How Marine Le Pen relies on dividing French Jews and Muslims

Ethan B Katz writes: Marine Le Pen, the National Front party leader who is among the frontrunners in France’s upcoming presidential elections, made waves this month with her insistence that France was not responsible for the infamous “Vel d’Hiv” roundup of July 1942, in which French police chose to arrest more than 13,000 Jews and deport them to Auschwitz. Many were stunned by the comment. It not only contradicted decades of official presidential statements and consensus among historians, but also seemed to clash with Le Pen’s recent effort to court Jewish voters.

In fact, however, the only surprise here was that Jews were mentioned alone, rather than being paired with Muslims. For all Le Pen’s efforts to rebrand her party, she has reminded voters throughout this campaign season that the French far right remains wedded to a politics that has a special place for Jews and Muslims—as closely aligned racial “others.” Le Pen, like so many before her, regularly treats the two faith groups as sources of danger residing at the edges of the French nation, while also seeking to pit the one against the other.

Since becoming party head in 2011, Le Pen has gone to great lengths to give a facelift to the National Front, seeking to free it from the shadow of her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded the party and led it for 40 years. She has undertaken a delicate balancing act: to position the party, long associated with fascist tendencies, as within the mainstream of French republican and democratic values, while also maintaining the National Front’s longstanding far-right constituency. [Continue reading…]

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The violent clashes in Berkeley weren’t ‘pro-Trump’ versus ‘anti-Trump’

Natasha Lennard reports: According to reports in mainstream news outlets like CNN, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post, Saturday saw pro-Trump demonstrators clash with anti-Trump protesters in Berkeley, California, while more placid “Tax Day” marches took place around the country calling on the president to release his tax returns. The news stories offer largely the same account and framing as that given by the LA Times: “hundreds of pro-Trump demonstrators and counter-protesters clashed Saturday at a ‘Patriots Day’ rally… Both groups threw rocks and sticks at each other and used a large trash bin as a battering ram… Twenty-one people were arrested… Eleven people were injured.”

All of this did happen. But such accounts missed the most crucial aspects of what was at stake in the Berkeley clashes, and thus fail to explain why there were aggressive altercations at all. To frame Saturday’s events as a fight between supporters of the president and his denouncers roundly misses the key tensions undergirding the confrontation: that of anti-fascists versus white nationalists.


This is not to say that each or even the majority, of the hundreds of pro-Trump attendees sympathize with the Venn Diagram of white supremacist, alt-right, anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi groups which intersect with the president’s broader support base. But as firsthand testimonies, numerous images and videos shared on social media can attest, explicitly racist groups and individuals were present in force, some having traveled from out of state to attend. Equally, the masked, black clad anti-fascist protesters did not amass in Berkeley to confront a gathering of people who just happened to vote for Trump. Their presence followed calls to action, which had named the specific far right and neo-Nazi alliances that were planning to attend, and indeed helped organize, the “Patriots Day” rally. The violence from both the far left and far right rested on a fulcrum that, while emphasized in the Trump era, far predates his presidency; anti-fascists have long met white supremacists with force in the streets. [Continue reading…]

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Sebastian Gorka made Nazi-linked Vitezi Rend ‘proud’ by wearing its medal

NBC News reports: A group with alleged historical links to Nazi Germany has told NBC News it was “proud” when President Donald Trump’s deputy assistant wore its medal.

Controversy has swirled around Sebastian Gorka, one of Trump’s top counterterrorism advisers, ever since he attended the president’s Jan. 20 Inaugural Ball wearing the honorary medal of Hungarian nationalist organization Vitezi Rend.

NBC News traveled to Hungary to dig deeper into Gorka’s ties with the group, speaking with members of the organization as well as with locals who knew him when he lived there.

“When he appeared on U.S. television … with the medal of the Vitez Order … it made me really proud,” Vitezi Rend spokesman Andras Horvath said in the Hungarian capital of Budapest. Vitezi Rend is also known as the Order of Vitez. [Continue reading…]

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Trump aide Sebastian Gorka backed violent anti-Semitic militia

The Forward reports: As a Hungarian political leader in 2007, Sebastian Gorka, President Trump’s chief counter-terrorism adviser, publicly supported a violent racist and anti-Semitic paramilitary militia that was later banned as a threat to minorities by multiple court rulings.

