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Brazil’s culture minister fired for giving a speech that used excerpts of one by the Nazi Goebbels

Mon, 2020-01-20 18:57

RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — Brazil’s culture minister was ousted after sparking outrage across Latin America’s largest nation for paraphrasing a speech by Nazi Germany’s propaganda mastermind.

In a now-deleted video revealing the National Arts Awards posted on the ministry’s Twitter page on Thursday, Roberto Alvim used excerpts of a speech by Joseph Goebbels, but he later called it a “rhetorical coincidence.” Richard Wagner, one of Adolf Hitler’s favorite composers who is commonly associated with German nationalism, played in the background.

“I reiterate our rejection of totalitarian and genocidal ideologies, as well as any kind of explanation for them. We also express our full and unrestricted support for the Jewish community, of which we are friends and share common values,” Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Friday after firing Alvim.

“Emulating Goebbels’ vision is a scary sign of his cultural vision, which must be combated and contained. Such a person cannot command the culture of our country,” read a note released by the Brazilian Israelite Confederation, Brazil’s umbrella Jewish organization.

A large number of governmental authorities, political leaders, and human rights activists also reacted.

“As the first Jewish president of the National Congress, I vehemently express my total rejection of this attitude and ask for his immediate removal from office,” said Brazilian Congress President Davi Alcolumbre.

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Mother of jailed American-Israeli backpacker Naama Issachar believes Putin will pardon her this week

Mon, 2020-01-20 18:50

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The mother of an American-Israeli woman jailed in Russia for flying with 9 grams of marijuana said she believes Russian President Vladimir Putin will pardon her daughter and allow her to come home to Israel.

Putin is scheduled visit to Israel later this week to speak at the Fifth World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem. While there, he is scheduled to have private meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin.

“I spoke to President Putin once again yesterday regarding Naama. I felt that he has genuine readiness to reach a solution,” Netanyahu said in a statement on Friday. “I am more optimistic but I can’t elaborate.”

A day earlier, Netanyahu’s office released a similar statement.

“We have arrived at the moment of truth, this week I will know when Naama will be released,” Yaffa Issachar said at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv. “I want to go see and strengthen the prime minister, I believe Putin will pardon her and bring her home.”

Senior Israeli officials have asked the Issachar family and supporters to tone down their rhetoric ahead of and during Putin’s visit, where it is believed he will announce her pardon.

An unnamed senior Israeli official told Israel’s Channel 12 on Saturday night that Israel does have something to give Putin in exchange for the pardon, though he did not elaborate beyond saying it “does not hurt” Israel. It is believed to involve Israel showing support for the Russian narrative that Poland bears partial responsibility for the outbreak of World War II.

Putin and Netanyahu also will dedicate a monument in Jerusalem’s Sachar Park to those who were killed in the siege of Leningrad, Netanyahu said Sunday at the start of his weekly cabinet meeting.

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Son of North Carolina judge pleads guilty to threatening local synagogue

Mon, 2020-01-20 17:21

(JTA) — The son of a North Carolina Court of Appeals judge pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges for threatening a local synagogue.

William Warden, 21, son of Judge Lucy Inman, did not attend the hearing on Wednesday, since he is in 24-hour mental health treatment in Florida, the Raleigh News & Observer newspaper reported. As part of his plea deal, he will remain in treatment another 12 months, for a total of two years in treatment.

“As deeply concerned parents, we apologize profusely to the Jewish community and to all who have been impacted. And we are treating this situation with utmost seriousness,” read a statement from Inman and her husband Billy Warden after their son’s arrest in June 2018. They said that their son has struggled with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia his whole life and that he was vulnerable to being exploited by white supremacists online.

William Warden rang the doorbell of the Messianic Congregation Sha’arei Shalom in Cary, North Carolina. When a synagogue official remotely answered the bell, Warden made a “number of disparaging statements against the Jewish religion and people of the Jewish faith,” police told the newspaper, and threatened to damage the synagogue. He reportedly said, in part, “Get out of the government, that’s how you can help me. … Get out of Cary. … And get out of our country.”

He reportedly also burned a cross in a local park the previous month.

Rabbi Seth Klayman of Sha’arei Shalom told the newspaper on Wednesday that his synagogue has added more surveillance and now locks its doors.

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Federal judge blocks Trump executive order allowing states to refuse to resettle refugees

Mon, 2020-01-20 16:44

(JTA) — A federal judge has blocked an executive order signed by President Donald Trump that allows state and local officials to refuse to resettle immigrants in their jurisdictions.

In issuing the preliminary injunction in the lawsuit HIAS v. Trump, Maryland federal Judge Peter J. Messitte noted that the executive order appears to violate federal law since it “grants [states and localities] veto power” and that this “flies in the face of clear Congressional intent, as expressed in the legislative history of the statute.” The judge in his injunction called for refugee resettlement to “go forward as it developed for the almost 40 years before Executive Order 13888 was announced.”

