Israeli student Lihi Aharon was violently assaulted on a New York City subway in December 2020.
Hit in the face by Zarinah Ali, an anti-Semitic woman who heard her speaking Hebrew, she fought back and knocked the attacker down, but was left with a deep scar on her face.
During the attack, Ali shouted vulgar antisemitic insults at Aharon and a fellow passenger wearing a kippah. She repeatedly yelled “allahu akhbar” and praised the shooting attack carried out the previous week at a Jersey City kosher market and left six people dead.
Ali was indicted on hate crime charges and pleaded not guilty.
“Initially and inexplicably, the Manhattan District Attorney decided not to pursue a hate crime charge” at the time, “despite the assailant’s unquestionably antisemitic motivation,” The Lawfare Project explained.
“However, thanks to our efforts—which included liaising with the DA’s office and bringing widespread public attention to the case—the DA reversed course and presented the matter to the jury as a hate crime.”
The prosecution of the assailant was repeatedly delayed due to the impact of the Covid pandemic on the court system, TLP said.
“Now, after two years of waiting, Lihi is finally seeing justice served,” the NGO continued.
“The District Attorney has offered the assailant a plea to the misdemeanor charge of Attempted Assault as a Hate Crime. This means that the assailant will have a criminal conviction on her record, and will be forced to complete 26 sessions of anger management, bias training, and will waive her right to appeal. Additionally, Lihi will be granted a five-year restraining order against her attacker—the longest legally allowed.
“We feel that this is a just outcome, as our client does not want her attacker to go to jail, but rather to face consequences for the obviously antisemitic attack,” said Ken Belkin, the attorney who agreed to represent Lihi pro bono in partnership with TLP.
“We believe that this will result in the defendant getting the help she needs to reform her life. We applaud the Manhattan DA’s Office for treating this case with the gravity it deserves, and for taking a firm stand against antisemitic hate crimes in New York City,” Belkin said.
A neo-Nazi website claims that Orthodox Jews treat women “like filth,” and says that doing so is commanded by Jewish law. The claim is backed up with quotes from an article from the far-left daily, Haaretz, and even includes a direct link to the Israeli newspaper’s site.
Another post on the neo-Nazi forum claims that Orthodox Jews are spreading the COVID-19 virus in Australia. This, too, is backed up with quotes from and a link to Haaretz.
A third neo-Nazi post includes a call by Haaretz to reprint Adolf Hitler’s anti-Semitic, genocidal book, Mein Kampf, and put it back on sale in German bookstores. Germany currently outlaws the book.
There are actually hundreds of anti-Semitic posts on the site based on “news items” from Haaretz—1,400 references, to be precise. And if it were a little-known publication, perhaps such citing would be inconsequential.
As the leading paper among Israel’s ruling elite, however—with subscribers including Supreme Court justices, government ministers, leading journalists, Israel Defense Forces generals and cultural icons—the powerful Hebrew broadsheet with an English-language edition wields enormous influence, both inside and outside the country. Nor is it only the secular elite who read Haaretz. Many left-wing religious Jews are also subscribers.
The neo-Nazi website in question is Stormfront, described by Wikipedia as a “neo-Nazi Internet forum, and the Web’s first major racial hate site … primarily focused on propagating white nationalism, anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial, anti-Catholicism and white supremacy.”
It was founded in 1996 by Don Black, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and a member of the National Socialist White People’s Party. According to a 2014 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, “Registered Stormfront users have been disproportionately responsible for some of the most lethal hate crimes and mass killings since the web forum became the first hate site on the Internet.”
Stormfront isn’t the only neo-Nazi or white-supremacist website to have a passion for Haaretz. The Daily Stormer, for example, which has more than 300 references to Haaretz, is described by Wikipedia as “an American far-right, neo-Nazi, white supremacist, misogynist, and Holocaust denial commentary and message board website that advocates for a second genocide of Jews.”
Take, for instance, an article titled “Kikes Shoot and KILL TO DEATH Gazan with Hands Up” extensively quotes Haaretz in its claims that Jews “slaughter” people of color. After the Haaretz passages, the author of the piece, Andrew Anglin, opines: “I really honestly hate the kikes and think they should all be stuffed into gas chambers and gassed like insects with diesel fumes from a repurposed Soviet submarine engine.”
Another post, “Israel to Officially Become Jew Ethnostate,” uses quotes from a Haaretz article in a claim that Israel only allows “genetically pure” Jews to live in the country.
Then there’s American neo-Nazi David Duke, described by Wikipedia as “an American neo-Nazi, antisemitic conspiracy theorist, far-right politician, convicted felon, and former grand wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. His publications and politics are largely devoted to promoting conspiracy theories about Jews, such as Holocaust denial and Jewish control of academia, the press, and the financial system.
The Anti-Defamation League has described Duke as “perhaps America’s most well-known racist and anti-Semite.”
A search of his website (DavidDuke.com) reveals more than 300 mentions of Haaretz. Links and citations include, among others, the use of Haaretz to “prove” that Jews control the global pornography industry; a column by Gideon Levy about the situation in Gaza; an op-ed equating Israel and Nazi Germany; a story by Amira Hass that compares the Gaza Strip to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and much more.
Unity between far-right and far-left
The question that arises from this is why right-wing anti-Semitic extremists would want to cite a radical leftist Israeli newspaper. The answer is two-fold. In the first place, unity between the far-right and far-left is nothing new.
In 1940, Hitler and Communist leader Joseph Stalin signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, to join forces and divide Europe among themselves. Stalin often expressed admiration for Hitler. It was only when Hitler later threatened to take over the Soviet Union that the communists decided to fight the fascists.
In the second place, Haaretz is obsessed with finding the negative in anything Jewish or Israeli. This applies even to organ donations.
Recently, the newspaper admitted what is widely known in the medical community: that observant Jews are by far the country’s biggest kidney donors. But the newspaper claims to know the “real reason” for this incredible self-sacrifice, which has saved hundreds of lives. It is all done for negative, narcissistic reasons, in order to “claim moral superiority.”
Does it bother Haaretz journalists that their views find approval among people who openly say that they seek the destruction of the Jewish people and the State of Israel?
