Cape Town Moves Day Zero of Water Shutdown from July 9 to April 12

As Cape Town officials struggle to deal with their extreme water shortage, they might want to reconsider their anti-Semitic rejection of Israel’s help. Israelis met their own desert conditions head-on and made the desert bloom — literally! Read about the offer and rejection in April’s Levitt Letter, page 29.

By Gabriele Steinhauser / The Wall Street Journal

Photo: Samantha Reinders for The Wall Street Journal

CAPE TOWN, South Africa—Officials who huddled recently to discuss a debilitating drought delivered an unexpectedly apocalyptic conclusion: Unless Cape Town’s four million residents slash consumption, the seaside city under Table Mountain must take the rare step of shutting its taps to avoid running out of water.

The shock announcement in late January triggered a race to prevent what officials and residents have dubbed Day Zero—the moment when municipal water supply would be cut for most households and businesses.

Since Feb. 1, Capetonians have lived with some of the most stringent municipal water restrictions on earth—13.2 gallons per person a day, enough on average for a 2-minute shower and three toilet flushes. Officials punish water guzzlers by installing consumption-control devices that slow water flows to a trickle after the daily limit is reached.

Cape Town last week pushed up Day Zero to July 9 from April 12. Officials say a cutoff can still be avoided with cooperation from residents, adequate rainfall and successful efforts to desalinize water and pump it from aquifers. But in any case, the city’s depleted reservoirs need three to four years of regular rainfall and low water use to recover, experts say.

Politicians are encouraging conservation by flaunting unwashed, oily hair and bucket showers. Police are confiscating hoses from people caught using public water to wash cars or sprinkle lawns. The government has set a plan to call in the army to secure 200 central collections points, where residents would have to line up. Officials also worry about typhoid and cholera spreading from unsafe drinking water.

“There [is] an unreal kind of feeling about trying to fathom the massive impact that Day Zero could actually result in and how we could manage that,” said Xanthea Limberg, the city councilor in charge of Cape Town’s water and sanitation.

Like many others, Ms. Limberg has changed her lifestyle due to the crisis. She chopped about 10 inches of her curly hair to preserve water while showering; uses water left over from washing to flush the toilet or sprinkle the garden; serves meals on paper plates to avoid having to wash dishes; covered her pool to limit evaporation and provide emergency storage.

Cape Town, known to South Africans as the Mother City, is the latest example of how climate change, and the resulting extreme weather patterns, are forcing cities around the world rethink how they function.

Storm surges in New Orleans, Houston, and New York in recent years threatened entire neighborhoods. From Los Angeles to Rome—where the pope in July turned off the Vatican fountains to raise awareness of a drought—officials are rethinking urban water systems created to flush toilets and bathe with potable water.

Drought-induced water scarcity forces governments and individuals to make tough choices. Is it more important to preserve next season’s harvest and industrial production or ensure residents can have their daily shower? Switch off water for part of the day or rely on residents to respect their rations? Shower or do a load of laundry?

In 2017, Cape Town, whose rainy season usually runs from May to August, got less than half of its median rainfall, making it the driest year on record. Combined with 2015 and 2016, the city has never experienced as little precipitation as in the past three years. And while it is impossible to attribute specific weather events to climate change, most scientists believe that southern Africa, like many other regions in the world, will become progressively drier, making droughts more frequent and severe.

“Cape Town is a really good example of what might happen in the future in many other places,” said Piotr Wolski, a hydrologist and climatologist at the University of Cape Town. “I hope that other cities will learn a lesson from us.”

Critics say Cape Town should have set stricter water limits sooner and better emphasized the threat. Once that reality sank in, the prospect of Day Zero prompted a scramble for water. Consumption soared as people started stockpiling municipal water. Storage tanks to collect rain and containers for 6.6 gallons—the amount residents would be allowed to collect from new communal taps—quickly sold out.

Some shops set limits for the amount of bottled water customers could buy. Businesses, such as the local Coca-Cola bottling plant, are shipping in water after being told to reduce consumption by 45%. Demand for companies drilling boreholes to reach aquifers developed months-long waiting lists. Restaurants and malls discouraged toilet flushes with signs reading, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow.”

Still, Capetonians are using more water than they should. Last week, the city used around 138 million gallons of water a day. That is less than half its consumption a year ago but above its target of 119 million gallons. By comparison, California reduced its municipal water consumption by around 25% during the 2012-16 drought.

In Cape Town’s sprawling shantytowns, where about 15% of the city’s residents live, lining up for water is nothing new. Few of their corrugated-iron -and-plywood shacks have running water and residents already share communal taps and toilets. The water restrictions are instead endangering livelihoods.

On a recent day, police swept part of the Khayelitsha township, where roadway car washers cleaned minibus taxis with tap water—a now banned practice. The men, who make between $12 and $25 a day, were slapped with $250 fines and ordered to stop.

