Baltimore begins clean-up after riot over police-custody death


Baltimore residents on Tuesday began to clear the wreckage of rioting and fires that erupted after the funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died in police custody, while the city's mayor defended local law enforcement's light initial response.

Acrid smoke hung over streets where violence broke out just blocks from Freddie Gray's funeral and spread through much of the poor West Baltimore neighborhood. Nineteen buildings and 144 vehicles were set on fire, and 202 people were arrested, according to the mayor's office.

Police said 15 officers were injured, six seriously, in Monday's unrest, which spread throughout the city as police initially looked on but did not interfere as rioters torched vehicles and later businesses.

Looters had ransacked stores, pharmacies and a shopping mall and clashed with police in riot gear in the most violent unrest in the United States since Ferguson, Missouri, was torn by gunshots and arson in late 2014.

Gray's death gave new energy to the public outcry that flared last year after police killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, New York City and elsewhere.

“It's a very delicate balancing act, when we have to make sure that we're managing but not increasing and escalating the problem,” Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake told reporters on Tuesday.

Police in Ferguson came under intense criticism last year for quickly adopting a militarized posture, using armored vehicles, showing heavy weapons and deploying tear gas in a forceful response that some said escalated tensions in the St. Louis suburb.

New York's police department took a more flexible approach in protests later in the year, monitoring marches that crisscrossed the city but largely averting the kind of violence seen in Ferguson and Baltimore.

For nearly a week after Gray died from a spinal injury on April 19, protests in Baltimore had been peaceful.

'HERE TO HELP OUT, MAN'

On Tuesday, volunteers in Baltimore swept up charred debris in front of a CVS pharmacy as dozens of police officers in riot gear stood by and firefighters worked to damp down the embers.

“I'm just here to help out, man,” said Shaun Boyd, 30, as he swept up broken glass. “It's the city I'm from.”

National Guard troops on Tuesday began to stage around the city, including in front of the police station where officers were bringing Gray at the time he was injured.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, declared a state of emergency on Monday and Rawlings-Blake, a Democrat, imposed a one-week curfew in the largely black city starting Tuesday night, with exceptions for work and medical emergencies.

Baltimore-based fund manager T. Rowe Price Group Inc said it would close its downtown office on Tuesday. Legg Mason, also headquartered downtown, said its office would be open, but it was encouraging employees to work from home.

Schools were closed on Tuesday in the city of 620,000 people, 40 miles (64 km) from the nation's capital.

A day after rioters hit a mall in West Baltimore, the Security Square Mall outside the city closed after reports that protesters could be targeting it.

“When you see the destruction you've also got to realize there's pain, there's pain behind a lot of this,” said U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings, a Democrat who represents the region hit by the rioting.

The mayor, he said, should “assure us that the police department be looked at from top to bottom, everything from parking tickets straight up to indictments for murder.”

CAUGHT OFF-GUARD

Gray was arrested on April 12 while running from officers. He was transported to the police station in a van, with no seat restraint and suffered the spinal injury that led to his death a week later. A lawyer for Gray's family says his spine was 80 percent severed at the neck while in custody.

Six officers have been suspended, and the U.S. Justice Department is investigating possible civil rights violations.

Much of Monday's rioting occurred in a neighborhood where more than a third of families live in poverty. Parts of it had not been rebuilt since the 1968 rioting that swept across the United States after the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

Deadly confrontations between mostly white U.S. police and black men, and the subsequent unrest, will be among the challenges facing U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who was sworn in on Monday and condemned the “senseless acts of violence.”

In 1992, more than 50 people in Los Angeles were killed in violence set off by the acquittal of four police officers who beat black motorist Rodney King. Dozens died in 1968 riots.

Rashid Khan, 49, and his neighbors were cleaning up his King's Grocery Mart on Tuesday after looters caused what he estimated at $20,000 to $30,000 in damage.

Khan said he believed people from outside the neighborhood had caused the damage.

“Neighborhood protect me,” Khan said. 

