Forward Thinking

Stem Tide of Anti-Semitism in Europe

By Robert Singer

(JTA) — The conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza is spilling over into Europe, where in the past several weeks, Jewish communities have witnessed a chilling display of anti-Semitism, the likes of which has not been seen in many years.

European governments need to act decisively to stem this tide of hatred.

No longer content with cloaking hatred of Jews in the garb of anti-Zionism or opposition to Israel, demonstrators have marched through the streets of Berlin, Brussels and other European cities to the cry of “death to the Jews” and “gas the Jews.” In Paris and its suburbs, wild mobs bent on destruction have run amok, attacking synagogues and the Jewish worshippers in them. They’ve burned cars, looted shops and smashed store windows.

It wasn’t that many years ago when legions of storm troopers paraded through German streets chanting “Sharpen the long knives on the pavement; let the knives slip into the Jews’ bodies.”

The irony that most of today’s demonstrators are themselves recent migrants to Europe or descendants of newcomers cannot be lost on anyone. Sadly, however, this pathology is not only confined to European Muslims but to a whole host of rancorous elements in European society.

Of course, there is another side of the coin that is cause for cheer. Remarkably, all 28 foreign ministers of the European Union member states have called for the disarmament of Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza. Moreover, some Arab countries, most notably Egypt, are quietly rooting for Israel on the sidelines in the hope that it will eventually succeed in neutralizing Hamas.

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'Zoopla' Joins Gibberish Feud Over 'Quenelle'

By Eddy Portnoy

The latest in the Nicolas Anelka-Deuidonné-quenelle affair is that another apparently nonsense word has been inserted into the fray.

“Zoopla,” the English real estate website and jersey sponsor of West Bromwich Albion has decided to end their sponsorship of the Midlands soccer team due to the failure of management to act on the matter of player Nicholas Anelka having performed a neo-fascist quenelle salute in their December 28th game against West Ham United.

Inaction appears to be the order of the day, as the English Football Association (FA) was should have already made a decision regarding Nicholas Anelka’s performance of the quenelle, allegedly an inverted sieg heil salute created by the French player’s friend, anti-Semitic comedian and political provocateur, Dieudonné M’bala M’bala. While the FA tends to take its sweet time in adjudicating allegations of racism - it took them two months to determine that Chelsea captain John Terry had called Queen’s Park Rangers’ Anton Ferdinand a “black c**t.”

The sport’s anti-racist watchdog, Kick It Out, has also complained about the sluggishness of the FA’s response and Zoopla, one of whose owners is Jewish, has tried to force the issue by first saying that Anelka should not be allowed to wear a Zoopla-branded jersey, and later announced they would not be renewing their contract with West Brom.

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Live Tweeting the Kristallnacht Pogroms

By Anna Goldenberg

Exactly 75 years ago, between November 7 and 13, 1938, a wave of anti-Semitic pogroms swept across Germany and Austria. This year, a group of German historians chose to commemorate the events, which marked a turning point in the Nazi’s persecution of Jews, using an unconventional medium: Twitter.

On October 28, the five historians who stem from different German universities, started live-tweeting the events of 1938 in German, as if they happened now, using the handle @9nov38 and relying on historical data that include newspapers and postcards.

The first tweet reads “Starting on October 28 more than 15,000 Polish Jews were expelled from the Deutsche Reich, immediately effective.”

On the morning of November 8, the group posted a picture of the headline of the Nazi party’s newspaper “Der Völkische Beobachter” announcing the assassination of the German ambassador in Paris, Ernst von Rath, by 17-year-old German-born Jewish Herschel Grynszpan: “Jewish Assassination in Paris. Member of the German Embassy Perilously Wounded By Shooting. The Murderer Boy: A 17-Year-Old Jew. Villain to Europe’s Peace.”

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Ralph Miliband Smear Hints at Darker Motive

By Liam Hoare

getty images
Hatchet Job: British demonstrators mock the Daily Mail for its attack on Ralph Miliband, the father of Labor Party leader Ed Miliband.

Given that The Daily Mail has never liked anyone whose politics are to the left of General Franco, it is hardly surprising that they would not care for Ralph Miliband or indeed his son, Ed.

After all, Ralph Miliband was one of the foremost English socialist thinkers and writers of the 20th century. Miliband favoured the upending of the existing class structure and the dismantling of the existing establishment including the Church, the Lords, and the business elite. He also favoured nationalisation of key industries with a view to “improving the efficiency of a capitalist economy,” much to the chagrin to Mail, who wrote that he “chose to ignore the lamentable performance of nationalisation, which proved to be anything but efficient.”

