Inside Europe: Terror attack in Austria; protests and calls for violence over cartoon Muhammed; and antisemitic depiction over Corbyn suspension
Inside Israel: Coalition tensions and budget crisis heat up; Attorney General limits Netanyahu’s power; possible Dominican Republic embassy move; and world’s largest beach clean up
Israel’s Neighbors: Earthquake in Turkey & Greece; Sudanese peace agreement issues; and Global Imams Council adopts IHRA antisemitism definition
Inside the U.S.: Chabad arson attack; Hitler quotes in police training materials; Michigan Jewish cemetery vandalized; and antisemitic Alaskan Senate attack ad
Celebrate & Remember: Riga Holocaust museum; and remembering Charles Louis Fleischmann
Austrian terror attack involving multiple gunmen leaves at least four dead
Vienna on high alert as police hunt for at least one terrorist: Multiple terrorists opened fire in several locations across Vienna on Monday evening, including an area near several synagogues and Jewish community offices, leaving at least four dead and 15 severely injured. The gunmen apparently shouted “Allahu akbar” during the attack, which took place in the Austrian capital hours before the start of a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Police said the attack was “considered to have an Islamistic motive.” Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said in a televised address, “We have become the victim of a disgusting terror attack that is still going on.” Kurz said that an antisemitic motive could not be excluded given that the shooting began outside Vienna’s main synagogue. Oskar Deutsch, the president of the Jewish Religious Community in Austria, said on Twitter that the initial shooting occurred “in the immediate vicinity” of the temple, which was closed at the time of the attack, and that it was “not clear right now whether the main temple was the target.” Deutsch said there were no casualties among members of the Jewish community and all synagogues, Jewish schools, Jewish institutions, kosher restaurants and supermarkets will remain closed Tuesday as a precaution. One gunmen, who was said to be “radicalized” and an ISIS sympathizer, was shot dead by police. The Austrian Interior Minister said it is not clear how many gunmen were involved but they believe at least one other attacker is still on the run. Police are currently reviewing over 20,000 videos sent by the public for evidence.
Muslim protests around the world against French Muhammad cartoons: Tens of thousands of protesters gathered worldwide Friday to protest French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to protect the right of free speech to caricature the Prophet Muhammad. Protests in Pakistan and Lebanon turned violent, and a protest of hundreds of people at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount led to three arrests. Protesters have been incited to violence by various leaders in the Muslim world, including Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In France, tensions are high, following the beheading of a teacher who showed caricatures of the Prophet and a terror attack in Nice, where a radical Muslim killed three in retribution for backlash against radical Muslim groups. While the country was on high alert, a Greek Orthodox priest was shot in Lyon, and, although the incident was reportedly unrelated to terrorism, it increased feelings of turmoil in the country. French President Emmanuel Macron said of the violent protests: “I can understand that people could be shocked by the caricatures but I will never accept that violence can be justified.” French Muslims have become increasingly uneasy this month, as they view themselves as stigmatized by the attacks and feel as though they are being held responsible by their fellow French citizens.
Islamic leaders push Holocaust denial in response to cartoon controversy: After France continued to protect caricatures and cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad as a matter of freedom of expression, multiple Islamic leaders, including Hezbollah’s Nasrallah, Turkish President Erdogan, former Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad, and Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei, came out with statements questioning why Holocaust denial is not allowed under freedom of expression in France. In a speech on Friday, Nasrallah continuously denied the Holocaust, and lamented that its denial was a “less sensitive matter” than a cartoon that offended “the prophet to over a billion people.” Malaysia’s Mohamad stressed the anger induced by the caricatures, saying that “Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of French people.” Khamenei continued the comparison of the cartoons to Holocaust denial, tweeting “Why is it a crime to raise doubts about the Holocaust?” Finally, Erdogan extorted the Holocaust as part of his confrontation with France, saying that modern-day treatment of Muslims in Europe is similar to “the crimes against humanity committed against Jews 80 years ago.”
