The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they happened.
Israel’s UN ambassador leads envoys to Auschwitz ‘in time of rising anti-Semitism’
Israel ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, accompanied a group of fellow diplomats to the world body in participating in the March of the Living on Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, visiting the death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
“We came here today to send a clear message to the world against anti-Semitism and in support of teaching the memory of the Holocaust to future generations,” Danon said in a statement from the march.
“In a time of rising anti-Semitism and in the face of the dark regimes of our day, the international community must act aggressively and with determination to ensure that such things never happen again,” he said, according to a Hebrew-language statement released to the press.
Trump on Syria attack: ‘Very soon or not so soon at all!’
US President Donald Trump is evasive Thursday about when the United States might attack Syria in retaliation for a chemical weapons assault, saying it could be “very soon or not so soon at all!”
A day after warning starkly that “missiles will be coming,” Trump in another early-morning tweet storm says: “Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!”
He added: “In any event, the United States, under my Administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS. Where is our “Thank you America?”
Communications Ministry chief embroiled in Netanyahu probes loses job
Shlomo Filber, the Communications Ministry director turned state’s witness in corruption probes of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is formally fired from his post at the ministry.
Filber has been suspended for months as police investigated his alleged part in the Case 4000 probe, in which Netanyahu is suspected to have pushed regulatory decisions favoring the Bezeq telecom giant in exchange for positive coverage of the prime minister in the popular Walla news site. Bezeq and Walla are both controlled by mogul Shaul Elovitch.
Syria’s Assad warns Western strikes would ‘destabilize’ region
DAMASCUS, Syria — Syrian President Bashar Assad warns Thursday that threats of Western military action in response to an alleged chemical attack would only lead to further chaos in the region.
“With every victory on the ground, some Western countries raise their voices and intensify their activities in an effort to change the trajectory of events,” says Assad.
“These voices, and any possible actions, will only contribute to further destabilization in the region,” he says in comments posted on the Syrian presidency’s social media accounts.
Assad speaks during a meeting with Ali Akbar Velayati, foreign policy adviser to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and other officials.
Assad and Velayati criticized Western threats to carry out strikes on Syria in response to the alleged use of toxic weapons over the weekend, the presidency says.
“The threats of some Western countries to attack Syria is based on lies that these countries fabricated along with terrorist organizations,” Assad’s office says.
Live broadcast of the March of the Living ceremony at Auschwitz
The March of the Living ceremony at Auschwitz-Birkenau is set to begin soon. An official online livestream is available here.
Participants prepare to start March of the Living at Auschwitz
OSWIECIM, Poland — A largely young, diverse crowd of some 12,000 gather to participate in this year’s March of the Living at the Auschwitz-Birkenau site to commemorate the 6 million Jewish victims of the Nazis on Israel’s Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Surrounded by barbed wire fences, teenagers, some with piercings and pink hair, sit patiently on the grass next to military school students in camouflage uniforms as they waited to set out on the 3.2-kilometer (2 mile) trek from the Auschwitz concentration camp to its sister camp, Birkenau.
A number of elderly Holocaust survivors are among the marchers.
Dozens of countries, entities, and organizations are represented, waiting in the sunshine next to the red brick barracks that once housed Auschwitz’s prisoners. The march will take them from Auschwitz, where the prisoners lived, to the neighboring Birkenau, where the bulk of the murders took place.
Separate groups will march together under their own flags, including the United States, Israel, Argentina, Japan, and Morocco. A number of the delegations have few, if any, Jewish participants.
— Yaakov Schwartz
Rivlin in Krakow: Poland and Poles helped in the Nazi extermination
Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin tells Poland’s President Andrzej Duda that Poles both rescued and helped exterminate the country’s Jews.
“This land was a forge of the Jewish nation’s soul, and to our deep sorrow, also its largest Jewish graveyard. You can’t erase such a rich history, full, painful history,” Rivlin says after meeting Duda in Krakow ahead of his participation in the March of the Living taking place now at Auschwitz.
Addressing a controversial Polish law outlawing blaming the Polish nation for crimes linked to the Holocaust, Rivlin notes that Israel honors those Poles who gave their own lives to save Jews, but says there was also widespread anti-Semitism in Holocaust-era Poland and many Poles also participated in the extermination.
