Anti-Semitic sentiment fell in 3 European countries, ADL polls find

(JTA) — The prevalence of anti-Semitic sentiment has dropped in three European countries over surveys from 2014 and 2015, according to polls conducted this year by the Anti-Defamation League.

The ADL interviewed 500 people each in Germany, the United Kingdom and France by telephone, the organization said in a summary of the study it unveiled Thursday.

In the United Kingdom, 10 percent of respondents “harbor anti-Semitic attitudes,” the poll found, compared to 12 percent in 2015 and 8 percent in 2014.

In France, the figure was 14 percent compared to 17 percent in 2015 and 37 percent a year earlier.

In Germany, the figure dropped to 11 percent from 16 percent in 2015 and 27 percent in 2014.

Respondents were instructed to agree or disagree on statements that included “Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country” (32 percent in Britain, 33 percent in France and 45 percent in Germany agreed, and “Jews think they are better than other people” (13 percent to 14 percent agreement in all three countries).

Only 4 percent of respondents in all three countries agreed with the statement that “Jews are responsible for most of the world’s wars.” The statement “people hate Jews because of the way Jews behave” was endorsed by 26 percent of respondents in Germany, as well as 14 and 17 percent of those polled in Britain and France, respectively.

Among them, the three countries have a population of more than 200 million people.

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Demonization of Soros recalls old anti-Semitic conspiracies

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — In most nations, having a billionaire financier and philanthropist would be a source of great pride, a person many elected officials would want to cozy up to.

Not for George Soros.

The demonization of the American-Hungarian billionaire and Holocaust survivor has spread from Hungary and Moscow across Europe and into the United States, with the 86-year-old increasingly accused by nationalists of using his money to force his liberal values, including support for refugees, on their societies.

And it’s not just those on the fringes, but elected officials who are attributing all manner of sins to Soros, a political strategy that seems aimed at de-legitimizing projects that Soros has supported in Central and Eastern Europe’s transition to democracy.

This groundswell began in late 2015, as large numbers of migrants and refugees were arriving in Europe. A far-right nationalist at an anti-refugee rally in Poland set fire to an effigy of an Orthodox Jew as a crowd chanted slogans against Islam and the European Union. The man said the Jewish figure represented Soros.

An effigy of an Orthodox Jew is torched at an anti-Islam rally in Poland in November 2015 (YouTube screenshot)

It wasn’t always this way. In 2012, Poland’s then-president, Bronislaw Komorowski, bestowed one of the country’s highest orders on Soros, thanking him for his contributions to a nascent democratic civil society after communism.

Soros’ donations have advanced human rights, the rule of law, public health, LGBT and Roma (Gypsy) rights, education and even improved transportation. Many of the leaders turning against him now — including Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban — got scholarships from Soros in the 1990s to study in the West or received research grants.

Liviu Dragnea, the leader of Romania's Social Democratic Party (PSD), gives a press conference at the party's headquarters in Bucharest, December 11, 2016. (AFP/Daniel Mihailescu)

Officials today are much more likely to accuse Soros destroying their countries.

Liviu Dragnea, chairman of Romania’s ruling Social Democratic Party, claims Soros and his work “have fed evil in Romania.”

Krystyna Pawlowicz, a lawmaker with the ruling conservatives in Poland, called him the “most dangerous man in the world” on Radio Maryja, a Catholic broadcaster. She said his foundations “finance anti-Christian and anti-national activities.”

Soros is also hated by conservative forces in the United States, who often describe him as “evil” or a “globalist” who manipulates societies for his own gain.

Sociologists see such rhetoric, which gives Soros almost supernatural abilities to destroy traditional societies, as a modern manifestation of old anti-Semitic conspiracies amid new populist rage against elites and the European Union.

“It’s a witch hunt that is being promoted by authoritarian right-wing populists,” said Jacek Kucharczyk, a sociologist and director of the Institute of Public Affairs in Warsaw.

“And there is an undertone of anti-Semitism behind it. Because he promotes liberal values, has a Jewish background and is a billionaire, he is the perfect figure for explaining to hard-core voters why the world is the way it is,” he said.

