Thursday, August 21, 2014
WASHINGTON’S FAILED HOSTAGE RESCUE
A secret operation involving “several dozen U.S. commandos” failed earlier this summer to rescue photojournalist James Foley and other American hostages held by Islamist terrorists in northern Syria, The Washington Post reports. An article in The New York Times, meanwhile, explains that the infamous ISIS jihadist group “pressed the United States to provide a multimillion-dollar ransom” for James Foley, which Washington refused to pay.
Britain has launched a hunt for the man who killed Foley with a knife on camera. The Daily Mail has characterized him as the “masked British butcher.” Authorities now believe that the jihadist killer is “the leader of a group of British fighters who have been holding foreign hostages in the Syrian city of Raqqa,” The Guardian writes.
It is believed that ISIS fighters have captured four more foreign citizens near the Syrian city of Aleppo, meaning they are now holding more than 20 hostages.
After yesterday’s call from President Barack Obama “to extract this cancer so it does not spread,” the U.S. Air Force hit 14 targets near the Mosul Dam in Iraq, destroying Humvees, trucks and explosives, Reuters reports.
Arriving in Missouri, where public anger over the Aug. 9 police killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown still rages, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told residents about his own skepticism of police. “I understand that mistrust. I am the attorney general of the United States. But I am also a black man.” Read more here.
UKRAINIAN ARMY GAINS, DOZENS DEAD
Even amid violent street battles with pro-Russian rebels, Ukrainian government forces are now in control of "significant parts" of the eastern city of Luhansk, a spokesman for the country’s National Security Council told reporters yesterday. Meanwhile, in the rebel-held city of Donetsk, residential neighborhoods are being hammered by heavy shelling, Reuters reports. At least 52 people were reported dead yesterday, most of them civilians, and the violence shows no sign of abating. On the border, the BBC reports that four trucks from the 280-strong Russian aid convoy have moved into the customs zone, but still need to be checked by Ukrainian border guards.
Around 5% of Japanese adults — 5.36 million people — are considered addicted to gambling and cannot resist the impulse to wager, a study released Wednesday shows.
It’s a good thing planned retaliatory Russian sanctions against the West won’t include wine, because as Kommersant reports, global wine makers are looking to the isolated giant for sales. “Wine imports from the West have been growing, particularly in Moscow, which accounts for 40% of the sales of expensive wine in the country,” journalist Aleksander Zotin writes. “The capital is where new tastes and a new wine culture are developing, and it is slowly spreading to the rest of the country.”
Read the full article, Why The Vodka Nation Is Ripe For Wine.
THREE HAMAS LEADERS KILLED
Three Hamas commanders were killed in early airstrikes from the Israeli air force in Gaza this morning, Ma’an news agency reports. According to Haaretz, close to 200 rockets have been fired from Gaza since the ceasefire collapsed on Tuesday. Israel, meanwhile, has hit more than 110 targets, killing at least 22 Palestinians, four of them in a Gaza cemeterywhere they were burying relatives.
The Ben-Gurion airport is Tel Aviv is operating as usual, despite threats by Hamas to fire rockets in the area. Read more from Arutz Sheva.
The UN Security Council called on both parties to resume negotiations for a “sustainable and lasting ceasefire,” urging Israel and Hamas to “prevent the situation from escalating.” But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that “Operation Protective Edge is not finished, not for a minute. We are talking about a continued campaign.”
Albert Reynolds, the former Irish prime minister who played a key role in advancing the Northern Ireland peace process, died yesterday after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. So too did B. K. S. Iyengar, the yoga icon who helped bring his practice to the West.
MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD
THAI ARMY CHIEF NAMED PM
Three months after a bloodless coup, Thailand’s military rule will continue. The country’s junta-chosen National Legislative Assembly voted unanimously to name Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha the new prime minister, The Nation reports. Critics see the move as one that “will only extend the General’s time at the helm and consolidate the military's grip on power,” AP reports. No elections are planned until October 2015. “The generals clearly do not plan to restore democracy,” a Human Rights Watch researcher told AFP.
The teenage girls clearly had a good time at British boy band One Direction’s recent Nashville gig, but the same can’t be said of their clearly sad dads.
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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