Neo-Nazi website: Hamas member will speak at armed march in Montana on MLK Day


A neo-Nazi website said it has filed the paperwork for an armed neo-Nazi march designed to harass the Montana Jewish community of Whitefish.

The march was moved to Jan. 16, a Monday and the national holiday day set aside to observe Martin Luther King Day this year. The march had originally been set for the day before.

Andrew Anglin, who runs the Daily Stormer website, posted a photo of the filed application on Thursday. The Whitefish City Clerk’s Office told the Forward that it had not received an application, and that what was on the website appeared not to be complete.

Anglin wrote in a post published Thursday that nationalist groups from the United Kingdom, Sweden, France and Greece will attend the march. He also confirmed that “a representative of Hamas will be in attendance, and will give a speech about the international threat of the Jews.”

He said that participants will march through the center of Whitefish, and end at Memorial Park, where several people will speak.

Whitefish is home to white supremacist leader Richard Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute, a white supremacist think tank, as well as his mother. In November, Spencer spoke at a white supremacist event in Washington, D.C., celebrating President-elect Donald Trump’s victory in which he called out “Hail Trump!” and was greeted by Nazi salutes.

The Daily Stormer published a blog post last month calling for followers to “take action” against Jews in Whitefish by writing and calling them with anti-Semitic messages. The post claimed that Jewish residents were “threatening” the business run by Spencer’s mother in the town.

The post included the names, phone numbers and addresses of Jewish Whitefish residents, as well as their photos emblazoned with yellow stars. It also showed the Twitter handle and photo of a child. Along with using a number of anti-Semitic slurs, the post warned readers against using “violence or threats of violence or anything close to that.”

“All I have asked for is an apology and a vow to stop harassing Richard Spencer’s mother in the future,” Anglin wrote Thursday, saying that his request has been refused by human rights activist Tanya Gersh and the Love Lives Here organization. Gersh is a local real estate agent.

“This is absolutely insane, and shows the mentality of Jews,” Anglin said of the lack of an apology.

“And they will rue the day, as they see two hundred skinhead Alt-Right Nazis marching with a guy from Hamas carrying machine guns through the center of their town!”

There are about 100 known Jewish households in Whitefish and nearby Kalispell, part of the Flathead Valley.

Montana lawmakers and faith leaders have issued statements in support of the Whitefish community.

Whitefish has a population of about 6,000 full-time residents and is home to a ski resort on Big Mountain called Whitefish Mountain Resort.

Neo-Nazis salute ‘Aryan goddess’ Taylor Swift


Taylor Swift may look every bit the all-American girl-next-door, but according to white supremacists, she’s actually a Nazi at heart, feeding her legions of followers racist messages coated in the saccharine lyrics and sick beats of Grammy-winning songs.

The Vice blog Broadly explored the extent and origins of that conspiracy theory in a post Monday, speaking to Andre Anglin, a writer of the white supremacist blog the Daily Stormer, about the blond hair, blue-eyed singer’s fascist appeal.

“Firstly, Taylor Swift is a pure Aryan goddess, like something out of classical Greek poetry. Athena reborn,” Anglin said. “It is also an established fact that Taylor Swift is secretly a Nazi and is simply waiting for the time when Donald Trump makes it safe for her to come out and announce her Aryan agenda to the world.” (He provided no evidence of said “established fact.”)

The reference to Trump connects this peculiar meme to the recent political phenomenon of the “alternative right,” more commonly called the “alt-right,” a vague, amorphous subculture that lives online and is defined by its outspoken racist and ultra-nationalist views — and known for its support of the presumptive Republican nominee for president.

But the connection between Swift and Hitler pre-dates the rise of Trump, according to Milo Yiannopoulos, a columnist for the right-wing website Breitbart. Its possible origin is a satirical photo series started in 2013 by teenage Pinterest user Emily Pattinson, who overlaid photos of Swift with Hitler quotes attributed to the singer.

Swift’s lawyers were not amused, demanding Pinterest remove the posts and stating, “The association of Ms. Swift with Adolf Hitler undisputedly is ‘harmful,’ ‘abusive,’ ‘ethnically offensive,’ ‘humiliating to other people,’ ‘libelous,’ and no doubt ‘otherwise objectionable.'”

But neo-Nazis embraced the idea, writing about Swift regularly on the Daily Stormer with the unabashed enthusiasm of high school fanboys, calling her the “Nazi avatar of the white European people,” and fretting that she might “succumb to the Merchant” — meaning give in to the Jews.

There is also a “Taylor Swift for Fascist Europe” Facebook page with nearly 20,000 followers. A recent post read, “Thank you for the continued support. Taylor will Make the Reich Great Again.”

That group is registered as a “comedian” page, which nods to the possible tongue-in-cheek nature of the meme, at least to some. Yiannopoulos acknowledges this point. “Like the alt-right itself, the far-right internet’s love affair with this pop star is predominantly sincere but with a heady whiff of satire and troublemaking,” he wrote.

Then again, when contacted by Broadly, the page’s community manager, who remained anonymous, wrote in an email that while he does not think Swift is sending  covert messages through pop songs, he does think she “embodies the Aryan ‘spirit.'”

“To be Aryan in spirit is what completes the fascist,” the community manager wrote, pointing out that Kim Kardashian and Miley Cyrus, for example, do not have the Aryan spirit. In Swift’s case, that “spirit” may refer to the fact that, as Broadly put it, “she comes across as a born conservative but also keeps politics out of her public identity.”

“[Swift] is the anti-Miley,” the Daily Stormer’s Anglin told Broadly. “While Miley is out having gang-bangs with colored gentlemen, she is at home with her cat reading Jane Austen.”

Whether it’s a pop star or a politician, the alt-right clearly knows how to find personalities to amplify their bigotry.

Austria plans to seize house where Hitler was born


After years trying to buy the property from its private owner, the Austrian government wants to seize the house where Adolf Hitler was born to prevent it falling into neo-Nazi hands.

“Given the unique nature of the building, its historic significance and the public interest, we've decided to begin discussions seeking to lay the legal groundwork for the seizure,” interior ministry spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundboeck said.

The decision was made after years of discussions and fruitless attempts to buy the property, he said, adding that the owner would be compensated for losing ownership.

Hitler was born in the house in Brunau am Inn on April 20, 1889. It was made the subject of an historic preservation order by Germany's National Socialist regime in 1938 after being purchased by the Nazi government.

After being returned to the Pommer family in 1952, the house passed into Gerlinde Pommer's hands in 1977.

The Austrian state has rented the property since 1972 and used it as a daycare center for people with disabilities but it has stood empty since 2011 after Pommer refused to allow work to be undertaken to improve accessibility.

In Greek elections, neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party sees slight gain


The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party made slight gains in Greek elections, remaining the country’s third largest party.

In Sunday’s balloting, the fifth general election in the last six years and second since January, Golden Dawn received 6.9 percent of the vote, giving it 18 seats in the 300-member national parliament, with nearly all of the votes counted.

In the January elections, the party had received 6.3 percent of the vote and 17 seats. Analysts attributed the rise to lower voter turnout.

The far-left Syriza party under Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras won with nearly 36 percent of the vote, but fell just short of an overall majority under the country’s reinforced proportional representation system. The center-right New Democracy Party finished second with 28.1 percent.

Golden Dawn maintained its popularity despite most of its leaders being jailed amid an ongoing crackdown on the party leadership on charges of heading a violent criminal organization.

The party, which frequently uses Nazi imagery, has been accused of being behind dozens of racist attacks on immigrants. Its leaders have denied the existence of Nazi death camps and gas chambers.

London neo-Nazi rally overshadowed by counterdemonstration


A neo-Nazi rally held in central London was dwarfed by a large counterdemonstration staged by Jewish and anti-racism groups.

About 25 neo-Nazis demonstrated Saturday against “Jewish privilege” and the “Jewification of Great Britain,” while about 200 counterdemonstrators chanted anti-Nazi slogans including “Nazi scum off our streets.”

Some 200 police officers secured the protest.

The neo-Nazi rally had been ordered to move by police from the heavily Jewish-populated Golders Green neighborhood of the Barnet borough. The neo-Nazis waved Palestinian and Confederate flags, as well as White Pride banners. They also had planned to burn Jewish books.

Earlier this year, the neo-Nazis demonstrated in the haredi Orthodox neighborhood of Stamford Hill.

Amid neo-Nazi surge, Jewish groups applaud Greece’s Holocaust denial ban


Jewish groups say the passage of a bill banning Holocaust denial and imposing harsher penalties for hate speech is an important milestone in the fight against Greece’s rising neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party.

“This comes very late, but not too late,” World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer told JTA.

Greece’s parliament passed the bill Tuesday following more than a year of political wrangling.

Riding a wave of fear and despair brought on by Greece’s devastating economic crisis — coupled with a large influx of illegal immigrants from Africa and Asia — Golden Dawn emerged from obscurity in 2012 to become the country’s third largest political party, with 18 members of parliament.

Golden Dawn, which uses Nazi imagery, has been blamed by the government, prosecutors and law enforcements for hundreds of xenophobic attacks. The incidents include the killings of at least four Pakistani immigrants and the murder of Pavlos Fyssas, a noted anti-fascist Greek rapper known as Killah P.

