents are rising,” Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL CEO, said in a statement about the audit. “And we know that for every incident reported, there’s likely another that goes unreported. So even as the total incidents have remained statistically steady from year to year, the trend toward anti-Semitic violence is very concerning.”

Online harassment has increased in recent months, and appears to correspond to the current presidential campaign, the ADL said. Much of the harassment has been directed at Jewish journalists and other public figures. The ADL recently launched a Task Force on Online Harassment and Journalism to investigate the issue of anti-Semitism directed at journalists through social media and to develop recommendations on how to respond to it.

The ADL has been tracking anti-Semitic incidents since 1979.  During the last decade, the number of reported anti-Semitic incidents peaked at 1,554 in 2006 and has been mostly on the decline ever since.

Dependable steps to defeat BDS

By its own admission, the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement seeks to use economic and political pressure to isolate and delegitimize the State of Israel. Since BDS has not been able to gain traction among serious foreign policy thinkers of any political stripe, it has focused its efforts on organizations that typically do not specialize in international relations. Working closely with the American Jewish Committee and AJC Chairman Dean Schramm, we recently provided pro bono legal assistance to a group of University of California (UC) graduate students who successfully overturned a BDS resolution that was adopted by their local union. In so doing, we relied on a number of arguments that can be applied in other contexts and in the broader struggle against BDS.

In 2014, the union which represents UC graduate student workers—UAW Local 2865—adopted a resolution endorsing BDS and encouraging an academic boycott of Israeli universities.  With our support, a number of courageous UC graduate students appealed this discriminatory resolution to the UAW International President, who ultimately found that BDS violates the UAW’s Constitution by, among other things, promoting “discrimination and vilification” against Jews and Israelis.  This decision was unanimously affirmed by a diverse panel of independent legal scholars, known as the UAW Public Review Board, who fully supported the UAW’s forceful rejection of BDS.

The UAW International’s decision was a major defeat for the BDS movement, which had invested significant time and resources seeking to gain control of UAW Local 2865. While the UC graduate students who successfully appealed the resolution did a masterful job of defending Israel, our decision to go on the offensive and attack BDS also proved effective. For this reason, we would encourage advocates in a similar situation to consider emphasizing the following points:

Focus on the Harm to American Workers. In our case, we were able to explain how BDS would harm other UAW members by targeting companies that employ thousands of unionized workers. While it is all too easy for BDS activists to distort Middle East history, they cannot deny — and indeed readily admit — that BDS seeks to harm major corporations that play an important role in the U.S. economy. In the end, it became clear to UAW officials that the debate over BDS was really about balancing the political preferences of a few radical activists against the jobs, health care and pensions of thousands of hardworking men and women.

Shine a Spotlight on Racist Rhetoric. To expose the true face of BDS, we highlighted the remarks of several BDS activists who were involved in the UAW campaign. These individuals advanced classic anti-Semitic stereotypes of Jews, argued that pro-Israel UAW members should be denied the “right to speak,” and even charged that the Zionist movement made covert “deals” with the Nazis to bring “Jewish settlers to Palestine” in exchange for “sacrificing the vast majority of European Jews” during the Holocaust. This rhetoric undermined the credibility of the BDS proponents and damaged their effort to present themselves as peaceful human rights activists.

Explain the Practical Consequences of Endorsing BDS. In our case, we presented evidence of the profound division caused by the debate over BDS and highlighted the significant harassment and discrimination faced by Jewish and Israeli UAW members in connection with the BDS campaign. Among other examples, we offered testimony from a UCLA student who stopped wearing clothing or jewelry that would identify her as Jewish out of a fear of public shaming, and we pointed to the frightening experiences of a UC Berkeley student who left the union after she was verbally harassed and physically intimidated for speaking out against BDS. These examples brought into sharp focus the significant negative consequences of endorsing BDS, especially for any organization that values collaboration, cooperation and goodwill among its membership.

Expose the True Aims of the BDS Movement. To expose the true goals of the BDS movement, we highlighted the opposition of UAW BDS activists to resolutions supporting the two-state solution and “the Jewish right to self-determination,” as well as their claim that “bringing down Israel really will benefit everyone in the world.” This helped UAW officials to recognize that BDS is not about promoting peace but instead seeks Israel’s destruction.

Moving forward, we expect that the UAW’s forceful rejection of BDS — and its clear recognition of the discrimination inherent in this movement — will serve as a powerful precedent for other labor unions and national organizations. We also hope this decision will underscore the counterproductive nature of BDS, and make clear that direct negotiations are the only path to the peace and justice that Palestinians and Israelis alike so richly deserve. Until that time comes, however, our community must be prepared to effectively push back against efforts to transform our democracy’s most important institutions into weapons to attack Israel. 

SCOTT EDELMAN is a partner at the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and the Los Angeles regional president of the American Jewish Committee.

JESSE GABRIEL is an attorney at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, and chairman of the Community Engagement Strategic Initiative of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

Canada’s post office halts delivery of Toronto-area anti-Semitic newspaper

Canada’s post office says it will no longer deliver a Toronto-area newspaper described as openly anti-Semitic.

Judy Foote, the federal minister responsible for Canada Post, issued an order on June 6 against the future delivery of Your Ward News, a free, low-budget newspaper sent to homes in the east end of Toronto.

The publication has been the subject of complaints for years, the Canadian Jewish News reported. It has railed against “cultural Marxism” and lashed out at Zionists, Jewish communal leaders, feminism and welfare recipients, and has mocked the Holocaust. The newspaper has defended itself as satire protected by free speech.


B’nai Brith Canada said it has received “literally hundreds of phone calls and emails from people who have felt victimized by the content in this publication.”

Amanda Hohmann, national director of B’nai Brith Canada’s League for Human Rights, said her group was pleased to see that the government “has taken appropriate steps to protect Canadians from this kind of hate propaganda.”

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs also hailed Canada Post’s move.

“Freedom of speech – a core Canadian value – is cheapened and corroded when it is cynically used by extremists to justify the dissemination of hate,” said CEO Shimon Koffler Fogel. “The fact that the Canadian Union of Postal Workers has supported efforts to ban the delivery of Your Ward News reflects a broad consensus about the nature of the racist propaganda featured in this newsletter.”

As of June 8, the paper’s website said the paper is delivered by Canada Post to 305,000 homes, business and apartments, “with a readership of over one million.”

