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From Berlin To Paris, Gaza Support Seethes With Anti-Semitism

Protests over the weekend in major European cities to support the people of Gaza were fertile ground for a growing movement of anti-Semitism.

July 19 clashes between anti-riot police and pro-Palestinian protesters in Paris.
July 19 clashes between anti-riot police and pro-Palestinian protesters in Paris.
Filipp Piatov

-OpEd-

For my birthday, my parents gave me a chain with a Star of David pendant. I wear it often and sometimes people ask me about it. But it’s only a pendant, like those that many people wear. It’s not a sign of belief in or total adherence to anything, just a little piece of identity.

But now that rockets are flying in Israel again, for many I’ve suddenly become an Israeli. And I got a chance to find out what that means at demonstrations in Frankfurt, Bremen and Paris recently.

"You Jews are animals," one participant at the Frankfurt protest had written on a placard. In the interests of decency, he had then half-heartedly tried to cross the words out and had written something less incendiary on the other side. But he didn’t actually have the decency to leave the sign at home.

Also at that demonstration, the flags of international terror organizations were waved, and there were cries of "Israel, child murderers." Pretty par for the course, unfortunately.

What was remarkable was that there were only a few dozen policemen for 2,500 demonstrators. The police were thus powerless when some young Islamists flew into a frenzy. To deescalate the situation, they allowed the demonstrators to use a police bus — and soon "Israel, child murderers" was blasting out of the megaphone.

It's not about free speech

Things got heated in Bremen too. A passerby was knocked down and, as he was severely injured, had to be brought to hospital. A newspaper editor was threatened and attacked. That demonstration, which ended on an aggressive note, was accompanied by a single patrol car. The demonstrators didn’t need police protection — but all the other people present did.

It’s absolutely fine to support the people of Gaza. It’s also okay to lay massive criticism on Israel. Freedom of speech and opinion takes precedence over objectivity. But when criticism of Israel turns into anti-Semitic heckling, that’s stepping over the line.

For Jews in Germany, the danger has long come not only from the right. Most Jews have never seen a Nazi. But Jewish schoolchildren get threatening anti-Zionist letters when Israel reacts to Hamas rockets. The most vocal supporters of Palestine have lost all sense of measure and are blaming everyone wearing a kippah or Star of David. That’s racism.

In Germany, every demonstration organized by the far-right National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) is somehow a cause for celebration. Opponents of all ages and political persuasion gather for a merry New Germany tolerance fest. And every time the Neo-Nazis, heavily protected by the police, disperse, the fight against nationalism and anti-Semitism is symbolically won anew. And yet it goes virtually unnoticed when anti-Semitic slogans and violence are delivered on a routine basis as a pretext of support for Gaza.

In Essen, the police took action before a scheduled protest even got underway. Fourteen people were arrested ostensibly because they were planning to attack the Old Synagogue. That has nothing to do with Israel and Gaza. What do predominantly Russian Jews in Germany have to do with what the Israeli government does? But that’s a moot point for the men who were arrested. A Jew is a Jew, whether in Israel or Essen.

The Berlin demonstrators certainly saw things that way when they stood in front of a synagogue chanting "Jude, Jude, feiges Schwein, komm heraus und kämpf allein!" (Jew, Jew, cowardly swine, come outside and fight alone). That the demonstrators themselves constituted a mob and were thus certainly not alone made no difference. The police stood calmly by and tolerated the anti-Semitic chants without batting an eyelash.

What happened on July 13 in Paris took things to a new dimension. What started out as a peaceful demonstration in support of Gaza ended with a group of young demonstrators headed toward a synagogue as 200 people were praying inside. Jewish security forces, volunteers and the police had their work cut out for them trying to keep the angry throng from entering the synagogue. A number of those who held the demonstrators back were hurt and had to be brought to hospital.

Situations like that are no longer unusual in France — and they have consequences. Increasing numbers of French Jews are emigrating to Israel; in 2013 the number rose some 60%.

The French problem

The French have recognized that in the shadow of the Gaza protests, offenses are being committed that are being seen as freedoms of speech and demonstration — and are not being picked up for what they are by the media. When a hundred people decide to storm a synagogue, they are riding roughshod over the achievements of Western democracies.

Demonstrations in support of Gaza over the weekend had been forbidden by police because the risk of violent outbreaks was judged to be too high, and President François Hollande spoke of not wishing to import the Middle East conflict to France. Demonstrators showed up anyway, with the protest quickly degenerating into clashes and the looting of stores in a largely Jewish neighborhood on the outskirts of Paris.

What about Germany? Angela Merkel has declared that protecting Israel’s safety is part of Germany’s very being, and German President Joachim Gauck called it a determining factor for German policy. Be that as it may, Germany’s first priority is to its own citizens — including the Jewish ones.

But when Israel’s safety is discussed as essential to Germany, while the safety of Jews in Germany is left up to a single patrol car, something is amiss in this country that is so proud of having learned its lessons from history.

