French court fines writer for Facebook post saying Hitler should have finished the job


A French court slapped writer Alain Soral with a a $13,000 fine and a suspended prison sentence of six months for saying the Nazis should have finished killing the Jews of Europe.

The sentence, handed down Tuesday, was over Soral’s Facebook post of last year about Serge and Beate Klarsfeld, two anti-racism activists who helped track down dozens of Nazi war criminals.

“This is what happens when you don’t finish the job,” Soral wrote about an article on a state honor conferred on the Klarsfelds by Germany.

A judge found Soral, who is a well-known writer in far-right circles and an ally of the anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, guilty of “justifying war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Le Figaro reported Tuesday. Soral has had multiple previous convictions for minimizing or mocking the Holocaust.

The judge also ordered Soral to pay 5,000 euros, or about $5,600, to each of the Klarsfelds and 2,000 euros, or $2,250, to the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism, which filed the complaint against Soral for his Facebook post.

Gaza, and Europe’s new wave of anti-Semitism


For weeks, the images filled the world’s television screens – of collapsed buildings, weeping parents and widows, and anguished calls for vengeance.  It was these scenes, of the genuine suffering of Palestinian civilians caught up in a war provoked by Hamas that have been seized on by some commentators to explain the wave of anti-Semitism that is sweeping across much of the globe. 

It is certainly true that as the fighting raged on, demonstrations have broken out across Europe to protest Israel’s military response to Hamas’ rocket fire and tunnel threat.  In recent weeks, a synagogue in Germany was attacked by firebomb-wielding youths, while a Belgian cafe advertised that dogs were welcome, but “Zionists” were not.  French synagogues have been attacked for the first time since the Dreyfus Affair, and in Italy, storefronts have been vandalized with graffiti warning “Jews your end is near.”

I’ve seen it personally on my Facebook page – with one commenter saying “you should join your relatives in Auschwitz.”

But the reality is more disquieting and the threat to Europe's Jews will not abate even if another ceasefire takes hold and a relative calm returns to Israel's Gaza border.  Despite decades of concerted action by European governments, Christendom's ancient scourge has returned – this time to a continent once almost bereft of its Jews and fed not by a Christian blood libel, but by young people radicalized via social media and a new generation of media-savvy Jihadis.  And they have been active well before the Gaza crisis.

On May 24, weeks before the fighting with Hamas erupted, a French national, Mehdi Nemmouche, opened fire at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brusssels, killing four people.  Nemmouche had been radicalized during a five year stint in French prison and then had fought in the Syrian civil war before returning to France. Two years earlier, a gunman in France, also Muslim, targeted French soldiers and Jewish civilians in the French cities of Montauban and Toulouse.

The growing Muslim population of Europe, often impoverished, and crammed into teeming, crime-ridden suburbs, has provided much of the energy and the foot soldiers for the new wave of anti-Semitism.  And with thousands of European jihadis fighting in Syria, Iraq, the Caucuses, and Afghanistan, not to mention the former European colonies in North Africa, a new generation is acquiring the knowledge and the motivation to take their fight to the remaining Jews of Europe.

In this they are aided by a stubbornly persistent fascist fringe that hates them, but hates the Jews even more, and a European population that appears ambivalent about combatting anti-Semitism, despite the fact that many European governments have reacted strongly to defend their Jewish citizens and to implore their countrymen to stand with them as well. 

And this is where the Gaza war has added fuel to the fires of anti-Semitism – the pictures that people saw on their computer screens and televisions have made the expression of Jew hatred seem less odious to some and, more alarmingly, increasingly attractive to broader European populations.  This is appalling, but it is also increasingly fact and all of us have a duty to speak out and to warn our European friends that if they follow this course, they risk returning to a dark path, trodden too many times and with horrible consequences, by their forebears. 

The spike in incidents in the aftermath of Gaza must also serve to remind us that the unresolved situation between Israel and the Palestinians cannot be allowed to fester forever and that there is a cost, separate and apart from the day-to-day trauma of living with rockets and tunnels and walls.  And that cost is manifested in the indifference of European publics when Jews are attacked and when a demonstrator in Britain is seen with a placard reading, “Hitler you were right.” 

Those who assert that Gaza is the cause of anti-Semitism are wrong, but those who deny its impact ignore reality.

