A forensic tent seen next to a stopped tube train at the Parsons Green Station in London on Sept. 15. Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Device explodes on London train, injuring at least 22


An underground train in London was hit with a detonated device in an apparent terrorist attack.

At least 22 people were injured in the explosion Friday morning, according to NBC News.

The explosion at the Parsons Green Station in southern London occurred at about 8:20 a.m. local time — the height of rush hour on a busy commuter line into central London. Police are treating it as a terrorist attack, Sky News reported.

British Jews said that their nation’s determination to “defeat extremists” is only strengthened by the incident.

The president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jonathan Arkush, put out a statement shortly after the attack.

“Our thoughts go out to all of those injured in the terrorist attack on a train at this morning,” Arkush wrote in the statement. “The more the extremists attempt to disrupt our lives and challenge our values of tolerance and mutual respect, the stronger our resolve and determination to defeat them.”

CST, the security organization of the British Jewish community, reissued security instructions after the attack to report any suspicious objects to police. The explosion does not appear to be have targeted Jews in any way, CST also said.

Sylvain Pennec, a software developer from the London area, took images of a suspected explosive device that is believed to have caused the blast.

“I heard a boom and when I looked there were flames all around,” he told Sky News.  “People started to run but we were lucky to be stopping at Parsons Green as the door started to open.”

Pennec described what “looked like a bucket of mayonnaise,” adding that “I’m not sure if it was a chemical reaction or something else, but it looked homemade.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said in a statement: “The Metropolitan Police have confirmed that the explosion on a train at Parsons Green Station this morning is being treated as terrorism. Our city utterly condemns the hideous individuals who attempt to use terror to harm us and destroy our way of life. As London has proven again and again, we will never be intimidated or defeated by terrorism.”

Dating 101: Ex marks the spot


I do not have relationships with my exes. I think it complicates things, and have never really understood how people do it. Important to note I define an ex by the presence of love. I have dated men who I cared about and thought that I loved, but there have been very few men who I have really been in love with. Soul cradling love that makes you see the world in colors you never knew existed. I have loved like that twice in my life. Once with my ex-husband, and once with the Englishman.

There are degrees of love I suppose. Differences between loving someone and believing they were your soulmate. A bashert. Someone you feel was placed on earth by God to be your person. My ex-husband is the first man I ever loved. I can remember looking at him when we first started to date and thinking he would be the father of my children. Our courtship was fast we were engaged after only weeks. We were young and in love and I thought we would be married forever.  We weren’t, but we have a child, and so he is my bashert.

Our son is magnificent and truly equal parts of his dad and me. He looks like his dad, but his personality is all me. He has my sense of humor and his dad’s desire to do right by the planet and others. I will always love my ex-husband because he is a part of my child and if I didn’t love him, then what does that mean about the parts of my kid that are just like him? We don’t have a relationship, and haven’t for years. He has a horrible wife who never quite forgave me for being the mother of her husband’s only son.

I feel sad for her and also for him. They blocked a lot of great things for my son by our strained relationship. I’m not blaming them for everything, because I had an equal hand in it, but when push comes to shove and blame must be assigned, my hands are clean. The end of a relationship is tragic for everyone involved and whether you are married or dating, kids are often hurt by the loss. I loved the Englishman in a soul crushing way, I also loved his children as if they were my own.

His oldest child is a remarkable person who has no idea how great she is. His youngest child has the heart of an angel and made me smile every moment we were together. We were building a life together and our children were like siblings. I thought he was the man I’d grow old with.  We spoke of the kids growing up and going off to college, and we would move to England and drink lots of tea. It was great and while we certainly had our share of relationship troubles, he was my person. You can imagine my surprise when he not only broke up with me on Facebook Messenger, but was cheating.

After we broke up I did not see his kids. There were a series of miscommunications, and one day contact just stopped. Not only between me and his kids, but between our children and each other. These two young people, who had woven themselves into my heart were gone. It was heartbreaking because I loved them. Still do. It is strange to have spent the last year in London as I thought I would be living here with him by now. I am not sad to not be with him, but sad for what was damaged.

The Englishman and his children mattered to me. I trusted him with my heart and more importantly, with my son. He broke that trust. Not only broke it, but then shit all over it. He is now living with the woman he cheated with and I hope he is happy. She clearly was able to give him something I didn’t and that is okay. I wanted him to be happy when we were together and I want that for him now. Just because he is unworthy of me and my son doesn’t mean he is unworthy of other things.

I have not seen him in over four years, but today I am flying back to Los Angeles from London and it turns out the Englishman is on my flight. Oy to the vey! He sent me a text last night when he heard we were on the same flight. It was somewhat ominous and threatening to me, but it turns out he thought he was being funny and breaking the ice. Um, no. My heart felt hurt and I did not sleep in anticipation of my flight. I prayed I would not see him. Which is very sad to me.

My heart has healed, and life has gone on, but I can’t help but wonder how things could have been and should have been different. I wonder if he ever really understood how much I loved him. I wonder if he ever really loved me. He couldn’t have known how much I loved him or wouldn’t have done what he did. He could not have loved me, or couldn’t have done what he did. What he did damaged not only me, but our children. My son was a baby when I got divorced, but he watched this break up and what it did to me.

At the end of the day none of it matters. We were together for a short time, a long time ago, and I am fine because I am always fine. In the interest of full disclosure, it is 8:40 am and I am having my second Cosmo. I feel nervous, anxious, sad, tired and ultimately sick as I am dealing with some medical stuff and am emotionally and physically drained. I would have given anything to not have had to deal with this today. Life is funny though and can throw you a curveball.

My father used to tell me I was a wonderful human being. As sit here getting drunk in anticipation of seeing someone I probably won’t see, I believe him. I loved the Englishman in a way people dream of being loved. Our not being together is not a reflection of me, as much as it is a reflection of him. He is blessed to have been loved by me and I am blessed to know I can love like that. My son is picking me up at the airport and I can’t wait to see that beautiful boy. Life is grand, love will be found, and I am keeping the faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Armed police officers patrolling the day after terror attacks on the London Bridge and at Borough Market, London, England, on June 4. Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images

Anti-Semitic crime rose 44 percent in Britain since 2014, audit finds


Anti-Semitic crime in the United Kingdom rose 44 percent in the past two years, according to a new audit released by the Campaign Against Antisemitism.

The 2016 National Antisemitic Crime Audit registered a total of 1,078 anti-Semitic crimes in 2016. It found that 105 of those crimes, or about 1 in 10, were violent, but that only one violent anti-Semitic crime was prosecuted. In total, only 15 cases were prosecuted, leading to the conviction of 17 criminals, according to the Campaign Against Antisemitism.

In 2015, 12 anti-Semitic crimes were prosecuted, of which 3 involved violence, leading to 17 convictions.

In 2016, 89 anti-Semitic crimes resulted in charges being brought, meaning that only 8.3 percent of hate crimes against Jews resulted in charges. Some 48.9 percent of the police forces that received reports of anti-Semitic crime did not charge a single one of them, according to the CAA.

In its recommendations, the CAA called for specific training and guidance on anti-Semitic hate crime for officers and prosecutors, instructing Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to review all police forces’ responses to anti-Semitic crime, appoint a senior officer in each force with responsibility for overseeing the response to anti-Semitic hate crime and require the Crown Prosecution Service to record and regularly publish details of cases involving anti-Semitism and their outcomes, as police forces are already required to do.

Anti-Semitic crime has already been a factor in the initial months of 2017, with incidents including the firebombing of kosher restaurants in Manchester, a man stopped by police after chasing Jews in London brandishing a meat cleaver and machete and police closing down London streets to make way for a major pro-Hezbollah march.

The group only began keeping statistics in 2014, though other outlets such as the Community Security Trust, have been releasing figures for much longer. In February, the CST reported a record 1,309 incidents in 2016, constituting a 36 percent increase over the 2015 tally.

British Home Secretary Amber Rudd said her office is working to stop anti-Semitic hate crime.

“Hate crime of any type is not acceptable. Everyone in this country has the right to be safe from violence and persecution. We are working together to tackle anti-Semitic hate crime in all its forms and using the full force of the law to protect every person in the UK. Our Hate Crime Action Plan has encouraged further action against hate crime across the police and criminal justice system. This includes encouraging more victims to report incidents to the police. We will consider the report’s recommendations carefully as we develop new ways to rid the country of this sickening crime,” she said in a statement.

Smoke rising from the 24-story residential Grenfell Tower block in Latimer Road, West London in the early hours of June 14. Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images

London Jews mobilize for victims of deadly apartment fire


Britain’s chief rabbi offered prayers and a local synagogue put out an appeal to help the victims in the deadly fire that destroyed a high-rise apartment building in London.

At least six people were killed and dozens remain missing and are feared dead in the massive fire in Grenfell Tower in the western part of the British capital. Terrorism is not suspected in the blaze, which also injured more than 70.

The Holland Park Synagogue, located just blocks away from the apartment, early Wednesday morning asked its members to donate items to those affected by the fire. The synagogue in its appeal said “the people who lived in the tower have lost everything. Anything you can do to help will be much appreciated,” the news website UK Jewish News reported.

The synagogue said it would collect items, including much-needed toiletries, at its building.

“Images of #GrenfellTower are truly harrowing. My prayers today are with all affected & with the heroes running towards danger to save lives,” Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis tweeted at 2 a.m. Wednesday as firefighters continued to battle the blaze.

Rent in the building is publicly subsidized, and many of the residents were low-income families or disabled people.

The Board of Deputies of British Jewry, an umbrella group, said in a tweet that it was exploring the best ways in which it could help the families displaced by the blaze.

The Holland Park Synagogue, located just blocks away from the apartment, early Wednesday morning asked its members to donate items to those affected by the fire. The synagogue in its appeal said “the people who lived in the tower have lost everything. Anything you can do to help will be much appreciated,” the news website UK Jewish News reported.

The synagogue said it would collect items, including much-needed toiletries, at its building.

Can you change the mind of a jihadist?


Of all the things I’ve read about the latest jihadist terror attack from London, one line in particular from Prime Minister Theresa May stood out.

Terrorism will only be defeated, she said, when we make young people “understand that our values, pluralistic British values, are superior to anything offered by the preachers and supporters of hate.”

But at the same time, May spoke about the need to crack down harder on those “young people” and the extremism that feeds them.

