Weekly roundup of world briefs
August 7, 2020
Remains of 286 Jewish Holocaust victims uncovered in 2 basements in Ukraine
By Marcy Oster
(JTA) — The remains of 286 Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust were found in two basements in a town in southwest Ukraine.
The remains, mostly women and children, will be buried in a mass grave in the ancient Jewish cemetery in Sataniv, Ynet reported.
The town had an organized Jewish community for about 500 years before the Nazis captured it in 1941 and began systematically killing its Jews, according to the Yad Vashem website.
On May 15, 1942, Nazi troops and Ukrainian military police locked the 286 Jews in the cellars and suffocated them.
After World War II, the bodies were left in place in the cellars with a sign indicating that they were Nazi victims. The ruined house above them eventually covered the cellars with a heap of rubble and an outdoor market operated over the area for many years, according Ynet.
Rabbi Alexander Feingold, of the Khmelnytsky and Ternopil districts in Ukraine, told Ynet that his community waged a six-year legal battle with the property owner to search the cellars. Though the community lost in the courts, it eventually reached an agreement with the landowner, according to the report. Some of the bodies were discovered in 2019, and the rest were found about two weeks ago.
Feingold said a park will be established in memory of the victims near the site of the massacre.
Couple wearing swastika masks at Walmart in Minnesota confronted by other shoppers
By Marcy Oster
(JTA) — A couple wearing swastika masks at a Walmart in Minnesota were banned from entering any other Walmart facility for a year.
The man and woman, who have not been named in news reports, were filmed Saturday afternoon as they checked out their purchases and were confronted by other shoppers at the store in Marshall, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.
They appeared to be protesting the state’s mandatory mask ordinance, which requires the wearing of a mask in public spaces.
“If you vote for Biden, you’re going to be living in Nazi Germany,” the woman said.
She said she was not a Nazi, but was also seen in a photo making the Heil Hitler Nazi salute. The woman also displayed her middle finger at fellow shoppers.
A video of the couple was posted on Facebook by a local resident, Raphaela Mueller. She wrote in her post that “I was born and raised in Germany, and I grew up hearing about my great-grandmother who fought in the underground against the first wave of Nazis in the 1930s and 40s. “Let me make this abundantly clear once and for all: The Swastika is a hate symbol and you do not fly the flag, you do not wear the symbol anywhere on your body, you do not use or defend this symbol, ever. End of story.”
The post has had 1.6 million views on Facebook and has been shared 2.4 million times as of Monday morning.
Police issued the couple trespass notices, the newspaper reported, and they were warned that they would be arrested if they returned. Walmart officials said they are banned from visiting any Walmart facility for at least a year, FOX 9 reported.
Walmart maintains a mask policy in all of its stores; the policy went into effect last week.
High-level Israeli delegation in India for mass testing of COVID-19 technology
(JNS) — A high-level interministerial delegation of Israeli experts arrived in New Delhi to test four new technologies for the rapid diagnosis of coronavirus, the Defense Ministry announced.
The delegation, led by Israeli Ambassador to India Ron Malka, includes representatives from the Defense, Foreign and Health ministries, as well as from the Israel Defense Forces and various industries involved in the development of diagnostic solutions.
“The cooperation between Israel and India will enable the delegation and its Indian counterparts to collect tens of thousands of samples in just 10 days and analyze them using computer systems based on artificial intelligence,” the Defense Ministry stated. “This massive sampling will shorten processes and advance the approval of effective technology.”
The four technologies to be tested include the Vocalis online voice test to identify changes in the respiratory system; the Tera Group breathalyzer test, which detects the virus using terahertz waves; the Kidod isothermal test, which detects the virus in a heated saliva sample within 30 minutes; and a Rapid Diagnostics polyamino acids test, which detects specific virus proteins in a saliva sample.
The delegation, which flew on two separate aircraft, also brought with them cutting-edge equipment to help the Indian authorities combat the spread and effects of COVID-19, including ventilators.
News outlets covering Israel found, again, to have run ‘deepfake’ op-eds
By Marcy Oster
(JTA) — For the second time in a month, news outlets reporting on Israel and the Jewish community were found to have published opinion pieces by fictitious authors.
Publications including Israel National News, The Jerusalem Post, The Algemeiner and the Times of Israel published pieces by a writer identified as Oliver Taylor, who does not appear to exist, according to a Reuters report this week.
Rather than being a real person, Taylor appears to be a “deepfake,” or a hyper-realistic forgery, created in part to criticize a London academic, Mazen Masri, who was involved in bringing a lawsuit against an Israeli surveillance company, Reuters concluded after an investigation.
Some of the publications that ran pieces by “Taylor” have since removed them, while others have left the pieces online with editor’s notes.
The Daily Beast earlier this month reported that 46 conservative news outlets, including some reporting on the Jewish community, were duped into publishing Middle East “hot takes” by 19 nonexistent authors as part of a massive propaganda campaign that appears to have started in July 2019.
Trustee of Britain’s largest Muslim charity resigns over anti-Semitic Facebook posts
By Marcy Oster
(JTA) — A trustee for Britain’s largest Muslim charity resigned after Facebook posts came to light in which he called Jews the “grandchildren of monkeys and pigs.”
The Times of London first reported the posts by Heshmat Khalifa, who sat on the Board of Trustees of Islamic Relief Worldwide. The organization announced in a statement later on Friday that Khalifa had resigned.