Let’s be honest, wearing a kippah or carrying an Israeli flag, you’ll never be able to attend a pro-Palestinian demonstration and not be a target, as was evident last weekend in Berlin when a Jewish couple was attacked. In Gelsenkirchen, when "Jews to the Gas Chambers" is chanted and the police do nothing more than look on, the only safety measure for Jews in Germany is their own caution. Anyone who’s heard that kind of chanting in public will in the future think twice about wearing a kippah in public.

When in 2009 the Duisburg police stormed into an apartment during a demonstration to remove an Israeli flag and thus avoid an escalation of the demonstration, that sent a powerful message. Instead of showing a violent mob where the limits were, they limited the freedom of opinion of the person with the flag.

The incident in Duisburg sparked nationwide reactions, but it’s everyday stuff to Jews. In schools, universities and public places, Jews cannot thoughtlessly let themselves be identified as such. Is my Star of David pendant enough to provoke anti-Semites? Germany is not an anti-Semitic country but it does allow Jews — and those who are pro-Israel — to be de facto banned from public life.

When undercover reporter Günter Wallraff blows open German prejudice against blacks, or when a student wears a headscarf for a month for a report on RTL II television, the question inevitably poses itself: Why doesn’t somebody wrapped in an Israeli flag walk the streets of Berlin? Is that just a tad too risky for courageous reporters? Or doesn’t it fit the pattern of seeing anti-Semitism only in conjunction with Neo-Nazis?

You think that anti-Semitism is a disease of the past, adequately dealt with in history class? That hostility to Jews is still very widespread and indeed even quite open in other countries but not in Germany? Then attend the next pro-Gaza demonstration and head for the people yelling "Jews to the Gas Chamber."

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food / travel

The True Horrors Behind 7 Haunted Locations Around The World

With Halloween arriving, we have dug up the would-be ghosts of documented evil and bloodshed from the past.

Inside Poveglia Island's abandoned asylum

Laure Gautherin and Carl-Johan Karlsson

When Hallows Eve was first introduced as a Celtic festival some 2,000 years ago, bonfires and costumes were seen as a legitimate way to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. Today of course, with science and logic being real ghostbusters, spine-chilling tales of haunted forests, abandoned asylums and deserted graveyards have rather become a way to add some mystery and suspense to our lives.

And yet there are still spooky places around the world that have something more than legend attached to them. From Spain to Uzbekistan and Australia, these locations prove that haunting lore is sometimes rooted in very real, and often terrible events.

Shahr-e Gholghola, City of Screams - Afghanistan

photo of  ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola,

The ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola, the City of Screams, in Afghanistan

Dai He/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire


According to locals, ghosts from this ancient royal citadel located in the Valley of Bamyan, 150 miles northwest of Kabul, have been screaming for 800 years. You can hear them from miles away, at twilight, when they relive their massacre.

In the spring 1221, the fortress built by Buddhist Ghorids in the 6th century became the theater of the final battle between Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, last ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire, and the Mongol Horde led by Genghis Khan. It is said that Khan's beloved grandson, Mutakhan, had been killed on his mission to sack Bamyan. To avenge him, the Mongol leader went himself and ordered to kill every living creature in the city, children included.

The ruins today bear the name of Shahr-e Gholghola, meaning City of Screams or City of Sorrows. The archeological site, rich in Afghan history, is open to the public and though its remaining walls stay quiet during the day, locals say that the night brings the echoes of fear and agony. Others claim the place comes back to life eight centuries ago, and one can hear the bustle of the city and people calling each other.

Gettysburg, Civil War battlefield - U.S.

photo of rocks and trees in Gettysburg

View of the battlefields from Little Round Top, Gettysburg, PA, USA

Unsplash/@nemo23


Even ghosts non-believers agree there is something eerie about Gettysbury. The city in the state of Pennsylvania is now one of the most popular destinations in the U.S. for spirits and paranormal activities sight-seeing; and many visitors report they witness exactly what they came for: sounds of drums and gunshots, spooky encounters and camera malfunctions in one specific spot… just to name a few!

The Battle of Gettysburg, for which President Abraham Lincoln wrote his best known public address, is considered a turning point in the Civil War that led to the Union's victory. It lasted three days, from July 1st to July 3rd, 1863, but it accounts for the worst casualties of the entire conflict, with 23,000 on the Union side (3,100 men killed) and 28,000 for the Confederates (including 3,900 deaths). Thousands of soldiers were buried on the battlefield in mass graves - without proper rites, legend says - before being relocated to the National Military Park Cemetery for the Unionists.

Since then, legend has it, their restless souls wander, unaware the war has ended. You can find them everywhere, on the battlefield or in the town's preserved Inns and hotels turned into field hospitals back then.

Belchite, Civil War massacre - Spain

photo of sunset of old Belchite

Old Belchite, Spain

Belchite Town Council


Shy lost souls wandering and briefly appearing in front of visitors, unexplainable forces attracting some to specific places of the town, recorded noises of planes, gunshots and bombs, like forever echoes of a drama which left an open wound in Spanish history…

That wound, still unhealed, is the Spanish Civil War; and at its height in 1937, Belchite village, located in the Zaragoza Province in the northeast of Spain, represented a strategic objective of the Republican forces to take over the nearby capital city of Zaragoza.

