Photo from Facebook.

UC Berkeley’s Vice Chancellor to Meet With Jewish Student Organizations Over Lecturer Who Re-tweeted Anti-Semitic Images


UC Berkeley is working to set up a meeting between the university’s vice chancellor and the Coalition of Jewish Student Organizations to discuss the matter of a lecturer who re-tweeted anti-Semitic images.

Hatem Bazian, who lectures on Asian American Studies, Muslim American Studies and the like, re-tweeted a tweet in November that featured two images: one of a Jewish man saying: “Look Mom! I is chosen! I can now kill, rape, smuggle organs & steal the land of Palestinians yay #Ashke-Nazi”; the other portrayed Kim Jong Un with a yarmulke stating that he converted his entire country into Judaism and then telling President Trump, “Now my nukes are legal and I can annex South Korea and you need to start paying me 34 billion a year in welfare.”

The full tweet can be seen below:

Bazian did issue an apology for re-tweeting the tweet, calling the images “offensive.”

“At the time, I saw the image of the North Korean Kim Jong-Un and tweeted it without giving it much thought as I was teaching a course in Spain and France,” Bazian said in a statement posted to Twitter. “I did not realize or read the full text in detail until it started re-appearing on my twitter feed again from a number of pro-Israel groups that target Palestinians.”

“While we do not believe that all criticism of Israel’s governmental policies is inherently anti-Semitic, the social media posts in question clearly crossed the line, and we are pleased they have been deleted,” UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said in a statement. “We deeply regret the impact these posts have had on members of our campus community and the public at large. UC Berkeley is and will remain committed to fostering and sustaining a campus community, and a world, where everyone feels safe, welcome and respected.”

Four Berkeley Jewish student groups – Chabad Jewish Student Group, Bears for Israel, Berkeley Hillel and Tikvah: Students for Israel – called for further discipline against Bazian in a letter to the university administration, according to Fox News.

“While we fully support academic freedom and free speech, we believe Bazian’s record is severe enough to warrant more than just condemnation,” the letter reads. “We also know that there is a precedent for the removal of non-tenured faculty who promote hate on social media and elsewhere. Oberlin College fired professor Joy Karega, following an investigation into anti-Semitic statements she made on social media, a University of Tampa professor was fired for suggesting that Hurricane Harvey was ‘karma’ for the state of Texas, and a John Jay College professor was suspended for tweeting about ‘dead cops.’”

The letter also argued that Bazian has a history of anti-Semitism, including claiming in 2002 that UC Berkeley was under Jewish control.

Mogulof told the Journal in an email that the First Amendment prevents the university from firing Bazian.

“The expression in question took place outside of the work place, on the employee’s own time,” Mogulof wrote. “The University, no matter what the reason or who the perpetrator might be, cannot act in contradiction to settled law and ample court precedence that make it all but impossible to dismiss an employee of a public institution for activities or expression of this sort that takes place during the employee’s own time, and through the use of the employee’s, not the University’s, resources. While there are other steps we can and may have taken, as per University policy I am not at liberty to disclose or describe any personnel actions that might have followed this lecturer’s recent conduct.”

However, Mogulof informed the Journal that UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor Oscar Dubón responded to the Jewish student groups with a letter expressing his willingness to meet with them to discuss the matter; the university is working to schedule the meeting later in January.

“I believe that the Vice Chancellor’s letter, and his intention to meet and engage with the students, makes amply clear how seriously we take this matter and the extent to which this matter has not yet been settled,” wrote Mogulof.

Screenshot from Facebook.

National Lawyers Guild Sued for Allegedly Discriminating Against an Israeli Organization


The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) is being hit with a lawsuit over allegations of discriminating against an Israeli organization.

According to a press release from the Lawfare Project, which working in collaboration with attorney David Abrams of the Zionist Advocacy Center on the lawsuit, the NLG refused a $200 offer from the Bibliotechnical Athenaeum to place an advertisement in their Annual Banquet dinner journal on the grounds that they “have a resolution barring us from accepting funds from Israeli organizations.”

“If the NLG had similarly said, ‘Unfortunately, it is our policy not to do business with Chinese organizations,’ or ‘We have a resolution against accepting funds from African organizations,’ we would rightly be outraged,” Brooke Goldstein, executive director of the Lawfare Project, said in the press release. “Where is the same outrage when it comes to unlawful commercial discrimination against Israelis and Jews?”

The lawsuit is headed toward the New York Supreme Court, and the Lawfare Project is confident that the court will rule in their favor under New York’s Human Rights Law.

“The Lawfare Project believes that this is a strong case, and that NLG’s prejudicial conduct overtly violates the applicable laws on which our claims are based,” Benjamin Ryberg, who is representing the Israeli organization from the Lawfare Project, told the Journal in an email. “We are confident that the court will remedy the harm our client has suffered due to NLG’s discriminatory act.”

Ryberg also pointed out that the NLG “has a history of relentlessly attacking the Jewish state.”

“It is a fervent proponent of the bigoted Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, the goal of which is to bankrupt the State of Israel via discriminatory business practices,” wrote Ryberg. “It has urged state governments to divest from Israel Bonds and the U.S. to cut all aid to Israel. Recently, it even actively raised funds in support of a notoriously anti-Semitic professor at a California university, who has consistently used her platform to malign, intimidate, and alienate the school’s Jewish student population.”

In 2014, the NLG called for the Obama administration to face charges of war crimes for funding Israel’s Iron Dome. Alan Dershowitz criticized the NLG in a Jerusalem Post column as being “the sworn enemy of Israel and the legal arm of Palestinian terrorism since the early 1970s following the Soviet Union’s switch from supporting Israel to opposing it.”

“The National Lawyers Guild has lost most of its lawyers since that time and has instead filled its membership roles with paralegals, amateur investigators and other assorted ‘legal workers,’” wrote Dershowitz.  “It has no credibility in the legal profession and even some of its anti-Zionist members have recently quit, calling its policies regarding Israel ‘crazy,’ ‘irresponsible,’ and ‘bigoted.’”

The NLG has not responded to the Journal’s request for comment.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Report: Jewish Students Fined for Displaying An Israeli Flag at Vienna Palestinian Protest


A group of Jewish students in Vienna were fined on Monday for displaying an Israeli flag during a pro-Palestinian protest on December 8.

According to Antonia Yamin, a reporter for Kan, the fine amounted to 100 Euros for each of the three students because the Vienna police determined that they “behaved insensibly, violated public order and created a provocation” for waving Israeli flags at a rally that featured chants of “Death to the Jews.”

One of the students, Matthias F., told Vice that they unfurled the Israeli flags in response to anti-Semitic slogans being chanted, which included chants of another intifada, “Death to Israel” and accusing the Jewish state of being child murderers. In response to the flags, a few of the protesters attacked the students, yet the police reacted by taking in the students for questioning and confiscating the flag while allowing the attackers to remain at the protest.

“Our data was taken while the police overwhelmed us with snide and malicious comments: ‘We should have left you out there,’ ‘What do you think, what they do to you, if they catch you,’ ‘Are you really dumb?’ and so on,” said Matthias.

Matthias added that it was “incredible” that they faced a fine or two days in jail for simply displaying a flag.

“The injunction states that it has “caused considerable displeasure” among the protesters and does not even mention what this displeasure was – that we were attacked,” said Matthias. “Now we want to get legal help and object to the injunction. It can not be that anti-Semitic slogans can be shouted without punishment and the punishment of an Israeli flag should be punished.”

Matthias also said that he would not display an Israeli flag at an upcoming pro-Palestinian protest because it would be a “lose-lose situation.”

In 2014 and 2015, there were also pro-Palestinian protests in Vienna where anti-Semitic chants were spewed, including chants of “Kill the Jews!”

Target Stops Selling “Anti-Semitic” Cards


​Target is no longer selling a pack of Cards Against Humanity cards after the pack came under fire for being anti-Semitic.

Cards Against Humanity is a popular game for being an over-the-top and provocative version of Apples to Apples. However, the game’s latest “Chosen People pack” may have gone too far for some:

​Some of the other cards featured in the pack include “Hiding from the Nazis,” “Holding up the line at Walgreens by trying to use an expired coupon,” and “Some kind of concentrated encampment for people.”

Target eventually responded to the criticism by tweeting that they would stop selling the pack:

​The pack was once available on Walmart’s website, but now it doesn’t appear to be. Walmart has not responded to the Journal’s request for comment.

In addition to the “Chosen People pack” is the “Jew pack,” which appears to be similar to the “Chosen People pack” and can only be found online, although it doesn’t seem like Target ever sold it. Some of the cards include “Chopping off a bit of the penis”, “Bags of money” and “Demolishing that ass like a Palestinian village.” The “Jew pack” is listed as “currently unavailable” on Amazon.

The “Jew pack” has a 4.5 out of 5 star rating on Amazon.

Police is seen at the site of an attack near a synagogue in Gothenburg, Sweden December 9, 2017. Picture taken December 9, 2017. TT News Agency/Adam Ihse/via REUTERS

Two Jewish Buildings Firebombed in Sweden


Two Jewish buildings in Sweden were subjected to firebombs over the past couple of days in the aftermath of President Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The first building that was firebombed was a synagogue in Gothenberg, where at least 10 masked people threw Molotov cocktails at the building shortly after 10 pm local time on Saturday, where a party for Jewish youths was being held.

The cocktails lit the courtyard on fire, but the fire was extinguished shortly after it was lit due to rainfall. No one was wounded from the fire.

Three men have been arrested for the suspected arson; Swedish authorities are looking for other suspects.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Loven issued a statement denouncing the firebombing.

“There is no place for anti-Semitism in our Swedish society,” said Loven. “The perpetrators will answer for their crimes.”

The second firebombed building was a Jewish chapel in Malmo, where a Jewish cemetery is located. Like the synagogue, the chapel was also subjected to Molotov cocktails but didn’t suffer any significant damage. Law enforcement is labeling the incident as suspected arson.

The Jewish assembly of Malmo issued a statement that read, “We strongly emphasize that we can never accept being subjected to threats and attacks.”

Prior to the firebombings, protests engulfed Sweden and other European countries in response to Trump’s Jerusalem, which featured protesters chanting “in Arabic about shooting Jews, an ancient massacre of Jews, and freedom for Palestinian terrorists,” according to Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Sweden has seen a recent uptick in anti-Semitism, as anti-Semitic hate crimes increased by 38% from 2014 to 2015 as a result of “anti-Israel rhetoric” becoming “violently anti-Semitic, according to the Times of Israel. Swedish journalist Johanna Schreiber, who is Jewish, told the Times of Israel in 2015 that she knew of many Jews in Sweden who were “scared” about making their Judaism known due to the rising climate of anti-Semitism.