So, on the one hand, May wants to get tougher with the killers, while, on the other, convince them that British values are superior.

Maybe that represents, in a nutshell, the dilemma of fighting jihadist terrorism. To really win the war, you have to fight them physically and psychologically, but when you’re so busy with the physical, who’s got time for the psychological?

The focus in England right now clearly is on security, on preventing the next attack. Is there anyone on May’s team working on her goal of influencing values? I doubt it. The mood in the country is to stop the bad guys from killing — not to change their values.

But let’s do a thought experiment. Let’s imagine that, simultaneous to the crackdown, May would hire a marketing agency to create a campaign that might positively influence the bad guys. What would that look like?

One of the first things you learn in the advertising business is never to use the word “impossible.” There’s always the “best possible” answer to a problem, however unlikely it is that you can solve it. It’s about moving things forward — will the campaign make things a little better? Will it improve the odds of success?

Something else advertising teaches is to boil everything down to its essence — a few words, an image, a single thought. The goal is to light sparks, plant seeds, break the ice.

In our case, a key question is: How would you plant seeds of doubt in the mind of a jihadist who believes he’s doing God’s work when he slices the neck of a woman enjoying a beer in a British bar, or runs over pedestrians strolling happily on a Saturday night?

The easy thing to do would be to throw our hands up and give up. If someone thinks killing is holy, how do you counter that? But, like I said, this is a thought experiment. If the prime minister of England wants an ad campaign to influence the minds of religious extremists, what do you recommend?

In my mind, I see only one thing: We must fight holy with holy. They say killing is holy? We say life is holy.

The idea would be to rally leaders across all cultures and religions — especially Muslim leaders and preachers — to launch a “Life is Holy” campaign. The advertising would provide the sparks, but community leaders would preach the message on the ground.

A pervasive “Life is Holy” movement will, at the very least, put killers on notice that they no longer own holiness.

The campaign would reclaim holiness on behalf of life. We would promote the holiness of life with the same passion religious killers promote the holiness of killing. Instead of playing defense, life would play offense.

A “Life is Holy” message has some clear benefits: It’s true, believable, simple and passionate.

Of course, no marketing campaign can solve the problem of jihadist terrorism. There are too many jihadists who are moved by verses in the Quran that speak of killing the infidels, and too many preachers who feed this violence.

What marketing can do, however, is provide an aspirational vision. It can tell future generations of potential jihadists that real holiness lies in life, not killing. If enough Muslim preachers throughout the world reinforce this message in their sermons, we might begin to make a dent.

In her remarks, Prime Minister May spoke of cracking down on “safe spaces” online and in self-segregated Muslim communities that can harbor extremism.

If she is serious about doing this, she must infiltrate these extremist “safe spaces” with messages that promote the holiness of life — with billboards and memes, for example, that show the faces of people of all colors and religions as being worthy of holiness. Most critically, she must enlist local Muslim preachers to lead the way.

In sum, a “Life is Holy” campaign, if done right, can ignite an in-your-face pushback to the culture of death that infects the minds of jihadist killers. The “Life is Holy” message must be ubiquitous — it must be on T-shirts, street corners and social media. It must be loud enough to marginalize anyone who doesn’t support it.

In combination with a serious security crackdown, a pervasive “Life is Holy” movement will, at the very least, put killers on notice that they no longer own holiness.


David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz (C) walks with the Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani during a welcoming ceremony upon Hamad al-Thani's arrival to attend the Summit of South American-Arab Countries, in Riyadh November 10, 2015. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser/File Photo

Like Israel’s occupation, the Qatar crisis, London attack have old roots


I recently argued that the 50-year anniversary of the Six-Day War has little significance: “What was then is history. What is now is reality,” I wrote. “The fact that the Six-Day War is or isn’t the reason for some of the challenges Israel faces today hardly matters.”

I contended that what most of the world calls the “occupation” “has lasted for 50 years is not relevant. It was not ideal in the first 50 years, and it will still not be the end of the world after 500 years.”

The last week has provided me with proof of that. Terrorism in London makes it clear that focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will do little to remedy the grievances of radicalized Muslims around the world. Palestine is not the source of the problem; it is merely one manifestation of it. And a new Arab coalition trying to pressure and isolate Qatar because of its ties to Iran and to other problematic elements in the Middle East proves that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the main item on the Arab agenda.

Both events demonstrate why arguments such as “Fifty years is too long,” “The world will not tolerate another 50 years of occupation,” and “If Israel doesn’t end the occupation, it will become a binational state” have little merit.

Fifty years is a long time? Sure it is. It is a long time in which relative stability was maintained for Israelis and Palestinians — except when Palestinians turned to terrorism.

The world will not tolerate it? I’d pause before making such predictions. The world has showed a great ability to tolerate much more severe situations, for which there were much simpler remedies, for a very long time.

Will Israel become a binational state? Nonsense. Israel always can choose to withdraw from territory to prevent such a scenario. Why do it now? Why do it when the dilemma is not yet acute, and the price of such an action would be higher than the benefit?


The conflict between Qatar and other Arab countries is a complicated story. It also began much longer than 50 years ago. It also has ups and downs, but no end in sight.

There is Arab infighting involved — the Egyptians, for example, are furious because of Qatar’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood. There is the larger story of Sunni versus Shiite, with Qatar playing the odd country out by having good relations with Shiite Iran. And while the United States, on the one hand, has military infrastructure in Qatar, it also encourages the Sunni states’ anti-Iran alliance.

There is the impact on other conflicts in the region, too. For example, there are questions about the impact of this strife on Hamas in Gaza, which relies heavily on Qatari support. There is the story of Turkey, another country that is trying to have it both ways and is not trying to mediate between the Qataris and the other Arab countries. Finally, there is Iran and its ability to take advantage of the situation (or lose as a result of it, depending on what happens next).

This is not the first crisis between Qatar and its Arab neighbors, but this one feels somewhat different, more severe. “The other Gulf leaders’ patience with Doha’s sometimes-maverick regional policies may have finally snapped,” wrote Kristian Coates Ulrichsen in The Atlantic.

That’s exactly what this looks like. It also looks like a crisis that was born in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s summit in Riyadh. So a summit that seemed successful and reassuring two weeks ago could end up igniting an unforeseen crisis of great consequences.

Trump will once again need to address a situation that his administration is of (at least) two minds about. The administration showed a tendency to partner with a Saudi-Egyptian led coalition against Iran, but it has interests in Qatar that it does not want to lose. Ideally, the U.S. will be able to navigate these treacherous waters and come out dry. But if the Saudis and the Egyptians insist on upping the ante, and force Qatar’s hand, this could become impossible.


Qatari and Saudi presence are both visible — highly visible — in London. Arab infighting is not something that Britain and other countries with large communities of Muslims, some of which are radicalized, can ignore.

What was the motivation behind the London attack? It is hard to define an exact motivation. Radicalized Muslims attack to wreak havoc. Election time provides them with an opportunity to make their attacks of greater consequence.

It is clear that Britain, like other countries in Europe, has a problem integrating some communities of Muslims. There are Muslims succeeding and excelling in Britain. But there are also too many who do not succeed, nor excel, nor appreciate British values and the great life they can have in this country.

How old is this problem? Its roots are surely more than 50 years old. Look how the numbers and percentages of Muslims in Britain jumped from 1961 to 1971 to 1981. From 50,000, to 250,000, to 500,000.

These attackers are influenced by outside forces in Pakistan, Syria, Iran and Libya, and they are financially supported by outside forces, as well. The groups they associate with have ties to governments, or to emissaries who speak for governments. Many of these governments talk out of both sides of their mouths. When they meet with Trump, they oppose terrorism. When Trump is back in Washington, they make sure to keep some channels to terror groups open.

This is just one fact that makes the fight against terrorism in London complicated. There also is the fact that many of the terrorists are home-grown Brits. There is the fact that some of the neighborhoods where these terrorist grew up are impassable to regular policing. Yes, there is also “political correctness,” as Trump implied in his ill-advised tweets lambasting the mayor of London for an innocent remark. But in truth, political correctness is fast disappearing in Europe’s fight against home-grown terrorism — and with every attack it will further erode.

Apparently, when people feel endangered, the layer of political correctness proves thin.


Now think again about Israel and the Palestinians. Political correctness is not an issue for us — we are experienced enough in fighting terrorism to be able to generally avoid this illness.

Complications are many. We know this. We don’t expect the conflict between Qatar and the Saudis to be resolved very soon, and we also don’t expect the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to end only because a long time has passed.

As for remedies, we know that actions often have unintended or unexpected consequences. President Trump could not foresee the impact of his Riyadh visit. He ought to remember that as he attempts to move the Israeli-Palestinian peace process forward.

President Donald Trump at the White House on June 1. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Trump’s post-London attack tweets are chilling — and counter-productive


In popular myth, South Florida was ground zero of the Great Email Explosion of 2008.

That was the year your great-uncle or long-lost cousin couldn’t resist passing on rumors, hoaxes and conspiracy theories about Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, the true causes of 9/11 or the insidious nature of Islam. It wasn’t the invention of Fake News, but it provided the template for how social media users in 2016 would ignore obvious red flags to pass on bogus stories that confirmed their worldviews.

What happened to that elderly snow bird, who interrupted his nonstop viewing of Fox News only to fire off angry messages and unfounded rumors about The Other? Apparently, we elected him president.

In the hours after Saturday night’s terrorist attack in London, the president sent off a series of tweets that transformed the kind of event that usually unites the West in grief and determination into yet another episode of Trump Vs. World.

Somewhere between citing an early Drudge Report link on the London Bridge killings and calling out London’s Muslim mayor Sadiq Khan, the president used the killings to defend his travel ban, toss scorn on gun control and decry political correctness. It was a typical week of his presidential campaign boiled down to a few hours of 140-character messages.

“We need to be smart, vigilant and tough,” tweeted a president whose administration is woefully understaffed and whose top law enforcement agency lacks a director. “We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!”

This came even before he extended condolences to the victims of the London attack or offered America’s support to Britain and its leaders: “Whatever the United States can do to help out in London and the U. K., we will be there – WE ARE WITH YOU. GOD BLESS!”

That out of the way, it was back to politicizing the attacks: “We must stop being politically correct and get down to the business of security for our people. If we don’t get smart it will only get worse.”

