Posts Tagged ‘anti-Semitic’

Facebook’s Zuckerberg says he won’t remove Holocaust denial posts

July 19, 2018

Founder of social media giant says those denying Holocaust may be doing so unintentionally and should not be removed, drawing condemnation from ADL; later clarifies remarks

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg meets with a group of entrepreneurs and innovators during a round-table discussion at Cortex Innovation Community technology hub in St. Louis,  November 9, 2017. (Jeff Roberson/AFP)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg meets with a group of entrepreneurs and innovators during a round-table discussion at Cortex Innovation Community technology hub in St. Louis, November 9, 2017. (Jeff Roberson/AFP)

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg appeared to defend Holocaust deniers on Wednesday, suggesting that online hate speech disclaiming the genocide of six million Jews is misguided rather than a matter of ill-intent.

Zuckerberg later clarified his comments, saying he never intended to defend Holocaust denial.

Noting his Jewish heritage to the Recode tech news site, Zuckerberg defended the social media giant’s refusal to remove various offensive content. Instances of Holocaust denial are “deeply offensive,” he opined.

“But at the end of the day, I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong. I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong,” he continued, before the interviewer interjected to disagree.

“It’s hard to impugn intent and to understand the intent,” said Zuckerberg. “I just think, as abhorrent as some of those examples are, I think the reality is also that I get things wrong when I speak publicly. I’m sure you do. I’m sure a lot of leaders and public figures we respect do too, and I just don’t think that it is the right thing to say, ‘We’re going to take someone off the platform if they get things wrong, even multiple times.’”

The Facebook head said the social network drew a line at calls for violence.

“What we will do is we’ll say, ‘Okay, you have your page, and if you’re not trying to organize harm against someone, or attacking someone, then you can put up that content on your page, even if people might disagree with it or find it offensive,’” he said.

His comments were swiftly condemned by the Anti-Defamation League.

“Holocaust denial is a willful, deliberate and longstanding deception tactic by anti-Semites that is incontrovertibly hateful, hurtful, and threatening to Jews,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the ADL, said in a statement.

“Facebook has a moral and ethical obligation not to allow its dissemination. ADL will continue to challenge Facebook on this position and call on them to regard Holocaust denial as a violation of their community guidelines,” added Greenblatt.

Zuckerberg later emailed Recode to say he had never meant to defend Holocaust denial.

“I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that,” he said. “Our goal with fake news is not to prevent anyone from saying something untrue — but to stop fake news and misinformation spreading across our services.”

In September 2017, Facebook came under fire after investigative reports in ProPublica and Slate showed that advertisers were able to specifically target anti-Semitic or prejudiced social media users with their ads.

ProPublica reported that “the world’s largest social network enabled advertisers to direct their pitches to the news feeds of almost 2,300 people who expressed interest in the topics of ‘Jew hater,’ ‘How to burn Jews,’ or, ‘History of why Jews ruin the world.’”

Although the category was too small on its own, when adding other categories, such as the far-right, ultra-nationalist National Democratic Party of Germany, ProPublica was able to purchase ads targeting the 2,274 people who listed “Jew hater” in the “education” or “work” sections of their Facebook profiles. The ads were approved within 15 minutes.

The website also found that 3,194 Facebook users listed their employer as “German Schutzstaffel” — the German SS — and another 2,449 who said they worked for “Nazi Party.”

Facebook later intervened, but according to Slate, it was still possible to purchase ads targeting anti-Muslim and white nationalist users.

Zuckerberg’s remarks come amid mounting condemnation and calls for scrutiny of Facebook over a massive privacy breach.

In the worst ever public relations disaster for the social media giant, Facebook has admitted that up to 87 million users may have had their data hijacked by British consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica, which was working for US President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Cambridge Analytica, which also had meetings with the Leave.EU campaign ahead of Britain’s EU referendum in 2016, denies the accusations and has filed for bankruptcy in the United States and Britain.

Agencies contributed to this report.



Anti-Semitic online harassment in Germany on the rise, study finds

July 19, 2018

When Yorai Feinberg first opened his restaurant in Berlin, he felt welcome. But lately the Israeli has increasingly been the recipient of hate mail. A new study has found that hate in Germany has become more radical.

Yorai Feinberg (picture-alliance/dpa/J. Carstensen)

Yorai Feinberg has gotten used to hearing from “Ludwig Fischer.” Every few days the Berlin restaurant owner receives emails from a man who writes under the pseudonym of one of Hitler’s most notorious SA henchmen. He calls Feinberg a “filthy rat,” says the Holocaust is just a “scam” and rants that all Jews will land in the gas chamber.

Feinberg has collected some 60 pages of hate mail from Ludwig Fischer alone. “I don’t take it so personally anymore. I don’t take it too seriously,” says Feinberg.

Threshold getting lower

The Israeli says that when he came to Berlin six years ago, he felt at home right away: “I was immediately welcomed in Berlin.” Feinberg lived in Vienna before moving to Berlin, where he says the mood toward Jews and Israelis was less relaxed than in Germany. But he adds: “Things have gotten a bit worse meanwhile.”

The last few months have seen several high-profile attacks on Jews in Germany. Just last week a Jewish-American professor was attacked by a young German of Palestinian descent in the city of Bonn. In April, an attack on a yarmulke-wearing man in Berlin made international headlines.

Read moreGerman Jewish groups say NGOs must fight anti-Semitism if they want public funds

But it is online where attacks and insults are most frequently directed toward Jews and Israelis. That is according to a new study conducted by the Technical University of Berlin (TU Berlin), in which researchers studied 300,000 mostly anonymous texts. Most came from social media sites. The conclusion: Not only are more hateful comments directed at Jews, they are also becoming more radical.

“The threshold is sinking,” says Monika Schwarz-Friesel, who heads the TU Berlin institute for language and communication. “People use the anonymity of the internet to disseminate anti-Semitic comments.”

