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Making excuses for antisemitism, then and now

Making excuses for antisemitism, then and now

STEPHEN H. NORWOOD,
RAFAEL MEDOFF


Sadly, some things never seem to change – including the excuses that some people make for antisemitic thugs.

1944 EDITORIAL CARTOON by Eric Godal reflects that numerous attacks in New York City were antisemitic in nature.
(photo credit: Courtesy)

‘Synagogues in Washington Heights were smeared with antisemitic epithets, vandalized, set afire… Mobs of hoodlums have been harassing Jews… Jewish cemeteries in Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island were desecrated…”

These harrowing descriptions of attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions in and around New York City sound as if they were taken from today’s headlines. In fact, they come from news reports and eyewitness accounts concerning a wave of antisemitic violence that swept the city in 1943-1944.

Sadly, some things never seem to change – including the excuses that some people make for antisemitic thugs.

In 1944, senior police officials were loathe to admit the attacks were numerous or antisemitic in nature, either because it made the city look bad, or because they themselves were not terribly fond of Jews.

The city’s police inspector claimed there had only been “a few isolated” incidents, which had been perpetrated by preteens indulging in “boyish pranks.” That hardly squared with the “flood” of complaints about antisemitic attacks which “poured” into the offices of the Anti-Defamation League.

A New York Post investigation into the assaults in Washington Heights found that “every Jewish resident” whom they interviewed “had stories to tell of… relatives or acquaintances beaten by gangs whose leaders almost invariably prefaced the attacks by demanding, ‘Are you Jewish?’” In the Bronx, knife-wielding hoodlums surrounded a 14-year-old Jewish boy, and when he answered their question in the affirmative, they slashed him across the face, leaving him with a scar that ran from his ear to his lip.

In a Brooklyn pool hall, twenty young men shouting “Jew bastard!” and “Dirty Jews!” badly mauled two Jewish teens. One suffered stab wounds to his leg and two black eyes from being kicked in the face. The police nevertheless refused to arrest anyone, insisting it was “just a poolroom fight.”

William Herlands, New York City’s Commissioner of Investigation, denied that the wave of violence was motivated by antisemitism. He said the attackers were just “teenage marauders” with no connection to groups such as the Christian Front and the Christian Mobilizers, whose members engaged in constant antisemitic incitement on street corners.

The New York Post pointed out that many assaults had taken place on the same corners where those groups were agitating. A 15-year-old girl interviewed by the Post boasted of taking part in “Jew-hunting” and acknowledged she had been strongly influenced by the street corner speechmakers and leaflet givers. Commissioner Herlands seemed uninterested.

In an incident with strong echoes of our own times, a woman was arrested in February 1944, for hurling antisemitic epithets at a Jewish man throughout a subway ride all the way from the Bronx to 34th Street. The judge dismissed the charge as an attempt by the Jewish victim to extract his “pound of flesh,” an allusion to the antisemitic motif in The Merchant of Venice.

There was a sexual element to some of the attacks in 1943-44, which led to another variety of excuse-making. A non-Jewish teenage eyewitness described to the New York City daily newspaper PM how the antisemitic gangs “beat the [Jewish] boys bloody” and “when they catch a Jew-girl, they’ll rip her clothes off.” Commissioner Herlands responded that most of the culprits were “mentally retarded or sexually perverted.”

Chalking up antisemitism to mental disability implicitly denies that bigotry was involved. That may aid an attacker’s legal defense, but is it a satisfactory excuse for his behavior? It would not explain, for example, why only Jewish girls (as opposed to Irish or Italian girls) were the targets in 1944. Nor does it clarify why the Monsey machete attacker was reading up on Nazism and antisemitic conspiracy theories in the weeks before he struck.

Police Commissioner Lewis Valentine offered a different excuse in 1944. He told reporters that “antisemitism is always a problem in a large, heterogeneous city such as New York.” In other words, when different ethnic and religious groups live in close proximity, violence is inevitable, according to Valentine.

We’re hearing that excuse in our own time, too. A news article in The New York Times on January 4, claimed that unnamed “experts” believe “some of the growth [in antisemitism] could be attributed to changing neighborhood demographics.” So, pushy Jews are provoking the violence by moving into areas where they have not lived previously? And therefore, pushy African-Americans are to blame for racist incidents that occur after they move into all-white neighborhoods?

The debate over how best to combat antisemitism will not be settled any time soon. Some observers focus on the need for condemnations by public figures. Others look to legislative remedies or educational initiatives. But one thing is certain: making excuses for violent antisemites is never the answer.


  • Stephen H. Norwood teaches American history and Jewish studies at the University of Oklahoma;
  • Rafael Medoff is director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, in Washington.)

