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Jewish editor among five killed in Annapolis newspaper shooting

(JTA)—One of the five victims killed in a shooting at a newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, was Jewish.

Gerald Fischman, 61, the editorial page editor at the Capital Gazette, was killed Thursday along with four others—sales assistant Rebecca Smith, 34; editor Rob Hiassen, 59; reporter and editor John McNamara, 56; and reporter Wendi Winters, 65—by a lone gunman.

Jarrod Ramos, 38, of Laurel, Maryland, was arrested and charged with five counts of murder, the Baltimore Sun reported. The report did not say how he pleaded. Police said Ramos had been the subject of critical coverage in the paper.

Fischman, who worked for the Capital Gazette since 1992, was known for his annual editorial on Christmas, despite the fact that he was Jewish, the Sun reported. Colleagues described him as a quiet, committed professional who was humorous, extremely knowledgeable and polite. He always wore a V-neck cardigan, regardless of temperature, and often would work a midnight to 5 a.m. shift. Colleagues typically would arrive in the morning to find sticky notes from Fischman on their desks asking them to fact-check his editorials.

“He was kind of a mysterious guy,” reporter Joshua Stewart told the Sun. “He wasn’t social, and this was the most interaction we had with him. It was a testament to his work.”

The Sun also said he married late in life, to a Mongolian opera singer he had met online. At an awards event shortly after he wed—Fischman won many regional prizes for his work—he was asked how he met his wife.

“I typed ‘Mongolian opera singer’ into a dating site,” he replied.

Ramos’ dispute with the Gazette began in 2011 when a columnist wrote about a criminal harassment case against him. He brought a defamation suit against the columnist and the organization’s editor and publisher. A court ruled in the Capital Gazette’s favor and an appeals court upheld the ruling.

Police said 170 people were inside the Gazette’s building during the attack. Staffers scrambled to find cover from the bullets, some diving behind desks, witnesses said. At least three people sustained serious injuries in the shooting, Radio WMFE reported.

Smith, the sales assistant, “was kind and considerate, and willing to help when needed,” her boss, Marty Padden, told the Sun. “She seemed to really enjoy to be working in the media business.”

Smith lived with her fiance in eastern Baltimore County and actively posted images documenting her social life.

Hiassen’s wife, Maria, told NBC that her late husband “loved being a dad, an editor who helped shape young talent, and a creative writer and humorist.” The couple had three children together.

McNamara was a veteran reporter and editor. On his LinkedIn page, he described himself as a beat reporter for University of Maryland athletics and the Baltimore Orioles minor league system. He also helped put together the daily sports section.

Winters “was in many ways the best part of the newspaper in that she cared so much about the city,” said former Gazette editor Steve Gunn. Winters worked as community reporter for the paper. She had four children.

Israel using advanced technology to fight Gaza’s incendiary kites

(JTA)—Israel has deployed a new system that it says can neutralize much of the threat from the thousands of incendiary kites and balloons that Gazans have been sending into Israel in recent weeks.

The Sky Spotter system, which was designed to deal with drones, was deployed around Israel’s border with Gaza earlier this month and has been able to pinpoint and track multiple targets during peaks of activity by dispatchers of incendiary objects, Channel 2 reported.

The system, which is based on powerful optics, provides an interactive 3-D image of the border area at great resolution. Flagged objects appear as red lines suspended above the topography. The system tracks the objects as they drift eastward from Gaza on breeze blowing inland from the Mediterranean.

Operators can then engage the objects with remote-operated drones.

The system can also calculate the projected point of impact with or without interception, allowing operators to dispatch firefighters to the expected area to extinguish the flames before they spread or even when they are still in the air, the report said.

The report said the system, which was developed by the Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, detects and tracks 100 percent of all incendiary objects sent Israel’s way even when dozens are launched almost simultaneously.

Before the system’s deployment, the Israel Defense Forces recruited drone operators to intercept the incendiary objects.

The use of incendiary objects as a tactic began this spring. Hundreds of acres of farming land and natural forest have been consumed in the flames.

Israel gives at least 60 tons of gear, food to displaced Syrians

(JTA)—Israel’s army gave food, equipment and medicine to Syrians fleeing the fighting in the southern part of their country.

The transfer took place Thursday night and included the delivery to refugee camps on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights of 300 tents, 13 tons of food, 15 tons of baby formula, three pallets of medical gear and medicine, and 30 tons of clothing, the Israel Broadcasting Corp. reported.

Thousands of displaced Syrians live in tent camps near the border with Israel, with many hundred pouring in in recent days following fighting in Syria’s seven-year civil war in which approximately 500,000 people have died.