The new law increases jail time to three years for instigating racist violence and imposes fines of up to 26,000 euros (about $34,000) for individuals and up to 100,000 euros (about $130,000) for groups convicted of “inciting acts of discrimination, hatred or violence.” It also criminalizes denial of the Holocaust and other recognized genocides, with the same penalties.

In a move that will allow the government to target political groups like Golden Dawn, organizations found to incite racism can be barred from receiving state funds. However, the law cannot be applied retroactively.

Anti-racism laws dating back to 1979 did not provide for prosecuting groups or parties that incited bias crimes. They also barred police from investigating suspected hate crimes if the victim chose not to press charges.

“We have anti-racism laws already, but the reason they were not applied was that immigrants, for example, were afraid to report the crimes because they did not hold proper travel documents, lived here illegally and feared deportation,” Justice Minister Haralambos Athanasiou told parliament ahead of the debate on the legislation.

There were also no prior provisions against Holocaust denial. So there was little the authorities could do when a Golden Dawn lawmaker proudly declared himself a Holocaust denier or when party leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos, in a television interview, denied the existence of gas chambers at Nazi death camps.

Following the 2013 murder of Fyssas, which Greek prosecutors blamed on Golden Dawn activists, many Golden Dawn leaders and lawmakers were arrested and accused of running a criminal organization. Their trials are scheduled for December.

Even with top party leaders jailed, including Michaloliakos, Golden Dawn maintained its popular support in recent municipal elections.

“We really hope the law will limit racist and anti-Semitic statements and will deter Holocaust deniers, who have multiplied in the last two years, including inside parliament,” said Victor Eliezer, the secretary general of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece.

Some 5,000 Jews live in Greece today. The prewar community of some 78,000, most of whom lived in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, was almost entirely wiped out in the Holocaust.

It is also hoped that the law will curb expressions of anti-Semitism. A recent Anti-Defamation League survey found Greece to be the most anti-Semitic country in Europe, with 69 percent of the population holding anti-Jewish views.

The new law brings Greece in line with most of the other European Union countries, which have barred Holocaust denial and impose similar jail sentences for inciting racial or ethnic violence.

An initial draft of the measure failed to garner enough support after right-wing elements in Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ New Democracy party proposed excluding the Orthodox Church and the military or police from prosecution under the law.

Other holdups were over which genocides to recognize, whether or not to include provisions for homophobic violence and a petition by 139 academics against the Holocaust denial clause in the name of free speech.

In addition to the Holocaust, the new law includes the mass killings of Armenians, Black Sea Greeks or other Christians in Asia Minor during the waning days of the Ottoman Empire. Under the law, inciting violence or discrimination for homophobic reasons is illegal, but provisions allowing for civil unions of gay couples were removed.

In a measure of how problematic the law is, only 99 of the 300 members of parliament turned up for the final vote, with 55 voting in favor.

“What is xenophobia? The railings at my home stopping a Pakistani, or any foreigner, from raping my wife or killing me?” Golden Dawn lawmaker Michail Arvanitis told parliament, according to Reuters. “Discrimination is a fact of life.”

But the nation’s Jews, its Jewish leaders and others who support the new legislation see things much differently.

“We hope [the law] will be applied rigorously by the courts,” the WJC’s Singer said.

“However, more efforts will need to be undertaken if the fight against extremist forces such as Golden Dawn is to be successful,” he said, but did not mention specifics.

 

Anti-Semitic fliers delivered to Sydney Jewish neighborhoods


Anti-Semitic fliers were dropped in the mailboxes of private homes in Jewish suburbs of Sydney.

Residents of Bondi Beach and Double Bay, which contain large numbers of Sydney’s 40,000-plus Jewish community, found the flier in their mailboxes on Monday.

“Wake up Australia,” the flier reads. “Jews have been kicked out of countries 109 times through history. … Could it be that having them in a European country is harmful to the host?”

The flier included an invitation to join Squadron 88 and check out the local white supremacist group on Facebook. It also included a reference to Stormfront.org, a neo-Nazi website, and to check them out on Facebook.

“The flier is an appalling litany of racist stereotypes, all too predictable from neo-Nazi organizations,” said New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff. “It’s no coincidence that 88, which appears on the flier, represents HH, which stands for Heil Hitler.”

The flier also reads, “The Jews own all Hollywood studios & 97% of US newspapers and media. Any movie or tv show you watch may well be coming straight from Israel.”

Police are investigating the flier, the latest episode in a spike of anti-Semitic incidents recorded in Australia since the start of the war in Gaza seven weeks ago.

Alhadeff said his organization complained to Facebook, but the social media platform said it had reviewed the Squadron 88 page and it “doesn’t violate our community standards.”

“It is very disappointing that Facebook fails to grasp the import of what is expressed in the flier,” Alhadeff said. “If the people at Facebook who are tasked with monitoring its standards don’t consider this flier to be hate speech, what is?”

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, whose district includes the two suburbs, condemned the flier as “a crude and vicious attempt to intimidate and insult the Jewish community.” He added, “Racism must be opposed, called out and condemned wherever it is found.”

City hall in Sweden to play ‘Schindler’s List’ theme for neo-Nazis meeting


The town hall of a Swedish city will play the theme from the Holocaust film “Schindler’s List” before and after a public meeting of a neo-Nazi party.

The Party of the Swedes was scheduled to hold a public rally in Norrkoping, in central Sweden, on Tuesday.

The local ruling and opposition political parties allowed the town hall to play the music from the Steven Spielberg film on the 80 bells in its tower, thelocal.se website reported Tuesday morning.

Over the weekend, a Party of the Swedes rally in Malmo led to clashes between counterprotesters and police; 10 people were injured. About 1,500 counterprotesters gathered at the site of the rally. Some threw smoke bombs and fire crackers while shouting “No Nazis on our streets,” according to The Local newspaper. The police horses trampled some counterdemonstrators.

Three people were arrested in connection with the violence in a city that annually experiences several dozen anti-Semitic incidents.

On Sunday in Gothenburg, the second largest city in Sweden, some 2,300 counterdemonstrators gathered to protest meetings of the neo-Nazi party, during which some threw fermenting fish at the meeting participants.

German neo-Nazi’s naming to EU committee rankles Jewish leaders


European Jewish leaders slammed the appointment of a German neo-Nazi lawmaker to the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee.

Udo Voigt, the former head of the far-right National Democratic Party, was named this week to the parliamentary committee for Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. Voigt, 62, has lauded Adolf Hitler and is notorious for his relativization of the Holocaust.

“It is surreal and the ultimate insult to the Jews of Europe and to the European Union itself,” Moshe Kantor, head of the Brussels-based European Jewish Congress, said in a statement Tuesday. He urged all lawmakers “to refuse to allow this man to participate in the workings of the committee.”

Kantor added that none of this would have happened if Germany had banned the NPD, which has some 7,000 members nationwide.

Voigt gained his seat in the European Parliament in May when the NDP won about 1 percent of the German popular vote — the new threshold for admission to the body.

World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer said “it was already bad enough that Voigt was able to get elected” after Germany removed the 5 percent vote threshold for international elections this year. His appointment to the committee is “disgraceful and unacceptable,” Singer said, joining calls for the EU to establish a higher threshold to prevent extremist fringe groups from gaining a foothold. The next such election is scheduled for 2019.

“The idea of a neo-Nazi as a guardian of European human rights is sickening,” said Stephan Kramer, newly appointed director of the American Jewish Committee’s European Office on Anti-Semitism, based in Brussels and Berlin.

Germany’s last official attempt to ban the NPD failed in 2003, after it turned out that government informants had incited some of the illegal actions for which the party was being investigated.

After the NPD reached the threshold in May, Dieter Graumann, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said he felt justified in pushing for a new attempt to ban the party. Skeptics have warned that a second failure would only benefit the extremists and hurt all future attempts.

Just prior to his election, Voigt received a one-year suspended sentence in Germany for incitement to hate.

Argentine neo-Nazi group approved as political party


An ultranationalist organization led by Alejandro Biondini, an accused neo-Nazi, won legal approval as a registered political party.

Buenos Aires Judge Ariel Lijo granted the approval for Bandera Vecinal, or Local Flag, on Wednesday. The party, which is expected to participate in the 2015 presidential elections, had signed up the required 4,000 members.

The Jewish political umbrella DAIA said Biondini “has publicly and repeatedly supported the figure of Adolf Hitler and Nazism. DAIA reiterates its position to not legitimize as a political party those who justify hatred and encouraging violence against the Jewish community and others in our country.”

In 1988, Biondini led chants of “Death to traitors, cowards and Jews” at a gathering of extreme-right demonstrators in Buenos Aires. At the time, Biondini’s group was called the National Alert, reminiscent of the cry “Germany, awake!”

Three years later, a judge quashed his group’s request to register as the Workers’ Nationalist Socialist Party and use the swastika as its symbol.

In the 2011 elections, Biondini’s Social Alternative Party garnered just 0.19 percent of the vote. His previous party, New Triumph, was banned by Argentina’s Supreme Court in 2009.