Your Ward News editor James Sears has filed a request for a review of Canada Post’s decision. An appeal would consist of a panel appointed by the minister. He called the Canada Post order “a temporary inconvenience.”

“We’re just a satirical, offensive newspaper,” Sears told CBC News. “It has been found multiple times by Canada Post lawyers that we’re not breaking any hate-speech laws.”

Sears is a former Toronto medical doctor who was stripped of his license in 1992 after a court found him guilty of sexually assaulting female patients.

‘Anti-Semitic’ Taft letter opposing Brandeis nomination to be auctioned

A letter written by former President William Howard Taft opposing the nomination of Louis Brandeis to become a Supreme Court justice and called anti-Semitic is on the auction block.

The four-page letter, which Taft wrote to the Washington-based Jewish journalist Gus Karger and making reference to Brandeis’ Jewishness, is part of an online auction Thursday by Nate D. Sanders Auctions in Los Angeles.

Bidding for the letter, which the auction house calls “historically important and anti-Semitic,” has been set to start at $15,000. It is said to be in fair to good condition.

Brandeis, who would go on to be the first Jewish justice on the high court, was nominated by Taft’s successor, President Woodrow Wilson. Taft reportedly felt slighted at not being the nominee.

In the letter, Taft rips Wilson’s ”Machiavellian” and ”satanic skill” in his selection of Brandeis, whom he calls ”cunning,” a ”hypocrite” and a ”power for evil.”

Taft wrote: “The intelligent Jews of this country are as much opposed to Brandeis’ nomination as I am, but there are politics in the Jewish community, which with their clannishness embarrass leading and liberal and clear-sighted Jews. I venture to think that the leading Jews of New York, Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnati and the other cities, who are not bound up in emotional uplifting, and who do not now tend to socialism, are as much troubled over this appointment and as indignant as any of us can be, but Brandeis’ foresight as to himself has strangled their expression lest they arouse bitter criticism against themselves by their own people.”

Taft called Brandeis’ “extreme Judaism” a “plant of very late growth,” alleging that he embraced Judaism  in order to secure an appointment as U.S. attorney general, which he did not get, Taft says, because “the leading Jews of the country told Wilson that Brandeis was not a representative Jew.”

Taft said “Brandeis has adopted Zionism, favors the new Jerusalem, and has metaphorically been re-circumcised. He has gone all over the country making speeches, arousing the Jewish spirit, even wearing a hat in the Synagogue while making a speech in order to attract those bearded Rabbis whose invitation to the silver wedding in such numbers you promoted. If it were necessary, I am sure he would have grown a beard to convince them that he was a Jew of Jews.”

In 1916, the Senate approved the Brandeis nomination by a vote of 47-22.

Jewish groups slam Ted Nugent for anti-Semitic gun control post

Right-wing rocker Ted Nugent came under fire from Jewish groups for an anti-Semitic Facebook post blaming prominent Jews for pushing gun control.

On Monday, Nugent shared a graphic featuring images of 12 Jews — including former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Democratic New York Sen. Chuck Schumer — branded with images of Israeli flags below the words: “So who is really behind gun control?”

Screenshot of the graphic posted on Ted Nugent’s Facebook page

Alongside the graphic, which has previously appeared on anti-Semitic websites, Nugent wrote:

“Know these punks. They hate freedom, they hate good over evil. They would deny us the basic human right to self defense & to KEEP AND BEAR ARMS while many of them have tax paid hired ARMED security! Know them well. Tell every1 you know how evil they are. Let us raise maximum hell to shut them down!”

Jewish organizations quickly condemned the post.

“Ted Nugent has a long history of being an equal opportunity offender. But his latest share on Facebook, making the outrageous suggestion that Jews are behind gun control, is nothing short of conspiratorial anti-Semitism,” said an Anti-Defamation League statement signed by CEO Jonathan Greenblatt.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center, said in a statement: “Ted Nugent has every right to advocate against gun control laws. However he won’t be getting a free pass for his anti-Semitic bigotry. There are Jews on both sides of the gun control controversy and Nugent knows it. He owes our community an apology. He can start by removing the offensive graphic and if he won’t we urge Facebook to do it for him.”

In the graphic on Facebook, the Jewish politicians and activists are labeled with descriptions, such as “Jew York City Mayor Mikey Bloomberg” and “Sen. Chucky boy Schumer.” Over Emanuel’s face, the text reads: “Served in Israel’s army during Gulf war.”

Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz and U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, both California Democrats, are also among those targeted.

Nugent, the voice of 1970s hits like “Stranglehold,” is an avid hunter, a board member of the National Rifle Association and a strong supporter of the Republican Party. He has a history of making inflammatory statements.

In response to the recently released Michael Bay film “13 Hours” about the highly politicized attack by Islamist militants on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, Nugent said President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should be “tried for treason and hung.”

Do stabbings of French Jews mean end of ‘Marseille miracle’?

Only three years ago, the Jews of Marseille were able to congregate without security and in relative safety in their synagogues and community centers. While violence by Muslim extremists rose throughout France, it largely spared the southern port city, where 80,000 Jews and 250,000 Muslims live.

When I visited in late 2012, I was able to enter the unlocked door of the city’s main synagogue with no one asking questions – a far cry from the fortress-like security common elsewhere in France then and now. Michele Teboul, the president of the Marseille office of the CRIF umbrella of French Jewish communities, back then called it the “miracle of Marseille.”

Today, that sense of relative safety has been shattered by a recent spate of stabbings of Jews, most recently of Benjamin Amsellem, a teacher who was attacked Tuesday near his synagogue. Amsellem used a religious book as a shield against his attacker, according to one news website, which carried a photo of the blood-stained volume.

The alleged assailant was a 15-year-old boy of Turkish-Kurdish descent, who lightly wounded Amsellem with a machete before being apprehended by police. The boy told interrogators he was inspired to commit the attack by the Islamic State.

Contradicting initial reports that police believed the stabber was insane, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called it “a revolting anti-Semitic attack against a teacher” and promised “uncompromising action against those who target our unity in the republic.”

“We are living in a state of war,” said Bruno Benjamin, the previous president of the Marseille branch of the Consistoire, the communal organ responsible for providing Jews with religious services. “Things can explode at any moment, from one second to the other. And we have learned to adapt to this new reality, which reached us later than it reached Paris, but reach us it did.”

The stabbing — the third such incident in Marseille since October — prompted Tzvi Amar, the current president of the Consistoire to call on local Jews to not wear kippahs in public. The statement was almost immediately rebuffed by leaders of French Jewry, including French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia, who said: “We should not give an inch.”