“People of all ages are scared of going to synagogue, there are many people who are taking off their Stars of David because they are too scared to wear it,” said Schreiber.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Regressive Chic


In 1970, Tom Wolfe coined the term “radical chic” to describe how socialites and celebrities were adopting radical political causes to advance their social standing. If you wanted to be considered fashionable, you had to ostentatiously embrace violent groups like the Black Panthers.

Today, the desire to use radical politics to advance your status has been adopted by not just celebrities but by professors and writers as well. And it’s not only about supporting illiberal, often violent groups and trends; it’s also about silence in the face of the most outrageous acts. Maajid Nawaz calls this regressive leftism because it’s tearing down every tenet of the Enlightenment and liberalism. I call it regressive chic because it’s so tied up in social insecurities.

Take the panel on anti-Semitism at The New School in New York City. The fact that the panel was led by Linda Sarsour and Jewish Voice for Peace—toxic anti-Israel activists who honor terrorists who kill Jews—is of course the height of regressive chic. So was the fact that the five panelists spent most of their time bashing Israel and doing everything possible not to mention the elephant in the room: Islamic anti-Semitism.

But just as egregious: only one professor in the entire country publicly condemned it.

I know of professors who are outraged by Sarsour’s skillful manipulation of the left. But when it came time to writing an op-ed that demanded the panel be cancelled in the name of truth and sanity, they were silent. Why? “Trash-talking Jewish Israelis is not only permitted in progressive circles, it’s rewarded,” wrote New School Professor Susan Shapiro in the New York Daily News.

Across the river at Rutgers University, three professors who have expressed blatantly anti-Semitic views, both in the classroom and out, have been inexplicably defended by Rutgers’ president, Robert Barchi. Again, no professor in the entire country has publicly had a problem with this.

Interestingly, one of the Rutgers’ professors, Michael Chikindas, is not just anti-Semitic; he’s also homophobic and misogynistic. Have we heard anything about this from LGBTQ or feminist groups? Nope. Because in the land of regressive chic, if you show your anti-Semitic hall pass, you are then free to say or do anything, however depraved.

This helps explain the left’s silence when Iran throws gays off of rooftops or when Sharia Law-driven Muslims beat and stone to death their mothers, wives, and daughters.

If you’re wondering how all of this happened, listen to Sarsour or Students for Justice in Palestine. They have so brilliantly conflated the Palestinian cause with African-Americans you would think the South owned Palestinian slaves before the Civil War. The fact that it is Muslim countries, most especially Libya, that to this day own black slaves is Sarsour’s best-kept secret.

If anti-Semitism is key to regressive chic, so is support for protests that promote radical victimhood, including anything “trans.”

This last one may seem innocuous—the granting of rights to transgender people—but it’s not. Forcing biological female teens to shower with biological male teens, for instance, undermines a key tenet of liberalism: your rights end where mine begin. But don’t even try telling this to leftists; they will simply call you a fascist, comically/tragically misunderstanding that regressive leftism is the closest we’ve had to fascism in seventy years.

What makes regressive chic so appealing to even professors who know how illiberal it is? Status. If you can’t be a regressive victim (which of course is the highest form of status), then you can support/appease/apologize for said victims. This gives you an immediate identity and an instant social group: others who eagerly conform to regressive chic by-laws on speech and behavior.

I recently befriended a young Egyptian who wants to write about why the Arab world needs to change its stance on Israel. Since he lives in Egypt, I asked him whether he thought it was better to use a pen name. He thought about it for a few minutes, and then wrote back: “No. We are right so I’m not afraid.”

I was struck by the bravery, by the almost Biblical morality of his sentence.

If only liberal writers and professors—living safely here in the United States—had even an iota of his desire to put the promotion of justice over anything else. Call it liberal chic; call it real liberalism. Whatever you call it, we need to bring it back.

FILE PHOTO: British rock star Roger Waters of Pink Floyd walks along the controversial Israeli barrier in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, June 21, 2006. REUTERS/Ahmad Mezhir/File Photo

Boycotting the Israel Boycotter in Germany


“It’s hopeless.”

“Petitions are so stupid.”

“He won’t even read your email.”

These were some comments Malca Goldstein-Wolf received when she told people she was going to start a movement to get the director of Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR), the Cologne-based affiliate of Germany’s consortium of public broadcasters known as ARD, to pull out of sponsoring an upcoming June concert by Israel’s most famous boycott advocate, Roger Waters. The ex-Pink Floyd front man regularly makes headlines these days as the leader of the cultural wing of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

Goldstein-Wolf proved the skeptics wrong. When she reached out to WDR Director Tom Buhrow, sending him a Change.org petition with more than 1,500 signatures, Buhrow decided to end WDR’s sponsorship of the Waters concert. After Germany’s popular tabloid Bild broke the story, four other ARD regional affiliates followed Buhrow’s lead.

“I’m so sick of this growing anti-Semitism, so I decided to do something about it.” — Malca Goldstein-Wolf

While Waters’ summer concert tour in Germany will still go on, Goldstein-Wolf, 48, is pleased that it will do so without help from the German taxpayer.

“I’m just an amateur activist,” she said via Skype from her home in Cologne. “I don’t do things like this normally but I’m so sick of this growing anti-Semitism, so I decided to do something about it. I heard the promotion on WDR, and I couldn’t believe they wanted to support Waters. I thought: ‘Oh, my God. This is impossible.’ So I just sat down and wrote to Buhrow, and I did this petition.”

One columnist for Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper said ARD should thank Goldstein-Wolf for saving the broadcasters from embarrassment. Waters’ concerts sometimes feature politically controversial antics, such as releasing a pig-shaped balloon — based on an image from Pink Floyd’s 1977 album, “Animals” — emblazoned with dozens of illustrations, including a Star of David and corporate logos. Waters has pressured well-known artists scheduled to perform in Israel to cancel shows.

Goldstein-Wolf, who comes from the world of fashion, was born in Frankfurt. Her Jewish father journeyed to Israel from Romania, while her mother converted to Judaism when Goldstein-Wolf was a child. Her husband is the biological grandson of a Nazi whose widow married an Auschwitz survivor and then raised him as his own grandson. Goldstein-Wolf, who visited Israel regularly in her youth, said she considers the Jewish state as the “life insurance for all Jews in the world.”

But according to Goldstein-Wolf, Germany’s true hero in the story is Buhrow for taking a stand.

“I was really kind of desperate when I wrote,” Goldstein-Wolf said. “The answer he gave me was absolutely touching. I would have never even thought about getting such an answer. He has my deep respect for it.”

Buhrow’s email response to her was brief and to the point. “I sense that not many words or arguments will convince you, rather clear action,” he wrote. “I’m notifying you, because it’s important for me that you believe how important your feelings are to me, that I’m responding to your request: the collaboration with the concert has ended.”

The Central Council of Jews in Germany praised ARD’s decision, with its president Joseph Schuster stating: “The swift and decisive reaction of the broadcasters to massive public criticism is an important sign that rampant Israel-related anti-Semitism has no place in Germany.”

Waters’ German promoter, Marek Lieberberg, a son of Holocaust survivors, called ARD’s decision “ridiculous.”

“Two things have to be separated here: private opinion and artistic work” the 71-year-old CEO of Live Nation Germany told a German newspaper. “The canon of Roger Waters and Pink Floyd is and remains brilliant. On the other hand, he has a questionable private opinion about Israel and is quite an open member of boycott movement, which I completely reject. But I cannot and will not deny him his right to freedom of expression.”

While Goldstein-Wolf is proud of this particular victory, she foresees more battles ahead. Most recently, German courts backed Kuwait Airways’ rejection of Israeli passengers. Israel also had to pull out of an exhibition at the Frankfurt Bible Museum showcasing the Dead Sea Scrolls because the German government couldn’t guarantee their return should Palestinian or Jordanian authorities claim them.

For now, though, Goldstein-Wolf will focus her efforts on BDS and artists involved in the movement.

“There’s no option to give up,” she said. “You always have to fight. If you’re really authentic, if you touch people, there’s always a chance to change things.”

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Satirical Mossad Twitter Account Trolls Linda Sarsour for ‘Jewish Media’ Remark


Linda Sarsour, who became well-known for organizing the Women’s March, claimed criticism from her stemmed from the “Jewish media,” a remark that set herself up to be trolled by a satirical Mossad Twitter account.

Sarsour was part of a panel at The New School in New York City discussing anti-Semitism on Tuesday evening when she blamed the “Jewish media” for stirring up controversy against her.

“If what you’re reading all day long, morning and night, in the Jewish media is that Linda Sarsour and Minister Farrakhan are the existential threat to the Jewish community, something really bad’s going to happen and we’re going to miss the mark on it,” said Sarsour.

“Minister Farrakhan” is a reference to Louis Farrakhan, who has a long history of anti-Semitic invectives.

Sarsour also stated her support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

“What other way am I supposed to be, as a Palestinian-American who’s a daughter of immigrants who lived under military occupation and still has relatives in Palestine that live under military occupation?” said Sarsour. “I should be expected to have the views that I hold.”

A Twitter account under “The Mossad” moniker happened to see Sarsour’s “Jewish media” comment on Twitter, so they tweeted, “We will take credit for causing earthquakes, releasing sharks into your waters and even stealing your shoe. But you being unpopular, @lsarsour? You did that all on your own.”

Sarsour’s appearance on the anti-Semitism panel drew criticism from the Anti-Defamation League’s Jonathan Greenblatt:

Sarsour has been celebrated by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for her work in promoting various progressive causes, including her support for Black Lives Matter and fighting alongside the ACLU against the “unlawful police spying” of Muslims. Others, such as Journal columnist Ben Shapiro, have criticized Sarsour for supporting Sharia law and her embrace of various Palestinian terrorists.

Q&A with Wolf Blitzer on Muslim Refugees, ‘Fake News’ and His Favorite Journalism Movie


CNN newsman Wolf Blitzer, one of the world’s most recognizable journalists, has personal and professional connections to the Holocaust and Israel.

Blitzer’s paternal grandparents died in Auschwitz. His parents, both survivors from Poland, immigrated to the United States after the war, following the 1948 passage of the Displaced Person’s Act, which opened America’s borders to Europeans persecuted by the Nazis.

Blitzer, 69, was born in Germany and raised in Buffalo, N.Y. He was a reporter in Israel before joining the staff of CNN in 1990.