It’s not clear what Trump had in mind other than the court case over his attempt to ban travelers from several predominately Muslim countries. That’s the problem with Twitter and, increasingly, the Trump administration: Even on points where both sides ostensibly agree — protecting citizens from terror — the president governs by slogans, not policy. Some might argue that is a good thing: If his policy-making were as impulsive as his tweeting, who knows what kind of global mischief or military disaster he might lead the country into.

But like those emails from Florida, Trump’s tweets derail serious policy discussion. The talking heads line up on cable news, the editorials get written, and we’re no closer than we were before to understanding what really needs to be done in times of stability or crisis. Instead we talk about Trump. He isn’t acting presidential! He’s using disaster to score cheap political points! He’s still campaigning!

This sounds like a partisan gripe, although for the life of me I can’t figure out which side wins when Trump gets into Cranky Grandpa mode. Even his supporters argue that the daily crises of his own making are distracting from his broader agenda.

Perhaps most disturbing of all his tweets over the weekend was his unfounded but completely characteristic attack on Khan, by all accounts a popular mayor and real mensch. “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’” Trump tweeted Sunday morning, accusing Khan of being blase in the face of the attacks.

Perhaps Trump misunderstood what Khan had really said. The mayor, soon after the attack, told the BBC that he was “appalled and furious that these cowardly terrorists would target” innocent civilians. He vowed that “we will never let them win, nor will we allow them to cower our city.”

He then assured London residents who would see increased police presence around the city. “No reason to be alarmed. One of the things the police, all of us, need to do is make sure we’re as safe as we possibly can be,” he said. “I’m reassured that we are one of the safest global cities in the world, if not the safest global city in the world, but we always evolve and review ways to make sure that we remain as safe as we possibly can.”

In other words, “Keep calm and carry on.” If this were World War II, Trump might have accused Churchill of cowardice.

Except Churchill wasn’t a Muslim. There is no reason to give Trump the benefit of the doubt on this one. Remember the way he fired back at another Khan during the Democratic National Convention last year. When Khizr Khan, whose son died fighting for the United States in Iraq, criticized Trump’s policies and statements about Muslims, the then-candidate immediately played the religion card. Instead of defending his own policies or ignoring the remarks, Trump suggested that the dead soldier’s mother had not “been allowed” to speak at the convention, presumably for religious reasons. It was a chilling echo of a mindset that Jews find all too familiar, one that slots minorities, religious people and other “ethnics” into neat, defining categories. Muslim mom? Oppressed. A Muslim mayor? He must be soft on Islamist terror.

When Trump insists that we “must stop being politically correct,” he is defending this discredited worldview. Leaders from Paris to London to Washington, D.C. are aware that there is a radical Islam problem, and say so. The issue is not identifying the problem by name, but coming up with real-world solutions to a vicious offshoot of a vast religion. Critics of the travel ban aren’t pro-terrorism; in fact, many believe it is counterproductive precisely because it plays into ISIS’s notion of a world that hates Islam.

It has been tempting to dismiss Trump’s more Archie Bunkerish tendencies as a generational thing, just as we joked about those “Florida” emails as the work of retirees with too much time on their hands and too much Fox on their televisions. But a president has a responsibility to rise above petty prejudices and knee-jerk reactions and act — to use a by now tired word — presidential. That’s all the Jewish community was asking for during the spate of JCC bomb hoaxes and the weird Holocaust memorial contretemps, and what so many Americans are seeking in the face of the horrors in England, France and Portland, Oregon.

It’s not too much to ask for.

My London Life


I have been spending a lot of time in London over the past year and I love it here. I am sitting in my room, looking out the window as the sun is desperate to break though, watching people walk past, and feeling very happy. This city is alive and hopeful and even though there is palpable stress and fear, my soul is at peace here. On many levels, and for many reasons, it feels like London is home.

To clarify, home is ultimately where my son is, so with him in London with me this week, it truly is home. We have had a terrific time and he feels the same way in London that I do. It is a great city, with great people, namely our friends J and S, who I have written about often, and call Victoria and David Beckham. They are wonderful human beings and we truly love them and their children.

We spent last night at the Beckham Castle and I slept like a baby. I have not slept well since I got to Engalnd because internal clock has been screwed up due to all my traveling. I went from Los Angeles, to London, to Los Angeles, to Las Vegas, to Los Angeles, to Toronto, to Los Angeles, to Melbourne, to Los Angeles, to London, all in 10 days. Sleep has been elusive, last night however, I slept like a baby.

I went to bed at 10:00 pm and was Sleeping Beauty for a divine 9 hours. I don’t worry about anything when I am there, and that peace invites sleep because I’m very comfortable and happy there. Today my son is at Wembley stadium with the oldest Beckham son, watching two football teams compete to get into the Premiere League. It makes me happy when these two young men hang out.

My son spent the past week on holiday in Greece and Italy. He went on his own and it was a great adventure. It takes courage to travel on your own and his bravery inspires me. (To be clear, it also scares the crap out of me!) I am seeing my son in a new light following his trip. He has grown up somehow and it is exciting. He is 21, and will always be my baby, but he is also an amazing man.

Tomorrow I am going to take my favorite person on the planet to Paris. We’ll spend a glorious day walking around, seeing the sights, and eating the perfection that is French cuisine. It has been over 30 years since I was last in Paris, and to take my son there for his first time is special. We’ll be there for 28 hours, so will jam pack as much as we can into our day and I hope it doesn’t rain!

I love my London life and being here has allowed me to have my son come over and see parts of the world he has wanted to visit since he was little. He always wanted to see the world and it is an honor to watch his face as tells me about what he has seen and done. He is a remarkable child and being even a small part of his dreams coming true is the greatest gift I can receive as his mother.

Israel is home because I was born there and it is where my parents met and fell in love. Canada is home because it is where I grew up and where my family is. Los Angeles is home because my son was born there and it is where he is building his life. London is home because it makes me comfortable and happy. I’m a lucky girl to feel connected to so many places. I’m grateful and keeping the faith.

A man with a meat cleaver and a large knife allegedly threatened Jewish girls and tried to enter kosher shops in London. (@Shomrim)

Man waving meat cleaver and threatening Jews arrested in London


An unidentified man waving a meat cleaver and a large knife who allegedly threatened Jews in a heavily Jewish neighborhood in North London was arrested.

The man reportedly tried to enter a kosher food shop during the incident on Tuesday but was prevented from doing so when staff locked the door, according to a statement issued by the London-based Campaign Against Antisemitism.

He then entered a second kosher store shouting “Where is the boss, I will kill him!” Told that the owner was not there, the man allegedly ran out of the shop toward two Jewish girls, aged 8 and 14, shouting “You Jews run away from here before I kill you.”

The incident took place in the Stamford Hill neighborhood of London, which includes many haredi Orthodox residents.

Shomrim, the volunteer Jewish neighborhood patrol, tracked the man as he entered an apartment block and sealed off the area, allowing London Metropolitan Police to arrest him, according to reports. Police said the man was white and in his 60s.

“This is an extremely frightening incident and it is very fortunate that there are no injuries reported,” Gideon Falter, chairman of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, said in a statement. “We commend Stamford Hill Shomrim and the Metropolitan Police Service for their bravery in rushing to the scene to protect the public. Violent anti-Semitic crime continues to rise at an alarming rate and will continue to do so until anti-Semitic incitement is taken seriously by the authorities before it translates into violence.”

My Favorite Englishman


I have been travelling to London for the better part of a year. The property consulting company I used to rent a house, is a couple of lovely gentleman who have taken very good care of me. If anyone is looking to buy or rent a home in London, let me know and I will make an introduction. They are wonderful and over the past few months, one of the men has become rather important to me. He is my favorite Englishman and there is nothing I don’t like about him.

From his three piece suits, to always blowing his nose into a handkerchief, he is very proper. He can drink like a sailor, and speak on any topic with authority. I am not sure if this is because he is well versed on a variety of subjects, or rather because he is such a snob his dismissal of things makes him sound like he is dismissing from a place of knowledge, not boredom of something he has no interest in. He is funny, charming, smart, handsome, and simply lovely.

On Saturday night he took me out for my birthday. We went to The Ivy Club, which was terrific. They made a particularly good Cosmo and the wait staff were perfect. On the way to dinner however, my friend said he brought me to this particular location because I am a snob. Well, um, no. We go to fancy places because my friend is quite fancy. It is both ridiculous and insanely funny for him to think it is me who insists on where we go. The truth is he is a bit of snob.

He has impeccable taste and has never taken me anywhere that wasn’t fabulous. When I am in London I tend to stay within a 3-mile radius of home because everything I need is here, but he has shown me London and I have fallen in love with the city because of him. I have fallen in love with him too. He has made coming here a pleasure and taken the sting out of being away from my son for such long stretches.

If my friend could see himself as I do, he would be in love with himself too. I don’t think he has any idea how wonderful he is, which I suppose is part of his charm. He is accomplished, successful, and painfully unaware of his appeal. I want him to not only be happy, but find his happily ever after. I am going to introduce him to the woman he is going to marry. I am sure of it and so the search has begun. I am going to find a girl who is worthy of something special and will appreciate how amazing he is.

My Englishman and me have absolutely nothing in common, and on paper we don’t really make sense, but we have settled into something important and fun and rather entertaining. I am certain he has never met anyone like me, and I have only read about men like him in classic literature. There is no deeply woven story here, I just really wanted to share this man with you. That said, should you be a single woman living in London, between the ages of 27 and 35, let me know.

Sometimes it takes someone to see you a certain way for you to see it in yourself, so to my lovely friend, I see you and you are smashing. You are going to trust me and go out on dates with who I set you up with because you love me too, so you will believe it can happen. I am heading back to LA tomorrow and will be back in London next week to begin my matchmaking services. I will not only be in search of the perfect Cosmo, but also the perfect girl.

It has been a long five weeks and I am ready to go home and see my son. I will be celebrating my birthday in Las Vegas with Celine Dion and I am so excited I might bust. To my lovely friend, thank you. Thank you for always taking care of me and making sure I have some fun while here. I look forward to dancing at your wedding one day. By dancing, of course I mean I will also be giving a speech. When it comes to your search for love, my advice is simple, keep the faith.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is criticizing YouTube for allowing the proliferation of videos such as this one, posted by an account associated with the terrorist group Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

YouTube, Google graded poorly on hate, terrorism by Wiesenthal Center


The video-sharing site YouTube and its parent company, Google, fared poorly in the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s annual social media report card for their handling of hate- and terrorism-related material.

