Sessions met with Russian envoy twice last year, encounters he later did not disclose

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/sessions-spoke-twice-with-russian-ambassador-during-trumps-presidential-campaign-justice-officials-say/2017/03/01/77205eda-feac-11e6-99b4-9e613afeb09f_story.html?utm_term=.78b9306c2a85

 

Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Justice Department officials said, encounters he did not disclose when asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of Moscow during Sessions’s confirmation hearing to become attorney general.

One of the meetings was a private conversation between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.

The previously undisclosed discussions could fuel new congressional calls for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russia’s alleged role in the 2016 presidential election. As attorney general, Sessions oversees the Justice Department and the FBI, which have been leading investigations into Russian meddling and any links to Trump’s associates. He has so far resisted calls to recuse himself.

When Sessions spoke with Kislyak in July and September, the senator was a senior member of the influential Armed Services Committee as well as one of Trump’s top foreign policy advisers. Sessions played a prominent role supporting Trump on the stump after formally joining the campaign in February 2016.

Sessions spoke twice with Russian ambassador during Trump’s presidential campaign

Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke twice in 2016 with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, but did not mention this during his confirmation hearing to become U.S. attorney general. Sessions was asked about possible contacts between President Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. (Victoria Walker/The Washington Post)

At his Jan. 10 Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Sessions was asked by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) what he would do if he learned of any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of the 2016 campaign.

“I’m not aware of any of those activities,” he responded. He added: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”

Officials said Sessions did not consider the conversations relevant to the lawmakers’ questions and did not remember in detail what he discussed with Kislyak.

“There was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer,” said Sarah Isgur Flores, Sessions’s spokeswoman.

In January, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) asked Sessions for answers to written questions. “Several of the President-elect’s nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?” Leahy wrote.

Sessions ‘unable to comment’ on Trump intelligence briefing reports

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) questioned attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) about news that intelligence officials briefed President-elect Trump on unconfirmed reports that Russia has compromising information on Trump. (Senate Judiciary Committee)

Sessions responded with one word: “No.”

In a statement issued Wednesday night, Session said he “never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”

Justice officials said Sessions met with Kislyak on Sept. 8 in his capacity as a member of the armed services panel rather than in his role as a Trump campaign surrogate.

“He was asked during the hearing about communications between Russia and the Trump campaign — not about meetings he took as a senator and a member of the Armed Services Committee,” Flores said.

She added that Sessions last year had more than 25 conversations with foreign ambassadors as a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, including the British, Korean, Japanese, Polish, Indian, Chinese, Canadian, Australian and German ambassadors, in addition to Kislyak.

In the case of the September meeting, one department official who came to the defense of the attorney general said, “There’s just not strong recollection of what was said.”

The Russian ambassador did not respond to requests for comment about his contacts with Sessions.

The Washington Post contacted all 26 members of the 2016 Senate Armed Services Committee to see whether any lawmakers besides Sessions met with Kislyak in 2016. Of the 20 lawmakers who responded, every senator, including Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), said they did not meet with the Russian ambassador last year. The other lawmakers on the panel did not respond as of Wednesday evening.

“Members of the committee have not been beating a path to Kislyak’s door,” a senior Senate Armed Services Committee staffer said, citing tensions in relations with Moscow. Besides Sessions, the staffer added, “There haven’t been a ton of members who are looking to meet with Kislyak for their committee duties.”

Last month, The Post reported that Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn had discussed U.S. sanctions with Kislyak during the month before Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Mike Pence, the vice president-elect, and other top Trump officials. Flynn was forced to resign the following week.

When asked to comment on Sessions’s contacts with Kislyak, Franken said in a statement to The Post on Wednesday: “If it’s true that Attorney General Sessions met with the Russian ambassador in the midst of the campaign, then I am very troubled that his response to my questioning during his confirmation hearing was, at best, misleading.”

Franken added: “It is now clearer than ever that the attorney general cannot, in good faith, oversee an investigation at the Department of Justice and the FBI of the Trump-Russia connection, and he must recuse himself immediately.”

Several Democratic members of the House on Wednesday night called on Sessions to resign from his post.

“After lying under oath to Congress about his own communications with the Russians, the Attorney General must resign,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement, adding that “Sessions is not fit to serve as the top law enforcement officer of our country.”

