YouTube to remove hateful, supremacist content

FILE PHOTO: Silhouettes of mobile device users are seen next to a screen projection of Youtube logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

By Paresh Dave

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – YouTube said on Wednesday it would remove videos that deny the Holocaust and other “well-documented violent events,” a major reversal in policy as it fights criticism that it provides a platform to hate speech and harassment.

The streaming service, owned by Alphabet Inc’s Google, also said it would remove videos that glorify Nazi ideology or that promote groups that claim superiority to others to justify several forms of discrimination.

In addition, video creators that repeatedly brush up against YouTube’s hate speech policies, even without violating them, will now have their accounts shut down, a spokesman said.

In a blog post, YouTube acknowledged the new policies could hurt researchers who seek out these videos “to understand hate in order to combat it.” The policies also could frustrate free speech advocates who say hate speech should not be censored.

Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, which researches anti-Semitism, said it had provided input to YouTube on the policy change.

“While this is an important step forward, this move alone is insufficient and must be followed by many more changes from YouTube and other tech companies to adequately counter the scourge of online hate and extremism,” Greenblatt said in a statement.

(Reporting by Paresh Dave; Additional reporting by Sayanti Chakraborty in Bengaluru; Editing by James Emmanuel and Bernadette Baum)

European Jews feel under threat, think of emigrating: EU survey

The Star of David is seen on the facade of a synagogue in Paris France, December 10, 2018. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – More than one in three European Jews have considered emigrating over the past five years because they no longer feel safe amid a surge in anti-Semitism, a European Union study showed on Monday.

The survey in 12 countries that are home to 96 percent of European Jews showed widespread malaise at a rise in hate crimes which Jewish communities blame in part on anti-Semitic comments by politicians that stoke a climate of impunity.

Feelings of insecurity were particularly acute among Jews in France, followed by Poland, Belgium and Germany, the study by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) found.

Facing hostility online and at work or in graffiti scrawled on walls near synagogues, nine out of ten Jews living in nations which have been their home for centuries feel that anti-Semitism has worsened over the past five years, the study said.

“It is impossible to put a number on how corrosive such everyday realities can be, but a shocking statistic sends a clear message … more than one third say that they consider emigrating because they no longer feel safe as Jews,” FRA’S director Michael O’Flaherty was cited as saying in a foreword to the study.

EU officials presenting the report in Brussels on Monday called on governments to do more to combat such hate, including commemorating the history of the Holocaust in which the Nazis killed at least six million Jews in Europe during World War Two.

“What we need now is concrete action in the member states to see real change for Jews on the ground,” European Commission deputy head Frans Timmermans told reporters. “There is no Europe if Jews don’t feel safe in Europe.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn are among the most prominent EU leaders battling accusations of anti-Semitism by Jewish community leaders.

Worries over the hostile rhetoric are underscored by government figures in several European countries showing a spike in violence against Jews.

Following a number of high-profile attacks targeting Jews, soldiers and armed guards at the doors of synagogues or Jewish schools have become a familiar site in Europe.

Eighty-five percent of the 16,395 polled identified anti-Semitism as the biggest social and political problem, while almost a third said they avoid attending events or visiting Jewish sites.

However, 79 percent of those who experienced harassment said they did not report the incidents to authorities.

The results showed a loss of faith in their governments’ ability to keep them safe, the European Jewish Congress (EJC) said, causing Jews to feel torn between emigrating and cutting themselves off from their Jewish community.

“This is intolerable and a choice no people should have to face,” EJC head Moshe Kantor said in a statement.

A government spokeswoman in Germany said the results of the study were shocking, adding that the interior ministry “isn’t looking at it idly.”

 

(Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel in Brussels and Riham Alkousaa in Berlin; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

Anti-Semitic acts surge in France, government promises action

FILE PHOTO: People attend a gathering in memory of Mireille Knoll, an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor stabbed to death and burnt in her Paris apartment in an apparent anti-Semitic attack, in Marseille, France March 28, 2018. The banner reads "No to hate". REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) – Violence against Jews and other acts of anti-Semitism have surged in France in the past nine months, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Friday, promising stepped-up action against perpetrators.

Citing new government statistics, Philippe said acts of anti-Semitism had risen 69 percent in the year to September, compared with the same period in 2017, an increase he said should worry everyone in France. In the two previous years there had been a downward trend in the figures.

“Not remaining indifferent means taking better care of victims, acknowledging their complaints and more efficiently punishing those who carry out attacks,” Philippe said in a post on his Facebook account.

Jewish community organizations have reported particular hostility in low-income French suburbs with large Muslim populations. France has both Europe’s largest Jewish community of 400,000 people and biggest Muslim population of 5.7 million.

