AZAL continues air flights to Israel


Azerbaijani Airlines has announced it will continue flights to Israel during the current conflict in Gaza.

The announcement comes as the Federal Aviation Adminstration banned United States airlines from flying in or out of Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv, citing the danger of a nearby Hamas rocket attack.

Germany, France, Austria, Turkey, Switzerland and Russia joined in suspending their flights to Israel for an indefinite time.

But the regular AZAL air flight from Baku, Azerbaijan's capital, to Israel occurred as scheduled at 09:44 am today, according to AZAL spokesman Maharram Safarli.

Azerbaijan is a predominately Shiite Muslim country that borders Iran, Russia and the Caspian Sea.  A small Jewish community has resided there for hundreds of years, where it has enjoyed relative tolerance and prosperity.  Today, Azerbaijan is one of Israel's largest suppliers of natural gas.

Safarli said the company has no plans to suspend flights to Israel, “because the Israeli state guarantees security.”

Survivor: Peter Daniels


From the time he was 4, Peter Daniels — then Peter Berlowitz — spent his days mostly staring out the window of a two-room flat in Berlin. It was 1940, and Jews were forbidden from hiring domestic help under the Nuremberg Laws. Peter’s mother, Hilde Berlowitz, was forced to leave him alone with some homework and his toys while she worked at a job sewing uniforms for German soldiers. “I was very lonely,” he remembered; he had no friends and could not go outdoors. Then one day, in May 1943, Peter answered a knock on the door and saw two Gestapo officers standing there. “Is your mother home?” one officer asked. Peter told them she was at work. “We’ll wait,” the officer answered. 

Peter was born on July 8, 1936, to Hilde Berlowitz and Erich Daniels. Hilde’s mother, who was born Christian but converted to Judaism before marriage, had died in childbirth with Hilde in 1912. Her father remarried when she was 10, and she was badly mistreated by her stepmother and stepsisters. 

Erich Daniels, the son of a Jewish lawyer, never married Peter’s mother and may not have even known of Peter’s birth. In 1938, Erich fled to Shanghai with his own parents and siblings. Peter has never had any contact with any relatives on his father’s side.

Peter and his mother were exempt from deportation for many years as Hilde was a mischling, a person of mixed Jewish ancestry, who carried her mother’s original Christian birth certificate as proof. But by 1943, mischling status no longer offered protection. And as Peter waited in the flat on that day in May 1943, he was more afraid of his mother’s reaction than of the two Gestapo officers. Hilde had warned him to never open the door for anyone, and she frequently showed her displeasure by beating him.

Peter and his mother were arrested and taken to a detention center. After several weeks, they and the other Jews there were loaded into cattle cars. 

After two days and almost two nights, the train stopped. The exhausted prisoners were forced to drag themselves two miles to Theresienstadt, which was both a holding camp for prisoners, who would be transferred to Auschwitz and other extermination camps, and a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. They spent their first night in the attic of two-story military barracks.

The next morning, Peter was sent to the boys’ barracks, a crowded room with triple bunk beds, where he spent most of his days. He made friends with some of the German-speaking boys, but, he said, “The friendships didn’t last long because the kids didn’t last long.”

Occasionally, Peter was given light work, such as pulling weeds from fallow vegetable fields or hauling slabs of mica to be shipped out. For Peter, work was an opportunity to receive extra food. 

Peter’s mother worked repairing uniforms of German soldiers. About once a month Peter was able to visit with her. “It was nothing emotional. I was not that interested in seeing her,” he said. 

In early May 1945, the International Red Cross took control of Theresienstadt, with the Germans departing several days later. Peter received new clothes to replace the rags he had worn for two years and new shoes to replace his old ones, whose front sections he had sliced off to accommodate his growing feet. “I put them on and did not take them off for three days,” he recalled. 

A week later, Peter stood with hundreds of newly liberated prisoners inside the barbed-wire fence waving and hugging each other as the Soviet army, with its tanks and troop carriers, drove past. It was May 8, 1945 — Peter was almost 9.

The camp was immediately put under quarantine to contain a large typhus outbreak. A month later, Peter and his mother traveled to Berlin, where they rented a flat. A few weeks later, Peter’s mother left to find Max Kurlander, a man she had met in Theresienstadt, and who was now, she had heard, in Deggendorf, a displaced persons camp in southern Germany. 

As Peter wandered around Berlin looking for food, he met several German boys. They spent their days following American soldiers, picking up their discarded cigarette butts and dividing the tobacco, which functioned as currency. 

