P is for Propaganda, & 102-year-old Holocaust survivor reunites with newly discovered nephew

November 20, 2017

Polish-born Holocaust survivor Eliahu Pietruszka, 102, has tears in his eyes as he meets the nephew he didn’t know existed for the first time on Thursday in Kfar Saba, Israel.

Pietruszka thought his entire family had died in the Holocaust but it turned out one brother had escaped and reached Siberia, where he had a son, Alexandre, 66, who flew in from a remote part of Russia to see him.

The connection was made two weeks ago using Yad Vashem’s online Holocaust Names Recovery Project, which is still being compiled. Pietruszka’s parents and other brother Zelig were deported from the Warsaw Ghetto to be killed in Nazi death camps, but it turns out his brother Volf managed to escape and reach Siberia, where the Soviets imprisoned him in a work camp. (Article below)


[Note by Tom Gross]

There is a selection of articles below. (Incidentally, I sometimes post articles on my public Facebook page straight after they are published so you can sometimes see items quicker if you “like” or follow this Facebook page.



1. “The book that’s tearing Manhattan moms apart” (New York Post, Nov. 20, 2017)
2. “Swastikas and anti-Semitism rife on campus: image is now seen as a ‘casual symbol of fun’ and Holocaust denial literature is being handed out” (Daily Mail, Nov. 16, 2017)
3. “102-year-old survivor reunites with newly discovered nephew” (Associated Press, Nov. 20, 2017)
4. “My life as an ISIS sex slave – and how I escaped” (New York Post, Nov. 180, 2017)
5. “Nick Cave: BDS Is the Reason for My Trip to Israel” (Haaretz, Nov. 19, 2017)
6. “Turkey Bans All LGBT Events in the Country’s Capital” (Associated Press, Nov. 19, 2017)
7. “German justice ministry urges ban on Kuwait Airways over Israel issue” (Reuters, Nov. 17, 2017)
8. “We Can’t Trust Facebook to Regulate Itself” (New York Times, Nov. 19, 2017)




The book that’s tearing Manhattan moms apart
By Oli Coleman
New York Post (Page Six)
November 20, 2017


A massive Facebook group for Upper East Side moms is on the verge of closing down after a vicious row about a children’s book. The UES Mommas group – whose members made headlines in August after threatening each other with libel suits – erupted so violently over the weekend after an author posted about her book, “P is for Palestine,” that its founders temporarily put the whole group on ice and claim to be meeting with Facebook about how to resolve the mayhem.

A longtime member of the group – which has about 27,000 members – said that the conversations usually tend towards complaining about Prada diaper bags and advertising for “Wii tutors” for the neighborhood’s little darlings. But open warfare broke out when author Golbarg Bashi posted about her book, which she describes as an educational alphabet book about the disputed territory. Said a member, “It immediately went ape-s–t. People were posting about it and calling each other anti-Israel and anti-Muslim.” One user posted, “I went through the book. It basically promotes hate towards those living in Israel, Jews and Christian Arabs.”

We’re told that a furious Facebooker posted a page from the book that says, “I is for Intifada, Intifada is Arabic for rising up for what is right, if you are a kid or a grownup.” “That’s when it really went ballistic [in the group],” says our spy.

We’re told that by Sunday evening, the moderators had “archived” the group, meaning that old posts were available but new ones aren’t permitted. We’re told that group are meeting with Facebook officials to discuss how to resolve the chaos, including the possibility of closing the group permanently.

In August, a lawyer for two members of the group sent cease and desist letters to other members, who called them “racists” after a conversation about the Charlottesville riots went off the rails.


(This article is from and about Britain, but campus anti-Semitism and Holocaust distortion is increasingly a phenomena on some American and Canadian university campuses too -- TG.)