 

The real threat to Ukraine’s Jewish community


After years of fighting against anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union and later in an independent Ukraine, the Ukrainian Jewish community is now confronting a new threat. This threat comes from an unprecedented effort by the Russian government and others to paint a false impression of the state of anti-Semitism in Ukraine.

The recent claims of growing anti-Semitism in Ukraine, and of pervasive neo-Nazi ideology in the protest movement and the newly formed government, exaggerate the effect of the crisis in Ukraine on its Jewish community and misstate the facts.

The concerns about the safety of the Ukrainian Jewish community are real. Since the beginning of the unrest in the country in November, four members of the Kiev Jewish community have been assaulted, a synagogue in Zaporizhia was firebombed and a synagogue in Simferopol was vandalized with swastikas and other anti-Semitic symbols.

The two most recent incidents took place in Kiev in recent weeks. The director of the Ukrainian branch of Hatzalah emergency services was attacked by two unidentified men who shouted anti-Semitic slurs, stabbed him and inflicted other injuries. The next day a Jewish couple was assaulted close to the Great Choral Synagogue in the Podol district of Kiev.

Several local Jewish community leaders, however, suggest that these incidents were most likely provocations designed to incite unrest and discredit the new Ukrainian government. The Ukrainian Jewish community is as concerned about provocations by pro-Russian groups, and Russia’s destabilizing role in Ukraine as it is about homegrown anti-Semitic groups.

Contrary to the allegations of growing anti-Semitism in Ukraine, there is no pattern of violence against members of the Ukrainian Jewish community. Moreover, the Ukrainian authorities swiftly responded to the most recent incidents and pledged to bring the perpetrators to justice. Ukraine’s acting prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, met with the leadership of the Ukrainian Jewish community and vowed to increase security measures for Jewish institutions.

The Ukrainian government’s guarantees to the country’s Jewish community are important to help alleviate concern about the presence of some radical elements in the opposition movement and the new government. But while the presence of the Svoboda party, the Right Sector and Spilna Sprava is alarming, radical and neo-Nazi ideologies do not represent the Maidan movement as a whole.

Although the Jewish community had been divided in its opinion of the movement, many Ukrainian Jews participated in the protests against what they believed to be a corrupt and criminal government.

Ukraine has a complicated past, and an even more complex history of ethnic relations. Since Ukraine’s independence, anti-Semitic sentiments have been used during elections and crises as a political tool to influence public opinion.

Similar attempts to use the Ukrainian Jewish community as a pawn in the bigger political game are occurring now.

To respond effectively to the crisis in Ukraine, the international community needs to be well informed and rational, distinguishing facts from rumors and innuendo. It needs to impress upon Ukraine’s new government that it is responsible for guaranteeing the safety of Jewish institutions and preventing legitimation of anti-Semitism and xenophobia.

It must also recognize that Russia’s attempts to undermine the Ukrainian government’s legitimacy not only undercut Ukraine’s ability to stabilize the domestic situation, and to address the looming economic crisis and general security concerns, but also affect the Ukrainian government’s ability to combat anti-Semitism and ensure the safety of Jewish institutions.

The efforts by the Russian government and others to perpetuate a myth that anti-Semitism is an integral part of the new Ukrainian government’s agenda are alarming. The United States and others need to send a strong message that just as anti-Semitism and xenophobia are unacceptable, the cynical exploitation of concerns about these issues in order to advance a political agenda also will not be tolerated.


Mark Levin is executive director of NCSJ: Advocates on behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia.

Report says Greece could ban anti-Semitic Golden Dawn party


A report released by the Council of Europe says that Greece could legally ban the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party, which has been linked to a number of violent, racist attacks.

The 32-page report by the France-based council was issued Tuesday by its human rights commissioner, Nils Muiznieks, following a fact-finding mission to Greece earlier this year.

The report said Muiznieks was “seriously concerned by the increase in racist and other hate crimes in Greece,” and that “a number of the reported attacks have been linked to members or supporters, including MPs, of the neo-Nazi political party ‘Golden Dawn.’ ”

It said that under existing Greek legislation and under treaties signed by Athens, Greece had the legal means to take steps against Golden Dawn, including banning the party.

“The Commissioner calls on the Greek authorities to be highly vigilant and use all available means to combat all forms of hate speech and hate crime, and to end impunity for these crimes,” the report said.

The Greek media said the Greek government had sent the council a response indicating that it was unlikely to ban Golden Dawn.

“Solutions cannot be the products of emotional responses, which could backfire or bring about unwanted results,” the Eleftherotypia newspaper quoted the Greek government's response as saying.

A statement on the Golden Dawn website dismissed the report, saying the Council of Europe was a “Zionist institution.”

The Council of Europe, which is based in Strasbourg, runs the European Court of Human Rights.

Golden Dawn emerged on the political scene last year, winning 7 percent of the vote, or 18 seats, in the 300-member Greek Parliament. Recent polls have indicated the party, which runs on a fiercely anti-immigrant platform, now has 14 percent to 18 percent of the population’s support.

Jewish and international groups groups have condemned Golden Dawn as racist and anti-Semitic.

Greek police to investigate Golden Dawn threat to turn immigrants “into soap”


Greek police are investigating the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party after some of its members were filmed threatening to turn immigrants “into soap” and put them in “ovens.”

The investigation announced Wednesday was prompted by the broadcast Tuesday of a program on Britain's Channel 4 News that followed Golden Dawn candidates during last year’s elections. In the program, one of the candidates, Alexandros Plomeratis, makes clear Holocaust references in threatening the many immigrants who live in Athens. “We are ready to turn on the ovens,” he says. “We will turn them into soap but we may get a rash.” Plomaritis, who was not elected to parliament, also threatened to “make lamps from their skins.”

Following the broadcast, the Greek police’s new anti-racism task force said it had submitted the footage to an Athens prosecutor for review.

Golden Dawn said in a statement posted on its website that its members had been illegally filmed and that they had been “joking” with the reporters.

Golden Dawn swept into the Greek Parliament with 19 lawmakers in last year's elections, campaigning on an anti-austerity, anti-immigrant platform that preyed on the fears of Greeks who have seen the country flooded with immigrants amid a terrible recession. Greek and international Jewish groups repeatedly have condemned Golden Dawn as racist and anti-Semitic.

Rise of Golden Dawn: A presage of doom


The undisguised extremism promoted by Golden Dawn is a chilling watershed in Greece's post-war democracy. Fascist gangs are turning Athens into a city of shifting front lines, seizing on crimes and local protests to promote their own movement, by claiming to be the defenders of recession-ravaged Greece.

‘The People's Association – Golden Dawn,’ usually known simply as ‘Golden Dawn,’ is a right-wing extremist political organization in Greece. It is led by Nikolaos Michaloliakos and has grown considerably since its inception to a widely known Greek political party with nationwide support.

Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party is gaining popularity in the midst of the country’s deepening financial crisis. The group has been implicated in torture cases, and for inciting a wave of racial violence sweeping the country.

An opinion poll published by KAPA Research in October showed that support for the extremist political group had grown from 7.5 percent of the population in June to 10.4 percent currently.

The Golden Dawn emerged from political obscurity into the mainstream in May after winning 7 percent of the vote in the Greek parliamentary elections. Since then, the country has reportedly witnessed an upsurge in racial violence connected to the right-wing group.

The party entered the international spotlight after some of its members reportedly participated in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of Bosnian Muslims. Its publication praises the Third Reich and often features photographs of Hitler and other Nazis.

Golden Dawn has manipulated a weak Greek state and disastrous austerity management by European bureaucrats to become, according to recent polls, the third most popular political party in the country — a noxious omen for the euro zone and a worrying challenge and counterpoint to the very idea of the E.U. itself, which received this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

Three years ago, Greeks ignored Golden Dawn, seeing its members as neo-Nazi thugs waging war against migrants and giving it a miserable 0.29% of the vote. Last year, however, Golden Dawn — rebranded as an anti-austerity party — won nearly 7% and secured 18 of the 300 seats in Parliament. Its ascent has continued in opinion surveys despite its parliamentary deputies' being filmed attacking immigrant vendors and demanding that all non-Greek children be kicked out of day-care centres and hospitals.

As the cash-strapped government struggles to offer its citizens basic services, Golden Dawn has set up parastate organizations to police the streets, donate to Greek-only blood banks and help unemployed Greeks find jobs. The party has also promised to cancel household debt for the unemployed and low-wage earners. “Soon we'll be running this country,” says Ilias Panagiotaros, a beefy 38-year-old army-supply-shop owner who is now a Golden Dawn parliamentary deputy representing Athens.

Public Love from Fear

“The people love us.” says Ilias Panagiotaros. Golden Dawn draws much of that love from fear. Greece is now the main entry point for at least 80% of the EU's un-documented migrants. Frontex, the EU border-patrolling agency, estimates that 57,000 illegal immigrants slipped into Greece last year and more than 100,000 entered in 2010. Many travel through Turkey, often via a land border that Golden Dawn wants to plant with land mines. Some seek asylum, and because of EU rules, those who want to apply for refugee status must do so in their country of entry — in this case, Greece — which often takes years to review the applications. As Europe turns a blind eye to the immigration crisis, many impoverished foreigners find themselves trapped in an economically crippled country that can't sustain them.

