Tom Gross Mideast Media Analysis

Vile ‘Miss Hitler’ beauty contest held; Vienna Holocaust exhibit defiled for third time this month

May 28, 2019

 

CONTENTS

1. International Miss Hitler contest held for second year, complete with Nazi salutes
2. Vienna Holocaust exhibit defiled for third time this month
3. German newspaper urges readers to wear cut-out kippah in solidarity with Jews
4. ‘Imagine the outcry’
5. Argentinean Jewish cantor beaten, has hand broken by man shouting anti-Semitic slurs
6. 23-year-old Jewish woman murdered in Moscow
7. Kiev synagogue evacuated following bomb threat
8. Chicago synagogue is target of arson attacks
9. Threat of legal action forces British supplements firm to apologize
10. British Neo-Nazi who told rally to ‘exterminate’ Jews jailed over plot to murder MP
11. British government orders universities to crack down on anti-Semites
12. Australian planned to kill Jewish students at University of Sydney

 

INTERNATIONAL MISS HITLER CONTEST HELD FOR SECOND YEAR, COMPLETE WITH NAZI SALUTES

[Notes below by Tom Gross]

A horrible ‘Miss Hitler’ beauty contest is being held for the second year in a row, even after its webpage was blocked last year by its Russian internet service provider, Vkontacte (VK).

Last year, competitors from Russia, Ukraine, Germany, Italy and the United States participated. They sent photos of themselves giving the Nazi salute, and some posed with a copy of Mein Kampf.

According to contest rules, participants are “required to be white women of pure blood” and “respect Hitler.”

 

VIENNA HOLOCAUST EXHIBIT DEFILED FOR THIRD TIME THIS MONTH

A public art exhibit on Vienna’s central Ringstrasse comprising of portraits of Holocaust survivors, was badly damaged late on Sunday night. Holocaust survivors’ faces were cut or slashed in two. It is the third such attack since it was installed in late April.

Pictured above, the Italian photographer Luigi Toscano standing yesterday next to his vandalized installation, titled “Against Forgetting”.

 

In a previous attack a few days earlier, the portraits of Holocaust survivors were defiled with swastikas and slogans such as “1 Jesus = 6,000,000 Jews.”

Austria’s president Alexander Van der Bellen said yesterday that he was “deeply concerned” by the “brutal destruction.” “‘Never again’ cannot become mere empty words,” he said in a statement. “It is something we have to live out daily.”

He has instructed Austria’s security services to investigate this and other threats against Jewish institutions in Austria.

A group of about 50 people in Austria said they would mount a 24-hour guard in shifts for the rest of this week to try and prevent Toscano’s installation being attacked again.

 

GERMAN NEWSPAPER URGES READERS TO WEAR CUT-OUT KIPPAH IN SOLIDARITY WITH JEWS

Germany’s highest circulation newspaper, Bild, published a cut-out kippah (skullcap) on its front page yesterday, while urging readers to show their solidarity with the country’s Jewish community.

The move comes a day after German authorities recommended that German Jews stop wearing skullcaps in public for fear of attack, in the face of rising anti-Semitism in Germany.

Bild – which is owned by the traditionally philo-Semitic Axel Springer media group – also posted a video on its website showing how to make the kippah.

“Wear it, so that your friends and neighbors can see it. Explain to your children what the kippah is,” wrote editor-in-chief Julian Reichelt.

“Post a photograph with the kippah on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. Go out onto the streets with it.”

“If even one person in our country cannot wear the kippah without putting themselves in danger, then the only answer must be that we all wear the kippah,” wrote Reichelt.

“If Jews are not safe wearing skullcaps, then we have failed in the face of our history.”

Among recent attacks in Germany, as German-Israeli political commentator Melody Sucharewicz points out in the Times of Israel, include “a rabbi’s crushed jaw, a kippa-wearing guy hit with a belt, dozens of Jewish kids mobbed at school.”

 

‘IMAGINE THE OUTCRY’

From today’s Jerusalem Post editorial:

British political and media commentator Tom Gross posted on Facebook [two days ago], “Imagine the outcry if the German authorities had to warn Muslims not to wear hijabs in public for their own safety, or said that it was dangerous for Christians to wear crosses.”

(The whole editorial is worth reading, of course, not just the above quote.)

The Jerusalem Post also reports that:

The US government’s most high-profile ambassador in Europe, Richard Grenell, said Jews in Germany should not conceal their religious identity, and urged them to wear kippot in defiance of a statement from Germany’s commissioner to combat anti-Semitism that Jews should avoid wearing kippot in public.

“The opposite is true,” tweeted Grenell, the US ambassador to Germany. “Wear your kippa. Wear your friend’s kippa. Borrow a kippa and wear it for our Jewish neighbors. Educate people that we are a diverse society.”

 

ARGENTINEAN JEWISH CANTOR BEATEN, HAS HAND BROKEN BY MAN SHOUTING ANTI-SEMITIC SLURS

A Jewish cantor was brutally attacked in Buenos Aires last week, suffering injuries to his face and a broken hand. However, he said the most hurtful thing was the fact no one helped him after the attack.

The victim, 34-year-old Jewish cantor Eliyahu Chamen, was assaulted last Friday while leaving the synagogue after traditional Shabbat prayers.

“Even though the assailant was screaming, ‘the Jews,’ ‘the Jews.’ and voicing various anti-Semitic slurs,” Chamen said. “No one came forward. Then he came at me again, chasing after me and broke my hand, but I just kept running.”

Chamen said several passersby witnessed the incident but neither stepped in nor offered help when the event was over. He said this hurt him even more than the attack itself.

Last month, a group of around a dozen Jews were attacked by assailants as they left the same synagogue. In February, the chief rabbi of Argentina, Gabriel Davidovich, was severely beaten at his Buenos Aires home in the middle of the night.

All three incidents remain under investigation by Argentinean security officials.

 

JEWISH WOMAN MURDERED IN MOSCOW

23-year-old Irina Rivka Tsipisheva was murdered a day after returning from a trip organized by the local Chabad Jewish community, the news website Jewish.ru reported last Wednesday.

She was a member of the Yachad youth group. Police say she was brutally beaten and murdered but have not yet concluded whether the motivations were anti-Semitic.

 

KIEV SYNAGOGUE EVACUATED FOLLOWING BOMB THREAT

The Brodsky Synagogue in the Ukrainian capital Kiev was yesterday evacuated and searched by sniffer dogs for explosives following a bomb threat. A warning that a bomb had been hidden in the synagogue with a timing device, was sent yesterday from an Estonian-domain email address containing the number 1488, a neo-Nazi code for Hitler and the phrase: “We must secure the existence of a future for white children.”

 

CHICAGO SYNAGOGUE IS TARGET OF ARSON ATTACKS

Arsonists twice attempted to set fire to the Anshei Sholom B’nei Israel synagogue in the Lakeview neighborhood of downtown Chicago on May 19. The remains of several Molotov cocktails were also found outside the synagogue building.

In a separate incident, vandals smashed the windows of cars parked outside another synagogue, in the West Rogers Park neighborhood on the north side of Chicago.

Chicago Police Deputy Superintendent Anthony Ricci has ordered that synagogues, Jewish schools and Jewish-owned businesses receive stepped up security while the suspected hate crimes are investigated.

 

THREAT OF LEGAL ACTION FORCES BRITISH SUPPLEMENTS FIRM TO APOLOGIZE

Israeli citizen Hilton Licht placed an order from natural supplements firm Tribestan UK whose policy is take orders from around the globe. Its website says “Remember we ship worldwide daily.”

In response, Licht received the email above.

After Tribestan initially refused to apologize to Licht, faced with a threat of legal action for discrimination from an Israeli human rights organization yesterday, Tribestan UK have now apologized. It is forbidden under British law to discriminate based on religion or race.

 

BRITISH NEO-NAZI WHO TOLD RALLY TO ‘EXTERMINATE’ JEWS JAILED OVER PLOT TO MURDER MP

A neo-Nazi from Lancashire in the north of England, who said killing Jews was the same as “exterminating vermin,” has been jailed for life for plotting to murder a British MP with a 19-inch machete.

Jack Renshaw, 23, performed the ‘Heil Hitler’ salute in court as he was led away last week after being told he would serve at least 20 years in prison.

He had previously told a far-right rally in the northern English town of Blackpool that Jews were “parasites,” and needed to be “eradicated”.

He also said that Britain chose the wrong side in the Second World War because it didn’t pursue Hitler’s final solution.

One of the neo-Nazi activists is his group turned whistle-blower, and reported him to the anti-fascist organization “Hope Not Hate” who in turn informed the police.

 

BRITISH GOVERNMENT ORDERS UNIVERSITIES TO CRACK DOWN ON ANTI-SEMITES AFTER ‘APPALLING’ SPATE OF ATTACKS ON JEWISH STUDENTS

British Government Minister Chris Skidmore has ordered campuses to crack down on anti-Semites after an “appalling spate of attacks” on Jewish students, reports the (London) Daily Mail.

Skidmore, who was appointed Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, by outgoing Conservative Party prime minister Theresa May last December, said it is ‘unacceptable’ that Jewish university societies have to pay up to £2,000 for security at Jewish society events because they are often gate-crashed by thugs.

University authorities say most of the attacks targeting Jewish groups on campus come from organized hard-Left groups and that Jewish students say they are being made to feel unwelcome at UK universities. (This is increasingly the case at some US universities too.)

In a letter sent to all universities, he has urged them to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism to help clamp down on incidents.

 

AUSTRALIAN PLANNED TO KILL JEWISH STUDENTS AT UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY

The Australian Jewish News reports that an Australian university student who stabbed his neighbor in 2016, revealed last Thursday that he had originally planned to kill Jewish students at the University of Sydney.

Ihsas Khan was found guilty of carrying out attempted murder with his machete attack on 57-year-old Wayne Greenhalgh.

Greenhalgh, who was hospitalized in critical condition but has since recovered, was attacked by Khan, who was then a pharmacy student, as well as being a self-proclaimed supporter of the Islamic State. Khan is due to be sentenced next month.

 

EXTRA NOTE:

BELGIAN FEDERAL PARLIAMENT ELECTS FIRST ORTHODOX JEWISH LAWMAKER

Even though there has been a worldwide increase in anti-Semitism recently, many Jews are being welcomed by the wider society.

For example, Michael Freilich was elected on Sunday to Belgium’s federal parliament. He was number 5 on the ticket of the New Flemish Alliance party, and is reported to be the first skullcap-wearing orthodox Jew ever to be elected to the federal parliament.

Freilich, 38, previously edited the Antwerp-based Jewish newspaper “Joods Actueel” for 12 years before entering politics last year.

-- Tom Gross

 

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In the midst of Ramadan, Tunisian PM joins Israelis at Jewish festival (& Judith Kerr remembered)

May 24, 2019

The Tiger Who Came to Tea

 

IN THE MIDST OF RAMADAN, TUNISIAN PM JOINS ISRAELIS AT JEWISH FESTIVAL

[Notes by Tom Gross]

In the midst of Ramadan, Tunisia’s Prime Minister Youssef Chahed yesterday joined 300 visiting Israelis to celebrate the Jewish festival of Lag Ba’Omer at an ancient Tunisian synagogue.

Officially, Tunisia has no diplomatic relations with Israel. But as I have pointed out several times on this list in recent years, virtually the entire Arab world, fed up with Palestinian intransigence and the Palestinian Authority’s and Hamas’s refusal to even negotiate with Israel, is bypassing the Palestinians to move ahead and forge establish closer ties with the Jewish state. (Sixth paragraph here, for example.)

 

 

ITALY, GREECE, CYPRUS AND CROATIA RUSH FIREFIGHTERS TO HELP ISRAEL

At the request of the Netanyahu government, nearby Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Croatia have agreed to send help to Israel early tomorrow (Friday) morning, as devastating fires continue to spread amidst a soaring heatwave. Thousands of Israelis have been evacuated from their homes and many buildings have been burned.

Temperatures reached 37° C (99° F) in Tel Aviv, 43° C (110° F) in Beersheba in the Negev and 50° C (122° F) in the Arava region.

 

THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA

Judith Kerr, beloved best-selling children’s author of “The Tiger Who Came to Tea,” the “Mog” series, and her autobiographical children’s book “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit” based on her own childhood escape from Nazi Germany, died earlier today (Thursday) aged 95.

“The Tiger Who Came To Tea” has sold more than five million copies since it was first published in 1968.

Her father Alfred Kerr’s books were burned in 1933 in the Opernplatz in Berlin on the orders of Goebbels, along with books written by Jews and other authors that did not conform to Nazi ideology.

Today Judith’s “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit” is a set text in German schools.

https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-25027090

Fellow children’s author Michael Rosen told the BBC that metaphorically the tiger in Kerr’s children’s book could be interpreted as a subconscious vision from her past – an underlying threat, robbing the family of everything they own and disrupting the comforting routine of a young child’s daily life.

“Judith knew about dangerous people who come to your house and take people away,” said Rosen. “She was told as a young child that her father could be grabbed at any moment by either the Gestapo or the SS - he was in great danger.”

***

Below, I attach a long article which will appear in this coming Sunday’s New York Times magazine on “The New German Anti-Semitism”.

-- Tom Gross

 

 

“DON’T TELL ANYONE THAT YOU’RE JEWISH”

The New German Anti-Semitism
By James Angelos
New York Times magazine
May 26, 2019 [Online May 21, 2019]

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/21/magazine/anti-semitism-germany.html

One of Wenzel Michalski’s early recollections of growing up in southern Germany in the 1970s was of his father, Franz, giving him some advice: “Don’t tell anyone that you’re Jewish.” Franz and his mother and his little brother had survived the Holocaust by traveling across swaths of Eastern and Central Europe to hide from the Gestapo, and after the war, his experiences back in Germany suggested that, though the Nazis had been defeated, the anti-Semitism that was intrinsic to their ideology had not. This became clear to Franz when his teachers in Berlin cast stealthily malicious glances at him when Jewish characters — such as Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice” — came up in literature. “Eh, Michalski, this exactly pertains to you,” he recalls one teacher telling him through a clenched smile. Many years later, when he worked as an animal-feed trader in Hamburg, he didn’t tell friends that he was Jewish and held his tongue when he heard them make anti-Semitic comments. And so Franz told his son Wenzel that things would go easier for him if he remained quiet about being Jewish. “The moment you say it, things will become very awkward.”

As a teenager, Wenzel defied his father’s advice and told a close friend. That friend quickly told his mother, and the next time Wenzel saw her, she reacted quite strongly, hugging him and kissing his face: “Wenzel! Oh, my Wenzel!” Now a stocky, bearded 56-year-old, Wenzel recalled the moment to me on a recent Saturday afternoon. He raised the pitch of his voice as he continued to mimic her: “You people! You are the most intelligent! The most sensitive! You are the best pianists in the world! And the best poets!” In his normal voice again, he added, “Then I understood what my father meant.”