The Wiesenthal Center, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that fights hate speech, says YouTube is being exploited by terrorists to encourage acts of violence and instruct would-be attackers in their methods. The site received a C- in the category of “terrorism” and a D for “hate.”

“Google/YouTube is rightfully under fierce criticism for placing digital ads from major international brands like AT&T and Johnson & Johnson next to extremist videos celebrating terrorist attacks that should never have been allowed on its platform in the first place,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Wiesenthal Center’s associate dean, said March 28 at the media briefing where the grades were unveiled. It took place at the New York City comptroller’s office, four blocks from ground zero.

DTH grades17_Poster

Courtesy of Simon Wiesenthal Center.

He said the Wiesenthal Center awarded YouTube its low grades for allowing terrorism “how to” videos to proliferate on its platform, and for failing to take down thousands of posts by hate groups. He pointed to a number of videos posted on the site in the wake of a recent terrorist attack outside the Houses of Parliament in London, praising the attack and encouraging others to follow suit.

YouTube did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A more in-depth report, “Digital Terrorism + Hate,” available at digitalhate.net, details the ways in which terrorist groups use social media to recruit, network and instruct potential attackers. The report names a number of accounts, tactics and pages associated with terrorism.

“Frankly, one of the things that we need is for the companies to be more responsive to their responsibilities,” Cooper told the Journal. “Almost all the companies set rules, and some try a lot harder than others to live up to them.”

He lauded recent changes at Twitter, whose grades have improved since the Wiesenthal Center began issuing the report cards in 2015. The company’s grade for “hate” rose from a D to a C since last year. Cooper said the change was due to Twitter’s move to deactivate hundreds of thousands of accounts associated with terrorism and hate speech.

Facebook received the highest marks because of its “sophisticated in-house system of blocking” objectionable accounts and content, according to Cooper. Other platforms, such as YouTube and Twitter, are reactive rather than proactive, he said.

But in general, Cooper said Silicon Valley has demonstrated a lack of leadership when it comes to fighting hate online. He said the Wiesenthal Center hopes to convene social media companies to comprehensively address the problems of digital hate speech and web use by terrorists. Failing that, the nonprofit would look into other, more drastic measures.

“If they don’t get a handle on this, we can be looking at the horrible R-word — regulation,” he said in the interview. “I’m not particularly enamored with that solution. It’s always messy when you go to Washington.”

However, he said he will be educating public officials about the trends highlighted in the report.

At the press conference, Cooper also announced that the Wiesenthal Center will be offering tutorials for high school students “to empower young people to deal with the tsunami of hate.” The center plans to pilot the tutorials with teens in New York City.

He told the Journal, “Since they usually see [online hate speech] before the adults anyway, we’re going to do our best to try to empower them with some guidelines about how to deal with it.”

London terror: No. 30,499 in a series


Commenting on the recent London attack that killed four and injured at least 50, the acting Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Mark Rowley, told the BBC that it was “Islamist-related terrorism.”

A day earlier, on March 21, an Islamist suicide car bomber killed 10 people in Mogadishu, Somalia.

A day before that, two dozen people were blown up by an Islamist car bomber in a Baghdad neighborhood. 

Two days before that, a mother and her two children were among four people wiped out by three Islamist suicide bombers in Maiduguri, Nigeria.

A day before that, Islamist Shiite rebels fired two rockets into a Sunni mosque in Yemen, killing 34 people during Friday prayers.

On the same day in Paris, the throats of a father and son were slit by a family member yelling “Allah Akbar (God is great).”

A day earlier, a young child was blown to bits by an Islamist suicide bomber in Bangladesh.

On that same day, March 16, in South Ukkadam, India, an atheist was hacked to death by an angry Muslim over Facebook posts attacking his religion.

I know it’s painful to consider that 30,499 deadly attacks could be committed in the name of one religion.

That is just a little glimpse of weekly terror from the Third World and elsewhere. Worldwide, since 9/11, Islamist terrorists have carried out 30,499 deadly terror attacks, according to the independent watchdog site TheReligionOfPeace.com.

Most of these attacks never make it to CNN or The New York Times, because the victims don’t live in places like London, Brussels or San Bernardino. In the West, we see a fraction of the carnage done in the name of Islam. No matter how much media attention we give to the attacks on our soil, it doesn’t come close to capturing the scope of the global problem.

I know it’s painful to consider that 30,499 deadly attacks could be committed in the name of one religion. It challenges our narrative that all religions are pretty much the same, that there’s good and bad in all religions, and there’s no special reason to focus on one in particular. This is a comforting narrative that can lull us into complacency.

Still, there is an aspirational value to that narrative. It gives us something to look forward to. For humanity to succeed, we need it to become true. We need a reformation of Islam so that, one day, the number 30,499 will be reduced to a very low number and we can truly say that the religion is just like any other.

Because right now, it’s not. Too much killing, too much horror is done in its name.

It’s no longer enough to say, “This is not Islam.” For the killers doing the killing, it is Islam. It may be a radicalized, supremacist version of Islam, but there’s enough supporting text in the Quran to make the killers believe they’re doing God’s work.

Despite our efforts to counter this radical Islam, reform only gets more distant and the violence only gets worse. Defending the faith, accusing extremists of perverting it and engaging in interfaith projects is fine, but it’s not enough. True reform must come from the inside, not from interfaith but from innerfaith, from Muslims taking responsibility for the violence done in their name. 

It will come from Muslims who have the courage to acknowledge and confront the extremist parts of their texts and reinterpret them in a holy way that will honor their faith.

One such group is the little-known Muslim Reform Movement, a group of Muslim scholars and spiritual activists whose leaders call for “a respectful, merciful and inclusive interpretation of Islam” and reject interpretations that call for “any violence, social injustice and politicized Islam.”

For some reason, this movement has gained little traction among progressive circles, even though its founding declaration sounds like a love letter to progressive values. Going forward, we must ensure that such moderate groups are no longer marginalized by the mainstream, and are empowered to make progress in their supremely difficult mission.

We must pray that their nonviolent and tolerant interpretation of Islam will one day take hold throughout the jihadist world and win over the hearts of the killers, even if it takes a century. We must pray that the number 30,499 will eventually be reduced to zero.

Yes, that would be a miracle for humanity and for Islam, but God is great.


David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

Praying in London


I have spent much of the past six months in London. It is my adopted home and I love it here. I have a tight group of friends and colleagues in this wonderful city. I enjoy every minute that I am blessed to be in London, a city my father loved so much. I walk every day and my favorite route is to walk is across Westminster Bridge then across to the Tower Bridge, passing Shakespeare’s Globe Theater along the way. It is about a 5 mile walk and a treasured part of my time here. I listen to the soundtracks of Bridget Jones movies and am happy.

I do my walk three days a week. Yesterday however, I didn’t go because I was busy and didn’t have time. I never walk at a set time, so it is impossible to know if I would have been on the bridge during the terrorist attack, but I am shaken. I am sad for those who lost their lives, those in the hospital, and the witnesses of this cowardly attack. I am thankful for the first responders who bravely helped. I am also worried for my Muslim friends here, who feel this attack on levels I won’t ever understand. The world is dark and hate is truly powerful.

It is exhausting to hear the hate. It chisels away at my heart and I hear it every day. People in line at the market, on the subway, having coffee. Everyone speaks freely and loudly about how all the problems in the world are because of Muslims. They say it in front of Muslims. They speak of how every terrorist in the world is Muslim and they must all go. I’m not sure where exactly they want them to go, but as a Jew, and an intelligent human being, it breaks my heart and frightens me to hear of the persecution of a group of people based on faith.

I walked again today, but chose a different route, mostly to stay out of the way. I walked through London this morning because life goes on. I am praying for this city and her people as I count down the days until I go home and hug my son. I’m thankful for my amazing readers, who immediately upon hearing of the attack, reached out to see if I was okay, knowing I am often on Westminster Bridge. I felt embraced and comforted. I am grateful for the opportunities that brought me to London and I hope all of us here can keep the faith.

 

Paramedics load a victim into the back of an ambulance as members of the emergency services work on Westminster Bridge, alonside the Houses of Parliament in central London on March 22, 2017, during an emergency incident. British police shot a suspected attacker outside the Houses of Parliament in London on Wednesday after an officer was stabbed in what police said was a "terrorist" incident. NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP/Getty Images

Israel, British Jewry offer condolences in wake of deadly London attacks


At least two civilians and a police officer were killed in a car-ramming and knife attack outside the houses of Parliament in London.

British authorities are calling the attack a “terrorist incident” as they continue to investigate the motive in the Wednesday afternoon attack.

More than 20 are reported injured, some seriously. The attacker was shot and killed by police after crashing into a crowd of pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and then exiting the vehicle brandishing a knife. He stabbed a police officer to death inside the gates of the Parliament building. The attacker has not yet been identified.

The Community Security Trust, the United Kingdom’s main watchdog group on anti-Semitism, called on the Jewish community to be “calm, vigilant and to cooperate with security measures,” a spokesman told the London-based Jewish Chronicle. The CST said there is not believed to be any immediate threat to the community.

Additional police patrols were visible in London neighborhoods with large Jewish populations, such as Stamford Hills.

U.K. Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said in a statement: “Today’s attack, which targeted the very heart of our democracy in Westminster, will serve only to unite us against the scourge of violence and terrorism.

“The prayers of the Jewish community are with the families of the victims and with our security services, who so often selflessly place themselves in harm’s way for our protection.”

In Israel, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said in a statement: “Israel expresses its deep shock at the terror attack in London today and its solidarity with the victims and with the people and government of Great Britain. Terror is terror wherever it occurs and we will fight it relentlessly.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also holds the foreign minister’s portfolio, was on an airplane back to Israel from China at the time of the attack.

The European Jewish Congress condemned what it called a “cowardly and barbaric terror attack.” The EJC statement also extended its condolences to the British government and the British people.

“This strike, at the heart of democracy, on the anniversary of the Brussels attacks which claimed the lives of 32 people, once again demonstrates that radical extremists continue to have the ability and motivation to commit mass murder in Europe,” EJC President Dr. Moshe Kantor said in the statement.