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on Twitter late Wednesday that “we need a special counsel to investigate Trump associates’ ties to Russia.”

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said at a CNN town hall Wednesday night that if the substance of Sessions’s conversations with the Russian ambassador proved to be improper or suspect, he too would join the call for Sessions to go.

“If there is something there and it goes up the chain of investigation, it is clear to me that Jeff Sessions, who is my dear friend, cannot make that decision about Trump,” Graham said – although he stressed he Sessions’s contacts with the Russian ambassador could have been “innocent.”

“But if there’s something there that the FBI thinks is criminal in nature, then for sure you need a special prosecutor. If that day ever comes, I’ll be the first one to say it needs to be somebody other than Jeff.”

Current and former U.S. officials say they see Kislyak as a diplomat, not an intelligence operative. But they were not sure to what extent, if any, Kislyak was aware of or involved in the covert Russian election campaign.

Steven Hall, former head of Russia operations at the CIA, said that Russia would have been keenly interested in cultivating a relationship with Sessions because of his role on key congressional committees and as an early adviser to Trump.

Sessions’s membership on the Armed Services Committee would have made him a priority for the Russian ambassador. “The fact that he had already placed himself at least ideologically behind Trump would have been an added bonus for Kislyak,” Hall said.

Michael McFaul, a Stanford University professor who until 2014 served as U.S. ambassador to Russia, said he was not surprised that Kislyak would seek a meeting with Sessions. “The weird part is to conceal it,” he said. “That was at the height of all the discussions of what Russia was doing during the election.”

Two months before the September meeting, Sessions attended a Heritage Foundation event in July on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention that was attended by about 50 ambassadors. When the event was over, a small group of ambassadors approached Sessions as he was leaving the podium, and Kislyak was among them, the Justice Department official said.

Sessions then spoke individually to some of the ambassadors, including Kislyak, the official said. In the informal exchanges, the ambassadors expressed appreciation for his remarks and some of them invited him to events they were sponsoring, said the official, citing a former Sessions staffer who was at the event.

Democratic lawmakers, including senior members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, have demanded in recent weeks that Sessions recuse himself from the government’s inquiry into possible ties between Trump associates and Russia.

Last week, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, became one of the few Republican representatives to state publicly the need for an independent investigation.

Sessions’s public position on Russia has evolved over time.

In an interview with RealClear World on the sidelines of the German Marshall Fund’s Brussels Forum in March 2015, Sessions said the United States and Europe “have to unify” against Russia.

More than a year later, he spoke about fostering a stronger relationship with the Kremlin. In a July 2016interview with CNN’s “State of the Union,” Sessions praised Trump’s plan to build better relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Donald Trump is right. We need to figure out a way to end this cycle of hostility that’s putting this country at risk, costing us billions of dollars in defense, and creating hostilities,” Sessions told CNN.

Asked whether he viewed Putin as a good or bad leader, Sessions told CNN: “We have a lot of bad leaders around the world that operate in ways we would never tolerate in the United States. But the question is, can we have a more peaceful, effective relationship with Russia? Utilizing interests that are similar in a realistic way to make this world a safer place and get off this dangerous hostility with Russia? I think it’s possible.”

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Drake (Nigger Kike) and Jamie Foxx (Nigger) perform at flashy bar mitzvah that shocked the Netherlands

(JTA) — Dutch tabloids recently had to teach their readers an exotic and rarely seen term comprised of two words of ancient Hebrew: bar mitzvah.

The celebrities sections of the Telegraaf daily and the Het Parool were forced to explain the Jewish coming-of-age ceremony in reporting about one of the most extravagant private events held this year in Amsterdam: The 13th birthday party of Noah Nissan, which featured performances by the rapper Drake and the Hollywood star and singer Jamie Foxx. (The newspapers defined the occasion as a “worship ritual of spiritual maturation.”)

In a country where austerity is the norm due to centuries of Calvinist tradition, the late January event generated intense media interest. A host of other local and foreign stars — the Dutch comedian Najib Amhali and the DJ duo Sunnery James and Ryan Marciano, to name a few — performed at the prestigious Amstel Hotel, which Noah’s father, the hotelier Sabah Nissan, rented out completely.