The truth remains, as it did before Gaza, that there must be two states for two people, living side-by-side in peace.  A Palestinian state will not eradicate anti-Semitism, but it may suck away much of the oxygen that has enabled it to persist and grow in Europe.

These last weeks – starting with the horrific murders of three innocent Israeli boys, and murder of a young Palestinian teenager – have made the goal of two states living in peace seem ever more distant, but all the more urgent.  The future, not only of Israel, but also of much of the diaspora, is at stake.

Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) represents the 28th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“We Will Never Die” — Again. Still.


It is 1943. A sizable percentage of Europe's Jews have already perished. In response to the world's (and America's) silence in the face of unremitting evil, as well as their growing frustration with American policy and their contempt for Hollywood's “fear of offending its European markets,” Billy Rose and Ernst Lubitsch produced a dramatic pageant at Madison Square Garden. Its purpose: to raise public awareness about the plight of European Jewry.

The pageant was written by Ben Hecht. The music was composed by Kurt Weill, and it was staged by Moss Hart. Its stars included Edward G. Robinson, Paul Muni, John Garfield, Ralph Bellamy, Frank Sinatra and Burgess Meredith. Two hundred rabbis and two hundred cantors raised their voices in prayer on stage. The pageant was called “We Will Never Die,” and when it was performed on March 9, 1943, 40,000 people filled the seats — thanks to newspaper advertisements provided gratis by the Hearst Corporation.

“We Will Never Die” went on the road, with performances in Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and Los Angeles, The Los Angeles performance at the Hollywood Bowl was broadcast across the Nation on NBC radio. The Washington audience contained senators, members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

Notice a few elements of this story from the annals of American popular culture. First, the venues, which were huge. Second, the artistic prestige of the pageant's creators and participants. These were first-tier cultural personalities. Third: while there were certainly Jews involved in the presentation, consider the gentile performers who were also involved — Bellamy, Sinatra, and Meredith.

Cut, now, to 2014.

It would be overly dramatic and unnecessarily alarmist to proclaim that our current situation is, in any way, close to what our forebears were experiencing in 1943. True — European Jewry's situation is bad and getting worse.

Consider:

•   A Jewish woman in Belgium, refused medical treatment precisely she was Jewish.

        Mobs screaming “Death to the Jews!” in the streets of Paris.

•   A synagogue in a Paris suburb, surrounded by a mob.

•   Jewish teens wearing kippot tear-gassed in Paris.

•   Mobs screaming “Hamas — Jews to the gas!” in Germany.

•   A “grocery pogrom,” in which Israeli-produced products were pulled off grocery shelves in Belfast.

•   At a Sainsbury’s supermarket in central London, where protesters outside the store called for a boycott of Israeli-made goods. The manager ordered employees to empty the kosher food section.

Also true — there has been a highly disturbing increase in anti-Semitic incidents — physical attacks — in the United States as well.

•   Time magazine's blood libel, in which it repeated the ghoulish accusation that IDF soldiers were harvesting organs from Palestinian cadavers.

•   A Jewish couple attacked on the Upper East Side of New York by Palestinian flag wielding assailants.

•   A Jewish student attacked at Temple University.

•   Elon Gold, an Israeli comedian, attacked in Los Angeles.

•   An Israeli woman in Florida, told by attendants at a local gas station that her business was not welcome there anymore.

But one thing is equally true: we cannot afford complacency. It is no longer “business as usual” in the Jewish world. More than this: the crisis that world Jewry is facing (and, no, the new-old crisis of anti-Semitism has nothing to do with Gaza, though that certainly has served as an elegant and fraudulent excuse) belongs not only to the Jews. It belongs to the world as well.

My proposal: it is time for another, radically updated production — or an imitation — of “We Will Never Die.” We have been encouraged by the A list of two hundred Hollywood celebrities who have recently stood up for Israel against Hamas  — a list that includes Bill Maher, Sylvester Stallone, Kelsey Grammer, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Seth Rogen, Sarah Silverman, and Roseanne Barr. http://variety.com/2014/biz/news/hollywood-elite-sign-anti-hamas-statement-1201289089/.

Combine that list with the impressive list of rock stars who have, wittingly or not, bucked the BDS movement and have played concerts to adoring fans in Israel.

It is now time to gather that A list, bring them together, and in the words of the old sentimental film cliche — “hey, kids, let's put on a show.”  It is now time for these American cultural heroes to even more publicly lend their voice to the most profound political and moral crisis of our time — the threat of Islamic extremism, with its roots in Nazi ideology, to undo every element of the West's liberal tradition.

