NYC Subway Attack Possible Hate Crime

12 12 2007

NEW YORK (AP) — A group of people exchanging holiday greetings on a subway last week hurled anti-Semitic slurs and beat four Jewish riders who had wished them “Happy Hanukkah,” authorities said Tuesday.

The prosecutor’s office was investigating the Friday night incident as a possible hate crime.

The four Jewish riders were on a train in lower Manhattan during the eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights when they were approached by a group of 10 people who offered holiday greetings.

When they wished the group “Happy Hanukkah,” they were assaulted, police said. Police caught up with the train one stop later in Brooklyn and arrested eight men and two women, ages 19 and 20.

The four Jewish riders had bruises and welts on their faces and heads, police said.

The group of ten people was arraigned Saturday on several charges, including third-degree assault and menacing and second-degree riot and harassment. They pleaded not guilty.

One of the men charged, Joseph Jirovec, 19, pleaded guilty last year to attempted robbery as a hate crime and was awaiting sentencing, prosecutors said.

Jirovec, who is white, was part of a group that yelled racial epithets and assaulted two black teenagers in Brooklyn, prosecutors said.

Jirovec’s lawyer, Peter Mollo, said Tuesday it was very unlikely his client would attack another person because he or she was Jewish.

“His mother was Jewish,” he said. “It’s very unlikely he would do something like this at all.”

77 police officers hurt in Paris riots

27 11 2007

AP VILLIERS-LE-BEL, France – Rampaging youths rioted overnight in Paris’ suburbs, hurling Molotov cocktails and setting fire to dozens of cars. At least 77 officers were injured and officers were fired at, a senior police union official said Tuesday.The violence was more intense than during three weeks of rioting in 2005, said the official, Patrice Ribeiro. Police were shot at and are facing “genuine urban guerillas with conventional weapons and hunting weapons,” Ribeiro said.

Some officers were hit by shotgun pellets, Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said. She said there were six serious injuries, “people who notably were struck in the face and close to the eyes.”

The riots were triggered by the deaths of two teens killed in a crash with a police patrol car on Sunday in Villiers-le-Bel, a town of public housing blocks home to a mix of Arab, black and white residents in Paris’ northern suburbs.

Residents claimed that officers left the crash scene without helping the teens, whose motorbike collided with the car. Officials cast doubt on the claim, but the internal police oversight agency was investigating.

Youths first rioted Sunday and again overnight Monday to Tuesday, when the violence apparently got worse.

Police barricades were set on fire and youths threw stones and Molotov cocktails at officers, who retaliated with tear gas and rubber bullets. In Villiers-le-Bel and surrounding areas, youths set fire to 36 vehicles, the area’s prefecture said.

Youths were seen firing buckshot at police and reporters. A police union official said a round from a hunting rifle pierced the body armor of one officer who suffered a serious shoulder wound.

Among the buildings targeted by the youths was a library, which was set afire.

In Sunday’s violence, eight people were arrested and 20 police officers were injured — including the town’s police chief, who was attacked in the face when he tried to negotiate with the rioters, police said. One firefighter also was injured.

Residents drew parallels to the 2005 riots, which were prompted by the deaths of two teens electrocuted in a power substation while hiding from police in a suburb northeast of Paris.

A recent study by the state auditor’s office indicated that money poured into poor French suburbs in recent decades had done little to solve problems vividly exposed by the 2005 riots, including discrimination, unemployment and alienation from mainstream society.


Families of kidnapped Israeli soldiers united in their cause

21 11 2007

Shlomo Goldwasser’s voice trembles with a father’s anguish as he talks of his missing son.

“There is no school in the world to teach you what to do when your son is kidnapped,” he says.

 “We’re not the army. We have no weapons. There are no tools in my hand. The only thing we have is our story and I’m using it and going everywhere that I can to raise my voice so people can hear.”

Fifteen months ago, on July 12, 2006, Ehud (Udi) Goldwasser, a just-married 31-year-old environmental engineer, had only a few hours left in his month-long tour of duty as an Israeli army reservist when his Humvee was attacked with anti-tank rockets by a squad of Hezbollah guerrillas who had slipped into Israel from Lebanon.

Three Israeli soldiers were killed in the initial attack and Sergeant Goldwasser and another army reservist, Sergeant Eldad Regev, 26, were captured.

