The Jewish Observer,
4-11 Adar, 5778 Feb. 19-25, 2018 -- THE JEWISH OBSERVER, LOS ANGELES -- 603rd Web Ed.
ISRAEL-POLAND SPAT: SWASTIKAS DRAWN ON POLISH EMBASSY IN
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Police in Tel Aviv launched an inquiry after profanities and the word "murderer" were also discovered.
Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki's comments have been strongly condemned by Israel. He has since said through a spokeswoman that he did not intend to blame Jewish victims for "a Nazi German perpetrated genocide".
The fresh dispute comes just weeks after Israel criticized a new Polish law making it illegal to accuse the Polish nation or state of complicity in Nazi crimes.
The legislation was signed into law by President Andrzej Duda but also referred to the country's highest court to consider its constitutionality.
New Holocaust law threatens 'whitewash' of Polish history
What happened at the Polish embassy in Tel Aviv?
Swastikas and anti-Polish profanities were on Sunday found drawn in marker pen on the gates and also on a bulletin board.
No-one has so far claimed responsibility for vandalising the diplomatic mission.
A police investigation is now under way, Tel Aviv authorities say.
What about Mr Morawiecki's comments?
The Polish prime minister made the controversial remarks at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday. He was responding to an Israeli journalist who asked if anyone who said there were Polish collaborators in the Holocaust would be considered a criminal in Poland under the new law.
Mr Morawiecki said: "It's extremely important to first understand that, of course, it's not going to be punishable, not going to be seen as criminal to say that there were Polish perpetrators - as there were Jewish perpetrators, as there were Russian perpetrators, as there were Ukrainian.... not only German perpetrators."
How has Israel responded?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said later on Saturday that the remarks were "outrageous" and showed "an inability to understand history."
On Sunday, he spoke by telephone with Mr Morawiecki to discuss the issue.
In the call, he "pointed out that the goal of the Holocaust was to destroy the Jewish people and that all Jews were under sentence of death", Mr Netanyahu's office said. "He told his Polish counterpart that the distortion regarding Poland could not be corrected by means of another distortion."
Meanwhile, Polish government spokeswoman Joanna Kopcinsk said that Mr Morawiecki's comments in Munich "were by no means intended to deny the Holocaust, or charge the Jewish victims of the Holocaust with responsibility for what was a Nazi German perpetrated genocide".
What does the new Polish law say?
It says that "whoever accuses, publicly and against the facts, the Polish nation, or the Polish state, of being responsible or complicit in the Nazi crimes committed by the Third German Reich… shall be subject to a fine or a penalty of imprisonment of up to three years".
But it adds the caveat that a person "is not committing a crime if he or she commits such an act as part of artistic or scientific activities".
The country has long objected to the use of phrases like "Polish death camps", which suggest the Polish state in some way shared responsibility for camps such as Auschwitz. The camps were built and operated by Nazi Germany after it invaded Poland in 1939. But the more contentious point raised by the law is whether it will outlaw references to acts of individual complicity by Poles with the Nazis - something historians say there is clear evidence for.
The Israelis have been furious about the legislation, which Mr. Netanyahu has described as an attempt to rewrite history and deny the Holocaust.
What happened in World War Two?
Poland was attacked and occupied by Nazi Germany. Millions of its citizens were killed, including three million Polish Jews in the Holocaust. Six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust overall. More Poles have been honored by Israel for saving the lives of Jews during the war than any other nation.
However, historians say others were complicit by acts such as informing on Jews in hiding for rewards, and participating in Nazi-instigated massacres including in Jedwabne where hundreds of Jews were murdered by their neighbors.
WORLD JEWISH CONGRESS CONDEMNS FIREBOMB ATTACK ON SWEDISH SYNAGOGUE
The World Jewish Congress has expressed extreme concern after a gang of masked men hurled firebombs at a synagogue in the Swedish city of Gothenburg on Saturday night. “Anti-Semitic violence will never be tolerated; we call on all European governments to make this message infinitely clear and enforced,” said WJC CEO Robert Singer.
“The terror targeting the Jewish community in Gothenburg is a cause for extreme concern and vigilance. There can be no tolerance for any anti-Semitic violence or hate speech of any kind, and the World Jewish Congress stands vigilant in its support of the Swedish community,” Singer said. “We urge the Swedish authorities to take every measure possible to ensure the safety, security and well-being of its citizens. No person should ever have to live in fear or danger.”
