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Ohio school board member apologizes for giving Nazi salute at public meeting

(Dayton Jewish Observer via JTA) – A school board member outside Dayton, Ohio, has apologized after delivering a Nazi salute and uttering “Sieg heil” at the board’s president during a public meeting this week.

Anne Zakkour was initially defiant when fellow board members and local Jewish groups denounced her after she made the gesture, during a meeting Tuesday of the Tipp City Board of Education. The gesture came after the board president chastised her for trying to interrupt him.

The board president, Simon Patry, “does have a dictator mentality,” Zakkour told the Dayton Jewish Observer. She said she was making a “sarcastic gesture” of “submission to a board member trying to act like a dictator” and did not intend it as alarming to Jews.

“That was in no way meant to be anything towards the Jewish people,” Zakkour told the Jewish newspaper. “If we don’t identify, even at a local level, if we don’t call out suppression and oppression, I’m not an expert at this, but isn’t that how some of this snowballed with Hitler and Nazism?”

But Zakkour expressed a more regretful tone after two other board members; the Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton; Ohio’s regional Anti-Defamation League office; and Ohio Jewish Communities, the umbrella organization of Ohio’s eight Jewish federations, all denounced her actions. (A third board member, who was out of town during the incident, declined to comment.)

“Invoking Nazism with a ‘Sieg heil’ salute during a school board meeting, a place meant to support and guide our youth, is outrageous, offensive, and potentially dangerous,” Kelly Fishman, regional director of the ADL based in Cleveland, told the Dayton Jewish Observer. “Hateful gestures and words cannot be normalized by local officials who are tasked with representing everyone in their communities.”

Tipp City, located about 16 miles north of Dayton, is home to about 10,000 people. It does not have a large Jewish population; a synagogue in a nearby town that counts Tipp City among the populations served describes itself as “a very small Reform congregation.”

The local federation CEO, Cathy Gardner, said she did not believe Zakkour “had antisemitic intent” but said the board member’s actions “highlight the need for education and a deeper understanding for all.”

Ohio does not currently have a law requiring Holocaust education in schools; last year, a Republican lawmaker on the other side of the state made headlines by suggesting that a law he sponsored about instruction on “divisive concepts” would call for schools to teach from the Nazi perspective in addition to their victims’ perspective when presenting about the Holocaust.

“Flippant, casual references to Hitler, the Nazi regime, or the Holocaust grossly diminish the tragedy that still affects so many,” Gardner said. “Seeing this image splashed in the news in reference to a disagreement at a board meeting desensitizes people to the terror that ensued at the command of Hitler.”

And Howie Beigelman, president of Ohio Jewish Communities, said, “It’s never acceptable to use a Nazi salute in debating and discussing policy or political differences.”

Following the criticism, Zakkour told the Dayton Jewish Observer in an email, “In hindsight, I regret having done this.”

She added, “After four years of attacks by a board member that I believe has been acting as a dictator spreading lies and division, my action was spur of the moment and I’m very sorry for that. My heart is open to all religions, and it was never my intent to offend anyone of the Jewish community.”

Zakkour’s current term on the board expires in December, and she has previously said she isn’t running for reelection. Patry shocked locals by announcing at the Tuesday meeting that he would be resigning from the board, effective immediately, for unrelated reasons; he has since called on Zakkour to resign over her conduct.

Zakkour has faced previous calls to step down. A concerned citizens’ group sought to force Zakkour off the board over what their complaint alleged was a flagrant misuse of authority and power. A local court dismissed the challenge earlier this year, and the citizens’ group opted not to advance their claim.

A version of this story originally appeared in the Dayton Jewish Observer; it is reprinted with permission.

The post Ohio school board member apologizes for giving Nazi salute at public meeting appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Flip through the digital edition of the Summer 2024 print magazine from The Canadian Jewish News

We’ve produced a collection of feature articles four times a year since 2022. A special edition of this magazine will appear in mid-September—with reflections on the Jewish year that was. And in December, look out for a reimagined publication with a name of its own. Get future copies delivered to your door as a thank-you […]

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Top US Official Calls Hamas Leader Sinwar a ‘Psychopath,’ ‘Messianic’ as Ceasefire Talks Swirl

Yahya al-Sinwar, head of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip, attends a meeting with people at a hall on the seashore in Gaza City. Photo: Yousef Masoud / SOPA Images/Sipa via Reuters Connect

A senior US official said that Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar is the Palestinian terrorist group’s ultimate decision maker and has little interest in reaching a ceasefire deal with Israel, in testimony before a US Senate subcommittee hearing on Tuesday.

“At the end of the day, there’s one guy 10 stories below the ground: a psychopath, messianic in his own belief that he has established himself in history, and [he believes that] there’s a sunk cost of having lost thousands of fighters and carnage in Gaza,” said Barbara Leaf, the US assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs.

Sinwar, the top Hamas official in Gaza and the mastermind behind the terrorist group’s Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, has reportedly been hiding in Hamas’ extensive network of underground tunnels during Israel’s ongoing military campaign in the coastal enclave.

Leaf’s comments echo others made by Biden administration officials.

In April, a US official told reporters that Sinwar is single-handedly holding up any progress on a potential hostage deal.

The senior Biden administration official said that while Hamas’ political bureau has shown some willingness to compromise on the terrorist group’s most hardline positions, Sinwar’s maximalist demands continuously win out.

“Sinwar has made the decision he’d rather hold [the hostages seized by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7] than secure a ceasefire, and that’s just the truth of the situation,” the official said.

