Weekly roundup of world briefs
May 15, 2020
Dutch king acknowledges Jews felt ‘abandoned’ by his great-grandmother Wilhelmina
By Cnaan Liphshiz
AMSTERDAM (JTA)—King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands in a memorial day speech acknowledged his great-grandmother’s perceived indifference to the fate of Dutch Jews during the Holocaust.
The unprecedented public acknowledgment came Monday during the annual speech at the national memorial ceremony in Amsterdam for Dutch victims of armed conflicts during and after World War II. The king spoke there for the first time.
It concerned Queen Wilhelmina, whose reign ended in 1948. She referenced the persecution of Jews only three times in 48 radio speeches made during her exile in the United Kingdom—all in general terms and after mentioning other cruelties visited on the general population.
The Nazis and local collaborators murdered 75% of the Netherlands’ prewar Jewish population of 140,000—the highest death rate in Nazi-occupied Western Europe. The community never replenished its numbers.
“Fellow human beings felt abandoned, insufficiently heard, insufficiently supported, even with words,” Willem-Alexander said at the ceremony. “Also from London by my great-grandmother, despite her steadfast resistance [to the Nazis.] It’s something that won’t let go of me,”
In January, Prime Minister Mark Rutte apologized for how his kingdom’s wartime government failed its Jews. His apology was the first by a sitting prime minister of the Netherlands and followed multiple pleas by Jewish community leaders for a mea culpa.
The Netherlands had a fierce resistance movement to the Nazi occupation and 5,778 Righteous Among the Nations, non-Jews who saved Jews from the Holocaust. It’s the second-highest number of saviors after the 6,992 rescuers in Poland, where 3.3 million Jews lived.
GoDaddy.com urged to shut down website hosting ‘Miss Hitler’ pageant
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—An anti-Semitism watchdog in Australia wants GoDaddy.com to shut down the website that is promoting the global “Miss Hitler 2020” beauty pageant.
The Anti-Defamation Commission has contacted the Australia-based internet domain registrar and web-hosting company with its request, saying the competition and the content on the World Truth historical revisionism site violate GoDaddy’s rules against hate speech.
Advertisements for the contest call on women to send photos of themselves along with a few words about why they should be Miss Hitler.
The commission’s chairman, Dr. Dvir Abramovich, called the contest and the website “an incitement to murder, pure and simple.”
“This ugly display of abject anti-Semitism by Holocaust deniers and neo-Nazis once again demonstrates that there are extremists’ groups out there that are determined to recruit young people to their dangerous cause,” Abramovich said in a statement. “It is frightening to think that there are women, including from Australia, who may choose to take part in this blood-chilling competition, aimed at emboldening people to target and intimidate Jewish and other communities.”
The winner will be determined by an online poll conducted between Aug. 8 and Sept. 3.
Intel acquires Israeli travel route planner Moovit for $1 billion
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Intel Corp. has acquired the Israeli travel route planner Moovit for a $1 billion package that includes keeping its current employees.
Moovit is best known for its urban mobility application that offers travelers the ability to plan a trip by combining public transportation, bicycle and scooter services, ride hailing and car sharing. It has more than 800 million users and services in 3,100 cities across 102 countries.
Intel made the announcement on Monday.
“The addition of Moovit brings Intel’s Mobileye closer to achieving its plan to become a complete mobility provider, including robotaxi services, which is forecast to be an estimated $160 billion opportunity by 2030,” the Silicon Valley tech firm said in its statement.
Intel will pay $900 million to purchase the Tel Aviv-based company and another $100 million to keep its approximately 200 employees, according to the Israeli business daily Globes. Moovit was founded in 2012.
Israel eases coronavirus rules
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Sabas and savtas can visit the grandkids and Aroma can start brewing anew.
In a nationally televised address Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a further relaxation of coronavirus restrictions in Israel. The new rules permit visits by first-degree relatives—without hugs—and cancel the restriction on movement beyond the immediate vicinity of one’s home. This means that grandchildren and their grandparents to get together for the first time in weeks.
Malls, markets and gyms can open beginning Thursday, and gatherings of up to 20 people may be held in open spaces, though with masks and the appropriate social distancing. By May 17, outdoor weddings can have 50 guests.
Kindergartens, preschools and day care centers will open on May 10. Schoolchildren in grades 1-3 and 11-12 began returning to their classrooms on Sunday.