In a video obtained by the Forward of an August 2007 television appearance by Gorka, the future White House senior aide explicitly affirms his party’s and his support for the black-vested Hungarian Guard (Magyar Gárda) — a group later condemned by the European Court of Human Rights for attempting to promote an “essentially racist” legal order.

Asked directly on the TV interview program if he supports the move by Jobbik, a far-right anti-Semitic party, to establish the militia, Gorka, appearing as a leader of his own newly formed party, replies immediately, “That is so.” The Guard, Gorka explains, is a response to “a big societal need.” [Continue reading…]

 

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Jewish center bomb threats suspect is arrested in Israel

The New York Times reports: A monthslong wave of bomb threats against Jewish institutions in the United States that prompted evacuations, heightened security and fears of rising anti-Semitism gave way to an unexpected twist on Thursday: the person responsible for many of the threats, law enforcement officials said, was half a world away — a Jewish teenager in Israel.

An intensive investigation spanning multiple countries culminated on Thursday in the arrest of the 18-year-old suspect, who holds dual Israeli and American citizenship, and his father. The teenager’s lawyer said he suffered from a brain tumor that could affect his behavior.

The surge in threats over the past few months — well over 100 sent to Jewish community centers, schools and museums since the start of the year — coincided with an increase in hate crimes against a number of groups, from scrawled swastikas to homicides, feeding worries about a new era of bigotry. American and Israeli officials refused to say how many of the threats the Israeli suspect was accused of making. And some recent anti-Semitic acts were apparently committed by others, like threats against Jewish centers for which a Missouri man was charged, and the vandalizing of Jewish cemeteries.

But officials made it clear that they considered the teenager as the primary source of the threats, though they did not offer a motive. “This is the guy we are talking about,” an Israeli police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, said.

The suspect made threats to sites in Australia and New Zealand, as well as the United States, and to at least one commercial airline flight, prompting an emergency landing, Mr. Rosenfeld said. [Continue reading…]

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Once in the shadows, Europe’s neo-fascists are re-emerging

The New York Times reports: Head bowed in reverence, Robert Svec gently placed a bouquet of blood-red flowers at the foot of the only known statue of Jozef Tiso, Slovakia’s wartime fascist leader, in a weedy monument park known as the Pantheon of Slovak Historical Figures.

For years, Mr. Svec’s neo-fascist cultural organization, the Slovak Revival Movement, was a tiny fringe group. But now his crowds are growing, as 200 people recently gathered with him to celebrate the country’s fascist past and call fascist-era greetings — “Na Straz!” or “On the guard!” Mr. Svec is so emboldened that he is transforming his movement into a political party, with plans to run for Parliament.

“You are ours, and we will forever be yours,” Mr. Svec said at the foot of the statue, having declared this as the Year of Jozef Tiso, dedicated to rehabilitating the image of the former priest and Nazi collaborator, who was hanged as a war criminal in 1947.

Once in the shadows, Europe’s neo-fascists are stepping back out, more than three-quarters of a century after Nazi boots stormed through Central Europe, and two decades since a neo-Nazi resurgence of skinheads and white supremacists unsettled the transition to democracy. In Slovakia, neo-fascists are winning regional offices and taking seats in the multiparty Parliament they hope to replace with strongman rule. [Continue reading…]

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Populist Wilders may have come up short, but Dutch intolerance is still real

By Annemarie Toebosch, University of Michigan

The Dutch elections on March 15 have received a lot of attention in the international media. The Conversation

The reason for the attention is clear: A Trump lookalike populist, Geert Wilders, was rumored to win big as part of a western populist movement that some call the “Patriotic Spring.”

His rise has the liberal West confused and concerned, because if the land of gay marriage and coffee shops falls, then where is their hope for western liberalism?

But, as results are coming in, two things are becoming clear: Election turnout was high and Wilders’ support relatively low. Projections show Wilder’s party winning 19 seats compared to 31 seats for the Dutch-right liberal conservatives of Prime Minister Mark Rutte. What does all this tell us about the populist movement? Is our bedrock of tolerance safe again?