As London burns, riots spread to Jewish communities


While some Jews in London marked Tisha b’Av on Tuesday by lamenting the burning of the Holy Temples on that day some two millennia ago, other London Jews watched as their city burned amid widespread rioting.

“Everyone is shocked,” Joel Braunold, a lifelong Londoner, told JTA in a phone interview just after leaving Tisha b’Av services Monday night. “People are angry and scared.”

Violent protests that broke out last Saturday following a deadly police shooting in the North London neighborhood of Tottenham quickly turned into riots, arson attacks and looting in neighborhoods this week all over the city in the worse civil unrest that London has seen in 25 years.

In some cases, the Jews reportedly weren’t just bystanders.

The Guardian reported that some members of Tottenham’s small Chasidic community—all that remains of a once-substantial Jewish community that earned its local soccer team the nickname “the Yids”—gathered to jeer police. A video posted on YouTube shows Orthodox men laughing and then scattering as a crowd of mounted police officers move in.

In another video, young Orthodox men can be seen handing out challah.

“When I saw Jewish people out tonight I was happy,” one protester told the Socialist Worker newspaper. “I thought, it’s not just us. They gave us bread.”

Most Jews, however, appear to be eager for a return to law and order. Local rabbis and the Shomrim Orthodox security service have warned Jewish community members to stay away from the riots, the UK Jewish Chronicle reported.

As the riots spread to Jewish areas of Stamford Hill and Golders Green, several Jewish-owned businesses were ransacked. Joelle Selt told JTA that her father’s general store was robbed at knifepoint by masked men, and a 71-year-old Jewish-owned store in Tottenham was looted Sunday morning, the Chronicle reported.

“They are tearing up their own community,” the store’s owner, Derek Lewis, said of the rioters, as reported in the Chronicle. “It’s tragic.”

At least two stabbings were reported Monday night in Stamford Hill, and clashes between rioters and police were reported in Golders Greer and Camden.

Linda W., a mother of three daughters who lives in London, contrasted the rioters disparagingly with the massive but nonviolent protests in Israel over high housing prices.

“It’s evident who raises the better man,” she wrote in an e-mail to JTA.

Linda said the Riot Act—a 1715 law that made it a felony for groups of 12 or more to refuse to disperse after being ordered to do so—should be returned to the books. The law was repealed in 1973.

“People want to enforce the law by any means necessary,” Braunold said. “They don’t care anymore; they just want the riots off the streets.”

The rioting began following the police shooting Aug. 4 in Tottenahm of a suspected drug dealer named Mark Duggan, and spread to young people in poorer neighborhoods. Many analysts have linked the riots to the weak economy, widespread unemployment and deep budget cuts that have hurt Britain’s poor.

“There are underlying causes,” Braunold said, “but first the rioting and hooliganism needs to stop. This brings out the worst characteristics in people, and they need to face the consequences.”

Artful Solution to Nazi Looting


After six years of litigation and diplomatic battles over Nazi-looted art, in a legal case stretching from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., to Vienna and back, the Austrian government has agreed with Maria Altmann, an 89-year old widow, to let arbitration decide who now owns masterpieces that once belonged to her family.

At stake are six works painted by Viennese artist Gustav Klimt, valued at $150 million and considered treasures of early 20th-century art.

The most famous among them is a gold-flecked portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, a member of a prominent Viennese Jewish family and the aunt of Altmann, a Cheviot Hills resident.

In 1938, the paintings were confiscated by the Nazis and eventually ended up at the Austrian National Gallery, where they are on display.

A major break in the litigation came last June, when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected pleas by both the Austrian and American governments and ruled that Austria could be sued in a U.S. court.

The Supreme Court decision helped Austria “to finally see the light,” said E. Randol Schoenberg, Altmann’s lawyer, and encouraged the country to consent to arbitration, which Schoenberg had first proposed in 1999.

Under the agreement, announced May 18, both sides have appointed one representative, who will jointly name a third member to the arbitration panel. All three will be Austrian legal experts, who are to render a nonappealable decision by Nov. 1.