“People murdered and then inherited [the property of the dead]. Here there was a foundation” of anti-Semitic feeling, Rivlin says, “that allowed the Nazis to do as they wished, not only in Poland but throughout Europe.”
“The country of Poland allowed the implementation of the horrific genocidal ideology of Hitler, and witnessed the wave of anti-Semitism sparked by the law you passed now,” Rivlin continues.
“There is no doubt that many Poles fought the Nazi regime, but we can’t deny the fact that Poland and Poles helped in the extermination.”
Macron says has ‘proof’ of Syrian chemical attack, vows response
French President Emmanuel Macron says he would respond to “proof” that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons “at a time of our choosing.”
“We have proof that chemical weapons were used last week, at least chlorine, and that they were used by the regime of Bashar al-Assad,” Macron says during an interview on France’s TF1 television.
Macron adds that he is in daily contact with US President Donald Trump and that they would decide on their response “at a time of our choosing, when we judge it to be the most useful and the most effective.”
The French leader, who had made the use of chemical weapons in Syria a “red line,” says one of his aims in Syria was to “remove the regime’s chemical attack capabilities.” But he repeats that he wants to also avoid “an escalation.”
Berlin to change street names over brutal African colonial past
Berlin is poised to strip the names of streets linked to atrocities committed during its occupation of Namibia and dedicate them to liberation fighters, part of a late reckoning with Germany’s brutal colonial history.
After more than a decade of debate, the three main parties in the Berlin Mitte district assembly voted late Wednesday to recommend new names for streets in the so-called African Quarter in the northwest of the German capital, spokeswoman Melita Ersek says.
The motion to drop the names associated with bloody suppression of Namibia during Germany’s 1884-1919 occupation of what was then called German South West Africa marks a long-delayed victory for local activists.
The African Quarter in the multiethnic, working-class neighborhood of Wedding has streets and squares named for the founder of German South West Africa, Adolf Luederitz, as well as Gustav Nachtigal, its imperial commissioner, and the founder of German East Africa in today’s Tanzania, Carl Peters.
“The African Quarter still glorifies colonialism and its crimes,” council members from the Greens, Social Democrats and Linke parties said in their joint motion.
Israeli TV show ‘When Heroes Fly’ wins best series at Cannes
An Israeli television series wins Best Series at the first ever Canneseries festival.
“When Heroes Fly” is the story of four veterans of a special commando unit from the 2006 Lebanon war who reunite for a final mission, to rescue the girlfriend of one of the commandos who was abducted by a cartel in Colombia.
The show had its world premiere earlier this week at the festival, and has not yet been screened in Israel, according to Variety.
It was created by writer and director Omri Givron, co-creator of the Israeli show “Hostages” and based on a book by Amir Gutfreund. It stars Tomer Kapon, known for his role in “Fauda,” Ninet Tayeb and Moshe Ashkenazi.
Kapon accepted the award at the festival.
On Yom Hashoah, Trump says Americans have ‘obligation’ to combat anti-Semitism
Americans have “a moral obligation to combat anti-Semitism, confront hate, and prevent genocide,” US President Donald Trump said in a proclamation issued for Yom Hashoah, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The proclamation issued on Wednesday recognizes the “Days of Remembrance of Victims of the Holocaust 2018” to be observed from April 12 to 18. The proclamation also notes that this year marks the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Yom Hashoah lasts for 24 hours in Israel and began on Wednesday night.
“Although spearheaded by one individual, this undertaking could not have happened without the participation of many others who recruited, persuaded, and coerced in their efforts to incite the worst of human nature and carry out the ugliest of depravity. The abject brutality of the Nazi regime, coupled with the failure of Western leaders to confront the Nazis early on, created an environment that encouraged and enflamed anti-Semitic sentiment and drove people to engage in depraved, dehumanizing conduct,” the proclamation states.
In addition to noting that six million Jewish men women and children were killed in the Holocaust, the proclamation states that millions of other Europeans were murdered by the Nazi regime including Roma and Sinti Gypsies, mentally ill and physically deformed individuals, Slavs and other minorities, Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, gays, and political dissidents.