I asked editor-in-chief Aluf Ben this very question. His response was: “What do you want us to do? Anyone is allowed to quote from Haaretz. I have nothing more to say.”
The Jewish people spend enormous sums fighting global anti-Semitism. But before we try and fix the world, perhaps we should take care of the anti-Semitism at home first.
Filmmaker Yehezkel Laing is the creator of the dramatic television series Iron Sky about Jewish bravery in Stalinist Russia. He can be contacted at [email protected]
The Coalition for Jewish Values, which represents more than 2,000 US rabbis, denounced a recent report from the Council on American-Islamic Relations on Islamophobia, calling it “both pro-terror and antisemitic.”
“In every case, CAIR is deliberately claiming that to reject terrorism is anti-Muslim,” Rabbi Yaakov Menken, CJV’s managing director told Fox News Digital. “It is hard to imagine something that incites animus towards Islam and all who practice it more than the idea that tolerance for Islam requires acceptance of atrocities committed by purported believers.”
The CAIR report listing 35 charitable institutions and foundations that funneled almost $106 million to 26 groups deemed “anti-Muslim” between 2017-2019. Among the 35 funding sources cited were the Adelson Family Foundation, Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, the Jewish Community Foundation of the Jewish Federation of Greater L.A. and the Irving Moskowitz Foundation.
Organizations listed as Islamophobic on the receiving end of the money included the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA), the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) and the Christian Broadcasting Network.
“The targeted groups include several of the foremost supporters of Jewish life and indigenous rights in the Land of Israel,” said CJV president Rabbi Pesach Lerner. “It could only be regarded as a significant badge of honor for them to be labeled hateful by such a virulent hate group.”
The CJV statement noted that “the absolute majority of hate crimes motivated by religious bias in the United States are committed against Jews, exceeding crimes against Muslims by over five to one.” It also noted the harassment that Jewish students have faced on college campuses, often at the hands of Muslim groups and Students for Justice in Palestine, which CJV claimed “glorifies terrorism and antisemitism.”
The coalition also criticized CAIR’s denunciation of Saturday’s armed standoff in a Colleyville synagogue. Malik Faisal Akram held several congregants hostage in an hours-long standoff. Akram sought the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a 49-year-old Pakistani neuroscientist who is also known as “Lady Al Qaida.” She is currently serving an 86-year prison sentence for trying to kill U.S. soldiers. CAIR has been calling for her release.
“Siddiqui’s own bigotry was on full display at her federal trial, in which she tried to exclude any juror with a ‘Zionist or Israeli background,’ meaning Jews, and then declared that her verdict was ‘from Israel and not from America,’” CJV noted.
“Yet just last month, CAIR held the latest in a series of recent events in Texas to call attention to Siddiqui’s ‘plight’ and to demand her freedom,” CJV added. “Just prior to that, CAIR official Zahra Billoo urged followers at a Muslim conference to ‘pay attention to the Zionist synagogues,’ and to ‘know your enemies,’ saying that ‘Islamophobia is a well-funded conspiracy’ backed by Jewish organizations.”
The Colleyville hostage-taker, Malik Faisal Akram, may have worked alone, but surely was acting on behalf of an ideology. He was one of many violent jihadists and Islamist organizations who have been demanding the release of “sister” Aafia Siddiqui for a long time.
Jihadist/Islamist groups, including al-Qaida, the Taliban, and ISIS, have “named their vehicles, and driven in convoys to Syria, in honor of Siddiqui. American Islamist groups, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), have been campaigning for her release for a long time.
Paradoxically, left-liberal Western feminists have also been mesmerized by the women of jihad. Even after – perhaps especially after – 9/11, such thinkers viewed America as having deserved 9/11 because it had a heavy hand in creating the mujahideen who became the Taliban.
But who is she? Like Osama bin Laden, Siddiqui came from an educated and well-to-do family. She obtained advanced degrees in neuroscience from MIT and from Brandeis. At the same time, Siddiqui was heavily veiling, teaching other women, especially converts to Islam, to do likewise. She also told them to stop shaking hands with men. She joined the infamous Muslim Student Association—and then visited a center in Brooklyn, Al Kifa, which was “widely known as the main recruiting office for jihad in the United States.” Al-Kifa had a Boston chapter and Siddiqui volunteered there.
Siddiqui also kept marrying the wrong men – a first, allegedly abusive husband, (who claimed that Aafia had become a “fanatic”), and a second husband, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali aka AmarAl-Baluchi, a nephew of Khalid Sheik Mohammed. Al-Baluchi was also imprisoned at Guantanamo for “facilitating the 9/11 attackers, acting as a courier for Osama bin Laden.”
In 2008, Siddiqui turned up in Afghanistan. She had in her possession bomb-making formulas and plans for mass casualty attacks which targeted the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, and the Brooklyn Bridge. She was found “loitering” near a mosque and someone called the police about a possible suicide bomber.
Under arrest in Ghazni, prosecutors say Siddiqui picked up an M4 rifle and “attempted to fire it, did fire it, at another United States Army officer and other members of the United States team of interviewers. Siddiqui then assaulted one of the U.S. Army interpreters as he attempted to obtain the M4 rifle from her – and she subsequently assaulted one of the FBI agents and one of the United States Army officers as they attempted to subdue her.”
One of the officers shot her in the stomach and rendered her unconscious. According to Petra Bartosiewicz at Harper’s Magazine, her family claims she was then tortured. Or not. Bartosiewicz does admit that Siddiqui was actually “seeking sanctuary with the Taliban.”
Siddiqui has revealed herself to be an inflamed Jew hater. Her trial opened with a demand that her jury be genetically tested to ensure that there were no Jews among them. Her conviction was met by an outburst that it was “a verdict coming from Israel and not from America. That’s where the anger belongs.”
She reportedly wrote to President Obama, telling him the “cruel, ungrateful back-stabbing of the Jews … caused them to be mercilessly expelled from wherever they gain strength. This why ‘holocausts’ keep happening to them repeatedly!”
Yet this rabid hate wasn’t enough to give pause to her defenders in CAIR and among leftist feminists.