Benjamin called Amar’s suggestion “unthinkable.

Teboul told JTA that taking off the kippah would be to “dial back hundreds of years during which Jews were able to practice their faiths and live freely as citizens of the French Republic.”

While she opposes “self-effacing measures that would serve to drive French Jewry underground,” Teboul nonetheless conceded that her city’s famed coexistence was either at a tipping point or had already been lost.

“A few years ago, our concerns were hate preaching by certain imams, by no means the majority,” Teboul said. “But the dissemination of hate online has changed all that, crossing a new threshold in the volume of minds it poisons, reaching new audiences and making me fear very seriously that the Marseille I knew and love has changed a lot, for the worse.”

Still, Marseille has faced fewer attacks than Paris, even taking its smaller Jewish population into account. In 2014, SPCJ, the French Jewish security service, recorded 186 attacks in the Paris region, where some 300,000 French Jews live — a rate of roughly one attack per 1,600 Jews. Only 36 such incidents occurred in Marseille, a roughly 30 percent lower rate.

Benjamin traces the problem to a self-reinforcing cycle of violence, in which one attack against Jews inspires others. After the slaying of three children and a rabbi in Toulouse in 2012, SPCJ recorded 90 attacks — 15 percent of the annual tally — in the 10 days that followed.

“If you want to know what happened to change Marseille over the past four years, the answer is Toulouse and Hyper Cacher,” Benjamin said, referring to the slaying of four people last January at a kosher shop in Paris.

Even so, interfaith work continues in Marseille. Marseille Esperance, or “Marseille Hope,” an interfaith platform set up by the municipality in 1991 is generally seen as having done much to improve relations through projects by youths from the Jewish and Muslim communities.

“Jews still wear their kippot on the streets of Marseille,” Benjamin said. “But gone are the days when we would not need guards. Now every aspect of communal life happens under protection by the military. They are in our schools, in our shuls, reminding us that we are no less threatened here than in Paris — or Israel.”

Italian soccer chief: ‘Nothing against’ Jews and gays, just keep them away from me

The president of the Italian Football Federation said he has “nothing against” Jews and gays, but that he prefers to keep such people at a distance.

The comments by Carlo Tavecchio were recorded for an interview with the online magazine Soccer Life and published on the website of the Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

Tavecchio made the remarks while talking about a Jewish-Italian businessman Cesere Anticoli.

“It was bought by that Jew, Anticoli,” Tavecchio said in the recording. “I have nothing against the Jews, but better to keep them at bay.”

He used the Italian term “ebreaccio,” a pejorative for “ebreo,” or Jew.

He also said: “I don’t have anything against gays – but keep them away from me.”

Tavecchio said in response to the publication of the recording: “It’s blackmail; retaliation from someone to whom I denied funding, who recorded me without my knowledge, not as part of an interview. What’s more, the audio file could have been tampered with.

He added: “If you listen to the recording, my words are clear: I have had long personal and professional relationships with Jews. The charges of homophobia are also groundless.”

Tavecchio was elected president of the Italian Football Federation in August 2014. He has made racist comments in the past.

Matisyahu, the Iran deal and the college campus

Do we need to have a definition of anti-Semitism?  Most people think they already know what it means.

And sometimes the answer is obvious. Think, for example, about the vandals who recently scrawled the words “Yids out” on the fence of a girls’ primary day school in London.

Or consider Matisyahu. What else can you call it when Spain’s annual reggae music festival, Rototom Sunsplash, cancelled a scheduled appearance by this Jewish American singer.  Organizers argued that the rapper is a “Zionist” and supports the practice of “apartheid and ethnic cleansing.”

You don’t need a Ph.D. in anti-Semitology to know what that was about.

Often, though, there is room for disagreement.  When Israel’s critics use double standards, are they just being advocates, or have they crossed a line? For that matter, when some who support President Obama’s proposed Iran deal speak of their opponents’ “money” and “lobbyists,” are they mobilizing anti-Jewish sentiment or just being “realistic”?
Consider how some of the Iran deal’s supporters lambaste Senator Chuck Schumer, one of the president’s top Senate allies, for opposing the deal. The Daily Kos ran a cartoon showing Schumer with an Israeli flag, calling him a “traitor.” MoveOn.org lumped Schumer together with another famous Jewish Democrat, saying, “our country doesn’t need another Joe Lieberman in the Senate.” These organizations clearly crossed a line.

But that doesn’t mean that everyone who supports the Iran deal is an anti-Semite. Nor is it anti-Semitic merely to disagree with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s view of the world.

Definitions are like fences. They wall some things in and others out. It is not just that we need to be clearer about what should be condemned as anti-Semitic.  We also need to be clearer about what is not anti-Semitic and should not be unjustly maligned.

Unfortunately, our best definitions are now under attack. Earlier this year, Jewish Voice for Peace assailed the U.S. State Department’s authoritative definition of anti-Semitism.  The State Department definition is important because it embodies Natan Sharansky’s “3-D Test.” Many criticisms of Israel are not anti-Semitic. But they may enter that territory when they Demonize the Jewish state, Delegitimize Israel, or apply Double standards.

Anti-Israel activists are incensed that the State Department’s definition includes “demonizing,” “delegitimizing,” and “applying a double-standard” to Israel. They want to redefine anti-Semitism so that extreme anti-Israel activism will no longer be considered anti-Semitic.

Fortunately, the State Department rebuffed their efforts. In an important August letter, Special Envoy Ira Forman, the Obama administration’s point man on global anti-Semitism, explained that his department’s definition is important to his work and has not led to any encroachments on free speech.

Although Israel’s critics targeted the State Department, the real battle is over higher education. In response to a rash of anti-Semitic incidents, several student governments and advocacy groups, including the Louis D. Brandeis Center, have urged broader use of State Department standards in higher education.

Several months ago, a report jointly issued by the Louis D. Brandeis Center and Trinity College demonstrated that over 50% of Jewish college students reported experiencing or witnessing anti-Semitism during the 2013-2014 academic year. Earlier this summer, nearly three quarters of Jewish students responding to a Brandeis University study reported having been exposed to at least one of six anti-Semitic statements, such as claims that Jews have too much power and that Israelis behave “like Nazis.” Jewish students have reported being punched in the face, called derogatory epithets, and harassed in many ways.