Wenzel Michalski is now the director of Human Rights Watch for Germany. He and his wife, Gemma, an outgoing British expat, live in a cavernous apartment building in the west of Berlin. In their kitchen, Gemma told me that after arriving in Germany in 1989, she often got a strangely defensive reaction when she told people she was Jewish; they would tell her they didn’t feel responsible for the Holocaust or would defend their grandparents as not having perpetrated it. And so, to avoid conversations like these, she, too, stayed quiet about being Jewish.

Recently, the Michalskis’ youngest son became the third generation of the family to learn that telling people he is Jewish could cause problems. The boy — whose parents asked that he be called by one of his middle names, Solomon, to protect his privacy — had attended a Jewish primary school in Berlin. But he didn’t want to stay in such a homogeneous school for good, so just before he turned 14, he transferred to a public school that was representative of Germany’s new diversity — a place, as Gemma described it, where he “could have friends with names like Hassan and Ahmed.”

The first few days there seemed to go well. Solomon, an affable kid with an easy smile, bonded with one classmate over their common affection for rap music. That classmate introduced him to a German-Turkish rapper who would rap about “Allah and stuff,” Solomon told me. In return, he introduced the classmate to American and British rap. Solomon had a feeling they would end up being best friends. On the fourth day, when Solomon was in ethics class, the teachers asked the students what houses of worship they had been to. One student mentioned a mosque. Another mentioned a church. Solomon raised his hand and said he’d been to a synagogue. There was a strange silence, Solomon later recalled. One teacher asked how he had encountered a synagogue.

“I’m Jewish,” Solomon said.

“Everyone was shocked, especially the teachers,” Solomon later told me about this moment. After class, a teacher told Solomon that he was “very brave.” Solomon was perplexed. As Gemma explained: “He didn’t know that you’re not meant to tell anyone.”

The following day, Solomon brought brownies to school for his birthday. He was giving them out during lunch when the boy he had hoped would be his best friend informed him that there were a lot of Muslim students at the school who used the word “Jew” as an insult. Solomon wondered whether his friend included himself in this category, and so after school, he asked for clarification. The boy put his arm around Solomon’s shoulders and told him that, though he was a “real babo” — Kurdish slang for “boss” — they couldn’t be friends, because Jews and Muslims could not be friends. The classmate then rattled off a series of anti-Semitic comments, according to Solomon: that Jews were murderers, only interested in money.

Over the next few months, Solomon was bullied in an increasingly aggressive fashion. One day, he returned home with a large bruise from a punch on the back. On another occasion, Solomon was walking home and stopped into a bakery. When he emerged, he found one of his tormentors pointing what looked like a handgun at him. Solomon’s heart raced. The boy pulled the trigger. Click. The gun turned out to be a fake. But it gave Solomon the scare of his life.

When Solomon first told his parents about the bullying, they resolved to turn it into a teaching moment. They arranged to have Wenzel’s father visit the school to share his story about escaping the Gestapo. But the bullying worsened, Gemma told me, and they felt the school did not do nearly enough to confront the problem. The Michalskis went public with their story in 2017, sharing it with media outlets in order to spark what they viewed as a much-needed discussion about anti-Semitism in German schools. Since then, dozens of cases of anti-Semitic bullying in schools have come to light, including one case last year at the German-American school where my own son attends first grade, in which, according to local news reports, students tormented a ninth grader, for months, chanting things like “Off to Auschwitz in a freight train.” Under criticism for its handling of the case, the administration released a statement saying it regretted the school’s initial response but was taking action and having “intensive talks” with the educational staff.

The principal of Solomon’s school, in an interview with the German newspaper Die Welt, also said his school had made a concerted effort to resolve the problem. When the reporter asked him if the bullying illustrated the “unreflective behavior of pubescent youths” or “rooted anti-Semitism,” the principal paused to say this was a “very dangerous” question but then answered: “It’s very possible that anti-Semitism is the motive. But we can’t look inside the heads of these students.” (When asked for comment, a representative for the Berlin Senate Department for Education, Youth and Families, which oversees Berlin’s public schools, said it had put into place anti-discrimination measures such as training courses and workshops for students and faculty.)

For the Michalskis, all this was evidence that German society never truly reckoned with anti-Semitism after the war. Germany had restored synagogues and built memorials to the victims of the Holocaust, Wenzel said: “So for a lot of mainstream, middle-class people, that means: ‘We’ve done it. We dealt with anti-Semitism.’ But nobody really dealt with it within the families. The big, the hard, the painful questions were never asked.” In Wenzel’s view, the Muslim students who tormented his child were acting in an environment that was already suffused with native anti-Semitism. “A lot of conservative politicians now say, ‘Oh, the Muslims are importing their anti-Semitism to our wonderful, anti-anti-Semitic culture,’ ” he said. “That’s bull. They’re trying to politicize this.”

Jewish life in Germany was never fully extinguished. After the Nazi genocide of six million Jews, some 20,000 Jewish displaced persons from Eastern Europe ended up settling permanently in West Germany, joining an unknown number of the roughly 15,000 surviving German Jews who still remained in the country after the war. The new German political class rejected, in speeches and in the law, the rabid anti-Semitism that had been foundational to Nazism — measures considered not only to be morally imperative but necessary to re-establish German legitimacy on the international stage. This change, however, did not necessarily reflect an immediate conversion in longstanding anti-Semitic attitudes on the ground. In the decades that followed, a desire among many Germans to deflect or repress guilt for the Holocaust led to a new form of antipathy toward Jews — a phenomenon that came to be known as “secondary anti-Semitism,” in which Germans resent Jews for reminding them of their guilt, reversing the victim and perpetrator roles. “It seems the Germans will never forgive us Auschwitz,” Hilde Walter, a German-Jewish journalist, was quoted as saying in 1968.

Holocaust commemoration in West Germany increasingly became an affair of the state and civic groups, giving rise to a prevailingerinnerungskultur, or “culture of remembrance,” that today is most prominently illustrated by the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, a funereal 4.7-acre site near the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, inaugurated in 2005. But even as Germany’s remembrance culture has been held up as an international model of how to confront the horrors of the past, it has not been universally supported at home. According to a 2015 Anti-Defamation League survey, 51 percent of Germans believe that it is “probably true” that “Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust”; 30 percent agreed with the statement “People hate Jews because of the way Jews behave.”

The reactionary, far-right Alternative for Germany, or A.f.D., entered the German Parliament for the first time in 2017 — becoming the third-largest party — with an anti-immigration, anti-Islam platform, while politicians in the party also railed against Germany’s remembrance culture. A.f.D. politicians have often relativized Nazi crimes to counteract what some of them call a national “guilt cult.” In a speech last June, one of the party’s leaders, Alexander Gauland, referred to the Nazi period as “only a bird poop in over 1,000 years of successful German history.”

Now some 200,000 Jews live in Germany, a nation of 82 million people, and many are increasingly fearful. In a 2018 European Union survey of European Jews, 85 percent of respondents in Germany characterized anti-Semitism as a “very big” or “fairly big” problem; 89 percent said the problem has become worse in the last five years. Overall reported anti-Semitic crimes in Germany increased by nearly 20 percent last year to 1,799, while violent anti-Semitic crimes rose by about 86 percent, to 69. Police statistics attribute 89 percent of all anti-Semitic crimes to right-wing extremists, but Jewish community leaders dispute that statistic, and many German Jews perceive the nature of the threat to be far more varied. Slightly more than half of Germany’s Jewish respondents to the E.U. survey said they have directly experienced anti-Semitic harassment within the last five years, and of those, the plurality, 41 percent, perceived the perpetrator of the most serious incident to be “someone with a Muslim extremist view.”

Fears within the Jewish community of what some call “imported anti-Semitism” or “Muslim anti-Semitism” brought into the country by immigrants from the Middle East and often entangled with the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians emerged after 2000, when during the Palestinian uprising known as the Second Intifada, a wave of anti-Jewish attacks rippled across parts of Europe. The large-scale influx of refugees into Germany from countries such as Syria and Iraq that began in 2015 further fueled worries. Amid the early wave of pride many Germans felt over the welcoming of refugees, Josef Schuster, the head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, the country’s largest umbrella Jewish organization, urged caution. “Many of the refugees are fleeing the terror of the Islamic State and want to live in peace and freedom, but at the same time, they come from cultures in which hatred of Jews and intolerance are an integral part,” he told a reporter from Die Welt.

The exact nature of the anti-Semitic threat — and indeed, whether it rises to the level of an existential threat at all — is intensely debated within Germany’s Jewish community. Many see the greatest peril as coming from an emboldened extreme right that is hostile to both Muslims and Jews, as the recent shootings by white supremacists in synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, Calif., and mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, horrifically illustrated. Multiple surveys suggest that anti-Muslim attitudes in Germany and other European countries are more widespread than anti-Semitism. At the same time, a number of surveys show that Muslims in Germany and other European countries are more likely to hold anti-Semitic views than the overall population. The 2015 Anti-Defamation League survey, for instance, found that 56 percent of Muslims in Germany harbored anti-Semitic attitudes, compared with 16 percent for the overall population. Conservative Jews see the political left as unwilling to name this problem out of reluctance to further marginalize an already marginalized group or because of leftist anti-Zionism. The far right, anti-Islam A.f.D. — the very political party that, for its relativizing of Nazi crimes, many Jews find most noxious — has sought to exploit these divisions and now portrays itself as a defender of Germany’s Jews against what it depicts as the Muslim threat.

An incident that garnered considerable attention and highlights some of the complexities of this new dynamic occurred on a Berlin street in April 2018, when a 19-year-old Syrian of Palestinian descent took off his belt and flogged a young Israeli man named Adam Armoush, who was wearing a yarmulke. The attacker yelled “Yehudi!” — Arabic for “Jew.” Armoush recorded the attack with his phone for “the world to see how terrible it is these days as a Jew to go through Berlin streets,” as he later put it in a television interview. Schuster advised Jews in cities against openly wearing yarmulkes outside. Almost lost in the uproar was Armoush’s bizarre admission that he was not Jewish but rather an Israeli Arab. He said he received the yarmulke from a friend along with a caveat that it was not safe to wear outside. Armoush said he initially debated this. “I was saying that it’s really safe,” he said. “I wanted to prove it. But it ended like that.”

Many Muslims criticize the notion of “Muslim anti-Semitism” as wrongly suggesting that hatred of Jews is intrinsic to their faith. Muhammad Sameer Murtaza, a German scholar of Islam who has written extensively on anti-Semitism, argues that European anti-Semitism was exported to the Middle East in the 19th century and was only “Islamized” starting in the late 1930s, a process later catalyzed by the Arab-Israeli conflict. Anti-Semitism is indeed a mainly European invention with a proven capacity to mutate. Often intertwined with economic and social resentments, demonization of Jews was long part of Christian tradition, and, with the growth of European nationalism in the 19th century, it took on delusive notions of race. Now as a worldwide resurgence of racist tribalism fuels a rebellion against the liberal democratic order, Germany’s renewed confrontation with anti-Semitism will say much not just about the fate of its unnerved Jewish communities but also about the endurance of any nation’s capacity to build a tolerant, pluralistic society resistant to the temptations of ethnonationalism.

The early signs are mixed. Sigmount Königsberg is the anti-Semitism commissioner for Berlin’s Jewish Community, the organization that oversees synagogues and other aspects of local Jewish life. At a cafe next to the domed New Synagogue, which was spared destruction during the pogroms of November 1938, Königsberg, an affable 58-year-old, told me his mother had been liberated from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and had intended to move to Paris. Instead, she became stranded in the German border town of Saarbrücken, and she soon met Königsberg’s father, also a Holocaust survivor. Like other Jewish families, they were ambivalent about remaining in Germany. Königsberg employed an often-used metaphor to describe this unsettledness: Until the 1980s, he said, German Jews “sat on a packed suitcase.” After East and West Germany reunified, many Jews feared a nationalist revival. Despite a wave of racist attacks on immigrants, that revival did not seem to materialize. In fact, the European Union, which was created to temper those impulses, was ascendant. Jews felt more secure, Königsberg told me: “We unpacked the suitcase and stored it in the cellar.”

Now, he believed, that sense of security has eroded. People aren’t heading for the exits yet, he said, but they are starting to think, Where did I put that suitcase?

On a cool, overcast day in late 2017, Yorai Feinberg, an Israeli citizen, then 36, was standing in front of the Israeli restaurant he owns in central Berlin, bundled up in a down coat and smoking a cigarette, when a middle-aged German man stopped on the sidewalk and declared, “You people are crazy.”

“Why?” Feinberg asked, as a friend filmed the encounter on a mobile phone.

“Very simple,” said the man. “Because you’ve warred against the Palestinians for 70 years.”

“Oh, so this is a left-wing story,” Feinberg said.

“I’m not a leftist,” the man said, leaning in toward Feinberg. “You’re leading a war. And you want to install yourselves here.” The man became increasingly belligerent. “Get out of here!” he went on. “This is my homeland. And you have no homeland.”

Feinberg asked him to back off.

“You’ll get your reckoning in 10 years. In 10 years you won’t be living,” the man said. He then added: “What do you want here after ‘45?”

It seemed like a rhetorical question, but Feinberg, taking a drag of his cigarette, ventured an answer. “With so many people like you, that’s a very good question.”

Feinberg spotted a passing police car and ran to get help. “No one will protect you,” the man taunted. Then, looking directly at the camera as if addressing Jews everywhere, he added: “All of you go back to your stupid gas chambers. Nobody wants you.” The man had no known connections to any extremist groups, Feinberg later told me. People had considered him to be a regular guy.

A video of the affair went viral on social media. “This heinous attack demonstrates once again that anti-Semitism has arrived in the middle of society and is now articulated openly and bluntly,” Schuster said. In December, a year after the incident, the Anti-Semitism Research and Information Center, or RIAS, a German organization that has been documenting anti-Semitic incidents in Berlin since it was founded in 2015, chose Feinberg’s restaurant to announce an initiative to more actively gather information from other parts of the country.

On the day of the event, Feinberg sat underneath a series of paintings of the Star of David before a score of reporters. “It has not been the easiest year of my life,” he said. Since the incident, he had received a torrent of anti-Semitic messages. One person using the name Greta texted him a poem called “Emancipation,” written in the 19th century by August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben, who also wrote the words used today in the German national anthem. Addressed “To Israel,” the lesser-known work reads, “You rob from underneath our feet, our German fatherland.” On Facebook, someone named Mahmoud commented, “The reckoning will come, just like the German in the video said.”