The Man Who Hated Britain” – the Mail’s recent feature on Miliband – labors (forgive the pun) boringly and boorishly on his politics and its implications for what his son might do if he were Prime Minister.

“But how passionately he would have approved today of his son’s sinister warning about some of the policies he plans to follow if he ever becomes Prime Minister,” Geoffrey Levy writes. “Such as giving councils draconian new powers to seize into public ownership land held by developers who fail to build on it.” The horror.

And yet were the piece merely a castigation of the professor’s unabashed socialist politics, then that would be fine, insofar as it falls within the Mail’s usual remit.

But in “The man who hated Britain,” there are evidently other motivations at work. Miliband is described as “the immigrant boy whose first act in Britain was to discard his name Adolphe because of its associations with Hitler, and become Ralph, and who helped his father earn a living rescuing furniture from bombed houses in the Blitz.” For rescuing, read pilfering.

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Hipster Anne Frank's Tasteless Tweets

By Renee Ghert-Zand

You know what happens when someone achieves iconic status? People forget they were a real person before they became an icon. And when people forget this important fact, things can get really ugly.

Case in point: Anne Frank.

I’m referring specifically to the new Hipster Anne Frank (@HipstrAnneFrank) Twitter account. The tagline: “bestselling memoirist/loft dweller/voice of a generation.” (Facebook beat Twitter to it —there’s been a Hipster Anne Frank page since 2011, not to mention the Hipster Hitler page, which has been around since the year before that.)

Yeah, I get it. It’s all about applying the ironic to the iconic. Problem is, it isn’t funny in the least.

Here are some of the posts:

My skinny jeans are the skinniest.

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Is Daniel Levy 'Shylock' of English Soccer?

By Liam Hoare

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If you habitually discard the sports section, you might have missed news of European soccer’s biggest transfer story since Cristiano Ronaldo left Manchester United for Real Madrid four years ago. It involves Madrid again, in fact – Tottenham Hotspur’s star winger Gareth Bale is rumoured to be on the verge of moving there for a record-breaking $129 million.

The chance to play in the Champions League for one of Europe’s most successful clubs is a huge draw for Bale. He wants to leave – or rather, Bale hasn’t denied that he wishes to.

But there’s a snag. Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is said to be holding out for more money. Even though Bale was purchased for a mere $7.6 million from Southampton in 2007, Levy wishes to bide time until Madrid offer as much as $152 million, perhaps even throwing in a player as a makeweight for the loss of the most gifted player Spurs have had for years, decades even.

News of Bale’s desire to get away from north London has turned some Spurs fans against him – such is soccer, where supporters are at once tribal and fickle. But ire has also been directed at the chairman – some of it anti-Semitic. Jay Stoll, General Secretary of the London School of Economics Students’ Union, highlighted yesterday the stream of abusive tweets directed towards Levy:

Twitter is a wonderful medium, but even at the best of times to use Stoll’s words it is a “cesspit of filth,” whether that be racism, sexism, homophobia, or anti-Semitism. Only this week, feminist campaigners in the UK have been pushing for a ‘report abuse’ button to be added to twitter so that those who threaten to rape or murder women directly can be weeded out and dealt with. To this extent, the tweets directed towards Levy are unsurprising, and in that there is much to be saddened about and ashamed of.

These tweets, however, also raise an important question of whether how Levy is portrayed in the media at-large reinforces a certain image or stereotype. For, over the past several seasons, Levy has acquired a reputation as the toughest negotiator in English soccer. It has become cliché to say that Levy is hard-nosed, tough, stubborn, or uncompromising.

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Blood Libel Trial of Century at 100

By Paul Berger

This year marks the one hundredth anniversary of one of the most sensational trials of the 20th century. In September 1913, Mendel Beilis, the clerk of a brick factory, stood accused in a Kiev courtroom of murdering a 13-year-old boy to use his blood to make matzo.

Over the course of a four-week trial, the court heard allegations that Beilis stabbed Andrei Yushchinsky multiple times in order to drain his blood in an act of ritual murder. The allegations sparked an international outcry from Jewish and non-Jewish journalists, politicians, intellectuals and clergy.

Experts on Jewish history and on the Beilis trial will meet at Dartmouth College, July 22, for a one-day public conference to discuss the West European origins of the blood libel, the importance of the Beilis trial, and its relevance today.

“The Beilis case is a strange, mysteriously understudied phenomenon,” said Edmund Levin, author of A Child of Christian Blood, a book about the trial that will be published in February.

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Church of Scotland Strikes Out on Israel

By Liam Hoare

haaretz

When the Church of Scotland decided to revise its controversial and borderline anti-Semitic report on Israel and the Palestinians, it only really had to do three things.

