The New German Anti-Semitism

Good long and disturbing read:

One of Wenzel Michalski’s early recollections of growing up in southern Germany in the 1970s was of his father, Franz, giving him some advice: “Don’t tell anyone that you’re Jewish.” Franz and his mother and his little brother had survived the Holocaust by traveling across swaths of Eastern and Central Europe to hide from the Gestapo, and after the war, his experiences back in Germany suggested that, though the Nazis had been defeated, the anti-Semitism that was intrinsic to their ideology had not. This became clear to Franz when his teachers in Berlin cast stealthily malicious glances at him when Jewish characters — such as Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice” — came up in literature. “Eh, Michalski, this exactly pertains to you,” he recalls one teacher telling him through a clenched smile. Many years later, when he worked as an animal-feed trader in Hamburg, he didn’t tell friends that he was Jewish and held his tongue when he heard them make anti-Semitic comments. And so Franz told his son Wenzel that things would go easier for him if he remained quiet about being Jewish. “The moment you say it, things will become very awkward.”

As a teenager, Wenzel defied his father’s advice and told a close friend. That friend quickly told his mother, and the next time Wenzel saw her, she reacted quite strongly, hugging him and kissing his face: “Wenzel! Oh, my Wenzel!” Now a stocky, bearded 56-year-old, Wenzel recalled the moment to me on a recent Saturday afternoon. He raised the pitch of his voice as he continued to mimic her: “You people! You are the most intelligent! The most sensitive! You are the best pianists in the world! And the best poets!” In his normal voice again, he added, “Then I understood what my father meant.”

Wenzel Michalski is now the director of Human Rights Watch for Germany. He and his wife, Gemma, an outgoing British expat, live in a cavernous apartment building in the west of Berlin. In their kitchen, Gemma told me that after arriving in Germany in 1989, she often got a strangely defensive reaction when she told people she was Jewish; they would tell her they didn’t feel responsible for the Holocaust or would defend their grandparents as not having perpetrated it. And so, to avoid conversations like these, she, too, stayed quiet about being Jewish.

Recently, the Michalskis’ youngest son became the third generation of the family to learn that telling people he is Jewish could cause problems. The boy — whose parents asked that he be called by one of his middle names, Solomon, to protect his privacy — had attended a Jewish primary school in Berlin. But he didn’t want to stay in such a homogeneous school for good, so just before he turned 14, he transferred to a public school that was representative of Germany’s new diversity — a place, as Gemma described it, where he “could have friends with names like Hassan and Ahmed.”

The first few days there seemed to go well. Solomon, an affable kid with an easy smile, bonded with one classmate over their common affection for rap music. That classmate introduced him to a German-Turkish rapper who would rap about “Allah and stuff,” Solomon told me. In return, he introduced the classmate to American and British rap. Solomon had a feeling they would end up being best friends. On the fourth day, when Solomon was in ethics class, the teachers asked the students what houses of worship they had been to. One student mentioned a mosque. Another mentioned a church. Solomon raised his hand and said he’d been to a synagogue. There was a strange silence, Solomon later recalled. One teacher asked how he had encountered a synagogue.

“I’m Jewish,” Solomon said.

“Everyone was shocked, especially the teachers,” Solomon later told me about this moment. After class, a teacher told Solomon that he was “very brave.” Solomon was perplexed. As Gemma explained: “He didn’t know that you’re not meant to tell anyone.”

The following day, Solomon brought brownies to school for his birthday. He was giving them out during lunch when the boy he had hoped would be his best friend informed him that there were a lot of Muslim students at the school who used the word “Jew” as an insult. Solomon wondered whether his friend included himself in this category, and so after school, he asked for clarification. The boy put his arm around Solomon’s shoulders and told him that, though he was a “real babo” — Kurdish slang for “boss” — they couldn’t be friends, because Jews and Muslims could not be friends. The classmate then rattled off a series of anti-Semitic comments, according to Solomon: that Jews were murderers, only interested in money.

Over the next few months, Solomon was bullied in an increasingly aggressive fashion. One day, he returned home with a large bruise from a punch on the back. On another occasion, Solomon was walking home and stopped into a bakery. When he emerged, he found one of his tormentors pointing what looked like a handgun at him. Solomon’s heart raced. The boy pulled the trigger. Click. The gun turned out to be a fake. But it gave Solomon the scare of his life.

….

Seventy-five Years Later, Hungary Still Hasn’t Come to Terms with its Role in the Holocaust

Good long and disturbing read by Anna Porter:

On the 75th anniversary of the extermination of most of Hungary’s Jews—including the Auschwitz deportations, which began in May, 1944—we should also take note of the Hungarian government’s apparent determination to distort the country’s historical record. In some circles, this effort includes even the rehabilitation of Miklós Horthy, the longtime Hungarian Regent who governed Hungary during the Holocaust.