After Feinberg spoke, the head of RIAS, Benjamin Steinitz, said that the organization had documented well over 3,000 anti-Semitic incidents since it was founded. One reporter asked Steinitz who was perpetrating the physical attacks: “Are they totally normal citizens? Or are they right- wing extremists?” Steinitz said that from descriptions provided by victims, there appeared to be a difference between big cities and rural areas. In metropolises, perpetrators often came from an “Islamist milieu or a milieu that is based on a left-wing, anti-Israel ideology.” In rural areas and small cities, he added, “it is clearly different.”

A RIAS report released in April illustrated the complexity of the problem. When researchers looked at all reported anti-Semitic incidents — including threats, harassment and targeted vandalism — in Berlin in 2018, they were unable to determine the ideological motivation in nearly half the cases. They could attribute 18 percent of the incidents to right-wing extremists, making it the largest known group, but with such a large proportion of missing information, the numbers were hardly conclusive about which views predominated. The political motivations of violent attackers were even harder to parse. Of 46 reported anti-Semitic attacks in Berlin in 2018, RIAS could identify the ideological motivation of the perpetrators in just 19 cases. Five attacks were carried out by people espousing a “left-wing anti-imperialist” view; five attacks were classified as “conspiracy-ideological” in nature; four were classified as “Israel-hostile”; two as “Islamist”; two others as “right-wing extremist”; one attack was attributed to a “political middle” worldview.

After the event, as guests nibbled on falafel and hummus, Felix Klein took a seat at a corner table. A 51-year-old career diplomat in rimless glasses, Klein is Germany’s first federal Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight Against Anti-Semitism, a lengthy job title for a position that was created just last year. He told me at the event that a feeling of urgency to create the position set in after pro-Palestinian protesters, angered over President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, burned Israeli flags at demonstrations in Berlin in December 2017. The incidents embarrassed the German government and Chancellor Angela Merkel, who, early in her tenure, declared Israel’s security to be a German staatsräson, or “reason of state.”

Klein listed several things the German government should be doing at the federal and state levels to fight anti-Semitism; chief among them was training teachers and the police simply to recognize it. He also said school books should include more lessons about Jewish contributions to Germany. “We only started to talk about Jews when the Nazi period came up in our history lesson,” he said. “We didn’t speak about Jewish life before that, and we didn’t speak about Jewish life after.”

The rise of anti-Semitic acts, Klein told me, was not just a matter of rising hate but a rising willingness to express it. This was because of social media, he said, as well as the A.f.D. and its “brutalization” of the political discourse. There are also the challenges that are caused by anti-Semitism from Muslims, he said, though, he added, according to criminal statistics, this was not the main problem.

Klein was citing the federal statistic that attributed a vast majority of anti-Semitic crimes in Germany to right-wing extremists, the one that many Jewish community leaders disputed. I asked Klein if he thought the statistic was reliable. He acknowledged that, in fact, the methodology was flawed: When it was unclear who the perpetrators were, they were automatically classified as right-wing extremists. “I’ve already started the discussion within the government to change that,” he said.

He added that the existing statistics should not be used as a pretext “to avoid a discussion regarding anti-Semitism from Muslims.” I asked him if there was any fear that such a conversation would raise tensions between minority groups instead of protecting them. “I think there is a fear,” he said. “This is why I think the right strategy is to denounce any form of anti-Semitism, regardless of the numbers. I don’t want to start a discussion about which one is more problematic or more dangerous than the other.”

He leaned in to underscore this point. “You should not start this discussion, because then you start using one political group against the other. We should not do that.”

German anti-Semites are clearly drawn to the A.f.D. One 2018 survey conducted by the Allensbach Institute, a respected polling organization, found that 55 percent of A.f.D. supporters believe that Jews have “too much influence on the world,” far more than the 22 percent average for the overall population. The A.f.D. does not, however, agitate directly against Jews like the far-right parties of old. Its politicians traffic in more insidious forms of secondary anti-Semitism. In a 2017 speech in Dresden, Björn Höcke, the head of the party in the eastern German state of Thuringia, lamented the existence of the Holocaust memorial near the Brandenburg Gate — a “monument of shame,” as he referred to it — and called for a “180 degree turn” in Germany’s “politics of memory.” To deny the Holocaust is illegal in Germany, a country with legal restrictions on hate speech. But to suggest that it be forgotten is a circuitous way of reaching the same end.

Yet since the A.f.D.’s entry into Parliament in 2017, its politicians have increasingly presented the party as steadfastly pro-Jewish and pro-Israel. After the attack on the Israeli wearing a yarmulke in Berlin, Jörg Meuthen, a leading A.f.D. politician, tweeted that Germany had become a “world champion of importing Muslim anti-Semitism.” Recently, an A.f.D. parliamentarian, Beatrix von Storch, accused Germany’s United Nations ambassador of “relativizing” and “trivializing” the threat Israel faces from Hamas. The A.f.D. is not alone in the effort. In France, the far-right National Front — recently renamed National Rally — was founded by Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has been convicted of Holocaust denial. It now portrays itself as the protector of Jews fearful of Muslim immigration. In 2014, Marine Le Pen, Jean-Marie’s daughter and successor as party leader, called National Front the “best shield” to protect Jews against “the one true enemy, Islamic fundamentalism.”

Last year, two-dozen Jewish A.f.D. supporters founded a group called “Jews in the A.f.D.,” or J.A.f.D., asserting, in a “statement of principles,” that it is the only party willing to “thematize Muslim hatred of Jews without trivializing it.” In response, the Central Council of Jews in Germany and 41 other Jewish organizations released a joint statement condemning the A.f.D. as racist and anti-Semitic and warned Jews not to fall for its “apparent concern” for their safety. “We won’t allow ourselves to be instrumentalized by the A.f.D.,” the statement read. “No, the A.f.D. is a danger to Jewish life in Germany.”

On a Sunday afternoon last October, J.A.f.D. held its inaugural event in a gymnasium on the outskirts of the Hessian city of Wiesbaden. A J.A.f.D. supporter in the crowd of attendees, who wore a yarmulke and a Star of David necklace that dangled outside his shirt next to an A.f.D. pin, told me, in a strong Russian accent, that he had emigrated from Moscow in the early 1990s. As reporters gathered around him, he rattled off a series of claims often recited at far-right political gatherings: Muslim immigrants come from an “absolutely alien” culture. They would “bring Shariah law” and “rape” to Germany. When a reporter from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung tried to get his name, the man refused to give it. He didn’t trust the lügenpresse — “the lying press” — he said, using a phrase that, long preceding “fake news,” had been deployed by propagandists in Nazi Germany to spread conspiracy theories about newspapers controlled by “world Jewry.”

Another reporter approached the anonymous J.A.f.D. supporter and said he was from RT, the Russian state-backed news network. “RT I trust!” said the supporter happily as he broke off to chat with the reporter in Russian. It was not surprising to see RT interested in the story; it makes a special effort to show and to sow social division in the West as part of the Russian government’s influence campaign. But there was also a more specific Russian angle. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Germany admitted, along with a few million ethnic German “resettlers” from the former Soviet Union, some 200,000 Russian-speaking Jews and their family members. The vast majority of Germany’s Jewish population today has roots in the former Soviet Union. The A.f.D. has tried to win the support of immigrants from former Soviet states — who in Germany have tended to vote conservative — believing them more likely to be receptive to the party’s politics, including support for closer ties to the Russian government. Indeed, in some voting areas with large numbers of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, the A.f.D. has performed disproportionately well. Several members of J.A.f.D. had roots in the former Soviet Union; the chairwoman is a doctor born in Uzbekistan.

J.A.f.D. board members took their seats in a row on a stage as party politicians and functionaries applauded. Before the event, there was much discussion about the Jewish credentials of one J.A.f.D. member not on the stage who had identified himself on Facebook as a “follower of Jesus Christ.” A reporter asked how the group defined Jewishness. One J.A.f.D. board member, a goateed student of German literature named Artur Abramovych, interjected with a reflection that neatly inverted the historical suffering of European Jewry along the axis of ethnonationalism. Abramovych defined Jews as an “ethno-cultural community.” In contemporary Germany and Europe, he went on, “the appreciation for the importance of ethno-cultural community had mostly been lost.” Rightist parties, however, wanted to revive this sense of community, and Jews, he suggested, intrinsically understand this because of their own sense of tribal belonging. “This is the reason that there’s a certain affinity of Jewry to the right-wing parties of Europe.”

Another reporter asked the board members how they viewed the call for a “180-degree turn” in Germany’s politics of memory. “We are not excited about such statements,” responded Bernhard Krauskopf, a retired mechanical engineer who, earlier in the day, said more than 50 members of his family had been murdered in Nazi death camps. He went on to criticize the Social Democratic Party for its “180-degree turn in practice against Jewish Israelis,” for failing to support Israel. The next affront, he added, was the “180-degree turn against Jewish Germans” by the political establishment. “They say, ‘We are so against anti-Semitism,’ ” Krauskopf said, modulating his voice to connote spurious compassion. “And then,” he added in his own ardent cadence, “they import a population group that consists of at least — at least! — 60 percent inveterate Jew haters!”

It was unclear whether this messaging would gain much traction with Jews in Germany beyond the confines of the gymnasium. Josef Schuster, the head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told me the number of Jewish A.f.D. supporters is “very small.” But experience in France suggests a modest level of support would not be far-fetched. In 2012, the National Front leader Marine Le Pen was backed by 13.5 percent of Jewish voters, according to the French polling company IFOP, as reported by France 24. Even so, at stake for these parties is not the relatively small number of Jewish votes but rather an appearance of legitimacy and ideological distance from past fascist movements. The J.A.f.D. allows the A.f.D. to reject as absurd accusations that they are Nazis or traffic in Nazi ideology. During the J.A.f.D. event, a series of non-Jewish A.f.D. politicians addressed attendees, and one of them, a member of Parliament named Petr Bystron, professed delight: “I’m looking forward to the wondrous leaps that will be required to depict you, the Jews in the A.f.D., as Nazis.”

The Fraenkelufer Synagogue sits on Berlin’s Landwehr Canal, a snaking, several-mile-long waterway that meets the city’s major river, the Spree, on each end. In September 1945, according to a Chicago Sun reporter, the canal still stank of decayed corpses when 400 Jewish survivors and about 30 American Jewish soldiers gathered for the first postwar synagogue service in Berlin. The main neo-Classical sanctuary that had once stood at the site sat in ruins, but a Jewish-American lieutenant stationed in Berlin named Harry Nowalsky, who could see the synagogue from his bedroom window, had made it a personal mission to restore a smaller, still-intact sanctuary in time for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. On the cool holiday evening, the congregants, as one reporter wrote, “sang songs of Israel with tear-stained faces.” Today, the trendy and gentrifying neighborhoods near the synagogue — Kreuzberg and Neukölln — are home to a large number of Turkish and Arab immigrants, and for this reason, are considered “no-go areas” among some Jews who live elsewhere, though most of the synagogue’s congregants don’t see it that way.

One Monday morning last year, a 39-year-old local congregant named Shlomit Tripp welcomed a class of fourth graders to the synagogue. Tripp, who wore a tie-dyed headband and carried with her a redheaded puppet she calls Shlomo, runs a Jewish puppet theater. She sometimes gives presentations about Judaism to non-Jewish schoolchildren at the synagogue in order “to open our doors,” she told me, “and to show that we are not a mysterious club you can come up with conspiracy theories about.” Such openness is all the more important because Fraenkelufer Synagogue, like others around Germany, resembles something of a fortress: with an iron fence, security cameras, bulletproof glass covering the stained-glass windows and an incessant police presence on the street in front. Synagogues in Germany have been under police protection since around 1969, when Marxist militants tried to bomb a Jewish community center in West Berlin. The following year, a still-unsolved arson attack on a home for Jewish seniors in Munich left seven people dead. Congregants told me they understand the need for the precautions but also lamented the impossibility of natural exchanges with the outside community.

The children put on yarmulkes available for guests and sat in benches facing the ark. Tripp began with a question:

“Where do Jews actually come from?”

“Israel?” one child said.

“Canaan?” another said.

“Where do you think I come from?” Tripp said.

There was a moment of silence before one girl volunteered: “Germany?”

“Correct!” Tripp said. “I was born here in Berlin. Like a lot of you.”

She then showed the children a blue-striped learner’s tallit, a prayer shawl, and, draping it around her shoulders, imitated a man proudly strutting into the sanctuary on the Sabbath. “I’m a Jew. I’m a Jew. I’m a Jew,” she said in a deep voice, eliciting giggles from the children. She tucked herself into the tallit, wrapping it around her head to show how it’s used in deep prayer. “It’s a bit like a meditation,” she said. “So you can feel really close to God.” The children then came up one at a time and Tripp advised them to think of something “really, really nice” as she folded the tallit over each child for a silent moment. Tripp later told me that, during this part of the talk, she imagines a bell — “ding!” — signifying one less anti-Semite for each child that passes.

After the children left, Tripp told me she has never experienced anti-Semitism from the visiting kids or from her Muslim neighbors and considered fears of Muslim anti-Semitism to be exaggerated. “I don’t want to be naïve,” she added. “Sure there’s a problem. But it’s not like you have to pack your bags and move to Israel.”

Fraenkelufer Synagogue would not exist today without immigration. After the war, Jews from Eastern Europe formed a small congregation. After 1989, Jews from the former Soviet Union joined, but by the turn of the millennium, the congregation had dwindled. That began to change several years ago, with the immigration of young Jews from around the world to the neighborhood, including some of the thousands of Israelis who have migrated to Berlin in recent years — many of whom lean to the political left and are troubled by Israel’s rightward political shift.

Among the newcomers to the synagogue are Nina and Dekel Peretz. Dekel, a full-bearded historian and tour guide who arrived in Berlin in 2002 after serving in the Israeli military, told me that his mother was “totally shocked” about the move. “I grew up in this ‘You don’t go to Germany’ mind-set,’ ” he said. To illustrate this, he told me a story about a childhood family road trip through Europe that involved crossing German territory. The family intended to traverse the country without stopping, but somewhere in the Black Forest, young Dekel had to pee. On the side of the road, he got a stinging nettle rash. He deemed this karmic punishment for stopping. His wife Nina’s family, it turns out, is from the Black Forest. “I didn’t know any Jews or anything about Judaism, except the stuff you read in history class,” she told me. After meeting Dekel, she converted to Judaism and now sits on the synagogue’s board. At the time we first sat down to talk, she was eight months pregnant with their first child.