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Israeli leaders meet Trump to discuss Peace and Security – 27.1.2020

Israeli leaders meet Trump to discuss Peace and Security – 27.1.2020

   TV7 Israel News


Today’s top stories;
1) U.S. President Donald Trump held two separate meetings at the White House today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main domestic political rival Blue and White Chairperson Benny Gantz – to discuss his long-anticipated, so-called, “deal of the century.”
2) Israel launched retaliatory airstrikes against Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip, in response to the indiscriminate launch of a rocket and numerous clusters of balloons that were attached to explosive devices by Islamist Palestinians from the Jihadist territory toward Israel’s southern communities.
3) Today, the world marked the international Holocaust Remembrance Day, in commemorating the memory of the victims of the 6 million Jews and 11 million others that were murdered by the Nazi regime and its collaborators during the second World War.


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French Jews and Non-Jews deeply concerned about rising antisemitism – poll

French Jews and Non-Jews deeply concerned about rising antisemitism – poll

ILANIT CHERNICK


73% of the French public and 72% of Jews ‘consider antisemitism a problem that affects all of French society.’

People attend a national gathering to protest antisemitism and the rise of anti-Semitic attacks in the Place de la Republique in Paris. / (photo credit: GONZALO FUENTES / REUTERS)

There is a widening consensus among both Jews and non-Jews in France that antisemitism in the country is a serious problem.

According to a survey released by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Paris on Monday, nearly 73% of the French public, and 72% of Jews, “consider antisemitism a problem that affects all of French society.”

The survey also found that 47% of the general public and 67% of the Jewish respondents said the level of antisemitism in France is high, while 27% and 22%, respectively, say it is low.

The survey was conducted by IFOP, a leading polling firm, in partnership with Fondapol, a major French think tank. They polled 505 French Jews and 1027 French people between October 14 and November 19, 2019.

Asked about the response to antisemitism by elected officials, the survey found that Jews and the general public are in agreement about how it’s being handled.

Less than half Jewish and non-Jewish population have confidence in the way French President Emmanuel Macron and his government are dealing with antisemitism.

“Only 47% of Jews and 48% of the general public have confidence in the President of France tackling antisemitism,” AJC Paris said, adding that “46% of Jews and 41% of the public have confidence in the French government’s [approach], while 58% of Jews and 56% of the public [have faith] in local elected officials.”

Anne-Sophie Sebban-Bécache, director of AJC Paris, said that “antisemitism has become a concern for French society as a whole.

“It is not considered anymore as only the concern of Jews,” she said in a statement. “We are not as alone as we could have felt in the past to fight this scourge.”

According to the AJC Paris survey, 70% of French Jews also commented that they have been victims of at least one antisemitic incident in their lifetime, while 64% said they had suffered antisemitic verbal abuse at least once, and 23% have been targets of physical violence on at least one occasion, with 10% said they had been attacked several times.

It also pointed it out that the younger generation of Jews, aged between 18 and 24, were on the “‘frontline’ more than older cohorts in confronting antisemitism.”

The survey stated that 84% of this younger generation had suffered at last one antisemitic act, compared with 70% of all respondents; while 79% said they had suffered verbal abuse, compared with 64% of overall respondents not in this category, while 39% said they had faced an act of physical aggression, compared with 23% of the entire Jewish sample.

Visibly religious French Jews also said that they felt the most vulnerable, the survey stressed, with 74% of them saying they had been a victim of at least one act of verbal abuse, compared with 64% of the full Jewish sample.
The main locations where antisemitic incidents have occured are in the street and at school. Just over half of those surveyed, 55%, said “they had been insulted or threatened on the street, and 59% said they had suffered physical abuse in the school,” with 54% saying they were victims of verbal abuse, and 26% saying they had been victims of antisemitic violence in schools.

The workplace was also found to be a hot-bed for antisemitism with 46% of Jews surveyed saying they had been victim to verbal abuse.

In a separate poll published late Monday by the French channel of the i24News, 60% of all Israelis said they believe that the lives of French Jews are unsafe, while 62% of Jewish respondents called for French Jews to immigrate to Israel.

The poll was released ahead of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz at Yad Vashem.

The survey, which was also conducted by the IFOP Research Institute polled 1020 Israelis from the Jewish and Arab population ahead of the conference.
It found that 68% of Jewish respondents, and 60% of all respondents, believed that the lives of French Jews are in danger. About 7% of respondents believed it’s better for them to stay in their country.

Other concerning results found that 77% of Israeli respondents felt that the cause of antisemitism in France is because of Muslims – 92% who addressed this question were Jewish, while 15% were Arab.

Meanwhile, 61% of Israelis think that the far-Right are behind antisemitism, with 45% of Israelis saying the extreme leftists are behind antisemitism, while 22% saying Christians are behind antisemitism in the country.


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President Reuven Rivlin meets with Polish President Andrzej Duda

President Reuven Rivlin meets with Polish President Andrzej Duda

JERUSALEM POST STAFF


The president is in Poland to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, marking 75 years since the liberation of Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.

