14 Days: French Protest

A roundup of the last two weeks.

Jews in France protest on February 19th, 2019 (photo credit: PHILIPPE WOJAZER/REUTERS)
Jews in France protest on February 19th, 2019
FRENCH PROTEST Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Paris and other French cities on February 19 after a Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim close to Strasbourg in eastern France was vandalized, with almost 100 gravestones desecrated and spraypainted with swastikas. Meyer Habib, a Jewish member of France’s National Assembly, said the recent spate of antisemitic attacks raised “serious questions about the future of Jews in France.” Aliyah and Integration Minister Yoav Gallant urged France’s half a million Jews to come home to Israel.
Poland pulled out of a summit in Israel of four central European countries in mid-February over what it deemed offensive comments by Israel Katz, just after he was appointed acting foreign minister by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Quoting former premier Yitzhak Shamir, whose father was murdered by Poles, Katz said “the Poles suckle antisemitism with their mothers’ milk.” The prime ministers of Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic did arrive for the conference.
OMAR APOLOGY Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat and the first Somali-born member of Congress, insisted on February 15 that she is not antisemitic, and apologized for a tweet widely condemned for perpetuating Jewish stereotypes. “I know what intolerance looks like,” Omar said, after suggesting financial motives behind US political support for Israel. In a tweet that triggered the biggest blowback, Omar wrote, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” referring to a 1997 Puff Daddy song containing a derisive reference to Jews. Critics in Israel and across the US political spectrum slammed Omar for spreading what many, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, called an “antisemitic trope.”
GOLDEN GATE Palestinians celebrated on February 22 after the Golden Gate site (also known as the Gate of Mercy) was reopened on the Temple Mount, having been closed by Jerusalem Police to Muslim worshipers in 2003. Thousands of Palestinians, chanting “Allahu Akbar!” entered the site, a week after protesters had broken down the iron gate to the area, triggering clashes with police officers. Several were lightly wounded or arrested.
TA MARATHON Some 40,000 runners took part in the Tel Aviv Samsung Marathon – Israel’s biggest sporting event of the year – on February 22. Participants included about 2,500 athletes from the US, China, Russia, the UK, Germany, Poland, Italy and France and a big delegation of top international runners seeking to win the prize of $40,000. Demi Samuel Getachew of Ethiopia won this year’s marathon, crossing the finish line in two hours, 14 minutes and 30 seconds. Margaret Wangui Njuguna of Kenya won the women’s race in two hours, 40 minutes and 25 seconds.
BERLIN PRIZE Israeli director Nadav Lapid’s “Synonymes,” the story of a man who flees what he considers a repugnant political situation in Israel to Paris, won the Golden Bear, the top prize at the 69th Berlinale, the Berlin International Film Festival, on February 16. Lapid dedicated the prize to his mother, film editor Era Lapid, who died while editing the film. His father, Haim Lapid, co-wrote the film and stood onstage with him. “‘Synonymes’ is a film that might be defined in Israel as a scandal,” he said, “but for me the film is also a celebration.”
OSCAR WIN Israeli director Guy Nattiv and his American wife, actress and producer Jaime Ray Newman, celebrate after winning an Academy Award for Best Live-Action Short Film on February 24 for “Skin,” which deals with racism in America. “This film is about education. It’s about teaching your kids a better way,” said the 45-year-old Tel Aviv native who moved to the US five years ago. Newman dedicated the award to their five-month-old baby daughter, Alma, whom she hoped would grow up in a world in which “people learn to love and accept each other.”