Some Greeks no longer want to be hospitable. In the past year, gangs of vigilantes, many sporting Golden Dawn's black shirts, have beaten and stabbed hundreds of migrants, according to human-rights groups.

In June 2012, a number of them broke into the Piraeus home of Abouzeid Mubarak, 28, an Egyptian fisherman, bashing him with iron rods until he fell into a coma. “It was a hate that was inhuman,” says Mubarak, who is still recovering.

Ali Rahimi, a 27-year-old Afghan asylum seeker, was hanging around with friends outside his building in central Athens when more than a dozen Greeks approached. Several men set upon Mr. Rahimi, one with a knife. Panicked, he fled into his apartment and fought back, managing to push the men out the door. He found blood gushing from just above his heart, one of five stab wounds in his back and chest.

Mr. Rahimi survived and is staying put for now. But his friend, Reza Mohammed, who was also injured in the attack, is considering what was once unthinkable: moving back to Afghanistan, which he feels would be safer than Greece.

Parts of Athens feel like a war zone. Racist gangs cruise the streets at night in search of victims. Themis Skordeli, a member of the group that is accused of stabbing Mr. Rahimi, ran unsuccessfully for Parliament on the ticket of Golden Dawn.

A few blocks down the street, a crowd was leaving a mosque after Friday Prayer. At the mention of Golden Dawn, immigrant men began lifting their shirts to show their scars. A short, sullen-looking young man with a cut across his nose and freshly sutured cheek bone was pushed forward by the crowd. Just the night before, he said, he was beaten and cut with a knife by “fascists.”

“Go into the Omonia police station,” said another man. “You will see how violence is going on.” Several blocks away, I walked into just such a scene. As I stepped out of the elevator at the police station, I saw an officer screaming at a black man and backhanding him hard across the shoulder.

In Athens, Sayd Jafari owns a cafe frequented by fellow Afghans. It has been repeatedly ransacked by mobs of black-clad attackers wielding sticks, chains and knives and performing fascist salutes.

Like others who have been assaulted, Mr. Jafari is also contemplating returning home to Afghanistan. “There, maybe someone has a bomb hidden on his body that he detonates,” he says. “Here, you don’t see where the knife that kills you comes from.”

It's now common to see police lineup immigrants from South Asia and Africa in public squares and along streets in central Athens. Those without legal-residency permits are arrested and sent to detention centres to be deported.

Police claim they have detained nearly 42,000 people since August, though only about 3,400 were arrested for not having residency papers. They defended the crackdown, which was strongly denounced by human-rights groups, by comparing undocumented migrants to the Dorian invaders who purportedly brought down the Mycenaeans in 1100 B.C.

The most recent example of fascism shown by Golden Dawn in its series of discriminating activities is when it said a visit to Greece by American Jewish Committee leader David Harris is meant to ensure further “Jewish influence over Greek political issues” and safeguard the interests of “international loan sharks.”

David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), is leading a Jewish delegation to the region to meet with several Greek leaders, including Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. During the meetings, Harris expressed his “concern and solidarity for Greece during the crisis.”

“The only solidarity of this gentleman is to his compatriots – the international loan sharks, who are humiliating the Greek people. His concern most likely is related to the inability of Greece to make the payments of the predatory interest rates of the vile loans,” Golden Dawn said in a statement, adding: “We do not need the crocodile tears of a Jew.”

Its leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, uses the Heil Hitler salute and has denied the existence of gas chambers at Nazi death camps during World War II. Another lawmaker read a passage from the anti-Semitic hoax “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

The attack on Harris and a separate article titled “Absolute Evil” that was published on the party's website Friday appeared to be a hardening of Golden Dawn's anti-Semitic rhetoric, apparently in anger over pressure from Jewish groups to get the Greek government to reign in the party. The “Evil” statement said that blaming Golden Dawn for Greece’s woes constituted an attempt to divert attention from the real culprits for Greece’s financial crisis.

“They are none other than those who possess most of the international wealth. The people behind the international loan-sharks,” the statement said. “Everyone knows they belong to a certain race, which presents itself as a victim, while in reality it is the perpetrator. Everyone knows that they are none other than those pulling the strings behind the marionettes. They are the absolute evil for mankind.”

The second statement ended with a threat.

“The time will come when the nationalists of the Golden Dawn will take revenge like the horsemen of the storm, and all of them, being the absolute evil, will pay!”

Not content to proselytizing in their homeland, Golden Dawn has started to expand worldwide.

Barely a month after their electoral victories, Golden Dawn launched a widely-criticized branch in Melbourne, Australia, home to one of the largest Greek populations outside of Athens. In October, several groups protested the opening of a Golden Dawn office in New York City, which had opened for the explicit purpose of building support for the party among Greek expatriate communities and collecting food and medicine to distribute in Greece – only for Greeks. And in Montreal, Golden Dawn is holding a Christmas food drive. The catch! They're only giving food out to Greek Christians.

Golden Dawn members in the United States have told CBC News they plan to open chapters shortly in Chicago, in Connecticut and in Toronto.

What’s at stake is the health of European democracy, and the values and institutions on which it rests. But while the euro crisis touched off a scramble to halt a financial meltdown, European leaders have done virtually nothing to reverse the union’s dangerous political trends.

As recent polls show that its strength continues to grow, and its support runs as high as 50 percent among police officers, who routinely fail to investigate growing numbers of hate crimes.

Far-right ultranationalist groups are exploiting old enmities and new fears across the Continent. Although this is not the Europe of the 1930s, the disillusioned citizens of countries like Greece and Hungary have turned increasingly to simple answers, electing parties that blame familiar scapegoats — Jews, Gypsies, gays and foreigners — for their ills.

Maria Chandraki, 29, an unemployed beautician, hadn’t heard of Golden Dawn until the last election. “Their positions may be extreme,” she said, holding plastic bags of food she’d just received. “But the situation is extreme as well. So we need extreme measures.” She went on, “We can’t have so many nations and so many different sets of values and ideals under the same roof.”

Beneath the looming basilica of Athens’ largest church, middle-aged men and women in black Golden Dawn T-shirts were busy one bright September morning distributing food to needy Greeks. Kids ran across the courtyard, which was painted with the party’s unofficial platform: “Get foreigners out of Greece.” Clusters of fit, stoic young men in dark glasses ringed the perimeter.

Nikolaos Michos, a square-jawed Golden Dawn Member of Parliament with the build and tattoos of a heavyweight boxer, leaned against a bloodmobile watching. He wore a black polo embossed with the party’s Swastika-like logo. “We’re fighters and we’re not going to back down,” he said, referring to death threats from leftists and the burning of a Golden Dawn office. “But they’re not striking fear into us because every centre they destroy, we’ll build new ones,” he added.

European leaders must not cede the battleground in the war of ideas. They should publicly denounce parties that espouse racist doctrines and spew hate-filled rhetoric and clearly define and defend the shared values of an increasingly integrated Europe.

To do so, they must develop a pan-European approach to monitor hate crimes and investigate right-wing extremist networks that operate across borders. And the European Union must ensure that all member-states, old and new, respect the same criteria that countries currently aspiring to join the European Union are required to meet, especially maintaining the “stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights, respect for and protection of minorities.” Otherwise, Europe faces the spectre of more xenophobic violence and the unravelling of the liberal democratic order that has drawn so many persecuted people to seek asylum and opportunity on European shores.

Nikos Katapodis, 69, can see the crossroads where his family has lived since 1863. A bald, chain-smoking funeral-home owner, Mr. Katapodis describes the Greek government with a string of expletives. The flood of immigrants over the last decade created ghettos in central Athens, he explains. Crime rates rose, property values dropped and bars appeared on second-floor windows. “It looks like a prison,” he said, nodding to the street. “Today it reminds me of the late 1940s,” he adds. “You see people scrounging for food in the trash cans.”

Although he didn’t vote for Golden Dawn, he sees it as “the only party that is actually doing things for the Greek people” — a cross between the welfare state and the Mafia. If he needed an escort to walk down the street or help paying for his cancer medicine, he’d call Golden Dawn. “They’re doing what the politicians should be doing,” he said. “There’s a hole, and they fill it.”

Authoritarian elements in the Greek government have a history of using far-right groups to outsource political violence against critics. Recent moves to rein in Golden Dawn came only after it grew too powerful to control and the state felt its own authority was challenged, explained Anastassia Tsoukala, a legal scholar. “They were bitten by their own snake,” she said. And Greece is not alone. Golden Dawn’s rise has parallels across Europe, and its significance should be of Continental concern.


 

Hatef Mokhtar is the editor-in-chief of The Oslo Times.

Author Tuvia Tenenbom being probed in Germany for Hitler salute


Israeli-born Jewish author Tuvia Tenebom is under investigation in Germany for raising his arm in the Hitler salute.

Tenenbom told JTA that he had made the gesture toward a group of 900 neo-Nazis demonstrating in Magdeburg on Jan. 12 in order to make them feel they could talk to him. He was accompanied by a TV news camera team that is producing a report on how Tenenbom conducts interviews. The gesture is illegal in Germany.