Kucharczyk, whose institute receives some Soros funding, said in places like Russia and Poland, where anti-Semitism has deep roots, Soros is “a very useful enemy to have.”

Soros says his fight against intolerance is rooted in his own experience of living through the Nazi occupation of Hungary — which his family survived by hiding their Jewish identities. He has given away $12 billion to date, according to his Open Society Foundations.

Of that, $400 million has gone to Hungary, where Orban, the prime minister, has taken steps that could force the closure in Budapest of the acclaimed Central European University, which Soros founded in 1991 to help support the region’s emerging democracies.

Orban has described Soros as an “American financial speculator attacking Hungary,” who has “destroyed the lives of millions of Europeans.”

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrives to address a press conference after attending a European Parliament plenum session on the situation in Hungary, on April 26, 2017 in Brussels. (AFP Photo/Emmanuel Dunand)

Frans Timmermans, first vice president of the European Commission, said he found that language anti-Semitic — prompting an angry reaction from the Hungarian government, with Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto saying Budapest’s disputes with Soros have “absolutely nothing to do” with his Jewish origins.

Laura Silber, a spokeswoman at Soros’ Open Society Foundations, said Orban’s attacks on Soros are an attempt to distract Hungarians from the country’s real problems.

“Orban is using George Soros as a scapegoat in an effort to deflect attention from issues of real importance to the Hungarian people, such as the country’s deteriorating health care and education,” Silber said.

The Associated Press requested an interview with Soros, but Silber said he wasn’t giving any interviews.

Rafal Pankowski, head of Never Again, an anti-racism organization in Warsaw, says the “current tendency to see Soros as a central figure in an alleged global Jewish conspiracy” is growing along with a rise in xenophobia and hate speech.

“Soros is a convenient target for those who reject liberal values and the vision of an open, pluralist society,” said Pankowski, who gets no Soros funding. “Anti-Semitism is a core element of nationalist identity across Eastern and Central Europe.”

The anti-Soros mood is particularly strong in Macedonia, where many right-wingers blame him for a political crisis that has dragged on for two years over a massive illegal wiretapping operation of top leaders that has revealed wrongdoing. A group called Stop Operation Soros, or SOS, emerged in January.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, center, the leader of the ruling Law and Justice party, speaks with lawmakers in parliament in Warsaw, Poland, January 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

Poland’s ruling party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has accused Soros of trying to destroy traditional societies by forcing multiculturalism on them.

“The ideas of Mr. Soros, ideas of societies that have no identity, are convenient ideas for those who have billions, because such a society is extremely easy to manipulate,” Kaczynski said.

Mark Weitzman, director of government affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights group, sees the rhetoric as “reminiscent of previous anti-Semitic patterns.”

“This is not to say that Soros should be above criticism. But there are certainly other elements involved that go beyond legitimate and specific criticism and focus on his Jewish roots,” Weitzman said. There’s a need by some “to create a global manipulative Jewish monster which can be blamed for all the evils and problems.”

MACRON EXPECTED TO SUPPORT TWO-STATE SOLUTION, SAYS BDS IS ANTISEMITIC

 

PARIS – A succession of ceremonies marked the inauguration of Emmanuel Macron as France’s eighth president under the Fifth Republic. Outgoing president François Hollande received his successor at the Élysée Palace on Sunday morning and the two men spoke in private for more than an hour, after which Hollande left en route for the Socialist Party headquarters.

Guided by rigid French protocol, Macron’s day was still very much in his image. Similarly to his long walk on election evening, when he walked for several minutes, alone, across the Louvre Museum courtyard until he reached the stage, Macron walked alone on Sunday on the red carpet at the Élysée court toward his former boss and mentor Hollande.

 

The speech Macron delivered an hour later was sober, with the new head of state saying he is “fully aware of the high expectations of the French citizens.

“The French people has chosen hope and a spirit of achievement over a spirit of division and breaking away from the global market,” he said, adding that he now carries the responsibility of convincing French citizens that their country has all the resources necessary to once again be a leading country within the family of nations.

