The far-right Nordic Resistance Movement marches in Gothenburg, Sweden, on September 30, 2017. Photo by Fredrik Sandberg/AFP/Getty Images

Swedish Jews celebrate Yom Kippur under heavy security as neo-Nazis march in major city


Jews in the Swedish city of Gothenburg expressed relief on Monday after a neo-Nazi march on Yom Kippur bypassed the city’s main synagogue and the community received hundreds of messages of support from groups and individuals.

On Saturday, 30 members of the far-right nationalist Nordic Resistance Movement, or NRM, were arrested when they did not follow their assigned route, clashed with counterprotesters and tried to walk toward the Scandinavia Book Fair, the largest literary festival in Scandinavia. Among those arrested was the group’s leader, Simon Lindberg.

Jews had worried about harassment and vandalism during the march, which was rerouted after appeals by the Jewish community that it not pass the synagogue on Judaism’s holiest day. Police presence around the synagogue was heavy, with cars patrolling the area as well as a helicopter and a boat in a nearby canal. The synagogue also provided additional security.

Despite this, Yom Kippur services went on as usual and had a large turnout, community chairman Allan Stutzinsky told JTA.

The Gothenburg community, which is typically under tight security and has approximately 1,000 official members, feared not only the neo-Nazi marchers but potential left-wing counterprotesters, Stutzinsky told JTA earlier this month. People affiliated with the NRM were responsible for anti-Semitic threats that led to the shuttering in April of the Jewish community center in Umea, a city in northeastern Sweden, according to Stutzinsky.

Jews in Gothenburg had worried that the synagogue would be vandalized with swastikas over the weekend, Stutzinsky said. Instead they woke up on Sunday to find that people had drawn hearts with chalk around the building in support.

Amid wide media coverage of the march, the community received hundreds of messages of support from groups and individuals. Stutzinsky, who earlier this month compared present-day anti-Semitism to that in pre-World War II Europe, praised the response.

“The threats exist, but they don’t dominate society. Civil society in Sweden stood up for us in a way that the civil society in Germany didn’t do in the ’30s. We have received a lot of support,” he told JTA.

Last month, the Jewish community appealed a police decision to allow the NRM to march along a route that would have taken them only about 200 yards from the city’s main synagogue on the Jewish holiday. The neo-Nazis had originally wanted to march on the main streets of Gothenburg, but the police offered the alternate route near the synagogue.

After appeals by the Jewish community, as well as several other groups in Sweden, an administrative court in Gothenburg rerouted the protest. The Anti-Defamation League and the World Jewish Congress also urged the Swedish government to ensure the Jewish community’s safety.

Still, the fact that the march took place was worrying, Stutzinsky said.

“We have people who openly follow Nazism and who publicly show that they are Nazis and that they have that agenda,” he said of the marchers.

Aron Verstandig, chairman of The Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities, said Monday that the incident represented a larger trend of the rise of the far right, citing recent demonstrations across Sweden. On Thursday, Verstandig spoke with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven about the march. Lofven denouncedthe rise of neo-Nazi groups and said the government needed take action to combat such organizations.

Though the far right is worrying, the largest threat to the community comes from Islamist terrorism, said Verstandig, who also serves as chairman of the Jewish community in Stockholm. He cited recent terror attacks against Jewish institutions across Europe, including in 2015 on a synagogue in nearby Copenhagen that left one dead.

The community isn’t going anywhere, but the various security threats take a toll, he told JTA. The synagogue in Stockholm uses more than a fifth of the money it raises from membership dues to pay for security, in addition to members volunteering to patrol the synagogue.

“There is always something you need to consider,” Verstandig said. “If you go to the kosher grocery store in Stockholm and want to buy some ground meat, that meat is more expensive because there has to be security. It affects everything. If you want to go to a Shabbat dinner, we have to spend money on security. It makes it harder.”

The neo-nazi Nordic Resistance Movement (Nordiska motstandsrorelsens) sympathisers demonstrate in central Stockholm on Nov. 12, 2016 to protest against migrants. Photo by Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP

Swedish court moves neo-Nazi march on Yom Kippur away from synagogue


A court in Sweden has rerouted a neo-Nazi march on Yom Kippur farther away from a synagogue.

The Gothenburg administrative court ruling concerning the Sept. 30 march by the far-right Nordic Resistance Movement overrode the suggested route by police. The court also shortened the route.

The group had initially wanted to march on the main streets of Gothenburg, but the police offered an alternate route taking demonstrators only about 200 yards from the main synagogue in Sweden’s second largest city.

An outraged Jewish community appealed the police decision earlier this month along with several other groups. The Anti-Defamation League and the World Jewish Congress were among others to protest.

Among other factors, the court said it considered the fact that the route would have passed near the synagogue on the Jewish holiday and the demonstration would fall during the Gothenburg Book Fair, when some 100,000 people are expected to gather in the city for the largest literary festival in Scandinavia.

Swedish Jewish leaders cautiously praised the decision.

The Jewish community “welcomes the Gothenburg administrative court’s decision to not allow the neo-Nazi group to march close to Gothenburg’s synagogue on the holiest day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur,” Aron Verstandig, chairman of The Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities, said in a statement to JTA.

“Even if the Council had wished that the protest would have been moved to a different day, it views it as a positive development that the court took into consideration that Yom Kippur is celebrated on that day, which the police had not taken into consideration.”

The chairman of the Gothenburg Jewish community, Allan Stutzinsky, said the court’s ruling was “a significant improvement,” noting that members could now walk to synagogue without fearing they would encounter neo-Nazis.

“The ruling means that we are much safer,” he told JTA in a statement.

Earlier this month, Stutzinsky said the community, which is typically under tight security, feared harassment and physical threats both from the neo-Nazi marchers and potential left-wing counterprotesters.

President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 7. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Trump ‘looks forward’ to signing resolution condemning white supremacists


President Donald Trump will “absolutely” sign a congressional resolution that “rejects white nationalism, white supremacy and neo-Nazism as hateful,” his spokeswoman said.

“He looks forward to doing so as soon as he receives it,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday during a briefing with reporters.

With bipartisan majorities, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed resolutions this week in the aftermath of the far-right rally in Charlottesville last month that reject “white nationalism, white supremacy and neo-Nazism as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of the United States.”

The resolutions also urge the president and his administration “to speak out against hate groups that espouse racism, extremism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and white supremacy, and use all resources available to the president and the president’s Cabinet to address the growing prevalence of those hate groups in the United States.”

In an unusual move, the sponsors exercised a mechanism that requires the president’s signature on the resolution even though it is nonbinding and written to reflect the sense of Congress. The aim was to address concerns that Trump had equivocated following clashes last month between white supremacists and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, that included a deadly attack on a counterprotester carried out by an alleged white supremacist. Sponsors wanted Trump’s commitment to the idea of condemning white supremacists.

The resolution assiduously avoids blaming any other parties for the violence. The victim, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, is named and honored in the resolution.

Protesters and counterprotesters clashing at Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Charlottesville put focus on alt-right, but watch out for the anti-Semitic left


What can the hunt for Josef Mengele teach us about the challenges facing Jews today? With a debate stirring about whether left-wing or right-wing Jew-haters pose the greater threat, a new account of the decisions made by Israel’s leaders regarding the evil doctor of Auschwitz should give us some food for thought.

Author Ronen Bergman has written a new book about Israeli intelligence and contributed an op-ed in The New York Times concerning an enduring mystery of the Mossad: Why wasn’t Mengele brought to justice like Adolf Eichmann?

Israel made the capture of Eichmann — the man responsible for organizing the Nazi industrialization of murder — a priority mission for its intelligence operatives. After he was run to ground in Argentina and brought to Israel for trial and eventual execution, Mengele was the logical next target. Yet he evaded capture and died a free man in Sao Paulo in 1979.

Was he just too clever or lucky? No. As Bergman reports, Mengele was spotted in Sao Paulo in 1962 by a Mossad team. Had their commanders and their political masters ordered an operation to snatch him, he would have gotten the same just deserts Eichmann received. But they didn’t, and their reason provides an insight both into Israeli history and the choices that are often posed to the Jewish people.

As Bergman explains, the same day that the news about Mengele’s spotting arrived on Mossad chief Isser Harel’s desk, he learned Egypt was recruiting German scientists to build missiles. Harel oversaw the operation to get Eichmann but thought the threat from Egypt was more important than justice for Mengele. Had Gamal Abdel Nasser’s regime — which was then using chemical weapons in its military adventure in Yemen — acquired missile technology, that would have raised the prospect of Jews being gassed the next time Egypt attacked Israel.

With limited personnel at his disposal, Harel ordered the Mossad to stand down in Brazil and to concentrate on a campaign of intimidation and murder of Germans helping Egypt. Harel’s successor, Meir Amit, went further. He ordered his agents, “Stop chasing after ghosts from the past and devote all our manpower and resources to threats against the security of the state.” In other words, forget about old Nazis and concentrate on those Arabs and their allies trying to murder Jews now. Every Israeli prime minister concurred with Amit until Menachem Begin was elected in 1977. But Mengele died long before the Mossad was able to track him down again.

Yet the question lingers as to whether the Mossad’s decision to de-prioritize the hunt for Nazis was correct. Perhaps it might have been possible to do both, but it is not unreasonable to argue that a choice had to be made. Getting Mengele would have been just and emotionally satisfying, yet assigning its scarce resources to the more potent threat was probably the rational option.

Today, Jews face another portentous choice.

Because of what happened in Charlottesville, Va., last month, neo-Nazis are much on our minds. The imagery of a torchlight march of American racists chanting anti-Semitic slogans evoked the tragic past in a way that few events have done. With a small but noisy alt-right movement spreading Jew-hatred on the internet and social media, it’s also no longer possible to claim the anti-Semitic right is dead, as many of us had thought.

Yet, while Charlottesville has refocused us on neo-Nazis, the growing forces of the anti-Semitic left may be a far more potent contemporary threat. President Donald Trump’s inconsistent statements about Charlottesville were outrageous and have encouraged hate groups, but although we are right to worry about the alt-right, the ability of left-wing Israel-haters and their Islamist allies to mobilize far larger numbers of supporters in Europe and on American college campuses is a more serious problem. They can also influence popular culture and mainstream politics via the anti-Trump “resistance.” That presents a clear and present danger to Jewish communities and students that the marginal figures who assembled in Virginia do not.

