On the first part of this week’s podcast, show host Douglas Goldstein meets Rabbi Marvin Heir, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles and the Centers documentary film division, Moriah Films. Rabbi Hier explains why he founded the Center, the lessons that need to be learned from the Holocaust, and why it is important never to forget.
Posts Tagged ‘Simon Wiesenthal Center’
Seven staunchly pro-Israel organizations told the California Board of Regents at a hearing on Thursday, May 15, that its failure to stand up to the thuggery and blatant racism of the UCLA Students for Justice in Palestine against pro-Israel students was a failure of leadership and of morality.
What was so egregious that these pro-Israel organizations were protesting?
JUDICIAL BOARD INVESTIGATE STUDENT COUNCIL MEMBERS WHO WENT ON ISRAEL TRIPS
The UCLA-SJP introduced an initiative which calls for a Judicial Board investigation of student council members who have taken trips to Israel sponsored by groups which the SJP deems to have “political agendas that marginalize multiple communities on campus.” The groups on SJP’s hit list are the ADL (Anti-Defamation League), AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and Hasbara Fellowships.
As Dumisani Washington, the Pastor-leader of the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel, said in his remarks at the hearing Thursday morning, the SJP’s denunciation of pro-Israel groups for having a political agenda is not just hateful, it is hypocritical.
“One wonders exactly what SJP assumes itself to be, if not an organization with a ‘political agenda,’” Washington told the Regents.
STUDENTS MUST TAKE A PLEDGE NOT TO GO ON PRO-ISRAEL SPONSORED TRIPS TO ISRAEL
The second initiative promoted by the SJP to deprive pro-Israel students of a voice in campus discussions was its demand that candidates for student government positions sign a statement pledging that they will not go on any trip to Israel sponsored by the three Jewish organizations.
Washington boldly labeled SJP’s efforts reminiscent of the worst racism in American public life.
SJP’s wanton arrogance and blatant antisemitism in this manner is telling. I am beyond appalled. As an African-American, I could only imagine an anti-Black student group attempting to restrict my travel to Ghana or Senegal. Such gall is reminiscent of the grotesque persecution my people suffered earlier in America’s history, when the US government restricted everything from which schools we could attend to which public restrooms we could use.
The SJP, as everyone knows who closely follows the way the Middle East is discussed on U.S. Campuses, is the most aggressively anti-Israel of any of the many anti-Israel organizations on campuses. The SJP’s antics include the mock eviction notices, “die-ins,” and promotions of virulently anti-Israel speakers and events. In addition, the SJP, aided by lawyers happy to write intimidating letters to academic institutions, consistently claims that the behavior of its members is protected by free speech, whereas any criticism or objection to their activities is a violation of academic freedom and are constitutional violations.
Sadly, most school administrators and even some Jewish campus professionals are cowed by the lofty-sounding legalese. As a result, the views and sensibilities – and sometimes even the Constitutional rights – of pro-Israel students have been a casualty as administration after administration has caved to the outrageous positions and behaviors engaged in by SJP members.
BROOKLYN COLLEGE SJP THUGGERY
Perhaps the best example of SJP’s stranglehold over the better judgment people expect from university officials was a forum held at Brooklyn College last year. At that event, two promoters of the legal and economic warfare against Israel, the Boycott of, Divestment from and Sanctions against Israel movement, were given free rein at an unbalanced forum which was co-sponsored and co-endorsed by the College’s Political Science Department.
Four pro-Israel Brooklyn College students who came to ask questions were ejected from the event on the say-so of the SJP event organizer, someone who was not even a student and had no affiliation at all with Brooklyn College. The leader claimed the four students were disruptive and disrespectful, and college administration and security personnel did his bidding despite being in the room and knowing full-well, as later proven in audio recordings, that the pro-Israel students were sitting quietly when they were ejected.
Students at a school in California who were given an assignment to compare propaganda with actual evidence on the Holocaust have instead been told to abandon the project.
