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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


August 18, 2017

Trump names KKK, white supremacists, neo-Nazis in condemnation of Charlottesville rally

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Amid a furor over his delay in denouncing a white supremacists’ rally in specific terms, President Donald Trump condemned the “racist violence” at the Charlottesville event and declared that “racism is evil.”

“Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists, and other hate groups who are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” Trump said Monday in a statement he delivered at the White House two days after the rally, which included a deadly car-ramming attack.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred and violence. It has no place in America,” the president said.

Trump also said the Department of Justice had opened up a civil rights investigation into the car-ramming attack and mentioned the victim—Heather Heyer, 32—by name. A car driven by a 20-year-old who has espoused neo-Nazi views plowed into counterprotesters, killing Heyer and injuring at least 20.

Trump had been under pressure since the Charlottesville rally to forcefully condemn the white supremacists who descended on the southern Virginia city to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. His initial statement, which condemned “hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides, on many sides,” angered both Democrats and Republicans for seeming to draw a moral  equivalence between the white supremacists and the counterprotesters.

In a subsequent tweet, Trump expressed condolences to “the family of the young woman killed today” but did not name Heyer.

Jewish leaders also noted the widespread expressions of anti-Semitism at the rally, which included demonstrators carrying signs reading “Jews are Satan’s children,” Nazi flags and chants of “Jews will not replace us.”

“This is a moment that demands moral leadership,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement Saturday. “President Trump should acknowledge that this is not a matter of equivalence between two sides with similar gripes. There is no rationalizing white supremacy and no room for this vile bigotry It is un-American and it needs to be condemned without hesitation.”

On Sunday the White House put out a statement, attributed to an unnamed spokesperson, saying, “The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred. Of course that includes white supremacists, K.K.K., neo-Nazi and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together.”

That statement still failed to satisfy many critics who noted that some white supremacist groups were encouraged that  Trump had not personally singled them out.

On Monday, David Harris, CEO of the American Jewish Committee, called on Trump to “make clear that our nation does not countenance the warped views of bigots, as was on display in Charlottesville.” He also urged the president “to send a strong message to these extremist groups that their endorsement is not welcome.”

Charlottesville Jewish community hires security

(JTA)—The Jewish community of Charlottesville, Virginia, hired security guards for the first time in its history ahead of a far-right event that ended with a deadly attack on protesters against racism.

Rabbi Tom Gutherz of Congregation Beth Israel told Haaretz on Sunday that the move was deemed necessary ahead of the “alt-right” rally planned for the city the day before. On Saturday, a 20-year-old white supremacist drove a car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing a 32-year-old woman, Heather Heyer, and wounding 20 others.

“We had to hire the service of security guards because of the events,” Gutherz told Haaretz. “We’re sad but we had no choice.”

The synagogue held its scheduled activities on Saturday, Gutherz said.

“It was clear we wouldn’t let this intimidate us, these people can’t keep us away from our synagogue,” he said of the far-right activists.

On Sunday, Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer, who is Jewish, blamed President Donald Trump for some of the hatred on display in his city, where thousands of marchers chanted racist slogans, including about Jews and blacks.

“Look at the campaign he ran,” Signer told CNN about Trump. “Look at the intentional courting, on one hand, of all these white supremacists, white nationalists... and look on the other hand at the repeated failure to step up, condemn, denounce, silence, put to bed all of these different efforts, just like we saw yesterday. This isn’t hard.”

On Saturday, Trump condemned hatred and violence “on many sides” in his remarks, but did not directly single out the white supremacists, whose rally in Charlottesville resulted in the governor, Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, calling a state of emergency.

Trump has come under bipartisan criticism for failing to explicitly condemn white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other hate groups in brief remarks he gave Saturday from his golf club in New Jersey.

Vice President Mike Pence did issue such a condemnation while speaking to reporters in Cartagena, Colombia.