A former admiral and adjutant to the Habsburg Emperor-King, Horthy entered Budapest in dramatic style with his army on November 16, 1919, astride a white horse. His army defeated the ragtag Bolshevik forces that had imposed 133 days of “Red Terror” upon the country, but also inflicted its own “White Terror,” in some ways more brutal than its communist predecessor. Early during Horthy’s rule, Hungary enacted some of Europe’s first 20th-century anti-Jewish laws. Jews were capped at 6% of university admissions, and subsequent measures limited Jewish participation in elite professions to the same benchmark.

Jews also were prohibited from working in the public service and judiciary, or as high school teachers. During World War II, an additional law was passed prohibiting marriage or sex between Christians and Jews, on the grounds that such unions were harmful to the “national soul.”

Horthy arrives in Budapest, 1919

Even before Hungary actively rallied to the German war effort, most of Hungary’s young Jewish men had been dispatched to so-called labour battalions, serving unarmed near the front, where they were as likely to be killed by their commandants as by enemy fire. In 1941, the Hungarian army rounded up about 17,000 Jews who couldn’t prove they were citizens, and dumped them across the border into Ukraine, where they were systematically massacred by German death squads. By 1942, labour service had been extended to all Jewish men under the age of 45. All this happened while Horthy—an “exceptional statesman,” according to current Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán—ran the country.

Meanwhile, Hungary’s participation in the invasion of the USSR led to the extermination of the flower of Hungarian youth. At the 1942 battle of Voronezh and subsequent operations, the underequipped Hungarian 2nd Army was practically wiped out as it launched itself against Russian defences in support of the ultimately disastrous German thrust toward Stalingrad. By late 1944, Russian troops got to the outskirts of Budapest, which suffered through a 50-day siege before Axis forces surrendered on February 13, 1945. Almost 40,000 civilians died during this period, and much of the city was destroyed.

By this time, most of the country’s Jews already had been deported to concentration camps. In all, an estimated 565,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. Historical documents show that even some Germans were amazed by the speed and efficiency of the Hungarian government’s co-operation, and by the cruelty of its gendarmerie.

Horthy and Hitler, in 1938

Some of the few elderly Hungarian Jews who survived in the Budapest ghetto can still remember scenes of rats feasting on the unburied dead in Klauzal Square, and the trigger-happy young men guarding the gates. I have spoken to many survivors, including Max Eisen, a Canadian Holocaust educator, who was a young teenager when his family was rounded up and sent to Auschwitz. He still remembers the terror of being crammed into a boxcar, standing-room only, a hundred to a car, with no water, food or sunlight. To this day, Eisen has nightmares about his mother holding his nine-month-old sister during that three-day journey. Most of his family was murdered mere hours after arriving on the platform at Birkenau. His father’s last words to him were: “If you survive, you must tell the world what happened”—which is what Eisen did with his devastating 2016 book, By Chance Alone.

But Horthy, who survived the war and lived till 1957, had different memories to relate. In his Memoirs, he pompously declared of the mid-1930s that “though times had changed considerably since I had been aide-de-camp to His Majesty Emperor Francis Joseph, my concepts of honour, law and justice…had not altered.” Of meeting Hitler in 1936, he wrote: “It was not my task to stand in judgment upon the man who, since he had come to power, had shown nothing but goodwill towards Hungary, and who had sent me an extremely friendly telegram on the 15th anniversary of my entry into Budapest. I decided, therefore, to avail myself of an Austrian invitation to a chamois [goat-antelope] shoot in August, 1936, to seize the opportunity of paying a personal visit to Herr Hitler. The Austrian Chancellor Schuschnigg had offered me the choice between three hunting preserves; I chose Hinterriss, which is famous for its chamois and to which Bavaria affords the only access.”

In concrete terms, the German “goodwill” consisted of allowing Hungary to reclaim parts of historical territories it had lost after throwing in with the losing side in World War I. Horthy’s primary concern was to restore Hungary’s former borders, even if that meant joining the Nazi war effort. As such, his strong nationalism has a certain appeal to modern populists such as Orbán.

In his Memoirs, Horthy uses terms such as “regrettable excesses” to describe massacres of Jews. He claims that he told Hitler, in early 1944, that “a violent solution [to Hungarian Jews] would be contrary to humanity and morals would not only undermine law and order but would have a deleterious effect on production.” He also claimed that in mid-1944—after he had been marginalized by the Germans, who by now were taking direct control of the country—that he did what he could to save the Jews who remained.

On October 15, 1944, Horthy announced over the radio that he had decided to sign a separate peace treaty with the Allies and withdraw Hungary from the conflict. He talked of the grave injustices inflicted by the 1920 Treaty of Trianon, which had set the fate of Hungary following the First World War. He blamed everyone except himself for the tragedies that had unfolded. His one passing reference to the slaughter of his nation’s Jews was contained in this sentence: “In the shelter of German occupation, the Gestapo tackled the Jewish question in a manner incompatible with the demands of humanity, applying methods it had already employed elsewhere.” It was lost on no one that Horthy was changing sides in the war only after it had become obvious that the Nazis would lose.

Many Jewish survivors recall the forced marches to the Austrian border that began in November, 1944. There were women and children, grandmothers and toddlers. It took more than three days to cover the distance from Budapest. A woman named Aviva told me that those who could not move were shot, and the ditches were lined with bodies. There was no food or shelter. Young Hungarian men stood guard along the route. These were members of the Arrow Cross Party, the far-right Hungarian movement that would run the country from late 1944 to March, 1945.

