Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Yom ha-Shoah 2018 - the murder of the Jews of Liepaja, Latvia

Tonight and tomorrow are Yom Ha-Shoah, and this is a post commemorating the deaths of the Jews of Latvia, among whom were my grandfather's uncle, Mordekhai Falkon, and his wife, Dobra Falkon.

A few years ago, I joined a Facebook group for Latvian and Estonian Jews in Israel. One of the latest posts provided a link to a documentary that has been made recently on the murder of the Jews of Latvia. (It is one of several made in the series, "SEARCHING FOR THE UNKNOWN HOLOCAUST").

The documentary, called "Drawers of Memory: The Holocaust in Latvia," interviews Jewish survivors and their non-Jewish neighbors about what happened in 1941, after the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union and conquered the Baltic states. A very high proportion of the Jews of Latvia were murdered by the Nazis and their Latvian collaborators, mostly by shooting (part of the "Holocaust of Bullets" which was perpetrated by the Einsatzgruppen, the squads of killers that followed the Wehrmacht as it invaded and conquered the western Soviet Union).

If you click on the video, it brings you to the segment on Liepaja (also known as Libau), where my grandfather's uncle, Mordekhai Falkon, lived with his wife Dobra. Mordekhai was probably killed in the summer of 1941, while Dovra probably died at the beach of Skede, north of Liepaja, where thousands of Liepaja Jews were murdered during December 15-17, 1941. The video shows the memorial at Skede, and the beach where people were killed. There are shown some photographs in a book of the Jews at Skede, before, during, and after they were shot. (My assumption is that a Nazi soldier or a Latvian collaborator took the photographs).

Monday, April 09, 2018

The Cave of Hands

Sunday, April 08, 2018

America's Federally Funded Ghettos

On a different note, from the New York Times editorial for today -
Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development, showed utter contempt for his agency’s core mission last month when he proposed deleting the phrase “free from discrimination” from the HUD mission statement. Yet Mr. Carson is not the first housing secretary to betray the landmark Fair Housing Act of 1968 — which turns 50 years old this week — by failing to enforce policies designed to prevent states and cities from using federal dollars to perpetuate segregation. 
By its actions and failure to act, HUD has prolonged segregation in housing since the 1960s under both Democratic and Republican administrations. The courts have repeatedly chastised the agency for allowing cities to confine families to federally financed ghettos that offer little or no access to jobs, transportation or viable schools. The lawsuits, filed by individuals and fair housing groups, have forced the agency to adopt rules and policies that have been crucial in advancing the goals of the Fair Housing Act.
It's well worth reading the whole editorial, as it succinctly lays out the case that residential segregation in the US was substantially created (in the North) by government action, and that it's necessary for the federal government to finally start fully enforcing the Fair Housing Act, passed in the 1968 after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Why was Yaser Murtaja killed?

Why was Yaser Murtaja killed, and why were six other Palestinian journalists wounded on Friday, April 6, 2018? Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man writes on +972 on the IDF frequently targeting Palestinian journalists:
The circumstances are that the Israeli military, which insists it doesn’t target journalists, has a highly discouraging record of failing to hold its soldiers and pilots and generals accountable for targeting and killing journalists in Gaza. That includes the 2012 assassination of two journalists who were traveling in a car clearly marked “TV,” numerous airstrikes on media and broadcast offices, and more
The circumstances are that, week in and week out, Israeli security forces consistently fail to differentiate between Palestinian journalists and the protests and events they are covering, using violence against both without distinction. In countless cases, documented and undocumented, journalists have been clearly targeted by troops — and the army often brazenly defends that violence.
This is the beginning of Omer-Man's article:
A State-Sponsored Mass shooting 
On a day when military snipers shot hundreds of unarmed demonstrators, the army declares that ‘the circumstances in which journalists were wounded are unknown.’ The circumstances couldn’t be clearer.  
Palestinian protesters take cover behind a dirt mound as Israeli soldiers open fire from across the border in the distance, east of Jabaliya, Gaza Strip, April 6, 2018. Israeli snipers have killed over 30 people and shot over 1,000 others since The Great Return March began a week earlier. (Mohammed Zaanoun/
Palestinian protesters take cover behind a dirt mound as Israeli soldiers open fire from across the border in the distance, east of Jabaliya, Gaza Strip, April 6, 2018. Israeli snipers have killed over 30 people and shot over 1,000 others since The Great Return March began a week earlier. (Mohammed Zaanoun/  
Israeli army sharpshooters and snipers have shot over 1,000 unarmed Palestinian protesters inside the Gaza Strip in the past week, killing more than 30 people. This past Friday, at least six Palestinian journalists were reportedly among those shot at the Great Return March. One of them, Yasser Murtaja, a photographer for “Ain Media” who was reportedly wearing a helmet and vest clearly marked “PRESS” when he was shot, later died of his wounds.
Go to +972 to read the entire story.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

