Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

 

September 29, 2017



Leader of far-right German party says Jews have nothing to fear

(JTA)—Jews should not fear the strong election showing by the Alternative for Germany, a leader of the populist far-right party said.

“There is nothing in our party, in our program, that could disturb the Jewish people who live here in Germany,” co-party head Alexander Gauland told reporters Monday, a day after AfD garnered more than 13 percent of the vote to finish third in German national elections.

Gauland also said that he was ready to meet with German Jewish leaders “at any time.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel was re-elected to a fourth term and reportedly has rejected the idea of including AfD in a coalition government

“Unfortunately, our worst fears have come true: A party that tolerates far-right views in its ranks and incites hate against minorities in our country is today not only in almost all state parliaments but also represented in the Bundestag,” the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Dr. Josef Schuster, said in a statement issued late Sunday.

“I expect all our democratic forces to unveil the real face of the AfD and to expose the party’s empty, populist promises. The goal that should unite all democratic parties: to make it clear to the voters that the AfD is not an alternative, so that it can land where it belongs—under the 5 percent hurdle!”

The council called on the parliament to “fight for democracy and to defend its values vehemently” in the face of the AfD successes.

The Anti-Defamation League called AfD’s entrance into the national parliament “a disturbing milestone in modern German politics,” saying the party is “proudly extremist, anti-immigrant, and anti-minority.” The party leaders have made anti-Semitic statements and played down the evil of the Nazi regime, the ADL also said in its statement.

“Chancellor Merkel has a strong track record of protecting the Jewish community and other minorities,” CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said. “We appreciate that she has excluded the possibility of AfD joining her coalition, and we count on her strong leadership going forward to diminish the appeal of AfD among German voters.”

Hundreds of protesters gathered in cities throughout Germany on Sunday evening to protest the AfD’s election successes. In the Alexanderplatz public square in central Berlin, protesters chanted “Racism is not an alternative,” “AfD is a bunch of racists” and “Nazis out!”

Canadian Jews can now get kosher medical marijuana

MONTREAL (JTA)—Canadian Jews could get halachically high for the High Holidays: A Quebec company became the first in Canada to obtain kosher certification for its medical marijuana on the eve of Rosh Hashanah.

The certification was granted to the Hydropothecary Corp., a medical marijuana producer based near Ottawa, by the Vaad Hakashrut, a kosher certifier in Ottawa.

“According to the Torah, according to the Talmud, this is something that if we are able to help [sick people], that is my obligation,” Rabbi Levy Teitlebaum of the Vaad told The National Post.

The company’s CEO, Sebastien St-Louis, said in a statement: “As the only medical marijuana company in Canada with kosher-certified processed products, we take great pride in having the support of the kashrut council.”

In 2016, Montreal kosher certifiers said medicinal pot needed kosher certification because it is ingested, while certifiers in Toronto said it did not because it is being used as medicine.

Belgian court sentences Holocaust denier to visit 5 Nazi camps and write about it

(JTA)—A court in Belgium has ordered a former lawmaker convicted of Holocaust denial to visit a Nazi concentration camp every year for the next five years and write about his experiences.

Laurent Louis, 37, was given the unconventional sentence last week by the Brussels Court of Appeal, The New York Times reported.

In June 2015 he was convicted and given a six-month suspended jail sentence and fined over $20,000 by the Correctional Tribunal of Brussels for making statements that consciously downplayed the atrocities committed by the German occupation forces that ruled Belgium during World War II. The trial centered on online statements he made that questioned the number of Jews killed in Nazi gas chambers during the Holocaust.

During his time in parliament, Louis was responsible for a number of actions perceived as provocative to Belgian Jews and resistance fighters.

In 2014, Louis said in parliament that “the Holocaust was set up and financed by the pioneers of Zionism.” He also posed outside parliament while standing on an Israeli flag and holding a portrait of Bashar Assad, Syria’s president.

Louis entered parliament as a representative of the small center-right People’s Party, but he was later kicked out.

In a statement issued Sept. 20 following the ruling, Louis said he would carry out the ruling and “repent every year in a death camp.” He said the sentence would be “very educational and very powerful on a human level,” and called it a chance to “denounce current genocides,” according to the Times.

Louis has called Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip a genocide and said Zionism was worse than Nazism.

Anthony Weiner sentenced to 21 months in prison over sexting scandal

(JTA)—Former congressman Anthony Weiner was sentenced to 21 months in prison for sexting with a 15-year-old girl.

Weiner, 53, who had pleaded guilty in May to one charge of transferring obscene material to a minor, wept as the sentence was handed down Monday in a Manhattan federal court. He must also register as a sex offender for life for his inappropriate conversations with the North Carolina teen. The once-rising star in the Democratic Party had faced up to 10 years in prison.