Near the border, Aviva’s group was joined by a rag-tag group of labour-service men who had been force-marched from the Bor copper mines—more than 300 of them having already been killed. One of the survivors was the young Hungarian poet Mikos Radnoti. He was murdered near Gyor in Western Hungary. When his body was found in a mass grave, his pockets were filled with scraps of paper—his last poems.

Memorial at Liberty Square

Hungary does not deny the fate of its Jews. Indeed, 2014 was declared to be a year of official Holocaust remembrance. But a memorial commissioned by Viktor Orbán’s ruling Fidesz party and erected in Budapest’s Liberty Square has provoked controversy, and even outrage. It presents Hungary in the guise of a thin, languid Archangel Gabriel-like figure being seized upon by a nasty-looking German bronze eagle with outstretched wings and terrifying claws—a symbol plainly meant to suggest Hungary was an innocent party that had been preyed upon by an evil outside force. Historian Krisztian Ungvary has called it a “living horror,” and it has attracted regular protests. But the message is consistent with the larger agenda of Orbán, who wants to promote a new, whitewashed form of national history, according to which the suffering of the Jews was no more nor less brutal than that endured by the entire country under Nazi and then Soviet rule.

Not far from the monument, there is a bronze bust of Horthy at the entrance to a Hungarian Reformed church: At the 2013 unveiling ceremony, leading members of Orbán’s government were in attendance. But also nearby is a monument commemorating the orgy of killing by Hungarian cadres, even as German troops retreated from Budapest under Soviet bombardment in the last months of the war. This year, Hungary’s Jewish community was given permission to bury bones found in the river during the 2016 reconstruction of the Margaret Bridge across the Danube.

During this final spasm of senseless slaughter, thousands of Jews were marched to the Danube and shot, or just pushed into the icy waters to die. It’s important to remember that the killers weren’t German soldiers, but members of Hungary’s own Arrow Cross movement. During my research, I interviewed a survivor—a 4-year old-child at the time—who remembers being taken to the river with his mother. To this day, he thinks it was his childish voice that saved his family when he asked, “Mr. Arrow Cross, when can we go home?” he and his relatives were then ushered out of the line of fire, and he survived to tell the story.

“Shoes on the Danube” memorial

Orbán’s favorite historian, Maria Schmidt, is in charge of the museum known as House of Terror, at 60 Andrassy Boulevard in Budapest. It commemorates both the Nazi terror and the Communist terror, and includes material about Hungarian victims of the Holocaust. Five of the museum’s 17 rooms contain exhibits relating to this subject. But the same historian is also in charge of another, more controversial museum—the House of Fates, which originally had been set to open its doors five years ago. Its initial mandate had been to commemorate the Hungarian experience of the Holocaust. Israel’s Yad Vashem, Washington’s Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the distinguished Hungarian-American professor Randolph Braham (1922-2018) were invited to collaborate. But almost from the beginning, the government’s local appointees reportedly began to push for a new version of the narrative, one by which Hungarians were largely blameless victims of German and Soviet aggression. The whole project fell into limbo, seemingly hostage to opposing historical voices. A Yad Vashem official declared that, from what he’d seen, “visitors to the House of Fates are to be shown and taught that, except for a tiny, criminal and fanatic minority, the citizens of Hungary were essentially blameless for what was inflicted upon their Jewish neighbors.”

As someone who grew up under Hungary’s communist dictatorship, I have a complicated relationship with the past—as my memories of family and friends are intermingled with the fears of saying the wrong thing in a country where judges, schools, the judiciary and the education system were all controlled by the government. And I can see why the country itself also has a complicated relationship with the horrors that its citizens witnessed, endured—and inflicted. But the only way to start healing from these crimes is to acknowledge how they happened.

Source: Seventy-five Years Later, Hungary Still Hasn’t Come to Terms with its Role in the Holocaust

Polish nationalists protest against US over Holocaust claims

Disheartening:

Several thousand nationalists rallied in Warsaw on Saturday against a US law on the restitution of Jewish properties seized during the Holocaust, fuelling concerns about anti-Semitism in the country.

Far-right supporters who marched from the prime minister’s office to the USembassy waved banners reading “No to claims”, “Shame” and “Stop 477”.

The latter refers to the US Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act which requires the US State Department to report to Congress on the progress of countries including Poland on the restitution of Jewish assets seized during World War Two and its aftermath.

The protest took place amid a dramatic rise in anti-Semitic hate speech in public life in Poland and it appeared to be one of the largest anti-Jewish street demonstrations in recent times. It also comes as far-right groups are gaining in popularity, pressuring the conservative government to move further to the right.

‘Biggest European anti-Jewish demonstration in recent years’

Poland was a major victim of Nazi Germany during World War II and those protesting say it is not fair to ask Poland to compensate Jewish victims when Poland has never received adequate compensation from Germany.

“Why should we have to pay money today when nobody gives us anything?” said 22-year-old Kamil Wencwel. “Americans only think about Jewish and not Polish interests.”

