Category Archive: Antisemitism

Croatia removes plaque with WWII pro-Nazi regime’s slogan near death camp

‘For the homeland — Ready! salute, used by puppet regime during war, has resurfaced among nationalists and right-wingers

ZAGREB, Croatia — Croatian authorities on Thursday removed a plaque bearing a salute used by the country’s pro-Nazi regime during World War II that was placed last year near the site of a notorious wartime concentration camp.

Workers took down the plaque in the town of Jasenovac that honored fallen Croatian fighters from the country’s 1990s war and moved it to a memorial site in the town of Novska.

The “For the homeland — Ready!” salute was used by the pro-Nazi puppet regime that was established in Croatia during World War II. Tens of thousands of Jews, Serbs, Roma and Croat anti-fascists were killed in Jasenovac and other camps. The salute has since resurfaced among nationalists and right-wingers.

Croatia’s right-leaning government has faced criticism for not responding sooner to the plaque. Jewish and Serb groups have boycotted official Holocaust commemoration ceremonies in protest of the plaque and junior partners have threatened to walk out of the ruling coalition.

Critics argue that the government’s reluctance to act has only encouraged the surging right in the European Union’s newest member state.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said Thursday the salute was unacceptable to him because of its link to the WWII Ustasha regime. But Plenkovic added the government wanted to resolve the divisive problem through dialogue and with respect those who died in the 1990s war.

That war erupted after Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia and minority Serbs launched a rebellion. Around 10,000 people died in the 1991-1995 conflict.

Ivan Friscic of the Croatian fighters union said the group agreed to move the plaque from Jasenovac.

“It will be placed elsewhere as it is,” he said. “With all the symbols and signs, and no one must touch it.”

Local media said ex-fighters used the “For the homeland — Ready” salute at Thursday’s press conference.

Source: https://www.timesofisrael.com

A teachable moment about anti-Semitism

Anti-Semitism is a form of hatred that shares characteristics with other kinds of prejudice such as racism and homophobia. Included are the fear of the other and the unknown, stereotyping and discrimination.

On the other hand, anti-Semitism has a distinct history. What has made it distinctive and what goes a long way in explaining some of the historical anomalies about it – how long it has lasted, its contradictions, its lethality–is the idea that Jews are all-powerful, poisonous and a threat to society.

This theme has appeared time and again over the centuries to justify hatred of the Jew. It reached its culmination in the 20th century with the infamous fraudulent document known as The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion and in the Nazi extermination of European Jews.

The Protocols, emerging in 1903, conjured up the fantasy of Jewish leaders’ secret plans to take over the world, despite the fact that at the time Jews had no country of their own, no army and no power. And the Nazis exploited that theme to implement their anti-Jewish program, which ultimately became the Holocaust.

All of this comes to mind with the images of the Charlottesville hate rally and the Vice TV video of it by reporter Elle Reeve fresh in one’s consciousness. Reeve pointed out that despite the president’s making it sound as if the rally was about maintaining Confederate leaders statues, in fact, the demonstrators were obsessed with Jews, screaming things like “Jews will not replace us” and claiming that Jews were behind all the evils in America.

This comes at a time when anti-Semitism, long a forgotten subject, had already begun to reenter the American conversation.

While Europe, from the beginning of the new century, saw a revolting resurgence of anti-Semitism, America until the past year seemed largely immune with the disturbing exception of the rise of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement among student groups on some campuses, carrying with it certain anti-Semitic connotations.

Then came the dramatic rise of anti-Semitic incidents, an over 30 percent increase in 2016 and the first quarter of 2017, even if one doesn’t count the traumatic bomb threats against Jewish institutions in January and February, most of which it turned out came from a disturbed American-Israeli Jew.

Some of the increase was attributed to the rhetoric of the Trump campaign and the bias expressed toward various groups, which seemed to embolden haters of all kinds, including those filled with hatred toward Jews.

