Headlines 29 January, 2010
ANTISEMITISM IN MALMO-REPORT FROM SWEDEN
28/1/2010- Swedish newspaper Skånska Dagbladet has recent days published a series of articles describing the situation of the small Jewish community in Malmö. This Jewish community has 700 members of a total of around 3000 Jews living in southern Sweden. The situation is now so bad that Jewish families feel forced to move from Malmo. One family has moved to Israel, another to Stockholm and persons interviewed in the story is about to sell their house. Malmö has previously been known as the city in Sweden with the most problems with Islamic extremism. The mayor of Malmö, Ilmar Reepalu (Social democrat) has made a reputation as a strong critic of Israel. He has not expressed any clear support for the city's Jews. A few years ago Reepalu responded "Ariel Sharon" to a question from a journalist on which person of the whole world he dislikes the most. During the war in Gaza the Jewish cemetery in Malmö was attacked with fire bombs. A demonstration in support of any civilian casualties during the war were attacked by extremists with fire bombs, vandals chanted "Fucking Jews" and "Hitler, Hitler." The police were forced to cancel the demonstration to ensure participants' safety. In connection with the Davis Cup tennis match between Sweden and Israel in Malmö last year, Ilmar Reepalu argued that the match should be cancelled. Subsequently it was decided that the match would be played before empty stands. Outside the arena, protests took place and several people were arrested by police. Among the demonstrators were predominantly Muslim extremists and left-wing extremists. A Nazi group in southern Sweden expressed its support for the protests.
One thing that separates the development in Malmö from other protests is that harassment and violence against Jews did not lead to any strong protests from the city's leading politicians. It is actually very unusual for Sweden. The reason is that the Muslim population in Malmö is a key voter group. Ilmar Reepalu is interviewed in Skånska Dagbladet series of articles about the threats to Malmö's Jews. An excerpt:
SKD: Have you considered that in public say that Malmö will not accept anti-Semitism. Or is it controversial?
Reepalu: "We accept neither Zionism nor anti-Semitism. They are both extreme points-of-view that place themselves above other groups and believe others are worthless."
SKD: Can you help to mitigate the hatred against the Swedish Jews who do not want to take a position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
Reepalu: "Israel used totally disproportionate force in the Gaza conflict. It is an abscess of course."
Reepalu: "I would like the Jewish community distanced itself from Israel's violations of the civilian population in Gaza. Instead, they choose to hold a demonstration in the town square, which could send the wrong signals."
Ilmar Reepalus conclusions is that Zionism and anti-Semitism is the same thing, that Israel has created an abscess, and that the Jews sends "wrong signal" when using their constitutionally guaranteed right to organize a demonstration in support of all civilian victims of Gaza war. The Jews thus carries the blame for the violence they suffer and that force families to move from Malmö. Also note that this interview is published on the Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27. It should finally be said that Ilmar Reepalus statements in no way stands unchallenged in Sweden. There is now a big debate. Swedish Public Radio had a large piece yesterday about the situation of Jews in Malmo, several newspapers have expressed sharp criticism of Reepalu in editorials, blogs speak out about the topic. Jewish organizations have written letters to the Social Democratic party leader Mona Sahlin.
For further information do not hesitate to contact the Swedish Committee Against Anti-Semitism
Fredrik Malm, Member of Parliament, Sweden
© email source
MEDIA AND POLITICIANS 'FUEL RISE IN HATE CRIMES AGAINST MUSLIMS' (uk)
Report blames 'Islamophobic, negative and unwarranted portrayals of Muslim London' for increase in attacks in the capital
28/1/2010- A rise in the number of hate crimes against Muslims in London is being encouraged by mainstream politicians and sections of the media, a study written by a former Scotland Yard counter-terrorism officer, published yesterday, says. Attacks ranging from death threats and murder to persistent low-level assaults, such as spitting and name-calling, are in part whipped up by extremists and sections of mainstream society, the study says. The document – from the University of Exeter's European Muslim research centre – was written by Dr Jonathan Githens-Mazer and former special branch detective Dr Robert Lambert. "The report provides prima facie and empirical evidence to demonstrate that assailants of Muslims are invariably motivated by a negative view of Muslims they have acquired from either mainstream or extremist nationalist reports or commentaries in the media," it says. Lambert headed Scotland Yard's Muslim contact unit, which helped improve relations between the police and Britain's Islamic communities. The unit won praise from even long-standing critics of the police, and Lambert was awarded an MBE. The study mentions no newspapers or writers by name, but alleges that the book Londonistan, by the Mail writer Melanie Phillips, played a part in triggering hate crimes. "Islamophobic, negative and unwarranted portrayals of Muslim London as Londonistan and Muslim Londoners as terrorists, sympathisers and subversives in sections of the media appear to provide the motivation for a significant number of anti-Muslim hate crimes," it says.
In his foreword, the rightwing journalist Peter Oborne writes: "The constant assault on Muslims from certain politicians, and above all in the mainstream media, has created an atmosphere where hate crimes, ranging from casual abuse to arson and even murder, are bound to occur and are even in a sense encouraged by mainstream society." The report is based on interviews with witnesses to and victims of hate crimes, as well as police officers and former members of extremist organisations such as the British National Party. The report cites interviews with rightwing extremists to try to prove a link between what is published in the mainstream media and the anti-Muslim views held by extremists. It says: "An experienced BNP activist in London explains that he believes that most BNP supporters simply followed the lead set by their favourite tabloid commentators that they read every day. "When these commentators singled out Muslims as threats to security and social cohesion, he says that it was perfectly natural for BNP supporters to adopt the same thinking." The report says the extreme right are directing their violence more against Muslims than black or Asian Britons. "Interviewees with long experience of extremist nationalist street violence in London are unequivocal in their assessment that Muslim Londoners are now a prime target for serious violence and intimidation in the way that Londoners from minority ethnic communities once were," it says. "Similarly, interviewees with experience of London street gangs that have no connection or affinity with extremist nationalist politics are adamant that Muslims have become prime targets for serious attacks.
"In addition, well-informed interviewees are clear that the main perpetrators of low-level anti-Muslim hate crimes are not gangs but rather simply individuals from a wide range of backgrounds who feel licensed to abuse, assault and intimidate Muslims in terms that mirror elements of mainstream media and political comment that became commonplace during the last decade." The report says the attacks come in part from street gangs targeting Muslims as punishment for members who have embraced Islam and left gang culture. "Often, they know someone who has left their scene and become a devout Muslim," the document, which also drew on interviews with youth workers dealing with gangs, says. "That is like a defection. And whether they do or don't, they say they know this or that terrorist who used to be a great person till he joined the Muslims." The report also says gang members believe Muslims values "oppose everything these kids aspire to. Flash cars, nightclubs, expensive clothes, jewellery, drugs, alcohol, casual sex, glamour, dancing, music ...". The study says the majority of hate crimes involve low-level incidentsand are not reported to police. Most officers are committed to tackling anti-Muslim hate crimes seriously, but are undermined by a few colleagues who are not. But the study warns: "Anti-Muslim hate crimes have not been afforded the same priority attention [that] government and police have invested in racist hate crimes."
The report is dedicated to Yasir Abdelmouttalib, a PhD student who was left brain-damaged after a gang of youths attacked him in London, striking him over the head with a stick, as he made his way to a mosque while wearing Islamic clothing. It cites other cases of rightwing extremists preparing hate campaigns and of serious attacks on Muslims in Britain. These included: "Neil Lewington, a violent extremist nationalist convicted in July 2009 of a bomb plot; Terence Gavan, a violent extremist nationalist convicted in January 2010 of manufacturing nail bombs and other explosives, firearms and weapons; a gang attack in November 2009 on Muslim students at City University; the murder in September 2009 of Muslim pensioner, Ikram Syed ul-Haq; a serious assault in August 2007 on the Imam at London Central Mosque; and an arson attack in June 2009 on Greenwich Islamic Centre." The study focuses on anti-Muslim violence in London, with its authors saying they will produce one covering the whole of the UK by this summer.
