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Anti-Semitic incidents provoke unease in Berlin

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In the seven decades since the end of World War II, Germany has refused to gloss over its Nazi past. Holocaust education is mandatory in schools, and in the late 1980s and early ′90s the country welcomed tens of thousands of Jews from the former Soviet Union.

“For many Germans, no one in their right mind would be anti-Semitic and there is an astonishment that they have to deal with it again,” said Doron Rubin, the head of Berlin’s Kahal Adass Jisroel community organization.

Making such amends is also widely seen as playing into Merkel’s decision to open Germany’s borders to migrants in 2015, when around 1 million asylum-seekers reached the country, which had a population of 81 million. At times more than 10,000 people were arriving daily. Some migrants brought a hatred of Israel and belief in conspiracy theories involving Jews with them.

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There are around 100,000 Jews in Germany, and the vast majority are relatively secular and don’t outwardly display signs of their faith.

However, an Israeli Arab who wore a kippah in Berlin last month as an experiment was subjected to verbal abuse and was lashed with a belt by a teenage Syrian refugee. The incident was captured on video and quickly spread on social media.

When word of the attack spread, several cities around Germany hosted kippah marches with participants of all religions wearing the traditional head covering in solidarity.

Image: Germany Anti Semitism
A Jewish man in Berlin hides his kippah under a baseball cap.HC Plambeck / for NBC News

The success of far-right populists at the ballot box has also set off alarm bells. The anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party won more than 5.8 million votes in parliamentary elections in September — or around 13 percent of the ballots cast.

Felix Klein, the federal government’s new commissioner tackling anti-Semitism, has accused the AfD of helping make such views “presentable” again by challenging a longtime consensus about how to deal with the country’s fascist past.

Referring to Berlin’s Holocaust memorial, one senior AfD politician last year said that “Germans are the only people in the world who plant a monument of shame in the heart of the capital.”

However, Klein said that “discussion about drawing a line” under the Holocaust “is very dangerous.”

While the Jewish community is closely monitoring the rise of the AfD, the views and actions of the more than 1 million migrants who arrived since 2015 is a more immediate concern for some.

“Jews live side by side with migrants more than with the right-wingers who are often in rural areas or outside big cities,” said Sergey Lagodinsky, who is Jewish and a community board member in Berlin.

The number of anti-Semitic crimes in Germany increased by 2.5 percent during 2017, according to official figures. Overall crime was down by 9.6 percent last year.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said that while “imported anti-Semitic crimes” were rising, he pointed out that “almost 95 percent of anti-Semitic crimes in 2017 had a right-wing motive.”

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Either way, anti-Semitic incidents — which include those not considered criminal offenses — do appear to have been rising as a whole.

In 2017, 947 anti-Semitic incidents, including 18 attacks, were reported in Berlin to Research and Information on Anti-Semitism, an organization founded to record and publicize such events — no matter how small. The group said that represented a 60 percent year-on-year increase in reports.

They include several cases of Jewish children attending schools with large Muslim populations who transferred after classmates had taunted or mobbed them.

Liam Rueckert, 15, says he was subjected to such severe abuse at school last year — he said classmates would call him “s— Jew” or “s— Israeli” in German — that he refused to attend. He is now enrolled in a practical skills training course instead.

“It happened at least once a week,” Rueckert said. “Nothing happened to them. I would never go back.”

Muslim community leaders say concerns about anti-Semitism among migrants and their children is exaggerated and lets the far-right off the hook for its intolerance.

Image: Dervis Hizarci
Dervis Hizarci is the head of the Kreuzberg Initiative Against Anti-Semitism.HC Plambeck / for NBC News

“Even if every Muslim was anti-Semitic, which would obviously be bad, they aren’t the ones who rule here,” said Dervis Hizarci, the head of the Kreuzberg Initiative Against Anti-Semitism, which works with young people brought up in Muslim communities in Berlin.

There are nearly 5 million Muslims in Germany, around 6.1 percent of the population, according to the Pew Research Center.

Hizarci is no stranger to intolerance himself. A former high school teacher, he was once turned away when trying to rent an apartment because of his Turkish roots.