A eulogy for Yaser Murtaja

Yasser Murtaja, with a cat sitting on his camera.
A eulogy by Anas N. Almassri, posted on his Facebook page.
While at work today, I was translating the news of deaths and casualties from the border areas. The name of a dear friend, Yaser Murtaja, a husband, a father, and a young photojournalist, was on the list. Yaser was an ambitious entrepreneur; he co-built one of Gaza's most thriving media companies, عين ميديا Ain Media. Through his eyes, the lens of his camera, and the quality work of his company, Yaser documented stories of pain but also of hope, of misery but also of joy and success. Yaser was there on popular celebrations and university graduation ceremonies, yet never just as a photojournalist; he was everybody's wish for a humorous friend--time with Yaser was a genuine bliss. The largest number of his selfies are with happy graduating men and women, with talented children, with singing girls, with loving friends, and satisfied clients. He was furthermore a good friend of nature and the environment; through his camera, I myself restored my appreciation of the beauty of nature in Gaza even when it has grown to be too polluted, now far uglier with the tragic death of him, a modest, kind and very helpful friend. 
Yaser did not deserve the live fire that sent his young and pure soul to eternal sleep, his laughter to forced cessation, and his talent to a melancholy end. I do not agree with the idea of continuing these demonstrations, or even holding them this way in the first place; it is stupid and truly life-demeaning, but I also do not agree with the way Israeli forces are using their mighty power to fatally wound Palestinians. The Palestinians, the Israelis, the free and responsible citizens of the globe should all equally be alarmed by the death and injury of more people like Yaser, who now left his young family in lasting grief and insurmountable trauma of missing him. What is happening is, yes, dehumanizing to the Palestinians, but it is even more so to the Israeli snipers who shoot to kill. I quote my friend Mohammed Alhammami in wondering about "what the soldier was thinking. What kind of upbringing he had, what kind of series of life events that led him to this very moment [the shooting of a civilian protected under legal and moral terms], where he thought it was completely fine to shoot and kill another human being. How dehumanizing is this?" 
May this bloodshed stop. May peace take over. and may Yaser's soul rest in warmth, comfort and joy in a better place. Amen!
For more on his life, see this article from Al Jazeera - Yaser Murtaja's Dreams of Travelling.html.

Real People are Dying in Gaza

I feel sick about what is happening in Gaza. I've read all the justifications for why Israeli forces have to use live fire, about how Hamas is using a civilian protest to try to get terrorists to the border to enter Israel and attack Israelis (which may be true, at least in part), about how all the Palestinians demonstrating at the border are terrorists. What do Palestinians themselves say? Do we automatically think that everything the IDF spokesperson's office says is true?

And, they aren't all terrorists. One non-terrorist was shot and injured today, and then died of his wounds - a Palestinian journalist, a photographer named Yasser Mourthaja. He was wearing a vest that had PRESS printed on it. (Source: Noga Tarnopolsky on Twitter).

Yasser Mourthaja
From Alex Kane, about Yasser Mourthaja:
Confirmed: Israeli army shot and killed Palestinian video journalist Yasir Murtaja. He was wearing a press jacket when he was sniped down. 
In a Facebook post written on March 24, two weeks before Israeli forces killed him, Yasser Murtaja writes of his wish to take photos from the air, not the ground, and says: "My name is Yasser Murtaja. I'm 30. I live in Gaza City and all my life I've never traveled."
Ali from Gaza wrote: "Journalist Yaser Murtaja. After hours of injury, he announced the news of his death. He was shot by Israeli snipers today. No right to the press about the Israeli occupation. Where are human rights?" (This is how Ali identifies himself: "The identity #Palestinian Social worker and psychiatrist #Photographer My life for the children of Gaza Travel to achieve my ambitions. instgram/ali from gaza").

From Elior Levy, about an hour ago. Levy is the Palestinian affairs correspondent and analyst for the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot.