To understand what happened in these Dutch elections, we need to look beyond Wilders and his place in western populism to the myth of Dutch tolerance.

Students in my race and ethnicity courses at the University of Michigan have been engaged in this very task as they examine current and historic diversity in the Netherlands. When they read University of Amsterdam sociologist Jan Willem Duyvendak or Free University of Amsterdam Holocaust historian Dienke Hondius, a more complicated picture of Dutch tolerance emerges.

Wilders doesn’t represent a sudden movement of the Netherlands away from tolerance. Dutch tolerance does not really exist in the way the stereotype dictates. Seventy years ago, the country saw a larger percentage of its Jewish population deported and killed than any other Western European nation. This fact does not lend itself to simple explanations but has at least in part been attributed to the lack of protection of Jews by non-Jews and to Dutch collaboration with the Nazi occupation.

Looking at modern times, CUNY political scientist John Mollenkopf reports poorer immigrant integration outcomes, such as employment rates and job retention, in Amsterdam than in New York City and Duyvendak finds explanations for these outcomes in white majority-culture dominance.

[Read more…]

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As more Jewish facilities get threats, all 100 senators ask Trump administration for ‘swift action’

The Washington Post reports: A new wave of threats were made late Monday and Tuesday to Jewish schools and institutions, including the New York and Washington offices of the Anti-Defamation League, according to that group and other officials.

These latest bomb threats came as a letter signed by every U.S. senator was sent to top law enforcement officials in the Trump administration, asking them to do more in response to the bout of threatening messages that have continuously rattled Jewish groups this year.

“We write to underscore the need for swift action with regard to the deeply troubling series of anonymous bomb threats made against Jewish Community Centers (JCCs), Jewish day schools, synagogues and other buildings affiliated with Jewish organizations or institutions across the country,” the senators wrote in a letter, a copy of which was shared publicly Tuesday by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.), two of the lawmakers who said they were behind the message.

The senators’ letter and the new threats underscored the anxiety still present in Jewish communities four days after a disgraced former journalist was arrested and charged with being responsible for a handful of the threatening messages. [Continue reading…]

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FBI arrests Juan Thompson for making bomb threats against Jewish institutions

The Atlantic reports: The FBI has arrested one suspect in connection with the recent bomb threats against Jewish institutions and Jewish Community Centers, known as JCCs. According to the arrest warrant, a culprit in at least some of the threats is Juan Thompson, a St. Louis native who was fired from his job as a reporter at The Intercept in early 2016 for fabricating stories. The FBI alleged that Thompson “appears to have made some of the JCC threats as part of a sustained campaign to harass and intimidate” a former girlfriend. The details in the FBI arrest warrant against Thompson link him to eight specific threats. But they do not account for the much larger wave of phone calls threatening Jewish institutions.

The complaint tells the story like this. Somewhere in the period of 2015 and 2016, Thompson was in a relationship with a young woman working in the greater New York City area. During the summer of 2016, they broke up. Thompson started sending her false text messages and emails, claiming, for example, that he had been the victim of a shooting and was going to be taken off life support. He emailed her boss, saying she had a sexually transmitted disease. And he sent her nude photographs he had of her, threatening to release them to the public.

Faxes and emails started showing up at her work. One email, allegedly sent by an account that had been used by Thompson, claimed she had threatened to kill him. A series of faxes claimed she was an anti-Semite, and purported to provide evidence that she had made anti-Semitic statements on social media.

Investigators say Thompson sent tips about the woman to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, saying she watches child porn. When the New York Police Department contacted Thompson about these claims, he said his email had been hacked a few weeks prior, even though a month had elapsed since the claims were made. The NYPD warned him that his “conduct must stop,” and that he shouldn’t contact the woman.