The protesters shouted “no to claims!” and “This is Poland, not Polin,” using the Hebrew word for Poland.

Rafal Pankowski, a sociologist who heads the anti-extremist group Never Again, called the march “probably the biggest openly anti-Jewish street demonstration in Europe in recent years.”

One couple wore matching T-shirts reading “death to the enemies of the fatherland,” while another man wore a shirt saying: “I will not apologise for Jedwabne”   a massacre of Jews by their Polish neighbors in 1941 under the German occupation.

Among those far-right politicians who led the march were Janusz Korwin-Mikke and Grzegorz Braun, who have joined forces in a far-right coalition standing in the elections to the European Parliament later this month. Stopping Jewish restitution claims has been one of their key priorities, along with fighting what they call pro-LGBT “propaganda.” The movement is polling well amongst young Polish men.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki echoed the feelings of the protesters at a campaign rally Saturday, saying that it is Poles who deserve compensation.

Poland was the heartland of European Jewish life before the Holocaust, with most of the 3.3 million Polish Jews murdered by occupying Nazi German forces. Christian Poles were also targeted by the Germans, killed in massacres and in concentration camps.

Looted property ‘continues to benefit Polish economy’

Many Poles to this day have a feeling that their suffering has not been adequately acknowledged by the world, while that of Jewish suffering in the Holocaust has, creating what has often been called a “competition of victimhood.”

Many of the properties of both Jews and non-Jews were destroyed during the war or were looted and later nationalised by the communist regime that followed.

Protesters said paying compensation would ruin Poland’s economy. But Jewish organisations, particularly the World Jewish Restitution Organisation, have been seeking compensation for Holocaust survivors and their families, consider compensation a matter of justice for a population that was subjected to genocide.

Poland is the only European Union country that hasn’t passed laws regulating the compensation of looted or national property, and the head of the WJRO, Gideon Taylor, noted Saturday that such property “continues to benefit the Polish economy.”

At least two US Confederate flags were visible at Saturday’s protest, which began with a rally in front of the prime minister’s office before the protesters walked to the US Embassy. Men in Native American headdress held a banner with a message pointing to what they see as US double standards: ‘USA, Practice 447 at home. Return stolen lands to the descendants of native tribes.”

With pressure building on this issue, the US State Department’s new envoy on anti-Semitism, Elan Carr, was in Warsaw this past week, telling leaders and media that the US is only urging Poland to fulfil a non-binding commitment it made in 2009 to act on the issue. He also said the US recognises that Poland was a victim of the war and is not dictating how Warsaw regulates compensation.

Source: Polish nationalists protest against US over Holocaust claims

Poll finds deep divisions among Ukrainian Jews on threat of anti-Semitism

Of note:

In the largest poll of Ukrainian Jews conducted in 15 years, nearly one fifth of 900 respondents (17 percent) said that anti-Semitism has increased in the country, while another fifth (21 percent) said the opposite.

The data underline divisions among Ukrainian Jews over the effects of the 2014 revolution that toppled the previous regime and unleashed an explosion of nationalist sentiment.

In the poll, commissioned by the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress this year, another 23 percent of respondents said it was too hard to say whether there has been an increase anti-Semitism. Thirty-six percent of respondents said the level of anti-Semitism has not changed.

Ariel University’s Prof. Ze’ev Khanin developed the methodology for the poll and presented it Monday at a Kyiv Jewish Forum event. The previous survey of Ukrainian Jews this size occurred in 2003-2004.

Michael Mirilashvili, president of the Eurasian Jewish Congress, said that whereas anti-Semitism “is certainly an important challenge,” the main one is helping Jews “hold onto a strong Jewish identity that can withstand the environment and not weaken as a result of social pressures.” EAJC, he added, is investing in projects focused on achieving this, including Limmud.

Other key findings of the survey include:

  • Seventy-two percent of Ukrainian Jews said they feel solidarity with Israel, compared with 3 percent who said they do not and 26 percent who could not say.

  • Forty-two percent said they find it important that their descendants feel Jewish, compared to 25 percent who said it was not.

  • Twenty-nine percent described themselves as “Ukrainian Jews;” 22 percent as “simply Jews”; 6 percent as “Russian Jews”; and 21 percent percent as “human beings,” regardless of their Jewish affiliation.