The lawsuit was filed by three faith-based resettlement agencies: HIAS, the Jewish immigration advocacy group; Church World Service, and the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

In their lawsuit filed in November, the three groups argued that Trump’s executive order inhibits their ability to practice their faith by resettling refugees.

The Executive Order signed in September allows individual U.S. states and local governments the power to refuse to allow the resettlement in their jurisdictions of certain refugees from around the world.

“An overwhelming majority of governors and municipalities have already expressed their desire to continue welcoming refugees. To those few who have not, we say not only is it unkind and un-American to ban refugees from your states and towns, but it is unlawful. HIAS will continue our work resettling refugees who have come to our shores looking to restart their lives in safety,” Mark Hetfield, HIAS president and CEO, said in a statement.

This year, the Trump administration cut the number of refugees allowed to enter the country to 18,000 refugees, compared with 110,000 during the last year of the Obama administration.

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Rally remembers Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman on 5th anniversary of his death

Mon, 2020-01-20 02:23

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — Alberto Nisman, the federal prosecutor investigating the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish Center in Buenos Aires, was remembered on the fifth anniversary of his death.

Thousands attended a rally held Saturday in the center of Buenos Aires under the motto: “Justice You Shall Pursue: It was not suicide, it was an assassination.” Nisman’s mother, Sara Garfunkel, spoke to the crowd, as did politicians sitting in the opposition of the current government.

Nisman was found dead on Jan. 18, 2015 in his apartment, just days after he accused then-president Cristina Fernández de of a cover-up in the bombing and hours before he was to present evidence to Argentine lawmakers that the government covered up Iran’s role in the bombing. Kirchner is currently Argentina’s vice president.

Other rallies were held around the country and abroad, near Argentine embassies and consulates. In all of them, protesters asserted that Nisman was murdered and blamed the Kirchner government for his death.

The Jewish political umbrella DAIA organized a separate moment of remembrance for Sunday at the Jewish cemetery where Nisman’s body is buried.  His widows and his daughters were scheduled to participate in the religious ceremony.

In 2017, an official judiciary investigative report found that Nisman’s death was murder, not suicide.

A recently released Netflix documentary, “Nisman: The Prosecutor, The President, and the Spy,” has reignited the debate about his death. The documentary includes supporters of the competing suicide and assassination theories.

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Man charged with hate crime for yelling at Jewish couple in New York City

Mon, 2020-01-20 02:14

(JTA) — A man was arrested for yelling and cursing at a Jewish couple in midtown Manhattan near Times Square.

Vernon Stevens, 55, who has at least five prior arrests, was charged with aggravated harassment and a hate crime, police told the New York Post.

The incident occurred at about 10 p.m. on Friday. When a 16-year-old witness went to alert nearby police officers on patrol, Stevens called the couple “F***ing Jews!” unnamed sources told the Post.

The incident comes amid an increase in anti-Semitic violence against Jews in the city.

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Aly Raisman confirms that she will not compete in 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Mon, 2020-01-20 02:11

Olympic gold medalist and two-time American Olympic gymnastics team captain Aly Raisman confirmed that she will not compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Raisman, 25, who won two gold medals in the 2012 London Olympics and was a member of the gold medal-winning American team in the 2016 Rio Olympics, made the announcement last week in a letter posted to social media.

She also posted a video of herself as a young gymnast titled “Never underestimate the power of a kid’s dream” and mused in the letter about what she would tell her 8-year-old self.

“The power of dreams is too big to put into words, but I’d try anyway since it is what makes magic happen, It’s also what will get her through the tough times,” wrote Raisman, who won three other medals in 2016, including a silver for all-around, .

“As a little girl I thought what mattered most was making it to the Olympics, but I’ve learned that my love for gymnastics is more important,” Raisman wrote. She said that her love for the sport “inspires me to do everything I can to make it safer for the many wonderful people in the sport and all the little 8-year-olds out there who will be watching the gymnasts in Tokyo dreaming of one day making it to the Olympics themselves.”

Raisman appeared to be referencing her work to bring her abusive former coach, Larry Nassar, to justice and to her powerful statement in court during his sentencing hearing. Nassar plead guilty to seven counts of sexual assault of minors, though he is accused of assaulting at least 250 young women over 25 years.

Raisman did not say what she plans to do next.

Never underestimate the power of a kids dream pic.twitter.com/R5uAuRvl17

— Alexandra Raisman (@Aly_Raisman) January 14, 2020

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Munich conference cancelled after rejection of pro-Israel speaker sparks anti-Semitism claims

Mon, 2020-01-20 02:03

BERLIN (JTA) – Organizers of an annual conference in Munich cancelled the event amid accusations of anti-Semitism stemming from the rejection over a pro-Israel speaker.