By the way, did you notice that list of celebrities who have spoken out in favor of Israel?

Sure, there were Jews on that list. But there were many non-Jews as well. And there could be, should be, must be, more of each.

Alright, I'm naming names (to use an older and infinitely darker phrase from Hollywood history): Stephen Spielberg. Barbara Streisand. Paul Simon. Bob Dylan. Woody Allen (as Herzl said, “if you will it, it is no dream”). Larry David. Jerry Seinfeld. Howard Stern. Howie Mandel. Amy Schumer (my former religious school student!). Judd Apatow.

You get the picture. What's your dream lineup? 

Finally, let's remember something else. Seventy years ago, a moral conspiracy of Hollywood heavy hitters pulled off a series of major events — all to raise consciousness about what was happening to the Jews of Europe. In 1943. When the American Jewish community was a fraction of the size it is today, and when the American Jewish community had but a fraction of the clout and affluence it has today.

And they did it. 

Think of what we could do today — and with the internet, our ability to simulcast it all over the world. 

Seventy years ago, at the end of the day, Ben Hecht was depressed about what he believed was his pageant's relative lack of effectiveness. He told Kurt Weill: “The pageant has accomplished nothing. Actually, all we have done is make a lot of Jews cry, which is not a unique accomplishment.”

Not this time. This time, the effect will not be to make a lot of Jews cry.

It will be to make a lot of people shrei.

What's stopping us?

Jeffrey Salkin is the rabbi of Temple Beth Am in Bayonne, NJ and the author of many books published by Jewish Lights Publishing (http://www.jewishlights.com). His latest book is The Gods Are Broken! The Hidden Legacy of Abraham (JPS)

Survey: Half of U.K. Jews not overly concerned by rising anti-Semitism


Nearly 70 percent of Jews in the United Kingdom believe anti-Semitism is on the rise, a new survey found, but half of the respondents are not overly concerned.

Approximately half of the 1,468 respondents said anti-Semitism was “a fairly big problem,” while another half said it was “not a very big problem” or “not a problem at all,” according to the email study conducted by the London-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research and released earlier this month.

Religious Jews were more likely than secular ones to be concerned about anti-Semitism.

The three groups considered most likely to commit anti-Semitic acts, the respondents said, are extremist Muslims, individuals with left-wing political views and teenagers.

Among the findings, 75 percent of respondents indicated that anti-Semitism on the Internet is a problem, half stated that anti-Semitism in the media is a problem, and half said they avoid wearing or carrying a distinctive Jewish item, at least on occasion, out of fear for their safety.

Asked if they feel blamed by others for actions taken by the Israeli government, nearly two-thirds of the respondents said it never or only occasionally happens.

With an estimated 300,000 Jews, the U.K. has the world’s fifth-largest and Europe’s second-largest Jewish population.

Anti-Israel rioters torch cars, throw firebomb at Paris-area synagogue


PARIS (JTA) — Anti-Israel protesters hurled a firebomb at a synagogue during an unauthorized demonstration in a heavily Jewish suburb of Paris.

The riot broke out on Sunday afternoon in Sarcelles after a few hundred people assembled at a local metro station to protest Israel’s actions in Gaza, as well as the decision by French Interior Minister Bernard Cazaneuve to ban rallies against Israel following the staging of riots last week outside several synagogues in the Paris region.

The firebomb was hurled at the Synagogue of Garges-Les-Gonesse at a smaller rally that splintered off the main demonstration. It hit the building but did not cause serious damage, the daily online edition of Le Figaro reported.

In addition, rioters torched at least two cars as they clashed with police near the synagogue.

Organizers of the protest rally at the metro station urged the crowd not to resort to violence, but a few dozen demonstrators confronted police as others were leaving the demonstration, the online edition of the Le Nouvel Observateur weekly reported. Police fired tear gas at the demonstrators and surrounded a synagogue nearby, blocking the entire street.

Approximately 30 young Jewish men were standing at the synagogue entrance holding sticks; one was holding an Israeli flag. The French Jewish Defense League, or LDJ, said on Twitter that it was guarding the synagogue along with police.

Protesters also smashed the windshield of several parked cars and at least one shop.

Sarcelles has a large Sephardic Jewish population.

