OBAMA’S IRAN ULTIMATUM
Iran should agree to a verifiable freeze of its nuclear program for at least a decade if the country wants to strike a deal with the U.S., President Barack Obama told Reuters in an exclusive interview. Obama explained his goal was to make sure “there’s at least a year between us seeing them try to get a nuclear weapon and them actually being able to obtain one.”
The interview, which the news agency says was “carefully timed by the White House,” came just hours before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress in a highly criticized speech, even as he is campaigning for reelection on March 17. Obama stressed that he and Netanyahu had a “substantial disagreement” over how to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Speaking to the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, Netanyahu said his speech to Congress wasn’t meant to signal any “disrespect” towards Obama, insisting he had “a moral obligation to speak up” in the face of what he perceives as nuclear danger. Read more fromThe New York Times.
Reacting to Obama’s comments, Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said they were unacceptable and part of a PR campaign,PressTV reports.
The BBC suggests Netanyahu’s intervention is a win-win for Iran. Israel’s left-wing dailyHaaretz, meanwhile, expressed its hope that Netanyahu’s trip to Washington is his last official visit. “At least he is going out with a bang,” it writes.
Photo above: Arindam Shivaani/NurPhoto/ZUMA
Millions of people around the world, like here in Kolkata, India, are celebrating the arrival of spring by participating in the Hindu festival Holi, the “festival of colors.”
RUSSIANS HONOR NEMTSOV
Thousands of mourners are queuing outside Moscow’s Sakharov Center to pay their respects to Boris Nemtsov, the opposition politician killed on Friday night,Reuters reports. U.S. ambassador to Russia John Tefft and former British Prime Minister John Major are among them, but according to the BBC, several EU politicians have been barred from entering Russia, some without explanation. Nemtsov's girlfriend, model Anna Duritskaya, who was with him when he was shot four times in the back, has returned to her native Ukraine after giving evidence to the investigators.
The Nasdaq index closed above 5,000 Monday for the first time since the dot-com bubble burst 15 years ago. And some believe history might be repeating itself.
Khaled walked into an ISIS recruiting office and volunteered to fight — for $30 a month. Now he's a refugee in Turkey, where he told Le Monde’s Christophe Boltanski his story. “The routine was always the same. Days began at 4 a.m. for the dawn prayer. Afterwards the recruits jogged, did obstacles courses and practiced martial arts until 10 a.m. The person guiding the exhausting exercises was a Frenchman called Abu Moussab al-Faransi. ‘A tall guy, like a muscleman,’ says Khaled. After the break, the group attended two hours of sharia classes given by an imam, a Tunisian. ‘We were in a warehouse,’ Khaled recalls. ‘He told us we had to kill all the apostates, that it was our duty.’”
Read the full article, One Teen's Harrowing Escape Of Life Inside ISIS.
IMF AID FOR SIERRA LEONE
The International Monetary Fund has approved a $187 million funding and debt relief package for Sierra Leone in an attempt to help the country recover from the devastating Ebola outbreak, AFP reports. This comes as world leaders and aid agencies gather in Brussels today to discuss long-term plans to end the outbreak. Sierra Leone, one of the countries worst hit by the epidemic that killed 9,714 people in West Africa, has recently seen a spike in Ebola infections. The country’s vice president was forced into quarantine after his bodyguard died of the disease. Read more from The Mail & Guardian.
“A decent girl won’t roam around at nine o'clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy,” Mukesh Singh, one of the men on India’s death row for the 2012 rape of a young woman on a bus, told filmmaker Leslee Udwin for a documentary to be shown later this week. Read more from the BBC.
SNOWDEN WANTS TO RETURN TO U.S.
Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who leaked thousands of secret documents that revealed widespread eavesdropping on civilians around the world, would be ready to return to the U.S. if guaranteed a “fair and impartial trial,” his lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told journalists in Moscow. “We, together with a group of lawyers from other countries, are working on the issue of his return to the U.S.,” news agency Tass quoted him as saying. Snowden has been a refugee in Russia since August 2013.
COFFEE CLEANS ARTERIES, STUDY SAYS
Coffee lovers rejoice. A study from South Korea suggests that drinking three to five cups of coffee a daymay reduce the risk of having clogged arteries, which are responsible for strokes and heart attacks. There’s been an ongoing debate about whether coffee is good for you, with concerns that it could raise heart disease risks.
ON THIS DAY
On March 3, 1938, oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia. Time for your 57-second shot of history.
FINLAND’S EUROVISION PICK
Finland has selected an unusual but inspiring band to represent the country in the Eurovision song contest. Meet PKN, a punk quartet whose members have Down syndrome and autism.
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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