“We have no tolerance for hate and violence, white supremacists or neo-Nazis or the KKK,” he said.

Israeli security experts defend H.R. McMaster against allegations of anti-Israel bias

(JTA)—A former leader of Israel’s National Security Council defended U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster against claims that the American general is hostile to Israel

Yaakov Amidror, a reserves major-general of the Israel Defense Forces, offered his backing for McMaster in a Jerusalem Post op-ed published Sunday that he co-authored with Eran Lerman, a former member of the Israeli council and an intelligence specialist.

Amidror, who served as Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief security adviser for two years until 2015, wrote that recent allegations of an anti-Israel bias by McMaster were “scurrilous and harmful personal attacks launched by some American Jews and even a few Israelis” and “an offense against the truth, against basic decency and against the best interests of Israel.”

The Zionist Organization of America, one of the few Jewish organizations to consistently defend President Donald Trump, issued a report Thursday sharply critical of McMaster. The American Jewish Committee has defended him.

In its report, the ZOA said that McMaster is undermining Trump’s Middle East agenda and the relationship between the United States and Israel by firing officials supportive of the Jewish state and critical of the Iran nuclear deal. It noted Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the hawkish former senior director for intelligence on the U.S. National Security Council.

On Aug. 3, Trump called his national security adviser “very pro-Israel,” an apparent bid to end a barrage of attacks from the right that have depicted McMaster as hostile to the Jewish state.

“General McMaster and I are working very well together. He is a good man and very pro-Israel. I am grateful for the work he continues to do serving our country,” Trump said.

In the op-ed, Amidror and Lerman wrote that “Israeli officers and scholars who have worked with McMaster say that he was always highly appreciative of Israel and of its contributions to the security of the U.S.. They attest to his broad support for and admiration of the IDF. It is absurd to assert that all these years, hidden underneath McMaster’s friendliness was a grudge against Israel that the general is now free to act on.”

Whatever the reasons for McMaster’s decision to “relieve certain senior National Security Council officials of their duties, antisemitic or anti-Israeli sentiments were certainly not part of the calculus,” Lerman and Amidror added.

Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz questioned in money-laundering case

(JTA)—Police in Israel detained the businessman Beny Steinmetz and four others for questioning in a money-laundering investigation involving real estate deals abroad.

The five were questioned Monday under caution, meaning they are considered suspects in the case, The Times of Israel reported. They are accused of money laundering, falsifying documents, using fake documents, false registration of corporate documents, fraud, breach of corporate trust, obstruction of justice and bribery, police said.

Raids were also carried out at their homes and offices, according to The Times of Israel. The other four suspects were not named, but a media report identified one as a well-known figure in Israeli banking.

A police source told The Times of Israel that Steinmetz was the prime suspect in the case.

Steinmetz, who made billions as a diamond and mining magnate, was arrested in December and accused of paying millions of dollars in bribes in the Republic of Guinea in exchange for advancing his business interests there. He was held under house arrest at the time and later released.

Steimetz has consistently denied any wrongdoing, calling the allegations against him the result of a conspiracy designed to make his firm relinquish its legally owned mining rights.

An Israeli media report said the current probe is linked to the Africa investigation.

According to Forbes, Steimetz is worth $1.02 billion, making him one of Israel’s richest people.

Dutch historians find marriage certificate of Jewish Holocaust victims hidden in a chimney

AMSTERDAM (JTA)—Historians in the Netherlands are searching for relatives of a couple murdered in the Holocaust whose marriage certificate was found concealed inside a chimney.

Paul Harmens, a curator for the Overijssel Historical Center, told the Algemeen Dagblad daily last week that his institution has been searching for relatives of Siegfried de Groot and Bertha Lippers for weeks following the discovery earlier this year.

Their marriage certificate, issued in 1931 in Germany, was found at a private home during renovations in the town of Hattem, 60 miles east of Amsterdam. It was concealed behind a divide inside the chimney.