"During the night two Palestinians died from their injuries as a result of the confrontations on the Gaza border yesterday. One of them was a journalist - Yasser Mourthaja, documentary photographer. He was shot in the stomach in the southern (Gaza) strip when he was photographing demonstrators. He wore a vest on which was written PRESS. The number of Palestinians killed yesterday stands at 9."

Mourthaja was not the only Palestinian journalist who was injured by Israeli forces on Friday. The Palestinian journalists' union said that six others were injured. "The union said the six were shot despite wearing clothes clearly identifying themselves as journalists, adding it held Israel 'fully accountable for this crime.'”

According to Omar Ghraieb, posting on Twitter on Friday morning:
Another photojournalist, Ibrahim Al Za'noon, got injured by while covering today.

Some more tweets from Omar Ghraieb. Let's listen to what he and other Gazans say. They aren't all members of Hamas or Islamic Jihad or the Salafist factions. Imagine what it must be like to live in Gaza, with the economy collapsing, the environment increasingly polluted, very little clean water - even the IDF admits this is happening.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Dept. of Homeland Security Compiling Database of Journalists and Bloggers

I have the feeling of Big Brother creeping into our lives....

Homeland Security to Compile Database of Journalists, Bloggers

Photo by Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security wants to monitor hundreds of thousands of news sources around the world and compile a database of journalists, editors, foreign correspondents, and bloggers to identify top “media influencers.”
It’s seeking a contractor that can help it monitor traditional news sources as well as social media and identify “any and all” coverage related to the agency or a particular event, according to a request for information released April 3.
The data to be collected includes a publication’s “sentiment” as well as geographical spread, top posters, languages, momentum, and circulation. No value for the contract was disclosed.
“Services shall provide media comparison tools, design and rebranding tools, communication tools, and the ability to identify top media influencers,” according to the statement. DHS agencies have “a critical need to incorporate these functions into their programs in order to better reach federal, state, local, tribal, and private partners,” it said.
The DHS wants to track more than 290,000 global news sources, including online, print, broadcast, cable, and radio, as well as trade and industry publications, local, national and international outlets, and social media, according to the documents. It also wants the ability to track media coverage in more than 100 languages including Arabic, Chinese, and Russian, with instant translation of articles into English.
The request comes amid heightened concern about accuracy in media and the potential for foreigners to influence U.S. elections and policy through “fake news.” Nineteen lawmakers including Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions last month, asking whether Qatar-based Al Jazeera should register as a foreign agent because it “often directly undermines” U.S. interests with favorable coverage of Hamas, Hezbollah and al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria.
The DHS request says the selected vendor will set up an online “media influence database” giving users the ability to browse based on location, beat, and type of influence. For each influencer found, “present contact details and any other information that could be relevant, including publications this influencer writes for, and an overview of the previous coverage published by the media influencer.”
A department spokesman didn’t immediately return a phone call and email seeking comment.
Responses are due April 13. Seven companies, mainly minority- or women-owned small businesses, have already expressed interest in becoming a vendor for the contract, according to the FedBizOpps web site.
— With assistance from Daniel Snyder

Sunday, April 01, 2018

More antisemitism from "The Labour Party Supporter" Facebook page.

It's just astonishing to see how many posts can be made to a Facebook page called "The Labour Party Supporter" that are blatantly antisemitic. The people who post to the page seem far more enthusiastic about attacking Jews than they do about helping or supporting Palestinians. If their focus was on criticizing Israel for what is does to hurt Palestinians, I would find that much more understandable - even if I wouldn't always agree with them. But being anti-Jewish is obviously far more compelling to the active members of the page.

And just to remind you all - this is the Facebook group that Jeremy Corbyn signed up to himself.

I was just kicked out of the group, but I still have screenshots of antisemitic posts from several members, Sheem Bari, Dara Miah, and Keith Everson - for them, see below.

Sheem Bari, apparently to celebrate Easter, has posted a series of antisemitic Youtube videos about how the Jews killed Jesus.

Sheem Bari always seems to think that the Jews control the Labour Party. Bari wants to kick all the Jews out of the Labor Party and not talk about the Holocaust. (Despite the fact that Bari has stated this, she has posted several links to articles about the supposed Muslim Holocaust.

Dara Miah, a frequent poster, is always going on about "Zionist Terrorists" and "Child Abusers" who "attack Islam." Dara never engages in a bit of introspection to wonder why he hates Jews.

And finally, Keith Everson has posted several times on the mural that Jeremy Corbyn did not originally recognize as antisemitic. Apparently he's having the same problem.