Anti-Semitism from the heart of society

Feinberg had his first encounter with anti-Semitism in Germany’s capital on the street. In December of 2017, a man berated him for several minutes in front of his restaurant. Feinberg recorded the incident and put it online. He says he received a lot of support from across the country. Nevertheless, he has also received an increasing amount of hate mail. “The problem is not a few evil individuals,” he says, “but all of those who agree with them.”

Read more‘Solidarity Hoodie’ challenges anti-Semitism

The TU Berlin study backs up that statement. “Anti-Semitism doesn’t only come from right-wing extremists or the populist scene,” says Schwarz-Friesel. She notes that left-leaning and liberal people as well as Muslims drew her attention with their anti-Semitic comments. “Everyday anti-Semitism rooted in the heart of society is the most dangerous,” in Schwarz-Friesel’s estimation. Radical statements are often brushed off as crazy, but when educated segments of society express anti-Semitic sentiment it is much more likely to gain acceptance, she says.

Old prejudices

“We were shocked to see that prejudices against Jews had changed so little over the last hundred years,” says Schwarz-Friesel, adding that Jews are still seen as the “scourge of the world,” a race that must be eradicated.

The arguments of today’s anti-Semites differ little from people with similar prejudices in the sixteenth century. One slight change, however, is that today’s anti-Semitism is often mixed with criticism of the state of Israel.

Read moreSeparating anti-Semitism from criticism of Israel

Most of the hate mail directed at Feinberg comes from the far-right. Pseudonyms like Ludwig Fischer point to a particular bent and the texts themselves tend to suggest a certain ideological template. Writers often deny the Holocaust, claiming that concentration camps never existed and that the Jews themselves that were responsible for the mass murder that took place during the Second World War, not the Nazis.

“The atmosphere in Germany has become more extreme overall, in every direction,” says Feinberg “Those on the right are getting more extreme and the left has also grown more extreme as a result.”

No perpetrator punished

Nevertheless, Feinberg is fighting the hate, but it isn’t always easy. When he shared the first hate mail he received from Ludwig Fischer on Facebook, it was immediately taken down and his account was blocked. The social media network’s censorship algorithms seemingly do not differentiate between the threatening and the threatened. Feinberg says he also feels abandoned by the justice system: “None of the attackers have been punished yet. I have experienced a number of extreme cases where I think the person issuing the attacks deserves to be punished for their actions.”

“If this trend continues, anti-Semitism will become more normal in real life, not just online,” says Schwarz-Friesel, explaining that today, the internet and reality are more intertwined than ever.

Still, Feinberg is hopeful that the situation will improve: “I am not going to leave Germany just because of a tiny and insignificant part of society.”


Let Abbas’s Vile Words Be His Last as Palestinian Leader

May 3, 2018

Feeding reprehensible anti-Semitic myths and conspiracy theories in a speech on Monday, the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, shed all credibility as a trustworthy partner if the Palestinians and Israelis ever again have the nerve to try negotiations.

New York Times

The Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, speaking in Ramallah, West Bank, on Monday.Credit Majdi Mohammed/Associated Press

Speaking to the Palestinian legislative body, Mr. Abbas, 82, said the mass murder of European Jews in the Holocaust was the result of the victims’ financial activities, not their religious identity and anti-Semitism.

“So the Jewish question that was widespread throughout Europe was not against their religion, but against their social function, which relates to usury (unscrupulous money lending) and banking and such,” he said, according to the BBC.

Mr. Abbas’s anti-Semitic tendencies are not new. In the 1980s, he wrote a dissertation that seemed to question the widely accepted Holocaust death toll of six million Jews.

While seen as a successor to the longtime Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, in 2003 he played down that notion, saying, “The Holocaust was a terrible, unforgivable crime against the Jewish nation, a crime against humanity that cannot be accepted by humankind.”

Things looked more hopeful in 1993 when Mr. Abbas stood on the White House lawn and watched Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel and Mr. Arafat sign the Oslo Accords that were supposed to eventually lead to two states and peace.

In the intervening years, there have been ups and downs in that quest, but the trend for some time has been depressingly downward. The dream of an independent Palestine faded further away and Mr. Abbas came under increasing pressure.

Since the last serious peace talks collapsed in 2014, Israel’s hard-line government has expanded settlement building to cover more of the land envisioned for a Palestinian state. Although President Trump promised a peace plan, none has materialized, but reports suggest it would favor Israel.

Arab nations, once the Palestinians’ patrons, have lost interest and have turned their attention to fighting wars in Yemen and Syria and checking Iran’s regional influence. During a recent meeting with Jewish-American leaders, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia faulted Palestinian leaders for complaining and rejecting past Israeli peace offers.


Mr. Abbas opposed Mr. Arafat during the 2000-2005 second intifada, recognized Israel, and committed himself to a nonviolent approach to negotiations for peace and a two-state solution. He was valued by the West as Mr. Arafat’s successor, and for years he has deployed Palestinian forces to help Israelis maintain security in the West Bank.

But pressures, some of his own making and many others caused by Israel, which has ultimate control over the West Bank, are building. Mr. Abbas, who oversees a governing system plagued by corruption and dysfunction, has lost support among the Palestinian people.

He has weakened government institutions that are essential for a future state and refused to call new elections, thus overstaying his term by many years and preventing younger leaders from emerging.

He has also failed to unify the Palestinians in the West Bank, where his Fatah faction dominates, with those in the even more desperate circumstances of the Gaza Strip, where Hamas holds sway.

Even in this gloomy climate, however, Mr. Abbas’s vile speech was a new low. No doubt he feels embittered and besieged on all sides. But by succumbing to such dark, corrosive instincts he showed that it is time for him to leave office.

Palestinians need a leader with energy, integrity and vision, one who might have a better chance of achieving Palestinian independence and enabling both peoples to live in peace.

