Swastika made of feces found at Rhode Island school

(JTA) — A swastika made with human feces was found in a dormitory bathroom at the Rhode Island School of Design.

The existence of the swastika was confirmed by the school on Thursday, but reportedly was discovered a week ago.  It was discovered in a gender-neutral bathroom, according to reports.

“This level of disrespect and vitriol is completely unacceptable and RISD Public Safety is investigating it as both an act of vandalism and a crime of hate,” a statement from the school said.

The incident is being investigated as an act of vandalism and a potential hate crime, Rhode Island Public Radio reported.

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J Street, JCPA launch conferences grappling with Jewish advocacy under Trump

J Street

WASHINGTON (JTA) — J Street, the liberal Middle East policy group, and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the public policy umbrella for Jewish community councils around the country, launched annual conferences in Washington that each focused on challenges to Jewish activism during the Trump administration.

J Street’s adversarial relationship to the new administration was explicit in its programming, while the JCPA was not so blunt, but agendas for both conferences, running Sunday through Tuesday, indicated a rough transition from the Obama administration, which was largely friendly to the aims of both groups.

Both conferences include sessions dedicated to advancing the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; President Donald Trump has said he is agnostic about the outcome, reversing 15 years of U.S. policy favoring two states as a final status arrangement.

The JCPA program focused on civil rights, particularly criminal justice reform. Panelists at sessions on Sunday morning spoke of their fears that the Trump administration would reverse Obama reforms, including greater oversight of community policing.

Panels at both conferences spotlighted Islamophobia, or hostility to Muslims, while J Street also had panels on refugees and JCPA on immigration rights. Trump has come under fire for his attacks on Muslims during his campaign and for banning entry to refugees and to travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries once he became president.

JCPA ran two separate sessions in sequence on Sunday on advocacy under Trump, one with figures in and out of the Jewish community who are among Trump’s sharpest critics and the next with figures, representing the Emergency Committee for Israel and the Republican Jewish Coalition, who support his agenda.

In addition to an array of Jewish groups that come under the JCPA umbrella, there were guest speakers at the conference representing groups that also are aligned against aspects of the Trump agenda, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Immigration Law Center and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

J Street made no bones about its oppositional agenda, with one training session entitled “Fighting for Our Future; Harnessing our Power in the Age of Trump.” On Saturday night, in a pre-conference event, J Street U, the group’s university affiliate, marched on the White House, for, it said on its Twitter feed, “peace, democracy & an end to rising Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.”

Speakers at J Street include some of the Trump administration’s most outspoken critics, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who lost last year’s Democratic primaries to Hillary Clinton; Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., Clinton’s vice presidential pick; Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the minority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives and top Obama administration Middle East officials. Also appearing are Israeli opposition and government figures; and Saeb Erekat, the top Palestinian Authority negotiator.

Jeremy Ben Ami, the J Street president, said Trump’s policies necessitated a broader agenda for the group, which had until recently focused more on Middle East issues, advocating for the Obama administration’s peace policies and the Iran nuclear deal. That advocacy often makes the group the target of criticism by larger Jewish organizations, who object to its frequent criticism of Israeli government policies.

“There are some really important fights ahead on foreign policy, on Israel, on the Iran deal, on Palestinians, on Israel at the United Nations,” Ben-Ami said Sunday at a briefing for reporters. “But there are also issues we haven’t related to as J Street, which we will, like refugees, immigration and Islamophobia.”

Yad Vashem calls on Amazon to stop selling books denying the Holocaust

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Yad Vashem Holocaust museum has called on online retailer Amazon to remove books that deny the Holocaust from its websites.

Dr. Robert Rozett, director of the Yad Vashem Libraries, last week sent an email to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, requesting that he immediately remove the books from the sites.

“It has been clear for many years now that Holocaust denial literature is freely available for purchase over Amazon. Many of the items appear with glowing readers’ reviews and recommendations for further reading in the same vein,” Rozett wrote in the letter, the Jerusalem Post first reported.

“Once again, given the presence of anti-Semitism around the globe, which has become more prevalent in recent years, we strongly urge you to remove books that deny, distort and trivialize the Holocaust from your store,” the letter said.

Amazon has removed books that deny the Holocaust from online stores in countries where Holocaust denial is illegal, but they remain available in the United States and the United Kingdom.

The British newspaper The Independent reported earlier this month that the books were removed in some countries, including Italy, France and Germany, after Amazon was contacted about the sale of such books by The Sunday Times of London.