“This murderous ideology targets all of Europeans and all of Europe must stand together to fight this scourge.”

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also condemned the attack.

“On behalf of the United States, I express my condolences to the victims and their families,” he said in a statement. “The American people send their thoughts and prayers to the people of the United Kingdom. We condemn these horrific acts of violence, and whether they were carried out by troubled individuals or by terrorists, the victims know no difference.”

UK Jewish audience challenges Jeremy Corbyn on anti-Semitism charges


Facing questions from a Jewish audience about his party’s anti-Semitism problem, U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn refused to say whether the movement will kick out one of its most often accused offenders, former London Mayor Ken Livingstone.

Corbyn spoke about Livingstone and other issues connected to allegations of anti-Semitism on Sunday during a debate with Owen Smith, who is challenging Corbyn for the party’s leadership, at London’s JW3 Jewish community center. It was one of the most public appearances by Corbyn at a Jewish forum in recent years.

Hundreds of people attended the debate. Despite some jeering at Corbyn, it went off without incident.

Corbyn has faced allegations that his pro-Palestinian politics and endorsement of radical anti-Semites has encouraged hate speech against Jews. Livingstone sparked outrage in April when he said in an interview that Adolf Hitler was essentially “supporting Zionism” when he called for the expulsion of Jews in 1932.

When asked by a member of the Board of Deputies of British Jews whether Labour intends to expel Livingstone, Corbyn was circumspect.

“OK, Ken Livingstone was suspended for the remarks he made, he’s under investigation, due process will follow,” Corbyn said.

Smith then said he suspected Livingstone will be allowed back into the party.

Dozens of Labour members have been suspended and several expelled from the party since February, when the British media began scrutinizing the proliferation of anti-Semitic incidents within Labour after the election last year of Corbyn. In 2009, Corbyn called Hezbollah and Hamas his “friends,” a comment he later walked back. He has also called for boycotts against Israeli settlements.

Last month, British Jewish leaders dismissed an internal party report about the problem as a “whitewash” and accused Corbyn of rewarding the author by appointing her as a lawmaker.

Shami Chakrabarti, a human rights activist and Labour member, was recommended by Labour for peerage – a term that means being appointed to the House of Lords — last month. In her report, she asserted that while there is  an “occasionally toxic atmosphere” against Jews in Labour, anti-Semitism is not prevalent in the party’s ranks. Peerage is ultimately given by the Royal House.

Corbyn reiterated during the debate his commitment to opposing all forms of racism.

US citizen killed, Israeli among injured in London stabbing attack


The woman killed in a stabbing attack in London was a U.S. citizen and one of the injured was an Israeli, police told reporters.

The attack early Thursday does not appear to be terrorism-related, however, according to Assistant London Police Commissioner Mark Rowley.

“The woman who was murdered was an American national. Those injured were Australian, American, Israeli and British,” Rowley told reporters outside police headquarters in central London, according to Reuters.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry confirmed to Israeli media that an Israeli was among the injured, but did not provide any more details.

The Israeli victim was injured in her hand and has been discharged from the hospital, Ynet reported. She was later identified as aYuval Labkovsky, 18, who was visiting London with her grandfather. She is set to enter the Israel Defense Forces next week.

The attacker, a Norwegian citizen of Somali origin, is believed to have mental health issues.

“We believe this was a spontaneous attack and that the victims were selected at random.

“So far we have found no evidence of radicalization that would suggest that the man in our custody is in any way motivated by terrorism,” Rowley said.

The area of the attack, Russell Square, reportedly is a busy area for tourists, including hotels, cafes and souvenir shops.

Rowley told reporters there would be an increased police presence in London in the wake of the attack to “provide reassurance and safety.”

 

As London prices climb, Manchester beckons Jews from far and near


When Yitzchak Horwitz’s family opened one of the first Jewish businesses in this leafy suburb of Manchester — a bookstore that also sold Judaica items — it served a small Jewish community that had only recently moved there from the downtown area.

“The center was run-down after the war, living conditions deteriorated, we had to get out,” said Horwitz, a man in his 80s who runs and owns the Judaica World store that his family opened here in 1960. “A few Jewish families, a small synagogue and that was pretty much it.”

Nevertheless, Horwitz stuck it out. And half a century later, his business is among dozens of Jewish shops servicing thousands of people from the Jewish community of the Manchester area, some 200 miles north of London. Now this community is among the fastest growing in Western Europe, providing Horwitz income from selling Jewish and Hebrew holy books, textbooks and stationery.

At a time when many Jewish communities outside London are dwindling, the one in the Manchester area is growing almost beyond its own capacity due to the high birthrate of its haredi Orthodox nucleus and an influx of Jewish newcomers. The latter is drawn here by the excellent infrastructure for observant Jews and a cost of living that is roughly half that of pricey London.

“People in London seem to think they earn loads more money,” said Selena Myers, a Liverpool-born observant Jewish in her 20s who works at a local Jewish newspaper. Four years ago she moved from London to Manchester, where she lives with her husband. “In fact, the cost of living is maybe three times higher than in Manchester,” whereas the salaries are not. London, she said, “doesn’t make financial sense.”

London is the world’s most expensive city in which to live and work, according to a study published in March by the Savills international real-estate agency. Accommodation for the average Londoner – calculated as a total of housing and office rental costs – comes to $105,000 a year, putting London ahead of New York ($103,000) and Hong Kong ($96,800).

A view of Manchester’s Victoria train station. (Wikimedia Commons)

Not only is renting in Manchester half the cost of what it is in London, but the average price of a home in the greater Manchester area is $144,000 – a full fifth of the average price in London.

Cost of living is especially important for Orthodox families with many children, like that of Simon Rudich, a Rome-born property investor and lawyer who has raised eight children in Manchester with his British wife.

“If you want to live in England as an observant Jew, which I do, then you have two main options: London or Manchester,” said Rudich. “But you only have one sensible option, which is the one I took.”

The only downside to living in Manchester, he said, “is living without sunshine.” Manchester gets 256 rainy days annually and 34 inches of precipitation – respectively 30 and 21 percent more than London.

When the sun does shine, however, Prestwich is bustling with activity by Jews of all denominations. It has five kosher supermarkets near its center. One features a sushi bar where customers line up for freshly prepared glatt kosher rolls.

There are clothing shops catering to the modest standards of observant women, several kosher butchers, a vegetable shop with exotic produce like gooseberries and mangos from Israel, and a French-style kosher patisserie.

According to a 2011 census by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, greater Manchester in the previous decade saw a 15 percent growth in its Jewish population, to 25,013. Conversely, the city of Manchester itself lost 463 Jews. It is home to Britain’s second largest Jewish population after London, where most of the country’s 250,000 Jews live.

In Manchester, as elsewhere in Western Europe, Jewish families that once lived in middle- and working-class areas of the city have moved into the suburbs, partly to improve their quality of life. Another reason for moving has been the arrival of poorer African and Arab immigrants to neighborhoods that often saw an uptick in crime and, more recently, anti-Semitic harassment.

“I chose Manchester because I’m from South Africa,” said Dianna Schwartz, an observant mother of four. She immigrated five years ago to Prestwich from Cape Town because of what she described as “a deteriorating security situation after 1994,” the year apartheid ended.

“I can’t live in a London apartment, I need space and green. That’s how I grew up,” she said. “But getting that in a part of London that is near a proper Jewish school is just impossible for us.”

Manchester’s Jewish influx has left its 12 or so Jewish schools and kindergartens in need of more space and staff, which has helped generate work, particularly for women.

“When I first moved here, people immediately assumed I was a teacher,” said Myers, the newspaper office worker. “They’d ask me straight away where I teach.”

While Manchester remains significantly cheaper than London, the influx is nonetheless driving up prices and creating a housing shortage in the city’s heavily Jewish areas.

“You’re already seeing new Jewish presence in areas around Prestwich, which used to have no Jews in the past,” Myers said.

Manchester is not the only affordable city in northern Britain with an active Jewish community; Liverpool, Leeds and Bristol all have them. Yet Manchester emerged as the largest because it retained an observant and haredi nucleus, which over time produced community institutions that cemented it as the epicenter of Jewish life outside London, according to Rabbi Hillel Royde of the Manchester Beth Din, or rabbinical court.

Thus Manchester is the only city in northern England with a large haredi school. Myers and her siblings attended school in Manchester for that reason even when they were living in Liverpool, she said.

British lawmaker Luciana Berger meeting members of the Jewish Representative Council of the Manchester area, May 8, 2016. (Courtesy of the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester and Region)

This inbound traffic is “creating some problems that are nice to have, but they are nonetheless problems,” Royde said.

His rabbinical court is one of the community’s main tools for solving those problems. Established in 1902, when heavy industry attracted thousands of Jewish immigrants from Europe to the area, the court served 30 butcher shops, supervising ritual slaughter across the region.

Over time it has taken over kashrut supervision for the large food producers in the Manchester area, including the cereal giant Kellogg’s. Supervision fees from such companies are invested back into the community and used to open new schools and fund projects that make Manchester even more attractive for observant Jews — like setting up eruvs, symbolic boundaries that allow observant Jews to carry objects on Shabbat.

In 2014, the Manchester suburbs became the site of Britain’s largest eruv, a 13-mile perimeter that includes Prestwich, Crumpsall and Higher Broughton. Without an eruv, haredi families with children would effectively go into weekend curfews. But setting them up is an expensive and complex process that requires city permits and installing braces, strings and poles to discreetly cordon off the area. Work is ongoing on another eruv in the Manchester suburb of Hale.

These improvements have made life easier for thousands of haredi Jews and are attracting thousands more. And that is changing the nature of a community that, according to Myers, is losing its middle ground.

“Nowadays it’s either you’re very observant or almost not at all,” she said. “It didn’t used to be like that.”

Have we taken leave of our senses?


As a British Jew in London, I got a rude awakening on the morning of June 24. Looking at my phone at 7 in the morning, I could hardly believe what I was reading in the notifications from the news sites I subscribe to.

