Dutch Jews seek ban on rallies featuring hate speech

Following repeated calls to kill Jews in protest rallies in The Hague, representatives of the Dutch Jewish community urged local authorities to crack down on anti-Semitic incitement.

The appeal by the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, or CIDI, came Friday following two demonstrations in The Hague this month in which protesters made menacing statements about Jews.

“The Hague is known internationally as a city of peace and law,” CIDI wrote in the statement. “It is unfathomable that this could happen in this city.”

The statement was in reference to a demonstration by 150 people in the heavily Muslim Schilderswijk neighborhood of the Hague. Protesters who had gathered there on Thursday evening to demonstrate against Israel’s actions in Gaza chanted “death to Israel, death to the Jews” in Arabic.

The prosecutor’s office of the Hague said in a statement that a police officer who speaks Arabic was present at the demonstration but did not find that the calls “crossed the line.” But the prosecutor’s office will review video footage of the demonstration to determine whether the calls constituted incitement to hate and will punish the parties responsible if their actions violated the law, the statement said.

The CIDI, a watchdog monitoring anti-Semitism, was joined in its call by the Central Jewish Board, or CJO — the umbrella group representing Jewish communities and organizations in the Netherlands.

An earlier protest in the Schilderswijk on July 4 — four days before Israel launched its assault on Hamas — featured similar calls. That rally was to protest the arrest of Dutch Muslims who had fought with jihadists in Syria.

Turkey’s Islamists protest, Gezi Park rioters draw police

A growing divide between secular and religious factions in Turkey was starkly illustrated by two crosstown protests in Istanbul on May 31.

The first, covered minute-to-minute by the international media, was held to mark the first anniversary of Turkey’s historic anti-government uprising.

The protest commemorated riots that drew hundreds of thousands of angry locals to Istanbul’s central Taksim Square, after police took brutal measures to disperse a group that had gathered peacefully to oppose the development of nearby Gezi Park. Under a strict crackdown ordered by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan, police ended up killing 12 protesters and injuring thousands more — mostly from wounds caused by tear gas canisters and plastic bullets.

The 2014 anniversary protest was a similar scene: Police tackled protesters to the ground, kicking and beating them with batons, and fired tear gas and plastic bullets at close range. 

The second event, held only a few kilometers away on the opposite shore of the Golden Horn, was an anti-Israel rally marking the four-year anniversary of Israel’s deadly raid of the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship that attempted to deliver aid to Gaza in May 2010.

A largely Muslim crowd marched from the heavily touristed Sultanahmet Square down to the Sarayburnu port, where they crammed onto the decks of the run-down Marmara and the dock below. Ten larger-than-life photos of the Turkish “martyrs” killed by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in the raid hung from the side of the ship. Rally-goers waved a sea of Palestinian flags alongside ones from Turkey, Syria and Egypt. Their cheers and slogans — including “Zionists you will see, Palestine will be free” and “God is great” — echoed across the water. 

Media reports put the Gezi Park protest turnout in the hundreds or low thousands, while the march to the Marmara apparently attracted more than 10,000. Yet not a single policeman could be spotted in the immediate vicinity of the latter.

“The mere fact that anti-government protest is deemed illegal and anti-Israel protest is deemed legitimate is a disconcerting image,” Gabriel Mitchell, Israel-Turkey project coordinator for the Israeli foreign-policy think tank Mitvim, wrote on his blog.

In the days leading up to the Gezi protest, Erdoğan had warned protesters of the Taksim Square area: “You will not be able to come to those places like you did last year. Because the police have taken absolute orders, they will do everything [to drive you out].”

He stayed silent, however, on the anti-Israel march and rally across town.

Both crowds appeared to carry a renewed passion for their cause — perhaps having to do with the fact that, in another coincidence, both 51-year-old Uğur Süleyman Söylemez, a Turkish activist aboard the Marmara, and 64-year-old Elif Çermik, a Gezi protester, finally succumbed to their injuries the week before the protests, after suffering long-term comas.