Among the books still available on Amazon’s U.S. and U.K. online stores are “Did Six Million Really Die?” by Richard Harwood; “The Six Million: Fact or Fiction?,” and “The Myth of the Extermination of the Jews.”

CLEAR UPTICK IN US ANTISEMITISM SINCE ELECTION, SAYS ADL

 

The desecration of Jewish cemeteries in Philadelphia and the St. Louis area have prompted an outcry from Jewish groups nationwide: The problem of antisemitism in the United States appears to be rapidly worsening. They can see it and they can feel it.

And the rest of the country is beginning to sense it as well.

But who is measuring it? That would be the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which records hate crimes nationwide, and the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish nongovernmental organization that tracks and verifies antisemitic incidents on an annual basis.

Neither the FBI nor the ADL has yet issued a report for 2016, much less for the beginning of 2017, which has witnessed a slew of high-profile attacks and threats against Jews and their institutions.

But both can discern from their collection of reported incidents a clear increase in activity beyond what they have seen in recent memory.

“Regardless of what final numbers of antisemitic incidents will be, we’re definitely seeing an uptick in reporting – and that’s actually why it takes longer to go through this data and verify everything. It was happening before Election Day, but definitely since Election Day, we’ve seen an uptick,” said Oren Segal, director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism.

“We’ve never seen anything like this before,” he added.

The ADL was alarmed by a spike in antisemitic behavior on social media in 2016, facilitated by the anonymity that attackers enjoy on platforms like Twitter. The group issued a special report on the phenomenon late last year that found more than two-thirds of 19,253 antisemitic tweets targeting journalists during the presidential election campaign had been sent by roughly 1,600 Twitter accounts.

Now it is investigating over 70 bomb threats phoned in to Jewish community centers over the past two months – and into its own headquarters, prompting a brief evacuation last week.

The perpetrators of the bomb threats have not yet been identified, and law enforcement has been unable to confirm whether one individual is orchestrating the campaign or whether several people are involved.

“We’re looking at the impact of this, so who does it is important – we need to find out – but what the impact of this is on the communities is our primary concern,” Segal said.

The ADL has also received reports of approximately 90 different white supremacist flyers being distributed on college campuses, an unprecedented number.

“Alt-right groups have determined that now is their time to strike,” said Segal, referring to a political coalition of nativists and ethnic-nationalists who supported President Donald Trump’s political rise.

FBI and ADL reports from 2015 recorded an increase in antisemitic incidents from the prior year, which at the time was considered significant.

But that “relatively small” increase has now been dwarfed by recent developments, Segal said, making note of a decade-long decline in activity leading up to the recent spike.

“I don’t think we can draw a direct line from any one thing to say that’s why antisemitism seems to be up, except for perhaps one place: social media,” Segal said.

“The reality is,” he continued, “more people are likely to encounter a swastika on their [cell]phone than they are in their neighborhood.

And when you see the number of trolls engage online in this antisemitic narrative, our concern is that their Internet activities will mainstream these hateful messages and have real-world consequences.”

Jewish Federations of North America president and CEO Jerry Silverman has expressed deep concern over the issue.

Talking to The Jerusalem Post on the sidelines of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors winter meeting in Tel Aviv, Silverman said: “The level of hate crimes, both antisemitic and against other faiths, around the world scares me deeply.”

On the other hand, he said, the Jewish community has great confidence in law enforcement authorities, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, all of which he referred to as “great partners.” He also referenced training that has been conducted over the past few years in all community infrastructures.

“We’ve increased the capacity and capability of our security network over last three years because the wave was building and we saw what was happening,” Silverman asserted.

With clear methods and protocols in place, he said, “it’s business as usual” within a very short space of time following an incident.

“A phone call creates an environment of terrorism that is designed to change behavior,” said Michael Siegal, former chairman of the Jewish Federations of North America Board of Trustees and a member of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors.

“The good news is that the calls have not manifested themselves into anything serious, even though the call in and of itself is serious,” said Siegal, who also serves as head of the Secure Community Network, a project of the JFNA and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

“When you have to evacuate a JCC and see children standing outside, as a parent, you wonder whether or not I should continue to send kids to those environments,” he reflected. “But we don’t know if it’s one person or an organization, and until we work with the government to discover who is doing these particular calls, the pattern is that it’s probably one person or organization – very sophisticated – but not a groundswell of lots of people doing something.”

