South African twins planned attacks on U.S. Embassy, Jewish buildings

U.S. Embassy in South Africa

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African twins arrested over the weekend were planning attacks on the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Pretoria, as well as on buildings owned by Jewish people, police said on Monday.

Four South Africans, including the twins, Brandon-Lee and Tony-Lee Thulsie, faced charges in court ranging from conspiracy to firearms offences, the spokesman for the elite police unit Hawks, Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi, said.

The four, arrested in Johannesburg on Sunday, will be detained in custody until July 19, when their case will be heard, Mulaudzi said.

Quoting the charge sheet, the News24 news organization said the twins had been attempting to fly to Syria. Security officials say there are no known militant groups operating in South Africa, but Britain and the United States warned in June of a high threat of attacks against foreigners in the country’s shopping malls.

Mulaudzi named the other two siblings as Fatima and Ibrahim Mohammed Patel.

“The indictment does talk to issues of terror plots that they were planning against the U.S. Embassy as well as Jewish Buildings in the country,” he said, referring to the twins.

“The twins have been charged with conspiracy,” Mulaudzi added. “The Patel siblings have been charged with the violation of the Firearms Control Act for now.”

The twins’ preliminary charge sheet states that their conspiracy occurred between October 2015 and July 8 this year, local newspaper the Times said on its online service.

In Washington, State Department spokesman John Kirby said at a daily news briefing that the United States applauded Hawks for making the arrests and had “full confidence in the South African judicial system to handle this case according to internationally accepted best practices”.

(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla, additional reporting by Mohammad Zargham in Washington, writing by James Macharia; editing by Ralph Boulton and Cynthia Osterman)

Number of anti-Semitic incidents in Austria rises strongly

Pupils of the Lauder Chabad school

VIENNA (Reuters) – The number of anti-Semitic incidents reported in Austria increased more than 80 percent last year, with reported internet postings denouncing Jews more than doubling, an Austrian group said on Wednesday.

Jews across Europe have warned of a rising tide of anti-Semitism, fueled by anger at Israeli policy in the Middle East, while far-right movements have gained popularity because of tensions over immigration and concerns following militant Islamist attacks in Paris and Brussels.

The Austrian Forum Against Anti-Semitism, which began monitoring anti-Semitic incidents in 2003, said 465 incidents were recorded during 2015, over 200 of them being internet postings hostile to Jews.

The total number of internet postings reported to Austria’s constitutional protection authority as offensive remained stable in 2015, but the number of postings liable to be used in criminal proceedings doubled compared to 2014, according to an interior ministry spokesman.

“The whole picture is terrifying,” Oskar Deutsch, president of the Jewish Communities of Austria (IKG), said.

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) urged the European Union and its member states in January to increase efforts to combat widespread anti-Semitic cyber hate, arguing that anti-Semitism in the region did not show any sign of waning.

IKG’s Secretary General Raimund Fastenbauer said it was difficult to clearly tell who committed some anti-Semitic acts because offenders could not be identified and internet postings were usually anonymous.

But there was a clear trend of increasingly hostile behavior against the 15,000 Jews living in Austria from Muslims, the Jewish community representative said.

“There is an increasing concern in our community that – if the proportion of Muslims in Austria continues to rise due to immigration, due to the refugees – this could become problematic for us,” Fastenbauer said.

Austria has mainly served as a conduit into Germany for refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa but has absorbed a similar number of asylum seekers relative to its much smaller population of 8.7 million.

(Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

Israeli Minister Tells Jews To “Come Home”

In the wake of three terrorist attacks timed to celebrate Ramadan, an Israeli official is giving a simple messages to Jews in France.

Come home.

“I call on the Jews of France – come home! Anti-Semitism is rising, terror is increasing,” said Immigration and Absorption Minister Ze’ev Elkin, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.

“We are prepared to receive with open arms the Jews of France,” Elkin wrote in a post on Facebook.

The message comes on the heels of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying they were engaged in a battle against “dark forces.”

“The brutal murders in France, Tunisia and Kuwait again underscore that the enlightened world is struggling against dark forces. The fight against the murderous terrorism of extremist Islam requires unity, the beginning of which is the unequivocal condemnation of the murderers and those who support them,” Netanyahu said in a statement released to the media.