But when the neo-Nazis figured out that he was a journalist rather than a comrade, they told police he had given the illegal greeting. The police then took him aside for questioning.

“The Nazis told them [the police] to do this, which is the funny part,” said Tenenbom, whose book about anti-Semitism in Germany, “I Sleep in Hitler's Room,” is a best-seller in Germany.

Tenenbom is under investigation for using unconstitutional symbols. Nazi propaganda, including gestures, songs and symbols, are illegal with very few exceptions, mostly for academic use. Most neo-Nazis in Germany avoid exact replicas of Nazi propaganda and, instead of denying the Holocaust, question its severity and say that German suffering was worse.

According to Tenenbom's attorney, Michael Heimann, the police were required to look into the incident, just as they would be for any alleged criminal activity. Heimann told JTA that state prosecutors have not reported any results on the investigation.

Tenenbom, founding artistic director of the Jewish Theater of New York, said the editor of the “Bayerische Rundfunk” television program has refused to turn over any videos to the police, citing freedom of the press.

Tenenbom told JTA he had tried to speak with the neo-Nazis at the demonstration and protesters against them.

“The young kids who demonstrate don't talk to the press; they are told not to. So I tried to endear myself” by doing the Hitler greeting,” he said. “The neo-Nazis said 'we cannot do this in public, we will do it later.'  When I asked why not, they said, 'this is a democracy.' “

The neo-Nazis noticed his microphone and started pushing him.

“One of them said to the police, 'Hey, he made the Hitler Gruss,'” Tenenbom said.

Tenebom said he told police, ” 'What are you talking about, I am a Jew!' ” He said they checked his New York driver's license, confirmed he was “not a wanted criminal” and released him.

“I never denied it, I said I did it and why I did it,” he told JTA. “It is the only way to get people to talk to me. I go to Hamas and Hezbollah and I agree with them that all Jews should be killed. It's not to provoke anyone. It is called performance.”

Golden Dawn issues anti-Semitic diatribe against AJC’s David Harris during Greece visit


The Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn said a visit to Greece by American Jewish Committee leader David Harris is meant to ensure further “Jewish influence over Greek political issues” and safeguard the interests of “international loan sharks.”

Harris, the executive director of the AJC, is leading a Jewish delegation to the region that is meeting with several Greek leaders, including Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. During the meetings, Harris expressed his “concern and solidarity for Greece during the crisis.”

The statement from Golden Dawn, posted on the party's website Thursday, slammed the Greek government for giving Harris high-level access. “Just from the meetings, one can understand the influence of international Judaism on the Greek political scene,” the statement said. “The political leadership will once again express its total subjugation to the whims of the ‘chosen’ people.”

It also derided Harris.

“The only solidarity of this gentleman is to his compatriots — the international loan sharks, who are humiliating the Greek people. His concern most likely is related to the inability of Greece make the payments of the predatory interest rates of the vile loans,” it said. “We do not need the crocodile tears of a Jew.”

Golden Dawn swept into the Greek parliament with 19 lawmakers in last year's elections, campaigning on an anti-austerity, anti-immigrant platform that preying on the fears of Greeks who have seen the country flooded with immigrants amid a terrible recession. Greek and international Jewish groups repeatedly have condemned Golden Dawn as racist and anti-Semitic.

Its leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, uses the Heil Hitler salute and has denied the existence of gas chambers at Nazi death camps during World War II. Another lawmaker read a passage from the anti-Semitic forgery “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

The attack on Harris and a separate article titled “Absolute Evil” that was published on the party's website Friday appeared to be a hardening of Golden Dawn's anti-Semitic rhetoric, apparently in anger over pressure from Jewish groups to get the Greek government to reign in the party. The “Evil” statement said that blaming Golden Dawn for Greece’s woes constituted an attempt to divert attention from the real culprits for Greece’s financial crisis.

“They are none other than those who possess most of the international wealth. The people behind the international loan-sharks,” the statement said. “Everyone knows they belong to a certain race, which presents itself as a victim, while in reality it is the perpetrator. Everyone knows that they are none other than those pulling the strings behind the marionettes. They are the absolute evil for mankind.”

The second statement ended with a threat.

“The time will come when the nationalists of the Golden Dawn will take revenge like the horsemen of the storm, and all of them, being the absolute evil, will pay!”

Criminalize anti-Semitic websites, Rome provincial council says in motion


Rome’s provincial council is calling for websites that promote racism and anti-Semitism to be blocked and such online hatred criminalized.

The council on Monday unanimously passed a motion voicing solidarity with Rome local official Carla Di Veroli and with the Rome Jewish community in general following anti-Semitic attacks on Di Veroli that appeared last week on the neo-Nazi website Stormfront.

Di Veroli, who is Jewish, has long been an anti-fascist and minority rights activist.

The motion also commits provincial officials to “assume every appropriate initiative” to urge the relevant authorities and institutions to block websites that “spread ideas that instigate racial hatred, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and homophobia.” It pushed for a law to brand online hate spread on websites as a criminal act.

Peruvian Amerindian neo-Nazi party takes root


Peru’s Jewish community has urged authorities to stop the activities of a nascent neo-Nazi party headed by an anti-Semitic Amerindian.

According to The Guardian, the Jewish community of Peru said in a statement that it rejected the “open expression of anti-Semitic racism” of the Andean Peru National Socialism Movement—a far-right group that is currently attempting to gather enough signatures to be registered as a political party.

Authorities needed to “take the necessary measures to halt the incitement to racial and religious hatred,” the statement reportedly said.

The Lima-based La Republica daily reported this month that the group had six members and that its founder, Martín Quispe Mayta, has called for the expulsion of the country’s Jewish community.

According to Mayta, the group has 70 volunteer activists. He said he founded the movement after reading Adolf Hitler’s book, “Mein Kampf,” in his youth, and Henry Ford’s “The International Jew.”

“Hitler turned against the real enemy, the Jews, who killed millions and who poisoned millions,” Mayta is quoted as telling La Republica. He posed for the paper with five other party activists while wearing a Nazi uniform.

Asked about the Holocaust, he reportedly called it “a lie of the Jewish press” and added, “The gas chambers never existed.”

Fewer than 5,000 Jews live in the country, according to the Guardian.

Neo-Nazi party maintains strength in Greek elections


The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party defied predictions and won nearly 7 percent of the vote in the Greek national elections.

Polls and Greek commentators had predicted that support for the fascist party, which entered the Greek Parliament for the first time in inconclusive elections six weeks ago, would drop in Sunday’s election, saying the original vote was a protest against the established political parties held responsible for Greece’s economic crisis.

The conservative New Democracy Party, which supports Greece staying in the European Union and honoring its commitments under bailouts it received, won the most votes in results released Monday and likely will form the new government.

Golden Dawn, with its Nazi swastika-like flag and Holocaust-denying leader, picked up 6.92 percent of the vote, which will give the party 19 lawmakers in the 300-member parliament. The party had won 6.97 percent of the earlier vote.

“It shows we were all wrong and that this is the real percentage of people who support them with their anti-illegal immigrant policy and their Nazi style that they show the people,” David Saltiel, president of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, told JTA.

“It is a problem for Greek democracy, and we have to see how the parties will react. We hope they will isolate them.”

Golden Dawn had campaigned on an anti-austerity, anti-immigrant platform, preying on the fears of ordinary Greeks who have seen their neighborhoods overrun by the nearly 1 million immigrants who have flooded the country from Asia and Africa hoping to use it as a gateway to the European Union.

After the first election, Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos — who came to prominence when he won a seat on the Athens City Council in 2010 and celebrated by giving the Nazi salute at the first City Hall meeting — gave an interview in which he denied the existence of gas chambers at Nazi death camps.

Former neo-Nazi elected to local council in England


A former neo-Nazi who once defaced buildings with swastikas reportedly has been elected to a local council in south central England.

Margaret Burke won a seat on Milton Keynes Council earlier this month after demonstrating her remorse to local Labor Party officials and describing her earlier activities as those of a “brainwashed idiot,” the London Jewish Chronicle reported.

During the 1980s, Burke ran a pro-Hitler organization with her husband. She wore Nazi-style uniforms and organized racist leafleting. After the couple divorced, Burke joined the Animal Liberation Front and was jailed for vandalizing a butcher’s shop.

She told the Milton Keynes Citizen that she regretted her actions and had dedicated herself to working for the community to make amends.

The council’s Labor leader, Kevin Wilson, said the candidate selection panel had been aware of Burke’s past and had “questioned her at length.” He called her post-Nazi behavior “exemplary” and said it would have been “wholly wrong to deny her the possibility of being a candidate.”

Letters to the Editor: Neo-Nazis, Halachah, unemployment and anti-Semitism


Who Are Today’s Neo-Nazis

Rob Eshman is correct to decry the world’s double standard when criticizing the ultra-barbaric state of Syria (“Stop the Stalinists,” Jan. 13). The irony of course that Qatar, a sister Arab Muslim nation, published a cartoon depicting Bashar Assad as a Nazi goes far beyond the obvious: The Baath parties, both in Syria and Iraq, modeled their governments upon the Nazi Party for many reasons, including the German’s military opposition to British power during World War II. The friendship and alliance between Amin Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem and grandfather of the Palestinian movement, and Adolf Hitler, and their shared hatred of Jews still resonates today in the Arab world. Mr. Eshman should rethink his attitude to the American take-down of Saddam Hussein, one of the foremost exponents of neo-Nazism in our time. Hopefully Syria will go the way of Iraq in the near future.