Indeed, Siegal’s successor on the board of the JFNA, Richard V. Sandler, pointed to a recent Pew Research Center study that found Jews as a religious group received the warmest ratings among Americans.

“I don’t believe myself that as a result of whatever happened over the last year that there are a greater number of antisemites in the country,” Sandler said.

“Antisemitism is a problem; always is. I think more have felt the freedom to raise their ugly heads, but hopefully that will subside.”

Silverman, too, sees light in the darkness, highlighting the thousands of dollars donated by Muslim charities to renovate the vandalized St. Louis cemetery and the fact that Vice President Mike Pence made time in his schedule to help clean up the damage. He added that he himself had received phone calls from the largest nonprofits in America offering their help.

“We don’t know enough information at this point, frankly, for this in any way to change our culture or our attitudes,” he said. “What it does is make us more alert and smarter in how to deal with it, and it allows us as communities to come together – and that’s a good thing.”

JEWISH CEMETERY IN PHILADELPHIA DESECRATED

 

http://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/Jewish-cemetery-in-Philadelphia-desecrated-482654

 

A Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia was found desecrated on Sunday with dozens of tombstones found overturned.

Mt. Carmel Cemetery was the second Jewish funerary grounds targeted within a single week, after a cemetery near St. Louis suffered similar vandalism the previous weekend. US Vice President Mike Pence visited that site this week and vowed to fight the scourge of antisemitism with the weight of the White House.

 

An ABC affiliate reporter in Philadelphia described dozens of headstones pushed over, if not more than a hundred.

Toppling Jewish tombstones is a storied antisemitic attack, raising few doubts within the community over the motives behind the vandalism.

The Anti-Defamation League and federal and local agencies have warned of a historic spike in antisemitic incidents over the past year, and especially since the elections in November.

New Jersey resident Aaron Mallin discovered the damage at the Mt. Carmel Cemetery while visiting his father’s grave, Philadelphia news outlet 6ABC reported.

“It’s just very disheartening that such a thing would take place,” Mallin was quoted as saying. “I’m hoping it was maybe just some drunk kids.

But the fact that there’s so many it leads one to think it could have been targeted.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emanuel Nahshon condemned the attack. “Philadelphia Jewish cemetery desecration is shocking and a source of worry. Full confidence #US authorities catch and punish culprits,” Nahshon tweeted.

The World Jewish Congress tweeted: “It’s just very heartbreaking.”

On Saturday, swastikas and vulgar graffiti were discovered in Orchard Park, New York, near Buffalo. The Buffalo News said a dozen residents found their vehicles and property defaced with spray-painted swastikas and vulgar graffiti. The vandals also wrote racial slurs and Nazi symbols on playground equipment at South Davis Elementary School.

DOES TRUMP ERA MARK NEW DAY FOR ISRAEL-US RELATIONS?

 

http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Does-Trump-era-mark-new-day-for-Israel-US-relations-482648

 

US President Donald Trump’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is a welcome breath of fresh air, according to Dr. Einat Wilf, a former Labor MK who addressed the issue at a Jewish Agency- hosted panel in Tel Aviv on Sunday.

At a session about Israel-US relations in the Trump era, Wilf opined that the “supposedly careless” element of the president’s attitude toward a one- or two-state solution is “not only refreshing, but it is what we really need.

 

“If people are truly willing to leave us alone to find what we can agree on, it will be one of the greatest contributions to making peace,” she asserted, stating that external players don’t truly understand the roots of the conflict.

“If Trump might lead a noninterventionist approach, I think it would make a tremendous contribution to the ability of both sides to agree,” she said.

The panel took place on the first day of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors winter meetings, held at the Hilton Hotel in Tel Aviv.

Wilf sat alongside Michael Herzog, a retired IDF brigadier-general and former senior defense official; Richard V. Sandler, chairman of the Jewish Federations of North America’s board of trustees; and former Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold. The panel was moderated by journalist Tal Schneider.

Herzog said he “doesn’t buy” the one-state solution.

“To me, a one-state solution is a contradiction in terms,” he said.

“It’s a recipe for a never-ending war…. It’s Belfast, Kosovo, Serbia all over again, and the end of the Zionist idea.”

Gold said that discussions about states “leave out the critical issue of borders,” adding that in any arrangement, Israel must never leave the Jordan valley, retaining it as its front line of defense.

“Israel must maintain some settlement blocs,” he added.