To see neo-Nazis and white supremacists marching on the streets of Charlottesville, drawing a relatively large crowd and attracting nationwide attention because of the violence that accompanied it, was disturbing and a direct outgrowth of the new enabling mood for extremism in this country.

At the same time it should serve as a teachable moment about the nature of anti-Semitism, which some in this country are either ignorant about or have chosen to forget.

Because Jews have been successful in America and because anti-Semitism has been significantly reduced in recent decades, there is a tendency among some to conclude that Jews should not be included in minority coalitions struggling for equal rights and against intolerance. It is even suggested that Jews are part of the white establishment, benefit from white privilege and are not a vulnerable group.

This, however, fails to take into account that unique and essential element of anti-Semitism, the accusation of alleged evil Jewish power, which often means that Jews paradoxically could be most vulnerable exactly when they appear to be doing well.

It has often been noted that Germany before the rise of Hitler was one of the places in Europe where Jews had advanced in society and played a role in many areas of German life. All of which became a focal point of Nazi propaganda and ideology.

The neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville would be anti-Semitic whether or not Jews were prominent in American life. But the fact that Jews are successful and have a good life in America adds credibility and strength among their followers to their charges of Jewish control of America.

None of which should lead to pushing any panic buttons. It should, however, send warning signals about avoiding complacency about anti-Semitism in America. (There’s been more than two dozen anti-Semitic incidents in the two weeks post-Charlottesville). And it should make many do some rethinking when they dismiss the notion of anti-Semitism as relevant to the struggle against oppression.

The good thing to take away from this experience is that, unlike the president, the vast majority of Americans, leaders, mayors and others, on the right and the left, understood and rejected what they saw in Charlottesville.

This is reassuring that America will remain a welcome home for the Jews of this great county.


Source: The Times of Israel
Ken Jacobson is Deputy National Director of the Anti-Defamation League.

‘AUSCHWITZ ON THE BEACH’ EQUATES PLIGHT OF REFUGEES WITH DEATH CAMP

After a wave of criticism, including from the head of the Munich Jewish community, the “documenta 14” cultural center in the German city of Kassel canceled on Tuesday a performance exhibition likening the plight of refugees making their way to Europe by sea to Auschwitz.

In a statement on the exhibit titled “Auschwitz on the Beach,” the documenta 14 center wrote that in “reaction to the number of complaints and accusations which we received over the last weeks, we have decided to cancel the planned performance from Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi. We respect those who feel attacked by Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi’s poem. We do not want to add pain to their sorrow.”

Dr. Efraim Zuroff, head of the Jerusalem office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, “It is a very problematic tendency to compare all sorts of tragedies and plights of different people to Auschwitz. And very rarely are these comparisons worthy and accurate. Despite whatever sympathy we feel for the plight of refugees, their plight is not reminiscent of the plight of the Jews ordered to death camps and should not be compared.”

Charlotte Knobloch, head of Munich’s Jewish community, said on Friday about the exhibit: “What is planned here is a grotesque production.” While it is important to highlight the fate of refugees and the partial failure of the EU and international community to address the current crisis, it is “unacceptable and intolerable” to use the interests of refugees to “relativize the Holocaust,” she said.

The installation was slated to run in Kassel – with a population of nearly 198,000 in the state of Hesse – beginning on Thursday for three days.

The documenta 14 center claims it is the world’s largest exhibitor of modern art, with 160 artists from across the globe currently represented there.

According to the “Auschwitz on the Beach” production text, the author wrote, “The Europeans build on their territory concentration camps and pay their gauleiter [head of a district annexed by Nazi Germany] in Turkey, Libya and Egypt to carry out the dirty work along the coast of the Mediterranean where salt water has replaced Zyklon B.”

Knobloch, who survived the Holocaust in hiding in Bavaria, termed the text “obscene” and “absolutely blind to history.”