Is moving in Islamist circles, becoming a rabid Jew and America hater, a form of feminist resistance to misogyny? Or a protest against the way Muslim girls and women are normatively abused in rural Pakistan and Afghanistan?
Do Western feminist academics, activists, and journalists see her as another LeilaKhaled, who hijacked planes for “Palestine?” Or as someone who was “innocent” because she was mentally ill and easily manipulated into becoming a terrorist?
One might view Siddiqui skeptically, perhaps even with pity, given her long sentence and the hard time she has allegedly had in federal prison.
One Western journalist went as far as comparing her to Ayaan Hirsi Ali in a dual biography.
Which of the two women do you think Scroggins prefers? The brave pro-Enlightenment feminist Hirsi Ali, or the Islamist and terrorist Siddiqui? Scroggins finds a “weird symmetry” between the two. Of all the false moral equivalencies with which I am forced to live, this one rankles quite a bit. But Scroggins sees them both as “rebels,” as sister-equivalents. As I wrote when the book first came out:
“(Siddiqui’s crimes do) not bother Scroggins as much as Hirsi Ali’s ‘imperiousness’ and ‘egomania’ does that, and the fact that Hirsi Ali accepted a perch at the (conservative) American Enterprise Institute. From Scroggins’ point of view, the fact that Hirsi Ali has embraced universal human rights, outlined a pro-Western critique of political Islam, and supported the war in Iraq renders her something of a war criminal.”
Hirsi Ali is indeed “wanted” – but by misogynist Islamists whom she opposes. She requires security at all times. Siddiqui, aka “Lady al-Qaida,” was also “wanted” and is now in prison for attempting to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan.
In 2003, the FBI “named her as the only known female operative of al-Qaida.” After her 2010 conviction, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated that, “As a unanimous jury found beyond a reasonable doubt, Aafia Siddiqui attempted to murder Americans serving in Afghanistan as well as their Afghan colleagues. She now faces the stiff consequences of her violent actions.”
Siddiqui was sentenced to 86 years in prison. In a sense, Hirsi Ali also has a lifetime sentence – and is in danger from her own family for allegedly bringing shame upon them with her Western ideas and critique of Islam and terrorism.
Hirsi Ali has just now initiated a new group: CLARITY (Champions for Liberty and Against Islamist Tyranny), a global coalition founded by Muslims, ex-Muslims, academics, and activists, who “study Islam and Islamism, support liberty for all, especially girls and women, reject anti-Semitism, and reject the use of the term Islamophobia because of its anti-blasphemy implications.”
I am proud to be a founding member of this potentially real resistance movement.
(AP) — Israeli lawmakers on Tuesday called for a parliamentary inquiry into the police’s alleged use of sophisticated spyware on Israeli citizens, including protesters opposed to former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, following a newspaper report on the surveillance.
Hebrew-language business newspaper Calcalist reported that in 2020, police used the NSO spyware Pegasus to surveil leaders of protests against Netanyahu, who was then prime minister. It said police also hacked the phones of two sitting mayors suspected of corruption and numerous other Israeli citizens, all without a court order or a judge’s oversight.
The Israeli police denied the allegations, saying they operate according to the law, and the NSO Group said it does not identify its clients.
Sophisticated spyware made by the Israeli company has been linked to eavesdropping on human rights activists, journalists and politicians, from Saudi Arabia to Mexico. The U.S. has barred the group from American technology, saying its products have been used by repressive regimes.
The company says its products are intended to be used against criminals and terrorists, and that it does not control how its clients use the software. Israel, which regulates the company, has not said whether its own security forces use the spyware.
The report — which cited no current or formal officials from the government, police or NSO corroborating the paper’s claims — referred to eight alleged examples of the police’s secretive signal intelligence unit employing Pegasus to surveil Israeli citizens, including hacking phones of a murder suspect and opponents of the Jerusalem Pride Parade. The report did not name any of the people whose phones were allegedly hacked by the police.
“In all the cases mentioned in the article, and in other instances, use of Pegasus was made at the sole discretion of senior police officers,” the report said. “The significance is that with Pegasus, the police can effectively hack without asking a court, without a search or entry warrant, without oversight, to all cell phones.”
The report sparked an outcry across Israel’s political spectrum, briefly uniting everyone from Jewish ultra-nationalists to Arab opposition lawmakers in shared outrage.
Cabinet Minister Karine Elharrar told Israeli Army Radio that such surveillance “was something that a democratic country cannot allow.”
Opposition lawmaker Yuval Steinitz said that surveillance of citizens by law enforcement without judicial oversight is improper and that if the claims are correct, it should be investigated.
Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, whose department oversees the police, tweeted that he would verify that police received explicit authorization from a judge to use the spyware.
The ultra-Orthodox Shas party called on the Knesset speaker to launch a parliamentary investigation. Merav Ben Ari, an Israeli lawmaker who heads the Knesset’s internal security committee, said the panel would hold a hearing into the report’s claims.
Israeli police issued a statement after the report’s publication, saying that “there’s no truth to the claims raised in the article” and that “all police operations in this field are in accordance with the law, in line with court orders and meticulous protocols.”
Amir Ohana, who was public security minister during the protests, said he had no knowledge of the reported surveillance.
The Black Flags protest movement, whose leaders were allegedly surveilled during weekly demonstrations in recent years calling on Netanyahu to resign, called on the police to release the names of the people whose phones were hacked. Spokesman Roee Neuman said the protest leaders only learned of the digital surveillance following the publication of the report.
Pegasus software surreptitiously grants full access to a person’s cellphone, including real-time communications.
Tuesday’s report was the latest blow for the company, which has faced growing scrutiny and criticism for its software’s use by repressive governments.
NSO’s software has repeatedly been blamed for cellphone surveillance of activists, dissidents and journalists. Last month, the internet watchdog Citizen Lab said dozens of journalists and human rights defenders in El Salvador had their cellphones repeatedly hacked with sophisticated spyware over the past year and a half.
In November, Citizen Lab said it had identified Pegasus software on the phones of six Palestinian human rights activists affiliated with groups that Israel has controversially claimed are involved in terrorism.
