Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

 

August 17, 2018



Stephen Miller’s uncle calls him an ‘immigration hypocrite’

(JTA)—The uncle of Stephen Miller, a senior adviser to President Donald Trump, has accused his nephew of being an “immigration hypocrite” who supports policies that would have condemned his own Jewish family to death if they had been enacted a century ago.

Writing in Politico, Miller’s maternal uncle David Glosser described how Miller’s great-great-grandfather Wolf-Leib Glosser fled the Belarusian shtetl of Antopol, arriving in the United States in 1903 “with $8 to his name.”

“In the span of some 80 years and five decades, this family emerged from poverty in a hostile country to become a prosperous, educated clan of merchants, scholars, professionals, and, most important, American citizens,” wrote Glosser, a longtime volunteer with the Jewish-run refugee agency HIAS.

Miller, an immigration hardliner, has been instrumental in the administration’s crackdown on immigrants, including last year’s travel ban targeting seven Muslim-majority nations and the separation of migrant children from their parents at the border. Earlier this month, he was said to be behind a Trump administration proposal that would make it more difficult for legal immigrants to obtain a green card or become citizens if they have used public welfare programs.


“I have watched with dismay and increasing horror as my nephew, who is an educated man and well aware of his heritage, has become the architect of immigration policies that repudiate the very foundation of our family’s life in this country,” Glosser said.

“I shudder at the thought of what would have become of the Glossers had the same policies Stephen so coolly espouses... been in effect when Wolf-Leib made his desperate bid for freedom. The Glossers came to the U.S. just a few years before the fear and prejudice of the ‘America First’ nativists of the day closed U.S. borders to Jewish refugees. Had Wolf-Leib waited, his family would likely have been murdered by the Nazis along with all but seven of the 2,000 Jews who remained in Antopol. I would encourage Stephen to ask himself if the chanting, torch-bearing Nazis of Charlottesville, whose support his boss seems to court so cavalierly, do not envision a similar fate for him.”

Glosser went even further, comparing Trump, and by extension his nephew, to Nazis.

“Trump and my nephew both know their immigrant and refugee roots,” he wrote. “They repeat the insults and false accusations of earlier generations against these refugees to make them seem less than human. Trump publicly parades the grieving families of people hurt or killed by migrants, just as the early Nazis dredged up Jewish criminals to frighten and enrage their political base to justify persecution of all Jews.”


This is not the first time that critics have pointed out the immigrant history of Miller, who has said that he believes in favoring immigrants who already speak English over those who do not. Earlier this year, amateur genealogist Jennifer Mendelsohn posted data from the 1910 census showing that Miller’s great-grandmother did not speak English. Her post was retweeted 17,000 times.

Journalist Peter Beinart detained and questioned at Israeli airport

(JTA)—Peter Beinart said he was detained at Ben Gurion Airport for an hour and questioned by an Israeli security official about his political activism.

Beinart, a prominent liberal Zionist journalist and commentator, was interrogated Sunday at the Tel Aviv airport, according to an op-ed he wrote in the Forward. He was visiting the country with his wife and children for a family affair.

According to the op-ed, the security official asked whether Beinart had participated in violent protests or events that promoted anarchy or opposed Israeli democracy.

The official also asked Beinart about his involvement with the Center for Jewish Nonviolence, a group that organizes actions to protest Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

“Then the political questions began,” Beinart wrote. “Was I involved in any organization that could provoke violence in Israel? I said no. Was I involved in any organization that threatens Israel democracy? I said no—that I support Israeli organizations that employ nonviolence to defend Israeli democracy.”

Beinart, a Forward columnist and contributing editor at The Atlantic, has been one of the leading proponents of liberal Zionism, which criticizes Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, among other right-wing policies, because it says they threaten the state’s Jewish and democratic character. He opposes the movement to boycott Israel but has promoted a boycott of products produced in Israeli settlements.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement Monday that he had spoken with Israel’s security forces about Beinart’s detainment and called it an “administrative mistake.”

“Israel is an open society which welcomes all – critics and supporters alike,” Netanyahu’s statement said. “Israel is the only country in the Middle East where people voice their opinions freely and robustly.”

Beinart responded on Twitter that Netanyahu “half-apologized for my detention yesterday,” and that”I’ll accept when he apologizes to all the Palestinians and Palestinian-Americans who every day endure far worse.”