The Marmara rally, also called “Anti-Zionist Day,” has become an annual event thrown by the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), the same Turkish NGO that originally sent the Marmara to Gaza. The IHH is often criticized for its close ties with the Turkish government. A columnist from the Hurriyet Daily News, a left-wing Turkish newspaper, once called it a “ ‘GNGO,’ in other words a ‘governmental-non-governmental-organization.’ ”

Speaking to the Journal on the streets of Istanbul, various Gezi protesters said they saw the Marmara fanfare across town as a government-supported ploy to distract the Turkish citizenry from unrest at Taksim.

Although Erdoğan didn’t publicly condone the anti-Israel rally, members of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) reportedly attended and spoke at the event. One woman in attendance wore a full-length cape printed with Erdoğan’s face. And many others wore sweatbands printed with “R4BIA,” or held up four fingers, a symbol of support for Egypt’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, to which Erdoğan also has close ties.

Another red flag for anti-Erdoğan secularists was that the Marmara event overlapped with a Muslim protest outside Istanbul’s most popular tourist attraction: the stunning Hagia Sophia.  Thousands of protesters gathered at the site that same day to demand that the former cathedral — converted into a mosque by a 15th century Sultan, then to a secular museum by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of modern-day Turkey — be reverted back into a place of Muslim prayer.

Mitchell of the Mitvim think tank explained in an interview that the message Erdoğan sent on Saturday was that “when it comes to IHH and its agenda with Israel, that’s OK. And when it comes to the pressure to make Hagia Sophia into a mosque, that’s OK. But if you are rallying against the government, that is definitely not OK.”

Atatürk’s radical early 20th-century modernization of Turkey is revered by the Gezi crowd; Erdoğan, on the other hand, is seen as an increasingly authoritarian ruler imposing his Islamist values on the country.

The prime minister isn’t a big fan of his detractors, either. Today’s Zaman, an English-language newspaper in Turkey, reported that, on the eve of the Gezi anniversary riot, Erdoğan claimed protesters had “killed people with Molotov Cocktails, attacked our head-scarved sisters, mosques [and] burned Turkish flags.”

Nervana Mahmoud, a popular Egyptian blogger and Middle East commentator, tweeted on the morning of the protest: “On Gezi’s anniversary, Erdoğan is more powerful, but also more paranoid, smug and delusional.”

To the outside world, Turkish-Israeli relations, which collapsed after Israel’s Marmara raid and have remained delicate ever since, appeared to be on the verge of a breakthrough this spring. 

However, an IHH lawsuit brought against the four Israeli commanders who ordered the raid may be preventing the final steps of reconciliation. On May 26, Istanbul’s 7th Court of Serious Crimes ordered Interpol to arrest the IDF commanders and force them to appear in court — a highly political move that only added more fuel to the Marmara rally. Bright red posters being waved at the event showed the Israelis’ faces under the heading, “WANTED.”

Erdoğan has distanced himself from the IHH’s ongoing Marmara battle. “The court case opened by families of our martyrs or of our wounded ones is not an initiative of ours,” he said at a recent press conference. “We cannot influence that.”

A scathing piece on the Turkish court’s decision in Foreign Policy Magazine pointed out that while “strategic and economic interests may nevertheless pave the way for a loveless Israeli-Turkish rapprochement … under an Islamist leadership that offers an anti-Israeli narrative for every domestic crisis, Turkey has become a hostile environment for Israel.”

Even if Erdoğan didn’t directly back the anti-Israel rally, he has much to gain from it.

A 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 86 percent of Turkish voters had a negative view of Israel, while only 2 percent viewed Israel in a favorable light. Turkish politicians, Erdoğan included, have been known to piggyback off this popular anti-Israel sentiment in order to win elections — like the one coming up for Erdoğan in August. 

Most recently, when outrage swept the country anew last month after a coal mine caught fire and killed more than 300 miners, Erdoğan was quoted by local media as calling one protester “Israeli spawn.”

Said Mitchell of the Turkish prime minister: “He has made plenty of statements that are closing in on that derogatory, disgusting language. Even in Turkey itself, to refer to someone as Israeli or Jewish, these things are derogatory terms.” 

While the Gezi diehards clashed against Erdoğan’s police barricades up the hill at Taksim Square on May 31, the sounds of an IHH promotional video boomed out over the Golden Horn.