First, the Kirk, as the church is widely know, had to make clear it understood what Zionism actually is. Not, as they originally stated, a solely religious ideology. But rather, a diverse movement encompassing a multitude of dreams including many secular ones.

Second, it had to repeal all claims that smacked of Christian supremacism.

Third, it needed to delete or at the very least rewrite the passages on the Holocaust, ones which previously asserted that Jews must “stop thinking of themselves as victims and special” and ‘repent’ for the displacement of Palestinians during the Wars of Independence.

The revised version of “The Inheritance of Abraham” has just been made public, and it comes up short on all three tests. Despite the stubborn shortcomings though, at the very least, the report’s new preface indicates that the Church of Scotland knows it did something very wrong the first time around.

“The country of Israel is a recognised State and has the right to exist in peace and security,” it now states as a matter of fact. “We reject racism and religious hatred. We condemn anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. We will always condemn acts of terrorism, violence and intimidation.”

It’s not much, but it needed to be said.

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Hungary, Where Europe's Ugly Faultlines Meet

By Liam Hoare

getty images
No Hatred: Hungarians mount demonstration against rising anti-Semitism.

As the World Jewish Congress prepares to convene in Budapest, Paul Berger covers the increasingly hostile conditions under which Hungarian Jews — one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe with an estimated population of around 85,000 recorded in 2012 — are forced to reside.

Primarily, the problem in Hungary is a political problem. With an unemployment rate of over 11 percent and low economic growth, the electoral success of the fascistic Jobbik movement, and an annual rise in recorded hate crimes last year, the European faultlines of economic malaise, political extremism, and the persecution of immigrants and minorities are meeting in Hungary with troubling consequences.

Fidesz, the ruling political party, has since 2010 set about trying to concentrate authority in the parliament in which it has been able to muster a supermajority, taking powers of oversight away from the other organs of government. Recent constitutional amendments passed this year included limiting the power of the country’s Constitutional Court to strike down any laws passed by a two-thirds majority, castrating the court and allowing to rule out on procedural matters. The retirement age for judges was also lowered in an attempt to weed out uncooperative justices.

Other provisions restricted the liberty of the individual to work, travel, and marry. Students whose college education is subsidised by the state are required to work in Hungary for a certain period of time after graduation, while others who elect to move abroad now have to pay back the value of that subsidy. The law now also gives preference to traditional family relationships, in other words those between one man and one woman with children. At the behest of the European Union, a provision allowing only public media to broadcast political advertising before general and European elections was amended.

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Oberlin's Teachable Moment

By Corinne Ramey

Jewish students march against hatred at Oberlin College in Ohio.

Oberlin College is not the first place that comes to mind as a hotbed of racism and anti-Semitism.

Yet as an unsettling wave of hate has thrust the Ohio liberal arts school into the national spotlight, its Jewish community has spoken out and sought to use the incidents to build bridges across the campus.

Jews, who make up about a quarter of Oberlin’s student population, were stunned when swastikas appeared on campus building. But some saw an even greater physical threat to black and other minority students when a person dressed in a Ku Klux Klan outfit was allegedly sighted outside college’s Afrikan Heritage House.

“As a Jew, to see a swastika plastered across a building on campus is an incredibly traumatic moment,” Zachary Pekarsky, 22, former leader of the college’s Hillel group, told a campus rally this week. But it’s more complicated than that, he continued. “The vast majority of Jews have incredible privilege, and come from an incredible place of entitlement. I don’t want these two truths to contradict each other.”

The packed audience hollered and cheered.

The sighting of the alleged KKK figure was the latest in what the historically-liberal Ohio college has called “hate-related incidents.” They have included graffiti swastikas and the N-word as well as the phrase “whites only” written above water fountains. ATwitter feed was set up depicting college president Marvin Krislov dressed as Adolf Hitler.

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3 Questions for the Oscars

By J.J. Goldberg

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Seth MacFarlane

Watching gagmeister Seth MacFarlane’s off-color, take-no-prisoners performance as host of the Oscars on Sunday night and then observing public and press reactions afterward, two things become clear. The first is that a half-century after the Civil Rights revolution and 42 years after the debut of “All in the Family,” Americans are still hopelessly divided on the limits of propriety in ethnic and other stereotypes in our humor. Second, none of us has much of a handle on exactly what bothers us when, and where the line should be drawn, if at all.

I was thinking of clearing the whole thing up for you this evening, but I have to run to a dinner date, so I will limit myself to three key observations.