At issue was the organizers’ rejection of a guest speaker over his pro-Israel views. City Councilman Marian Offman, who is Jewish, had been appointed by the city of Munich to deliver a greeting from Mayor Dieter Reiter.

The International Munich Peace Conference describes itself as an alternative to the annual Munich Security Conference, which draws world leaders to the capital of the state of Bavaria in February.

Event organizer Thomas Rödl had rejected Offman in part because of the councilman’s opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, which the city of Munich defines as anti-Semitic.  No city funds or venues may be used for events supporting BDS.

After Offman was rejected as an event speaker, representatives of the Social Democratic Party called on the city to deny use of Munich’s city hall and to cancel any financial subsidies to the conference, the Munich-based Suddeutsche Zeitung reported.

Ludwig Spaenle, commissioner on anti-Semitism for the state of Bavaria, described the incident as clearly anti-Semitic, and Israel’s consul general in Munich, Sandra Simovich, called it an example of Israel-related anti-Semitism.

In an open letter to Reiter, published Thursday, board members Rödl and Gudrun Haas said they decided to cancel the February event even though their board had agreed to accept Offman as the mayor’s representative.

They cancelled the event, because they “did not have the capacity to plan the peace conference while resolving this dispute in a mutually satisfactory manner.” They rejected charges of anti-Semitism, “regretted” that their rejection of Offman was taken as an insult, and hoped to prevent further escalation of the situation.

“Given the situation we cannot take responsibility for the security of speakers and participants,” they added.


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Photos surface showing convicted Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk at Sobibor camp

Mon, 2020-01-20 01:56

BERLIN (JTA) – Photos have surfaced of convicted Nazi war criminal John Demjanuk in the Sobibor Nazi death camp, where he denied ever having been a guard.

The recently discovered images come from the estate of a deputy commandant at the camp, Johann Niemann, one of ten SS-men killed by prisoners in the famous October 1943 uprising. Parts of his collection will be made public on Jan. 28, at the Topography of Terror archive in Berlin, and in a new book to be released that day.

It reportedly is the first time that Demjanuk has been identified in photos of Sobibor.

Demjanuk, whose U.S. citizenship was revoked in 2002 for lying on his citizenship application about his Nazi service, and who was deported to Germany in 2009, was convicted in Munich in 2011 as an accessory to the murder of 28,060 Jews at the death camp. Sentenced to five years in prison, he died in a nursing home at the age of 91 in March 2012, while awaiting a decision on his appeal.

The Topography of Terror archive said that the photos – part of a series of more than 350 images – provide unprecedented insight into the “Action Reinhardt” phase of the mass extermination of European Jewry in the death camps Sobibor, Belzec and Treblinka.

Sobibor was constructed in German-occupied Poland in 1942. By the time it was shut down in November 1943, at least 167,000 Jews had been gassed there with carbon monoxide, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The Topography of Terror archive is working on the project together with the Stanislaw Hantz Educational Center and the Ludwigsburg Research Center on National Socialism at the University of Stuttgart.

Demjanjuk’s conviction set a legal precedent under which those who served where crimes against humanity were committed can be prosecuted as accessories.

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Son of bagel dynasty founder in London admits to killing mother and sister

Mon, 2020-01-20 01:54

(JTA) — The son of the founder of a bagel dynasty in London admitted to killing his mother and sister.

Joshua Cohen, 29, entered a plea of guilty to two counts of manslaughter by diminished responsibility, though he has continued to deny their murders, The Guardian reported on Friday.

In 2018, he was sent to a high-security psychiatric hospital where he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, after being found mentally unfit to enter pleas in the murders.

Cohen had worked at his family’s Beigel Bake bakery in Brick Lane, in the east end of London, but stopped after he could not get along with customers, according to The Guardian.

He lived in a small apartment behind the family’s home in Golders Green in north London and was only allowed in the house if one of his brothers was there.

He attacked his sister and mother, who had let him into the house, in August 2017, weeks after learning that he had been excluded from his father’s will and that his older brothers were named directors of the company, the Daily Telegraph reported. He was arrested the next day.

He was ordered to remain hospitalized indefinitely.

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Jewish high school student tells Donald Trump that fellow students drew swastikas on her arm

Sun, 2020-01-19 17:07

(JTA) — A Jewish high school student told President Donald Trump that her fellow students drew swastikas on her arms and pushed her around in her school’s hallways due to her religion.

Ariana Hoblin, a junior at Wellington High School in south Florida, spoke about the incidents at the White House on Thursday, during a signing ceremony in the Oval Office.

Trump signed an executive order protecting prayer in public schools coinciding with National Religious Freedom Day, among several sweeping Trump administration rule changes announced the same day that loosen church-state separations and that drew the ire of Jewish civil liberties groups.

