IN UKRAINE, MAYOR OF KHARKIV SHOT
The Mayor of Ukraine’s northeastern city of Kharkiv, Gennady Kernes, was shot in the back and admitted to a hospital where “doctors are fighting for his life,” The Kyiv Post reports. It is unclear who shot him, with the newspaper explaining that although Kernes was a supporter of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, he has since “flip-flopped under pressure from EuroMaidan activists and the new Kiev government in order to remain in office.” RT journalist Irina Galushko wrote on Twitter that Kernes had “enemies on both sides.” Yesterday, RT reported that “peaceful anti-government” demonstrators clashed with violent football fans in the city, leaving 14 injured.
This came after news that pro-Russian gunmen had seized the police headquarters and the town hall in the eastern town of Kostyantynivka after another group of unarmed protesters in Donetsk stormed the Regional State Broadcasting Company to complain of media bias. According to The Kyiv Post, the protesters were “non-violent” and an agreement was eventually reached, with the organization agreeing to “more voice to those who support a referendum to break away from Ukraine.”
U.S. President Barack Obama said that new sanctions against Russian individuals and companies would be announced later today, warning that “we don't yet know whether it’s going to work.” Meanwhile in Kiev, acting President Olexandr Turchynov signed a bill approved by Parliament earlier this month that declares Crimea an “occupied territory.”
683 SENTENCED TO DEATH IN EGYPT
An Egyptian court in Minya sentenced to death all 683 supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi who were on trial, including the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, after finding them guilty of murdering a police officer and attacking both police and public property, Al Jazeera reports. The court also upheld the death sentences of 37 of the 529 people convicted in March, while the others saw their sentences lowered to 25 years in prison. The death sentences must, however, be approved by Egypt’s Grand Mufti, the highest Islamic law official.
“If you don't have Internet order, how can you have Internet freedom?” China's Communist Party newspaper The People’s Daily wrote Monday, defending the government’s decision to pull four U.S. television shows from Chinese video sites. Read more here.
DEADLY TORNADOES SWEEP ACROSS MIDWEST
At least 17 people have died after several fierce tornadoes swept across the central and southern United States, leaving many buildings destroyed and tens of thousands without power. The states of Arkansas, where at least 16 have died, and Oklahoma were the worst hit, but the tornadoes also touched down in Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri. According to The Weather Channel, the outbreak of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes is expected to last through Wednesday. Speaking from the Philippines, President Barack Obama offered his deepest condolences to the victims and said federal emergency officials would work with local officials. “Your country will be there to help you recover and rebuild, as long as it takes,” AP reported him as saying.
As Tomasz Kwasniewski reports for Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, so-called “laughter yoga” is, well, a thing, and it’s giving people an important and healthy outlet in an increasingly complicated world. “Laughing oxygenates your body, it shifts your energy and opens you up,” the journalist quotes one enthusiast as saying. “But when they do, they are relieved.” Read the full article, Laughter Yoga, Seriously.
HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY
Israelis solemnly stand bowing their heads to remember Holocaust victims. A two-minute siren pierces the silence in the whole country, marking Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day.
VOLUNTEER WORKERS KILLED IN C.A.R.
At least 22 people, including three members of Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières), were killed in an attack carried out by Muslim Seleka rebels on Saturday in the Central African Republic, France 24 reports. According to a former local MP, the gunmen entered the MSF-run clinic looking for money and opened fire on local village chiefs, killing 15 of them. This comes as 1,200 Muslims were escorted by peacekeepers out of the capital city Bangui, where they had been trapped by Christian groups. The United Nations said earlier this year they believed that almost 1 million people — more than one-fifth of the country’s population — had fled their homes since the violence began in March 2013.
This is the number of demonstrations policed by Greek authorities in four years, since austerity measures were introduced by the government in May 2010.
ASSAD TO RUN FOR RE-ELECTION
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has officially declared his re-election candidacy for the planned June 3 election in Syria, AP reports. At least four others have already submitted their applications to run in the election, state-backed news agency Sana reported. The fights, however, continue on the battleground, with 28 civilians killed in rebel mortar strikes, including 24 in the northern city of Aleppo alone. In a scathing report, the BBC says it “witnessed the devastating effects of air bombardment on Syrian civilians after gaining rare access to rebel-held areas of Aleppo.” Meanwhile, The New York Timesexplains that although Syria missed yesterday’s revised deadline to rid the country of its chemical stockpile, it may be “only days away from finishing the job,” as the first U.S. war missiles have reached rebel fighters.
NIGERIAN ARMY CLOSING IN ON SCHOOLGIRLS’ ABDUCTORS
The Nigerian army said yesterday they were closing in on those who abducted 190 schoolgirls two weeks ago, newspaper Vanguard reports. This comes after reports that the families of the missing girls were losing hope of seeing their daughters again. Women all over Nigeria are expected to take to the streets on Wednesday in the capital Abuja to demand their release.
HOW TO EAT BACK AT RACISTS
Brazilian soccer star and FC Barcelona player Daniel Alves offered the perfect response to racist supporters who had thrown a banana at him during his team’s game against Villareal yesterday. See the video here expand=1].
MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD
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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