The longtime court opponents reacted to the new agreement, hammered out over the last two months, with considerable relief.

“I feel very good that the case will finally be resolved, after waiting, waiting and waiting some more,” Altmann said. “We could have had this result six years ago, when I wrote a letter to the Austrian authorities offering just such a resolution, but they never even sent a response.”

Altmann said she had complete confidence in the fairness of the Austrian arbitration panel. She indicated that if the decision goes her way, she would not insist on the physical return of all the paintings, but consider a monetary settlement.

Martin Weiss, the Austrian consul general in Los Angeles, hailed the agreement as heralding “a very good day.”

He and attorney Scott P. Cooper, representing the Austrian government, expressed satisfaction that the case will be decided in Austria and under Austrian, rather than American, law.

The arbitration panel will have to resolve two key points: The first is whether, under conflicting wills written by the Bloch-Bauers, the paintings rightly belong to Austria or to Altmann. The second is how a 1998 Austrian law on restitution of Nazi-looted art applies to this case.

The Austrian decision to submit to arbitration could have considerable impact on other countries. Many of their museums have been reluctant to settle cases of paintings in their possession that were originally taken by Nazis from their Jewish owners outright, or through forced sales.

A current case involves a painting by impressionist Camille Pissarro hanging in Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. The painting was sold by a German-Jewish family under Nazi pressure for a fraction of its value.

For five years, Claude Cassirer, 84, of San Diego, a descendant of the painting’s former Jewish owners, has sought the painting’s return.

Spain will host an international Conference on Anti-Semitism and Other Forms of Intolerance on June 8 in Cordoba, and advocates for Cassirer are hoping to draw wider attention to the dispute over the Pissarro painting.

“The government of Spain would be well advised to follow the Austrian model,” Schoenberg said. “The claimants are getting very old and it is unconscionable to drag out the cases any longer.”

 

World Briefs


Committee Wants Inspection of Western
Wall

A U.N. group offered to inspect a portion of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem that could soon collapse. It is unclear whether Israel will accept the offer from the group, which is affiliated with UNESCO. In a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the Committee for the Prevention of the Destruction of Antiquities, composed of leading Israeli archaeologists and public figures, said an area on the southern portion of the Western Wall’s retaining wall has gradually bulged out from its original position as a result of massive illegal construction on the Temple Mount by the Wakf, or Muslim religious trust, Israel Radio reported. A Wakf official denied that there had been any deterioration in the past 30 years.

Sharon Cancels Sept. 11 Trip to U.S.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is canceling a trip to the United States next month. Sharon was expected to visit Florida and California, in part to commemorate the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Sharon’s aides said the cancellation was caused by the security situation in Israel and the need to pass Israel’s budget, and not concerns that Sharon meeting with Republican Jeb Bush would benefit the Florida governor in his bid for re-election.

Palestinians Ban Kids’ Photos

The Palestinian press association banned journalists from taking photos of Palestinian children holding weapons because such photos harm the Palestinian cause. The Foreign Press Association called on the Palestinian Journalist Syndicate to withdraw the statement, saying it limited press freedom.

Web Site Promotes Arab Oil Boycott

A Web site is calling for a boycott of some of the largest American gasoline companies for using Arab oil.

Araboilboycott.com is sponsoring a boycott from Aug. 30 to Sept. 11 of companies that utilize Gulf region crude oil. Among the companies targeted are Texaco, Shell, Exxon and Mobil. “The boycott is designed to be a warning shot across the bow of large multinational corporations that continue doing business with nations that sponsor terror,” a statement on the Web site says. “American consumers don’t want their gasoline purchases to fund terrorist activities.”

Hate Group Plans Mail Blitz

A U.S. white supremacist group is planning a nationwide mailing to coincide with the High Holidays. The National Alliance’s activities are planned to “honor” the group’s late leader, William Pierce, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). “William Pierce may be dead, but his legacy of hate and anti-Semitism live on,” said Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director.

Other hate groups are planning to use the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks to spread racist and anti-Semitic messages, the ADL says.