“They’ll have to take me to prison because I don’t have the money,” said Mthokozisi Diwu, who was back on the job the next day. Mr. Diwu said he had few alternatives to feed his family besides washing cars. “I will start robbing people,” he said.

In the wealthier suburbs, high users are rebelling against the water-control devices. “They chase us away like dogs,” said Witness Mutisi, a water-meter installer who has been threatened with guns and baseball bats.

Ms. Limberg, the city councilor, said such devices will become standard across Cape Town. “Cities are going to have to look at things … under a new kind of light,” he said. “We have to plan for this new normal.”

Anti-Semitic Incidents Surged 57 Percent in 2017, Report Finds

By: Maggie Astor; nytimes.com

Workers repositioned headstones at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, Mo., after as many as 200 were toppled last February. Credit Nick Schnelle for The New York Times

The number of reported anti-Semitic incidents in the United States surged 57 percent in 2017, according to an annual report by the Anti-Defamation League.

The organization’s Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, released Tuesday, found 1,986 such incidents in 2017, compared with 1,267 in 2016. That increase was the largest in a single year since the A.D.L. began tracking in 1979.

Only once since 1979 has the Anti-Defamation League recorded more incidents: 2,066 in 1994. Since then, the numbers had mostly declined. There were small increases in 2014 and 2015. Then, in 2016, the count began to shoot up.

“It had been trending in the right direction for a long time,” Jonathan A. Greenblatt, chief executive of the A.D.L., said in an interview. “And then something changed.”

Anti-Semitic incidents, long trending downward, increased 35 percent in 2016 and 57 percent in 2017. Credit Anti-Defamation League

That “something” is hard to identify definitively, but Mr. Greenblatt pointed to three likely factors: the increasingly divisive state of American politics, the emboldening of extremists, and the effects of social media. Some of the increase may also be attributable to better reporting of incidents.

The invigoration of the far right, including white supremacists and neo-Nazis, has been on display at events like a rally in Charlottesville, Va., in August that turned deadly when a man drove a car into a crowd of counterprotesters. A separate Anti-Defamation League report released last month found a more than 250 percent increase in white supremacist activity on college campuses in the current academic year. (The count released Tuesday does not include white supremacist incidents unless they had a specific anti-Semitic element.)

“The diminishment of civility in society creates an environment in which intolerance really can flourish,” Mr. Greenblatt said. And the platforms of social media, he added, have “allowed the kind of poison of prejudice to grow at a velocity and to expand in ways that really are unprecedented.”

The count by the A.D.L., an international organization that fights anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice, includes three categories: harassment (1,015 incidents in 2017, up 41 percent from 2016), vandalism (952 incidents, up 86 percent) and assault (19 incidents, down 47 percent). The decrease in assaults was “the one piece of good news in this report,” Mr. Greenblatt said.

For the first time in at least a decade, incidents were reported in all 50 states. And, unusually, K-12 schools had more reports than any other location. (Typically, public areas have the most.) Incidents at those schools nearly doubled, to 457 from 235; those on college campuses increased 89 percent, to 204 from 108.

Many of the incidents involved swastikas etched on school property or drawn on Jewish students’ belongings.

The increase in expressions of anti-Semitism among students is “astounding” in its size, Mr. Greenblatt said, but also not entirely surprising.

“Kids repeat what they hear,” he said. “And so in an environment in which prejudice isn’t called out by public figures, figures of authority, we shouldn’t be surprised when we see young people repeat these same kind of tropes.”

The count is based on reports from victims, law enforcement and the news media. The Anti-Defamation League’s 26 field offices in the United States often receive reports directly from victims or their loved ones. Other times, employees will see a post on social media and follow up with the poster.

In each case, the group confirms the information independently and assesses its credibility. Reports deemed not credible are not included in the tally.

Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz Made Anti-Semitic, Racists Comments in Private Chat Group

Jewish Telegraphic Agency; jta.org

Nikolas Cruz after being arrested in Parkland, Fla., Feb. 14, 2018. (Broward’s Sheriff’s Office via Getty Images)

(JTA) — Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz made anti-Semitic and other racist comments in a private Instagram group chat.

He wrote in the group chat that he joined around August 2017 specifically that he hated: “jews, ni**ers, immigrants,” and showed that he had an obsession with violence and guns, CNN first reported on Saturday.

Cruz, 19, entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday afternoon and began shooting with a legally purchased AR-15 rifle. A former student at the school, he was expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for “disciplinary reasons.” He has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

The chat group, named by Cruz, is “Murica (American flag emoji) (eagle emoji) great,” CNN reported. CNN, investigating comments the shooter may have left on a now-deleted YouTube channel, was added to the private Instagram group by one of the active members in it, the news channel reported.