On Saturday, thousands of demonstrators protesting Israel’s military operation in Gaza confronted police in central Paris. Fourteen police officers were lightly wounded and 38 protesters were arrested.

In Paris, Sharansky warns of ‘beginning of end’ for European Jewry


On their 40th wedding anniversary, Avital and Natan Sharansky went sightseeing in the City of Light.

But the Sharanskys didn’t follow the trail of countless couples who come here to kiss at the Eiffel Tower or slip so-called love locks on bridges over the River Seine. Theirs was an itinerary that demonstrated a different kind of commitment.

“Avital is taking me to see all the places where she organized protest rallies for my release,” Natan Sharansky, the chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, told JTA in an interview Thursday at his organization’s Paris headquarters.

There were about a dozen such places. To Sharansky, French Jewry’s strong mobilization on his behalf 25 years ago symbolizes both what Israel stands to gain and what Europe stands to lose as French immigration to Israel reaches record levels.

Home to Europe’s largest Jewish population of 500,000, France surpassed the United States last year to become the world’s second-largest source of Jewish immigration to Israel, with 3,263 emigrants making aliyah — second only to Russia. This year, 5,000 French Jewish immigrants  are expected in Israel, well over double the 1,917 that made the move in 2012.

Such figures should be music to the ears of Sharansky, 67, a former Israeli Cabinet minister who spent nine years in a Soviet prison for his attempts to immigrate to Israel and has led the Jewish Agency — the organization principally responsible for facilitating global aliyah — for four.

Yet his happiness over his organization’s success is mixed with sadness over the vulnerability it reflects in a robust community that many fear is nearing extinction. Some, including Sharansky, believe French aliyah heralds the end of Jewish life in Europe.

“Something historic is happening,” Sharansky said. “It may be the beginning of the end of European Jewry.”

It is an observation that brings no joy to Sharansky, himself a Europe-born mathematician and chess prodigy who has revolutionized the Jewish Agency by expanding its traditional focus on aliyah to include strengthening Diaspora Jewish identity — a move he said was merely “contextualizing” aliyah but which critics feared would de-emphasize it.

“I think it’s a tragedy for Europe,” he said. “What is happening in France, the strongest of Europe’s Jewish communities, reflects processes taking place elsewhere in Europe. I keep asking people if Jews have a future in Europe.”

Sharansky was cheerful in his encounters with soon-to-be Israelis like Oury Chouchana, a 36-year-old lawyer who is preparing to leave next week to study Hebrew at Ulpan Etzion in Jerusalem — the same Hebrew immersion program where Avital Sharansky studied 40 years ago.

“It may interest you to hear that Etzion is a serious, serious shidduch scene,” said Sharansky, using the Hebrew term for a marriage match.

The mixed blessings of French aliyah were apparent at a sendoff ceremony Wednesday for several hundred emigrants at the Synagogue des Tournelles. The ceremony took place a few days after the Le Monde newspaper published an emotional plea against aliyah by the well-known Jewish author and activist Marek Halter.

“Will you cede to those seeking our disappearance? Will you leave this home of ours to jihadists and the National Front?” he wrote, referencing the rising far-right party that many French Jews believe has anti-Semitic undertones.

Halter’s piece was a rare call to arms in a community whose leaders are encouraging French Jews to leave. At the sendoff, Richard Prasquier, a former head of the CRIF French Jewish umbrella group and current president of the Jewish National Fund branch in France, shared his “intense pride” in his daughter’s successful aliyah and encouraged the new immigrants to “take away with you our culture and plant it in Israel.”

Joel Mergui, the president of the French Consistoire, the community organ responsible for religious services, spoke at the sendoff of his own “mix of joy and pain” at the fact that three of his four children live 2,000 miles away from him in Israel.

French Jewry is “unique in how leaders don’t perceive aliyah as a threat that could weaken their communities, but as the first installment in building that community’s new future in Israel,” Sharansky told JTA.

This is “remarkable,” he added, “and could never come from federation heads in the United States, where community leaders are committed to ensuring a Jewish future in America.”

At the sendoff ceremony, Lionel Berros, a religious Jew who will immigrate in two weeks, was feeling a more personal version of the mix of melancholy and joy Sharansky described.