Swastikas and anti-Semitism rife on campus: MPs hear how image is now seen as a ‘casual symbol of fun’ and Holocaust denial literature is being handed out

* The swastika is seen on university campuses as being a ‘casual symbol of fun’
* Anti-Jewish hatred is rife and Holocaust denial literature is being distributed
* Police had to be called to protect Jewish students from ‘animalistic behaviour’

By Daniel Martin
The Daily Mail
November 16, 2017


Anti-Semitism is so entrenched in many of Britain’s universities that the swastika is now seen on campus as a ‘casual symbol of fun’, MPs heard last night.

Parliament heard a litany of ‘horrifying’ examples of anti-Jewish hatred at universities, including the distribution of Holocaust denial literature.

At one university, police had to be called to protect Jewish students from the ‘animalistic behaviour’ of anti-Israel activists.

Student officers have also used the Twitter hashtag #Jew while discussing wealth, while swastikas have been drawn on people’s cars, on the walls of student halls and even at student parties.

Liron Velleman, of the Union of Jewish Students, said the situation was now so bad that ‘we need serious conversations about what the swastika is’.

The appalling stories were recounted at a meeting of the all-party parliamentary group on anti-Semitism.

During the session shadow education secretary Angela Rayner admitted that Labour had not done enough to tackle hatred of Jews in its ranks.

And she said she would be challenging Jeremy Corbyn to explain why he had caused such ‘upset’ by attending the book launch of an anti-Semitic author last year.

‘We need to prove we are not anti-Semitic as a party,’ she said.

Saying that anti-Semitism was ‘normalised’ on many campuses, she added: ‘People think anti-Semitism has gone away but the reality is it’s absolutely there in every single community, in our campuses and our schools and across our society.’

Mr Velleman and other speakers listed a raft of examples of university anti-Semitism. They included police having to protect Jewish students at University College London after anti-Israel protesters climbed in through the windows during a talk by Israeli speaker Hen Mazzig at UCL’s Friends of Israel group in October last year.

Mr Velleman said: ‘A number of campuses have Holocaust denial literature posted on university noticeboards. We have swastikas drawn on cars – this is not something I expected in 2017.

‘We need a serious conversations about what the swastika is. It’s either being seen as a casual symbol of fun which is pretty horrifying, or people are using it as a legitimate way to attack people.’

Miss Rayner said she agreed with a speaker who suggested the ‘European Left’ had a problem with anti-Semitism, and admitted that Labour had not gone far enough to tackle anti-Semitism in its ranks.

‘I have confidence we are going in the right direction but are we where we need to be? I don’t think we’re there yet,’ she said. ‘We still have people in our party that are anti-Semitic. It’s not just what we say, it’s what we do – and I say that to everyone including my leader.’

She also expressed concern about a meeting organised by the Islamic Human Rights Commission attended by Mr Corbyn in December, where an academic described as ‘extremely anti-Semitic’ launched his book. ‘If people do something that strays into being wrong or unacceptable, if that happens we have to immediately seize on it,’ she said. ‘And I will speak to Jeremy about that meeting in December and say that it has created upset, and ask him what is he going to do about it personally.’

In a hint that she wants to see more anti-Semitic members expelled rather than simply suspended, she added: ‘I’m sick of ‘jam tomorrow’, the promise that it’ll get sorted.

‘I want to see direct action. Not just warm words and rule changes, but direct action.’

Free speech is ‘under threat’ in universities – risking creating a generation of snowflake students, academics warn. They told MPs on the Commons joint human rights committee that policies banning speech seen as ‘offensive’ were having a ‘chilling effect’, with Dr Joanna Williams of Kent University saying that students are being ‘taught to see themselves as vulnerable’.



102-year-old survivor reunites with newly discovered nephew
The Associated Press
November 20, 2017


KFAR SABA, Israel (AP) – Eliahu Pietruszka shuffled his 102-year-old body through the lobby of his retirement home toward a stranger he had never met and collapsed into him in a teary embrace. Then he kissed both cheeks of his visitor and in a frail, squeaky voice began blurting out greetings in Russian, a language he hadn’t spoken in decades.