No. 1. Most of the public seems to consider MacFarlane’s jabs as a package—that is, they tend to find his jokes either wholly tolerable (or, to some, very funny) or wholly offensive. Most commentators saw no reason to distinguish between the adolescent lewdness of his song-and-dance number about women’s breasts, his nasty jabs at Jean Dujardin, Chris Brown and Rihanna, his racial insults of Denzel Washington and Eddie Murphy, his morbid Abraham Lincoln joke and the shocking bit about Jews running Hollywood. Either you liked the stuff or you didn’t. Either way, you knew what you were getting when they hired the creator of “Family Guy,” and you sure got it. (For the record, I’m a fan.)

Except for one segment of the public. Many next-day commentators in the Jewish community singled out his Jews-run-Hollywood bit as being beyond the pale of decency, while his other routines were presumably run-of-the-mill, take-it-or-leave-it bits of “Family Guy” tastelessness. In case you missed it, you can watch the clip after the jump.

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The Cartoon and Anti-Semitic 'Mission Creep'

By Eddy Portnoy

When it comes to cartoons, it’s usually Muslim fundamentalists that throw hissy fits. But, in a turn of events, some of our storied communal defenders, Abraham Foxman and Marvin Hier among them, have been taking the lead. Indiscriminately tossing around accusations of anti-Semitism, our fearless leaders have attacked at least three editorial cartoonists over the past few months on charges that they have defamed the Jewish people.

Representing important institutions, you’d think that Foxman, of the Anti-Defamation League, and Hier, who represents the Simon Wiesenthal Center, might have figured out how to differentiate an anti-Semitic cartoon from an editorial cartoon that criticizes Israeli policy. Although both are undoubtedly experts on anti-Semitism, they both seem to take leave of their senses when it comes to criticism of Israel. And yet both claim to be ardent supporters of free speech. Except when it comes to that one thing, that Israel thing.

So when the London Times published a cartoon showing Benjamin Netanyahu cementing Palestinians between bricks of a wall, it was a perfect opportunity for Foxman to pipe up, accusing the cartoonist of evoking the blood libel. Britain’s Chief Rabbi opined that the cartoon caused “immense pain to the Jewish community in the UK and around the world.” The Israeli ambassador to Britain, who also chimed in on behalf of the International Jewry, argued that the cartoon added insult to injury, as it was published on European Holocaust Memorial Day.

Okay, so the cartoon and its timing were a bit ham-handed, for which Acting Editor of The Sunday Times Martin Ivens apologized. Gerald Scarfe, who has been visually excoriating British politicians since the late 1960s, was the artist behind Pink Floyd’s, The Wall. It appears, walls are, when all else fails, his fallback metaphor.

Sure, his cartoon wall dripping with Palestinian blood references the separation wall, which incidentally, isn’t particularly newsworthy right now, so it doubles as a symbol of Netanyahu’s recalcitrance vis-à-vis the peace process and how it crushes Palestinian life. Netanyahu comes in for some harsh criticism here, but so do all the other public figures Scarfe has drawn over the years. In fact, compared to Margaret Thatcher, Bibi gets off easy. It’s an obnoxious cartoon, but it’s not anti-Semitic. It’s also been removed from the Times website.

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Take This Out of Context, Morsi

By Robert Zaretsky

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Mohammed Morsi

A delegation of American senators met earlier this month in Cairo with a spokesperson for Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, according to the New York Times. The spokesperson clarified press accounts of Mr. Morsi’s recent description of Jews as “bloodsuckers,” “pigs” and “dogs.” The remarks, he explained, were “taken out of context.” The senators left the meeting “feeling as if Mr Morsi had addressed the issue,” according to the report.

In order to place the Egyptian spokesperson’s remarks in context, a ramble across past and present might be in order so as to uncover other examples of remarks being similarly “taken out of context.”

• Meeting on the beach outside besieged Troy with Greek bards, a spokesperson for mythical hero Achilles discussed a recent exchange he had with King Agamemnon over a war prize. Forced by Agamemnon to turn over the booty, god-like Achilles informed his commander that he was “a dog-faced, staggering drunk who was the most shameless, cowardly and grasping man alive.” He quit the army and retired to his tent.

When a bard asked for a clarification of the swift-footed warrior’s remarks, the spokesperson grabbed a spear and ran him through as rosy-fingered dawn appeared over the wine dark sea. The other bards felt as if Achilles had addressed the issue. (The prize, Chryseis, whose father was employed by Apollo as his priest, had no say in the matter.)

• Meeting with a single English reporter on the god-forsaken volcanic rock called Saint Helena, Napoleon Bonaparte, the recently retired Emperor of the French, was asked to clarify a remark he made about his former minister Charles Talleyrand, describing him as a “serving of s— in a silk stocking.”

