Coronavirus crisis stoking anti-Semitism worldwide: report

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The coronavirus crisis is stirring anti-Semitism around the world, fuelled by centuries-old lies that Jews are spreading infection, researchers in Israel said on Monday.

The findings, in the annual report on Anti-Semitism Worldwide by the Kantor Center at Tel Aviv University, showed an 18% rise in anti-Semitic incidents in 2019 over the previous year.

In the first few months of 2020, far-right politicians in the United States and Europe and ultra-conservative pastors have seized upon the health crisis and its resulting economic hardship to foster hatred against Jews, the researchers said.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant rise in accusations that Jews, as individuals and as a collective, are behind the spread of the virus or are directly profiting from it,” said Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress.

“The language and imagery used clearly identifies a revival of the mediaeval ‘blood libels’ when Jews were accused of spreading disease, poisoning wells or controlling economies,” he said during the report’s release.

Kantor said that as unemployment soars due to lockdowns to contain the coronavirus, “more people may seek out scapegoats, spun for them by conspiracy theorists”.

He called on world leaders to address the problem of growing extremism “already at our door”.

Severe and violent incidents against Jews worldwide rose to 456 in 2019 from 387 in 2018, and seven Jews were killed in anti-Semitic attacks last year, the report found.

In 2019, 122 major violent incidents against Jews were reported in Britain, followed by 111 in the United States, 41 in France and Germany and 33 in Australia, according to the findings.

Kantor said there had been a consistent rise in anti-Semitism over the least few years, especially online, and in mainstream society, politics and media.

He said the increased use of social media during the health crisis could facilitate the spread of conspiracy theories, “providing simplistic answers for the growing anxiety among the general public”.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

New York Guardian Angels patrol a Jewish neighborhood on edge

By Peter Szekely and Daniel Fastenberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) – On a windy January night in Brooklyn, a young Jewish woman wary of rising anti-Semitism in her city threw a man who had confronted her to the sidewalk.

It was Ariana Gold’s first night of training with the Guardian Angels, a volunteer neighborhood patrol group that has started patrolling the borough’s Crown Heights section, where attacks against ultra-orthodox Jews have risen in recent months.

“I think a lot of people are afraid and I think rightly so,” Gold said. “We’ve seen a lot of attacks in the Jewish communities.”

Gold, 28, who lives in a different Brooklyn neighborhood and is not ultra-orthodox, is among the first group of local Jewish women to sign up with the Guardian Angels, which was born in New York during the high-crime late 1970s and now has branches in dozens of cities across the country and around the world.

The defense techniques she was shown on her first night are designed to “bring a person into submission without really hurting them,” said martial arts master Milton Oliver, 51, a construction supervisor and Guardian Angel since 1982.

Gold, a New York native who has been boxing for exercise for five years, found her way to the Guardian Angels after spotting a recruitment poster in the subway.

“I believe in community engagement and working with communities, I believe in martial arts and self-defense, I believe in volunteerism and taking care of the people around you,” said Gold, who works at a non-profit organization. “So, this kind of combined all of those traits.”

The Guardian Angel patrols in Crown Heights, home to the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement and many of its followers, come after high-profile mass shootings at synagogues in Pittsburgh and San Diego in the past 16 months.

In New York, police reported a 26% jump in anti-Semitic hate-crimes last year. While most of the city’s 234 incidents involved graffiti, they also included attacks on Lubavitchers in Crown Heights, which has a history of occasionally strained relations between Jews and blacks that flared into rioting in 1991.

Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa said community leaders asked his group to resume patrols for the first time since the riots after a mass stabbing attack on Hanukkah celebrants last month in suburban Monsey, New York, about 40 miles (64 km) away, as well as several assaults in Crown Heights.

Patrols were also launched in some other ultra-orthodox Brooklyn neighborhoods, he said.

Although the incidents prompted an increased police presence, Sliwa said residents still need to take charge of their own safety.

“You can’t depend on a political figure or the police,” he said. “You’ve got to self-help, you have to use self-defense, you have to fight back, you have to be aggressive.”

