European Parliament Rejects Anti-Semitism Task Force

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In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, allow me to inform you: Europe has a serious anti-Semitism problem. I mean massive, violent, large-scale anti-Semitism. Masses chanting “Jews to the gas” throughout Belgium, Germany and France. “Jewish-looking” citizens attacked in the streets, synagogues firebombed, and the horrific murders at the Brussels Jewish Museum.

In the current European climate, Jews have immigrated to Israel in record numbers. The director of the BBC, who is Jewish, is quoted saying “I’ve never felt so uncomfortable being a Jew in the UK as I’ve felt in the last 12 months. …You’ve seen the number of attacks rise, you’ve seen murders in France, you’ve seen murders in Belgium. It’s been pretty grim actually…Having lived all my life in the UK, I’ve never felt as I do now about anti-Semitism in Europe.”

If the picture is not clear enough, here’s one final detail: Children have often been the target of this reckless violence.

So you can understand why it seemed, if only for a moment, like a boon for European Jews when the European Parliament expressed great initial support for a task force on anti-Semitism. Preliminary reports stated that over 100 MEPs had expressed support for the potential task force—evidently something became warped in the process. The task force was ultimately voted down, leaving the Jewish community in a sore predicament.

The EU Parliament seems to be treating the need to combat increasing anti-Semitism with complete disregard. At this point in time, the safety of the Jewish community is more than a question—it is a priority. The situation currently stands like this: the next opportunity for the EU Parliament to create a similar task force will not arrive for several year, until new elections.

Let me remind you that after the Brussels museum attack and other attacks across Europe, European leaders pledged to deal with anti-Semitism with Europe-wide cooperation.  The promise has yet to be kept.

I believe that Stephan Kramer of the American Jewish Committee’s European Office on anti-Semitism explained the situation best.

He said “Anti-Semitism is an abomination which has been around for a very long time. It has its specific roots and specific driving forces, not to mention the horrible results it produced in Europe – more so than anywhere else…Therefore, combating anti-Semitism in as efficient a way as possible would have been aided by a special framework designed to do just this. I think that most of those who voted the proposal down realize this. Therefore we have to assume that they succumbed to a warped political correctness which frowns upon calling anti-Semites anti-Semites. This is a terribly wrong signal. I am afraid that it will be interpreted by more than just a handful of people as a wink that hating Jews is, sort of, acceptable.”

I sincerely hope that European Jewish organizations will take a similar line. The time for making vague statements condemning anti-Semitism is over. Europe must take action.

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Central Council of Jews in Germany Elects New President

Schuster

(photo via Thoman Good)

The German Jewish community marked a major shift in December with the resignation of Dieter Graumann from his position as head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

Graumann is replaced by Josef Schuster, the son of two Holocaust survivors and a physician from the Bavarian city of Würzburg who previously served as the group’s vice-president. Schuster is a bit of a controversial leader–his focus appears to primarily be uniting orthodox and liberal Jewish communities. This is, of course, a positive goal for the community, but German Jews are currently grappling with levels of anti-Semitism that must take precedence.

In his final statements as president, Graumann told the newspaper “BILD”: “For a while I noticed that anti-Semitism is becoming increasingly public and is no longer hidden. We often receive anti-Semitic messages sent according to name and address…Some people are no longer ashamed and no longer hide their hostility to Jews.”

In response to raised anti-Semitism in Germany, Dieter Graumann organized the highly publicized September rally against anti-Semitism that took place in Berlin and was attended by Chancellor Angela Merkel. His four years as head of the Central Council were highlighted by “by campaigns to stop Germany from banning circumcision, and sharp criticism of societal and political indifference toward rising hatred of Jews and Israel in the Federal Republic.”

Graumann ultimately stepped down from the position due to the immense responsibility and demanding schedule. New leader, Josef Schuster, is quite optimistic that the position will not alter his schedule and he will be able to balance it with his physician’s practice. Schuster has big shoes to fill, and doesn’t seem to be as concerned with anti-Semitism as the leader he succeeds. Let’s ensure he’s up to the task.

Time to for Japan to say Sayonara to Anti-Semitism

The island nation of Japan, hemmed in by the sea and ocean, boasts one of the most modern economies on the globe as well as a rich cultural heritage. Known as the Land of the Rising Sun, I fear that Japan may be witnessing a rise in a much uglier phenomena- that of anti-Semitism. While fortunately, the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Japan has been low, they are a warning that more may arise if the Japanese government does not act. As Japan’s Jewish community is sparse, it is up to the world major Jewish organization to highlight the dangers of anti-Semitism in Japan and spur its government into action.

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(Ripped pages of three copies of Anne Frank’s Diary displayed at a Tokyo library. Jiji Press/AFP)

Recently, a Japanese daily newspaper published an advertisement for a grossly anti-Semitic author’ book. The book in question is rife with Holocaust denial and blames Jews for the September 11th attacks in 2001 as well as for Japan’s 2011 tsunami and Fukashima nuclear disaster that left 18,000 people dead. This follows a previous act of anti-Semitism earlier in the year, where more than 300 copies of Anne Frank’s were found to be mutilated across 38 libraries in and around Tokyo. Already, fears exist about an increase in hate speech toward ethnic minorities in Japan as its Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, pushes for patriotism and nationalistic interpretations of history at schools. Considering that 23% of Japanese citizens already hold anti-Semitic views, I believe the threat of more anti-Semitic acts will increase unless serious and proactive action is taken.