Leaf, in her testimony on Tuesday, said that Qatar — where many top Hamas political officials are based — has been “squeezing” the group — though to little effect, according to a report from Axios.

“There’s a cadre of political officials of Hamas in Doha, and boy do they squeeze them, I can assure you they squeeze them,” Leaf said.

Israel has described Hamas’ response to the new US ceasefire proposal as total rejection. But efforts to secure an agreement are still continuing, according to mediators in Qatar and Egypt, backed by the United States.

The Axios report added that Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed Bin Abdul Rahman al-Thani met on Tuesday in Doha — Qatar’s capital — with senior Hamas officials in an attempt to reach a breakthrough in the talks about the hostage and ceasefire deal.

Egypt and Qatar — which along with the United States have been mediating between Hamas and Israel — said on June 11 that they had received a response from the Palestinian groups to the US plan, without giving further details.

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Blinken Confirms US Pausing Bomb Shipment to Israel After Netanyahu Calls for End to ‘Inconceivable’ Weapons Halt

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken hold a joint news conference in Jerusalem, May 25, 2021. Photo: Menahem Kahana/Pool via REUTERS

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday confirmed the US was still withholding a shipment of bombs to Israel, hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for Washington to remove restrictions on arms deliveries to the Jewish state and asserted that the top American diplomat had assured him the Biden administration was working to lift any halts on weapons.

The Biden administration is “continuing to review one shipment that President [Joe] Biden has talked about with regard to 2,000-pound bombs because of our concerns about their use in a densely populated area like Rafah. That remains under review,” Blinken said at a news conference at the US State Department.

However, he added, the administration is committed to making sure “that Israel has what it needs to effectively defend itself.”

Blinken’s remarks came after Netanyahu posted a video online earlier in the day in which he lamented that the US recently paused a weapons shipment to Israel and threatened to block more but said Blinken told him that Washington was seeking to end any halts on arms deliveries.

“When Secretary Blinken was recently here in Israel, we had a candid conversation. I said I deeply appreciated the support the US has given Israel from the beginning of the war,” Netanyahu said.

“But I also said something else. I said it’s inconceivable that in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunition to Israel,” he continued. “Israel, America’s closest ally, fighting for its life, fighting against Iran and our other common enemies.”

The Israeli premier then asserted that Blinken told him the issue would be addressed.

“Secretary Blinken assured me that the administration is working day and night to remove these bottlenecks,” Netanyahu said. “I certainly hope that’s the case. It should be the case. During World War II, Churchill told the US: ‘Give us the tools; we’ll do the job.’ And I say, ‘Give us the tools, and we’ll finish the job much faster.’”

Following Netanyahu’s comments, both the White House and the US State Department refuted his apparent claim that Washington was withholding more than a single shipment of bombs.

“Everything else is moving as it normally would move, and again, with the perspective of making sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself against this multiplicity of challenges,” Blinken said.

The White House echoed Blinken’s comments, saying that only one shipment of 2,000-pound bombs had been withheld and nothing else.

“We genuinely do not know what he’s talking about,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “We just don’t.”

Jean-Pierre added that the US and Israel have been having discussions about the release of the shipment but that there was no update at this time.

“There are no other pauses, none,” Jean-Pierre said. “No other pauses or holds in place.”

On Monday, unconfirmed reports in both Israeli and German media said that during Netanyahu’s meeting with Blinken in Jerusalem last week, the Israeli premier urged the US to return the frequency of its arms shipments to the level immediately after Oct. 7, when the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas launched the war in Gaza with its massacre across southern Israel. According to the reports, Blinken said that Washington would remove all restrictions on weapons transfers to Israel in the coming days.

Netanyahu also reportedly warned Blinken that the slowing of aid and the perception of America’s weakened support for Israel benefits Iran and its terrorist proxies across the Middle East, including Hamas, emboldening them to intensify attacks against Israel and potentially resulting in a broader regional war.

The Biden administration has been under intense pressure from Democrats, especially those on the progressive left, to condition if not outright withhold US military support for Israel. Critics of Israel have argued the Israeli military campaign in Gaza has killed too many civilians and led to a humanitarian disaster in the Palestinian enclave. Israel has said Hamas is to blame for starting the war, stealing aid, and intentionally placing its operation centers inside or underneath civilian sites.

Hamas started the war with its surprise invasion of Israel on Oct. 7, when the terrorist group murdered 1,200 people and kidnapped over 250 others as hostages. Israel responded with its ongoing campaign aimed at freeing the hostages and destroying Hamas, which rules Gaza.

In recent months, the Biden administration has become increasingly critical of Israel’s operations both in public and private, pressuring Jerusalem to change its military strategy and seek a ceasefire.

The issue came to a head last month, when Biden announced that it would cease a bomb shipment to Israel and threatened to halt more weapons deliveries if the Israeli army launched an offensive in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza and Hamas’ last major military stronghold.

I made it clear that if they go into Rafah – they haven’t gone in Rafah yet – if they go into Rafah, I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities — that deal with that problem,” Biden told CNN.

Israeli officials and experts have said operating in Rafah is essential to eliminating the last remaining Hamas battalions. Netanyahu said the Jewish state appreciates US support but “will stand alone” if necessary.

The post Blinken Confirms US Pausing Bomb Shipment to Israel After Netanyahu Calls for End to ‘Inconceivable’ Weapons Halt first appeared on

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