Jews are capable of opposing both threats. Yet if, due to the antipathy Trump generates among many Jews, we ignore the left-wing anti-Semites in order to concentrate on the less dangerous right-wing haters, that would be a mistake. The Jews have more than one enemy, but the one that is still actively plotting the destruction of the Jewish state and the murder of Jews should remain the default priority. The lesson of Jewish history is not just “never again.” Meir Amit’s warning about chasing ghosts should also not be forgotten.


JONATHAN S. TOBIN is opinion editor of JNS.org and a contributing writer for National Review. Follow him on Twitter at @jonathans_tobin.

The neo-nazi Nordic Resistance Movement (Nordiska motstandsrorelsens) sympathisers demonstrate in central Stockholm on Nov. 12, 2016 to protest against migrants. Photo by Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP

Neo-Nazis plan to march near Swedish synagogue on Yom Kippur


Jews in the Swedish city of Gothenburg were bracing for a neo-Nazi march scheduled to pass near the city’s main synagogue on Yom Kippur.

Community leaders said they will appeal a police decision last week that would allow the Nordic Resistance Movement to march during the Gothenburg Book Fair, when some 100,000 people will gather in the city for the largest literary festival in Scandinavia.

The police had denied the far-right group’s initial request to march on the main streets of Gothenburg, which is the second largest city in Sweden and located on the country’s west coast. The alternate route offered by police would take the marchers only about 200 yards from the Gothenburg Synagogue on Judaism’s holiest day, which this year falls on Sept. 30.

Members of the Jewish community, which typically is under tight security, are worried about harassment and physical threats from the marchers, said Allan Stutzinsky, chairman of the Gothenburg Jewish community. People affiliated with the Nordic Resistance Movement were responsible for anti-Semitic threats that led to the shuttering in April of the Jewish community center in Umea, a city in northeastern Sweden, according to Stutzinsky. A community center is part of the synagogue complex in Gothenburg.

”The threat against us is always large, and it becomes even larger when they are marching,” Stutzinsky told JTA, adding that left-wing counter protesters may also be a threat to Jews.

Swedish Jews face anti-Semitism both from the nationalist far right as well as the far left, whose strong criticism of Israel sometimes veers into anti-Semitism.

Stutzinsky noted that Holocaust survivors and their descendants are members of the Gothenburg Jewish community.

“Almost all of our members have some sort of connection to the Holocaust,” he said. “It is obvious that it is upsetting for them to see, and maybe hear, Nazis protest close to the synagogue, when everyone is there at the Yom Kippur service.”

The community is not opposed to the group’s right to march, he said, but to the event’s location and timing.

Gothenburg’s police chief, Erik Nord, said that everyone who wanted to march had the right to do so, but that anyone who engaged in incitement would be detained, according to SVT, Sweden’s national TV broadcaster.

The Anti-Defamation League urged Sweden to “ensure that the route of the neo-Nazi march is far from the synagogue.”

“As ardent defenders of freedom of speech — even hateful speech — we would not ask for the neo-Nazi march to be banned. We do implore you, however, to ensure that the Jewish community of Gothenburg ‘feels safe and secure, and is free to flourish,'” ADL’s national director, Jonathan Greenblatt, wrote to Prime Minister Stefan Lofven in a letter posted online by Stockholm’s Jewish community.

Meanwhile, Stutzinsky said the planned march did not represent an isolated incident.

“One would have thought that World War II was an effective vaccination against anti-Semitism. But it didn’t last that long, now it’s back again,” he said.

“We have anti-Semitism here again like in the 1930s. We thought Europe had learned its lesson, but that’s apparently not the case.”

Hurricane Irma in the Atlantic Ocean on Sept. 7. NOAA photo

Holy hurricane


Denial just ain’t what it used to be.

Maybe it’s only me, but as recent news has delivered one gut punch after another, it’s been feeling like magical thinking has lost its mojo.

Case in point: Though I know Donald Trump is pathologically void of empathy, who can process a truth as dark as that? We’re not talking about a Batman villain here; this is the effing president of the United States. So as a coping mechanism, my psyche threw an invisibility cloak over his immorality. It didn’t always work, but it came to a dead stop when neo-Nazis – “some very fine people” – marched and murdered in Charlottesville. I plumb ran out of the strategic ignorance necessary to pretend he’s not complicit in evil.

Or take nukes. (Please.) By all rights, nuclear blackmail, nuclear terrorism and accidental nuclear war should have been giving me nightmares for years. But the human capacity for compartmentalization as a way to adapt to the unthinkable did a pretty good job of protecting me from that fear. I don’t know whether, on their own, Kim Jong-un’s accelerating bomb and missile tests would have blown through my soothing self-delusion, but Trump’s crazy rhetoric has undeniably exposed how short-fused those scary scenarios are.

Magical thinking has also Photoshopped my image of the internet. The web’s seductive marvels have had a way of distracting me from mounting evidence of the destruction it enables. But in light of what’s been happening, it’s high time for me to kiss the last vestiges of internet triumphalism goodbye.

Last week the consumer credit-reporting company Equifax revealed that 143 million Americans in their database – half the country – may have had our Social Security and drivers license numbers compromised, as well as the keys to our credit card and bank accounts. Face it: Cyber-security sucks today, and it will suck tomorrow. If you believe your personal data can be reliably protected from hackers, identity thieves, blackmailers, spies, governments, trolls, gamer guys, mean girls and Julian Assange, there’s a Nigerian prince who wants to wire $10 million to your bank account I’d like to introduce to you.

Also last week, the New York Times reported that a cyber-army of counterfeit Facebook and Twitter accounts controlled by impostors linked to the Kremlin had been “engines of deception and propaganda” during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, spreading fake anti-Clinton news, pro-Trump memes and stolen Democratic email to targeted American voters. Facebook – having repeatedly denied it – also disclosed that Russian operatives had bought $100,000 in anti-Clinton ads that may have reached as many as 70 million Americans. Here’s a sobering fact: The digital tools already exist, and are getting better all the time, needed to create convincing counterfeit videos of anyone saying anything, and to confect bogus news stories and brand them as trustworthy journalism. Media literacy and critical thinking have never been more urgent, or up against worse odds.

It’d be comforting to think that companies like Equifax and Facebook have learned their lesson and from now on will deploy the technology needed to beat the devils. But believing what’s comforting in the face of ample prior behavior to the contrary is the definition of denial. Counting on Internet providers to voluntarily embrace an opt-in requirement that respects consumer privacy, like counting on a technical fix for security flaws and propaganda targeting, is the triumph of optimism over precedent.

I’ve clung to such optimism; even if I turn out to be wrong, isn’t that preferable to always fearing the worst? But these days the difficulty of turning a blind eye to reality is taxing my talent for self-deception.

Hurricanes have been dominating the news lately, and few events test the strength of denial as frontally as disasters. But while Harvey and Irma have held news networks hostage – with reason: danger is a magnet for attention – it’s the 8.1 earthquake off of Mexico last week that has me still shaking. I’ve lived in Southern California for a long time, and though earthquakes sometimes drop off my radar screen, I’m periodically conscious enough of their risks that I’ve taken disaster preparation to heart. The proximity of the Mexican quake refocused me on the seismic vulnerability of my everyday life: I checked my battery and water supply. But it also, unexpectedly, laid bare a deeper denial I usually bury fairly successfully, if unconsciously.

I carry around, but rarely examine, a point of view about the relationship between the horrors of natural disasters and my notion of God. I know no God sends these hurricanes, earthquakes, fires and floods. I’m secular, so I don’t require an intricate theodicy to acquit an omnipotent God of capricious cruelty or to sentence a sinful humanity to suffering. But I also don’t experience the universe as arbitrary and meaningless; I experience awe at the mystery of existence, and gratitude for its wonders.

How I reconcile the providence of those gifts with the pointlessness of random misery is too tentative, perhaps too childlike, to survive the scrutiny of abandoned denial. But this much I’m secure about: The power of the 8.2 earthquake that scientists predict for California is indistinguishable from the power that made the night sky’s starry sublime.


MARTY KAPLAN is the Norman Lear professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Reach him at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

The cover photo for the Tight Memes Facebook page on Sept. 11. Photo from Facebook

Now Israel has its own version of the ‘alt-right’


For many Jews, Nazis are public enemy No. 1, and using Nazi imagery to make a political point is strictly verboten.

But some young, right-wing Israelis aren’t buying it.

Inspired by the so-called alt-right abroad, their online community makes liberal use of anti-Semitic and Nazi imagery to mock and malign what it sees as the real threat: Israeli and Jewish leftists.

“We’re fighting back in a new way,” said Guy Levy, 40, the manager of an advertising office in Beersheba and a member of the community. “Our messages aren’t politically correct, but that’s what makes them funny, and stinging.”

Many Israelis heard about this community for the first time Saturday when Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister’s son, credited its main Facebook page as the source of an anti-Semitic themed cartoon he shared. The page, called Tight Memes Against Kakihomoshit Leftists, has since been heavily referenced in the local media. The publicity significantly expanded it following.

Netanyahu posted the cartoon Friday with the caption “food chain.” It pairs the Jewish billionaire and philanthropist George Soros — who the alt-right regularly portrays as a leftist “puppet master” — with at least two other figures associated with the far right and conspiracy theorists, a robed “Illuminati” figure and a lizard creature. All three in turn are seen as manipulating former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and other prominent critics of Benjamin Netanyahu.

Jewish leaders in Israel and the United States rushed to rap Netanyahu over the post. “The cartoon that Yair Netanyahu posted contains blatantly anti-Semitic elements,” the Anti-Defamation League’s Israel office tweeted Sunday in Hebrew. “The dangers inherent in anti-Semitic discourse should not be taken lightly.”

Meanwhile, leading white supremacists, including former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke and those behind the U.S. neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, purported to embrace Netanyahu as one of their own.

“Welcome to the club, Yair – absolutely amazing, wow, just wow,” Duke tweeted Sunday, along with media reports about Netanyahu’s post.