The regional approach referred to during Trump’s press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this month was another aspect the panelists focused on.

Noting the development of relations between Israel and Arab countries over the past few years, Herzog said that “rather than going back to the old paradigm of bilateral negotiations, which lead nowhere, let’s make use of relations with the Arabs and open more space” to enable engagement between Israelis and Palestinians.

Following the discussion from the front row, Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky noted that the Israeli panelists all seemed optimistic about the future, in contrast with the American Jews he converses with.

To this, Sandler responded that just as American Jewry doesn’t understand the daily realities of Israelis, the same is true vice versa.

“We have to make it a better bridge,” he said. “US Jewry wants to see peace in the Middle East – we all agree on that. But how to get there is the problem.”

He added that there was optimism among those who have knowledge about the new administration and its relationship with Israel, and pointed to US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley’s scathing criticism of the Security Council’s anti-Israel bias.

“There is no question that relationships mean a lot to Trump and he clearly has good chemistry with Netanyahu, and I wouldn’t underestimate that,” Sandler said.

Jerusalem Post: A Bulgarian Love Affair with Israel

Bulgaria: Jerusalem Post: A Bulgarian Love Affair with Israel Bulgarian President (2012-2017) Rosen Plevneliev. File photo, BGNES

A politician who “wans to look to the future… has to come to Israel, not once, but many times,” Bulgarian President (2012-2017) Rosen Plevneliev has told the Jerusalem Post.

In an interview with the paper, which publishes a story about his live for Israel, he says:

Israel is a very special country in my heart. We feel very strongly attached to Israel. We share the same destiny.”

The Jerusalem Post recalls Plevneliev was given the Friends of Zion Award in Jerusalem this week.

The Jerusalem Post, whose story is available here, wrongly states Plevenliev left office “after losing reelection to Rumen Radev.”

Last spring, the previous head of state made an address in which he made clear he was not running for a second term.

Plevneliev is among the handful of world leaders who have received the award, including Pope Francis, George W Bush, and Prince Albert of Monaco.

The ceremony was aired on a billboard at New York’s Times Square.

– See more at: http://www.novinite.com/articles/179036/Jerusalem+Post%3A+A+Bulgarian+Love+Affair+with+Israel#sthash.RvfmHrHU.dpuf

At Las Vegas confab, Republican Jews find reasons to like Trump

LAS VEGAS (JTA) — Republican Jews have President Donald Trump to thank for their party’s renewed dominance of Washington politics. So what do they think of him?

Marlyn Appelbaum paused to contemplate the question at the opening of the Republican Jewish Coalition’s confab at the Venetian resort hotel in Las Vegas Friday evening. Then, she avoided mentioning the president.

“My biggest thing is pro-Israel,” said Appelbaum, the head of a teacher training institute in Sugar Land, Texas. “I was real upset at the last eight years. I think things for Israel are going to turn around.”

Her answer captured the vibe at the RJC’s annual two-day Leadership Meeting. Amid giddy celebration of the end of the Obama years and the advent of a new Republican administration, RJC officials and members seemed to make an effort to get excited about Trump, with whom their group has a fraught history.

Vice President Mike Pence, center, takes the stage with his wife Karen Pence, right, after they were introduced by former Vice President Dick Cheney, left, at the Republican Jewish Coalition annual leadership meeting, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

By contrast, US Vice President Mike Pence, one of the pro-Israel community’s closest friends, was greeted effusively at the event, where he addressed the crowd.

Michael Epstein, an RJC board member emceeing Friday’s dinner, delivered a dreams-come-true welcoming speech: “For the first time in RJC history we have a sitting Republican vice president sitting with us for our Shabbat dinner!” Epstein announced after Pence’s speech. The crowd erupted in applause.

“And a Republican president who is going to make our country great again!” Epstein added. Only a couple tables in the corner clapped.

Still, “Make America Great Again” kippahs dotted the Venetian’s byways, and Elliot Lauer, a board member perhaps best known as Jonathan Pollard’s lawyer, delivered a dvar Torah Friday evening in which he likened Trump’s victory to the triumph of the Jews in ancient Persia celebrated on Purim.

Asked about Trump, RJC members clad in bespoke suits and flowing gowns highlighted his political effectiveness.

“He did say things that were offensive,” said Robert Lewit, a retired psychiatrist from Florida who in the Republican primaries supported Marco Rubio, his state’s US senator. But “he’s innately a brilliant politician, making immigration an issue, advocating for a US economic revival.”