The order came following a firestorm of criticism and at least one death threat aimed at Southern California’s Rialto Unified School District, which assigned the homework.
According to a report published in The Daily Bulletin newspaper, the project was assigned in April to 2,000 13-and-14 year old eighth grade students, as follows:
“Shen tragic events occur in history, there is often debate about their actual existence. For example, some people claim the Holocaust is not an actual historical event, but instead is a propaganda tool that was used for political and monetary gain. Based upon your research on this issue, write an argumentative essay, utilizing cited textual evidence, in which you explain whether or not you believe the Holocaust was an actual event in history, or merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain. Remember to address counterclaims (rebuttals) to your stated claim. You are also required to use parenthetical (internal) citations and to provide a Works Cited page.”
It had first been reviewed by a committee of eighth grade teachers, and sent to middle school sites in February for comment prior to distribution to the students. No objections were raised at the time, according to the spokesperson.
But the district found itself under siege on Monday, with the switchboard lines ringing off the hook.
At least one person called police repeatedly threatening death to a district spokeswoman Syeda Jafri and the interim school superintendent Mohammad Z. Islam. The incident is under investigation.
But also among the critics was Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, who slammed the assignment as inappropriate.
Rabbi Cooper told FoxNews.com on Monday, “Whatever the motivation, it ends up elevating hate and history to the same level… We should train our kids to have critical thinking, but the problem here is the teacher confused teaching critical thinking with common sense, because common sense dictates you don’t comingle propaganda with common truth.”
The rabbi advised the district to instead assign students to research the issue of Holocaust denial and meet with local survivors of the Nazis.
The school district responded in a statement saying the interim superintendent will speak with its educational services department to “assure that any reference to the Holocaust ‘not occurring’ will be stricken from any current or future argumentative research assignments. The Holocaust is and should be taught in classrooms with sensitivity and profound consideration to the victims who endured the atrocities committed,” the statement continues. “We believe in the words of George Santayana, ‘Those who cannot learn from history are bound to repeat it.”
The Los Angeles office of the Anti-Defamation League said it was satisfied with the district’s actions by Monday. “It is ADL’s general position that an exercise asking students to question whether the Holocaust happened has no academic value; it only gives legitimacy to the hateful and anti-Semitic promoters of Holocaust denial,” Associate Regional Director Matthew Friedman was quoted as saying, after having spoken with the interim superintendent on Friday.
“ADL does not have any evidence that the assignment was given as part of a larger, insidious, agenda,” a blog post quoting Friedman continues. “Rather, the district seems to have given the assignment with an intent, although misguided, to meet Common Core standards relating to critical learning skills.”
In a number of European countries today — including Germany — Holocaust denial is a criminal offense for which one can be sentenced to prison. The Nazis exterminated six million Jews out of a total of some 11 million victims murdered between 1933 and 1945, in the Holocaust that took place prior to and during World War II. Some two-thirds of European Jewry was wiped out in the slaughter, which ended with the defeat of Nazi Germany by the U.S., UK and their Allies.
Many Jews reacted with horror when the news began to spread on Wednesday, April 15, that the Jews of a particular area in Ukraine are being required to register with local authorities.
Those requests were allegedly made in flyers distributed to Jews leaving shul on Passover. The flyers informed “Ukraine nationals of Jewish nationality” to report to a particular location in order to register their religion and to provide documentation of their ownership of any property. All Jews had to pay a registration fee or lose their citizenship and face deportation, according to the leaflet.
The leaflets were distributed in Donetsk, where pro-Russian militants have commandeered government buildings.
The Jewish Press covered the story, with appropriate notations that there was some uncertainty about the authenticity of the flyers, coupled with a dramatic increase in anti-Semitism in Ukraine in just the past few months.
The flyer – authentic or not – constitutes the 17th anti-Semitic incident to have taken place in Ukraine since the beginning of 2014. Most were violent attacks. Several were aimed at Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries and a few were life-threatening. Five took place in Kiev alone, according to statistics gleaned from the Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism(CFCA) website.
