SUNKEN S. KOREAN FERRY TO BE RAISED
South Korean President Park Geun-hye has promised to raise the sunken ferry Sewol to recover the nine bodies still missing, as the country commemorates the disaster’s one-year anniversary, Yonhap news agency reports. A total of 304 people, most of them high school students, died when the ship sank after both the operator and crew violated regulations. According to newspaper Chosun Ilbo, families of the victims held a protest in Seoul and refused a compensatory package, saying the government was “insulting the victims with money.”
ON THIS DAY
Walter Cronkite anchored his first CBS Evening News broadcast 53 years ago today. Time now for your 57-second shot of history.
YEMEN DIVISIONS MAR ANTI-ISIS EFFORTS
Tensions are running high between Arab countries inside the U.S.-led coalition that’s been targeting ISIS in Iraq and Syria since last September. The New York Times reports that there was a “remarkable clash” between Iraq and Saudi Arabia yesterday. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is currently in Washington, criticized the Saudi-led airstrike operation in Yemen as one that has “no logic” and expressed fears that other countries might be next on Saudi Arabia’s list, including Iraq. The Saudi ambassador to Washington retorted there was “no logic” to Abadi’s remarks and denied reports of civilian casualties in Yemen airstrikes.
- The United Nations Food and Agriculture Agency warned yesterday that the conflict in Yemen, one of the world’s poorest countries, could exacerbate food insecurity, as 4.8 million residents face "emergency" conditions. More than half of the country’s 26 million people need humanitarian aid and have no access to safe water.
Nobel Laureate Gunter Grass, who died this week, helped Germany find its voice after the horrors of World War II. But his life ultimately embodied his nation’s struggles to come to terms with its past, Die Welt’s Thomas Schmid writes. “His prose embodied the exuberance many longed for. Finally, there were characters with a thirst for life. Finally there was someone with a penchant for passionate storytelling. He also gave a wide berth to historical events, yet always carrying undertones of criticism and denouncement that was to become part of the German liberal public fabric. Grass was a sort of Grimmelshausen for the enlightened West German citizen.”
Read the full article, Gunter Grass, Literary Alpha Wolf Of Post-War Germany.
MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD
FARC BREAKS TRUCE WITH DEADLY AMBUSH
"Airstrikes resume after FARC massacre," the front-page headline of Bogota-based daily El Tiempo reads today, alongside a picture of Colombian soldiers retrieving the bodies of their comrades who died in an ambush by the rebels late Tuesday in western Colombia's La Esperanza. At least 10 soldiers were killed in the attack led by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a major setback in an effort to end 50 years of war between government and guerrilla forces that had led to an unprecedented truce last month. Read more on our 4 Corners blog.
“We’re not going to be immortal … So we have to live with that, and that’s why it’s so important to pass the message to the next generations,” 76-year-old Holocaust survivor Albert Garih told AFP, as Jews around the world today commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day.
YET ANOTHER YANUKOVYCH ALLY DEAD
Oleg Kalashnikov, a Ukrainian opposition politician and ally of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, has been found shot dead in Kiev. According to the BBC, it’s still unclear whether his death is a suicide or a murder, but Kalashnikov is at least the eighth ally of the former president to have died in recent weeks. Russian network RT characterizes his death as a killing, reporting that the motive could have been driven by his “political activity” and “participation in the organization and financing” of anti-Maidan events in Ukraine.
BRAZIL PARTY OFFICIAL ARRESTED
The ongoing probe into widespread corruption at Brazil’s oil giant Petrobras led to yesterday’s arrest of the governing Workers’ Party treasurer João Vaccari Neto, O Globo reports. Vaccari was charged with money laundering and taking kickbacks from deals between private construction firms and the state-owned oil company. After his arrest, he resigned from his position inside the party. The news is yet another blow for President Dilma Rousseff, a former Petrobras board chair, and will likely continue to fuel calls for her impeachment, according to O Globo’s editorial. Read more in English from The Wall Street Journal.
FLY ME TO THE CAPITOL
Some people will go to extraordinary measures to stop the influence of big money in politics. Yesterday, in fact, 61-year-old Florida postal employee Doug Hughes landed a small gyrocopter Photo above: James Borchuck/Tampa Bay Times/ZUMA loaded with 535 letters to congressional members on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol.
A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.
BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.
Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.
The incident at the cemetery
They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."
There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.
It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.
The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.
The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender
Crimes against Jews are rising
Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.
Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.
Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.
And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?
Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously
This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.
Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.
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