Source: Poll finds deep divisions among Ukrainian Jews on threat of anti-Semitism

Swedish youth politician defends anti-Zionist chant

One can only wonder at the sophistry involved. Just because something has been sung for ages doesn’t mean one should continue signing it:
“You can’t take anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism and stick an equal sign between them,” Electra Ververidis, the new chair of the local district of the Social Democrat youth wing SSU, told Sweden’s state broadcaster SVT.
“This song has been sung within the labour movement for ages past. It is about taking a political position against the occupation of the Palestine, and is not about being against Israel or the Jewish people.”
The performance of the chant-like song, which is repeats the words ‘Long Live Palestine, Crush Zionism” was condemned on Wednesday by Svante Weyler, Chair of the Swedish Committee against Anti-Semitism.
“The idea that you want to abolish the state of Israel is an antisemitic idea,” he told SVT.
Ververidis’s defence of the song reversed a rapid apology given earlier in the week by the youth movement’s national chair Philip Botström.
“I understand and take seriously all the criticism against our local unit in Malmö,” he wrote on Twitter after a recording of the song being sung was circulated on Wednesday.
“There should be no doubt over where SSU stands on this question. We distance ourselves from all forms of antisemitism.”
He asserted that the youth movement would not sing the song in future.
But Ververidis said no such decision had been taken, explaining that SSU’s Malmö branch had yet to discuss whether singing the song would be appropriate during future demonstrations. “We have not yet had time to consider that,” she said.
She criticised Botström’s condemnation of the song.
“It is very unfortunate that Philip Botström is now mixing up apples and pears. This chant has been sung for ages and is about criticism of Israel’s occupation policies and nothing else. This is something Botström himself well knows.”

Source: Swedish youth politician defends anti-Zionist chant

That Netanyahu cartoon wasn’t anti-Semitic

A contrary view by the Israeli comedian, Zeev Engelmayer:

The New York Times’ cartoon of Benjamin Netanyahu as a guide dog for Donald Trump that angered the “Jewish world” is actually a clichéd cartoon, though well-designed and certainly not anti-Semitic. It describes two leaders, one blind being led by the other. It’s a caustic image with a vicious tone, exactly what a political cartoon should be.

Netanyahu is depicted as a dachshund, which maybe is a compliment because these dogs are great hunters, and despite their natural suspiciousness, they boast an innate ability to make friends. Behind Netanyahu the dachshund walks his good friend Trump, sullenly, a kippa on his head, symbolizing the strength of his ties with Netanyahu. Trump has been photographed wearing a skull cap — near the Western Wall, for example — so it’s not something an artist has put on him without any justification.

The choice to illustrate Netanyahu and Trump walking with determination, and even against a blood-red background, hints that they’re not just taking an innocent morning walk. They’re on a survivalist hunting trip. What are they hunting? Foreigners? Leftists? The hostile media?

The media said Netanyahu was drawn with an unusually large nose, but a very superficial look confirms that Netanyahu’s nose hasn’t been distorted, certainly not in a way reminiscent of anti-Semitic cartoons, as has been alleged. The complaint that the illustration is anti-Semitic reinforces the feeling that the Foreign Ministry looks for every possible justification to play the victim to silence critics.

Images depicting politicians as blind people with guide dogs is as old as the advent of political cartoons. James Akin’s infamous one from 1804 shows Thomas Jefferson with the body of a dog. Richard Nixon has also been drawn as a dog, and Tony Blair as a dog wearing an American flag as his collar. American patriots have been depicted as a herd of blind horses.

Meanwhile, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been portrayed as a wild dog biting Barack Obama’s hand. His nose was made to look a lot longer than Netanyahu’s in this week’s cartoon. Was there any outcry against the Ahmadinejad cartoon or demands to outlaw it as anti-Semitic?

Theresa May was depicted by the graffiti artist The Pink Bear Rebel this year, was she not? She’s seen blindfolded being led by a blindfolded bulldog wearing a British-flag doggie jacket. You can only guess what the Foreign Ministry would say about a cartoon of a bulldog wrapped in an Israeli flag.

Under pressure from the Israeli consul general in New York and the Foreign Ministry, the Trump-Netanyahu cartoon was removed from the internet. The newspaper published a clarification, a half apology, and described the cartoon as offensive and an error in judgment.

A cartoon is by definition an exaggeration that looks for weak points. Sometimes it’s a warning sign: It provides strong, exaggerated images to shock and awaken. That was the case this time, a moment before this duo drags us along with them on a leash on a nighttime stroll.

Source: That Netanyahu cartoon wasn’t anti-Semitic | Opinion

Record number of anti-Semitic incidents in Canada fuelled by online hate: B’nai Brith

The lated B’nai Brith report. Waiting for the 2018 police-reported hate crimes report (Statistics Canada re-released the 2017 report www150.statcan.gc.ca/…ticle/00008-eng.htm):

Online hatred is fuelling a rise in anti-Semitism that saw a record-breaking number of Jewish Canadians harassed and assaulted in 2018, according to a new report from B’nai Brith Canada.

Western Canada, in particular, saw anti-Semitic incidents skyrocket last year. The number of incidents in British Columbia more than doubled to 374 from 165 in 2017, just behind Saskatchewan and Manitoba, which together had a 142.6 per cent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in 2018 compared to 2017, to 131 from 54.

British Columbia had the third highest total number of anti-Semitic incidents behind Quebec, with 709, and Ontario, at 481.

The countrywide total topped 2,000 incidents of hatred toward Jews in 2018 for the first time in more than 35 years, marking the fifth straight annual increase and the highest number of incidents the organization has recorded since it began tracking such data in 1982. The report suggests the federal government needs to address legislative gaps that allow hateful rhetoric to flourish and spread.