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French police treat murder of woman, 85, as anti-Semitic attack

March 27, 2018
© Thomas Sanson, AFP | The apartment block in the east of Paris where Mireille Knoll’s charred remains were found last Friday.

Video by Luke SHRAGO

Text by FRANCE 24 

Latest update : 2018-03-27

French prosecutors are treating the murder of an 85-year-old Jewish woman whose partly charred body was found in her Paris home as an anti-Semitic attack, judicial sources said Monday.

Mireille Knoll, who narrowly escaped deportation to the Nazi death camps during World War II, was found dead on Friday in her apartment in the east of the French capital, where she lived alone.

An autopsy showed she had been stabbed several times before the apartment was set on fire.

Two men have been placed under formal investigation for murder “motivated by the real or supposed adherence to a religion” as well as aggravated robbery and destruction of property, judicial sources said Tuesday.

“We are really in shock. I don’t understand how someone could kill a woman who has no money and who lives in a social housing complex,” Knoll’s son told AFP.

Speaking during a visit to Jerusalem on Monday, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said it was “plausible” that Knoll was killed because of her religion and her death showed the need for a “fundamental and permanent” fight against anti-Semitism.

The chief rabbi of Paris, Haim Korsia, wrote on Twitter that he was “horrified” by the killing. Jewish leaders have called for a march in Knoll’s memory on Wednesday.

World War II round-up

Knoll managed to evade a notorious 1942 round-up in Paris of more than 13,000 Jews, most of them women and children, by fleeing with her mother to Portugal.

Fewer than 100 of those who were detained during the so-called Vel’ d’Hiv round-up and then sent to the Nazi death camps survived.

After the war Knoll returned to Paris and married a Holocaust survivor, who died in the early 2000s.

View image on Twitter

We are shocked by the horrid murder of an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, in her home in Paris. On Wednesday, the Jewish community of France under the umbrella of @Le_CRIF is holding a white march in an expression of compassion with all French people. We stand in solidarity.

France is home to Western Europe’s biggest Jewish population and many in the half-a-million-strong community have complained for years of a rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes.

In 2015, vandals desecrated 250 tombstones in a Jewish cemetery in eastern France days after four Jews were killed in an attack on a kosher grocery in Paris by a gunman who declared allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group.

Last month, a judge confirmed that the April 2017 murder of Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old Orthodox Jewish woman who was beaten and thrown out of her window, was motivated by anti-Semitism.

The CRIF umbrella grouping of French Jewish organisations urged “the fullest transparency” by the authorities investigating Knoll’s murder “so that the motive of this barbarous crime is known as quickly as possible”.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

We still don’t know who will lead Italy. But one clear winner is the Kremlin.

March 24, 2018

Luigi Di Maio, leader of the populist Five Star Movement, celebrates with supporters in his home town of Pomigliano on March 6 after Italy’s general elections.  (Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images)
The Washington Post
March 23, 2018
 Italy’s Parliament convened Friday for the first time since anti-establishment forces shattered the old-line political system, and it remains unclear who will lead the country. But one victor is certain: the Kremlin.The populist Five Star Movement and the far-right League — the two parties most likely to bring together a ruling coalition — have called for a swift end to European sanctions against Russia. Both want to reorient the NATO defense alliance away from its increasingly robust stance in Eastern Europe, where it has stationed troops and tanks to defend against a possible conflict with the Kremlin. And both say Russia is a valuable partner in the global fight against terrorism in Syria and elsewhere.

The result all but guarantees that European Union leaders will be unable to find the unanimity that would be needed for a substantial response to the attempted poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England, for which British authorities blame Russia. And it could exacerbate divisions within NATO about how robustly to respond to Russia, whose 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula triggered Cold War-era tensions.

“The economic sanctions against Russia are madness, directed against a neighboring and friendly market,” League leader Matteo Salvini said this week at a rally in the northeastern Italian city of Udine, where strong trade ties to Russia have been affected by the economic measures. “I want to work for peace, not for war. I do not want to assemble little tanks like the game of Risk.”

Italy has long been known as one of the most pro-Russian nations in Europe. Former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has celebrated birthdays with President Vladimir Putin. (The most recent birthday gift from Berlusconi was a duvet with an image of the two men smiling at each other.) So even if more mainstream candidates had won, a hard-line anti-Russia stance was never a likely outcome.

League party leader Matteo Salvini at a Rome news conference March 14.  (Giuseppe Lami/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

One European ambassador in Rome, asked ahead of the election whether Russia was mounting an influence campaign as it is alleged to have done in the United States and elsewhere, smiled ruefully and said there was no need to do anything, because Italy was already on Russia’s side. The country’s sympathies for Moscow stem in part from strong business ties, in part from history: For decades, Italy’s Communist Party was the strongest in Western Europe.

But the outcome of the election is still an unusually good result for the Kremlin. Previous Italian leaders have valued their relationship with Brussels and Washington more than their ties to Moscow. Salvini and Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio may not, analysts say.

“It’s ideological. It’s a fundamental belief that Russia was mistreated after the Cold War,” said Nathalie Tocci, the director of the Italian International Affairs Institute. “They believe that if the United States gets a sphere of influence, why shouldn’t Russia?”

Neither the Five Star Movement nor the League hid its sympathies toward Moscow during the campaign, even as voters focused more on domestic issues such as migration and an overall frustration with what they saw as a corrupt and out-of-touch political establishment.

Although the parties’ reasons for boosting Russia are somewhat different, they converge on many policies. Officials from both parties have boasted of travels to Russia to meet key power players. Both say NATO has overreached.

The League admires Putin’s promotion of traditional family values and measures against equality for gays and lesbians. The Five Star Movement is skeptical of NATO in the way some left-leaning politicians long have been, seeing it as an instrument for exercising U.S. power in engagements in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

Manlio Di Stefano, Five Star’s 36-year-old point person on foreign affairs, said in an interview before the vote that prohibitions on doing business with Russia following the country’s military intervention in Ukraine had damaged Italian companies to the tune of $8.6 billion and had not been effective in changing Russian behavior.