While ostentatious, multimillion-dollar bar and bat mitzvah parties are not out of place in the United States, France and even Russia, they are extremely rare in Holland, which is home to a low-profile Jewish community of approximately 40,000.

Editors at the lifestyle magazine Quote made little effort to disguise their culture shock, adding the word “bizarre” to a headline informing readers of the purpose for Foxx and Drake’s visit to Holland.

“Forget the inauguration of Donald J. Trump,” the article read. “The wackiest event this weekend took place at the Amstel Hotel.”

But Drake is used to performing at b’nai mitzvahs. The rapper, who poked fun at his black and Jewish ancestry in a 2014 “Saturday Night Live” sketch involving his own rite of passage ceremony, seemed perfectly at home on stage at the Amstel Hotel, where he performed the songs “Hotline Bling” and “One Dance” while wearing a winter coat.

According to the Algemeen Dagblad daily, Drake blew off his concert at the Ziggo Dome theater in Amsterdam for Noah’s party. But Sabah Nissan told Quote that the cancellation had nothing to do with Drake’s appearance at the family’s event — his sound equipment had simply arrived too late for the other show.

(Drake finally appeared at the Dome a week later. He was also spotted a day after the bar mitzvah having dinner at a Japanese restaurant in the Dutch capital with former porn star Rosee Divine, who fans love for her sparkling personality and large posterior.)

The approximately 500 guests at the bar mitzvah got to enjoy waking up the following morning at one of Amsterdam’s most expensive hotels — Sabah Nissan booked dozens of rooms for the attendees.

The hotel has a special attraction for the Nissans, who had celebrated the bar mitzvah of Noah’s brother, Joshua, there in 2014.

Interestingly, both parties were not held at the Apollo Museum Hotel, which Sabah Nissan, 49, owns — and which has a unique connection to the family.

When Nissan and his family arrived with little money in the Netherlands as refugees fleeing oppression under Saddam Hussein in their native Iraq, the Dutch Jewish community’s welfare service, JMW, put the family up for the duration of their first six months in the country at the Apollo Museum.

“That was when I knew: One day, I will be the owner of this hotel,” he told Het Parool in 2010.

The Nissans’ success story was not without controversy.

According to the Vrij Nederland investigative magazine, Nissan was convicted of violating the Netherlands’ lenient laws against trading in soft drugs while building an empire of restaurants, cafes and marijuana coffee shops during the 1990s. In a 1994 parliamentary inquiry on international crime in Amsterdam, Nissan was flagged as one of 16 businessmen “with more or less criminal beginnings and/or clear criminal connections” who were active then in the city’s seedy Red Light District.

Nissan, who does not speak often to the media and currently lives on the Spanish island of Ibiza, has denied the charges.

Following the media frenzy that his son’s bar mitzvah caused in the Netherlands, Nissan also gave a rare interview to Quote, in which he claimed that he did not pay Foxx or Drake to entertain. Nissan said he has known Foxx for 17 years and the movie star was already in Europe filming in Hungary.

“I only paid for a private jet to bring him over and for his hotel room,” Nissan said.

Nissan added that Foxx came as a friend, not as an entertainer, and invited Drake to come along as well. But that doesn’t mean Nissan didn’t spend a pretty penny on the whole extravaganza.

“It comes down to what’s most important for a Jew and an entrepreneur: You have to save, save and then save some more – everything you can for the bar mitzvah,” Nissan said.

Muslim veterans offer to guard Jewish sites across US

Chesed Shel Emeth

(JTA) — Following the recent wave of bomb threats against Jewish community centers and the vandalism of two Jewish cemeteries, some Muslims on Twitter are offering to help guard Jewish sites.

The tweeters, including some veterans, said they would volunteer to protect JCCs, cemeteries and synagogues, the Huffington Post first reported.

I’m a in Chicagoland area. If your synagogue or Jewish cemetery needs someone to stand guard, count me in. Islam requires it.

 

Houston area Jewish community I spent ten years protecting our country and I will gladly protect Jewish places of worship if you need me! https://twitter.com/muslimmarine/status/836333556846706692 

 

I’m a Muslim in . If your synagogue or community center needs someone 2 stand guard, I will stand guard 4 you. Islam requires it.