“When I was a child, I could leave home wearing my kippah,” said Berros, who is moving with his wife and daughter to Netanya. “Now I wear a baseball cap and my daughter leaves home only to go to school. I don’t want her to grow up like that. So I am sad to leave, but also happy.”

Like many French Jewish parents, Berros is never at ease when his daughter is at school — not since the 2012 murder of a rabbi and three children by a Muslim extremist at a Jewish school in Toulouse. The attack was one of 614 anti-Semitic incidents documented that year by the community’s SPCJ security unit. Of those attacks, 14 percent happened within 10 days of the Toulouse murders.

Sensitive to this sentiment, community leaders have made no secret of their concern for the community’s future.

In a recent interview about anti-Semitism levels, CRIF President Roger Cukierman described French Jews as trapped between the National Front party, which beat all other parties in the May elections for the European Parliament, a steady increase in violent hate crimes by Muslims, and secularist initiatives to ban kosher slaughter and circumcision.

“Behind the figures,” Cukierman said in reference to anti-Semitic attacks, “there is a difficult climate.”

 

 

Farrakhan: ‘I don’t hate Jewish people’


Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, saying “I don’t hate Jewish people,” denied he is anti-Semitic during an address to the group’s annual convention.

Farrakhan, who is known for his diatribes against the Jews, in his three-hour speech on Sunday night in Detroit compared himself to auto magnate Henry Ford, saying that Ford was “a great man who was called an anti-Semite.”

“I feel like I’m in good company,” Farrakhan told a crowd of about 18,000 at Joe Louis Arena, the Detroit Free Press reported.

“I don’t hate Jewish people … what I hate is evil,” he also said, adding that “Satan is in control of Hollywood,” as well as TV, the media and money.

Responding to Farrakhan’s speech, Heidi Budaj, Michigan regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, told the Detroit Free Press, “Expressing pride for being called anti-Semitic is shameful. A person in this day and age should be ashamed to say that.”

Farrakhan also reprimanded Muslims for fighting among themselves in the Middle East, saying they were killing each other for “America” and the “European infidel.”

He said that if the United States launched a war on Iran, “we ain’t fighting. We’re not killing no Muslims for these infidels.”

Farrakhan also touched on other topics, such as the African-American community separating from the rest of the world in order to better their lives and reinvesting in Detroit.

French Rapper Booba ‘Cyber-lynched’ for Mentioning Shoah


Dozens of anti-Semitic messages were left on the Facebook page of the popular French rapper Booba for vowing in a new song to avenge the victims of the Holocaust.

Booba, the son of a Muslim father from Senegal, raps in a song titled “Master Yoda” that was posted Feb. 2 on his Facebook page, “We’ll avenge like victims of slavery and the Shoah.”

Among the 4,340 comments left on his post were comments denying the Holocaust and calling for a new genocide against the Jewish people, in violation of French law on hate speech. Some comments used pejoratives against Booba, the stage name of 36-year-old Eli Yaffa, for mentioning the Holocaust.

A user identified as John Ken’Nabii wrote, “F**k the Shoah, invented by Zionists to legitimize Israel.” And from another user, Bassim Abir: “F**k your mother, you and the Shoah, we piss on all the Arabs that listen to you.”

JSS News, a French Jewish news site, termed the statements “cyber-lynching.”

Dozens of comments contained the phrase “shoananas,” a combination of the Hebrew name for the Holocaust with the French word for pineapple. Coined by the anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonne, it is used as a code word for denying the Holocaust seen to be too vague to violate France’s law forbidding it.

On Jan. 24, a French court ordered Twitter to divulge details of French users who made similar comments.

The post containing “Master Yoda” received 1,413 “likes” on Facebook. Booba has sold more than 1 million albums in France.

Shangri-La Hotel owner seeks new trial


The Hotel Shangri-La in Santa Monica and its partial-owner, Tehmina Adaya, who in August 2012 were found guilty in a jury trial of unlawfully discriminating against a group of young Jews, have begun the process of requesting a new trial. 

Attorneys for Adaya and the hotel filed three motions in California Superior Court on Dec. 24, including one outlining what they call legal defects in the previous judgment and another declaring their intent to request a new trial. A hearing on these motions is set for Jan. 31. 

The 19 plaintiffs accused Adaya of discriminating against them when she abruptly shut down a poolside party being held by the Young Leadership Division of the local chapter of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) at the Shangri-La in July 2010. 