After being honored Nov. 5 by the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, Blitzer discussed today’s Muslim refugees, being a Jewish journalist at a time of rising anti-Semitism, his favorite journalism movie and more.

Jewish Journal: Can you compare the plight of Jewish refugees after the Holocaust with today’s Muslim refugees from Syria? 

Wolf Blitzer: As a son of Holocaust survivors who came to the United States as refugees after World War II, I strongly believe in refugee resettlement. This country welcomed my parents, who went on to establish a wonderful life in Buffalo, N.Y. My parents, like other Holocaust refugees, were thoroughly vetted by U.S. officials before they were granted entry visas. My dad told me about the questions he was asked. They were so grateful to this country and went on to become great American patriots.

JJ: How comparable are the situations?

WB: Refugees are refugees even as there are, of course, different degrees of oppression that made them refugees. Surviving genocide and mass murder, for example, is different than surviving a civil war. But make no mistake: Both are awful and brutal.

JJ: What can be done about Holocaust denial in the Muslim world? 

WB: The best way to deal with Holocaust denial is to get the truth out there — whether it’s here in the United States or elsewhere around the world, including in the Muslim world. And that’s where Holocaust survivors play such a critical role. They survived the horror and their stories are so powerful. Unfortunately, they are now in their 80s and 90s and there are fewer survivors every year. Their personal stories and testimony — shared at Holocaust museums on video — will remain and should be told in the Muslim world and everywhere else.

JJ: Before joining CNN, you worked at The Jerusalem Post and at Reuters’ Tel-Aviv bureau. How was the transition to CNN?

WB: It was very smooth. The folks at CNN are so nice. They really spent some time helping me during the transition. I was a print reporter and the hardest thing was learning how to write for television. It’s different than writing for newspapers or magazines. But in the end, it’s all about being a reporter and gathering the news. Those techniques are the same. My first day at CNN was May 8, 1990 — and Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait a few weeks later in August. I was CNN’s Pentagon correspondent, so I had no choice but to learn all about broadcast journalism very quickly.

JJ: Do Jewish journalists have special responsibilities at a time when anti-Semitism in on the rise?

WB: Our responsibility is the traditional responsibility: report the news honestly and fairly and get the job done. That’s what we’ve done for my whole career, that’s what journalists do and that’s what the viewers, readers and the listeners deserve — factual, honest reporting.

“Occasionally we make a mistake. If we have to correct something, we correct it, then we move on.”

JJ: In the age of “fake news,” and with President Donald Trump calling CNN fake news, how can journalists ensure that the public can continue to trust the media?

WB: Just keep doing our job and don’t get distracted. Just report the news and be honest and responsible. Look, we’re the first draft of history. Occasionally, we make a mistake. If we have to correct something, we correct it, then we move on. But it’s not that complicated: just report the news. That’s what we try to do.

JJ: What’s your favorite journalism movie?

WB: “All the President’s Men.”

JJ: What’s the likelihood of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement?

WB: We’ve been working on that a long time. Let’s see what happens.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Anti-Semitic Graffiti Discovered at University of Michigan


A piece of anti-Semitic graffiti appeared in a bathroom at the University of Michigan on Wednesday.

According to the Michigan Daily, two Jewish students discovered a swastika emblazoned on a bathroom stall in permanent black marker in the Modern Languages Building. One of the students, Sammy Lawrence, reported the incident to the campus Division of Public Safety and Security.

Lawrence told the Daily he “felt particularly targeted by this Nazi symbol.”

“Giving a platform and validating anti-Semites or individuals who support causes that embrace anti-Semitism makes hateful speech towards Jews acceptable,” said Lawrence. “I call on the entire (U)niversity to condemn this anti-Semitic incident, reach out to a Jewish peer and check in with them, and reflect on how we can prevent this moving forward.”

The other student, Ryan Schedit, told the Daily he “was fearful” that the swastika was connected to Michigan’s student government calling for the university to divest from companies that do business in Israel.

“If it was drawn this morning after the vote, I hope it has nothing to do with divestment, but it would scare me if it did,” said Schedit.

A university spokesperson told the Algemeiner that don’t know when the swastika was drawn and they don’t have any current suspects.

On Wednesday morning before the swastika was discovered, Michigan’s student government approved the divestment resolution by a margin of 23 in favor, 17 against and five abstaining. While the university seems to be unwilling to divest from any company, those in the Jewish community on campus criticized the resolution for being divisive and targeting Israel.

The tactic of divestment has been popularized by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which has been criticized by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for its “anti-Semitic rhetoric.”

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Police Investigate Defacing of Temple’s Bathroom


Police are investigating what an Anti-Defamation League official called a “hate incident” after anti-gay graffiti was found scrawled on the door of a Beverly Hills synagogue’s all-genders bathroom last month.

The profanity-laden message, discovered after an Oct. 15 bat mitzvah party at Temple Emanuel, contained slurs against liberals, gays and lesbians, as well as the synagogue’s rabbi.

“It was definitely a hate incident and, because it took place at a temple, it could be an anti-Semitic incident,” said ADL regional director Amanda Susskind, who is a Temple Emanuel member. “We’re still trying to sort that though.”

Eric Reiter, the temple’s executive director, said the synagogue’s video surveillance system captured a suspect on camera. Reiter declined to identify the suspect, an adult male who he said had a confrontation with a temple security guard that evening. The family holding the bat mitzvah party belongs to Temple Emanuel; the suspect does not.

Beverly Hills police are seeking to obtain the surveillance video, which could yield clues about the alleged crime, Sgt. Max Seubin said in a phone interview.

An Oct. 26 statement co-signed by Temple Emanuel Senior Rabbi Jonathan Aaron and President Barry Brucker described the suspect as a “non-member attendee [who] vandalized our all-gender bathroom and wrote angry, hateful words against the LGBTQ community, and threatening language directed toward temple clergy.”

“We condemn this act of hatred and do not tolerate hate crimes in our synagogue and beyond,” the statement said.

On Oct. 29, the synagogue held a town hall meeting to discuss what took place and to address any community members’ concerns. Brucker referenced the incident as he addressed congregants during Friday night services on Nov. 3.

The defaced bathroom is located in the synagogue’s sanctuary building, at 300 N. Clark Drive, next to men’s and women’s restrooms and adjacent to the synagogue’s reception hall. A sign next to the door says, “This restroom may be used by any person regardless of gender identity or expression.”

The bathroom was a single-stall family bathroom before Temple Emanuel’s Associate Rabbi Sarah Bassin enlisted the help of JQ International — a Jewish LGBT support organization — to transform it into an all-genders bathroom in 2015.

The vandalism occurred as many Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and non-denominational communities are introducing gender-neutral bathrooms. In the Los Angeles area, these include egalitarian community IKAR and Reform synagogues Stephen S. Wise Temple, Temple Adat Elohim and Kol Tikvah.

Rabbi Rachel Bat-Or, director of the JQ Helpline and Inclusion Services, said many Jewish day schools, synagogues and other institutions from the liberal Jewish movements have inquired about ways to fund the creation of gender-neutral bathrooms.

“It is a radical statement for a synagogue to make and one that is really welcomed by the LGBTQ community,” she said. “We know if we walk into that organization, even if we see only that sign, we know we have stepped into an LGBTQ-inclusive organization and we can assume there are other ways they welcome the LGBTQ community.”

“It was definitely a hate incident and it could be an anti-Semitic incident.” — Amanda Susskind

In separate interviews, Aaron and Bat-Or said they considered the vandalism at Temple Emanuel an affront to progressive Judaism.

“It is a hate crime against Jews but more specifically a crime against progressive Judaism and liberalism — two values I will stand by until I die — to be progressive and liberal and accepting of everybody,” Aaron said.

“I don’t think that it was particularly a Jewish crime — it was an LGBTQ crime,” Bat-Or said. “The fact that it was done in a Reform synagogue and the word, ‘liberalism,’ was used was hate speech against the rabbis and hate speech against liberal progressive Judaism.”

Scott Stone, who is gay and serves on the temple’s board, said he and his partner have two teenage children who spend a lot of time at the synagogue. Years ago, Stone chaired the synagogue’s capital campaign for a renovation of the building where the incident occurred.

“We think of the temple and its buildings as our spiritual home,” he said. “To have someone enter our temple and vandalize it with homophobic and anti-reform Jewish graffiti is as if they broke into our actual home and did the same.”

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt

ADL Steps Up Reporting on Anti-Semitic Incidents


After recording a “massive surge of anti-Semitic incidents” in the last two months of 2016, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has taken the unprecedented step of releasing a midyear audit — and found a 67 percent increase in physical assaults, vandalism and other attacks on Jewish people and institutions compared with the same period last year, according to its CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt.

Released Nov. 2 and covering the first three quarters of 2017, it was ADL’s first midyear report on anti-Semitic incidents since it began releasing a yearly audit in 1979. The previous report, in April, noted a 34 percent increase in incidents in the United States in 2016.

“I didn’t want to be in a situation where we were waiting 12 months to understand the state of play,” Greenblatt told the Journal. “In order to educate and engage policymakers and political figures and the general public, we needed to take a snapshot right now.”

The new survey — available online at adl.org — found 1,299 incidents recorded by ADL so far in 2017, already exceeding the total of 1,266 incidents in all of 2016.

The report presented a particularly sobering picture for Californians. In the first nine months of 2017, anti-Semitic incidents in the state increased by nearly half, to 197 from 135. In Southern California, that included Nazi graffiti at a Hollywood coffee shop and white supremacist symbols spray-painted on a garage at ADL’s Century City office.

Hours before releasing its survey, ADL’s local staff participated in a “State of Hate” forum in Los Angeles convened by California Assemblymember Richard Bloom, a Jewish Democrat whose 50th District stretches from West Hollywood to Malibu.

“California is at times ground zero for a lot of the hate ADL is tracking nationwide,” ADL senior investigative researcher Joanna Mendelson told the audience of law enforcement officers, community leaders and clergy at the Nov. 1 event. Mendelson said California leads the country in its racist skinhead population.

“While these groups are a small percentage of the overall population, they’re not insignificant and are becoming increasingly sophisticated and organized,” Bloom said. “This is cause for concern.”

Greenblatt echoed Bloom’s concern during a phone call the next day. The Charlottesville, Va., white supremacist rallies of Aug. 11-12 “veered into the national consciousness unlike any white supremacist gathering we have seen in recent memory,” he said.

The ADL audit noted an uptick in anti-Semitic incidents after the Charlottesville rally. Of the 306 incidents that occurred in the third quarter of 2017, 211 took place after Aug. 11, more than two-thirds.