Soldiers Suspected of Looting

More than 30 Israeli army soldiers are suspected of looting Palestinian homes during Israel’s anti-terror operation in the West Bank in March and April. The soldiers are suspected of taking money, jewelry and other belongings, including handguns, from the homes, Israel Radio reported. The army is investigating the incidents.

French Envoy to U.K. Recalled

The French ambassador to the United Kingdom, who has used expletives to describe Israel, has been recalled. Daniel Bernard reportedly told luncheon guests in London last year that current troubles in the world were caused by Israel and used an expletive to describe the Jewish state.

British Rabbi: Violence ‘Corrupting’
Israel

The Israeli Embassy publically rebuked Britain’s chief rabbi on Wednesday for saying that Israel has implemented policies that are “incompatible” with Jewish ideals. In an interview published Tuesday in England’s Guardian newspaper, Jonathan Sacks said the current stalemate with the Palestinians is “corrupting” Jewish culture in Israel, specifically mentioning recent reports of smiling Israeli soldiers posing for a photograph with the corpse of a slain Palestinian. Sacks’ new book, “The Dignity of Difference,” is being serialized in the paper this week.

Legislator Asks Iran to Free Jailed
Jews

Iran’s only Jewish legislator called on Iran to free eight Jews imprisoned on charges of spying for Israel. Maurice Motamed urged the country’s top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to pardon the men before Rosh Hashana.

In a closed-door trial in 2000, 10 Jews were found guilty of spying for Israel and sentenced to prison terms ranging from four to 13 years. Two have been released. Many of the accused “confessed,” but Jewish groups contend the confessions were forced. Israel denies that any of the Jews were its spies.

Despite many unsuccessful discussions with officials during the Jews’ imprisonment, Iran’s Jewish community hopes that this time the plea will be successful, sources say.

Palestinian Comic Gets the Boot

Comic Jackie Mason canceled a Palestinian comedian who was scheduled to open for him in Chicago. “It’s not exactly like he’s just an Arab American. This guy’s a Palestinian,” Mason’s manager, Jyll Rosenfeld, said of Tuesday night’s decision. Replaced performer Ray Hanania, who launched his career after Sept. 11 in an attempt to unify Americans, said, “I’m upset because I deserve to be on stage and it was a big break for me.”

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Ten Years After: The Jews Remain


Recent events in the Middle East have been enough to make anyone pessimistic about the future of ethnic relations. But the situation here in Los Angeles — 10 years after the disastrous riots of April 1992 — gives some hope that racial reconciliation still has a future.

It is hard to imagine how fractured Los Angeles seemed at that time. The brutality of the riots — epitomized by the near-murder of truck driver Reginald Denny — and the wanton looting of the city sent shivers down the spine of anyone with a sense of decency.

For Los Angeles’ Jewish community as well, it was a pivotal moment. For generations, L.A.’s Jews, at least its official leadership, was allied politically with the African American community. We may have been “white,” but we were an essential part of the “rainbow coalition” that brought political power to South Central and Tom Bradley into the mayor’s office.

With the riots, the ties between Jews and the African American community changed, probably forever. For years, the two groups had, beneath the ritualized relationship between their leadership classes, been growing somewhat more apart, as Jews moved further away from predominately black neighborhoods and toward places like the Valley. Jewish merchants, who had been targeted in the 1965 riot, by 1992 had been largely replaced by Asians as the objects of class and racial conflict.

Other forces were placing a distance between the two communities. Busing had created, for the first time, a strong right-leaning sentiment among L.A. Jews, much of it in the Valley. Older Jews, particularly owners of small apartment and commercial buildings, had lined up with Howard Jarvis to back Proposition 13, a measure widely detested by the African American political community.

In the aftermath of the riots, the black-Jewish political ties became even more tenuous. The immediate political result was that Jews backed a Republican, Richard Riordan, twice against other candidates, first Michael Woo and then Tom Hayden, each of whom easily carried the black community. Many rising Jewish politicians, such as former Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg (D-Sherman Oaks), reflecting a change in demography, particularly in the Valley, cemented their closest ethnic relations not with African Americans but with Latinos.