“We must ensure that the history of the Holocaust remains forever relevant and that no people suffer these tragedies ever again,” the proclamation says.
Moscow calls on West to ‘seriously consider’ consequences of Syria threats
Moscow on Thursday calls on the West to “seriously consider” the consequences of threats against Syria after the US and France said they would respond to an alleged chemical attack.
“We call upon… members of the international community to seriously consider the possible consequences of such accusations, threats and especially action (against Syria),” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova says.
“Nobody has authorized Western leaders to take on the role of global police — simultaneously investigator, prosecution, judge and executor,” she says during a press briefing.
“Our position is perfectly clear and defined. We are not seeking escalation.”
Israel summons Irish envoy over Dublin mayor’s visit to Ramallah
Israel’s Foreign Ministry summons the Irish ambassador, Alison Kelly, to protest the visit of Dublin’s mayor Mícheál Mac Donncha to Ramallah via Israel despite a ban on his entering the country.
The Foreign Ministry says the conference in Ramallah was “anti-Israel,” and noted two recent decisions by the Dublin city council that were “hostile to Israel,” including a decision to formally support a boycott of Israel.
The conference featured banners promoting the grand mufti of Jerusalem during World War II, who allied himself with the Nazis and backed the extermination of the Jews.
“The government of Israel expects a public and official Irish response to the behavior of its capital’s city council, and of its mayor, who are leading a campaign of discrimination and incitement against Israel,” the ministry says in a statement.
Rivlin: No nation can legislate forgetfulness
At the March of the Living ceremony at Auschwitz, President Reuven Rivlin says: “No nation can legislate forgetfulness. No law can cover the blood.”
He adds: “Six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, but for us, they will never be a number. It’s not enough to say, ‘each person has a name.’ We want to know his name.”
Rivlin at Auschwitz: ‘We marched from death to life’
Rivlin: “We did not march from Auschwitz to Birkenau, from Auschwitz 1 to Auschwitz 2. We marched from death to life, from the Holocaust to rebirth, from Auschwitz to Jerusalem.”
“Each footstep in this march was a step in the history of the Jewish people.”
He concludes his speech with “Am Israel chai,” Hebrew for “the Jewish people lives.”
Polish president at Auschwitz: Jewish suffering here ‘beyond comprehension’
Polish President Andrzej Duda speaks after Rivlin at the March of the Living ceremony at the Birkenau death camp in Poland.
He begins his speech by describing the experience of those who arrived at the camp during the Holocaust.
“Auschwitz is ‘a synonym of the Holocaust,'” he says.
“Here Jews were terrorized, separated from their loved ones, they were deprived of belongings and taken to the gas chamber. Many died within an hour of arriving.”
“We meet where Nazi Germans perpetrated the most horrible crime in history,” a crime “beyond comprehension.”
“The suffering of the Jewish nation here is beyond human comprehension.”
Duda: Our presence here a ‘victory of life over death’
Poland’s President Duda continues:
“Through our presence here, want to express our feelings. We come together, Jews, a nation of survivors, and Poles, also brutally persecuted by Hitler’s Third Reich, to pay tribute.”
“We come together because we do remember and want to pass on the truth to future generations, to demonstrate that the demonic plan of the Germans, who wanted to wipe out the Jewish nation, failed.”
“The extermination claimed six million lives, including three million Poles of Jewish descent, but the Jewish nation survived.”
“Our presence here is a sign of the victory of life over death, memory over oblivion.”
Polish president: Before the Germans, Auschwitz saw Jewish-Polish coexistence
Duda turns to the history of Jews in Poland, saying there was coexistence until the arrival of Nazi Germany.
“For many centuries the old, historic Polish town of Oswiecim [whose German name is Auschwitz] was not associated with anti-Semitism and extermination. These were evoked when Germany invaded and destroyed the independent Polish state, then brought its death camps and crematoria.”
“For 1000 years, the Jewish nation regarded my country as the land of Polin, a hospitable, safe home. In Oswiecim there were houses of worship and schools. Just 80 years ago, in the Second Republic of Poland, Jews were almost 50% of the population” of Oswiecim.
“We lived as fellow citizens in one sovereign state. Together we fought for Polish independence.”