Italy’s election saw support for anti-establishment parties, led by the Five Star Movement, but none of the three main factions will be able to govern alone. 

He said the sanctions should be eliminated in favor of unspecified “diplomatic or political” levers to try to influence Moscow.

Di Stefano, whose career was in computer engineering before he detoured into politics, said he had visited Russia at the invitation of Putin’s United Russia party and had delivered a speech to members. “I told them: ‘We are not pro-Russian, and we are not pro-U.S. We are pro-Italian,’ ” he said.

Neutrality between East and West would be a striking departure for Italy, which was a founding member of NATO. Di Stefano said the party wants to remain in the alliance.

But Five Star leaders have been sharply critical of NATO in a way that sometimes echoes Russian talking points.

Alessandro Di Battista, the 39-year-old who has been suggested as a potential foreign minister in a Five Star-led government, said ahead of the election that the alliance had strayed from its original mission by going to war in Afghanistan and by provoking Moscow in Eastern Europe.

“NATO was born with a noble mission — mutual defense among member states,” Di Battista said. “But NATO has acquired a much more offensive role. We are not fine with that.”

He described Five Star as “an extremely pacifist political force” and said he saw opportunity for cooperation between Russia and the West in areas such as counterterrorism.

He said Europe and the United States had overreacted to Russian interference in Ukraine and needed to examine their role in destabilizing the country.

“When there are conflicts,” he said, “I believe no one is innocent.”

League leaders also say they want to team with Russia to take on the problems of the world. Their party was one of the first in Europe to recognize the annexation of Crimea. At least one party member was an electoral observer during Crimea’s contested referendum on joining with Russia, a vote that Europe and the United States condemned as illegitimate.

“Europe should accept that — like it or not — Russia is its natural partner,” Lorenzo Fontana, a top League official, said in an interview. “If there are problems, they must be addressed, but we need to be careful about the consequences.”

The League’s foreign policy strategist, Giancarlo Giorgetti, said Europe should call off the sanctions, because they are not working.

“Historically, Russia has had a privileged relationship with Italy, even during the height of the Cold War,” he said at a conference ahead of the election.

“I don’t understand those who stubbornly carry on with sanctions. Do they really suppose that Putin will actually pull back from Crimea because of sanctions?” he said. “Are we kidding ourselves or what?”

Still, some analysts say that given the likely weakness of any new Italian leader, he or she is unlikely to be willing to spend significant political capital on behalf of Putin. Renewing the sanctions requires unanimity every time, giving great power to individual countries but also putting pressure on them to keep in line. Whoever becomes prime minister will need to deliver on a domestic agenda that will be reliant on European goodwill for flexibility on spending rules and other measures.

Italy’s new government “will have to pick its battles,” said Stefano Stefanini, a former Italian ambassador to NATO and the director of the Brussels office of Project Associates, a consulting firm.

Still, he said, “whatever government we have is likely to be more pro-Russian than any we’ve had in a very long time.”

Griff Witte and Stefano Pitrelli contributed to this report.


Farrakhan, the Women’s March and the Walkout

March 14, 2018

Why is it so hard for Democrats to avoid associating with him?

Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam speaks at Washington’s Watergate Hotel in November.
Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam speaks at Washington’s Watergate Hotel in November. PHOTO: MARK WILSON/GETTY IMAGES

Will Democrats decide to be the party of Conor Lamb, whose moderate message seems to have won over a Trump district in Pennsylvania? Or will Democrats define themselves as the activists who mount a “resistance” against our duly-elected President but still struggle to resist the charms of Louis Farrakhan?

Today’s news brings this question into sharp relief. Mr. Lamb appears to have won a congressional seat in a district that Donald Trump carried by 19 points in 2016. Meanwhile, the radical Women’s March organization beloved by so many Democrats has rolled out its latest production.

Time magazine reports:

It’s been exactly one month since the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — and some are choosing a somber way to pay tribute to the 17 people killed in the Parkland massacre.

Thousands of students and teachers began walking out of their classrooms on Wednesday, March 14 as part of the the #Enough! National School Walkout to raise awareness about issues of school safety and the impact of gun violence. The nationwide march, organized by Women’s March Youth Empower, began at 10 a.m. Many marches lasted 17 minutes, to represent each of the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

It’s perhaps unreasonable to expect the children who are missing class to be aware of all the people with whom they are associating. But their parents should exercise some care.

On Saturday, Masha Gessen wrote in the New Yorker about Women’s March Co-President Tamika Mallory’s ties to Mr. Farrakhan:

Two weeks ago, when Farrakhan delivered his annual address to a Nation of Islam gathering in Chicago, he gave a shout-out to Mallory, who was in the audience. Farrakhan’s speech was, as it usually is, replete with anti-Semitic, homophobic, and transphobic invectives. When the news of Mallory’s presence at the event surfaced, she did not disavow Farrakhan’s comments. (Mallory and fellow Women’s March leader Carmen Perez have both posted pictures of themselves with Farrakhan to Instagram; in a caption, Mallory calls him “definitely the goat”—the greatest of all time.)

After some public criticism, Women’s March eventually released a statement which condemned hatred but did not condemn Mr. Farrakhan. The statement said that his comments were “not aligned” with those of the organization.

Upon reviewing the comments, many voters would no doubt go much further than simply saying his views are not aligned with theirs. In the Chicago Tribune this week, Clarence Page details some of Mr. Farrakhan’s remarks at the event attended by the Women’s March leader:

Here, for example, are a few quick quotes from his speech to the Nation’s recent annual Saviours’ Day program in Chicago’s Wintrust Arena: The “powerful Jews,” he told the audience of thousands, “are my enemy.”