 

I’m a Muslim in DC. If your synagogue needs someone to stand guard, I’ll stand guard. Islam requires it. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/27/jewish-centers-schools-bomb-threats-philadelphia-cemetery?CMP=edit_2221 

Photo published for Jewish centers and schools cope with another wave of bomb threats

Jewish centers and schools cope with another wave of bomb threats

Fifth wave of threats against community centers and institutions since January is being investigated after headstones were vandalized at another Jewish cemetery

theguardian.com

This latest show of solidarity comes after an online fundraising campaign started by two Muslims — and touted by “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling — raised more than $150,000 to repair a vandalized Jewish cemetery outside of St. Louis last week. Some 170 gravestones were toppled at the Chesed Shel Emeth cemetery in University City, Missouri.

One of the founders of the campaign, Linda Sarsour, is a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and a harsh critic of Israel.

On Monday, a Muslim man who started an online fundraising campaign for a Florida mosque damaged in an arson attempt said that many of the donors to the campaign, which raised $60,000, were Jewish.

“I couldn’t understand why people were donating in what seemed like weird amounts to the cause. There are sums of 18, 36, 72.00 dollars etc. then I figured out after clicking on the names Avi, Cohen, Gold-stein, Rubin, Fisher…. Jews donate in multiples of 18 as a form of what is called ‘Chai’. It wishes the recipient a long life,” Adeel Karim, a member of the Islamic Society of New Tampa wrote Monday in a Facebook post. “The Jewish faith has shown up in force to support our New Tampa Islamic community. I’m floored.”

Over the past two months, nearly 90 bomb threats have been called into 72 Jewish institutions in 30 states and one Canadian province. A Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia was also vandalized.

President Donald Trump condemned the anti-Semitic threats on Tuesday night in his first speech to a joint session of Congress.

Natan Sharansky (Kike): Anti-Semitism of far right, anti-Israelism of radical left no different

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky, a former refusenik who was persecuted in his native Soviet Union, expressed his deep concern about the recent wave of anti-Semitic incidents and threats in the United States.

“If ever there was a line between the anti-Semitism of the far right and the anti-Israelism of the radical left, the demonization of Jews and the demonization of their state, it no longer exists,” Sharansky said in a statement released Wednesday. “These two ugly phenomena feed on one another and both run counter to the foundations of democratic societies in Europe and America.

“It is high time that all who hold democratic values dear put their political differences aside and band together to combat these expressions of hatred and violence.”

Sharansky expressed confidence that U.S. authorities would work to find those responsible for the wave of bomb threats against Jewish community centers and schools since the start of 2017 and two recent cemetery desecrations and bring them to justice, “and prevent such incidents from reoccurring.”

American Jewish Committee official in Warsaw admits stealing cosmetics, resigns

WARSAW, Poland (JTA) — An American Jewish Committee official in Warsaw — who twice served as Bulgaria’s ambassador to the United States —  was detained for stealing cosmetics at the Polish capital’s airport.

Police said Elena Poptodorova, the director of the AJC’s Warsaw office for Central Europe, admitted her guilt after stepping out of a duty-free shop on Monday holding cosmetics worth about $400. She announced her resignation from AJC in the wake of the incident.

The Polish media reported that Poptodorova explained the situation as a misunderstanding. According to reports, Poptodorova said she had the cosmetics in her hand when her seriously ill mother called on her cellphone. She answered the phone and stepped out of the shop to continue the conversation, not noticing that she still had the products in her hand.

“The woman pleaded guilty, gave back the stolen items, voluntarily surrendered punishment and after that she was dismissed,” Tomasz Oleszczuk of the press section of the Metropolitan Police in Warsaw told JTA.

On Wednesday, AJC sent a statement to JTA saying it was accepting the resignation of Poptodorova, who had headed the Central Europe office in Warsaw since September. According to the statement, Poptodorova told the Jewish advocacy organization that she was “stepping down for personal reasons.” AJC said Agnieszka Markiewicz would serve as acting director.

From 2002 to 2008 and 2010 to 2016, Poptodorova was the Bulgarian ambassador to Washington. Previously she was a personal translator for Todor Zhivkov, the communist prime minister of Bulgaria.

Sen. Charles Schumer (Kike) urges FCC to help solve JCC bomb threats

NEW YORK (JTA) — U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer exhorted the Federal Communications Commission to provide Jewish institutions with caller information to help solve a recent string of bomb threats.