In one post about his biological mother, Cruz said: “My real mom was a Jew. I am glad I never met her,” according to CNN. He also said that he hated Jews because he believed they wanted to destroy the world.

There were no signs in the chat group that Cruz or other members belonged to any white nationalist groups, according to CNN.

Cruz purchased his rifle a year ago and also owned at least 4 more weapons, purchased legally, according to CNN. He also purchased body armor, which he modeled in a photo posted in the group chat.

He asked the group whether it was legal to wear body armor to school. When asked why he replied, according to CNN:  “School shooters. I think I am going to kill people.”

 

The IRS Campaign Against Israel—and Us

It took seven years for Z Street to learn the truth about why our tax-exempt status was delayed.

By: Lori Lowenthal Marcus; Wall Street Journal – wsj.com

ILLUSTRATION: BARBARA KELLEY

The first IRS viewpoint discrimination case to be filed, Z Street v. IRS,has been settled, with disturbing revelations about how the Internal Revenue Service treated pro-Israel organizations applying for tax-exempt status.

I founded Z Street in 2009 to educate Americans about the Middle East and Israel’s defense against terror. We applied for tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the tax code in December 2009—a process that usually takes three to six months.

Instead, the application languished. In late July 2010, an IRS agent truthfully responded to our lawyer’s query about why processing was taking so long: Z Street’s application was getting special scrutiny, the agent said, because it was related to Israel. Some applications for tax-exempt status were being sent to a special office in Washington for review of whether the applicants’ policy positions conflicted with those of the Obama administration.

So in August 2010 we sued the IRS for violating Z Street’s constitutional rights, including the First Amendment right to be free from viewpoint discrimination—government treatment that differs depending on one’s political position.

Now we know the truth, and it’s exactly as bad as we thought. IRS documents—those they didn’t “lose” or otherwise fail to produce—reveal the following:

• Our application was flagged because Z Street’s mission related to Israel, a country with terrorism. Therefore, an IRS manager in our case said in sworn testimony, the IRS needed to investigate whether Z Street was funding terror.

• Some applications for tax-exempt status were indeed being sent to IRS headquarters in Washington for more intense scrutiny. They were selected because of the applicants’ viewpoint.

• In August 2010, three other Jewish organizations applying for tax-exempt status were asked by the IRS to “explain their religious beliefs about the Land of Israel.”

Our own investigation disclosed that between 2009 and 2016, while Z Street’s application was stalled, the IRS needed no special scrutiny to grant numerous applications for tax-exempt status that explicitly proclaimed donations would be spent in Gaza—a territory formally under the jurisdiction of Hamas, which the U.S. State Department designates as a terror organization.

While claiming to be investigating Z Street’s funding of terror, the IRS never asked how or where Z Street spent its money. The IRS ultimately granted Z Street’s application, in October 2016, without asking anything about terror, or money, or anything else it hadn’t known in 2010.

As the IRS knew within six weeks of our case being filed, Z Street was sent for special scrutiny by an IRS employee using an outdated list of countries affected by terror. The new list didn’t include Israel. The IRS didn’t resume processing our application after it discovered this error, and it didn’t disclose the error for six years. Because we sued, the IRS froze Z Street’s application. It stayed on ice until August 2016, when a court held the IRS couldn’t get our case thrown out until it processed our application. Two months later we got our exemption.

The “terror” error turns out to have been a pretext. Within weeks of President Obama’s inauguration, IRS and State Department officials began considering whether they could deny or revoke tax-exempt status for organizations that provided material support to Jews living across the Green Line—the nonborder that delineates pre-1967 Israel from the territories Israel acquired in the Six Day War. The theory was that a Jewish presence in those areas is inconsistent with U.S. policy. The IRS drew up lists of such organizations based on information from anti-Israel websites such as Electronic Intifada and MondoWeiss.

The New York Times and the Washington Post ran articles that advanced the policy espoused by the Obama administration and its nonprofit ally, J Street. Unnamed “senior State Department officials” were quoted as saying that Jewish activity over the Green Line isn’t “helpful” to peace efforts.

While no formal policy was released barring U.S. tax-exempt entities from supporting Jewish activity over the Green Line, Obama IRS officials tried three times between 2009 and 2012 to create such a policy, and IRS employees made sure the effort wasn’t documented. One emailed her supervisor saying that she would answer his questions about IRS policy relating to Israeli settlements only orally. “Not doing email on this,” she explained.

Even if the IRS could legitimately institute such a policy, it should not have applied to Z Street. We believe Jews should be allowed to live beyond the Green Line, but we have never spent a penny outside the U.S.

To learn the truth, we fought in the courts for seven lonely years—defeating IRS arguments that it didn’t have to obey the First Amendment, that it was immune from the suit, and that it wasn’t obliged to produce in discovery any documents revealing why its employees did what they did. During the seven years Z Street’s application was frozen, it couldn’t raise funds. If my husband and I weren’t lawyers, able to pursue justice without getting paid, there’s no way we could have succeeded.