© The Guardian
FALL IN REPORTED GAY HATE CRIMES IN DEVON AND CORNWALL (uk)
23/1/2010- The number of gay hate crimes being reported to police in Devon and Cornwall has fallen by about 30% over the last five years, the force says. There were 135 crimes reported in the year ending March 2005, compared to 94 during the same period in 2009. The Intercom Trust in Exeter - which supports local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people - said many cases were still remaining unreported. Police said they were working to encourage more victims to come forward.
Andy Hunt, from the Intercom Trust, said he often dealt with people who did not feel there was any point in reporting incidents of harassment or discrimination. He said: "We do work with people to try and encourage them to report things to the police. "But some people think they won't take it seriously. There is a lack of trust and confidence in the authorities." Diversity officer Sgt Glynn Currey said the force had come a long way in dealing with such crimes. But he added that officers understood why victims were reluctant to come forward. He said: "People will have had negative experiences with us in years gone by, or with another force. We are aware of that. "We now put in a large amount of effort to ensure people are safe and they can come to us in confidence with their concerns."
© BBC News
MOSQUE FIRE 'NOT RACE HATE CRIME' (uk)
22/1/2010- A teenager who petrol bombed a mosque has escaped a jail sentence after it was judged not to be a race hate crime. Peter Clark, from Livingston, set fire to Livingston Mosque and Community Centre in West Lothian with a beer bottle filled with petrol. Members of the mosque stamped out the fire before police were called in. Clark, 19, appeared before Livingston Sheriff Court and was fined £400. He was also ordered to pay the mosque £60 in compensation. Fiscal depute Victoria Greening told the court that members of the mosque found the smouldering remains of the bottle smashed against a door at the back of the religious building on 17 August, 2008. The bottle was taken away for analysis and the DNA proved a match to Clark who had earlier denied any knowledge of the fire. In mitigation, Clark told the court that he had been having problems with his pregnant girlfriend and had also learned that his father was not his biological dad. He said he had turned to drink and had been walking through woods when he came across a green container with petrol in it. Clark said he set fire to some of the petrol before filling a beer bottle with more of it. The father-of-one said he tried to throw it at the fence of the mosque but missed and hit the building. Ms Greening said: "There is no indication that this was a racially motivated crime." Clark's solicitor, Ian Bryce, said his client was not a racist and he was not acting in a racist manner. "It was an act of profound foolishness, nothing more, nothing less than that," Mr Bryce added. Sheriff Alan Miller said: "You are very lucky really. "This incident could have turned out to be so much more serious than it did had the fire really taken effect or had there been injury to people as well as damage to premises."
© BBC News
ISRAELIS SAYS ANTI-SEMITISM PEAKED IN 2009
24/1/2010- The findings of an Israeli report released Sunday says 2009 saw the most anti-Semitic incidents in western Europe since World War II. The report by an Israel-led umbrella of organizations dedicated to the combat of anti-Semitism outlined hundreds of violent incidents in Britain, France and Holland. It said the number of incidents in the first three months of 2009 in western Europe surpassed that of all of 2008. That followed Israel's invasion of Gaza, which evoked harsh reactions. In France, for example, there were 631 anti-Jewish incidents in the first half of 2009, of which 113 were violent, according to the report. Worldwide, eight people were killed in attacks last year. Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky pledged to dispatch representatives from the semi-governmental organization to combat what he said was growing anti-Semitism at European universities. The Israel-based agency deals with immigration and Jewish issues.
© The Associated Press
BEAR SPRAY ATTACK RACIALLY MOTIVATED (Canada)
26/1/2010- Racism was behind the attack of a black man blasted with bear spray, police say. Edmonton police announced charges Monday in an assault last Sept. 27 at a convenience store near 118 Avenue and 50 Street. “Based on the ongoing investigation which includes witness information and video evidence, we have reason to believe that the incident was racially motivated,” said Staff Sgt. Darren Derko. “The key elements in this investigation were the availability of quality video surveillance and witnesses who remained at the scene. Officers in our hate crimes unit were steadfast in their investigation which brought us to the point of identifying both suspects and making the arrest.” On the morning of the attack, a black man entered a convenience store and was confronted by a white man and a white woman already inside, police said. Racial slurs were hurled at the victim. The alleged racists left the store, but police said the woman returned to assault the victim with bear spray. The attackers then fled the scene. Lacey Dawn Snyder, 21, was charged with criminal harassment, causing a disturbance, assault with a weapon, possession of an offensive weapon and mischief. Dylan Alfred Trommel, 23, was charged with criminal harassment, causing a disturbance and theft under $5,000. The theft charge stemmed from goods stolen from the store prior to the incident, police said. Both suspects live in Edmonton.
© Canoe News
JEWISH CEMETERY IN STRASBOURG DESECRATED (France)
MKs attending Int'l Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony in France shocked to find headstones in local Jewish graveyard broken, sprayed with swastikas
27/1/2010- A grave expression of anti-Semitism was discovered in Strasbourg, France, Wednesday: Knesset Members Shlomo Molla (Kadima) and Amnon Cohen (Shas), who attended a city ceremony marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, found that the local Jewish cemetery was desecrated by neo-Nazis, and closed by police. Upon trying to visit the graveyard, which was founded in 1810, the two found 31 of desecrated headstones: "It was a horrible sight, which probably stemmed from the rising anti-Semitism is Europe," Molla told Ynet. There were dozens of shattered tombstones, swastikas sprayed everywhere – complete destruction. This is a heinous crime," he added. "And today of all days, when dozens of European dignitaries attending the ceremony… this is a reminder that anti-Semitism is alive. World nations must pass laws against such anti-Semitic expressions." Israeli consul to Marseille Simona Frankel, who arrived at the cemetery said the perpetrators "must have has extraordinary ill will, considering the temperatures in Strasbourg dropped below -10 last night. "The timing, obviously isn’t coincidental, either. There's some anti-Semitism in France, but this is the first time I've come across it personally. I can't even describe the shock."
Gilbert Roos, Israel's honorary consul to Strasbourg, said the city is home to 17,000 Jews: "Unfortunately, we see such incidents here from time to time. Every once in a while the incidental idiot, some neo-Nazi or a member of a far-right group will carry out this kind of anti-Semitic act. "We're not afraid, but this kind of thing seems to be happing more often. Mostly, we're just appalled that 65 yeas after the war this kind of thing still exists." The report about the Strasbourg cemetery desecration came at the same time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was addressing the crowd at an International Holocaust Remembrance Day memorial in Auschwitz. "We will always remember what the Nazi Amalek did to us, and we won't forget to be prepared for the new Amalek, who is making an appearance on the stage of history and once again threatening to destroy the Jews," Netanyahu said at the ceremony.
© Ynet News
ANTI-SEMITISM ON THE RISE IN AMSTERDAM (Netherlands)
In 2009, the number of anti-Semite incidents in Amsterdam doubled compared to the year before. The Jewish community fiels under siege.
26/1/2010- On an evening during the week-long Jewish holiday of Sukkot, Ber van Halem (22) crossed a street in Amsterdam’s affluent Zuid neigbourhood, only to hear a group of boys invoke a Dutch ethnic slur (“Kankerjood”) involving both a deadly disease and his Jewish heritage. Not once, but several times. Van Halem confronted the boys and continued on his way. Suddenly, he heard the sound of bicycles behind him. He turned around and an argument developed. Out of nowhere, he felt somebody hit him. He fell to the ground. “I was kicked in my stomach and on my shoulder while prone,” Van Halem recounted. Van Halem’s beating, which took place in October 2008, remains one of the most infamous manifestations of anti-Semitism in the Netherlands in recent years. The incident led to public outcry, when local police failed to find time to register Van Halem’s formal complaint days later. “We were very busy working a robbery,” a spokesperson for the Amsterdam- police force explained. The Van Halem case has since been closed. Not one perpetrator was caught.