During his election campaign, Macron expressed himself several times on issues of foreign policy. On a visit to Beirut in January, he referred to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying that “the role of France is to conduct an independent and balanced policy that would guarantee a dialogue by all sides and the construction of peace.”

More specifically, Macron clearly stated during his campaign that he objects any efforts to boycott Israel, and considers such attempts antisemitic. Alluding to a court decision on the issue from 2015, he argued that “France has already condemned boycotting Israel, and I have no intention of changing this position.”

Still, Macron is not expected to deviate a great deal from the policy set forth by his predecessor Hollande, of supporting the two-state solution. Philippe Etienne, the current ambassador to Berlin, will serve as Macron’s diplomatic adviser. Considered a remarkable diplomat, Etienne has not been especially involved during his career in Middle East issues, and thus is likely to embrace the path of Ambassador Pierre Vimont, who prepared the Paris 1 and 2 Middle East Conferences (the Israelis and Palestinians were not invited), on June 3, 2016, and January 15, 2017, respectively.

EU official (White Freemason): Hungarian prime minister’s crusade against George Soros is anti-Semitic (LOL….)

(JTA) — A leading official in the European Commission — one of the European Union’s governing bodies — implied that efforts by Hungary’s prime minister to shut down a university founded by George Soros are anti-Semitic.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban has long harbored animosity toward Soros, a Jewish financier billionaire who was born in Hungary and has donated millions of dollars to liberal causes. Orban is now defending controversial legislation that many see as an attempt to shut down the Central European University in Budapest, a highly respected university Soros founded in 1991.

On Wednesday, Orban told the European Parliament that Soros is an “American financial speculator attacking Hungary” who has “destroyed the lives of millions of Europeans.”

The following day, European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmerman, a center-left Dutch politician, agreed when asked if he thought Orban’s comments sounded anti-Semitic.

“I understood that exactly the same way and was appalled,” Timmerman said, according to Euractiv.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto called on Timmerman to resign for his assertion.

Hundreds of academics around the world have protested Orban’s legislation, which are amendments to the Hungarian National Higher Education Act. The fight is seen as a battle between Orban’s nationalist priorities and Soros’ “open society” outlook.

Orban is a supporter of President Donald Trump and his immigration policies.

Spokane community building vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti

(JTA) — A building housing community support services and non-profit groups in downtown Spokane, Washington, was vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti.

The epithets written in chalk on the side of the building were discovered on Friday morning.

Among the anti-Semitic statements were: “Hitler did nothing wrong,” “Gas the Kikes” and “Juden Raus,” German for “Jews Out.” The graffiti also called for a “race war now.”

Interns for the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane, which is housed in the building, first discovered the graffiti, the Spokesman-Review newspaper reported on Saturday.

The incident was reported to police and the graffiti was covered up, according to the newspaper. Organizations housed in the building said they would remain and continue their work.

Racist and anti-Semitic white nationalist flyers were posted on the building last month.

Battling anti-Semitic image, Le Pen quietly visits Holocaust memorial

French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen placed a wreath on a Marseille monument to French victims of the Holocaust Sunday morning, weeks after she drew sharp criticism by claiming that France had no responsibility for the fate of its Jewish citizens deported to Nazi Germany.

The low-key wreath-laying took place without the media present at a memorial to 30 Jewish women and children who were rounded up by the Gestapo in 1943, to mark France’s Memorial Day for Victims of Deportation.

She was accompanied by a local politician. A picture of the wreath-laying was tweeted by a campaign worker.

Her rival, centrist Emmanuel Macron of the En Marche movement, is due to visit a Holocaust memorial near Paris later Sunday.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

À Marseille, @MLP_officiel et @Stephane_Ravier déposent une gerbe pour la journée nationale du souvenir des victimes de la déportation

Le Pen has worked to purge the hard-right National Front (FN) party of its anti-Semitic old guard, including her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, but has been bedeviled by statements casting doubts over the efforts, including her own claim that France wasn’t responsible for aiding Germany in deporting citizens to their deaths.

The populist candidate said April 10 that France was not responsible for the roundup of Jews during World War II. She said she “considers that France and the Republic were in London” during the war, with Gen. Charles de Gaulle who oversaw the Resistance.