“Weiner, a grown man, a father, and a former lawmaker, willfully and knowingly asked a 15-year-old girl to display her body and engage in sexually explicit conduct for him online,” prosecutors wrote. “Such conduct warrants a meaningful sentence of incarceration.”

Last fall, then-FBI Director James Comey cited emails involved in the Weiner case to reopen an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private server less than two weeks before the presidential election. The FBI shut down the investigation days later, saying that nothing new or damaging had come to light, but Clinton has blamed the new probe in part for her loss to Donald Trump.

Weiner’s troubles date back to 2011, when the Jewish lawmaker resigned from Congress after tweeting an explicit photo. He has since been involved in multiple sexting scandals, and his wife, Huma Abedin, a longtime Clinton aide, is in the process of divorcing him.

The girl involved in this case, whose name has not been officially released, has said that she initiated the contact with Weiner for political reasons. She sold her story multiple times, including to the British Daily Mail tabloid for $30,000.

Netanyahu postpones settlement committee meeting at US request

JERUSALEM (JTA)—In advance of a visit by President Donald Trump’s special envoy Jason Greenblatt, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to a U.S. request to postpone a meeting of a settlement planning committee.

Greenblatt is scheduled to arrive Tuesday in Israel to continue discussions toward restarting peace talks with the Palestinians, the Israeli media reported, citing unnamed White House officials.

Greenblatt, an Orthodox Jew, reportedly will then spend Sukkot in Israel with his family.

Netanyahu told a meeting of the Security Cabinet on Sunday evening that he would postpone the meeting scheduled for this week of the West Bank Civil Administration’s planning committee, which is set to approve hundreds of units of new housing construction in several settlements, following a request from the Trump administration.

Netanyahu met with Trump last week prior to the start of the United Nations General Assembly, which both leaders addressed. The Israeli leader also met with Greenblatt and Jared Kushner, a key White House adviser and Trump’s Jewish son-in-law.

The announcement of the planning committee’s agenda had been postponed until after the New York meetings to avoid friction, Haaretz reported.

Netanyahu also told the Security Cabinet about his meetings with President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi of Egypt and other world leaders on the sidelines of the General Assembly.

NJ children’s performer arrested on child pornography charges

(JTA)—A New Jersey music teacher and singer who has performed for children at synagogues, JCCs and camps over the past two decades was charged with receiving and distributing child pornography.

Eric Komar, 46, was charged Tuesday in U.S. Magistrate Court in Newark after being arrested last week by special agents of the FBI Child Exploitation Task Force, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey. He is being held without bail

Komar used a peer-to-peer file-sharing program to obtain and distribute images and videos that featured prepubescent children being sexually abused, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Following his arrest, Komar allegedly admitted to having “a large library of child pornography” containing “thousands of images and videos,” the Forward reported, citing court documents.

The charge against Komar carries a prison sentence of five to 20 years as well as a $250,000 fine.

Ex-CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson quits anti-war foundation after retweeting anti-Semitic article

(JTA)—Former CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson resigned from the board of an anti-war foundation after retweeting an article accusing American Jews of pushing the U.S. into a war with Iran.

Wilson, whose paternal grandfather was Jewish, made the announcement on Sunday about leaving the the Ploughshares Fund  in a series of tweets.

“Actions have consequences, and while I have been honored to serve on the board of the Ploughshares Fund ... to avoid detracting from their mission, I have resigned,” Wilson said in consecutive tweets.

“I take full responsibility for my thoughtless and hurtful actions, and there are no excuses for what I did.”

She also tweeted that she was “horrified and ashamed” for retweeting articles from the Unz Review website “without closely examining content and authors.”

“The white supremacist and anti-Semitic propaganda espoused by this website is disgusting and I strongly condemn it,” she also tweeted.

Wilson, a former operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, had her identity leaked to the press by an official in President George W. Bush’s administration in 2003 and left the agency in 2005. A 2010 film about the affair, “Fair Game,” portrayed the popular theory that her cover was blown as political retribution for an article by her husband charging that the White House manipulated intelligence to make the case for invading Iraq.

The article she retweeted, titled “Americas Jews Are Driving America’s Wars,” included several anti-Semitic tropes, including that American Jews are guilty of dual loyalty to Israel, and that Jews control the media, the entertainment industry and politics.

The article by Phillip Giraldi concludes: “We don’t need a war with Iran because Israel wants one and some rich and powerful American Jews are happy to deliver. Seriously, we don’t need it.”

Ploughshares Fund, which works to reduce nuclear threats and prevent a new arms race days, issued a statement condemning Wilson’s original tweet of the article, saying she “seriously erred.”

“Ploughshares Fund condemns in the strongest terms what we believe to be white supremacist and anti-Semitic propaganda espoused by this site. The prejudices promulgated by this site are an affront to American values and human decency,” the statement said.