The cartoon Yair Netanyahu uploaded to Facebook, Sept. 9, 2017. (Facebook)

However, members of the community centered around the Tight Memes Facebook page responded very differently.

Dan Gefen, 36, a libertarian economist and longtime member of the community, said the cartoon is meant as a criticism of anti-Zionist meddling in Israeli democracy, including by Jews like Soros, who has funded left-leaning Jewish groups like J Street and civil rights groups in Israel. The anti-Semitic themes are simply a sendup of political correctness, he said.

“If you’re in the culture, you don’t see it as anti-Semitic,” he said. “The general idea is every small thing a right-winger does, they’re calling you a Nazi or a fascist. So it’s making fun of that. It’s a lie that tells the truth.

“The [left-wing] reaction is very important,” he added. “Without the reaction, the joke doesn’t work.”

In recent days, the Tight Memes Facebook page has filled with posts mocking the media’s reaction to the cartoon as humorless and hypocritical. Many have highlighted past examples of Israelis comparing using Nazi imagery to condemn trends on the right, sometimes to the delight of Duke and other white supremacists.

Asked for comment in a Facebook message, an administrator of the group replied, “We don’t cooperate with journalists. Especially not the fake news.”

Yair Netanyahu, who took down the cartoon Sunday evening but did not apologize, has shared several of the posts along with his own comments, including on one, “The left is so sensitive that it’s something.”

Gefen said the Tight Memes community borrows “culturally and even ideologically sometimes” from the alt-right. Like that group, it is loosely organized online, nationalistic and delights in defying social norms it feels are imposed by left-wing elites. But unlike some in the alt-right, he said, his community is not anti-Semitic, for obvious reasons, or racist.

While it operates on a variety of Facebook pages that come and go, Gefen said, the Tight Memes page is the community’s central meeting place. The page’s cover photo features both Pepe the Frog, a cartoon figure that the ADL deemed a hate symbol after it was co-opted by the alt-right, and Benjamin Netanyahu wearing sunglasses. The profile picture is a rendering of Netanyahu drinking from a jug labeled “the tears of leftists.”

Some 3,000 people followed Tight Memes prior to Netanyahu’s post, and that number has now reached well over 4,000.

Most of the posts are relatively standard right-wing political attacks on Netanyahu’s critics delivered with troll-like memes, many adapted from content popularized on 4chan, an alt-right gathering place. Pepe makes frequent appearances, sometimes in Nazi uniform. Other times he appears as a Likud member or religious Zionist.

Alt-right pejoratives like “cuck” are mixed with Hebrew neologisms, like “kakihomoshit,” the nonsensical curse word used in the full title of the Tight Memes page. “Kaki” is Hebrew slang for feces, while “homoshit” is a combination of two well-known English slurs.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, with his son Yair in Jerusalem, March 18, 2015. (Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)

Levy, the advertising office manager, who also runs a blog fact-checking the Israeli media, discovered Tight Memes about a month ago. He and said he was tired of seeing leftists bully Israel’s right wing, including the Netanyahu family.

“‘We’re fascists, we’re racists, we hate peace.’ These are the ways they’re trying to brand us. So we embrace it,” he said. “It’s even worse I’m sure for Yair. His family is being persecuted. I don’t know if he’s reacting in the best way, but this is the reaction.”

The Netanyahus face a raft of investigations. The prime minister has been questioned in a pair of fraud investigations relating to alleged illicit ties to executives in media, international business and Hollywood. His associates are being probed relating to a possible conflict of interest involving the $2 billion purchase of German submarines.

Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelbilt announced Friday that he intends to indict the prime minister’s wife, Sara, for fraud over her alleged use of public funds for household expenses.

Yair Netanyahu posted the cartoon — which included likenesses of a former housekeeper at the heart of the case against his mother and another man leading weekly protests demanding indictments of his family — hours after Mandelbilt’s announcement. It was not the first time Yair has lashed out at leftists on Facebook in recent weeks.

Last month, following U.S. President Donald Trump’s controversial response to the deadly violence at a far-right march in Charlottesville, Virginia, Yair Netanyahu suggested that American left-wing groups are more dangerous than neo-Nazis. Days earlier he questioned a left-wing NGO’s sources of funding and the supposedly illicit behavior of the sons of former prime ministers.

Benjamin Netanyahu, who reportedly takes social media advice from Yair, has hardly been less restrained, calling the investigations of his family a “witch hunt” by “leftists” and the “fake news.” He has sought to characterize the probes, apparently with some success, as an attack on all right-wing Israelis.

“They don’t want to just take me down,” he said in Tel Aviv last month in one of a pair of rallies he has recently held. “They want to take us all down.”

Netanyahu has yet to comment on the latest controversy surrounding his son. When reporters asked Netanyahu directly about the issue at the weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday, he replied, “Thank you, but this isn’t a press conference.”

That, too, became a meme on Tight Memes. In a video clip, a pair of animated sunglasses and a cigar appearon Netanyahu’s face. The text reads, “I didn’t choose the thug life. It chose me.”

White nationalists carry torches on the grounds of the University of Virginia, on the eve of a planned Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. August 11, 2017. Picture taken August 11, 2017. Photo by Alejandro Alvarez/News2Share via REUTERS.

Why Jewish parents should talk about neo-Nazis with their children


Can neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville, Va., be fodder for a meaningful conversation with a 10-year-old? Can an 8-year-old really think about anti-Semitism in contemporary America? The answer, quite simply, is yes.

With recent white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Boston and Laguna Beach, the chances are pretty good that your children already know about troubling current events.

As director of the Children’s Learning About Israel Project, I’ve spent the past five years studying how elementary school children process the world around them. As we’ve followed a group of Los Angeles children from ages 5 to 10, we’ve learned quite a lot about how children make sense of current events that happen removed from their own homes yet still impact their communities.

Here are three important lessons we’ve learned from the children we’ve been following:

• Kids will learn about difficult current events whether you want them to or not.

Childhood can be a wondrous, magical time. In an effort to help protect the sanctity of childhood, adults often want to shield children from controversial or complex current events. But in this era of easily accessible information, even if adults want to shield children from the harsh realities of the world, it isn’t likely that they can.

The children we’ve been following didn’t need to sit in a classroom lesson or read a newspaper to learn about the most contentious or the most tragic moments happening in the world around them. They looked over a mother’s shoulder as she scrolled through Facebook, or they caught glimpses of a television newscast — sometimes in a public place, sometimes in their own homes — that replayed violent images. They overheard conversations between adults, or they searched for information online. The information often came in bits and pieces, and — like a giant puzzle — the children began to piece together stories whether or not they had all the pieces. For most children in our study, this puzzle-piecing started as early as second grade.

Given the pervasiveness of the 24-hour news cycle and the prevalence of screens big and small, even if your children do not yet know about the rise of white supremacy in 2017 America, it will be difficult to shield them from this news for much longer. This means you have two options: let them work on the puzzle alone, or help frame it for them.

Kids need adult guidance to help them understand the context and causes of current events.

Seeing images on a screen or overhearing conversations among adults is all it takes for kids to know what is going on. It isn’t enough, however, to help them understand why events happen or who participates in their occurrence. To understand this, kids need help from the trusted adults in their lives.

As we have watched the kids in our study watch the world around them, we’ve noticed that many children express a profound frustration that they are missing pieces of the puzzle because adults — who often have chosen to shield them from difficult or troubling news — have not sufficiently explained the context that would allow them to understand current events.

It is not enough for contemporary American-Jewish children to know that white supremacy and neo-Nazism are gaining traction in the United States, yet these are the very bits of information that kids are most likely to pick up on their own. Kids will need help to understand the context around this information: Who are white supremacists? How and why are racial minorities, Jews and others their targets? Most important, kids need to understand what is being done to counter hateful speech and actions, and who is and can be involved in this work, including the children themselves.

In spite of it all, kids are optimists.

In part because adults understand so much more historical context than children, adults tend to look at troubling current events with fear and trepidation. But children are able to view the same events as their parents and grandparents and maintain hope that, in the end, all will be well and good in the world. As Anne Frank famously wrote, “In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

From the children in our study, we have learned that what may look to adults like disaster is, for children, an opportunity to remake the world. Even in the worst of times — as we watched the children’s reactions to the 2014 war in Israel, as rockets were raining on Israel and the children were coping with the deaths of Jewish youth — they remained hopeful optimists. For them, war was a chance to re-envision and pursue peace. So, too, can the rise of hatred, racism and anti-Semitism be, for children, an opportunity to rearticulate and embody principles of equality, inclusion and pluralism.

When talking to children about current events, adults have two jobs: to help children fill in the missing puzzle pieces, and to help them maintain the beautiful images they would like to create of the world. Children should be given an opportunity to learn about the world as it exists, and to become partners in creating the world as it should be. n

Neo-Nazi protesters organized by the National Socialist Movement demonstrating near where the grand opening ceremonies were held for the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center in Skokie, Ill., on April 19, 2009. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Neo-Nazi site Stormfront goes offline following rare hold by domain host


Stormfront was no longer available online after its host put a hold on the neo-Nazi and white supremacist website.

The hold issued Friday by Network Solutions is “uncommon” and “usually enacted during legal disputes, non-payment, or when your domain is subject to deletion,” said the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, according to Salon.

Earlier this month, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law urged web.com, which owns Network Solutions, to take down Stormfront, saying it violated the company’s policy against racist and discriminatory content.

On Saturday, the Lawyers Committee said on Twitter that it was “pleased to see web.com appears to be enforcing its Acceptable Use Policy.”

Earlier this month, Google and GoDaddy booted the Daily Stormer, another neo-Nazi and white supremacist site.

The actions come amid public outrage at a white supremacist rally held in Charlottesville on Aug. 12. Protesters shouted anti-Semitic and racist slogans and a woman protesting the rally, Heather Heyer, was killed when a car rammed into a crowd of counterprotesters.

Stormfront, founded in 1995 by a former Ku Klux Klan member, was the first major hate site on the internet, according to the Southern Povery Law Center.  The site hosted online messaging boards that served as a virtual community for anti-Semites and racists and claimed more than 300,000 members as of May 2015, according to the SPLC.