Last week, allegations emerged that the man chosen to lead the party while she focuses on the presidential campaign, Jean-Francois Jalkh, had questioned the Holocaust and the use of gas chambers to kill millions of Jews.

Le Pen — who once called Nazi death camps the “height of barbary” — firmly denied that anyone in the party leadership would cast doubt on the extermination of six million Jews and others, some deported from France.

“Let things be very clear. I abhor these theories,” she said in an interview on BFM-TV.

“There is no one in the leadership of the National Front who defends this kind of thesis,” she said.

Jalkh firmly denies French media reports that he questioned whether Zyklon B poison gas was used in death camps. Lawyer David Dassa-Le Deist said he was filing a defamation suit against Le Monde newspaper, which identified his client as a negationist, someone who denies the Holocaust.

However another party stalwart, Steeve Briois, mayor of Le Pen’s northern bastion, Henin-Beaumont, was named to replace Jalkh as temporary party chief while Le Pen campaigns in the critical final stretch ahead of the May 7 vote.

Even without the cloud of anti-Semitism casting its shadow anew on the party, Le Pen, who took over the National Front in 2011, faces claims of racism for evoking fears that Muslims want to conquer France.

French emotions around France’s history of collaborating with the Nazis remain complex seven decades after the war’s end. The country has never undergone a national atonement. In 1995, President Jacques Chirac boldly declared that the collaborationist Vichy regime — which helped in the deportation of 75,000 French Jews — was the French state. However, many still view the actions of Vichy as a historical anomaly. Some still salute its leader, Philippe Petain, a hero of World War I.

Anti-Semitic city council candidate says more anti-Semitic things

Thomas Lopez-Pierre

(JTA) — Thomas Lopez-Pierre says he’s not an anti-Semite.

He just believes a cabal of “greedy Jewish landlords” is conspiring, funded by money from Israel, to conduct “ethnic cleansing” of black and Latino residents from Harlem. He believes the Jewish media are covering it up.

And if his rhetoric makes Jews upset?

“Too bad,” he says. “I don’t care.

“Only now am I realizing that Jewish people can’t seem to separate themselves from each other,” he told JTA in an interview Friday. “An attack on greedy Jewish landlords is perceived to be an attack on all Jews. And you know what? Too bad. If that’s the way the Jewish community wants to take it, too bad.”

Lopez-Pierre is running a primary campaign against Democratic City Council member Mark Levine, who since 2014 represents a district covering much of West Harlem in Upper Manhattan. Lopez-Pierre previously ran for the seat in 2013, unsuccessfully.

His screed against Jewish landlords is at the center of his campaign. His Twitter bio reads “Jewish landlords OWN 80% of private rental buildings in Upper Manhattan; GUILTY of GREED for pushing Black/Hispanic tenants out.”

The Anti-Defamation League released a statement calling Lopez-Pierre’s statement a “deeply offensive anti-Semitic stereotype.”

During a 20-minute conversation, I tried to extract why Lopez-Pierre thought the landlords’ religion was important. He repeated the 80 percent figure — but wouldn’t provide any evidence for it — and launched into a lecture on what he called “group economics,” or how members of a certain ethnicity or religion work together for their mutual benefit.

“If they were Italian, I would say Italian,” he said. “We live in neighborhoods based on race, class and religion. It’s a fantasy to believe otherwise. There are Jewish neighborhoods, there are Puerto Rican neighborhoods, there are Jamaican neighborhoods, there are Indian neighborhoods.”

Lopez-Pierre alleged that there was a scheme among Jewish landlords in Harlem to take investment money from Israel, buy apartment buildings in the historically black neighborhood and push tenants out.

“These Jewish landlords are using their ownership to engage in ethnic cleansing of black and Latino tenants,” he said. And he added that Jewish journalists choose not to report on it.

“Your colleagues in the Jewish media, they don’t want to talk about this,” he said. “But maybe you have a pair of balls. I’d be impressed.”