Immigration to Israel from France is already at an all-time high.  In 2014, for the first time since Israel became a state, France topped the list of countries of permanent immigrants.  That year, 7,000 made the move.   Officials estimate that 10,000 could move by the end of 2015.

Netanyahu has called for Jews to “come home” in the past following French attacks.  At the funeral of four French Jews killed in a Paris kosher grocery store, Netanyahu said “More than ever, today.  Israel is the Jewish homeland,” and the more Jews there are here, “the stronger we will be in our homeland.”

UK Student Organization Votes To Boycott Israel

A leading British student group has voted to join the anti-Semitic boycott of Israel spurred by the Palestinian authority.

The UK’s National Union of Students voted 19-12 to join the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign” started by the Palestinians as a way to attack Israel on the world stage.  The NUS is the umbrella student organization for the nation with over 7 million students represented in 600 schools.

The motion also calls on the British government to stop arms sales to Israel.

The Jewish Chronicle reports that the vote was taken by secret ballot, so it’s impossible to know which members of the group voted in favor of the anti-Semitic action.

A spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry said the vote is really insignificant given the group’s previous anti-Semitic leanings.

“Instead of expressing hatred, British students would benefit from studying history and understanding that the distance between conveying hate language and prejudice to committing despicable crimes is not that great,” the spokesperson said.

Anti-Semitic Fliers Found In Washington, D.C. Neighborhoods

Residents across the D.C. area have reported hateful anti-Semitic fliers being placed outside their homes.

Residents of the Takoma neighborhood in northwest D.C. reported a two-page flier with declarations about Jews and false quotes was placed around their neighborhood some time early Thursday morning.  Police said that they had also had reports of the flier being distributed in Chevy Chase.

The flier was titled “Jews Destroy U.S. Financially” and stated “remove each and every Jew and Pro-Israel official from state and federal governments and financial organizations.”

The Washington Post reported the flier being delivered to readers in Bloomingdale, Cleveland Park, Friendship Heights, Georgetown and Mount Pleasant; in other neighborhoods in Chevy Chase; and in Arlington and Alexandria.

“We would have to consult with the state’s attorney to see if this activity actually rises to the level of a criminal violation,” Montgomery County Capt. Paul Starks said.

Police have asked anyone who saw the fliers being distributed to call police with a description of who carried out the distribution.

One of the homes hit by the fliers was that of a rabbi.

“I’ve really been touched by the response of my neighbors,” Rabbi Elizabeth Richman said. “There’s a small amount of feeling uneasy, and maybe feeling a little bit unsafe. I have been thinking about it all day, because of that feeling of unease.”

President Obama Addresses Anti-Semitism At Synagogue Speech

President Obama addressed anti-Semitism during an address at the Adas Israel Congregation in Washington.

“Anti-Semitism is, and always will be, a threat to broader human values to which we all must aspire,” Obama said.  “And when we allow anti-Semitism to take root, then our souls are destroyed, and it will spread.”

The President reasserted America’s support for Israel.

“It would be a moral failing on the part of the US government and the American people, it would be a moral failing on my part if we did not stand up firmly, steadfastly not just on behalf of Israel’s right to exist, but its right to thrive and prosper,” Obama asserted.

The President added that it’s because of his belief in Israel’s right to exist that he has to be critical of some of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.

“I must object,” he said to applause in the Conservative synagogue. “Papering over hard questions,” he said, is “not a measure of true friendship.”

Although the President admitted “The Palestinians are not the easiest of partners.”

The President gave a glancing mention to his Iran nuclear negotiations which he called “necessary”.

“The deal that we already reached with Iran has already halted or rolled back parts of Iran’s nuclear program. Now we’re seeking a comprehensive solution,” he said, adding that “I will not accept a bad deal.  As I pointed out in my most recent article with Jeff Goldberg, this deal will have my name on it, so nobody has a bigger personal stake in making sure that it delivers on its promise.”

President Obama To Speak At Synagogue

President Obama will be delivering a speech from the pulpit of Congregation Adas Israel in Washington as part of a worldwide event against anti-Semitism.

The speech, which is part of Jewish American Heritage Month, will focus on contributions of Jews to American society according to White House sources.