Richard Friedman
Los Angeles


When Is God Watching?

In “Judaism’s Walking Billboards” (Jan. 6), David Suissa writes, “If you look like a religious Jew, and you spit on an Orthodox girl because her dress code doesn’t meet your standard of modesty, and the incident is caught on Israeli television and goes viral on YouTube, then you are slandering Judaism and it’s a crisis.”

Basically the problem, if I understand Suissa correctly, is that this incident was videotaped and went viral. Suissa believes this slanders Judaism. However, slander means falsehood. If we observe via video an Orthodox Jewish man spitting on an 8-year-old girl, that would not be slander; that would be irrefutable fact.

In conclusion, Suissa writes: “And if there are Jews who bother you, you don’t spit on them, you invite them over for Shabbat.”

Suissa left out the rest. Once in your home, make sure all electronic devices have been turned off (it is Shabbat, of course). Then you spit on them, maybe even slap them around a little. This way no one will see it and Judaism’s image will remain untarnished. Apparently God does not see everything, according to Suissa. God only sees what we do when it makes it to video and it goes viral.

Richard S. Levik
via e-mail


Prager and Halachah

Last year, Dennis Prager told us that halachah demands that Jews support capital punishment, even if it means that innocent people might be put to death on occasion (”What About Innocents Who Are Executed?” April 1, 2011). No matter that our sages throughout the ages disagree with him, including Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah, Rabbi Tarfon, Rabbi Akiva, Maimonides (who said that it would be better for a thousand guilty persons to be acquitted than for one innocent to be put to death), and Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, who wrote that the “rules of evidence and other safeguards that the Torah provides to protect the accused made it all but impossible to actually invoke these penalties.”  But now comes Mr. Prager to tell us why he himself doesn’t actually have to follow this same halachah (“Can Halachah Ever Be Wrong?” Jan. 13). The reason: second-day yom tov.  In other words, Prager has no problem distorting halachah and demanding that everyone follow his interpretation of it when it comes to promoting his political agenda, but he excuses himself from having to do the same when it is personally inconvenient. Put another way, it’s OK to condemn an innocent person to death as long as it doesn’t interfere with Prager’s ability to drive to the beach on the second day of Shavuot.

Robert Smith
Los Angeles


Kudos to Dennis Prager. Some rabbis are so stuck on the oral law that they forget what our great sage Rabbi Hillel considered to be the foundation of the Torah — simply put, be a mensch.

Danny Bental
Tarzana


Getting Your Foot in the Door

I was quoted in the article “Retraining Programs Get Unemployment Bump” (Jan. 6), but there was something that Ms. Wizenfeld did not include that is important for the unemployed.

If you are unemployed, find an internship or volunteer for a company where you are interested in working or are trying to transition. This will give you a foot in the door. One thing I am seeing is that the longer a person is unemployed, the more unemployable they become. It is all about employer perception.

Vicki Rothman
Faculty Leader, Career Services Center
Santa Monica College


Greenberg Cartoon Skewed on Ron Paul’s Record

Steve Greenberg’s recent cartoon suggests that Texas Congressman Ron Paul is an anti-Semitic sympathizer of extreme right views (Jan. 13). Greenberg loosely alleges that Paul has an ideological kinship with Pat Buchanan, an unassailable nationalist who supports tariffs, isolationism and, to some, an exacerbation of the culture wars that have dominated our political discourse for the past 20 years.

To suggest that Paul is a rabid, Jew-baiting isolationist with crypto-fascist tendencies escapes the imagination. What editorials is Mr. Greenberg reading? Paul has never excoriated a “Jewish lobby” in Washington, he has never spoken against minorities, and he does not despise the place of immigrants in our country.

To say the least, Greenberg’s View is skewed, and he cannot hide behind his liberal sympathies to justify such overt and unsupportable slander. We are all entitled to our opinion, but to implicate a public figure in such outrageous and outlandish allegations is just reprehensible.

Arthur Christopher Schaper
Torrance


Prager on Halachah

Dennis Prager makes some important points regarding how halachah can influence good Jews to make bad decisions (“Can Halachah Ever Be Wrong?” Jan. 13). The Rambam (Maimonides) called such actions (or individuals) “menuval b’reshut HaTorah” — disgusting within the bounds of the Torah.

But then he makes a leap to ignoring rabbinic law (such as second-day yom tov). The two rabbis he cites in his essay surely would be chagrined that he invoked their names to make such a point. Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits passed away in 1992, but perhaps The Journal could invite Rabbi Shlomo Riskin to respond?

David Waghalter
Los Angeles


In “Can Halachah Ever Be Wrong?” (Jan. 13), Dennis Prager brought up the topic of Yom Tov Sheni.  This relates to there being an extra day in some holidays outside of Israel (with there being only one day of Yom Kippur) due to calendar uncertainty.  My understanding is that, after the calendar was worked out, the second day was retained outside of Israel since, when one is not in Israel, one needs an extra day to reach the same spiritual level that one can achieve in Israel in one day of yom tov. As for Yom Kippur, since it is unreasonable to require people to fast for two days in a row, it was always one day long outside of Israel.

David Wincelberg
Beverly Hills


Boteach to Present at Limmud LA Conference

Thank you for your piece on Limmud and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (“Lord Shmuley?” Jan. 6). I attended Limmud UK in December on behalf of Limmud LA as part of the Limmud International delegation and had the opportunity to hear Rabbi Boteach’s timely, humorous and insightful lecture on the halachic approach to sex. It was both entertaining and educational. We are very excited to announce that Rabbi Boteach will also be presenting at the Limmud LA Conference coming up Feb. 17-19. Full details about this outstanding event can be obtained at our Web site: limmudla.org. Anyone who has attended previous conferences can attest to the excitement and powerful sessions, open to those from any and all backgrounds and levels of Jewish observance.

Mel Aranoff
Member, Limmud LA Board of Directors
Valley Glen


Comparing Anti-Semitism in Ancient, Modern Times

Rabbi Marc Mandel’s assertion that Pharaoh’s persecution of the Hebrews is an example of early anti-Semitism doesn’t support his important message about seeing the plethora of forms today’s anti-Semitism takes (“Déjà Vu, All Over Again,” Jan. 13). Nor is my objection to that assertion an example of wasting energy trying to classify types of anti-Semitism when the focus should be on naming it whatever its form.

First, the Egyptians also were Semites; second, the Jews were not yet a people to be hated because they were Jews. They were hated because a paranoid leader demonized them to assuage his fears. This is much more akin to the pre-emptive war program of Hobbesians Bush and Cheney.

My objection is buttressed by Dennis Prager’s explanation for anti-Semitism found in his book, “Why the Jews?” His answer is that, standing alone, any one of the three pillars of Judaism — God, Torah and Israel — has been sufficient to incite virulent anti-Semitism, let alone all three inherent in the beliefs of one people. These three pillars were not yet in place in Pharaoh’s Egypt.

Roger Schwarz
Los Angeles


CORRECTIONS

An article about a debate between Brad Sherman and Howard Berman (“Sherman Lays Into Berman in Four-way Congressional Debate,” Jan. 13) was incorrect in saying that Sherman attacked Berman for supporting a bill that Sherman had voted for. He did not; a more complete discussion of this issue can be found on the Berman v. Sherman blog at jewishjournal.com.

An article about a lawsuit filed against Eden Memorial Park (“Eden Cemetery Trial Set for May,” Jan. 11) indicated that 30 groundskeepers had implicated Eden in interviews with the plaintiff’s attorney, Michael J. Avenatti. According to Eden’s attorney, Steven Gurnee of Gurnee and Daniels LLP, near Sacramento, 14 current and former groundskeepers have been deposed, and only three testified to being aware of broken outer burial vaults. In addition, F. Charles Sands is no longer the named plaintiff in the case.


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Neo-Nazi murderer’s arrest shows need to ban extreme right, Jewish leader says


A series of neo-Nazi murders across Germany shows the urgency of banning the country’s largest right-extremist party, Germany’s top Jewish leader said.

Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told the DPA news agency that the neo-Nazi “flagship,” the National Democratic Party of Germany, must be “sunk, politically and legally.”

His comments followed the arrest Sunday of a 37-year-old man in Hamburg who is suspected of belonging to the National Socialist Underground, a relatively new organization thought to be responsible for what is being called Germany’s biggest wave of far-right violence since World War II.

The NSU is suspected of involvement in the murders of eight Turkish immigrants and one Greek between 2000 and 2006, and the killing of a police officer in 2007.

German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich told journalists Sunday that the group represented a “new form of terrorism” in Germany. German Chancellor Angela Merkel referred to the alleged activities of the NSU as “shocking.”

