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The Philadelphia Jewish Voice
October 2005 > Community

Bias-Incident Watch

Lynn, Mass. - Offensive Sign

In this city along Boston's north shore, an attorney and former mayoral candidate placed a handwritten sign that reads, "Land-Grabbing Israel is bleeding America," outside the second floor of his large colonial home in late July.

The location of the sign subjects Jews in that community to pass by it at least weekly on their way to Shabbat services at Congregation Ahabat Sholom, an Orthodox shul, and the synagogue has been exposed to a rash of anti-Semitic calls and letters.

The lawyer, Martin McNulty of 84 Nahant St., would not respond to direct questions on the phone to a reporter for the Salem-based Jewish Journal, but wrote in a letter to the newspaper, "Are we to accept as principle that disagreement with the policies of (Israeli Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon is the same as anti-Semitism? I hope not. I suspect that many Jews agree with but are fearful of speaking out because other Jews would ostracize them. Whatever happened to land for peace?

His letter continued, "I support Israel…I am against corrupt policies that have made it an apartheid state. I am against the wall, helicopter rocket assassinations, the existence of the settlements in the West Bank…the usurping of Jerusalem, the checkpoints, the way they treated Arafat and the way they condemned the Palestinians to a hopeless future."

According to the Journal, a biweekly newspaper which covers the north shore, the synagogue's Rabbi Avraham Kelman called the sign "inflammatory and incendiary. The words 'land-grabbing' in an anti-Semitic reference to the old caricatures used in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion…to put up that sign now of all times when Israel is in the process of withdrawing from Gaza without any hope of reciprocity by the Palestinians is both foolish and insulting."

The rabbi pointed out that many Jews in the area are from the former Soviet Union who survived the Holocaust and Stalin.

Lidiya Shodchina noted, "It is a shallow judgment of a serious problem that cannot be summarized in such a way. It is very emotional and painful for me to walk by this house where we, Jews from the FSU, have made a new home."

Tim Phelan, a councilor-at-large in Lynn, called the posting of the sign "hateful and disrespectful to the Jewish community…but unfortunately we as government officials can't regulate good taste and consideration for your neighbor."

Canada - They're Killing Bertrand Again

Quebec City attorney Guy Bertrand managed to blame the usual suspects - Jews - twice in a case stemming from the Canadian government's 10-year attempt to deport Rwandan political exile Leon Mugesera for his alleged incitement of Hutu extremism during the Rwandan genocide, reports The Forward.

Bertrand started with claims of a Jewish conspiracy and ultimately elevated himself to a Christ-like figure when he was rebuked by the Canadian Supreme Court.

In November 2004, Bertrand filed a brief with the Supreme Court accusing Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler of conspiring to appoint Judge Rosalie Abella to the top court the preceding August and that he has close ties with Abella's husband, Irving Abella; both Cotler and Abella are former presidents of the Canadian Jewish Congress. Cotler supported the deportation as a private citizen and the Congress had lobbied for it.

According to The Forward, Bertrand wrote that Cotler's failure to recuse himself from the judicial appointment process "can only lead a well-informed observerto conclude that unfortunately when you are powerful, rich and influential like the Congress, for example, you can infiltrate the court through political and judicial lobbying." He added that Cotler "worked behind (Mugesera's) back to have him returned to Rwanda, all of this so that the minister…can use the court to serve his interests and those of his friends."

The court upheld Mugesera's deportation in July and said Bertrand's arguments "include anti-Semitic sentiment and views that most might have thought had disappeared from Canadian society, and even more so from legal debate in Canada."

To that, Bertrand declared at a news conference: "I was crucified in public. I am not going to hide the truth because an ethnic group is powerful. There are people who have maneuvered to get Mr. Mugesera deported, and it appears that they are Jews. This has nothing to do with ethnicity. It's their behavior that I condemn."

The Quebec Bar has been considering whether to hold disciplinary hearings on the matter. Casper Bloom, vice president of the executive of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Quebec Region, said he hopes the Bar suspends Bertrand "for a matter of months, more for the message it would send than for the damage" to Bertrand's livelihood.

Allenhurst, N.J…Billed as 'Jew Couple'

A 23-year-old Brooklyn shoe buyer and his girlfriend were identified as "Jew Couple" on his $36.75 bill at Parkhill's Waterfront Grill at this shore town near Asbury Park, prompting the state Attorney General Peter Harvey to investigate for alleged discrimination.

Elliot Stein said that the offensive phrase turned up on his credit-card statement two weeks later.

The New York Post reported that when they ate there on July 8 his girlfriend, Jennifer Cassin, picked up the check and handed it to him, saying, "What the hell is this?" Under the words "Table No." was the neatly printed phrase: "Jew Couple."

"My grandfather went through all that in old-school Europe," Stein told the Post. "But that happened more than 50 years ago. You don't expect it to happen in 2005, especially when a lot of their money comes from our community."

Malia Wells, the restaurant's general manager, said the phrase was a matter of "poor judgment on the part of a bartender. We use it as a form of identity," as quoted in the Post.

Stein subsequently contended that the waitress was apologetic, but Wells was "being rude. The manager was the one who said, 'Sir, I don't see anything derogatory.'"

Harvey, the Attorney General, said, "It's extremely troubling. I have two investigators from the Division on Civil Rights in my office right now. We are taking this very seriously. It stands to reason if the (restaurant) is labeling someone by religion, they are also labeling someone by race."

Queens…Hate Message

A hate message in a note attached to a rock was discovered in a barbershop Monday morning, Aug. 29, in Kew Garden Hills, a Jewish community in northeast Queens, police told The New York Post.

Police would not divulge the contents of the note, but due to the composition of the neighborhood it is possible that the message was intended for Jews. The incident occurred some blocks away from the site of an anti-Semitic vandalism spree in May.

The shop owner noticed his front window was shattered at 8:30 a.m. and then discovered the rock and hate message in the shop.

- Bruce S. Ticker