Only days earlier, the Holocaust survivor who fled Poland at the beginning of World War II and thought his entire family had perished learned that a younger brother had also survived, and his brother’s son, 66-year-old Alexandre, was flying in from a remote part of Russia to see him.

The emotional meeting was made possible by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial’s comprehensive online database of Holocaust victims, a powerful genealogy tool that has reunited hundreds of long-lost relatives. But given the dwindling number of survivors and their advanced ages, Thursday’s event seemed likely to be among the last of its kind.

“It makes me so happy that at least one remnant remains from my brother, and that is his son,” said Pietruszka, tears welling in his eyes. “After so many years I have been granted the privilege to meet him.”

Pietruszka was 24 when he fled Warsaw in 1939 as World War II erupted, heading to the Soviet Union and leaving behind his parents and twin brothers Volf and Zelig, who were nine years younger. His parents and Zelig were deported from the Warsaw Ghetto and killed in a Nazi death camp, but Volf also managed to escape. The brothers briefly corresponded before Volf was sent by the Russians to a Siberian work camp, where Pietruszka assumed he had died.

“In my heart, I thought he was no longer alive,” Pietruszka said. He married in Russia and, thinking he had no family left, migrated to Israel in 1949 to start a new one.

Then two weeks ago, his grandson, Shakhar Smorodinsky, received an email from a cousin in Canada who was working on her family tree. She said she had uncovered a Yad Vashem page of testimony filled out in 2005 by Volf Pietruszka for his older brother Eliahu, who he thought had died.

Volf, it turned out, had survived and settled in Magnitogorsk, an industrial city in the Ural Mountains. Smorodinsky tracked down an address and reached out to discover that Volf, who had spent his life as a construction worker, had died in 2011 but that Alexandre, his only child, still lived there. After Smorodinsky arranged a brief Skype chat, Alexandre decided to come see the uncle he never knew he had.

Smorodinsky, a 47-year-old professor from Ben-Gurion University in southern Israel, invited The Associated Press to record Thursday evening’s reunion at his grandfather’s retirement home in central Israel.

Upon meeting, the two men clutched each other tightly and chatted in Russian as they examined each other’s similar facial features.

“You are a copy of your father,” said a shaking Pietruszka, who has a hearing aid and gets around in a rolling walker. “I haven’t slept in two nights waiting for you.”

Throughout the meeting, Alexandre swallowed hard to hold back tears, repeatedly shaking his head in disbelief.

“It’s a miracle. I never thought this would happen,” Alexandre, himself a retired construction worker, kept saying.

It did, thanks to the Yad Vashem database of pages of testimony, whose goal is to gather and commemorate the names of all of the estimated 6 million Jewish victims of the Nazi genocide. The Names Recovery Project has been Yad Vashem’s flagship mission in recent years. The memorial’s very name – Yad Vashem is Hebrew for “a memorial and a name” – alludes to its central mission of commemorating the dead as individuals, rather than mere numbers like the Nazis did.

It hasn’t been an easy task. The project began in 1954, but over the following half century, fewer than 3 million names were collected, mostly because the project was not widely known and many survivors refrained from reopening wounds, or clung to hopes that their relatives might still be alive.

The names collected are commemorated in the museum’s Hall of Names, a cone-shaped room whose walls are lined with bookshelves containing folders upon folders of testimonies. Still, until 2004, more than half of the allotted folders remained empty.

That year, the database went online and provided immediate easy access to information in English, Hebrew, Russian, Spanish and German. Thanks to a high-profile campaign, and the efforts of Yad Vashem officials who have gone door-to-door to interview elderly survivors, the number has surged to 4.7 million names.

Another rewarding byproduct has been that of tech-savvy grandchildren using it to research their families, leading to emotional reunions between various degrees of relatives from around the world.