Starting in January, investigators believe, Thompson made at least eight threats to Jewish institutions around the country. Some were made in the woman’s name. Others were made in his own name; he later claimed that she had made the calls in an attempt to falsely implicate him in the threats. These allegedly included threatening emails sent to the Jewish History Museum in Manhattan on January 28; Jewish schools in Farmington Hills, Michigan, and New York City on February 1; a JCC in New York City on February 7; and a threatening phone call to the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that tracks anti-Semitism, on February 22. He also allegedly emailed the Anti-Defamation League, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and the JCC in San Diego claiming that the woman was anti-Semitic and planned to carry out violent attacks. These threats included various false details about bombs and explosives that had been planted in these Jewish institutions. [Continue reading…]

Doyle Murphy reports: At the Riverfront Times, we published a cover story about Thompson last February. He was a north St. Louis native who was once a reporter with a job at The Intercept in New York City, a news site best-known for its cache of documents from national security leaker Edward Snowden. But Thompson had been fired after the site caught him making up details and sending bogus emails, including some masquerading as the site’s editor.

Thompson blamed racism and also claimed to have cancer. But we uncovered additional problems with his work, going all the way back to his college days with the student newspaper at Vassar College, a prestigious university in Poughkeepsie, New York. Thompson had overcome an impoverished background to attend college there, but failed to graduate. He still landed a few good media jobs — only to crash and burn when his sourcing didn’t check out.

After our cover story, we followed up later with a short account of his brief tenure for an online news site. I wrote the stories. Thompson was pissed. He emailed my boss and tried to get me fired. When that didn’t work, he emailed me.

“You are a white piece of shit who lies and distorts to fit a narrative,” he wrote me in October. “Thankfully no one reads you or the rft and you will spend the rest of your career aggregating stories about shootings.”

Things were quiet for a while after that, but then came the fake Twitter accounts. My wife and I were sitting on our couch one night when she tapped me on the elbow and showed me her phone. Someone had created a brand-new Twitter profile claiming I was a rapist. The person tweeted at her, my boss and other journalists around St. Louis. It was an insane — and, though it’s hard to believe I even have to say it — completely untrue accusation.

For the next several days, we scrambled to get people at Twitter to pull down the account. They finally did. Then another popped up. We got it pulled down. Another popped up. This went on for weeks, account after account, day after day, and extended to Facebook. Someone created fake Facebook accounts and pages and regularly popped up on RFT stories, accusing me of rape. This person also made reference to my mother, using her first name, and published a social media profile picture of my wife that had been scraped from the internet.

We finally contacted the St. Louis police department’s cyber crimes unit. I still remember the detective stopping me before I could get the full explanation out.

“Does this have anything to do with Juan Thompson?” he asked. [Continue reading…]

Riverfront Times reported in 2016: Journalist Andrew Jerell Jones worked with Thompson for about six months at the Intercept. He says they were “friendly” and, like Thompson, he claims the site has a race problem, though he won’t get into specifics.

That doesn’t excuse bad journalism, he says.

“There are some fundamental problems at the Intercept with race, as there are in media in general, including liberal online media,” Jones writes in an email. “But what Juan did was something that is TABOO for all of us journalists of ALL color and something that does not make him look like the martyr he is sadly trying to portray himself as.

“What he did was made it worse for all of us minority journalists, especially black, who have legitimate issues with race in newsrooms and media as a whole.” [Continue reading…]

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This Muslim Marine is offering to stand guard for Jewish cemeteries, synagogues in Chicago

Mic reports: After a wave of anti-semitic violence, particularly the vandalism of two Jewish cemeteries in Philadelphia and St. Louis, Tayyib Rashid knew it was time to step up.

Rashid, a veteran, who calls himself as the “Muslim Marine,” sent out a tweet on Monday offering to stand guard for any Jewish synagogue, cemetery or organization.


Rashid knew he had to do more to help out his Jewish neighbors and that’s why he fired off his now-viral tweet.

“As I watch this horrible thing unfold here, I felt terrible about what happened in St. Louis and this heinous event in Philadelphia,” Rashid, 40, said in a phone interview. “I was moved to tears. This is absolutely not right.” [Continue reading…]

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Trump is flirting with the idea that anti-Semitic incidents are false flags — again

Aaron Blake writes: President Trump seemed to suggest Tuesday that the recent bomb threats and vandalism at Jewish community centers and cemeteries across the country might be false flags, according to a Democratic attorney general who met with him. And Trump’s comments came the same day that one of his top advisers suggested the culprits could be Democrats.