Two other suspects in the string of murders—identified as Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Bohnhardt – were found dead last week in a burning camper trailer in the former East German city of Eisenach. Police said they suspected the two had shot themselves after police had included them as suspects in an attempted bank robbery. The man arrested in Hamburg allegedly had contact with the others, and is suspected of renting the camper trailer used by the murderers of the 22-year-old policewoman in 2007.

Police found a video in which the murders of the immigrants were celebrated and counted off.

The string of crimes reveals “a new dimension of right-wing terrorism,” Graumann told the Handelsblatt Online. “The evidence appears to confirm that we are dealing with abhorrent right-wing terrorists who apparently for years have gotten away with murdering people whom they considered not worthy of living,” he said, adding that it was urgent for the entire society to act now against this trend. More funds must be invested in this fight and in increased security, he said.

Several mainstream political leaders this week joined the call to ban the National Democratic Party of Germany following the arrests. Attempts to ban the party failed in 2003 after it was revealed that government informants were involved in inciting some of the allegedly criminal activities.

Germany bans largest neo-Nazi group


Holocaust survivors welcomed Germany’s decision to ban one of its largest neo-Nazi organizations.

Announcing the ban of HNG, the “national organization for political prisoners and their relatives,” German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said Wednesday that the organization’s real purpose is to assist far-right extremists in opposing the democratic state.

“Holocaust survivors welcome the ban … as a sign of modern Germany’s political maturity and its clear determination to confront extremists in any guise,” Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, said in a statement responding to the news.

A series of raids on HNG cells followed the ban, and materials were seized as evidence at locations in the states of Bavaria, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westfalia and Rhineland Pfalz. HNG, which reportedly was founded in 1979 and had 600 members, was subjected to a search-and-seizure operation last year, which revealed that the group was actively working to undermine the democratic state, according to the Interior Ministry.

Friedrich in his statement said that the federal government had to stop HNG from bolstering the aggressive, anti-democratic position of jailed right-wing extremists.

“By rejecting the democratic rule of law and glorifying Nazism, HNG was trying to bind far-right criminals to ‘the scene,’ ” he said. “HNG has contributed to the apparent radicalization of the neo-Nazi scene” through its solidarity with and financial support for criminals.

HNG has been assisting mainly younger neo-Nazis. Another organization—Stille Hilfe, or Silent Aid—has been helping accused or convicted Nazi war criminals since 1951. Some observers say Stille Hilfe has helped accused criminals evade justice.

Efraim Zuroff, Israel director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, recently told JTA that Stille Hilfe is “symbolically important, but what their impact is is hard to say.”

Steinberg said the impact of HNG was not in doubt. Its “hate-filled worldview extends beyond antipathy to Jews to all minorities,” he said. “History has shown us where such malignant attitudes can lead.”

Violent neo-Nazism rising in Germany, report says


Violent neo-Nazism is on the rise in Germany, according to an annual report by the German government.

The annual report on extremism by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution released this week also said that the proponents of violent neo-Nazism are rejecting organized political parties.

According to the report, the number of neo-Nazis with violent tendencies rose by 10 percent last year, to 5,600.

Heinz Fromm, head of the agency that produces the report, told the Neuen Osnabrucker Zeitung newspaper that the increase should be seen as a warning, though membership in the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) of Germany has dropped to 6,600 and the total number of those identifying as right-wing extremists dropped from 31,000 in 2009 to 25,000 in 2010.

Fromm said that while NPD membership has fallen gradually since 2007, the violence prone, anti-election Autonomous Nationalists gained 200 members in 2010, for a total of 1,000.

In recent elections, right-wing extremist parties with racist and anti-Semitic platforms have cooperated in order to avoid stealing each others’ votes. But Fromm noted that the parties do have differences, including in the degree to which they are willing to relativize the Holocaust and use anti-Semitic propaganda.

Though Holocaust denial is illegal in Germany, some neo-Nazi groups doubt the facts of the genocide and insist that German civilians endured the greatest suffering.

In recent elections in the former East German state of Saxony-Anhalt, the NPD failed to earn the required 5 percent of the vote to reach the parliament. But the NPD still has legislators in two former East German states, and Fromm said it may reach the 5 percent mark in September elections in one of them, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

In other news, a court in Koblenz this week jailed nine neo-Nazis for broadcasting racist and anti-Semitic propaganda via Radio Resistance, the French news agency AFP reported. The station was shut down last November.

The sentences ranged from 21 months to three years. Nine others were given suspended sentences.

Jewish group vows to stop neo-Nazi rally


A Jewish group is vowing to stop a neo-Nazi rally planned for April in New Jersey.

The Jewish Defense Organization has promised to shut-down a two-day conference, including a rally at the State House in Trenton, organized by the National Socialist Movement, The Times of Trenton reported.

“We’re calling on angry Jews all over New Jersey to call every hotel up and down New Jersey and demand the hotel cancel on them,” said Jeff Goldman, of the JDO’s New Jersey chapter.

A splinter faction of the better-known Jewish Defense League, the JDO is, according to the Anti-Defamation League, an affiliate of the Kahanist movement that is banned in Israel.

N.J. man arrested for threatening ADL official


A New Jersey man with ties to neo-Nazi organizations was arrested and charged with threatening an Anti-Defamation League official.

A New Jersey man with ties to neo-Nazi organizations was arrested and charged with threatening the director of the New York regional office of the Anti-Defamation League.

Jacques Pluss, 57, of Ridgewood was arrested Wednesday by New Jersey State Police following a SWAT team raid on his apartment, according to reports.

Pluss was charged with bias intimidation and harassment, and for weapons possession after he was found to possess three rifles despite a restraining order that prohibits him from owning weapons. He also frequently visited neo-Nazi websites, police told the Ridgewood News.

He allegedly sent several threats to the director of the New York regional office of the Anti-Defamation League.

German Neo-Nazi parties merge amid protests


Berlin Jews joined hundreds of demonstrators to protest a meeting marking the merger of two neo-Nazi parties.

Police estimated that fewer than 80 right-wing extremists showed up to the Jan. 15 meeting in which the National Democratic Party (NPD) of Germany and the German People’s Union (DVU) formally announced their merger. Meanwhile, nearly 100 times that number demonstrated on the streets outside the public school where the party meeting was held, in the Berlin district of Lichtenberg.

Berlin’s Jewish community and others had criticized the Max-Taut School for allowing the neo-Nazis to meet there, but the courts upheld the party’s right of assembly. Their right was protected by about 300 police in the assembly hall. Protesters in the hall reportedly tried to disrupt the proceedings by clapping at inappropriate moments.

The neo-Nazis obviously were not welcomed either by neighbors or by Max-Taut students, Judith Kessler, editor in chief of the Berlin Jewish community’s monthly magazine, juedisches berlin, said.

The students had put up anti-Nazi posters on the walls of the school, and neighbors had signs in their windows making it clear the ultra-right-wingers were “not wanted here,” Kessler said. She said she understood the party had a legal right to meet but that they should have been given “a barn or a field,” not a public school, she said.

Kessler called the turnout “ludicrous.”

Both parties blame “foreigners” for Germany’s economic and social problems, and relativize the Holocaust, claiming it was not so bad and that the suffering of “Germans” has been ignored. Holocaust denial is illegal in Germany, but both parties come close to that, critics say.

Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit and the newly elected chair of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Dieter Graumann, both have called for banning the National Democratic Party as a threat to democracy.

Meanwhile, the NPD, with an estimated 7,000 members nationwide and 14 representatives in state-level parliaments, mostly in the former East Germany, announced recently that it would merge with the smaller DVU to form the “NPD-The People’s Union.” Their goal was to present a stronger force in the many local elections in 2011.

“The opposition finds this OK,” Kessler said, “because it is easier to fight against only one party.”

Briefs: ADL helped Feds in skinhead Obama plot, FBI report says hate crimes down


ADL Helped Track Alleged Plotters

The Anti-Defamation League assisted in the investigation into white supremacists arrested in an alleged plot to assassinate Barack Obama.

The ADL, which tracks white supremacist groups, provided the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives with information on Daniel Cowart, 21, of Jackson, Tenn., and Paul Schlesselman, 18, of West Helena, Ark.

A joint ATF and Crocket County, Tenn., Sheriff’s Office investigation culminated Oct. 22 in the arrests of the two men, who were charged with “possessing an unregistered firearm, conspiring to steal firearms from a federally licensed gun dealer, and threats against a major candidate for the office of president,” according to an ADL release.

News reports said the men planned to murder 88 blacks, possibly at a local high school, and also discussed assassinating Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate.

ADL had information on the pair partly because of Cowart’s involvement in Supreme White Alliance, a racist skinhead group monitored by the Jewish civil rights body.

“The arrests of these dangerous white supremacists prevented what could have been the most serious act of domestic terrorism in recent years,” said Abraham Foxman, ADL’s national director. “This case shows how extreme ideologies easily lead to extreme actions.”

Hate Crimes Down Slightly in ’07

Hate crimes in the United States declined slightly last year, according to the FBI.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations’ annual report on hate crime data documented 7,624 hate crimes in 2007, compared to 7,722 in 2006. Crimes directed against Hispanics, gay men and lesbians increased, however; with the rise in acts due to sexual orientation at nearly 6 percent.