The White House has been working with the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice over a “solidarity Sabbath” where two dozen governments will taking a stand against the worldwide rise of anti-Semitism.

“We’ve been working with the White House for a considerable period of time, and to their credit, I don’t think there’s any doubt that this administration takes the rise of anti-Semitism very, very seriously,” said Katrina Lantos Swett, president of the Lantos Foundation and chairwoman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The event will include French officials on social media while the American ambassador hosts a Paris event, the president of Romania is attending a service, the Spanish government is hosting a lunch event and Greece is launching an educational program.

Jewish Mother, Teen Attacked Near Paris

A Jewish mother was one of two victims of anti-Semitic attacks in the Paris area.

The woman was injured by three African women who attacked because the Jewish woman complained about their children throwing a soccer ball at her daughter.

As the trio of women were attacking the Jewish woman, witnesses say they were shouting anti-Semitic slogans and comments.  One witness said the assailants yelled “Hitler didn’t finish the job” and “that Jews were a filthy race.”

One of the women said the victim needed more beatings.

The woman was treated in a hospital for her injuries and required several days of recovery.

“Increasingly, banal conflicts involving Jews degenerate into anti-Semitic incidents and assaults,”  the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism wrote in a statement, which urged police to “get to the bottom of what happened.”

The BNVCA also reported that a 16-year-old Jewish boy was attacked by four men of Middle Eastern descent.  He was struck in the face and had his phone stolen from him while a fifth man told the gang of four to “break” the victim of the assault.

The boy required emergency eye surgery at Rothschild Hospital.

Jewish Student Senate Candidate Faces Anti-Semitic Questions

A group at Stanford University is coming under fire after a Jewish students who was seeking their endorsement for her student senate campaign was given an anti-Semitic question.

Molly Horwitz, during an interview with the school’s Students of Color Coalition, was asked if her strong Jewish identity would influence the way she voted on issues related to Israel.

Horwitz, who was born in Paraguay, had already submitted to the group an application where she had to explain reconciling her identity both as a Latina and a Jew.  She told the Anti-Defamation league and Stanford officials that she felt the questioning of her Jewish identity was “over the line.”

“It is not OK that they brought my Jewish identity into this and implied it might impact my decision-making ability,” Horwitz said in an email to the J. weekly. “I interpreted the question as anti-Semitic.”

Horwitz wrote an op-ed in the Stanford Daily asking for an apology from the group and admitted the question completely rattled her.

“The rest of the interview was a blur to me. I barely kept it together. As soon as I left the interview room I began shaking and hyperventilating. I replayed the incident over and over in my mind.”

The SOCC claims that the question was not a “litmus test” and that religious identity had nothing to do with the question.  The group refused to endorse Horwitz.

“We’ve seen this now on a number of campuses … [Jewish students] feeling like their Jewish identity is being called into question in terms of their ability to serve on various student bodies and to be impartial representatives,” said Vlad Khaykin, associate regional director of the ADL’s San Francisco-based Central Pacific Region.

European Anti-Semitism Surged In 2014

A new report shows that anti-Semitism rose 38 percent across Europe in 2014 although the crime levels have not reached the peaks of 2009.

The report from the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry of Tel Aviv University recorded 766 official incidents of anti-Semitic violence or activity compared to 554 in 2013.

The conflict in Gaza was seen as a driving factor in the increase of anti-Semitism.

“Many streets in our European cities have become hunting grounds for Jews, and some Jews are now forced to avoid community institutions and synagogues as a result,” said European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor. “Some are choosing to leave the continent, many are afraid to walk the streets and even more are retreating behind high walls and barbed wire. This has become the new reality of Jewish life in Europe.”

Attacks on synagogues saw a whopping 70 percent increase over the previous year and arson attacks on Jews tripled.  France remained at the top of the list for violent anti-Semitic acts with 164, which is 23 more than the previous year.

Anti-Semitic incidents more than doubled in Germany and England saw a jump from 95 incidents in 2013 to 141 in 2014.

“We need a pan-EU body that will coordinate intelligence efforts between member state and the sharing of such information, assist with legislation changes to enable the member states to address this challenge with proper tools and deal with training and security measures in the protection of Jewish institutions by the authorities.” Kantor said. “The current system is failing to deal with this problem or to prevent the next attack.”