Citizen Lab has been identifying Pegasus victims since 2015, when abuses of the spyware against journalists and human rights activists were discovered in Mexico and autocratic Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia. Dozens of cases have since been uncovered, including of a dozen U.S. State Department employees in Uganda, British lawyers and a Polish senator who led the opposition’s 2019 parliamentary campaign.
The NSO Group said that it could neither confirm nor deny any specific clients, adding that “the company does not operate the system once sold to its governmental customers and it is not involved in any way in the system’s operation.”
“NSO sells its products under license and regulation to intelligence and law enforcement agencies to prevent terror and crime under court orders and the local laws of their countries,” the company said.
Bob Unruh(WND NEWS CENTER) The U.S. Secret Service is being told to fess up about the travels of Hunter Biden, in pursuit of his myriad international private business deals, on Air Force Two while his father was vice president for Barack Obama.
The Washington Examiner is reporting Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Chuck Grassley of Iowa have written to the federal agency insisting on access to “full travel records” for Hunter Biden.
They want the Secret Service to quit concealing information about Hunter Biden’s activities.
It’s well-known that he repeatedly traveled aboard Air Force Two while Joe Biden was vice president in pursuit of his private business deals with foreign entities. He came back from a trip to China at that time to announce a multimillion dollar business agreement.
The Examiner said the senators “have long sought” access to the records regarding Hunter Biden’s “use of government-sponsored travel while he conducted private business.”
Now, in a letter to Secret Service director James Murray, the senators point out that the government agency gave up 259 pages of records but redacted much of the information.
“These inappropriate redactions impede our offices’ ability to understand the full scope of the interactions between Hunter Biden, his associates, and the USSS,” the letter explains. “The USSS hid names and other information contained in email conversations regarding Hunter Biden without any proper legal justification.”
The Examiner specifically noted that it has reported on emails from Hunter Biden’s laptop computer – abandoned at a repair shop – that revealed he set a meeting in 2014 with then-prime minister of Kazakhstan, Karim Massimov, regarding Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company.
The report explained, “While serving on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, Biden shared a close business relationship with Massimov during his second stint as Kazakhstan’s prime minister from 2014 through 2016. Massimov was arrested earlier this month by Kazakh authorities on allegations of treason.”
The issue involves Hunter Biden, his Rosemont Seneca business partner and fellow Burisma board member Devon Archer, and Ukrainian officials.
Johnson and Grassley noted that the Secret Service records fail to reveal if Secret Service officials or Hunter Biden traveled to Kazakhstan in May or June 2014.
The report explained the emails indicate Hunter Biden reported that his Secret Service detail was “annoyed” when he ditched them to pursue private deals in Kazakhstan.
The senators also point out that the Secret Service failed to produce records for 2010, 2011 and 2013, even though it is known that “Hunter Biden made trips to China and other destinations around the world, including, Russia, Italy, Spain, and Mexico.”
Hunter Biden is under a criminal investigation related to his taxes and potentially tied to his foreign business dealings.
He’s also been a nearly unending source of scandal for his father. His abandoned laptop has revealed suggestions, according to former Donald Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, of “child porn” on its drive.
Further, it has confirmed Hunter Biden’s drug-fueled, prostitute-linked lifestyle with multiple shady business deals with officials from China, Russia and more.
The New York Post’s documentation of the revelations from Hunter Biden’s laptop appeared in the news just before the 2020 election, but other legacy media outlets censored and suppressed the information, as did multiple social media giants.
Then shortly after the election a Media Research Center poll found that nearly one-third of voters who chose Joe Biden were not aware of the evidence linking the former vice president to corrupt financial dealings with China and other nations through his son. Hunter. Had they known, according to the survey, President Trump would have won at least 289 Electoral College votes.
Now, after years of apparently selling access to his father, Hunter Biden, as an amateur artist, is selling paintings for as much as $500,000.
That Joe Biden could be involved in a number of ways has been confirmed by Joe Biden himself.
When Hunter Biden, without experience, was being paid tens of thousands of dollars a month to be on the board of Burisma, that company was under investigation for corruption.
The prosecutor soon was fired, however. After Joe Biden demanded that under a threat of loss of American aid.
Joe Biden, as vice president, met with Ukrainian officials, and he returned home to brag about how he threatened the nation with withholding $1 billion in American aid if they didn’t get rid of the prosecutor.
A French website reported the prosecutor, Victor Shokin, later filed a criminal complaint naming Joe Biden and accusing him of committing a “criminal offense” in his campaign to get Shokin fired.
Columnist Byron York, at the time, explained why the stories about Hunter Biden’s dealings are so important:
“Remember a key fact here: Joe Biden has said repeatedly that he never knew about his son’s business dealings. If what [New York Post columnist Miranda] Devine is reporting is correct, Biden made those claims after having financially benefited from his son’s business dealings and after having been a part of some of his son’s business events. Again: The Hunter Biden laptop story is not about Hunter Biden. It’s about Joe Biden,” he wrote.
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“The aim is to protect the most vulnerable, to protect those at highest risk of severe disease and dying. Those are our elderly populations, immuno-compromised people with underlying conditions, but also healthcare workers,” she said.
Restrictions including COVID-19 passes, mask mandates, and work-from-home requirements will be removed in England, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Wednesday. Johnson also suggested that self-isolation rules may also be thrown out at the end of March as the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic becomes endemic.
Effective immediately, the UK government is no longer asking people to work from home. The COVID pass mandate for nightclubs and large events won’t be renewed when it expires on Jan. 26. And from Thursday, indoor mask-wearing will no longer be compulsory anywhere in England.
The requirement for secondary school pupils to wear masks during class and in communal areas will also be removed from the Department for Education’s national guidance.
Roaring cheers from lawmakers could be heard in the House of Commons following Johnson’s announcements on masks.
People who test positive for COVID-19 and their unvaccinated contacts are still required to self-isolate, but Johnson said he “very much expect[s] not to renew” the rule when the relevant regulations expire on March 24.
“As COVID becomes endemic, we will need to replace legal requirements with advice and guidance, urging people with the virus to be careful and considerate of others,” the prime minister said.
Asked to remove testing rules for vaccinated UK-bound travellers, Johnson said the government is reviewing the testing arrangements on travel and that an announcement can be expected in the coming days.
