Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Large swastika painted on car in Florida Jewish neighborhood

(JTA)—A large swastika was spray-painted on the side of a car in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in Boca Raton, Florida.

The incident occurred early Sunday morning, according to local report. The white swastika took up the entire driver’s-side door of the black Ford Mustang.

The owner of the car is a teenager who is visiting Israel, the Miami Herald reported. It is not know if the teen’s visit to Israel made him the intended target.

“This is a direct hate message,” Yona Lunger, an activist in South Florida’s Jewish community, told the Miami Herald. “We are shocked, devastated.”

Many Holocaust survivors live in the neighborhood, residents told local media.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office has launched an investigation into the incident. Residents have asked the local police for increased patrols and some plan to install surveillance cameras, according to reports.

The swastika comes on the heels of several bomb threats on Jewish community centers in South Florida, part of a wave of bomb threats on JCCs across the country.

Poll: Americans nearly split over support for Palestinian state

(JTA)—Americans are nearly evenly divided over support for a Palestinian state, according to the latest Gallup poll.

Some 45 percent of Americans back the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip and 42 percent oppose it, according to the poll taken during the first week of February. Some 13 percent said they have no opinion.

One year ago, support for a Palestinian state was at nearly the same level, 44 percent, but a lower percentage, 37 percent, opposed it. At that time, 19 percent said they had no opinion.

Broken down by political party affiliation, 61 percent of Democrats, 50 percent of Republicans and 25 percent of Independents are in favor of a Palestinian state.

The results are from Gallup’s annual World Affairs poll conducted Feb. 1-5. A random sample of 1,035 Americans over 18 was polled. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

The poll also asked respondents if their “sympathies” lie more with the Israelis or the Palestinians.

Some 62 percent of Americans said they sympathized more with the Israelis and 19 percent with the Palestinians in numbers that are similar to the past several years. Another 19 percent responded with no preference, broken down into 5 percent who say they sympathize with both equally, 6 percent who sympathize with neither, and 8 percent who responded that they have no opinion.

In the splits by political party, 82 percent of Republicans, 47 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of Independents said they sympathized with Israel.

Asked about their opinions of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, some 49 percent of respondents said they viewed him favorably and 30 percent unfavorably—both figures the highest recorded in the poll—with 13 percent saying they never heard of him and 8 percent saying they have no opinion.

Broken down by party, 32 percent of Democrats viewed Netanyahu favorably and 41 percent unfavorably, and 73 percent of Republicans viewed Netanyahu favorably and 11 percent unfavorably. In 2015, before Netanyahu spoke against the Iran nuclear deal in Congress, a speech that was boycotted by several Democratic members of Congress, 31 percent of Democrats viewed him favorably and 31 percent unfavorably, and 60 percent of Republicans favorably and 18 percent unfavorably.

McGill student leader doubles down on ‘punch a Zionist today’ message

MONTREAL (JTA)—A McGill University student leader who advised on Twitter to “punch a Zionist today” is refusing to resign or retract the comment amid rising Jewish anger on campus against him.

Council member Igor Sadikov did not relent at what was described as a “tense” meeting of the student union legislative council on Thursday.

According to witnesses who attended, Sadikov appeared to double down on his stance, arguing that Jews were not a “a legitimate ethnic group,” according to B’nai Brith Canada.

“I have never felt so targeted, disgusted or disappointed in my life,” Jewish McGill student Molly Harris later wrote in a post on Facebook.

Sadikov, who also is active in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, has denied he is anti-Semitic, noting that his father is Jewish and his mother is half-Jewish. He said his original tweet, which he later deleted, was meant to criticize a “political philosophy,” not Jews.

McGill has condemned Sadikov, joining the Jewish groups  B’nai Brith, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

The university’s undergraduate arts society formally called on Sadikov to resign and B’nai Brith asked police to investigate whether Sadikov had incited hatred with his tweet.

But the mass condemnation seemed to do little to appease pro-Israel students at McGill, who say they feel increasingly isolated and vulnerable on campus.

At the Thursday meeting, according to reports, council members voted by a wide margin against censuring Sadikov, while a leader of McGill’s BDS group asked why an individual “pro-Zionist” member of the council was not being impeached.

