ISIS TAKES IRAQ TOWN OF RAMADI
ISIS is gaining ground again in Iraq, capturing the town of Ramadi, west of Baghdad. It’s a heavy blow to the Iraqi government and any hopes of rooting out the terrorist group. Shia militias, who already played an important part in retaking the city of Tikrit two months ago, are reportedly on their way to try and recapture the city with troops who fled the scene yesterday. At least 500 people, civilians and soldiers, have been killed in recent fighting, which also drove out 8,000 residents from the city, AP reports. But a local government spokesman warns the death toll could go much higher amid mass killings at the hands of ISIS fighters.
MORSI SENTENCED TO DEATH
Photo: APA Images/ZUMA
Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first elected president and former Muslim Brotherhood leader, has been sentenced to death along with more than 100 other people for their roles in massive 2011 prison escapes, Mada Masr reports. Morsi and 15 other Muslim Brotherhood figures are also believed to have leaked sensitive information to Qatar. The ruling has been referred to the highest religious authority in Egypt, the Grand Mufti.
YEMEN STRIKES RESUME AFTER TRUCE
The Saudi-led coalition has resumed its airstrike campaign in Yemen after a five-day humanitarian ceasefire expired yesterday. The UN envoy to Yemen urged both parties to extend the truce, but his calls were ignored, Al Jazeera reports. Yemen’s exiled foreign minister said Saudi Arabia had decided not to renew the agreement because Houthi rebels had violated the ceasefire. Though there were some reports of clashes between Houthi rebels and pro-government forces, the truce was largely respected.
A group of 64 organizations has launched a complaint against Harvard University, accusing it of discrimination against Asian-American candidates, The Wall Street Journal reports. Research has shown that Asian-American applicants are required to score 140 points higher than white students, 270 points higher than Hispanic students and 450 points higher than African-American students on their SAT exams to have the same chances of admission.
EU TO APPROVE LIBYAN NAVAL MISSION
EU foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels to discuss the migrant crisis and are expected to approve a mission to destroy boats used to smuggle people from Libya across the Mediterranean, the BBC reports.
ON THIS DAY
Mount St. Helens erupted 35 years ago today, killing 57 people. Time now for your 57-second shot of history.
TEXAS BIKER SHOOTOUT LEAVES 9 DEAD
At least nine members of rival biker gangs were killed Sunday afternoon after a gunfight broke out at a restaurant in Waco, Texas, The Dallas Morning News reports. Another 18 people were taken to the hospital with injuries, and 150 gang members were arrested.
MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD
Every year, he watches 1,800 films and rejects 1,750. As L’Obs’ Fabrice Pliskin writes, the second-in-command at the Cannes Film Festival cuts a wide swath, making and breaking films and careers every year. “It’s the last Saturday before the April 16 press conference, where the festival’s official selections will be unveiled,” he writes. “Frémaux phones and fires off texts. He answers to the distributors, producers and directors bombarding him with emails to convince him ‘their film is the eighth wonder of the world,’ he says. ‘I’ll do everything I can to get Amy Winehouse onto the Croisette,’ the distributor-producer of a documentary on the late soul singer writes with humor, referring to a prominent road in Cannes. A swarm of trade professionals flatter him and hunt him down tirelessly.”
Read the full article, Thierry Fremaux, Dream Maker And Breaker Of Cannes.
‘O LUNA MIA
Our favorite astrologer Simon is back again this week with the deets on your sign. You know you want to look.
DAREDEVILS DIE AT YOSEMITE
BASE jumpers Dean Potter, 43, and Graham Hunt, 29, died in Yosemite National Park Saturday after jumping from the 7,500-foot-high Taft Point, 3,000 feet above above Yosemite Valley. The sport involves leaping from relatively low altitudes with a parachute. Read more from The Los Angeles Times.
SPORTS AND POLITICS
It’s been a sporty weekend for politicians. Russian President Vladimir Putin added yet another notch to his athletic belt by playing in an all-star ice hockey game. Meanwhile in Salt Lake City, Mitt Romney stepped into the ring to face five-time heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield for a charity fight. And the former Republican presidential candidate even took a swing at Hillary Clinton.
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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