Schumer, the Democratic Senate minority leader from New York, sent a letter on Wednesday — two days after 29 JCCs and Jewish schools across the country received called-in bomb threats — to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai asking him to grant the targeted institutions special waivers allowing them to work with law enforcement to access caller ID information.

His statement called the waiver “critical.”

“All communities and entities targeted by intimidation and fear deserve access to all of the tools needed to ensure these criminals are brought to justice,” Schumer said.

The veteran senator referenced a string of threatening phone calls made last year to the Middletown School District in his state. At Schumer’s request, the FCC granted the district a waiver to access caller information about the perpetrators.

Monday’s threats represented the fifth such incident in less than two months. In total, 89 bomb threats have been called in this year to 72 Jewish institutions in 30 U.S. states and one Canadian province, according to the JCC Association of North America.

ISIS ATTACKS ON SINAI CHRISTIANS POSE CHALLENGE TO SISI

 

http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/ISIS-attacks-on-Sinai-Christians-pose-challenge-to-Sisi-482878

 

At the Mary Jirjis Church in Ismailia, Egypt, Mervat Jirjis described how her family recently fled their home in the northern Sinai town of El Arish after her husband received a threat to leave immediately or be slaughtered.

“The terrorists told him: ‘Your blood is permissible for us if you don’t leave.’ This caused me to leave immediately carrying only a bottle of water because they attack anyone carrying travel bags or furniture. We have heard a lot about cases of murder and I decided not to wait and see any of my relatives be under such circumstances,” she said in remarks published Tuesday in the Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper.

 

Jirjis is one of hundreds of Coptic Christians forced to flee their homes in El Arish due to Islamic State attacks.

They have become the region’s newest group of displaced persons.

Egypt’s Christians, forced to flee homes in north Sinai due to ISIS, receive aid at a church

A woman who gave only her first name, Lamia, told the paper that ISIS “drew swords on the walls and doors of our homes as a threat and we left everything behind us.”

She said her Muslim neighbors had offered to protect her family but she declined because she did not want to endanger them.

An estimated 80 families have taken shelter in Ismailia, 115 kilometers northeast of Cairo, where the Mary Jirjis Church provides them with food and psychological support for their children.

ISIS, which is waging an insurgency against the Egyptian government in Sinai, has turned to targeting Christian civilians after suffering setbacks in its confrontation with the army.

“It was quite a new out-ofthe- box practice of ISIS. They saw they can’t fight properly the security forces so they decided to make a U-turn and hurt the civilians, the Copts,” said Mira Tzoreff, an Egypt specialist at Tel Aviv University’s Dayan Center. “By doing that they undermine the Sisi regime, because from the first day Sisi has tried to rehabilitate relations between Muslims and Copts.”

Sisi’s efforts included visiting Coptic Pope Tawadros II early in his tenure and encouraging passage of a law making it easier for the Coptic community to restore churches.

But with the attacks, “suddenly it seems Egypt is not able to protect its Coptic citizens. This is quite a problem for Sisi,” Tzoreff said. Heightened problems for Sisi are cause for concern for Israeli policy-makers too, who view him as a crucial regional partner.

ISIS terrorists shot and killed seven Christians in separate attacks in El Arish during February, according to Al Jazeera.

In one case, they killed a Christian plumber at home in front of his family. In another, a man was reportedly killed in front of his pregnant wife.

On February 19, ISIS released a video threatening attacks on Christians as a follow-up to its December bombing of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo, which killed 28 people. The video described Christians as “infidels” and enemies of Islam.

Al-Masry Al-Youm described how Muhammad Abdul- Karim, a psychologist who came to the church to help children, joked with them to put them at ease and promised there would be a magician, balloons, contests and gifts.

“The children don’t know why they were forced to leave their homes [but they know] there is something wrong and they don’t feel safe,” he said.

“The aim of these sessions is to provide them with serenity and psychological stability.”

Father Arsinius Ayad, who is in charge of the church, said: “We received children who were traumatized and we have to absorb them and give them the message they are in their country so they don’t feel alienated. They were exhausted and they feel pressured after what they’ve seen and this has been alleviated after officials and concerned people visited them.”