Christian and Muslim students also told Trump about incidents of religious intolerance. They were joined by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen.

“(I)n my middle school, I was the only Jewish person and I was very open with my religion,” she told Trump. “And when we started our Holocaust unit, it ended with everybody being nice to me because I spoke out about it.  And I wanted to inform people and I wanted to help people learn.  And (then) the students started to write swastikas on my belongings, on my arms.  I was pushed and shoved in the hallway.”

It was not clear what the abuse Hoblin described had to do with school prayer. Muslim and Christian students at the event described how their attempts at prayer had been frustrated by school policies.

Hoblin also said that her fellow students “went so far as to take my face and put it on Anne Frank’s body.  And it was sent around to three different schools.  And I was terrified to say I was Jewish.  And that should never be in anyone’s mind.”

She told Trump that her high school has been very supportive of her and have helped her to “be a leader in the Jewish community.” She also thanked Trump “for everything you’ve done, and for Israel and for everything that you’ve truly done for all of us.”

The rules introduced Thursday in nine government agencies make sweeping changes to restrictions on government funding for religious activity, for instance, removing a requirement that government-funded religious groups administering aid programs advise recipients of alternatives. A number of Jewish groups decried the changes.

“Today’s proposals seek to give license to discriminate and do harm against the many vulnerable people who rely on government-funded services,” the Anti-Defamation League said. “We oppose these changes in the strongest of terms.”

The Reform movement’s Religious Action Center said the new rules “distort the meaning of religious freedom to roll back civil rights.”

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3 more men alleged to be members of extreme neo-Nazi group arrested in Georgia

Sun, 2020-01-19 16:43

(JTA) — Three more men alleged to be members of a white supremacist and neo-Nazi hate group known as The Base were charged with conspiring to kill a married couple who are anti-fascist protesters.

The three men were arrested on Friday in Georgia after an undercover FBI agent infiltrated the group, The Associated Press reported.

The undercover agent participated in shooting drills with the men. The drills were to prepare for the collapse of the United States and a race war, the AP reported citing a police affidavit.

The Base believes in an extreme form of survivalism and preparation, in order to prevent the “extinction” of the Caucasian race, the FBI has said.

The men were identified as Luke Austin Lane, Michael Helterbrand, and Jacob Kaderli.

Their arrest came a day after three other members were arrested on federal charges in Maryland and Delaware. They had planned to travel with firearms to a pro-gun rights rally in Richmond, Virginia, scheduled to be held on Monday. Gov. Ralph Northam signed an executive order to temporarily ban weapons from the state Capitol grounds before and during the rally.

Authorities said the men arrested in Georgia planned to kill a married couple who were part of the Antifa movement, and believed that killing the couple would send a message to enemies of The Base, according to the AP. One of the men told the undercover FBI agent that he wanted to burn their house down after killing them.

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Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to lead US delegation to Poland for Auschwitz ceremonies

Sun, 2020-01-19 16:33

(JTA) — U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin will lead the U.S. delegation to Poland for the ceremonies surrounding the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

The events on the grounds of the former Nazi camp that will be held on Jan. 27, 2020, the anniversary of the Soviet army’s liberation of the camp in 1945, are hosted by the Republic of Poland and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.

In addition to Mnuchin, who is Jewish, the delegation includes U.S. Ambassador to Poland Georgette Mosbacher; U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft; U.S. Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues Cherrie Daniels; Bonnie Glick, the deputy sdministrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development; U.S. Consul General in Krakow, Poland Patrick T. Slowinski; Thomas Rose, senior advisor to Vice President Michael R. Pence; and Ellie Cohanim, deputy special envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti- Semitism in the U.S. Department of State.

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Palestinian teen stabs Israeli man near Hebron

Sun, 2020-01-19 13:25

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli man was moderately injured after he was stabbed by a Palestinian teen near the West Bank city in Hebron, hours after a Palestinian woman approached soldiers brandishing a knife in the Old City of Jerusalem.

A 17-year-old Palestinian assailant stabbed a 22-year-old Israeli man in Kiryat Arba, the settlement adjacent to Hebron, on Saturday afternoon. He was said to be praying at the time of the attack. A civilian at the scene helped soldiers to detain the Palestinian suspect, the Israel Defense Forces reported.

The Israeli man was injured in his shoulder and was taken to a Jerusalem hospital for treatment.

Earlier on Saturday, a Palestinian woman in her 50s brandished a knife and threatened soldiers near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City. She was taken in for interrogation by Israeli Border Police officers.

The incidents came a day after hundreds of Muslims chanted about killing Jews outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem following morning prayers. Israel Police broke up the gathering.

In footage from the march, many men can be heard shouting in Arabic, “Jews, remember Khaybar, the army of Muhammad is returning.”