Religion-based crimes fell to 1,400 in 2007 from 1,462 in 2006. The number of anti-Jewish crimes was about the same — 969 in ’07 and 967 the previous year.

“While we welcome the fact that reported hate crimes declined slightly in 2007, violent bigotry is still disturbingly prevalent in America, with nearly one hate crime occurring every hour of every day of the year,” said Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman.

Foxman said the ADL is looking forward to working with the new president and Congress in January on ways to combat the problem, including the passage of legislation that would expand the federal government’s ability to assist local authorities in investigating and prosecuting such crimes.

— Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Same old United Nations, Sarkozy [hearts] Israel, Gilad Shalit turns 21 in captivity


Groups Assail U.N. Conference

A U.N. conference under way in Geneva is as bad as expected, watchdog groups say. In reports from Switzerland, two major U.N. watchdog groups said the conference – the first in a series of preparatory meetings for the follow-up to 2001’s notorious anti-Semitic Durban conference against racism – was following the path of its predecessor.

Anne Bayefsky, editor of the Eye on the U.N. Web site, called the meeting’s opening session “a slap in the face to every state and nongovernmental organization that really cares about equality and nondiscrimination.”

Egypt, speaking Monday on behalf of the African group, singled out Israel for its “continued occupation of Palestine and violations arising there from.” Pakistan, speaking for the Organization of the Islamic Conference, urged the conference to “move the spotlight on the continued plight of Palestinian people” and accused critics of waging a “smear campaign” against the gathering.

The conference is intended to combat racism and discrimination. Even before the conference began, critics warned that the process could lead to a repeat of the 2001 Durban conference, where an event ostensibly aimed at fighting discrimination became a platform for the dissemination of anti-Semitic propaganda and the singling out of Israel.

Sarkozy Reaffirms Pro-Israel Stance

French President Nicolas Sarkozy reaffirmed his affection for Israel and hostility toward Hamas.

“I have the reputation of being a friend of Israel, and it’s true. I will never compromise on Israel’s security,” he said Monday in his first foreign policy speech since taking office in May.

While he said France would continue to cultivate rich ties with the moderate Arab world, Sarkozy drew a line at engaging Hamas or allowing Iran to procure nuclear weaponry. He described the Gaza Strip as “Hamastan” – a term seldom heard outside Israeli political circles – and said the Islamist Palestinian group must be curbed, lest it take over the West Bank as well.

Sarkozy, who was speaking to French diplomats, further urged Iran to abandon its nuclear program or for effective international sanctions to be imposed on Tehran. Otherwise, he hinted, there could be military intervention.

“This tactic is the only one that allows us to escape from a catastrophic alternative: an Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran,” he said.

Captive Israeli Soldier Turns 21

Israelis marked the 21st birthday of captive soldier Gilad Shalit. Supporters of Shalit held a rally in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, the conscript sergeant’s second birthday in Palestinian captivity. Newspapers and other media carried fresh coverage of his family’s ordeal.

Shalit was abducted in a June 25, 2006, cross-border raid by Hamas-led gunmen in the Gaza Strip. Two of his comrades were killed in the incident.

His father, Noam, said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was not doing enough to recover his son from Hamas, which wants a prisoner exchange. Olmert has signaled a willingness to bargain for Shalit’s return but has ruled out the lopsided swap demands by Hamas.

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said Monday that a deal was almost clinched to trade Shalit for 350 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, but that it fell through over the types of prisoners the Olmert government would release. Israel has said it will only release prisoners not involved in killings.

YouTube Under Fire in Germany Over Hate Videos

The Central Council of Jews in Germany has joined the call to punish YouTube for failing to remove hate material from its Web site. YouTube, the online video sharing portal, has been accused of spreading neo-Nazi material.

According to a report in the ARD television magazine, anti-Jewish propaganda from the Third Reich and music by the banned neo-Nazi group, Landser, can be viewed unhindered on YouTube. Such material is illegal in Germany. The report said some of the material had been online for several months.

The federal Ministry of the Interior has recommended filing charges. German officials reportedly have warned YouTube more than 100 times to remove the material but without a response. The vice president of the German Jewish Council, Salomon Korn, has asked that Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Justice Ministry intervene to stop the online publication of offending video clips.

YouTube, which is owned by Google, is based in California and thus beyond Germany’s legal reach. But German officials could come down harder on Web companies with operations in Germany.

Israeli Holocaust Assets Listed Online

Israeli assets believed to have been left behind by Holocaust victims can now be claimed by their heirs over the Internet. The Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims Assets, which was set up in 2006 following disclosures that Israeli banks hold many accounts and properties that have gone unclaimed since World War II, has set up a Web site with the names of some 7,000 original owners believed to have perished at the hands of the Nazis.

Heirs of those who appear on the list can apply for restitution at www.hashava.org.il. The site is in Hebrew with English translation. The site does not deal with living persons or properties and accounts outside of Israel.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegrapic Agency.

Briefs: Olmert; Katsav; Israel population hits 7.15 million; Neo-Nazis protest March of the Living


Olmert: We Won’t Repeat Swap Mistakes

On Israel’s Memorial Day, Ehud Olmert vowed not to repeat past mistakes in obtaining the release of captured Israeli soldiers. At a memorial service Monday for victims of terrorism, the Israeli prime minister said that “in the range of heavy and agonizing considerations involved there is, of course, an honorable place for consideration of your feelings and those of the bereaved families.”

Olmert did not specify the release of terrorists in previous prisoner swaps, but vowed “never to repeat the mistakes made in the past, the result of which was an increase in terrorism and the return of released terrorists to acts of terror which took the lives of many Israeli citizens.”

Earlier, at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, Olmert promised the families of fallen soldiers that he would do everything possible to obtain the release of soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, taken by Hezbollah in July, and Gilad Shalit, kidnapped by Palestinian gunmen in June.

“We will take advantage of every chance, we will be prepared for far-reaching compromises, and even for very painful concessions, as long as our vital and existential interests are safeguarded, in order to fulfill our burning ambition for peace,” he said.

On Monday morning, Israelis stood silent as sirens wailed throughout the country for two minutes to mark Yom HaZikaron. Memorial Day ends Monday evening with a torch-lighting ceremony on Mount Herzl, followed by Independence Day celebrations.

Katsav Denied Early Access to Materials

Israel’s High Court of Justice denied Moshe Katsav’s petition to obtain early access to materials on his sexual misconduct case. Ha’aretz reported that the suspended Israeli president had requested the materials from the investigation leading up to a May hearing in which he will defend himself against allegations including rape.

After the hearing, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz will decide whether to indict Katsav. Justices Dorit Beinisch, Miriam Naor and Esther Hayut ruled that “the right to view investigative material takes effect once an indictment is filed. We do not accept the petitioner’s argument that one who requests a hearing has the right to view investigative material to the last detail,” Ha’aretz reported.

Katsav was suspended from his presidency after the scandal broke. He is immune from prosecution while he holds office, but has vowed to step down if indicted.

Israeli Population Hits 7.15 Million

Israel’s population rose 1.8 percent in the past 12 months to 7.15 million, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported. The increase was attributed mainly to a high birthrate. Some 148,000 babies were born in 2006, and 18,400 immigrants arrived. Israel’s 5,415,000 Jews, and 310,000 “others” — primarily Russians and Ethiopians who made aliyah but aren’t halachically Jewish — make up nearly 80 percent of the population.

Some 1.42 million Arab and Druse citizens comprise the remaining 20 percent of the population. When the Jewish state was established in 1948, there were 806,000 residents. A third of them are still living in the country. The bureau released the data ahead of Independence Day, which begins Monday evening.

Neo-Nazis Protest March of the Living

Neo-Nazi demonstrators protested the March of the Living in Krakow, according to a Jewish organization. During the March of the Living, 200 people participated in an April 14 march staged by the far-right National Radical Camp, a tiny extremist group. The participants held “Heil Hitler” signs and shouted “This is Poland, not Israel,” “Poland is a saintly thing” and “Jews out of Poland,” according to the Warsaw-based Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland.

The demonstration in Krakow Market Square took place amid foreign tourists, including Israelis who were in Poland for the March of the Living, the foundation reported. The foundation complained that police did not stop the demonstration, despite the Nazi slogans, which are illegal in Poland. The demonstrators reportedly were outnumbered by 250 anti-racism protesters led by local nongovernmental organizations.

Vandals Paint Star of David on Lenin

On the eve of the 137th anniversary of Lenin’s birth, vandals painted a Star of David onto a large statue of the Soviet leader in southern Russia. Interfax news agency reported that Sunday’s incident took place in Rostov-on-Don. The perpetrators have not been found and the motive was unclear.

“Lenin’s hands on his monument in Gorky Park were covered with dye and a Star of David was painted on it,” a city official told Interfax. Lenin, who led the 1917 revolution that founded the Soviet Union, was of mixed Jewish descent, but he was baptized into the Russian Orthodox Church and was extremely hostile to organized religion in general, preaching a fierce atheism.

Lenin continues to enjoy substantial support in today’s Russia, ranking third in popularity among Russian leaders since 1917 in a 2006 poll by the ROMIR sociological service.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.