“That coexistence was brutally interrupted by the Germans, who imposed their own inhumane laws on occupied Polish lands, confined Jews to ghettos, and condemned them to death. They wanted to break the solidarity of the Polish nation, separated us with walls and barbed wire.”
Duda: Poles helped Jews in the Holocaust and today admire Israel
Poland’s President Duda says Poles tried to help Jews during the Holocaust.
Despite the Nazi occupation, “Poles nevertheless helped. The Polish resistance group Zegota helped Jews. Many of my compatriots helped individually. They’re the heroes of both our nations.”
“Polin, blessed land which for centuries welcomed Jews fleeing persecution from abroad, turned into a place of Holocaust.”
Polish officials even tried to warn Western governments of the Holocaust, he says, but “our calls fell on deaf ears” in Britain and the United States.
“Today it is us, contemporary Poles, carrying on the duty of remembering the Holocaust. Polish authorities take care of the sites.”
“My presence here today, together with President Reuven Rivlin, is a sign of tribute by the Republic of Poland to the memory of the German genocide.”
“Since 1988, Polish institutions have supported the March of the Living.”
“Memory and truth have made both our nations realize it’s necessary to have a strong state, the only entity that can ensure our security. We’ve always fought alongside Jews. Today we look with respect, admiration, and affinity at the state of Israel, which is celebrating the 70th anniversary of its declaration of independence.”
Israel’s “existence, strength, and sovereignty are the ultimate proof that the Nazi annihilation plan failed. The Jewish nation survived, may no one ever lift their hand to it again.”
Court nixes Jerusalem’s attempt to cancel Israeli-Palestinian remembrance event
The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court rejects a petition by the municipality to deny a group of Israeli and Palestinian bereaved families the use of city-owned location for a controversial joint remembrance ceremony on Memorial Day next week.
The group of families of Israelis and Palestinians killed in fighting gathers each year to express a desire for coexistence alongside the commemoration.
Some 110 Palestinians invited to the ceremony were denied entry permits into Israel from the West Bank by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.
In its ruling Thursday, the court says the city does not have the right to deny the group a space to conduct its ceremony, noting that it was open to the public.
22% of US millennials haven’t heard of Holocaust, study finds
Over a fifth of millennials in the United States have not heard of or are unsure if they have heard of the Holocaust, a study finds.
The survey, commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (also known as the Claims Conference), found that many Americans were unaware of basic facts about the Holocaust.
The results were released Thursday, which marks Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day. The study includes 1,350 interviews with Americans aged 18 and over.
While 6 million Jews are estimated to have been killed in the Holocaust, 31 percent of all respondents and 41% of millennials, aged 18 to 34, believe that number is 2 million or less, according to the survey.
Forty-five percent of all respondents could not name a concentration camp or ghetto from World War II, and 41% could not identify Auschwitz, a network of Nazi concentration and extermination camps.
The study found that the vast majority of respondents support Holocaust education. Ninety-three percent of the respondents said that all students should learn about the Holocaust in school and 80% said it was important to educate about the Holocaust to prevent it from happening again.
Still, 58% of respondents believe that “something like the Holocaust could happen again.”
Polish president says new Holocaust law will not silence survivors’ stories
Polish President Andrzej Duda assured his Israeli counterpart Reuven Rivlin at a meeting between the two earlier today that the amendment to the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance, which makes it illegal to suggest that Poles or the country were complicit in Nazi crimes during the Holocaust, is not about preventing survivors from giving their accounts.
Duda also said he is “not afraid” to talk about difficult elements of the past.
Duda tells reporters in an appearance with Rivlin that he is taking part in the March of the Living to give testimony to the memory of the Holocaust and “to say to the world “never again, to even shout: ‘Look what anti-Semitism, xenophobia, racism can lead to.’”
At the same time, Duda stressed that the law, which aroused much controversy, is not intended to block the testimonies of the survivors, even if they depict Poland in a negative light.
“We wanted to defend the historical truth and I, as the president, want to defend it,” he said. “Also these are elements that are difficult for the Poles. The behavior of people during the war was different. There were also those who have to be condemned. And I’m not afraid to talk about it.”