More than 120,000 people are believed to have fled their homes this week alone amid a major offensive by the army of President Bashar Assad to recapture areas that have been under the control of Sunni rebels.

Israeli military sources said that Israel will not allow anyone to enter its border from Syria, citing security concerns.

Israel has remained largely neutral in the war in Syria, which is largely fought along sectarian lines. The Jewish state, which is technically in a state of war with Syria, has intervened several times to take out weapons before they reach Hezbollah. The Shiite terrorist group is aiding the army of Assad, who is an Alawite—a minority group with ties to Shiite Islam.

Iran, a Shiite Muslim nation, is a staunch ally of Hezbollah and Assad Syrian Druze are also a part of Assad’s coalition, which is supported by Russia under President Vladimir Putin.

Berlin museum returns Nazi-looted sculpture to heirs of Jewish owners

(JTA)—A Berlin museum said a 15th-century religious sculpture looted by the Nazis was returned to the heirs of its former Jewish owners and then sold back to the museum.

The Bode Museum said Monday that it had reached an agreement with the heirs, The Local reported. The piece was sold for an undisclosed sum.

Michael Eissenhauer, the head of Berlin’s public museums, said the agreement was “righting an injustice” and thanked the heirs for their “grand gesture,” which keeps the piece on display.

The carved sculpture circa 1430, which shows three angels floating on clouds and a sleeping infant Jesus, once belonged to the private collection of the Jewish industrialist Ernst Saulmann and his wife, Agathe, one of the few female pilots of her era.

The couple fled Germany in 1935, initially for Italy. The Nazis confiscated their land, business, mechanized cotton mill, private library, art collection and Agathe’s plane. Their more than 100 artworks were sold off at a Munich auction in 1936.

The Saulmanns left fascist Italy for France, but when the Nazis invaded that country, the couple was sent to an internment camp. They survived, but Ernest died in 1946, a year after the war ended, due to health issues that started at the camp. Agathe committed suicide in 1951.

The Saulmanns’ descendants hired researchers who managed to locate 11 artworks from their collection, which landed in five German museums and three private collections.

“My family was able to reach different agreements with all these institutions and collectors,” Felix de Marez Oyens, one of the heirs, said at a recent news conference.

On the verge of tears, he said: “I am convinced that Ernst and Agathe Saulmann would have welcomed this agreement.”

Hungarian Jews see anti-Semitism as a serious problem

(JTA)—Two-thirds of Hungarian Jews believe anti-Semitism is a serious problem in their country, according to a new survey, though fewer than half say they have experienced it firsthand.

The survey, which the prominent sociologists András Kovács and Ildikó Barna conducted in 2017 through face-to-face interviews with 1,879 Jewish adults, was published Thursday at a news conference in Budapest. It is a follow-up to a 1999 survey of Hungarian Jews that asked about perceptions on a range of topics.

On anti-Semitism, 48 percent of the respondents said they heard anti-Semitic rhetoric on the street in the year preceding the survey, down from 75 percent in 1999. The number of respondents who said they had experienced at least three instances of anti-Semitism was 6 percent, compared to 16 in 1999.

However, asked to quantify the extent of anti-Semitism in Hungary, 55 percent of the respondents said it was “great” and another 10 percent said it was “very great.”

“In 2017, the situation was perceived as much worse than it had been perceived in 1999,” the authors of the survey wrote.

In its annual report for 2017, the Jewish community’s watchdog on anti-Semitism, TEV, said it recorded 37 anti-Semitic incidents, compared to 48 in 2016, constituting a 23 percent decrease. Most of the incidents recorded last year and in 2016 featured hate speech. The rest were cases of vandalism.

In terms of demographics, the survey authors said that Hungarian Jewry’s numbers are somewhere between 70,000 and 110,000. The community is losing about 2,000 members every five years, it said.

The proportion of mixed marriages has started to rise again following a drop and stands at 62 percent among respondents aged 18-34. It had fallen to half of respondents aged 35-44. In the 45-54 age, 66 percent are intermarried.

Three-quarters of respondents said they felt a “strong emotional attachment” to Israel, but the number was slightly lower, at 66 percent, among the younger group, the non-affiliated and unobservant. About half of respondents said they have contemplated emigrating from Hungary, with 19 percent saying they considered it “seriously.”

The survey was done in partnership with the Szombat Jewish paper and TEV.