When Z Street’s creation was announced, thousands sought to join. Then the IRS attempted to kill us. No lawsuit can remedy that assault, as the IRS knew. The settlement gives us the truth, but we can’t get back our seven years.

 

Majority of Knesset Backs Bill Accusing Poland of Holocaust Denial

By: Lahav Harkov; jpost.com

“The historic truth of the Jewish People is not for sale,” MK Shmuly says; Nazi hunter Zuroff: Post-communist countries have a Holocaust distortion problem.

The Knesset in session: The legislature is going to be working overtime.. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post

New legislation cosponsored by 61 members of Knesset would make a Polish bill to outlaw talk of Poles’ complicity in the Nazis’ crimes a form of illegal Holocaust denial.

The bill, formulated by MKs from the coalition and the opposition – Itzik Shmuly (Zionist Union), Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu), Nurit Koren (Likud) and Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) – seeks to amend the Law for Defense Against Holocaust Denial to state that denying or minimizing the involvement of the Nazi’s helpers and collaborators will also be a crime.

In addition, the amended law would provide legal aid to any Holocaust survivors and educators taking students to death camps who face foreign lawsuits because they recounted what happened in the Holocaust.

The 1986 Law for Defense Against Holocaust Denial states that anyone who publishes denial and minimization of the Holocaust or other crimes against the Jewish people can get five years of jail time.

The Polish Senate was expected Wednesday to approve a bill that would make using the phrase “Polish death camps” or saying the Polish people were in any way culpable for the Nazis’ crimes against humanity an offense that carries a three-year prison sentence. The vote was set to take place even though the Polish and Israeli governments plan to negotiate a version of the bill that would be agreeable to both sides.

Shmuly said: “The Poles, and others who may want to copy them, should know that the historical truth of the Jewish people is not for sale.”

“Many Poles, and many others, heard, knew about and helped the Nazi extermination machine,” Shmuly added. “The Polish attempt to rewrite history and to shut Holocaust survivors’ mouths is audacious, shocking and despicable. We will not allow the collaborators to hide behind the Nazis and deny their historic responsibility.”

Lapid said the Polish attempt to avoid responsibility “only emphasizes the need to take action against these voices. We must use all the means we have, including the Knesset, against Holocaust denial.

“We won’t let anyone forget the Nazis or those who cooperated with them. That is our responsibility to the memory of the millions killed.

The world must know the Jews are not afraid and are not willing to be silent anymore, and are not afraid anymore,” Lapid said.

Ilatov said that the number of living Holocaust survivors is dwindling, and therefore, “Israel has the moral responsibility to commemorate their bravery and promise that no one will try to hide, whitewash or cover up those who tell the stories of the horrible crimes and the shocking testimony about the crimes committed against the Jewish people. We won’t let anyone rewrite history.”

Dr. Efraim Zuroff, Nazi-hunter and director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Jerusalem office, said that “Holocaust distortion” has been a problem for over 25 years, and until now Israel has done little to combat it.

Eastern European countries, Zuroff said, “have invested in trying to convince the world the Holocaust was only the work of Germany and maybe a few degenerates.

“Since the Soviet Union crumbled, people have been trying to say communism is the same as Nazism… They want communism to be considered genocide and [some countries] criminalized denying it. And then, if communism is genocide, and there were Jewish communists, then Jews committed genocide. This is their way of undermining the Shoah and their participation in it,” Zuroff explained.

The issue of Holocaust distortion exists “in practically every country in post-communist Eastern Europe,” he said. “Their new heroes are people who fought communists, some of whom killed Jews in the Shoah.

They name streets and schools after them.”

Still, Zuroff said he did not think that legislation is the right way for Israel to deal with the problem. Rather, Israel should use its influence in post-Soviet countries, many of which have defense ties with Israel, to convince the governments that “their behavior is unacceptable.”

“They love Israel, but hate the Jews,” Zuroff said.

 

Palestinian President Shows the World Who He Really Is

That wild speech is indeed a product of recent events. But it also fits a telling pattern.

By: Eli Lake; bloomberg.com

Photographer: Kevin Hagen/Getty Images

There are two ways to understand the two-and-a-half hour rant Sunday from the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, in which he called for discarding past agreements with Israel.

The first way is straightforward: He means it. As Maya Angelou famously said, “when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” In the case of Abbas, he has been showing us who he is for a while now.

He defends Palestinian Authority payments for terrorists. He called murderers “heroic brothers” when they were released by Israel in 2013 as a condition for restarting peace talks. In December he urged the Organization of the Islamic Conference to reconsider its recognition of Israel.

So when Abbas gives a Castro-esque speech laced with fake history about Israel being a colonial project of Europeans, it fits a pattern.