The couple and their two children, Dietrich and Marta Clara, all perished in the Holocaust: Siegfried in the Mauthausen death camp in Austria and the rest in Auschwitz. According to the certificate, Siegfried was 29 and Bertha 22 when they married in a religious ceremony that was officiated by a rabbi.

Harmens said he did not know how the certificate ended up where it was discovered. De Groot was born in Zwolle, a Dutch city bordering the suburb of Hattem.

“We don’t know whether they hid in that house, and there are many open questions,” Harmens said.

He noted that such discoveries are rare.

“A marriage certificate from Germany, of a Jewish couple who wed before a rabbi—you don’t find things like that very often,” Harmens said.

Earlier this year, the Dutch media reported on the finding of unique footage of a Jewish wedding in the province of Friesland, where nearly all the Jews were murdered. It was filmed in 1939, less than a year before the German army invaded the Netherlands. The couple in the footage, Mimi Dwinger and Barend Boers, survived the war.

And last year, a Dutch thrift store near Amsterdam returned a ketubah, a Jewish marriage contract, to the relatives of the murdered Dutch couple—Louis Barzelay and Flora Snatager—who signed the document in 1942.

Natan Sharansky, Naftali Bennett condemn anti-Semitic and racist hate at Charlottesville rally

(JTA)—Natan Sharansky, the chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett condemned a white supremacists’ rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the deadly attack on a counterprotester.

Sharansky, whom many Jews in Israel and beyond consider a champion of human rights and liberties, in a statement Monday wrote that he was “horrified by the death of a protester at the hands of one of the marchers.”

“There is no place for such hate speech or violence in any democratic society,” he wrote, “and I am confident that American authorities will do everything in their power to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Ahead of a rally Saturday by far-right activists in Charlottesville, a supporter of neo-Nazis drove a car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one and injuring at least 20.

Sharansky, a famed political prisoner of the Soviet Union for his Zionist activities, also said he was “deeply concerned” by the expressions of anti-Semitic hatred in Charlottesville, including against its Jewish mayor, Michael Signer, as well as “other forms of racism and hatred.”

Bennett, a right-wing politician from the Jewish Home party, which is a coalition partner of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, published a statement on Sunday that criticized the expressions of hatred at the far-right gathering. His statement also appeared to reference the absence of a condemnation by President Donald Trump targeting the far right specifically after the attack.

“The unhindered waving of Nazi flags and symbols in the U.S. is not only offensive towards the Jewish Community and other minorities, it also disrespects the millions of American soldiers who sacrificed their lives in order to protect the U.S. and the entire world from the Nazis,” Bennett wrote in the statement, adding “The leaders of the U.S. must condemn and denounce the displays of anti-Semitism seen over the past few days.”

Lithuanian president ignores congressmen’s protest over planned project atop Jewish graves

(JTA)—The president of Lithuania dismissed concerns raised by 12 U.S. Congress members over the planned construction of a conference center atop what used to be a Jewish cemetery in Vilnius.

Responding to a letter sent last month by the lawmakers about the Piramont cemetery, Dalia Grybauskait on Monday told the BNS news agency that “decisions on Jewish cemeteries are taken together with the Lithuanian Jewish community and the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe.”

The congressmen, including Randy Weber, R-Texas, and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., wrote that the plans “conflict with the respect for human dignity.”

Lithuanian Jews are split on the approval for the project given by Faina Kukliansky, who heads the national umbrella group that is charged with representing the community. Kukliansky has long faced accusations of corruption, which she has denied.

A petition launched online against the plan last year has gathered approximately 40,000 signatures. Jewish Orthodox law prohibits disturbing human remains except in special cases.

Rabbi Avraham Ginsberg, executive director of the London-based committee on Jewish cemeteries, said the construction would not disturb the Jewish graves. Grybauskait cited the OK from the committee for the conference center plan.