Lopez-Pierre says he’s a licensed real-estate broker. He’s also behind a series of apparent business ventures in Harlem to promote African-American patronage of African-American-owned businesses, but it’s unclear how active any of them are.

One venture was the “Harlem Restaurant Book,” a guide to black-owned restaurants in the neighborhood. But now, the website harlemrestaurantbook.com is the homepage for the Harlem Family Eviction Prevention Fund, a tenants’ rights group also chaired by Lopez-Pierre. The fund has an empty events calendar, and its record of “bad landlord news” ends in 2015. Lopez also created a site for the Harlem Real Estate Fund, where he’s the only employee.

At least one venture of Lopez-Pierre’s appears to have netted him some cash. According to the New York Post, he raised more than $5,000 with a crowdfunding campaign by pretending it was an effort to oppose him.

Lopez-Pierre dismissed the idea that he was engaging in anti-Semitic bigotry.

“If Jewish doctors are angry with me because I’m attacking greedy Jewish landlords, if Jewish social workers are upset with me because I’m attacking greedy Jewish landlords, too bad, I don’t care,” he said. ‘It’s not my job to care about their feelings.”

Anti-Semitic poster hung at Kansas State U on Holocaust Remembrance Day

(JTA) — An anti-Semitic poster was hung on the campus of Kansas State University on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The poster was discovered on the morning of April 24 on a telephone pole, the local Manhattan Mercury reported.

“Ending white privilege starts with ending Jewish privilege,” said the poster, which contained a graphic of a pyramid of people. “Is the 1 percent straight white men? Or is it Jewish?”

The poster was removed late in the morning after the university learned about it through social media, according to the Mercury.

Kansas State police are investigating the incident.

President Richard Myers in a statement responding to the incident noted that in recent weeks, other minorities on campus have been targeted, including fliers against the LGBTQ community and African-Americans.

“These few, random incidents should be kept in perspective,” Myers wrote. “The K-State family is committed to diversity and inclusion and should not be influenced by these isolated incidents. We don’t know who has distributed these missives, or why. But we do know they don’t represent the values of the K-State family.”

The university, which is located in Manhattan, Kansas, has a total enrollment of nearly 25,000.

Anti-Semitic incidents surge 86% in US in 2017 – ADL

WASHINGTON — Anti-Semitic incidents in the United States saw a massive spike of 86 percent in the first quarter of 2017, according to new data compiled by the Anti-Defamation League.

The jump in incidents comes after a 34% increase in 2016 from the previous year.

“There’s been a significant, sustained increase in anti-Semitic activity since the start of 2016 and what’s most concerning is the fact that the numbers have accelerated over the past five months,” the group’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement.

The Jewish civil rights group’s annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents found 541 reported anti-Semitic incidents in the first four months of the current year, including 380 episodes of harassment, 161 bomb threats to Jewish institutions and 155 cases of anti-Jewish vandalism.

Last month, an 18-year-old Israeli hacker from Ashkelon was arrested on suspicion of carrying out many of the bomb threats, some of them in exchange for money.

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The incidents took place throughout the country, with the majority concentrated in areas with large Jewish populations, including California (211 incidents), New York (199), New Jersey (157), Florida (137) and Massachusetts (125).

“Clearly, we have work to do and need to bring more urgency to the fight,” Greenblatt added. “At ADL, we will use every resource available to put a stop to anti-Semitism. But we also need more leaders to speak out against this cancer of hate and more action at all levels to counter anti-Semitism.”

For the last several months, Jewish groups have expressed concern about the growing trend of anti-Semitic vandalism and harassment across the country.

Since January, recurrent bomb threats have hit Jewish community centers, Jewish day schools and other institutions nationwide, causing the evacuation of dozens of centers and prompting some parents to remove their children from JCC programs.

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There have also been repeated incidents of swastikas being drawn on schools and other buildings, and hundreds of Jewish tombstones that have been vandalized in the US.

Jonathan Greenblatt, national director of the Anti-Defamation League (Courtesy of ADL/via JTA)

The ADL cited the 2016 campaign season — and particularly the candidacy of US President Donald Trump — as a catalyst for anti-Semitic activities and said there were 34 specific incidents associated with the election.