The second way of understanding his rant requires some creative accounting. Abbas doesn’t really mean it. Abbas has been a patient peace partner now for 15 years, but along comes President Donald Trump, who recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and asks Saudi Arabia to pressure Abbas to take a deal. What do you expect?

This is the interpretation of J-Street, the Soros-family-funded advocacy group that touts itself as pro-peace and pro-Israel. A J-Street statement on the Abbas speech began with this throat clearing: “Sunday’s speech by President Abbas no doubt reflected his own and the Palestinian people’s deep despair at the ever-deepening occupation and the lack of diplomatic progress toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

J-Street was careful to stipulate that this despair was “no excuse for calling into question either the Jewish connection to, or Palestinian recognition of, the state of Israel.” But let’s not lose the plot. This group asserts that Abbas would not have delivered his rant “if it were not for President Trump’s inept and disastrous missteps regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

J-Street here is succumbing to a fallacy of international relations. Call it the prime-mover theory of geopolitics: There is always something America can or shouldn’t do that determines the behavior of its adversaries and allies. We see this misunderstanding all the time. People say that had George W. Bush not invaded Iraq, there would be no Islamic State. Had Barack Obama not withdrawn prematurely from Iraq, there would be no Islamic State. You get the picture.

But foreign affairs are never so simple as one cause having one effect. And this brings us back to Abbas. The 82-year-old Palestinian leader certainly had reason to be disappointed with Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He didn’t like Trump’s threats to cut off funding for the Palestinian Authority. But none of that quite explains a speech that wishes for the U.S. president’s house to come to ruin, accuses Israel of importing drugs, and threatens to blacklist companies that do business in the occupied territory and report their names to Interpol for bribery.

To explain this vitriol as purely a reaction to despair or hopelessness is to ignore recent history. Abbas was elevated to his position after George W. Bush asked the Palestinian people to elect leaders not tainted by terror. Recall the Iranian shipment of arms coordinated by Abbas’s predecessor Yasser Arafat in 2002, during the final months of the second intifada. Abbas on the other hand had distinguished himself in this period by delivering a brave speech calling for nonviolent resistance to occupation, when Arafat was praising the suicide bombers.

The current Palestinian leader has been dining out on that speech now for 15 years, while consistently rejecting peace offers and later negotiations. In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza and four settlements in the northern West Bank. This could have been the basis for new negotiations, but nothing happened.

Under Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Abbas was offered an independent state in 2008. Olmert recalled in a 2015 interview that he told Abbas: “Remember my words, it will be 50 years before there will be another Israeli prime minister that will offer you what I am offering you now. Don’t miss this opportunity.” Abbas didn’t take the offer. Instead he asked to study the maps.

After Israelis elected Benjamin Netanyahu, he succumbed to pressure from the U.S. president, Barack Obama, to freeze some settlement activity as a condition for peace talks. Abbas didn’t even deign to negotiate. In Obama’s second term, Netanyahu released violent prisoners as a condition for restarting the talks. Again, Abbas didn’t budge.

To be sure, the Israelis too have continued to expand the population in existing settlement blocs. The world is less focused on the plight of Palestinians as the Middle East has moved on with the Arab Spring and civil wars that followed. But Abbas remains stuck today as he was in 2005 when he won his only election to be the Palestinian president. He is a prisoner of a dysfunctional liberation movement.

The Abbas we saw on Sunday was not a leader inviting his people to embrace dark conspiracies and hopeless struggle. Rather, Abbas was meeting many Palestinians where they already are. He was reflecting a movement that equates Palestinian nationalism with the negation of the Jewish state.

Eventually Abbas will die. His legacy will be that of a weak man who was unwilling and unable to challenge deep flaws in his people’s liberation movement. If there is ever to be peace or Palestine, the Palestinians need a leader who will challenge a liberation myth that Abbas has never relinquished.

 

After Second Incident, Swedish Anti-Semitism Watchdog Warns of Wave of Attacks

jta.org

Police arrive after a synagogue was attacked in a failed arson attempt in Gothenburg, Sweden, Dec. 9, 2017. (Adam Ihse/AFP/Getty Images)

(JTA) — In the aftermath of a second anti-Semitic attack this week in southern Sweden, the spokesman for a local watchdog group said the Jewish community must be vigilant but will not go underground.

Willy Silberstein, spokesman for the Swedish Committee Against Anti-Semitism, spoke to JTA on Monday hours after an incident in Malmo in which police said they discovered traces of a flammable fluid near a Jewish cemetery that they suspect had been targeted by arsonists.

“There is a wave of anti-Semitic attacks right now, and I suspect this won’t be the last incident,” Silberstein said.

A spokesman for the Swedish police said there were no suspects in custody in connection with the incident.

On Saturday night, several men hurled firebombs at a synagogue in the nearby city of Gothenburg hours after hundreds marched through the city in protest of the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Wednesday in a White House announcement by President Donald Trump. Three arrests were made.