President Donald Trump delivers remarks following a meeting on infrastructure at Trump Tower, August 15, 2017 in New York City. Standing alongside him from L to R, Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney. He fielded questions from reporters about his comments on the events in Charlottesville, Virginia and white supremacists. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Daily Kickoff: Gary Cohn in the FT, “I won’t allow neo-Nazis to cause this Jew to leave his job” | Perelman to host Garcetti | WeWork valued at $21B


Have our people email your people. Tell your friends to sign up for the Daily Kickoff here!

FIRST LOOK: Gary Cohn on how he felt after Trump’s ‘both sides’ comments — in interview with The Financial Times: “I have come under enormous pressure both to resign and to remain in my current position. As a patriotic American, I am reluctant to leave my post as director of the National Economic Council because I feel a duty to fulfil my commitment to work on behalf of the American people. But I also feel compelled to voice my distress over the events of the last two weeks. Citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK. I believe this administration can and must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning these groups and do everything we can to heal the deep divisions that exist in our communities. As a Jewish American, I will not allow neo-Nazis ranting ‘Jews will not replace us’ to cause this Jew to leave his job.” [FT]

— “A source close to Trump predicts he will explode when he reads the Cohn interview… The way Trump will see it, Cohn is siding with the fake news.”[Axios]

BEHIND THE SCENES: “Gary Cohn, Trump’s Adviser, Said to Have Drafted Resignation Letter After Charlottesville” by Eileen Sullivan and Maggie Haberman: “In the days after the Charlottesville violence, Mr. Cohn’s family — including his wife — told him he needed to think seriously about departing… Mr. Cohn came close to resigning… He met with Mr. Trump privately at the president’s golf club in New Jersey last Friday… The markets were spooked last week amid fears that Mr. Cohn would resign, and United States stocks dropped until the White House denied the rumor. Mr. Cohn… was deeply troubled by the market reaction, people close to him said.” [NYTimes]

–Former Obama WH Comms Director Dan Pfeiffer tweets: “Gary Cohn and his PR team probably think this article is good for him, it’s the exact opposite” [Twitter]

“John McCain’s fan club: The veteran senator has mentored many senators — from both parties — to carry on his foreign policy worldview” by Austin Wright: “McCain likes to engage his fellow senators in in-flight debates. “A lot of people get on a long airplane ride and they’ll put the earphones in and listen to John Grisham or something,” [Sen. Angus] King said. McCain, on the other hand, “was constantly engaged, talking about issues. What are we going to do in the Middle East? What are we going to do with the Palestinians and the Israelis? What should be our role in Syria?”” [Politico]

“Kushner Tours Mideast as Palestinian Patience Wears Thin” by Jonathan Ferziger: “Abbas indicated that the process hasn’t been going smoothly. He described the situation as “difficult and complicated,” indicating growing frustration, after an evening meeting with Kushner at his presidential office in Ramallah. He added that “there is nothing impossible with good efforts.” … On Thursday, demonstrators in Ramallah burned an Israeli flag and chanted anti-Trump slogans. One protester held a placard showing Kushner on a leash held by his wife, Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who was depicted as wearing a dress made from the Israeli flag. “Kushner is our dog,” the sign said. “This new administration has been very disappointing, and Palestinians do not see any hope,” said Ghassan Khatib, a former Palestinian Authority cabinet member…  “It looks like this delegation was sent to give the impression that the process is still alive.”

“After Kushner returns to Washington, Trump’s special representative for negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, will remain for follow-up meetings with Israelis and Palestinians, Channel 2 news said. Among his agenda are items aimed at strengthening the Palestinian economy, including meeting with Israeli officials who propose extending the country’s rail network to Jordan.” [Bloomberg]

— A senior diplomatic source confirmed to Israel Hayom that… Jason Greenblatt… will also discuss the growing concerns by the moderate regional states over Iran’s future designs for Syria.” [IsraelHayom]

KAFE KNESSET — How It Played — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: The Kushner-Greenblatt-Powell short visit to Jerusalem and Ramallah hardly made headlines this morning. The niceties of the Kushner-Netanyahu meeting, and the smiles in the Ramallah photo-op, despite clear tensions between the Palestinians and the White House, did not draw much public attention. Only the Adelson freebie, Israel Hayom, featured the event on its front page. Its main rival, Yediot Aharonot, settled for a small mention on page 2 and liberal-leaning Ha’aretz placed its report on page 5. The paucity of coverage reflects a general sense of indifference in Jerusalem to the lingering attempts to renew the Israeli-Palestinian peace process for the umpteenth time.

President Trump himself seemed much more excited, as he reached out to his son-in-law and the Israeli premier with a special Instagram message. “Let’s advance peace prosperity and security in the area. There is no doubt that our relationship is stronger than ever! See you soon,” Trump wrote. The Prime Minister’s Office, however, forgot to mention the President at first. A short readout initially described “effective and substantive discussions on the ways to promote peace and security in the region,” adding that the PM is expecting to continue talks in the coming weeks. A few minutes after the first readout was released, the PMO sent out another, corrected statement, adding a sentence of special gratitude to the President. “The Prime Minister expressed his appreciation to President Trump and his administration for their solid support for Israel.” Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

“Could this be a game-changer for Middle East peace?” by David Ignatius: “When it comes to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, 50 years of peacemaking history sadly warn us that a new initiative probably won’t work. And Trump’s domestic problems weaken his ability to deliver on Kushner’s advance work. But it must be said: The opportunities for trade, investment and security cooperation between Israel and the Arabs have never been greater.”[WashPost

“A peace process? Come back another time” by Shmuel Rosner: “To take risks, to make sacrifices, Israel needs to feel secure; it needs to feel that it has backing. If the U.S. is no longer a reliable guardian of Middle East stability and peace, Israel’s inclination to take any risks for a peace it doesn’t feel is a priority will be greatly diminished.” [JewishJournal]

Netanyahu told visiting Members of Congress that moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem could ‘easily be done’ — by Aaron Magid: Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA), who was part of the Republican delegation, told Jewish Insider that Netanyahu “believes is that it could easily be done. In his (Netanyahu) words: ‘We already have a consulate in Jerusalem. It’s a matter of just changing the sign to make it the Embassy.’” Netanyahu raised the issue in response to a question by Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE). According to Smucker’s recollection of the meeting, Netanyahu “believes that there wouldn’t be a lot of pushback in the event that we do that.” [JewishInsider]

“U.S Vows to Fund a U.N. Agency For Palestinian Refugees Israeli Leader Wants Shuttered” Clum Lynch and Emily Tamkin: “Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has privately assured the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, that the United States… will maintain its current levels of funding to the organization. “America has long been committed to funding UNRWA’s important mission, and that will continue,” said one official at the U.S. mission to the United Nations… An official at the U.S. mission to the United Nations said that… it opposes the adoption of a U.N. resolution that would legally require it to make contributions. Such a requirement, the official suggested, would undercut U.S. leverage that ensures the money is properly spent.” [FP]

“Trump calls Egypt’s Sisi, says keen to overcome obstacles” by Ahmed Aboulenein: ““President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi received a phone call tonight from U.S. President Donald Trump who affirmed the strength of the friendship between Egypt and the United States and expressed his keenness on continuing to develop the relationship and overcome any obstacles that might affect it,” Sisi’s office said in a statement late on Thursday.” [Reuters

“Trump’s latest retweet pulls man into controversy over past statement about Jewish drivers” by Colleen Shalby: “During an early morning Twitter storm, President Trump retweeted a meme of himself “eclipsing” President Obama. Then things took a strange turn for Jerry Travone, the man who tweeted the image. He had featured a website where he has an online shop selling pro-wrestling T-shirts in his Twitter bio. But anyone who clicked on the link Thursday morning would have been taken to the Jewish United Fund of Chicago… The Twitter account @OneHourTees… said it had redirected Travone’s page to the Jewish United fund, telling Travone that it took action “since you hate Jews.” On Sunday, Travone tweeted a statement critical of Jewish people… Travone told NBC News that he wasn’t anti-Semitic. “It was just an emotional expression I was referring to Lakewood, New Jersey and the horrible drivers of that town and that happens to be mostly Jewish people that live there.”  [LATimes]

“Why some Jews still support Trump” by Eitan Arom and Ryan Torok: “Cheston Mizel, president of Mizel Financial Holdings and a congregant of Pico Shul, an Orthodox synagogue in Pico-Robertson, said the attention to Charlottesville and to other presidential controversies has distracted from Trump’s successes, including appointing the pro-Israel Nikki Haley to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and nominating Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. “While there are obviously things that are problematic about this presidency, Nikki Haley and Neil Gorsuch are two clear bright spots,” he said.” [JewishJournal

“The obscene effort to shame ‘Trump’s Jews’” by Seth Mandel: “The hot new criticism of my fellow Jews is that we don’t complain enough. Really. A host of pundits, concerned about President Trump’s baffling unwillingness to single out neo-Nazis for criticism, are turning to the American Jewish community and pleading: Would it kill you to maybe kvetch a bit?” [NYPost]

“Others fled Trump’s Mar-a-Lago; this group wanted in” by Charles Elmore: “The Boca Raton communications executive is the organizer for “The Truth About Israel,” which aims to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the massacre at the 1972 Munich Olympics that left 11 Israeli athletes dead, celebrate Israel and honor the work of Danny Ayalon, former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. “I’m reading about these groups pulling out of Mar-a-Lago and I’m thinking, ‘This is ridiculous,’” [Steven] Alembik said. “Somebody needs to take a stand here and do something… With him as president, I don’t have to worry. He’s got Israel’s back.” His organization initially booked the Boca Raton Resort & Club but changed to Mar-a-Lago for the Feb. 25 event. That Feb. 25 date was open because of the cancellation of a fundraising gala by American Friends of Magen David Adom, Israel’s ambulance, blood services and disaster-relief organization.” [PalmBeachPost

ON THE HILL: “Could Menendez Trial Tip Senate To Trump — Or Cost AIPAC A Pro-Israel Vote?” by Nathan Guttman: “During the 2015 debate over the Iranian nuclear deal, Menendez was one of just four Democrats who sided with the Israeli government, against President Obama, in opposing the deal. He is considered a close ally of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and a safe vote on pro-Israel issues. He is currently a co-sponsor of the AIPAC-backed anti-BDS bill, which has already lost several Democratic supporters following claims that the legislation would infringe on free speech of those wishing to boycott Israel.” [Forward]

2020 WATCH: According to Shane Goldmacher of the New York Times, Ron Perelman will be hosting a cocktail reception for LA Mayor Eric Garcetti at his Hamptons home The Creeks on Sunday.