Nadira Samaan, who is volunteering as a cook, added: “I was crying as I offered food to them, especially the kids. They are so hungry that they race to get the food.”

Opposition groups in Egypt are criticizing the government’s handling of the crisis and are saying it should be more active in helping those who fled, facilitating the exit of those who are still in El Arish and want to leave, and safeguarding those who must stay in Sinai. Sisi has ordered the Egyptian Ministry of Education to transfer displaced students to schools where they have taken refuge so they can resume their studies.

Tzoreff says it is important for the regime to ensure that the displaced get housing in Ismailia, Cairo or Alexandria, and are able to get into some kind of routine there, since it is impossible to predict whether their displacement will last months or even years.

“The authorities need to do their utmost efforts to find them alternatives as soon as possible,” she said.

“Otherwise the Copts will turn into an opposition group and Sisi doesn’t need that.”

GUNSHOT FIRED THROUGH CLASSROOM WINDOW OF INDIANA SYNAGOGUE

 

A gunshot was fired through a Hebrew school classroom window at an Indiana synagogue.

The bullet hole was discovered late Monday at Adath B’Nai Israel Temple in Evansville. The apparent attack was reported to police on Tuesday morning, according to reports.

Rabbi Gary Mazo told the Indianapolis Star that the shooter would have had to walk around to the back of the building and fire into the classroom from the playground. The attack is believed to have occurred on Sunday night.

“We’re in this climate now where acts of hate are happening everywhere,” the rabbi told the newspaper.

“The goal was to make us afraid, but we’re not going to let fear consume us. We’ll stand up to fear, we’ll stand up to hatred and we’ll stand together. We know this is not representative of our community. We know that we live in a community that supports each other.”

The Evansville Police Department and the FBI are investigating the incident.

Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke visited the Conservative synagogue Tuesday morning and issued a statement condemning the attack and calling it “a disgusting act of hate and bigotry that cannot be tolerated.”

He added: “Our community must come together in support of religious freedom and stand together with our Jewish brothers and sisters.”

Indiana is one of five states that does not have a hate crimes law.

The incident occurred a day after proposed hate crimes legislation died in the Indiana state legislature and after the Indianapolis Jewish Community Center received a bomb threat, one of 28 JCCs and Jewish schools targeted that day across the country.

ANTISEMITIC ACTS IN US GAIN ATTENTION OF NETANYAHU, OTHER ISRAELI LEADERS

 

Israeli leaders are increasingly speaking out against the rise in antisemitic incidents in the US, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who came under some criticism for not publicly commenting on the matter – saying on Wednesday that antisemitism is alive and world leaders need to clearly condemn it.

“Antisemitism certainly has not disappeared, but there is much we can do to fight back,” he said in a video message to a conference of the Jewish People Policy Institute being held in Jerusalem. “World leaders need to unequivocally condemn antisemitism wherever it is found.”

 

For the third time in a week, Netanyahu expressed appreciation to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for taking a “strong stance in condemning antisemitism.”

“This is what we expect too from European leaders, most of them have done it and this is what we must demand from governments around the world, because Jews around the world should not live in fear,” the prime minister said.

Netanyahu, who was scheduled to address the conference in person, canceled at the last minute, saying in the video that he was “a bit under the weather” as a result of his trip to Australia and Singapore which “[took] a toll on my vocal cords and my sinuses.”

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid also addressed the issue at the conference saying, “From here, from Jerusalem, we say ‘Enough.’” According to Lapid, “The days in which the Jewish people hid from antisemitism are over. We will face it together.”

Jews “won’t hide anymore, Jews won’t be scared anymore, and we expect the governments of the world to fight antisemitism decisively and with all their might” he said, stressing that the Jewish people must engaged in an “open, brave, incisive” dialogue led by Israel.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog noted at the conference that both Israeli and Jewish leaders elsewhere are walking on eggshells out of respect to the Trump administration, but “the administration must deal with it.”

“These are scenes which are very worrying and painful. It requires special awareness in JCCs and synagogues,” he told The Jerusalem Post later.

“I am confident the Trump administration will deal with it forcefully… The US Jewish community is strong and well organized and I trust they will overcome this wave.”

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky also spoke out Wednesday in a statement on the subject.

Expressing deep concern over the wave of antisemitic attacks and threats that have swept the US, Sharansky called for unity.