Guardian newspaper receives backlash for antisemitic cartoon: On Friday, the British Guardian newspaper came under fire for a cartoon that portrayed the Labour leader Kier Starmer holding Jeremy Corbyn’s severed head on a plate in a reference to a Carvaggio painting. The original painting depicts Judean princess Salome receiving the head of John the Baptist on a plate, as an homage to the New Testament when Judean King Herod had John the Baptist killed at the request of his stepdaughter Salome. Jewish advocates have claimed that this portrays Corbyn as a Christian martyr and Starmer as a proxy for the Jews; one Twitter user said “How better to portray the issue of Corbyn’s expulsion than in a classically Christian antisemitic reworking of the Jewish Salome slaying the pure Christian, John the Baptist? Make no mistake, this is no mere mistake.” The cartoonist, Steve Bell has previously been accused of drawing antisemitic cartoons, including one where he depicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a puppet master for British Politicians. The cartoon was published the day after Corbyn was suspended from the Labour party due to his response to a government watchdog report that said the party had broken equality laws in its handling of antisemitism complaints. A former Jewish Labour member said Corbyn’s suspension has triggered a fresh onslaught of antisemitic abuse.
Coalition tensions heat up, as Blue and White debate calling new elections
Gantz admits Netanyahu won’t honor rotation deal: Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz reportedly shared with close confidants in his Blue and White Party that he does not expect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to honor the rotation agreement, which would see Gantz assume the premiership in November 2021. Gantz reportedly said, “I understand that I won’t get the rotation. I won’t believe Netanyahu even a day before it is to happen.” The two coalition parties will likely encounter another dispute over the deadline for a new budget, which, if not passed by December 23, will automatically disband the Knesset and force new elections. Gantz’s party is reportedly divided over how to move forward. Some favor exiting the government and calling for new elections, and others fear that doing so would only result in a stable right-wing government, since both the Netanyahu-led Likud party and Naftali Bennett’s nationalist Yamina party have been leading in recent polls. Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi warned that if Blue and White were to acquiesce with regards to their stance on the budget, it would mean the end of the Blue and White party. Yamina criticized Blue and White for remaining in the coalition despite the looming budget crisis and said Monday it would back a bill by opposition leader Yair Lapid to dissolve the government and hold new general elections.
Attorney General decides limits on Netanyahu’s power during trial: Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit published a conflict of interest agreement on Monday which barred Prime Minister Netanyahu from getting involved in matters of the state that could affect his upcoming corruption trial. Among the limitations are a ban on appointing Jerusalem District Court and Supreme Court judges, the state Attorney General for 2022, the police chief, and high-ranking officials in the police anti-fraud unit. He is also barred from involvement in or creation of any legislation that would have an effect on the outcome of his trial. The statement published by Mandelblit’s office called these circumstances “a precedential and exceptional situation, which requires special consideration.” Mandelblit also released that several media groups implicated in Netanyahu’s corruption case, however, will not be criminally charged.
Dominican Republic to consider embassy move to Jerusalem: On Friday, the Dominican Republic announced that it is considering returning its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, where it was moved to in 1980. In a statement, they cited a longstanding relationship between the Dominican Republic and Jewish people, who have lived on the island since the 15th century. Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and his Dominican counterpart, Roberto Alvarez Gil, shared a phone call on Friday, when Ashkenazi thanked Alvarez Gil for this “important decision” and “many years of friendship between our two countries.” Recognizing the status of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has long been a source of contention, as Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, while Palestinians expect East Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state. To date, only the United States and Guatemala have officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by moving their embassies, but Honduras, Brazil, Serbia and the Czech Republic have also voiced their intention to do so.
World’s largest beach clean-up on Israel’s Mediterranean coastline: On Friday, tens of thousands of volunteers gathered on Israel’s shoreline, from the border with Lebanon in the North to the beaches of Ashkelon in the South, as volunteers, activists, and sea divers joined in an effort to break the Guinness world record for the largest beach clean-up. Michael Raphael, the national coordinator of the Anu (We) organization’s Mediterranean Sea coalition, said that a goal of the clean-up was that “extensive mobilization will influence the decision makers to work for the future of the sea.” In Israel, 70% of ocean debris consists of plastic waste, a number that is expected to increase this year due to an influx of disposable masks and gloves. Guinness has yet to determine whether the event broke the world record, but organizers estimated that volunteers would pick up three to five tons of garbage.