Notwithstanding the incidents, the capital of Stockholm will have a public lighting of a Hanukkah menorah in a central square on Wednesday, Silberstein said.

“People are advised to be vigilant but normal life continues, even under increased police protection, which we received this week,” he said of the centers of the Jewish community of Stockholm, where some 18,000 Jews live.

Swedish police reportedly have tightened security near Jewish sites throughout the country in the wake of the two attacks.

Silberstein said wearing a kippah in Stockholm is relatively safe, “but there are some areas of Malmo where I wouldn’t advise it.”

Following the attack in Gothenburg, some observers, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, linked the incidents to the Swedish government’s perceived hostile attitude toward Israel. Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom last year said that killings of Palestinians who attempted to carry out terrorist attacks against Israelis were “extrajudicial executions.”

But Silberberg rejected the claim, saying authorities have done much to protect Swedish Jews from attacks, whose perpetrators are often Arab or Muslim.

“Maybe more could have been done,” he said, “but generally speaking the Swedish authorities have taken necessary measures.”

The attacks in Sweden followed a violent assault on a kosher restaurant in Amsterdam Thursday and chants in Arabic about killing Jews that were heard in Vienna, London and Berlin, as well as in Malmo at protest rallies against U.S. recognition of Israel’s capital. In France, the boycott of Israel was promoted at two protest rallies, in Paris and Lyon. The rally in Paris featured calls to free Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons on murder charges, who were celebrated at that rally as “heroes.”

The Amsterdam attack ended with the arrest of a 29-year-old Palestinian waving his national flag who smashed the eatery’s windows, broke in while staff was inside and took out a flag of Israel that was hanging in the restaurant. Two police officers who watched his actions with passers-by arrested him as he exited the restaurant.

Ronny Naftaniel, a board member of the CEJI organization for education against hatred and a former director of the Dutch CIDI watchdog on anti-Semitism, criticized the Dutch judiciary for a draft indictment of the man, who admitted the actions attributed to him, because it did not contain a reference to his actions as a hate crime. He is to be charged with vandalism and theft, according to the Dutch media.

“When you enter a kosher restaurant, break in and take the Israeli flag, you are not committing a break-in,” Naftaniel wrote Monday on Twitter. “You are committing a hate crime.”

 

How a network of citizen-spies foiled Nazi plots to exterminate Jews in 1930s L.A.

The western side of Crescenta Valley Park, known as Hindenburg Park, gained notoriety in the late 1930s when the Bund, a political group styling itself after the Nazis, staged several rallies there. (Historical Society of Crescenta)

By Steven J. Ross / LATimes.com

On July 26, 1933, a group of Nazis held their first public rally in Los Angeles. As Jewish groups in the city debated how they should respond to Adolf Hitler’s persecution of Jews in Europe, L.A.’s Nazis, many of them German emigres, gathered at a biergarten downtown, wearing brown shirts and red, white and black armbands with swastikas.

The Nazis belonged to a growing movement of white supremacists in L.A. that included many American brothers in hate: the Ku Klux Klan, a group of Hitler supporters known as the Silver Shirts, and a dozen like-minded organizations with vaguely patriotic names such as the American Nationalist Party, the Christian American Guard, and the National Protective Order of Gentiles.

Some weeks ago, white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., chanted “Jews will not replace us.” Their predecessors were even less subtle: They called for “death to Jews.”

Unwilling to wait and see if any of them would act on their threats, Leon Lewis, a Jewish lawyer and World War I veteran who had helped found the Anti-Defamation League, decided to investigate the anti-Semitic hate groups. In August 1933, mere weeks after the rally, Lewis recruited four fellow World War I veterans, plus their wives, to go undercover and join every Nazi and fascist group in the city.

“Leon Lewis understood that hate knows no national boundaries.”

Lewis’s recruits did not know there would be another world war. And they certainly did not know a Holocaust would occur in Europe.

But once they had infiltrated the groups, they understood that they had to take the Nazi threat seriously. They repeatedly heard fellow Americans talk candidly about wanting to overthrow the government and kill every Jewish man, woman and child.

Lewis’s operatives were all Christian, save for one Jew. They regarded their mission as an American one. Their intention was to gather sufficient evidence of illegal activities by the groups, then turn it over to the appropriate government agencies, after which Lewis planned to return to practicing law. What Lewis did not anticipate is that local authorities would prove indifferent to — or supportive of — the Nazis and fascists.

Within weeks of going undercover, Lewis’s network of spies discovered a plot to wrest control of armories in San Francisco, L.A. and San Diego — part of a larger plan to take over local governments and carry out a mass execution of Jews. Lewis immediately informed L.A. Police Chief James Edgar “Two-Gun” Davis of the Nazi scheme to seize weapons and, as Lewis warned in a memo later, to “foster a fascist form of government in the United States.”