Dekel pointed out that Israelis who live in Germany are often criticized by Israeli right-wing politicians who, as he put it, find fault with Israelis who choose the “easy diasporic life” over the “building up of a strong Jewish state.” At the same time, Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have urged European Jews to escape the threat of growing anti-Semitism in Europe by coming “home” to Israel. In January, Netanyahu emphasized the threat to European Jews posed by “the combination of Islamic anti-Semitism and the anti-Semitism of the extreme left,” even as Israel’s Diaspora Affairs Ministry warned that, in 2018, it was the far-right threat that had become the most perilous to Jews in the United States and Europe.

Dekel told me that he envisioned Fraenkelufer Synagogue as a kind of sanctuary from many of these ideas: a community that isn’t defined by fear of anti-Semitism or an orientation toward Israel, but by a local brand of German Judaism. “The question is, What do we want to create for our children?” Dekel said. “We are not sitting on a packed suitcase. We are here to stay.”

In July, Nina gave birth to a girl, Ronja Sarah. On a Shabbat morning a few weeks later, the couple brought her to the synagogue for a baby-naming ceremony. Afterward, the congregation gathered at tables for the Kiddush, a post-service reception. People drank wine and vodka and ate dishes of herring and salmon. The mood was jovial. Nina’s father held the baby as Dekel stood to say a few words about his grandmother Sarah, who inspired the baby’s middle name. Sarah had survived a labor camp in Romania and eventually settled in Tel Aviv with Dekel’s grandfather, a Moroccan Jew. Sarah stuck to her Ashkenazi ways, Dekel told the congregation. She watched German television shows and cooked borscht. After Dekel moved to Berlin, he said, she was the first in the family to accept it. “She liked being able to speak German with me,” Dekel said. “And I think she would have been happy to know that a little girl named Sarah was born in Berlin.”

One evening last summer, three generations of the Michalski family — Wenzel and Gemma, Wenzel’s father, Franz, and his mother, Petra, as well as Solomon’s siblings — sat in a row at an English-language theater in Berlin to watch Solomon, now 16 and enrolled in a new private school, perform in a play inspired by his experience with anti-Semitic bullying.

The play began with a scene in a classroom where an assignment was written on the board: “Tribalism Divides Communities — Elucidate.” The teenagers portrayed two tribes, the Whoozis and the Whatzits, who, because of ancient rivalries, fight. Eventually, everyone falls to the floor and perishes in a final battle. But then everyone slowly rises.

“So that’s it?” one tribe member said. “Everyone dies in the end?”

“That sucks,” another said.

“Yes, but it’s realistic,” another said.

Solomon had the last line.

“Well, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m not leaving until we get this right.”

After the play, Gemma told me that she didn’t hold grudges against the kids who bullied her son. “I didn’t give up on those kids,” she said. “The school gave up on those kids.” The attitude from many of the teachers, she said, was: “You can’t talk to them; they’re just Muslims.” This revealed a troubling unwillingness to stand up for, as she put it, “life in a liberal, tolerant democracy for everyone, beyond racism.”

I asked Solomon if he had thought much about anti-Semitism before the bullying episodes. He told me about a trip he took with his grandparents just before the bullying began. They visited the places in Poland, the Czech Republic and eastern Germany where his grandfather had hidden from the Gestapo. “That really opened my mind,” he told me. “I knew about my grandpa’s experiences, but I just, you know, felt really proud to be Jewish after that trip. Then after this whole thing happened, it makes me even more proud to be Jewish. I wouldn’t say I feel more religious. But it’s just the identity, the ethnic background of being Jewish and walking in Berlin as a Jewish boy.” His mother later told me that she found it sad that her son had formed a stronger sense of tribal identity based on the experience of mistreatment. She had not wanted him to forge his identity in fear. “I wanted him to be free,” she said.

Solomon told me that he was happy at his new school. He had made new friends of diverse backgrounds, and they had formed a band called the Minorities. Still, he added, he did not feel free to express his newfound Jewish identity in public. He had wanted to wear a Star of David necklace, he told me, but he and his parents had decided that this was not a good idea. The necklace could be exposed if someone were to pull his shirt back. “The thing is,” he said, “it’s still really dangerous. I mean, it’s not like, ‘O.K., everything is fine now.’ ”

 

* You can also find other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia

Purges in Jordan, war crimes in Syria, Iran child soldiers, & beautiful Egypt jewelry

May 22, 2019

Arab News published an editorial in English, arguing that after Iranian-orchestrated attacks last week against Saudi energy targets, the next logical step “should be surgical strikes” on Iran by the U.S. Arab News is owned by Turki Bin Salman Al Saud who is the brother of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It often reflects the official position of the Saudi government.

 

MORE CHEMICAL WEAPONS USE BY SYRIAN AND IRANIAN REGIMES

[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach a number of pieces on Syria, Yemen, Iran, Jordan and Turkey.

Meanwhile, the renewed use of chemical weapons on Sunday by Syria’s Assad regime is being all but ignored by the international media.

The Assad regime, along with its Iranian and Hizbullah allies, is currently carrying out mass ethnic cleansing and killing in Idlib province. At least 200,000 Syrian Sunnis have been driven from their homes in recent weeks.

Against the advice of his own defense and intelligence chiefs, former US President Barack Obama famously backed away from the red lines he had set intended to deter Assad from using chemical weapons. Since then, an emboldened Assad regime has repeatedly used horrific nerve agents killing and maiming men, women and children.

 

 

BEAUTIFUL JEWELRY FROM ANCIENT EGYPT

Here is a much more uplifting item. One of the team behind the “Women of Egypt” website is an Egyptian friend of mine:

https://www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia/posts/2197737563597084

https://womenofegyptmag.com/2019/05/20/11-pieces-of-jewelry-from-ancient-egypt/

 

An Iranian Revolutionary Guards officer, with an Israeli flag drawn on his boots, at a graduation ceremony in Tehran

 

IRAN’S CHILD SOLDIERS

This brief video on Al Hurra reports on the history of Iranian child soldiers under Khomeini. Al Hurra is under the auspicies of the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN),

The president of MBN is a subscriber to this email list.

He writes:

“It has garnered over 200,000 views since yesterday but is now ‘covered’ by Facebook for supposed "violent or graphic content." But there is nothing particularly graphic about it. The subject is disturbing but there are no gruesome images. This is a relatively small thing (the video has done well) but seeing how aggressive Facebook and Twitter are being at banning political speech and images they disagree with underscores the growing problem with social media. Certainly terrorist groups like ISIS had free rein in 2013-2014 in the digital space which contributed heavily to their success. But now you have ideologues at social media companies imposing their own particular litmus test and participating in the censorship process.”

Video here.

***

In other news, Dutch police yesterday arrested a Syrian suspected of being a leading commander of Jebhat An-Nusra (Al Qaeda).

Many of Assad’s henchmen and torturers are also now hiding in Europe. See this (English-language) video from yesterday on Germany’s DW.

-- Tom Gross

 

Tens of thousands of Syrians have been tortured in the prisons of the Assad regime. Nearly 14,000 are known to have died through torture, and 128,000 others are presumed dead or still in custody. Above, one of the survivors who made it to Germany.

 

CONTENTS

1. Syrian Government Documents Reveal Reach of Assad’s Shadowy Spy Agencies (AP, May 21, 2019)
2. How Yemen’s Iran-backed Rebels Weaponized Drones Against Saudi Arabia (AP, May 21, 2019)
3. What Happened To Iran’s ‘Hardliners’? (Jerusalem Post, May 19, 2019)
4. Iran’s Deadly Reach in Mideast Puts U.S. Forces, Allies in Striking Range (Reuters, May 21, 2019)
5. Iran Threat Has Been Put ‘On Hold,’ Acting Defense Chief Says (Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2019)
6. U.S. Officials Say Military Moves to Deter Iran Are Working (New York Times, May 21, 2019)
7. Trump’s sanctions on Iran are hitting Hezbollah, and it hurts (Washington Post, May 19, 2019)
8. Jordan’s King Is Afraid. So He Purged His Government (Haaretz, May 21, 2019)
9. When Turkey Destroyed Its Christians (Wall Street Journal, May 18, 2019)


ARTICLES

SYRIAN GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS REVEAL REACH OF ASSAD’S SHADOWY SPY AGENCIES

Syrian Government Documents Reveal Reach of Assad’s Shadowy Spy Agencies
During the country’s civil war President Bashar Assad’s shadowy security agencies sought to eliminate dissent at all costs
The Associated Press
May 21, 2019

Thousands of documents found in abandoned Syrian government offices during the country’s civil war reveal the reach of President Bashar Assad’s shadowy security agencies that sought to eliminate dissent at all costs, according to a rights report published Tuesday May 21.

The documents , obtained by the Washington-based Syria Justice and Accountability Center, show the agencies spied on the populace at large, sought to eliminate dissidents through detention, intimidation or killings and systematically persecuted the Kurdish minority even before the onset the 2011 uprising against Assad.

The report, titled “Walls Have Ears, An Analysis of Classified Syrian Security Sector Documents” and based on a sample of 5,000 documents, presents some of the most damning evidence of state involvement – at the highest level – in the bloody crackdown on protesters, dissidents, and even foreign journalists in Syria.

The documents also offer a rare glimpse into the inner workings of Assad’s security agencies and how pervasively they monitored Syrians’ everyday lives.

Sometimes handwritten, notes contain orders from top commanders to arrest, detain and “do what is necessary” to quell the unrest.

One document details how a man informed on his own brother for supporting anti-Assad protests, prompting a security commander to seek permission to lure the brother into a trap.

Another document, from the country’s top intelligence agency, the National Security Office, identified a French journalist of Lebanese descent as an “instigator of protests” and barred her from entering the country.

Several of the documents identify protesters by name, labelling many as terrorists without any evidence, while others detail the government’s policy of containing and monitoring political activities of the Kurdish minority.

“The documents show clearly that orders were very centralized and came from really high-level officials, including from heads of the security agency themselves, and in lots of documents from the National Security Office,” said Mohammad Al-Abdallah, the director of the Washington-based group.

“This, combined with the nature of the orders – deployment of military units, surveillance, the use of lethal force, persecutions of the Kurds – all are proof a systematic state practice, and can be used as evidence to establish both the Syrian state responsibility and the individual criminal responsibility for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity,” he added.

When protests erupted in March 2011 in Syria – in part inspired by the wave of uprisings around the region later labelled the Arab Spring – the government responded with a violent crackdown.

The crackdown in turn sparked an armed rebellion against government forces, dividing Syria into government and rebel-held areas.

Almost nine years later, more than 400,000 people have been killed, half of the pre-war population of 23 million is either displaced internally or refugees in neighboring countries. Most of the towns and cities lie in ruins.

Syria’s government, which typically does not comment on security issues nor responds to reports accusing it of human rights violations, justifies its crackdown by describing those who rose up against it as terrorists. Assad charges that the uprising was part of a conspiracy supported by the U.S. and regional foes to oust him from power.

The documents were collected from the province of Raqqa and the town of Tabqa in eastern Syria in 2013, and from the western province of Idlib in 2015, following the withdrawal of government forces.

The Washington-based watchdog and investigators from another independent group, the Commission for International Justice and Accountability extracted over 400,000 government documents and collectively scanned and digitized them.

Both groups have already offered assistance to European prosecutors to pursue criminal cases against Syrian officials.

 

HOW YEMEN’S IRAN-BACKED REBELS WEAPONIZED DRONES AGAINST SAUDI ARABIA

How Yemen’s Iran-backed Rebels Weaponized Drones Against Saudi Arabia
In Yemen, the high-pitched whine of drones has been a part of life for over 15 years
The Associated Press
May 21, 2019

In Yemen, the high-pitched whine of drones has been a part of life for over 15 years, ever since the first U.S. drone strike here targeting al-Qaida in 2002. But now, Iran-backed Houthi rebels increasingly deploy drones in Yemen’s brutal civil war.

Neighboring Saudi Arabia, which has been battling the rebels since 2015, said drones attacked an oil pipeline, targeting two pumping stations west of its capital, Riyadh, on Tuesday.

The Houthis claimed a coordinated drone attack, underscoring how the Arab world’s poorest country has become one of the world’s top battlefields for drones. Both the rebels and the Saudi-led coalition fighting them, as well as the U.S., continue to use them for surveillance and attacks.

While the U.S. uses American-made drones and the coalition has turned to Chinese suppliers, the manufacturer of the Houthis’ drones in both the air and the sea has been a contentious question.

Here are some key details about the rebels’ drones:

THE IRAN LINK

A 2018 report by a United Nations panel of experts on Yemen looked particularly at the Houthis’ Qatef-1 drone.

The report said that although the rebel media announced the Houthis had manufactured the drone, “in reality they are assembled from components supplied by an outside source and shipped into Yemen.”

The Qatef, or “Striker,” it added, “is virtually identical in design, dimensions and capability to that of the Ababil-T, manufactured by the Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industries.”

The Ababil-T can deliver up to a 45-kilogram (100-pound) warhead up to 150 kilometers (95 miles) away.

A research group called Conflict Armament Research, with the permission of the United Arab Emirates’ elite Presidential Guard, also examined seized drones used by the Houthis and their allies to crash into Patriot missile batteries in Saudi Arabia.

The research group similarly said those drones share “near-identical design and construction characteristics” of Iranian drones.

THE DRONE BOAT

Saudi-led coalition forces last year also showed journalists a Houthi “drone boat,” filled with explosives that had failed to detonate.

The officials also shared black-and-white images they said came from the “drone boat.” They said the pictures and associated data from the boat’s computer showed Iranians building components for its guidance system in eastern Tehran, with a hat in the background of one picture bearing the symbol of Iran’s hard-line paramilitary Revolutionary Guard forces.

They said those involved in building the components probably believed it would be destroyed in the blast, so they didn’t wipe the computer’s hard drive

For its part, Iran repeatedly has denied supplying the Houthis with drone or ballistic missile technology. However, Iran would have an interest in seeing Saudi Arabia, its archrival in the region, tied down in a bloody, protracted conflict with no clear end in sight.

 

WHAT HAPPENED TO IRAN’S ‘HARDLINERS?’

What Happened To Iran’s 'Hardliners?'
The “moderate” and “hardliner” narrative was trotted out by the Iranian regime and its explainers abroad while much stayed the same at home in Iran
By Seth J. Frantzman
Jerusalem Post
May 19, 2019

For many years Western media repeated a typical formulation: Iranian politics is dominated by “hardliners” and “moderates” and if the US or the West don’t do what Tehran wants, then the “hardliners” will be fueled and Iran will become more extreme.

When US President Donald Trump left the Iran deal a year ago, almost every major analysis claimed that the “hardliners” would now be empowered by his decision.

However, after a year little has changed in Tehran. The same faces are largely in charge and the same rhetoric, which was always militarist and threatening, hasn’t changed.