Berardi, who was born in Bologna in 1949, is an Italian Marxist. His poem, a soundtrack and pictures make up the “Auschwitz on the Beach” installation.

Kassel Mayor Christian Geselle told the HNA news outlet on Monday the exhibit is “an outrageous provocation.”

The city’s cultural official Boris Rhein told hessenschau.de news outlet the same day: “Freedom of art is highly valued,” but slammed comparisons between the Shoah and the refugee crisis, saying “the crimes of the Nazis were unique.”

Martin Sehmisch, the head of an organization fighting Antisemitism (Informationsstelle Antisemitismus Kassel) in the city, called the announcement of the installation a “statement of political and moral bankruptcy from those in charge” at documenta 14.

Source: The Jerusalem Post

Minimizing the Holocaust at the “New Yorker”

In a brief review of the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy’s recent The Genius of Judaism, an unnamed author at the New Yorker points to the “real contradiction” between Lévy’s insistence that the Holocaust was a “crime without parallel” and his objection to the recent fad of “competitive victimhood.” James Kirchick assails the shoddy and “sinister” thinking behind this comment:

The New Yorker has it backwards. The competition for victimhood wasn’t started by Jews but in reaction to them. The issue is not minimizing other historical tragedies in relation to the Holocaust but minimizing the Holocaust in relation to other historical tragedies. This is not just the realm of Holocaust deniers, but increasingly of progressives who, whether through conscious malice or sheer naiveté, speak of the Holocaust (when they’re not speaking of “holocausts”) as but one unfortunate episode among many, not a world-historical crime that singled out Jews first and foremost. . . .

If those like the New Yorker’s anonymous book critic believe that Lévy is engaging in unseemly “competitive victimhood” simply by claiming that the Holocaust, in both nature and degree, was worse than any other crime in human history, that’s because [the critic] falsely interprets such claims as entries into a victim competition—when, in fact, it is those challenging the singularity of the Holocaust who are responsible for creating this obscene contest. . . .

The review’s sinister element comes in its accusation that Jews like Lévy are responsible for corrupting the commemoration of history and not, say, the Muslim propagandists who frequently invoke the Holocaust to equate Israelis with Nazis or the British student activists who voted against recognizing Holocaust Remembrance Day because doing so “prioritizes some lives over others.” As the British sociologist David Hirsch observes, “When people get competitive about the Holocaust, they do it by accusing the Jews of being competitive.” Not even in talking about something so grave as the Holocaust can the Jews avoid being pushy, it seems.

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NY commuters clean Nazi graffiti off subway car with hand sanitizer

nyc-subway(JTA) — Commuters on a New York City subway used hand sanitizer to clean away swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti drawn in permanent marker on the train’s maps, advertisements and windows.

The Manhattan subway riders discovered the graffiti on Saturday night.

“The train was silent as everyone stared at each other, uncomfortable and unsure what to do,” one of the commuters, Gregory Locke, wrote in a post on Facebook. “One guy got up and said, ‘Hand sanitizer gets rid of Sharpie. We need alcohol.’ He found some tissues and got to work.”

Locke’s post continued: “I’ve never seen so many people simultaneously reach into their bags and pockets looking for tissues and Purell. Within about two minutes, all the Nazi symbolism was gone.”

“Nazi symbolism. On a public train. In New York City. In 2017,” he wrote.

At least one of the messages said “Jews belong in the oven,” according to the New York Daily News.

Locke disputed one of his fellow travelers, who said while they were cleaning, “I guess this is Trump’s America.”

He responded in his post: “No sir, it’s not. Not tonight and not ever. Not as long as stubborn New Yorkers have anything to say about it.”

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When Jewish immigrants were detained, and Jews took to the streets

Immigrants at Ellis Island(JTA) — When Jews joined the protests around the country this weekend against President Trump’s executive order on immigration, they were largely doing so on behalf of Muslim refugees and migrants who found themselves in a legal limbo and barred from entering the United States.