Yet although they changed, moving somewhat toward a more middle-of-the-road stance, Jews also did not do something that, in the aftermath of riots in other cities, has become all too commonplace: They did not abandon Los Angeles.

This is in sharp contrast to the experience of the 1960s and 1970s, when Jewish populations evaporated in riot-torn cities such as Philadelphia, Detroit and Chicago.

According to demographer Pini Herman, the Jewish population has held steady over the past decade. This is remarkable given the fact that whites in general fled during the post-riot decade — over 270,000 in fact.

Herman says the riots probably did accelerate the already existing movement of some people to the suburban fringes, particularly places like Westlake Village. But the exiting population seems to have been compensated for by a diverse group of newcomers, ranging from Middle Eastern, Russian and other immigrants, as well as a continuing influx of Jews from other parts of the country.

Perhaps most surprising, Herman suggests, is the fact that many of the communities closest to the riots — notably Pico-Robertson — have not diminished over the past decade. In fact, he sees some increases in diverse, innercity areas, such as Fairfax and Los Feliz, over the past decade.

“There are clearly Jews who enjoy being in diverse urban areas,” says Herman, a principal in the firm of Phillips and Herman. “They have remained in the city when others left.”

This persistence has implications for the next 10 years. In many ways, at least in terms of what remains of “white” Los Angeles, Jews are in fact now arguably more important than they were a decade ago. They are now the largest predominately middle-class constituency, along with Asians, in the city.

Jews have retained their stake in Los Angeles. A group on the way out does not buy homes, build institutions from the grand — the Skirball Center, the Museum of Tolerance, Milken High — to the grass-roots, particularly the scores of new street-level shuls, if it has given up on a place.

Jews also dominate much of the current Los Angeles economy. As aerospace and other traditional “hard” manufacturing has left, other traditionally Jewish parts of the L.A. economy — from entertainment and real estate to the production of “soft” goods such as garments — have become more important.

Not surprisingly then, Jewish business moguls are increasingly critical to the city’s civic institutions. From Haim Saban to Eli Broad and Steven Spielberg, the new Medicis of Los Angeles are, as often as not, Jews.

And what of Jewish relations with other groups? The African American conflict with Jews, and particularly Israel, seems largely restricted to fringe left-wing intellectuals and the universities, which are largely the same thing. Many Jews increasingly realize that their real friends are not people like Maxine Waters, but more conservative African Americans like talk-show host Larry Elder, who has taken a strong stand for Israel.

Perhaps more problematic — and clearly more important for the future — are ties with the region’s surging Latino population, observes demographer Herman. Latinos were not initiators of the 1992 riots, but they made up the majority of opportunistic looters once the police presence was removed from their neighborhoods. “Some saw the riots as a black issue,” Herman says, “but it was also a Hispanic issue too.”

The good news is that Jewish-Latino relations 10 years later are clearly more intimate. For all his past associations with marginal Latino nationalists, failed mayoral candidate Antonio Villaraigosa could not have been more solicitous — and probably genuinely so — to the Jewish community. Other rising Latino leaders, including City Council President Alex Padilla and City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, also have close Jewish community ties.

Of course, as gadflies like Hal Netkin will point out, there are anti-Semitic, anti-Israel activists among the Latino far-left. But these figures are about as marginal as the Jewish Defense League is among the Jews — full of rage and sound bites but signifying very little.

So looking back, one has to be astonished at how much Los Angeles has recovered, not just economically but in its soul and in the relationships among its diverse people. By staying here and remaining committed to the region, Jews can be proud to say that they have played an important part in this process.

Whose Money?


Since 1996, Jewish groups and their lawyers have gone to the mat with the likes of the Germans, the Swiss and the French, extracting $9 billion in restitution for the evil wrought in Europe by Nazi forces and their collaborators.

While the entire process is gradually winding down, a few more battles loom: with the Austrian government, with museums holding looted art-work and with the U.S. companies whose wartime German subsidiaries profited from slave labor.