In recent years there have been a number of high-profile attacks targeting the Jewish community, most notably the killing of four Jews in a kosher supermarket in January 2015.

That attack, carried out by an Islamic State-inspired militant, prompted an increase in Jewish emigration to Israel.

In March, an 85-year-old Jewish woman was stabbed to death and set alight in her apartment in Paris by two attackers, who were charged with murder motivated by anti-Semitism.

There have also been a number of Jewish tombs desecrated, anti-Semitic graffiti scrawled on walls near synagogues, or on the doors of homes and businesses owned by Jews.

“We have seen a very strong increase in anti-Semitic messages on the internet,” said Francis Kalifat, president of Crif, an umbrella organization representing French Jews.

“We have also seen a development of hatred towards Israel that translates into a virulent anti-Zionism, which has, like the president said, become a reinvented form of anti-Semitism.”

Philippe said the government would appoint special magistrates and prosecutors to tackle the problem and launch awareness programs in public schools.

The government will also act to curb hate on social networks, said Interior Minister Christophe Castaner.

“The feeling of insecurity is real and justified,” Mario Stasi, chairman of France’s league against racism and anti-Semitism, told BFMTV. “Some Jews are leaving areas within France to seek haven elsewhere.”

Also on Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country had a moral duty to fight a resurgence of anti-Semitism there. She was speaking at a synagogue in Berlin to mark the 80th anniversary of the “Kristallnacht” pogrom against Jews in Nazi Germany.

(Reporting by Inti Landauro; Editing by Luke Baker/Mark Heinrich)

Palestinian leader Abbas offers apology for remarks on Jews

FILE PHOTO - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas heads a Palestinian cabinet meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah July 28, 2013. REUTERS/Issam Rimawi/Pool/File Photo

By Stephen Farrell

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday offered an apology after he was accused of anti-Semitism for suggesting that historic persecution of European Jews had been caused by their conduct, not by their religion.

Abbas condemned anti-Semitism and called the Holocaust the “most heinous crime in history” in a statement issued by his office in Ramallah after a four-day meeting of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), at which he had made the remarks.

“If people were offended by my statement in front of the PNC, especially people of the Jewish faith, I apologize to them,” Abbas said in the statement.

“I would like to assure everyone that it was not my intention to do so, and to reiterate my full respect for the Jewish faith, as well as other monotheistic faiths.”

Abbas, 82, was excoriated by Israeli and Jewish leaders and diplomats who accused him of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial for his remarks on Monday during his opening speech to the PNC, the de facto parliament of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

He said that Jews living in Europe had suffered massacres “every 10 to 15 years in some country since the 11th century and until the Holocaust”.

Citing books written by various authors, Abbas said: “They say hatred against Jews was not because of their religion, it was because of their social profession. So the Jewish issue that had spread against the Jews across Europe was not because of their religion, it was because of usury and banks.”

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman swiftly rejected Abbas’ apology. He wrote on Twitter: “Abu Mazen is a wretched Holocaust denier, who wrote a doctorate of Holocaust denial and later also published a book on Holocaust denial. That is how he should be treated. His apologies are not accepted.”

Reacting to the speech, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday accused Abbas of grave anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper of the U.S.-based Jewish human rights organization the Simon Wiesenthal Center said Abbas’ words were those of “a classic anti-Semite”.

U.N. Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov called Abbas’ comments “deeply disturbing”.

PREVIOUS COMMENTS

A veteran member of Fatah, the PLO’s dominant faction, Abbas served for decades as a loyal deputy of his predecessor, Yasser Arafat. He assumed the leadership of Fatah, the PLO and the Palestinian Authority after Arafat died in 2004, and was re-elected as chairman of the PLO’s Executive Committee on Friday.

In 1982 Abbas obtained a doctorate in history at the Moscow Institute of Orientalism in the then-Soviet Union. His dissertation, entitled “The Secret Relationship between Nazism and the Zionist Movement” – to which Lieberman referred – drew widespread criticism from Jewish groups.

The following year the Simon Wiesenthal Center released translated quotations from the book, including one excerpt about World War Two in which, according to the center’s translation, Abbas wrote:

“Following the war…word was spread that six million Jews were amongst the victims and that a war of extermination was aimed primarily at the Jews…The truth is that no one can either confirm or deny this figure. In other words, it is possible that the number of Jewish victims reached six million, but at the same time it is possible that the figure is much smaller – below one million.”

After Abbas’ speech on Monday, Hier and Cooper said: “The world can now see that see that, for Palestinian Authority President Abbas, nothing has changed in the 45 years since his doctoral dissertation was first published.”