“If ever there was a line between the antisemitism of the far Right and the anti-Israelism of the radical Left, the demonization of Jews and the demonization of their state, it no longer exists,” he said in the statement.

“These two ugly phenomena feed on one another and both run counter to the foundations of democratic societies in Europe and America,” he continued.

“It is high time that all who hold democratic values dear put their political differences aside and band together to combat these expressions of hatred and violence.”

Sharansky expressed faith that US authorities will “act resolutely” to find the perpetrators, bring them to justice and prevent the recurrence of such incidents.

Meanwhile, Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett said that the responsibility for security of the citizens lies with the respective states in which they live.

“We understand the fears among communities and the feeling of people who experienced such acts,” Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) said in a special plenum discussion in the Knesset on the matter.

“We send from here our deepest support to them and we are in touch with these communities. But the bottom line is that the responsibility of the personal security of the citizens is from their governments. We call on them to find the perpetrators and to put them on trial.”

A request for further comment from Bennett regarding what the ministry was doing on the subject was not met by press time, but the Post learned that the minister met with leadership of the Jewish Federations of North America on Wednesday to discuss the situation.

MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union) called on all Israelis to show their support for the Jewish community in the US and on the government to start acting on this matter.

“There is a worrying rise in attacks and on threats on Jewish centers all over the US… Every community that is under attack should receive the protection of the Israeli government. This is also our responsibility as the citizens of Israel – Jews and Muslims alike – to defend the Jewish community in the US,” he said.

MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) faulted the government for not doing enough to condemn acts of that type and called that insufficiency a “moral failure.”

“For some reason – different than incidents in the past – we see indifference toward antisemitism here in the Jewish state,” she said. “I don’t know if it is because [the government] are cautious with the new president or they fear to annoy anyone.”

“However, this is our responsibility,” she added.

“Israel’s voice must be heard, in diplomatic ways and also under the radar. If we won’t act quickly, vandalizing cemeteries will soon [escalate to] hurting people’s lives.”

Trump reportedly said JCC threats may be trying to ‘make others look bad’

US President Donald Trump reportedly said that a wave of threats against Jewish communal institutions may be a false flag.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who is Jewish and a Democrat, described a meeting of state attorneys general and Trump on Tuesday to a BuzzFeed reporter.

Trump called the wave of bomb threats in recent weeks, which forced the evacuation of nearly 100 Jewish community centers and other institutions countrywide, “reprehensible,” Shapiro said. But the US president also added: “Sometimes it’s the reverse, to make people – or to make others – look bad,” according to Shapiro’s account.

Shapiro said Trump said it was “the reverse” two or three times but did not clarify what he meant.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (CC BY-SA 3.0, Mark Koenig, Wikipedia)

Earlier Tuesday, Anthony Scaramucci, a top adviser to the Trump transition team who is under consideration for a White House job, advanced a similar argument on Twitter, saying the threats may be aimed at harming Trump.

“It’s not yet clear who the #JCC offenders are,” Scaramucci said. “Don’t forget @TheDemocrats effort to incite violence at Trump rallies.”

There were several incidents of violence at Trump campaign rallies during last year’s election, but no evidence linking the offenders to an organized Democratic Party effort.

On Monday, at least 29 Jewish institutions across the US were targeted with bomb threats, marking the fifth wave of threats against JCCs, Jewish day schools and other Jewish organizations since the beginning of the year.

In addition to the bomb threats, Jewish cemeteries have also been targeted during a recent swell of anti-Semitic incidents, with over 100 headstones found toppled at a Jewish graveyard in Philadelphia, mirroring an incident at a cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri, the week before.

Damaged headstone at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia on February 26, 2017. (screen capture: 6ABC)

Following sharp criticism of Trump from a number of leading American Jewish organizations over his failure to denounce the rise in anti-Semitic incidents, the US president issued his first explicit condemnation of anti-Semitism last week, calling it “horrible” and “painful,” as well as a “sad reminder” of evil.

On Monday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that Trump “continues to be deeply disappointed and concerned over reports of further vandalism at Jewish cemeteries,” while also calling in the incidents in Philadelphia and Missouri “cowardly.”

Trump will address the recent wave of anti-Semitism during a speech to a joint session of Congress Tuesday evening, CNN reported.