But he refused to reconsider the vaccination mandate for frontline health care workers, insisting “the evidence is clear that health care professionals should get vaccinated.”
Johnson told MPs that the Cabinet decided to remove its so-called “Plan B” measures on Wednesday morning as data suggest the Omicron wave has peaked nationally, and he attributed stabilizing hospital admission numbers to “the extraordinary booster campaign” and the public’s compliance to the restriction measures.
The removal of the “Plan B” measures against the CCP virus came as the prime minister battles increasing pressure calling for him to resign over alleged lockdown-breaching parties in Number 10 Downing Street, the prime minister’s official residence, during the pandemic.
FBI Releases Statement Saying Jews Were Targeted But Are Being Protected by Agency
By: Fern Sidman
The gunman who took four people hostage on Saturday at a Texas synagogue in a 12-hour standoff that ended in his death was checked against law enforcement databases before entering the U.S. but raised no red flags, the White House said Tuesday, as was reported by the AP.
Malik Faisal Akram, a 44-year-old British citizen, arrived in the U.S. at Kennedy Airport in New York on a tourist visa about two weeks ago, officials said. The AP reported that he spent time in Dallas-area homeless shelters before the attack Saturday in the suburb of Colleyville.
Akram was not believed to be included in the Terrorist Screening Database, a listing of known or suspected terrorists maintained by the FBI and shared with a variety of federal agencies, two law enforcement officials told The Associated Press. Had he been included, it would have been extremely difficult for him to get into the country.
“Our understanding, and obviously we’re still looking into this, is that he was checked against U.S. government databases multiple times prior to entering the country, and the U.S. government did not have any derogatory information about the individual in our systems at the time of entry,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, according to the AP report.
On Monday, it was reported by several sources that the brother of Malik Faisal Akram, has claimed that his brother had a previous criminal record.
Gulbar Akram, the brother of terrorist Malik Faisal Akram, has revealed that his brother had a criminal record in comments to UK media, raising questions about how he was allowed into the United States.
According to Inzamam Rashid, North of England correspondent or Sky News, Gulbar Akram said of his brother: “He’s known to police. Got a criminal record. How was he allowed to get a visa and acquire a gun?”
In a previous statement, Gulbar claimed that his brother suffered from “mental health issues.”
The AP reported that on Tuesday, the British media, including the Guardian, indicated that Akram was investigated by the domestic intelligence service MI5 as a possible “terrorist threat” in 2020, but authorities concluded he posed no danger, and the investigation was closed.
Britain’s Home Office did not immediately comment on the reports.
The AP reported that the case illustrated once more the difficulties in identifying potential lone-wolf attackers, despite the U.S. government’s enormous strides in its counterterrorism efforts since 9/11.
Akram is from the English industrial city of Blackburn. Investigators believe he had initially traveled to New York believing that Siddiqui was still being held there — where her trial occurred — without realizing she had been sent to a federal prison in Texas, as was reported by the AP.
During the standoff in the Colleyville, Texas synagogue known as Congregation Beth Israel, Akram forced Cytron-Walker to call Angela Buchdahl, the senior rabbi at New York’s Central Synagogue, in a bid to win Aafia Siddiqui’s release, according to the AP report.
Aafia Siddiqui is a Pakistani neuroscientist with ties to al-Qaeda who was convicted of trying to kill U.S. Army officers in Afghanistan. She is currently serving an 86-year prison sentence in a Texas jail.
In at least one subsequent call, Akram ranted and demanded that Buchdahl try to get Siddiqui freed, an official said. Buchdahl called 911 and reported the calls to New York City police.
The AP reported that investigators are still sorting through Akram’s movements in the U.S. and reviewing his financial and phone records, but believe he may have traveled by bus to Texas, two of the officials said.
Authorities believe he bought the handgun used in the hostage-taking in a private sale, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still going on, according to the AP report.
In another major terrorism case, Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people at an Orlando, Florida, nightclub in 2016, had been investigated repeatedly by the FBI but not charged, as was reported by the AP. The Orlando massacre and other attacks prompted the FBI to launch an internal review of how it handled tips and leads in terrorism investigations.
In the aftermath of the Texas synagogue hostage crisis, Jewish leaders around the country remain baffled about the FBI’s initial position on Malik Faisal Akram, the terrorist who held four people hostage on Saturday afternoon at a Colleyville synagogue.
The FBI’s remark that made the wire services such as Associated Press, the BBC and other outlets late on Saturday said that the hostage taker’s motive was “not specifically related to the Jewish community.” At that juncture the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, did not release the hostage taker’s name and offered no details on his background.
The comment to the media was made by FBI Special Agent Matt DeSarno, who is in charge of the FBI’s Dallas field office.
The Forward reported that a BBC headline declared: “Texas synagogue hostage stand-off not related to Jewish community – FBI.” The AP headline, “Hostage taker was not focused on Jewish community, FBI says,” ran atop an article on bostonglobe.com and many other news outlets.
On Sunday, the FBI released the hostage taker’s name, age and the fact that he was a British national. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not immediately respond to questions Sunday about Akram’s immigration status and history, according to the AP. London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement on Sunday that its counter-terrorism police were liaising with U.S. authorities about the incident, but provided no additional information.
The comment that the FBI’s DeSarno gave to the media caused a ripple effect amongst Jewish leaders who reacted with anger and puzzlement.
In an e-mail to supporters, Anti-Defamation League President Jonathan Greenblatt, said: “We urge law enforcement and prosecutors to investigate the role antisemitism may have played in motivating the suspect.” Greenblatt also said that “it seems apparent, given what we know so far, that the hostage-taker chose his target carefully.”
On Monday, Israel National News reported that in the wake of the Texas hostage crisis, the ADL has called on Congress to double the allocated funding for a program that provides non-profits, including Jewish schools and synagogues, with financial assistance to increase security.
Bolstering the federal money given to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program is essential with “threats against synagogues and other Jewish institutions arguably at an all-time high,” Greenblatt said, as was reported by INN.