In May 2018, the US announced it was leaving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or the “Iran Deal” that the US had agreed to in 2015. China, France, Russia, the UK, Germany and the European Union had signed on as well, ending most sanctions in exchange for Iran not producing certain levels of nuclear material or trying to build a nuclear weapon. After the US chose to leave, Iran and the rest of the signatories chose to keep the deal. Earlier this month, Iran threatened the European powers that if they didn’t do more for Iran in the next 60 days, then Iran might leave parts of the deal.

The deal was the “pet project” of President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, the political “moderates,” according to Vox. In May 2018, Vox claimed that “Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement has given their more hardline opponents, including the leaders of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard (IRGC), the upper hand in the domestic political environment.” The Union of Concerned Scientists also put out a statement claiming that “Trump’s announcement will strengthen Iranian hardliners.” And at The Harvard Gazette we learn: “It will also strengthen the Revolutionary Guard hardliners in Tehran.”

“Mr. Trump’s move could embolden hard-line forces in Iran, raising the threat of Iranian retaliation against Israel or the United States,” The New York Times wrote on May 8. Brookings, in an article published in October 2018, seemed to have a slightly different conclusion. “Although Washington’s new tough line on Iran has emboldened hardline circles in Iran opposed to the JCPOA, there is a willingness at the top of the [Iranian government] to keep the deal alive.”

How have the hardliners been strengthened in the past year? Iran’s foreign policy in the last year has remained largely consistent with what it was doing before 2018. It has continued to support Hezbollah in Lebanon. It has continued to support the Houthi rebels in Lebanon. It has continued to work with Shi’ite militias and political parties in Iraq. It has furthered its role in Syria. Does it have more bases in Syria in May 2019 than in May 2018? Insofar as it has only built upon and extended its goals. For instance, its goal in Iraq was to make the Popular Mobilization Forces, a group of Shi’ite militias, into an official force. Former Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi had already called them the “hope” of the country in October 2017. They were formally inducted into the security forces in March 2018.

Iran’s role has become more institutional in Iraq since then. Iraq signed new deals with Iran in March. Voices critical of Iran have been “purged” in the PMU, according to reports. Former Iraqi prime minister Iyad Allawi called for them being disbanded in April of this year. His words fell on deaf ears. However, protesters have also targeted pro-Iranian groups in places like Basra, challenging Iran.

Where else has Iran’s foreign policy become more “hardline?” In January 2019, Iran was blamed for two political assassinations in Europe, one in 2015 and another in 2017. Iran’s destabilizing activities in Europe, therefore, have a historic element that goes back to the period of the Iran deal and before.

Zarif is still at the top of Iran’s foreign policy. He was recently on a high-profile trip to Japan, India, China and Turkmenistan. In February, Zarif appeared to resign after he was angered that Syrian president Bashar Assad visited Tehran without his inclusion. However, days later he was back at his post and was soon on a major trip to Syria and Turkey. Evidence shows that Zarif’s views are just as “hardline” as the supposed hardliners. He has said “we are IRGC” in October 2017, after US criticism of the Iran deal and the IRGC.

The IRGC, the ostensibly “hardline” part of Iran, hasn’t changed greatly in the last year. It has continued to develop its ballistic missile programs and to strengthen its influence at home and abroad. In April 2019, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei replaced the IRGC’s leader Mohammed Ali Jafari with Hossein Salami. Is Salami more extreme than Jafari, who was the architect of the IRGC’s policies over the last 11 years? Time will tell, if he is more extreme it might mean he is more erratic because the IRGC was already extreme.

WITH THE same faces at the helm of many parts of Iran and very little change in policies, where do commentators point to find the strengthening of the “hardliners.” Reuters argued, in a May 16 piece, that “Rouhani’s authority is now waning” and he has been weakened by Trump’s policies. According to the article, a “hardline rival heads the judiciary.” The article points to Ebrahim Raisi as an example of hardline gains. A March 2019 piece from Reuters had already claimed that Raisi, a “hardline cleric,” had consolidated power. It argued that he was a “contender” to succeed Khamenei. However, since Khamenei was already one of the supposed hardliners, wouldn’t his replacement by another hardliner merely be more of the same?

Another “hardliner” who was appointed recently was Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani. He was promoted to head the Expeditionary Council in December. He replaced a hardliner named Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi. In fact The Nation magazine had claimed in 2009 that Shahroudi, “a political hardliner,” was a top candidate to replace the “ailing Khamenei.” Khamenei survived and Shahroudi died, but the hardliners was replaced by a hardliner. A washing machine of hardliners isn’t a form of empowerment, it represents a continuation of Iran’s power structure.

The cleric Larijani is also the younger brother of Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani. Al-Monitor described Ali Larijani as a “moderate” in May 2018. The language here is a bit confusing because an earlier article refers to him as a “moderate conservative” opposed by “reformists.” Reuters and AFP also call him a “moderate conservative.” In November 2018, Radio Farda reported that “hardliners” were seeking to unseat Larijani.

The terminology appears confusing partly because it has been crafted largely to explain Iran to a Western audience. The simple cliché binary “hardliner” and “moderate” was a way to make a regime simple and to portray it as moderating even if it hadn’t changed at all. The survey of Iranian political leaders points to little real change in the way Iran is governed and the various power structures that exist in Iran. Iran has preferred to portray itself to the world as being more moderate during the Iran deal negotiations, sending Zarif to negotiate, while at home the IRGC continued to build missiles and support groups across the Middle East. The “hardliners” and “moderates” were trotted out like a kind of good cop, bad cop routine with the bogeyman hardliners always waiting in the wings if Western powers didn’t comply with Iran’s demands. But at home, it appears little has changed and Iran’s policy has been consistently aggressive and militaristic over the years, using a complex approach involving growing influence and strengthening its armed proxies across the Middle East.

 

EXPLAINED: IRAN’S DEADLY REACH IN THE MIDDLE EAST PUTS U.S. FORCES, ALLIES IN STRIKING RANGE

Explained: Iran’s Deadly Reach in the Middle East Puts U.S. Forces, Allies in Striking Range
Iran backs militias in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, where U.S. troops are also based, and in Lebanon and Yemen, located next to Washington’s closest regional allies Israel and Saudi Arabia
Reuters (with Haaretz)
May 22, 2019

Threats of conflict between the United States and Iran have highlighted the places and ways their forces, proxies or allies could clash. Iran and Saudi Arabia have long been locked in a regional Cold War using proxy battles in four different countries to attack the other’s interests.

From Lebanon to Syria to Iraq to Yemen, each country has paid the price of being a battleground in the Iran-Saudi regional power battle. Iran backs militias in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, where U.S. troops are also based, and in Lebanon and Yemen, located next to Washington’s closest regional allies Israel and Saudi Arabia.

It is situated opposite Saudi Arabia on the Gulf, and along the Strait of Hormuz, passageway for almost a fifth of the world’s daily crude oil consumption. Washington this month sent military reinforcements to the area, saying it feared an Iranian attack.

Last week, unidentified assailants struck Saudi oil assets and on Sunday others fired a rocket into Baghdad’s heavily fortified “Green Zone” that exploded near the U.S. embassy. Iran denied any role in either incident.

U.S. President Donald Trump warned this week that Iran would be met with “great force” if it attacked U.S. interests in the Middle East. At the weekend he tweeted that “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran.”

The Iranian government has condemned Trump’s remarks and U.S. deployments as provocative and called for respect and an end to a U.S. squeeze on Iran’s oil exports aimed at forcing it to negotiate.

However, a commander of its powerful Revolutionary Guards said this month U.S. assets in the Gulf were now targets. “If (the Americans) make a move, we will hit them in the head,” said Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Guards’ aerospace division.

Here is an outline of ways in which Iran could strike at the more powerful United States, and its regional allies and interests, if their dispute escalated.

IRAQ

Iran-backed Shi’ite groups gained strength in the chaos after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, and were incorporated last year into the security forces, underscoring their pervasive role despite the American presence.

The strongest groups - trained, equipped and funded by Tehran - are Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Kataib Hezbollah, Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba and the Badr Organisation.

The United States says Iran was behind the deaths of at least 603 American armed service members since 2003.

Some 5,200 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, located in four main bases, as well as Baghdad airport and the coalition headquarters in the Green Zone. Washington last week ordered a partial evacuation of its embassy.

The militias have positions very near places where U.S. forces are stationed, and have powerful rocket and drone capabilities.

THE GULF

Revolutionary Guards commanders have long warned that in a war they could cut off Gulf oil supplies flowing through the Strait of Hormuz into the Indian Ocean. Iran holds one side of the strait, putting shipping in range of its forces from the sea or shore, and allowing it to lay mines.

A U.S. official has blamed Iran for last week’s attacks on four vessels including two Saudi oil tankers in the Gulf, though Tehran has denied it.

Iran could also strike directly at U.S. forces in the Gulf with missiles.

The U.S. Combined Air Operations Center is based at al-Udaid airbase in Qatar. Its navy Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain. The U.S. air force also uses al-Dhafra airbase in Abu Dhabi and Ali Al Salem airbase in Kuwait.

The governments of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia say Iran planned attacks on security forces in Bahrain in recent years. Iran and Bahrainis accused of this have denied it.

Missiles could target infrastructure in Gulf monarchies, including water and power plants, oil refineries and export terminals, and petrochemical factories.

A 2012 cyber attack targeting Saudi oil giant Aramco and another two years earlier against Iran’s nuclear programme point to new ways a conflict could play out.

YEMEN

Yemen’s Houthis chant “Death to America, Death to Israel”, daubing the slogan on walls and gluing it to their weapons. The U.S. has backed a Saudi-led coalition targeting the group since 2015.

Iran and the Houthis have longstanding links, but both deny coalition claims that Tehran provides training and weapons. The U.N. says missiles fired at Saudi Arabia share design features with ones made in Iran.

Since the war began, the Houthis have often used rockets and drones to attack Saudi Arabia, one of Washington’s closest regional allies. One came down near Riyadh airport in 2017.

U.N. experts says the Houthis now have drones that can drop bigger bombs further away and more accurately than before. Last week, drones hit two oil pumping stations hundreds of kilometres inside Saudi territory.

Houthi control over Yemen’s old navy, with speed boats and sea mines, means the group could try to disrupt shipping in the Red Sea.

SYRIA

While backing President Bashar al-Assad during eight years of conflict, Iran has built a network of militias in government-held areas.

These include Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the Iraqi Nujaba group, and the mostly Afghan Fatemiyoun group.

They have fought near the Syrian-Iraqi border, near the U.S. military base at Tanf, and near the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.

A senior U.S. official said in February that Washington would keep about 400 troops in Syria after defeating Islamic State, down from about 2,000 before.

They are located in the northeast area held by Kurdish-led forces and at Tanf, near the borders with Jordan and Iraq.

Israel has struck Iran and its allies in Syria, seeking to drive them far from its frontier. In January it accused Iranian forces of firing a missile at a ski resort in the Golan Heights.

LEBANON

The U.S. blames Hezbollah for its military’s bloodiest day since the Vietnam war: the truck bombing at a marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983 that killed 241 U.S. service members. It also accuses it of taking Americans hostage in Lebanon in the 1980s.

The group, set up by Iran to resist Israel’s occupation of south Lebanon, is today the most powerful in the country.

Israel, the U.S.’ closest regional ally, regards Hezbollah as the biggest threat on its borders and launched a military incursion into Lebanon in 2006 in a failed bid to destroy it.

Today, Hezbollah says it has a large arsenal of “precision” rockets that could strike all over Israel, including its atomic reactor. It has threatened, in the event of war, to infiltrate fighters across the frontier.

A pro-Hezbollah journalist, Ibrahim al-Amin, last week wrote in Lebanon’s al-Akhbar newspaper that if Israel got involved in any war between the U.S. and Iran, striking at Tehran’s proxies, it would “become an actual target for allies of Iran”.

AFGHANISTAN

Western officials and analysts say they believe Iran gives some help to the Taliban, either in weapons or through finance and logistics, which could be increased.

The Taliban control or influence more territory than at any point since their ouster at the hands of U.S.-led troops following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States; intense fighting continues.

A report by the U.S. Institute of Peace in March said that up to 50,000 Afghans have fought in Syria as part of the Tehran-backed Fatemiyoun group.

It issued a statement two years ago, carried by Iranian news outlets, pledging to fight wherever Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei asked them to.

About 14,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan and Washington imposed sanctions on the Fatemiyoun in January.

An Iranian official told Reuters that the U.S. used its presence in Afghanistan “to threaten us from these bases.”

 

IRAN THREAT HAS BEEN PUT ‘ON HOLD,’ ACTING DEFENSE CHIEF SAYS

Iran Threat Has Been Put ‘On Hold,’ Acting Defense Chief Says
Shanahan briefed lawmakers on Capitol Hill, but some say they still want administration to be more open
By Nancy A. Youssef
Wall Street Journal
May 22, 2019

Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan said Tuesday that the prospect of an Iranian attack on Americans has been put “on hold,” outlining a reduction of the potential threat after earlier U.S. intelligence suggested a high degree of danger.

U.S. intelligence in early May suggested Iran and its allies were planning attacks on U.S. interests, prompting the deployment of U.S. warships and bombers. The Trump administration hasn’t detailed the intelligence, although officials have said that the military was concerned by indications that Iran or allied groups were transporting missiles on small boats and engaging in surveillance on American forces.

Mr. Shanahan, along with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and other officials were due to brief members of Congress on Tuesday afternoon.

Analysts have offered differing interpretations on the intelligence. Some officials said the information indicated Iran’s leaders believed the U.S. was preparing an attack and that Iranian forces and their allies were engaging in defensive measures.

Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, said Tuesday that the U.S. military is creating the risk of miscalculations and mishaps by crowding into the region, although Iran doesn’t intend to attack anyone.

“The United States is playing a very, very dangerous game,” he said on CNN.

President Trump and his administration have provided shifting assessments of Iran’s actions and varying explanations of prospects for a diplomatic outcome.

Over the weekend, Mr. Trump warned that if there was a conflict, “that will be the official end of Iran.” On Monday, he said the U.S. has no indication of hostile Iranian intentions.

“I think Iran would be making a very big mistake if they did anything,” he said. “If they do something, it’ll be met with great force. But we have no indication that they will.”

White House officials declined to elaborate on Mr. Trump’s comments.

Mr. Trump and his aides have played down the prospect of talks. On Monday, Mr. Trump said no talks were taking place.

“If they called, we would certainly negotiate,” he said. “But that’s going to be up to them. I’d only want them to call if they’re ready. If they’re not ready, they don’t have to bother.”

Mr. Zarif said Iran wasn’t interested in negotiations with the U.S. because it broke its promises when Mr. Trump abandoned the nuclear agreement negotiated between Iran and world powers in 2015.

On Tuesday, Mr. Pompeo said in a radio interview that an Iranian decision to release American detainees held by Iran would represent a sign of good faith that could support talks. Mr. Zarif recently proposed an exchange of detainees between Iran and the West.