According to Hizarci, refugees tend to easily learn tolerance because of their backgrounds in facing persecution themselves.

“Germany has difficulty accepting that it is an immigrant country,” he added. “With the migration crisis it got even more complicated.”

Graffiti artist and shop owner Ibo Omari is trying to spread a similar message in his neighborhood.

Two years ago, a customer told him that a Nazi flag had been painted at a local playground.

Instead of erasing the swastika, Omari used spray paint to turn the image into a mosquito flying into a net.

He repeated the trick whenever a new swastika popped up.

Image: German grafitti
Swastikas are turned into mosquitoes on walls in Berlin, Germany.

“The problem is that many people don’t feel at home so they don’t feel responsible,” said Omari, 37, whose mother was born in Turkey and his father in Lebanon.

Through a nonprofit organization called The Cultural Heirs, he now runs graffiti workshops for children — including many from migrant families — to give them a feeling of belonging to their community.

Whether such local efforts are enough to change what the Jewish community believes is a growing problem remains up for discussion.

Jewish community leaders are pressing the government to implement further tolerance and anti-Semitism education in schools, as well as to send a strong signal that migrants with anti-Semitic views aren’t welcome.

Image: Ibo Omari
Ibo Omari.HC Plambeck / for NBC News

Klein, the commissioner appointed by Merkel’s government to coordinate activities against anti-Semitism, started in the post on May 1.

“Of course we have a new challenge and new forms of anti-Semitism which we have to address and combat, but the great problem also rests with right-wing anti-Semitism and we have to develop good strategies to combat that, as we did before,” he said at a news conference in late April.

But Rabbi Yehudah Teichtal, of the Jewish Community of Berlin, insisted that tackling the issue needs to be made more of a priority.

Image: Berlin Community Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal
Berlin Community Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal.Markus Schreiber / AP file

“I’ve never seen the worry that I have in the last three months,” Teichtal said.

Someone in a passing car shouted an anti-Semitic slur at Teichtal as he walked home from synagogue on a Friday evening with his 5-year-old son several weeks ago.

“I’m telling the government they need to do more,” he said. “I’m an optimist though. We are here to stay and full of trust, but more has to be done.”

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Nice terror suspect and second victim named – as man with links to attacker arrested | World News

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The Nice attacker who killed three worshippers in a church has been identified – and a second victim has been named.

Police sources said Thursday’s terror suspect – 21-year-old Tunisian Brahim Aouissaoui – arrived in Europe by boat last month and was unknown to security services.

A judicial source told Reuters news agency on Friday a 47-year-old man was detained late last night on suspicion of having been in contact with Aouissaoui, confirming an earlier report on BFM TV.

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Shots fired as police storm church

It comes as France’s interior minister warned further attacks are likely on French soil while the country is engaged in a “war against Islamist ideology”.

“We are in a war against an enemy that is both inside and outside,” Gerald Darmanin told RTL radio.

“We need to understand that there have been and there will be other events such as these terrible attacks.”

After reaching the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa on 20 September, Aouissaoui entered France, travelling through the southern Italian city of Bari on 9 October.

He arrived in Nice by train yesterday morning and changed his clothes at the station, before walking 400m to the Notre Dame church where he killed a 60-year-old woman and 55-year-old church worker Vincent Loques, a father-of-two.

She and Mr Loques died at the scene, while a 44-year-old Brazilian-born woman made it out of the church to a nearby cafe and raised the alarm before dying from her wounds.

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Aftermath of ‘knife attack’ near French church

Simone Barreto Silva had lived in France for 30 years and had three children, according to Brazilian media reports, which said although being a trained cook she was a care worker who looked after the elderly.

The mayor of her home city of Salvador, the capital of the Brazilian state of Bahia, paid tribute to her in a tweet, saying she was born in Lobato, a suburb of the city.

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Prosecutor details Nice attack timeline

France’s chief anti-terrorist prosecutor, Jean-Francois Ricard, said after the attack at the church, the suspect moved towards police in a “threatening way”, shouting “Allahu Akbar” [God is greatest] before being shot and seriously wounded by officers, who fired at least 14 bullets at him.