But the clash that promises to be particularly wrenching will actually pit Jew against Jew: what to do with the hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars in “residual” funds, those without direct heirs or claimants.

On Sept. 11, the World Jewish Congress (WJC) will formally announce the creation of a foundation – tentatively named the Foundation for the Jewish People – that will determine the spending priorities.The foundation was actually established in June in Jerusalem, but the WJC chose to announce it at a gala event in New York to honor the politicians who have played a key role in restitution, including President Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The foundation board will be made up of representatives of various Jewish organizations, Holocaust survivor groups and the Israeli government. Among the ideas floated are funding Jewish and Holocaust education, restoring Jewish communities in Europe or building Holocaust museums and memorials, said Elan Steinberg, WJC’s executive director.

“The Nazis sought to wipe out not only the Jewish people but Jewish communities and Judaism itself,” Steinberg said.

“Obviously, this has been 50 years too slow,” he added. “But I think the issue we have to address, are now forced to address, is to ensure that how these residual assets are used reflects the best interests of the Jewish people as a whole.”

Many Holocaust survivors vehemently disagree.

While they support the general need for education, commemoration, documentation and research, they believe there are more pressing needs: health care for the 250,000 survivors worldwide, including 130,000 in the United States. An estimated 1,000 survivors die each month.

“Yes, money should be spent for Jewish education and culture, but that is the obligation of klal Yisrael – of all Jews,” said Roman Kent, a survivor who serves as chairman of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and vice-president of the Claims Conference.

“But to me, this money has one specific purpose,” Kent said. “All of it should go to the survivors. As long as there are still survivors who are old and sick and needy, they are the first obligation.”

The $9 billion figure is a bit misleading, and most of it is already spoken for, according to the WJC’s Steinberg.

Per an agreement reached with Germany in July, $5.2 billion will go to some 1.25 million forced and slave laborers. In real terms, Jewish laborers will receive 30 percent of the sum, with 140,000 slave laborers collecting up to $7,500 apiece.

Of the $1.25 billion from the Swiss banks, $200 million went into a humanitarian fund for the 250,000 Jewish survivors around the world. Lump-sum payments ranged from $500 to $1,400. In the United States, nearly $30 million was allocated to more than 60,000 survivors, or $502 apiece.

According to Steinberg, France has committed to $700 million; Holland, $400 million; German insurers, $350 million-plus; various settlements for stolen artwork amount to $200 million; Italian insurer Assicurazioni Generali, $150 million; Norway, about $70 million; and Great Britain, roughly $50 million.In addition, in negotiations with the Claims Conference in the 1950s, Germany agreed to pay annual pensions to some 85,000 survivors. That total has run to nearly $50 billion and about $500 million a year.The Claims Conference is also responsible for selling off unclaimed property from the former East Germany, which now generates close to $80 million per year.

Twenty percent is allo-cated for Holocaust-related research and documentation, while 80 percent goes for social welfare programs for survivors in the former Soviet Union, Israel and the United States. This includes home care assistance for 18,000 survivors in all three regions and 3 million hot meals and 800,000 food packages per year in the former Soviet Union, said Gideon Taylor, the conference’s executive vice-president.

“We’ve been able to make a huge difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people,” Taylor said. “The question is, how do we use the limited resources available from restitution to help the neediest survivors all around the world? It’s what our allocations process grapples with: balancing resources with competing needs.”

Taylor concedes that not everyone will come away satisfied.

But what lies at the heart of this intracommunal debate are two contentious issues: Who are the rightful heirs to all that was lost in Europe, and who has the right to decide how the money should be spent?

Holocaust survivors and their advocates say the stolen property and assets lost did not in fact belong to “the Jewish people as a whole” but to European Jewish communities and individuals. Furthermore, they say, it is the survivors, and they alone, who are entitled to decide the spending priorities, not the groups that negotiated on their behalf.

“We’re not going to be around forever,” said Joe Sachs, co-chairman of the Florida Survivors Coa-lition. “Let’s give these people their due. Just a little justice. A little peace of mind from their health care problems in their last few years.”

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