Wilson tweeted the article out on Thursday, during the Rosh Hashanah holiday.

Later in the day she tweeted: “OK folks, look, I messed up. I skimmed this piece, zeroed in on the neocon criticism, and shared it without seeing and considering the rest.”

“I missed gross undercurrents to this article & didn’t do my homework on the platform this piece came from. Now that I see it, it’s obvious. Apologies all. There is so much there that’s problematic AF and I should have recognized it sooner. Thank you for pushing me to look again. I’m not perfect and make mistakes. This was a doozy. All I can do is admit them, try to be better, and read more thoroughly next time. Ugh,” she also tweeted.

Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg tightens ad policy in face of ‘Jew hater’ controversy

(JTA)—Allowing hateful terms as options was “a fail on our part,” Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg said in a post in which she also defended targeted advertising.

Sandberg also announced in the message posted on Facebook last week that the company is strengthening its policies and tools on targeted ads.

ProPublica, an investigative website, reported earlier this month that a news website was able to target ads at Facebook users who expressed interest in “Jew hater” and “how to burn Jews.” Facebook removed the categories after being alerted to their existence and said it would seek to prevent such categories from popping up for potential advertisers.

Sandberg wrote in her post: “Seeing those words made me disgusted and disappointed – disgusted by these sentiments and disappointed that our systems allowed this. Hate has no place on Facebook – and as a Jew, as a mother, and as a human being, I know the damage that can come from hate. The fact that hateful terms were even offered as options was totally inappropriate and a fail on our part. We removed them and when that was not totally effective, we disabled that targeting section in our ad systems.”

She defended targeted advertising, which allows companies to place ads based on demographics on the buying history of consumers, or on behavior and self-identification. Facebook relies heavily on algorithms to find and highlight content.

“Targeted advertising is how Facebook has helped millions of business grow, find customers, and hire people,” Sandberg wrote. “Our systems match organizations with potential customers who may be interested in their products or services. The systems have been particularly powerful for small businesses, who can use tools that previously were only available to advertisers with large budgets or sophisticated marketing teams.

Sandberg said Facebook would clarify its advertising policies and tighten enforcement processes to ensure that content that goes against Facebook’s community standards cannot be used to target ads; by adding more human review and oversight to the automated processes; and by creating a program to encourage users to report potential abuses directly to the company.

“We hope these changes will prevent abuses like this going forward,” Sandberg note, adding that Facebook has had “a firm policy against hate.”

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Facebook sent out Happy New Year messages to users it believed to be Jewish. But many who received the message are not Jewish and may have received the greetings because they followed a group with a Jewish theme or posted a message on the Facebook page of a Jewish friend, Mashable reported.

“We send messages about religious moments to people in countries where a large proportion of the population observes the religion, or where the religious date is a public holiday,” firm policy against hate. “We may also show the message to people who’ve expressed interest in the holiday.”

Swedish court moves neo-Nazi march on Yom Kippur farther from synagogue

(JTA)—A court in Sweden has rerouted a neo-Nazi march on Yom Kippur farther away from a synagogue.

The Gothenburg administrative court ruling concerning the Sept. 30 march by the far-right Nordic Resistance Movement overrode the suggested route by police. The court also shortened the route.

The group had initially wanted to march on the main streets of Gothenburg, but the police offered an alternate route taking demonstrators only about 200 yards from the main synagogue in Sweden’s second largest city.

An outraged Jewish community appealed the police decision earlier this month along with several other groups. The Anti-Defamation League and the World Jewish Congress were among others to protest.

Among other factors, the court said it considered the fact that the route would have passed near the synagogue on the Jewish holiday and the demonstration would fall during the Gothenburg Book Fair, when some 100,000 people are expected to gather in the city for the largest literary festival in Scandinavia.

Swedish Jewish leaders cautiously praised the decision.

The Jewish community “welcomes the Gothenburg administrative court’s decision to not allow the neo-Nazi group to march close to Gothenburg’s synagogue on the holiest day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur,” Aron Verstandig, chairman of The Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities, said in a statement to JTA.

“Even if the Council had wished that the protest would have been moved to a different day, it views it as a positive development that the court took into consideration that Yom Kippur is celebrated on that day, which the police had not taken into consideration.”

The chairman of the Gothenburg Jewish community, Allan Stutzinsky, said the court’s ruling was “a significant improvement,” noting that members could now walk to synagogue without fearing they would encounter neo-Nazis.

“The ruling means that we are much safer,” he told JTA in a statement.

Earlier this month, Stutzinsky said the community, which is typically under tight security, feared harassment and physical threats both from the neo-Nazi marchers and potential left-wing counterprotesters.

 

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