“On my recent visit to Sweden I held in-depth discussions with members of the community and they made it clear to me that their security in the face of rising anti-Semitism was their greatest concern. During my visit, I met with Sweden's minister of justice, the minister of democracy responsible for minorities, the national police commissioner, and the chief of police for Greater Gothenberg on this issue. We trust that the Swedish authorities are taking responsibility for the safety of the community and its venues and are treating this matter with the utmost attentiveness and seriousness, and we stand ready to provide all forms of support,” Singer added.
“Just a few months ago, on the eve of Yom Kippur, the Gothenburg community was faced with a serious neo-Nazi demonstration scheduled to march past its synagogue on the holiest day of the Jewish year, which was derailed following intervention by the local administrative court in Gothenburg, and after significant measures taken by the community, and with our assistance, all at the highest levels,” Singer said.
"Anti-Semitism is rearing its ugly head on both the right and the left across Europe, but regardless of where it is coming from, it will not be tolerated. We call on the governments of Sweden and all European countries to make this message infinitely clear and enforced,” said Singer.
"Anti-Semitic violence will never be tolerated; we call on all European governments to make this message infinitely clear and enforced," WJC CEO Robert Singer said.
FRANCE: DEMANDING JUSTICE FOR ANTI-SEMITIC ATTACKS, TAKING A STAND AT UNESCO
In the last few weeks in France the Simon Wiesenthal Center has become alarmed over disturbing incidents in the Jewish community:
The slashing of a 15-year old girl’s face who was wearing a Jewish school uniform as she was leaving her high school
A Jewish man was violently beaten with baseball bats and hospitalized following a middle of the night home invasion by three masked men
An arson attack on two kosher grocery stores less than a week after they were desecrated with anti-Semitic graffiti. The release of the suspect in Paris' Copernic synagogue bombing that left four dead and 41 wounded
These latest incidents led the SWC to immediately:
• Meet with French Ministry of Interior and Justice officials to demand that adequate sentences be imposed by French judges for perpetrators of violent attacks on Jews.
• Highlight the fact that France’s judicial system currently appears to be failing to deter such crimes.
• Demand an explanation for the sudden, unannounced release to Canada of Hassan Diab, the accused suspect in the 1980 High Holy Day Copernic Synagogue attack and urge that the trial proceeds with or without him.
ISRAEL GAZA: FOUR ISRAELI SOLDIERS INJURED
IN BORDER BLAST
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The army said a Palestinian flag was flying in the area, and when the troops approached they were hit by the blast.
Israel conducted air strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza in response. Separately, two Palestinian teenagers were killed by Israeli tank fire east of Rafah.
The pair approached the border in a suspicious manner, Israel's army said.
Israel and Hamas militants, who dominate Gaza, fought a war in 2014.
No group has so far said it was behind Saturday's explosion, which happened at 16:00 local time (14:00 GMT) east of the town of Khan Younis.
The army said the explosive device had been planted during a demonstration there on Friday and was attached to a flag.
The troops were approaching from the Israeli side when the device detonated.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is attending a security conference in Munich, Germany, said: "The incident on the Gaza border is very serious. We will respond appropriately."
The Israeli army said it targeted 18 Hamas military targets from Saturday night through to Sunday, including "weapons manufacturing infrastructure" and a tunnel being dug by militants.
Palestinian officials said three Hamas training camps and one belonging to a smaller group had been struck.
Israeli media also said a rocket from Gaza fell near a house in the south of the country on Saturday evening. There were no casualties.
Israel holds Hamas responsible for all rocket and mortar fire from the territory. Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since 2008.
Correspondents say the border area has been generally quiet in the last few years but there has been an increase in violence since US President Donald Trump's announcement in December recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Israel regards Jerusalem as its indivisible capital. Palestinians want the east of the city, which Israel occupied in the 1967 Middle East war, to be a capital of a future state. --BBCi
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU TELLS IRAN TO NOT TEST 'ISRAEL’S RESOLVE'
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned Iran to not test "Israel’s resolve".
Speaking at the Munich security conference, a high-profile annual gathering of world leaders, he held up what he said was a piece of an Iranian drone shot down by Israel earlier this month.