Greenblatt said this increase could not definitely be linked to Charlottesville, but he said President Donald Trump’s failure to unambiguously condemn the rallies encouraged white supremacist elements.

“It’s undeniable that the president’s equivocation created an environment in which the extremists felt emboldened. How do I know this? I know this because they said so,” Greenblatt said, referring to ADL’s monitoring of extremist groups at gatherings and on the web.

The State of Hate forum, held in an auditorium at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, sought to give law enforcement and other community leaders knowledge and tactics to address this rise in hate. It took place the morning after a suspected terrorist mowed down pedestrians and bikers in a rented pickup truck in Manhattan, killing eight people and injuring 12.

“California is at times ground zero for a lot of the hate ADL is tracking nationwide.” – Joanna Mendelson

The attack made the forum “particularly relevant and timely,” said Dan Schnur, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Los Angeles region, who moderated the event.

“Unfortunately, in 21st-century America, there’s never a bad time to have a discussion like this, and yesterday’s atrocities were just the latest reminders of the challenges we face,” he said.

Besides Mendelson, the other speakers were Robin Toma, executive director of the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission; political science and Chicana/Chicano studies professor Fernando Guerra of Loyola Marymount University (LMU); and FBI Supervisory Special Agent Matthew Coit, who heads the FBI’s Civil Rights Unit in L.A.

Speaking last, Guerra gave Angelenos reason to be hopeful. Citing an LMU survey of 1,203 city residents in January, he said Angelenos tend to view race relations positively, with 77 percent saying that racial and ethnic groups in the city get along. Guerra said the nationwide number is 48 percent, drawing on a similar Pew Research Center poll.

Did Larry David Cross a Line? …You Betcha!


By now I’m guessing much of the US Jewish population has a strong opinion about #LarryDavid’s opening monologue on SNL. I’m also guessing very few actually watched the skit. I did, and it made me squirm. Then I started reading the pushback from the community which I found to be just as offensive. “David’s a self-hating Jew”. “He’s an idiot”, “He should be boycotted” “Send him to a concentration camp” – which led me to watch his piece once again.

“It’s not just supposed to make you laugh,

good comedy challenges, makes you think”

This time I found his piece to be equally offensive, AND I had a new found respect for the power of comedy – it’s not just supposed to make you laugh, good comedy challenges, makes you think. And Larry David, has done just that. His joke wasn’t about the Holocaust; it was about objectifying women. His joke was not about Jews being evil, it was about Jews being human. “I don’t like when Jews are in the headlines for notorious reasons. I want ‘Einstein discovers the theory of relativity,’ ‘Salk cures polio.”

That’s not self-loathing, that’s raw honesty. How many Jews are talking about their Judaism on TV? Could he have been more nuanced? Maybe, or maybe Erma Bombeck said it best, “there’s a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt”.

Did Larry cross the line? It seems for many Jews, yes!  For this Jew, I’d rather he keep his right to push buttons and boundaries,  and I keep my right to laugh or dismiss him. And if you don’t agree with me, that too is ok.

That’s the power of the arts. That’s the beauty of America.

 

Screenshot from YouTube.

Teen Faces Indictment for Vandalizing Jewish Cemetery


A teenager has been indicted for vandalizing a Jewish cemetery in New York.

Eric Carbanoro, 18, is being indicted for allegedly being a part of a group that emblazoned anti-Semitic graffiti on Beth Shalom Cemetery in Warwick, NY, which included the words “Heil Hitler” and multiple swastikas, on Oct. 9, 2016.

The indictment also alleges that Carbanoro deleted incriminating images from phones belonging to other people, including a meme that stated “secretly spray paints Jewish cemetery and gets away with it.”

As a result, Carbanoro is being charged with conspiring to commit a hate crime and tampering with evidence.

District Attorney David Hoovler denounced the vandalism in a statement.

“There is no room for this type of hateful desecration of religious property here in Orange County,” said Hoovler. “These anti-Semitic symbols and messages do not reflect the values of the overwhelming majority of Orange County and Warwick residents.”

Carbonaro has yet to be arrested. It is believed that he conspired with two others to commit the hate crime, both of which have yet to be identified. The investigation is still ongoing.

There have been numerous instances of Jewish cemeteries being vandalized in 2017, including a Jewish cemetery in Boston in July and three in a span of 12 days in March.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

McGill University Jewish Student Kicked Off Student Government Board for ‘Conflicts of Interest’


A Jewish student at McGill University has been kicked off the student government board for having “conflicts of interest” due to his pro-Israel activism.

Third-year student Noah Lew was one of 12 board members up for general assembly ratification on Monday evening following his victory as vice-president finance of the Arts Undergraduate Society. The ratification vote is typically a mere formality, but Monday’s was different due to Democratize Student Society of McGill University (SSMU), an organization that was established to resist the university’s ban of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement on campus.

Democratize SSMU was able to pass a motion that required each board member to be voted upon separately under the grounds that they weren’t a fan of the names. When it was Lew’s turn, he was voted down, 105 to 73 with 12 abstaining, with applause following the vote. Two other students who had criticized BDS, Alexander Scheffel and Josephine Wright O’Manique, were also voted down.

Democratize SSMU had targeted Lew and the other two students on the board because they had connections to the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC) and were involved in getting the BDS ban passed, which Democratize SSMU claimed were “conflicts of interests.”

Lew shared the experience on Facebook.

“I have no doubt from the information circulated about me and campaign run against me prior to this vote that this was about my Jewish identity, and nothing more,” wrote Lew. “I was blocked from being able to participate in my student government because I am Jewish, because I have been affiliated with Jewish organizations, and because I believe in the right to Jewish self-determination.”

Lew added that the experience shows the inherent anti-Semitism in the BDS movement.

“If BDS is not anti-Semitic, why did a BDS-led campaign name and shame me for my affiliation with a Jewish organization, and call on students to remove me from student government for this reason?” wrote Lew. “If BDS is not anti-Semitic, why was I barred from participating in student government because of my Jewish identity?”

SSMU President Muna Tojiboeva wrote on Facebook that Lew being voted down was “a blatant expression of anti-semitism.”

“To vote against the candidacy of a Director simply because he is Jewish and involved in his community is unacceptable,” wrote Tojiboeva. “No matter what your place of origin, your religious or political beliefs are, you should feel welcome to get involved in your own Student Society.”

McGill Principal and Vice Chancellor Suzanne Fortier sent out an email declaring that the university would be investigating the matter.

Democratize SSMU defended their actions on Facebook, claiming that the students were voted off the board for their role in passing the BDS ban.

“It is not surprising that students refused to ratify these Directors,” the organization wrote. In their voting, they were fulfilling their role of making a political decision about who will represent them. This is how democracy works.”

They added that they “apologize for any harm that has been done” in response to accusations of “being divisive and discriminatory.”

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Anti-Semitic Fliers Posted in Cornell


A myriad of anti-Semitic fliers were posted on Cornell University’s campus on Monday morning.

The fliers featured a slew of anti-Semitic tropes and symbols, as they blared “Just say no to Jewish lies!” around an image of a snake holding the globe in a vice grip and a Star of David. Below the image was a swastika and the line, “Join the white gang.” It also referenced something called the “Solar Cross Society,” which doesn’t seem to exist.

The fliers have been taken down and it is not known who posted them.

Cornell University President Martha Pollack issued a statement on Monday condemning the posters.

“Whoever is responsible for these fliers is hiding under the cover of anonymity, having posted them overnight,” said Pollack. “Whoever they are, they need to ask themselves why they chose our campus, because Cornell reviles their message of hatred; we revile it as an institution, and I know from many personal conversations that thousands of Cornellians deplore it individually.”

Pollack added that the posters were “abhorrent, and I condemn them in the strongest possible terms.”

“We will not allow this incident to deter us from our ongoing work to address hatred and bigotry on our campus,” said Pollack. “Instead, we will stand strong and stand together to ensure respect, dignity and safety for all our community members.”

Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick also issued a statement denouncing the fliers.

“Anti-Semitism is a deplorable ideology that has lately received a national platform,” said Myrick. “It is not welcome in Ithaca, as this cowardly poster surely knew when they decided to hang this anonymously.”

Cornell isn’t the only campus this month to be subjected to an anti-Semitic attack. A sukkah at Kansas State University was vandalized on October 5. Such anti-Semitic incidents seem to be on the rise, as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) found in April that anti-Semitic incidents have increased on college campuses by 86%.

Photo from Vimeo.

ZOA calls on California school officials to fight anti-Semitism


For years, Jewish college students across the country have been harassed and intimidated.  Frighteningly, this ugly problem is seeping into our high schools and even our middle and elementary schools.

In Alameda, California, middle and elementary schools have been defaced with swastikas and a Jewish elementary school student reportedly received a death threat.  Under pressure from the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) and the parents of Natasha Waldorf – who received multiple anti-Semitic threats at Alameda High School – Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) officials are finally admitting that anti-Semitism is a problem and that they’ve made mistakes in how they’ve responded to it.  But they are still not doing what’s needed.

The AUSD must implement a prevention, protection, and proscription plan.  Prevention means educating students and families about anti-Semitism and making it clear that harassing Jewish students won’t be tolerated.  Protection means adequately training staff to recognize, stop and report anti-Semitism.  Proscription means effectively responding to anti-Semitism, including by publicly condemning it, appropriately disciplining wrongdoers, and ensuring that targeted students are protected.

AUSD’s current protocols have failed.  School officials never asked Natasha to formally report any of the anti-Semitic threats she endured from classmates last year, even though California law requires districts to have a process to receive and investigate harassment complaints.

Staff aren’t adequately trained to recognize and respond to anti-Semitism.  In school hallways last year, Natasha heard students call each other “kike” and say, “Don’t be such a Jew” – as if being Jewish is something horrible.  Teachers were present when these comments were made.  Even though California law requires them to immediately intervene when they witness an act of discrimination, teachers didn’t even look up, let alone intercede, to stop this blatant anti-Semitism.

Staff minimize anti-Semitism that goes beyond name-calling.  When two students told Natasha and a Jewish classmate that “Hitler should have finished the job” – meaning that Natasha, her Jewish classmate, their families, and all Jews should have been murdered – Natasha and her Jewish classmate reported the incident to a teacher who failed to report it and refused their request to report it themselves.  When Natasha and her friend later told the Assistant Principal about the incident, he refused to acknowledge that they had been physically threatened as Jews.

