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Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn holds steady in Greek elections

Mon, 01/26/2015 - 05:18

ATHENS, Greece (JTA) — The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party remained the third largest party in Greece following elections.

In Sunday’s balloting, Golden Dawn received 6.3 percent of the vote, giving it 17 seats in the 300-member national parliament. Nearly all of the votes had been counted.

The far-left Syriza party fell one seat short of a majority needed to govern alone as Greeks embraced its promise to end six years of economic austerity. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ center-right New Democracy Party finished second with 27.9 percent of the vote.

Golden Dawn was only slightly below the 6.9 percent of the vote and 18 seats it won in the 2012 election despite a widespread crackdown in the past year that saw most of the party’s top leadership jailed on charges of heading a violent criminal organization.

The party, which frequently uses Nazi imagery, has been accused of being behind dozens of racist attacks on immigrants. Its leaders have denied the existence of Nazi death camps and gas chambers.

Attempting to crack down on Golden Dawn, Greek lawmakers recently passed a law with harsher penalties for inciting racial violence and denying the Holocaust, but it cannot be applied retroactively. It was not clear whether the newly elected government would continue the crackdown on Golden Dawn.

The American Jewish Committee on Monday called on newly elected Prime Minister Alexis Tspiras to continue the hard line against Golden Dawn and expressed dismay at the party’s showing.

“We look to the Syriza-led government to continue the measures implemented during the past years, and assure all minority communities, who are an integral part of Greece, that they will continue to be fully protected and respected, and that there will be no place for anti-Semitism in mainstream Greek society,” AJC Executive Director David Harris said.

Liberman orders party activists to distribute Charlie Hebdo for free

Sun, 01/25/2015 - 12:28

TEL AVIV (JTA) — Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has told activists in his Yisrael Beiteinu party to buy up and distribute copies of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo for free.

The directive came after Stiematzky, a leading Israeli bookstore chain, canceled plans to sell the magazine’s latest issue in stores. Following threats of violence, the chain said it would sell the magazine online only.

Arab-Israeli lawmaker Masoud Ganaim of the Ra’am-Ta’al faction told the Israeli news website Ynet that selling the issue could lead to tension within Israel’s Muslim community. The issue’s cover features a caricature of Muhammad, the Muslim prophet.

“If you draw the Prophet Muhammad in a degrading and hurtful way, Muslims won’t sit on their hands,” he said. “It’s my duty as a public official, an Arab and a Muslim to warn that if something like this is distributed, it will cause tension.”

The two Islamic extremist brothers who stormed the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo on Jan. 7 and killed 12 said they perpetrated the attack in response to what they deemed offensive cartoons featuring Muhammad.

Liberman called the Stiematzky decision a “capitulation to terror.” According to Ynet, he told Yisrael Beiteinu activists to buy thousands of Charlie Hebdo copies and give them out for free.

“Israel can’t turn into an ISIS state,” Liberman told Ynet, referring to the Islamic State terror group. “We won’t let extremist Islam turn Israel into a state that capitulates to threats and hurts freedom of expression.”

Journalist who first reported Nisman’s death flees Argentina

Sun, 01/25/2015 - 10:51

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — The Argentine-Israeli journalist who first reported the death of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman has fled to Israel following threats to his safety.

Damian Pachter, who works for BuenosAiresHerald.com and tweeted the news of Nisman’s Jan. 18 death, left Argentina on Saturday after the threats  and being followed by people he did not know, according to Fopea, the Argentine Journalism Forum. Pachter citizenship was en route to Israel, where he holds dual citizenship, on Sunday.

“I will return when my sources tell me that the conditions changed,” Pachter told an Argentine publication. “I don’t think that I will be there during this government.”

In a statement, the forum said it had notified the “relevant authorities” and urged the public to “pay attention to the safety of journalists in our country these days.”

Nisman was found dead of a gunshot wound in his home soon before he was to present evidence that Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner covered up Iran’s role in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires.