The rate of reunions has trickled significantly in recent years as elderly survivors have passed away, making each one increasingly significant, said Alexander Avram, the director of the database.

“It is not too late to fill out pages of testimony. We need to document each and every victim of the Holocaust,” he said. “But such a reunion is a very special moment because we are not going to see a lot more of them in the future.”

Debbie Berman, a Yad Vashem official at the reunion, said it was incredibly moving to be there for “the end of an era.”

“This is one of the last opportunities that we will have to witness something like this. I feel like we are kind of touching a piece of history,” she said.

For Pietruszka, a retired microbiologist and great-grandfather of 10, it was a fulfilling coda to a long, eventful life.

“I am overjoyed,” he said. “This shows it is never too late. People can always find what they are looking for if they try hard enough. I succeeded.”



* Tom Gross adds: if you haven’t seen it, you may wish to watch this impassioned plea which the first female Yazidi MP, Vian Dakhil, made in 2014 to draw the world’s attention to the plight of Yazidi girls forced into sex slavery. Her calls were largely ignored. I know Vian and have spoken alongside her at various human rights conferences.



My life as an ISIS sex slave – and how I escaped
By Stefanie Cohen
New York Post
November 18, 2017


Nadia Murad grew up dreaming of owning a beauty salon. The youngest of 11 children in a Yazidi family in northwest Iraq, she took photographs of all the brides in her tiny village, studying their makeup and hair. Her favorite was of a brunette woman with curls piled high atop her head.

But after ISIS overtook her village in August 2014, that dream died. Murad was captured, enslaved, sold, raped and tortured alongside thousands of her people in an effort to decimate their religion.

ISIS didn’t entirely succeed, however. Murad, 24, managed a miraculous escape and is now a Nobel Peace Prize nominee fighting for freedom and justice for her people.

Her new book, “The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity and My Fight Against the Islamic State” (Tim Duggan Books), out now, tells the story of how she and her family were living peacefully in the farming community of Kocho, near the Syrian border, when ISIS first rose to power. Her clan came from a long line of sheepherders and wheat farmers, residing in a house made of mud-brick rooms “lined up like beads on a necklace and connected by doorways with no doors.”

In the summer her family, including Murad’s mother, eight brothers and two sisters, stretched out on mattresses on the roof of their house, whispering to one another until they fell asleep under the moon.

But three years ago, on Aug. 14, after a two-week siege, ISIS ordered the entire population of Kocho to a schoolyard, where they asked the local leader if the villagers would convert to Islam. Yazidism is one of the oldest faiths in Mesopotamia, dating back 6,000 years, and has elements in common with many religions of the Middle East: Zoroastrianism, Islam, Judaism. Adherents don’t believe in hell or Satan and pray to a fallen angel, whom they call Tawusi Melek, who came down to Earth and challenged God, only to be forgiven and returned to heaven. This belief has given the Yazidi people a reputation among radical Muslims as devil worshipers. As a result, followers, who have no formal holy book of their own, have often been the target of genocidal impulses. (Before ISIS, outside powers, including the Ottomans and other radical Islamic sects, had tried to destroy them 73 times, Murad writes in her book.)

The local leader told the ISIS commander that they would never convert, believing his people would then be evacuated to a nearby town. Instead, the men of the village were loaded onto trucks, ordered to dig a shallow grave and executed in one afternoon. The women, still in the schoolyard, could hear the shots just a short distance away. The older women and children were separated from the younger women. Murad was ripped away from her mother, whom she would never see again.

On the way out of town, Murad, who was 21, screamed in an effort to stop one of the soldiers from grabbing her breast each time he walked by her on the bus. “Why did you scream?” a militant asked Murad. “I was scared,” she told him. “This guy . . . touched me.”