It wouldn’t be the first time Trump went down this road.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) told reporters Tuesday that Trump expressed horror at the situation but also appeared to suggest it might not be anti-Semitism and that it could be “the reverse,” according to reports from the BillyPenn and BuzzFeed. [Continue reading…]

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Muslims give money to Jewish institutions that are attacked

The New York Times reports: Two attacks on Jewish cemeteries in the last week have resulted in an outpouring of more than $136,000 in donations from thousands of Muslims and others, who have also pledged to financially support Jewish institutions if there are further attacks.

Jewish organizations have reported a sharp increase in harassment. The JCC Association of North America, which represents Jewish community centers, said 21 Jewish institutions, including eight day schools, had received bomb threats on Monday.

Two Muslim activists, Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi, asked Muslims to donate $20,000 in a crowdfunding effort to repair hundreds of Jewish headstones that were toppled near St. Louis last week. That goal was reached in three hours.

Though the activists do not have cost estimates yet, Mr. El-Messidi said on Monday that the money raised would most likely be enough to repair the graves near St. Louis and in Philadelphia, where about 100 headstones were toppled on Sunday.

Any extra money will be held in a fund to help after attacks on Jewish institutions in the future, he said. That could mean removing a spray-painted swastika or repairing the kind of widespread damage seen in the graveyards. [Continue reading…]

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The contagion of hatred Trump is spreading across America

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports: Stacy Silver prayed as she drove with her husband to Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia’s Wissinoming section Sunday: Please don’t let my mother and great-grandmother be among the victims.

When Silver, 50, of Cherry Hill, N.J., heard about the vandalism at the Jewish cemetery that occurred overnight Saturday, she rushed to her loved ones’ graves.

What she saw when she arrived was worse than she imagined — tombstone after tombstone, story after story, was toppled to the ground — including those belonging to her mother and great-grandmother.

“Your stomach just drops,” Silver said. “I mean it’s just horrible.”

Detectives canvassing the cemetery Sunday afternoon estimated that 75 to 100 headstones had been knocked over.

“It’s criminal. This is beyond vandalism,” said Northeast Detectives Capt. Shawn Thrush, as he walked the cemetery grounds. “It’s beyond belief.”

The vandalism, coming a week after a similar incident in St. Louis, prompted the Anne Frank Center to call for President Trump to make a forceful denunciation of anti-Semitic hate crimes.

“Mr. President, it’s time for you to deliver a prime-time nationally televised speech, live from the Oval Office, on how you intend to combat not only #Antisemitism but also Islamophobia and other rising forms of hate,” the organization posted Sunday on Twitter. “Whether or not your intention, your Presidency has given the oxygen of incitement to some of the most viciously hateful elements of our society.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center recorded 1,372 bias incidents between Trump’s inauguration and Feb. 7, the watchdog group reported. Among those, the group highlighted 57 incidents in 24 states of anonymous bomb threats being called in to Jewish Community Centers. The organization has also recorded that the number of hate groups in the U.S. grew in 2016 for the second straight year, with a threefold increase in the number of anti-Muslim hate groups. [Continue reading…]

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I cover hate. I didn’t expect it at my family’s Jewish cemetery

By Ariana Tobin, ProPublica, February 23, 2017

When it comes to death, my family honors all of the Ashkenazi Jewish traditions: We name our children after dead relatives, we sit shiva for a week, we gather around trays of fruit and lox and cream cheese, we cover the mirrors, we say the Kaddish prayer, we each toss three shovelfuls of dirt into the grave, and we wait a year to put a stone on top of it. When I got my driver’s license at 16, my mom asked me not to sign the organ donor card because Jews are supposed to be laid to rest in one piece. When I turned 18 and signed it anyway, I couldn’t stop imagining her face when she found out after I’d died in a car accident.

But traditions don’t protect you from death, or the life of anxiety in preparation for it. When I told my grandmother — her mother called her Malka, her sisters called her Mollie — that I had an opportunity to teach English abroad, I knew what to expect in response: “That’s nice, baby, but why don’t you find a teaching job around here where it’s safe?” That, and a $20 bill she couldn’t necessarily afford to give.