Druze student beaten in Jerusalem

Sun, 01/25/2015 - 09:39

TEL AVIV (JTA) — A Druze student in Jerusalem was beaten with glass bottles by a gang.

Tommy Hasson, 21, told Israeli news website Ynet that he was leaving his job at a hotel Thursday night when a group of people approached him and began mocking him for speaking Arabic. One man spat on him, and after Hasson hit him back, they began beating him.

Hasson escaped to the Jerusalem Central Bus Station, where an ambulance took him to a hospital. He was released soon afterward.

“They just hit me,” he told Ynet. “Glass and bottles. There were a lot of people there who screamed, couldn’t do anything and couldn’t stop it.”

A music student, Hasson was recently discharged from the Israeli army, where he served at the president’s residence. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin spoke with Hasson and his father on the phone following the incident to express his support.

Jewish Agency-affiliated think tank composes aliyah plan for 120,000 French Jews

Sun, 01/25/2015 - 09:19

TEL AVIV (JTA) — The Jewish People Policy Institute has composed a plan to facilitate immigration of 120,000 French Jews to Israel.

The plan by the Jewish Agency-affiliated think tank would prepare for up to 120,000 French Jews to arrive in Israel during the coming four years. The plan cited a rise in jihadist terror attacks and a difficult economy in Europe as causes of increased immigration.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on French Jews to move to Israel following an attack on a French kosher supermarket in early January. Some 7,000 French Jews moved to Israel in 2014, the most of any country.

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky has said he expects up to 15,000 French Jews to move to Israel by 2016.

Because the immigrants would be leaving a First World country, the JPPI plan involves offering increased benefits and job opportunities to French immigrants upon arrival in Israel.

“The Jewish Agency welcomes all constructive discourse surrounding Aliyah,” read a statement from the Jewish Agency regarding the plan, using the Hebrew word for immigration to Israel. “The activities of The Jewish Agency and of its partners in the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption reflect the range of possibilities and needs at any given time, in order to best address whatever situations may arise – in France as well as elsewhere.”

Jewish groups condemn ship, world’s largest, named for Dutch SS officer

Sun, 01/25/2015 - 08:16

(JTA) — European Jewish groups are again protesting the name of the world’s largest ship, which was named after a Dutch officer in the Nazi Waffen-SS military force.

The Pieter Schelte, which docked in Rotterdam in early January, is named after an SS officer convicted of war crimes in World War II, according to the Guardian. Schelte conscripted 4,000 Dutch into forced labor for Nazi Germany and called Jews “parasitic.”

“Naming such a ship after an SS officer who was convicted of war crimes is an insult to the millions who suffered and died at the hands of the Nazis,” said Jonathan Arkush, vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, according to the Guardian. “We urge the ship’s owners to reconsider and rename the ship after someone more appropriate.”

Esther Voet, director of the Hague-based Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel, or CIDI, noted the 10-year fight to have the name changed.

“But no, we’re left with this fact: the largest ship in the world is named after an officer in the SS, and not enough people are offended to get this changed,” she was quoted as saying in the Guardian.

The Swiss shipbuilding company Allseas named the ship for Pieter Schelte Heerema, the father of Allseas’ owner, in recognition of his work in the oil and gas industry following the war. The company said that Heerema defected from the SS during the war.

Whether the Pieter Schelte is the “world’s largest ship” is in dispute, according to the Guardian, but it is certainly the largest crane ship.

 

Netanyahu: ‘I will go anywhere’ to prevent nuclear Iran

Sun, 01/25/2015 - 07:56

TEL AVIV (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended his decision to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

“As Prime Minister of Israel, I am obligated to make every effort in order to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons that would be aimed at the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said Sunday at the start of his weekly Cabinet meeting. “This effort is worldwide and I will go anywhere I am invited in order to enunciate the State of Israel’s position and in order to defend its future and its existence.”

