Islamist terrorists call to attack Israeli delegation and others at Rio Olympics, report says


Islamist terrorists have issued directives to “lone wolves” to carry out attacks against the Israeli delegation and others at the Rio Olympics this summer, according to a news website.

The Foreign Desk reported that a list of directives published on social media advises jihadis to target American, British, French and Israeli athletes, saying “One small knife attack against Americans/Israelis in these places will have bigger media effect than any other attacks anywhere else insha Allah,” meaning “If Allah wills.”

“Your chance to take part in the global Jihad is here! Your chance to be a martyr is here!” the jihadis said, citing the easy process of obtaining visas for travel to Brazil as well as the wide availability of guns in “crime-ridden slums,” according to the report by Lisa Daftari, an investigative journalist specializing in foreign affairs as well as a Fox News analyst.

Israeli athletes are further singled out.

“From among the worst enemies, the most famous enemies for general Muslims is to attack Israelis. As general Muslims all agree to it and it causes more popularity for the Mujahideen among the Muslims,” the jihadis said on social media.

In parallel, Brazilian police on Thursday ordered the detention of 12 people who allegedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group via social media and discussed possible attacks during the games.

Operation “Hashtag” was announced by the justice minister, Alexandre Moraes, on Thursday morning at a news conference in Brasilia. The arrests took place based on Brazil’s new anti-terror law for which Jewish officials had advocated.

“There is only one way to face terrorism with efficiency: prevention,” Fernando Lottenberg, president of the Brazilian Israelite Confederation, told JTA in March.

“The concern with the recruitment network of the Islamic State scattered across Brazilian cities and on the internet has been growing and flagged by specialists. We have met congressmen and federal authorities many times to express the need for such legislation,” he said.

Allegedly members of a group called Defenders of Sharia, those arrested are believed to have been in online contact via social media with members of Islamic State. They are also reported to have discussed the acquisition of AK-47 assault rifles and celebrated the recent terror attacks on Orlando and Nice.

The Rio Olympics begin on Aug. 5. Between 500,000 and 1 million tourists are expected in Brazil’s second largest city, including some 10,000 Israelis coming to see their country’s largest-ever Olympics delegation compete for medals.

British Labour lawmaker who accused Israel envoy of dual loyalties gains senior posts


A British lawmaker who once accused a Jewish ambassador to Israel of dual loyalty will serve as a senior opposition leader.

Paul Flynn, a Labour Party lawmaker from Wales since 1987, was named shadow secretary of state for Wales and shadow leader of the House of Commons this week.

The appointment comes shortly after a report on anti-Semitism within the party saying it is not overrun by anti-Semitism or other forms of racism, but there is an “occasionally toxic atmosphere.” The report’s 20 recommendations did not include permanently banning offenders, but urged party members to be “vigilant against subtler and invidious manifestations” of anti-Semitism.

Labour in recent months has seen the suspension of at least 20 members, including at the senior level, for anti-Semitic hate speech that critics say party leader Jeremy Corbyn is not doing enough to curb.

In 2011, Flynn said that Britain’s ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, “was serving the interests of the Israeli government.”

“I do not normally fall for conspiracy theories, but the ambassador has proclaimed himself to be a Zionist and he has previously served in Iran, in the service,” said Flynn.

Challenged to defend his comments by the Jewish Chronicle, a London-based Jewish newspaper, Flynn said the ambassador to Israel should be “someone with roots in the UK [who] can’t be accused of having Jewish loyalty.”

Flynn’s comments were widely condemned by British officials. He denied the comments were anti-Semitic.

Reaction to the killing of British lawmaker Jo Cox


British lawmaker Jo Cox was shot dead in the street in northern England on Thursday, causing shock across Britain and leading to the suspension of campaigning for next week's referendum on the country's EU membership.

Following is a summary of reaction:

BRENDAN COX, JO'S HUSBAND

“Jo believed in a better world and she fought for it every day of her life with an energy, and a zest for life that would exhaust most people.”

“She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now, one that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her.”

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON

“We have lost a great star. She was a great campaigning MP with huge compassion, with a big heart.”

“It is right that we are suspending campaigning activity in this referendum, and everyone's thoughts will be with Jo's family and her constituents at this terrible time.”

LABOUR PARTY LEADER JEREMY CORBYN

“We've lost a wonderful woman, we've lost a wonderful member of parliament, but our democracy will go on. Her work will go on. As we mourn her memory, we'll work in her memory to achieve that better world she spent her life trying to achieve.”

“Jo died doing her public duty at the heart of our democracy, listening to and representing the people she was elected to serve.”

“In the coming days, there will be questions to answer about how and why she died. But for now all our thoughts are with Jo's husband Brendan and their two young children.”

FINANCE MINISTER GEORGE OSBORNE

“Jo fought to help the refugees from the Syrian civil war – she gave a voice to those whose cry for help was not being heard.”

“It changed attitudes and I know it contributed to a change in policy. She will never know how many lives she helped transform. Today, doing that job, she senselessly lost her own life.”

GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL

“The incident is terrible, dramatic and our thoughts are with the people affected – the Labour lawmakers, the politicians. I don't want to connect this with the vote on Great Britain staying in the European Union.”

FRENCH PRIME MINISTER MANUEL VALLS

“Deeply sad for Jo Cox and the British people. Through her it's our democratic ideals that were targeted. Never accept that!”

DUTCH FINANCE MINISTER JEROEN DIJSSELBLOEM, CHAIRMAN OF GROUP OF EURO ZONE FINANCE MINISTERS

“The UK is a beacon for peaceful politics, and we hope that the British public … can make their democratic choices serenely and in a safe way next week.”

SCOTTISH FIRST MINISTER NICOLA STURGEON

“This is utterly shocking and tragic news, which has left everyone stunned.”

“She was held in huge regard as a brilliant young woman, who had already contributed a huge amount in her time in Parliament, and today she was simply going about her job as a local MP.”

U.S. AMBASSADOR TO BRITAIN MATTHEW BARZUN

“We are heartbroken by the loss to her family and country of MP Jo Cox. My love and our love to them, in this time of unbearable grief.”

FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN GABRIELLE GIFFORDS, WHO SURVIVED SHOOTING IN 2011

“Absolutely sickened to hear of the assassination of Jo Cox. She was young, courageous, and hardworking. A rising star, mother, and wife.”

MAX LAWSON OF CHARITY OXFAM, WHO WORKED CLOSELY WITH COX

“Jo was a diminutive pocket rocket from the north. She was a ball of energy, always smiling, full of new ideas, of idealism, of passion. She gave so much to Oxfam.”

DAVID MILIBAND, FORMER BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY

“People in need around the world have lost a tireless, effective and redoubtable champion today following the murder of Jo Cox MP. Her passionate advocacy, first of all working in NGOs and then in Parliament as an elected representative, on behalf of vulnerable and displaced people was a study in effective activism.”

JOHN CURTICE, POLLING EXPERT AND POLITICS PROFESSOR AT UNIVERSITY OF STRATHCLYDE

“It's fairly clear no one is quite sure what has happened. Until it's clear who was responsible and what their motivation was or it might have been, all it does is stop the campaign when the 'Remain' side probably would not want it to be stopped.”

MUJTABA RAHMAN, EUROPE PRACTICE HEAD AT EURASIA GROUP

“This will hurt the momentum of the 'Leave' campaign, which has been gaining steadily in recent polls.”

“It will allow British Prime Minister David Cameron an opportunity to act like a statesman and retrieve the agenda, something he has lost over the last week.

“If the incident is confirmed to have been motivated by Brexit, it will also reflect poorly on the more strident elements of the Vote Leave campaign, potentially swinging undecided voters towards 'Remain'.”