Beinart is the latest progressive American Jewish activist to be detained and questioned upon entering Israel. Simone Zimmerman, a co-founder of the progressive Jewish group IfNotNow; Abby Kirschbaum, who works for an Israeli-Palestinian tour company; and the novelist Moriel Rothman-Zecher were all recently detained and questioned about their protest activity.

In early July, the Jewish pro-boycott activist Ariel Gold was denied entry into Israel. A law passed last year allows Israel to bar supporters of the BDS movement, which encourages boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

“Now, it seems, the Knesset wants me to choose,” Beinart wrote in a 2017 column criticizing the entry law. “Either stop visiting Israel or stop opposing the occupation. In a variety of ways, that’s the deal Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been offering American Jews for close to a decade now. Embrace Israel at the cost of your principles or embrace your principles at the cost of Israel.”

Daniel Sokatch, the CEO of the New Israel Fund, which supports a range of progressive Israeli organizations, called the questioning of left-wing activists “morally unacceptable and anti-democratic.”

“The Netanyahu government has shown once again that it is now a matter of policy to use border crossings as interrogation chambers,” Sokatch said in a statement Monday. “The government is demonstrating that the test for entering the country is a political one—either you agree with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ultra-right wing coalition or you’re subject to questioning, intimidation, or refusal.”

Israelis caught dancing naked at former death camp

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Two Israeli students were caught on video dancing naked at the Majdanek concentration camp in Poland over the weekend.

Workers at the camp made the video and the students were subsequently expelled from their trip by their school, Haaretz reported.

It was the latest in a series of incidents involving bad behavior by Israeli students, according to Haaretz, including a case of vandalism at Auschwitz last year and the raising of a flag calling for “death to leftists” at a mass murder site the year before.

The Israeli Education Ministry told Haaretz in a statement that it viewed “with great severity any behavior that could harm the status and values represented by the trips to Poland. In the case in question, due to the students’ improper and inappropriate behavior, disciplinary actions have been taken against them to the fullest.”

It is not the first scandal involving nudity at a concentration camp. In 2015, the Simon Wiesenthal Center protested a controversial performance art installation at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow that featured a video of group of unclothed men and women playing tag in what appeared to be a gas chamber. The piece was removed from the museum following a public outcry but was later reinstated.

The same video has also been displayed in an Estonian art museum but was also removed.

On Charlottesville anniversary, Trump condemns ‘all types of racism,’ Ivanka homes in on white supremacy

WASHINGTON (JTA)—President Donald Trump marked the anniversary of the deadly neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville, Virginia with a tweet that did not single out white supremacists as responsible, while his Jewish daughter named the racist ideology and condemned it.

“The riots in Charlottesville a year ago resulted in senseless death and division,” Trump said Saturday on Twitter, without noting that most of the violence, including a car ramming that killed counterprotester Heather Heyer and injured at least 20 others, was committed by neo-Nazi marchers.

The tweet was on the eve of the Aug. 12 anniversary.

“We must come together as a nation,” he said. “I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence. Peace to ALL Americans!”

The Tweet appeared to echo his equivocations after last year’s violence when he blamed “many sides” for the violence and said there were “very fine people” on both sides. Those statements drew widespread condemnation from Jewish leaders, Democrats and Republicans.

Ivanka Trump, a senior adviser to her father and an observant Jew, posted a thread of tweets just after Shabbat in which she singled out the white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

“While Americans are blessed to live in a nation that protects liberty, freedom of speech and diversity of opinion, there is no place for white supremacy, racism, and neo-Nazism in our great country,” Ivanka Trump said.

Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, who also advises Trump, reportedly pressured her father to single out white supremacists and neo-Nazis immediately after the violence last year, and he did—and then reversed himself within a day, once again blaming both sides.

She has more recently staked out a difference with her father on his repeated attacks on media as the “enemy of the people,” saying she rejects the appellation.

Trump earlier this week returned on Twitter to one of his favorite themes, calling on the NFL to penalize football players who kneel during the national anthem to protest police violence against blacks and other inequities.

Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012 who is now running for Senate in Utah, took Trump to task on Friday for his comments last year.

“The President opined that there were good people in both groups, a statement for which he was widely criticized,” he said on his website. “My view—then and now—is that people who knowingly march under the Nazi banner have disqualified themselves as ‘good people’.” Romney has at times been a caustic critic of Trump, who is also a Republican

The white supremacists who planned last year’s rally are reconvening Sunday in Washington, D.C. after failing to obtain a permit to appear in Charlottesville. Counterprotests are planned, and the Jewish community in the Washington area has taken the lead in helping to plan them.

