ADL reports ‘dramatic surge’ in anti-Jewish violence

When a Turkish owner of a cafe near the Belgian city of Liege puts up a poster that welcomes dogs but not Jews, that’s a sign of the times.

And when an on-duty doctor refuses to treat a 90-year-old Jewish woman from Antwerp and refers her to Gaza instead, that, too, is the kind of news that encapsulates a larger reality.

Such incidents, well publicized in the international media, suggest how Muslim immigration has lifted Europe’s post-Holocaust taboos and in turn loosened inhibitions for many educated Europeans. But behind those headline grabbers are countless smaller incidents that, though they seldom makes the news, are very much part of the daily grind of anti-Semitism in Europe and elsewhere.

Some of these less noted incidents appeared in a report published Wednesday by the Anti-Defamation League. Titled “Violence and Vitriol,” the report offers a snapshot of anti-Semitic attacks in Europe and elsewhere in the wake of Israel’s recent operation in Gaza. The report covers incidents in over 15 countries, including Australia, Canada and several Latin American nations.

“There was a dramatic surge in violence against Jews and Jewish institutions around the world during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge,” ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said.

The list — ranging from firebombs hurled at a synagogue in the German city of Wuppertal to the beating of a Moroccan rabbi in Casablanca as retribution for Israel Air Force strikes – aims to “illustrate but do not fully document the hatred of Jews displayed thousands of miles away from Israel and Gaza,” the ADL wrote.

In the United Kingdom that hatred manifested itself in the placing of pro-Palestinian messages on two synagogues, including one that read “child murderers” in Kingston on July 30. Earlier that month in Manchester, anti-Israel protesters returning from a rally drove through Broughton Park while shouting and swearing at Jewish pedestrians with slogans that included “Heil Hitler.”

A pattern “continued and metastasized” during the operation, the ADL wrote. “Hamas fired missiles from Gaza; Israel’s military responded; Jews around the world were attacked, this time in even greater numbers.”

The pattern also included what scholars of anti-Semitism call Holocaust inversion: The portrayal of Israel as equivalent to Nazi Germany. This tendency was prominent in Latin American countries.

In Venezuela, lawmaker Adel El Zabayar claimed on state television on July 14 that relations between international Zionism and Nazism were established long before the creation of the State of Israel, and that a high-ranking official of Hitler’s government had visited Israel to support the creation of the future Jewish state.

And in Chile — where the Jewish community of Santiago received numerous death threats and where an Orthodox Jew was chased on the street and called a murderer —  one protester was seen carrying a sign accusing Israel of being worse than the Nazis, the ADL reported.

Beit Shemesh segregation signs removed

A sign calling for women to avoid using sidewalks in order to avoid contact with men was removed from a neighborhood in Beit Shemesh.

The sign was removed Wednesday night after a complaint from a female city resident, Nili Phillip, who told the Ynet news site that she has been the victim of an attack for not dressing modestly in the past, when a rock was thrown at her head by a haredi Orthodox man.

City inspectors removed the sign in an effort to avoid confrontation. The signs had been removed the previous summer but were replaced, according to reports.

Beit Shemesh, a Jerusalem suburb, has been the site of violence against women by extremist haredi Orthodox men over the past several months.

Browns sign Jewish offensive lineman Mitchell Schwartz

Offensive lineman Mitchell Schwartz, a second-round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns, signed a four-year, $5.17 million contract with the team.

Schwartz, a tackle from the University of California, Berkeley, was selected 37th overall in April’s draft. The Jewish player was among eight draft picks signed by the team on Sunday.

Browns head coach Pat Shurmur said Schwartz displayed solid technique that could quickly catapult him into a full-time player, according to the Cleveland Jewish News.

“He is very sound in his fundamentals,” Shurmur said. “He’s very detailed with his sets, he is good with his hands, he understands what the defense is going to do by the way they are aligned. He’s a very sharp guy.”