ALAN RUSKIN, GLOBAL CO-HEAD OF FX RESEARCH AT DEUTSCHE BANK

“Certainly people are talking about the possibility that this does influence the Brexit vote in favor of 'Remain'. It is a tragic event all around. There is a sense, there is an immediate emotional reaction, but there is still a week before the referendum itself.”

“It definitely is seen as part of the story, the recovery of risk. Generally you are seeing so-called riskier assets recover. All the assets, whether equities, aussie/yen or sterling/yen are recovering. They are up on the perception of a higher probability of a 'Remain' vote.”

British teens arrested in theft of Auschwitz artifacts


Two British teenagers were arrested in Poland after police found in their backpacks items believed to be stolen from the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum.

On Monday, museum security guards notified Polish police of the suspected theft of buttons, a fragment of a hair clipper and a piece of a spoon that belonged to prisoners of Birkenau. Police questioned the teens, 17 and 18, with the assistance of a translator.

The teens maintained their innocence, according to Deputy Inspector Mariusz Ciarka of the Malopolska police, but remain in police custody. They are charged with “misappropriation of objects that are artifacts of special cultural significance,” the Krakow Gazette reported.

Ciarka told the local media that the teens do not appear to realize the gravity of their alleged crime and are unfamiliar with “the dramatic history associated with Auschwitz. In contrast, museum staff are particularly sensitive to these types of incidents.”

If found guilty, the teens could be jailed for one to 10 years, though a fine and probation are the more likely punishment.

Islamic State releases video showing beheading of UK hostage David Haines


Islamic State militants fighting in Iraq and Syria released a video on Saturday which purported to show the beheading of British aid worker David Haines.

Reuters could not immediately verify the footage. However, the images were consistent with that of the filmed executions of two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, in the past month.

Haines, a 44-year-old father of two from Perth in Scotland, was kidnapped last year while working for the French agency ACTED.

The video entitled, “A Message to the Allies of America,” opened with UK Prime Minister David Cameron talking about working with the Iraqi government and allied Kurdish Peshmerga forces to defeat Islamic State.

“This British man has to pay the price for your promise, Cameron, to arm the Peshmerga against the Islamic State,” said a masked man dressed in black with a British accent, standing over Haines, who was shown kneeling and wearing an orange jumpsuit.

The video then showed the beheading of the kneeling man.

At the end of the video, another hostage was shown and the masked man said he would be killed if Cameron continues to support the fight against Islamic State.

Cameron condemned the killing and said he would bring the killers to justice.

“This is a despicable and appalling murder of an innocent aid worker. It is an act of pure evil. My heart goes out to the family of David Haines who have shown extraordinary courage and fortitude throughout this ordeal,” he said in a statement released by Downing Street.

“We will do everything in our power to hunt down these murderers and ensure they face justice, however long it takes.”

In Washington, White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said she had no comment on the video and referred queries to the British government.

In the video, Haines also spoke, saying Cameron was responsible for his execution. “You entered voluntarily into a coalition with the United States against the Islamic State, just as your predecessor, Tony Blair, did,” he said.

“Following a trend amongst our British Prime Ministers who can't find the courage to say no to the Americans. Unfortunately, it is we, the British public, that will in the end pay the price for our Parliament's selfish decisions.”

Foley and Sotloff made similar speeches to U.S. President Barack Obama which have been dismissed as scripted by Islamic State and delivered under duress.

The purported executioner appeared to be the same British-accented man who appeared in videos with Foley and Sotloff, and it showed a similar desert setting. In both videos, the captives wore orange jumpsuits.

HELPING VICTIMS

The United States resumed air strikes in Iraq in August for the first time since the withdrawal of the final U.S. troops from the country in 2011.

The raids followed major gains by Islamic State, which has declared an Islamic Caliphate in areas it controls in Syria and Iraq.

Obama is now calling for a coalition of Western and Middle Eastern countries to fight Islamic State and has said the U.S. intends to bomb Islamic State positions in Syria.

Britain has delivered humanitarian aid, carried out surveillance, given weapons to Kurds and promised training in Iraq. On military action, Britain supports U.S. air strikes and Cameron has repeatedly said Britain itself has ruled nothing out except combat troops on the ground.

Haines' family appealed earlier on Saturday to his captors to respond to their messages.

“We are the family of David Haines,” relatives said in a statement released by Britain's Foreign Office.

“We have sent messages to you to which we have not received a reply. We are asking those holding David to make contact with us.”

Paris-based ACTED has previously said Haines had been engaged in humanitarian work since 1999, helping victims of conflicts in the Balkans, Africa and the Middle East and that he was taken hostage in March 2013 in Syria.

Additional reporting by Guy Faulconbridge in London; Editing by Bernard Orr

Kerry to join Iran nuclear talks in bid to reach deal


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will join talks on Iran's contested nuclear program in Geneva on Saturday, as Tehran and six world powers appeared to be on the verge of an elusive breakthrough in the decade-old dispute.

The French, British and German foreign ministers, Laurent Fabius, William Hague and Guido Westerwelle, were also due to take part in intense negotiations on a deal under which Iran would curb its atomic activity in exchange for some relief from economic sanctions.

The announcements came after diplomats in the Swiss city said a major sticking point in the talks, which began on Wednesday, may have been overcome.

Kerry left for Geneva “with the goal of continuing to help narrow the differences and move closer to an agreement,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

The decision was taken after consulting with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is coordinating talks with Iran on behalf of the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany, Psaki said.

Later, deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said that Kerry decided to travel to Geneva “in light of the progress being made” and with “the hope that an agreement will be reached.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in Geneva on Friday evening and met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and with Ashton, a Russian spokeswoman said.

Diplomats said a compromise over Iran's insistence that its “right” to enrich uranium be internationally recognized has been proposed, possibly opening the way to a long-sought breakthrough.

Fabius expressed hope that a deal could be made. France has taken a harder line than other Western powers and repeatedly urged the six-power group not to make too many compromises with Tehran.

“You know our position … it's a position based on firmness, but at the same time a position of hope that we can reach a deal,” Fabius said in Paris.

The United States and other Western powers say there is no such thing as a right to enrich – a process that can yield both electricity and nuclear bombs – but Iran views it as a matter of national sovereignty and crucial to any deal that would resolve the standoff over its nuclear intentions.

The Islamic Republic also wants relief from economic sanctions in return for any nuclear concessions it makes that could allay the West's suspicions that its nuclear fuel-making program has military rather than its stated civilian goals.

Foreign ministers from the six nations negotiating with Iran waded into the previous talks on November 7-9 and came close to winning concessions from Iran, which they count on to reduce the risk of Iran achieving a nuclear weapons capability.

POLITICALLY CHARGED DETAILS

In the days running up to the talks, policymakers from the six powers said an interim accord on confidence-building steps could be within reach to start a cautious process of detente with Iran and banish the specter of a wider Middle East war.

Under discussion is Iranian suspension of some sensitive nuclear activities, above all medium-level uranium enrichment. Sanctions relief offered in return could involve releasing some Iranian funds frozen in foreign bank accounts and allowing trade in precious metals, petrochemicals and aircraft parts.

The United States might also agree to relax pressure on other countries not to buy Iranian oil. Tehran has made clear it wants more significant diluting of the sanctions blocking its oil exports and its use of the international banking system.

Diplomacy on Tehran's nuclear aspirations has revived remarkably since the election of Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate, as president in June on promises of winning sanctions relief and diminishing Iran's international isolation.

The sides have struggled to wrap up a deal, however, bogged down in politically vexed details and hampered by long-standing mutual mistrust.

In Geneva, last-minute discussions wrapped up around midnight on Friday as diplomats from the six powers, the EU and Iran sought to work out an agreement.

Diplomats said new, compromise language being discussed did not explicitly recognize a right to produce nuclear fuel by any country. “If you speak about the right to a peaceful nuclear program, that's open to interpretation,” a diplomat told Reuters without elaborating.