The Jews are also “the mother and father of apartheid,” he said, and “responsible for all of this filth and degenerate behavior that Hollywood is putting out turning men into women and women into men”

“Farrakhan has pulled the cover off the eyes of the Satanic Jew and I’m here to say your time is up, your world is through,” he said, getting thoroughly revved up. “You good Jews better separate because the satanic ones will take you to hell with them because that’s where they are headed.”

Mr. Page’s column is entitled, “How Farrakhan kills the joy in identity politics.” It remains unclear how dividing Americans by their demographic characteristics is a joyful experience. But the inability to resist associating with Mr. Farrakhan extends beyond activists to elected Democratic members of Congress. Journal contributor Jeryl Bier has been chronicling the problem in recent months, highlighting the changing story offered by Democratic National Committee Deputy Chairman Rep. Keith Ellison.

This week in the Indianapolis Star, columnist Tim Swarens reports on another elected official:

Andre Carson doesn’t shy away from speaking his mind. Indianapolis’ Democratic congressman regularly blasts political opponents with clear, forceful criticism. He also fires back at his critics with a bluntness that leaves no question about what he thinks.

Carson — on matters that don’t involve Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan — is straight-forward, plain-spoken, passionate.

So it was disappointing to hear Carson waffle over questions about his anemic response to a horribly anti-Semitic speech that Farrakhan recently gave in Chicago.

In a 50-minute phone interview on Friday, Carson avoided criticizing Farrakhan directly, declined to characterize Farrakhan’s remarks as “hate speech,” and would not rule out meeting with Farrakhan in the future to discuss policy concerns.

Next time, perhaps more parents will read up on an organization before enlisting their children in its media events. Many would likely decide not to get anywhere near a group connected to Mr. Farrakhan. They might also wonder why Democratic politicians won’t do the same.

Vladimir Putin Just Won Italy’s Election — Western liberal democracy at a loss

March 5, 2018


It’s the first real solo win for anti-establishment protest parties in a Western democracy, and a triumph for populist and racist parties. But post-election coalition chaos will spark anxiety in the EU – and delight in the Kremlin

Far-right Northern League leader Matteo Salvini gives a speech during a rally organized by Lega (Northern League) in Teatro Nuovo in Turin. February 28, 2018
Far-right Northern League leader Matteo Salvini gives a speech during a rally organized by Lega (Northern League) in Teatro Nuovo in Turin. February 28, 2018MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP

Forget about Brexit, the muddled election result in Germany or even Donald Trump’s ascent to power. In all those electoral upsets, traditional parties still had a role to play in the outcome and the aftermath of those results.

The same cannot be said of Sunday’s parliamentary election in Italy, which may well mark the first real solo triumph for anti-establishment protest parties in a Western liberal democracy.

With most of the votes accounted for, the numbers point to a hung parliament and a difficult road ahead to form a governing coalition, as all major political forces are hovering around 30 percent.

Italy's populist 5 Star Movement founder Beppe Grillo addresses supporters with party's leader Luigi di Maio (R) during the last election campaign meeting in Rome's Piazza del Popolo. March 2, 2018

Italy’s populist 5 Star Movement founder Beppe Grillo addresses supporters with party’s leader Luigi di Maio (R) during the last election campaign meeting in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo. March 2, 2018FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP

But the numbers also tell us that the 5 Star Movement, the grassroots anti-establishment movement that wants Italy to leave the Eurozone, has become the country’s largest party, capturing more than 32 percent of the vote.

Founded less than a decade ago by comedian Beppe Grillo to channel Italians’ disgust at their corrupt leadership and stagnant economy, the movement has surged in popularity, particularly in the underdeveloped south, thanks to pledges to clean up politics and grant stipends to all citizens. How this latter promise would be achieved, given the country’s massive public debt, remains unclear.

The other, even more unexpected result of the election, is that Silvio Berlusconi, possibly the precursor of all contemporary populist politicians, has been beaten at his own game by his closest allies.

The media-mogul-turned-conservative-politician, who has mounted an improbable political comeback in recent months after being forced to resign in 2011 amid a series of sex scandals and legal troubles, was widely seen as having a shot at winning the election, even though a conviction for tax fraud bars him from personally holding office until 2019.

.Silvio Berlusconi, leader of right-wing party Forza Italia, prepares to vote on March 4, 2018 at a polling station in Milan

Silvio Berlusconi, leader of right-wing party Forza Italia, prepares to vote on March 4, 2018 at a polling station in MilanMIGUEL MEDINA/AFP

On paper, his center-right coalition did come out on top, gathering around 37 percent of the vote. But drill down into that result, and you’ll see that Berlusconi has just become a junior partner in his own coalition. His Forza Italia party has taken just 14 percent of the vote, and is now dwarfed by the League, the far-right anti-immigrant and anti-EU part led by Matteo Salvini.

A close European ally of Marine Le Pen’s National Front and an enthusiastic Trump supporter, this 44-year-old media-savvy firebrand has ridden to success on the wave of Italians’ resentment over the surging arrivals of migrants and asylum seekers on the country’s shores and the perceived overly immigrant-friendly policies of the European Union and the bloc’s major powers, particularly Germany.

In true Trumpian style, Salvini has accused George Soros and other progressive forces of seeking to “transform Italy into a huge refugee camp” and has promised to “cleanse” Italy of immigrants, “house by house, street by street, piazza by piazza, by force if necessary.”

Salvini is already clamoring to be tapped as the next prime minister, but even though a final breakdown of seats in the Italian parliament is still pending, it appears likely that the center-right coalition will not clinch an absolute majority.

If you think that may be reassuring for moderates, think again.