But in his apology on Friday, Abbas said: “I would also like to reiterate our long held condemnation of the Holocaust, as the most heinous crime in history, and express our sympathy with its victims.

“Likewise, we condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms, and confirm our commitment to the two-state solution, and to live side by side in peace and security,” he said, referring to an eventual resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

(Reporting by Stephen Farrell; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Britain says Abbas Holocaust remarks ‘deeply concerning’

FILE PHOTO: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas waves in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank May 1, 2018. Picture taken May 1, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Thursday that recent remarks by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the Holocaust were “deeply concerning” and unhelpful to peace in the region.

Israel has accused Abbas of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial after the Palestinian leader suggested in a speech that historic persecution of European Jews had been caused by their conduct.

“Palestinian President Abbas’s comments at the Palestinian National Congress were deeply concerning. Any attempt to justify or explain away any element of the Holocaust is unacceptable,” Britain’s Middle-East minister Alistair Burt said in a statement.

“President Abbas has shown a commitment to non-violence and a two-state solution. But his recent rhetoric does not serve the interests of the Palestinian people and is deeply unhelpful to the cause of peace.”

(Reporting by William James, editing by Estelle Shirbon)

Israeli-U.S. teen indicted for bomb threats, hate crimes: U.S. Justice Department

FILE PHOTO: A U.S.-Israeli teen arrested in Israel on suspicion of making bomb threats against Jewish community centres in the United States, Australia and New Zealand over the past three months, is escorted by security personnel following his remand hearing at Magistrate's Court in Rishon Lezion, Israel March 23, 2017. REUTERS/Baz Ratner/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A 19-year-old man has been indicted for hate crimes connected to threats against Jewish community centers, as well as threatening the Israeli embassy and cyberstalking, the U.S. Justice Department said on Wednesday.

Michael Kadar was arrested in Israel last year and is awaiting trial there. U.S. and Israeli authorities have previously charged him with making thousands of threats, including to airports, schools and Jewish centers, in the United States in 2016 and early 2017.

Kadar, who holds dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship, was indicted by grand juries in Florida, Georgia and the District of Columbia for making threats from January to March 2017, the Justice Department said in a statement.

The statement did not say whether he would be extradited to the United States.

Kadar is alleged to have telephoned the Anti-Defamation League with a bomb threat and making a bomb threat in an email to the Israeli embassy in Washington, both in March 2017, the Justice Department said.

Kadar, who is Jewish, was indicted for allegedly calling police in January 2017 about a hoax hostage situation at a home in Athens, Georgia, which included a threat to kill responding officers. Kadar also faces a federal cyberstalking indictment in Georgia.

In Florida, Kadar was charged with making multiple threatening calls about bomb threats and gun attacks against Jewish community centers throughout the state in January and February 2017. He also is alleged to have made bomb threats against the Orlando International Airport and a school.

The hoax threats to the Jewish community centers forced widespread evacuations and raised fears of a resurgence in anti-Semitism.

U.S. authorities have said in court documents that Kadar advertised his services on AlphaBay, a now-closed online black market, and offered to threaten any school for $30. The Justice Department shut AlphBay down in July 2017.

Israeli authorities have accused him of earning about $240,000 worth of the digital currency Bitcoin after selling his threat services on the dark web.

Kadar’s parents have said he has a brain tumor that caused autism and other mental problems, making him unable to understand the nature of his actions.

If convicted, Kadar faces up to 20 years in prison for each hate crime charge and a maximum of 10 years for each bomb threat charge. The interstate threats charge, the hoax charge and cyberstalking charge call for up to five years in prison apiece.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Israel indicts U.S.-Israeli teen over bomb threats

An U.S.-Israeli teen, who was arrested in Israel on suspicion of making bomb threats against Jewish community centres in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, arrives before the start of a remand hearing at Magistrate's Court in Rishon Lezion, Israel April 20, 2017. REUTERS/ Amir Cohen

By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – An Israeli-American teenager was indicted in Israel on Monday on allegations he made thousands of hoax bomb calls, some targeting U.S. Jewish community centers, and earned $240,000 by offering to phone in threats against schools, hospitals and planes.

The arrest of the suspect, who is Jewish, in Israel on March 23 drew headlines when he was identified by police as having been behind bomb threats against the centers in the United States that had raised fears of a surge in anti-Semitism.

An indictment filed in the Tel Aviv District Court pointed to a threat-for-profit motive by the 18-year-old, who prosecutors said used electronic voice-altering equipment and a long-range WiFi antenna to cover his online tracks.