AUSD officials have not disciplined anti-Semitic bullies in any serious way and have failed to protect the targeted Jewish students.  After Natasha was threatened, school officials never even required the bullies to apologize to her.  They gave no thought to Natasha’s physical and emotional well-being, and instead added to her trauma by leaving the bullies in her classes for the rest of the school year, where she had to face them day after day.  At a minimum, the bullies should have been moved to another class or even to another school, and Natasha should have been offered whatever support she needed.  At the start of this academic year, a school official summoned Natasha to ask who her bullies were, so that they would not be in her classes this year.  School officials would have had this information since last January, had there been an appropriate reporting and documenting system in place.

AUSD’s community outreach has been abysmal.  The Alameda High School principal admitted in a recent newsletter that he deliberately kept the many anti-Semitic incidents quiet, feebly explaining that he was trying to “prevent copycat behavior.”  Instead, he provided cover for the anti-Semites and sent the message that the AUSD would tolerate the harassment of its Jewish students.

For months, the ZOA and the Waldorf family have been recommending that the district implement a prevention, protection and proscription plan, consistent with the U.S. Department of Education’s anti-bullying recommendations.  In September, Natasha addressed Alameda’s City Council, urging them to insist that the district take action.  Her courageous advocacy has, so far, been met with shameful silence.

Also in September, Natasha’s father addressed the Board of Education, imploring them to act.  If the AUSD were truly committed to finally addressing anti-Semitism, Board members would have expressed deep remorse over the AUSD’s response to Natasha’s suffering, as well as their specific plans to respond effectively to anti-Semitism.  Instead, in what appeared to be an orchestrated effort, two teachers – who do not teach at Alameda High School and thus lack personal knowledge of what Natasha endured – praised the Superintendent’s response to anti-Semitism and attacked the Waldorf family.  The teachers said they were speaking as district employees, and falsely suggested that the family was refusing to work with the district, falsely suggested that the family was lying about what they endured, and wrongly blamed the family for the AUSD’s failures.  Board members, the Superintendent, and AUSD’s counsel were present.  Not a single one intervened to challenge the teachers and make it clear that they were not authorized to speak on the district’s behalf and were wrong to do so.

AUSD’s shameful indifference to the safety and well-being of Jewish students is particularly disgraceful, because it has readily responded when other groups were perceived to be at risk.  The AUSD passed a resolution declaring itself a “safe haven” for all students, to ease the fears of immigrant students and their families.  It held workshops for immigrant families, and for Arabic-speaking and Muslim families.  It formed an LGBTQ Round Table.  The district’s mantra is “everyone belongs here,” but when comparatively little attention is paid to anti-Semitism, the district is not making it clear that “everyone” includes Jews.

Unless AUSD officials finally implement a plan to do everything they can to eliminate anti-Semitism, they should be replaced by individuals truly committed to protecting all, not just the non-Jewish students in their care.  Effective leadership is imperative before anti-Semitic threats lead to something more serious, including violence.


SUSAN B. TUCHMAN is the director of the ZOA Center for Law and Justice.

DAVID KADOSH is the executive director of the Zionist Organization of America West Coast chapter.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Ohio legislators put forward bill condemning the BDS movement


A group of legislators in the Ohio House of Representatives are looking to pass a bill condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that undermines the nation of Israel.

The bill, House Concurrent Resolution 10, voices the House’s support for Israel as “the greatest friend and ally of the United States in the Middle East” and warns of anti-Semitism increasing around the globe. The bill also states that the goal of BDS is for Israel to cease to exist and that the movement has “increased animosity and intimidation against Jewish students” on college campuses.

“The members of the General Assembly condemn the international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement and its activities in Ohio for legitimizing anti-Semitism and for seeking to undermine the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, which they are fulfilling in the State of Israel,” the bill reads.

The bill also encourages college campuses to shield Jewish students from “anti-Semitic actions and intimidation” and to ensure that free speech is protected on campus.

Rep. Andrew Thompson (R-Marietta), a supporter of the bill, told reporters in front of the Ohio Statehouse that BDS focuses on “wiping Israel off the map.”

“If we don’t stand strongly and firmly against that, if we do not insist that our campuses protect the rights of Jewish students and allies of Israel, we could potentially face much darker outcomes,” said Thompson.

Back in December, Ohio became the 14th state in the country to prevent the state government from granting contracts to companies that boycott Israel. There was also an effort to get Ohio State University to divest from companies that do business with Israel, but that effort was shot down in March.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has described BDS as engaging in “the demonization and delegitimization of Israel” and is inherently anti-Semitic.

“Many individuals involved in BDS campaigns are driven by opposition to Israel’s very existence as a Jewish state,” the ADL states on its website. “Often time, BDS campaigns give rise to tensions in communities – particularly on college campuses – that can result in harassment or intimidation of Jews and Israel supporters, including overt anti-Semitic expression and acts.  This dynamic can create an environment in which anti-Semitism can be express more freely.”

A 2016 Brandeis University study found that the BDS movement was a key factor behind an increase in anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses that year. The amount of BDS activity on college campuses declined in 2017, but their campaigns have become “more sophisticated and aggressive,” according to Israel on Campus Coalition.

Police and rescue forces surround a BMW car with several bullet holes in it at the scene where the man suspected of ramming a car into a group of soldiers on Wednesday in the Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret was shot and arrested on the A16 motorway, near Marquise, France, August 9, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

10-year-old French girl hospitalized following classmates’ allegedly anti-Semitic assault


(JTA) — A 10-year-old girl was assaulted by her classmates and the home of a family was daubed with racist graffiti in two Paris-area incidents deemed anti-Semitic.

The alleged assault was reported to France’s ministry of education by the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, the watchdog group wrote in a statement on its website Tuesday.  Separately, the same group reported that unidentified individuals on Wednesday wrote anti-Semitic slogans on the side of a home belonging to Jewish family in the eastern suburb of Noisy le Grand.

The mother of the girl who allegedly was assaulted, identified by BNVCA only as Ness, complained to police recently that a group of classmates of her daughter in the public school which she attends in Paris’ 18thdistrict beat her on multiple occasions, often occurring day after day, only because she is Jewish. After one beating, Ness was brought to the hospital with visible contusion to her stomach and ribcage, the report said, requiring 10 days of recovery.

The child will be transferred to a different school, BNVCA wrote.

According to Francis Kalifat, the president of the CRIF federation of Jewish communities of France, anti-Semitic harassment has made public schools unsafe for Jews, leading to a sharp drop in the number of Jews attending them. In the past, a third of Jewish parents enrolled their children to public schools but now “no one does it,” he told JTA last year.

In the incident involving anti-Semitic graffiti, BNVCA said it was part of a campaign of intimidation against the family that owns the building targeted.

This time, they wrote “screw the shitty Jews, death to Jews, long live Palestine.” In recent years, the same family found in their mailbox an envelope featuring the words “Allah hu akbar” – Arabic for Allah is the greatest — with 9-milimeter bullets inside. They later received another envelope with a bullet for an AK-47 assault rifle and the words: “The next one is for you.”

The family is afraid to live in their home, wrote BNVCA, which complained to police about the incidents committed against the family and called on authorities to apprehend the culprits.

BNVCA said the incidents were expressions of what scholars of anti-Semitism are calling “new anti-Semitism” — assaults in which culprits cite Israel and its conflict with the Palestinians to justify violence or hostility toward individual Jews.

The organization accused some politicians in France of encouraging this phenomenon, including by agreeing to host next week at the Elysee presidential palace activists devoted to helping Hassan Hamouri, a terrorist for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist group. Hamouri was arrested by Israel in 2005 and imprisoned following his conviction of planning to assassinate the late Israeli rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Hamouri, who is a French citizen, was released in exchange for the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, whom Hamas abducted in 2006. But he was arrested again, allegedly for violating the terms of his release by continuing to plan terrorist activities. Activists fighting for his release are planning a fundraiser in France for him on Oct. 9, after their planned meeting with an official at the Elysee.

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish pilgrim blows a shofar, near the tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov during the celebration of Rosh Hashanah holiday, the Jewish New Year, in Uman, Ukraine, Sept. 21, 2017. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

Ukraine arrests three alleged terrorists accused of targeting Jews in Uman


(JTA) — Ukrainian police arrested three men they said were terrorists who, in their efforts to pit ethnic groups against one another, also targeted Jews in the central city of Uman.

The men were arrested earlier this month at a border crossing while carrying explosives, according to the KP news site. Citing unnamed officials from the regional prosecutor’s office, the news site reported that the suspects were planning to blow up a monument for Hungarians in a bid to escalate tensions over legislation in Ukraine that outlaws the use of Hungarian at elementary schools.

The three suspects were also behind a string of anti-Semitic incidents, according to the report, including the hurling on Sept. 21 of a grenade at Jewish pilgrims in Uman, where 30,000 Jews convene each year on Rosh Hashanah to celebrate the Jewish holiday near the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.

They are also accused of dousing a synagogue in Uman with red paint in 2016 and leaving a pig’s head there – an incident that many people attributed to hatred of Jews and locals’ growing dissatisfaction with problems associated with the pilgrimage.

They are further accused of spraying the words “death to Jews” on the synagogue in Chernivtsi in November and trying to set fire to the synagogue in Lviv in July. The suspects denied these and other allegations.

Though prosecutors have not said this, the arrests prompted theories that the three suspects were working for Russia to exacerbate social tensions in Ukraine and give the country a bad image abroad.

Russia and Ukraine have exchanged allegations of sabotage after 2014, when a revolution led by nationalists in Ukraine toppled the rule of former president Viktor Yanukovych, whom some critics said was a corrupt Russian stooge. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine and backs separatists in Ukraine’s east.

The two countries have also exchanged accusations of anti-Semitism in an apparent attempt to discredit each other in the West.

Demonstrators protest against the anti-immigration party Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD) after German general election (Bundestagswahl) in Berlin, Germany, on Sept. 24. Photo by Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters

The rise of Germany’s far right: The unwelcome result of Willkommenspolitik


There are many word combinations that justify a pause, and of these “Germany” and “rise of the far right” is at the top of the list. On Sept. 24, German Chancellor Angela Merkel won her fourth term as leader of the country. But her victory — according to most reports— was “dimmed by the entry of a far-right party into parliament for the first time in more than 60 years.”

What is the “far right”? For the left, the far right is often everything right of center. For the right, the far right is everything to the right of where I stand. In Europe, this means parties that support xenophobic policies, oppose immigration and use populist messages and blunt, often ugly language to gain the votes of citizens who feel that their country has been stolen away from them by forces beyond their control. In the specific case of Germany, this includes references to the second World War that should make anyone, especially the (mostly) Jewish readers of the Jewish Journal, cringe. It also includes the curious yet common phenomenon of far right, allegedly anti-Semitic European parties supportive of Israel.

