The World Holocaust Forum

The Fifth World Holocaust Forum is taking place in Jerusalem at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Center, under the sponsorship of the President of Israel, Reuben Rivlin.   Its title is “Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Antisemitism.”  A record number of leaders of 49 countries are in attendance.  It commemorates the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp 75 years ago by soldiers of the Soviet Red Army, where 1.5 million Jews were murdered.  Imagine what the victims of this crime would say of they could be here today to witness this gathering in Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish State of Israel.

I was not able to witness all the speeches given, including those of Pres. Putin of Russia and Pres. Macron of France.  Representing the British people, Prince Charles spoke about his grandmother, Princess Alice of Greece, who saved Jewish families by hiding them in her nunnery in Greece.  He also mentioned Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, who survived Auschwitz and then moved to Britain and helped found the English Concert Orchestra, of which he is a sponsor.

But, the speech of Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany was most impressive.  He started and finished with the “shechechiyanu,” the prayer in Hebrew that translates as “Thank you God for allowing us to live to see this day.”  He unequivocally took responsibility for the Holocaust, the greatest crime in history, on behalf of the German people that he represents.  Israeli PM Netanyahu spoke movingly and raised the issue of Iran.  US Vice Pres. Pence in his speech stated that there is only one government in the world today that officially supports antisemitism and disputes the Holocaust, and that is Iran.

Although the Forum was supposed to tackle the issue of current day antisemitism, most of the focus was on the Holocaust.  However, this was crime that is sui generis, a terrible genocide that was the policy of a major government that took place during a major war.  The Jerusalem Post printed a magazine especially for this Forum, and many of the articles referred to education as the main solution to the problem of current day antisemitism.  Yes, but, although education is clearly necessary, I am afraid that antisemitism is too deeply rooted in European (and Muslim) culture as to be impossible to overcome.

Events in 2019

The past year was a very consequential year, much of importance happened. On Dec 31, 2019, here is a list of events:

  • Impeachment:   The House of Representatives voted two articles of impeachment against Pres. Trump.  This was clearly a partisan process with a sharp divide between Democrats and Republicans.  Although we don’t yet know the outcome, if partisanship continues, the impeachment of Pres. Trump in the Senate is likely to fail.
  • Brexit: After three years of uncertainty, Boris Johnson became PM, and taking the risk that this issue would dominate, he forced a general election, which he won by a landslide. Historically more former Labour supporters voted Conservative than ever before.  Brexit should finally be accomplished in the new year.
  • Mass shootings: 2019 was statistically the worst year in US history for mass shootings.  There were 44 in which more than 4 people were shot (killed or injured) and a total of 211 were killed, although in 2017 there were more victims in fewer shootings.
  • Anti-Semitism: There were more attacks due to anti-Semitism in 2019.  In Poway CA, two Jews were killed, in Jersey City, NJ, an attack on a kosher grocery store killed three, and in Halle, Germany two people were killed although the perpetrator was unable to enter the synagogue that had been fortified.  Yesterday a man attacked a Hassidic Hanukah celebration in Monsey NY, stabbing 5 Jews.  In general, an increase in anti-Semitic incidents were recorded in the US, UK and Europe.
  • US Economy: The US economy has risen to its highest levels in 2019.  The Dow Industrial average has risen to 28,000 for the first time in history and the unemployment index has fallen to 3.5%, the lowest in nine years.
  • Israel Stalemate: In Israel two consecutive elections failed to overcome the stalemate between right and center. Likud and Blue and White leaders were unable to form a Unity Government and so a third election will be held in the new year,
  • Longest serving PM:  In 2019, PM Bibi Netanyahu became the longest serving PM in Israeli history, reaching 20 years, more than David Ben Gurion.
  • Iran in Syria: In 2019, Israel admitted for the first time that it was actively attacking Iranian assets in Syria.  Many sorties were reported including attacks on Iranian weapons depots that killed Iranian military.
  • Riots in Iraq: For the first time ever, large numbers of Iraqi citizens demonstrated against their Government, which was dominated by pro-Iranian Shia politicians, and Shia mobs attacked Iranian facilities in Iraq for the first time.
  • Hong Kong: The population of Hong Kong rose up against the Government’s intention to send criminals to China for trial.  Not only was the Govt. forced to back down, but Hong Kong has been brought to a standstill.  Although the Chinese Govt. has deployed large forces outside Hong Kong they have not yet interfered directly.
  • Hamas Backs Down: After months of rioting along the border with Israel, the so-called “march of return” was cancelled by the terrorist group Hamas that controls Gaza.