Anti-Semitist incidents doubled
In 2008, 14 anti-Semitic incidents were reported in the Dutch capital, making for relatively calm year in the city that is home to most of the country’s approximately 40,000 Jews. New - as yet unpublished - data collected by a semi-governmental agency that reports on discrimination, have shows that the number of reported incidents grew to 30 in 2009. This development is in line with national trends, said Elise Friedmann of the Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel, a pro-Israel lobby group in the Netherlands. “We estimate the total number of reported incidents doubled in 2009,” she said. Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza strip in January of that year was the driving force behind the explosive growth, according to Friedmann. “In that month alone we had a hundred or so reports come in, almost the same amount we did over the entire year before,” she said. When an Israeli military operation dominates the headline, Van Halem is one of the first to notice it on the streets. “The verbal abuse hurled at me on the streets is becoming more severe and more regular,” he said. Experience has taught him that the boys taunting him are almost always of Moroccan descent. “Their reasoning goes something like this: Israelis are Jews, Palestinians are Arabs, so we Moroccan ‘Arabs’ in the Netherlands are going to take on Dutch Jews,” said Menno ten Brink, a rabbi for the liberal Jewish community in Amsterdam.
More and more under siege
At the time when Van Halem was beaten, Israel was relatively quiet however. “They spotted my skullcap and started swearing at me,” he recounted. Van Halem has been wearing the traditional headgear, proscribed by the Jewish faith, since he was six. “Ever since, I have been cursed regularly. When I was 8 I hurt myself after I was pushed against a bicycle stand. My leg needed stitches,” he said. Many people witnessed his 2008 beating and were able to give the police good descriptions of the assailants. Van Halem was surprised when the police sent him a letter, letting him know that the perpetrators had never been found. Rabbi Ten Brink wonders whether the police had really tried its best. “All these witnesses and the police can’t find the guy who did it. Telling,” he said. A spokesperson for the Amsterdam police force assured they had done everything within their power. We had plainclothes cops staking out the area for days, looking for the boys. But we couldn’t find anyone,” the spokesperson said. The case was finally closed in May of last year. Ten Brink’s sceptical attitude towards the police illustrates of the Amsterdam Jewish community at large. Jews here feel more and more under siege as they are exposed to a growing barrage of name-calling, hate mail, firecrackers in their mailboxes, graffiti and – occasionally – physical abuse. They feel the government should do more about it, by coming down harder on perpetrators, for one, but also by investing more in their security financially.
'Hilter let one get away'
The liberal Jewish community in Amsterdam is building a new synagogue. “Security is costing us hundreds of thousands of euros,” Ten Brink said. “In Antwerp and Paris, synagogues were attacked. The same could happen here.” On the shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, security officers guard the synagogues. “Fear has taken hold,” said Max Engelander, chairman of the Amsterdam police force’s Jewish network, which was founded last year. “That is why we do not take lightly to anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination,” he said. How big is anti-Semitism really in Amsterdam? “It is a serious problem, but it doesn’t occur on a daily basis,” Ten Brink said. Rabbi Raphaël Evers a rabbi serving Amsterdam’s orthodox community, felt the problem was more serious. “I do not get out much, but when I do I am almost always insulted along the lines of ‘Hitler let one get away’. My mother says it is worse now than it was before the second world war,” he said. Bloeme Evers-Emden, a 83-year old survivor of the concentration camps, lost most of her family during the Holocaust. “In 1939 I was 13. The NSB [The Dutch fascist party] disseminated a lot of anti-Jewish propaganda back then, but I do not remember Jews getting beaten as they are now.” Evers-Emden lives in a part of Amsterdam home to a lot of Moroccans. “I saw a kid about 8 years old yelling something about ‘killing Jews’. I asked him ‘do you know what you’re saying?’ He said ‘yes’, and went on repeating himself.” Van Halem feels uncertain whether anti-Semitism is on the rise. “It goes up and down, mostly following events in Israel,” he said. He and his friends do feel an urge to strike back. “A lot of my friends have been trained in the Israeli army. I have years of martial arts training myself. Occasionally we’ll say: ‘come on, let go get them back’. But in the end, we don’t want to form a militia or anything.”
© The NRC
DANES NOT GOOD TO MINORITIES
A third of Somalis in Denmark have experienced personal discrimination according to an EU report.
27/1/2010- Denmark comes towards the top of a list of countries in which hate crimes take place, with only Roma in the Czech Republic and Somalis in Finland worse off than Somalis in Denmark, according to an EU report. In the report on selected minority groups in all of the member countries, a third of Somalis in Denmark say they have experienced serious racist assault, serious harassment or threats. The survey was based on 27,000 interviews across the European Union. “Denmark has a major problem in relation to discrimination,” says Morten Kjaerum, head of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights which carried out the survey. “We see that the figures that we have previously worked with (...) were only the top, in fact only the very top of the iceberg,” he says.
Researcher not surprised
Mandana Zarrehparvar, who is head of the Department of Equality and Diversity is not surprised that Somalis are particular targets – and not only for ethnic Danes. “Somalis are particularly vulnerable simply because of their very dark skin colour. They are lowest in the hierarchy, including among other ethnic groups,” says Zarrehparvar who undertook a survey of hate crime for Copenhagen Council.
The Chairman of Somali Development Denmark is not surprised at the results either. “This is something we often hear from people. Most have experienced verbal harassment, but many also experience physical aspects,” says Muhammed Maxamed Abshir. Maxamed tells of women who are pushed in the street; a boy who was held around the neck and many who are shouted or spat at in buses or in the street. He says that racist harassment and threats are part of everyday life several places in Jutland. Only some 80 percent of attacks on Somalis are reported to the police. “They are afraid that the authorities won’t do anything and that things will just get worse. Many have complained without anything being done and that spreads from family to family. At the end of the day you learn to live with it,” says Maxamed.
“Denmark focuses too little on hate crime. The police should be trained to handle situations and investigate when hate crimes are reported,” says Zarrehparvar adding that minorities themselves must be aware of their rights and where they can seek help.
Others also harassed
Other minority groups also appear to be harassed. The National Association of Gays, Lesbians and Transgender people says that there are attacks each weekend. Also the Documentation and Advice Centre on Racial Discrimination says that Jews and Turks are affected. The Socialist People’s Party has proposed a task force to inform and train police officers so that they are better able to register and solve hate crimes. The proposal is currently on its way through Parliament.
'ANTI-SEMITISM IN POLAND SHOWS NEED FOR HOLOCAUST EDUCATION'
Head of the European Jewish Congress says that current anti-Semitim illustrates the need for commemeration of the Holocaust
28/1/20010- Anti-Semitic incidents in Poland from this week alone show the need for vigorous efforts to commemorate the Holocaust, the president of the European Jewish Congress told reporters this week, ahead of International Holocaust Day. "This week we saw the language of Adolf Hitler and Adolf Eichmann in Poland," Moshe Kantor said. He was referring to statements attributed to the Krakow-based Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek, who was quoted as telling an Italian Catholic news web site that the Shoa, or holocaust, was a "Jewish invention." Kantor, who spoke about this issue at a press conference in Krakow, was also referring to the spraying of anti-Semitic graffiti on the community building of the Jewish community in the city of Wroclaw in western Poland this week. "Keep in mind these things were said in the center of a murdered [Jewish] civilization of one million people," Kantor said of Pieronek's statements. "This man is a bloody anti-Semite." The Polish daily Rzeczpospolita on Tuesday ran an interview with Pieronek, in which he explained that he told the Italian reporter who interviewed him that the Jews had invented the word Shoa, and not the extermination of six million Jews, which he said "no reasonable person would deny." He also said it was the Jewish People's right to use the Holocaust to their advantage.