“It is imperative that the federal government provides appropriate levels of funding to mitigate the threat,” Greenblatt said. “As we saw in Texas, it is urgently critical for Congress to increase funding to protect these non-profit organizations from future acts of terrorism or hate-motivated violence.”
Noting that it has long supported an increase in funding to the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, the ADL said that the money is needed to “protect soft targets from potential acts of terrorism.”
The Forward also reported that on Sunday, Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, policy director at the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, tweeted: “Yes, it was a complete and total coincidence that the gunman ended up in a synagogue holding Jews captive. Can’t believe the erasure of the Jew hatred at the core of this incident has already begun.”
Fox News reported that Kenneth Marcus, the founder and chairman of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and former assistant U.S. secretary of education for civil rights told Fox News Digital that “the FBI got it wrong.”
He said that the attack was “obviously a matter of antisemitism.”
“Failure of the FBI to understand this is something of a pattern with law enforcement in the United States and frankly in Europe. It seems that time after time, we see law enforcement officials fail to understand when an antisemitic incident occurs, even when it’s entirely obvious, and sometimes the results of that are tragic. This time, fortunately, they have not been,” Marcus said, as was reported by Fox News.
Also speaking to Fox News was Roz Rothstein, co-founder and CEO of StandWithUs, an organization that educates individuals about Israel and combats antisemitism. She told Fox News that the notion the hostage-taker did not target the Jewish community is “insulting and disappointing.”
“Trying to separate Jews from the idea that JEWS were targeted on their holy day at their house of worship, is a mistake and it is insulting and disappointing,” Rothstein said, according to the Fox News report.
“It is also dangerous to downplay an attack against Jewish people as being something else at a time of rising anti-Jewish bigotry that we should all be paying attention to. It makes no sense to try and separate Saturday’s hostage crisis from the people who suffered and who were the most impacted: Jews, their Jewish families and the Jewish world,” she added.
Concerning Akram’s demand for the immediate release of Aafia Siddiqui, in a January 2012 article entitled, “The Marxist Mission to Destroy Ayaan Hirsi Ali”, second wave feminist leader, scholar and prolific author, Dr. Phyllis Chesler wrote the following of Siddiqui:
“As a student in America, Siddiqui joined the infamous Muslim Students Association and fell under the spell of one of bin Laden’s own mentors who ran a Muslim charity in Brooklyn, New York. Siddiqui’s second husband’s uncle was none other than Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the man who planned 9/11. Apparently, the kindly uncle-in-marriage gave up her name to interrogators. However, Siddiqui and her children had disappeared. She was not found until 2008, wandering around in Afghanistan with bomb-making formulas in her possession as well as plans for mass casualty attacks. Under questioning she picked up a gun and shot at her captors.”
In a statement sent to the Jewish Voice on Monday, Dr. Chesler said: “Siddiqui has been, misguidedly, lionized, not only by Islamists, but also by Westerners, including academics, journalists, and feminists who view her actions as heroic, as a form of resistance to racism and colonialism.”
Dr. Chesler added: “But what did she do? After disappearing in Pakistan for many years, she was found “wandering” around in Afghanistan and, according to the DOJ indictment, bearing handwritten notes that referred to a “mass casualty attack” and listed locations in New York City including the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, and the Brooklyn Bridge. An American trained neuroscientist, Siddiqui also had notes about how to construct a “dirty bomb” and a thumb drive that referred to specific “cells” and “enemies.”
She was arrested in Ghazni and while being interviewed “obtained a U.S. officer’s M-4 rifle and attempted to fire it, and did fire it at another U.S. Army officer and other members of the interview team. That’s not all. She then assaulted one of the interpreters as he tried to obtain the rifle and subsequently also assaulted an FBI agent and other U.S. Army officers who were trying to subdue her.”
Late on Sunday afternoon, the UK based Sun newspaper reported that two teenagers were arrested in the British city of Manchester by anti-terror cops investigating Malik Faisal Akram.
In a statement issued to the media, the Greater Manchester Police said: “As part of the ongoing investigation into the attack that took place at a synagogue in Texas on January 15, 2022, officers from Counter Terror Policing North West have made two arrests.
Two teenagers were detained in south Manchester but on Tuesday, the AP reported that police in Britain said the teenagers had been released without charge.
Yahoo News reported that in statement released on Sunday night, the FBI attempted to quell the controversy swirling around Agent DeSarno’s statement to the media in the immediate aftermath of the hostage seize.
The FBI stated: “All of us at the FBI are relieved the hostage situation in Colleyville, Texas, was resolved without physical injury to those taken hostage. We never lose sight of the threat extremists pose to the Jewish community and to other religious, racial, and ethnic groups. We have had a close and enduring relationship with the Jewish community for many years. We continue to work tirelessly with the Secure Community Network, the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Federation, and others to protect members of the Jewish community from all potential threats.”
The bureau continued by clarifying, “This is a terrorism-related matter, in which the Jewish community was targeted, and is being investigated by the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Preventing acts of terrorism and violence is the number one priority of the FBI.”
(Sources: AP, the Forward, Fox News, Yahoo News, INN)
Democratic candidates gearing up to run for New York State governor are raising funds fast. As reported by the NY Post, Rep. Tom Suozzi has raised more than $5 million for his Gubernatorial campaign. While this is impressive, fellow Democrat, incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul has raised some $12 million.
Suozzi, 59, who represents NY’s 3rd district in congress, and who was the County Executive for Nassau County, officially threw his hat into the race on Nov. 29, permanently transferring $2,101,572 from his congressional account into the race. Suozzi, who began his career in politics as Mayor of Glen Cove in 1994, and is licensed as both a lawyer and accountant, has total cash on hand of $5,245,224 for the Democratic primary, as of the state Board of Elections’ reporting deadline on Tuesday Jan. 18. Gov. Hochul, who took over after Andrew Cuomo resigned, has raised some $12 million, with $11.1 million of the cash on hand as of November. On Monday, her campaign declined to comment on updated fundraising numbers.
The June Democratic primary challenge will also include New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, for a total of three candidates after NY Attorney General Letitia James dropped out. Republicans candidates include Long Island Congressman Lee Zeldin, a party favorite; former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino; and Andrew Giuliani, the son of former Mayor Rudy Giuliani who served as a White House aide to former President Donald Trump.