“The 2016 presidential election and the heightened political atmosphere played a role in the increase,” the organization said in a press release. “For example, in Denver, graffiti posted in May 2016 said ‘Kill the Jews, Vote Trump.’ In November, a St. Petersburg, Florida man was accosted by someone who told him, ‘Trump is going to finish what Hitler started.’”

Over the course of the campaign, Trump was strongly criticized for initially failing to disavow David Duke, the former KKK leader, who endorsed his candidacy enthusiastically. He also drew the support of the alt-right movement, an amorphous designation that encompasses a broad swath of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and far-right ideologues.

Since the waves of bomb threats to Jewish centers started in January, some Jewish leaders have expressed frustration at the administration’s handling of the matter — including a seeming reluctance on Trump’s part with forcefully condemning or even addressing these occurrences.

In February, Trump opened his maiden speech to a joint session of Congress denouncing anti-Semitic attacks, but the remarks came hours after he reportedly told a group of state attorneys general visiting the White House that he suspected the bomb threat calls may have been planted out of political motives.

US President Donald J. Trump delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress from the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington, DC, USA, 28 February 2017. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / JIM LO SCALZO)

On Sunday, on the eve of Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah), Trump delivered an explicit denunciation of anti-Semitism in a speech to the World Jewish Congress.

“On Yom Hashoah, we look back at the darkest chapter of human history,” he said. “We mourn, we remember, we pray, and we pledge: Never again. I say it, never again.”

“The mind cannot fathom the pain, the horror, and the loss,” he added. “Six million Jews, two-thirds of the Jews in Europe, murdered by the Nazi genocide. They were murdered by an evil that words cannot describe, and that the human heart cannot bear.”

Trump’s remarks were something of a prelude for a speech he will give Tuesday at an annual Holocaust remembrance ceremony in the United States Capitol Rotunda.

NGO: ANTISEMITIC INCIDENTS IN AUSTRIA REACHED RECORD HIGH LAST YEAR

 

VIENNA – A record number of antisemitic incidents, ranging from verbal and online threats to assaults, were recorded in Austria last year, a non-governmental organization said in a report published on Thursday.

The number of cases rose slightly in 2016 to 477 from 465 the previous year, when the figure had jumped by roughly 200, the organization, the Forum Against Antisemitism said.

 

The report follows a finding by Austria’s BVT domestic intelligence service a year ago that incidents involving xenophobia, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism were on the rise in the small country that was swept up in Europe’s migration crisis and where the refugee influx has become a hot-button issue.

“It is of course alarming,” said the president of the Jewish Community of Vienna (IKG), Oskar Deutsch.

“We now have two consecutive years at a record level,” said Deutsch, who put the size of Austria’s Jewish community at roughly 13,000-15,000 in an overall population of 8.8 million.

Growing concerns about jobs and security, often in connection with immigration, have helped fuel growing support for the far-right Freedom Party, which was founded by former Nazis. It is now running first in opinion polls.

The Freedom Party is strongly critical of Islam and denounces anti-Semitism, but its efforts to court Jewish voters have shown few signs of success. The IKG, the main body representing Austrian Jews, says it is still xenophobic.

The report said that cases involving insults and threats had increased by a third to 24 last year, while those involving the internet fell by a quarter to 153. Those involving letters and phone calls rose 7 percent to 198, and those involving damage to property rose 36 percent to 68.

There were seven assaults, up from two in 2015 but below the nine recorded in 2014.

Increased awareness and reporting was one of several factors that explained the eight-fold increase in incidents recorded since 2006, but there was also a weakening stigma associated with anti-Semitic views, the group that compiled the report said.

“What we see is that racism in general has become more socially acceptable in Austria,” Amber Weinber of the Forum Against Antisemitism said, adding the same was true of antisemitism.

“Since it has become more socially acceptable, people increasingly are posting (anti-Semitic messages) in their own name or sending letters with return addresses on them,” she said.

The causes of that shift were, however, hard to pin down, Weinber added. “We do not have an exact explanation. We can only say what we see,” she said.