Hungary’s government is facing criticism for its billboard campaign and propaganda against George Soros, a Jewish billionaire and Holocaust survivor who funds liberal causes and organizations and supports the settling of hundreds of thousands of Middle East immigrants. Some Hungarian Jews say it encourages anti-Semitism, but others dispute the claim.

This week, TEV announced it was forming a partnership with counterparts in Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic to begin joint monitoring.

Spanish city votes to boycott Israel in defiance of court rulings

(JTA)—Defying multiple rulings in Spain that declared boycotting Israel illegal, the municipality of a city near Valencia declared itself an “Israeli apartheid-free space.”

The City Council of Sagunto, a city of 64,000 inhabitants, passed a motion Tuesday declaring itself part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel, the ACOM pro-Israel group in Madrid said in a statement Thursday. ACOM said it was preparing legal action.

Separately, the High Court of Justice in Asturias, in Spain’s north, ruled last week that another city council’s policy of boycotting Israel was unconstitutional. The City Council of Castrillon passed a motion in August effectively boycotting Israel, Israeli businesses and companies doing business with Israel. A regional court suspended the motion and the High Court scrapped it, declaring it discriminatory, the Lawfare Project organization said.

The Lawfare Project and ACOM have fought dozens of boycott votes against Israel in court and in talks with relevant institutions.

Last week, a motion promoted by factions of the far-left Podemos party on the City Council of Valencia, Spain’s third-largest city and a major eastern port city, was passed declaring a boycott of Israel and Valencia an “Israeli apartheid-free zone.”

Tribunals in Spain, including the nation’s Supreme Court in three of its rulings, have voided a total of 17 boycott motions passed by municipalities. Another seven municipalities voluntarily scrapped their boycott motions under threat of legal action by ACOM.

Dutch Muslim political activist wishes cancer on ‘filthy Jews’ at pro-Israel paper

AMSTERDAM (JTA)—A former staffer at a Muslim political party in the Netherlands sent an email to a newspaper that was attacked this week saying “May you get cancer, you filthy, far-right cancer Jews.”

Hussein Jamakovic, who worked for the Denk Muslim party, which Dutch Jews allege is anti-Semitic, wrote the message to Telegraaf, the country’s largest-circulation daily, as well as three other news organizations.

The message came amid elevated concern in the Netherlands for the safety of journalists following the attack Tuesday on Telegraaf, when a van drove into the newspaper’s entrance in Amsterdam. Police do not have any suspects in custody.

Telegraaf is seen to have a center-right editorial line. The pro-Israel publication features an activist and a hostile attitude toward radical Islam. It also covers organized crime regularly and thoroughly.

Jamakovic’s message was over reports of his alleged expressions of sympathy for the Islamic State terrorist group. He also sent the email to the DDS, WNL and GeenStijl news sites.

Last week, a projectile was launched at the office of the Dutch magazine Panorama. No one was hurt and a 41-year-old man was arrested.

On Thursday, an American man with a legal dispute against the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, over its coverage of the man is believed to have shot dead five people in an attack on the paper’s newsroom. The incident highlighted the issue of attacks on journalists worldwide.

Last year, a Denk lawmaker implied in a parliamentary document that JTA’s Europe correspondent was an Israeli government agent.

Belgium prince says criticism of his conduct reminds him of the Holocaust

(JTA)—A senior royal in Belgium said that criticism of his conduct reminds him of the persecution of Jews during the Holocaust.

Prince Laurent, who has a record both of making provocative statements and of controversy around his use of public funds, made the remark in an interview for Het Nieuwsblad that was published last week, prompting criticism by Belgian Jews.

Laurent said he feels that he has become a “punching bag” solely “because I’m the brother or son of a king. When this sort of thing happens, I think immediately about the Jews who were shot dead only because they were Jewish.”

The prince—younger brother to Philippe, king of the Belgians—is the subject of criticism in parliament allegedly for submitting inaccurate reports of his work hours.

Last year, Laurent faced a reduction in pay for attending without authorization a ceremony celebrating the 90th anniversary of the founding of China’s People’s Liberation Army—in its earliest years, a repressive tool that China’s Communist rulers used to kill millions of political opponents and countless others. The gaffe cost him 10 percent of his annual allowance of $359,000.

Following criticism over the comparison, Laurent said he would visit the Kazerne Dossin Holocaust Memorial in Mechelen in September, according to Michael Freilich, editor in chief of the Joods Actueel newspaper.

In 2016, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel banned the prince from unauthorized talks with senior foreign officials following a series of unapproved excursions, including to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and to Libya between 2008 and 2010, where he had been hoping to go into business with one of Moammar Ghadafi’s sons.

 

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