Officials from the Obama administration, as well as Netanyahu’s Israeli political rivals, have criticized the speech due to take place in March. John Boehner, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, invited Netanyahu without first notifying President Barack Obama in what the White House said broke established protocol.

Netanyahu supports increasing sanctions on Iran, which Obama opposes because he said it could endanger ongoing U.S.-led negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program. The Israeli leader said at the Cabinet meeting that the agreement likely to emerge from the negotiations would place Israel in danger by leaving Iran with the capacity to produce a nuclear weapon.

“In the coming weeks, the major powers are liable to reach a framework agreement with Iran, an agreement that is liable to leave Iran as a nuclear threshold state, which would endanger – first and foremost – the existence of the State of Israel,” he said.

 

Israel’s Arab parties form joint Knesset slate

Sun, 01/25/2015 - 07:39

TEL AVIV (JTA) — The Arab-Israeli Knesset factions have formed a joint slate ahead of Israel’s March 17 elections.

The united list formed Friday includes representatives from the secular Balad and Ta’al parties, the Islamic Movement and the Arab-Jewish socialist Hadash party, according to Israeli reports. Haifa attorney Ayman Odeh, a Hadash member who has never served in Knesset, will head the slate.

Last year, Israel raised the threshold for parties to enter the Knesset to 3.25 percent of the vote from 2 percent. The parties combined because they feared that running individually, they could all fall short of the higher threshold.

Hadash and Ra’am-Ta’al, a joint list, each currently hold four seats, and Balad holds three, for a total of 11 seats. Polls show the united slate gaining as many as 12 seats in the March election.

Hadash lawmaker Dov Khenin, who will be No. 8 on the combined list, will likely be the only Jewish member of the slate to enter Knesset.

Report: Israel sent messages to Iran via Russia

Sun, 01/25/2015 - 07:07

TEL AVIV (JTA) — In hopes of easing escalating tensions with Iran, Israel reportedly sent a message to the Iranian government via Russia.

The message, reported Saturday by Israel’s Channel 10, according to the Times of Israel, came following the Jan. 18 strike on Hezbollah operatives in Syria that killed an Iranian general. Senior commanders of Hezbollah, the Lebanese terror group, were also among the 12 people killed in the strike.

Israel is widely believed to have executed the strike, though Israeli officials have not commented on it.

According to the report, Israeli officials told their Russian counterparts that the strike was made in self-defense and that Israel did not want regional instability to follow in its wake. The Russian officials then sent the message to their contacts in the Iranian government.

Citing Israel Radio, the Times of Israel also reported that Hezbollah officials have ruled out a strike on Israeli territory in response to the Jan. 18 attack in order to prevent a war from erupting on the Israel-Lebanon border.

Madoff says pain from sons’ deaths worse than harm caused to investors

Sun, 01/25/2015 - 06:45

(JTA) — Bernie Madoff wrote that the pain he caused investors with his financial fraud was “nothing” compared to the anguish he has suffered from his sons’ deaths.

Madoff, who defrauded investors of billions of dollars in one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history, wrote in an email to NBC News Friday that his sons were unaware of his crimes and that they never forgave him.

“As difficult as it is for me to live with the pain I have inflicted on so many, there is nothing to compare with the degree of pain I endure with the loss of my son’s [sic] Mark and Andy,” he wrote. “I live with the knowledge that they never forgave me for betraying their love and trust. As much as I tried to reach out to them in an attempt to explain the circumstances that caused my betrayal they could not find it possible to forgive me.”

Mark Madoff committed suicide in December 2010, on the second anniversary of his father’s arrest. Andrew Madoff died last year from cancer.

Several large Jewish institutions and charities fell victim to the Madoff scheme. Madoff was convicted of fraud in 2009 and is serving a 150-year prison sentence.

In the letter, Madoff claims his sons were uninvolved in the scheme.