Unfortunately, the federal government does not yet apply the State Department’s definition to American colleges.  If a French university were to tolerate a hostile environment for Jewish students, based on behavior that demonizes and delegitimizes the Jewish state, the State Department would understand when a line is crossed.  But if the same thing happens in California, New York, or Florida, the U.S. government would not be able to say whether the conduct was anti-Semitic, because domestic agencies are not coordinating with State.  Obviously this problem must be fixed.

At the same time, university leaders should educate their communities about the lines between legitimate political discourse and anti-Semitic intolerance.  This doesn’t mean censorship.  It does mean that universities should take their educative function seriously.  In September, the University of California Regents, the University’s governing board, is expected to discuss adopting a statement of principles on intolerance.  This would be an excellent opportunity for the Regents to assert leadership by taking a well-defined stand against prejudice.

Marcus is President of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (www.brandeiscenter.com) and former Staff Director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Oxford University Press will publish his new book on The Definition of Anti-Semitism in September.

BDS is not pro-Palestinian, it’s anti-Semitic

You probably heard about the storm over reggae singer Matisyahu’s on, off, and then on again invitation to sing at the Rototom Sunsplash music festival in Spain last weekend. Matisyahu is a talented Jewish reggae singer from Los Angeles, whose 2006 song ‘Jerusalem’ and 2008 song ‘One Day’ captured the hearts of millions of teenagers across the globe. In those days Matisyahu was hasidic in lifestyle and appearance, although since then the beard and peyot have come off. The invitation for him to perform at this obscure Spanish reggae festival would hardly have been newsworthy had it not been for the interference of the BDS movement.

Just in case you are wondering if you misread that last sentence, let me confirm that, yes, the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement, whose stated aim is ‘to increase economic and political pressure on Israel to [ensure] the end of Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestinian land, full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and respect for the right of return of Palestinian refugees’, applied pressure on a bunch of Spanish music lovers to either force an apolitical American Jewish singer to sign a declaration in favor of their non-music related political agenda, or face protest demonstrations and a coordinated boycott. Matisyahu understandably refused to sign any such declaration, so the festival organizers decided to disinvite him rather than deal with the bad publicity.

But rather than prevent bad publicity, the move backfired badly and attracted international condemnation. Following phenomenal pressure from multiple sources, including various governments, European Jewish leaders, and ELNET, which is a European version of AIPAC, the festival decided to re-invite him, and Matisyahu performed in front of an enthusiastic audience. Meanwhile the local BDS group that precipitated this outrage was unrepentant, claiming spuriously that the gentle singer was someone who was guilty of ‘incitement to racial hatred and connections to extremist and violent fundamentalist groups.’ More incredibly, the group accused the media of misrepresenting the incident ‘as part of the global BDS movement’, which compelled them to make clear that their efforts were ‘outside the remit of the cultural boycott of Israel.’

It is this last statement that I would like to focus on, because it exposes BDS activists for what they are – virulent anti-Semites who target Jews, even though that is not officially part of their agenda. And not just Israeli Jews, but all Jews. American Jews. British Jews. Spanish Jews. If you are a Jew, know that you are a BDS target. You are assumed to support every aspect of Israel’s policies and military strategy. Your only ‘get out of jail’ card is to publicly sign up to the repugnant BDS campaign, an agenda that hides under a musk of humanitarian concern for Palestinian Arab suffering, but which is in fact intent on destroying the State of Israel by creating one state between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, and repatriating any Arab descended from Arabs who became refugees in 1948. In other words, BDS is not interested in a peaceful solution or prosperity for Palestinian Arabs, only in ensuring that Jewish statehood is no longer viable. Even if the Jewish State complied with every ridiculous UN resolution, they would still hate it – because it is Jewish, and it exists.

I am going to say something now that may shock you, but it is important to put it on the record. If you support Israel and are against BDS, please please stop defending Israel to BDS supporters. You are wasting your time. No one in the BDS camp is interested in complex defenses of Israel’s right to exist and right to defend itself. Because they are anti-Semites. I don’t care if they are Jews or non-Jews – they are anti-Semites. If Jews irrationally hate other Jews, they are anti-Semites, pure and simple. We must stop using the definition ‘self-hating Jew’. It is meaningless to the wider world. If a former Catholic criticizes the Pope, no one calls him a self-hating Catholic, they call him an anti-Catholic. If someone born a Jew hates other Jews for being proud of their heritage and their history, and demands that they reject that heritage and history in order to be accepted, they are not self-hating Jews, they are anti-Semites. It’s that simple.

Now that BDS has been exposed – correction: has exposed itself – as a group that targets all Jews, it is obviously pointless to discuss or debate with them on the issues. If they are blackmailing music festivals to boycott American Jewish singers with loose connections to Israel and no political history, then we need to start calling them what they are: anti-Semites and racists. BDS is no different than the Nazis of the 1920s and 1930s who created a myth that all Jews were guilty of insidious crimes against the international community, and were intent on world domination. When people spread malicious lies about you, don’t waste time refuting their lies – expose them for what they are: vicious liars motivated by hatred.

The Torah portion this week ends with the famous commandment to destroy Amalek, the nation that attempted to exterminate the nascent Jewish nation as it emerged from Egypt. The instruction from Moshe is unequivocal: תִמְחֶה אֶת-זֵכֶר עֲמָלֵק מִתַחַת הַשָמָיִם לֹא תִשְכָח – ‘never forget your duty to obliterate any memory of Amalek from beneath the heavens.’ If it is a choice between them or us, make sure it is them, not us. My friends, our battle with BDS is a fight for the survival of the Jewish nation, not a gentlemanly discussion over coffee about the rights and wrongs of Israel’s actions and policies. BDS is a relentless and vicious campaign against Jews. That this makes you a target – in Los Angeles, or in New York, or in London – is not an accident. BDS must be uprooted and destroyed. Your life could depend on it.

Rabbi Pini Dunner is the Senior Rabbi at Beverly Hills Synagogue, a member of the Young Israel family of synagogues.

Samsung removes online cartoons mocking Jewish hedge fund founder

A Samsung subsidiary removed online cartoons that showed the Jewish founder of a hedge fund as a vulture with a large beak.

Samsung C&T removed the cartoons on Wednesday, The Associated Press reported, days after the company condemned anti-Semitism in the wake of anti-Semitic expressions in the South Korean media in reporting on the proposed merger between Samsung C&T, a construction company, and Cheil Industries.