The government plans to lift all restrictions on gatherings by the middle of June, which will allow the opening of sports arenas, theaters, hotels and restaurants.
Netanyahu said the relaxation of the restrictions will be reassessed if there are 100 new coronavirus cases a day, a doubling of cases within 10 days or at least 250 serious cases in hospitals.
Israel has seen 16,246 coronavirus cases and 235 deaths. Some 10,064 COVID-19 patients have recovered. Several hospitals have been able to close their coronavirus units in recent days.
Remembering the Kent State shooting on its 50th anniversary
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Fifty years ago, on May 4, 1970, four students at Kent State University were shot and killed by members of the Ohio National Guard during campus protests against the Vietnam War.
Three of the four students killed—Sandra Scheuer, Allison Krause and Jeffrey Miller—were Jewish; the fourth victim was William Schroder. Krause and Miller were protesters, while Scheuer and Schroeder were bystanders.
RELATED: Elaine Holstein, last surviving parent of the four Kent State shooting victims, dies at 96
The tragic incident reverberated well beyond the Kent State campus in northeast Ohio, throughout the United States and around the world.
The university is presenting a virtual commemoration dedicated to the memory of the four students on its website, which includes more information about the event and his aftermath and other virtual commemoration events.
Kiss frontman Gene Simmons learns about his Holocaust survivor mother’s ordeal
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Kiss frontman Gene Simmons said his mother almost never spoke about her Holocaust ordeal, including time in Nazi camps.
A German newspaper has provided him with plenty more information.
Bild am Sonntag presented the Israel-born rock star with 100 pages of documents about his mother’s ordeal, including her impact statement, to mark the 75th anniversary of her liberation.
Flora Klein, a native of Hungary, was 19 when American troops liberated the Mauthausen camp on May 5, 1945. She died at 93 in the United States.
In her statement to the former Restitution Office in Koblenz, Klein wrote: “In November 1944, I was brought to the Ravensbruck concentration camp. I lived there in block no. 21 and worked in the fields, gathering potatoes outside the camp. I wore old civilian clothes with a white oil (paint) cross painted on the back, in a camp surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by the SS.”
Klein was transferred to the Venusberg subcamp of the Flossenburg concentration camp in January 1945, and arrived at Mauthausen in March that year.
“She was strong,” Simmons told Bild in an interview published Sunday as he read the documents. “She fought all of this on her own.”
He also found his grandmother’s name among the documents. Ester Blau died in the Nazi gas chambers
His mother married a carpenter, Jechiel Weitz, in 1946 and a year later they immigrated to Israel. Simmons was born Chaim Weitz in Haifa in 1949. His parents later divorced and Simmons’ mother brought him to New York in 1958.
Simmons warned that people should not forget about the Holocaust.
“It can happen again and again. That’s why you have to talk about everything,” he said. “When Jews are advised to no longer wear the kippah on the streets. At least this is being addressed. The same applies to the Muslims. As long as you talk about things, there is a chance. When you see cockroaches in the kitchen, you must point the light at them so you can see them clearly. And you must drive them out of the light.”
Iran calls off Quds Day anti-Israel rallies due to the coronavirus
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Iran has called off demonstrations and rallies in the country to mark International Quds Day due to the coronavirus crisis.
The day, marked by demonstrations against Israel and expressing support for Palestinians, is held on the last Friday of Ramadan, which this year is May 22.
Al-Quds is the Arabic word for Jerusalem.
Quds Day was declared in 1979 by Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of the Iranian Revolution. It is marked throughout the Middle East and in countries around the world, including the United States.
Other programs will take the place of the rallies, an Iranian official told reporters on Sunday, the semi-official Tasnim state news agency reported. The official—Gen. Ramezan Sharif, head of the Intifada and Quds Center at Iran’s Islamic Propagation Coordination Council—said religious sites throughout the country have been closed due to the pandemic.
Israel approves accessibility plan for Hebron holy site that violates deals with Palestinians
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel’s Defense Ministry approved plans to make the Cave of the Patriarchs handicap accessible without obtaining the agreement of the Hebron municipality, which is controlled by the Palestinian Authority.
The plan would violate several agreements between Israel and the Palestinians that make the Palestinian Authority the planning authority for the site.