“Franken seen as reluctant 2020 candidate” by Amie Parnes and Devin Henry: “Political associates of Al Franken say they think the Minnesota senator could be talked into running for the White House if he believes he’s the Democrat best positioned to defeat President Trump. But they say Franken would need to be convinced and argue that the former “Saturday Night Live” star would be reluctant to enter a battle with a slew of other Democrats in what’s increasingly expected to be a wide-open race for party’s nomination.” [TheHill]

** Good Friday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: The investing secrets of hedge fund legend Seth Klarman: Used copies of Klarman’s book “Margin of Safety” still sell for nearly $850 online [CNBC] • Should tech companies be able to shut down neo-Nazis?[Recode] • Apple removes popular apps in Iran due to US sanctions [TheVerge] • Israeli startup AppsVillage wants to do for apps what Wix did for websites: make them easier and cheaper to create [ToI]

SPOTTED YESTERDAY: House Speaker Paul Ryan toured the Everett Boeing plant with an El Al 787 serving as a backdrop: “After meeting the team of 777 workers, Ryan toured the interior of an El Al 787 in final assembly.”[MyEverettNews; Pic

SPOTLIGHT: “A SoftBank fund has made its largest U.S. investment: $4.4 billion in WeWork” by Theodore Schleifer: “SoftBank said Thursday that it would invest $4.4 billion in WeWork in part from its so-called Vision Fund, the fund’s largest U.S. investment to date. The deal routes $3 billion to WeWork through both a purchase of new shares and of existing ones currently held by other investors. Private investors now value WeWork at around $21 billion, a figure that was first disclosed earlier this summer when some initial details of the $4.4 billion investment emerged. Only two privately held companies, Uber and Airbnb, are worth more.” [Recode; WSJ]

“How the Booming Israeli Weed Industry Is Changing American Pot” by Yardena Schwartz: “Some Israeli companies have partnered with American companies to establish a presence in the U.S., where they sell products that were developed in Israel. For example, Tikun Olam, Israel’s first medical cannabis distributor, opened an American subsidiary in 2016. It now sells its proprietary medical-grade plant strains at 10 dispensaries in Delaware and Nevada and will soon be available at dispensaries in Oregon and California… Some American researchers have even moved to Israel all together.” [RollingStone]

COVER STORY: “Gal Gadot on Becoming Wonder Woman, the Biggest Action Hero of the Year” by By Alex Morris: “Nor was it immaterial that Wonder Woman – who, Gadot says, “stands for love and hope and acceptance and fighting evil” – debuted in 1941, the year America entered World War II. While Gadot’s father is a sixth-generation Israeli, her mother’s mother escaped Europe just before the war. Her mother’s father, who was 13 when the Nazis came to his native Czechoslovakia, was not so lucky. His father died in the army. The rest of his family was sent to Auschwitz, where his mother and brother died in the gas chambers. After the war, he made his way to Israel alone. “His entire family was murdered – it’s unthinkable,” says Gadot. “He affected me a lot… It was very easy for me to relate to everything that Wonder Woman stands for.”” [RollingStone]

Prada-Owned Label Pulls Yellow Star Clothing Amid Criticism: “The clothing from Milan-based Miu Miu’s pre-fall collection features a five-pointed star with the name John embroidered on it. The Star of David has six points… Miu Miu spokeswoman Preia Narendra apologized for causing any offense and says in a statement that “it was not Miu Miu’s intent in any way to make any political or religious statement.” She says the items are being removed from the collection.” [AP

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Jewish activists target removal of Peter Stuyvesant monuments” by Yoav Gonen and Ruth Brown: “A Jewish activist group is now demanding Mayor de Blasio scrub all traces of the anti-Semitic Dutch governor from city property — even Stuyvesant High School — as part of his campaign to rid the city of “symbols or hate.” “Peter Stuyvesant was an extreme racist who targeted Jews and other minorities including Catholics and energetically tried to prohibit them from settling in then New Amsterdam,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the head of the Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center.” [NYPost

“Izak Parviz Nazarian, businessman and philanthropist, dies at 88″ by Ryan Torok: “Izak Parviz Nazarian, the Iranian-Jewish co-founder of investment firm Omninet and former board member of the technology company Qualcomm, died on Aug. 23 in Los Angeles…  Born in a Tehran ghetto in 1929, he was 5 years old when his father died… At 17, he traveled to Italy and fought with the Haganah in Genoa. Later, he moved to Israel and served with the Israeli armored forces in the War of Independence, an experience he would say decades later was among the most important of his life. An injury during the war landed him in the hospital, and, unable to fight, he became the chauffeur for then-Foreign Minister Golda Meir.” [JewisJournal]

LIFE LESSONS: “Good News for Young Strivers: Networking Is Overrated” by Adam Grant: “Stop fretting about networking. Take a page out of the George Lucas and Sara Blakely playbooks: Make an intriguing film, build a useful product. And don’t feel pressure to go to networking events. No one really mixes at mixers. Although we plan to meet new people, we usually end up hanging out with old friends. The best networking happens when people gather for a purpose other than networking, to learn from one another or help one another. In life, it certainly helps to know the right people. But how hard they go to bat for you, how far they stick their necks out for you, depends on what you have to offer. Building a powerful network doesn’t require you to be an expert at networking. It just requires you to be an expert at something. If you make great connections, they might advance your career. If you do great work, those connections will be easier to make.” [NYTimes]

SPORTS BLINK: “Before Eliana Pieprz moved from America to Israel, she watched Redskins games with her father on Sunday afternoons, like most fans. But once her family settled across the Atlantic Ocean, she had to adjust her schedule. School is on Sundays where she lives and there’s a seven hour time difference to account for. So, instead of homework after class, Sunday nights have now become devoted to football. Which means when the team plays a Monday night game, she tries to keep herself awake while preparing to go to school at halftime. “I support two teams: Washington and whoever beats Dallas,” Pieprz said.” [RedskinsBlog]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Television host, best known as host of Let’s Make a Deal, Monty Hall (born Monte Halparin) turns 96… Phoenix-based independent writing and editing professional, Leni Reiss… Award winning British novelist who has been described as the “Jewish Jane Austen,” Howard Jacobson turns 75… Founder and senior strategy officer at Mosaic H+H Advisors, Harley Mayersohn turns 68… Born in Haifa, the bass guitarist and co-lead singer of Kiss, Gene Simmons (his birth name is Chaim Witz) turns 68… Immediate Past Board Chair of the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles, Lorin Fife turns 64… Suzanne Schneider turns 41… Former member of the White House National Economic Council during the Obama administration, now a candidate for the Maryland House of Delegates, Nathaniel Loewentheil turns 32… Director of state government affairs for the DC-based Organization for International Investment, Evan Hoffman turns 30… Reporter at The Weekly Standard Jenna Lifhits… Adam Friedman turns 22… Carina Grossman… Robert Cohen… Founder/Board Chair of Everybody Dance Now! Jackie Rotman… Program Director at the American Zionist Movement Alicia Post… Manny Haeusler

SATURDAY: Partner at the DC law firm of Williams & Connolly, his clients include Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, Laura Bush and many others, Robert Barnett turns 71… Rabbi (now emeritus) of Congregation Beth Jacob of Atlanta since 1952 and author of many best-selling books, Rabbi Emanuel Feldman turns 90… Iraqi born novelist, now living in Canada, author of more than 30 novels on Jewish themes, Naïm Kattan turns 89… CEO of Siegelvision, a brand identity consultancy, he is also the founder and chairman emeritus of global brand strategy firm Siegel+Gale, Alan Siegel turns 79… Mayor of Tel Aviv since 1998, following 26 years in the Israeli Air Force (1963-1989) starting as a fighter pilot and finishing as a brigadier general, Ron Huldai turns 73… Former Democratic member of the Florida House of Representatives (2000-2006 and again 2010-2016) who focused on traffic safety after losing a daughter in a 1996 car crash, Irving Slosberg turns 70… Jay Caplan turns 69… Billionaire and board chair of Gap, Inc., a retail chain founded by his parents, Robert J. Fisher turns 63… Journalist and co-author of the Freakonomics series, Stephen J. Dubner turns 54… President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, Ilyse Hogueturns 48… Canadian technology and media entrepreneur Lorne Abony turns 48… Deputy General Counsel at ICANN, Samantha Eisner turns 42… John Train… Carrie Shapiro

SUNDAY: Director of the White House National Economic Council and one of the most influential voices in the Trump administration, he was previously the president and COO of Goldman Sachs (2006-2017), Gary Cohn turns 57… Washington Editor-at-Large of The Atlantic, Steve Clemons… Ambassador of Israel to Poland, she previously was Consul General in San Francisco (1989-1992), ambassador to Ukraine (1999-2003) and ambassador to Russia (2007-2010), Anna Azari turns 58… Israeli diplomat, he was the political officer at the Israeli Embassy in DC (1997-2001) and Consul General of Israel in Boston (2006-2013), he then served as an advisor to President Shimon Peres, Nadav Tamir turns 56… Yuval Sapir… Michael Weiss… Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Finance, Shai Babad

Gratuity not included. We love receiving news tips but we also gladly accept tax deductible tips. 100% of your donation will go directly towards improving Jewish Insider. Thanks! [PayPal]

President Donald Trump delivers remarks following a meeting on infrastructure at Trump Tower, August 15, 2017 in New York City. Standing alongside him from L to R, Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney. He fielded questions from reporters about his comments on the events in Charlottesville, Virginia and white supremacists. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Trump adviser Gary Cohn reportedly considered quitting following Charlottesville


Gary Cohn, a prominent Jewish member of President Donald Trump’s administration, considered resigning over Trump’s response to a far-right rally in Charlottesville, The New York Times reported.