“I always think anything one could do to have even a small confidence-building measure is a good thing,” Mr. Pompeo said on the Hugh Hewitt radio show. “So it’s absolutely the case that were they to release these Americans who are wrongfully held, it would be a good thing. It would be a step in the right direction, for sure.”

At least four U.S. citizens and one legal U.S. resident are known be held by Iran, which has a history of arresting and detaining people with dual citizenship and charging them with spying or spreading harmful propaganda.

 

U.S. OFFICIALS SAY MILITARY MOVES TO DETER IRAN ARE WORKING

U.S. Officials Say Military Moves to Deter Iran Are Working
By Julian E. Barnes and Emily Cochrane
New York Times
May 21, 2019

WASHINGTON – Top Trump administration national security officials said on Tuesday that their moves to deter Iran from attacks on Americans and allies were working, but vowed to continue the pressure campaign on Tehran.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan briefed Congress about the intelligence that prompted the United States to send an aircraft carrier, bombers and missile defense systems to the Persian Gulf region.

The briefings on Tuesday, first to House lawmakers and then to the Senate, did not include John R. Bolton, the national security adviser who is the fiercest Iran hawk in President Trump’s administration.

Late last week, Iran removed some missiles it had stationed on small boats in its territorial waters – a step American officials said was a sign that Iran was seeking to ease tensions.

“Our prudent response, I think, has given the Iranians time to recalculate,” Mr. Shanahan told reporters on Tuesday morning. “I think our response was a measure of our will and our resolve that we will protect our people and our interests in the region.”

In a radio interview, Mr. Pompeo said that the United States had not determined who was responsible for sabotage attacks last week on oil tankers in the Middle East, but that “it seems like it’s quite possible that Iran was behind” them.

He also defended the administration’s steps against Iran and said the United States would continue to “work to deter Iran from misbehavior in the region.”

“We’ve made clear that we will not allow Iran to hide behind its proxy forces, but that if American interests are attacked, whether by Iran directly or through its proxy forces, we will respond in an appropriate way against Iran,” Mr. Pompeo told Hugh Hewitt, a conservative radio host.

Classified intelligence analysis made available to lawmakers in recent days has pointedly noted that Iran’s military moves are in reaction to the Trump administration’s tough sanctions against Tehran and its decision to designate the paramilitary arm of Iran’s government a terrorist organization, according to two officials. Both described the analysis on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

Some intelligence reports indicate that Iranian officials believed they were about to be attacked by the United States, and were taking defensive measures.

Like many things in Washington, reactions to the administration’s handling of the tensions with Iran have fallen along a sharp partisan divide.

Republicans briefed on the intelligence have publicly described it as troubling, and the situation as dangerous. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said the fault for the recent tensions in the Middle East lies with Iran.

“If the Iranian threats against American personnel and interests are activated we must deliver an overwhelming military response,” Mr. Graham wrote on Twitter on Monday. “Stand firm Mr. President.”

Democrats viewing the same reports have come away with a far different view and suggested that Iran has been pushed into its recent moves.

“I believe there is a certain level of escalation of both sides that could become a self-fulfilling prophecy,” said Representative Ruben Gallego, Democrat of Arizona. “The feedback loop tells us they’re escalating for war, but they could just be escalating because we’re escalating.”

He accused Mr. Bolton and other Iran hard-liners in the Trump administration of trying to get the United States into a “shooting war” with Iran.

Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, tweeted on Monday that Republicans were twisting the intelligence.

“I don’t let the president off the hook. He has made all the decisions that have led up to this,” Mr. Murphy said in a later interview. “When it comes to sanctions on Iran, the administration has imposed them in a way that is pushing us toward conflict, not pushing us to the negotiating table.”

In Baghdad, the Iraqi prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, said his country wanted to reduce tensions between Iran and the United States.

“We want to defuse the crisis by taking advantage of our relationships with both countries,” Mr. Mahdi said in his weekly news conference on Tuesday.

Mr. Mahdi said that while Baghdad would not play the role of mediator, Iraq was conveying messages between the United States and Iran and would “send delegations to Tehran and Washington to contain the crisis and put an end to the military escalation.”

The Iraqi government, which has ties to both Iran and the United States, has made clear it fears being caught in the middle and having the two countries fight on its soil.

A rocket struck near the United States Embassy in Baghdad on Sunday evening. The United States played down the significance of the attack, no one claimed responsibility and there were no injuries or damage, but it was a reminder of the fragility of the situation.

It also underscored how an antagonistic gesture, potentially by a minor faction, has the potential to destabilize the region.

Ahead of the closed briefing on Capitol Hill, two Obama administration officials – John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. director, and Wendy R. Sherman, a senior diplomat who helped negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran – spoke to House Democrats during their weekly closed-door caucus meeting, according to two people familiar with the discussion but unauthorized to disclose it publicly.

Mr. Brennan told lawmakers that Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the nuclear deal had weakened America’s credibility in Iran. He also said the Trump administration’s actions toward Iran had undercut moderates in the cleric-led government in Tehran, according to a person who was in the room.

Representative Jason Crow, a Colorado Democrat and former Army Ranger who served in Iraq, called for creating a hotline between the American and Iranian militaries, like the one the United States and Russia established in Syria, to help avoid military mishaps.

“It’s very important that we have military-to-military communication in the Middle East to avoid misunderstanding,” Mr. Crow said.

 

TRUMP’S SANCTIONS ON IRAN ARE HITTING HEZBOLLAH, AND IT HURTS

Trump’s sanctions on Iran are hitting Hezbollah, and it hurts
By Suzan Haidamous
Washington Post
May 19, 2019

The powerful Lebanese Hezbollah militia has thrived for decades on generous cash handouts from Iran, spending lavishly on benefits for its fighters, funding social services for its constituents and accumulating a formidable arsenal that has helped make the group a significant regional force, with troops in Syria and Iraq.

But since President Trump introduced sweeping new restrictions on trade with Iran last year, raising tensions with Tehran that reached a crescendo in recent days, Iran’s ability to finance allies such as Hezbollah has been curtailed. Hezbollah, the best funded and most senior of Tehran’s proxies, has seen a sharp fall in its revenue and is being forced to make draconian cuts to its spending, according to Hezbollah officials, members and supporters.

Fighters are being furloughed or assigned to the reserves, where they receive lower salaries or no pay at all, said a Hezbollah employee with one of the group’s administrative units. Many of them are being withdrawn from Syria, where the militia has played an instrumental role in fighting on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad and ensuring his survival.

Programs on Hezbollah’s television station Al-Manar have been canceled and their staff laid off, according to another Hezbollah insider. The once ample spending programs that underpinned the group’s support among Lebanon’s historically impoverished Shiite community have been slashed, including the supply of free medicines and even groceries to fighters, employees and their families.

The sanctions imposed late last year by Trump after he withdrew from the landmark nuclear deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions are far more draconian than those that helped bring Iran to the negotiating table under the Obama administration, and they are having a profound effect on the Iranian economy, analysts say.

Trump administration officials claim they have wiped $10 billion from Iranian revenue since November, inflicting widespread misery on the lives of many poor Iranians, as well as the government’s own spending.

The tensions between Washington and Tehran spiked after further restrictions went into effect on May 2, eliminating waivers from eight countries that had previously been allowed to continue importing Iranian oil with the goal, U.S. officials say, of reducing Iranian oil exports to “zero.”

Many in the region say the ferocity of the sanctions offers an incentive to Tehran to push back against Washington, crossing a “red line” that will give Iran little choice but to retaliate, according to Kamal Wazne, a Beirut-based political analyst who is sympathetic to the Iranian and Hezbollah point of view.

“The Iranians are used to sanctions. But this level of sanctions will generate a different response. The Iranians will not be quiet about it,” he said. “They are a form of war more detrimental than actual war. . . . It’s the slow death of a country, the government and its people.”

Although it is too early to confirm that Iran was responsible for the sabotage attack on four oil tankers near the Persian Gulf in the past week, as U.S. officials claim, “Iran has a major incentive to put the squeeze also on the U.S. economy by making the price of oil jump,” he said. “The pain will be reciprocated.”

The austerity measures adopted by Hezbollah offer one indication of the breadth of their impact, not only on Iran’s economy but also on its capacity to support its regional proxies.

A senior Hezbollah official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in accordance with the group’s rules governing interactions with the media, acknowledged that income from Iran has fallen, obliging Hezbollah to cut its expenditures. “There is no doubt these sanctions have had a negative impact,” said the official. “But ultimately, sanctions are a component of war, and we are going to confront them in this context.”

Hezbollah is also grappling with a separate set of sanctions directed at companies, individuals and banks that do business with the group, which the United States designated as a terrorist organization after suicide bombings and kidnappings aimed at Americans in Lebanon in the 1980s. But Iran sanctions have had the biggest impact on the group’s funding, the official said.

The official would not say how much Iran has cut its financing for Hezbollah or how big it used to be. U.S. Special Envoy Brian Hook told reporters in Washington in April that Iran in the past has sent Hezbollah up to $700 million a year, accounting for 70 percent of the group’s revenue.

But Hezbollah has other sources of income and plans aggressively to seek out more, hoping to “turn this threat into an opportunity” to develop new revenue streams, the official said.

Those Hezbollah officials and full-time fighters who are still on the payroll are receiving their salaries, but benefits for expenses such as meals, gas and transportation have been canceled, according to another Hezbollah insider, who, like all the Hezbollah members and supporters interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

The families of Hezbollah’s “martyrs,” those who have died fighting for the militia in Syria and previously in wars with Israel, are also continuing to receive full stipends. The payments are considered sacrosanct and essential if Hezbollah is to sustain its effectiveness as a fighting force, drawing loyal and die-hard recruits, Hezbollah officials say.

Hezbollah has meanwhile embarked on a major campaign to compensate for the shortfall in Iranian funding by soliciting donations. The drive appears intended to rally supporters behind the group, but it also draws attention to its financial difficulties.

Since Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah urged followers in a speech in March to contribute to what he called “a jihad of money,” donation boxes have proliferated on the streets of Hezbollah-loyalist areas and beyond, carrying exhortations such as “Charity averts catastrophe.”

Pickup trucks with loudspeakers tour the streets of Lebanon’s Hezbollah-controlled Dahiya neighborhood, south of Beirut, with plastic boxes on their hoods, into which people are encouraged to deposit cash. Billboards have been erected along the road to the airport urging citizens to contribute to Hezbollah-run charities, and videos posted on the pages of Hezbollah-affiliated social media sites remind citizens of their “religious duty” to contribute to needy people.

The Hezbollah official insisted that the cutbacks have had no impact on the group’s standing in the Middle East or its military preparedness.

“We are still getting arms from Iran. We are still ready to confront Israel. Our role in Iraq and Syria remains. There is no person in Hezbollah who left because they didn’t get their salary, and the social services have not stopped,” he said.

The sanctions “won’t last forever,” he predicted. “Just as we were able to win militarily in Syria and Iraq, we will be victorious in this war, too.”

But Hezbollah is suffering, at least indirectly, from the separate sanctions aimed at the group’s activities, analysts say. Hezbollah has for years solicited donations from wealthy business executives, in Lebanon and abroad, but the sanctions serve as a deterrent to them, said Hanin Ghaddar, who researches Hezbollah at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

The sanctions also deter companies and government agencies from doing business with the expansive network of Hezbollah companies and contractors that has arisen in tandem with the group’s political and military apparatus, according to Sami Nader, director of the Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs.

The cutbacks in Iranian contributions further coincide with a sharp downturn in the Lebanese economy. The recession is afflicting an extensive network of Hezbollah-affiliated companies whose activities help support the group, and Hezbollah’s ordinary Lebanese constituents, whose incomes and businesses are suffering.

Although the sanctions appear to be working from the U.S. point of view, there is growing concern that the pain being inflicted on ordinary people, including within Iran, will further destabilize the already violence-racked region, heighten anti-American sentiments and increase pressure on Iran to retaliate.

“The issue today is: What will be the price of continuing the sanctions and what will the collateral damage be?” Nader said. “There will be a lot of instability and hardship, and there could even be a new conflict.”

Hezbollah’s strategy is to identify alternative sources of income while riding out the Trump administration’s anti-Iran campaign, said Mohammed Obeid, a Beirut-based political analyst who is close to the group. Hezbollah recognizes that Trump may be in office until 2024 and is taking a long-term view, seeking out extra sources of revenue while reviving former ones, he said.

In the meantime, Iran will also try to secure new sources of funding. “Iran will go back to their old ways from before the [nuclear] accord, to the black market,” he said. “They have many alternatives for smuggling oil, through Iraq, through Pakistan, through Oman, through Afghanistan and even through Dubai.”

For Hezbollah, it is nonetheless a sobering moment after a string of successes.

Founded by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in the 1980s as a shadowy guerrilla force dedicated to ejecting the Israeli troops who were then occupying Lebanon, Hezbollah has become the prototype for Iran’s subsequent proxy forces in the region. Its affiliate, Islamic Jihad, drove Americans out of much of Beirut by conducting suicide attacks against the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks and kidnapping American citizens, a model Iran might now follow elsewhere in the Middle East.

Hezbollah has since expanded to become a major regional power – with too much to lose by provoking conflict in Lebanon, many analysts say.

If a regional conflict were to erupt, Hezbollah could become one of Iran’s most feared assets, with its stockpile of tens of thousands of rockets and its highly disciplined fighting force extending Iran’s reach to the shores of the Mediterranean and to the borders of its arch enemy, Israel.

The group is also now the single most influential force in Lebanese politics, with seats in the parliament and ministries in the cabinet.

All the while, Hezbollah has relied overwhelmingly on Iranian largesse. In a speech in 2016 seeking to dispel concerns that the war in Syria would bleed Hezbollah’s revenue, Nasrallah assured his followers that Hezbollah had secured “all” of its funding from Iran.

“As long as Iran has money, we have money,” he said.

 

JORDAN’S KING IS AFRAID. SO HE PURGED HIS GOVERNMENT

Jordan’s King Is Afraid. So He Purged His Government
King Abdullah cleared out the ranks among the senior officials in the royal court and removed senior intelligence officials. There’s a message to the U.S. here, and to Israel too
Analysis by Zvi Bar’el
Haaretz
May 21, 2019

Princess Basma bint Talal of Jordan, the sister of the late King Hussein and the aunt of the present king, Abdullah II, knew back in 2013 that the sword was hanging over her head.

At the time, as part of periodic campaigns to uproot corruption in the Hashemite Kingdom, a parliamentary anti-graft committee revealed that her husband, Walid al-Kurdi, had exploited his position as the CEO and chairman of the state-owned phosphate mines company to commit fraud amounting to tens of millions of dollars. A day before Kurdi was scheduled to testify before the committee, he left Jordan for self-exile in London, where he has lived ever since.