The report comes just two days after a gunman opened fire on Jewish worshippers at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in Southern California on Saturday — an attack that was prefigured by a threatening social media post, according to the FBI. The online screed said the alleged attacker was inspired by the Tree of Life massacre in Pittsburgh in October, a tragedy that was preceded by virulent anti-Jewish comments posted online by the suspected shooter.

During the Poway attack, one woman was killed and three others were wounded, among them a child and the synagogue’s rabbi.

“Anti-Semitism has real-world consequences,” Ran Ukashi, the national director of B’nai Brith Canada’s League for Human Rights, writes in the report’s introduction. Pointing to the murder of 11 Jewish worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue, Ukashi suggests anti-Jewish harassment is not only deeply troubling; its sharp rise in Canada fuels the fear here of violence of the kind seen internationally in the past year.

According to the report, online harassment on social-media platforms including Facebook and Twitter — or through electronic communications such as email — accounted for 80 per cent of total incidents.

“Of particular concern is the rise of anti-Semitic harassment on social media, including death threats, threats of violence and malicious anti-Jewish comments and rhetoric,” Mostyn said, echoing Ukashi’s warning.

Steven Slimovitch, the national legal counsel for B’nai Brith Canada, said online hate has a much larger reach and can have a bigger impact than direct, one-on-one incidents.

“Now what’s happening is you can easily reach thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people via the internet,” he said. “You can do it quietly, you can do it in your basement and that’s a very, very serious problem.”

The report defines harassment as “verbal or written actions that do not include the use of physical force against a person or property,” including: promotion of hate propaganda via social media, the internet, telephone or in print; verbal slurs, hate speech or harassment, or systematic discrimination in public spaces; and verbal threats of violence in cases where “the application of force does not appear imminent, or no weapon or bomb is involved.”

And while physical violence represents only 0.5 per cent of the incidents cited in B’nai Brith’s Monday report, Canada is no stranger to real-world intimidation, violence or threats of violence against Jews. (B’nai Brith only includes incidents in the report where a victim’s Jewish religion was the explicit reason for the attack).

On Monday, the York Region police hate-crime unit reported investigating an incidentinvolving the spray-painting of anti-Semitic graffiti on the front of the garage of a Vaughan home on Friday.

In November, four 17-year-old Jewish boys wearing religious garments were assaulted in north Toronto by another group of teenagers, who prefaced their attack by making derogatory comments about the boys’ religion. In February, two Saskatchewan schoolchildren were beaten by their classmates for being Jewish.

And a Montreal man was charged with inciting hatred toward Jewish people and threatening to cause death and bodily harm to Jews after allegedly writing online posts in October in which he threatened to kill “an entire school full of Jewish girls,” according to the Montreal Gazette.

Mostyn said there is no reason to believe there is an elevated threat of an attack in Canada, but the amount of online hatred targeting Jews is having an impact. This, he said, is why B’nai Brith is pushing for protections that go beyond adding more security officers outside synagogues and Jewish schools.

“We have to start at the start, and the start is incitement,” Mostyn said. “And too often nowadays this incitement is taking place on the internet and it is influencing others that unfortunately take violent and drastic actions, and that’s what really needs to stop.”

B’nai Brith’s recommendations include instituting a dedicated hate-crime police unit in every major city and providing enhanced training for hate-crime officers, and co-ordinating between the federal government and social media platforms to develop a plan to counter online hate.

Facebook recently began deleting pages belonging to white supremacist individuals and groups, but has faced significant backlash for not doing more to stop hatred advanced on its platform.

Source: Record number of anti-Semitic incidents in Canada fuelled by online hate: B’nai Brith

Poway Synagogue Shooting: Why Conservatives Keep Getting Anti-Semitism Wrong

Good column:

What motivates someone to burst into a Southern California synagogue and shoot unarmed worshipers, there to recite the memorial prayer for the dead?

Depends who you ask: progressives say nationalist, racist ideology, while conservatives say hate. The difference may seem slight, but in fact, it’s why right and left talk past one another—and seem to be moving farther apart.

Progressives, and most scholars, regard the kind of anti-Semitism that motivated the Poway shooting as part of the xenophobic, ultra-nationalistic constellations of hatreds and “otherings” that also, in our day, include Islamophobia, racism, and anti-immigrant animus. Jews are the “enemy within,” facilitating the evils of immigration and multiculturalism to destroy the motherland.

This is borne out by what Poway, Pittsburgh, Christchurch, and other white terrorists all said in their manifestos and other online comments. Like thousands of others of ultra-nationalists in Europe and America, they see their white, European cultures being overrun by foreigners. And they believe that Jews are making it happen.

In the words of the Charlottesville white supremacists, “you will not replace us,” a taunt aimed at non-whites, is easily changed to “Jews will not replace us.” That is a political statement—filled with ignorance and hate, of course, but also ideology.

On the right, however, anti-Semitism is regarded as hate, not ideology.

Despite reams and reams of ideological-political writing, from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion forgery to Mein Kampf to the paranoid manifesto of the Poway shooter that allege in precise terms the ways in which Jews destroy the national homeland, conservatives insist that anti-Semitism is simply pure, irrational, timeless, and ahistorical hatred that has nothing to do with any politics whatsoever. It’s the same whether it comes from Pharaoh in Egypt, a Tsarist pogrom, or a Hamas terrorist.

