Wiesenthal Center urges Germany to stop funding Palestinian sports

The Simon Wiesenthal Center anti-Semitism watchdog called on the German government to end its funding of Palestinian sports agencies over their practice of naming teams and tournaments after Palestinian terrorists, saying that Germany should not support the “blatant sanctification of Jew-killers.”

A statement Tuesday from the organization’s director for international relations Shimon Samuels came in response to an agreement signed last week between the head of Germany’s representative office in Ramallah, Peter Beerwerth, and Palestinian Football Association chief Jibril Rajoub. Under the agreement, Germany agreed to pay “all expenses and fees” for a German soccer expert to help the association improve the quality of Palestinian soccer, according to the Palestinian Media Watch monitoring group.

Rajoub has previously said that he “won’t allow and won’t agree to any joint game between Arabs and Israel,” and has called on soccer’s main governing body, FIFA, to suspend Israel’s membership.

In its statement, the Simon Wiesenthal Center provided a list of teams and tournaments sponsored by the Palestinian Football Association named after Palestinians who killed Jews and Israelis, such as a team named after Salah Khalaf, who helped plan the massacre at the 1972 Munich Olympics in which 11 Israeli athletes were taken hostage and murdered by the Palestinian terrorist organization Black September.

Samuels said that by funding an organization that glorifies terrorists such as Khalaf, Germany was associating itself “with the blatant sanctification of Jew-killers” and “thereby evoking the shadows of the 1936 Nazi Olympics and the 1972 Munich Olympics atrocity.”

Palestinian Football Association (PFA) head Jibril Rajoub holds a press conference on October 12, 2016 in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

Palestinian Football Association (PFA) head Jibril Rajoub holds a press conference on October 12, 2016 in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

Samuels called on German Chancellor Angela Merkel “to suspend this unthinkable agreement until the Palestinian Authority removes all names of terrorists from all sectors of Palestinian sport and their acts of terror be publicly condemned by Ramallah.”

He added that “if Berlin wishes to reignite the spirit of peace, it should perhaps invite Israeli and Palestinian football teams for a ‘friendly’ match, despite Sports Minister Rajoub’s definition of sports encounters of young Palestinians with their Israeli peers as a ‘crime against humanity.’”

Other examples of Palestinian sports teams and tournaments named after terrorists, according to PMW, include a soccer tournament named after Khalid al-Wazir, also known as Abu Jihad, who masterminded a number of Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israelis for the Palestinian Liberation Organization prior to being killed in Tunisia 1988 by Israeli commandos; and a soccer team named after “the engineer” Yahya Ayyash, who was Hamas’s chief bomb-maker and was responsible for the deaths of dozens of Israelis before Israel assassinated him in 1996 with an explosives-rigged phone.

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WIESENTHAL CENTER: NAZI WAR CRIMINAL PROBES NEARLY DOUBLE FROM PREVIOUS YEAR

The number of ongoing investigations of suspected Nazi war criminals almost doubled from 2015 to 2016, according to an annual report released by the Simon Wiesenthal Center ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The status report, titled “Worldwide Investigation and Prosecution of Nazi War Criminals” cover the period of April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016, and presents comprehensive statistics on the numbers of Holocaust perpetrators convicted and indicted, as well as figures on new and ongoing investigations all over the world.

The report was authored by the Center’s chief Nazi-hunter, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, who noted that the extension of life expectancy has made it possible to continue efforts to bring Holocaust perpetrators to justice, even years after their crimes.

“We hope to help maximize those efforts despite numerous obstacles,” he said in a statement. “The passage of time in no way diminishes the guilt of the murderers, nor should old age afford protection to those who committed such crimes. (Some of their victims were even older than their tormentors are today.) As Simon Wiesenthal frequently noted, we owe it to the victims to find their killers and hold them accountable.”

Wiesethal, an Austrian Holocaust survivor and famed Nazi hunter, passed away in his sleep at the age of 96 in his home in Vienna, but the work he dedicated his life to was continued by the center that had been founded in his name in 1977.

Since 2001, the institute had released annual reports, monitoring progress in this field.

The latest report highlighted Germany as the country with the most significant and practical progress and achievement in prosecuting Nazi war criminals. During the recorded time period, one conviction was obtained, and two indictments were filed in Germany against individuals who had served in the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.

Zuroff explained that the progress in Germany had come about as the result of a change in the law instituted several years ago, which determined that suspected Holocaust perpetrators who served in death camps or Einsatzgruppen, could be convicted of accessory to murder based on service alone. Previously, prosecutors were required to prove that a suspect had committed a specific crime against a specific victim and that the crime had been motivated by racial hatred.

Italy, Denmark, the United States, Poland and Canada, were also listed among countries conducting ongoing investigations of suspected Holocaust perpetrators.

The report stated that between January 1, 2001 and March 31, 2016, 103 Nazi perpetrators have been convicted in court,the majority in Italy (46) and the United States (39). Those countries also filed the majority of the 103 indictments submitted against Nazi criminals during the same period.

Zuroff allocated grades — ranging from A to F– to those countries which are dealing with this issue, as well as those which aren’t – but who he thinks should be. The US and Germany were at the top of the list, both with an A grade, followed by Italy, which got a B.

Norway, Sweden, Lithuania and Ukraine all got Fs. The former two countries failed due to their refusal in principle to investigate, because of legal or ideological restrictions. Meanwhile Lithuania and Ukraine failed on the basis that though there are no legal obstacles in these countries to the investigation and prosecution of suspected Nazi war criminals, they have failed to do so, primarily due to an absence of political will and/or a lack of the requisite resources and/or expertise.

Argentina, Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Great Britain, Latvia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Paraguay and Uruguay all received an X, meaning that they did not respond to a questionnaire sent to them by the center, but according to Zuroff they, “clearly did not take any action whatsoever to investigate suspected Nazi war criminals during the period under review.”