“These (offensive views) have no place in our organization. We are appalled by the hateful comments he made and unreservedly condemn all forms of discrimination, including anti-Semitism,” the statement also said. “We are fully committed to reviewing our processes for screening trustees and senior executives’ social media posts to ensure that this will not happen again.”
Khalifa, who launched the organization’s Australia office and was one of five trustees, made the posts in 2014 and 2015. They which reportedly also said called Palestinian terror group Hamas “the purest resistance movement in modern history,” and said Egypt’s president was a “Zionist pimp.”
“Khalifa has acknowledged that these posts were unacceptable and has apologized for falling short of the strict standards expected by our code of conduct,” the charity organization said in its statement.
The organization, which provides humanitarian support in dozens of countries, receives more than $765 million a year from the United States and from British taxes, according to the London-based Jewish News.
The British Charity Commission told the Jewish News that it has opened a compliance case against the Islamic Relief Worldwide organization, and said that the charity is cooperating with the investigation.
Philadelphia NAACP head faces calls to resign after briefly posting anti-Semitic meme on Facebook
By Marcy Oster
(JTA) — Jewish groups in Philadelphia have called for the firing of the head of the local NAACP, Rodney Muhammad, who posted a known anti-Semitic meme on his public Facebook page.
The meme, known as “the Happy Merchant,” is an anti-Semitic image used by extremists that the Anti-Defamation League says is commonly used by white supremacists. The meme on Muhammad’s Facebook page included photos of Ice Cube, DeSean Jackson and Nick Cannon, Black celebrities who recently posted anti-Semitic comments on social media, and the quote “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize,” falsely attributed to French philosopher Voltaire, but which originated with Kevin Strom, an American neo-Nazi. (Jackson and Cannon have both apologized.)
Muhammad, 68, is a civil rights figure and local Nation of Islam leader who often praises Louis Farrakhan, who has called Jews “bloodsuckers” and “termites,” the news website Billy Penn reported. He had previously posted criticism of the backlash that Cannon, Jackson and others have faced after posting anti-Semitic content on social media.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia in a statement calling on the NAACP to remove Muhammad from his position “immediately,” said that Muhammad “intentionally initiated the spread of anti-Semitism on his Facebook page. This vile behavior from a civic leader is incredibly dangerous for Jewish communities across the world.”
“It is inconceivable that a person who theoretically works to uphold civil rights would engage in such blatant hate. To defend the anti-Semitic rhetoric of others is bad enough, but to post virulently anti-Jewish symbols and conspiracy theories is simply unacceptable,” Shira Goodman, ADL Philadelphia regional director, said in a statement that noted the ADL’s longstanding collaboration with the NAACP.
Muhammad’s post was taken down amid the backlash, and he said in a statement that he had not known the image before sharing it.
“I was not familiar with the image at the bottom of the post,” he said in his statement, which the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. “I was responding to the individuals not able to speak out. I have worked with many in the city over the years. I would be happy to have a discussion with other leaders to better understand our history.”
Leading Orthodox rabbi endorses Donald Trump for reelection
By Shira Hanau
(JTA) — Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, a major leader of the U.S. haredi Orthodox community, said his followers should vote for Donald Trump in November.
The reason? Gratitude.
“Yes, I think people should vote for him. He’s done a good job. It’s ‘hakaras hatov,’” he told Mishpacha, a weekly magazine aimed at an Orthodox Jewish audience, using the Hebrew words for gratitude. The 95-year-old rabbi said it would be “worrisome” if the president loses, citing rising secularism as a threat.
“You see the matzav [situation], the anarchy … it’s frightening,” Kamenetsky said. “God has become a dirty word in much of America, religion and religious institutions are their enemy.”
While the majority of American Jews vote for Democrats, the Orthodox community has increasingly favored Republican candidates in recent years. The Pew Research Center’s 2013 survey of American Jews found that 64% of ultra-Orthodox Jews considered themselves to be politically conservative.
Kamenetsky, who heads the Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia and sits on the rabbinical advisory board of Agudath Israel, an organization representing the haredi Orthodox, had encouraged his students to vote for Trump in 2016, too, according to the Orthodox news site Matzav.com. At the time, Kamenetsky told the Israeli publication Yated Ne’eman that those who were not honest would not enjoy success in the long term, referring to Hillary Clinton, according to Yeshiva World News.
Minnesota Republicans acknowledge board member posted meme comparing mask mandate to Holocaust’s yellow star
By Marcy Oster
(JTA) — The Minnesota Republican Party acknowledged that a Wabasha County board member posted a meme on Facebook comparing the requirement to wear masks during the coronavirus to the yellow stars that Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust.
The Republican Party of Wabasha County originally said that its Facebook page had been hacked and removed the image on Monday.
The board member has resigned, effective immediately, Minnesota Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan said Tuesday evening. The member was not named.
“We are saddened by the vitriolic post and hope as we move forward that Republicans and Democrats alike will maintain the highest level of integrity, respect, and sensitivity,” Carrahan said in a statement posted on Twitter. “The Wabasha County Board and MN GOP apologizes for this disappointing post.”
The state of Minnesota has a mandatory mask ordinance in effect.
The meme shows an elderly man wearing a yellow Star of David badge pinned to his chest facing down a Nazi officer.
“Just put on the star and quit complaining, it’s really not that hard,” its caption said. “Just put on the mask and stop complaining.”