“What do you think you are here for?” asked the commander. “You are an infidel, a sabiyya [sex slave] and you belong to the Islamic State now, so get used to it.” Then he spat in her face, took out a cigarette and extinguished it on her shoulder. He lit another one and put it out on her stomach. Then he slapped her twice across the face and warned: “Never make another sound again.”

In the dark, crowded room of a home where she and the other women were being held, Murad asked what awaited her; another woman who had been there longer told her to look for the stains on the bathroom wall where others had tried to kill themselves rather than be sold as slaves.

“You can see the blood high on the walls where the cleaners don’t notice,” the woman told her. “The small reddish-brown stains high up on the tiles were all that was left of some Yazidi girls who had come before me,” writes Murad.

She had never heard of ISIS before they came to her village and had no idea that the group had been planning her fate for a long time. “Attacking Kocho and taking girls to use as sex slaves wasn’t a spontaneous decision,” she writes.

“ISIS planned it all: how they would come into our homes, what made a girl more or less valuable, which militants deserved a sabiyya as incentive and which should pay.”

She paraphrases an Islamic State pamphlet which stated that “Sabiyya can be given as gifts and sold at the whim of the owner, for they are merely property.” Murad writes: “An owner can have sex with a prepubescent slave, it says, if she is ‘fit for intercourse.’ “

Sitting in a house surrounded by men with guns, the young woman contemplated killing herself. Instead, she made a pact with her two older sisters, Dimal and Adke. “We would… take the first opportunity to escape,” she writes.

When an enormous man with calves “as thick as tree trunks” selected Murad as his slave, she screamed and tried to pull away. “His eyes were sunk deep into the flesh of his wide face… He didn’t look like a man – he looked like a monster.” When she spied a skinnier man’s calves from her place on the ground, she begged him to take her, hoping his slight size might save her. “She’s mine,” the skinny man told the larger man. And that was that.

Murad was registered as a slave – complete with a photo ID that would be dispersed among the fighters if she were to run away – and taken to the home of her new owner, a high-ranking ISIS judge named Hajji Salman.

“You’re my fourth sabiyya,” he told her. “The other three are Muslim now. I did that for them. Yazidis are infidels – that’s why we are doing this. It’s to help you.”

Hajji Salman told her to shower, put on a dress that came only to her knee – an immodest change from her normal wardrobe – and use hair-removal cream all over her body.

“I stood in front of the bathroom mirror. I knew that if I didn’t wear any makeup, I would be punished, so I looked through the pile [left for me] . . . Normally [my niece] and I would have been thrilled at the new makeup, which was a brand I recognized and could very rarely afford. We would have stood in front of the bedroom mirror, painting our eyelids different colors, surrounding our eyes with thick lines of kohl, and covering our freckles with foundation. At Hajji Salman’s, I could barely stand to look at myself in the mirror. I put on some pink lipstick and eye makeup – just enough, I hoped, to avoid being beaten.”

When he raped her, “He was loud enough for all the guards to hear – he shouted as if he wanted all of Mosul to know that he was finally raping his sabiyya – and no one interfered. His touch was exaggerated, forceful, meant to hurt me . . . I was like a child, crying out for my mother,” Murad writes.

“He hit me when he was displeased with the way I cleaned the house, when he was angry about something from work, if I cried or kept my eyes closed while he raped me,” she writes. He humiliated her, spreading honey on his toes and making her lick it off. And he always warned her: “It you try [to escape], you will regret it, I promise you. The punishment won’t be good.”

She tried anyway. She put on an abaya, the robe-like covering that devout Muslim women wear, and crawled out a window. A guard saw her. Hajji Salman was summoned, and he whipped Murad’s naked body and then let his sentry – six of them – gang-rape her until she was unconscious. The last thing she saw before blacking out was one of the guards placing his glasses on a table before he climbed into her bed.

Over the next week, she was passed to six other men who raped and beat her, before being given to one who planned on taking her to Syria. But first he needed to buy her more clothing. Left alone for the first time in two weeks, she impulsively tried the front door. It didn’t budge. But Murad gave it one last shove and “nearly fell over when it swung open.” Her captor had, for reasons unknown, left it unlocked.