"We should not pay attention to the wording," Kantor said in rejecting the bishop's explanations. "We should pay attention to the essence." He condemned the spraying of the words "Jude Raus" (German for "Jew out") in Wroclaw. "This is a disgraceful act of intolerance and anti-Semitism and the Polish authorities need to move quickly and decisively to catch and punish the perpetrators," said Michael Freund, the founder of the non-profit Shavei Israel. The offensive graffiti was sprayed on the building which serves as the headquarters to the Poland emissary of the nonprofit group that seeks to return "hidden Jews" to Judaism's fold. "The best response to those who seek to intimidate Jews is to fortify and strengthen Jewish life and that is precisely what we will do," Freund added. The Wroclaw community center serves between 500 to 1,000 Jews, according to the organization's emissary to Poland, Rabbi Yitzchak Rapoport. He said the last time such graffiti was scribbled on the community building's walls was during Operation Cast Lead last January. Rapoport said the graffiti may have been connected to increased media coverage of Jewish issues in the Polish press ahead of a ceremony at the Auschwitz Nazi death camp on Wednesday, commemorating 65th years since the camp's liberation, but that he wasn't sure of this. The event was attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other prominent Israeli politicians, as well as European Parliament members.
Kantor said he would speak with some of the people attending about opening an academic institution on tolerance and security, two concepts which Kantor described as inter-dependent.
Headlines 22 January, 2010
THE NEXT STOP FOR THE ROMA: CANADA? (Hungary)
Drive-by murders. Burning crosses. Swastikas. As far-right violence against the minority mounts in Hungary, Ottawa braces for a flood of refugees
22/1/2010- Once or twice a month, three-year-old Mate Csorba disappears from his family house on the edge of a Hungarian village. When his worried relatives find him wandering in the forest, he tells them he is searching for his father and his older brother, who are out hunting. That is, after all, what his grandmother told him one morning a year ago, after a midnight blaze of firebombs and gunshots destroyed their house on the edge of a rural village, and black-clad gunmen chased the boy's family through the woods and killed Mate's father and five-year-old brother, both named Robert. "Little Mate had been sleeping in my house when I heard three shots and a window smashing in their house next door," his grandmother, Erzsebet, said as she surveyed the burned-out ruins. "I heard a car driving away fast, and then saw my daughter-in-law standing and screaming outside, with burns all over her, beside the body of little Robert. I couldn't tell Mate the truth." The drive-by murders were strikingly similar to dozens of other crimes across Hungary last year. The largest group of victims lived in houses at the edge of a village, bordering on the woods. Some had burning crosses or swastikas planted outside their homes. And all the victims, like the Csorbas, were members of Hungary's large Roma minority, sometimes known as Gypsies. The attacks, which tapered off in the autumn but many fear will return after Hungary's April elections, have made members of this highly segregated, formerly nomadic minority terrified for their lives. "You can't imagine what it's like when it gets dark here," Erzsebet Csorba says. "My 14-year-old son sleeps in my bed, he's so afraid of ending up like his brother." She plans to stay put in Hungary, in defiance of the right-wing militia known as the Hungarian Guard that likely carried out the killings. But many of her neighbours are considering another, increasingly popular tack: Fleeing Hungary, very often to the safety of Canada.
That is why this Hungarian murder spree, and its aftereffects, have become a matter of deep concern in Ottawa, where officials say they are likely to impose visa restrictions this year on Hungarian visitors. After the killings gained attention last year, Canada began seeing a sharp spike in applications for refugee status from Hungarian Roma families visiting Canada. Hungary is now Canada's third-largest source of refugee claimants, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada. The Harper government is likely to require Hungarians to make applications for visas at Canada's consulates in Hungary, an expensive process that could draw waves of protest from the sizable Hungarian-Canadian community, many of whom arrived as refugees after the 1956 Soviet invasion. Officially, the government has no visa plans, but aides said restrictions are likely to be imposed after Hungary's April election, in order to avoid providing ammunition to extremist anti-Roma parties. The move would follow similar visa restrictions placed on the Czech Republic and Mexico last summer (the Czech case was also designed to stop Roma refugees) which provoked diplomatic reprisals from both countries and threatened to damage trade relations. According to figures provided by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, there were 285 Hungarian applications for asylum in 2008, the first year Hungarians were allowed to enter Canada without visas. In the first nine months of 2009 alone, after the murders in Hungary began, that number increased almost fivefold, to 1,353 applications - and the numbers for the past four months are believed to be even higher. All of the 2009 asylum applications have been rejected. Canadian officials argue that Hungarian citizens are free to live in any of the other 26 EU countries, so are not considered legitimate asylum claimants.
This influx is so alarming to the Harper government that Immigration Minister Jason Kenney visited Budapest last summer to lobby the Hungarian government to get tougher on the anti-Roma crimes. Shortly after that visit, Hungary announced a string of arrests, including the two men held responsible for the Csorba murders. Things have become quiet in recent months, but there are fears that another wave of killings will begin when warm weather returns and Hungary's upcoming elections are over. Those elections are expected to produce gains for the ultra-right-wing Jobbik Party, whose members have made explicit statements against Roma, Jews and other minorities. The party won 15 per cent of the Hungarian vote in last year's European Parliament elections. It has close ties to the outlawed Hungarian Guard, an armed neo-Nazi militia whose members wear fascist-style uniforms and have been convicted in many of the killings. The winner of the elections is expected to be the centre-right Fidesz Party, whose leaders have been slow to censure members who have ties to the extreme right or make anti-Semitic and anti-Roma statements. Roma politicians here say that Hungary's governments have repeatedly failed to make life safe for this long-established people. "In communist times, they made us live in separate villages and go to separate schools. And in the last 20 years nothing has changed - there has been no serious effort to introduce racial integration, even though it's what we want, or to bring Roma schools and towns up to national standards," says Viktoria Mohacsi, a Roma who was a Hungarian Member of European Parliament until she was defeated by a Jobbik candidate last year. In the village of Tatarszentgyorgy, in an isolated area 65 kilometres southeast of Budapest, there is little sense that anything has been done beyond arresting two members of the Hungarian Guard for the Csorba murders. The mayor of this district, who has ties to the Guard, refused to act or to enter the Roma village, its residents say. His police investigation had concluded that the family had died from a fire caused by electrical faults; only months later did Budapest intervene and note the gunshot wounds to father and son. The ruins of the house still stand and Ms. Csorba still has shocked memories of that night, when it took two hours for an ambulance to arrive as her son lay dying in her arms.
© The Globe and Mail
BITS FROM RUSSIA
Neo-Nazi Gang on Trial in Nizhny Novgorod
22/1/2010- A gang of seven neo-Nazi university and high school students face multiple murder and assault charges, according to a January 19, 2010 report by the news web site Newsru.com. The gang came to the police's attention after one of its members shot his professor dead in a dispute over his behavior in class. The gang allegedly killed four other people, mostly from the Caucasus, and also committed four assaults and several robberies, targeting either minorities or anti-fascist activists. According to police, the gang met in an extremist Internet forum.
Another Attack on Jehovah's Witnesses
20/1/2010- A group of around half a dozen unidentified people threw stones and shouted death threats at a Jehovah's Witnesses congregation in Sochi, Russia, according to a January 15, 2010 report by the Sova Information-Analytical Center. The enraged assailants tried to break down a fence in order to attack the
Jehovah's Witnesses inside, but were unsuccessful. Police detained two suspects.
Series of Attacks on Africans in Moscow
20/1/2010- At least three attacks on Africans in Moscow have been recorded by the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy, which serves many foreign residents of the capital. An employee of the Ghanaian embassy fell victim to an attack at a bus stop on January 1 and had to be hospitalized. On January 10, a different citizen of Ghana was hospitalized after an attack on the metro. Finally, on January 12 near the Tretyakovskaya metro station, someone attacked a Nigerian man, breaking his arm and causing other injuries. There are no reports of any arrests in connection with these attacks.