“What is still my most important goal is to do everything in my power to protect their legacy, although neither of my son’s [sic] were ever charged with anything,” he wrote.

Kippah-wearing Swedish reporter assaulted in Malmo

Fri, 01/23/2015 - 12:50

(JTA) — A Swedish reporter who walked around Malmo while wearing a kippah to test attitudes toward Jews was hit once and cursed at by passersby before he fled for fear of serious violence.

Sveriges Television on Wednesday aired secretly recorded footage from Petter Ljunggren’s walk through Malmo, which documented some of the incidents that occurred within the space a few hours.

In one scene, Ljunggren — who, in addition to wearing a kippah was also wearing Star of David pendant — was filmed sitting at a café in central Malmo reading a newspaper, as several passersby hurled anti-Semitic insults at him.

Elsewhere, one person hit his arm, the reporter said on camera, though this was not recorded. One of the people who cursed Ljunggren called him a “Jewish devil,” “Jewish shit” and another told him to “get out.”

One person on a scooter approached Ljunggren to warn him to leave for his own safety. In the heavily Muslim Rosengard neighborhood, Ljunggren was surrounded by a dozen men who shouted anti-Semitic slogans as eggs were hurled at his direction from apartments overhead. He then fled the area.

The experiment was part of a 58-minute documentary titled “Jew-hatred in Malmo.” The walk was a repeat of a similar experiment conducted in 2013 by journalist Patrick Riley, though Riley reported that he received only strange looks and drew giggles from onlookers when he walked by wearing a kippah.

Dozens of anti-Semitic incidents are recorded annually in Malmo, a city where first- and second- generation immigrants from the Middle East make up one third of a population of roughly 300,000. Several hundred Jews live there.

Fred Kahn, a leader of the local Jewish community, told JTA that most incidents are perpetrated by Muslims or Arabs.

Hanna Thome, a municipal councilor for culture and anti-discrimination, told the Expressen daily that she was shocked by the events documented by Ljunggren.

“There is much more to do, and both the municipality and the police have a great responsibility. But I also want to emphasize that there is great solidarity in the city,” she said in reference to several so-called kippah walks, where Jews and non-Jews marched through Malmo’s street while wearing yarmulkes to protest against anti-Semitism.

Argentine Jewish groups to boycott government Holocaust ceremony

Fri, 01/23/2015 - 12:28

BUENOS AIRES (JTA) — Argentina’s major Jewish institutions will boycott the country’s official Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony this year in order to protest the death of AMIA prosecutor Alberto Nisman.

Leaders of AMIA, DAIA, the Holocaust Museum of Buenos Aires, the Argentine Zionist Organization and the Simon Wiesenthal Center said that they will not participate in the government-organized event Jan. 27. Several officials who asked not to be identified cited prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s suspicious death on Jan. 18 and the information in his 300-page criminal complaint as reasons for boycotting the ceremony.

According to Nisman’s complaint, Argentina’s government signed a deal with Iran to hide Iran’s role in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires in exchange for commercial and oil benefits. The complaint says President Cristina Kirchner and Foreign Minister Hector Timerman “took the criminal decision of inventing Iran’s innocence to satisfy commercial, political and geopolitical interests of the Argentine republic.”

Nisman, who led the bombing probe for a decade, was found dead in his apartment on Monday of a gunshot wound just hours before he was to testify at the National Congress.

On Wednesday 3,000 people attended a protest at the rebuilt AMIA headquarters in Buenos Aires, AMIA officials reported. At the rally, organized by AMIA and DAIA, protesters demanded “truth and justice” from the government. During the rally, when Julio Schlosser, the president of DAIA, noted that 85 people had been killed in the AMIA attack, people in the crowd shouted “86,” a reference to Nisman. The number 86 has become shorthand on social media to refer to Nisman’s death. No one from the government or the ruling parties attended the Buenos Aires rally.