ISRAEL’S NEIGHBORS, NEAR & NOT SO FAR
Israel offers aid and to send IDF search and rescue team to Turkey after deadly quake
Search efforts amid the ruins of a collapsed building in Izmir, Turkey
Strong earthquake in Turkey and Greece results in at least 94 deaths: On Friday afternoon, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake hit the Aegean Sea, killing at least 94 and injuring at least 900 in Turkey and Greece. Search-and-rescue teams have been searching for victims and survivors in at least 17 collapsed buildings in the Turkish city of Izmir, where, in the areas of highest damage, authorities have set up tents with the capacity for 2,000 people. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz immediately offered to send aid and ordered the Home Front Command to ready a search-and-rescue team for dispatch. IDF officials spoke with Turkey’s military attaché in Israel, alerting him that Israel had prepared a team and would set up a field hospital to treat the wounded, and Israel’s Magen David Adom also reached out to the Red Crescent in Turkey and the Red Cross in Greece offering assistance. It has not been made clear whether Turkey accepted these offers.
Peace agreement raises questions and shakes Sudanese government: The normalization deal between Israel and Sudan has unearthed some difficult dilemmas between Israelis and the Sudanese government. Israel has said that it intends to resolve the issue of the around 6,000 Sudanese refugees who currently live in Israel. These refugees worry that the agreement will mean their forcible removal from Israel back to Sudan, from where they fled with fear for their lives. Some Ethiopian-Israelis are also critical of the normalization agreement, citing the imprisonment, disappearance, and murder of many of the family members of Jews who safely made it to Israel in the first wave of Ethiopian aliyah by the Sudanese government. Back in Sudan, leaders of three political parties have threatened to leave the coalition of the transitional government over the normalization deal. They say they were not present at the negotiations with Israel, calling the agreements “dangerous” and “a violation.”
Muslim Council adopts IHRA definition of antisemitism: On Thursday, the Global Imams Council adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Association’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, including the section about demonization of Israel. The Global Imams Council was created in 2007, with the goal of reducing sectarian divides in war-torn Iraq, and has over 1,300 Imams in its ranks. The council said that “in a time of rising antisemitism and terrorist attacks,” their “responsibility as faith leaders [is made] greater.” The decision was made “in light of the current peace efforts being made throughout the Middle East” and the council’s statement adopting the IHRA’s definition stressed that the “Council takes this opportunity to applaud the Muslim majority Albanian Parliament on adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism and becoming the first Muslim majority country to formally adopt the definition, and we invite leading organizations of the Muslim world and all other Imams Councils to adopt the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism and all examples underneath it.”
INSIDE THE U.S.
Fire at University of Delaware Chabad ruled arson
Second arson in three months strikes Delaware Chabad center: The Chabad Center for Jewish Life in Wilmington, Delaware was damaged in an arson attack early Friday morning, marking the second arson at a Chabad center in Delaware in the past three months. Friday’s fire was lit on the property outside the Chabad building, and was extinguished before the fire could reach the building. No information has been released tying this arson to August’s arson in Newark; but the centers are run by the same organization and the rabbi of the Wilmington Chabad is the father of the rabbi at the Newark Chabad. The Philadelphia chapter of the Anti-Defamation League released a statement about the Wilmington Chabad arson, calling it a “heinous act” causing “deep fear and pain.”
