A viscerally antisemitic member of the Polish parliament was expelled from the chamber on Tuesday after he extinguished the candles of a lit Hanukkah menorah with a fire extinguisher.
The incident occurred in a hallway of the Sejm, Poland’s legislative assembly, where a menorah was on display celebrating the annual Hanukkah holiday. The MP, Grzegorz Braun of the far right Confederation Party, grabbed a fire extinguisher to spray the menorah, filling the area with smoke. Dozens of people who attended the candle lighting ceremony, including several children, were immediately evacuated by security officers.
Braun was promptly turfed out of the parliament by speaker Szymon Holownia, who promised a formal investigation into the incident. “There will be no tolerance for racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and any other deviations as long as I am the Speaker of the Sejm,” he later said.
Braun also launched into an antisemitic rant after attacking the menorah, telling those who berated him that they were the ones who should feel “ashamed to participate in the acts of a Satanic Talmudic cult.” He then doubled down with a post on X/Twitter that declared, “There can be no place for acts of racist, wild, Talmudic worship on the premises of the Sejm of the Republic of Poland!”
Warsaw, Poland – Right wing MP Grzegorz Braun, who has a history of eccentric behavior against the Jewish community, takes a fire extinguisher to a Hanukkah menorah inside Poland’s parliament.
Imagining trying to celebrate your holiday and this happens.
— Combat Antisemitism Movement (@CombatASemitism) December 12, 2023
One reporter who witnessed the incident was adamant that Braun had planned his act in advance. “I had the impression that from the beginning he knew when he was grabbing the fire extinguisher what he wanted to do. He had it planned in some way,” said Sebastian Napieraj, a reporter with broadcaster TVN24. “There was a film crew with him who filmed it all.”
An unnamed woman who was also in attendance said she had been physically assaulted by Braun. “I got in his way and he sprayed me with in the face with the fire extinguisher,” she told news outlet Wiadosmosci.
Braun’s outrage was widely condemned. Israel’s Ambassador in Warsaw, Yaacov Livne, denounced it as “shameful” while US envoy Mark Brzezinski condemned what he called a “vile antisemitic act.”
Braun’s action occurred as Poland’s newly-elected president Donald Tusk laid out the legislative program for his centrist administration. Commenting on Braun, Tusk said the act of extinguishing the menorah was a “disgrace” and “unacceptable.”
“This cannot be allowed to happen again,’ Tusk said.
Rafal Pankowski — executive director of the leading Polish anti-racist association “Never Again” — told The Algemeiner that Braun possessed a long record of antisemitic incitement. In June, Braun wrecked a lecture addressed by the leading Holocaust historian Prof. Jan Grabowski at the German Historical Institute in Warsaw, grabbing the microphone and smashing it before turning to the shocked audience to announce that the meeting was over. Separately, in January Braun told a gathering of far right MPs that Polish leaders “were ‘no longer just ritually bowing to Jews in New York’ but were also following a political correctness model according to which ‘no one dare to speak in an unsentimental-idealistic way’ about Jews and others for fear of punishment,” the Never Again Association reported at the time.
“Grzegorz Braun is the most notorious antisemite in Polish politics today and one of the most active antisemites in Europe,” Pankowski said. “As an MP for the far-right Confederation party he is also known for extreme anti-Ukrainian and anti-LGBT statements. His words and actions legitimize and incite violence against minorities.He must be held accountable and he must not be given a platform to continue promoting hatred.”
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Israel Denies UN Report Claiming Israeli Forces Assaulted Palestinian Women
Israel has denied allegations made by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) charging Israeli forces with rape, abduction and extrajudicial killings of Palestinian women in Gaza, labeling them “despicable and unfounded.”
The UN experts’ statement released on Monday said there were “credible allegations of egregious human rights violations” by the Israel Defense Forces against Palestinian women and girls.
“Many [Palestinian women and girls] have reportedly been subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, denied menstruation pads, food and medicine, and severely beaten,” the statement from the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner said. “On at least one occasion, Palestinian women detained in Gaza were allegedly kept in a cage in the rain and cold, without food.”
“At least two female Palestinian detainees were reportedly raped while others were reportedly threatened with rape and sexual violence,” the statement added.
The report did not mention how it carried out its investigation and neither did it provide any evidence of its allegations.
The Israeli government’s response was swift and stern.
“Israel forcefully rejects the despicable and unfounded claims published today by a group of so-called UN experts, including one who just days ago legitimised the massacre of October 7 in which more than 1,200 people were murdered, executed and raped, and another who publicly doubted the testimonies of Israeli victims of gender-based and sexual violence,” Israel’s mission to the UN in Geneva said in a statement.
The experts cited in the UN report include Francesca Albanese, the UN monitor who came under fire for justifying the Hamas-led attack on October 7 because it was “in response to Israel’s oppression.” Albanese also denied that rapes and beheadings against Israelis ever took place. Another of the experts listed, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls Reem Alsalem, likewise denied sexual violence against Israeli women, calling it “disinformation.”
“These [UN] mandate holders have remained silent on the horrific sexual violence and gender-based violence perpetrated by Hamas on and since October 7. It is clear that the co-signatories are motivated not by the truth but by their hatred for Israel and its people,” the Israeli statement said.