Despite Gov. Hochul’s superior funding, Suozzi’s capital is more than enough to run a successful campaign, and he has already hired seven new senior staffers over the past seven weeks. For his campaign’s new communications director, he has hired Jason Elan, who formerly served as spokesman for Suffolk County Democratic Executive Steve Bellone and was formerly a staffer to both Gov Hochul and ex-Gov.Cuomo. As for his new media consultant, Suozzi tapped Jimmy Siegal of Siegal Strategies, who had helped former-Gov. Eliot Spitzer in his 2006 gubernatorial race, as well as Michael Bloomberg’s unsuccessful presidential campaign. Suozzi hired Dritan Nesho, founder and CEO of national research and consulting company HarrisX, as the campaign pollster.
The other new hires will also be joining longtime Suozzi staffers, led by his senior advisor Kim Devlin, his campaign manager Mike Florio, and deputy campaign manager Marianela Casas. “As Tom Suozzi introduces himself to tens of thousands of Democratic voters across the state through his tele-town hall meetings and he continues to distinguish himself as the only candidate with a proven track record of executive experience and common-sense solutions, his financial support will continue to grow,” Devlin told The Post.
Democrats in the Senate are intent on making a statement regarding voting reform, despite the proposed legislation’s apparent doom.
As reported by the NY Post, on Tuesday the debate will begin in Senate over voting rights, with voting slated to take place on Wednesday. For the vote, the rules were changed, with a filibuster which would allow the bill to pass with a simple majority, though even this way getting them passed remains highly unlikely.
Last week, led by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrats utilized a NASA-related bill to combine the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act and send the bill back to the Senate for another round.
The Freedom to Vote Act seeks to make it easier to vote, including allowing same-day voter registration, no-excuse mail voting, letting felons vote, and preventing states from requiring a photo ID to vote. The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act wants to make it harder for certain states to change voting practices without federal clearance. Both the bills were already blocked by Republicans in the upper chamber, and this is a last resort tactic to keep GOP senators from blocking the debate.
Over the past few weeks, leading Democrats including Schumer and President Biden have been putting pressure on moderate Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) to back bypassing the filibuster so the bill can be forced forward. The two Senators, however, do not seem persuaded, and have repeatedly said they believe the law is a fundamental part of the chamber.
Notwithstanding, Schumer vowed to vote on the rule change. “Make no mistake, the United States Senate will — for the first time this Congress —debate voting rights legislation beginning on Tuesday. Members of this chamber were elected to debate and to vote, particularly on an issue as vital to the beating heart of our democracy as this one. And we will proceed,” Schumer said last week. “And if Senate Republicans choose obstruction over protecting the sacred right to vote — as we expect them to — the Senate will consider and vote on changing the Senate rules, as has been done many times before, to allow for passage of voting rights legislation.”
The vote was originally slated for Jan. 17, but because Sen. Brian Schatz’s (D-Hawaii) was diagnosed with COVID-19 last week, Schumer delayed his plans. The Democratic lawmakers have made voting rights a central priority, arguing that the stricter voting laws adopted in several states have excluded minority voters, and adding that the reforms are needed to restore voter confidence in elections.
A woman was pushed to her death in front of a subway train at the Times Square station Saturday, police said, a little more than a week after the mayor and governor announced plans to boost subway policing and outreach to homeless people in New York City’s streets and trains.
The man believed responsible fled the scene but turned himself in to transit police a short time later, Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said at a news conference with Mayor Eric Adams at the station.
The 40-year-old victim, identified as Michelle Alyssa Go of New York, was waiting for a southbound R train around 9:40 a.m. when she was apparently shoved, according to police.
“This incident was unprovoked, and the victim does not appear to have had any interaction with the subject,” Sewell said.
A second woman told police the man had approached her minutes earlier and she feared he would push her onto the tracks.
“He approaches her and he gets in her space. She gets very, very alarmed,” Assistant Chief Jason Wilcox said, describing the earlier encounter. “She tries to move away from him and he gets close to her, and she feels that he was about to physically push her onto the train. As she’s walking away she witnesses the crime where he pushes our other victim in front of the train.”
Police on Saturday night identified the suspect as 61-year-old Simon Martial. Martial, who police said is homeless, was charged with second-degree murder. It was not immediately known whether he had an attorney who could comment.
Wilcox said Martial has a criminal history and has been on parole.
“He does have in the past three emotionally disturbed encounters with us that we have documented,” he said.
Subway conditions and safety have become a worry for many New Yorkers during the pandemic. Although police statistics show major felonies in the subways have dropped over the past two years, so has ridership, making it difficult to compare.
And some recent attacks have gotten public attention and raised alarms. In September, three transit employees were assaulted in separate incidents on one day. Several riders were slashed and assaulted by a group of attackers on a train in lower Manhattan in May, and four separate stabbings — two of them fatal — happened within a few hours on a single subway line in February.
“This latest attack causing the death of an Asian American woman in the Times Square subway station is particularly horrifying for our community,” Margaret Fung, executive director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said. She said the community was still mourning the Dec. 31 death of Yao Pan Ma, a Chinese immigrant who was attacked in April while collecting cans in East Harlem.
“These attacks have left Asian Americans across the city and across the country feeling vulnerable and they must stop,” Fung said in a statement.
Adams, who has been mayor for two weeks, has noted that a perception of danger could drive more people to eschew the subway, complicating the city’s economic recovery as it tries to draw people back to offices, tourist attractions and more.
“We want to continue to highlight how imperative it is that people receive the right mental health services, particularly on our subway system,” the mayor said Saturday. “To lose a New Yorker in this fashion will only continue to elevate the fears of individuals not using our subway system.”
“Our recovery is dependent on the public safety in this city and in the subway system,” Adams said.
Anyone who walks around New York City can see that things are far from “normal”. While we are seeing numbers of people receiving positive Covid-19 test results and hospitalizations reports slowly coming down after reaching record heights; stores, restaurants, and other businesses are still suffering. The New York Post is reporting, “New York City lags behind the rest of the country in post-pandemic jobs recovery, a new city report has found. The US has gained back “nearly all” jobs lost during the pandemic and is on course to surpass pre-pandemic employment levels this year — but the Big Apple isn’t expected to reach pre-pandemic levels “until late in 2025,” according to the Jan. 4 report from the city’s Independent Budget Office.”