But nearly 100 years ago Jewish protesters gathered to demand the release of fellow Jews, who were caught up in a legal drama eerily similar to the one that has played out in airports and courts since Friday.

On Nov. 15, 1923, 2,000 Jews rallied at the Lower Manhattan headquarters of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society to protest the detention of 3,000 of their relatives at Ellis Island.

They appealed directly to President Calvin Coolidge, a Republican, presumably asking him to ease the strict moratorium on immigration that had been put in place in 1921 under the “Emergency Quota Act” aund re-upped the following year. Anti-immigrant groups had long argued that immigrants from poorer and “backward” regions of southern and eastern Europe were a drain on American resources and brought with them radical ideas like anarchism, communism and socialism. Some labor unions, too, joined the anti-immigrant spirit, arguing that cheap labor would depress wages.

Like Muslim travelers detained at U.S. airports this week or left in limbo in transit countries as a result of Trump’s executive order, Jewish and other immigrants often set sail unaware of changes in the immigration law, or aboard ships whose unscrupulous operators didn’t inform them that there were strict quotas already in place.

According to the JTA story on the 1923 protest — which appeared the next day — leaders of the demonstration “urged that a large delegation be sent to Washington to request that the detained immigrants be admitted. They are planning a protest mass meeting if the Government deports their relatives.”

JTA also printed an appeal that was to be sent to Coolidge, urging the release of the immigrants:

On behalf of the immigrants, blood relatives of citizens and declarants, facing deportation because of the exhaustion of quotas, I appeal to your well-known exemplification of American sense of justice to admit them to this country.

These unfortunates who have given up their all to be reborn to the ideals of liberty and freedom are the innocent victims of circumstances over which they had no control. Humanitarianism prompts the plea for their admission.

On Dec. 3, JTA reported that Secretary of Labor James J. Davis approved the deportation of hundreds of the detained immigrants to Canada. Others were sent to Cherbourg, France, “whence they are returnable to the countries from where they embarked for the United States.” By 1924, with the passage of the fiercely nativist Johnson-Reed Immigration Act, immigration from outside of Western Europe slowed to a trickle.

A month after the protest outside HIAS headquarters, Rabbi Nathan Krass of New York’s Temple Emanu-El gave a fiery sermon, quoted in JTA, railing against the anti-immigrant fervor of the day. “Imagine what would have happened if a committee of Indian immigration officers had stood on Plymouth Rock, and, after admitting ten Pilgrim Fathers, had said, ‘Your quota is full. The rest of you go back to England,’” said Krass. “Yet we are all immigrants or descendants of immigrants. An American means any one who is born in America, or who, hailing from other lands, takes out citizenship papers and swears allegiance to the Constitution. This recent attempt to delimit Americans on the basis of religion or race is an outrageous insult to the intelligence of people of this land and treachery to the ideals of the founders of this Republic.”

HIAS, meanwhile, continues to assist immigrants, processing more than 4,000 refugee asylum applications annually – most of them for non-Jews, and many of them impacted by last week’s executive order.

(Hat tip to Adam Soclof)

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In Trump’s push for ‘America First,’ troubling echoes of anti-Semitic chapter

The president’s rallying cry recalls the 1940s America First Committee, which saw known bigots such as Charles Lindbergh blame the Jews for US involvement in WWII

America-FirstBOSTON — Donald Trump stood on the red and blue draped steps of the US Capitol to give his inauguration address as the 45th President of the United States and declared, “From this day forward it’s going to be only America first.” He then paused and repeated with deliberation those last two words: “America First.”

Cheers rippled through the crowd below.

But the pithy slogan Trump has embraced to define his new foreign policy also served as the rallying cry in what is now considered a dark chapter in American history, when an isolationist movement of the same name blamed American Jews for conspiring to pressure the government to join World War II against the interests of America.