A supporter of the Italian far-right Northern League holds a flare during a political rally led by leader Matteo Salvini in Milan, Italy. February 24, 2018

A supporter of the Italian far-right Northern League holds a flare during a political rally led by leader Matteo Salvini in Milan, Italy. February 24, 2018\ TONY GENTILE/ REUTERS

Even if Berlusconi dumps the League, his Forza Italia forces and the incumbent center-left Democratic Party, which took just 19 percent of the vote, don’t have the numbers for a German-style grand coalition deal.

One until-recently-unthinkable, yet increasingly realistic scenario, is a grand coalition of populist parties between the 5 Star Movement and the League, which would have enough seats to govern.

The 5 Stars have recently been moving to the right on immigration, and they share with the League a loathing for the euro and for what they see as shady cabals of international banks and financial institutions that supposedly run the world and are damaging the country’s economy.

They may also find common ground on some of the other conspiracy theories that the 5 Stars have been successfully peddling through their blogs and social media outlets: from the idea that vaccines are dangerous to the suspicion that the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States were in inside job. Many of those conspiracy theories, often spread by the movement’s founding father Grillo on his blog, have a decidedly anti-Israeli or even anti-Semitic twist.

Anti-fascism rally in Rome, Italy, after the election campaign sparked street battles between far-left and far-right activists. Feb. 24, 2018

Anti-fascism rally in Rome, Italy, after the election campaign sparked street battles between far-left and far-right activists. Feb. 24, 2018Bloomberg

But there are also strong differences between the two parties. The League is a more traditional far-right movement, which taps into nationalistic, ethnocentric and xenophobic ideals, while the 5 Stars are a grassroots party that has promoted online direct democracy and attracted young idealistic voters from all sides of the political spectrum.

These supporters may balk at a deal with the League, tainted by association for its longstanding alliance with Berlusconi, seen by the 5 Stars as the symbol of everything that is wrong and corrupt with Italian politics.

So, it remains unclear whether Salvini can come to an agreement with the 5 Stars, whose candidate for premier is 31-year-old Luigi Di Maio, a fresh-faced college dropout who had virtually no political experience before he was chosen to be a vice-president of the lower house of parliament in the last legislature.

Another last, but very unlikely, scenario, is for the center-left to agree to serve in a government with the 5 Stars, even though the head of the Democratic Party, former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, has always ruled out that possibility. But now Renzi may be on his way out as party chief following Sunday’s dismal showing at the polls, and any chance of an alliance with the 5 Stars will depend on the ensuing power struggle within the center-left.

A woman protests topless with a bodypainting reading "Berlusconi, you have expired" before the vote of Silvio Berlusconi, leader of right-wing party Forza Italia, on March 4, 2018 at a polling station in Milan

A woman protests topless with a bodypainting reading ‘Berlusconi, you have expired’ before Silvio Berlusconi, leader of right-wing party Forza Italia, voted in Milan. March 4, 2018MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP

Without a clear majority, it will be up to Italy’s president, Sergio Mattarella, to navigate through the complex negotiations that will follow in the coming weeks and eventually tap a prime minister to form a government. Mattarella may attempt to put in place a caretaker cabinet that would shepherd through the divided parliament a new electoral law – one that might ensure a more clear-cut result – before taking the country back to the polls.

What appears almost certain is that for the coming months, both Italy and the entire EU will be wracked by this new source of instability and uncertainty over the bloc’s future.

And that may be exactly the payoff that at least one country, which has been following these elections very closely, had been hoping for. Ahead of the vote, Italian officials and analysts had been warning for months about the danger of Russian meddling in the campaign, through fake news outlets and Kremlin-controlled trolls.

Both the League and the 5 Star Movement have been cuddling up to Moscow in recent years, voicing support for its foreign policy, coming out against EU sanctions on Russia and forging strong ties with the ruling United Russia party.

If one of these parties ultimately ends up in power – after this or yet another round of voting – the true winner of the Italian election may end up being someone who was never even on the ballot in the first place: one Vladimir Putin.

Anti-Semitic incidents in US more than doubled within 2 years

February 27, 2018

ADL cites Charlottesville march as major factor in sharpest-ever spike in anti-Jewish acts, accuses Trump of failing to swiftly condemn incidents


A white supremacist carrying a Nazi flag into Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, August 12, 2017. (AP/Steve Helber)

A white supremacist carrying a Nazi flag into Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, August 12, 2017. (AP/Steve Helber)

The number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States spiked in 2017, according to a new report by the Anti-Defamation League, which partly blamed US President Donald Trump for it due to “the divisive state of our national discourse.”

There were 1,986 acts of anti-Semitism in the US last year, according to an ADL audit released Tuesday. That is more than double the total from 2015, which was 942. It’s also a 57 percent increase over the 2016 total of 1,267. The audit said that the rise is due in part to an increase in people reporting incidents of anti-Semitism.

The toll represents the second-highest number of anti-Semitic incidents ever recorded since the ADL began documenting them almost four decades ago, and is the highest-ever single-year jump.

The 2017 number includes more than 160 bomb threats sent to Jewish community centers and other institutions early that year. A Jewish teen from Israel has been arrested for making the vast majority of those threats, which were all not credible.

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO And National Director of the Anti-Defamation League testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 2, 2017, before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on responses to the increase in religious hate crimes. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Even discounting the JCC bomb threats, reported incidents still increased by 43% over 2016. Anti-Semitic incidents on schools and college campuses also doubled in 2017 for the second year in a row. Non-Jewish elementary and high schools experienced 457 anti-Semitic incidents, compared to 235 in 2016 and 114 in 2015.

Almost all of the instances were either harassment — including the bomb threats — or vandalism, including seven instances of Jewish cemeteries being desecrated. There were also 19 anti-Semitic physical assaults, a decline of 47% from 2016.

“A confluence of events in 2017 led to a surge in attacks on our community – from bomb threats, cemetery desecrations, white supremacists marching in Charlottesville, and children harassing children at school,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s CEO and national director, said in a statement. “These incidents came at a time when we saw a rising climate of incivility, the emboldening of hate groups and widening divisions in society.”