Neo-Nazis Accused of New Year's Murder
20/1/2010- Two neo-Nazis killed a man in a village near Kaliningrad, Russia, according to a January 12, 2010 article in the Kaliningrad edition of the national daily
"Komsomolskaya Pravda." The suspects allegedly hit their victim with metal pipes and then kicked him in the head repeatedly with heavy boots in Kosmodemyanskoe. The suspects reportedly confessed to the killing, stating that their motivation was that the victim was a drug addict and that they had decided "to cleanse the earth of that sub-human." Russian neo-Nazis usually attack ethnic and religious minorities, but have also gone after ethnic Russian homeless people and drug addicts.
Anti-Fascists Attacked in Barnaul, Russia
20/1/2010- Two separate attacks on anti-fascists took place in Barnaul, Russia (Altay Kray) last November, according to a January 18, 2010 report by the Sova Information-Analytical Center. On November 8, six far-right activists followed a participant in the "Foods not Bombs" project, an anti-fascist event that includes the feeding of homeless people, and then attacked him. The victim ended up with head trauma and a fractured rib. On December 13 four far-right extremists chased after an anti-fascist, who managed to escape. Also that month, far-right extremists wearing masks stalked and then assaulted a local anti-fascist. The victim was hospitalized with head trauma. None of the victims reported the attacks to the police.
Tver Prosecutors Charge Neo-Nazi Gang With Extremism
14/1/2010- Prosecutors in Tver, Russia have completed their investigation into a neo-Nazi gang and sent charging documents to a court, according to a January 11, 2010
report by the RIA-Novosti news service. Five members of the "Nordic Front" face extremism charges after being accused of pasting neo-Nazi leaflets and painting graffiti on buildings around the city. All the suspects are minors from prosperous families, an increasingly common phenomenon in Russia.
Arsonists Target Jehovah's Witnesses Prayer Hall, Baptist Church in Volzhsky
14/1/2010- Arsonists struck a Jehovah's Witness prayer hall and a Baptist church in Volzhsky, Russia (Volgograd region), according to a January 3, 2009 report by the Kavkavsky Uzel web site, which covers news in the Northern Caucasus. In both cases, the arsonists threw Molotov cocktails through the windows of the churches, but quick reactions from firefighters helped to minimize the damage. Police report that they are establishing leads on possible suspects. In another development, on December 29, 2009 an anti-extremism unit of the MVD in the Republic of Adygeya launched an investigation into a local Jehovah's Witness congregation, issuing 11 warnings to the congregation's leaders accusing them of "extremism." Since a court in Taganrog classified Jehovah's Witness as an extremist organization earlier this year, a growing crackdown on that faith has taken place in several Russian regions. Anti-extremism laws, originally meant to counter growing neo-Nazi violence and insurgents in the Caucasus, has increasingly been abused by federal and local authorities to persecute peaceful political opposition members and minority religious faiths.
St. Petersburg Police Detain Neo-Nazi
14/1/2010- Police in St. Petersburg, Russia detained a 17 year old neo-Nazi on unspecified charges, according to a January 11, 2010 report by the Sova Information-Analytical Center. While it is not clear what motivated the police to search the suspect's apartment initially, investigators found a variety of weapons in the apartment.
NEW WAVE OF NEO-NAZI VIOLENCE HITS SAINT PETERSBURG? (Russia)
16/1/2010- Saint Petersburg’s Nazi group has assumed responsibility for the December murder of a Ghana citizen, Fontanka.ru reported. Police hope that the internet video confession will help them find the criminals. In a video the group posted online, a man in a mask greets his fellow extremists, calling for further terror. In an address, Nazi group NS-WP confessed that they killed 25 year-old Solomon Attengo Gvadjo on December 25.The man suffered some 40 knife wounds to the stomach, head, neck, chest, arms and legs. As the Nazi’s announcement came close to the New Year’s celebration when police were preparing for mass celebrations in the city, it appeared almost unnoticed by law enforcement agencies. Meanwhile, the internet address contained a video recording of the attack. The man in the video said in a disguised voice that “Nazis have lost their best warriors” with many “kept in captivity.” Then it gave the reference to an article about the murder of Solomon Attengo Gvadjo, followed by a video of the attack. The video concluded with a poster showing Dmitry Borovikov, a neo-Nazi “icon”, killed in May 2006. Members of the Borovikov – Voevodin group have been arrested for numerous murders and attacks on foreigners of color in Saint Petersburg. The gang also would make announcements about their bloody deeds online. Meanwhile, police claim that the video address of Borovikov’s followers might help them find the new group. According to officials, through the web domain ws, where the gang posted its address, it is possible to find those responsible for the announcement. A Saint Petersburg’s Federal Security Service expert was also quoted by Fontanka.ru as saying that the speaker whose voice was modified can still be easily identified. The source said the voice modification is not enough to conceal all 600 parameters of a human voice. “If you give me the recording of this Nazi and then the voices of suspects, I will easily identify who made the announcement,” he told Fontanka.ru.
© TV Novosti
21/1/2010- The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the carving of a swastika into the hood of a car belonging to a Calabasas High School student. Officials are calling the incident a hate crime. Matthew Babadjouni, 17, discovered the swastika scratched onto his 2009 BMW on Jan. 11. It wasn’t the first time his car had been vandalized with derogatory drawings. The 11th-grade student said during the past month he’s found swastikas and phallic symbols outlined in the dust on his car. One time the symbols were put on with washable paint. “I was shocked,” Matthew said. “I’d seen it happen before, but I didn’t think it would happen to this extent.” The boy said he doesn’t know who the culprit might be. Officials are perplexed because the Jewish population at the high school is high. “This could very well be an isolated incident at this point,” said Detective Chris Keeling of the sheriff ’s department hate crime force. “There has not been a rash of Jewish kids being targeted, which is a good thing.” Keeling said his unit is interviewing students and that fingerprints have been lifted from the victim’s car. “The community shouldn’t be alarmed,” he said. Calabasas High School Principal C.J. Foss called the incident a possible “one-on-one” occurrence. “While this student has had his car marked before with a phallic symbol, other students have not had their cars violated in a similar manner,” Foss said. “As an administration we are saddened by the incident and we are committed to getting to the bottom of it,” she said.
School administrators have responded to the crime with meetings between counselors and student leaders to get a sense of the “word on the street,” Foss said. She also met with the Associated Student Body in an open forum to discuss the issue. The school previously had plans under way for a tolerance program called SHARE to be conducted in the spring semester. SHARE stands for Stop Hate And Respect Everyone. “We are planning a program to address conflict mediation and how to engender tolerance for all cultures, religions and individuals,” Foss said. Foss offered Matthew the opportunity to either attend Agoura High School or complete his course work through independent study, but the boy said he wants to remain at Calabasas. “I don’t feel threatened as much as I feel (I’m in) an uncomfortable position that no one should be in,” he said. “I have a lot of supportive friends. They call me and make sure I’m all right.” Matthew’s mother, Sarouna Babadjouni, said she and her family would prefer to wait and see what the sheriff’s investigation turns up before they decide Matthew’s future. “My son doesn’t have problems with anybody at the school, so it’s kind of awkward,” Babadjouni said. “We don’t know if it’s one person or 10 people. These things usually (take place) in groups.” Foss said the school is “deeply saddened that any student is a target of vandalism, especially vandalism that includes stereotypical racial/religious epithets.” “We are determined to eradicate this reprehensible behavior and send the message that intolerance of any kind will not be tolerated,” she said. “As a city we are committed to ensuring that intolerance and hate are not among the values of our community,” said Calabasas Mayor Jonathon Wolfson.