It is time major Jewish organizations step in and work to upend the threat of rising Jew hatred in Japan. The Yudaya Kyodan (Jewish Community of Japan) represents the country’s small Jewish community, consisting of visiting Jewish businessmen and the descendants of European Jews that fled to Japan during the Holocaust, but is not in a position to adequately affect change on a large, national or governmental level. This why the world’s larger Jewish organizations with a larger organizational capacity and knowledge, must support Japan in implementing anti-racism material in schools as well as programs aimed at the larger population. As Jews, we live in all corners of the world, yet we make up one community and we must stand as one when faced with oppression and injustice. Anti-Semitism can be eradicated and we must all work together to make this a reality.

SHOMRIM DEL REINO UNIDO: DIGNOS DE SER IMITADOS

Siento todo el respeto del mundo por los Shomrim (del hebreo, guardias), grupos de vigilancia comunitaria, o de custodia vecinal, que hacen de todo, desde detener a asaltantes hasta ayudar a víctimas de crímenes violentos o buscar a personas desaparecidas. Si bien no tienen autoridad para realizar arrestos, son famosos por la eficacia con la que logran perseguir y detener a personas hasta la llegada de la policía. Los Shomrim del Reino Unido (Shomrim UK) –de la zona del norte de Londres– entregan a las autoridades entre tres y cinco sospechosos por semana.

Además, los Shomrim UK se ocupan de crímenes antisemitas y muchas veces las víctimas eligen llamarlos a ellos antes de llamar a la policía, dada su veloz respuesta, de un promedio de ¡40 segundos! Lo curioso es que a pesar de que suelen actuar en barrios judíos religiosos, aproximadamente el 70% de la gente a la que socorren no son judíos.

La reportera Tammy Kinder  describió su experiencia cuando participó en una de las rondas de patrulla del grupo en el norte de Londres: “a eso de las 10 de la noche uno de los miembros de Shomrim vio una mujer tirada en la mitad de la transitada Stamford Hill Broadway.

Shulem, el conductor, nos alcanzó en un minuto. Cuando llegamos, ya había dos Shomrim brindándole primeros auxilios. Era una peatona (no judía) que fue atropellada por un auto que se dio a la fuga. Otros Shomrim estaban ocupados en cercar el área y otros dos tomaban nota de la información de los testigos para transmitírsela a la policía. Tres minutos más tarde, una ambulancia “Hatzolá” llegó y realizó los preparativos para llevar a la víctima del accidente al hospital. Tres minutos después de tod eso, llegó la policía.

La rapidez de esta respuesta es típica de la agrupación.

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(Foto via thejc)

Lo que me parece más digno de destacar es la colaboración interreligiosa, que afianza la sensación de seguridad de la comunidad. Los Shomrim UK tienen un acuerdo con la comunidad musulmana, para proteger también la mezquita y centro comunitario. Este tipo de iniciativas va construyendo comunidades seguras y contribuyen a reducir los crímenes antisemitas. Esta agrupación surgió de las bases y está logrando ‘hacer una diferencia’, y sirve de inspiración para futuros movimientos espontáneos que como ellos, surjan para combatir el antisemitismo.

Los Shomrim adoptan una actitud activa y efectiva sin esperar la iniciativa de las grandes organizaciones. Ellos mantienen excelentes relaciones con las fuerzas policiales locales y con la ciudadanía en general.

Ingeniosas acciones como estas son las que necesitan nuestras comunidades…

Spotlight: The Community Security Trust in The UK

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(photo via Jewishlegacy.org)

The Community Security Trust, a UK  Jewish charity  combating anti-Semitism, was established in 1994 in an effort to ensure the safety of the Jewish community. I can honestly say that I have been consistently amazed by their constant vigilance and frequent initiatives.

The picture I aim to paint is honest. Meaning that even our most active organizations are not perfect, and that must be acknowledged. Like any organization, the CST has its faults, particularly regarding organizational transparency and funding. This created a controversy in 2011 that has since been resolved.

Yet this summer, when UK Jews were faced with a 400% rise in anti-Semitic incidents, the Board of Deputies and other well-established Jewish organizations did little to assist their communities. During this time, the CST was the only established group that actively produced reports and offered legal procedures to ensure the safety of the community.

And truthfully, little has changed.

The anti-Semitic climate in the UK remains tense. Only recently a Jewish youth football team was forced off the field due to anti-Semitic abuse. A Jewish MP for the Labour party, Luciana Berger, was attacked on Twitter with anti-Semitic Tweets containing the hashtag #HitlerWasRight. The perpetrator was later jailed for 4 weeks. Most disheartening was when the students union at London’s Goldsmiths University refused to commemorate the international Holocaust Remembrance Day, calling it “Eurocentric” and “colonialist.”