The cry relates to an event in the seventh century when Muslims massacred and expelled Jews from the town of Khaybar, located in modern-day Saudi Arabia.

They also shouted: “With spirit and blood, we will salvage Al-Aqsa” and “Jews, the army of Al-Aqsa is returning.”

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Moderate Jewish Democrats push bill to reverse Trump ban on migration from some Muslim countries

Fri, 2020-01-17 21:42

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Two moderate Jewish Democrats spearheaded a call on the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives to bring a bill forward that would nullify President Donald Trump’s restrictions on immigration from a number of Muslim majority countries.

“As Americans, we must stand against the persecution of religious minorities,” said letter sent Thursday to the Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and her deputies. “To pass the NO BAN Act is to stand up for the bedrock American value of religious liberty.”

The letter sent Thursday was signed by 32 moderate Democrats, many who represent districts won by Trump in 2016. The letter signals that Democrats see immigration as a winning issue in this year’s congressional and presidential elections.

Two of the three lawmakers spearheading the letter are Jewish: Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Max Rose of New York. The third is Stephanie Murphy of Florida. Among the signatories were another four Jewish Democrats in swing districts: Elaine Luria in Virginia, Elissa Slotkin in Michigan, Kim Schrier in Washington and Susan Wild in Pennsylvania.

The act was introduced last year by Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., and has the support of most of the Democratic caucus. A release to the press announcing the letter said it was spurred in part by unconfirmed reports that Trump plans to expand the ban to other Muslim majority countries.

The Trump administration says the restrictions are not religiously discriminatory and are based on threat assessments.

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Biden mocks Trump’s claim to speak against anti-Semitism

Fri, 2020-01-17 20:58

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Joe Biden mocked President Donald Trump’s claims to speak out against anti-Semitism, saying the president is dividing the country and turning a blind eye to white supremacists.

“President’s talking about how he’s worried about anti-Semitism,” Biden told The New York Time’s editorial board in an interview the newspaper posted Friday. “This recent rule about universities.” Biden referred to an executive order Trump issued last month linking federal funding for universities to how seriously the campus addressed anti-Semitism.

“This is the same guy who watched anti-Semites, their veins bulging, coming out of fields, literally carrying torches,” Biden said, referring to the deadly neo-Nazi protests in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017.

“It was almost like a movie,” Biden said. “Preaching anti-Semitic bile. The same exact thing that was preached and hollered in the streets of Nuremberg in the ‘30s and throughout Germany, carrying swastikas. Kid gets killed, a young woman. President’s asked to comment, and he said there were very fine people on both sides.”

Trump’s defenders have said that his reference to “very fine people” at the time was to Civil War history buffs who oppose removal of the statues of Confederate heroes, the action the neo-Nazis were ostensibly protesting, and also note that Trump condemned neo-Nazis. However, the protesters in Charlottesville on that day were overwhelmingly white supremacists and neo-Nazis, the march was organized by white supremacists, and most of the violence was planned and perpetrated by the marchers.

“That’s the single most important thing we have to excise,” Biden said, referring to white supremacy. “Have you heard him say a word about white supremacy? Have you heard him say a word that would lead anybody to believe he still not decided that the only way to win is divide the country?”

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At 97, a Dutch resistance hero wants to give fellow Jewish fighters overdue recognition

Fri, 2020-01-17 19:06

AMSTERDAM (JTA) — Shortly after her capture by the Nazis in 1944, Dutch resistance fighter Selma van de Perre was transferred from a regular prison to the worst concentration camp in the Netherlands.

Van de Perre arrived at the infamous Camp Vught about five months after its commander, Adam Grunewald, had killed 10 women by cramming them and 64 other inmates into an unventilated, 100-square-feet cell for 14 hours. Along with the rest of the country, she had heard about what is still known here as the “bunker atrocity.”

Yet van de Perre was “pretty content” to arrive at the camp, as the 97-year-old survivor recalled last week at a lecture at the National Holocaust Museum of the Netherlands. The museum, which opened in 2017, is part of a group of five Jewish institutions in the Dutch capital known as the Jewish Cultural Quarter.

Though van de Perre is Jewish, the resistance had given her a false identity. Passing for Aryan was the only thing that kept her from the gas chamber.

Van de Perre’s remarkable survival story is told in her first book, which is being published this month ahead of the 75th anniversary of Europe’s liberation from the Nazis. The book also aims to give belated acknowledgement to the largely ignored contributions to the resistance of Dutch Jews, who are widely seen has having been hapless victims of the Nazis rather than vital partners in the fight against them.

“In reality, countless Jews worked with non-Jews together in the resistance – much more than we knew during the war,” van de Perre writes in the book. “Often, it was assumed that Jews who escaped deportation immediately went into hiding but that wasn’t always the case. It wasn’t in the interest of Jews to be identified as such. This explains to a large degree why so few Jews had been recognized for their actions.”