The same year, he was tried in absentia for corruption and sentenced to 37 and a half years of hard labor in prison and fined $378.8 million. Since then Jordan has been unsuccessfully demanding his extradition from the United Kingdom – but now it looks as if a deal between the Jordanian government and Kurdi will allow him to return to his country and rejoin his family.

The details of the agreement are still unclear, but it will have to be one that preserves the honor of the kingdom – in other words, the honor of the king – but doesn’t tear the royal family apart.

This is a not simple task for Abdullah, who has faced harsh public criticism concerning the way he runs Jordan – so much so that he and his close relatives, including his wife Queen Rania, are also being accused of corruption and violating the constitution.

The latest round of troubles began in December 2018, when thousands of Jordanians started protesting the increase in gas prices, steep unemployment that has reached an average of 19 percent and a lack of economic prospects. In February 2019, former Labor Minister Amjad Hazza al-Majali wrote a searing letter, widely shared on social networks, demanding that the king “make practical and effective arrangements to tackle corruption and hunt corrupt individuals, including the corrupt circle that is close to you.”

In addition, Majali accused Abdullah of “sponsoring political and economic models which are based on corruption and autocracy” and demanded that the purportedly stolen funds be returned to the state treasury.

Majali is the son of former Jordanian Prime Minister Hazza Majali, who served in the late 1950s, and a relative of Habas al-Majali, who was the army’s chief of staff for over 20 years and was himself a close adviser to King Hussein – a member of the so-called Old Guard. This elite circle of the kingdom’s rich and powerful people still finds it difficult to internalize that times have changed and Abdullah is no longer the 36-year-old newly crowned king. They haven’t realized that their direct ability to influence the decision-making process has shrunk since Abdullah’s coronation almost exactly 20 years ago.

But this group still can make trouble for the king. The Old Guard’s leadership comes from well-off and deeply entrenched families or the large Bedouin tribes in the country, members of the richest classes who for generations conducted mutually beneficial transactions with the royal court. Some of them still have the king’s ear, others only claim to have influence, and all of them hold old-style political salons in their homes or hotels in which the royal court is slaughtered and dismembered limb by limb.

These gatherings of the elite are nothing new. They served as a greenhouse for planning political and economic moves. It’s where the “political refugees” from senior government positions, including ministers and military officials, met; meanwhile, those who were waiting for their turn to return to the senior positions in the government left through a revolving door. The frequent government reshuffling that King Hussein carried out – a policy inherited by his son Abdullah – kept these refugees well nourished, and allowed for layers of impatience, frustration and bitterness to accumulate.

The constant threat is that the close ties between the senior officials who were removed from their posts and those still serving could, under the appropriate conditions, lead to a palace coup. The solution was usually another round of firings and appointments intended to break up these relationships and make it clear that the “plot,” whether true or imaginary, had been exposed.

Last month, the Kuwaiti daily newspaper Al-Qabas published a sensational report that “the [Jordanian] kingdom was saved from a dangerous plot” whose goal was to shake up the country by organizing mass protests, expanding criticism of the king over his method of appointing prime ministers and his opposition to U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan.

Abdullah’s response was swift. He replaced seven ministers in the cabinet of Prime Minister Omar Razzaz, removed the director of the country’s General Intelligence Department Adnan al-Jundi and appointed Ahmad Husni, who has served in several top intelligence positions, as his replacement. He cleared out the ranks among the senior officials in the royal court and removed senior intelligence officials on the justification that they had been in contact with members of parliament and other Jordanian figures to “damage national security.”

Many in Jordan think these steps were taken in preparation for the bad news of Trump’s “Deal of the Century.” The details are still unknown, but the king fears it could include sections that might make Jordan into the alternative Palestinian state. According to this train of thought, the ousted senior intelligence officials were supporters of the deal and it was suspected that the United States and Israel were “operating” them to change Abdullah’s position on the U.S. proposal.

Jordanian commentators have found evidence for this suspicion in the wording of the letter that the king released in honor of appointing the new intelligence director. He wrote that a few of those in the intelligence service made use of their position “to advance their personal interests at the expense of the public interest.” True, the tension between the king and his intelligence services is a permanent component of the internal balance of forces, but this time it seems that the move was intended to also pass a clear and unequivocal message to the Trump administration – and maybe also to Israel, whose military cooperation with Jordan remains close but whose diplomatic relationship suffers from deep cracks.

 

WHEN TURKEY DESTROYED ITS CHRISTIANS

When Turkey Destroyed Its Christians
From 1894 to 1924, a staggered campaign of genocide targeted not just the region’s Armenians but its Greek and Assyrian communities as well
By Benny Morris and Dror Ze’evi
May 18, 2019
Wall Street Journal

Between 1894 and 1924, the number of Christians in Asia Minor fell from some 3-4 million to just tens of thousands – from 20% of the area’s population to under 2%. Turkey has long attributed this decline to wars and the general chaos of the period, which claimed many Muslim lives as well. But the descendants of Turkey’s Christians, many of them dispersed around the world since the 1920s, maintain that the Turks murdered about half of their forebears and expelled the rest.

The Christians are correct. Our research verifies their claims: Turkey’s Armenian, Greek and Assyrian (or Syriac) communities disappeared as a result of a staggered campaign of genocide beginning in 1894, perpetrated against them by their Muslim neighbors. By 1924, the Christian communities of Turkey and its adjacent territories had been destroyed.

Over the past decade, we have sifted through the Turkish, U.S., British and French archives, as well as some Greek materials and the papers of the German and Austro-Hungarian foreign ministries. This research has made it possible to document a strikingly consistent pattern of ethno-religious atrocity over three decades, perpetrated by the Turkish government, army, police and populace.

The concentrated slaughter of Turkey’s Armenians in 1915-16, commonly known as the Armenian genocide, is well documented and acknowledged (outside of Turkey, which still bitterly objects to the charge). But the Armenian genocide was only a part, albeit the centerpiece, of a larger span of elimination that lasted some 30 years. Our work provides the first detailed description and analysis of the 1894-96 massacres and the destruction of the region’s Greek and remaining Armenian communities in 1919-24 by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish republic.

The bloodshed was importantly fueled throughout by religious animus. Muslim Turks – aided by fellow Muslims, including Kurds, Circassians, Chechens and Arabs – murdered about two million Christians in bouts of slaughter immediately before, during and after World War I. These massacres were organized by three successive governments, those of the Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II, the Young Turks and, finally, Atatürk. These governments also expelled between 1.5 and 2 million Christians, mostly to Greece.

The U.N.’s Genocide Convention defines it as a series of acts committed “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.” Such acts include killing, causing bodily or mental harm, inflicting conditions calculated to bring about physical destruction, imposing measures intended to prevent births and “forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” The events of 1894-1924 meet this test.

The official Turkish position denies any intent or policy of systematic elimination. Just last month, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrote to the Armenian patriarch of Turkey to “offer my sincere condolences” to the grandchildren of “the Ottoman Armenians who lost their lives under [the] harsh conditions of the First World War” and to urge him “to avoid helping those who seek to create hatred, grudge and hostility by distorting our common history.”

The slaughter that we describe and analyze doesn’t conform to any narrative attributing the deaths to the “exigencies of war.” One particularly horrific aspect alongside each bout of killing was the mass rape of tens of thousands of Christian women and their forced conversion – together with their children and thousands of children whose parents had been murdered – to Islam. Indeed, so pervasive was the sexual violence and kidnapping that many of today’s Turks, whether they know it or not, can trace at least part of their ancestry to these abducted Christians.

The tragedy began during 1894-96, when Sultan Abdulhamid II unleashed a series of massacres against the Ottoman Empire’s Armenian minority, fearing that they threatened the integrity of his realm. Some 200,000 people, almost all Armenians, were killed; many thousands of Turkish villagers, townspeople, officials, policemen and soldiers took part, as well as Kurdish tribesmen. At each site, alongside the pillage and murder, many thousands of Armenian women were raped or abducted. Some would eventually be killed; many more were forced into Muslim households and converted, serving for the rest of their lives as wives, concubines or servants.

In January 1896, in the southern Turkish town of Palu, an American missionary reported that the Turks “continue to carry off girls and women, keeping them a few days and then returning them with their lives blasted.” His meaning was made clear in an August 1896 report by another missionary in Mardin: “We saw girls not a few who returned from the hands of their captors weeping bitterly, shrieking and crying: ‘We are defiled! No one will take us in marriage.’”

Turkey and Germany were allies in World War I, but on July 7, 1915, the German ambassador in Constantinople, Baron Hans von Wangenheim, reported that deportation columns of Armenians from the eastern city of Erzurum were being ambushed by Kurdish bands, with “the men and children…butchered and the women carried away.” On July 27, a German engineer on the Baghdad railway reported that a Turkish sergeant “abducted 18 women and girls and sold them to Arabs and Kurds for 2-3 Mejidiehs,” a coin that was a fifth of a Turkish pound.

During the war, slave markets emerged in Aleppo, Damascus and several Anatolian towns in which Armenian girls who had been corralled by Turkish troops were sold for a pittance. Officials of the Ottoman Interior Ministry seem to have encouraged abduction and conversion. In December 1915, a telegram from the ministry decreed it “necessary for young Armenian girls to be married with Muslims.”

During 1919-22, amid a war against invading Greek forces in western Anatolia, Turkish nationalist forces commanded by Atatürk mounted a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Turkish Greek communities, concentrated along the Black Sea and the Aegean coast. Claiming that Ottoman Greeks were assisting the invading Greek army, the Turks took the opportunity to murder hundreds of thousands of them, as well as expelling more than a million Ottoman Greeks to Greece.

After the defeat of the Greek army, many thousands (and possibly tens of thousands) of the Greek and Armenian inhabitants of Smyrna (now known as Izmir) were murdered. The American consul general in the town, George Horton, reported that one of the “outstanding features of the Smyrna horror” was the “wholesale violation of women and girls.” In 1924, the British Foreign Office assessed that “not less than 80,000 Christians, half of them Armenians, and probably more” were still being detained in Turkish houses, “many of them in slavery.”

In all, we found that tens of thousands of Christian women suffered rape, abduction and forced conversion during this period, along with the mass murder and expulsion of their husbands, sons and fathers.

The German people and government have long acknowledged the genocidal horrors of the Third Reich, made financial reparations, expressed profound remorse and worked to abjure racism. But every Turkish government since 1924 – together with most of the Turkish people – has continued to deny the painful history we have uncovered.

 

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Jews denounced as being “in the gutter with rats” at Corbyn-endorsed London rally (& Auschwitz miniskirt scandal)

May 13, 2019

The Auschwitz Memorial and Museum has called on online retailers to stop selling miniskirts, pillow cases, bags and other items printed with photos of the former Nazi death camp where over 1.1 million people were murdered, including more than 300,000 children. Australian and European online retailers have been selling skirts with various Auschwitz images for 35 euros, a pillow for 40.29 euros, and other items with photos of the railway tracks and gas chambers.

 

 

WIDESPREAD ANTI-SEMITISM AT A LONDON DEMONSTRATION ENDORSED BY CORBYN

[Notes below by Tom Gross]

There were brazen displays of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel hatred in central London on Saturday at a “Pro-Palestine” demonstration (pictured above). The event had been endorsed in advance by British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who encouraged people to attend.

As has been the case at other similar events, the non-Jewish organizers (in an effort to try and pretend they aren’t bigots) chose an extreme-left wing Jewish speaker to address the participants and tell them that other Jews were a “fifth column” within the Labour Party. That speaker, Glyn Secker, also asked, “What on earth are Jews doing in the gutter with these rats?”

He also implied that American rabbis were to blame for “unleashing the extreme-right” that led to anti-Semitic violence such as the recent Poway synagogue shootings.

A statement from Corbyn himself which was read to the rally, was met by cheers of approval.

British Jewish groups denounced Corbyn for endorsing the march, which included an “unholy alliance” of Labour Party leftwing activists, trade union leaders, Islamists, and one of Britain’s most extreme right wing neo-Nazi leaders.

Demonstrators also claimed that the BBC was controlled by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (In fact the BBC, along with many other media outlets, regularly demonize Netanyahu.)

The rally was attended by thousands of people, according to The Guardian. It took place at the same time as one of the biggest anti-Semitic rallies in Poland since the Holocaust was taking place on Saturday.

Scotland Yard sent dozens of police to protect a small group of pro-Israel counter-protestors in London.

 

FARRAKHAN SPEAKS OF “SATANIC JEWS’ IN TALK AT CATHOLIC CHURCH

Both Christians and Jews have strongly criticized the Rev. Michael Pfleger, for inviting Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, one of America’s most prominent anti-Semites, to address congregants at the St. Sabina Catholic Church in Chicago.

In his speech at the Chicago church on Thursday, Farrakhan first denied that he was anti-Semitic before going on to denounce “the satanic Jews” a few seconds later. “Don’t be angry with me if I stand up on God’s word,” he added.

Last week, Farrakhan was banned from Facebook along with some other purveyors of racist conspiracy theories.

Farrakhan, who has in the past has praised Hitler on several occasions, spoke about how some are angry with him because “he exposed the Jews’ hatred of Jesus”.

Farrakhan’s speech was met with applause and “standing ovations,” according to The Chicago Tribune.

The Illinois Holocaust Museum denounced Pfleger for inviting Farrakhan. “Why is Pfleger giving hatred a platform,” asked Susan Abrams, the museum’s CEO, at a news conference.

The Archdiocese of Chicago also criticized Pfleger’s decision to invite Farrakhan. “There is no place in American life for discriminatory rhetoric of any kind,” it said in a statement. “At a time when hate crimes are on the rise, when religious believers are murdered in their places of worship, we cannot countenance any speech that dehumanizes persons on the basis of ethnicity, religious belief, economic status or country of origin.”

 

ON DAY MARKING LIBERATION FROM THE NAZIS, DUTCH MOB PRAISE GAS CHAMBERS AND BEATS A JEW

A Jewish man was beaten by a mob who sang songs about gassing Jews on the Netherlands’ national holiday last week marking the country’s liberation from the Nazis.

The man, who the Dutch media are keeping anonymous at the request of the police to further protect him, was attacked by a group of about 50 men in a park near the Dutch parliament in the Hague on the Liberation Day national holiday.

The assailants sung a song, whose lyrics include: “My father was in the commandos, my mother was in the SS, together they burned Jews ’cause Jews burn the best.”

The hateful chant has become common among some soccer fans in the Netherlands and Belgium in recent years.

***

See also this article from The Guardian: “Nazi rhetoric and Holocaust denial: Belgium's alarming rise in anti-Semitism”. The Guardian reports that, after France, “Jews do not experience as much hostility anywhere else on the streets in the EU as they do in Belgium”.