In 2009, the committee was shown to be seeking $100,000 for “rabbinical supervision of digging” to be obtained by the Lithuanian government from developers. The sum was noted in a cable sent by a U.S. State Department official and leaked by WikiLeaks.

Ginsberg has said the sum was never paid and was a maximum estimate of expenses that his organization might incur while supervising the site.

The affair was highlighted on the website Defending History by Dovid Katz, a Vilnius Jew who has led efforts to stop the plan.

Meanwhile, many Jewish community members consider Kukliansky’s title illegitimate because of a contested internal election in May in which her administration voided the election of a critic to head the Vilnius community, where the vast majority of Lithuanian Jews live. Critics say the election was rigged by a last-minute change to voting procedures that gave the votes of association heads greater weight.

In their letter, the congressmen also referenced a House of Representatives resolution from 2008 condemning the advancement by Lithuania of the early stages of construction, which still has not begun.

The resolution states that “the fact that the Government of Lithuania has allowed construction to take place within the perceived boundaries of the Jewish cemetery” and that “desecration continues into the 21st century is an affront to the international Jewish community, the American people, and everyone who values religious freedom.”

The Piramont cemetery, also known as the Snipiskes cemetery, is the original burial site of the 18th-century sage known as the Gaon of Vilna. His remains were moved in 1949, before Soviet authorities destroyed the graveyard and built a gymnasium on its grounds. However, thousands of bodies, including many Jewish luminaries, are still buried in the area, which today is among the most valuable real estate assets in Lithuania.

Netanyahu plans to become first sitting Israeli prime minister to visit Latin America

RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA)—Benjamin Netanyahu is planning trips to Argentina and Mexico in September that would make him the first sitting Israeli prime minister to visit Latin America.

Netanyahu is scheduled to visit the region before flying directly to New York to address the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 19, according to The Jerusalem Post. He would return to Israel for Rosh Hashanah on Sept. 20.

“Latin America has always been friendly to Israel, but I think we’re at a position where these relationships can be far, far, far advanced,” Netanyahu told President Jimmy Morales of Guatemala last fall.

The Jerusalem Post noted the trip would coincide with the 70th anniversary of the U.N. partition plan vote, when 13 Latin American and Caribbean countries were among 33 states that cast ballots in its favor, paving the way for Israel’s independence.

Israeli ties with Argentina have improved considerably since Mauricio Macri won the presidency in 2015.

The trip to Mexico also sends the signal that its abstention in anti-Israel UNESCO votes last year, as well as friction over a tweet Netanyahu posted regarding the efficacy of a U.S.-Mexico border wall advocated by President Donald Trump, are not hindering ties between the countries.

Brazil, Latin America’s largest nation and home to some 120,000 Jews, was left off the Netanyahu itinerary. Israel and Brazil tussled for a year over the former’s envoy choices.

“Political issues are internal problems, but if an Israeli prime minister comes to Brazil, he prefers that the government be stable because no delegation wants to present a project that after a month will change,” Yossi Sheli, Israel’s ambassador in Brasilia, told the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper on Sunday.

Brazil is experiencing high levels of unemployment and social instability.

Shell added that he believed the past two Brazilian presidents, Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, “were against the State of Israel.”

Swiss hotelier sorry for signs telling Jews to shower before entering pool

(JTA)—The manager of a hotel in Switzerland said she was wrong to post signs instructing “Jewish guests” to shower before entering the pool and to access the refrigerator at set times

Ruth Thomann, who runs the Paradies Arosa hotel 80 miles southeast of Zurich, responded Monday to articles published in Israeli media outlets about the signs put up by hotel staff over the weekend.

“I have nothing against Jews, whom we regularly receive warmly here,” she told JTA on Monday. “I may have selected the wrong words; the signs should have been addressed to all the guests instead of Jewish ones.”

Thomann removed the signs following complaints.