In Israel, 250 Argentine Jews, including a woman who identified herself as Nisman’s cousin, attended a protest Friday morning at the Argentine embassy in Tel Aviv. Several held placards reading “Yo soy Nisman,” Spanish for “I am Nisman.”

The organizations will hold their own Holocaust memorial ceremony at the rebuilt AMIA headquarters on the morning of Jan. 27.

The Latin American representative of the Wiesenthal Center Sergio Widder told JTA, “We join the decision of the other Jewish NGOs in this sensitive moment. We want to send a message to the government, a message that there is a bad mood these days, that we are farther than ever from the possibility of finding truth and justice in the AMIA case”.

French soldier accidentally fires weapon outside Jewish center

Fri, 01/23/2015 - 10:58

(JTA) — A French soldier guarding a Jewish community center in Nice accidentally dicharged his weapon outside the building.

The soldier fired three shots from his firearm on Thursday outside the city’s Chabad center, according to Le Parisien. The incident ended without injury or damage to property.

The weapon was pointing downward and the volley hit the ground, according to the Nice edition of the France 3 television channel.

The southern city is among dozens of locales in France where troops were deployed outside Jewish institutions following the slaying of four Jews in a kosher shop near Paris on Jan. 9 by an Islamist.

Another 13 people died in attacks that the assailant, Amedy Coulibaly, and two of his accomplices perpetrated on Jan. 7 and Jan. 8.

On Jan. 15, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said 10,000 troops have been deployed around Jewish potential targets, adding he intended to keep them there for several months at least.

Russia slams Polish FM for saying Ukrainians liberated Auschwitz

Fri, 01/23/2015 - 07:36

(JTA) — Moscow condemned as “sacrilegious” the Polish foreign minister’s suggestion that Ukrainians, not Russians, liberated Auschwitz.

Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna in an interview Wednesday with Polskie Radio, addressed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s absence from a ceremony scheduled to take place at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum on Jan. 27, the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the death camp by Red Army troops.

“Maybe it’s better to say … that the First Ukrainian Front and Ukrainians liberated [Auschwitz], because Ukrainian soldiers were there, on that January day, and they opened the gates of the camp and they liberated the camp,” Schetyna said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called Schetyna’s comments “sacrilegious and cynical,” the Associated Press reported Friday.

“Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army, which included Russians, Ukrainians, Chechens, Tatars and Georgians, among others,” Lavrov said. His ministry called Schetyna’s words about Auschwitz a “mockery of history [that] needs to be stopped.”

Relations between Moscow and Poland deteriorated following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last March and its subsequent annexation of Crimea. Poland and other central and east European governments see Russia’s actions in Ukraine as presaging a possible threat to their own sovereignty.

Putin attended 60th-anniversary events in 2005. Putin’s absence from this year’s ceremony has been attributed to Polish reluctance to host him. Schetyna said the decision was Putin’s.

Earlier this month, Latvian delegates to the United Nations education and heritage arm, UNESCO, vetoed an exhibition about the Holocaust that Russian UNESCO delegates had planned to open on Jan. 25.

Attacks on Jews doubled in London area

Fri, 01/23/2015 - 07:21

(JTA) — Hate crimes against Jews in London more than doubled last year, according to the Scotland Yard.

The police headquarters for metropolitan London reported 299 hate crimes against Jewish people between the start of April and the end of December of 2014.

This represented a rise of 128 percent over the corresponding period in 2013, when there were 131 hate crimes, The Jewish Chronicle of London reported Wednesday.

Britain’s 300,000 Jews account for 0.4 percent of the total population. Anti-Semitic attacks recorded in Britain during the 2014 period accounted for 3.28 percent of a total of 9,103 hate crimes reported. That figure represented a 22 percent increase over the overall number of hate crimes recorded in the corresponding period of 2013.

About two thirds of British Jewry live in or around London.

Anti-Semitic attacks increased across Western Europe in the summer, during Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza.