No other details were available, but Zarif, Tehran's chief negotiator, said earlier in the day that significant headway had been made even though three or four “differences” remained.

The fate of Iran's Arak heavy-water reactor project – a potential source of an alternative bomb material, plutonium – and the extent of sanctions relief were among the other stumbling blocks, diplomats said.

The OPEC producer rejects suspicions it is covertly trying to develop the means to produce nuclear weapons, saying it is stockpiling nuclear material for future atomic power plants.

SENATE SANCTIONS PUSH

A senior European diplomat told reporters earlier that foreign ministers of the six states would come to Geneva only if there was a deal to sign. “We have made progress, including core issues,” the diplomat said.

Zarif and Ashton met throughout the day on Friday to try to narrow the remaining gaps.

Israel continued its public campaign of criticizing the offer of sanctions rollbacks for Iran, voicing its conviction that all it would achieve would be more time for Iran to master nuclear technology and amass potential bomb fuel.

“I think right now the international community … has all the leverage to roll back its (Iran's) nuclear making capacities,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Channel Rossia in Moscow.

“It's a pity, just when they have this maximum leverage, that they're backing off and essentially giving Iran an unbelievable Christmas present – the capacity to maintain this breakout capability for practically no concessions at all,” he said.

For the powers, an interim deal would mandate a halt to Iran's enrichment of uranium to a purity of 20 percent – a major technical step towards the bomb threshold, more sweeping U.N. nuclear inspections in Iran and an Arak reactor shutdown.

The United States has only limited flexibility during the talks, however, because of skepticism in the U.S. Congress about the benefits of cutting any deal with Tehran.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on Thursday he was committed to pursuing a tougher Iran sanctions bill when the Senate returns from a recess early next month – even though President Barack Obama has warned that could derail diplomacy in Geneva.

If a preliminary agreement is reached for a six-month suspension of some of Iran's most sensitive nuclear activity, the six powers and Tehran will use that time to hammer out a broader and longer-term accord.

Additional reporting by Justyna Pawlak, Fredrik Dahl and John Irish in Geneva, Marcus George in Dubai, Steve Gutterman in Moscow, Allyn Fisher in Jerusalem, Hortense de Roffignac in Paris, Arshad Mohammed and Lesley Wroughton in Washington; Editing by Mark Heinrich, Giles Elgood, Jackie Frank and Eric Walsh

Kenya widens mall attack probe, alert for UK ‘White Widow’


Interpol issued a wanted persons alert at Kenya's request on Thursday for a British woman who has been cited by British police as a possible suspect in the attack on a Nairobi shopping mall that killed at least 72 people.

The alert was issued as Kenyan police broadened the investigation into the weekend raid by the al Qaeda-aligned Somali al Shabaab group, the worst such assault since the U.S. Embassy was bombed in the capital by al Qaeda in 1998.

Interpol – which has joined agencies from Britain, the United States, Israel and others in the Kenyan investigation of the wrecked mall – did not say when Nairobi requested a so-called “red alert” notice for Samantha Lewthwaite, 29.

The widow of one of the suicide bombers who attacked London's transport system in 2005 is believed to have evaded arrest two years ago in the port city of Mombasa, where she is wanted in connection with a plot to bomb hotels and restaurants.

Interpol's “red alert” cites the previous 2011 plot.

Police in Mombasa, a tourist hub, said they were also tracking four suspected militants, following the siege of the swanky Westgate mall in Nairobi which militants stormed on Saturday armed with assault rifles and grenades.

The mall attack has demonstrated the reach of al Shabaab beyond Somalia, where Kenyan troops have joined other African forces, driving the group out of major urban areas, although it still controls swathes of the countryside.

Al Shabaab stormed the mall to demand Kenya pull its troops out, which President Uhuru Kenyatta has ruled out.

Many details of the assault are unclear, including the identity of the attackers who officials said numbered about a dozen. Speculation that Lewthwaite, dubbed the “White Widow” in the British press, was triggered by witness accounts that one of raiders was a white woman.

FORENSIC WORK

But Kenya's government and Western officials have cautioned that they cannot confirm the reports she was involved, or even that there were any women participants in the raid.

The government said five of the attackers were killed, along with at least 61 civilians and six security personnel.

Eleven suspects have been arrested in relation to the attack, but it is not clear if any took part.

Although the Red Cross lists 71 missing people, the government said it does not expect a big rise in the death toll.

Part of the Westgate mall collapsed in the siege, burying some bodies and hindering investigations, although forensic experts have started work while soldiers search for explosives. Officials said some blasts on Thursday were controlled ones.

“The army are still in there with the forensic teams,” said one senior police officer near the mall.

Mombasa police said they were tracking a network of suspects linked to al Shabaab in the coastal region, home to many of Kenya's Muslims, who make up about 10 percent of the nation's 40 million people. Most Kenyans are Christians.

“We have four suspects within Mombasa who we are closely watching. They came back to the country after training in Somalia,” country police commander Robert Kitur told Reuters.

Another counter-terrorism officer, who asked not to be named, also said four suspects were being tracked and added that two well-armed suspected militants killed in an August operation could have been planning a similar attack in Mombasa.

“I will be surprised if they don't link the Nairobi attackers to those terrorists we killed in Mombasa,” he added.

DENTED IMAGE

The mall attack has dented Kenya's image as a tourist destination, damaging a vital source of revenues. But rating agency Moody's said that although the attack was “credit negative” it would not affect foreign direct investment or a planned Kenyan Eurobond later this year.

In 1998, al Qaeda bombed the U.S. Embassy, an attack that killed more than 200 people. Since then, Kenya has faced other smaller attacks, many claimed by al Shabaab, particularly along the border region next to Somalia.

On Thursday, al Shabaab claimed responsibility for killing two policemen in an assault on a administrative post in Mandera county next to Somalia. The border has been closed.

Experts say the insecure border has allowed Kenyan sympathizers of al Shabaab to cross into Somalia for training.

“They are coming back because our armed forces destroyed their training ground there,” said Kitur.

The coastal region also has been the target of attacks by a separatist movement, the Mombasa Republican Council, although that group has long denied it has connections with al Shabaab.

Additional reporting by James Macharia, Duncan Miriri, Richard Lough, Kevin Mwanza and Edmund Blair in Nairobi, Joseph Akwiri in Mombasa and Carolyn Cohn in London and Alexandria Sage in Paris; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Angus MacSwan

Hollywood and the Nazis: Two historians, two opinions


The study of history never lends itself to a single unambiguous view of the past.  For history is, as the British scholar E.H. Carr observed in his famous 1961 book “What is History?” “a continuous process of interaction between the historian and his facts, an unending dialogue between the past and the present.”

One of the most important consequences of this dialogue is that historians often advance widely divergent interpretations of significant events, whether it be the question of whether the Exodus occurred, what caused the French Revolution or which factors led to the flight of Palestinian Arabs in 1948. At times, scholars use the same body of historical sources and still arrive at different conclusions. A good case in point was a pair of books published by Christopher Browning and Daniel Goldhagen in 1992 and 1996, respectively.  Relying not only on the same historical subject — the brutally murderous German Reserve Police Battalion that killed scores of thousands of Jews during World War II — but also the same archival files, the two researchers drew very different conclusions. Browning titled his book “Ordinary Men” to indicate that the behavior of the police battalion was not the function of a particular German way of being, but a reflection of the capacity for evil deeds inhering in the human condition at large. Goldhagen, for his part, subtitled his book “Ordinary Germansto convey his view that a uniquely German “eliminationist” anti-Semitism motivated the police battalion.