Critics at the meeting charged that council members stayed silent as Sadikov took his stand and also in reaction to the pro-BDS speaker.

McGill’s student union also has the power to impeach Sadikov, but has not moved to do so.

The campus newspaper, The McGill Daily, which Sadikov once served as editor, recently enacted a policy to ban “pro-Zionist” opinion from its pages.

British government proposes guideline to prevent municipal boycotts against Israel

(JTA)—The British government has unveiled a proposed guideline that is meant to counteract and prevent the passing of resolutions in favor of boycotting Israel by local municipalities.

The Department for Communities and Local Government published its plan for ending such initiatives on Monday in a leaflet containing proposed additions and revisions to a document titled the “Revised Best Value Statutory Guidance,” which offers guidelines on various issues pertaining to local government, including procurement policies.

“Authorities should not implement or pursue boycotts other than where formal legal sanctions, embargoes and restrictions have been put in place by the Government,” the proposal reads.

The British government has a “longstanding policy of value for money in public procurement,” the document further reads. Procurement legislation in the United Kingdom and the European Union “requires public authorities to treat suppliers fairly and equally and this guidance has been updated to reflect that and make it clear that boycotts in public procurement are inappropriate outside where formal legal sanctions have been put in place.”

Individuals who want to offer their feedback to the government, including arguments in favor and against the revision, must do so before March 28, the document states.

A spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the national umbrella of the Jewish community of the United Kingdom, said his group “warmly welcomes the Government’s measures” since “these boycotts are divisive and undermine good community relations. The new steps will ensure that all suppliers of goods and services receive equal treatment and do not need to fear prejudice.”

Resolutions favoring boycotts of Israel were passed recently in several municipalities in Britain, including the Leicester City Council in 2014. Similar measures were discussed but not taken in Nottingham.

The Conservative-led British government has threatened to fine municipalities that vote on boycotting Israel and has announced plans for laws making such initiatives illegal.

Amazon selling books in US, UK online stores that deny the Holocaust

(JTA)—Amazon has removed books that deny the Holocaust from online stores in countries where Holocaust denial is illegal, but they remain available in the United States and the United Kingdom.

The British newspaper The Independent reported that the books were removed in some countries, including Italy, France and Germany, after Amazon was contacted about the sale of such books by The Sunday Times of London.

Among the books still available on Amazon’s U.S. and U.K. online stores are “Did Six Million Really Die?” by Richard Harwood; “The Six Million: Fact or Fiction?,” and “The Myth of the Extermination of the Jews.”

Gideon Falter, chairman of the British charity Campaign Against Antisemitism, told The Independent: “Every day, Amazon promotes a selection of literature advocating Holocaust denial and Jew hatred. Anybody searching Amazon for books about the Holocaust, including children working on school projects, will inevitably be shown Amazon’s squalid cesspool of neo-Nazi titles.”

One Amazon customer who complained to the company told The Sunday Times he received a message from Amazon saying, “If you feel this book constitutes hate speech and malicious lies, then please check out the other hundred thousand books we carry to find something you like. I hope this helps!”

Steven Goldstein, executive director of the U.S.-based Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, called for a boycott of Amazon until it stops selling the books everywhere.

“When Amazon sells Holocaust denial books and even offers readers an opportunity to ‘borrow’ Holocaust denial books on Amazon Kindle, Amazon is a repugnant accomplice to Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism of historic proportions,” Goldstein wrote in a statement. “This makes Amazon a worldwide embarrassment to human decency. We call on everyone to stop shopping at Amazon until all divisions of Amazon in every part of the world stop selling Holocaust denial books and other works immediately.”

Russian lawmaker: Ancestors of Jewish politicians ‘boiled us in cauldrons’

(JTA)—A Russian lawmaker in President Vladimir Putin’s party said the ancestors of two Jewish opposition politicians had killed Christians.

“Christians survived despite the fact that the ancestors of Boris Vishnevsky and Maksim Reznik boiled us in cauldrons and fed us to animals,” Vitaly Milonov said Sunday, according to Agence France-Presse.

Jewish groups and leaders condemned Milonov’s statement.

“For a State Duma deputy, it is unacceptable to make such irresponsible statements,” said Rabbi Boruch Gorin, the spokesman for the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, AFP reported.