The removal of the cartoons attacking Paul Singer, the Jewish founder of New York-based Elliott Associates, came a day before shareholders of Samsung C&T were to vote on the merger, which is opposed by Singer’s fund, the third-largest shareholder in Samsung C&T. Both companies are subsidiaries of the Samsung Group, South Korea’s largest family-controlled conglomerate. The merger is part of a consolidation effort.

Along with depicting Singer as a vulture, the cartoons show him hiding an axe behind his back while taking money from a man in ragged clothes.

The company reportedly asked AP not to publish a story before the shareholders meeting, according to the news service. The cartoons had been displayed on the company’s website for several weeks.

In reporting on the proposed merger, at least two South Korean media outlets blamed Jews for attempting to block the deal. One publication wrote that Jewish power on Wall Street “has long been known to be ruthless and merciless.” A columnist wrote that “Jews are known to wield enormous power on Wall Street and in global financial circles” and “It is a well-known fact that the U.S. government is swayed by Jewish capital.”

In a letter to the Anti-Defamation League earlier this week, both companies condemned anti-Semitism.

“We are a company that is committed to respect for individuals and enforces strict non-discrimination policies,” they wrote. “We condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms.”

Watchdog: Anti-Semitic attacks in France climbed 84% after kosher shop killings

The number of anti-Semitic attacks recorded in France during the first quarter of 2015 increased by 84 percent over the corresponding period last year, a watchdog group said.

The SPCJ security service of France’s Jewish communities released the figures Monday in a quarterly report that counted 508 anti-Semitic acts recorded between January and May. In the first four months of 2014, SPCJ recorded 276 incidents between January and May out of a total of 851 that year, making 2014 second only to the 974 incidents recorded in 2004 by the service. In all of 2013, SPCJ documented 423 incidents.

The worst of the attacks this year occurred on Jan. 9, when an Islamist killed four Jewish shoppers at a kosher supermarket.

Of the anti-Semitic incidents recorded in the first quarter this year, 121, or 23 percent, were classified by SPCJ as violent. The proportion of violent attacks was slightly higher in the first quarter of 2014, with 27 percent of the total, or 76 attacks.

Death threats accounted for 387 incidents out of the total in the first four months of 2015, slightly more than three-quarters of the incidents.

In 2012, the slaying of three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse by a jihadist spurred a spike in anti-Semitic incidents throughout France, possibly by those inspired by the attack to target Jews, SPCJ reported at the time. SPCJ documented more than 90 anti-Semitic incidents in the 10 days that followed the shooting.

Alberto Nisman: The 86th victim of the Buenos Aires bombing

UPDATED: The murder this week of Alberto Nisman — and now even the Argentine president has acknowledged his death was no suicide — was every bit as shocking and anti-Semitic a crime as the attacks two weeks ago in Paris.

Nisman was the federal prosecutor appointed by former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner to investigate the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and injured hundreds more — one of the worst cases of terrorism against Jews since the Holocaust.

Nisman’s body was found in his apartment on Jan. 18, the day before he was to testify before Argentine lawmakers about his findings, which implicated current President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, and other officials and activists in a secret deal with Iranians to cover up evidence of Iranian involvement in the mass murder and to cease prosecution of high-level Iranian officials believed to have been involved in organizing it.

In other words, Nisman is the 86th victim.

The tenacious 51-year-old was murdered because he was on the verge of providing more than 500 pages of evidence — including wiretaps of phone conversations — that point to high-level Argentine officials having cut deals with Iranians to help them avoid paying for the crime. Iran would deliver its oil in return for Argentine grain, and the case would go away.

Argentina, in the words of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, “holds a debt with the democratic world” when it comes to terror. But let’s be honest, so do other so-called anti-terror countries. Russia fights against Islamic terror in Chechnya but justifies it in Iran and Syria when its economic interests are at stake. The United States has consistently treated Saudi Arabia with a policy that can only be described as grossly hypocritical. As long as the kingdom that spawns Wahabi terror and breeds oppression and intolerance keeps oil and investment flowing, our criticisms are muted and decorous. 

I would love to hear President Barack Obama say a word in defense of Raif Badawi, the blogger currently in a Saudi prison and being punished with 1,000 lashes for writings perceived as insulting Islam. I won’t hold my breath.

When it comes to the AMIA bombing, Argentina has mastered this cynical game.

It seems the only hope the victims and their families have of justice is for public outrage or private pressure to overcome self-interest and greed. That takes a lot of pressure and outrage.

“A part of me lost hope that something can happen and change in Argentina,” Rabbi Claudia Kreiman of Temple Beth Zion in Brookline, Mass., told me by phone last week. “I’m usually not that kind of person, but it’s been impossible to believe justice will be done in Argentina.”

Rabbi Kreiman grew up in Argentina’s 200,000-strong Jewish community. Her mother, Susy Wolynski Kreiman, was working in the AMIA building when the van packed with explosives — which we now know was masterminded by a network of Iranian agents in Argentina — went off. It took seven days for workers to recover her mother’s body from beneath the rubble.

In the intervening 25 years, the investigations have been marked with false starts and accusations of cover-ups. 

“In the years after, it was a sense this was something that happened to Jews and not to Argentina,” Kreiman said. “But now this is about how the whole place is so corrupted. People were finally believing this guy was doing the right thing.”

Those even closer to the tragedy agree.

“We as Jews are suffering,” Rabbi Dr. Abraham Skorka told me, “but this is not a specific Jewish drama. …Nowadays the great majority of the Argentine population perceive it as not just a Jewish drama.”

Rabbi Skorka, the director of the Conservative rabbinical seminary in Buenos Aries—and a close friend of Pope Francis— visited the Jewish Journal’s offices this past Wednesday on a tour of the United States sponsored by the Masorati movement.

Nisman, he said, was a man of great conviction, energy and determination to see justice.

“The first steps that Nestor and Chistina Kirchner took were very important in order to decipher what happened,” the rabbi said. But all of Argentina knows there are “black holes” in the investigation, especially the identity of local agents who cooperated with the Iranian organizers of the attack.

It is “not a matter of faith or belief” whether the government will ever find these people and bring them to justice, it’s a matter of evidence.  (Our full interview with Rabbi Skorka will appear here soon.)

If there is any reason for hope and change in Buenos Aires now, Kreiman told me, it’s the fact that thousands of non-Jews joined together with Jews in a public rally in response to Nisman’s death.