We are reminded of the manifold possibilities of historical interpretation — and of the question of how we ourselves might act in trying circumstances — in the current controversy surrounding an historical topic with particular resonance here in Los Angeles: the relationship between Hollywood movie studios and the Nazis. In his new book “The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler,” Ben Urwand, a junior faculty at Harvard’s prestigious Society of Fellows, issues a stinging bill of indictment against the largely Jewish studio heads in Hollywood for placing economic gain above morality or a sense of compassion for their co-religionists in Germany during the increasingly dire 1930s. Danielle Berrin’s report on the book in the Jewish Journal from more than a month ago captures the sensational claim of the book: “Hollywood’s Deal With the Devil (Hitler).”

In making his case, Urwand relies on a wide trove of published and unpublished sources, especially German government files, to maintain that the studio heads capitulated to Nazi censorship of one movie script after another in order to preserve a foothold in the lucrative German market. There was at work, Urwand suggests, an unsettling alliance of interests among the studio heads, the movie industry’s own guardian of propriety, the Hays Office, and the German Propaganda Ministry, not to mention subservient American Jewish organizations. The overall thrust of the book’s argument follows a wider narrative arc about American Jewish passivity during the second world war that was forcefully promoted in the 1940s by the Jewish activist Peter Bergson (né Hillel Kook). This is not surprising, as Bergson emerges as a heroic foil to the studio heads late in Urwand book, alongside the writer Ben Hecht.   

One cannot dismiss Urwand’s evidence about the opportunism of studio heads vis-à-vis the German film market, especially in the mid-930s. But neither must one buy into the image of them as greed-filled collaborators blithely indifferent to the fate of fellow Jews. Nor should one assume that all American-Jewish organizations and leaders spoke in the same, muted voice about Nazism.  Urwand’s perspective in covering this terrain is tendentious, at times coarsely drawn and, above all, partial.  

The partial nature of his account becomes clear when encountering a very different perspective on the same period and some of the same actors.  Professor Steven Ross, the USC historian perhaps best known for his “Hollywood Left and Right: How Movie Stars Shaped American Politics(2011), is at work on a book that moves the current of historical action in the opposite direction. Rather than focusing on the efforts of Hollywood moguls to preserve market share in Germany, he has uncovered, through a rich body of archival sources at California State University, Northridge, a terrifying scheme by Nazi officials and local sympathizers to engage in mass terror here in Los Angeles in the 1930s. Chief among their goals was a plan to assassinate 20 leading Hollywood Jews, including Louis B. Mayer and Jack Warner — who are cast in Urwand’s book as enthusiastic supporters of “the collaboration” from which his book gets its title.  

Ross and Urwand do have some overlapping themes and figures in their accounts, but the emphases differ greatly.  Take, for example, Germany’s Consul General in Los Angeles, Georg Gyssling. For Urwand, Gyssling is the key figure in the Nazi propaganda effort in Hollywood, threatening and cajoling studio heads to remove any references to Germany or Jews, avoid any condemnation of fascism, and even eliminate Jewish actors and directors from films — lest they be subjected to Article 15 of the German film code that would entail their companies’ removal from the German market.  

For Ross, Gyssling is the more public yet benign face of Joseph Goebbels’ efforts to conquer Hollywood. Far more dangerous was Gyssling’s rival, Hermann Schwinn, the leader of Los Angeles’ growing Nazi party in the 1930s.  It was Schwinn who presided over a loose group of Nazis and fascists that gathered at the Deutsches Haus in downtown Los Angeles. Out of this local group emerged the plan to murder 20 leading Jewish figures from Hollywood. And out of this group emanated a scheme to hang 20 leading Jewish and civic figures in Los Angeles before driving to Boyle Heights to gun down Jews at random.

As shocking as this series of plots may seem, Ross has uncovered an even more remarkable twist. The Nazis’ plans in Los Angeles were foiled by a group of undercover spies led by one Leon Lewis, a Jewish communal activist and founder of the Community Committee, later known as the Community Relations Committee (CRC). Lewis makes a fleeting appearance in Urwand’s book, but he is a main protagonist in Ross’ forthcoming work. Beginning in 1933, Lewis assembled and ran a team of undercover agents, Jews and non-Jews, who infiltrated and then disabled the L.A.-based Nazi cell.  It was he whom Gyssling accused of spreading the most pernicious anti-German propaganda. And it was he who came to be regarded by the Nazis as “the most dangerous Jew in Los Angeles.”  

By excavating Lewis’ story, Ross is revealing a previously unknown facet of the complex triangle of Hollywood, Jews and Nazism. He is also offering a very different narrative lens through which to observe this triangle than the one used by Urwand in “The Collaboration.” Ross’ story is not a tale of Jewish indifference or betrayal, but of courage and daring, at least in the case of Lewis.   

And yet, it would be a mistake to depict all as black or white in Ross’ history.  With respect to the Jewish studio heads, themselves targets of the ill-fated assassination plot, he acknowledges that they continued to do business and curry favor with the Germans as late as 1939. At the same time, they provided critical financial support for Lewis’ anti-Nazi spy ring. Their legacy, in this regard, is mixed, neither heroic nor demonic.

And so we are left with two strands of the history of Hollywood and Nazi Germany, each based on extensive archival research, as well as the distinctive interpretive proclivities of two historians. While the great French scholar Lucien Febvre believed it possible to attain l’histoire totale, a total history, a complete understanding of any given historical moment, in all its fullness, forever evades us. Ross’ account of the anti-Nazi spy ring rounds out and balances the harsh judgment of the Jewish movie moguls in Urwand’s book, presenting an important and fascinating corrective, though not — indeed, never — the final word.


David N. Myers is a professor of Jewish history and chair of the UCLA History Department.

Prince William’s wife Kate gives birth to baby boy


Prince William's wife Kate gave birth on Monday to a boy, who becomes third in line to the British throne, ending weeks of feverish speculation about the royal baby.

The couple's first child was born at 4:24 p.m. (11:24 a.m. E), weighing 8 lbs and 6 oz. His name will be announced at a later date but bookmakers favor George and James.

“Her Royal Highness and her child are both doing well and will remain in hospital overnight,” said a statement from the Royal Household, which sidestepped tradition to announce the birth with a press release.

“The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Harry and members of both families have been informed and are delighted with the news,” it read.

[Related: Jews and the Royal Baby]

As the birth was announced, a loud cheer went up from the well-wishers and media gathered outside St. Mary's Hospital in west London.

The couple arrived at the hospital at around dawn on Monday, dodging the pack of world media camped outside the main entrance by using an unmarked car and entering through a side door.

The Royal Household said the medical staff present for the birth were the former queen's gynecologist Marcus Setchell, obstetrician Guy Thorpe-Beeston, and consultant neonatologist Sunit Godambe.

Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith; Editing by Kevin Liffey

India-born British-Jewish artist Kapoor is knighted


Anish Kapoor, a British-Jewish artist, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

Kapoor, a native of Mumbai, India, was recognized recently for his services to the visual arts as part of the queen’s birthday honors list for 2013.

Kapoor, 59, is the son of a Hindu father and Jewish mother. His grandfather was a cantor at a synagogue in Pune, India, according to the Jewish Chronicle.

He lived for two years in the 1970s with his brother on a kibbutz in Israel, where he discovered his talent for art, particularly sculpture. He then returned to Britain to attend art school.

Kapoor has received numerous international honors. Many of his works are made from polished stainless steel and are on display around the world.

In 2010, he completed a work commissioned for the Israel Museum in Jerusalem called “Turning the World Upside Down, Jerusalem.”

Poll: 45 percent of Britons favor banning shechitah


About 45 percent of 1,900 Britons polled favored banning Jewish ritual slaughter and 38 percent said they favored banning nonmedical circumcision.

In the poll, which was conducted last week by the YouGov polling agency for The Jewish Chronicle of London, 45 percent of respondents backed banning ritual slaughter, known as shechitah. Another 28 percent said they were undecided and 27 percent opposed such a ban.

When asked about “male circumcision for religious reasons,” 38 percent supported a ban, 35 percent opposed a ban and 27 percent were undecided, The Jewish Chronicle reported this week.