Frail but quick-witted, van de Perre is one of just a handful of Dutch resistance fighters still alive. Though resistance leaders knew she was Jewish, her fellow fighters were never told. After the war, a climate of anti-Semitism also helped further marginalize the Jewish role.

Selma van de Perre is interviewed about her book at the National Holocaust Museum, Jan. 9, 2020. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

That lack of knowledge was evident in June: A right-wing Dutch senator, Toine Beukering, caused a scandal when he said that he could not understand why “the Jews, such a courageous and combative people, were driven to the gas chambers just like meek little lambs.”

Beukering apologized following an outcry by Dutch Jews, but his view is a prevalent one, according to David Barnouw, a former researcher at the Dutch Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

Though there are no concrete numbers about the participation of Jews in organized resistance activities, “the actual number is higher than what was believed for decades after World War II,” Barnouw told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

In fact, one of the Netherlands’ best-known war heroes was Jewish: George Maduro, who was killed at the Dachau concentration camp after the Nazis caught him smuggling downed British pilots back home. In 1952, his parents built the miniature city of Madurodam, one of Holland’s must-see tourist attractions, in his memory.

The Madurodam is a miniature park and tourist attraction in the Hague built by the parents of George Maduro, a Jewish war hero in the Netherlands who was killed in the Dachau concentration camp. (Paulo Amorim/VW Pics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Last year, a novelist wrote a bestseller based on the previously unknown story of two Jewish sisters who operated a resistance safe house right under the nose of the Nazi occupation.

The debate about Jewish resistance in the Netherlands is of enduring significance because the country spawned one of Europe’s most formidable anti-Nazi networks. The Netherlands saw the first public act of mass insubordination over the fate of the Jews in the 1941 February Strike. It also has the world’s second-highest number of people recognized by Israel for having risked their lives to save Jews from the Holocaust.

But the Netherlands also had the highest death rate among Jews in Nazi-occupied Western Europe, a figure reached in no small part due to the collaboration of local “Jew hunters,” who were paid for each Jew they delivered to the Nazis. In her book, an English version of which is due to be published in September, van de Perre describes the fear of being recognized by one of them on the street.

Van de Perre joined the resistance at the age of 20. Posing as a nurse to avoid deportation, she arranged a safe house for herself, her mother and 15-year-old sister. Her father was sent to a concentration camp, where he was killed. But her mother and sister were safe for a while, allowing her to devote her attention to fighting the Germans.

Eventually her mother and sister also were deported and killed. Van de Perre herself was sent from Vught to the Ravensbruck camp in Germany, where she survived until the camp was liberated by the Soviets.

Prior to her arrest, van de Perre aided the Nazi fighters by traveling across the Netherlands to distribute resistance newspapers.

“It only vaguely occurred to me at the time, but a young girl traveling along with a large suitcase was actually a pretty conspicuous figure,” she said in her lecture. “I’m not sure how I made it. It was just a series of close escapes.”

Selma van de Perre and her son, Jocelin, during a presentation of her book at the National Holocaust Museum, Jan. 9, 2020. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

Being in the resistance “maybe sounds scary and dangerous, and it is, but it also gets mundane,” she said.

Still, a few missions stood out.

On one occasion, van de Perre had to infiltrate the German headquarters in Paris to deliver an envelope to a resistance spy and return some correspondence he would give her. She was told it was vital to the rescue of captured fighters being held in France.

“I decided to flirt with the soldiers at the entrance, creating the impression I needed to deliver something to a relative, a brother perhaps, but at the same time enjoyed being the center of attention for a few young men,” she recalled.

After a few minutes, van de Perre felt the soldiers had gotten used to her presence, so she asked them to summon her contact. When he arrived, they exchanged the illegal correspondence — with the soldiers looking on. Van de Perre gave them a flirtatious wave and said she “got out of there as fast as I could without appearing to run.”

During another mission, she made out with a German officer and stole documents from him to help the resistance forge Nazi papers they could use to infiltrate bases where their fighters were being kept.

Van de Perre’s two older brothers survived the war in the United Kingdom, where she moved, too, starting a family and working as a journalist.

Asked to articulate a piece of advice for younger listeners, she said: “I’d like to recommend tolerance. But not necessarily in the political sense. Try to be tolerant of people around you. People in your life. Avoid fights. Fights become conflicts and conflicts become wars. Try to be nice. Love is all that matters in the end.”

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Stav Shaffir, Israel’s liberal rising star, is now in free fall

Fri, 2020-01-17 16:52

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Less than a year ago, Stav Shaffir’s meteoric rise in Israeli politics seemed like it was continuing ever upward.