The Guardian Angels have started training 40 to 50 mostly ultra-orthodox Jews to defend themselves and make citizens’ arrests, Sliwa said. By late summer or early fall, he said they should be able to staff their own neighborhood patrols.

Meanwhile, Sliwa and a handful of Guardian Angel volunteers patrol the streets about three times a day in their signature red berets and jackets, often drawing handshakes, selfies and thanks from local residents in traditional Lubavitcher garb.

When Gold is fully trained, she said she will patrol “wherever they send me,” adding, “I’m pretty flexible.”

(This story has been refiled to correct typographical error in byline)

(Reporting by Peter Szekely and Dan Fastenberg; Editing by Dan Grebler)

World leaders at Jerusalem conference condemn rising anti-Semitism

By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – World leaders voiced alarm at resurgent anti-Semitism on Thursday as they gathered at Israel’s national Holocaust Memorial to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence also castigated Iran in their speeches to the World Holocaust Forum, accusing it of rabid anti-Semitism and of seeking Israel’s destruction.

Leaders of Russia and France looked closer to home in lamenting the killing of six million Jews in Europe during World War Two by the Nazis and vowing to combat rising anti-Semitism.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the conference at the Yad Vashem memorial center that he bowed his head in “deepest sorrow (for) the worst crime in the history of humanity” committed by his countrymen.

“I wish I could say that we Germans have learned from history once and for all. But I cannot say that when hatred is spreading,” he said.

Steinmeier spoke in English rather than in German, a choice made, his office said, to avoid causing any distress to Holocaust survivors in the audience.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said it was vital to oppose xenophobia and anti-Semitism everywhere.

“You just said that it’s not known where anti-Semitism ends,” Putin told Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at a meeting before the conference convened.

“Unfortunately we do know this – Auschwitz is its end-result.”

A global survey https://global100.adl.org/about/2019 by the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League in November found that global anti-Semitic attitudes had increased, and significantly so in Eastern and Central Europe. It found that large percentages of people in many European countries think Jews talk too much about the Holocaust.

More than one million people, most of them Jews, were killed at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. Israel hailed the memorial conference, attended by more than 40 world leaders, as the biggest international gathering in its history.

IRAN DENOUNCED

In his speech to the forum, Netanyahu denounced Iran as “the most anti-Semitic regime on the planet” and vowed that Israel would always defend itself against those out to destroy it.

Netanyahu has long accused Iran of seeking nuclear weapons, an allegation it denies.

Pence, in his comments, described Iran as the one country “that denies the Holocaust as a matter of state policy and threatens to wipe Israel off the map”.

Other guests at the commemoration included French President Emmanuel Macron and Britain’s Prince Charles.

Warning of the “dark shadow of anti-Semitism”, Macron met French survivors of the Holocaust at a memorial near Jerusalem to some 76,000 Jews arrested in wartime France and transported to death camps such as Auschwitz, where most died.

One notable absentee from Thursday’s commemoration was President Andrzej Duda of Poland, who turned down his invitation because Poland he was not allowed to speak at the conference, unlike the wartime victors the United States, Russia, Britain and France, and also Germany.

Polish leaders have also been angered by comments made by Putin last month suggesting Poland shared responsibility for the war. Poland, which was invaded first by Nazi Germany and then by Soviet forces in September, 1939, sees itself as a major victim of the war, in which it lost a fifth of its population.

Poland will host its own ceremony at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum on Jan. 27, as it does every year.

(Additional reporting by Justyna Pawlak in Warsaw, Darya Korsunskaya in Jerusalem and Sabine Siebold in Berlin; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Macron, in Israel for Holocaust memorial, warns of ‘dark shadow’ of anti-Semitism

By John Irish

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday France was determined to combat the hatred and intolerance that have fueled a sharp rise in anti-Semitism in his country as he met Holocaust survivors during a visit to Israel.

Macron is one of dozens of world leaders attending events at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center in Jerusalem to mark the 75-year anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.