Though unimpressed by Trump’s star turn on “The Apprentice” reality show, Lewit’s wife, Jane, said, “No one saw what he saw: the forgotten man,” a reference to Trump’s appeal to working and middle class Americans. “In any case, it’s better than what was. I happen to have had a total antipathy for our last president, and everything he stood for.”

It has been a rocky road for the RJC and Trump. At the group’s presidential candidates’ forum in December 2015, Trump mocked the wealthy Jewish donors by saying he too was rich and so immune to their purchasing power. He also said he would be “neutral” on brokering Israeli-Palestinian peace and refused to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

In this Dec. 3, 2015, photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Then there were Trump’s affronts to minorities, like Muslims and Hispanics, which did not sit well with a Republican constituency that has in recent years spearheaded calls for the party to be more inclusive. And when Trump appeared last spring hesitant to disavow his burgeoning support from the “alt-right,” a loose grouping of anti-establishment conservatives that includes within its ranks unabashed anti-Semites, the RJC went dark.

The group hardly issued statements mentioning Trump. None of its events at the Republican National Convention in July were open to the press — in contrast with the group’s high profile in past years. Its get-out-the-vote drive barely mentioned Trump and focused on vulnerable GOP senators in states with large Jewish communities. And even its inauguration party last month was closed to the media.

US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during a joint press conference at the White House in Washington, DC on February 15, 2017. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

Now, the RJC is trying hard to get behind the president. Trump’s pivot from his “neutrality” on Israel in 2015 to an eager embrace earlier this month of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – and his policies on the Palestinians and Iran — have helped the RJC belatedly come around.

“There was not a consensus [on the RJC board],” said Elliott Broidy, a venture capitalist who was among about a dozen of the 50 or so board members who backed Trump prior to his nomination. “Even when he was our presumptive nominee. Over time, people became more supportive. Now that he’s president, there’s deeper support on the board.”

Fred Zeidman, another board member who is close to former President George W. Bush and could never quite bring himself to endorse Trump during the presidential campaign, said it was incumbent on all Republicans to make sure government works now that the GOP is in control of all its levers.

“I have a vested interest in making this White House a success,” said the Houston-area businessman.

Asked by journalists Friday about Trump’s most recent Jewish controversies — including the White House’s omission of reference to the Jews in a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was widely criticized by Jewish groups, including the RJC — the group’s director Matt Brooks talked about Israel.

Matt Brooks, director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. (Screen capture: YouTube)

“There’s a professional complaining class in the Jewish community that will criticize and attack Donald Trump no matter what he says,” Brooks said. “People who genuinely have an open mind, individuals and organizations, see he is following through on commitments he made on campaign, he is repositioning in a positive way the US-Israel relationship.”

Brooks also pointed to the vice president. “He’s a terrific partner to President Trump, you have a terrific team with the both of them.”

In his speech, Pence too vouched for Trump’s pro-Israel bone fides. “If the world knows nothing else, it will know this: America stands with Israel,” he said.

“We told the ayatollahs of Iran they should check the calendar, there’s a new president in the Oval Office. President Trump will never allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, this is my solemn promise to you.”

Pence also described his recent visit to the Dachau concentration camp in Germany, where a Holocaust survivor gave him a tour. The crowd was clearly moved.

In one ballroom of the Venetian, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-California), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee who has defended the Trump White House from allegations it is covering up Russian interference in the elections, pleaded with RJC members to have the president’s back, according to people who were present. Boris Epshteyn, a top White House aide who is emblematic of an emerging vocal minority among Republican Jews who have adopted the alt-right’s confrontational style, made a similar pitch in another ballroom.

Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate who owns the Venetian and who contributed tens of millions to the effort to elect Trump, had a private meeting with Pence prior to his speech. At Trump’s inauguration, Adelson and his wife, Miriam, were accorded a rare honor to political donors, appearing on the capitol’s dais for the swearing-in.

Despite his access, Sheldon Adelson’s hoped-for administration officials have been waylaid: Former US House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich, former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Elliott Abrams, a mandarin in the Reagan and the George W. Bush administrations, are all on the outside looking in.

Casino magnate Sheldon G. Adelson in attendance at the 4th Annual Champions Of Jewish Values International Awards Gala at Marriott Marquis Times Square on May 5, 2016 in New York City. (Steve Mack/Getty Images via JTA)

Seen as responsible for freezing them out is Chief White House Strategist Steve Bannon, a hero of the alt-right and the bane of neoconservatism, an interventionist outlook that many Republican Jews still support.