President Reuven Rivlin meets with Polish President Andrzej Duda on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, 2020
(photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM, GPO)

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin is in Poland to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, marking 75 years since the liberation of Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The president met with Polish President Andrzej Duda, who rejected an invitation to come to Israel for last week’s World Holocaust Forum.

Later on Monday Rivlin will participate in a ceremony marking at Auschwitz-Birkenau along with survivors of the death camp, President Duda of Poland, President Steinmeier of Germany, the President of the World Jewish Congress Ron Lauder and the head of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Dr. Piotr Cywiński. Cywiński will also speak at the ceremony, which will conclude with the Kaddish and El Maleh Rachamim prayers.

President Reuven Rivlin lays a wreath with Polish President Andrzej Duda on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, 2020 (Photo Credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Upon departing for Poland, Rivlin said, “The Jewish people are a people that remembers. Remembering is a fundamental building-block in our people’s heritage. It is that which demands of us to stand at Auschwitz, on German soil and in every place, to remember and to remind.

“The connection between the State of Israel and Poland is one that faces the future, from an unshakable commitment to remember the facts of the past,” the president continued. “I intend on inviting the President of Poland to visit Jerusalem, to continue discussions together in a way that can further strengthen our relations and the important areas of cooperation between our two countries.”


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Why the World Zionist Congress elections matter

Why the World Zionist Congress elections matter

DR. IGOR BRANOVAN


The stakes are extremely high and that is why more and more organizations and activists have entered the fray for this year’s election.

Dr. Igor Branovan (photo credit: Courtesy)

Today, the World Zionist Congress elections open, and Diaspora Jewry will have almost two months to elect those who will hold seats in the World Zionist Congress (WZC), the legislative body that determines the policies of the world’s leading Jewish organizations – the World Zionist Organization (WZO), the Jewish Agency of Israel (JAFI), the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and Keren Hayesod.

The WZC is the body that makes major policy decisions concerning the future of Zionism, Aliyah and absorption, Israeli advocacy worldwide, Jewish education and the war against antisemitism, settlement in Israel and other vital issues for Israel and the Jewish people’s future.

Policies will be decided, and resources are allocated.
The stakes are extremely high and that is why more and more organizations and activists have entered the fray for this year’s election.

Unfortunately, while the Left has been largely out of power in Israel for a number of decades, they have significant control of the WZC due the liberal Diaspora Jewish establishment’s resources and power. In these elections, some extreme-Left figures like Peter Beinart and Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of the far-Left group J Street, have entered the fray to move the balance of power even further Left.

This means that every single vote counts in an election open to all Jews above the age of 18.

Unfortunately, the Right is now playing with one hand tied behind its back.

A recent decision was made by the Area Elections Committee of the American Zionist Movement, the organization in charge of the elections in North America, that while students can have a discount on their registration fee, Holocaust survivors, World War Two veterans and other senior citizens may not.

The American Forum for Israel, an organization I proudly chair, which sees an increasingly liberal Jewish establishment, critical of Israel, supportive of dangerous concessions to the Palestinians and in agreement with a capitulation by the West to Iran, as extremely dangerous to Israel and the Jewish future, has appealed this discriminatory and dangerous decision which at first sight seems rather innocuous.

However, according to the Pew Research Center, one-fifth of all US Jews report annual household incomes of less than $30,000, especially affecting those who have reached retirement age.

This decision is thus discriminatory against Holocaust survivors, the elderly, new immigrants and those on lower incomes.

Like the liberal Jewish establishment, we know that while students tend to veer Left politically, the elderly, especially those who lived through the Holocaust, World War Two and the establishment of the State of Israel, tend to understand the need for a strong and proud Israel.

The Jewish establishment also know that it is precisely these Jews who are sick and tired of their concessionist polices.

The American Forum for Israel’s election campaign has been centered around loosening the grip by the liberal and critical Jewish establishment.
It is seen as a threat by those who have been in power for so long.

We are those Jews who have had enough and we want to see our voices heard where it matters and no longer kowtow to the Left, those who wish to see a constricted Israel, favor the Iran nuclear agreement and do not condemn the insidious and anti-Semitic BDS movement.

Their Zionism is about concessions, submission and weakness.
Unfortunately, they are in control and place Jews who want a strong, proud and successful Israel on the sidelines, and try and keep us out. However, we want to stop this and have our voicesheard. We have an opportunity to say enough, and that we will no longer accept this contempt and disdain.

We should stand up proudly and say it is our time, it is time for our Zionism. Our Zionism is about strengthening Israel, it is about standing unequivocally with Israelis against their enemies, and it is about ensuring an unbreakable partnership between Israel and the Diaspora. It is about fighting Antisemitism in all of its manifestations, including anti-Zionism.

This is what these World Zionist Congress elections are really about, and any attempt to artificially tip the scales should be condemned and amended immediately.

This is a battle worth fighting and we will take all legal measures necessary to fight for inclusion and our Zionism.
We hope you will join us.


The writer is President of the American Forum for Israel www.AmericanForumForIsrael.com


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