Lewis was shocked when Davis interrupted him to defend Hitler. The police chief, he noted in the memo, told him: “Germans could not compete economically with the Jews in Germany and had been forced to take the action they did.” The greatest danger the city faced, Davis insisted, was not from Nazis but from communists living in the heavily Jewish neighborhood of Boyle Heights. As far as Davis was concerned, every communist was a Jew and every Jew a communist.

Lewis got a similar response from the Sheriff’s Department and local FBI agents, many of whom were sympathetic to the Nazis and fascists. He decided he had to continue the operation, and his spies agreed.

From the summer of 1933 until 1945, while many Americans closed their eyes to the hate growing around them, Lewis’s spies and informants, who numbered close to two dozen at the height of operations, risked their lives to stop Hitler’s minions and alert citizens to the danger these groups posed.

They uncovered a series of Nazi plots. There was a plan to murder 24 Hollywood actors and power figures, including Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Louis B. Mayer, Samuel Goldwyn, Charlie Chaplin and James Cagney. There was a plan to drive through Boyle Heights and machine-gun as many Jewish residents as possible. There were plans for fumigating the homes of Jewish families with cyanide, and for blowing up military installations and seizing munitions from National Guard armories on the day Nazis intended to launch their American putsch.

These plans for murder and sabotage failed because Lewis’s operatives penetrated the inner circles of the hate groups and foiled them. Charles Slocombe, Lewis’s ace spy, thwarted two of the most deadly plots to kill Hollywood figures, one of them by turning Nazis and fascists against one another and raising fears that they might be arrested for murder due to leaks inside the German American Bund and Silver Shirts. Slocombe stopped a second mass murder plot by convincing three of the plotters that the mastermind behind the plan, the British fascist Leopold McLaglan, was about to betray them.

Knowing their inner circles had been infiltrated, but not by whom, and unwilling to risk prison, the groups postponed their plans. Permanently.

Without ever firing a gun, Lewis and his spies managed to defeat a variety of enemies. Only after Congress declared war on Germany did government authorities finally relieve Lewis — “the most dangerous Jew in Los Angeles,” as Nazis called him — of the burden of tracking down these dangerous elements. Nevertheless, he and his operatives continued to monitor the groups throughout the war years.

Leon Lewis understood that hate knows no national boundaries. Foreign-born Nazis and American-born Silver Shirts and Klansmen gladly joined together in targeting Jews and communists. And few Americans, either inside or outside the government, tried to stop them in those early years.

He and his network of spies understood the importance of vigilance. They refused to allow their city and country to be threatened by hate. With their actions they show us that when a democratic government fails to stop extremists bent on violence, citizens must protect one another, no matter their race or religion.

Steven J. Ross is a professor of history at USC and the author of “Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America.”

 

US, Israel to Exit UNESCO Over Its Alleged Anti-Israel Bias

AP News; townhall.com

PARIS (AP) — The United States announced Thursday it is pulling out of the U.N.’s educational, scientific and cultural agency because of what Washington sees as its anti-Israel bias and a need for “fundamental reform” in the agency. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel plans to follow suit.

While the Trump administration had been preparing for a likely withdrawal from UNESCO for months, the timing of the State Department’s statement was unexpected. The Paris-based agency’s executive board is in the midst of choosing a new chief — with Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari leading the heated election heading into Friday’s final vote.

Outgoing Director-General Irina Bokova expressed “profound regret” at the U.S. decision and tried to defend UNESCO’s reputation. The organization is best known for its World Heritage program to protect cultural sites and traditions, but also works to improve education for girls, promote understanding of the Holocaust’s horrors, and to defend media freedom.

Bokova called the U.S.’s planned departure a loss for “the United Nations family” and for multilateralism. The U.S. and UNESCO matter to each other more than ever now with “the rise of violent extremism and terrorism,” she said.

The U.S. stopped funding UNESCO after it voted to include Palestine as a member state in 2011, but the State Department has maintained a UNESCO office and sought to weigh in on policy behind the scenes. The U.S. now owes about $550 million in back payments.

In a statement, the State Department said the decision will take effect Dec. 31, 2018, and that the U.S. will seek a “permanent observer” status instead. It cited U.S. belief in “the need for fundamental reform in the organization.”

Netanyahu said Thursday that Israel also plans to withdraw from the agency, saying it had become a “theater of the absurd because instead of preserving history, it distorts it.”

Israel has been irked by resolutions that diminish its historical connection to the Holy Land and have instead named ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites.

Praising Trump’s decision as “brave and moral,” Netanyahu said he has ordered Israeli diplomats to prepare for Israel’s withdrawal from the organization in concert with the Americans.

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, also praised Washington’s move as heralding “a new day at the U.N., where there is a price to pay for discrimination against Israel.”