The story resulted in a huge outcry.
Secretary of State John Kerry called the demand for Ukranian Jews to register “intolerable” and “grotesque.”
Reporters at BuzzFeed pooh-poohed the story. One of the reporters, Max Seddon, tweeted a link to their article, “Signal and noise in Donetsk over nonexistent Jew registration scandal.”
But actually, the leaflets – which were written in Russian, marked with a Russian symbol and one of the Donetsk People’s Republic, and allegedly signed by Denis Pushilin, chairman of the Donetsk interim government, were distributed in Donetsk. And they were distributed to Ukranian Jews.
A Daily Beast reporter in Ukraine went to the office in the building in Donetsk designated in the leaflet at which Jews were told to register and pay their fee. She wrote that it was empty.
In a statement issued on Thursday, April 16, the Simon Wiesenthal Center wrote that Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. Ambassador in Kiev, told a senior SWC official that no one currently knows who created the “Jewish Registration Leaflets.”
Pyatt said the leaflets were “clearly part of a general effort to sow fear among Ukranian Jews.”
The SWC denounced “this grotesque action that is clearly designed to spread more fear among the Jewish community, already reeling from the increased instability that has racked the region for the past few months.”
Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper, the two most senior officials of the Wiesenthal Center, urged “authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of Jewish communal institutions.”
On September 28, 1941, notices were posted informing all of the Jews of Kiev that they were to appear the following day, with all of their belongings, to a particular location. The next day, September 29, tens of thousands of Jews showed up at the designated location. They were marched to the forest, to the ravine known as Babi Yar. All of those Jews were stripped of their belongings and their clothing, and then shot. By the following day, more than 34,000 Jews were murdered.
“Saudi Arabia cannot have it both ways,” Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center exclaimed, regarding the decision to exclude a Jewish American reporter for an Israeli paper from entering the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
As reported late yesterday, on Monday, March 24, Saudi Arabia denied a visa to the White House correspondent for the Jerusalem Post. That reporter, Michael A. Wilner, is not Israeli and he has never lived in Israel.
Initial reports about the incident hinted at, then later there was public confirmation, that the U.S. administration was “deeply disappointed” about the decision to exclude the Jewish American journalist.
According to the Jerusalem Post, the U.S. national security adviser and a special assistant to the president both made requests of the Saudi ambassador to the United States that Wilner be granted a visa; those requests were rebuffed.
But expressing “deep disappointment” does not begin to cover what the U.S. administration needs to do, according to Hier.
Rabbi Hier called on either President Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry to issue a public statement denouncing the discriminatory treatment of the Jewish American reporter, and explaining the consequences.
“I think the U.S. must say, bluntly, to the Saudis, ‘You can’t have it both ways, you cannot claim to be the source of an important Middle East peace initiative, the Saudi Peace Plan, and at the same time declare that your own country is Juden Verboten,’” Hier told The Jewish Press by telephone from Dubai.
“The leadership of this administration is certainly not reluctant to publicly call out the Israeli government on actions it takes with which the U.S. disagrees, such as constructing homes in Jerusalem,” Hier pointed out. “Of course this administration cannot quietly accept with mere “deep disappointment” when an American citizen is discriminated against because of his religion.”
“Saudi Arabia is effectively banning the entry into their country of 98 percent of all Jews. Other than Jewish haters of Israel – that’s why I’m saying 98 percent of all Jews – all Jews are connected to Israel, despite differences in politics and denominational affiliation.
“What Saudi Arabia is doing is pure anti-Semitism. The United States must not accept such a position. And it certainly cannot recognize that country as a source of a legitimate Middle East peace plan,” Hier explained.
Today’s report in the Jerusalem Post included a statement from U.S. National Security Council Spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan, “We are deeply disappointed that this credible journalist was denied a visa.”