But RJC members were able to hold up their Jewish representatives in government, however few. Rep. David Kustoff, the freshman from Tennessee, joked, in an easy drawl, that “Jewish Republicans in the House grew by 100 percent,” with him joining Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-New York.

Eric Greitens, the steel-jawed Missouri governor, described how he rallied a diverse community this week to help clean up a vandalized St. Louis area Jewish graveyard, an effort joined at the last minute, by none other than the vice president. Pence called out inspiration over a bullhorn. Pence stood on the back of a pick-up truck. Pence wielded a rake.

Anita Feigenbaum, executive director at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery speaks to the crowd on February 22, 2017 in University City, Missouri. Governor Eric Greitens (R) and US Vice President Mike Pence (L) were on hand to speak to over 300 volunteers who helped cleanup after the recent vandalism. (Michael Thomas/Getty Images/AFP Photo)

Greitens, having depicted a sweaty, intense Pence, getting down and dirty for the Jews, finally got around to Trump.

“The president had called me earlier that day,” Greitens said. “He said, tell the people of Missouri that we stand with them in the fight against anti-Semitism.”

EU lawmakers vote to pull the plug on racist talk

BRUSSELS (AP) — With the specter of populism looming over a critical election year in Europe, the European Parliament has taken an unusual step to crack down on racism and hate speech in its own house.

In an unprecedented move, lawmakers have granted special powers to the president to pull the plug on live broadcasts of parliamentary debate in cases of racist speech or acts and the ability to purge any offending video or audio material from the system.

Trouble is, the rules on what is considered offensive are none too clear. Some are concerned about manipulation. Others are crying censorship.

“This undermines the reliability of the Parliament’s archives at a moment where the suspicion of ‘fake news’ and manipulation threatens the credibility of the media and the politicians,” said Tom Weingaertner, president of the Brussels-based International Press Association.

After Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, the rising popularity of anti-immigrant candidates like Geert Wilders in the Netherlands or far-right Marine Le Pen in France is worrying Europe’s political mainstream. Le Pen, who is running for the French presidency this spring, has promised to follow Britain’s lead.

At the European Parliament, where elections are due in 2019, many say the need for action against hate speech, and strong sanctions for offenders, is long overdue.

In this June 16, 2015, file photo, French far right leader of the Front National, Marine Le Pen, center, poses with other members of the far right after a media conference at the European Parliament in Brussels. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)

The assembly — with its two seats; one in the Belgian capital of Brussels, and the other in Strasbourg in northeast France — is often the stage for political and sometimes nationalist theater. Beyond routine shouting matches, members occasionally wear T-shirts splashed with slogans or unfurl banners. Flags adorn some lawmakers’ desks.

Yet more and more in recent years, lawmakers have gone too far.

“There have been a growing number of cases of politicians saying things that are beyond the pale of normal parliamentary discussion and debate,” said British EU parliamentarian Richard Corbett, who chaperoned the new rule through the assembly.

“What if this became not isolated incidents, but specific, where people could say: ‘Hey, this is a fantastic platform. It’s broad, it’s live-streamed. It can be recorded and repeated. Let’s use it for something more vociferous, more spectacular,’” he told The Associated Press.

In a nutshell, rule 165 of the parliament’s rules of procedure allows the chair of debates to halt the live broadcast “in the case of defamatory, racist or xenophobic language or behavior by a member.” The maximum fine for offenders would be around 9,000 euros ($9,500).

Under the rule, not made public by the assembly but first reported by Spain’s La Vanguardia newspaper, offending material could be “deleted from the audiovisual record of proceedings,” meaning citizens would never know it happened unless reporters were in the room. Weingaertner said the IPA was never consulted on that.

A technical note seen by the AP outlines a procedure for manually cutting off the video feed, stopping transmission on in-house TV monitors and breaking the satellite link to halt broadcast to the outside world. A videotape in four languages would be kept running to serve as a legal record during the blackout. A more effective and permanent system was being sought.

It is also technically possible to introduce a safe-guard time delay so broadcasts appear a few seconds later. This means they could be interrupted before offending material is aired.

But the system is unwieldy. Lawmakers have the right to speak in any of the European Union’s 24 official languages. An offending act could well be over before the assembly’s President Antonio Tajani even has a chance to hit the kill switch. Misunderstandings and even abuses could crop up.