[Gary Cohn, Steven Mnuchin: You good with this?]

Cohn, the top economic adviser for Trump, drafted a letter of resignation, according to the report Friday, which cited two unnamed people familiar with the draft.

In an interview Thursday with the Financial Times, Cohn said the White House “can and must do better” in consistently condemning hate groups. His remarks came nearly two weeks after the Charlottesville rally, which turned deadly when an alleged white supremacist rammed a crowd of counterprotesters with a car, killing one and injuring at least 19.

It was his first public reference to the national dialogue about the violence. As a “patriotic American,” Cohn said he did not want to leave his job as director of the National Economic Council.

“But I also feel compelled to voice my distress over the events of the last two weeks,” he said.

After the Charlottesville rally, Trump said that both far-right marchers who gathered in the southern Virginia city and counterprotesters shared the blame for the violence that ensued. Trump later condemned the Ku Klux Klan, racists and neo-Nazis amid criticism that he failed to single out the far-rightists immediately afterward, but a day later said there were “very fine people on both sides.” Cohn was standing with three other officials behind Trump in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York City on Aug. 15 when the president made his latter remarks to reporters.

“Citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the KKK,” Cohn said in the Financial Times interview. “I believe this administration can and must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning these groups, and do everything we can to heal the deep divisions that exist in our communities.”

Cohn added: “As a Jewish American, I will not allow neo-Nazis ranting ‘Jews will not replace us’ to cause this Jew to leave his job.”

He also told the Financial Times he spoke privately with Trump about these issues.

“I have not been bashful saying what I think,” Cohn said.

In the days after Charlottesville, Cohn’s family — including his wife — told him he needed to think seriously about departing, The New York Times reported, citing two people briefed on the discussions. Several of his friends in the business community also urged him to step away from the administration. Cohn is a former executive at Goldman Sachs.

Amid fears that Cohn would resign, the U.S. stock market dropped until the White House denied the rumor. Cohn, who had spent his entire career in the trading world before joining Trump late last year, was deeply troubled by the market reaction, people close to him told The New York Times.

Cohn’s critical statements of the president’s performance come as Trump prepares next week to start a major national effort to sell a tax-cut plan, which Cohn has been toiling for months behind the scenes to craft, The New York Times noted.

His remarks were in marked contrast to a statement by the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, who also is Jewish and stood directly behind the president during the Aug. 15 news conference.

“I don’t believe the allegations against the president are accurate, and I believe that having highly talented men and women in the country surrounding the president in his administration should be reassuring to you and the American people,” he told former Yale classmates who had urged him to resign.

White supremacists clash with counter protesters at a rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Antifa, Nazism and the opportunistic politics that divide us


Americans are more united than ever on issues of race and free speech.

So why the hell are we so divided?

In the aftermath of the Charlottesville, Va., white supremacist terror attack on anti-white supremacist protesters, the vast majority of Americans agreed on the following propositions: white supremacism is evil; neo-Nazism is evil; violence against peaceful protesters is evil, whether from left to right or vice versa.

Yet here we are, two weeks after the event, and the heat has not cooled.

That’s not thanks to serious disagreements among Americans. It’s thanks to political opportunism on all sides.

It’s easy to blame President Donald Trump for that reaction; his response to the Charlottesville attack was indeed deeply disturbing. It was disturbing for the president to initially blame “both sides” for the event, as though those counterprotesting white supremacism were moral equals of those protesting in its favor. It was more disturbing for the president to say there were “very fine people” at the neo-Nazi tiki torch march, and to add that he had no idea what the “alt-right” was.

Trump’s bizarre, horrifying response to the Charlottesville attacks would have justified criticism of him. I’ve been personally pointing out the president’s stubborn and unjustifiable unwillingness to condemn the alt-right for well over a year (I was the alt-right’s top journalistic target in 2016 on Twitter, according to the Anti-Defamation League). Such critiques would have been useful and welcome.

Instead, the mainstream left has politicized the situation through two particular strategies: first, labeling conservatives more broadly as neo-Nazi sympathizers; second, justifying violence from communist/anarchist antifa members.

The first strategy is old hat by now on the left. On college campuses, conservatives are regularly labeled beneficiaries of “white privilege” who merely seek to uphold their supremacy; anodyne political candidates like Mitt Romney and Rick Perry have been hit with charges of racism from the left. Democrats routinely dog Republicans with the myth of the “Southern switch” — the notion that the Republicans and Democrats changed positions on civil rights after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, leading to Republicans winning the South. (For the record, that theory is eminently untrue, and has been repeatedly debunked by election analysts ranging from Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics to Byron Shafer of the University of Wisconsin and Richard Johnston of theUniversity of Pennsylvania.)

But that false conflation found a new outlet for the left in support for antifa (anti-fascism). Antifa is a violent group that has attacked protesters in Sacramento, Berkeley, Dallas, Boston and Charlottesville; it’s dedicated to the proposition that those it labels fascists must be fought physically. It’s not anti-fascist so much as anti-right-wing — it shut down a parade in Portland last year because Republican Party members were scheduled to march in that parade. Antifa’s violence in Boston two weeks after Charlottesville wasn’t directed at Nazis or Nazi sympathizers, but at police officers and normal free-speech advocates.

Yet many on the left have justified their behavior as a necessary counter to the white supremacists and alt-righters. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) justified the violence by appealing to the evils of the neo-Nazis. Professor N.D.B. Connolly of Johns Hopkins University wrote in the pages of The Washington Post that the time for nonviolence had ended — that it was time to “throw rocks.” Dartmouth University historian Mark Bray defended antifa by stating that the group makes an “ethically consistent, historically informed argument for fighting Nazis before it’s too late.”

This is appalling stuff unless the Nazis are actually getting violent. Words aren’t violence. A free society relies on that distinction to function properly — as Max Weber stated, the purpose of civilization is to hand over the role of protection of rights to a state that has a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence. Breaking that pact destroys the social fabric.

Now, most liberals — as opposed to leftists — don’t support antifa. Even Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) denounced antifa’s tactics in Berkeley, for example. But in response to some on the left’s defense of antifa and their attempt to broaden the Nazi label to include large swaths of conservatives, too many people on the right have fallen into the trap of defending bad behavior of its own. Instead of disassociating clearly and universally from President Trump’s comments, the right has glommed onto the grain of truth embedded in them —  that antifa is violent — in order to shrug at the whole.

The result of all of this: the unanimity that existed regarding racism and violence has been shattered. And all so that political figures can make hay by castigating large groups of people who hate Nazism and violence.

Let’s restore the unanimity. Nazism is bad and unjustifiable. Violence against those who are not acting violently is bad and unjustifiable. That’s not whataboutism. That’s truth.

If we can’t agree on those basic principles, we’re not going to be able to share a country.


BEN SHAPIRO is editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire, host of the most listened-to conservative podcast in the nation, “The Ben Shapiro Show,” and author of The New York Times best-seller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear Silences Americans.”

White supremacists clash with counter protesters at a rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

What’s a bigger threat to Jews, left or right?


Who’s worse, the fanatics who want to kill us now or the extremists who want to kill us later? That was the question Jews locked onto this week, like two dogs playing tug of war with a sock. It’s entertaining until one of them loses a tooth.

The fight began after President Donald Trump equivocated in his condemnation of neo-Nazis and placed the blame for the violence at the Aug. 12 white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va., on both the alt-right and the people who came to protest them.

Trump’s insistence that there was blame on “many sides” and there were “good people on both sides” drew justifiable denunciation from a broad swath of the Jewish world. The nonpartisan Anti-Defamation League (yes, it’s nonpartisan), of course, condemned the president’s remarks. But so did Haskel Lookstein, the Orthodox rabbi who officiated at Ivanka Trump’s conversion, as well as the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

If there’s one thing most Jews can still manage to agree on, it’s that Nazis are bad.

But then came social media, and that’s where the fights broke out.

Yes, what Trump did was terrible, but the real danger to American Jews is the left, some people argued. It’s the antifa people, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and Black Lives Matter with its anti-Zionist platform who intimidate Jewish students on college campuses, shut down free speech for pro-Israel speakers, and in the case of BDS, work toward a world where Israel and the Palestinians can bloody each other in a Lebanon-circa-1982-style civil war. At this year’s Chicago SlutWalk, the leftist organizers refused to let Jews march under a banner showing the Star of David, a Jewish symbol that long predates the State of Israel. 

Yeah, the leftists shot back, but what about … Nazis? It’s the alt-right members who carry guns, threaten synagogues as they did in Charlottesville, chant “Jews will not replace us,” and far and away commit more violent attacks. To paraphrase Sally Field, they hate us, they really hate us.

This is how the arguments play out on Facebook, Instagram and, occasionally, as they say on Twitter, IRL — in real life.

Some debaters go straight to history, or at least to something they remember from the History Channel. The left gave us Stalin and Mao. The fascists gave us Hitler. The left aligned with Palestinian terrorists. The right gave us … Hitler.

The right says that a few pathetic men carrying swastikas can’t compare to an international movement like BDS. The left points out that a few pathetic men carrying swastikas is an exact description of the Nazi Party in 1921.

The right claims there’s something called the alt-left that is dangerously anti-Semitic. The left points out that Fox News host Sean Hannity invented the term “alt-left” to stoke fear, whereas a neo-Nazi created the word “alt-right” to rebrand his loathsome movement.

“There is no comparable side on the left to the alt-right,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said on MSNBC this week.  “White supremacists amass with …  a nationalist agenda that pushes out minorities based on how you pray, who you love or where you’re from. So, it’s really not comparable.”

I’ve read the platforms of antifa groups online, and they all state they oppose all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. That’s not a claim you find on DailyStormer.com. Having said that, I wouldn’t be shocked one day to find anti-fascists showing up to intimidate marchers at a pro-Israel rally. Leftist politicians in England like Jeremy Corbyn side with terrorists against Israel, and their sickness is infectious.