“We will continue to register our serious concerns about this unfortunate decision,” was the extent of the promised future action by the U.S. government.
An alleged former medic at Auschwitz was arrested in Germany on accusations that he was an accessory to murder.
The name of the 93-year-old man was not released in accordance with German privacy laws. He is accused of serving as a medic at the concentration camp in September 1944. Eight transports arrived at Auschwitz during that time, and 1,721 people were murdered after being labeled unfit to work, according to Der Spiegel.
Stefan Urbanek, a spokesman for the state prosecutor in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, in northeast Germany, told reporters that the accused has not denied being at Auschwitz, but he “said that he had had no idea about the purpose of the camp” at the time.
Court doctors have determined that the man is well enough to stand trial and serve jail time.
World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder praised German authorities for making the arrest, noting that such prosecutions nearly 70 years after the liberation of Auschwitz “sends a clear message that justice must be done, no matter how late the hour. There cannot be a statute of limitation for crimes against humanity, and mass murderers must continue to live in fear of the long arm of the law.”
“Old age should not afford protection to those who helped run the largest mass murder operation in human history,” the Wiesenthal Center’s chief Nazi hunter, Israel director Efraim Zuroff, told JTA in an email.
Zuroff last fall renewed the Operation Last Chance campaign to find the last Nazi war criminals in Germany.
Clues leading to about 30 suspects last fall came from the Central Office for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes in Ludwigsburg, which made a major push to identify former death camp guards after the conviction of John Demjanjuk in 2011 for his role in the murders of nearly 30,000 Jews in the Sobibor death camp in Poland.
The Demjanjuk case set a precedent that serving as a guard at a death camp was sufficient to prove complicity in murder.
PLEASE SEE UPDATE AT END OF ARTICLE (GOOD NEWS)
Late last month the Norwegian branch of the YMCA, the Young Men’s Christian Association, aligned itself with the economic warfare movement known as the Boycott of, Divestment from and Sanctions against the only Jewish State, Israel. This salvo goes beyond the Peter Beinart version of BDS, and calls for an economic boycott of all goods and services from all of Israel, including the areas within the 1949 Armistice Line.
The Norwegian branch of the YMCA, which in Norwegian is abbreviated, “KFUK-KFUM,” is one of the largest and oldest youth groups in that country.
The KFUK-KFUM announced on its Facebook page that it “encourages broad economic boycott of goods and services from Israel and Israeli settlements to pressure the Israeli government to follow up on U.N. resolutions and end the illegal occupation of Palestine.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center responded to KFUK-KFUM’s boycott by dashing off a letter to the Secretary General of the Geneva-based World Alliance of YMCAs, urging the parent body to denounce the Norwegian branch’s action.
“This proposed boycott of the only democratic state in the Middle East is totally opposite of the principles expressed in the World Alliance of YMCA’s Mission Statement of “fostering dialogue and partnership between people of different faiths and ideologies and recognizing the cultural identities of people,” wrote the Weisenthal Center’s associate dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper.
Ironically, as the SWC noted, the boycott action targets all citizens of Israel, Jews, Christians and Muslims. Cooper pointed out that the activities endorsed by the BDS movement “don’t improve the life of a single Palestinian.” Instead, its “sole goal is to demonize and isolate the lone democracy in the Middle East, the Jewish State of Israel.”
Cooper’s letter called the Norwegian YMCA’s boycott action an “unjust, one-sided, anti-peace policy.”
“It is outrageous that any branch of a respected organization which prides itself on inclusion and tolerance would embrace the anti-Semitic poison of the radical anti-Israel BDS campaign,” he noted.
UPDATE MARCH 14, 2014: We received news from a European reader that the Oslo chapter of Norway’s YMCA – the largest chapter in the country – is not a part of the Norwegian YMCA boycott. This chapter stated on its website that it neither “stands behind or support the campaign,” and that it was “not informed of the campaign before it was launched.”