© The Acorn
MINISTRY GROUP SEEKS TOUGHER LINE ON HATE CRIMES (Finland)
18/1/2010- On Tuesday a Justice Ministry panel called for tougher, more specific laws against hate crimes, while anti-racism activists held a demonstration in Helsinki. In a report handed over to Justice Minister Tuija Brax on Tuesday, the working group recommends adding a new criminal charge be added to the law books, which translates roughly as aggravated incitement against a societal group. It also says the current laws on hate crimes be expanded to cover acts based on victims' sexual orientation or handicaps, and to make it possible to punish groups or associations found guilty of hate crimes. The panel wants more rules against online racism, for instance making it a crime to publish a link to a racist website.
Anti-Racism Demo in Helsinki
Also on Tuesday there was a demonstration in Helsinki against racism and hate crimes. Police say that around 140 people took part in the protest near the Kiasma Art Museum. Tuesday marked the first anniversary of the murders of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and investigative journalist Anastasia Baburova in Moscow.
© YLE News
DUTCH ANTI-ISLAM MP'S TRIAL FOR HATE CRIME STARTS TODAY (Netherland)
20/1/2010- The trial of Dutch right-wing anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders on hate crime charges begins today in Amsterdam in a landmark case testing the limits of free speech in the Netherlands. The long-awaited legal case against the country’s most controversial politician has been extended to include inciting hatred against Moroccans and non-western immigrants based on his statement that “the borders will close that same day”, referring to his plans if he were to become prime minister. He has also pledged to ban the Koran, which he likens to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, close borders to non-western immigrants and tax clothing commonly worn by Muslims such as headscarves because they “pollute” the landscape. Mr Wilders already faces five counts of religious insult and anti-Muslim incitement. The charges stem from his 2008 short film, Fitna, which offended many Muslims by juxtaposing Koranic verses with images of terrorism by Islamic radicals. The politician (45), who lives under permanent protection because of death threats, has urged an end to “the Islamic invasion” and famously declared that if the prophet Muhammad were alive today he should be “tarred and feathered” and deported as an extremist.
Despite a flood of protest from anti-racism campaigners who wanted Mr Wilders prosecuted for racial discrimination, Amsterdam’s public prosecutor’s office originally decided that his comments (made outside parliament and not privileged) should be seen as a contribution to the debate on Islam in Dutch society and no criminal offence had been committed. But after Amsterdam’s appeals court ordered that Mr Wilders be put on trial, prosecutors opened a criminal investigation. The framework for the legal case will be set out in a crowded courtroom today. The defence will not be heard until March, it was reported. Mr Wilder’s party rivals the country’s biggest party in popularity polls and is tipped to pick up even more seats as a result of the exposure from the case. Mr Wilders has claimed: “Freedom of speech is being sacrificed on the altar of Islam, but I am ready to fight back with my head held high.” His celebrity lawyer, Bram Moszkowicz, will cite a 2009 Dutch supreme court ruling that insulting a religion is not the same as insulting followers of that religion and is not punishable under hate speech laws. If convicted, Mr Wilders faces a maximum sentence of two years in prison, though a fine of up to €18,500 is more likely. He could also theoretically keep his seat in parliament.
© The Irish Times
BRITONS ARRESTED OVER ARSON ATTACK ON CRETE SYNAGOGUE (Greece)
Nightclub waiters held with Greek man after Etz Hayyim Synagogue in port city of Hania set alight twice
22/1/2010- Two British nightclub waiters have been arrested after arson attacks on a historic Jewish synagogue on the Greek island of Crete which have drawn condemnation from around the world. The men, aged 23 and 33, are in custody alongside a 24-year-old Greek man after the restored medieval Etz Hayyim Synagogue in the port city of Hania, one of the most noted Jewish temples in Greece, was twice set alight this month. The fires, which destroyed 2,500 rare books and manuscripts, sparked alarm among the 8,000 Jews in Greece. The US state department said the attacks were "clearly intended to intimidate and terrorise Greece's Jewish community". The arsons were the latest of several incidents of antisemitic vandalism across Greece, including attacks on synagogues and cemeteries in Larissa, Volos, Thessaloniki, Ioannina and Athens. During the first fire, on 5 January, a bottle with flammable liquid was found, according to witnesses. That fire was extinguished. But another, on 16 January, destroyed books and computers as well as causing considerable damage to art work and to the interior of the building, which is Crete's only synagogue. The 33-year-old Briton, who has not been named, is accused of being the perpetrator of that second attack but denies the charges. The Greek man and 23-year-old Briton are accused of keeping watch. Two US citizens are being sought in connection with the first attack, with the three detained also accused of involvement, said local police.
The 15th-century synagogue was restored in 1999 after lying derelict since the Holocaust. By 1941 most of the Jews in Crete had emigrated, leaving only the Hania community of 269 people. They were deported by Nazi invaders in 1944 and died when their ship was bombed and sunk by the Allies. Now a cultural centre and museum as well as a house of worship, the building was renovated with help from the World Monuments Fund. As a derelict building it was seen by locals as "a monument to the success of the Nazis in obliterating 2300 years of Jewish life" but is now a "vibrant statement of Jewish life, vitality and values", according to its website. The men were reportedly arrested after the Greek co-accused confessed. Israel has called on Greece to better protect its Jewish heritage. Moses Constantinis, head of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, said: "We are worried, the Jewish community is worried."
© The Guardian
THE SHAME OF MODERN GREECE (opinion)
The country suffers from a lack of moral leadership denouncing the embarrassment of anti-Semitism.
By Andrew Apostolou
18/1/2010- The repeat arson attacks on a synagogue in Greece demonstrate that Turkey is not the only Mediterranean democracy cursed with anti-Semitism. Arsonists have attacked the Etz Hayyim synagogue in Chania, on the Greek island of Crete, twice this year. The fires on Jan. 5 and 17 have inflicted substantial damage on a structure that was only restored in 1999 after lying derelict since the Holocaust. The attempts to destroy Crete's only synagogue follow a spate of vandalism of Jewish graves in Ioannina in northwestern Greece. After the attacks: The two fires this month have inflicted substantial damage on the Etz Hayyim synagogue in Chania, which had been restored only eleven years earlier. Compounding these acts of violence is Greek society's shameful indifference to anti-Semitism. This was amply demonstrated during the arson incidents in Crete. Non-Greeks played an admirable role in saving the synagogue. An Albanian immigrant was the first to spot the fire in the early hours of Jan. 5. The Albanian caretaker of the synagogue and a Moroccan also rendered vital assistance. Nikos Stavroulakis, the director of the synagogue and the man behind its restoration, has written about the "the lack of 'locals'" on the scene after the first attack—all the more shocking given that these 'locals' would have lost their homes and businesses had the fire spread. Those who sleep through the night while a synagogue burns in their own town are a metaphor for Greece's attitude to anti-Semitism. The fundamental problem with Greek anti-Semitism is not that it is rampant. It is that in a country of 11 million with just 5,000 Jews, few Greeks care to resist it. Greece suffers from a lack of moral, religious and social leadership denouncing the embarrassment of anti-Semitism, be it vandalism or the now banal comparison of Israel with the Nazis in the national media.