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) party will enter the Bundestag, the German parliament, as the third biggest party. It will be an opposition party that promises to make Merkel’s life as miserable as it can. In a parliamentary system such as Germany’s, the exclusion of a large party complicates the political landscape and essentially forces on Merkel a certain coalition. Namely, it makes the other smaller parties — the ones that Merkel must appease to have a functioning coalition — more powerful.

There is no mystery surrounding the AfD’s achievement. This is, as Cas Mudde writes in the Guardian, “an anti-Merkel vote, reflecting opposition to her controversial Willkommenspolitik [the welcome policy] toward refugees, which not only pushed some voters of mainstream parties to switch but also mobilized previous non-voters.” Merkel decided to pursue an open door refugee policy. A controversial policy. Personally, she proved strong enough to pursue it and keep her seat. But it will be a less comfortable seat, next to a less appealing political neighbor.

Condemning the AfD is easy, and possibly necessary. Condemning AfD voters is also easy, and to a certain point, also necessary. Society should let voters of such parties know that some political deeds are beyond the pale of tolerable political choices. Still, understanding the rise of the AfD and its implications is much more important than condemnation. It is the natural result, the unintended yet to be expected consequences, of Merkel’s immigration policies.

Oftentimes, as possible implications of policies are weighed, the political backlash is not taken into account. Had Merkel known that her immigration policies would bring about the success of the far right, would she have still pursued them with such vigor? Would she have moderated them to mitigate such possible impact? If you feel detached from this question, try a local version of it: Had Barack Obama known that his immigration policies would bring about the victory and four-year term of Donald Trump as President (and no comparison of Trump to the AfD is intended), would he have made the same choices?

Policies have direct consequences, and they often have indirect consequences that are much more important. Some Israeli experts believe that Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 and the way it was done made the second Palestinian Intifada more likely. Of course, such a link is not easy to prove, but assuming it is proved, would it not completely alter our assessment of the decision to withdraw?

Back to Germany, the question of weighing the benefit of a policy and its possible unintended outcome is not an easy one to answer. Opening the doors to refugees is noble. The backlash, and we know this from history, can be dangerous. A leader is tasked with taking both these considerations into account. It ought not to burden his or her country with something that the country would not tolerate. It ought not to test his or her country with a policy whose result could be devastating.

Is it a devastating result to have AfD representatives sitting in the Bundestag? Much of it depends on whether this was a one-time show of protest or a beginning of a new trend. If it’s a one-time incident, Merkel could say that saving hundreds of thousands of refugees was worth the price. If this is the beginning of a new trend, Merkel could be remembered as the leader who recklessly pursued a policy that put Germany on a new unappealing path.

 

President Donald Trump speaking to Jewish leaders in a conference call at the White House as staffers look on on Sept. 15. Photo from White House Press Office

In call with Jewish groups, Trump does not take questions


The debate has gone on for weeks among rabbis and Jewish leaders: If President Donald Trump does not formally renounce white supremacists, is it still worth engaging in a conversation with him?

This has been on much of the Jewish community’s mind since Aug. 23, when the leaders of three religious streams — Reconstructionist, Reform and Conservative — said they would not organize the annual pre-Rosh Hashanah call with the president, which the rabbinical groups had instituted at the start of President Barack Obama’s administration. That call, principally for clergy, was aimed at helping to shape the High Holy Days.

But last week, the White House said it would hold a call with Jewish leaders — one that would be in line with the calls and meetings that Jewish leaders have had with the sitting president since the Dwight Eisenhower era. It would be initiated by the White House, not the rabbis, and lay and religious leaders would be invited.

On Sept. 15, Trump delivered his holiday greetings in a conference call with Jewish leaders that lasted barely eight minutes. He condemned those who spread anti-Semitism. He expressed his love for Israel. And he hoped for progress in the peace process.

He took no questions. By contrast, calls and meetings with past presidents have included exchanges — sometimes tough — and generally lasted at least 45 minutes.

Some of the participants expressed disappointment after having done public battle with the Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative movements over whether one should engage Trump in conversation in the wake of his equivocations over white supremacists.

“Everyone would look less stupid if he had just put it on YouTube,” one said, encapsulating the one-way direction of the conversation.

But others said it was important that they take part, out of respect for the office and as part of their duty to represent a diverse community.

Not invited to join the call were leaders of  the Reform and Reconstructionist movements. The Conservative movement did receive an invitation but Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, the CEO of its Rabbinical Assembly, declined to participate.

All the participants who spoke to JTA asked not to be identified because the call was off the record, although the White House released a transcript the same day.

Rabbi Avi Shafran, the director of public affairs for Agudath Israel, a Charedi Orthodox group, had argued in a Forward op-ed Sept. 14 that the rabbis who had opted out of the call with the president were missing an opportunity to raise the painful issue of the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who marched last month in Charlottesville, Va., which culminated in an attack by an alleged white supremacist that killed one counterprotester and injured at least 20 others.

“There is a difference between respectfully asking a president to clarify that he does not equate proponents of white supremacism with protesters against the same and, however one might feel about him, publicly and starkly insulting our nation’s duly elected national leader,” he said.

In the end, there were no surprises. Trump covered the standard range of issues in these calls and did not depart from the script.

Anti-Semitism and bias: “We forcefully condemn those who seek to incite anti-Semitism, or to spread any form of slander and hate — and I will ensure we protect Jewish communities, and all communities, that face threats to their safety,” he said.

Israel: “The United States will always support Israel not only because of the vital security partnership between our two nations, but because of the shared values between our two peoples,” he said.

Trump noted that his ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, was making a priority of keeping international bodies from singling out Israel for criticism.

“I can tell you on a personal basis, and I just left Israel recently, I love Israel,” he said.

Peace: “This next New Year also offers a new opportunity to seek peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, and I am very hopeful that we will see significant progress before the end of the year,” the president said. “Ambassador David Friedman, Jared [Kushner], Jason [Greenblatt] and the rest of my team are working very hard to achieve a peace agreement. I think it’s something that actually could happen.” Friedman is the ambassador to Israel, Kushner is Trump’s son-in-law and a top adviser, and Greenblatt is the president’s top international negotiator.

Kushner, an observant Jew, opened the call by introducing the president, saying his father-in-law “takes great pride in having a Jewish daughter and Jewish grandchildren.” Ivanka Trump, Jared’s wife, is also a top adviser to her father. Trump closed the call by saying he and his wife, Melania, are wishing all “a sweet, healthy and peaceful new year.”

The controversy surrounding the call began last month, when the Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative movements cast their decision to cancel the call — an outcome of Trump’s equivocation after the Charlottesville violence, when he said “many sides” were to blame for the violence, and that there were “very fine people” among both the white supremacists and the counterprotesters.

“The president’s words have given succor to those who advocate anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia,” the joint statement said.

The day before the call, Trump again insisted that there was blame on both sides.

Those who participated in the call said that even absent a question-and-answer period, it still was better to be on the call than not.

“These are rabbis whose foremost cause should be the Jewish people and Israel,” said Morton Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America.

Klein, who was on the call, noted that he participated in similar calls and meetings with Obama, even though he rarely agreed with him.

“Why stupidly insult the president, who we need for those issues?” he asked.

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said in an email to JTA that because he was not on the call, he had no comment on what was said.

But, he wrote, “We stand by our decision to not host a High Holy Days call with the President this year. We are disappointed that the President continues to draw a false equivalency between white supremacists and counter-demonstrators in Charlottesville.”

Sharon Nazarian assumes the role of senior vice president of international affairs for the Anti-Defamation League, a new position. Photo by Byron Purvis/AdMedia

Sharon Nazarian: The Jewish Iranian leading ADL’s global mission


Sharon Nazarian was 10 when her family left Iran for the United States, fleeing a rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism. Growing up in Iran, she’d experienced anti-Semitism firsthand as a Jew in a country where Jews were second-class citizens.

As she assumes the post of senior vice president of international affairs for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) — a new position in the organization — her job now is to fight for those experiencing anti-Semitism and racial hatred around the world.

By her own account, she’ll have plenty to do. In a conversation with the Journal on Sept. 6, her first day on the job, Nazarian said the forces of hatred are on the march around the world.

“It’s really a global phenomenon,” she said, “and the ADL has to look at it holistically and see where we can be most helpful to those who need us.”

After Nazarian’s family immigrated to Los Angeles in 1978, her father, Younes, built a fortune as an investor and made a name as a champion of pro-Israel causes. Sharon, now the president of the family’s charitable foundation, took up her father’s devotion to Israel, but went into academia rather than business, earning a doctorate in political science from USC. Later, at UCLA, she taught courses in political science and helped establish and lead the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies.

Nazarian serves on a number of charitable boards, including HIAS, formerly the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and the UCLA Foundation. She also holds public policy posts with a focus on the Middle East; for instance, as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

During her interview, which has been edited for clarity and length here, she declined to provide a detailed view of her strategy at the ADL, because she said she had yet to learn the ins and outs of her new role, but spoke about her priorities and her views about the global environment in which the ADL  works.

Jewish Journal: What global trends are you keeping an eye on as you start your new role?

Sharon Nazarian: Europe has always been an important focus, but today probably more than ever. We’ve seen the shift not only in terms of anti-Semitism in Europe, but with population changes, with refugees, with changing sentiment toward refugees and immigrants. There’s much that ADL can help with, for the Jewish community and the broader community. We can partner with the Jewish communities in those countries to see how our mutual interests can be served.

We’ve seen changes in Venezuela and Argentina. There’s concern there for the Jewish communities that we’re keeping a close eye on. The International Affairs Division has been doing a great job, but at the same time, we have to continue to be very vigilant there.

JJ: We seem to hear almost daily about incidents of violent anti-Semitism in Europe. Is Jewish life there a lost cause or can ADL act to reverse that trend?

SN: ADL is doing a tremendous job of working with Jewish communities of Europe and seeing how we can be of support to them. We feel strongly that they know what’s best, they know what they need. Working in collaboration and partnership with the Jewish communities that are living their lives every day with great difficulty has been our [modus operandi] and we will continue.

The trends are very worrisome, but I think in a way it’s not unique to Europe, and it’s not unique to anti-Semitism. It’s part of social trends that we’re seeing and political trends we’re seeing toward minorities, toward multiple groups. You can see it in Russia. You can see it in Turkey. It’s really a global phenomenon. And the ADL has to look at it holistically, and see where we can be most helpful to those who need us.