This is of course only a partial list, but it shows that a lot of important events happened in 2019.  Now for the unknown 2020, let’s hope it will be a peaceful year!!

Einstein and Epstein

There is a tendency among the many anti-Semites in the Western world to point to such sex offenders as Jeffrey Epstein and Harvey Weinstein as “typical” Jews. I have seen anti-Semites refer to the impeachment of Pres. Trump as a Jewish plot (there are so many of them), because the Chairmen of the two House Committees that are handling the impeachment process are Jewish, Adam Schiff and Jerrold Nadler (oops, Nancy Pelosi is not Jewish). Actually the reason they are doing this is because they are leading Democrats, but that doesn’t fit the conspiracy theory.
What about Albert Einstein, who revolutionized the way we comprehend the world around us, and was declared the “Man of the Century” by Time Magazine, what plot was he part of? What about Jesus Christ, who was a practicing Jew, who never claimed to be a God (or a son of God), that was considered blasphemy, and never heard of Christianity. Was he part of some insidious plot?
I know, no serious, intelligent, sensible person could ever believe this crap about Jewish plots: “The Jews control the economy,” “The Jews control the media,” “The Jews control the USA,” etc, etc. When I was a young boy growing up in London in a very poor neighborhood, some of these tropes were bandied around. It made no sense to me, because here we were very poor, trying to survive, and yet they thought we were hiding our wealth, while at the same time controlling the government?? That might have been the prevalent anti-Semitism then, but now it’s the Zionists, according to Jeremy Corbyn and his ilk, who are controlling the USA, the banks and the media???

So next time someone tries to sell you some conspiracy story about Jews, ask them what plot were Albert Einstein and Jesus Christ part of.

___________________

PS. I am in UK on a family emergency.

Trump Recognizes Jews as a Nation

For many years I have been pointing out that the name “Jew” is ambiguous, it represents an ethnic group, a religion and a race or nation.  From the very beginning it is clear that the “Children of Israel” represented a national group and indeed they established a nation in the Land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael).  But, after the final destruction of their independent nationhood by the Romans, in exile the term Jew came to mean a follower of the Jewish religion.  But, today, what about me, I’m definitely a Jew, but I do not believe in the Jewish religion.  And I am not alone, about 70% of Jews in the USA and Israel are unaffiliated with a religious institution.  Are we any the less Jews?  Of course not.  We are members of the Jewish or Hebrew nation. 

Now this all becomes relevant because Pres. Trump has issued an executive order to define the Jews as a minority according to the law in the US, which defines minorities according to the Civil Rights Act as being defined by “race, color or national origin.” It does not mention religion as a defining characteristic.  Therefore there was a problem, since all Civil Rights cases excluded discrimination and acts against Jews because they were not covered by the Act. Now with the upsurge of anti-Semitism including violent shootings, such as happened yesterday in NJ when 4 Jews were deliberately murdered, this will bring those acts into the realm of legal US action as a Civil Rights violation.  Could anyone argue that this is not justified?

In order to do this, Trump ordered US Govt. agencies (including the Justice, Education and State Depts.) to adopt the international definition of anti-Semitism as defined by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA),  which includes discrimination and violent acts on the basis of Jewish national origin and specific delegitimization of Israel as anti-Semitic.  This move is not without controversy, since some Americans will regard this as interfering with their concept of American nationality.  But, most Americans have a secondary (hyphenated) nationality, where they originated from, German-Americans, Anglo-Americans, French-Americans, Black-Americans, Irish-American and Jewish- Americans.  It’s only that now it will be recognized that “Jewish” in this context includes both a religious and a national basis.

