Geopolitics

Russian PM In Crimea, Erdogan Threatens Enemies, Waiting For Beckett

Erdogan (second from left) celebrates victory with his ruling party in the local elections
Erdogan (second from left) celebrates victory with his ruling party in the local elections
Worldcrunch

RUSSIAN PRIME MINISTER VISITS CRIMEA
In the highest-level visit from Moscow since Crimea joined the Russian Federation, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev arrived in the region this morning, Ria Novosti reports. He announced that pensions and wages for public workers would be increased and that all residents would benefit from health insurance. Medvedev also explained that Crimea would become a “special economic zone” to attract more investors. Read more from RT.

  • This comes after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov failed to reach a deal on the Ukrainian crisis during a four-hour-long meeting in Paris, The New York Times reports. But the two leaders agreed that a political solution was the right way out and said they would continue to discuss it. Moscow believes, however, that Ukraine can no longer function as a “unified state” and should instead become a loose federation, The Guardian quotes Lavrov as saying. According to state broadcaster France Info, Lavrov will meet with his French counterpart Laurent Fabius today. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry told AFP that Russian troops have been ”gradually withdrawing” from the border over the past few days, with a senior military analyst saying that about 10,000 Russian soldiers were stationed there.

  • Presidential hopefuls had until midnight last night to declare their candidacies for the May 25 election. Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko announced Saturday that he would not run, instead opting to compete for the post of Kiev mayor. The former heavyweight boxing champion endorsed billionaire Petro Poroshenko, nicknamed “the Willy Wonka of Ukraine” and characterized by The New York Times as the candidate on whom “the hopes of many Ukrainians and their Western supporters are now riding.” Among the other candidates are Yulia Tymoshenko, and the leaders of far-right organizations Svoboda and Right Sector, Oleg Tyagnibok and Dmitry Yarosh.

ERDOGAN CLAIMS VICTORY IN TURKISH LOCAL ELECTIONS
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed victory for his AKP party in yesterday’s local elections, with preliminary results suggesting Erdogan’s remains the biggest party with almost 45% of the vote, Hurriyet reports. Dogan News Agency, however, published reports of alleged fraud in several polling stations. Erdogan’s victory comes despite the PM’s alleged involvement in an ongoing corruption scandal and last week’s leaked recording suggesting the government was preparing a “false-flag” operation in Syria, which led to the blocking of YouTube. Erdogan, who has blamed the leaks on “enemies,” said: "We will enter their lair. They will pay the price. They will be brought to account.”

MAJOR — AND GRIM — CLIMATE REPORT
A new United Nations report that is considered the most far-reaching study ever on climate change was released today in Japan, and it issued a series of dire warnings. The impacts of global warming are likely to be “severe, pervasive and irreversible,” the report warns.

TWO KOREAS EXCHANGE FIRE
South Korea returned fire after some 500 rounds of North Korea shells landed in disputed waters, Yonhap news agency reports. The live fire drill prompted Seoul to order the evacuation of the two islands located near the fire zone, in the Yellow Sea. According to Reuters, “the military exercise appeared to be yet more saber rattling from Pyongyang rather than a prelude to a sharp rise in tensions.”

PAKISTAN EX-PRESIDENT CHARGED WITH TREASON
Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has been charged with treason and could face the death penalty if found guilty, the BBC reports. The country’s ex-military ruler is accused of unlawfully suspending the constitution and imposing emergency rule in 2007. Last year, Musharraf was already charged with the murder of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

EHUD OLMERT CONVICTED OF CORRUPTION
Israel’s former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was found guilty of corruption in the two-year-long Holyland case, “one of the largest corruption scandals ever exposed in Israel,” Haaretz reports. He was accused of taking bribes when he was mayor of Jerusalem between 1993 and 2003, in exchange for facilitating the construction of the Holyland luxury complex. The owner of the residence, Hillel Cherney, was convicted of bribing town hall officials.

MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD

80
Eighty years after it was written, Samuel Beckett’s short short “Echo's Bones” will finally be available to readers.

FAREWELL
Jeremiah Denton, the Navy pilot and prisoner of war who confirmed U.S. suspicions of prisoner maltreatment by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War by blinking out the word T-O-R-T-U-R-E in Morse code, has died.

PERFECT BALANCE
A man in China holds the Guinness World Record for being able to balance eggs on a needle point. Watch how he does it with an ostrich egg here.

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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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