JJ: Do you include America in that global trend of rising hatred?

SN: Charlottesville was definitely a wake-up call for all of us. I think ADL was already at the forefront of that, and it was probably no surprise to most of the professionals here at ADL.

I was glued to the television like the rest of us with horror and shock and dismay. I definitely don’t think we can sit back passively and think this is a blip. The vigilance that ADL brings to these global trends is exactly why I joined it.

JJ: The ADL has been vocal in its criticism of President Donald Trump. What do you say to those who feel it has become a partisan group?

SN: ADL’s hundred-year history speaks for the fact that it has always been nonpartisan and it has always spoken for groups who need protection. I won’t say more than that since it’s still Day One, but I think ADL’s actions speak for themselves. And those kind of criticisms, I would reject them.

JJ: How do you think your upbringing as a Jew in Iran affects your outlook at ADL?

SN: ADL’s mission is to protect minorities, and having been a minority in a Muslim majority country, hopefully that will inform me and the shape I give to our international affairs. I’ve spent a lot of time since then immersed in the Muslim world and the Arab world in my travels, in fact-finding missions. I traveled to Afghanistan, to Kabul, as a guest of the Department of Defense, and spending time there, looking at how our forces were helping train Afghani police, and the cultural barriers that existed. The fact that I could speak to the Afghani troops in Farsi — it was very fascinating.

JJ: Part of ADL’s mission is to support Israel, but it recently put out a statement criticizing the Israeli government’s rejection of an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall. When is it appropriate for ADL to criticize Israel?

SN: Israel obviously has a very special place in ADL’s heart and mind and our activities, and we protect Israel’s image around the world. When it comes down to specific policies, we will speak to ADL’s mission and priority and we’ll take it on a case-by-case basis. It is never our intention to distance ourselves from Israel. Our intention is to be a consistent voice for the mission of ADL, and that will take us where it takes us.

JJ: On the subject of Israel, where do you fall on the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Can you be anti-Zionist without being anti-Semitic?

SN: For example, when the UC Regents passed the Statement of Principles Against Intolerance for the first time, I think, it nationally introduced the concept of some forms of anti-Zionist speech being anti-Semitic. That was a very important moment for us. I was thrilled as a leader of the Jewish community of Los Angeles that the UC took the stance that they took.

Often anti-Zionist speech and behavior is a cover for anti-Semitism. I am a political scientist and I do believe that we have to be nuanced about these matters to make sure that we don’t curtail free speech, that we don’t curtail criticism of policy.

There is a possibility of being very critical of Israeli policy without being an anti-Israeli. But to be a pure anti-Zionist — no, on that I would say it is a cover for anti-Semitism.

JJ: During the presidential campaign, Trump promised to cancel the nuclear agreement with Iran. Is the Iran deal on your radar as you start your new job?

SN: Iran is very much on our radar, whether the deal itself is or is not. What I’ll be more interested in is how Iran is treating its own minorities and its own vulnerable groups. I’ll be watching very closely as a former minority in Iran and now as a senior person at ADL who really cares about how vulnerable groups are treated everywhere in the world.

President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 5. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

American Jews overwhelmingly disapprove of Trump, poll finds


American Jews overwhelmingly disapprove of President Donald Trump in just about every area, scoring him lower than his predecessor even on topics like Israel, where Jewish approval of Barack Obama was relatively low, according to an American Jewish Committee poll.

The survey also shows a sharp uptick in concerns about anti-Semitism in the United States, which may be a reflection of the increased influence of the “alt-right” since Trump’s election.

Of respondents in the poll posted Wednesday by the AJC, 77 percent said they viewed Trump’s job performance unfavorably and 21 percent said they viewed him favorably. Those are considerably worse numbers for the president than in the general population at around the same time, mid- to late August, when Gallup consistently showed Trump scoring favorable ratings in the high 30s and unfavorable marks in the high 50s.

Asked for specifics, respondents scored Trump negatively across the board: 73 to 27 unfavorable to favorable on national security; 69-30 on terrorism; 75-23 on U.S.-Russia relations; 71-25 on handling the relationship with NATO and the trans-Atlantic alliance; 77-20 on race relations; 76-23 on immigration; and 68-26 on the Iran nuclear issue. He came out best on U.S.-Israel relations, though still unfavorable: 54-40.

That contrasted with Obama, who scored a dead heat on the U.S.-Israel relations the last time it was asked in this poll, two years ago: 49 percent disapproving and 48 approving, well within the margin of error of 4.7 percent. That survey was conducted after 18 months of tensions in the U.S.-Israel relationship, with the collapse of Israel-Palestinian talks in the spring of 2014. The month the poll was taken, in August 2015, Obama was pressing hard for the Iran nuclear deal, which Israel’s government and the centrist pro-Israel community vigorously opposed.

Trump has striven to make good relations with Israel a cornerstone of his foreign policy, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly prefers his presidency to that of Obama.

Jewish approval of the Iran deal in the 2015 poll was in a statistical dead heat, with 50 percent in favor and 47 percent opposed. Trump wants to scrap the deal, which trades sanctions relief for a rollback of Iran’s nuclear program. He may do so as soon as next month, when according to law, he must recertify Iranian adherence to the deal.

Jews continue to identify more as liberal and as Democrat than not. Among respondents, 54 percent said they were liberal, 22 percent classified themselves as moderate, and 22 percent said they were conservative. Party wise, 54 percent said they were Democrats, 15 percent said they were Republicans and 20 percent Independent. Asked whether they voted in November for Trump or Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate, the numbers were statistically commensurate with how respondents in the AJC poll from a year ago — focusing almost exclusively on the election — said they would vote: 64 percent said they voted for Clinton and 18 percent for Trump. Last year the numbers were 61-19.

Republicans who believe a candidate more conventional than Trump could score better may take comfort in what this year’s poll reported regarding Vice President Mike Pence, who has a longstanding relationship with the organized pro-Israel community: His unfavorable-favorable rating, 62-30, was more in line with how Jews have voted in recent years than Trump’s negatives.

The poll shows a further erosion of U.S. Jewish approval of Netanyahu, who once polled consistently favorably among American Jews. In 2015, the last time the question was asked, U.S. Jews approved of Netanyahu’s handling of the U.S.-Israel relationship, 57-42. This year, it’s a statistical dead heat, with respondents disapproving 47 percent to 45 percent approving. Netanyahu has come under fire in recent months from major U.S. Jewish groups for reneging on pledges to loosen restrictions on the practice in Israel of non-Orthodox streams of Judaism.

Asked as in years past how respondents perceive anti-Semitism in the United States, the numbers on the surface show consistency: 84 percent see it as a problem this year, while 16 percent do not. That jibes with 85 percent in 2015 who saw it as a problem, higher than the 73 percent scored last year.

There is a notable spike, however, on closer examination: The number who classified the anti-Semitism problem in the United States as “very serious” soared to 41 percent this year from the 21 percent of the past two polls. That may result from associations between Trump and the “alt-right,” a grouping of anti-establishment conservatives who include within their ranks anti-Semites, as well as Trump’s equivocation on condemning anti-Semitism and bigotry, most recently last month when a white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, ended in deadly violence.

The other notable increase was in which nation posed the “single greatest danger” to the United States. North Korea, which has intensified its nuclear testing as tensions ratchet up with the Trump administration, was by far the leader this year at 57 percent. Next was Russia at 22 percent — a result perhaps of intensified coverage of Russia’s attempts to interfere in last year’s election.

In 2015, the last time a similar question was asked, the highest scorer was the Islamic State, the terrorist group, at 51 percent. Also known as ISIS, it did not appear as an option this year. The order behind the Islamic State that year was China (13 percent), Russia (10 percent), Iran (9.5 percent) and North Korea (6 percent), the last of five listed.

The telephone poll of 1,000 respondents was conducted by SSRS, a research firm, from Aug. 10 to 28. It has a margin of error of 3.71 percent.

An armed French police officer at the Boulevard de Barbes in the north end of Paris, Jan. 7, 2016. Photo by Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images

French Jewish family beaten in anti-Semitic home invasion


A French Jewish leader and his family were assaulted in their home near Paris in what representatives of French Jewry said was an anti-Semitic attack.

In the attack Thursday night, three men, two of whom were wearing masks, broke into the home of Roger Pinto, the president of Siona, a group that represents Sephardic Jews. The attackers beat Pinto’s son and wife in the home in the northeastern suburb of Livry Gargan, the Dreuz news website reported Sunday.

One of the attackers said: “You Jews have money,” according to the family members.

The family members told police that the attackers, who they said were black men in their 20s or 30s, took their credit cards and jewelry, interrogated them for hours about additional items them could steal and threatened to kill them. The men ran away after Roger Pinto managed to discretely call rescue services on a mobile phone.

The Pintos were taken to hospital for treatment. They suffered some minor injuries and were deeply traumatized, the report said.

The incident, one of several cases in France in recent years in which criminals apparently singled out Jews based on the belief that they have money, provoked passionate condemnations from the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities and the National Bureau of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism. Both groups said the incident was an anti-Semitic attack.

Bernard-Henri Levy, the French Jewish philosopher, agreed, writing on Twitter Sunday: “Shocked by the anti-Semitic attack Friday night [sic] in Livry-Gargan. Solidarity with Roger Pinto and his family, the victims.”

In an unusual move, the Israeli ambassador to France, Aliza Bin-Noun, also condemned the incident on Twitter and asserted it was an anti-Semitic attack.

In 2014, three men broke into the home of a Jewish family in Creteil near Paris. One of them raped a young woman there while another guarded her boyfriend, whom they took prisoner. A third took the couple’s credit card to extract cash from an ATM machine. They too allegedly said they targeted the couple because they are Jewish.

Occurring amid a major increase in anti-Semitic violence in France accompanying Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza that year, the Creteil incident echoed for many the traumatic murder and torture in 2006 of Ilan Halimi, a Jewish phone salesman who was abducted by a gang led by a career criminal with a history of targeting mostly Jewish victims.

Some French Jews regard Halimi’s murder as the turning point in the emergence of a wave of violence against Jews in France and Belgium, in which more than 12 people have died since 2012 in at least three jihadist attacks on Jewish targets.

Sharon Nazarian

Sharon Nazarian tapped to lead international affairs for ADL


Sharon Nazarian, the founder of the UCLA Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies, will lead the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) fight against anti-Semitism abroad as the head of its International Affairs Division.

The ADL announced Sept. 6 that it had hired Nazarian as its senior vice president for international affairs.