But when I added, “I’m going to a place in Belarus called Minsk; it’s a big city,” her reply took me by surprise. “Minsk!” she exclaimed. “That’s where my mother was from! I guess you could go. Maybe you’ll see where they lived?”

I did go. I didn’t see where they lived because that place does not exist anymore, thanks to World War II and the Soviets. To identify the symbols of Judaism left in a city that was about 37 percent Jewish in 1941, you have to squint at the stone facades of buildings and say, “Yes, I think that might be a Hebrew character.” You have to stare hard, and wonder, “Hmm, is that Yiddish?”

There are statues and plaques here and there. But look as one might, there are few relics of Jewish death. When you visit Khatyn, a memorial to the victims of “the Great War,” you learn about the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians, but little to nothing about what religion they practiced. Nor are there signs marking entire villages of Belarussians, Jews and non-Jews, that became unmarked mass graves. When I would ask my students and co-workers and friends, “What happened to the Jews here?” all most of them would say was, “They left.”

[Read more…]

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Breitbart under Bannon: Breitbart’s comment section reflects alt-right, anti-Semitic language

Southern Poverty Law Center reports: As President Trump is pressured to substantively respond to the rise in anti-Semitic incidents since his election, a new analysis reveals that Breitbart News under Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon fostered a comment section — a sample of Breitbart’s readership — that increasingly reflected language specific to the white nationalist “alt-right” movement, including anti-Semitic sentiment.

Comparing the language of Breitbart commenters to the language of the most aggressive far-right extremists online — e.g. language used by Twitter users who advocate for violence against minorities and are openly pro-Nazi — we can see a clear trend of increasing similarity over a three-year period, the bulk of it under Bannon. Bannon left Breitbart to join the Trump campaign in mid-August 2016 but the editorial focus of the site stayed the course he set it on.

Diving deeper into anti-Semitic sentiment we see a similar trajectory. In early 2013, the term “Jewish” was used in a similar way as “white” or “black” as a racial/ethnic descriptor, which is similar to how “Jewish” is used in the mainstream press. By 2016 on Breitbart, however, “Jewish” had morphed into an epithet, used in similar contexts as “socialist” or “commie.” [Continue reading…]

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Donald Trump: The world’s least anti-Semitic person?

 

Steven Goldstein, Executive Director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, released a statement today on President Trump’s acknowledgment of antisemitism. He wrote: The President’s sudden acknowledgement is a Band-Aid on the cancer of Antisemitism that has infected his own Administration. His statement today is a pathetic asterisk of condescension after weeks in which he and his staff have committed grotesque acts and omissions reflecting Antisemitism, yet day after day have refused to apologize and correct the record. Make no mistake: The Antisemitism coming out of this Administration is the worst we have ever seen from any Administration. The White House repeatedly refused to mention Jews in its Holocaust remembrance, and had the audacity to take offense when the world pointed out the ramifications of Holocaust denial. And it was only yesterday, President’s Day, that Jewish Community Centers across the nation received bomb threats, and the President said absolutely nothing. When President Trump responds to Antisemitism proactively and in real time, and without pleas and pressure, that’s when we’ll be able to say this President has turned a corner. This is not that moment.

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More bomb threats close Jewish Community Centers across the U.S.

Huffington Post reports: Jewish Community Centers were shaken by another wave of bomb threats, forcing evacuations in 10 states Monday.

Eleven Jewish Community Centers received threatening calls Monday, said Marla Cohen, communications manager for JCCA, the Jewish Community Center Association.

Incidents were reported at Jewish Community Centers in St. Paul, Minnesota; Buffalo and Amherst, New York; Birmingham, Alabama; Houston; Cleveland, Ohio; Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin; Nashville; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Tampa, Florida; and Chicago.

Law enforcement officials were investigating the threats and, as of late Monday, centers were being reopened after explosive devices were not found.

For some of these organizations, it was not the first threat made in recent weeks. There have now been at least 67 incidents at 56 Jewish Community Centers in 27 states and one Canadian province since the start of 2017, Cohen told The Huffington Post.

Monday’s incidents are part a sharp rise in threats made against JCCs around the nation since Donald Trump began his presidential campaign, which was frequently criticized for winking at white nationalists and not forcefully condemning hate speech and extremism. [Continue reading…]

 

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