Now the outspoken millennial advocate for liberal Zionism and social justice won’t even be running for office, her future uncertain. Her career appears to be a casualty of a realignment on the Israeli left, doomed by her ideological and personal clashes with the old guard of the Labor Party.

Shaffir, 34, first took center stage in Israel as a leader of the 2011 social justice protest movement. A young and passionate woman with fiery red hair, she galvanized the thousands of young Israelis who pitched tents on Rothschild Boulevard in the center of Tel Aviv, one of 120 tent cities throughout the country. The demonstrators turned to a coalition of twentysomethings, including Shaffir, to lead them in protest against Israel’s escalating cost of living and — most acutely — skyrocketing housing prices. As the movement’s spokeswoman, Shaffir gained a national profile.

Two years later, at 27, Shaffir ran for office with the center-left Labor Party and became the youngest-ever female member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. She gained notoriety for asking detailed, persistent questions at Finance Committee meetings, repeatedly holding up transfers of money between departments because they weren’t approved by a full Knesset vote. At one point, video caught her being dragged out by a guard as she screamed, “The public doesn’t know what you’re doing!”

“At the beginning I thought my job was to legislate,” Shaffir told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency for a 2014 profile. “When I entered the system, I understood until we change the mechanism, nothing will change.”

She also gained international attention, and liberal pro-Israel leaders in the United States held her up as an example of a more progressive future for the Jewish state. She has been a perennial presence at the annual conference of J Street, the liberal Israel lobby, and in 2016, she spoke at the American Federation of Teachers convention.

Shaffir was to the left of Labor’s older leaders. Last year, with party voters set to elect their leader, she ran against Amir Peretz, 67, who last led the party in 2007. Shaffir split the progressive vote with another candidate who also led the 2011 street protests, and Peretz won. Peretz subsequently merged Labor with a new centrist party.

Shaffir resigned from Labor, and ahead of national elections in September joined the Democratic Union, a new alliance that was anchored by Meretz, a staunchly left-wing party.

But with Israel holding yet another election in March, Meretz has merged with Labor. Shaffir said she had long dreamed of a united Israeli left, but this latest merger has left her in the cold. The combined party’s leaders offered Shaffir a spot so far down on the election list that she likely would not have won a seat in Knesset.

Haaretz reported that Shaffir burned bridges when she quit the Labor Party, making some members eager to settle scores with her. She has been confrontational, according to Haaretz, and made “problematic demands” of Meretz last year.

On Wednesday, Shaffir announced that she would not run in the March election in order not to fragment Israel’s left. So after seven years in office, she will not be returning to Knesset — at least for the time being.

Her news conference was held symbolically on the heavily trafficked boulevard where she pitched her tent less than a decade ago.

“I won’t run in this election, but I will stay in the race for our country,” Shaffir said, vowing to take her fight “to the streets, to the cities, to the neighborhoods, in order to build our tomorrow and come back stronger.”

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United Kingdom classifies all of Hezbollah as terrorist group and freezes its assets

Fri, 2020-01-17 16:50

(JTA) — The United Kingdom designated the entire Hezbollah organization as a terrorist group and froze its assets.

The Finance Ministry move, which was announced Friday, is part of the implementation of the UK’s Terrorism and Terrorist Financing rules, Reuters reported.

Until now, only Hezbollah’s military wing was subject to having its assets frozen under UK rules.

In 2008, Britain banned Hezbollah’s armed wing. Last year, the government announced it will blacklist the entire group, but the announcement Friday is the first concrete step taken in that direction.

Hezbollah, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, was established in 1982 by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and is an important part of a regional Tehran-led alliance.

Reuters did not specify the assets seized.

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How the Women’s March made itself irrelevant

Fri, 2020-01-17 16:18

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (JTA) — As the Women’s March gears up for its fourth go on Saturday, the skepticism and disenchantment are palpable. Articles questioning the relevance of the Women’s March in 2020 abound, comparing its expected low number of 10,000 marchers against the estimated 4 million in 2017. I, too, am strongly skeptical of the Women’s March of 2020 — as a feminist, but also as a Jew and as a Zionist. 

There are plenty of reasons why I — and many other feminists — question the relevancy of the 2020 Women’s March that have nothing to do with anti-Semitism or anti-Zionism. For one, there’s less of a need for expressive displays in 2020 and a greater one for concrete, pragmatic action — be it registering voters, volunteering for local and national campaigns or writing amicus briefs for the critical abortion case before the Supreme Court this year. As University of Maryland professor Dana Fisher told The Washington Post, “Nobody needs another pink hat.” 

Top Women’s March leadership has also left some questioning how much of a grassroots, big tent movement it actually was in the first place. There was a protracted battle between national and local chapters about who owned the brand, according to The Daily Beast. In September, the Women’s March announced a new board, replacing three of the four original leaders: Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour (Carmen Perez stayed on). But I’m skeptical that the change will matter this late in the game.