“Since its establishment, the State of Israel has played the role of the world’s spoiled child and has built walls of shame, with the intention to protect its lands and to dissociate itself with the outside world,” read the narrator. Two young Turkish boys in the crowd whooped their support, one of them waving a big sign that read, “DAMN ISRAEL.”

Egyptian protestors call for more rallies

Egyptian activists urged protestors to take to the streets for a second day of anti-government rallies.

Wednesday’s protests come a day after three activists and one policeman were killed and more than 100 security personnel injured in anti-government rallies across the country.

The rallies were largely organized using social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, according to reports. They were inspired by the popular uprising in nearby Tunisia, which led to the resignation of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who then fled the country.

Tuesday’s demonstrations in several Egyptian cities, including the capital Cairo, called for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power for the last 30 years.

Among the protestors’ demands are an end to a long-standing state of emergency, a rise in minimum wages and the resignation of the interior minister. They expressed anger at the rising cost of living and the government’s failed economic policies, as well as government corruption.

While the Egyptian Interior Ministry said Tuesday that its security forces were only on hand to secure the demonstrations and not confront the protestors, it later blamed members of the Muslim Brotherhood for the rioting, the damaging of public property and assaults on police. On Wednesday it banned further demonstrations.

Mubarak has been a reliable ally of the United States since assuming the presidency three decades ago.

“The Egyptian government has an important opportunity to be responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people, and pursue political, economic and social reforms that can improve their lives and help Egypt prosper,” the White House said Tuesday in a statement.

In the days leading up to the protests, more than 90,000 people indicated that they would participate by signing up on a Facebook page for the “Day of Revolution,” the New York Times reported.

Mubarak, then Egypt’s vice-president, became president in 1981, following the assassination by Islamists of President Anwar Sadat.

Nation & World Briefs

Israel Reacts After Gaza Attacks

Just weeks after Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, fighting with the Palestinians resumed with sound and fury — and, some feared, the potential to evolve into a full-blown border war. Israeli forces answered Hamas rocket salvoes from Gaza with airstrikes, arrest sweeps in the West Bank and, in an unprecedented move, by putting its artillery on standby to fire.

On Sunday, Hamas announced that it would stop its rocket salvoes against the Jewish state — but the declaration was quickly followed by more Palestinian rocket and mortar fire into Israel.

At the same time, Islamic Jihad vowed to avenge the death of Mohammed Khalil, commander of its military wing in the Gaza Strip, who was killed in an Israeli air strike Sunday night. His deputy was killed as well, and four other people were wounded.

The escalation began with a terrorism-sparked tragedy: At least 15 people were killed last Friday when a munitions truck taking part in a Hamas victory parade in Gaza exploded, apparently by accident.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, embarrassed by the chaotic display of arms banned under the U.S.-led “road map” peace plan, condemned Hamas as irresponsible.

But with its prestige on the line just months before a January election for the Palestinian Parliament, Hamas put its own interpretation on the blast, calling it an Israeli airstrike or sabotage. Vowing to “open the gates of hell” on Israel, Hamas launched at least 35 Kassam rockets across the Gaza border at the southern Israeli town of Sderot. At least five Israelis were wounded in the strikes.

Wiesenthal Buried in Israel

Dignitaries from the United States, Israel and Austria joined hundreds of mourners in laying legendary Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal to rest in Herzliya last Friday. Wiesenthal, 96, died Sept. 20 in his sleep at his home in Vienna. No Israeli Cabinet ministers attended the funeral, but Deputy Minister Michael Melchior represented the government and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon issued a statement: “The State of Israel, the Jewish people and all humanity owe a great debt to Simon Wiesenthal, who dedicated his life to ensuring that the horrors of the past do not recur and that murderers do not escape justice.”

U.S. Jew Arrested in Alleged Sharon Plot

An American Jew was arrested in Israel on suspicion that he planned to assassinate Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Police said they planned to deport Shen’or Zalman Hatzkolevitch, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man from Brooklyn. It would mark the first time a Jew is deported from Israel for security violations.