“The concept of standing up for American rights is a legitimate concept, but the words themselves have historical relevance because of what happened in the 1930s and 1940s,” said Kenneth Jacobson, the deputy national director of the Anti-defamation League. Jacobson has been with the ADL for 45 years and serves as something of its resident historian.

“The new president has every right to consider the direction of American policy but it’s better not to use this phrase,” said Jacobson. “Unfortunately, the emotional connections are there.”

The ADL went on record last spring when Trump first brought up the term to remind Americans, most of whom have no living memory of the term or movement, why there is a visceral reaction against it.

The isolationism embraced by some Americans following World War I that helped birth the America First Committee was not unique in American history. Opposition to American involvement in overseas conflict dates to the colonial era and continues to the present day.

Founded by a group of Yale University students in the fall of 1940, the America First Committee arose as the country was steeped in intense dispute over whether to join the British in fighting Nazi Germany. By then Germany had already rolled its way over Poland and into Western Europe including France, Belgium and the Netherlands, and persecution of the Jews had begun with some already being arrested and shipped to concentration camps.

At the time the movement arose, it tapped into the unhappiness many Americans felt about the United States’ entry into World War I.

Professor James Kloppenberg, a professor of American history at Harvard University an author of the recent “Toward Democracy: The Struggle for Self-Rule in European and American Thought,” said that with this discontent came, “a great deal of animosity towards those who were considered to have been war profiteers. And as has been true since the Middle Ages, Jews became targets for their associations with banking and loans.”

What began as an anti-war profiteering movement, he said, “morphed into alliances that were pretty ugly between the Nazi movement and anti-war sentiment.”

Meanwhile, the America First Committee gained in membership and popularity, especially in the Midwest.

As Susan Dunn, a professor of humanities at Williams College and author of “1940: FDR, Willkie, Lindbergh, Hitler — The Election Amid the Storm” noted in an essay published by CNN, among America First’s executive committee members were initially two powerful men and known anti-Semites — Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, and Avery Brundage.

Ford was responsible for printing and distributing half a million copies of the anti-Semitic propaganda text “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

As chairman of the US Olympic Committee, Brundage prevented two Jews on the 1936 US Olympic team from running in the finals of the 400-meter relay race in Berlin.

Brundage and Ford were later removed from the committee as the movement tried to distance itself from charges of anti-Semitism.

But cementing America First Committee’s anti-Semitic association for the ages was Charles Lindbergh, a member of the executive committee who was prized as the dashing American pilot-turned-national hero, celebrated for making the first solo Transatlantic flight.

Lindbergh had become enamored with Nazi Germany during visits in the late 1930s, even briefly planning to move there. He lobbied the US government to remain neutral, arguing that Germany’s victory in Europe was inevitable.

On September 11, 1941, he made a speech in Des Moines, Iowa, that revealed the extent of his anti-Semitism.

“The three most important groups who have been pressing this country toward war are the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt Administration,” he said. Lindbergh continued that “Instead of agitating for war, Jews in this country should be opposing it in every way, for they will be the first to feel its consequences. Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government.”

His comments were widely condemned. Just three months later the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and the debate over whether or not to enter the war was over.

Laurel Leff, a professor with a joint appointment in Journalism and Jewish Studies at Northeastern University has written about this period in her book, “Buried by the Times: The Holocaust and America’s Most Important Newspaper.”

“To embrace this movement,” she said of Trump’s embrace of the America First slogan, “is either ahistorical or, more frighteningly, is picking up on anti-Semitic sentiment.”

Whether intentional or not, the new president’s continued use of this slogan — and what it represents — remains to be seen.

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German Muslim students protest Holocaust remembrance, attack Israel

The school director said that it was good there was student opposition to the memorial event because it “is the basis of discussion.”

ShowImageMuslim students of Arab and Turkish origin protested participation in an International Holocaust Remembrance Day event in Germany, while their high school’s administration showed understanding for their criticism of Israel.