Following the recent synagogue massacre in Jerusalem and the stabbing in Antwerp, the CST issued a “security bulletin that contained nine instructions to Jewish institutions, including a call to ‘ensure visible external security patrols take place to deter and detect hostile activity’ and immediate reporting to police of any suspicious behavior.”

You can read the notice here.

(Source)

This is exactly the kind of immediate and appropriate response Jewish organizations should be providing. It manages to actively recommend ways for community members to protect themselves, the importance of which I cannot stress enough. Politically prosecuting anti-Semites that have been caught attacking Jews is key, but it does not serve to defend Jews in their everyday environment. It’s a relief to see a Jewish group organizing the basic necessities.

Following Violent Attack, The European Jewish Congress Calls on France to Protect the Jewish Community

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(photo via Twitter)

A recent violent anti-Semitic attack in France has got Jewish organizations up in arms, and rightly so.

At the start of December, three unknown assailants broke into the home of a Jewish couple in the Paris suburb Créteil (which is known for its sizable Jewish population). The couple were tied up, robbed, and the 19-year-old woman was violently raped.

In addition to this, the assailants told the couple “You Jews always have money” as explanation for their choice of target.

This came only days after two Jewish brothers wearing skullcaps were beaten whilst praying near the Shaare Zion synagogue. The brothers both live in Créteil.

These attacks come as yet another reality dose to French Jewry, who have left France this year in record numbers.

Jewish organizations responded to the attack with horrified outrage. The European Jewish Congress immediately called “on police and public authorities in France to swiftly arrest all the perpetrators and bring them to justice as well as to enhance security at Jewish institutions and to protect the Jewish community.”

The group asks that anti-Semitic attacks be placed at the forefront of the French government’s agenda. Their president stated:  “Unfortunately, it appears that it is ‘open season’ on Jews in France following so many recent violent attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions going all the way back to the brutal torture and murder of Ilan Halimi…”

That doesn’t seem to be far from the truth.

France’s Jewish umbrella organization, CRIF, staunchly condemned the attack in Créteil, but has not done much more. CRIF’s current concentration is France’s Palestine vote, which is where their energy is predominantly directed.

Anti-Semitism has reached a fever pitch in France over the past decade. It is a pervasive force in French culture and must be CRIF’s number one priority. If they are to combat it effectively, the cultural sphere of anti-Semitism must be their constant target.

World Jews Must Support Russian Jewry Under Threat of State Antisemitism

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(photo via ADL)

Denying anti-Semitism does not ensure that reports of it will not leak- as can be currently seen in the case of Russia, a nation with an immensely horrific anti-Semitic past.

The present situation feels like some kind of black comedy, with Russia accusing Ukraine’s post-revolutionary government of anti-Semitism, whilst claiming that Russia has no anti-Semitism itself. Though I would not claim that Ukraine does not have problems with anti-Semitism, this does appear to be some kind of offensive scapegoat attempt.

So the farce unfolds itself: Russia claims not to be anti-Semitic, meanwhile turns a spotlight on Ukraine, all of this part of a deeper political conflict. Meanwhile in Russia, anti-Semitism (both state sanctioned and civilian) remains a serious issue.

A State Duma deputy, Elena Mizulina from the “United Russia” party (which is the majority party), recently stated that in modern Russia the Jews are not really welcomed. “I offer to help Russian Jews to move to Israel. Give them a lift and a medal “For the liberation of Russia!” We must say to the Jews – you have your own country, go back and leave us.” She said.

On November 25th, a torah study center in Moscow was defaced with graffiti reading: “This is a Zionists’ lair. Get out!”

This is not a stand-alone incident. Also this year, vandals destroyed graves in Vostryakovsky cemetery in Moscow and on a separate occasion vandals wrote anti-Semitic inscriptions and drew a swastika under a poster announcing the concert of the Vienna synagogue cantor Shmuel Barzilov at The Kaliningrad Musical Theater.

Meanwhile, the Russian Jewish Congress appears to be denying that there is an issue. In the first few months of 2014 they issued a report claiming that anti-Semitism was on the rise- and then they grew quiet.

I admit this could be because they would face danger if deemed “outspoken.” After all, the Parliamentary Ethics Commission of the Kaliningrad Regional Duma (the lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia) did not apply sanctions on deputy Oleg Bolycheva, after he called several politicians “Jews hiding  in the opposition,” and accused them of destroying the country. Bolychev is a member of the majority United Russia party.

And the news anchor of Rossiya24, a state-controlled news channel, “agreed with the ardently nationalistic (and often anti-Semitic) author Alexander Prokhanov, who said that Jewish organizations ‘were ushering in a second Holocaust with their own hands … just as they ushered in the first one.’ ”

(Source)

This implies that anti-Semitism runs deep in the government itself, and to call it out openly could put the whistle blower in danger. In this case, world Jewish organizations must come to the aid of Russian Jews and address the problem diplomatically.