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Armenia Remembers, Greek Talks, Happiest Nation

Armenia Remembers, Greek Talks, Happiest Nation

ARMENIA REMEMBERS

Ceremonies are being held in the Armenian capital of Yerevan in remembrance of the Armenian genocide by Ottoman Turks, which began 100 years ago today. “I am grateful to all those who are here to once again confirm your commitment to human values, to say that nothing is forgotten, that after 100 years we remember,” Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian said. An estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed between 1915 and 1917.

  • French President François Hollande, who was attending the ceremony, issued a veiled criticism of Turkey, which continues to refuse the term “genocide” for the massacre. “Important words have already been said in Turkey, but others are still expected so that shared grief can become shared destiny,” Hollande said.
  • Here’s how an Armenian-Canadian magazine marked the anniversary.

GREEK DEBT TALKS RESUME

EU Finance Ministers are gathered in Riga, Latvia, to discuss the Greek debt crisis, with Athens trying to secure more funds ahead of an $825 million repayment to the IMF due next month. While the leftwing Greek government has reportedly made some important concessions to its creditors on the hardline program that got it elected, some EU leaders have said this isn’t enough to unlock more cash. Read more on The Guardian’s live blog.

  • The Bank of Piraeus has meanwhile announced it would completely write off the debt of clients who owe up to 20,000 euros to respond to the “humanitarian crisis” affecting its poorest clients. Read the full story from AFP.

ON THIS DAY


Forty-five years ago today, China launched its first satellite, 100 years ago the Armenian genocide began. Get ready for your 57-second shot of history.


SCORES OF CHILDREN DEAD IN SAUDI STRIKES

At least 115 children have been killed in the Saudi-led airstrike campaign in Yemen over the past month, with the bomb leaving another 172 wounded, UNICEF said on Friday. The organization’s spokesman Christophe Boulierac warned that these figures were likely to rise further as reports are still incoming.


U.S., RUSSIA TRADE ACCUSATIONS OVER UKRAINE

Tensions are still running high between U.S. and Russia over Ukraine, and officials from both sides accused each other of jeopardizing an already shaky ceasefire, The Wall Street Journal reports. U.S. State Department officials said Moscow was building up its military presence along the border and sending weapons inside eastern Ukraine to build air-defense systems. Russia rejected the claims, saying Washington was violating the ceasefire agreement, after it sent 300 troops last week to Ukraine to train Ukrainian soldiers. Geoffrey Pyatt, the American ambassador to Ukraine yesterday tweeted a picture of Russian defense systems that he said showed a new military build-up in Ukraine. Russian state television RT said it was a two-year-old picture taken during a military parade in Moscow. Pro-Russian rebels meanwhile report that the Ukrainian army has resumed heavy shelling in Donetsk.


SNAPSHOT

Photo: Alvaro Vidal/EFE/ZUMA

Behold Chile’s Calbuco volcano erupting.


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

After the head of a kindergarten near Munich announced plans to tie the knot with her girlfriend, her work contract was terminated. LGBT activists (and parents) are outraged, Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Heiner Effern reports: “Though the principal is apparently abiding by a confidentiality agreement, local politicians are taking up her cause. Ulrike Gote, a Green Party’s spokeswoman in the state of Bavaria, accuses the Catholic Church of ‘hypocrisy.’ ‘The Church should actually be delighted that someone wants to marry their partner,’ Gote says. ‘These are the kinds of double standards that we have had to deal with for a very long time.’ The mayor of Holzkirchen, Olaf von Loewis of the Christian Social Union, who is a practicing Catholic, also has difficulty accepting the stance his Church has taken towards homosexual relationships. ‘I am very familiar with the rules and regulations of the Church as an employer,’ Loewis says. ‘And I deem them to be wrong.’”

Read the full article, *Religious Freedom* In Germany? Catholic School Dumps Lesbian Principal.


VERBATIM

“It is a cruel and bitter truth that in the fog of war generally, and in our fight against terrorists specifically, mistakes — sometimes deadly mistakes — can occur,” Barack Obama said, apologizing to the families of the two al-Qaeda hostages killed in a U.S. drone strike in January.


INDONESIA READY TO EXECUTE FOREIGNERS

The Indonesian government has asked foreign embassies to send representatives to a maximum security prison, suggesting the high-profile executions of 10 drug convicts from Australia, France, Ghana, the Philippines, Brazil, Nigeria and Indonesia are imminent, ABC reports. The prisoners haven’t yet been given the required 72-hour notice for their execution, but it’s expected to come soon.


MIGRANTS HIT BY TRAIN IN MACEDONIA

At least 14 migrants from Afghanistan and Somalia have died in Macedonia overnight after being hit by a train as they walked along the tracks, AP reports. Meanwhile, the alleged captain of the migrant boat that sank last weekend, killing at least 700 passengers, appeared this morning before an Italian judge, Reuters reports. The accused denied the charges and said he was just a passenger.


1,000

Scientists from the University of Utah have found that the Yellowstone National Park is home to one of the world’s largest volcanoes which, if it ever erupts, would eject 1,000 times as much material as the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption and would have a major global impact.


LEAVE YOUR HAT ON

It’s apparently become rather commonplace to invite strippers to perform at funerals in China, but Beijing has announced steps to put an end to this “uncivilized” ritual.


MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD



THE WORLD’S HAPPIEST PLACE

The happiest people in the world live in Switzerland, a UN study has shown. With the planet’s most neutral country closely followed by Iceland, Denmark, Norway and Canada, we begin to wonder whether cold winters and short summers aren’t the key to contentment.


ERRATUM

Our Snapshot in Thursday’s newsletter of a photograph on Instagram reportedly showing a storm in Sydney overflowing on harbour bridge turned out to be a fake. Sorry for that.

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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

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.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

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.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

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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