The indifference of many Greeks is unsurprising. The official version of the history ensures that few know of the Jewish component of Greece's past. Many Greeks do not know that their second largest city, Salonika, had a Jewish majority for most of its modern history. Instead of the Holocaust being treated as a moment for moral and historical reflection, it is portrayed as an opportunity for national self-congratulation because of the rescue of a small number of Greek Jews. The genuine heroism of Greek Christians who saved Greek Jews from the Nazis in such places as Zakynthos and Athens is used to obscure the collaboration and indifference that helped condemn tens of thousands of Greek Jews to death in Salonika and northern Greece. This ignorance has been reinforced by historians, Greek and foreign alike, who have largely skated over collaboration during the Holocaust. Like the Greek government, historians prefer to emphasize the rescue of Jews rather than prompt an examination of the often shameful and ambiguous stance that too many Greeks took during the Second World War. The leaders of Greece's barely 5,000 strong Jewish community take a similar historical approach for obvious political reasons. Over sixty years after the Holocaust, myths prevail over scholarship. Most Greek politicians are complicit, failing to take anti-Semitism seriously as a local problem. With the admirable exception of former conservative prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis, who has vigorously condemned the arson attacks, Greek politicians have responded lethargically to the latest incidents. This is despite the tremendous and commendable efforts of such organizations of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), which has sought to educate Greek opinion leaders. The AJC's efforts have convinced some Greek politicians that their country is diminished by ignoring anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, too many still regard anti-Semitism as a public relations issue that affects Greece's image abroad, rather a moral question bearing upon its social sanity at home.
Very occasionally, some principled citizens express their disgust, but national figures generally do not bother to support these small local initiatives. In December 2009 hundreds of non-Jews in Ionnina formed a human chain around the Jewish cemetery there to protest its repeated desecration. In Salonika a few young historians have begun to ask questions about the massive theft of Jewish property during the war. What these handfuls of activists have understood is that anti-Semitism can be as harmful to non-Jews as to Jews. Only a handful of Jews remain in Chania and Ioannina. These are places more of Jewish memory than of community—over 90% of Chania and Ioannina's Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. The non-Jews in these towns now have to live with the lingering hate and immoral ambivalence that over sixty years ago allowed so many Greek Jews to be taken away to their deaths.
© The Wall Street Journal
Headlines 15 January, 2010
83-YEAR-OLD MAN CHARGED WITH HATE CRIME (usa)
11/1/2010- An 83-year-old city man has been charged in connection to anti-Semitic graffiti and symbols scrawled in the span of two years on the walls of several local buildings. Max Mahr, who appeared in a Guelph courtroom Monday, was arrested and charged on Sept. 30, 2009 with five counts of mischief under $5,000. Continuing police investigation resulted in another charge of willful promotion of hate. Guelph Police Sergeant Doug Pflug said it took more than three months to lay the final charge as approval was needed from the Ministry of the Attorney General. The graffiti was found in different locations throughout Guelph, including the Stone Road Mall, Riverside Park’s Enabling Gardens, Meadowvale Garden Centre and Wal-Mart. Pflug wouldn’t comment on how police connected the incidents to the alleged suspect. Reached over the phone Monday, Mahr would only say that he was with the German navy during the Second World War. He declined to comment on the charges he faced, referring his calls to his lawyer Matthew Stanley. Stanley couldn’t be reached for comment. According to the Criminal Code, the willful promotion of hate is communicating statements promoting hatred willfully, other than in private conversation, against any identifiable group. Anyone found guilty of the charge can be imprisoned for a maximum of two years. Mahr’s next court appearance is on Feb. 5.
© The Guelph Mercury
TWO ARRESTED AFTER RACIST GRAFFITI FOUND ON TRACY BUILDING (usa)
11/1/2010- One man was booked on a civil rights violation and hate crime enhancement, and another on suspicion of vandalism, after police found racist graffiti on a Tracy office building Saturday night. Police initally were called to Lowell Avenue and Tracy Boulevard on a report of two men fighting, said Sgt. Tony Sheneman. When they responded, officers found a substantial amount of freshly scrawled graffiti on the back of a dentist's office and on a nearby vehicle. The graffiti was derogatory toward African Americans and Jews, Sheneman said. One of the men in the fight, 20-year-old Jacob Hicks of Tracy, had the same color of paint on his hands as was used for the graffiti. He was arrested on suspicion of vandalism, a civil rights violation and a hate crime enhancement. The man he had allegedy been fighting with, 31-year-old Matthew Clowes, also of Tracy, was arrested on suspicion of vandalism. The two told police they are followers of the hardcore hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse and are white pride enthusiasts. Sheneman said he did not know the cause of the fight. After being treated in the hospital for injuries suffered while fighting, the men were booked into San Joaquin County Jail.
© The Contra CostaTimes
GAY COMMUNITY RALLIES FOLLOWING VIOLENT GAY-BASHINGS (usa)
11/1/2010- Gay rights activists are planning a massive rally to support two victims who were recently the targets of violence. Organizers plan to hold a "Take Back the Night" event this Friday at Buffalo's Days Park at 7 p.m. In one incident, Lindsay Harmon, 29, of Buffalo, was stabbed in the eye near a popular lesbian nightclub during the early morning hours of New Year's Day. Harmon said her attacker, a female, yelled anti-gay slurs during the incident. 12 hours earlier, a 20-year-old Buffalo man was pepper-sprayed in the parking lot of the Walden Galleria. Police said his attackers also screamed anti-gay slurs during the incident and left a note on his car with anti-gay comments on it. Two women, Joy Darden, 18, and Deonna Burnett, 19, are facing hate crime charges in Cheektowaga Town Court. "These sorts of events happen every day," said Tim Moran, publisher of Outcome, an online gay news Web site. "The problem with a crime of anti-gay violence is that they don't get reported." And when they are reported, Moran said, police do not often identify the incidents as hate crimes. Moran believes that is what happened two years ago in Springville, when Scott Wright, 48, of Atlanta, was attacked on Main Street. Police said his alleged attacker, Josh Holts, 26, yelled anti-gay slurs throughout the incident and left Wright with a fractured skull, nine broken bones in his face, a detached retina and a ruptured ear drum. Holts pleaded guilty to charges in October, but when he appeared before Erie County Court Judge Thomas Franczyk on Monday, he was allowed to withdraw his guilty plea. The judge told Holts that he was going to hand down a seven-year sentence instead of a a lighter sentenced that was presented at the time the plea was made. The judge said he received new evidence in the case. Wright's family believes the judge discovered the alleged motive behind the attack.
TURKS TARGET ROMA AS TENSIONS EXPLODE
13/1/2010- Ercan Koca says he and his family owe their lives to a well-locked door. “They tried for half-an-hour, but they could not break down the iron door,” Mr Koca told Turkish media after his house in Selendi was attacked by a mob last week. “If they had gotten in, we would have all been killed. They set my car on fire with a Molotov cocktail.” He said some of the attackers wore masks. More than 70 people, all Roma like Mr Koca, were driven from their homes in Selendi, an agricultural town of about 8,000 people in Manisa province close to the Aegean, after being attacked by several hundred Turks. The violence started when a row between a local tea house owner and a Roma client escalated. Houses of Roma were pelted with stones while attackers shouted, “Selendi is ours and will remain that way,” news reports said. Some Roma said they heard cries of “Hit the gypsies” from the crowd. But Musa Yildiz, the tea house owner, said the Roma had sworn at him and hit him. Police did not make any arrests but later escorted dozens of Roma, including women and children, out of town. Some have been staying with relatives in nearby Gordes while others were re-housed in Salihli, further to the West. “There had been tensions between Roma and non-Roma over there for a long time, and they exploded last week,” Yakup Cardak, the chairman of the Roma Culture and Solidarity Association, an organisation in the western city of Izmir, said yesterday. “Local authorities should not have let that happen.” The government in Ankara has promised to investigate the reasons behind the violence and offer solutions to the problems.