That, it seems, is the lesson of France and Argentina. Terror, injustice, government cover-ups, collusion — slowly the world is learning that the things they think that just affect this minority ultimately affect whole countries. 

As historian Deborah Lipstadt told our reporter Danielle Berrin last week, “It starts with the Jews, it never ends with the Jews.”

In 2005, on the 11th anniversary of the bombing, an Argentine cardinal named Jorge Mario Bergoglio was the first public personality to sign a petition demanding justice — 85 signatures for 85 victims. 

Now that cardinal is Pope Francis, and he should once again raise his voice for justice in the name of Alberto Nisman. We can join him, by writing to the president, to the new ambassador to Argentina, Noah Mamet, and demand an independent investigation into Nisman’s death and into his new findings.

Miguel Steuermann, director general of Radio Jai, Argentina’s full-time Jewish radio station, says even then the struggle depends on Argentines themselves.

“As  with Islamic terrorism, it can be fought against only from the inside. People and media independently struggling to find light and truth in Argentina should be strongly supported,” Steuermann wrote me in an e-mail exchange.   “They have tried to silence us for over 22 years, and more than once they were about to achieve it. One is not very popular when you report the lie that tries to blame the Jews and/or Israel for all the evils in mankind.”

Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center told me visited with Nisman early in his investigation. “This was a courageous and focused person,” Rabbi Cooper said.  “He and his team worked behind sandbags. The independence given to him to get the truth about the AMIA bombing was the high point of Argentine democracy. The decision to deal with Iran was a low point — and now what?”

Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. E-mail him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Twitter @foodaism.

Hollande calls kosher market hostage killing an ‘appalling anti-Semitic act’

French President Francois Hollande confirmed reports on Friday that four hostages were killed at a siege of a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris.

Hollande called for national unity and said the country should remain “implacable” in the face of racism and anti-Semitism.

“It is indeed an appalling anti-Semitic act that was committed,” he said of the hostage-taking by an Islamist gunman at the Hyper Cacher supermarket in the Vincennes district.

Some hostages were seen rushing from the market after heavily armed police broke the siege at the same time as they ended a separate stand-off in northern France involving the two Islamist suspects behind the killings at Charlie Hebdo magazine this week.

Jewish man beaten at Brooklyn train station in apparent anti-Semitic attack

Three assailants beat an identifiably Jewish man while shouting anti-Semitic epithets at a Brooklyn train station.

A bystander who intervened in the attack on Monday in the Williamsburg neighborhood also was attacked, the New York Daily News reported, citing the website JPUpdates.com. 

The Jewish man, who was identified as a tourist from Israel, was beaten with his own umbrella after he discovered them trying to take something out of his pocket. They called him a ‘dirty bloody Jew’ and a ‘f—ing Jew’ during the attack, according to the newspaper.

The attackers fled on a Manhattan-bound train.

The New York Police Department’s hate crimes unit is investigating the incident, The Associated Press reported.

French Jewish leader indicted for calling Dieudonne ‘professional anti-Semite’

Roger Cukierman, president of France’s largest Jewish group, was indicted for calling the comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala a “professional anti-Semite.”

Cukierman, who heads the CRIF umbrella of French Jewish communities and organizations, announced the indictment on Monday in a video that appeared on the CRIF website.

“So I am being indicted for having stated on Europe 1 that Dieudonne is a professional anti-Semite. Isn’t that funny? For once, Dieudonne is actually comical,” Cukierman said.

Dieudonne has 10 convictions for inciting racial hatred against Jews, according to CRIF. He also invented the quenelle salute, which French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said was an inverted Nazi gesture of anti-Semitic hate, and the term “shoananas,” a mashup of the Hebrew word for the Holocaust and the French word for pineapple, which is used to suggest the genocide never happened without explicitly violating France’s laws against doing so.

Earlier this year, Valls, then interior minister, advised mayors to ban Dieudonne’s shows, leading to the show’s cancellation and replacement with another routine which featured less anti-Semitic material.

Indictments are “quasi-automatic” in France when police receive complaints of defamation, according to the  L’Express news website.

Responding to the indictment, the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Vigilance, or BNVCA, extended its support for Cukierman.

“No one in France knows anti-Semitism better than Roger Cukierman, who survived the Holocaust at the age of nine because nuns hid him while his family was deported to Auschwitz and gassed there,” the Drancy-based watchdog wrote in a statement Tuesday.

Dieudonne and the far-right Holocaust denier Alain Soral recently decided to form a political party, the news site Mediapart.fe reported Tuesday.

Last week, Dieudonne was indicted for fraud, money laundering and abuse of public funds, Le Monde reported. Researchers believe Dieudonne, who declared he had no money to pay fines he received for his hate speech, transferred more than $500,000 to Cameroon while he declared himself to be insolvent.


Hundreds protest Met Opera’s ‘Klinghoffer’ opening in N.Y.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the Metropolitan Opera House in New York to protest the opening performance of “The Death of Klinghoffer.”

Protesters were joined on Monday by several high-profile figures including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former New York governors David Paterson and George Pataki.

The John Adams opera, which debuted in 1991, depicts the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro by Palestinian terrorists and the murder of Leon Klinghoffer, a 69-year-old Jewish-American passenger in a wheelchair. Protesters have charged that the production is anti-Semitic, exploitative, hostile to Israel and sympathetic to terrorists.

In a symbolic gesture, protest organizers lined the street at Manhattan’s Lincoln Center with 100 wheelchairs.

Police had to block off several sections of the street and only allowed individuals with tickets to enter the opera house.

A similar protest, but without the wheelchairs, was held at the Met’s Opening Night Gala in September.

Whether you fire him or not, condemn Salaita’s words

For the past month or so, the academic world in this country has been abuzz with impassioned debate about Professor Steven Salaita, whose proposed appointment as a tenured professor in American Indian studies at the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana was rejected by Chancellor Phyllis Wise on August 1.   The key issue in this case is Salaita’s anti-Israeli and, some say, anti-Semitic speech, which Chancellor Wise characterized as “personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them.”

Supporters of Professor Salaita have seen the decision to withdraw the offer made by the UI’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as a gross violation of the principle of academic freedom that stands at the heart of the American university system.   The American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the central policy-making body for American academics, has made clear in its 1940 Statement of Principles that freedom of expression in research and teaching is essential to the proper functioning and success of universities. http://www.aaup.org/report/1940-statement-principles-academic-freedom-and-tenure.  Drawing on the AAUP principles, Cornell law professor Michael Dorf asserts, without endorsing Salaita’ words, that the case is an easy one: “Academic freedom and freedom of speech protect all viewpoints, even those that are hostile to academic freedom or freedom of speech.”