Among 18-24 year-olds, 41 percent would ban both nonmedical circumcision in underage boys and ritual slaughter of animals for food.

Attack on British soccer fans in France appears to be anti-Semitic


Fans of the British soccer team the Tottenham Spurs were targeted in an apparent anti-Semitic attack at a pub in Lyon, France.

A mob of about 50 entered the Smoking Dog on Wednesday night making a Nazi salute before smashing doors and throwing chairs and other objects.

There were about 150 Spurs fans in the pub, which is popular with British expatriates in France, according to the British newspaper The Guardian. Three Spurs fans were injured.

The Spurs traditionally have had a large Jewish support base in London, which is sometimes referred to as the “Yid Army.”

A Lyon newspaper described the attackers as skinheads, according to the Guardian.

Tottenham was scheduled to play Olympique Lyonnais in a Europa League game on Thursday.

In November, some 50 assailants wielding cobblestones, metal bars and knives attacked British Spurs' fans and trashed a pub in Rome's Campo de' Fiori square. One British fan was stabbed in the incident.

Pakistani girl shot by Taliban leaves British hospital


A Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban for advocating girls' education has been discharged from a British hospital after doctors said she was well enough to spend time recovering with her family.

Fifteen-year-old Malala Yousufzai, who was shot by the Taliban in October and brought to Britain for treatment, was discharged on Thursday but is due to be re-admitted in late January or early February for reconstructive surgery to her skull, doctors said.

The shooting of Yousufzai, in the head at point blank range as she left school in the Swat valley, drew widespread international condemnation.

She has become a an internationally recognized symbol of resistance to the Taliban's efforts to deny women education and other rights, and more than 250,000 people have signed online petitions calling for her to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for her activism.

Doctors at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham where Yousufzai was treated said that although the bullet hit her left brow, it did not penetrate her skull but instead travelled underneath the skin along the side of her head and into her neck.

She was treated by doctors specializing in neurosurgery, trauma and other disciplines in a department of the hospital which has treated hundreds of soldiers wounded in conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Malala is a strong young woman and has worked hard with the people caring for her to make excellent progress in her recovery,” said Dave Rosser, the hospital's medical director.

“Following discussions with Malala and her medical team, we decided that she would benefit from being at home.”

Yousufzai has already been leaving the hospital on a regular basis on “home leave” in recent weeks to spend time with her parents and younger brothers, who have a temporary home in central England, Rosser said.

“During those visits assessments have been carried out by her medical team to ensure she can continue to make good progress outside the hospital,” Rosser said.

Yousufzai's father said in October he was sure she would “rise again” to pursue her dreams after medical treatment.

Editing by Robin Pomeroy

Hebrew to be nixed as foreign language in U.K. schools


The British government reportedly is planning to exclude Hebrew from a list of recognized foreign languages in the national education system.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews warned last week that the exclusion of Hebrew could damage Jewish education in the country, the Jewish Chronicle reported.

Education Minister Elizabeth Truss announced plans last month to make it compulsory, from September 2014, to teach a foreign language to children aged 7 to 11. Schools would be required to offer at least one of only seven recognized languages, which excludes Hebrew, the newspaper reported.

Many Jewish primary schools, which include Jewish studies alongside the national curriculum, offer Hebrew as the only foreign language. According to the Board of Deputies, the schools would find it impossible to continue teaching Hebrew if compelled to offer another foreign language as well.

Laura Marks, the board's senior vice president, told the Jewish Chronicle that the government proposal could be “extremely detrimental to our community’s identity.” Language, including modern and classical Hebrew, is “a vital ingredient to understanding our faith and culture,” she said.

Marks urged the government “to reject the idea of stipulating just a narrow range of languages.”

British soccer fans again face anti-Semitic chants


Fans of a popular British soccer club spewed anti-Semitic taunts and chants at fans of a second British club whose fans are sometimes referred to as the “Yid Army.”

West Ham United fans on Sunday sang anti-Semitic songs about Adolf Hitler to supporters of the home team, the Tottenham Hotspurs, and referred to the stabbing last week in Italy of a Spurs fan by a West Ham fan.

“Can we stab you every week?” and “Adolf Hitler's coming to get you,” the West Ham Fans chanted during the game.

The Spurs traditionally have had a large Jewish support base in London.

The Community Security Trust, British Jewry's watchdog group on anti-Semitism and hate crimes, and its security agency called on the Football Association, the governing body of soccer in England, to take action in the wake of the anti-Semitic chanting.

The Community Security Trust sits on the Football Association's working group tackling Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in Football. The Trust plans to introduce a discussion on how campaigns against racism in soccer can be fully extended to include anti-Semitism.

“The days of English football crowds making mass monkey noises are thankfully gone, but massed anti-Semitic chanting about Hitler and gassing was clearly heard yesterday from a loud section of West Ham fans,” said Community Security Trust spokesman Mark Gardner. “We have heard such abuse against Spurs before and it risks seriously compromising the work against racism at all levels of the game.”

Several people at the match and others who heard about the chants via the media lodged complaints with the Trust.

BBC correspondent slammed for ‘Jewish lobby’ tweet


The umbrella organization of British Jewry criticized the BBC's correspondent in Washington for referring to the “Jewish lobby” in a tweet about the U.S. election.

Katty Kay used the term in a question-and-answer session on Twitter, raising the ire of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

Kay was asked by a tweeter late last month why U.S presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney became defensive when their commitment to Israel was questioned. She replied, “US sees #Israel as key ally in MidEast but no one running for Pres wants to alienate the power and money of the Jewish lobby.”

Board of Deputies head Jon Benjamin told the British newspaper The Jewish Chronicle that the reporter’s “loose use of language really has to be seen in a context where support for America’s key ally in the Middle East is cynically questioned — and the motives of Israel’s supporters are seen as suspect.”

A BBC spokesman told the newspaper that Kay's “primary point in responding was that the U.S. regards Israel as a key ally in the Middle East and also recognizes the importance and influence of this relationship on the voting.”

Abbas hints has no ‘right of return’ to home in Israel


Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made a rare if symbolic concession to Israel on Thursday, saying he had no permanent claim on the town from which he was driven as a child during the 1948 war of the Jewish state's founding.

Among several disputes deadlocking Middle East peace talks has been the Palestinians' demand that as many as five million of their compatriots be granted the right to return to lands in Israel that they or their kin lost.

Israel rules this out, fearing an influx of Arabs that would eliminate its Jewish majority, and argues the refugees should resettle in a future Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, territories it occupied in the 1967 war.

Speaking to the top-rated Israeli television newscast, Abbas was asked whether he wanted to live in Safed, his boyhood town in the Galilee region of what had been British-ruled Palestine and is now northern Israel.

“I visited Safed before once. But I want to see Safed. It's my right to see it, but not to live there,” Abbas told Channel 2, speaking in English from the West Bank city of Ramallah.

“Palestine now for me is '67 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. This is now and forever … This is Palestine for me. I am (a) refugee, but I am living in Ramallah. I believe that (the) West Bank and Gaza is Palestine and the other parts (are) Israel.”

Abbas has defied Israel and the United States by planning to ask the U.N. General Assembly to upgrade the Palestinians to a non-member state. Facing possible punitive Israeli and U.S. sanctions, Abbas has promised an immediate return to peace talks after the U.N. vote, which the Palestinians are likely to win.

The televised remarks, which were excoriated by Abbas's Palestinian Islamist rivals, also appeared aimed at influencing Israelis ahead of their January 22 legislative election.

Polls currently predict an easy win for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a rightist who says he wants to restart talks with Abbas but who has championed Jewish settlement of East Jerusalem and the West Bank – the reason the Palestinians gave for breaking off the last round of negotiations in 2010.