She started walking and didn’t stop. Dressed in the abaya, with her face covered like other Muslim women, she wasn’t an obvious target, although she was shaking and could barely breathe she was so terrified. She walked all evening and into the night. When she arrived at the outskirts of town, the poorer section, she felt slightly calmer.

“If any Sunni in Mosul was going to help me, it was most likely to be a poor Sunni, maybe a family who had stayed only because they didn’t have the money to leave,” she reasoned. She spied a house that looked vaguely like her own back in Kocho and knocked on the door.

“I beg you, help me,” she said, not knowing if she had been saved or was about to be destroyed.

One of the men grabbed her and pulled her into the house. “It’s safer in here,” he said. “You shouldn’t talk about those kinds of things outside.”

The clan, who despised ISIS, let her stay with them for a few days while they prepared a plan: One of the sons, Nasser, would drive her out of ISIS territory; if anyone asked, he would pretend to be her husband. The plan worked. Using fake IDs and a cover story about visiting family in Kurdish-held Iraq, Murad and Nasser made it past the many checkpoints until she was reunited with two of her brothers at a refugee camp.

Murad’s struggle wasn’t over yet. As news filtered in with new arrivals to the camp, she eventually learned what had happened to her other loved ones. Her mother had been shot and buried in a shallow grave along with 85 other Yazidi women. Five of her brothers had been executed. Her nephew had been kidnapped by ISIS and would be brainwashed into fighting for them. Her two sisters were still in captivity.

Luckily, another one of her brothers was found in a hospital nearby. Murad refused to tell her three surviving brothers the details of her ordeal, knowing it would torment them to think of their wives, still in captivity, being raped. “I cried every day. When I dreamed, it was always about being returned to ISIS and having to escape again.”

At the refugee camp, Murad told a few reporters her story. When Murad Ismael, the executive director of Yazda, a Yazidi advocacy group, was looking for a refugee to tell her story to the UN Security Council, he asked Murad and she agreed.

More than a year later she was flown across the Atlantic Ocean for the first time and landed in New York, where she made a speech before the UN. Poised and calm in front of a crowd of world leaders, she stated: “You are the ones to decide whether another girl, just like me, in a different part of the world, will be able to lead a simple life or will be forced to live in suffering and bondage.”

It was a turning point. “I believe Nadia’s speech raised awareness about the tyranny of ISIS, and they are retreating now, shrinking,” Ismael told The Post. “I attribute some of the world standing up to ISIS to Nadia and people like her, who spoke bravely.”

Humanitarian lawyer Amal Clooney now represents Murad and other Yazidi survivors before the UN. In August, the Security Council passed a resolution to appoint independent investigators to collect evidence of ISIS crimes, the first step toward holding the group accountable for its mass executions. But, says Ismael, “I am not sure if it will happen. Unless there is giant effort, many will get away with their crimes.”

More than 3,000 women and children are still enslaved and 300,000 Yazidis are displaced. Murad is now living in a town near Stuttgart, Germany, through a program that took in 1,100 Yazidi refugees in 2015. In September 2016, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime appointed her a goodwill ambassador for the dignity of survivors of human trafficking. She was also nominated for a Nobel and named one of Time magazine’s most influential people in 2016. (Her two sisters were also finally liberated from ISIS; Dimal, 33, lives with Murad in Germany, while Adke, 30, is in a Kurdistan refugee camp.)

Now Murad is hoping her book will reach an even wider audience than her speech before the UN. All proceeds from the book’s sales will go toward supporting survivors and bringing ISIS to justice.

“I think there was a reason God helped me escape . . . and I don’t take my freedom for granted,” she writes. “The terrorists didn’t think that Yazidi girls would have the courage to tell the world every detail of what they did to us. We defy them by not letting their crimes go unanswered. Every time I tell my story, I feel that I am taking some power away from the terrorists.”