The bottom line is, after our initial almost-unity in condemning Trump’s remarks, we quickly split on which extreme should concern us more. Astonishingly, the Democrats in the debate tend to “objectively” consider the neo-Nazis a far worse threat, while the Republicans “objectively” conclude that the antifas and BDS-ers are the clear and present danger. People come in with their biases and leave with them intact. No minds are changed in the making of this debate.

Here’s what I think: We need to sleep with one eye open, sometimes the right one, sometimes the left one.

The far right and far left always circle back to meet each other under the same DSM entry for paranoia, conspiracy theories, violence and Jew hatred. The far left disguises anti-Semitism as anti-Zionism. The far right disguises nothing: They hate Jews and the “Zios.”

These days, the far right has gotten a big blast of wind in its sails from our president (thanks for that) and the limp response from fellow Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan, who failed to stand up to him. Not to mention the Jews who serve or sometimes live with Trump. They only make things worse.

But winds shift. That means next time someone tries to convince you that all the danger blows from one direction, remind them that it doesn’t. The Jewish left needs to mind the left, and the Jewish right the right. Let’s work together to fight the fanatics and their enablers wherever, and whoever, they are.


ROB ESHMAN is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email
him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism
and @RobEshman.

The author with Billy Joel in 1980.

I applaud Billy Joel for wearing the yellow Star of David


Billy Joel wearing a yellow Star of David on Aug. 21. Photo by Myrna M. Suarez/Getty Images

Jewish fans of Billy Joel took to social media today to share photos of him wearing yellow Star of David patches on his shirt at his Madison Square Garden concert last night.  It was an obvious protest against the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who’ve been defiling America’s streets of late.  But it also was a not-so-obvious full embrace of his heritage as the son and grandson of German Jews who barely escaped the Holocaust.

For me, it was a particularly heart-warming and emotional moment. I got to know Billy in 1979 when I became news director of WLIR, a highly popular and influential Long Island radio station that had been among the first to play his music.  The singer was a fixture at our studios, he played on our baseball team, he took us out to an Italian restaurant and I did several memorable interviews with him.  He once publicly thanked me for helping him with a charity with which he was involved, and privately told a colleague of mine that he really liked my work.

Given that background, when I heard he was planning to perform in the Soviet Union in 1987, this longtime member of the “Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry” had to speak up.  Although I’d never discussed it with him, I knew that Billy’s father Helmut (later Howard) had escaped Nazi Germany with Billy’s grandparents, making their way from Switzerland to Cuba and eventually, the United States.  Billy’s mother was also Jewish, although his upbringing on Long Island had little Jewish content.

I contacted a mutual friend and asked if he’d get a message to Billy.  I remember the friend asking if I wanted to speak with him on the phone.  I said I preferred to put it down on paper.

I wrote a long, impassioned plea, asking Billy to not tour Russia without speaking about the plight of Soviet Jews, who were just then breaking the chains of their long oppression by the Communist regime.  I reminded him that we both were sons of German Jews who had been fortunate enough to escape the Nazis, and that very few people had spoken up for our families during that dark time.

The mutual friend promised to hand the typed letter to Billy.  There was no response.  A couple of weeks later, just before the tour began, I called to check, and was told that Billy had read it.  He proceeded with the tour, and never said a word about his fellow Jews.

I only spoke to Billy once after that, several years later, and didn’t bring it up. In 2001, I was surprised and pleased to see that he’d participated in a fascinating documentary called “The Joel Files.”  The film depicted the Nazi theft of Billy’s grandfather’s thriving business in Berlin, and showed the musician contemplating the names of his close relatives who were murdered in the Holocaust.

I was impressed and moved that Billy agreed to be part of that project.  And today, 38 years after I first met him, I actually gasped when I saw those photos online, of Billy wearing the yellow star that his relatives were forced to display before being dragged to their tragic deaths.  His ex-wife Christie Brinkley and their daughter Alexa both tweeted their support, with Brinkley writing “Thank you, Billy, for reminding people what was, so it may never be again”. 

I’m sure that seeing thugs marching through the streets of an American city, carrying Nazi-like torches and flags adorned with swastikas, must have infuriated him.  Perhaps being a father of two has affected Billy’s evolving relationship with his family’s history.  Whatever the reasons, I have the utmost respect and admiration for the Piano Man, now that he’s hit exactly the right note.

White supremacist protesters clash with police in Charlottesville, Va., Aug. 12. Photo by Evan Nesterak via Wikimedia Commons.

Is it possible to fight both neo-Nazis and left-wing anti-Semites?


We live in a time when, as the U.S. State Department has noted, a “rising tide of anti-Semitism” has swept across the globe. Anti-Semitism has crept into the mainstream from the margins of society in the West, as a coalition of intellectual elites and Muslims has produced a surge of venom against Israel and Jews who identify with it. That movement has found a foothold on American campuses and among left-wing groups, resulting in Jews being stigmatized and isolated in the public square, and students being subjected to violence and intimidation.

But the growth of this noxious form of hate is not what most American Jews are most worried about. Instead, it is the spectacle of neo-Nazis and their Ku Klux Klan and alt-right allies parading in Charlottesville, Va., that scares Jews the most.

A reasonable argument can be put forward to assert that, even now, with far-right anti-Semites being more active than in recent memory, their left-wing counterparts pose a more serious menace to global Jewish security. But fear of the anti-Semitic right is always going to be the threat that resonates the most in the Jewish community. The thought process leading to the conclusion behind this mindset might be debatable, but it also reflects a disturbing truth about the persistence of anti-Semitism and the failure of both liberals and conservatives to think clearly about the issue.

Part of the reason why right-wing anti-Semites are scarier to American Jews is a function of imagery and historical memory. The spectacle in Charlottesville of large numbers of neo-Nazis and Klan members holding a torchlight parade while chanting anti-Semitic slogans is chilling in of itself, but also because it is reminiscent of the Holocaust. These thugs aren’t anything close to being the threat the Nazis were in Germany, but their brazenness provides a visceral shock that even the most vicious and perhaps more influential Jew-haters on the left can’t provoke.

The increasingly central role anti-Semitic attitudes are playing on the left often flies under the flag of anti-Zionism rather than open Jew-hatred. But that is a distinction without a difference. Even in the U.S., where it is less prevalent than in Europe, this has meant boycotts and even violence, as well as inflammatory rhetoric—coming from many prominent members of the anti-Trump “resistance”—that demonizes affiliated Jews as racist oppressors.

Liberal Jews have been slow to respond to this threat because it requires them to confront erstwhile allies who are part of the Democratic Party base or groups they view with sympathy, like Black Lives Matter or organizations that purport to represent the LGBTQ community.

But liberals aren’t the only ones who have ignored things that didn’t fit into their worldview. Republicans have become a lockstep pro-Israel party, and the main organs of conservatism like National Review chased anti-Semites out long ago. This has led Jewish conservatives to believe the virus of right-wing anti-Semitism was dead and buried. But anti-Semitism on the right has made a comeback in the form of a virulent and violent alt-right movement that rejects mainstream conservatism.

Neo-Nazis and the Klan, and their alt-right allies, may be small in number and make up only an infinitesimal fraction of the coalition that elected Trump. But their impact is magnified by Trump’s reluctance to consistently take them on. Trump is no anti-Semite and has governed as a staunch friend of Israel. Yet he has encouraged right-wing anti-Semites by alleging a false moral equivalence with those who oppose them, while also signaling sympathy with the cause (preserving Confederate statues) that the anti-Semites and racists turned out to support in Charlottesville.

Neo-Nazis may seem scarier than Jew-haters on the left, but the challenge for American Jews now lies in trying to rise above the partisan loyalties that can blind us to both sides of the anti-Semitic coin.

Liberals prefer to ignore the potent influence of those who promulgate anti-Semitic boycotts of Israel while encouraging intimidation and attacks against Jews. Many seem to think calling out left-wing anti-Semites in the anti-Trump resistance is not as important as opposing the administration. At the same time, conservatives need to acknowledge that speaking up about the anti-Semitic right isn’t chasing ghosts. They need to understand that calling out Trump for his encouragement of alt-right anti-Semites will neither betray Israel nor aid left-wing Jew-haters.

What is needed is a Jewish community with the wisdom to take up the fight against hate and bigotry no matter its origin. Until that happens, liberals and conservatives alike will continue to fail to adequately address a problem that ought to transcend politics.


Jonathan S. Tobin is opinion editor of JNS.org and a contributing writer for National Review. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.

President Donald Trump delivers remarks following a meeting on infrastructure at Trump Tower, August 15, 2017 in New York City. Standing alongside him from L to R, Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney. He fielded questions from reporters about his comments on the events in Charlottesville, Virginia and white supremacists. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Gary Cohn, Steven Mnuchin: You good with this?


The question of the day, at least in my corner of the world, is this: How can Gary Cohn and Steven Mnuchin keep silent?

Cohn is chief economic advisor to President Donald Trump and the director the National Economic Council.   Mnuchin is Secretary of the Treasury.  Both men are Jewish.  And both men stood just to the right of Donald Trump as he equated neo-Nazis and white supremacists with the people who protested them, and declared that at a rally attended and promoted by hate groups from around the country, there were “very fine people”

It was, as the historian Steven Windmueller wrote,  “the first time in American history where a President has not uniformly and consistently condemned anti-Semitism.”

The statement was offensive enough that at least seven CEOs serving the administration as advisors resigned from their posts.  But Mnuchin and Cohn, who both come from the world of business and finance, remained silent  As of today, neither one has spoken out.

It is impossible to believe that both men are unaware of the deeply anti-semitic nature of the rally.  Its attendees posted threats against the local Charlottesville synagogue, Congregation Beth Israel, in the days leading up to the march.  On the day of the rally, congregants felt the threat acutely.  Here’s an account of that day from the temple’s president,  Alan Zimmerman:

For half an hour, three men dressed in fatigues and armed with semi-automatic rifles stood across the street from the temple. Had they tried to enter, I don’t know what I could have done to stop them, but I couldn’t take my eyes off them, either. Perhaps the presence of our armed guard deterred them. Perhaps their presence was just a coincidence, and I’m paranoid. I don’t know.

Several times, parades of Nazis passed our building, shouting, “There’s the synagogue!” followed by chants of “Seig Heil” and other anti-Semitic language. Some carried flags with swastikas and other Nazi symbols.