“NO THIRD ARMED INTIFADA”

Some Netanyahu government officials have voiced skepticism about Abbas's ability to deliver a peace accord, after he lost control of Gaza – from which Israel withdrew in 2005 – to Hamas Islamists in a brief civil war two years later.

On Channel 2, Abbas sought to play up his security control over Palestinian-run areas of the West Bank, saying that as long as he was in power “there will no armed, third armed Intifada (revolt against Israel). Never.”

“We don't want to use terror. We don't want to use force. We don't want to use weapons. We want to use diplomacy. We want to use politics. We want to use negotiations. We want to use peaceful resistance. That's it.”

Netanyahu's office had no immediate comment on the interview, which was aired as the prime minister returned from a visit to France. Israel has long blamed Abbas for the stalled diplomacy, saying his insistence it freeze settlements – which are widely viewed as illegal abroad – amounted to preconditions.

Paul Hirschson, a spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry, said the onus remained on Abbas to return to negotiations:

“If he (Abbas) wants to see Safed, or anywhere else in Israel, for that matter, we would happily show him anywhere. But there has to be a desire to move forward on the peace process.”

As Abbas is not an Israeli citizen, Hirschson added, “he doesn't have a right to live in Israel. We agree on that.”

In Gaza, Hamas denounced Abbas, saying he spoke only for himself. The Islamist movement does not recognize Israel and has regularly exchanged fire with it.

“No Palestinian would accept ceding the right of our people to return to homes, villages and towns from which they were displaced,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.

“If Abu Mazen (Abbas) does not want Safed, Safed would be honored not to host people like him.”

Secret Palestinian memoranda leaked to the media last year showed that Abbas had, during talks with the previous, centrist Israeli government, been willing to concede on some core demands – including by accepting a cap on refugees admitted to Israel.

Under Netanyahu, Israel has campaigned for the hundreds of thousands of Jews who it took in from Arab countries after the 1948 war to be recognized as refugees, proposing they be seen as a demographic counter-balance to dispossessed Palestinians.

(Additional reporting by Noah Browning in Ramallah and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Rosalind Russell)

Gambling British haredim blamed for spate of burglaries


Gambling debts among haredi Orthodox British Jews spurred a spate of burglaries in Jewish homes and institutions, The Jewish Chronicle reported.

The London-based newspaper quoted Police Det. Allen Windsor as saying that “there have been a large number of burglaries at Jewish properties for a long time, but recently we have identified members of the Jewish community carrying out burglaries at communal buildings.”

On Thursday, the Chronicle reported that a recent break-in at the city’s Beth Shmuel Synagogue was attributable to gambling debts. Police arrested three Jewish suspects aged 17 to 19, and they admitted to breaking and entering the synagogue and taking keys to a car parked nearby.

Other incidents included the theft of a car and the robbery last year at the home of a Jewish charity director.  The alleged car thief is said to have been planning to use the proceeds to feed his gambling addiction, while the alleged burglar owed $48,000 to an Israeli gang, the paper said.

The Chronicle also reported that a 23-year-old London Jewish man will stand trial next month after denying four charges of burgling a Jewish primary school.

Rabbi Chanan Tomlin of the United Kingdom's Kids Trust charity said there was a “significant” gambling problem among strictly Orthodox communities in Manchester.

“Poker is a problem among yeshiva students,” he said. “There is a poker culture among these young Jews. Some of them are going to casinos and some are addicted to scratch cards.”

British politician slammed London ex-mayor for ‘rich Jews’ quote


Douglas Alexander, a former British government minister, has criticized former London mayor Ken Livingstone for allegedly saying Jews won't vote for Britain's Labor Party because they are rich.

“It’s not our politics to try and divide voters into blocs,” Alexander told London's Evening Standard with regards to Livingstone. Both men belong to Labor, which held its national conference in Manchester on Sept. 29.

“When I saw his remarks about the Jewish community in London in particular, I didn’t just think it was ill-advised, I thought it was wrong,” Alexander was quoted as saying in the article, which was published on Sept. 28.

In March, prominent Labor-supporting Jewish Londoners complained to party leader Ed Miliband about Livingstone.

Livingstone, they wrote, had “stated that he did not expect the Jewish community to vote Labour as votes for the left are inversely proportional to wealth levels, and suggested that as the Jewish community is rich we simply wouldn't vote for him.”

Livingstone has since said the letter was a “tissue of lies” and that his comments had been misunderstood.

British Jewry rips Church of England’s vote to support ‘inflammatory’ pro-Palestinian program


Britain’s organized Jewish community slammed the Church of England’s General Synod for endorsing an “inflammatory and partisan” pro-Palestinian program.

The Synod on Tuesday passed a motion to support “the vital work” of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel. The program brings church volunteers to the West Bank to “experience life under occupation” for three to four months, spending about one week inside the internationally recognized borders of Israel.

Participants are asked to lobby on behalf of the Palestinians upon their return.

The British Board of Deputies, British Jewry’s umbrella organization, issued a statement Tuesday ripping the vote.

“The Church of England has a duty to examine the situation in the Middle East in a balanced way,” the board wrote. “Instead, by passing this motion, it has chosen to promote an inflammatory and partisan program at the expense of its interfaith relations. Justifying its decision using the views of marginal groups in Israel and the UK, the Synod has ridden roughshod over the very real and legitimate concerns of the UK Jewish community, showing a complete disregard for the importance of Anglican-Jewish relations.”

The statement went to say, “Moreover, to hear the debate at Synod littered with references to ‘powerful lobbies’, the money expended by the Jewish community, ‘Jewish-sounding names’ and the actions of the community ‘bringing shame on the memory of victims of the Holocaust’, is deeply offensive and raises serious questions about the motivation of those behind this motion.”

The Times of Israel quoted the bishop of Manchester, the Right Rev. Nigel McCullouch, chairman of the British interfaith group the Council of Christians and Jews, as saying that lobbying efforts on the part of the Jewish community to prevent the passage of the motion may have backfired, causing more delegates to vote for the motion, which passed with 201 bishops, clergy and laity voting in favor, 54 voting against and 93 abstaining.

McCullouch told the Times of Israel that the fact that so many abstained is “very significant.”

“It was not an overwhelming endorsement by the Church of England,” the bishop said.

British exam board criticized for question on prejudice against Jews


One of Britain’s leading exam boards is facing criticism for asking high school students to explain why there is prejudice against Jews.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has condemned an exam question in which students were asked in a religious studies test, “Explain, briefly, why some people are prejudiced against Jews.”

More than 1,000 students took the may 25 exam given by the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance, or AQA, one of three major English exam boards.

The exam boards create the test questions, grade the exams and distribute the results. 

“To suggest that anti-Semitism can ever be explained rather than condemned is insensitive and, frankly, bizarre,” Gove told the Jewish Chronicle. “AQA needs to explain how and why this question was included in an exam paper.”

According to AQA’s spokesperson, the relevant part of the syllabus covers prejudice and discrimination with reference to race, religion and the Jewish experience of persecution.

“We would expect [students to refer] to the Holocaust to illustrate prejudice based on irrational fear, ignorance and scapegoating,” AQA’s spokesperson told the Jewish Chronicle.

British TV looking for ‘ultimate Jewish mother’


A British television station is searching for the “ultimate Jewish mother” for a new series.

The four-part “Jewish Mum of the Year” series on Channel 4, which is being filmed in collaboration with The Jewish News of Britain, will air in the fall.

Contestants reportedly will be judged on their skills in cooking, homemaking, matchmaking, party planning and how well they know their children. The search reportedly will focus on large Jewish communities in Glasgow, Manchester, Leeds, Essex and London.

“The competition will seek out the traditional, the overbearing, the cheek-pinching and the charming,” Channel 4 said in a statement, according to The Guardian. “The winner is out there somewhere in the land of the Jewish princess and the over-pampered bar mitzvah boys, and no streudel will be left unturned in this quest to find the perfect Jewish mum. It’s a television show with a heart of gold.”