Nick Cave: BDS Is the Reason for My Trip to Israel
By Itay Stern
November 19, 2017

* The Australian rock star, currently in Israel to play shows on Sunday and Monday, speaks out against silencing artists

Australian rock star Nick Cave said on Sunday that BDS was the impetus for coming to play in Israel. The musician spoke at a press party celebrating his concerts in Tel Aviv on Sunday and Monday.

Cave explained that, a few years ago, he understood that he wouldn’t sign an “Artists for Palestine” petition, calling for artists to refrain from coming to Israel. “I didn’t want to sign the petition. I didn’t connect to it. I don’t like lists,” he said.

Cave said he realized that though he wouldn’t sign the petition, he also hadn’t performed in Israel for 20 years. Cave first visited Israel to play a concert in 1993, and has returned twice since.

“That made me feel like a coward, so as soon as I planned this tour, it was important for me to come out against this silencing of artists,” he said.

“I like Israel and Israelis, and it’s important for me to do something of substance about this.”

Cave said he had not played in Israel for the past 20 years due to a lack of popularity and to complex logistical challenges involved in organizing shows.



Turkey Bans All LGBT Events in the Country’s Capital
The Associated Press
November 19, 2017

Turkish officials have banned all events by lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex rights groups in the country’s capital.

The ban took effect Saturday for an “indefinite” period and applies to all LGBTI film screenings, theaters, panels and exhibitions.

The Ankara governor’s office announced Sunday that the ban was imposed to protect “public security.” It said the events may cause animosity between different groups and endanger “health and morality” as well as the rights and freedoms of others.

The governor’s office warned that some groups may be provoked by LGBTI events and take action against participants due to “certain social sensitivities.”

Although homosexuality is not banned in Turkey and numerous LGBTI associations are legally registered with the state, rights activists say LGBTI individuals face discrimination and stigma.



German justice ministry urges ban on Kuwait Airways over Israel issue
November 17, 2017


BERLIN (Reuters) - The German government should revoke landing rights for Kuwait Airways given its ban on Israeli passengers, a senior Justice Department official said on Friday, saying such discrimination was intolerable.

Christian Lange, parliamentary state secretary in the ministry, appealed to Chancellor Angela Merkel to personally advocate a ban on Kuwait Airways’ operations in Germany.

A German court ruled on Thursday that the airline had the right to refuse to carry an Israeli passenger due to his nationality, a verdict that Jewish groups said condoned anti-Semitism.

Lange told Merkel in the letter that he had received countless phone calls from members of the Jewish community and from others in Israel, expressing shock about the court ruling, made just days after Germany solemnly marked the anniversary of the Nov. 9, 1938 Nazi pogroms against the Jews.

“We cannot say ‘Never again’ at a remembrance ceremony, but then remain silent when activists in Germany call for a boycott of Israel, or, as in this case, when an airline refuses to carry Israeli citizens,” Lange said.

“Especially the German government must make clear that we reject this form of discrimination and hate, and that we stand by the side of our Israeli friends,” he told the chancellor.

The Lawfare Project, the legal group that represented the plaintiff in the case, has vowed to appeal against the ruling.

“To see a Jewish person banned from exercising his freedoms in Germany in 2017 is chilling enough. To see that discrimination whitewashed and legitimized by a German judge is grotesque,” said the group’s executive director, Brooke Goldstein.

Deputy German Foreign Minister Michael Roth also criticized the airline’s policy, telling Die Welt newspaper that he had contacted the Kuwaiti ambassador in Germany about the issue.

German Transport Minister Christian Schmidt told Bild newspaper that it was not acceptable to discriminate against airline passengers because of their nationality, and said the German government would address the matter with the Kuwaiti government.