“The dark shadow of anti-Semitism is being reborn,” Macron told members of the roughly 100,000 French-Israeli citizens.

“Anti-Semitism is back. It is here and its cortege of intolerance and hate is here. France won’t accept.”

“I responded to the call to come to Yad Vashem to say this shall never happen again. It’s a battle that is never won,” Macron said. “My determination to act on this is total.”

Earlier on Thursday, Macron met French survivors of the Holocaust at a memorial near Jerusalem to some 76,000 Jews who were arrested in France during World War Two and transported in terrible conditions in railway boxcars to death camps such as Auschwitz, where most died.

In 1995 France’s then-president, Jacques Chirac, officially acknowledged for the first time French complicity in the wartime deportations. But it was only in 2009 that France’s highest court recognized the state’s responsibility.

A survey published on Tuesday by French think-tank Fondapol and the American Jewish Committee found that 70 percent of Jews living in France today had been victims of anti-Semitism.

France has Europe’s biggest Jewish community – around 550,000 – and anti-Semitic acts have risen by 70 percent in each of the last two years. More than 500 were reported in 2018 alone.

Last month, scores of Jewish graves were found desecrated in a cemetery in eastern France, hours before lawmakers adopted a resolution equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.

“UNCERTAIN FUTURE”

Commentators have blamed the surge in anti-Semitic attacks on incitement by Islamist preachers, others on the rise of anti-Zionism – opposition to the existence of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people.

Macron and the French survivors of the Holocaust were joined by young college students at a solemn ceremony at the Roglit memorial, west of Jerusalem, to remember the French Jews deported between 1942-1944.

Serge Klarsfeld, an 84-year-old Nazi hunter, welcomed the participation of Macron and the young people in the ceremony.

“Your presence today with the education minister and the children from the banlieues (suburbs) who are bravely engaged in studying the Shoah and drawing the consequences touches us deeply and allows us to look with hope toward an uncertain future,” said Klarsfeld.

(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Pope condemns ‘barbaric resurgence’ of anti-Semitism

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Monday condemned the “barbaric resurgence” of anti-Semitism around the world, linking it to the rise of populism.

Next week’s 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp should serve as a reminder not to become indifferent, Francis said to a delegation from the human rights and research group, the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

“It is troubling to see, in many parts of the world, an increase in selfishness and indifference, lack of concern for others and the attitude that says life is good as long as it is good for me, and when things go wrong, anger and malice are unleashed,” Francis said.

“This creates a fertile ground for the forms of factionalism and populism we see around us, where hatred quickly springs up … where hatred is seminated,” he said. “Even recently, we have witnessed a barbaric resurgence of cases of anti-Semitism.”

He did not specifically mention any countries or populist movements.

Last month in eastern France, scores of Jewish graves were found desecrated in a cemetery, hours before lawmakers adopted a resolution equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.

France has Europe’s biggest Jewish community – around 550,000 – and anti-Semitic attacks are common, with more than 500 alone in 2018.

“Once more, I firmly condemn every form of anti-Semitism,” Francis told the delegation.

A global survey https://global100.adl.org/about/2019 by the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League in November found that anti-Semitic attitudes had increased in many places around the world and significantly in Eastern and Central Europe.

It also found that large percentages of people in Eastern and Western European countries think Jews talk too much about the Holocaust.

In the survey, about 78% of respondents in Poland, where the Nazi extermination camp of Auschwitz was located during the German occupation in World War II, answered in the affirmative to the statement: “Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust.”

The Nazis and their collaborators killed about six million Jews in their attempt to exterminate European Jewry. Millions of others were also killed, including homosexuals, gypsies and political dissenters.

Francis, who visited Auschwitz in 2016, said remembering the Holocaust was vital to ensure that similar atrocities do not happen again.

“If we lose our memory, we destroy our future. May the anniversary of the unspeakable cruelty that humanity learned of seventy-five years ago serve as a summons to pause, to be still and to remember. We need to do this, lest we become indifferent,” he said.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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)