This does have tremendous consequences, since it means that now attempts to stifle pro-Israel activities by groups on campus will be against the Civil Rights act and will be actionable under US law.  Also, discrimination and shootings of Jews will be actionable as Civil Rights violations.  Which is how it should be!

 

Antisemitism 101

Antisemitism is now a required course on most North American campuses.  There are so many examples it’s hard to know where to start.  Of course, the main excuse given is that the anti-Semites are really anti-Israel, because they are so sympathetic to the poor Palestinians.  But, what do they really know about the Palestinians, and anyway, which Palestinians do they support, the Islamist Hamas in Gaza, or the nationalist Fatah in the Palestine Authority in the West Bank?  Since they are irreconcilable enemies, this choice matters a lot, but they probably don’t even know that.

Here are some recent examples:

  • McGill University, Montreal: Jocelyn Wright, a member of the Board of the Student Society and its Legislative Council, was in effect excluded from her positions because she accepted to go on a trip organized by the Hillel to Israel and the Palestinian territories.  This is a further example of Jewish students on the McGill campus being targeted for their alleged support of Israel
  • Toronto University:  A request by Hillel to make kosher food available on campus was rejected because it was considered to be pro-Israel!  After a media storm the Student Union rescinded it’s decision and apologized, but did not address the anti-Semitic nature of the initial response.  
  • Syracuse University:  Syracuse University has been bombarded by a slew of racist and anti-Semitic incidents.  Campus and city police, New York State Police and the FBI, are trying to solve more than a dozen reports of racist graffiti and vandalism targeting black and Jewish people, Asians and Native Americans since November 7.  There have been more reports of racist graffiti targeting black people, Native Americans and Asians.  A  Jewish professor reported receiving an anonymous email containing anti-Semitic language that included a threat to “get in the oven where you belong.”
  • University of Central Florida: Swastikas and other anti-Semitic comments were posted on a sign that indicated the location of a future Chabad House on the Central Florida University campus.
  • Oberlin College: A display was erected on campus by SFP and JVP with language demonizing Israel and Jews. How can this be allowed in a College that prides itself on being liberal and inclusive.
  • George Washington University, Washington DC: A video was released by two GWU students saying “We’re gonna f—ing bomb Israel.”  Local and federal police were informed and the GWU President Thomas LeBlanc called the video “disturbing.”  This is not an isolated incident of anti-Semitic bigotry at GWU

For a listing of over 3,000 incidents that have occurred since 2015 on American University campuses see https://amchainitiative.org/search-by-incident#incident/display-by-date/.  Most of these examples are related to BDS activities and prevention of Jewish and pro-Israeli speakers being heard on campus. It used to be considered that University was a place for open debate and discussion, but that has long since gone.  Among the worst offenders are Columbia University and many of the supposedly liberal schools. However, speakers from such human rights abusing countries as China, Turkey, and many of the Arab countries are not harassed.  This is clear evidence of anti-Semitism masquerading as concern for human rights.

 

 

Antisemitic Shooting in Halle

I am incensed by the shooting in Halle. Here’s a question, how is it that a synagogue in Germany is not guarded on Yom Kippur?  But for the fact that the doors of the synagogue in Halle held and prevented the gunman from entering, a massacre of Jews was avoided.  There were according to reports 70-100 Jews praying there on Yom Kippur (including 10 Americans), and they had no defense against a well-protected gunman who had an automatic weapon and was armed with grenades.  In frustration he gunned down a passing old woman and shot up a nearby kebab store, killing a man.  As far as we know neither of the dead were Jewish, which shows the futility and stupidity of his animus.