“We forcefully condemn the evil of anti-Semitism and hate, which must be defeated,” President Donald Trump said in response to the Poway shooting.

This definition of anti-Semitism is extraordinarily wrong. It is at odds with what anti-Semites themselves have said since the term was popularized in 1879. It mashes together religious animus, true nationalist anti-Semitism, and resistance to right-wing Zionism. And it is particularly helpful to the very people who exacerbate it, today’s nationalists, for three reasons.

“If anti-Semitism is defined simply as anytime someone hates Jews for any reason, then it is a free-floating hatred that finds a home in Palestinian activism, fringe black nationalism, and among Muslim Americans.”

First, of course, it absolves them of any responsibility. To most rational observers, it seems obvious that when Trump spreads lies about the dangers of immigrant crime and Muslim terrorism, he stokes the fires of populist nationalism. In response to that incitement, some will merely wave a flag and don a red hat. But others will take matters into their own hands, striking back at Jews or Muslims or Mexicans.

Some, like Poway shooter John Earnest and Pittsburgh shooterRobert Bowers, may even believe that Trump himself has not gone far enough. They are extending Trump’s logic, not defying it.

Yet if anti-Semitism is merely a pathological hatred and has nothing to do with any ideology, all of this is coincidence. Why did anti-Semitic incidents rise 60 percent in the first year of Trump’s presidency? Well, anti-Semitism is an age-old hatred; no one can explain its pathology, the right says.

Once again, such a denial of causality and reality seems facially absurd, and yet, it is what the likes of Trump, Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon, and their ilk would have us believe. Moreover, since hardly any “mainstream” Republicans have spoken out about Trump’s incitement of hatred, either they believe this delusion as well, or, by refusing to speak, are implicated in the violence that Trump has incited.

Hatred of Jews goes back thousands of years, but the anti-Semitism of John Earnest is a specific, nationalist phenomenon with specific roots and specific myths.

The unmooring of anti-Semitism from ideology has a second benefit for nationalists, which is that it reinforces their own nationalism. In Israel, of course, this is most obvious: everyone hates the Jews, the thinking goes, therefore Jews must be strong and dominant. Force is all the Arabs understand, I remember being taught in Hebrew school, so we have to be stronger than they are.

But even for nationalist parties like those governing Brazil, the United States, and Hungary, anti-Semitism is a convenient reminder that violence and hatred are endemic to the human condition, and strong ethno-nationalism is the only way to fight it.

“We have no choice,” as Trump has said many times.

This is how Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can find common cause with barely reconstructed anti-Semites like Hungary’s Viktor Orban. It suits Netanyahu fine for Orban to demonize George Soros and other Jews—after all, Netanyahu hates Soros, too. But more broadly, both men are also engaged in the same anti-democratic activities: attacking human rights organizations, enforcing patriotic speech, undermining the independent judiciary and, most importantly, demonizing “foreigners.”

To nationalists, the solution to anti-Semitism is not, as progressives would have it, stamping out bigotry, ultra-nationalism, and scapegoating of the “other,” but rather a strong ethno-nationalist state (Jewish or otherwise). The presence of anti-Semitism serves to reinforce this view. It simply means that we must all be even stronger and more nationalistic.

The third and final function of the uncoupling of anti-Semitism from ideology is perhaps its most important: it enables “anti-Semitism” to be a scourge of left and right alike, rather than a feature of right-wing nationalism. If anti-Semitism is defined simply as anytime someone hates Jews for any reason, then it is a free-floating hatred that finds a home in Palestinian activism, fringe black nationalism, and among Muslim Americans like Rep. Ilhan Omar.

Now, we are told, including by centrists who should know better, that an “ancient hatred” has reappeared on the right and left alike—as if it is campus BDS supporters who are shooting up synagogues and chanting “Jews will not replace us.”

Of course, there are indeed instances of anti-Semitism on the far left, including conspiracy theories involving Jews and slavery, Palestinian propaganda depicting Israelis as drinking blood, and anti-capitalist screeds that call out Jewish financiers in particular (which, of course, a Trump campaign ad also did).

But in the United States, the quality and quantity of these incidents pale in comparison by those found on the right.

Most importantly, there are no left-wing equivalents for the incitement coming from the nationalist right. There is no left-wing equivalent of Trump seeking to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. There is no left-wing equivalent of “Make America Great Again” with its harkening back to a whiter and less equal past. There is no left-wing equivalent of the lies about Mexicans bringing crime, drugs, and rape to America. A single remark that congressional support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins”—a claim applied every day to the NRA, Big Pharma, or the fossil fuel industry—is nothing compared to these violent, constant, and powerful incitements to ultra-nationalist frenzy.

To the right, the Poway shooter has more in common with Ilhan Omar than with the massacre at a Christchurch mosque.

But to the Poway shooter himself, Christchurch was his inspiration. Contrary to the false and exculpatory claims of the right, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are arms of the same murderous monster, together with ultra-nationalism, hatred of the other, and racism.