I am rabbi to a congregation of more than 3,000 members, and barely anyone who had spoken to me about the European Union referendum campaign had indicated that they were going to vote to leave. Over the past few weeks, I had been part of a two straw polls in which people indicated how they were likely to vote, one at our Assembly of Rabbis, one among a large studio audience at a television debate on an unrelated religious issue on which I was a panelist. Both times, the indication was a large majority wanted to remain. The national polls had been saying that the result was likely to be close, but close in favor of Remain, not Leave. While sermons had been preached on the issues as how they might affect the Jewish community at our civically engaged synagogue, the synagogue had not taken a line on which way to vote as we knew that there was a small amount of diversity in opinion that had to be respected.

At 7 in the morning of June 24, I had to face the screaming evidence that I did not know my country. Britain, up to that point, felt safe for Jews to thrive in a multicultural outward looking, welcoming society. It was one where we felt connected to the rest of the world through our membership in the powerful and open European Union. Now it feels horribly uncertain. For the country to split so evenly on such a big issue is worrying, and the Jewish community is largely on the losing side of the argument. 

The statistics provide very strong evidence for this. Nationally, the Leave vote was 51.9 percent, the Remain vote was 48.1 percent. It means half the country’s citizens in a vote with a high 72 percent turnout do not agree with the other half. The Jewish community in Britain is concentrated in London. Of 264,000 of us, according to the 2011 census, more than 75 percent live in London, where the vote to remain was the substantial majority. In the area where almost all of the members of my synagogue live, and which is the area of the highest concentration of Jews in the country, the Remain vote was more than 80 percent.

On the afternoon of the announcement of the results, the conference of our national Movement for Reform Judaism began. It meant that I was now together with Jews from all around the country and, informally, this confirmed for me that most Jews had been on the Remain side.

Speaking to people around the conference, Brexit was, of course, a major topic of conversation. People’s reasons for voting Remain had been those of Britain’s middle class in general: the ability of their children to find employment if they wished throughout Europe; the ability of their companies to trade widely and easily; a comfort with immigration to Britain as a benefit to the economy and cultural richness of the nation.

But there were also more Jewish issues among the reasons for Remain: a strong discomfort with the far right-wing stance of some in the Leave camp whose success might encourage other similar groups across Europe that include Jews among the groups they reject; a sense that a Jew must be able to live elsewhere in case of emergency, a reality lived one or two generations previously by those with Jewish refugee ancestors; the knowledge that the European Union had enshrined the cessation of regular war between European nations within which Jews had been scapegoats in the past; and, from a more positive perspective, the unity of the European Jewish community, demonstrated in our European Union for Progressive Judaism, the Orthodox Council of European Rabbis and many other cooperative institutions and, of course, family and personal relationships across Europe.

Yet our country had rejected this. Many Jews have been talking about how little we know the parts of Britain that must feel economically disenfranchised, that feel under threat from the free movement of European people, that feel safer closed in.

At our Reform Movement conference, speaking privately with members of a synagogue in one of the northern cities that voted more than 70 percent to leave the EU, I heard they were sure their community in that city had voted with the majority. They experienced the disenfranchisement and disillusion with the EU just as much as their fellow citizens and felt that any Jewish community arguments to remain were of lesser value when you have lived for decades with uncertain employment and a low-wage, local economy.

Leaving the EU — and the process of leaving — will undoubtedly have an effect on the Jewish community. We expect it to be harder to raise funds for Jewish community life as the uncertainly of the economy makes our members naturally cautious. The British Jewish community has been thriving, with great new institutions and synagogues being built, especially in London, but our ambition may now be on hold.

We are concerned about Brexit encouraging the far right across Europe and possibly leading to continental European countries facing the same disunity Britain has just shown. A community so dedicated to bringing up our next generation is worried that our children’s future, their options for work and residence, and their ability to study abroad has just been constricted. Above all, we are worried that we didn’t really know how the rest of the country thinks.

Rabbi Mark Goldsmith is rabbi at Alyth Synagogue in Golders Green, London. He was ordained at Leo Baeck College in London in 1996 and is past chair of the Assembly of Reform Rabbis UK and the Rabbinic Conference of Liberal Judaism.

Ex-London Mayor Ken Livingstone accuses Israel of ethnic cleansing, but not Nazism


Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone told a Parliament committee that he does not believe Zionism or the policies of the Israeli government are at all analogous to Nazism.

Livingstone also reiterated that he regretted saying Adolf Hitler supported Zionism because of the furor his remarks sparked, not because he disavows them.

“I therefore do regret raising the historical points about Nazi policy in the1930s when the specific issue of Hitler was raised by (reporter) Vanessa Feltz,” Livingstone said in a written statement filed with the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee hearing on anti-Semitism. “I regret it because there was an hysterical response from opponents of the Labour Party and of its current leadership, which will not have aided Labour’s campaign for the 5 May elections. I am horrified by the way my remarks have been interpreted and twisted. I cannot think of a worse insult than to be called a racist or an anti-Semite. And I am sorry if what I said has caused Jewish people, or anyone else, offense. That was not my intention.”

In a radio interview in April with the BBC, Livingstone had said, “Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism.”

He made the remarks in defense of Labour Party lawmaker Naz Shah, who was suspended a day earlier over a Facebook post in 2014 suggesting that Israelis should be moved en masse to the United States. Days later, Livingstone was suspended from the party for the remark.

In recent months, Labour has suspended at least 20 members, including at the senior level, for anti-Semitic or vicious anti-Israel invective that critics say party leader Jeremy Corbyn had not done enough to curb.

The inquiry into anti-Semitism was launched in April to determine whether anti-Jewish prejudice has increased in the U.K. and to assess the particular dangers facing Jews.

Livingstone objected to the fact that in its questioning, the committee dwelled on the BBC interview in which he made the Hitler remarks rather than asking him about anti-Semitism and racism because of what he called his “long track record” of fighting both.

“Instead, the overwhelming majority of questions asked of me were about my views on the history of Germany in the 1930s, Hitler, the Nazis, Israel, Zionism and the Labour Party. Committee members seemed to be obsessed with these issues,” he wrote.

Livingstone also wrote: “To avoid any other misunderstanding, I do not believe that Zionism or the policies of Israeli governments are at all analogous to Nazism. Israeli governments have never had the aim of the systematic extermination of the Palestinian people, in the way Nazism sought the annihilation of the Jews.”

He did accuse Israel of ethnic cleansing, continuing: “However Israel’s policies have included ethnic cleansing. Palestinians who had lived in that land for centuries were driven out by systematic violence and terror aimed at clearing them out of what became a large part of the Israeli state.”

Livingstone served as mayor twice, from 1981 to 1986 and from 2000 to 2008.

Swastika posters left in north London playground 4 consecutive days


Police are stepping up their presence in a charedi Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of London after swastika posters were placed in a playground there four days in a row.

London’s Jewish Chronicle reported Friday that local police have increased patrols in Stamford Hill and are investigating the matter.

The local branch of Shomrim, the Jewish volunteer security group, first reported the posters to police Monday, and they have appeared every day since then. The playground is next to a Jewish senior home, many of whose residents are Holocaust survivors.

Stamford Hill Shomrim’s Shulem Stern told the Chronicle the posters have sparked “a sense of anxiety and fear amongst local parents.”

“The daubing of Nazi symbols in a place where Jewish children study and play is an act of racism intended to spread fear and alarm,” Marie van der Zyl, vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, told the Chronicle.

The northeast London neighborhood is home the largest charedi Orthodox community in Europe, according to the Chronicle.

 

Rescued haredi Orthodox teens donate $7,000 to British town’s lifeboat team


Haredi Orthodox teenagers from London have donated more than $7,000 to the lifeboat team that rescued them from the water.

Thirty-four boys from Stamford Hill in North London were rescued Monday from the beach at Dover by a helicopter and lifeboats after they were trapped by a tide that rolled in quickly. The 14- to 17-year-olds had guided the rescuers, including 40 volunteers, to their location using the flashlights on their cellphones.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution lifeboat station located in Dover, a town in the English county of Kent, reportedly relies on donations to operate.

A letter from the Ahavas Yisrael Community Centre in Stamford Hill to the station operations manager read: “The centre, together with our entire community, would like to extend their warmest gratitude and appreciation to you and your colleagues for the swift action and heroism of the Dover RNLI station, which ensured the safety of our boys.

“Following the incident you referred to the boys being in high spirits. I can assure you that this is in no small measure due to the care that the boys received from your team at the scene.”

The letter added that immediately after the accident, the families of the boys began raising funds for the station and would hold more fundraisers over the summer, the Kent online news website reported Thursday.

Suspicious car outside London’s Israeli embassy prompts police action


Police in London carried out a controlled explosion across the street from Israel’s embassy in the city after a suspicious vehicle was spotted there.

Hundreds of commuters were evacuated from the surrounding area, and police temporarily shut down a nearby section of Kensington High Street, according to the Daily Star.

Police determined that the car, a Volkswagen Passat, contained no explosives. London’s Jewish Chronicle reported that embassy staff “looked shaken upon leaving the building.”

In 1994, a car bombing on the western London embassy injured 20 and was followed several hours later by another one outside the London office of the United Jewish Israel Appeal. Two Palestinians, Jawad Botmeh and Samar Alami, were convicted in 1996 of “conspiracy to cause explosions” and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Botmeh was released in 2008 and Alami in 2009. Both insisted they were innocent and, according to the Jewish Chronicle, the current Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, advocated for their release.

75th anniversary of Baghdad pogrom to be commemorated in 4 cities


The author of a work on the Nazi-era massacre in Baghdad believed to have precipitated the Jewish exodus from Iraq is commemorating its 75th anniversary with candle lightings in four cities.

Edwin Black, who in 2010 published “The Farhud,” about the June 1-2, 1941 massacre of at least 180 Jews in Baghdad, will convene candle lightings on Tuesday in the morning on Capitol Hill and in the afternoon at the Edmond J. Safra Synagogue in New York.

On Thursday, there will be a candle lighting in London, which has a large Iraqi Jewish community, and then on June 6 at the Knesset in Jerusalem.

The pogrom, set off by the collapse of a popular pro-Nazi government in Baghdad, is seen as a turning point for Iraqi Jews. A series of subsequent decrees and attacks emptied the country of its ancient Jewish community by the early 1970s, with barely 100 Jews remaining.

In each city, 27 candles will be lit for the 27 centuries that Jewish life thrived in what is now Iraq.

Among the groups sponsoring the events are the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, StandWithUs and the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists.

Anti-Semitism charges stir the calm waters of bucolic Oxford


For a city that has made headlines recently for its anti-Semitism problem, Oxford has a pretty laid back Jewish scene.

