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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Journalist who first reported Nisman’s death flees Argentina

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA)—The Argentine-Israeli journalist who first reported the death of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman has fled to Israel following threats to his safety.

Damian Pachter, who works for BuenosAiresHerald.com and tweeted the news of Nisman’s Jan. 18 death, left Argentina on Saturday after the threats  and being followed by people he did not know, according to Fopea, the Argentine Journalism Forum. Pachter citizenship was en route to Israel, where he holds dual citizenship, on Sunday.

“I will return when my sources tell me that the conditions changed,” Pachter told an Argentine publication. “I don’t think that I will be there during this government.”

In a statement, the forum said it had notified the “relevant authorities” and urged the public to “pay attention to the safety of journalists in our country these days.”

Nisman was found dead of a gunshot wound in his home soon before he was to present evidence that Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner covered up Iran’s role in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires.

Jewish groups condemn ship, world’s largest, named for Dutch SS officer

(JTA)—European Jewish groups are again protesting the name of the world’s largest ship, which was named after a Dutch officer in the Nazi Waffen-SS military force.

The Pieter Schelte, which docked in Rotterdam in early January, is named after an SS officer convicted of war crimes in World War II, according to the Guardian. Schelte conscripted 4,000 Dutch into forced labor for Nazi Germany and called Jews “parasitic.”

“Naming such a ship after an SS officer who was convicted of war crimes is an insult to the millions who suffered and died at the hands of the Nazis,” said Jonathan Arkush, vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, according to the Guardian. “We urge the ship’s owners to reconsider and rename the ship after someone more appropriate.”

Esther Voet, director of the Hague-based Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel, or CIDI, noted the 10-year fight to have the name changed.

“But no, we’re left with this fact: the largest ship in the world is named after an officer in the SS, and not enough people are offended to get this changed,” she was quoted as saying in the Guardian.

The Swiss shipbuilding company Allseas named the ship for Pieter Schelte Heerema, the father of Allseas’ owner, in recognition of his work in the oil and gas industry following the war. The company said that Heerema defected from the SS during the war.

Whether the Pieter Schelte is the “world’s largest ship” is in dispute, according to the Guardian, but it is certainly the largest crane ship.

Madoff says pain from sons’ deaths worse than harm caused to investors

(JTA)—Bernie Madoff wrote that the pain he caused investors with his financial fraud was “nothing” compared to the anguish he has suffered from his sons’ deaths.

Madoff, who defrauded investors of billions of dollars in one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history, wrote in an email to NBC News Friday that his sons were unaware of his crimes and that they never forgave him.

“As difficult as it is for me to live with the pain I have inflicted on so many, there is nothing to compare with the degree of pain I endure with the loss of my son’s [sic] Mark and Andy,” he wrote. “I live with the knowledge that they never forgave me for betraying their love and trust. As much as I tried to reach out to them in an attempt to explain the circumstances that caused my betrayal they could not find it possible to forgive me.”

Mark Madoff committed suicide in December 2010, on the second anniversary of his father’s arrest. Andrew Madoff died last year from cancer.

Several large Jewish institutions and charities fell victim to the Madoff scheme. Madoff was convicted of fraud in 2009 and is serving a 150-year prison sentence.

In the letter, Madoff claims his sons were uninvolved in the scheme.

“What is still my most important goal is to do everything in my power to protect their legacy, although neither of my son’s [sic] were ever charged with anything,” he wrote.

Kippah-wearing Swedish reporter assaulted in Malmo

(JTA)—A Swedish reporter who walked around Malmo while wearing a kippah to test attitudes toward Jews was hit once and cursed at by passers-by before he fled for fear of serious violence.

Sveriges Television on Jan. 21 aired secretly recorded footage from Petter Ljunggren’s walk through Malmo, which documented some of the incidents that occurred within the space a few hours.

In one scene, Ljunggren—who, in addition to wearing a kippah was also wearing Star of David pendant—was filmed sitting at a café in central Malmo reading a newspaper, as several passers-by hurled anti-Semitic insults at him.

Elsewhere, one person hit his arm, the reporter said on camera, though this was not recorded. One of the people who cursed Ljunggren called him a “Jewish devil,” “Jewish s***” and another told him to “get out.”

One person on a scooter approached Ljunggren to warn him to leave for his own safety. In the heavily Muslim Rosengard neighborhood, Ljunggren was surrounded by a dozen men who shouted anti-Semitic slogans as eggs were hurled at his direction from apartments overhead. He then fled the area.

The experiment was part of a 58-minute documentary titled “Jew-hatred in Malmo.” The walk was a repeat of a similar experiment conducted in 2013 by journalist Patrick Riley, though Riley reported that he received only strange looks and drew giggles from onlookers when he walked by wearing a kippah.