Both the Israeli soldiers are believed to have been seriously injured before their Hezbollah attackers kidnapped them and retreated into Lebanon.

When an Israeli tank tried to pursue the Hezbollah guerrillas across the border, it was blown up by a roadside bomb, killing another four Israelis.

Gloating over their assault, Hezbollah spokesmen admitted to holding the two Israeli reservists and said they were taken in order to secure the release of Lebanese prisoners held in Israel.

But rather than trigger negotiations, the abductions prompted an immediate retaliation from Israel and ignited a 34-day war with Hezbollah that left hundreds dead and injured, thousands homeless and the Middle East boiling with tension.

When the fighting finally ended, with United Nation’s Security Council Resolution 1701 ordering a UN-supervised ceasefire, the world body demanded the “unconditional release of prisoners.”
Udi Goldwasser’s family is still waiting to hear what happened to him.

“We know nothing,” says Mr. Goldwasser, a 60-year-old shipping contractor. “There is no information at all about their condition or anything. No one has visited them, not the Red Cross or any other humanitarian organization. Till now there is no information whatsoever. They don’t let them contact anyone. They isolate them and until now we know nothing about our sons.”

But rather than worry and wait, the Goldwasser and Regev families have joined forces with the relatives of yet another Israeli soldier, 20-year-old Corporal Gilad Shalit, who was seized by Hamas and spirited into Gaza just 18 days before the Hezbollah raids that captured Sgt. Goldwasser and Sgt. Regev, to tour the world campaigning for their sons’ release.

“We’ve become one big family,” says Omri Avni, Sgt. Goldwasser’s father-in-law. “It’s quite amazing. It took us a few hours to get organized, But within 48 hours from the abduction of Ehud and Eldad, the three families were together and we’ve been together ever since. We found it very, very effective. You can do more. You can share your work every day. You share your hope. It doesn’t fall on just one man.”

The relatives have launched rallies, distributed petitions, met with world leaders, staged protests and conducted video news conferences all around the globe trying to remind people of their sons’ plight.

They recently staged an International Day of Solidarity with video-linked rallies in 70 cities around the world to mark the 500th day of Cpl. Shalit’s captivity.

Jewish synagogues worldwide have been asked to recite a special prayer for the soldiers’ release and pictures of the three abducted men now hang in Rabin Park in Paris.

Last week, a dozen Arab Israelis joined Cpl. Shalit’s father, Noam Shalit, in a rally for the release of the kidnapped men in the Arab village of Kfar Kassem, at which they pleaded for the kidnappers “to act like human beings” and release the young men.

Mr. Goldwasser, Mr. Avni and Zvi Regev, Sgt. Regev’s father, are in Canada this week to promote their sons’ cause and meet with Members of Parliament in Ottawa. They will speak tonight at the Shaarei Shomayin Congregation at 470 Glencairn Ave. in Toronto

“We can’t lose hope,” Mr. Goldwasser says. “We are travelling all over the world trying to get the fulfilment of UN Resolution 1701. That is a demand to free our sons, unconditionally. We know that they are alive and we want them home.” National Post

Swastikas Painted On Queens Synagogue

18 10 2007

 The recent wave of hate continues. Long Island has hosted a hateful trend in the past few weeks, symbols of racism for everyone to see. 

It’s the second time it has happened here in the last six years. Overnight, someone painted two swastikas at Young Israel of Hillcrest, Queens. One on the bulletin board in front and the other on the passenger side window of an Hatzolah ambulance.

“Emotionally, it doesn’t make me happy. It makes me angry,” said worshipper, Michael Zabusky.

This orthodox congregation is of some 500 families, including Holocaust survivors. One of them is 84-year-old Josif Roth, who spent World War II in a Nazi labor camp in Hungary.

“It’s a bad memory. Very bad memory when I see this,” he said.

Over the last couple months, there have been a half-dozen such hate symbols throughout the region, scrawled on schools, buses and synagogues. Rory Lancman, a New York Assembly Democrat, suspects they are not necessarily connected.

“If there are dots to be connected, the police and other agencies will act. Right now, we don’t know,” said Lancman.

The synagogue’s Rabbi, Richard Weiss, believes the continuing hate symbols are not so much anti-Semitism, as disrespect for others’ values: values of respecting other people’s individuality, people’s religions and people’s general beliefs.