British police said last week that they were increasing patrols in areas with large Jewish communities following deadly terror attacks by Islamists in Paris. Scotland Yard said officers were in constant liaison with the community.

Also on Wednesday, the European Jewish Congress published the results of a survey conducted this month among 504 adult Britons that showed 15 percent of respondents agreeing that the government should consider identifying businesses owned by Jews or Muslims as such.

EJC President Moshe Kantor said those percentages “should shock us into action.”

The survey had a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points, according to 202 Strategies, the polling company.

Dutch Jews demand troops near synagogues

Fri, 01/23/2015 - 07:14

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (JTA) — Dutch Jews asked their government to post troops outside synagogues to match security measures in France and Belgium.

The plea came in letters addressed to mayors by officials from a number of Jewish communities in the Netherlands following an Islamist’s slaying on Jan. 9 of four Jews at a kosher supermarket near Paris, the De Telegraaf daily reported Thursday.

“Now that Jewish targets in Belgium and France are guarded by the army, we ask why not in the Netherlands,” the report quoted a letter signed by the Dutch Israelite Religious Community, or NIK, as saying. “Surely, the threat is the same.”

Some Dutch synagogues have police protection, while others have no armed guards, according to the daily. Some communities are reporting a drop in synagogue attendance because of growing insecurity, it said.

Several hundred people, including many Muslims and Jews, attended an event in Amsterdam on Monday organized by the Muslim-Jewish interfaith group Salaam-Shalom commemorating the victims of the Paris attack.

Mayor Eberhard van der Laan led a moment of silence in which visitors showed peace signs with their hands.

The victims of the Jan. 9 shooting were also commemorated on Wednesday at a ceremony in Brussels organized by the European Jewish Association lobby group and attended by Frans Timmermans, the Netherlands-born first vice-president of the European Commission.

The event also commemorated another 13 victims killed on Jan. 7 and 8 in attacks in and around Paris by associates of the perpetrator of the supermarket killings.

“If there’s no future for the Jews in Europe, there’s no future for Europe,” Timmermans said at the event.

Earlier this week he said during a debate in Brussels that Jews’ insecurity “forms an enormous challenge for the foundations of European integration.”

Swiss Jews to set up info stands outside venues hosting Dieudonne

Fri, 01/23/2015 - 07:06

(JTA) — Swiss Jews said they would set up stands with information about the dangers of anti-Semitism outside venues hosting the French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala.

“Freedom of expression is an essential principle but one which cannot be evoked to justify any ‘right to discriminate,’” said the announcement Thursday by CICAD, a Jewish group that monitors anti-Semitism in Switzerland’s French-speaking areas.

Dieudonne, who has multiple convictions for inciting hatred against Jews in France, is scheduled to perform on Monday in Lausanne and on the following day in Val-de-Ruz.

CICAD will set up two stands opposite the venues, it said.

Dieudonne was briefly arrested for posting a comment on Facebook about the Jan. 9 slaying of four Jews at a kosher supermarket near Paris by the Islamist Amedy Coulibaly. Riffing on the slogan “I am Charlie,” which commemorates the 12 victims of a Jan. 7 attack on the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly by two of Coulibaly’s associates, Dieudonne wrote: “I feel like Charlie Coulibaly.”

French prosecutors said he is suspected of encouraging terrorism.

Dieudonne originated the quenelle, which critics say is a modified Nazi salute. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called it an “a gesture of anti-Semitic hate” and has described Dieudonne as a “professional anti-Semite.”

Under Valls, Dieudonne was forced to cancel one tour and is facing criminal and financial charges, ranging from incitement to hatred to tax evasion and building violations.

Jewish leaders from German-speaking communities to gather in Switzerland

Fri, 01/23/2015 - 06:58

(JTA) — Jewish umbrella organizations from Germany, Austria and Switzerland are launching a project aimed at strengthening cooperation among the German-speaking Jewish communities.