Dozens of anti-Semitic incidents are recorded annually in Malmo, a city where first- and second- generation immigrants from the Middle East make up one third of a population of roughly 300,000. Several hundred Jews live there.

Fred Kahn, a leader of the local Jewish community, told JTA that most incidents are perpetrated by Muslims or Arabs.

Hanna Thome, a municipal councilor for culture and anti-discrimination, told the Expressen daily that she was shocked by the events documented by Ljunggren.

“There is much more to do, and both the municipality and the police have a great responsibility. But I also want to emphasize that there is great solidarity in the city,” she said in reference to several so-called kippah walks, where Jews and non-Jews marched through Malmo’s street while wearing yarmulkes to protest against anti-Semitism.

Argentine Jewish groups to boycott government Holocaust ceremony

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA)—Argentina’s major Jewish institutions will boycott the country’s official Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony to protest the death of AMIA prosecutor Alberto Nisman.

Leaders of AMIA, DAIA, the Holocaust Museum of Buenos Aires, the Argentine Zionist Organization and the Simon Wiesenthal Center said that they will not participate in the government-organized event on Tuesday. Several officials who asked not to be identified cited Nisman’s suspicious death on Jan. 18 and the information in his 300-page criminal complaint as reasons for boycotting the ceremony.

The organizations will hold their own Holocaust memorial ceremony at the rebuilt AMIA headquarters on the morning of Jan. 27.

The Latin American representative of the Wiesenthal Center, Sergio Widder told JTA, “We join the decision of the other Jewish NGOs in this sensitive moment. We want to send a message to the government, a message that there is a bad mood these days, that we are farther than ever from the possibility of finding truth and justice in the AMIA case.”

According to Nisman’s complaint, Argentina’s government signed a deal with Iran to hide Iran’s role in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires in exchange for commercial and oil benefits. The complaint says President Cristina Kirchner and Foreign Minister Hector Timerman “took the criminal decision of inventing Iran’s innocence to satisfy commercial, political and geopolitical interests of the Argentine republic.”

Nisman, who led the bombing probe for a decade, was found dead in his apartment on Jan. 19 of a gunshot wound just hours before he was to testify at the National Congress.

On Wednesday, 3,000 people attended a protest at the rebuilt AMIA headquarters in Buenos Aires, AMIA officials reported. At the rally, which was organized by AMIA and DAIA, protesters demanded “truth and justice” from the government. During the rally, when DAIA president Julio Schlosser noted that 85 people had been killed in the AMIA attack, some in the crowd shouted “86,” a reference to Nisman. The number 86 has become shorthand on social media to refer to Nisman’s death. No one from the government or the ruling parties attended the Buenos Aires rally.

In Israel, 250 Argentine Jews, including a woman who identified herself as Nisman’s cousin, attended a protest Friday morning at the Argentine Embassy in Tel Aviv. Several held placards in Spanish reading “I am Nisman,” mirroring the French “I am Charlie” placards for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo magazine massacre in Paris.

French soldier accidentally fires weapon outside Jewish center

(JTA)—A French soldier guarding a Jewish community center in Nice accidentally dicharged his weapon outside the building.

The soldier fired three shots from his firearm on Jan. 22 outside the city’s Chabad center, according to Le Parisien. The incident ended without injury or damage to property.

The weapon was pointing downward and the volley hit the ground, according to the Nice edition of the France 3 television channel.

The southern city is among dozens of locales in France where troops were deployed outside Jewish institutions following the slaying of four Jews in a kosher shop near Paris on Jan. 9 by an Islamist.

Another 13 people died in attacks that the assailant, Amedy Coulibaly, and two of his accomplices perpetrated on Jan. 7 and 8.

On Jan. 15, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said 10,000 troops have been deployed around Jewish potential targets, adding he intended to keep them there for several months at least.

Russia slams Polish FM for saying Ukrainians liberated Auschwitz

(JTA)—Moscow condemned as “sacrilegious” the Polish foreign minister’s suggestion that Ukrainians, not Russians, liberated Auschwitz.

Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna in an interview Jan. 21 with Polskie Radio addressed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s absence from a ceremony scheduled to take place at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum on Jan. 27, the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the death camp by Red Army troops.

“Maybe it’s better to say... that the First Ukrainian Front and Ukrainians liberated [Auschwitz], because Ukrainian soldiers were there, on that January day, and they opened the gates of the camp and they liberated the camp,” Schetyna said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called Schetyna’s comments “sacrilegious and cynical,” The Associated Press reported last Friday.

“Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army, which included Russians, Ukrainians, Chechens, Tatars and Georgians, among others,” Lavrov said. His ministry called Schetyna’s words about Auschwitz a “mockery of history [that] needs to be stopped.”