The state of Virginia and the city of Charlottesville have declared a state of emergency in the city to prevent violence this year.

Man charged with fraud for fixing synagogue’s bingo game

(JTA)—The caller at a suburban New York synagogue’s bingo game has been charged with fraud for fixing the games.

Neil Simon Gross, 71, turned himself into police last week after being charged with gaming fraud, according to Lohud.com, a local news site. Gross, who calls out the numbers at the Yorktown Jewish Center in Westchester County, allegedly took advantage of the position to change the outcome of games.

Police were tipped off to the alleged crime and investigated Gross along with the New York State Gaming Commission. While the commission did not reveal the extent of Gross’ alleged crime, the felony charge implies that the value of the stolen cash exceeds $1,000.

Gross is due in court in September.

The Yorktown Jewish Center’s website said the bingo game was canceled this week.

Palestinian flags fly in Tel Aviv as Arabs protest controversial nation-state law

TEL AVIV (JTA)—Tens of thousands of Israeli Arabs, some waving Palestinian flags, gathered in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Saturday evening to protest the recent passage of Israel’s nation-state bill enshrining the state’s Jewish character.

At a protest organized by the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, an umbrella group representing Israeli-Arab civil society organizations, speakers railed against what they described as a law that formalized a racial hierarchy among Israeli citizens in which Arabs enjoyed a diminished legal status compared to Jews.

Arabic, previously defined as an official language, is designated under the law has having “special status.”

Defenders of the law counter that it does not undercut guarantees of equal status for all citizens enshrined in Israel’s Basic Laws, the functional equivalent of a constitution.

Some protesters waved Palestinian flags, while others carried signs protesting “apartheid” and sang chants describing the law as fascist. The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee’s chairman, Mohammad Barakeh, called the  green, red, black and white banners as “flag[s] of a proud nation” and declared that there would be another Nakba, or catastrophe, the Palestinians’ term for the 1948 Israeli War of Independence.

Barakeh told The Times of Israel that while he had “asked the public not to bring [Palestinian] flags,” he “can’t control what people do.”

While many protesters declared that “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies,” others affiliated with the Arab Balad party were reported to have chanted “with spirit and blood we will free Palestine.”

“Zionism has no meaning if it does not intend to create a society that strives for peace,” Hebrew University professor Eva Illouz, a Moroccan Jew, told the crowd, The Jerusalem Post reported. “Today is a historical moment because Jews and Arabs together are stating that they are protesting together for equality.”

Knesset member Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List, told the Israeli news site Ynet that the protesters had a “democratic and ethical message” and that a “democratic state must be a state for all its citizens.”

Jewish politicians across the political spectrum, including opponents of the bill, expressed opposition to the use of Palestinian flags.

“I can’t go to a protest where they are calling for the ‘right of return,’” said Labor chair Avi Gabbay

Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid party, likewise questioned the flags, asking on Twitter what would happen “to those who would try to march in the center of Ramallah with Israeli flags.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held up the flags as an example of why the law was needed in the first place.

Speaking at the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday morning, Netanyahu said that “yesterday we saw PLO flags in the heart of Tel Aviv. We heard the calls: ‘With blood and fire we will redeem Palestine.’ Many of the demonstrators want to abrogate the Law of Return, cancel the national anthem, fold up our flag and cancel Israel as the national state of the Jewish people and turn it – as their spokespersons said – into an Israeli-Palestinian state, and others say: A state of all its citizens.

“It is for precisely this that we passed the nation-state law. We are proud of our state, our flag and our national anthem. Israel is a Jewish and democratic state. The individual rights of its citizens are anchored very well in the basic laws and other laws. Now it is clearer than ever that the nation-state law is also necessary.”

Senior representatives of Israel’s Druze minority also panned the flags, Ynet reported.

“We are against the waving of the Palestinian flag. I think that it’s unnecessary,” said former Druze Knesset member Shachiv Shnaan. “If you protest because you want equality in your country, why wave flags of another state? But it isn’t anything new that Arab Israelis have a continued identity problem. They are torn between the national Palestinian identity and their real lives in Israel in partnership with the state.”

More than 50,000 Druze and their supporters gathered in Tel Aviv last weekend for a protest against the law. Many members of the Druze community—whose members, like Jews, serve in the Israeli army and security forces—felt betrayed by the law, which they said fails to give them equality despite their loyalty to the state.

 

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