Meanwhile, those who endorse the University’s decision to retract its offer note that Salaita’s case is actually different from instances in which an institution attempts to fire a current faculty member for offensive speech.  Such a case would be an unmistakable deviation from the bedrock principle of free speech.  Rather, supporters of the retraction such as UI professor Cary Nelson, a former president of the AAUP, note that Salaita’s appointment was never given final approval by either the University of Illinois’ Chancellor of its Board of Trustees. 

This may seem confounding to the outsider.  Either Salaita was offered an appointment or he wasn’t.  In fact, academic institutions of the size of the University of Illinois are large and labyrinthine bureaucracies with many layers of scrutiny for academic appointments.  One may receive the endorsement of a home department, the dean, and the provost, but without the final authorization of the chancellor or president and board of trustees, the appointment is not final.  Salaita’s case is one of the rare instances in which a university CEO has overturned the affirmative decision of the lower reviewing bodies.  The more cautious among academic appointees would never resign their positions at previous institutions until they received final approval from the chancellor and board, as Steven Salaita did from Virginia Tech. 

The question of whether we can meaningfully distinguish between firing a professor already in the employ of a university and withdrawing an offer to one who is awaiting the last sign-off from the chancellor is a difficult one.  It is especially difficult because of the importance of creating a safe, inclusive, and welcoming campus climate for all.  Do we want to welcome as members of our campus community those who extend beyond acceptable bounds of civil speech and conduct?  It is a very tricky call.  I must confess that I am not certain where I stand in balancing the right to free speech vs. the right to exclude from one’s campus community those whose speech is disrespectful.  Indeed, I think a decent case could be made for either side.  As a result of my own uncertainty, I have sat on this piece for weeks.

But there is something that must be said without equivocation.  It is stunning to behold the near-total silence of Salaita’s supporters about the content of his speech.  Petitions that excoriate the University of Illinois for its decision have garnered thousands of signatures with passing reference only to the controversy around Salaita’s speech.  Letter writers extol Salaita without any mention of his offensive words. In the few cases where his harsh speech is discussed, his defenders dismiss those who take Salaita’s words at face value by insisting that the real issue is the behavior of Israel. 

Let me be clear.  What is objectionable here is not criticism of Israel’s policies toward Palestinians.  Many of us have joined in calling Israel to task for the trail of destruction it has inflicted, most recently in Gaza.  It is the sophomoric, intemperate and, dare I say, hateful quality of Salaita’s speech.  Even if one shares Salaita’s passionate commitment to the Palestinian cause and believes fervently in his right to free speech, it is imperative to call out his irresponsible words.

To what am I referring? It is a series of recent Twitter postings during the unfolding Gaza conflict that reveals an almost compulsive tendency to suggest that Zionism not only induces, but justifies anti-Semitism.  To wit, his most infamous tweet from July 19 declares that Zionism bears responsibility for “transforming ‘antisemitism’ from something horrible into something honorable.”  Supporters of Salaita have tried to parse this sentence to argue that by placing “antisemitism” in quotes, he was indicating his distance from the concept.   Really?  One can argue that Israeli behavior toward Palestinians has provoked antisemitic responses.  But what possibly could be “honorable” about such responses?  When is antisemitism ever honorable?

Would we accept any analogous assertions about other groups?  That the actions of Hamas justify Islamophobia?  I doubt it.  Salaita, with pyromaniacal persistence, seems incapable of avoiding the fire of antisemitism.  In another tweet from July 19, he offers this: “If it’s ‘antisemitic’ to deplore colonization, land theft, and child murder, then what choice does any person of conscience have?”  Here again, some will argue that the use of quotes insulates Salaita from the phenomenon itself–that he’s referring to the tendency of Israel’s supporters to tarnish any and all critics with the designation “antisemitic.” But if he’s not saying that “any person of conscience” must ultimately choose antisemitism, he certainly comes close.  At a minimum, he’s guilty of extraordinarily sloppy locution that can lead reasonable people to assume that he sees antisemitism as an unavoidable and justifiable outcome of Zionism—and therefore an acceptable and “honorable” consequence of the fight for justice for Palestinians.

One also wonders about his tweet from July 14: “Zionist uplift in America.  Every little Jewish boy and girl can grow up to be the leader of a murderous colonial regime.”  Defenders will say that he simply seeks to point to the impact of Zionist ideology on the organized Jewish community in this country.  But the language he uses rests on the troubling elision between  Zionist and Jew—and the ascription of culpability for all of Israel’s and Zionism’s actions to Jews as a collective.  Whether or not Salaita’s intent here was antisemitic, I can’t say. What is clear is that the Zionist/Jewish elision is a common antisemitic move. 

Also unnerving is his claim that “the sequence of letters” in the word Israel—the word “Israel” itself–should read “child murder” or that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu wears “a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children.”  This kind of language eerily echoes the medieval blood libel directed against Jews.  The blood libel assumed many forms, most of which focused on the claim that Jews killed Christian children in order to use their blood for ritual purposes (or to poison wells).  Perhaps the resonance is unwitting, but the effect to anyone who knows the history of antisemitism is chilling.   

I have no idea what is in Steven Salaita’s heart.  Maybe he is a well-intentioned critic of Israel and supporter of the right of the Palestinian people to justice and self-determination.  His choice of language suggests otherwise.  Indeed, his lack of modulation and sound judgment seems to fail the standard laid out by the AAUP in 1940 for university faculty members: “As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.” 

Salaita’s speech is far from respectful.  I honestly don’t know whether his disrespectful speech trumps the principle of free speech on which the great American university system rests.  But at a minimum, and it is indeed a minimal response, we must condemn Salaita’s offensive words.  The failure to do so is itself a failure of courage, discernment, and intellectual integrity.  

David N. Myers teaches Jewish history at UCLA.

Chargers football commentator uses Jewish stereotype in on-air exchange

Hank Bauer, a longtime radio analyst for the NFL’s San Diego Chargers, used a Jewish stereotype in an exchange with his on-air colleague.

In the waning moments of Sunday’s Chargers-49ers preseason football game, play-by-play man Josh Lewin said if he were paying to attend he would not have left early, as many fans did, because of the high price of the tickets.