Instead of being a simple step in their operation, it became the field of an intense battle opposing the loyalist army and that of General Francisco Franco's. Between August 24 and September 6, more than 5,000 people were killed, including half of Belchite's population. The town was left in rubble. As a way to illustrate the Republicans' violence, Franco decided to leave the old town in ruins and build a new Belchite nearby. All the survivors were relocated there, but they had to wait 15 years for it to be complete.

If nothing particular happens in new Belchite, home to around 1,500 residents, the remains of old Belchite offer their share of chilling ghost stories. Some visitors say they felt a presence, someone watching them, sudden change of temperatures and strange sounds. The ruins of the old village have been used as a film set for Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - with the crew reporting the apparition of two women dressed in period costumes - and Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. And in October 1986, members of the television program "Cuarta Dimensión" (the 4th dimension) spent a night in Belchite and came back with some spooky recordings of war sounds.

Gur Emir, a conquerer’s mausoleum - Uzbekistan

photo of Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) i

Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Chris Bradley/Design Pics via ZUMA Wire


The news echoed through the streets and bazaars of Samarkand: "The Russian expedition will open the tomb of Tamerlane the Great. It will be our curse!" It was June 1941, and a small team of Soviet researchers began excavations in the Gur-Emir mausoleum in southeastern Uzbekistan.

The aim was to prove that the remains in the tomb did in fact belong to Tamerlane — the infamous 14th-century conqueror and first ruler of the Timurid dynasty who some historians say massacred 1% of the world's population in 1360.

Still, on June 20, despite protests from local residents and Muslim clergy, Tamerlame's tomb was cracked open — marked with the inscription: "When I Rise From the Dead, The World Shall Tremble."

Only two days later, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, with the people of Samarkand linking it to the disturbing of Tamerlane's peace. Amid local protests, the excavation was immediately wrapped up and the remains of the Turkish/Mongol conqueror were sent to Moscow. The turning point in the war came with the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad — only a month after a superstitious Stalin ordered the return of Tamerlane's remains to Samarkand where the former emperor was re-buried with full honors.

Gamla Stan, a royal massacre - Sweden

a photo of The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

Unsplash/@hkblind


After Danish King Kristian II successfully invaded Sweden and was anointed King in November 1520, the new ruler called Swedish leaders to join for festivities at the royal palace in Stockholm. At dusk, after three days of wine, beer and spectacles, Danish soldiers carrying lanterns and torches entered the great hall and imprisoned the gathered nobles who were considered potential opponents of the Danish king. In the days that followed, 92 people were swiftly sentenced to death, and either hanged or beheaded on Stortorget, the main square in Gamla Stan (Old Town).

Until this day, the Stockholm Bloodbath is considered one of the most brutal events in Scandinavian history, and some people have reported visions of blood flowing across the cobblestoned square in early November. A little over a century later, a red house on the square was rebuilt as a monument for the executed — fitted with 92 white stones for each slain man. Legend has it that should one of the stones be removed, the ghost of the represented will rise from the dead and haunt the streets of Stockholm for all eternity.

Port Arthur, gruesome prison - Australia

a photo of ort Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Port Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Flickr/Eli Duke


During its 47-year history as a penal settlement, Port Arthur in southern Tasmania earned a reputation as one of the most notorious prisons in the British Empire. The institution — known for a brutal slavery system and punishment of the most hardened criminals sent from the motherland— claimed the lives of more than 1,000 inmates until its closure in 1877.

Since then, documented stories have spanned the paranormal gamut: poltergeist prisoners terrorizing visitors, weeping children roaming the port and tourists running into a weeping 'lady in blue' (apparently the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth). The museum even has an 'incidence form' ready for anyone wanting to report an otherworldly event.

Poveglia Island, plague victims - Italy

a photo of Poveglia Island, Italy

Poveglia Island, Italy

Mirco Toniolo/ROPI via ZUMA Press


Located off the coast of Venice and Lido, Poveglia sadly reunites all the classical elements of a horror movie: plagues, mass burial ground and mental institute (from the 1920's).

During the bubonic plague and other subsequent pandemics, the island served as a quarantine station for the sick and anyone showing any signs of what could be Black Death contamination. Some 160,000 victims are thought to have died there and the seven acres of land became a mass burial ground so full that it is said that human ash makes up more than 50% of Poveglia's soil.

In 1922 a retirement home for the elderly — used as a clandestine mental institution— opened on the island and with it a fair amount of rumors involving torture of patients. The hospital and consequently the whole island was closed in 1968, leaving all the dead trapped off-land.

Poveglia's terrifying past earned it the nickname of 'Island of Ghosts'. Despite being strictly off-limits to visitors, the site has been attracting paranormal activity hunters looking for the apparition of lost and angry souls. The island would be so evil that some locals say that when an evil person dies, he wakes up in Poveglia, another kind of hell.

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