Schwartz, whose older brother Geoff is in his fourth season in the NFL, said he had a “pretty decent understanding of what to expect” coming into camp and wanted to focus on improving daily.

“Obviously whatever your weakness is, you kind of want to make that into your strength,” he said. “At the same time you don’t want to let your strengths become your weaknesses. It’s always a nice little balance. So far, we’ve been doing a little bit of everything. Working different techniques in the run game, different techniques in the pass game with our hands, our feet.”

Schwartz also responded to draft pundits’ assertions that he was “NFL ready,” crediting his coaches at the University of California for giving him a strong foundation.

Auschwitz sign stealer sentenced to prison

A Swedish neo-Nazi leader who organized the theft of the “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign from Auschwitz was sentenced to nearly three years in prison.

A Polish court on Thursday sentenced Anders Hogstrom, who acted as a middleman between a neo-Nazi buyer and five Polish thieves, to 32 months in prison, according to news reports. The sentence was part of a plea bargain struck in late November.

Hogstrom could have faced up to 10 years in prison. He will serve his sentence in a Swedish prison.

The iron sign, which measures 16 feet across and means “work makes you free,” was stolen from the former Nazi concentration camp on Dec. 18, 2009 and recovered across the country 72 hours later. It was found cut into three pieces.

Hogstrom, who was arrested in February in Stockholm and extradited to Poland in April, founded the National Socialist Front, a Swedish neo-Nazi movement, in 1994.

Auschwitz sign thieves skip out on jail

Three Polish men convicted of stealing the famous Auschwitz “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign failed to show up for their prison sentences.

The men had been given compassionate leave following sentencing and before entering prison. Two are brothers who were visiting their sick mother; the other man was allowed to complete his wedding plans.

All three have now disappeared, according to Polish Radio, and a second arrest warrant could be issued by the District Court in Krakow. The men were sentenced to between 18 months and 36 months in prison.

The two other thieves remain in custody, and Swede Anders Hoegstroem, the middleman who allegedly arranged the theft, was extradited to Krakow earlier this month.

The sign, which means “work makes you free,” was stolen on Dec. 18 and recovered across the country, cut into three pieces, 72 hours later. The sign reportedly was intended for a British Nazi sympathizer.

Three jailed in Auschwitz sign theft

A Polish court convicted three men for stealing the “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign from the front gate of Auschwitz.

The Polish men, who confessed last week to cutting the 16-foot metal sign in pieces and stealing it, were given sentences ranging from six months to 2 1/2 years, according to reports.

Two other Polish men remain in jail in connection with the theft.

The sign, which means “work makes you free,” was stolen Dec. 18 and recovered across the country 72 hours later.

Anders Hogstrom, a former Swedish neo-Nazi, is suspected of ordering the men to steal the sign. He allegedly acted as an agent for a British Nazi sympathizer who wanted the sign.

Sweden agreed last week to extradite Hogstrom to Poland.

‘Oy Vey’ Such a Sign

A traffic sign with the words, “Leaving Brooklyn Oy Vey!” went up on the Williamsburg Bridge from Brooklyn into Manhattan. The city’s Department of Transportation approved the sign earlier this month, after rejecting an earlier request from Borough President Marty Markowitz.

“The beauty is, every ethnic group knows it,” Markowitz said of the expression.


Sign of Hope

The sign to the left, posted by Israeli Jewish and Arab students at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology around the elite Rehovot campus, reads: "We, the Arab and Jewish students of the Technion, who daily sit together in the same classrooms in cooperation and friendship, express our pain over the recent outbreaks of violence in our country. It is up to us to continue living here in mutual dignity, peace and security. We call on every Technion student to speak out against violence, and on every citizen to work on behalf of good neighborly relations."


Israel has never seen anything this glitzy. True, there have been neon menorahs for Chanukah and light bulbs outlining Israel’s numerical age on Independence Days. But this is another ball game altogether. Hundreds of thousands of people driving on the Israeli freeway this week have looked up at an electric millennium welcome reminiscent of Times Square.