The police admitted that the attack was motivated by anti-Semitism.  In a rant shown live on video the culprit said that he did not believe the Holocaust,  and that Jews were the cause of all the world’s problems, sounds familiar.  How could he not believe the Holocaust when it was perpetrated by people with the same views as him.  The police concluded that he was motivated by extreme right wing views.  The leader of the Halle Jewish Community criticized the German police because they had asked for protection on several occasions, and when they called the police in panic to tell them they were under attack, they treated the call like a domestic dispute and it took them about 20 mins to get there.  They were able to apprehend the perpetrator and he is in custody.

Of course, after the event there was an out-pouring of support for the Jewish community, with flowers being placed outside the synagogue, Chancellor Angela Merkel visited and there was a ceremony in Berlin.  But, the Germans will have to start taking this problem much more seriously, otherwise there will be many more deaths.  As far as I am concerned anti-Semitism is endogenous to European and German culture and this is a perfect reason to make aliyah.

Hounded

Debbie Taylor at the Seniors English Lecture Group gave a talk about “Anti-Semitism in North-East Scotland.”  This is a topic she knows a great deal about, having been dealing with it for some 40 years.  But, the subject came alive when she started talking about the recent past and the case of Nissan Ayalon.

Nissan is an Israeli who moved to Belfast in Northern Ireland and set up a company selling Dead Sea Products and cosmetics.  He was doing well until sometime in 2012 his stalls in malls began to be picketed by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC).  They not only walked around his stalls carrying placards, but they threw balloons filled with red paint at his staff, most of whom quit.  The ostensible reason for these intimidating activities is that Nissim is an Israeli and is selling products made in Israel. But, they also claimed that he was a “baby-killer,” that Palestinian slaves were used to make these products, and that even organs stolen from Palestinians were used to make the products.

Having no choice he closed his business and moved to what he hoped would be a more tolerant environment in Glasgow.  One again his business was doing well, until the local Scottish branch of the PSC got wind of his presence there.  He used the name Jericho for his stores, which was unfortunate since Jericho is a city in the Palestine Authority, and so they accused him of exploiting Palestinian labor, even though he had no actual contact with the city of Jericho.  The same intimidating treatment continued, with boycotts and picketing every week until he was forced to close down and move again. this time to Aberdeen in north-west Scotland.   He figured that since Aberdeen is a small town the same activities would not happen as in the large cities of Belfast and Glasgow.  He was wrong!

The picketing and intimidation started again.  They were always careful to avoid actual physical violence.  Appeals to the police were useless because they said what they were doing was within the law.  With the help of the small Aberdeen Jewish Community they appealed several times to the Aberdeen City Council, but one of its members was a Union member who supported the SPSC and neither the Mayor nor the Council were prepared to do more than to pass resolutions against racism.  They also appealed to the local anti-racism groups that supported the SPSC, which claimed that what they were doing was not racism, but support for the poor Palestinians who were being exploited and killed by the terrible bad Israeli Jews. Note that there were plenty of products from far more oppressive countries on sale in these Malls, such as from China, but they have no interest in boycotting them.  The singling out of Israel and Jews for their ignorant and biased activities shows they are anti-Semitic.

Once again Nissan was forced to close down, and this time he left the UK, which is supposed to be a tolerant place, except for Jews.  Stores owned by Jews who are not Israelis have also been forced to close down in other British cities, including Manchester.  If these aren’t activities that are anti-Semitic I don’t know what is.  It is exactly parallel to the activities used by the Nazis to close down Jewish owned stores in 1930’s Germany.  They made life hell for their owners. If the store owner had been Black and they were boycotting Black-made goods you would see how quickly they would be stopped! 

This tale of Nissan has been made into a YouTube video, entitled “Hounded” that I advise all to watch (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xDnh_aa9zs ),  As far as I am concerned, after growing up in the UK, it is not very surprising to me, and is a great argument for Zionism.  Note that Jeremy Corbyn is a prominent supporter of the PSC and so are many of his Labor Party supporters.