He remains in a critical condition in hospital.

The suspect had with him an Italian Red Cross identity document, a Koran and two phones, while a bag containing two unused knives was also found.

The blade used in the attack was 30cm long, with a cutting edge of 17cm.

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Witnesses described hearing “screams” after the attack and being told to run away quickly by police at the scene.

President Emmanuel Macron, who visited Nice on Thursday afternoon, said his country was “under attack” and expressed the “support of France towards the Catholic community”.

He added that the number of soldiers deployed to protect schools and religious sites would be increased from about 3,000 at the moment to 7,000.

It comes as the country remains under high alert for terrorist attacks following the beheading earlier this month of French middle school teacher Samuel Paty in Paris.

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US election 2020: Rival Trump and Biden supporters hurl insults at each other outside rally – some resort to spitting | US News

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In the tightly contested state of Florida, emotions are running high.

Outside a Joe Biden rally in Tampa, small but vocal groups of Democrats and Republicans are facing off.

“Why are you so dumb?” a Biden supporter shouts out of his car window, with an equally furious Trump fan yelling back.

Outside a Joe Biden rally in Tampa, small but vocal groups of Democrats and Republicans faced off
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Outside a Joe Biden rally in Tampa, small but vocal groups of Democrats and Republicans faced off

On Thursday, both presidential candidates went head to head at rallies in the US – and so too did some of their supporters.

Separate tribes line either side of a busy highway, each armed with brightly coloured opposing banners backing their man.

“Vote for Trump like true Americans. You want socialism move to Cuba,” a heavily tattooed biker named Ghost shouts to the chorus of beeping trucks.

“We’ve been getting middle fingers showed at us [by Democrats] for the past hour and a half that we have been here,” he tells me.

He’s passionate and angry – saying he’s voting Republican for the first time to protect his children’s futures.

A towering figure with huge muscles, he’s an imposing sight.

Ghost says he's voting Republican for the first time to protect his children's futures.
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Ghost says he’s voting Republican for the first time to protect his children’s futures.

He disputes that he could be accused of being intimidating, saying everyone has the right to choose who they vote for.

And he claimed that, when Biden supporters showed up at Donald Trump’s rally earlier in the day, no one abused them.

In fact, we saw a Democratic voter being heckled that morning, and Trump fans are definitely unwelcome guests at the evening’s Biden rally.

We watch as one man leans into Democrats’ cars to question them.

Eventually, aggregation sparks confrontation and a driver spits at him.

“He kept coming in our car. We told him not to, we had to do something to get him away,” Dee and driver Phil say as another argument breaks out in the background.

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What if the US election result is contested?

“My president is a racist,” one man shouts.

“Trump is not a racist,” someone chants back.

The polls in Florida are uncomfortably close and divisions are deepening.

“This is not going to be the worst,” warns Phil.

“When Biden wins next week, Trump’s going to say that it’s rigged and he’s going to tell all his people with guns to go out and start protecting their liberties,” Dee claims.

If there was any doubt about just how bitter this election fight has become, this teatime showdown makes it brutally clear.

There are just a few days to go until the election and in a battle this tight, tensions are growing.

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New Zealand votes to legalise euthanasia – but not marijuana | World News

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New Zealand has voted to legalise euthanasia, but looks set to reject a legal bid to allow the recreational use of marijuana.

Two referendums took place at the same time as the general election that saw Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern win a second term this month.

The first vote on assisted dying has already secured enough “yes” ballots – 65.2% – to become law, meaning New Zealand will become the seventh country in the world to legalise euthanasia.

But with almost half a million postal votes yet to be counted, 53.1% of New Zealanders have voted against joining Canada and Uruguay in making cannabis legal, the electoral commission said on Friday.

As a result of the vote on assisted dying, from November 2021, terminally ill patients with less than six months to live will be allowed to arrange their own death.

They must be 18 and have the approval of two doctors, newly passed legislation states.

The final results of both referendums will be announced on 6 November.

In 2017, Ms Ardern supported a referendum on cannabis in order to form a coalition government.

She refused to say which way she would vote, until Friday when her spokesman said she supported both referendums.

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