On a recent Friday night, dozens of recognizably Jewish families and students wearing kippahs were enjoying the afternoon sun as they strolled to one of Oxford’s two synagogues.

They converged at a modern building that houses a Jewish community center, complete with a kosher kitchen and a shul with a tall, sloped ceiling of white plaster that evokes the feeling of standing between the pages of a giant book. The same building has separate halls for Progressive congregants (Conservative and Reform) and Orthodox prayer, where services are held simultaneously.

Across Britain and Western Europe, worshippers more commonly cover their kippahs with a hat on the way to synagogue, where they are inspected or questioned – and sometimes even frisked – at the entrance by police or military. And while the Oxford Jewish Centre has some security, visitors can often walk in no questions asked.

It’s part of living in a city with hardly any violent anti-Semitic incidents, says Jake Berger, a third-year psychology student from Manchester.

“I definitely feel safer walking around with a kippah here compared to Manchester,” Berger said.

Yet despite the rarity of physical attacks on Jews, anti-Semitic rhetoric and hate speech against Israel in Oxford has invited scrutiny and cast an ugly shadow on this bastion of the British left. A picturesque university town of 160,000 residents 60 miles northwest of London, Oxford is internationally famous for its scholastic excellence and for churning out leaders in a variety of fields. The University of Oxford was ranked as the world’s fifth best in the Center for World University Rankings this year.

Students fill the many affordable pubs here until deep into the night. On weekends, lovers and hikers walk or sail along the Oxford Canal, which intersects the city’s center and stretches for 80 miles.

Especially for Jews who are openly supportive of Israel, Oxford is “an Eden with a dark underbelly,” according to Richard Black, a fourth-year history student and former member of the local JSoc, the Oxford University Jewish Society. As a pro-Israel activist, he has been called “baby killer” several times in Oxford.

He says he overheard a classmate explaining that Jews exploit the memory of the Holocaust while committing their very own Holocaust against Palestinians, adding that Jews control American finance and media. After an argument on Israel, Black recalls, a member of the academic faculty told him that the Hebrew Bible was “genocidal” and that Black provided “the best advertisement for anti-Semitism.”

Black also recalls that at one event in 2011, a pro-Palestinian activist told him that “Adolf Hitler was a good man.” She was holding a banner supporting Palestinians and speaking with Black calmly about the factors that led to Israel’s existence, including the Holocaust.

“I was shocked back then, but I have grown accustomed,” Black said.

Like many Jewish students at Oxford, Black cites the increasingly popular pejorative of “Zio” as proof of widespread but covert anti-Semitism. Short for Zionist, “it’s shorthand, used by people who hate Jews as cover for what they’re really saying: ‘Dirty Jew,’” Black said. “The true meaning lies in context: Zio media, Zio lobby – You overhear this sort of thing here.”

Last year, African rights activist Zuleyka Shahin, during a failed campaign for president of the Oxford Union, wrote on Facebook that “Judeo-Christian white men” and “Zio white men” are “complicit in the funding of wars and the social genocide of my people.”

In February, a non-Jewish Oxford student had enough of anti-Semitic chatter. Alex Chalmers, a co-chair of the university’s Labour chapter, resigned his post over the chapter’s passing of a motion endorsing Israel Apartheid Week, explaining that he no longer wanted to be associated with a framework that has “some kind of problem with Jews.”

The word “Zio,” he wrote in an op-ed explaining his move, “was part of the [Labour] club’s lexicon.” The song “Rockets over Tel Aviv” was a favorite among a certain faction of the club. Concerns of Jewish students “were ridiculed,” Chalmers added.

His resignation triggered an internal probe by Oxford’s Labour chapter which found that the Oxford University Labour Club is not institutionally anti-Semitic, but faces “difficulties” that must be addressed, the Jewish Chronicle reported Tuesday.

More significantly, it also started a chain reaction, exposing the left-wing party to intense media scrutiny in Britain that generated one of its worst public relations fiascoes in years. Labour’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn – himself branded untrustworthy by Jewish community leaders over his support for the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah – was forced to suspend at least 20 of the party’s members for making hateful remarks or statements on Jews and Israel.

Among those suspended this month were former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who said Hitler supported Zionism in defending a Labour lawmaker who had been suspended earlier for making a similar statement.

Earlier this month Ephraim Mirvis, the chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, told The Times of London that Jewish students at British universities, including Oxford, face a “wall of anti-Zionism, which they feel and know to be Jew hatred.” He is scheduled to speak later this month at the Oxford Union.

For some Jewish students and faculty, the storm is “just brouhaha,” said Jonathan, a former computer science student who graduated in 2013.  He returns to Oxford regularly for JSoc activities and to attend lectures.

Jonathan, an observant Jew who did not want his last name mentioned, said: “The ones who experience anti-Semitism are the hacks,” meaning people active in student or university politics.

Most Jews in Oxford “enjoy a very good situation of safety and a robust Jewish community with excellent facilities that are actually far better than what one finds in many other British universities,” said Berger, the psychology student from Manchester. Even Black – a supporter of the Conservative Party – said that “for every negative experience” with non-Jews in Oxford, he has had “a hundred positive ones.”

While the recent scandal exposed widespread hate speech at Oxford, it also reinforced growing rejection of anti-Semitism “by the vast majority in Oxford” who understand “how criticism of Israel spills into anti-Semitism,” Black said.

Last month, four of Oxford’s six delegates to Britain’s National Student Union said their university should disaffiliate from the union following the election of Malia Bouatia as its president. Bouatia, a student at the University of Birmingham, is accused of justifying violence against Israelis and opposing a motion to condemn the Islamic State terror group lest it stigmatize Muslims. She also blamed the “Zionist-led media” for oppression in the global south.

Two British universities, Lincoln and Newcastle, this month disaffiliated with the union, citing lack of confidence in its leadership. Oxford is set to hold a disaffiliation referendum in the coming weeks.   

As for Israelis living in Oxford — there are hundreds of them, mostly students and researchers — they say they suffer no discrimination or abuse for their country of origin.

“It’s a very international place, many languages spoken, very tolerant,” said Lior Weizman, 36, a father of four who moved to Oxford last year to work as a post-doctoral fellow at Oxford specializing in medical imaging of the brain.

“I’m not a political person,” he said. “But if there are situations of people being singled out in Oxford because of their country of origin, I haven’t encountered them.”

London’s Muslim mayor reaffirms plan for Israel trip


Sadiq Khan, who was sworn in as London’s first Muslim mayor last week, reiterated plans to lead a trade delegation to Israel.

In an interview with London’s The Jewish News published Monday, Khan, the first Muslim mayor of any Western capital city and London’s first Labour Party mayor in eight years, also said he believes it is important to improve Jewish-Muslim relations in the UK capital.

During his campaign, Khan criticized Labour for not doing enough to confront anti-Semitism among some of its members. Accusations of anti-Semitism have roiled his party in recent months, with dozens of members suspended in the past few weeks allegedly for making anti-Semitic remarks. London’s former Labour mayor, Ken Livingstone, was suspended for anti-Semitic remarks in late April following a series of interviews in which he claimed that Adolf Hitler had supported Zionism.

A self-described moderate Muslim, Khan took office on Saturday. He attended a Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony with British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis the following day in his first official appearance as mayor.

“We’ve got to accept there are some people who say they’re Muslim, some people of the Jewish faith who don’t like the fact I’m here, that I’m sitting next to the chief rabbi,” he told The Jewish News.

“My message to those people is we live in the greatest city in the world and have to go get along. I’m the mayor of London, the most diverse city in the world, and I’ll be everyone’s mayor. No preferential treatment ,but I have a role to build bridges. My signing-in ceremony was deliberately designed to show the sort of a mayor I’ll be and I started as I mean to go on.”

Asked when he will fulfill a campaign promise to visit Israel, Khan said, “I’ve not even had my first Monday at work to be fair, I’ve had six hours sleep since Wednesday. But I’m keen to make sure I’m the most pro-business mayor we’ve ever had and that means going on trade missions, including to Tel Aviv.”

Hundreds of anti-Israel posters hung in London subways


Hundreds of posters in support of the Palestinians and calling Israel an apartheid state were hung in London’s Underground subway system.

The ads were being removed Monday, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Commuters first saw the signs during that morning’s commute after they were put up overnight.

Transport for London, which runs the subway system, told the London-based Jewish Chronicle that the ads were “unauthorized acts of vandalism” and would be taken down.

London Palestine Action, a pro-Palestinian activist group, claimed responsibility for the ads, saying they are part of the group’s Israeli Apartheid Week campaign.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed Israel’s Foreign Ministry Director Dore Gold, who is in London for talks with his British counterpart, to demand the immediate removal of the ads.

Some of the ads call the BBC’s coverage of the Israel-Palestinian conflict biased toward Israel, while others are emblazoned with the headline “Apartheid is Great Britain.” The posters also claim that British-made arms were used to “massacre” Palestinians during Israel’s 1994 Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in Gaza.

Russia’s Putin probably approved London murder of ex-KGB agent Litvinenko


President Vladimir Putin probably approved a 2006 Russian intelligence operation to murder ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko with radioactive polonium-210 in London, a British inquiry concluded on Thursday, prompting a row with Moscow.

Russia, which had declined to cooperate in the inquiry, cautioned pointedly that it could “poison” relations. Britain accused the Kremlin of uncivilised behaviour but did not immediately signal it would take any stronger action.

Litvinenko, 43, an outspoken critic of Putin who fled Russia for Britain six years to the day before he was poisoned, died after drinking green tea laced with the rare and very potent radioactive isotope at London's Millennium Hotel.

An inquiry led by senior British judge Robert Owen found that former KGB bodyguard Andrei Lugovoy and another Russian, Dmitry Kovtun, carried out the killing as part of an operation probably directed by Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), the main heir to the Soviet-era KGB.

“The FSB operation to kill Mr Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr. Patrushev, then head of the FSB, and also by President Putin,” Owen said.

“I have concluded that there is a strong probability that when Mr. Lugovoy poisoned Mr Litvinenko, he did so under the direction of the FSB. I have further concluded that Mr Kovtun was also acting under FSB direction,” he said.