Hilde married Max Kurlander in Deggendorf. She returned to Berlin, and she and Peter moved to Deggendorf in August 1945. Max, whom Peter described as “a truly bitter man,” worked as a translator for the U.S. Army.

In Deggendorf, Peter attended a public school where anti-Semitic German boys “beat him to a pulp” every day after class. His mother pulled him out after a few weeks. Peter’s sister, Evelyn, was born in September 1946. 

On Aug. 3, 1947, Peter and his family arrived in New York, where Peter attended school. But by the time he was 13, the beatings from his mother became so bad — she used a wooden clothes hanger, or whatever was handy, and hit him until he was black and blue — that Peter started running away from home, staying all night at the Greyhound Bus station or at friends’ houses. 

At 14, Peter escaped to upstate New York, working on a farm in exchange for room and board. A year later, he took a train to Texas and worked for a rancher in Brownsville. He continued moving around the United States, traveling in boxcars or hitchhiking, working as a farm hand, a dishwasher, a truck driver or doing other odd jobs. 

In 1958, at 22, Peter enlisted in the Navy. He was discharged in May 1962. 

Peter then began a new life, earning his GED, attending San Diego City College and graduating from San Diego State University. He then earned an MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Ariz.

After graduating, Peter worked for American Can Co. in New York City. He had married, and his son Erik was born in 1970. A few months later, he was transferred to Hamburg, Germany, returning to the United States in 1973 and settling in California, where he and his wife divorced.

Peter later worked for Security Pacific Bank (which became Bank of America). He retired in 2000. 

During this time, Peter met Joan Tamir, and they married on Nov. 30, 1981. She has three children: Ilana, born 1964; Dahn, born 1966; and Rahm, born 1971. Peter and Joan now have seven grandchildren.

After retiring, Peter began volunteering at the Museum of Tolerance as a docent. He did that until in 2007, when he was hired as a consultant for Northern Trust Bank but returned to the museum two years later as a speaker. “I was feeling better about myself and wanted to do something meaningful,” he said. He now also gives talks at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, as well as at schools and synagogues.

Peter’s mother died in 2007. As an adult, Peter re-established contact with her, but their relationship was strained.

Peter believes that his mother inadvertently prepared him for the Holocaust. “I didn’t miss the emotional support that a lot of kids had, because I never had that.”

U.S. wins re-election to U.N. Human Rights Council


The United States succeeded on Monday in its bid for re-election to the 47-nation U.N. Human Rights Council, a Geneva-based watchdog that has been criticized by Washington and Israel for singling out the Jewish state for criticism.

The 193-nation U.N. General Assembly also elected 17 other countries for terms beginning in January. The United States won the most votes of the regional group “Western Europe and Others,” followed by Germany and Ireland.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice welcomed Washington's re-election, saying that the Human Rights Council “has delivered real results” since the United States first joined it in 2010 after running for a seat on it in 2009. She cited council action on Syria as a positive example of its work.

However, she criticized the rights council's “excessive and unbalanced focus on Israel.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton echoed Rice's comments.

“We pledge to continue to work closely with the international community to address urgent and serious human rights concerns worldwide and to strengthen the (rights) council,” Clinton said in a statement.

The United States had boycotted the Human Rights Council until 2009, when the administration of President Barack Obama reversed U.S. policy and ran for a seat on the body in an effort to reform it from within.

Greece and Sweden failed to secure spots on the council in the “Western Europe and Others” category, the only regional group that had a competitive slate. Other regional groups had uncompetitive slates that assured victory for those in the running as there were enough seats for all candidates.

Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, and Sierra Leone were elected from Africa, and Japan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates from the Asia Group.

Estonia and Monte negro were elected from Eastern Europe, while Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela secured seats on behalf of the Latin America and Caribbean Group.

DUBIOUS RIGHTS RECORDS

New York-based Human Rights Watch criticized the vote, saying it fell far short of a bona fide election.

“To call the vote in the General Assembly an 'election' gives this process way too much credit,” said Peggy Hicks of Human Rights Watch. “Until there is real competition for seats in the Human Rights Council, its membership standards will remain more rhetoric than reality.”

Votes for seats on U.N. bodies, including the Security Council, often have uncontested regional slates.

Freedom House, a Washington-based rights watchdog, said that seven of the countries that secured seats on the council – Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, UAE, and Venezuela- are unqualified for membership on a body that requires members to uphold the highest standards regarding human rights.

Freedom House said that the qualifications of three other new members – Brazil, Kenya, and Sierra Leone – were questionable.