During a debate in December, Gerolf Annemans, from Belgium’s Flemish independence party Vlaams Belang, expressed concern that the rule “can be abused by those who have hysterical reactions to things that they qualify as racist, xenophobic, when people are just expressing politically incorrect views.”

Even those involved in the move acknowledge that it’s a sensitive issue.

Helmut Scholz, from Germany’s left-wing Die Linke party, said EU lawmakers are elected — indeed the EU parliament is the bloc’s only popularly elected institution — and must be able to express their views about how Europe should work.

“You can’t limit or deny this right,” he said.

He worries about fake news too, but of the kind made from selective extracts of debates.

“If you are following the whole debate that is one thing, but if you have certain media who are taking out individual sentences you could falsify the whole issue,” he said.

Still, Nazi rallying cries and racist obscenities are relatively rare but not unheard of.

“We need an instrument against that, to take it out of the record, to stop distribution of such slogans, such ideas,” Scholz said.

ADL offers $10,000 for help finding Philadelphia cemetery vandals

A prominent Jewish group is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the vandals who desecrated a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia on Sunday.

“We are horrified by the desecration at Mount Carmel Cemetery,” the Anti-Defamation League’s Philadelphia regional director Nancy K. Baron-Baer said in a statement Monday.

“This act is cowardly and unconscionable, and is all the more despicable coming on the heels of a similar vandalism at another Jewish cemetery in St. Louis last week. We urge anyone with information on this crime to report it immediately to the Philadelphia Police Department at 215-686-TIPS.”

Police said that the incident at the city’s Mount Carmel Cemetery was an act of vandalism and have opened an investigation, according to a local ABC affiliate.

Police did not say whether they were treating the case as a possible hate crime.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon condemned the incident, writing on Twitter that the “Philadelphia Jewish cemetery desecration is shocking and a source of worry. Full confidence US authorities catch and punish culprits.”

Jewish cemetery desecration is shocking and a source of worry . Full confidence authorities catch and punish culprits .

The discovery of the vandalized Jewish headstones in Philadelphia Sunday follows a similar incident last week in which over 150 graves were damaged at a Jewish cemetery near St. Louis.

In the ADL statement, Baron-Baer said, “We stand with the Jewish community and all decent Philadelphians in condemning this crime, and we are inspired by the outpouring of support from law enforcement, community leaders and neighbors. We all must band together in the face of senseless crimes like the vandalism at Mount Carmel Cemetery.”

New Jersey resident Aaron Mallin, who made the discovery when visiting his father’s grave, told the local TV station he hoped it was not an anti-Semitic attack.

“I’m hoping it was maybe just some drunk kids. But the fact that there’s so many it leads one to think it could have been targeted,” Mallin said.

The vandalism at the Jewish graveyard in Missouri was decried by leading American Jewish groups, who called on the US authorities to take action in response to a perceived recent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the US. It was also followed by US President Donald Trump’s first explicit condemnation over the trend.

On Wednesday, US Vice President Mike Pence visited the Chesed Shel Emeth Society cemetery outside of St. Louis where the incident took place, joining Missouri’s Jewish Governor Eric Greitens and other volunteers in an interfaith service and cleanup effort.

US Vice President Mike Pence visits a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis following an act of vandalism at the site. (YouTube screenshot)

In addition to the vandalism at the Jewish cemeteries, there were also instances of anti-Semitic vandalism at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and in a suburb of Buffalo, New York, over the past week.

At Drake University, an anti-Semitic slur was discovered carved into a chair in a university lecture hall. The university is investigating the incident as a hate crime.

“Let me be clear that we will not tolerate acts of oppression and hate, and will do everything in our power to deal with this,” University Provost Dr. Sue Mattison said in an email sent to students.

In the suburb of Orchard Park outside of Buffalo, about one dozen swastikas and racial slurs were drawn on cars and a building.

A nearby elementary school playground and railway overpasses were similarly vandalized.

The spray-painted swastikas and slurs were discovered on Saturday morning and were believed to have been painted late on Friday night, according to reports.

At least 11 cars and an apartment building in the Village of Orchard Park near Buffalo were vandalized with the spray-painted swastikas and slurs, according to local reports. The reports began coming in to police at 3 a.m. on Saturday and continued throughout the morning.

Public and private surveillance camera footage is being checked to find the perpetrators, according to village police. Investigators believe more than one person could be involved, according to the reports.