A guy in a white polo shirt walked by the synagogue a few times, arousing suspicion. Was he casing the building, or trying to build up courage to commit a crime? We didn’t know. Later, I noticed that the man accused in the automobile terror attack wore the same polo shirt as the man who kept walking by our synagogue; apparently it’s the uniform of a white supremacist group. Even now, that gives me a chill.

When services ended, my heart broke as I advised congregants that it would be safer to leave the temple through the back entrance rather than through the front, and to please go in groups.

Anti-semitism was not a bug of the rally, it was a feature.  The marchers chanted, “Jew will not replace us!”  Their flyers featured Nazi imagery and Stars of David.  These were the men and women that the President put on the same moral plane as those who confronted them.

Some media reported that Cohn and Mnuchin looked uncomfortable as Trump spoke.  If so, it is far more subtle than the visible snort and head shake his comments drew from Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly.

So why the silence from Cohn and Mnuchin?  Here’s some guesses:

Could it be that neither man is that connected to his Jewish identity?  Unlikely. Cohn is an active member of his local Jewish Federation.  In 2009 he donated  money to Hillel International in order to build a Jewish student center at Kent State University.  It is called the Cohn Jewish Student Center.   The Mnuchin family  has a long history Jewish philanthropy as well.

Could it be that they know Trump is not an anti-Semite, so the idea that  he supports anti-Semitism is ridiculous? Maybe.  That’s what some of his other Jewish aides told the New York Times today.

“I know President Trump and his heart,” Michael Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer, wrote to the Times. “He is a good man and doesn’t have a racist bone in his body. All morning I am receiving horrific comments about being anti-black, racist, etc. for supporting Trump. It’s just wrong!”

This is the go-to response of Trump’s Jewish supporters, family and staff.  It is probably true, but it’s also besides the point.  You don’t have to be an anti-Semite to give cover to anti-Semites, which is what the President did yesterday.  His motivations may have had nothing to do with his feelings about Jews, but the effect is the same.  Neo-Nazis, repackaged as the “alt-right,” now can feel vindicated.

In fact, by standing silently by as  Trump betrayed American Jews , Cohn and Mnuchin are only encouraging Trump’s behavior.  He can use their presence to assure himself that he’s done nothing wrong.

Could it be they think the whole mess is a Leftist, media-fueled over-reaction to a few poorly chosen and ultimately meaningless words?  Maybe.  But neither man is known to be hyper-partisan.  Records show they have given to Democratic as well as Republican candidates.  They can read the denunciations of Trump’s words from a broad spectrum of Jewish organizations and community and religious leaders, as well as from numerous Republicans and foreign leaders.

“It is unbearable how Trump is now glossing over the violence of the right-wing hordes from Charlottesville,” Germany’s Justice Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement, according to Reuters. “No one should trivialize anti-Semitism and racism by neo-Nazis.”

No one’s making this up, and Cohn and Mnuchin are too smart to think otherwise.

Could it be they put their duties and their loyalty to the President far above whatever concerns they have about his statements and actions?  Again, maybe, in which case they have to swallow their gut reactions, shrug to their friends and family– hey, what can I do?– and just plow ahead.

Everybody makes choices about what principles are worth fighting for, Cohn and Mnuchin have made theirs. Thanks to President Trump, the neo-Nazis feel they have the wind at their backs, and white supremacists have planned more rallies across the country.   Cohn and Mnuchin have to own the fact that their boss has just received Twitter raves from Richard Spencer, David Duke, Matthew Heimbach and their well-armed minions.   Cohn and Mnuchin will have to explain whether they spoke up in private, because their public silence reads like cowardly acquiescence.

And Cohn and Mnuchin will need to face one of the supreme ironies of our time: when their boss endangered Jewish lives, they stayed silent, and the Germans spoke up.


ROB ESHMAN is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email
him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism
and @RobEshman.

President Donald Trump delivers remarks following a meeting on infrastructure at Trump Tower, August 15, 2017 in New York City. Standing alongside him from L to R, Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney. He fielded questions from reporters about his comments on the events in Charlottesville, Virginia and white supremacists. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Our president just asked us to be fair to white supremacists


There was a moment in his “neo-Nazi, neo-Shmazi” news conference where you might have found yourself thinking, maybe President Trump is right.

On the narrow question of who was responsible for the violence in Charlottesville, a prosecutor might note that punches were thrown by white supremacists and left-wing activists, neo-Nazis and members of the Antifa resistance.

“I think there’s blame on both sides,” is how Trump put it in his news conference Tuesday in New York.

It’s the right answer if this is the question: “Who threw punches in Charlottesville?” But it is the wrong answer to every other question raised by the awful events of the past three days. Such as, “What is expected of an American president when hundreds of people representing a stew of racist and anti-Semitic ideologies gather in a public park in an American city?” And, “What do we expect of the leader of our government when young men in 2017 wave Nazi flags and chant ‘Jews will not replace us’ while one of their number kills a counterprotester using his car as a weapon?”

And one more: “When given the choice between a mob that defends segregation, slavery and the ideology of genocide, and a crowd that stands opposed to these things, which side do you choose?”

Trump stunned his critics not because he was waiting (uncharacteristically, one might add) for all the “facts” to make a statement, as he said at the news conference, but because he ignored the essential fact: Neo-Nazis, Klansman and other far-right ghouls had called for a rally, under the banner of “Unite the Right,” in an attempt to resurrect ideas that the United States had declared — on the battlefield, in the courtroom and in the court of public opinion — morally bankrupt and grotesquely un-American.

And the president of those United States declared that while such people were bad, they were perhaps no worse than those who came to oppose them. In fact, he was careful to point out, “You had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. OK? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.” But if there were “very fine people” who showed up in Charlottesville to “quietly” protest the removal of a Confederate statue, as Trump put it, they knew exactly what they were getting into. You can’t show up at an orgy and say you’re there just for the snacks. As the satirical newspaper The Onion put it in a headline that barely seemed satirical, “Trump Blasts Critics Who Judge Neo-Nazi Groups By Most Extreme Members.”

Trump may occasionally and reluctantly disavow them, but figures on the lunatic fringe appreciated the bone that they had been thrown.

“Really proud of him,” the white supremacist Richard Spencer said in a tweet. “He bucked the narrative of Alt-Right violence, and made a statement that is fair and down to earth.”

“Donald Trump: He Was Fair to White Supremacists” is quite the epitaph.

On Saturday morning, after the torchlight vigil, after the speech by David Duke and the anti-Semitic chants and the killing of a 32-year-old woman, no one outside of the “alt-right” was looking for fairness. They were seeking moral clarity — and they didn’t get it from the White House.

Some very fine people, including some Jews, are not convinced. They think Trump got it about right in noting that “many sides” are responsible for what happened in Charlottesville. They think it was important to point out that there were “vicious, hate-filled extremists,” as one Jewish leader put it, on both sides — that is, the neo-Nazi side and the protesters’ side, the Klan’s side and the anti-fascist side.

It is as if the lesson of Jewish history is moderation in the face of hatred, restraint when confronted by those who would kill us.

In his 2003 book “Nazis in Newark,” the historian Warren Grover recalled how a loose group calling themselves the Minutemen organized in order to crush the pro-Hitler activity proliferating in their backyard.

“Throughout the 1930s, the Minutemen consistently and effectively opposed Nazi activities in Newark and Northern New Jersey,” Grover wrote. “The fighting force included criminals and boxers who used fists, clubs, and baseball bats to counter the Nazi threat. Often just a rumor that the Minutemen had been sighted was enough to deter Newark’s Nazis from holding events.”

Plenty of Jews who remember the Minutemen consider them heroes — and even revere the memory of the gangster Abner “Longy” Zwillman, who aided them. Maybe we live in more rarefied times. Maybe today we’d call the anti-Nazi gangs “thugs” and “terrorists.” Maybe there’s a difference between standing up to neo-Nazis and actual Nazis. And maybe, to our credit, we understand that nonviolent resistance is the most principled and effective response to hatred and intolerance.

But if the Minutemen lacked a certain gentility, two things they didn’t lack: moral clarity and the courage of their convictions.

Trump was asked Tuesday whether white supremacists and their counterprotesters belong “on the same moral plane.”

“I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane,” our president said.

Yair Netanyahu, son of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on Oct. 13, 2016. Photo by Marc Israel Sellem

Netanyahu’s son says neo-Nazis ‘dying out’ in US, leftist ‘thugs’ becoming dominant


The 26-year-old son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested that far-left thugs in America may be as dangerous as neo-Nazis, spurring an Israeli left-wing lawmaker to imply that he was a fascist.

Yair Netanyahu was commenting on Facebook on events Saturday in which a white supremacist rammed his car into counterprotesters at a far-right rally, killing one and injuring some 20 others. President Donald Trump said Wednesday that both sides shared the blame for violence that occurred at the event in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“I’m a Jew, I’m an Israeli, the neo nazis scums in Virginia hate me and my country,” Yair Netanyahu wrote Wednesday in English, apparently after Trump’s reference at a news conference in New York to shared blame. “But they belong to the past. Their breed is dying out. However the thugs of Antifa and BLM who hate my country (and America too in my view) just as much are getting stronger and stronger and becoming super dominant in American universities and public life.”

BLM is the acronym for the Black Lives Matter movement. Antifa is a group that opposes neo-Nazism and has some members from far-left circles.

Mickey Rosenthal of the Zionist Union took aim at Yair Netanyahu on Twitter the same day, calling him “Netanyahu Jugend” – a reference to the Nazi youth movement that promoted the adoration of Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany, the nrg news site reported. Rosenthal later deleted and apologized for the tweet after initially doubling down on his linking of the younger Netanyahu to the movement, whose name means “Hitler Youth.”

“Literally, what I wrote means ‘Netanyahu’s child,’” Rosenthal wrote to critics who felt offended by the phrase. “Unfortunately, the son is continuing to sow hatred like his father. I assume Ntanyahu and his supporters will try to twist what I said to their needs.”

But minutes later Rosenthal retracted and deleted his initial post.

“I reconsidered,” he said. “The criticism is founded. I accept it and apologize to anyone offended.”

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.

+