The death of Litvinenko marked a post-Cold War low point in Anglo-Russian relations, and ties have never recovered, marred further by Russia's annexation of Crimea and its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“The conclusion that the Russian state was probably involved in the murder of Mr. Litvinenko is deeply disturbing,” interior minister Theresa May told parliament.

“This was a blatant and unacceptable breach of the most fundamental tenets of international law and of civilised behaviour.”

The opposition Labour Party spoke of an “unparalleled act of state-sponsored terrorism”.

POLONIUM TEA

The image of Litvinenko lying on his bed at London's University College Hospital, cadaverous and having lost his hair, was emblazoned across British and other Western newspapers and later shown to the inquiry. He took over three weeks to die.

From his deathbed, Litvinenko told detectives he believed Putin – a former KGB spy who went on to head the FSB before winning the presidency – had directly ordered his killing.

The Kremlin has always denied any involvement but the claim that Putin directly ordered a killing of an opponent with a radioactive isotope in a major Western capital provoked immediate censure from Moscow.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said what it called Britain's biased and opaque handling of the case had clouded relations.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said such inquiries risked poisoning relations and pointed out that the inquiry relied on unpublicised information from the intelligence services.

The judge said he was sure Lugovoy and Kovtun had placed the polonium 210 in a teapot at the Millennium Hotel's Pine Bar on Nov. 1, 2006 when they met Litvinenko for little more than 30 minutes. Litvinenko said he had only drunk three or four mouthfuls of the cold green tea made with lemon and honey.

High polonium contamination was found in the teapot and the hotel bar, and traces of the highly radioactive substance were left across London including offices, hotels, planes and Arsenal soccer club's Emirates Stadium.

Owen also concluded the two men had unsuccessfully tried to kill Litvinenko two weeks earlier at a meeting at a London security firm, and said it was “entirely possible” Lugovoy was planning to target him back in 2004.

The British government summoned Russia's ambassador Alexander Yakovenko, demanding the Kremlin provide answers and extradite the two main suspects.

RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE

Both Lugovoy and Kovtun, who declined to participate in the six-month British inquiry, have previously denied involvement and Russia has refused to extradite them. Lugovoy, now a Russian lawmaker, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying the accusation was absurd.

Owen cited several reasons why the Russian state would have wanted to kill Litvinenko, who was granted British citizenship a month before his death on Nov. 23, 2006.

The ex-spy was regarded as having betrayed the FSB by accusing it of carrying out 1999 apartment block bombings that killed more than 200 people in Russia and which the Kremlin, launching an offensive to restore control over the southern region of Chechnya, blamed on Chechens.

The FSB also had information Litvinenko had started working for Britain's foreign intelligence agency, MI6.

Litvinenko was close to leading Russian dissidents and opponents of Putin and his administration, whom he had accused of collusion with organised crime, and had made highly personal allegations about the Kremlin chief.

“There was undoubtedly a personal dimension to the antagonism between Mr Litvinenko on the one hand and President Putin on the other,” Owen's report said.

Some of the inquiry was held in secret and evidence from the British government and spy agencies has not been publicly disclosed.

Litvinenko's widow, Marina, whose persistence led to the inquiry being held, called for Russian spies to be kicked out of Britain and for sanctions against Russia.

“I'm … calling for the imposition of targeted economic sanctions and travel bans against named individuals, including Mr Patrushev and Mr Putin,” she told reporters outside London's Royal Courts of Justice. Patrushev serves as secretary of Russia's Security Council.

Kuwait Airways, ordered to stop refusing tickets to Israelis, drops NYC-London flight


Kuwait Airways is eliminating service between New York and London after the US Department of Transportation ordered the carrier to stop refusing to sell tickets to Israelis.

Namrata Kolachalam, a spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation, announced the airline’s decision, USA Today reported Tuesday.

On September 30, the department announced that the airline had acted illegally when it refused to sell a ticket to Eldad Gatt, an Israeli citizen, in 2013. On October 29, the department ordered the airline to “cease and desist from refusing to transport Israeli citizens between the U.S. and any third country where they are allowed to disembark,” USA Today reported, citing a letter from the department’s assistant general counsel for enforcement.

The newspaper reported that Kuwait Airways explained its refusal to sell Gatt a ticket by saying it needed to comply with a Kuwaiti law barring citizens from agreements “with entities or persons residing in Israel, or with Israeli citizenship.”

 

The airline filed a counter suit against the department on November 24, which it has not yet withdrawn. If it prevails, it may resume the New York-London flights.

In London’s Jewish heart, planned neo-Nazi rally provokes outrage


Like many European Jews, Stephen Lever has mostly stopped wearing his yarmulke on the street in recent years.

A Londoner, Lever said he fears joining the hundreds of Jews accosted annually in his native United Kingdom, often by Muslim or Arab extremists seeking to exact retribution for Israel’s actions. More than 1,000 anti-Semitic attacks were recorded in Great Britain last year — an all-time record and a number even higher than that of France, which has roughly double the Jewish population.

The exception, however, is in Golders Green, the heavily Jewish neighborhood in northwest London that is considered the epicenter of British Jewry. Roughly one-fifth of Britain’s 250,000 Jews live in the surrounding northern borough of Barnet.

Along the neighborhood’s main thoroughfare, Golders Green Road, dozens of shops feature signs with Hebrew lettering.  The neighborhood is home to several Israeli-style cafes, kosher food purveyors and an outpost of the Israeli bookstore Steimatzky. After the conclusion of the Jewish Sabbath on Saturday night, one of the neighborhood’s institutions, Carmelli Bakery, stays open until the wee hours of the morning as a diverse cross-section of British Jews leave their cars double parked outside its neon sign while they pop in to buy rugelach, kichlach and pita bread.

Lever said he considers the neighborhood a “safe haven.” Which is why he was outraged to discover last month that, for the first time in decades, several dozen neo-Nazis were preparing to rally in the neighborhood on July 4 at an event that their leader — the self-described Fascist Joshua Bonehill — promised would feature “Jewish book burning and Jewish flag destruction” to protest “Jewish privilege.”

Despite requests from local Jews, the police declined to ban the rally, which some see as an effort to intimidate Jews in the heart of their community. David Cameron, the British prime minister, said in parliament earlier this month that the neo-Nazis had a right to free expression, though he also condemned the rally and said any “harassment or threatening behavior …. should be prosecuted.”

“The far-right isn’t a big concern, much weaker than it used to be in the 1980s,” Lever told JTA late on Saturday as he waited to buy pastry at Carmelli. “But it’s still upsetting because it builds on the anti-Semitism that’s already out there, and compounds that aggression by Muslim extremists.”

At the bakery, three activists from Campaign for Truth handed out fliers for a counter-protest to inbound customers, whom the activists invited to wear blue and white — the colors of the Israeli flag. Hundreds, if not thousands, are expected to show up for the counter-protest. Ambrosine Shitrit, one of the group’s coordinators, said the rally is a “troubling sign of growing intimidation against Jews and other supporters of Israel in Britain.”

Golders Green is testament to the confidence that has for centuries characterized the only large European Jewish community to be spared the horrors of the Holocaust. In the 1930s and 40s, thousands of refugees from mainland Europe arrived in the area, followed later by an influx of Sephardic Jews from India, Iraq and Syria. Unlike other London Jewish neighborhoods where the haredi Orthodox set the tone, Golders Green is wildly diverse, with all the major streams represented – including some less mainstream ones.

In Golders Green, affluent Reform Jews live in close proximity to Yiddish-speaking haredi families whose tally of children is in the double digits. They also often cross paths with thousands of Israelis who call the neighborhood home.

Elsewhere in Europe, heavily Jewish areas are less visibly Jewish and more visibly protected – including, in Paris, by armed soldiers following the Charlie Hebdo killings and the murder of four Jews at a Jewish supermarket in January. Still, “there is a growing atmosphere of fear” among British Jews, according to Laura Marks, former vice president of the Board of Deputies who cited figures from the Jewish community’s security unit showing that 1,168 anti-Semitic attacks were reported in England last year — even more than the 851 recorded in France.

Marks said the fear is “changing the priorities of British Jewry, even as it experiences a cultural renaissance.”

In an E.U. survey published in 2013, 41 percent of 1,260 British Jewish respondents said they experienced anti-Semitism at social events in the previous 12 months, and 19 percent said they had suffered anti-Semitic harassment in that timeframe. Still, only eight precent said they avoid being identified publicly as Jews all the time, compared to 34 in Sweden and 29 in France.

Sharon Klaff, another Jewish campaigner against the rally, said some of the fear comes from harassment “that you can’t put your finger on as anti-Semitic, but that’s nonetheless happening to Jews because they are Jews.” She cited robberies where Jews are targeted and shouts from moving cars on heavily-Jewish streets and vandalism against Jewish property.

British police are informed regularly of such incidents and make efforts to detain and deter perpetrators, but the community remains divided over whether they should step in and ban the neo-Nazi rally altogether. Yet to Keith Harris-Kahn, a London-area Jewish sociologist and editor of the Jewish Journal of Sociology, the event is shaping up as it should: “A neo-Nazi event that will be dwarfed by a far larger counter protest … It’s just one of the unpleasant aspects one needs to deal with in a democratic society.”

Jewish candidate quits UK race after saying Israel should kidnap Obama


A Jewish candidate for the British Parliament has withdrawn after suggesting that Israel should “do an Eichmann” on Barack Obama.

Jeremy Zeid of the United Kingdom Independence Party, or UKIP, quit his campaign on Thursday in response to the blowback to a Facebook post in which he suggested that Israel should “[k]idnap the bugger” and “lock him up for leaking state secrets,” according to the Jewish Chronicle. Zeid was outraged over the Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran.

Zeid, a decorator, was running in a northwest London district with the second-highest number of Jewish voters of any constituency in Britain, at approximately 17 percent, according to the Chronicle. He denied that the UKIP, a right-wing party defined by its anti-immigrant positions, had pressured him to resign.

Zeid was replaced on the ballot by Dr. Raymond Shamash, a dentist who served as a medical officer in the Israeli army during the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Shamash, in turn, told the Jewish Chronicle that he is “fearful” of Muslims, though he denied being Islamophobic.

“There are 2.8 million people [in the United Kingdom] who are ideologically and religiously opposed to us,” he told the Chronicle, referring to the U.K.’s Muslim population. “I am fearful of a minority that sees us Jews as a potential target for attack.”

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