A high voltage millennium countdown is being beamed over Tel-Aviv in lights visible 20 miles away. High up on the side of the glass Azrieli skyscraper in letters several stories tall: “New — Millennium — 1999 – 2000.” Then the message switches to tick off number of days, hours, minutes and seconds until the fresh century blasts off.

As befits Tel-Aviv’s new internationalist image, the sign alternates between Hebrew and English. So far so good. But as high tech as Israel has become, it is comforting to see that some of the old provincial Israel remains. Remember when an English menu offered “sandvich”, “omlit” and “coren flakes”? Well, in the country used to winging it, they still haven’t learned to spell. A week before the new year, it was pointed out that the Azrieli tower sign had left out one of the two n’s in “millennium”.

Embarrassed officials claimed that there was no room on the building to fit in that extra letter. At first they planned to just leave it, in the hallowed Israeli tradition that says approximate is good enough. They soon realized this might be bad press for a country trying to project an image of scientific and technological precision, a society which every day sees new corporations listed on international stock exchanges, a land which routinely pats itself on the back as stiff competition for Silicon Valley. So what was Azrieli’s proposed solution? Erase the English message altogether.

Those who had enjoyed their brief new year’s greeting in English sadly prepared to see it disappear.

But like so many things in Israel, people here didn’t take “no” for an answer. A no parking sign? So leave your car on the sidewalk. No dogs allowed on the beach? Then wait until the lifeguards go home. No cellphones permitted in hospitals? Even the doctors ignore those signs. No smoking in the airport? Just try to point that out to returning Israelis lighting up as soon as they clear customs. No talking in the library? The librarians don’t consider themselves covered by the rule.

“No” in Israel is a relative term, not an absolute. Even when a teacher says no to the class, it’s actually the first step of a negotiating process. From kindergarten on, an Israeli child knows that “no” is flexible. Parking lot posts a “no vacancy” sign? There is always room to squeeze just one more car in on the intake ramp — never mind that it partially blocks the elevator. If people can find space to squeeze through, that’s good enough.

In short, every “no” in Israel has a foam rubber penumbra, and every red-blooded Israeli knows it.

Anglos (short for the former misnomer “Anglo Saxons” meaning anybody from an English speaking country) have earned the derogatory term “soaps” — meaning excessively complacent and gullible. An Anglo will naively leave the ticket line in disappointment when the cashier says tickets are all sold out. The Israeli in line behind him is pleased as pie — he knows that if he stands his ground, argues, cajoles and begs, eventually a pair of “returned” tickets will turn up miraculously in the inside drawer.

This mindset also brings its societal correlative: it is much easier to shoot off a “no” right off the bat — nobody takes it too seriously anyway. When you say “no” in Israel, “yes” is always the fall-back position.

Lo and behold, when darkness fell the next night there was “Millennium” up in Latin letters lighting the Tel-Aviv skyline once more. A little scrunched together, but intact and spell-checked.

The 24-Hour Jewish 911

Help has arrived. Thanks to a special program funded by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, callers can get immediate personal and family crisis assistance, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A social worker at the Jewish Family Service (JFS), a Federation agency, will be on call to give information and assistance at any time.

Callers who reach the Federation’s main number after business hours will receive a recorded message with referral numbers for 24 hour emergency assistance. Aside from the JFS number, there is one for Cedars Sinai Medical Center in case of medical emergencies, and a number for urgent press inquiries. It’s not 911 — there’s already one of those — but it truly is the Other 911.

From 8:30 am to 5:30 pm Monday through Thursday, and until 3:30 pm on Friday, the JFS can be reached at (323) 761-8800. After hours, the JFS number is (800) 284-2530. The Federation’s main switchboard is (323) 761-8000.

Now, for quick refrigerator magnet reference:

Jewish Federation 24-Hour Line:..(323) 761-8000

JFS Business Hours:………………….. (323) 761-8800

JFS After-Hours:…………………………(800) 284-2530

Rob Eshman, Managing Editor