“This requires contacts at the ministerial level,” Schmidt told the newspaper in an interview to be published on Saturday.

“We will do all we can within our legal means to prevent something like this in the future,” Schmidt told the paper.

There was no immediate response to a request for comment emailed to the airline.



We Can’t Trust Facebook to Regulate Itself
By Sandy Parakilas
New York Times
Nov. 19, 2017


I led Facebook’s efforts to fix privacy problems on its developer platform in advance of its 2012 initial public offering. What I saw from the inside was a company that prioritized data collection from its users over protecting them from abuse. As the world contemplates what to do about Facebook in the wake of its role in Russia’s election meddling, it must consider this history. Lawmakers shouldn’t allow Facebook to regulate itself. Because it won’t.

Facebook knows what you look like, your location, who your friends are, your interests, if you’re in a relationship or not, and what other pages you look at on the web. This data allows advertisers to target the more than one billion Facebook visitors a day. It’s no wonder the company has ballooned in size to a $500 billion behemoth in the five years since its I.P.O.

The more data it has on offer, the more value it creates for advertisers. That means it has no incentive to police the collection or use of that data – except when negative press or regulators are involved. Facebook is free to do almost whatever it wants with your personal information, and has no reason to put safeguards in place.

For a few years, Facebook’s developer platform hosted a thriving ecosystem of popular social games. Remember the age of Farmville and Candy Crush? The premise was simple: Users agreed to give game developers access to their data in exchange for free use of addictive games.

Unfortunately for the users of these games, there were no protections around the data they were passed through Facebook to outside developers. Once data went to the developer of a game, there was not much Facebook could do about misuse except to call the developer in question and threaten to cut off the developer’s access. As the I.P.O. approached, and the media reported on allegations of misuse of data, I, as manager of the team responsible for protecting users on the developer platform from abuse of their data, was given the task of solving the problem.

In one instance, a developer appeared to be using Facebook data to automatically generate profiles of children, without their consent. When I called the company responsible for the app, it claimed that Facebook’s policies on data use were not being violated, but we had no way to confirm whether that was true. Once data passed from the platform to a developer, Facebook had no view of the data or control over it. In other cases, developers asked for permission to get user data that their apps obviously didn’t need – such as a social game asking for all of your photos and messages. People rarely read permissions request forms carefully, so they often authorize access to sensitive information without realizing it.

At a company that was deeply concerned about protecting its users, this situation would have been met with a robust effort to cut off developers who were making questionable use of data. But when I was at Facebook, the typical reaction I recall looked like this: try to put any negative press coverage to bed as quickly as possible, with no sincere efforts to put safeguards in place or to identify and stop abusive developers. When I proposed a deeper audit of developers’ use of Facebook’s data, one executive asked me, “Do you really want to see what you’ll find?”

The message was clear: The company just wanted negative stories to stop. It didn’t really care how the data was used.

When Russians decided to target Americans during the 2016 election, they didn’t buy TV or newspaper ads, or hire a skywriter. They turned to Facebook, where their content reached at least 126 million Americans. The fact that Facebook prioritized data collection over user protection and regulatory compliance is precisely what made it so attractive. Now the company is arguing that it should be allowed to regulate itself to prevent this from happening again. My experience shows that it should not.

Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, mentioned in an October interview with Axios that one of the ways the company uncovered Russian propaganda ads was by identifying that they had been purchased in rubles. Given how easy this was, it seems clear the discovery could have come much sooner than it did – a year after the election. But apparently Facebook took the same approach to this investigation as the one I observed during my tenure: react only when the press or regulators make something an issue, and avoid any changes that would hurt the business of collecting and selling data.

This makes for a dangerous mix: a company that reaches most of the country every day and has the most detailed set of personal data ever assembled, but has no incentive to prevent abuse. Facebook needs to be regulated more tightly, or broken up so that no single entity controls all of its data. The company won’t protect us by itself, and nothing less than our democracy is at stake.


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