“Some Muslims students said they would not participate in the event,” said Florian Beer, a teacher at the school in the city of Gelsenkirchen in North Rhine-Westphalia state, Der Westen newspaper reported on Thursday.

The Holocaust remembrance event was part of a global commemoration in which participants take selfie photographs along with a sign saying “I Remember“ or “We Remember.“ A blackboard at the school was defaced with the sentence: “F*** Israel, free Palestine.” The school was not able to identify the perpetrator.

Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the head of the Jerusalem office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told The Jerusalem Post on Friday, “Muslims students are greatest in need of Holocaust education, so it would be unfortunate if they were excused from those activities.”

Zuroff, who is Wiesenthal’s chief Nazi-hunter, added, “Given that Holocaust consciousness is a central idea of civic identity in the Federal Republic, it is doubly important for families that come from countries with deep antisemitic traditions and no knowledge of the Holocaust and the destruction of European Jewry.”

The Weiterbildungskolleg Emscher-Lippe school, where the protest unfolded, has 500 students, 40% of whom have a migrant background.

School director Günter Jahn told Der Westen it was good that there was student opposition to the remembrance event. “It is important that there is criticism. That is the basis for a discussion.” He added that in certain communities, criticism of Israel is demanded.

The school is located in the northern part of the Ruhr region and Gelsenkirchen’s population in 2015 was roughly 260,000.

Some of the students allowed themselves to be photographed with the remembrance signs but declined to permit the photographs to be displayed on the Internet. A number of students, according to Der Westen, asked, “Why always the Jews?” The students added there are, after all, other problems in world.

Beer said the school likes to be provocative because there are always events at the school that leave an “aftertaste of antisemitism.” He added that representatives from the World Jewish Congress have been invited to come speak at the school.

The number of antisemitic attacks reported in Germany doubled from 2015 to 2016, according to a report the Diaspora Affairs Ministry released last Sunday. The actual number of attacks is believed to be higher because of the lack of standards to identify contemporary antisemitism in the Federal Republic.

In January, a German court reaffirmed a legal decision from the city of Wuppertal stating the torching of a synagogue by three Muslims was not motivated by antisemitism. The court wrote the men only sought via the arson “to clearly draw attention to the blazing conflict between Israel and Palestinians” during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. The original synagogue in Wuppertal was burned by Germans in 1938.

Volker Beck, a German Green Party deputy in the Bundestag, said on Thursday that the memorial day for the victims of National Socialism must not just be about remembering, it must lead to action.

Beck, who has led the parliamentary fight to blunt the mushrooming modern Jew-hatred in Germany, said “antisemitism frequently appears clothed as anti-Zionism.” He cited three German academic institutions that stoked anti-Israel propaganda that delegitimizes the Jewish democratic state. “Whoever boycotts Israelis or Israeli institutions, because they are Jews, acts in an antisemitic way,” said Beck, who appears to be the only Bundestag deputy to connect the remembrance of the Holocaust with efforts to combat contemporary antisemitism targeting the Jewish state.

The University of Hamburg appointed the academic Farid Esack, a leader of the South African anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, to serve as a guest lecturer on Islamic theology. Esack praised Leila Khaled, a convicted terrorist and member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, at a BDS fund-raiser in 2015.

“This is a man who expressed antisemitic statements, and who is sympathetic to Holocaust denial,” the Israeli Embassy in Berlin told the Post. “A person with such views has no place as an educator in a university, especially not in Germany, for both professional and moral and probably also legal reasons.”

Post email queries to the University of Hamburg’s president Dr. Dieter Lenzen were not returned.

The Max Planck Institute hosted the American pro-Hezbollah activist Norman Finkelstein on Monday. He delivered a lecture sympathetic to the US- and EU-designated terrorist organization Hamas to more than 30 students. The head of the Max Planck Institute, Dr. Martin Stratmann, declined to respond to Post requests for an interview about the alleged spread of new forms of antisemitism at the Planck Institute branch in the city of Halle.

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