“Sharon’s depth and breadth of experience in academia, philanthropy, policy and international affairs makes her the perfect fit to lead ADL’s international efforts,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in an emailed statement. “She brings a level of expertise and perspective that is extraordinary.”

A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Nazarian holds a doctorate in political science from USC. She is the daughter of Younes Nazarian, who built the family’s fortune as an early investor in the telecommunications company Qualcomm and is president of the family’s charitable foundation.

The appointment comes as ADL has reported an increase in anti-Semitism in the United States but simultaneously has seen a fundraising surge.

“Today, it’s clear that ADL is needed more than ever — both in the United States and abroad — to stand up against hate and bigotry, and to lead efforts that strengthen collaboration and inclusion worldwide,” Nazarian said in the emailed statement. “I’m thrilled to join ADL and help build on the great work that has been accomplished so far.”

Gene Block, chancellor of UCLA, where Nazarian holds an appointment as an adjunct professor of political science, also lauded the ADL’s choice, saying, “She is a smart, energetic and compassionate person, and I am very pleased that she will now be sharing her talents with ADL.”

Working from the ADL’s Century City office, Nazarian will oversee a staff spread across Washington, D.C., New York and Israel

Polish President Andrzej Duda at the NATO Multinational Corps Northeast headquarters in Szczecin, Poland, on Nov. 28, 2016. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

European Jewish Congress slams Poland’s ‘lack of concern’ over anti-Semitism


In an unusually harsh condemnation, the European Jewish Congress said the Polish government has a “staggering lack of concern” about anti-Semitism and a “transparent divide-and-rule tactic” vis-a-vis Jews.

The statement Thursday follows an open feud between leaders of Polish Jewry on whether Poland has seen an increase in anti-Semitic incidents or sentiment since the rise to power of the nationalist Law and Justice Party in 2015.

The EJC statement offers support for the organization’s Poland affiliates, the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland and the Jewish Community of Warsaw, in their fight with other Jewish organizations in Poland.

The fight erupted earlier this month when leaders of the affiliated groups blamed the government for allowing, if not encouraging, an alleged increase in anti-Semitism. Other Jewish leaders disputed the claim, saying it constitutes a partisan tactic against the ruling party by the EJC affiliates.

“The EJC notes the staggering lack of concern from the government of Poland to the growth and normalization of anti-Semitic and xenophobic rhetoric in the country in recent times,” the statement read. “The transparent divide-and-rule tactic of senior leaders of the Law and Justice Party in seeking to choose its selected Jewish interlocutors over the heads of official and representative community organizations in Poland leaves us staggered and reminds us of much darker times in Europe when governments chose their Jews.”

The statement referenced a meeting earlier this month hosted by a founder of Law and Justice, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, with two Chabad rabbis and Artur Hofman, president of the TSKZ cultural group, which is has offices in 15 cities and is Poland’s largest Jewish organization in terms of membership. An activist for Holocaust commemoration in Poland also attended the meeting.

The meeting, which participants described as friendly and earnest, followed the publication of a critical letter that two leaders of the EJC-affiliated groups sent last month to Kaczynski asserting that there was an increase in anti-Semitic rhetoric and pleading with the government to intervene to curb it. The leader of the Jewish Community of Warsaw, Anna Chipczynska, told JTA that Polish Jews have reached a “low point” in their feeling of safety under Law and Justice.

But Hofman said the claims were part of a “political war” by some leaders of Polish Jewry on Law and Justice. Hofman, who was elected to his position by a majority in his group, said the EJC affiliates were exaggerating about a problem that did not really exist.

On Aug. 21, Sergiusz Kowalski, who had alerted the government about anti-Semitism as president of the Polish branch of the B’nai B’rith Jewish group, called the men who met with Kaczynski “court Jews.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington, D.C., on May 3. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

Rex Tillerson, heeding objections, says anti-Semitism envoy post to be filled


The State Department will fill the post of special envoy for the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism following the urging of lawmakers and Jewish groups, but will do away with or combine dozens of other diplomatic positions.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the announcement in a letter sent Monday to Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The special envoy post, which was mandated in the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004, has remained unfilled since Trump’s inauguration in late January, as have many other such posts. The envoy monitors acts of anti-Semitism abroad, documents the cases in State Department reports, and consults with domestic and international nongovernmental organizations.

The Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism has been unstaffed since July 1.

Congress members, Jewish groups and Jewish leaders have been urging Tillerson to keep the office open and name an envoy.

According to the Tillerson letter, the office will be returned to the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, with two positions and $130,000 in funding.

“I believe that the Department will be able to better execute its mission by integrating certain envoys and special representative offices within the regional and functional bureaus, and eliminating those that have accomplished or outlived their original purpose,” he wrote. “In some cases, the State Department would leave in place several positions and offices, while in other cases, positions and offices would be either consolidated or integrated with the most appropriate bureau. If an issue no longer requires a special envoy or representative, then an appropriate bureau will manage any legacy responsibilities.”

Other envoys that will be retained include the special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations; Israel and the Palestinian Authority, U.S. security coordinator; special presidential envoy for the global coalition to defeat ISIS; the ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom; and the special envoy for Holocaust issues.

Of 66 current special envoys or representatives, 30 will remain. Nine positions will be eliminated, 21 will be integrated into other offices, five merged with other positions, and one transferred to the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The Anti-Defamation League, which ran a campaign to urge Tillerson to retain the position, including sending the secretary of state a petition signed by thousands of Americans,  praised the decision.

“We commend Secretary Tillerson for listening to the voices calling for the appointment of the special envoy to counter anti-Semitism,” National Director Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “This position has been an essential diplomatic and political tool in fighting anti-Semitism around the globe.

“We urge the State Department to refrain from eliminating other special envoy roles which are vital to promoting American values of democracy, tolerance and religious freedom across the globe.”

The Brodsky Synagogue in Kiev, Ukraine. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Israeli man shot dead near synagogue in Kiev


An Israeli man was found shot dead near a Kiev synagogue in what is believed to have been a robbery rather than an anti-Semitic incident.

The body of Sachroch Torsonov, 29, of Jerusalem, was found late Wednesday night near the Brodsky Synagogue in the center of the Ukrainian capital, Ynet reported.

A suspect has been arrested after being found in the victim’s car several hours after the killing. Police said the suspect tried to steal the victim’s car, making the motive criminal.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry told Ynet that the victim “is known to us and the incident is being handled by the Israeli Embassy in Kiev.”

President Donald Trump in Phoenix, Ariz., on Aug. 22. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Trump’s target: Immigrants like us


While reporting on the current generation of immigrants, I’ve been struck by how they resemble Jews who, like them, left the old country for a risky journey to the United States.

We forget family roots as the years pass. Only determined genealogists have the curiosity to trace families back to the towns of the Ashkenaz and Sefarad. 

But there is no better time than now to think about roots.

Who would think that the top news of the day would be American Nazis running wild, rampaging with their swastikas and anti-Semitic chants? They are evocative of the vicious young men who stormed through Russian cities and villages during pogroms, in Jewish quarters in the Middle East, in European cities when Hitler reigned.

Then, to make matters worse, President Donald Trump sank to the level of Hitler apologists when he said of the clashes in Charlottesville, Va., “You … had some very fine people on both sides.” 

The United States has been a welcoming land for Jews. But the Nazi sympathizers and Trump’s comments ought to remind us of a certain precariousness in our lives. Paranoid perhaps, but that gloomy thought is with me as I cover the immigration issue for the website Truthdig.

When Trump took office with his pledge to sharply limit immigration and to deport those here without documentation — numbering about 11 million — Truthdig Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer, son of an immigrant mother, said he thought immigration was one of the most important stories of our time and that we were in the middle of it in Southern California.  I thought so, too.

Take Boyle Heights, for example.

I began exploring Boyle Heights, Los Angeles’ traditional immigrant center, for the Los Angeles Times in 1970.

Much has changed since then. Brooklyn Avenue, the Boyle Heights’ main street of some of our readers’ youth, is now Cesar Chavez Avenue, and the Jews who made it their community long ago migrated westward. But some of the heritage of the old Boyle Heights — then a multiethnic, working-class neighborhood with a tradition of activist politics — remains.

That activism was apparent to me during a recent community workshop organized by Truthdig Managing Editor Eric Ortiz. The event was designed to show young people how to get news out in this era of internet journalism.

The concerns of these young journalists , who contribute to Boyle Heights Beat, a bilingual community newspaper and website, ranged from fighting the gentrification of Boyle Heights to reporting on the wave of fear in the Latino community over the rapidly increasing arrests of undocumented immigrants.

One story in a recent edition was about Los Angeles’ first all-solar-powered arts and music festival in Mariachi Plaza. Another was a moving account by a Boyle Heights Beat reporter about what happened when her father, here on a green card, was deported. What distinguishes the stories is that they give full pictures of life in Boyle Heights, rather than limiting themselves to the usual media accounts of undocumented immigrants being hauled away by authorities. 

My former Los Angeles Times colleague Hector Tobar wrote of these usual accounts in a New York Times op-ed, calling such stories “kind of immigration porn,” designed to titillate readers and viewers. “You are many times more likely to see a deportee on the TV news than a Latino doctor or teacher,” he wrote. “My objection is not to the coverage of deportations. … But the humiliated and hunted people you see in coverage of the deported are not the whole person. Tenacity and stubbornness are the defining qualities of undocumented America.”

These were the qualities of our Jewish immigrant forebears. They had the tenacity, stubbornness and courage to leave the old country for a faraway land whose language they frequently could not read or speak. They were impoverished before they left and often more so when they arrived. Grit and, often, family members pulled them up — sometimes way up.

These qualities are not recognized in the cruelly restrictive immigration measure proposed by Trump that would cut the number of immigrants to this country by half and, among other provisions, require English language skills. It would also eliminate some family sponsorship of immigrants, the route most immigrants follow to get into the United States. The provision would devastate Latino and Muslim families.

One of the provision’s authors was Trump aide Stephen Miller. As Jewish Journal Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman wrote, Miller is the descendent of immigrants who benefited from American openness and generosity.

If you can, visit immigrant communities, go to meetings, explore the schools and watch people fight deportation in immigration court. Look carefully. You’ll see in their faces the faces of your parents, grandparents or great-grandparents.

Today, Latinos and Muslims are under threat from the Trump administration. As inconceivable as it sounds, one day it could be us.


BILL BOYARSKY is a columnist for the Jewish Journal, Truthdig and L.A. Observed, and the author of “Inventing L.A.: The Chandlers and Their Times” (Angel City Press).

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