The events in Selendi have not only shocked Turkey’s Roma community. They have also raised more general concerns that social peace in Turkey may be under threat, especially because the attacks on the Roma in Selendi coincided with clashes between other groups elsewhere in the country. In the north-western city of Edirne, leftist activists demanding the release of several friends from prison were attacked by a group of nationalist Turks, and reports said the police had failed to intervene to stop the violence. The disturbances in Selendi and Edirne have been described as “lynching attempts” in the media. Some observers believe that democratic reforms of recent years, which encouraged minorities in Turkey to seek more rights, have removed the lid from ethnic and other social tensions that used to be kept under tight control in the name of national unity. In the past, Turkish laws banned expressions of ethnic diversity, but the country’s bid to join the European Union has changed that. Leading politicians such as Abdullah Gul, the president, have praised the country’s ethnic and cultural diversity as an asset. But opposition leaders have warned that the government’s policy of reform is a threat to national unity. “In the past, ethnic religious and other differences could become clear only in a very tight framework, voices against discrimination could not be raised,” Oral Calislar, a columnist for the Radikal newspaper, wrote after the events in Selendi. But this was changing, he added. As initiatives by the government in Ankara to expand rights for the country’s Kurdish, Roma and Alevi minorities made progress, nationalist reactions against the reforms increased, Calislar wrote.
Mr Cardak’s Roma association in Izmir offers one example for the development Turkey has gone through. When he first founded the organisation in 1996, it was immediately closed down again because Turkish laws at the time did not allow mentioning the name of an ethnic group in the title of an association. Mr Cardak, 63 today, refounded the group in 2005, after Turkey enacted reforms that strengthened civil society. He said Roma felt they had more rights today. Roma have been living in Anatolia for hundreds of years. The size of their community in today’s Turkey is unclear because laws do not allow the categorisation of citizens according to their ethnicity; estimates vary between half a million and five million people. Mr Cardak said Roma were generally well integrated into wider Turkish society. “Of course there are prejudices that you cannot get rid of, but we have been living together for centuries and will continue to do so.” He welcomed the discussion about minority rights and the government’s reaction after the Selendi incident. “I don’t think something like this will happen again.” Some Roma from Selendi are not so sure. They refuse to return to the town, even though they own houses there. Representatives from Selendi, including Nurullah Savas, the mayor, have visited some of the Roma that were driven out of town last week and asked them to come back. “You are our brothers,” Mr Savas, a member of the right-wing Nationalist Action Party told the Roma, according to news reports. But some Roma were quoted as saying that their children were still traumatised by events. One victim, Erdal Cetin, said some of his best friends in Selendi were among the first people to throw stones at his store.
© The National
HATE-CRIME CHARGES IN QUEENS ATTACK ON GAY MAN (usa)
15/1/2010- Two Queens men who allegedly taunted, stomped and robbed a gay man last fall have been indicted on hate-crime charges. Daniel Aleman, 26, and Daniel Rodriguez, 21, each face up to 25 years in prison if convicted of the assault and robbery rap. Queens prosecutors say the duo spotted Jack Price, 49, walking near his home in College Point around 4:30 a.m. on Oct. 8 and shouted anti-gay slurs. Then they allegedly punched, stomped and kicked Price. After he fell to the ground, they stole his wallet and cash, officials said. The vicious attack was captured on surveillance video. "Acts of violence motivated by hate or intolerance violate the fundamental principles and spirit of equality and freedom on which our country was founded," Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said. Price was nearly killed in the attack, and was hospitalized for three weeks with a broken jaw, broken ribs, two collapsed lungs and a lacerated spleen. The incident sparked a large anti-bias rally in Price's neighborhood.
© The New York Daily News
CLAIMS OF HATE CRIME OVER SOCIAL NETWORKS (uk)
15/1/2010- Police have vowed to clamp down on hate crimes across Teesside after claims two people were targeted through social networking sites. The Safer Middlesbrough Partnership and partner agencies operate a monthly Hate Crime Case Group to tackle harassment. A hate crime is any criminal offence motivated by hostility or prejudice based on the victom’s disability, race, religion or belief, sexual orientatio or transgender. Recently the group dealt with two reported cases of internet- based hate crime after the victims were targeted through social networking sites because of their race or religious backgrounds. Sergeant Ian Sharp, from Cleveland Police’s community safety unit, said: “We will not tolerate any form of hate crime in Middlesbrough, and will use all the resources at our disposal to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice. “They will be firmly dealt with by the police and other criminal justice agencies.” The group includes the Safer Middlesbrough Partnership, Cleveland Police, Crown Prosecution Service, North of England Refugee Service, Erimus Housing, Middlesbrough Voluntary Development Agency, Anti-Social Behaviour Team, the BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) Network, Victim Support, Tees Valley Housing, Unite and Middlesbrough Council. Matt Fowler, Safer Middlesbrough Partnership co-ordination and development support officer, said: “While the internet and online world can be a means of bringing people together and providing new forums for social contact, individuals can also be at risk from unwanted contact, inappropriate behaviour and potentially harmful content. “We also have evidence of the internet being exploited by those who want to spread messages of hate. “We would urge all users of the social networking sites, such as Facebook, to exercise caution and control when adding individuals to their contacts who request friendship, if they are previously not known to them.”
© The Northern Echo
RISE IN HATE CRIME FOLLOWS BNP COUNCIL ELECTION VICTORIES (uk)
15/1/2010- Reports of racial and religiously motivated crime rose following the election of British National party councillors in several far- right strongholds, police statistics have revealed. Complaints of hate crime increased in wards in the West Midlands, London and Essex after the election of a BNP member, in spite of declines in reported hate crime in the wider police areas. In other wards race crime reportedly rose in the runup to BNP election victories, according to the figures, obtained by the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act. The findings came as the party stepped up its campaign to win its first seats in the House of Commons with a "weekend of action" in Barking and Dagenham, where the culture and tourism minister, Margaret Hodge, faces a challenge for her Labour seat from BNP leader, Nick Griffin. Hodge said the new figures cast doubt on police assurances that there is no link between racially motivated crime and a BNP presence.
Yesterday, BNP member Terence Gavan was jailed for 11 years after police found nail bombs and 12 firearms at his home in the borough of Kirklees, West Yorkshire, where the BNP has councillors. The Old Bailey heard that Gavan harboured "a strong hostility" towards immigrants. One of the biggest increases in hate crime came in Barking's Eastbury ward, where racially motivated violence, theft and criminal damage more than doubled in the year after Jeffrey Steed won a council seat for the BNP in May 2006. A year later, hate crime rose again and 45 racial incidents were reported in 12 months. In several other BNP wards, race crime fell in line with declines in the wider areas, but anti-fascist campaigners believe rises may be linked to BNP election wins. "Voters have been emboldened in their racist views by seeing the BNP in power and that could have led to the increases in racist attacks in some areas," said Sam Tarry, campaign organiser for the Hope Not Hate campaign, set up by the anti-fascist group Searchlight. "The figures suggest that if the BNP wins more seats, people from ethnic minority and gay communities could face greater persecution because racist and bigoted views will have been further legitimised."
The BNP denies that increases in hate crime are related to its activities and blames the rises on increased immigration. Bob Bailey, the party's London organiser said: "This is due to an increase in the ethnic [sic] population. There are more people who are prepared to go to the police complaining they are victims." The Guardian has analysed data from 11 police forces covering 29 wards across England where voters have elected BNP councillors in the past six years. In eight wards reports of hate crime rose following BNP election wins despite a wider decline across the police force area. It declined in 14 wards, in line with force-wide reductions, and there was no change in four and an insignificant amount of data in three. In Essex, complaints of race crime rose after the election of BNP councillors in parts of Epping Forest, while in Chelmsley Wood, a suburb of Birmingham, the average annual incidence of race crime almost doubled after George Morgan won a seat for the BNP in May 2006.
In the four years before his election, there were an average 11 incidents a year rising to an average of 21 a year in the following four years. West Midlands police said some cases involved assault, while most were incidents of verbal abuse in shopping centres, taxis and in the police station with white and Asian victims. Detective Chief Inspector Sharon Goosen said: "None of the offences reported in the area since 2006 can be directly attributed to an elected member or political organisation." The BNP is understood to be planning to field more than 1,000 candidates in local elections and 300 candidates in the general election. Griffin and the BNP deputy chairman, Simon Darby, who is standing for Stoke Central, are considered to have the best chance of winning seats at Westminster.
© The Guardian