Wiesenthal Center protests Lithuanian neo-Nazi march

Several hundred ultra-nationalists marched in Lithuania’s prewar capital of Kaunas on Tuesday, yelling slogans in honor of Holocaust collaborators and denouncing their nation’s enemies, drawing harsh condemnations and accusations of anti-Semitism.

The annual march, which was timed to coincide with the anniversary of the Baltic state’s independence from Russia in 1918, was smaller than that of previous years, said Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s chief Nazi hunter, who attends the event every year.

Zuroff estimated that between 200 and 300 people took part, a significant decline from the usual 500 to 1,000 participants.

“There were the usual nationalistic slogans and they announced that they are honoring the heroes of Lithuania who are being discredited by the enemies” of their country, Zuroff said in a phone call from Kaunas. “All of those are people who murdered Jews during the Holocaust.”

Among those honored in recent years is Juozas Ambrazevicius, the prime minister of Lithuania’s wartime provisional government and an enthusiastic Nazi collaborator.

While the size of the crowd may have been smaller than usual, the issue of Lithuanian complicity in the genocide of its Jewish population has been a hot topic across the country in recent weeks, following the publication of Zuroff’s book Our People; Journey With an Enemy, which he co-wrote with local author Ruta Vanagaite.

The book, which claims to lay bare the extent of Lithuanian complicity in the genocide, ignited a public firestorm, leading the government-sponsored Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance to announce that it would publicly release a list of collaborators about whom the authors wrote.

However, the government later backtracked on its pledge and, while the local Jewish community was initially supportive of the decision, it publicly demanded the release of the names and the prosecution of any perpetrators remaining alive.

The Jewish community’s umbrella organization did not make any public statements regarding Tuesday’s events, leading Zuroff to harshly criticize the group, with which he has previously engaged in several public clashes.

In a February 16 op-ed in The Jerusalem Post, Zuroff explained that while these marches were initially held in a “blatantly anti-Semitic” manner, in recent years the “anti-Semitic content [has been] far more subtle…

around the issue of Lithuanian complicity in the Holocaust, which the nationalists persistently refuse to acknowledge.”

During last year’s march, one of the organizers denied that the event was anti-Semitic, stating that there were “many Lithuanians who find it hard to forgive Jews who, during communism, killed nationalist freedom fighters.

But I think we should leave it in the past and look ahead.”

Wiesenthal Center alarmed over anti-Semitism in Morocco

(JTA) — The Simon Wiesenthal Center expressed concern at what it described as a proliferation of expressions of anti-Semitism in Morocco.

Shimon Samuels, the center’s director of international relations, conveyed the concern Monday following the airing of videos from Sunday’s mass demonstration in Casablanca in support of Palestinians, which featured men dressed as haredi Orthodox Jews destroying a model of the Al-Aqsa mosque before being led as prisoners by armed men wearing kaffiyehs to a fake execution.

“These disturbing scenes come on the heels of other expressions of anti-Semitism we’ve seen in Morocco and may have a destabilizing effect not only in North Africa but among the Muslim communities in Europe, where Moroccans make up a large share of the population,” Samuels said.

He noted the presence in February of anti-Semitic literature such as Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and Henry Ford’s “International Jew” at Casablanca’s International Fair of Publishing and Books, which is billed as the most important book fair in the Arab world.

Samuels said he feared a worsening of anti-Semitic rhetoric in Morocco in view of the submitting in 2013 to the country’s parliament of two bills, yet unpassed, that would criminalize trade and other forms of exchange with Israel, as well as the publication by an anti-Israel organization of names of businessmen — many of them Jewish — who are said to have ties to Israel.

Moroccan authorities, Samuels added, “may wish to appease extremists by turning a blind eye to anti-Semitism.”

Wiesenthal Center tells Jews not to go to Reykjavik

The Simon Wiesenthal Center on Friday issued a travel warning for Jews wishing to visit the Icelandic capital after Reykjavik municipality voted Tuesday in favor of a boycott of Israeli goods “as long as the occupation of Palestinian territories continues.”

In an emailed statement Friday, the associate dean of the LA-based Jewish NGO, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, said that while Iceland was a popular destination with many Jews and Israelis, “when the elected leaders of its main city pass an extreme anti-Israel and anti-Semitic law, we would caution any member of a Jewish community about traveling there.”

Cooper also accused those behind the boycott of hypocrisy, for singling out Israel as a target. “The Jewish state alone — not Syria, not Iran, not North Korea, or the Sudan — is being subject a dangerous double standard that needs to be denounced by all fair-minded people,” he said.

Iceland’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday distanced itself from the boycott decision, saying the move was “not in line” with the country’s foreign policy. Its government told The Times of Israel that the resolution by the capital was its own and not representative of the country’s stance.

“The Ministry for Foreign Affairs wishes to underline that the City Council’s decision is not in line with Iceland’s foreign policy nor does it reflect on Iceland’s relations with the State of Israel,” a spokesperson said by email.

The ministry pointed out that Reykjavik, Iceland’s largest city and home to one-third of the island’s population, “formulates policies pertaining to its own local affairs, including its procurement policy, ensuring that it is in accordance with national legislation.”

In 2013, 2014, and 2015, Iceland’s total imports from Israel amounted to roughly $6 million, the bulk of which was Dead Sea chemicals and machinery.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry condemned the move, and, in an apparent reference to Iceland’s famed geological activity, said “a volcano of hatred spews forth from the Reykjavik city council building.”

“For no reason or justification, except hatred for its own sake, calls of boycotting the state of Israel are heard,” the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “We hope someone in Iceland will come to their senses and end the one-sided blindness fielded against Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East.”