Much of the nation was shocked last summer to see the level of anti-Semitic and racist and vitriol when a white supremacist rally turned violent in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Rally-goers, who billed themselves as part of the “alt-right” movement, marched through the streets of the bucolic town hoisting Nazi flags and confederate regalia. Some were wearing Ku Klux Klan garments. The day culminated in a Nazi sympathizer ramming his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring many.

“We’ve never had a moment like this,” said Greenblatt, the Los Angeles Times reported. “We’ve seen so much intolerance sneak into the public.”

US President Donald Trump speaks about the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington Monday, August 14, 2017. (AP/Evan Vucci)

Greenblatt pointed to Trump’s delay in condemning anti-Semitic incidents and rhetoric such as the Charlottesville march and the JCC bomb threats, as well as his retweeting white supremacist groups and use of “anti-Semitic imagery” on social media.

After the Charlottesville violence, Trump blamed “both sides” for what unfolded and said there were “many fine people” marching with the neo-Nazis. At the time, Jewish congressman Jamie Raskin told The Times of Israel that kind of response would “invite repeated actions.”

Trump has rejected similar criticism in the past, citing his Jewish family members, including daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and has described himself as the “least anti-Semitic person you’ve ever seen in your entire life.”

The states that saw the most anti-Semitic incidents were those with large Jewish populations: New York had 380 incidents of anti-Semitism, California had 268 and New Jersey had 208.


Netanyahu: Abbas ‘helping’ Israel with anti-Semitic, anti-Trump rant

January 15, 2018
Israeli leader says PA showing true face by rejecting Washington; says he warned Europeans it was their ‘last chance’ to fix the Iran nuclear deal
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara pay a floral tribute at the grave of Mahatama Gandhi in New Delhi, India on January 15, 2018. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara pay a floral tribute at the grave of Mahatama Gandhi in New Delhi, India on January 15, 2018. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

NEW DELHI, India — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is serving Israel’s interests by lashing out against Washington and against a Jewish connection to Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday, a day after the Palestinian leader angrily rejected US President Donald Trump’s approach to the Middle East peace process.

“He exposed what we have been saying all the time, that the root of the conflict is the basic refusal to recognize a Jewish state in any borders,” Netanyahu said from New Delhi, where he is on an official state visit, adding that the Palestinians would find no mediator to replace the Americans.

Abbas’s speech Sunday night was filled with  perceived anti-Semitic comments, including denials of a Jewish connection to the Land of Israel. He went so far as to imply that European Jews during the Holocaust chose to undergo “murder and slaughter” rather than emigrate to British-held Palestine, and alleged that the State of Israel’s first prime minister David Ben-Gurion imported Jews from Yemen and Iraq to the country against their will.

The Palestinian leader further asserted that the State of Israel was formed as “a colonial project that has nothing to do with Judaism” to safeguard European interests.

Netanyahu was speaking hours after meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his first official trip to New Delhi. The two only briefly touched on the Palestinian issue, according to a joint statement following the meeting, with both affirming “their support for an early resumption of peace talks.”

The meeting came a day after Netanyahu expressed “disappointment” with India for having voted in favor of a resolution condemning Trump’s recognition of Israel as a journalist. Netanyahu did not say if the topic came up during the talks Monday, but expressed some understanding for India’s position and indicated it had not affected the relationship.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a joint press conference at the president’s house in New Delhi, India, January 15, 2018. ( Avi Ohayon/GPO)









“Don’t forget they have a ‘small’ population of a few hundred millions of Muslims,” he said. “It’s clear there has been an improvement in ties [between Israel and India].”

Abbas has raged against the American decision, breaking off diplomatic contacts with Washington, and on Sunday the Palestinian leader caustically reacted to a Trump’s expected peace plan that reportedly wanted the Palestinians to accept Jerusalem suburb Abu Dis as its capital, calling it “the slap of the century.”

“We told Trump we will not accept his project, the ‘deal of the century,’ which has become the ‘slap of the century,’” Abbas said. “But we will slap back.”

“We do not take instructions from anyone, and say ‘no’ to anyone if it is about our destiny, our cause, our country and our people… 1,000 times no,’” he said, opening a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Council in Ramallah.

On Monday, Netanyahu said Abbas’s statement, both in content and in the way it was said, would “aid” Israeli efforts to explain its position to a skeptical international community.

“Without a change in the stance that Abbas expressed, there will not be peace,” Netanyahu said. “Today when I speak about it to world leaders, it will be more clear to them.”

Other Israeli officials have also sharply criticized Abbas, with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman saying Monday he had “lost his senses.”

Netanyahu accused Abbas of being “afraid of US peace initiatives” and wanting to remove the US from the peace process and find another mediator, an idea rejected by the Israeli leader.

“There is nobody else,” he said.

“For too long, the PA has been pampered by the international community, which would not bother telling them the truth,” Netanyahu said. “This is the first time someone told him the truth.”

‘Last chance for nuke deal’

An official with India’s Foreign Ministry said Netanyahu and Modi had discussed reform at the United Nations, but not the Iran nuclear deal, which has proved a point of contention as New Delhi has remained a major consumer of Iranian oil.

Netanyahu told Israeli journalists he had spoken with other world leaders recently about the nuclear deal, telling them to “take Trump seriously” about pulling out of the 2015 pact, which curbs Iranian enrichment in exchange for sanctions relief.

On Friday, Trump announced he would continue to extend sanctions, but warned it would be the last time if the deal was not reworked.

Netanyahu said he told European leaders that it was “the last chance to fix the deal.”

“I think people are starting to understand, maybe a bit late,” he said.

‘Working’ on reviving missile deal

Monday marked the second day of Netanyahu’s visit to India, leading a delegation of business leaders meant to boost economic ties between the countries. It began with the Israeli leader attending an official honor guard at the Presidential Palace and laying a wreath at a memorial for Ghandi.