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Guardian's Old-Is-New Cartoon Canard

By Liam Hoare

steve bell

For a cartoonist, how to say “Jews are controlling international affairs” without actually having to say it?

Well, the creation of Israel has made it very easy in this regard. Just replace ‘Jews’ with ‘the Israel lobby’ (or ‘Israel’ itself) and substitute ‘the United States’ or maybe ‘the United Nations’ for the usual ‘international government’ or ‘global finance’, and you’re good to go. And, if you can throw in an image of a prominent Israeli looming large over the scene, perhaps controlling world events as a puppeteer might work his instruments, even better.

The Guardian’s Steve Bell in today’s paper has done just that. His creation portrays an oversized, slightly hunched image of Benjamin Netanyahu, flanked by a phalanx of rockets decked in the blue and white of the Israeli flag, standing at a lectern with his hands mastering two small dolls. On the left is William Hague, the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary who has said that Hamas bears the “principle responsibility” for ending the violence in the region, and Tony Blair, the Middle East Peace Envoy for the Quartet, on the right.

Bell’s canard has been swiftly condemned. The Community Security Trust – the organisation responsible for the protection of the UK’s Jewish community – stated, “What is striking about Bell’s cartoon is that he seems to have reached for the ‘puppeteer’ trope to explain that fact that William Hague’s statement on the conflict was presumably not critical enough of Israel for his liking, as if this is the most plausible explanation for Hague’s view.” The Jewish Chronicle is reporting that the barrister Jeremy Brier has already lodged a complaint with the Press Complaints Commission, labelling the drawing “plainly anti-Semitic.”

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Kiwi Concern Over Anti-Semitic Vandalism

By Michael Kaminer

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Anywhere else, the desecration of 20 Jewish graves might have registered as a blip, another anti-Semitic act in an otherwise tranquil place with a miniscule Jewish population.

But here in New Zealand, the incident has shaken up a nation that prides itself on openness —and sparked an intensive round of national soul-searching.

The vandalism itself took place the day I arrived in Auckland for a two-week assignment. The days that followed brought predictable rounds of outrage from government officials and community leaders. Auckland Mayor Len Brown said the attack was “abhorrent,” according to the New Zealand Herald, the nation’s largest daily. “This kind of vandalism has no place in our city…The council and the local board are taking steps to improve the environment in this cemetery and prevent further such attacks.”

What I didn’t expect was outraged editorials in Kiwi newspapers in small municipalities far from Auckland, or multicultural protests against right-wing violence in response to the desecration.

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Now He's Going for Gaga

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

josh nathan-kazis

Remember this guy? The one who stood in front of Occupy Wall Street protests with the sign “Google: Zionists Control Wall St.”?

Well, he’s back, and he may have moved on from anti-Semitic canards to pop culture. Now he wants us to Google: “Lady Gaga Demonic.”

You read that right. Your guess is as good as mine.

The placard-bearer, who identified himself as Dave Smith in an October interview with Salon, was no joke last fall. His “Zionists Control Wall St.” sign was a key exhibit in the argument that the Occupy movement was rife with anti-Semitism. He was featured in at least half of the clips of purported anti-Semites at Occupy Wall Street in a video produced by the Emergency Committee for Israel that slammed key Democrats for professing their support for Occupy activists. Pictures of him turned up everywhere, and his sign was the subject of news coverage.

Occupy activists took to standing next to Smith with signs disavowing his message, and on at least one occasion in September actually chased him out of their protest.

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Rate the Anti-Semites

By Eddy Portnoy

Be your own anti-Semitic hall monitor!

In the wake of the recent debate over a biting cartoon aimed at Benjamin Netanyahu, Occupy Judaism’s resident technologist, Dan Sieradski has created antisemiticornot.com. It’s a tongue-in-cheek site that allows users to post and vote on figures, organizations or concepts that may or may not be considered anti-Semitic.

According to Sieradski, “Our goal is to entertain while taking the piss out of self-appointed Jewish leaders who deem themselves the sole arbiters of anti-Semitism and often pursue fallacious accusations in order to advance their institutions’ own economic interests. We are appalled by genuine anti-Semitism, but we are equally appalled when allegations of anti-Semitism are disingenuously trumped up, as it dilutes the meaning of the term and makes dismissal of real anti-Semitism that much more likely.”

Do you have a favorite alleged anti-Semite you’d like to see judged in a public forum? Want to help decide whether Michael Jackson, Ron Paul, or Quark the Ferengi are truly anti-Semites? Then head over to antisemiticornot.com and help democratize the monitoring process.

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