His words were directed at the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, seated in the audience.--BBCi
AGUDATH ISRAEL HAILS CONGRESS’ EXPANSION OF DISASTER RELIEF FOR HOUSES OF WORSHIP AND RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS
Agudath Israel of America, a national grassroots Orthodox Jewish organization, is applauding congressional passage of a bipartisan budget bill that enables and enhances the eligibility of houses of worship and religious schools in regard to FEMA-administered disaster aid. Agudath Israel has been one of a small number of groups that have, for over five years, been in the forefront of this legislative effort and played a key role in this change.
“This is a profoundly important step forward for equal treatment of religious institutions,” said Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel’s Vice President for Federal Affairs and Washington Director. “With this change, they will no longer be unfairly treated as 'second class citizens' in regard to disaster relief aid. Ultimately, the beneficiaries will be the communities they serve.”
Under FEMA policy existing at the time, houses of worship were denieddisaster relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and other natural disasters, including most recently Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Despite considerable advocacy by religious groups who argued that the policy distinguishing houses of worship from other nonprofits was discriminatory, FEMA maintained that houses of worship were not explicitly included in the federal program and were, per se, ineligible to receive the aid.
But after President Donald Trump expressed to Congress his view that houses of worship should be considered eligible to receive disaster relief, FEMA announced last month that, based on a recent Supreme Court ruling, it was revising its policy and would begin accepting their aid applications. Nevertheless, congressional supporters and groups active on the issue agreed that legislation was still necessary, so that the new FEMA policy would be enshrined in law and not be revoked or revised by future administrations.
Furthermore, while FEMA changed its policy in regard to houses of worship, it left intact the ineligibility of schools that were of a “religious character” or “of primary religious use." This concern grew when FEMA indicated that the existing legislative proposal would not be enough to address the religious schools issue. “Though some Jewish schools have survived this test and have received FEMA aid, there is no question that many of our institutions – including yeshivos gedolos on the higher education level, as well as a growing percentage of elementary and secondary yeshiva day schools – might not be deemed eligible for disaster relief.”
“After working with Jewish schools for over two decades on FEMA-related problems, I knew we couldn’t let it stand,” Rabbi Cohen added. “It is vitally important, whether in this or other programs, that they equally and consistently receive the full benefit and protection of our laws.”
In the month leading up to passage, Agudath Israel worked intensively with the White House, FEMA, congressional sponsors and other religious school advocates, in bringing the problem to their attention, clarifying issues, answering questions and suggesting legislative approaches and language. In the end, Congress passed legislation that explicitly removed the respective restrictions on both houses of worship and religious schools.
“We owe enormous thanks to the Vice President’s Office, the White House Counsel’s Office and FEMA, as well as to Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Grace Meng (D-NY), and to Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), John Cornyn (R-TX) and James Lankford (R-OK)."
WJC PRAISES GERMANY FOR AGREEING TO COMPENSATE JEWISH NAZI VICTIMS FROM ALGERIA
NEW YORK -- The president of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), Ronald S. Lauder, recently welcomed an agreement between the German government and the Conference for Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) over a one-time compensation payment for Jewish Nazi victims who lived in Algeria between 1940 and 1942.
“This is excellent news. It shows that the terrible treatment Algerian Jews had to endure under the Vichy regime has not been forgotten. I thank the German government for making this gesture. It comes late, but not too late,” Lauder said.
Algeria once had one of the largest Jewish communities in the region. Around 110,000 Jews lived in the country in 1940. At the time, Algeria was a French colony and controlled by the Vichy regime, which was allied to Nazi Germany.
The Vichy government enforced strict anti-Semitic laws, stripped Jews of their French citizenship and prohibited them from working in government and in certain professions. Moreover, Jewish pupils were expelled from state schools. Approximately 25,000 to 30,000 of these Jews are estimated to be still alive.
“The World Jewish Congress has long campaigned for the plight of Jews hailing from North Africa to be recognized by the international community. Apart from the material dimension of this decision, it is also a highly symbolic step: finally, those who suffered tremendous injustice are now being formally recognized as Nazi victims,” Lauder said.
The World Jewish Congress (WJC) is the international organization representing Jewish communities in 100 countries to governments, parliaments and international organizations.
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