Earlier this year, Sudan had announced plans to run for a seat on the Human Rights Council but withdrew after it was criticized by rights groups. Khartoum instead secured a seat on the U.N. Economic and Social Council, one of the world body's principal organs, which coordinates economic and social issues.

Syria had attempted to run for a seat on the rights council last year but withdrew due to pressure from Western and Arab states. Syrian President Basher al-Assad's government, which has led a 20-month mil itary cam paign against an increasingly militarized opposition, plans to run for a rights council seat next year.

Rights advocates have successfully mounted similar campaigns against previous candidates for the Human Rights Council, including Belarus, Sri Lanka, Azerbaijan and Iran.

Berlin police probing second anti-Semitic incident in a week


A second anti-Semitic attack in Berlin within a week has prompted the launch of a state police investigation.

Berlin police said Monday that 13 girls from the Chabad Or Avner primary school were verbally abused with anti-Semitic slogans by four teenage girls fom the neighboring public school before their physical education class was to begin, according to the German news agency dpa. The Jewish school shares the gym with the secular school.

The four alleged attackers, aged 15 and 16, also reportedly photographed the Jewish pupils with their cell phones. Two young men accompanied the attackers.

A teacher tried unsuccessfully to intervene and speak with the teens, but they fled. At least one was wearing a Muslim headscarf, dpa reported.

The incident follows a brutal attack on Berlin Rabbi Daniel Alter, who was beaten by several men after they asked him if he was Jewish. Alter required emergency medical treatment. The attackers also reportedly threatened Alter's 6-year-old daughter.

Reaction was swift from political leaders and the head of the Jewish community in both cases. Following the latest incident Gideon Joffe, the head of the Berlin Jewish community, said that Muslims must confront anti-Semitism within their community.

Some 11,000 Jews officially belong to the Berlin Jewish community, and it is estimated that another 10,000 to 20,000 live in the German capital.

For some Berlin Jews, the incidents are a disturbing reminder of underlying tensions with Arab neighbors.

Ayala Goldmann, who lives in the same neighborhood where Alter was attacked, told JTA that her first reaction was to consider “wearing a silver star of David pendant out of solidarity because I don't agree that Jews should have to hide their identity in public.”

“But then I thought about my 3-year-old son, and the fact that I don't want any trouble with the Arab youth who live in the social housing near the commuter train station. I decided not to follow through on this idea because of [my son]. I just don't want to take any risks.”

Rabbi Josh Spinner of Berlin told JTA that “Taunts and comments from young people of Arab background are regular in the neighborhoods where they live in considerable numbers.” Spinner said he advises his yeshiva students to “exercise caution” in what they wear in certain neighborhoods.

Violent attacks such as on Spinner's friend Alter are “thank God exceedingly rare,” added Spinner, who is executive vice president and CEO of the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation.

The real problem is not “German-ant-Semitism but … Germany's ability to integrate immigrants from Arab countries. In this respect, Germany is in a better situation than much of the rest of Western Europe,” he said. “The problem is the same, but the will to find a response, prompted by the special moral responsibility of Germans to ensure that Jews are treated decently, is far greater than in France or Sweden, for example.”

Plans to publish ‘Mein Kampf’ in German postponed


A British publisher has postponed plans to publish segments of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” after threats of legal action.

Peter McGee said Wednesday on the website of his weekly magazine Zeitungszeugen that he would not begin publishing the segments Thursday as planned until the legal issues were ironed out.

McGee earlier this month announced plans to publish three annotated excerpts of the text, which remains under copyright protection in Germany until 2015, 70 years after Hitler’s death.

The Bavarian Finance Ministry holds the copyright to “Mein Kampf” in Germany. In 2010, the Munich-based Institute for Contemporary History was granted permission to reprint the work after the copyright lapses. Historians there are working on an annotated edition.

The book is available to researchers in libraries, but it may not be published in Germany. However, translations of the book are available abroad and sometimes make their way into Germany. In addition, unauthorized versions are available on far-right and Islamic extremist websites based outside of Germany.

“Holocaust survivors are relieved that the nightmare of Hitler’s handbook openly sold in the kiosks of Berlin has been lifted,” Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, said in a statement. “Make no mistake: The issue here was not of free speech, but rather that of a sensationalist publisher seeking to make material profit at the emotional expense of victims of Nazi terror. Indeed, even in Germany, legitimate scholars or inquirers can easily obtain reference to ‘Mein Kampf’ through the Internet or academic libraries.”