Jurors found Adaya and the hotel had violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act, a California law that ensures equal accommodations be provided by private businesses to all people regardless of “sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, marital status, or sexual orientation.”

Jurors awarded the plaintiffs statutory, compensatory and punitive damages amounting to more than $1.6 million. 

Adaya denied having discriminated against the group of plaintiffs in her testimony during the trial, and she reiterated her stance in a recent interview with the Journal.

“I didn’t do anything they accused me of,” said Adaya, standing in the main sanctuary at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena after a session at the Muslim Public Affairs Council’s annual conference in December. “Nothing. That’s not who I am.”

Adaya said she was unhappy with the performance by her lawyers during the trial; a new attorney, Steven Huskey, a partner at the firm Epport, Richman & Robbins, is now leading the appeal effort.

“It’s certainly challenging to come in at this stage of the game,” Huskey said. “We think mistakes were made legally and in the pursuit of justice.”

The request for a new trial did not come as a surprise to James Turken, who represented the plaintiffs. “She has an absolute right to an appeal in the state of California,” he said. 

Turken represented the young Jewish plaintiffs on a contingency basis; in December, he filed a motion seeking $2.2 million in attorneys’ fees from Adaya and the hotel. Huskey said he intends to file a motion in opposition to Turken’s.

Despite the pending appeal, plans for a party to be held at the hotel by two Zionist organizations are moving forward.

The party is one of a number of compensatory gestures made by Adaya and the Shangri-La following the verdict. When the Western Region of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) announced plans to stage a protest outside the hotel to express the “outrage” of the Jewish community, the hotel began negotiations with the group, and ZOA called off the protest after Adaya made contributions to two Israeli nonprofits. The hotel also agreed to host a ZOA party within one year.

Although ZOA closed its office in Los Angeles in November and dismissed Orit Arfa, its regional executive director here, Arfa said she is moving ahead with plans for a Purim-themed party on Feb. 24, staged under the banner of a new organization she has established, the Creative Zionist Coalition. ZOA’s Western Region, which is now based in San Francisco, will co-sponsor the event, Arfa said.

Southern California temple is vandalized


A temple in an upscale neighborhood of Long Beach, Calif., was vandalized.

Two-foot tall swastikas and the words “Nazi” were painted in red spray-paint on the front of the Temple Israel building on Monday night. Temple Israel is the oldest Reform synagogue between Los Angeles and San Diego, the Long Beach Post reported.

Long Beach Police Department spokeswoman Nancy Pratt told the newspaper that the incident was being investigated as a hate crime.

The temple had recently completed a yearlong $4.6 million renovation, according to the newspaper.

Alleged vandals charged in New Zealand Jewish cemetery attack


Three men were charged in a New Zealand court with damaging more than 20 Jewish gravestones at a historic cemetery in Auckland.

The suspects, aged 19 to 23, were charged Tuesday in Auckland District Court with willful damage of the graves, some of which date back to the 1880s. Their bail was conditioned on not associating with each other or visiting a Jewish cemetery, synagogue or school. They were ordered to reappear in court next month.

One of the suspects, Nathan Symington, accused police of a “witch hunt” and said that although he was a “small-time criminal,” he was no racist and he'd fight the charge “to the bitter end.” The names of the other two were suppressed by the court.

The vandalism last week included spray-painting swastikas and the number 88, code for “Heil Hitler,” as well as graffiti including “F*** Israel.” The charge carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison. 

The attack drew a chorus of condemnation from Jewish officials, Israel’s ambassador, interfaith leaders and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, whose mother escaped Nazism by fleeing Austria on the eve of the Holocaust. 

French rabbi receives threat to ‘punish’ Jews for complaining


The chief rabbi of Lyon,  Richard Wertenschlag, has received a letter threatening to “punish a Jew for every complaint the Jews make on TV.”

The threat came in a two-page letter delivered to Wertenschlag on Aug. 10. It contained two photos of a concentration camp, according to Dr. Richard Prasquier, president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France, CRIF.

Wertenschlag, who reported the letter to the authorities, opened the letter on Aug. 12, according to CRIF.

The authors of the “small, dense handwritten text” signed with the words “the righteous network.”

They added, “Every time you go on television to complain, a Jew – man, woman, child or family – will be punished.” Further down, the authors wrote: “See you soon at a synagogue, which has already been chosen.”

Wertenschlag called the letter “the expression of anti-Semitic rage and unimaginable hate.”