A report about the signs prompted Tzipi Hotovely, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, to condemn the hotel’s actions as  “an anti-Semitic act of the worst and ugliest kind,” as her office said in a statement Monday. Hotovely said Thomann should be prosecuted for a hate crime and suggested the signs were indicative of the anti-Semitism throughout Europe.

“Unfortunately, anti-Semitism in Europe is still a reality and we must make sure that the punishment for incidents such as these will serve as deterrents for those who still harbor the germ of anti-Semitism,” Hotovely said.

Thomann said her staff allowed only the Jewish guests as a courtesy to put food in the refrigerator normally reserved for staff.

“The sign was addressed to Jewish guests simply because the other guests are not allowed to put food in the fridge, and we wanted our Jewish guests to access the food only at set times because otherwise it was an impossible situation,” she said.

She also said that only the hotel’s Jewish guests went into the pool while wearing T-shirts and without showering first.

This prompted staff to put up a sign reading: “To our Jewish Guests: Please take a shower before you go swimming and although after swimming. If you break the rules, I’m forced to cloes the swimming pool for you.” [sic]

The sign about the refrigerator read: “To our Jewish guests: You are allowed to approach the fridge between the hours: 10.00-11.00 in the morning and 16.30-17.30 in the evening. I hope you understand that our team does not like to be disturbed every time.”

Thomann said that while the hotel wants its Jewish guests to feel at home, “the behavior of some of those guests is making other guests feel uncomfortable, and we received complaints so we need to be responsible for all our guests and find a balance.”

The Jewish guests, she said, include Orthodox Jews from the United Kingdom, Belgium and Israel.

Neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer kicked off GoDaddy domain platform

(JTA)—GoDaddy, the world’s largest domain name seller, will no longer provide service to the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer.

In response to a tweet Sunday about a Daily Stormer article that smeared Heather Heyer—the 32-year-old killed in the car ramming during Saturday’s protests in Charlottesville, Virginia—as a “fat” and “childless” “slut,” the company said The Daily Stormer had violated its terms of service.

A GoDaddy representative confirmed the action to The Arizona Republic.

According to the Huffington Post, The Daily Stormer had been using GoDaddy since 2013. The Southern Povery Law Center describes The Daily Stormer as dedicated to “spreading anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism and white nationalism.”

As of Monday afternoon, the site was still up in its usual format.

Zionist feminists shunned at SlutWalk Chicago

(JTA)—About a dozen Zionist feminist activists participated in SlutWalk Chicago despite opposition to their presence.

The new Zioness group had announced that it would join in the annual demonstration Saturday against sexual violence to promote the idea that Zionism and progressive values are compatible.

SlutWalk Chicago organizers said prior to the march that they did not support the Zioness initiative’s participation.

“SlutWalk Chicago does not support the ‘Zioness progressives’ planning on coming to the walk Saturday. We at SlutWalk Chicago stand with Jewish people, just as we stand for Palestinian human rights. Those two ideologies can exist in the same realm, and taking a stance against anti-Semitism is not an affirmation of support for the state of Israel and its occupation of Palestine,” the group wrote on its Facebook page.

“We oppose all oppressive governments whether they be the United States or Israel, as we recognize these regimes often disproportionately oppress women and femmes. We find it disgusting that any group would appropriate a day dedicated to survivors fighting rape culture in order to promote their own nationalist agenda.”

The women joined a rally ahead of the march in a local park. According to reports, they carried signs depicting a woman wearing a Star of David necklace and in some cases wore rainbow-colored T-shirts emblazoned with a Star of David. When they waved their signs, other SlutWalk participants blocked them from view with the red umbrellas they were carrying as a symbol of solidarity with sex workers.

At the end of the speeches, which concluded with a Palestinian activist telling the crowd “you cannot be a Zionist and feminist,” the crowd began chanting “Free Palestine,” the Windy City Times reported.

The Zioness participants and others dropped out during the march through downtown Chicago, according to the Windy City Times. The march reportedly started with about 150 women and ended with about 60.