The suspect, the charge sheet alleged, had the equivalent of about $240,000 in his Bitcoin account earned via make-a-threat services he offered on the “Darknet”, which includes members-only websites that are not available to the general public.

The teen’s U.S.-born mother and Israeli father say their son, who moved to Israel aged 5 and lives with them in the southern city of Ashkelon, is autistic and suffers from a brain tumor that affects his behavior. No plea has been entered.

“He has high-level autism. I appeal to the world on his behalf for forgiveness for he does not know what he has done,” his mother told reporters. “This tumor has caused a state of some type of mental dysfunction that he is not aware of what he is doing. My son does not hate anyone.”

Israeli prosecutors said the suspect made bomb and shooting threats against some 2,000 institutions, including schools, shopping malls, police stations, airlines and airports in North America, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Norway and Denmark.

The threats forced the evacuation of many Jewish community centers, including some with facilities for infants and young children. They also prompted criticism of U.S. President Donald Trump for what some Jewish groups saw as an inadequate response from his administration. He condemned the incidents in a speech to Congress in February.

PRICE LIST

According to a price list posted by the suspect, customers could order a threat of a “massacre at a private home” for $40, a call threatening a “school massacre” for $80 and a bomb threat against an airliner for $500, the indictment said.

“The accused even asked customers to contact him if they had special requests for threats against other targets and to receive a customized quote,” according to the charge sheet.

One bomb hoax targeted a plane in which the Boston Celtics basketball team was traveling in December 2016, and another was made against Delaware state Senator Ernesto Lopez, who apparently drew the teen’s attention by denouncing threats made against JCCs, the prosecutors said.

If convicted in Israel, he faces up to 10 years in jail, prosecutor Jonathan Hadad told Reuters after charges were filed in the court. Israeli authorities withheld his name because he was a minor when some of the alleged crimes were committed.

Separate criminal complaints filed on Friday in U.S. federal courts in Florida and Georgia that linked the suspect to hundreds of hoax calls between 2015 and 2017 identified him as Michael Ron Kadar.

A judicial source said that at present, Israel had not received a formal extradition request from the United States. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation took part in the probe.

“There have been contacts regarding the matter but as of now our position is not to extradite for many reasons,” the source said. “He was a minor when he committed some of the offences, the threats were made in Israel too and in other countries, not just in the United States, and there are also claims as to his mental state.”

(Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Luke Baker and Catherine Evans)

Suspect in threats against Jewish groups appears in U.S. court

The residence of Juan M Thompson is seen after it was searched by police in connection with his arrest on charges of bomb threats made against Jewish organizations across the United States, in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. March 3, 2017. REUTERS/Lawrence Bryant

By Brendan Pierson and Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A former journalist charged with making a wave of bomb threats to U.S. Jewish organizations by telephone while posing as his ex-girlfriend appeared in Manhattan federal court on Wednesday afternoon.

Juan Thompson, 31, was arrested in St. Louis earlier this month and arrived in New York on Wednesday morning. He appeared wearing beige prison garb and flanked by two public defenders at a brief hearing before Magistrate Judge James Francis.

The public defender assigned by Francis to represent Thompson, Mark Gombiner, did not seek bail at the hearing and declined to say afterward when he might. Thompson will remain in custody for now.

Thompson is scheduled to appear again before U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel on April 6.

Prosecutors say Thompson used fake email accounts to impersonate his ex-girlfriend when he sent the bomb threats. The threats were the culmination of months of harassment against the ex-girlfriend that began after she broke up with him last July, they said.

Thompson was a reporter for the Intercept news website until he was fired last year for allegedly inventing sources and quotes.

Before his extradition to New York, he said he was being framed and targeted as a black man.

“Make no mistake: this is a modern-day lynching,” he said in a telephone interview from the Warren County jail in Missouri. “The allegations are false.”

Thompson said he had no anti-Semitic beliefs.

U.S. authorities have been investigating a surge of threats against Jewish organizations, including more than 100 bomb threats against community centers in dozens of states in separate waves since January.

The threats have stoked fears of a resurgence in anti-Semitism and forced the evacuation of many Jewish community centers, including some with daycare for young children.

The organizations Thompson threatened include a Jewish museum in New York and the Anti-Defamation League, according to a criminal complaint in Manhattan federal court. All occurred after the first flood of phone threats in early January.

Last week, an 18-year-old dual Israeli and U.S. citizen was arrested in Israel on suspicion of making dozens of hoax bomb threats to Jewish centers in the United States, Australia and New Zealand. His name was not disclosed.

His motives were not immediately clear. At a court hearing near Tel Aviv, the suspect’s defense lawyer, Galit Bash, said the young man had a growth in his head that causes behavioral problems.

(Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Matthew Lewis)

Investigators say threats to Jewish groups in U.S. and UK are linked

An American flag still stands next to one of over 170 toppled Jewish headstones at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, Missouri. REUTERS/Tom Gannam

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Scotland Yard and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are investigating more than a hundred bomb threats made to Jewish groups in the United States and Britain since Jan. 7, U.S. and UK law enforcement and Jewish community officials said.

Investigators said there is evidence that some of the U.S. and British bomb threats are linked. According to people in both countries who have listened to recordings of the threats, most of the them have been made over the telephone by men and women with American accents whose voices are distorted by electronic scramblers.

Waves of threats against U.S. Jewish groups – including community centers, schools, and offices of national organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) civil rights group – have been followed within hours by similar but smaller waves against Jewish organizations, mainly schools, in Britain, Jewish community representatives in both countries said.

FBI officials in Washington confirmed that the agency is investigating the threats against U.S. Jewish organizations. Sources in Britain’s Jewish community said London’s Metropolitan Police, otherwise known as Scotland Yard, is conducting its own investigation and collaborating with the FBI.

Scotland Yard did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

Some of the most recent threats were called in Tuesday to ADL offices in Atlanta, Boston, New York, and Washington. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said President Donald Trump’s administration would “continue to condemn them and look at ways to stop them.”

NO BOMBS FOUND

The threats, 140 of them in the United States alone, according to Jewish community leaders, usually have involved callers claiming that improvised explosive devices have been placed outside the buildings that have been threatened.

However, no homemade bombs have been found outside any of the threatened premises in either the United States or the UK, community officials said.

Earlier this month, all 100 U.S. senators signed a letter to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey expressing concern that the wave of threats will put innocent people at risk and threaten the finances of Jewish institutions.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan filed charges against Juan Thompson, a former writer for the investigative website The Intercept, earlier this month alleging that he was responsible for at least eight threats emailed to Jewish community centers as “part of a sustained campaign to harass and intimidate” a woman with whom he had a romantic relationship.

The Intercept, a news website, had fired Thompson months earlier for allegedly fabricating quotes.

Jewish community officials in the United States and Britain said they think the threats that investigators linked to Thompson were not related to the larger campaign against Jewish organizations in their countries.

(Reporting By Mark Hosenball; Editing by John Walcott and Jonathan Oatis)

New bomb threats made against Jewish centers across U.S., Canada

A firefighter rolls up a hose after a threat made to the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre was deemed a hoax in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

By Laila Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A new round of bomb threats against Jewish community centers across the United States and in Canada forced lockdowns and evacuations on Tuesday, and all 100 U.S. senators asked the federal government to help them enhance security.

Threats were phoned in or emailed to JCCs in states including New York, Wisconsin, Illinois and Florida overnight and early on Tuesday. Centers in Toronto and elsewhere in Ontario also said they were threatened.

U.S. federal authorities have been investigating a surge of threats against Jewish organizations, including more than 100 hoax bomb threats in five separate waves in January and February against JCCs in dozens of states.

The Trump Administration denounced the newest round of threats “in the strongest terms,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told a news briefing.

“As long as they do continue, we’ll continue to condemn them and look at ways in which we can stop them,” Spicer said.

Tuesday’s incidents appeared unconnected to the majority of previous threats, according to the Secure Community Network, which provides security expertise to Jewish groups.

A letter signed by all 100 U.S. senators was sent on Tuesday to top U.S. law enforcement officials asking that they help Jewish groups enhance security.

“We are concerned that the number of incidents is accelerating and failure to address and deter these threats will place innocent people at risk and threaten the financial viability of JCCs,” the letter said.

One arrest was made last week, when a former journalist was charged in St. Louis with using fake email accounts to threaten to bomb Jewish sites while posing as his ex-girlfriend. But he is not believed to be responsible for the majority of threats.

Threats came in to Jewish centers and day schools on Tuesday in cities including Chicago, Milwaukee and the greater Rochester area in upstate New York.

The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights organization, also said it received bomb threats at four of its locations.

In addition to violent threats, some Jewish organizations received harassing phone calls. At the East Midwood Jewish Center in Brooklyn, police said, an anonymous caller threatened to spray the center’s synagogue with pig’s blood.

“We’ve never seen such a period of concentrated threats against the Jewish community,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told a news conference. “The last few weeks are more troubling than anything I’ve seen in many, many years.”

(Additional reporting by Joseph Ax in New York and Timothy McLaughlin in Chicago; Editing by Dan Grebler and Jonathan Oatis)