Channel 4 has been criticized in the past for shows that stereotype, including “Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.”

British peer quits party post after anti-Israel comment


British peer Jenny Tonge resigned as party whip of the Liberal Democrats after saying that Israel would not survive for long in its present form.

Tonge’s remarks, made at a meeting last week at Middlesex University, included the observation that the American people would soon “get sick” of the billions their government sends annually “to support what I call America’s aircraft carrier in the Middle East—that is Israel.” Party leader Nick Clegg called on Tonge to apologize, but Tonge refused and resigned instead, the Guardian reported.

“The comments I made have been taken completely out of context,” Tonge said. “They followed a very ill-tempered meeting in which Zionist campaigners attempted continually to disrupt proceedings. They mouthed obscenities at the panelists, to the extent that university security attempted to remove them from the premises.”

Tonge has a well-known history of making inflammatory comments about Israel. In 2004, as a member of Parliament, she was fired as the children’s spokeswomen of the Liberal Democrats after she said she might consider becoming a suicide bomber if she were forced to endure the same conditions as Palestinians.

In 2006, she said, “The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the Western world, its financial grips.” That comment also was condemned by the party leadership.

Tonge’s most recent remarks were first disclosed by the Guido Fawkes website and rapidly condemned across the British political spectrum. Clegg said they were “wrong and offensive.” John Woodcock, a Labour parliamentarian, called them “outrageous” and urged Clegg to take disciplinary action.

A Jewish housemaid in England at wartime


Natasha Solomons is a British writer whose first novel, published in the United States in 2010 as “Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English,” should have received a wider readership. Inspired by the experience of the author’s grandparents, European Jews who fled Nazism for safety in England, that novel focused largely on the challenges and conflicts of assimilation. In the recently published “The House at Tyneford” (Plume, $15), Solomons returns to the Jewish refugee experience in England in the 1930s. If the plot of “The House at Tyneford” is perhaps less compelling than that of its predecessor, the novel nonetheless reflects its author’s prodigious talents and imparts another historical tale that merits readers’ attention.

“The House at Tyneford” opens in Vienna in the spring of 1938, just before Elise Landau, 19, is to leave for England, where she has found a position as a housemaid in Dorset. It will be a difficult adjustment for Elise not only because she has grown up in an affluent household with staff of its own—her mother is an acclaimed opera singer and her father an avant-garde novelist—but also because she will be leaving Vienna alone. Her parents are still trying to arrange their own immigration to New York, and her older sister, Margot, will soon leave with for northern California with her husband, an astronomer who “had been fired from the university [in Vienna] a week after the Anschluss” but has located an academic post in America.

Soon enough, Elise arrives in England. Solomons’ writing shines when it comes to setting and sensory detail, and she makes it easy for us to visualize her protagonist’s new home. Here, for instance, is Elise’s description of one memorable Sunday not long after her arrival:

I took a deep breath and filled my lungs with summer. The air was laced with the fragrance of a thousand wildflowers, and the sunlight made the snapdragons and foxgloves in the cottage shine vermillion pink. The entire countryside was smeared with color; the sky a bold, throbbing blue and beneath it the meadows sprinkled with buttercups, shining like gold coins. Back then, I didn’t know the names of the flowers—they came later—but now instead of patches of orange and yellow petals, I recall cowslips and creeping jenny. In the distance the sea sparkled and glittered, white spray crashing on the shore.

In commendable ways, “The House at Tyneford” echoes compatriot novels, including some of my own favorites. For example, although butler Wrexham and chief housekeeper Mrs. Ellsworth hardly replicate the romantic tension between Stevens and Miss Kenton from Kazuo Ishiguro’s “The Remains of the Day,” their collaborative efforts to manage the household seem nicely familiar. (Readers may recall refugee Jewesses working at Darlington Hall, too; suffice to say that fortunately for Elise, Tyneford’s Mr. Rivers is no Lord Darlington.) Then, those who remember the framing device of Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited” — Charles Ryder’s return to the requisitioned estate with the British army during World War II — may think of it again when the house at Tyneford, too, is taken over for military purposes.

Still, I can’t help wishing that I hadn’t managed to anticipate nearly every key plot point. The fate of Elise’s parents seems obvious from the outset, as does the essential element of “upstairs-downstairs” romance that suffuses the book. Even lesser moments, such as the mean-spirited actions of one spoiled aristocrat-houseguest, often seem entirely predictable.

When unexpected wrinkles arise near the book’s end, readers may be left more confused than intrigued. In one case—the fate of her father’s final manuscript—even Elise appears to share my puzzlement. In another—an estrangement between Elise and her sister that lasts for decades—Elise’s single-paragraph explanation simply fails to convince. In fact, the novel’s entire last chapter seems shaky as its speeds across time to a conclusion.

Perhaps my enthusiasm for Solomons’ debut novel made me expect too much of this one. Perhaps I have spent too much time with other, similar stories. “The House at Tyneford” provides solid storytelling and another glimpse into experience on the margins of the Holocaust. But for this reader, at least, it offers few surprises.


Erika Dreifus is the author of a short-story collection, “Quiet Americans,” which Shelf Unbound magazine recently named one of the Top 10 Small-Press Books of 2011. She lives in New York City. www.erikadreifus.com

British lawmaker loses post over Nazi-themed party


A British lawmaker was fired from his job working for a senior Conservative Party minister after attending a Nazi-themed party.

Aiden Burley, 32, a parliamentary private secretary for Transport Secretary Justine Greening, was dismissed on Dec. 19, a week after photos of his presence at the stag party at a French ski resort came to light. At least one party participant dressed up in an SS officer’s uniform, and the guests toasted to the Nazi Party and the Third Reich.

Prime Minister David Cameron on Dec. 19 ordered a full investigation into the incident following reports that Burley had been responsible for ordering the SS uniform costumes.

It is illegal in France to wear or exhibit in public Nazi-era memorabilia or copies of such memorabilia.

Burley apologized for the incident with an “unreserved, wholehearted and fulsome apology” in a letter to the London-based Jewish Chronicle newspaper.

“On reflection, I wish I had left as soon as I had realized what was happening,” he wrote. “What was happening was wrong and I should have completely dissociated myself from it. I had a choice, and I made the wrong choice NOT to leave. I apologize for this error of judgment.”

Burley was elected to the House of Commons as a member of Parliament for Cannock Chase in 2010.

In tiny Gibraltar, an outsized Jewish infrastructure


Four synagogues, a mikvah, a kosher coffeehouse and separate boys and girls religious high schools.

Combined, they suggest a community far larger than just 750 Jews. But Gibraltar—the tiny British overseas territory of 30,000 that sits at the foot of Spain and at the gateway to North Africa and the Mediterranean—has spent centuries cultivating its individuality.

“We’ve got an infrastructure that could cope with a community of 2,000, and we’ve only got 700,” said Mark Benady, a native Gibraltarian and vice president of the territory’s Jewish community.

Gibraltar’s largely Orthodox and Sephardic Jewish community has grown substantially in the past decade, increasing its rolls by 25 percent in just the last three years. The Jewish primary school now has a record 140 pupils and recently added a floor of modern classroom space with the help of government funding. Along the way, the community has become more religiously observant and, many say, more insular.

There is also believed to be a substantial population of Israelis in Gibraltar who generally don’t affiliate with the wider community.

Fueling the growth in part are soft loans of 10,000 pounds ($15,500) repayable over 15 years that were issued by the community to attract newcomers, who arrive mainly from England and Spain. Many, like Jo Jacobs Abergel, who moved here from Leicester, England, are married to native Gibraltarians. Now a mother of three, Abergel says she’s somewhat of an anomaly among Gibraltar’s Jewish women.

“I’m kind of a heathen because I wear trousers and I don’t cover my hair,” she said, laughing.