High school students uncover Hitler quotes in KY police training materials: On Friday, a report in a Kentucky high school’s student newspaper exposed that Hitler was the most-referenced person in training materials for Kentucky State Police, which encouraged officers to be “ruthless killers.” The presentation includes quotes from Hitler’s manifesto Mein Kampf and provides the link to Hitler’s page on Goodreads, a database of books and quotes. Louisville Democrat Representative to Congress John Yarmuth tweeted his disapproval of the training presentation, saying: “I am angry. As a Kentuckian, I am angry and embarrassed. And as a Jewish American, I am genuinely disturbed that there are people like this who not only walk among us, but who have been entrusted to keep us safe. There needs to be consequences.” Kentucky governor Andy Beshear responded with a statement that stressed: “This is absolutely unacceptable. It is further unacceptable that I just learned about this through social media. We will collect all the facts and take immediate corrective action.” The training presentation has reportedly not been used since 2013.
Michigan Jewish cemetery vandalized with ‘TRUMP’ graffiti: Several gravestones at a Jewish cemetery in Grand Rapids, Michigan were vandalized and tagged with red paint reading, “TRUMP” and “MAGA.” The graffiti was discovered one day before the general election, and the same day as Trump’s final campaign rally, held in the Grand Rapids area. The cemetery, 100 years old, is held by the Ahavas Israel Congregation in Grand Rapids, and has never been a target of vandalism before. Anti-Defamation League officials have not yet labelled the act as antisemitic because there were no clearly anti-Jewish symbols discovered at the site. Michigan is a swing state in the election, and multiple security officials have warned against upcoming extremist activity in the state ahead of the election.
Alaskan Senate attack ad sparks accusations of antisemitism: On Saturday, Democrat nominated Alaskan Senate candidate Al Gross tweeted his disdain of a recent attack ad put out by his incumbent opponent Dan Sullivan, saying that it has “disgusting antisemitic tropes.” The ad depicts a doctored image of Gross holding a fan of money, and standing behind a pile of $100 bills, with the face of Jewish Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer visible in the background. Several organizations criticized the ad, pointing out that it plays on the antisemitic tropes that portray Jews as money-grubbers who use their money to exert power over their compatriots. On Sunday, a tweet from the Anti-Defamation League explained that “These type of accusations have been used to denigrate Jews for decades and have no place in our political discourse.”
CELEBRATE & REMEMBER
Today we celebrate a Holocaust memorial museum in Latvia allowed to remain open. The government of Riga, Latvia waived a rent requirement for the Riga Ghetto Museum, after the museum’s director expressed that it would not be able to pay. The Riga City Council announced that it was withdrawing a requirement for $12,000 per month in rent for the museum last Monday. The city also reversed plans to rezone the area in which the museum is situated, now only planning to take half of the museum’s 6,500 square feet, which will allow for the museum “to keep its main exhibition, Ghetto Street, as is.” Threats to impose rent and zoning restrictions on the museum came after the museum’s previous 10-year lease, which did not require rent, expired this year. Around 70,000 Jews were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators in Latvia during the Holocaust. The Riga Ghetto Museum is one of three Holocaust museums in Latvia’s capital, and commemorates the area of the city in which Jews were forced to live during the Holocaust.
Today in 1835, Charles Louis Fleischmann was born. Fleischmann, son of Hungarian Jewish parents Babette and Alois (or Abraham) Fleischmann, a Jewish distiller and yeast maker, followed in his father’s footsteps and was an innovative manufacturer of yeast and other consumer food products during the 19th century. In 1865, Fleischmann came to the United States, and was disappointed in the quality of locally baked bread in the Cincinnati, Ohio region. In the late 1860s, he and his brother Maximilian created America’s first commercially produced yeast, which revolutionized baking in a way that made today’s mass production and consumption of bread possible. The Fleischmann Yeast Company eventually became the world’s leading yeast producer and the second largest in the production of vinegar. It was also a commercial producer of gin, under the Fleischmann brand name. When Prohibition interfered with liquor sales, the Fleischmanns developed a new market for yeast, investigating its possible health benefits for skin and digestion, and promoting it as a good source of vitamins. Fleischmann is responsible for numerous mechanical patents involving yeast production machinery. His son, Julius Fleischmann, later served as the mayor of Cincinnati.