The Guardian adds:

“Nearly four years after the attack on the Jewish Museum, anti-Semitism has again been making headlines in Belgium, a country that symbolises Europe’s diversity. Not only is the capital, Brussels, home to the EU institutions and Nato, Belgium is made up of three linguistic groups (French, Dutch and German), making it something of a laboratory for European compromise.”

 

ANTI-ZIONIST IMAM DELIVERS OPENING PRAYERS IN THE US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

A controversial imam from Dallas, Texas, who has called for Israel to be destroyed and compared it to Nazi Germany, was invited to deliver the opening prayer at a session of the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday.

Omar Suleiman, who avoided making any hate remarks to the House of Representatives, was invited by his congresswoman, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, and was introduced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

He has on multiple occasions called for a third Palestinian Intifada .

He has also called Zionists “the enemies of God”.

Pelosi’s office said they are now looking into how Suleiman came to be invited.

As I pointed out in this article last month (“Democrat presidential candidates under pressure to turn on Israel”), Pelosi denounced anti-Semitism in her own party earlier this year.

 

* You can also find other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia

Israeli father of 4 killed; IDF: Western media gullibly repeating claims that Israel killed Palestinian mother and baby

May 05, 2019

 

ISRAELI FATHER OF 4 KILLED AT HOME

[Note by Tom Gross]

This is a follow-up to my dispatch from yesterday morning.

Moshe Agadi, 58, a father of four, was killed in his home (above) in the Israeli town of Ashkelon by a Hamas rocket.

An 80-year-old Israeli woman from Kiryat Gat is in critical condition with severe head injuries and shrapnel wounds, after she couldn’t reach a bus shelter in time to take cover as a rocket struck her in the street.

At least 430 Palestinian rockets have been fired since Saturday morning, aiming to kill and maim Israeli civilians.

At least 83 Israelis have received medical treatment for physical and severe psychological injuries in the past 24 hours, despite people cowering in bomb shelters and the iron dome shooting down countless rockets. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis are traumatized.

Once again, Israeli PM Netanyahu has been criticized by the Israeli left, center and right, for Israel’s weak response as the IDF chooses mainly to bomb empty buildings rather than kill the terrorists launching the deadly rockets. No other country would put up with this, they say.

 

“FALSE REPORTS IN WESTERN MEDIA THAT ISRAEL KILLED MOTHER AND BABY”

The IDF yesterday accused Western media of gullibly repeating Palestinian claims that Israel killed a Palestinian mother and baby yesterday.

Last year, when Israel was also accused of killing a baby, Palestinian doctors later admitted that the baby had died of pre-existing causes and was not killed by Israel. This, after the New York Times, Financial Times and other prominent western media, ran front page stories about the baby they falsely claimed that Israel had killed:

http://www.tomgrossmedia.com/mideastdispatches/archives/001771.html

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/24/gaza-ministry-removes-baby-from-list-of-people-killed-by-israeli-army

 

Yesterday, the BBC and others again began reports that Israel killed a Palestinian mother and baby. Today, the New York Times says at the start of its article that Israel killed a Palestinian mother and baby. (Sunday May 5 New York print edition, page 8.)

News agencies such as AFP today highlight Israeli denials of these Palestinians claims but the BBC and New York Times do not.

 

“PLENTY OF WEALTH IN GAZA TOO”

Reminder: There is plenty of money in Gaza. It is Hamas’ decision to deliberately impoverish much of its population for propaganda purposes.

Watch -- AL JAZEERA ARABIC video of Gaza wealth:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbH1nJf9ye0

Watch -- TURKISH TV video of Gaza abundance of food:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCJALrWB09A

***

That is not to say that there isn’t significant hardship in Gaza too. There is.

 

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Southern Israel this morning (Saturday)

May 04, 2019

 

100 ROCKETS AIMED TO KILL

OVER ONE HUNDRED rockets have been fired from Gaza at towns, villages and kibbutzim in southern Israel in just the LAST THIRTY MINUTES, as Jews take cover in bomb shelters and children cry. And most of the international media and European governments that have de facto assisted Hamas, ignore it.

There is not one word about the bombardment on The Guardian or New York Times home page as I write (11.30 CET). Instead there is (yet) another piece criticizing Benjamin Netanyahu on The Guardian home page.

The missile bombardment is continuing as I write.

The truly brilliant, life-saving iron dome rocket system has intercepted dozens of Hamas rockets.

-- Tom Gross

 

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Cartoons through the ages

May 02, 2019




One of these cartoons is from Nazi Germany; one is from France at the time of The Dreyfus Affair; one is from a virulently anti-Semitic publication in Egypt; one is from Muslim Brotherhood media in Qatar; and one is from this week’s New York Times.

 

* See also: The largest decentralized memorial in the world

* See also: Cartoons from the Arab World (past post)

* See also: Anti-Israel cartoons cross into anti-Semitism (past post)

* You can also find other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia

The largest decentralized memorial in the world

May 01, 2019

The youngest is for Jiřina Pfefferova, who was just eight months old when she was deported to Terezin. My own grandmother’s parents were also deported to Terezin the same week as baby Jiřina — it was my great-grandfather’s 75th birthday — and later they were murdered in Treblinka...

By age 14, child prodigy Petr Ginz had written five novels and drew pictures to illustrate them. He was killed in Auschwitz aged 16. Petr dreamt of going to the moon, and a copy of his picture “Earth seen from the Moon” was taken by Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, whose mother and grandmother were Auschwitz survivors, onto the American space shuttle Columbia. The shuttle tragically broke apart while re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere on February 1, 2003, destroying the copy of Petr’s drawing.

 

Kafka, born and raised in Prague’s historic Jewish ghetto shortly before it was dismantled, died before the war. However, his three sisters (Gabriele, Valerie and Ottilie) were all murdered in the gas chambers.

Milena Jesenska (Kafka’s lover), photo above, though not Jewish herself, refused to leave her circle of Jewish writers and editors, and was deported with them to Ravensbrück, where she died on May 17, 1944.

 

Anna Jaretzki was the non-Jewish great-granddaughter of a Prussian prince, whose portrait (right) hangs in the Wallace Collection in London. The Prince had a relationship with a 15-year-old called Emilie, which was disapproved of by the royal family. As a result their daughter Charlotte was registered under the family name of the prince’s Jewish tailor, Isadore Gottschalk. Although Charlotte was not Jewish, the Nazis presumed her granddaughter Anna was. So, 104 years after the “incorrect” registration, she was deported as a “part-Jew” to Terezin in July 1942, where she died of typhus. Some of Anna’s blood relatives were senior Nazis who participated in the genocide of European Jews. Such was the utter madness that was the Holocaust.

 

 

I attach an article of mine below, to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom HaShoah, which begins this evening.

-- Tom Gross

 

HONOURING THE DEAD, ONE STONE AT A TIME

Honouring the dead, one stone at a time

Prague has a regrettable public amnesia about the Holocaust, but tiny private memorials keep memories of the city’s Jewish culture alive

By Tom Gross
Standpoint magazine (London)
May 2019 edition

https://standpointmag.co.uk/issues/may-2019/honouring-the-dead-one-stone-at-a-time

Prague, as any visitor knows, is stunningly beautiful. Mercifully untouched by wartime bombing or communist destruction, it retains its historic architectural magnificence. Its curves and cobblestones, domes and spires, Art Nouveau adornments and Habsburg splendour lend it a fairytale quality. But for Franz Kafka, as Milan Kundera points out in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Prague is also a “city without memory”, where “nobody recalls anything”. This is particularly true, it seems to me, when it comes to the Holocaust.

At one point, Prague had proportionately the third-highest Jewish population in the world. Many of the most prominent cultural and commercial figures in what is now the Czech Republic were Jews; many of them or their relatives were killed in the Holocaust.

Kafka, who was born and raised in the city’s historic Jewish ghetto shortly before it was dismantled in the 1890s, died before the war. However, his three sisters (Gabriele, Valerie and Ottilie) were all murdered in the gas chambers.

Sigmund Freud, born in the Czech province of Moravia to a long line of rabbis, moved to Vienna to study medicine, and then escaped to London in 1938. But four of Freud’s five sisters died in the camps: Mitzi, aged 81, and Paula, 78, were transported to Theresienstadt (Terezin, in Czech), north of Prague, and taken from there to the Maly Trostinets extermination camp near Minsk. Dolfi, 80, died in Terezin of internal bleeding due to advanced starvation, and Rosa, 82, was killed in Treblinka.

The composer Gustav Mahler, born to a Jewish family in Bohemia, died before the war. But his niece Alma Rose, described as one of Europe’s most accomplished and least-known musicians, was forced to lead the women’s orchestra in Auschwitz, before being killed. She was deported there as a Jew, despite having converted to Catholicism.

Yet not many Czechs know this, or are aware of the fate of tens of thousands of other Czech Jews murdered in the Holocaust — often with the collaboration of Czechs. There is no official memorial anywhere in Prague: not even a plaque, let alone a museum or learning centre of the kind that most European capitals now have, together with cities in Argentina, the US, Australia, Brazil, China, Mexico, South Africa and elsewhere.

There is a memorial wall in Prague’s Pinkas synagogue but this is not a public plaque, but a private initiative by the Jewish community, for which you have to pay an entry fee. There is also a statue in a railway station of Nicholas Winton, the Briton who helped rescue 669 Czech children in the Kindertransport. But this is no substitute for a proper memorial in the centre of Prague of the kind that is found in Berlin, Vienna and elsewhere. The only public memory of Holocaust victims in Prague are the stolpersteine (“stumbling stones”), cobble-sized, brass-plated stones which are embedded as part of the pavement outside the homes where victims lived. The stones are paid for by families or friends of the victims, and can cost up to 250 euros each, including local fees.

This project was started by the German artist Gunter Demnig in 1996 in Kreuzberg, Berlin, and has now spread throughout Europe. Every stone has the same format, giving the victim’s name, and years of birth, deportation and death. Each stolperstein is made by hand in Berlin by one man, Michael Friedrichs-Friedländer. He makes up to 450 every month. Today there are more than 70,000 stolpersteine installed in 2,000 towns and cities in 24 countries across Europe. Sweden and Denmark will be added later this year, bringing the total to 26 countries. It is the largest decentralised memorial in the world.

The stolpersteine are placed alone, or in couples and whole families. In one case, outside a former Jewish orphanage in Hamburg, 34 stones are placed together, paid for by a well-wisher to remember the children deported from there.

In Prague, there are 311 stolpersteine dotted around the city and 41 others will be added later this year. Only a small proportion of the city’s Jewish population have these memorials: according to the 1930 census, there were 117,551 Jews in what is now the Czech Republic. Some escaped, but the great majority were killed. Since there are no remains for the victims who were gassed and burned, the stolpersteine have become, in effect, a substitute for a grave or tombstone. Yet they are left in a grimy, sometimes filthy, condition by the city authorities, a fact I have often lamented when walking past them. This is the result, it seems, not of anti-Semitism — the Czechs are among the least anti-Semitic people in Europe — but of apathy.

So I was heartened to learn that Trevor Sage, a retired British man living in Prague, was so alarmed by their poor condition and the fact that some had gone missing that he decided to clean and look after them, one stolperstein at a time. Sage, 59, is not Jewish and has no personal or family connection to the Holocaust. But in recent months the stolpersteine have become his passion. Indeed, he tells me, he feels it his “duty to maintain their condition and preserve their memory” as many of the relatives who helped place them there are elderly and living abroad in America, Britain or Israel.

He makes sure each is kept particularly clean on the victim’s birthday, and this Yom HaShoah (the Jewish Holocaust memorial day, which this year falls on May 1-2), he has for the first time recruited a team of volunteers, mainly drawn from Prague’s foreign population, to clean all 311 stones. He says he was inspired by another man in Salzburg who is doing the same thing.

Trevor has set up a Facebook page, Stolpersteine Prague, where there are details and locations of each stolperstein in the city and photographs for 195 of the victims he managed to find with assistance from their families.

The youngest is for Jiřina Pfefferova, who was just eight months old when she was deported to Terezin on July 23, 1942, and two years, 11 months old when she was taken to Auschwitz and gassed on October 6, 1944. Her sister Alena, who was killed with her, was seven. My own grandmother’s parents, though not from Prague, were also deported to Terezin the same week as baby Jiřina — it was my great-grandfather’s 75th birthday — and later they were murdered in Treblinka. The oldest person remembered with a stone is Berta Krumpelesova, who was 83 when she was murdered in Terezin.

Among other stolpersteine I went to see were those for Petr Ginz, a very talented young boy — between the ages of eight and 14 he wrote five novels and drew pictures to illustrate them — who was deported to Terezin and later killed in Auschwitz.

His diary, written when he was 13 and 14, published in English as The Diary of Petr Ginz 1941-1942, has been compared to that of Anne Frank. Petr dreamt of going to the moon, and a copy of his picture Earth seen from the Moon was (with the permission of Yad Vashem) taken by Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, whose mother and grandmother were Auschwitz survivors, onto the American space shuttle Columbia. The shuttle tragically broke apart while re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere on February 1, 2003, destroying the copy of Petr’s drawing.

Among other notable stolpersteine are those for Milena Jesenska (Kafka’s lover), and Gideon Klein, the young Czech composer. Klein was deported to Terezin in December 1941 along with two other gifted Jewish musicians, Pavel Haas (who was Janáček’s pupil) and Viktor Ullmann (Schoenberg’s pupil). In 1944, Klein was further deported to Auschwitz, where he was worked to death as a slave labourer, dying in January 1945. Milena Jesenska, though not Jewish herself, refused to leave her circle of Jewish writers and editors and was deported with some of them to Ravensbrück, where she died on May 17, 1944.

Perhaps the most remarkable stolperstein in Prague is for Anna Jaretzki. Anna was the non-Jewish great-granddaughter of a Prussian prince, Prince August, whose portrait hangs in the Wallace Collection in London. The Prince had a relationship with a 15-year-old called Emilie, which was disapproved of by the royal family. As a result and to avoid any possible claims on the royal family’s wealth — the prince was one of the richest men in Europe — their daughter Charlotte (born in 1838) was registered under the family name of the prince’s Jewish tailor, Isadore Gottschalk. Although Charlotte was not Jewish, the Nazis presumed her granddaughter Anna was. So, 104 years after the “incorrect” registration, she was deported as a “part-Jew” to Terezin in July 1942, and died there from typhus in August 1942. Some of Anna’s blood relatives were senior Nazis who participated in the genocide of European Jews. Such was the utter madness that was the Holocaust.

 

See also:

* “A shy little bird hidden in my rib cage”

* The Lady in Number 6

 

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