Jews have lived in Gibraltar since at least 1356. For more than 200 years, beginning with the expulsion of Jews from the Iberian peninsula in 1492, there was no Jewish life here. That changed in 1713 when Britain took control of the territory affectionately dubbed “Gib” or “the rock.”

In the centuries since, Jews have occupied major political positions. In 2008-09, the largely ceremonial post of mayor was occupied by Solomon Levy. Still, some say the walls between Jew and non-Jew in Gibraltar have grown taller.

“There’s Jews here that have absolutely no contact with non-Jews,” Abergel said. “They won’t send them to anything—swimming lessons, ballet, judo, etc.,—if it’s not organized by the Jewish community.”

That wasn’t always the case. As a student, Benady attended a non-Jewish comprehensive school and had many non-Jewish friends—that’s less common for young Jewish Gibraltarians today. But Benady says he appreciates the warmth and closeness brought by a sense of shared purpose.

“When it comes to chagim [holidays], it’s really lovely,” said Benady, who left to work in Manchester, England, for about a decade but returned because he preferred Gibraltar. “It’s very much a single community where we feel like one family, where we all join together for smachot [joyous occasions] and we all join together, unfortunately, for sad occasions as well.”

Gibraltar’s Jews, like the territory itself, straddle two worlds. The territory’s border with Spain was closed in 1967 by dictator Francisco Franco following a referendum indicating that Gibraltarians overwhelmingly wished to remain British. The border, which is marked by Gibraltar’s airport runway, didn’t reopen fully until 1985, on the eve of Spain’s accession to the European Economic Community.

Today the territory—its skyline dominated by the famous Upper Rock and its resident Barbary macaque monkeys—is a destination for bargain hunters, who take advantage of its tax-haven status to purchase inexpensive cigarettes and perfumes, among other goods. As a British territory, English is the official language, the queen is head of state and the Gibraltar pound—pegged to its British equivalent—is the official currency. But the Spanish influence remains strong. Many Spaniards cross the runway each day to work, and native Gibraltarians speak their own language, Llanito, a blend of English and Spanish with a sprinkling of Hebrew.

Idan Greenberg, an Israeli who moved to Gibraltar with his wife 3 1/2 years ago, runs the Verdi Verdi kosher coffeehouse on Casemates Square, an open-air plaza dotted with boutiques, cafes and pubs at the entrance to Main Street. Two of the thoroughfare’s biggest outlets—the S.M. Seruya perfume store and Cohen and Massias jewelers—are Jewish-owned.

With its chic brown-and-gold suede seating and vibrant orange chairs, Verdi Verdi wouldn’t be out of place on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. On a recent Friday afternoon, an American Jewish woman studying abroad in Spain popped in to grab a soup and was shocked to discover a Jew running a kosher establishment, despite the mezuzah on the door.

“Kvetching about the price of soup?” Greenberg asked her.

“How do you know that word?” she responded in surprise.

Greenberg says he wants his restaurant to appeal broadly to Gibraltarians, but like Abergel he laments the insularity he associates with the community’s increasing piety. And according to Benady, the isolation is a concern even beyond the confines of the community.

“There is a bit of a concern amongst the non-Jewish population that we are isolating ourselves a little,” Benady said. “But it’s very difficult to decide where to draw the line.”

That sort of closeness yields little room for those Jews who don’t observe in the Orthodox fashion, some say. There are no non-Orthodox synagogues in Gibraltar, and the community observes the religious dicta published by the relatively strict Orthodox religious court in London.

“The social life very much revolves around Shabbat,” Abergel said. “It’s very different from my life in England, completely. In the UK, you could be Jewish culturally. There were dances, there were fundraising events, there was loads of stuff you could get involved in whatever level you were at.”

But for Benady, there’s a careful line that must be drawn between assimilation and isolation.

“I think,” he said, “we’ve managed to draw the line in a comfortable place.”

British lawmaker questions Jewish ambassador’s ‘loyalty’


A British lawmaker came under fire for suggesting the country’s Jewish ambassador to Israel is biased because of his religion.

Paul Flynn, a Labour parliamentarian, claimed last week that Britain’s ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, “was serving the interests of the Israeli government,” The Associated Press reported.

“I do not normally fall for conspiracy theories, but the ambassador has proclaimed himself to be a Zionist and he has previously served in Iran, in the service,” said Flynn, who has served in the House of Commons since 1987 and represents the Welsh district of Newport West.

Challenged to defend his comments by Britian’s leading Jewish newspaper, the Jewish Chronicle, Flynn said that the ambassador to Israel should be “someone with roots in the U.K. [who] can’t be accused of having Jewish loyalty.”

Flynn’s comments were widely condemned by British officials, including the Foreign Office and parliamentarians from across the poliitcal spectrum, the Jewish Chronicle reported. Flynn denied the comments were anti-Semitic.

Alter Hitler figure, British Jewish group asks Madame Tussauds


A Jewish organization in Britain has called on Madame Tussauds to make its wax replica of Hitler look more defeated.

The UK Zionist Federation told the Evening Standard that making Hitler look more vulnerable and not “upright” could prevent guests from posing next to the figure making the “Sieg Heil” salute.

“I have no problem with Adolf Hitler being displayed,” Stefan Kerner, the federation’s director of public affairs, told the Evening Standard. “However, we want to display him in a more vulnerable position or situation. Or he could be placed in a way that people can’t take photographs beside him.”

Additional guards were posted around the Hitler figure after Israeli tourists complained about the salutes. Visitors have been warned against such gestures but they are continuing, according to reports.

The figure also is attacked regularly by anti-Hitler visitors.

Jewish member to sue British academic union


A Jewish member of Britain’s University and College Union is suing the academic group for what he alleges is a pattern of anti-Semitic harassment.

Ronnie Fraser, chairman of the Academic Friends of Israel group, in a letter to UCU general secretary Sally Hunt wrote of his plans to sue the union, contending that its recent vote to distance itself from the European Union’s working definition of anti-Semitism created an “intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating” work environment.

Fraser’s group works to fight the academic boycott that UCU has approved three times since 2007.

“In simple terms, the UCU is not a place that is hospitable to Jews,” the letter reads. “This is not just a violation of equality legislation, it is also a scandal.”

The letter, which requests a response from Hunt by Aug. 5, was written by prominent British attorney Anthony Julius, but it says that it speaks for Fraser and his concerns.

Among the UCU actions that the letter says create a hostile environment for Jews are the academic boycott vote, a failure to properly communicate with the union’s Jewish membership and the warm welcome UCU gave last year to Bongani Masuku, the South African official who frequently has made anti-Semitic statements.

Syria orchestrated border infiltration, British paper reports


Syria’s government orchestrated the infiltration of Israel’s northern border by hundreds of Palestinians, a British newspaper reported.

Michael Weiss, blogging on the Daily Telegraph website, reported that he had been forwarded “what appear to be Syrian state documents” leaked by the governor of al-Qunaitera, in southwest Syria.

The documents, Weiss writes, show that the Assad regime “fully orchestrated” the May 15 Nakba Day border infiltration by Palestinians from Syria.

According to one document, the regime ordered 20 buses to cross the border into Majdal-Shams in the Golan Heights to set up a clash between the Palestinians and Israeli soldiers, thus shifting international attention from the Syrian revolution.

One document calls on the group of buses to “infiltrate deep into the occupied Syrian Golan Heights” and orders all military people accompanying the buses not to carry their military identifications in order to keep “a strict emphasis on the peaceful and spontaneous nature of the protest.”

Weiss, spokesman of Just Journalism, which monitors the British media’s coverage of Israel and the Middle East, wrote that he believes the documents are genuine. A photo of one of the documents is posted with his blog post.

As many as four Syrian protesters and up to 10 Lebanese protesters were killed during the infiltration attempts on Nakba Day, or Catastrophe Day, marking Israel’s achieving statehood.