“Next Step” is slated to begin with a three-day seminar in March in Zurich for dozens of young Jewish leaders from the three countries, organizers from the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities, or SIG, told JTA Thursday.

“This is the first attempt of its kind, which aims specifically to generate closer cooperation between the young leaders of these communities,” SIG’s secretary general, Jonathan Kreutner, said. “A lot more can be done to enhance the cooperation of these communities, which share many characteristics and challenges despite belonging to different countries.”

The seminar’s core group will comprise 10 leaders aged 25 to 35 from each German-speaking country, he said.

After the opening weekend in Zurich, the seminar will reconvene later this year in Berlin. Austria will host the seminar’s third and final session, according to a report about the initiative earlier this month by the Swiss Jewish weekly Tachles.

Germany has Europe’s largest community of German-speaking Jews, estimated at 200,000. Switzerland has 18,000 Jews and Austria has 7,500.

Romanian watchdog group protests honoring fascist sympathizer

Fri, 01/23/2015 - 06:54

(JTA) — A Romanian anti-Semitism watchdog group condemned Romanian President Klaus Iohannis’ honoring of a man who praised fascists who murdered Jews during the Holocaust.

The Center for Monitoring and Combating Antisemitism, or MCA Romania, was responding to the admission last month of the anti-Communist political activist Octav Bjoza into the Order of the Star of Romania for his efforts within the Association of Former Political Prisoners in Romania.

Bjoza, 76, was the first of 25 people Iohannis  decorated with the Star of Romania medal. The Dec. 22 ceremony was the newly elected president’s first official function after assuming office the previous day.

“It is deeply regrettable that in post-communist Romania, Mr. Bjoza chose to celebrate the ideas and beliefs of a criminal group like the Legionnaires,” MCA Romania Director Maximillian Marco Katz told JTA Thursday, referring to Romania’s pro-Nazi Iron Guard. Iohannis’ embrace of Bjoza was “a disappointing note of populism,” he added. “It sends the wrong message.”

Iron Guard members killed 125 Jews during the Bucharest pogrom of 1941 and many thousands more throughout World War II.

In 2009, Bjoza was filmed attending an event titled “Commemorating Legionnaires, Assassinated Martyrs,” where he said: “I am not a Legionnaire, it was too late to become one, but fortunately, at the age of 19 I was educated by some of them.”

He said they taught him that “the Romanian nation is hunted by traitors.” For this, he added, “I will forever carry them in my mind and in my soul.”

Following criticism over the award he received, Bjoza told the Adevarul daily that he was “not anti-Semitic” and that he “rejects extremism of any sort.”

Iohannis told Romanian media that the criticism of Bjoza was unfounded because Bjoza was never a member of the Iron Guard.

Israeli defense minister: Syria, Lebanon will pay for any Hezbollah attack

Fri, 01/23/2015 - 06:46

(JTA) — Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon warned that Israel would make Lebanon and Syria pay for any Hezbollah action against Israel.

Ya’alon spoke Friday during a visit to the Safed headquarters of the Israel Defense Forces’ Northern Command, the news site nrg.co.il reported.

“Israel will view governments, regimes and organizations on its northern border responsible for goings-on in their territories and will know how to exact a price in any case of attack against Israeli sovereignty, troops or civilians,” Ya’alon said. “We will tolerate no attempts to target us and will know how to react with force.”

Ya’alon’s visit came amid rising tensions along Israel’s northern border following a precision strike on Jan. 18 on a Hezbollah convoy traveling on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.

Hezbollah officials vowed to retaliate against Israel, which they said was behind the attack that killed 11 of their men, including a high-ranking officer, as well as an Iranian Revolutionary Guards general. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied that it carried out the strike.

The Iranian general, Muhammad Allahdadi, was helping Hezbollah in its fight against Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaida’s local affiliate.

Among Hezbollah’s fatalities in the strike was Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in 2008 when a car exploded in his car in Damascus.