On Monday night, Netanyahu and Modi attended a business summit bringing together industrialists from both countries.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a welcome ceremony at the president’s house in New Delhi, India on January 15, 2018. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

The visit has been clouded over by the recent announcement that Delhi had canceled a $500 million deal with the Israeli arms manufacturer Rafael for Spike anti-tank missiles.

Netanyahu would only offer that Israel is “working on it,” when asked if the deal had a chance of being revived. Another senior Israeli official also said it was unclear if Israel had any hopes of putting the deal back on the agenda.

However, at a joint press conference following their meeting, preceded by the exchange of nine Memorandums of Understanding and letters of intent  in tech, agriculture and other fields, both Netanyahu and Modi spoke of the growing relationship between the countries.

“Our discussions today were marked by convergence to accelerate our engagement and to scale up our partnership,” Modi said, announcing the opening of an Indian cultural center in Israel and welcoming his counterpart in broken Hebrew.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center), his wife Sara and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a welcome ceremony at the president’s house in New Delhi, India, on January 15, 2018. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Israel and India are major trade partners, though most of the billions of dollars exchanging hands yearly are wrapped up in diamonds and defense, and  both countries would like to diversify.

Netanyahu praised Modi as having “revolutionized the relationship between Israel and India,” which is marking 25 years of ties, though the Israeli premier said they had only begun to become close recently.

“We are ushering today a new era in our relations,” he said. “We’ve had diplomatic relations for 25 years but something different is happening now because of your leadership and because of our partnership.”


Alan Dershowitz: Debating the anti-Semitic BDS ‘movement’ with Cornel West

January 1, 2018
I recently debated Professor Cornel West of Harvard about the boycott movement against Israel. The topic was resolved: “The boycott, divestiture and sanctions movement will help bring about the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”West argued that Israel was a “colonialist-settler” state and that apartheid in the West Bank was “worse” than it was in white-ruled South Africa and should be subject to the same kind of economic and cultural isolation that helped bring about the fall of that regime.

I replied that the Jews who emigrated to Israel — a land in which Jews have lived continuously for thousands of years — were escaping from the countries that persecuted them, not acting as colonial settlers for those countries. Indeed, Israel fought against British colonial rule. Zionism was the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, not a colonial enterprise. Nor is Israel in any way like South Africa, where a minority of whites ruled over a majority of Blacks, who were denied the most fundamental human rights. In Israel, Arabs, Druze, and Christians have equal rights and serve in high positions in government, business, the arts, and academia. Jews were a majority in Israel, both when the U.S. divided mandatory Palestine (Eretz Yisrael) into “two states for two people,” and at present, although the Arab population has increased considerably since 1948. Even the situation on the West Bank — where Palestinians have the right to vote for their leaders and criticize Israel, and where in cities such as Ramallah there is no Israeli military or police presence — the situation is no way comparable to apartheid South Africa.

West then argued that BDS was a non-violent movement that was the best way to protest Israel’s “occupation” and settlement policies.

I responded that BDS is not a “movement” — a movement requires universality, like the feminist, gay rights, and civil rights movements. BDS is an anti-Semitic tactic directed only against the Jewish citizens and supporters of Israel. The boycott against Israel and its Jewish supporters (to many Palestinians, all of Israel is one big “settlement;” just look at any map of Palestine) began before any “occupation” or “settlements” and picked up steam just as Israel offered to end the “occupation” and settlements as part of a two-state solution that the Palestinians rejected. BDS is not a protest against Israel’s policies. It is a protest against Israel’s very existence.

West argued that BDS would help the Palestinians. I argued that it has hurt them by causing unemployment among Palestinian workers in companies such as SodaStream, which was pressured to move out of the West Bank, where it paid high wages to Palestinian men and women who worked side by side with Israeli men and women. I explained that the leadership of the Palestinian Authority is opposed to broad boycotts of Israeli products, artists, and academics.

West argued that BDS would encourage Israel to make peace with the Palestinians. I replied that Israel would never be blackmailed into compromising its security, and that the Palestinians are disincentivized into making compromises by the fantasy that they will get a state through economic and cultural extortion. The Palestinians will get a state only by sitting down and negotiating directly with Israel. I told my mother’s favorite joke about Sam, an Orthodox Jew, who prayed every day to win the N.Y. Lottery before he turned 80. On his 80th birthday, he complains to God that he hasn’t won. God replies, “Sam, help me out a little — buy a ticket.” I argued that the Palestinians expect to “win” a state without “buying a ticket” — sitting down to negotiate a compromise solution.

The debate in its entirety, which was conducted in front of an audience of business people in Dallas as part of the “Old Parkland Debate Series,” continued with broad arguments about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the refugee situation, the peace process, terrorism, and other familiar issues. It can be seen in full on C-SPAN. I think it is worth watching.

The audience voted twice, once before the debate and once after. The final tally was 129 opposed to BDS and 16 in favor. The vote before the debate was 93 opposed and 14 in favor. I swayed 36 votes. West swayed 2. The anti-BDS position won overwhelmingly, not because I am a better debater than West — he is quite articulate and everyone watching the C-SPAN can judge for themselves who is the better debater — but because the facts, the morality, and the practicalities are against BDS.

The important point is never to give up on making the case against unjust tactics being employed against Israel. In some forums — at the United Nations, at numerous American university campuses, in some parts of Western Europe — it is an uphill battle. But it is a battle that can be won among open-minded people of all backgrounds. BDS lost in Dallas. BDS lost in a debate between me and an articulate human rights activist at the Oxford Union. BDS is losing in legislative chambers. And if the case is effectively and honestly presented, it will lose in the court of public opinion.

Alan Dershowitz (@AlanDersh) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus, at Harvard Law School and author of “Trumped up! How Criminalizing Politics is Dangerous to Democracy.” This article was originally published by the Gatestone Institute.

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