He said he had received an earlier hate letter in April, which was both “anti-Semitic and anti-Arab,” but decided not to go to police at the time.

Last month French police arrested two youths in Lyon for allegedly attacking a 17-year-old Jewish boy.

The boy is a student at Ozar Hatorah, a Jewish school in Toulouse where, on March 19, a Muslim extremist murdered three children and a rabbi.

Police look into anti-Semitic bullying incident in Northern Ireland


Police in Northern Ireland are investigating claims of anti-Semitic bullying of a boy with Asperger syndrome.

Matthew Lough, 14, told the BBC that he had been bullied at his County Antrim school since revealing during a class on the Holocaust that his great-grandmother was Jewish.

He said one boy was suspended after Lough was hit in the head and knocked to the ground. Police told the BBC on Thursday that they are investigating a March 14 assault.

Others, Lough and his mother told the BBC, have attached swastikas to his school bags and have taunted him with anti-Semitic epithets.

His mother, Sharon Lough, credited the school, Carrickfergus College, with taking swift action, but was concerned at the persistence of the anti-Semitism.

“He has been very unsettled at night-time, having nightmares,” she told the broadcaster. “I would never, ever tell my children not to mention their heritage, because they are so proud of it. I would never deny my Jewish heritage, never.”

Former Phoenix principal sues over gas chamber exhibit


A black Jewish woman is suing the Phoenix school where she formerly served as principal for failing to respond to complaints about a fake gas chamber set up outside her office and then firing her.

Millicent McNeil, who was fired from the Mission Charter School last May 13, filed a $2 million lawsuit in Maricopa County Court claiming that she was underpaid because of her race and religion, and that the school ignored her complaints about the gas chamber, which was part of a Holocaust exhibit, Courthouse News reported.

She alleges that teachers at the K-8 school, saying they were setting up a Holocaust exhibit, made her hallway and office door into an entrance to a faux gas chamber. McNeil says they painted a swastika on the wall outside her door, painted her door black and placed a photo next to the door of a lever that would activate a gas chamber.

McNeil also claims that the teachers wrote “Majdanek Bad Und Desinfektion,” or “Majdanek Bath And Disinfection,” above the door—imitating the sign for gas chambers at the Majdanek concentration camp—and the German word for “women” directly over the door.

Contacted by JTA, a school official had no comment on the case.

Carnival ride’s name upsetting Fla. Holocaust survivors


The name of a ride at a South Florida fair is offending some Holocaust survivors living in the area.

The Zyklon ride at the Broward County Fair conjures up the cyanide gas used in Nazi death camps.

“Of all the names in the world, why do they need to name rides that?” Rita Hofrichter, a Holocaust survivor who works at the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center in Hollywood, Fla., told the Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper. “It’s upsetting to me to come across that as a survivor. I lost my whole family in the gas chambers, particularly in Auschwitz.”

The ride’s owner, Frank Zaitshik of the Michigan-based Wade Shows, said Zyklon is German for cyclone and that the ride was named by its Italian manufacturer, which has since gone out of business.

Zaitshik told the Sun-Sentinel that he has heard the complaint before and now intends to change the ride’s name.

ADL raps Wodka vodka ads for stereotyping


The Anti-Defamation League criticized the New York ad campaign of Wodka vodka for reinforcing anti-Semitic stereotypes.

The ads feature two dogs, one wearing a Santa cap and one wearing a yarmulke with the message “Christmas Quality, Hanukah Pricing.” According to the ADL, the billboards were featured in several locations in New York.

“In a crude and offensive way of trying to make a point that their vodka is high quality and inexpensive, the billboards evoke a Jewish holiday to imply something that is cheap and of lesser value when compared to the higher value of a Christian holiday,”  Ron Meier, ADL’s New York Regional director, said in a statement Tuesday.

“Particularly with the long history of anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews and money, with the age-old notion that Jews are cheap, to use the Jewish holiday in dealing with issues of money is clearly insensitive and inappropriate.”

On Wodka’s website, other ads include a sheep wearing a sombrero with the message “Escort quality, Hooker pricing.”

Postethnic Antisemitism


Just when we thought it was safe to proclaim the mayoral campaign free from the kind of race-baiting that has tainted previous runs for City Hall, we get this bogus automated telephone message, falsely attributed to Republican candidate Steve Soboroff, attesting to his supposed reliance on "Jewish money."