Two Palestinians approach Gaza fence, are hurt by IDF fire
An IDF force see two Palestinians approaching the fence on the Gaza-Israel border and tries to warn them off, the army says. After soldiers fire in the air without effect, they fire at the two men. At least one hit was identified, according to the report.
Israeli Hebrew-language media cite Palestinian media as saying two Palestinian are seriously hurt in the incident.
IDF apologizes for scaring Tel Aviv residents with practice fly-bys
The Israel Defense Forces says it apologizes for frightening the residents of central Israel with an unannounced flyby over Tel Aviv by multiple fighter jets earlier today.
“The army is sorry for the panic that was caused,” it says in a statement.
“These dry runs take place as part of the [air] force’s desire to ensure a safe, high quality, and respectful flyover for the 70th Independence Day,” which will take place on Thursday, April 19, the army says.
In order to prevent future scares, the army also announces its plans for additional flyovers in the coming days.
The IDF says planes are expected to be overhead:
– On Sunday, from 9:50 a.m. to 10:15 a.m., over the Sea of Galilee
– On Monday, from 10:05 a.m. to 10:25 a.m., over the Tel Aviv coast
– On Monday, from 10:35 a.m. to 11:10 a.m., over the Haifa coast
– On Monday, from 1:30 p.m. to 1:50 p.m., over the Sea of Galilee
– On Monday, from 1:30 p.m. to 2:10 p.m., over the Jezreel Valley
– On Monday, from 2:25 p.m. to 2:45 p.m., over Jerusalem’s Sacher Park
– On Monday, from 4:35 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., over Beersheba
– On Tuesday, from 10:45 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., over the Tel Aviv coast
– On Tuesday, from 10:45 p.m. to 11:45 p.m., over Jerusalem’s Sacher Park
— Judah Ari Gross
OPCW experts to start work in Syria on Saturday
Experts from the global chemical weapons watchdog are on their way to Syria and will start work on Saturday to probe an alleged poison gas attack, the organization confirmed.
A spokesperson for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons “confirms that the OPCW fact-finding mission team is on its way to Syria and will start its work as of Saturday 14 April 2018,” a brief statement said Thursday.
The confirmation came after Syria’s ambassador to the UN, Bashar Jaafari, said two OPCW groups were to arrive in his country on Thursday and Friday to investigate what happened in the rebel-held town of Douma.
The OPCW decided to dispatch a fact-finding mission to the town after reports that more than 40 people died from exposure to toxic gas at the weekend.
“These two groups will arrive separately to Syria on Thursday as well as tomorrow, on Friday,” Jaafari told reporters.
“We will facilitate the arrival of the team to anywhere they want, in Douma, to check whether or not there was use of chemical substances,” Jaafari added.
It will be the first time that an OPCW team has moved outside of Damascus since 2014, when one of their missions came under attack after their convoy hit a roadside bomb.
Trump administration pressuring Israel to go easy on Poland over Holocaust law
The Trump administration is pressuring Israel to dial down its diplomatic row with Poland over the controversial Polish Holocaust law that makes it illegal to claim Poles or Poland were complicit in Nazi crimes in World War II.
“The Americans told us they don’t like the Polish law, but emphasized that Poland is an ally of America and Israel and we have to be careful,” Channel 10 quotes a senior Israeli official as saying.
The report also says that US Vice President Mike Pence asked Israel’s opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog to tone down his criticism of Poland when the two met last month.
Trump huddles with war cabinet, vows Syria decision ‘fairly soon’
US President Donald Trump huddles with top national security advisers Thursday to weigh his military options in Syria, as Moscow warns against any move that risks triggering a conflict between Russia and the United States.
The drumbeat of military action appears to grow louder, as Russia stonewalls diplomatic efforts at the United Nations and France declares “proof” that Moscow’s Syrian ally carried out a deadly chemical weapons attack that killed more than 40 Syrians.
“It’s too bad that the world puts us in a position like that,” says Trump, as Defense Secretary James Mattis heads to the West Wing to present options for a retaliatory strike.
“We’re having a number of meetings today, we’ll see what happens, we’re obviously looking at that very closely,” he tells lawmakers and governors in the Cabinet Room.
“Now we have to make some further decisions, so they will be made fairly soon,” adds first-term commander-in-chief, who earlier appeared to equivocate on the timing of strikes.