Iran One Step Closer to Sanctions

The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog is one step closer to referring Iran to the U.N. Security Council for sanctions. A resolution passed last weekend by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board requires Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, end construction of a heavy-water treatment plant and allow increased inspection of its nuclear facilities. Israel and the United States, believing Iran may be less than two years away from manufacturing a nuclear bomb, had been pressing the IAEA to pass such a resolution. Iran may face sanctions as early as November when the IAEA board next meets. The resolution was pushed through by European nations, which had been on the fence until this summer. It passed 22-1 with 12 abstentions; Venezuela voted against it.

Joint Peace Rallies Held

Thousands of Israelis and Palestinians held rallies calling for a return to peace talks and an end to violence. In an address first delivered Saturday in Ramallah and then broadcast in Jerusalem, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas extended greetings to the Israeli peace camp, saying that the crowds at both rallies were fighting for the same goal of peace and an end to suffering. Some 10,000 people attended the Ramallah rally and 7,000 assembled in Jerusalem. The rally in Jerusalem was characterized by the strong presence of young people and members of the Russian-speaking community.

Withdrawal Aid Off the Table

Israel’s request for additional assistance from the United States to resettle evacuees from the Gaza Strip pullout is off the table for now, a senior Israeli official said.

President Bush had expressed interest in assisting Israel following the withdrawal, but “with one disaster after another, the momentum we had before the disengagement” has been lost, Yossi Bachar, the director general of Israel’s Finance Ministry, said Sunday.

He cited the massive costs the United States faces this hurricane season. In light of the hurricanes it is appropriate for Israel not to raise the matter, Bachar said, and he could not say when it would come up again.

Israel wanted $600 million from the United States in compensation for moving its army bases out of Gaza and an undetermined amount estimated in some reports to be $1.6 billion to absorb evacuated settlers into Israel’s Galilee and Negev regions. Bachar is in Washington with the governor of the Bank of Israel, Stanley Fischer, to attend International Monetary Fund meetings. Bachar, who met with his Russian, Jordanian, Egyptian, Dutch and Chinese counterparts over the weekend, as well as with board members from major investment banks, said interest in investment in Israel was high in the wake of the withdrawal.

French Dictionary Recalled

A French dictionary was recalled after a computer virus caused the publication to revert to an edition with anti-Semitic definitions. Earlier this week, MRAP, a French anti-racism association, charged that the 2005 edition of Le Petit Littre had reverted to an 1874 edition that contained racist and anti-Semitic definitions. A computer bug caused the 19th century edition to be sent to the printer by mistake. The publisher said the 2006 edition will be published with a foreword explaining the evolution of these terms since the 19th century.

Rita Damages Synagogue Containing Rescued Torahs

A Louisiana synagogue that was housing Torahs recovered from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina was damaged by Hurricane Rita. The Torahs being kept at Beth Shalom Synagogue were not harmed, but water overwhelmed the synagogue’s rooftop drainage system, leaving an inch in the sanctuary, along with fallen tiles from the ceiling and hanging electrical wires, the Advocate News in Baton Rouge reported.

Jewish Woman Dies, 2nd Hurt in Hurricane Evacuation

A Houston Jewish woman died when a bus evacuating residents of an assisted-living community ahead of Hurricane Rita caught fire. Bessie Kaplan, 92, was among more than 20 people killed when a bus chartered by Brighton Gardens of Bellaire burst into flames as it was transporting them to Dallas. Another passenger, Ruby Goldberg, was treated for injuries at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital and released. Authorities believe a mechanical failure caused the fire.

Israel Aid Escapes Cut in GOP Committee Proposal

Funding for Israel would remain untouched in cuts proposed by Republicans in the wake of recent hurricanes. Funding for Egypt, Africa, the AIDS initiative and the Peace Corps would take hits under a Republican Study Committee document obtained by JTA. Israel is the single largest recipient of U.S. aid, receiving more than $2.5 billion a year, but is not on the list for cuts. The report is a proposal that House Republican leaders may bring to the floor.

Jewish Court to Rule on Ritual Circumcision Method

The city of New York agreed to allow a Jewish court to handle the case of a ritual circumcision practice that may have caused an infant’s death. Metzitzah b’peh, a circumcision method used only in some ultra-Orthodox communities, involves the mohel placing his mouth directly on the wound.

