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Tel Aviv Stabbings, Confident Obama, Brazil Drought

Tel Aviv Stabbings, Confident Obama, Brazil Drought

12 WOUNDED IN TEL AVIV BUS ATTACK
Twelve people were injured, including 3 seriously, in a stabbing attack Wednesday morning in Tel Aviv. A 23-year-old man from the West Bank city of Tulkarem was arrested after being shot in the leg as he attempted to flee the scene, Haaretz reports.

  • Witnesses said the attacker first stabbed the bus driver, who managed to plead for help over his dispatcher, before turning to the passengers as the bus slowed down, according to Reuters.
  • Israeli authorities are treating the stabbings as a “terror attack,” the first in two months in Tel Aviv, when a soldier was stabbed to death. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said it was the "direct result of the Palestinian Authority's venomous incitement against the Jews and their state.”
  • Although not claiming responsibility for the attack, Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesperson, called this attack “the natural reaction to Israeli terrorism against the Palestinian people.”

EXTRA! STATE OF THE UNION
In a State of the Union address that one commentator said “oozed confidence,” U.S. President Barack Obama took credit for a brightening economic picture and set out his vision for the rest of his presidency, with a particular focus on addressing economic disparity. Speaking in the aftermath of attacks in Pakistan and Paris, Obama also vowed to continue to fight terrorism and to defend America’s allies. See how the Washington Post covered it in our press review feature Extra! here.

FOUR MEN CHARGED WITH LINKS TO PARIS TERROR PLOT
Four presumed accomplices of Amedy Coulibaly, the terrorist who killed a policewoman on Jan. 8 and four people in a kosher market the day after, were charged Tuesday with connections to the attacks, Le Monde reports. The men, aged between 22 and 28 years old, are suspected of providing Coulibaly with logistical help, including weapons and vehicles. French authorities said three of the four men had criminal records and at least one met Coulibaly in prison.
Meanwhile, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced in a press conference Wednesday new measures to fight terrorism. The government proposes to fund a 700 million euro plan that would keep around 3,000 people under surveillance in the country.

VERBATIM
“People are calling me a hero but I am not a hero. I am Lassana and I will always just be myself,” said Lassana Bathily, who helped hide shoppers during the Jan. 9 attack on the Paris kosher supermarket where he worked. The Mali native was granted French citizenship Tuesday after being hailed as a hero, Le Parisien reports.

ON THIS DAY

On this day in 1924, a Russian revolutionary died and a British comic was born. Reincarnation, anyone? Get your daily shot of history here.

SHOWDOWN IN YEMEN
Armed fighters of the Houthi movement in Yemen stood guard outside the residence of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi Wednesday in the capital city Sanaa, the BBC reports. The presidential palace, which is usually protected by security officers, was the scene of clashes between guards and Houthi rebels Tuesday. The insurgents shelled and entered the palace, sending the country deeper into political turmoil. The Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi said in a televized speech Tuesday that President Hadi had to implement a power-sharing deal when his men seized the capital in September, according to Reuters.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
The accusations Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman was set to make were harmful to Iran's interests. And the known intelligence superpower is expert at disposing of its enemies. Many in Argentina doubt that Monday's death was a suicide at all, Gustavo Sierra writes in the Buenos Aires daily Clarin: “Given Iran's record, the intelligence community worldwide is now wondering about the possibility — entirely theoretical at the moment — that Iranian agents or their allies might have had some role in Nisman’s death, which authorities are calling a suicide. Most agree that the accusations he was about to make public would have been harmful to Iranian interests.”
Read the full article, Could Iran Have Assisted Argentine Prosecutor's "Suicide"?

JAPAN’S ABE PUSHES TO FREE HOSTAGES
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday the government will do its utmost to free the two Japanese men held hostage by ISIS, Japan Times reports. "I have instructed the government that we will exhaust all possible measures to have the two freed, using all diplomatic channels, all diplomatic routes we have built so far," Abe announced. "Our country will never give in to terrorism." A video released online Tuesday by ISIS shows a masked jihadist threatening to kill the two men unless Japan pays the terrorist group $200 million in ransom in the following 72 hours.

BOKO HARAM CLAIMS BAGA MASSACRE
In a video posted online, the terrorist group Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the massacre of hundreds of people in the northeastern Nigerian town of Baga in early January and renewed threats to neighboring countries Niger, Chad and Cameroon. The video, obtained by the AFP on Tuesday, shows Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau saying “We killed the people of Baga. We indeed killed them, as our Lord instructed us in His Book.”

ISIS EXECUTING “EDUCATED WOMEN”
The United Nations has decried numerous executions of civilians in Iraq by the Islamic State terror group, warning that educated women appeared to be especially at risk, the AFP reports. The terrorist group is allegedly targeting women who have run as candidates in elections for public office, lawyers or journalists.

MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD


37%
An official report published in Folha de S. Paulo shows that 37% of Brazil’s water is lost before it even reaches consumers, with faulty pipe systems, fraud and illegal connections to the network the main causes of this massive waste. By comparison, the figure in a developed country like Germany is 7%. The news comes amid ongoing water and energy crises, especially in the southeastern parts of the country, with average temperatures for January in the city of São Paulo so far above last year’s record at 33,2 °C.

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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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