The Hebron municipality and the Waqf, which oversees Muslim holy sites in Israel, object to the expropriation of Palestinian land for the project.
The site, holy to both Jews and Muslims, is accessible now only by its iconic stairs. The $1.4 million project includes an elevator, a path to reach the entrance from the parking area and a bridge connecting the elevator to the entrance.
“The time has come to move forward,” Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said Sunday. “We have green-lighted the elevator project to end the many years of discrimination at the site. Every person, irrespective of whether or not they are disabled, should have the opportunity to visit the tomb, which is an important Jewish heritage site.”
Bennett, the defense minister since November, will give up the position in the coming days when the new coalition government is scheduled to be sworn in.
The plan still needs the approval of the higher planning council of the military’s Civil Administration, which oversees civilian activity in the West Bank.
Jewish United Fund in Chicago launches $26 million coronavirus initiative
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—The Jewish United Fund in Chicago has made $26 million available to help area residents of all faiths deal with the coronavirus crisis.
The money for the COVID-19 Initiative comes from the Jewish organization’s annual campaign and endowment, as well as access to additional credit and support from other funders, JUF said in a statement.
The money will be used for:
Emergency financial aid, including cash grants for housing, food, medical care and other essentials for individuals and families. Some assistance will be provided through synagogues’ Rabbinic Discretionary Funds;
Increased food assistance, including expansion of pantries, grocery gift cards and meal programs;
Health and safety, including enhanced staffing, trauma counseling and personal protective equipment for Mount Sinai Hospital, residential programs and other caregivers serving seniors and people with disabilities; and
Community stability, including emergency operating support and professional expertise for local Jewish human service and educational agencies.
In addition, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia announced that it is releasing $7.3 million in unrestricted grants for over 30 Greater Philadelphia organizations, plus an additional $2.5 million for organizations in Israel to help them weather the coronavirus crisis.
The funds are separate from the federation’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund. Over $1.3 million has been raised in that fund, with about half already distributed to over a dozen organizations in Philadelphia and in Israel.
Airstrikes blamed on Israel hit Iranian targets in Syria, killing 14
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Airstrikes said to have been carried out by Israel struck several Iranian targets in Syria, killing 14 Iranian and Iraqi troops, according to a human rights group.
Israel has neither confirmed nor denied the report of Monday night’s strikes by the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The targets included Iranian forces and Iranian-backed militias in three deserts in eastern Syria and weapons warehouses near Aleppo, in the northern part of the country.
There have been reports of up to seven suspected Israeli airstrikes on Syria in the past two weeks.
“We have moved from blocking Iran’s entrenchment in Syria to forcing it out of there, and we will not stop,” Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement after an airstrike on April 28, appearing to confirm Israel’s responsibility for the attack. “We will not allow more strategic threats to grow just across our borders without taking action. We will continue to take the fight to the enemy’s territory.”
Israel has acknowledged some past airstrikes on Syria, and in recent months reportedly has struck Iranian targets in Syria, including intelligence centers, weapons depots, storage facilities, observation posts and logistics centers, as well as the T4 airbase near Homs, in northern Syria, which is believed to be controlled by Iran.
Jerry Seinfeld may have taken his last ‘Comedians in Cars’ ride
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Jerry Seinfeld is putting the brakes on “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”
Seinfeld made the announcement about his popular web series during a virtual news conference earlier this week to promote his Netflix special “23 Hours To Kill.”
“I feel like I did that tour... I know they look very casual and easy, but they’re actually a lot of work to make, the editing is very intense and I don’t know, I feel like I may have done that exploration at this point,” the comedian said somewhat cryptically.
The series, in which Seinfeld interviews comics in vintage cars and eateries, has had 84 episodes over 11 seasons.
Seinfeld said he just wants to do more live performances as soon as the coronavirus crisis will allow it.
“Now I feel like I just want to be out on a stage, I don’t really care where, I don’t care what size of venue, it’s just about enjoying that moment and it doesn’t have to be big or a conventional show business venture,” he said, according to Deadline.
Variety reported that he is not likely to perform to a more than half empty theater.
“I don’t think if you’re going into a theater and it’s only one quarter full and everybody’s got 10 feet between them, I don’t know if that’s worth doing,” he said. “For me, I’m gonna wait till everyone does feel comfortable gathering.”