Bauer responded, “You know how copper wire was invented? Somebody dropped a penny between Josh and his family member.”

Lewin, who is Jewish, then attempted to change the subject by announcing the amount of time left in the game.

Bauer replied, “I say that respectfully and endearingly, my partner.”

“Love you too, buddy,” Lewin responded.

The Deadspin website first reported the exchange.

Bauer has been the color commentator for the Chargers radio broadcasts on FM105.3 and AM1360 in San Diego since 1998. He played for the Chargers between 1977 and 1982.

Arabs menace Jewish group on Temple Mount

Hundreds of Arabs chanting anti-Jewish epithets surrounded a group of Jews who ascended the Temple Mount.

Many of the Arabs also held up three fingers, a triumphant sign of the three kidnapped Israeli teens, during Wednesday’s incident.

Muslim children at a summer camp accosted the group before they were then joined by adults in a confrontation that was recorded by onlookers.

The Jewish group’s visit had been authorized by security officials at the Temple Mount.

Police officers attempted to separate the groups, and then escorted the Jewish group from the site, according to Israel National News.


Argentine neo-Nazi group approved as political party

An ultranationalist organization led by Alejandro Biondini, an accused neo-Nazi, won legal approval as a registered political party.

Buenos Aires Judge Ariel Lijo granted the approval for Bandera Vecinal, or Local Flag, on Wednesday. The party, which is expected to participate in the 2015 presidential elections, had signed up the required 4,000 members.

The Jewish political umbrella DAIA said Biondini “has publicly and repeatedly supported the figure of Adolf Hitler and Nazism. DAIA reiterates its position to not legitimize as a political party those who justify hatred and encouraging violence against the Jewish community and others in our country.”

In 1988, Biondini led chants of “Death to traitors, cowards and Jews” at a gathering of extreme-right demonstrators in Buenos Aires. At the time, Biondini’s group was called the National Alert, reminiscent of the cry “Germany, awake!”

Three years later, a judge quashed his group’s request to register as the Workers’ Nationalist Socialist Party and use the swastika as its symbol.

In the 2011 elections, Biondini’s Social Alternative Party garnered just 0.19 percent of the vote. His previous party, New Triumph, was banned by Argentina’s Supreme Court in 2009.


European Jewry battered by soaring anti-Semitism

The arrest on May 30 by French Police of Mehdi Nemmouche in connection with the murder of three people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels did not calm anyone’s fears. Far from it: Nemmouche is a French-born Islamist who fought with al-Qaeda-affiliated rebels in Syria before allegedly returning to Europe to murder Jews, and his apprehension is sending shockwaves across the continent. 

Intelligence and police officials from Ottawa to Berlin to Paris have been issuing warnings about native-born Muslims who, after going to Syria to try to bring down strongman Bashar Assad, are returning home as trained, motivated Islamist terrorists. Nemmouche has not yet been charged, and it is not clear whether the 29-year-old could have been carrying out orders from al-Qaeda, or if this is the action of a “lone wolf,” like Mohammad Merah, who killed seven people at a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012. 

Either way, the killings at the Brussels Jewish Museum represent another devastating blow to Europe’s already beleaguered Jewish communities. They are already reeling from a spike in hate crimes, estimates that 150 million of their neighbors harbor extreme anti-Israel and/or anti-Jewish views, and from European Parliament elections held in late May that French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called a “political earthquake.” Last Monday, the prime minister and his colleagues awoke to a France that handed Marine Le Pen’s “fascism with a pretty face”— National Front — a stunning victory. Her party won 25 percent of the vote for members of the European Parliament in France — nearly double the number cast for the country’s ruling Socialist Party.

The results of the pan-European elections should not be dismissed as only a protest vote over high unemployment, high taxes and recessions. For many voters, the ballot box gave them a chance to join Eurosceptics in rejecting what they perceive as the co-opting of their national identities by faceless bureaucrats sitting in Brussels.

But it is whom they chose to sit in the next Parliament that is deeply worrisome. There is a likely bloc of 50 to 60 seats that could include France’s National Front, Greece’s extremist Golden Dawn, Hungary’s Jobbik and — for the first time — a parliamentarian representing the German NPD, neo-Nazi party. In other words, political parties — some of whose core constituency is attracted by xenophobia, nativist nationalism, anti-immigrant rhetoric (especially against Muslims) and anti-Semitism — are now positioned to help shape European social, economic and foreign policies. On top of those are extreme leftist parties in Greece, animal rights parties that denigrate core practices of Judaism and Islam including shechitah — Jewish ritual slaughter — and the Five Star Party, Italy’s second largest, which is led by anti-Semitic Beppe Grillo. Will these newly elected parliamentarians join those seeking to douse the flames of intolerance, or will they choose to leverage their newfound political clout to become more effective social arsonists?

Europe’s immigrants and minorities are deeply and understandably shocked by these developments, but none more so than the already embattled Jewish communities. 

Benjamin Albalas, head of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, reacting to the election, told The Jerusalem Post that “a great number of European citizens seem to have forgotten what happened during the Holocaust and World War II. Racism and anti-Semitism are again hitting Europe,” he said. “It is time for immediate action.”

My colleague at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Efraim Zuroff, warns that the elections could be “the beginning of a new and very dangerous era in which openly fascist and anti-Semitic parties might attain entree into government coalitions, which would significantly change the current constellation of political power in such a way that could seriously jeopardize the future of European Jewish communities.”

What is happening in Europe is not only a loss of hope, but a loss of memory: about World War II, about the Holocaust, and about the dangers of totalitarian movements of both the left and right that dragged Europe down into a long, 20th-century twilight of the soul. Many of the younger generation have never been taught, and many of the older generation — who should know better — have willfully chosen to forget.

And now, added to this already toxic mix, is the specter of European-born, battle-hardened Islamist extremists returning to the Continent to attack soft Jewish targets.

Europe was home to 10.5 million Jews in 1914; today, there are 1.5 million. A Europe incapable of or unwilling to defeat Islamist terrorism; to address head-on resurgent anti-Semitism; and a Continent bereft of a coherent, inclusive democratic culture will soon have no room for even these few Jews who remain. That’s why, from Scandinavia to Western Europe, from Hungary to Ukraine, dramas are unfolding in Jewish homes, as families contemplate voting with their feet, relocating to Israel, the United States or “anywhere but here.”

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museum of Tolerance. Dr. Harold Brackman, a historian is a consultant to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.