The president of the Russian Jewish Congress told AFP that it was “clear to any normal person that these lawmakers are of Jewish descent and that he means Jews.”

The National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry, an American nonprofit advocating for Jews in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, urged the Russian government to condemn the remarks.

“Milonov’s rhetoric invokes dangerous anti-Semitic hatred that has historically been used to justify widespread violence against Jews in Russia,” the group said Monday in a statement. “NCSEJ urges Russia’s local and national government to repudiate Milonov’s remarks and make clear that he does not speak for the government of Russia or the Russian people.”

In 2014, Milonov made statements suggesting that Jews killed Jesus.

“They vilify any saint, it is in their tradition of 2,000 years, beginning with the appeals to crucify the Savior, ending with accusations of anti-Semitism against St. John of Kronstadt,” Milonov said during a speech before the city’s legislative council.

Milonov was advocating a bill to declare June 14 a municipal holiday in honor of John of Kronstadt, a 19th-century leader of the Orthodox Russian Church. His legacy remains controversial because of his membership in the Black Hundred, an ultranationalist and declaredly anti-Semitic movement that supported pogroms against Jews.

But Milonov said such criticism was based on “complete lies, a modern neo-liberal fable with a sulfuric, deep history of Satanism.”

Populist party in Germany set to oust member for denigrating Berlin Holocaust memorial

BERLIN (JTA)—Germany’s rising right-wing populist party voted to begin proceedings to oust a prominent member for calling Berlin’s Holocaust memorial a “monument of shame.”

Bjoern Hoecke, leader of the Alternative for Germany, or AfD, in the former East German state of Thuringia aroused ire nationwide with remarks in January denigrating the memorial and suggesting that more attention be paid to German victims of World War II.

Frauke Petry, who heads the 3-year-old AfD, said Monday that the expulsion procedure could take quite a while, but that she was convinced most party members would support the move.

Critics within the AfD said Hoecke’s remarks threatened to destabilize the party, which hopes to become the third largest in the Bundestag in national elections in September.

The party’s decision followed a legal and political evaluation of Hoecke’s remarks.

He had told young supporters in Dresden on Jan. 17 that “We Germans—that is, our people—are the only people worldwide that has planted a memorial to shame in the heart of our capital.”

Ten days later, the Buchenwald Concentration Camp Memorial barred Hoecke from entering for a memorial ceremony marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Hoecke has enjoyed some support from party leaders in his own state,  as well as those in the former East German state of Brandenburg. Alexander Gauland, chair of the Brandenburg faction, told German radio rbb that no one should be thrown out after making one mistake. He also said he feared people would leave the party in protest.

In Thuringen, party leaders suggested the decision was politically motivated to force certain people and opinions out of the party

Petry’s co-chair, Jörg Meuthen, reportedly also opposed her on the matter, saying he did not believe the expulsion procedure was likely to succeed, “even though his speech was really very bad.”

AfD President Georg Pazderski told the daily newspaper Tagesspiegel in Berlin that he thought Hoecke’s speech had the potential to frighten off voters. Pazderski said Hoecke had endangered the party’s goal of representing mainstream conservative Germans.

Following Monday’s vote, Hoecke told reporters he was worried for the unity of the party. But he expressed confidence that the arbitration panel would not find him guilty of transgressing the party’s legal statutes or principles. If he is found guilty, he can appeal.

The anti-immigrant party has been struggling with its extreme right-wing flank. Last July, it began proceedings to expel politician Wolfgang Gedeon over anti-Semitic writings. He remains a member of the Baden-Württemberg state parliament, though was forced to step down from the AfD’s bloc.

One year ago, a court in Brandenburg rejected accusations that AfD party member Jan-Ulrich Weiss had published an anti-Semitic caricature.

Elena Roon—an AfD candidate for the Bundestag from Nuremberg—recently shared a photograph of Adolf Hitler online with the caption, “Missing since 1945: Adolf, please call home! Germany needs you! The German nation!”

The German media reported that Roon also shared an image of Hitler tearing his hair out in frustration, with the caption “Islamists... I forgot about them!”

The party chair in Bavaria has launched an investigation.


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