Relations between Moscow and Poland deteriorated following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last March and its subsequent annexation of Crimea. Poland and other central and east European governments see Russia’s actions in Ukraine as presaging a possible threat to their own sovereignty.

Putin attended the 60th anniversary events in 2005. His absence from this year’s ceremony has been attributed to Polish reluctance to host him. Schetyna said the decision was Putin’s.

Earlier this month, Latvian delegates to the United Nations education and heritage arm, UNESCO, vetoed an exhibition about the Holocaust that Russian UNESCO delegates had planned to open on Jan. 25.

Dutch Jews demand troops near synagogues

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (JTA)—Dutch Jews asked their government to post troops outside synagogues to match security measures in France and Belgium.

The plea came in letters addressed to mayors by officials from a number of Jewish communities in the Netherlands following an Islamist’s slaying on Jan. 9 of four Jews at a kosher supermarket near Paris, the De Telegraaf daily reported Jan. 22.

“Now that Jewish targets in Belgium and France are guarded by the army, we ask why not in the Netherlands,” the report quoted a letter signed by the Dutch Israelite Religious Community, or NIK, as saying. “Surely, the threat is the same.”

Some Dutch synagogues have police protection, while others have no armed guards, according to the daily. Some communities are reporting a drop in synagogue attendance because of growing insecurity, it said.

Several hundred people, including many Muslims and Jews, attended an event in Amsterdam on Jan. 19 organized by the Muslim-Jewish interfaith group Salaam-Shalom commemorating the victims of the Paris attack.

Mayor Eberhard van der Laan led a moment of silence in which visitors showed peace signs with their hands.

The victims of the Jan. 9 shooting were also commemorated on Wednesday at a ceremony in Brussels organized by the European Jewish Association lobby group and attended by Frans Timmermans, the Netherlands-born first vice-president of the European Commission.

The event also commemorated another 13 victims killed on Jan. 7 and 8 in attacks in and around Paris by associates of the perpetrator of the supermarket killings.

“If there’s no future for the Jews in Europe, there’s no future for Europe,” Timmermans said at the event.

Earlier last week he said during a debate in Brussels that Jews’ insecurity “forms an enormous challenge for the foundations of European integration.”

Swiss Jews to set up info stands outside venues hosting Dieudonne

(JTA)—Swiss Jews said they would set up stands with information about the dangers of anti-Semitism outside venues hosting the French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala.

“Freedom of expression is an essential principle but one which cannot be evoked to justify any ‘right to discriminate,’” said the announcement Jan. 22 by CICAD, a Jewish group that monitors anti-Semitism in Switzerland’s French-speaking areas.

Dieudonne, who has multiple convictions for inciting hatred against Jews in France, is scheduled to perform on Jan. 26 in Lausanne and on the following day in Val-de-Ruz.

CICAD will set up two stands opposite the venues, it said.

Dieudonne was briefly arrested for posting a comment on Facebook about the Jan. 9 slaying of four Jews at a kosher supermarket near Paris by the Islamist Amedy Coulibaly. Riffing on the slogan “I am Charlie,” which commemorates the 12 victims of a Jan. 7 attack on the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly by two of Coulibaly’s associates, Dieudonne wrote: “I feel like Charlie Coulibaly.”

French prosecutors said he is suspected of encouraging terrorism.

Dieudonne originated the quenelle, which critics say is a modified Nazi salute. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called it an “a gesture of anti-Semitic hate” and has described Dieudonne as a “professional anti-Semite.”

Under Valls, Dieudonne was forced to cancel one tour and is facing criminal and financial charges, ranging from incitement to hatred to tax evasion and building violations.

Jewish leaders from German-speaking communities to gather in Switzerland

(JTA)—Jewish umbrella organizations from Germany, Austria and Switzerland are launching a project aimed at strengthening cooperation among the German-speaking Jewish communities.

“Next Step” is slated to begin with a three-day seminar in March in Zurich for dozens of young Jewish leaders from the three countries, organizers from the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities, or SIG, told JTA on Jan. 22.

“This is the first attempt of its kind, which aims specifically to generate closer cooperation between the young leaders of these communities,” SIG’s secretary general, Jonathan Kreutner, said. “A lot more can be done to enhance the cooperation of these communities, which share many characteristics and challenges despite belonging to different countries.”

The seminar’s core group will comprise 10 leaders aged 25 to 35 from each German-speaking country, he said.

After the opening weekend in Zurich, the seminar will reconvene later this year in Berlin. Austria will host the seminar’s third and final session, according to a report about the initiative earlier this month by the Swiss Jewish weekly Tachles.

Germany has Europe’s largest community of German-speaking Jews, estimated at 200,000. Switzerland has 18,000 Jews and Austria has 7,500.


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