And when you agitate one part of that monster, the whole beast rises.

Source: Poway Synagogue Shooting: Why Conservatives Keep Getting Anti-Semitism Wrong

Jewish congress condemns revival of folk tradition in Poland as anti-Semitic

More disturbing news from Poland:

A video published by local website expressjaroslawski.pl showed several dozen locals watching on as an effigy of the disciple Judas was beaten and burned.

The tradition, first reported in the 18th century, was revived on the Christian holiday of Good Friday in the southeastern town of Pruchnik after several years, expressjaroslawski.pl said. In the past the Catholic church has banned the practice over the aggression involved.

“Jews are deeply disturbed by this ghastly revival of medieval anti-Semitism that led to unimaginable violence and suffering,” Jewish congress CEO Robert Singer said in a statement posted on the organization’s website on Sunday.

“We can only hope that the Church and other institutions will do their best to overcome these frightful prejudices which are a blot on Poland’s good name.”

More than 3 million of a population of 3.2 million Jews were murdered by Nazis in the Holocaust. Many Poles refuse to accept research showing thousands of their countrymen participated in the Holocaust in addition to thousands of others who risked their lives to help Jews.

Poland, ruled since 2015 by the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS), pulled out of a planned summit in Israel in February after Israel’s acting foreign minister said many Poles had collaborated with the Nazis in World War Two and shared responsibility for the Holocaust.

The government has made what it saw as the defense of national honor over its wartime record a cornerstone of foreign policy.

Tensions between Israel and Poland rose last year after Poland introduced new legislation that would have made the use of phrases such as “Polish death camps” punishable by up to three years in prison.

After pressure from the United States and an outcry in Israel, Poland watered down the legislation, scrapping the prison sentences.

The tropes around Jews and ‘Jewish money’

Of note:

The charcoal illustration on the front of the London Saturday Journal, a popular Victorian magazine, published in late March 1841, pictured a rather sinister looking man, with a cap in hand and a sack on his back looking slyly at the reader. Entitled “The Jew Old Clothes Man”, an article inside the magazine goes on to describe Jewish second-hand clothes sellers in London in particularly prejudiced terms.

The cover is one of the many chilling images and texts on display at a new exhibition at London’s Jewish Museum. Entitled “Jews, Money, Myth,” the exhibition, on till July 7, examines both the role that money has played in Jewish life as well as the ways in which the associations — mostly negative — between Jews and money and profit have developed over the centuries.

The exhibition is particularly timely. Concerns around anti-Semitism have risen in the U.K. as they have across much of the rest of the world. While the Labour Party has faced allegations that it has not been tough enough on anti-Semitism within its ranks, the Jewish charity Community Security Trust reported a record number of anti-Semitic incidents last year. It is striking that even in Camden, a diverse London neighbourhood, entry into the museum is subject to security checks.

Even as major political parties have attempted to crack down on anti-Semitic rhetoric, others have got away with sharply divisive language. In 2017, the former head of the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) Nigel Farage faced considerable criticism over remarks on LBC radio about how a “Jewish lobby” in the U.S. was “very powerful”. He is yet to apologise.

In this context, the exhibition is particularly striking and powerful, drawing both on objects involved in Jewish rituals, art, literature, and other objects of life such as board games. It also has some newly created videos to explore and build up an understanding of how the tropes around Jews and money have come to be built up — as well as the reality. “Throughout history, there have been both rich and poor Jews. The exhibition shows how Jewish wealth and poverty have been created by circumstances as well as the activity and acumen of Jews themselves — rather than ‘Jewishness’ itself,” says a note on the exhibition.

Objects, ancient and modern

There are ancient Judean coins, ceremonial objects involved in charitable giving and, in more modern times, the paperwork of efforts made by Jewish communities in the U.K., during and before the Second World War to bring Jewish refugees to Britain. Chillingly — particularly in the context of the heated discussion on immigration and refugees under way across much of the West — there is a reminder of the difficulties that Jewish refugees faced coming to the U.K. even at that time: to seek refuge, they needed to prove they were able to finance themselves privately.

There are literary explorations of the stereotypes built up around Jews and money — from Shakespearean characters such as Shylock and Charles Dickens’s Fagin, to literature such as the Nazi propaganda book The Poisonous Mushroom.

There are also exhibits such as Rembrandt’s “Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver,” rather sympathetically picturing the biblical figure down on his knees begging for forgiveness from a group of priests as he attempts to return the thirty pieces of silver he was said to have betrayed Christ for. That story, the exhibition notes, has been key to propelling anti-Jewish stereotypes till this day.

Given the weight of the matter, it is perhaps unsurprising that some of the material resorts to black humour and satire, such as a video by U.S.-based artist Doug Fishbone. At one point, he notes the extent to which Indians in the West are now out-earning Jews there, leading British politician and author Lord Archer to declare, back in 2008, that Indians were the new Jews. “Maybe they will be accused of being the puppet masters behind the throne too?” asks Mr. Fishbone in his video.

Source: The tropes around Jews and ‘Jewish money’