In front of Trump Tower, marchers stopped to destroy a replica of Donald Trump’s head. Toward the end of the march, some participants scuffled with police, leading to five arrests.

SlutWalk organizers initially said they would ban Stars of David from the event, but later altered their policy to allow religious symbols but not national flags.

The SlutWalk policy came in the wake of a controversy over the Chicago Dyke March in June, when three Jewish participants at the LGBTQ demonstration were ejected for carrying LGBTQ Pride flags adorned with the Star of David. Dyke March organizers said the women were advocating for Israel at an anti-Zionist event.

On Friday, SlutWalk Chicago released a statement titled “Palestinian Rights are a Feminist Cause.”

“As a feminist, transnational movement calling for an end to rape culture, we march in solidarity with all Palestinians suffering the impact of the State of Israel’s brutal policies. The reasons for this are simple. In the words of Linda Sarsour, one of the architects of the 2017 Women’s March who also organized A Day Without a Woman,  ‘You either stand up for the rights of all women, including Palestinians, or none.’ In a nutshell, women’s rights are human rights,” the statement said.

“If the rights of Palestinians are degraded by the State of Israel’s policies across the whole territory they control—including the West Bank as well as Gaza, where Israel controls all entry and exit in this tenth year of military blockade—the treatment of Palestinian women is particularly dehumanizing.” 

American tourist in Germany beaten for performing Nazi salute

(JTA)—An American tourist in Germany was beaten after making a Nazi salute in Dresden.

The man, 41, was was lightly injured in the incident on Saturday, according to reports. He was heavily intoxicated at the time of the attack, with a blood alcohol level of .276 percent, the German news service Deutsch Welle reported.

Police are searching for his assailant, reportedly a local man, who fled after the attack.

The incident comes a week after two Chinese tourists were arrested in Germany for making the Nazi salute in front of the Reichstag German parliament building. They were released after each posted bail of 500 euros, or nearly $600. If convicted of “using symbols of illegal organizations,” the men face a fine or prison sentence of up to three years.

It is illegal to display symbols of Nazism in Germany. Tourists appear to be unaware of the law, according to local reports.

Orthodox Jewish group sues New Jersey town for ordering eruv removed

(JTA)—An Orthodox Jewish group filed a federal lawsuit against a New Jersey town for ordering it to remove an eruv, or religious boundary, from utility poles there.

The Bergen Rockland Eruv Association and two residents of Rockland County filed the suit Friday against Mahwah, saying the town on the New York state border is violating their constitutional and civil rights.

Mahwah had told the South Monsey Eruv Fund to remove the white plastic piping from utility poles that it uses for the symbolically enclosed area by Aug. 4. An eruv allows observant Jews to carry objects and push strollers outside of their homes on the Sabbath.

The Orthodox community told The Associated Press last month that it had been given permission to hang the piping by the local utility company. But town officials said the piping is banned because it is considered signage.

Town officials told AP that the town will start issuing summonses by next week if the piping, called a lechi for the purpose of the eruv, is not removed.

“The object, motivation and effect of the actions of the township is to suppress the religious practices of the plaintiffs and certain other Jews who reside in Airmont and other parts of Rockland County (in New York),” the lawsuit states, according to AP. “The eruv presents no aesthetic, safety, traffic, fiscal or other concern to Mahwah.”

Mayor Bill Laforet has called on the Mahwah Township Council to hold off on issuing summonses and instead negotiate with the eruv group. He said a legal fight over the eruv could be costly for the city, AP reported.

More than 1,200 people signed an online petition calling for the eruv to be taken down. Many of the dozens of comments accompanying the petition, titled “Protect the Quality of our Community in Mahwah,” refer to “these people” and express concerns about falling property values. Most of them are anonymous.

“I don’t want these rude, nasty, dirty people who think they can do what they want in our nice town,” one of the comments reads.

The petition has been taken down.


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