“The United States stands by Israel and is a true leader for change at the U.N,” Danon said. “The alliance between our two countries is stronger than ever.”

U.S. officials said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the decision and it was not discussed with other countries. The officials were not authorized to be publicly named discussing the issue.

Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, called UNESCO’s July designation of Hebron’s Old City and the Tomb of the Patriarchs as Palestinian territory the latest of many “foolish actions” that had made the agency “a chronic embarrassment.”

Haley also criticized UNESCO for “keeping Syrian dictator Bashar Assad on a UNESCO human rights committee even after his murderous crackdown on peaceful protesters”

The United States has pulled out of UNESCO before. The Reagan administration did in 1984 because it viewed the agency as mismanaged, corrupt and used to advance Soviet interests. The U.S. rejoined in 2003.

The State Department informed Bokova it intends to stay engaged at UNESCO as a non-member “observer state” on “non-politicized” issues, including the protection of World Heritage sites, advocating for press freedoms and promoting scientific collaboration and education.

“We will be carefully watching how the organization and the new director-general steers the agency,” Charge d’Affaires Chris Hegadorn, the ranking U.S. representative to UNESCO, told The Associated Press. “Ideally, it steers it in way that U.S. interests and UNESCO’s mandate will converge.”

UNESCO’s 58-member executive board plans to select Bokova’s successor from among three finalists remaining from the field of seven candidates under consideration at the beginning of the week.

Along with al-Kawari, Qatar’s former culture minister, the finalists are Audrey Azoulay, a former culture minister in France, and former Egyptian government minister Moushira Khattab. The board’s pick then goes to the full UNESCO general assembly next month for final approval.

___

Lee reported from Washington. Edith M. Lederer in New York, Aron Heller in Jerusalem and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.

 

Deputy Mayor of Frankfurt Seeks to Ban ‘Deeply Antisemitic’ BDS

By: Benjamin Weinthal; jpost.com

The boycott movement targeting Israel is “deeply antisemitic and should have no place in Frankfurt,” the deputy mayor of Frankfurt said.

Protesters attend a rally against anti-Semitism in Frankfurt August 31, 2014. . (photo credit:REUTERS)

The deputy mayor of Frankfurt, Uwe Becker, submitted a bill that would ban municipal funds and space being used for activities that aim to boycott Israel.

Becker, a leading German political voice against antisemitism, said on Wednesday, “The BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) campaign with its messages uses the same language as the National Socialists once used to express: ‘Don’t buy from Jews!’” The boycott movement targeting Israel is “deeply antisemitic and should have no place in Frankfurt,” he said.

The proposed law would outlaw all public funding and space for the support of “the antisemitic BDS activities.”

The bill in Frankfurt, which has a population of nearly 733,000, would also urge private companies to refrain from commerce with BDS groups.

The deputy mayor spearheaded his Christian Democratic Union’s adoption of its anti-BDS platform at the party’s congress in 2016.

Becker said on Wednesday, “Frankfurt maintains, with its partnership with Tel Aviv, a special closeness to Israel and has continued to expand over the previous years this special relationship.”

The municipality said in a statement that Becker announced Frankfurt’s clear position against BDS in light of anti-boycott measures taken by other national and regional legislatures, including Munich’s.

Becker said BDS, at its core, is a movement that “delegitimizes the State of Israel and uses the method of a boycott to defame [Israel].” He cited BDS actions to intimidate artists who want to appear in Israel.

He also noted the boycott activities of “department store police” who stigmatize Israeli products in order to pressure stores to turn against the Jewish state.

Anti-Israel activists have over the years marched into stores in Bremen, Bonn and other German cities to single out Israeli goods for opprobrium.

Becker said his city is engaged for a peaceful resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Last week, Becker wrote on his Facebook page: “With the rising terrorism in Europe, more and more people start to understand the situation that Israel has been facing since David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the independence of Israel on May 14, 1948. This rising awareness should also open the eyes of the people in Europe to see that it is up to us to support Israel, as it is the only democratic country under the rule of law in the Middle East. Israel is the democratic bridge between Occident and Orient and is linked closely to our European values and virtues and way of life.”

He continued, “This year marks a decade of suffering for the people in Gaza. No, not from Israeli policy, as many people in Europe might think.

No, people in Gaza suffer from a lack of freedom, from a lack of democracy, from the brutal rule of Hamas, which is betraying its own people and has been governing Gaza since Israel withdrew in 2005 and Hamas took over power in 2007 after fighting between Hamas and Fatah. The corrupt leadership of Hamas has received hundreds of millions of dollars in the past decade, but the money has not gone to the people, but to the accounts of corrupt Hamas leaders and to the funding of terrorism and terrorist infrastructure in their fight against Israel.”

Becker further said that “there should not be any European tax-money funding terrorism. And as long as it is not possible to track where our tax money meant for the humanitarian aid in Gaza goes, we should freeze our financial support.”