The reference to this particular canard came at the end of the message, probably because its authors — who at press time have remained unknown, thanks to the dearth of regulations governing telephone campaigning — understood that anyone dumb enough to listen to an automated message in its entirety would also be dumb enough to believe that "the Jewish community" is backing any single candidate.

But then, as Gregory Rodriguez, a senior fellow with the nonpartisan New American Foundation in Washington, suggests, there was no dearth of otherwise politically astute Angelenos quick to blame Jewish interests for an earlier telephone attack directed against Antonio Villaraigosa. "Who would have guessed it came from the Morongo Indian tribe?" he remarked to The Journal.

Probably no one, considering how out of whack the playing of the ethnic card has been in this race. There’s the African American community’s Great White Hope, James Hahn.

Between Xavier Becerra and Antonio Villaraigosa, the Latino candidates, Villaraigosa, if polls are to be believed, enjoys as much standing within the Jewish community as among Latinos. This just goes to show, says tribal observer Joel Kotkin, a senior fellow with a Pepperdine University public policy institute, just how wimpy American Jews are when it comes to holding down the communities that have propelled some of its members to office.

"The only places Jews live in this city," he said, "are where their money allows them. Of course, that was also true, traditionally, of New York." Translated, this means that with the exception of maybe Howard Berman’s congressional seat, Jews simply don’t have that many seats left to lose to the Latino electorate. Jews aren’t running as Jews or voting as Jews, and there aren’t that many "Jewish" districts left up for grabs. So why bother attacking Jews as Jews, unless out of habit?

Soboroff, for his part, appealed mainly to more conservative voters and disaffected Valleyites — most of whom cannot be presumed Jewish — while Wachs’ appeal was to the arts crowd, which hardly sounds like a sure-fire ticket to the upper reaches of City Hall, even if there wasn’t a writers’ strike looming. The fact that the race’s two Jewish candidates openly detest each other (not that there is any love lost between former bosom buddies Villaraigosa and Becerra) only muddies the ethnic waters now coursing in the L.A. River.

Since ethnicity doesn’t seem to be the governing factor in anything, except perhaps the incidental outcome of the winner’s personal background, to understand who might benefit from the phony phone-call smear, you’d think we could look instead at who’s bankrolling the candidates. Except that that makes matters even more confusing.

Villaraigosa gets his backing from the AFL-CIO, wealthy Westsiders, and the Sierra Club. It doesn’t make any sense that his supporters would risk alienating the maybe one-third of the Jewish vote that at the time appeared to be going his way. On the other hand, there may be some residual resentment within some fringe elements of the Latino community against his purported brown-nosing of some Jewish interests and power brokers. But members of this fringe group would launch this kind of attack only if they were desperate, which the polls said they shouldn’t be.

As for Hahn, outside of South Central, no one seems to be fired with enthusiasm for his candidacy. This leads us to ask: What percentage is there for an African American attack against a Jewish candidate on behalf of a white guy, when it is clearly the Latino community that outnumbers every other minority community in Los Angeles, including Caucasians?

And as for the Jewish candidates, Soboroff gets his money from his own back pocket, and maybe some of the pickings from mentor Dick Riordan’s table, while Wachs never raised any serious money to speak of. If this is what the perps of this otherwise pernicious phone ad consider Jewish money, they might do better to recall the old folk tale about the cooks who, upon demanding payment for the tantalizing aroma of their food, were rewarded with the clinking of their prospective clients’ coins.

As a brazen newcomer to urban politics, I am probably wrong when I tell you that this telephone ad strikes me as a red herring, the mewling vestiges of a bygone era that no longer resounds in a city so atomized by class and sprawl that, as of last Monday, many people still had no clue whom to vote for or, for that matter, why they should vote at all.

Up until The Phone Calls, there had been, as Jewish Federation Government Relations Committee Chair Lindsay Conner pointed out, "a delightful lack of ethnic appeals in this campaign." Conner added that people, moreover, didn’t seem to be "using race, ethnicity or religion to make their choices."

On the other hand, what may hold for the first part of this election may not survive the run-off. What started as the cowardly, anonymous idea of a few could turn into a full-fledged campaign strategy, unless Tuesday’s winners make a concerted and public effort to disavow the ethnic card. Otherwise, as a responsible journalist, I have to wager that all bets are off.