Over the last three years, I have become acutely aware that the leading voices in modern feminism, as embodied in the Women’s March leadership, were hostile to my presence — as both a Jew and a Jew who believes in our right to self-determination, Zionism. At one point, Sarsour implied that women like me were not welcome in the Women’s March.

In 2018, Tablet magazine and The New York Times reported that the Women’s March leadership made concerted efforts to push out an activist because she was Jewish, as well as promoted Louis Farrakhan’s “The Secret Relationship Between Jews and Black,” which Henry Louis Gates Jr. called “the bible of the new anti-Semitism.” The news wasn’t exactly shocking, considering that in the months leading up to those revelations, the Women’s March leaders demonstrated a disturbing practice of defending support for and ties with Farrakhan — a notorious anti-Semite, homophobe and sexist.

The Women’s March promised big tent feminism, a movement that sought the elevation and empowerment of all women and their interests beyond the traditional realms of reproductive justice, equal pay and Title IX. This was a commendable aim — except that Jewish women tended to be the exception to this big tent. 

If there is one thing that modern intersectionality gets right (at least in theory), it’s the recognition that our various identities are intertwined and influence our perspective within any movement. I am not merely a feminist, but a Jewish and Zionist one — and the latter two weigh especially heavily on me when I think about the Women’s March.

When it came to matters involving Jews, the Women’s March seemed noticeably slow to respond and mealy-mouthed at best in its apologies. Jewish women who voiced even an iota of qualified support for Israel were met with hostility, but that didn’t only affect Zionists. By effectively forcing Jewish women to prove they didn’t support Israel, all Jewish women got the message that our acceptance was qualified and conditional.

If I attend the Women’s March on Saturday, it will be to defy the way the Women’s March has attempted to police the bounds of feminism. Even though there is new leadership, and I am hopeful they will do better than their predecessors, I have not forgotten the past.

After the Tree of Life massacre, the Jersey City attack, the Poway shooting, the Monsey slashing and myriad other anti-Semitic incidents, Jewish women have bigger fish to fry than convincing the Bland-Mallory-Perez-Sarsour acolytes of our worth.

In the past three years, American Jews have experienced unprecedented violence and harassment. Recall that just a handful of months after the Tree of Life massacre, Rep. Ilhan Omar insinuated that American Jews were not loyal to our country. Congress was not only unable to rebuke Omar but failed to condemn anti-Semitism in and of itself. 

Some nine months after that, there was the targeted anti-Semitic attack in Jersey City in which the assailants killed three people in a kosher supermarket and a cop beforehand. To add insult to injury, a Jersey City school board member criticized the show of sympathy for the Jewish victims and called Jews “brutes.” While the governor of New Jersey and the Jersey City mayor called on her to resign, she has enough public support to retain her position. That speaks volumes about tolerance for anti-Semitism — and in a town less than 10 miles from the socially, politically liberal New York City.

Anti-Zionism, which was already too welcomed in progressive spaces, has become more vitriolic. Last year, the Ethical Cultural Fieldston School welcomed a professor who compared Israelis with Nazis. Then, when the school invited two rabbis to talk about anti-Semitism, a teacher angrily tweeted about it and apparently flipped off the rabbis. The teacher has since been fired, but amid significant protest. 

Among my classmates, I see people who believe Jewish self-determination goes hand in hand with white supremacy. Today, so often the focus is not on the nuances of a viable two-state solution or even Palestinian rights, but rather on cheekily comparing the one Jewish state to the people who killed 6 million Jews or people like the man who murdered us in Pittsburgh.

I am not sure the Women’s March has contributed to these problems, but I am hard-pressed to say it has helped mitigate them. Under the Bland-Mallory-Perez-Sarsour leadership, the Women’s March was dismissive and slow to respond to concerns of anti-Semitism (though, the new leadership appears more responsive), and some of its individual leaders have explicitly minimized the harm of anti-Semitism. Additionally, their hostility toward feminists who showed any semblance of support for Israel helped elevate anti-Zionism as socially acceptable.

As Rabbis Ammiel Hirsch and Josh Davidson — the two rabbis who spoke at Fieldston — wrote in The New York Times, “A hateful obsession with Israel too often descends into hatred of Jews, even if it doesn’t start there. Hateful words lead to hateful deeds. This environment produces, teaches, accelerates and normalizes anti-Semitism.”

The Women’s March was nothing short of remarkable in 2017. But to a large degree, it devolved into a battleground where Jewish women were forced to prove their feminist bona fides. 

Feminism is so much more than the Women’s March. The less time we waste convincing people that we — Jews, Zionists, anyone who disagrees with the Women’s March leaders — deserve a place at the feminist table, the more work that can actually be done.

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