Rabbi Yitzchok Fisher’s use of metzitzah b’peh allegedly led to the death of a baby who contracted herpes. Fisher has agreed to suspend the practice while the beit din (Jewish court) studies the issue, the New York Jewish Week reported.

The city’s decision reportedly came after ultra-Orthodox rabbis persuaded Mayor Michael Bloomberg that the rabbinical court is the best place to resolve the issue.

Mourning for Gaza, New Orleans

The Orthodox Union has called on its rabbis to declare this Saturday, Oct. 1, a day of mourning for both the Gaza evacuation and the hurricanes that devastated New Orleans. It asks that each shul institute a ta’anit dibur — literally a “speech fast” or a period free of conversation, in commemoration of recent events.

“We ask all those attending shul that Shabbat morning to refrain from conversation while inside the sanctuary,” — including speeches or even conversation between pauses in the praying, according to a press release. Even traditional greetings of “Good Shabbos” or “Yasher koach” (good job), the OU says, “should be replaced with a handshake, a smile or both.”

The recent hurricane destruction in New Orleans and the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, which resulted in the razing of Israeli villages and synagogues, both transpired because of a loss of Torah and holiness in the world, and these events require a day of mourning, according to the OU, which is the main body representing Orthodox Judaism in the United States.

The OU interpretation is at odds with both the position of the Israeli government and that of many Jews and Jewish organizations in the United States. A majority in the American Jewish community supported the pullout. Other Jews and Jewish organizations combined neutrality with general support for the Israeli government.

The call for communal mourning has historical resonance. Throughout Jewish history, rabbis and leaders have called upon their communities to participate in speech fasts and food fasts in response to devastating world events or in preparation for repentance. — Amy Klein, Religion Editor

New Beer for New Year

North America’s only Jewish beer company has brewed a special beer for Rosh Hashanah. He’Brew’s Jewbelation 5766 is a nut-brown ale made from nine malts and hops to mark the company’s ninth anniversary, He’Brew owner Jeremy Cowan said.

More information is available at www.schmaltz.com.

Chabad to Dedicate Torah at Pentagon Chapel

The Lubavitch movement is dedicating a Torah at the Pentagon to mark the Sept. 11 terrorist attack there. The Torah will be installed Monday in a chapel built precisely where a hijacked plane hit on Sept. 11, 2001. The Aleph Institute, a Chabad affiliate that reaches out to prisoners and troops, is dedicating the Torah in coordination with the Pentagon chaplain’s office.

House Approves Funding for Faith-Based Head Start

The House of Representatives extended funding for Head Start programs to religious institutions, legislation opposed by some Jewish groups. The Reform movement strongly condemned last week’s vote, saying it would lower standards by allowing institutions to use federal funds to hire early-childhood teachers based on religion, not qualifications.

U.S. Imposed Arms Embargo, Ex-Shin Bet Chief Says

The United States imposed a limited arms embargo on Israel in the first year of the intifada, a former Israeli intelligence official said. Avi Dichter, former chief of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, said the embargo was imposed on helicopter parts, because of their use in Israel’s targeted killing of terrorist leaders, but that U.S. officials resisted calls for a wider arms embargo. The United States opposed targeted killings at the time.

Dichter was speaking at the Saban Institute in Washington, where he now is a fellow. The embargo ended after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and the United States used helicopter-launched missiles to assassinate an Al Qaeda terrorist leader in Yemen in 2002. President Bush later said he could not keep Israel from carrying out an anti-terror strategy that he himself favored.

Jewish School Chief Testifies on Hurricane Aid Assistance

The president of a Memphis Jewish school was invited to testify before a Senate committee considering compensation for schools absorbing Hurricane Katrina refugees. Michael Stein, president of Margolin Hebrew Academy, was to testify before the Senate Health and Education Committee on the needs of parochial schools that take in displaced children.

“Our school adopted a policy of ‘doing whatever it takes,’ even though there was no way of knowing the cost and where the money would come from,” Stein said in prepared remarks distributed by the Orthodox Union before his testimony last week. “During the week of Aug. 28, our school enrolled 24 students ranging in age from 3 years to 17, increasing our school’s current population by 10 percent.”

The Orthodox Union wants the government to compensate parochial schools. Some Democrats oppose such funding, saying it violates church-state separation.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.