Israeli MK Danny Danon (Likud), who served as Israel’s ambassador to the UN, said that the statement was “nothing more than an endorsement of terror and genocide.”
“Where were these purported ‘experts’ when instances of violence occurred, such as when Hamas committed heinous acts against women, children, and families, raping, torturing and burning people alive?” Danon told The Algemeiner.
“Where are these ‘experts’ today to speak out for the innocent women and children and the remaining hostages, brutally kidnapped by Hamas and still held by the terror group with zero access to any form of humanitarian aid?”
Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, lawyer and chairwoman of legal aid group Shurat HaDin who has in the past represented the families of Israeli terror victims in cases against Hamas, said Monday’s report came as “no surprise” given the UN’s anti-Israel bias.
“Hamas is losing the war, so its supporters rush to help it in its last dying moments. The sole weapon of Israel’s enemies is illusory slander plots against Israel,” Darshan-Leitner told The Algemeiner.
Darshan-Leitner went on to note that the accusations against the IDF were the same atrocities perpetrated against Israeli women on October 7.
“Since they want to keep symmetry between Israel and Hamas, they pretend everything that Hamas has done against Israel on a monstrous scale Israel has done also on a lower scale. But lies have to be proven,” she said. “Israel does not rape, Israel does not kidnap babies, Israel does not separate children from parents. Only the Hamas monsters do that as their go-pro cameras have proven.”
The UN statement also claimed that an “unknown number” of Palestinian women and girls had “reportedly gone missing after contact with the Israeli army in Gaza” and went on to say that there were reports of at least one female infant was “forcibly transferred by the Israeli army into Israel.”
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Saudi Report Says Hamas Chief Sinwar Escaped to Egypt with Hostages, Israel Denies
Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, may have escaped with hostages to Egypt via tunnels in Rafah, the Saudi-based Elaph news site reported on Tuesday citing an Israeli security source.
Israeli officials later denied the claim saying there was no intelligence to support it.
According to the Arabic-language report, Sinwar fled to Egypt through the vast network of tunnels in Rafah along with his brother Mohammad Sinwar and other key Hamas operatives.
The IDF said later on Tuesday that it had no reason to believe that Sinwar was not still in Gaza.
Elaph, based in London, has in the past broken stories involving Israel and citing Israeli sources, including a December report about secret negotiations taking place in Europe between Qatar and Israeli officials for the release of the hostages still being held in Gaza.
Last week, the IDF shared footage showing Sinwar in a tunnel in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, accompanied by his wife, children and his brother Ibrahim Sinwar. The footage was captured days after the October 7 attack by his terror group and corroborated IDF claims that Sinwar had fled Hamas’s headquarters in northern Gaza and moved to the tunnels beneath Khan Younis, exploiting a humanitarian corridor that the IDF had opened to ensure the safe passage of civilians from Gaza City.
“The hunt for Sinwar will not stop until we catch him, dead or alive,” IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari said at the time.
Israeli media has reported that Sinwar has been incommunicado with Hamas for several weeks as he attempts to elude Israeli forces.
The army has refrained from entering Rafah, the remaining Hamas stronghold, amid strong pressure from the US and UN. But fighting continued in Khan Younis on Tuesday, with IDF operations at the Nasser Hospital. Over 200 individuals at the hospital were detained under suspicion of terrorist activities, with many reportedly linked to the hostages held by Hamas, the IDF said.
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Israeli Diplomat Detained in Russia, Embassy Apologizes
The head of an Israeli government agency that assists Jews in the Diaspora to make Aliyah was briefly detained in Russia last week, it was reported on Tuesday.
Alon Shoham, the CEO of Nativ, a directorate within the Prime Minister’s Office which helps Jews from former Soviet Union countries move to Israel, was in Russia for a number of meetings when he was stopped by authorities at the airport on his way out. According to media reports, after the diplomat handed airport security his passport for inspection, they noticed stamps from his frequent visits to Ukraine, which prompted the brief detention.
After explaining that the visits were part of his official capacity as head of Nativ, Shoham was released only to be detained once again minutes before his flight was set to take off. Ultimately, Shoham was let go and returned to home to Israel later that day.
As a result of the incident, the Russian Embassy in Israel issued a formal apology to the government due to the questioning. It is not known exactly the reason why Shoham was questioned so extensively, particularly since Shoham travels with a diplomatic passport and has previously served as the Israeli ambassador to Belarus. As per Israel’s Channel 12, government officials believe the move was intended to “send a message.”
The brief detainment of the Israeli diplomat comes as a meeting between the different Palestinian groups, including the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, is scheduled for February 26 in Moscow, following an invitation by Russia.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh told the Munich Security Conference this past weekend “Russia has invited all Palestinian factions who will be meeting on the 26 of this month in Moscow. We will see if Hamas is ready to come to the ground with us.” In response to a question about working with the terror group, “We are ready to engage. If Hamas is not, then that’s a different story. We need Palestinian unity.”
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has not been particularly friendly to Israel since war broke out on October 7, after Hamas terrorists raided southern Israel, killing over 1,200 and taking hostage more than 240. Putin has spoken with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, telling him in December “Russia will continue to supply the Gaza Strip with essential goods, including medicines and medical equipment.” Putin called the situation in Gaza a “catastrophe” in previous comments.
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