The New York Post goes on to report, “only around 35% of the city jobs lost in calendar year 2020 had come back by the end of 2021, according to the Jan. 4 report by the city’s nonpartisan fiscal watchdog. The city lost about 615,200 of its 4.7 million jobs in 2020 and saw just 212,600, or 35%, return in 2021, the report said. Jobs in the hardest-hit, tourist-dependent leisure and hospitality industries are especially slow to return, the report said. Wholesale and retail trade also suffered outsized job losses during the pandemic, and were expected to recover slower than sectors like professional services due, in part, to “in part due to IBO’s expectation of fewer people commuting into the city on a daily basis, as well as fewer tourists and business travelers.” The tourism and hospitality industry is especially dependent on the Broadway theatres as a major draw and people have been reluctant to buy tickets for shows as Omicron was raging in New York City.
According to The New York Post, “personal income in New York City actually rose in 2021, the study found. But IBO Deputy Director George Sweeting attributed that to an increase in “transfer payments” — such as federally increased unemployment benefits, refundable tax credits and direct stimulus payouts — which rose more than wages fell. “It’s the increase in the transfer payments that has sustained personal income,” he said. That presents “a reason to be concerned” as transfer payments taper off, Sweeting warned on Thursday. Meanwhile, Wall Street profits for 2021 were among the highest on record, but Sweeting attributed those to loose federal monetary policy. But Wall Street’s outlook for 2022 will be “a little more cautious,” as the Fed is expected to start to tighten the spigot, he said.”
With all the negative press that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has been getting for his soft-on-crime policy, the New York Post has learned that prosecutors in his office are tendering their resignations because of the “radical shift” in the office.
Bragg has been under fire for the memo he issued on January 3rd in which he directed assistant district attorneys to not seek prison sentences for many criminals and to downgrade some felonies to misdemeanors, as was reported by the Post.
The report indicated that an online petition has emerged calling for his removal from office.
Bragg’s “Day One” memo said that the following crimes will no longer be prosecuted:
Marijuana misdemeanors, PL §§ 222.30 and 222.50
Fare evasion (turnstile jumping), PL §165.15
Trespass, PL §§ 140.05, 140.10, 140.15, unless the trespass is a family offense pursuant to CPL § 530.11 or accompanies any felony charge as a lesser included offense
Driving with a suspended license, VTL § 511.1. Note that any vehicular collision resulting in any physical injury should be pursued as an act of reckless driving, reckless endangerment, negligent or reckless assault, failure to yield, or any other applicable statute. This policy addresses only criminalization of a failure to pay fines and does not address the criminalization of dangerous driving.
Any violation, traffic infraction, or other non-criminal offense not accompanied by a misdemeanor or felony.
Consensual sex trade. This does not include coercive practices regularly done by those who traffic in the sex trade and crimes like money laundering that flow from such practices.
Outdated offenses such as Obscenity, PL Article 235, Fortune Telling, PL § 165.35, and adultery PL § 255.17
Resisting Arrest, PL § 205.30, for the act of resisting arrest for any non-criminal offense
Obstructing Governmental Administration in the Second Degree, PL § 195.05
Speaking to the Post, one law enforcement source said: “I know one assistant district attorney who was with the office over 20 years who left without a job. They didn’t want to work in this kind of office. They wanted to continue prosecuting the law.”
Over the past two weeks, at least a dozen lawyers have quit, according to the Post report.
Among those who have left the Manhattan DA’s office is Joan Illuzzi-Orban, a senior trial counsel who successfully prosecuted Harvey Weinstein, and won a 2016 conviction in the infamous 1979 murder of Etan Patz, according to the Post report.
Also departing his position at the Manhattan DA’s office is one-time trial division chief, John Irwin, according to the Post report.
A source told the Post that “another veteran prosecutor lost her title and was told she would have to work for someone Bragg brought over from the Legal Aid Society.”
A former prosecutor told that Post: “He (Bragg) wants to get rid of all the senior people who prosecuted high-profile cases and replace them with young inexperienced people who think like him and don’t want to uphold the law.”
The Post reported that Mark Bederow, who worked in the Manhattan DA’s office, said some turnover was to be expected with a new boss, but that Bragg’s arrival will “likely” lead to more departures since “It appears to be such a cultural and radical shift in policy.”
“I would anticipate that many people within the office who have been there for years, who perhaps do not share the same philosophy as the incoming DA, will most likely leave,” he said. “I would expect that the incoming classes of DAs in the next couple of years will entirely share the policies of Mr. Bragg.”
Bederow said the turnover would lead to “transformation in the Manhattan DA’s office unlike anything anyone has seen for decades,” as was reported by the Post.
The caskets were brought one by one — all 15 of them — on a frigid winter day, as hundreds of mourners filled a Bronx mosque Sunday to bid farewell to those who died exactly a week ago trying to escape their smoke-filled apartment building.
Many hundreds more huddled outside, peering into the mosque’s windows or watching on big-screen televisions, to pay their respects after New York City’s deadliest fire in three decades.
“One week they were with us … now they’re gone,” said Musa Kabba, the imam at the Masjid-Ur-Rahmah mosque, where many of the deceased had prayed. “Last Sunday it happened, and today we are about to bury these families. It is hard.”
In all, 17 people died in the fire, which authorities said was sparked by a faulty space heater in a third-floor apartment. Among the dead were eight children as young as 2, whose tiny caskets underscored the day’s loss.
All of those who lost their lives collapsed and were overcome by smoke while trying to descend the building’s stairwell.
Sunday’s mass funeral at the Islamic Cultural Center capped a week of prayers and mourning within a close-knit community hailing from West Africa, most with connections to the small country of Gambia — where four of the victims would be buried, officials said. Eleven of the victims were transported to a cemetery in New Jersey.
Earlier in the week, burial services were held for two children at a mosque in Harlem.
“This is a sad situation. But everything comes from God. Tragedies always happen, we just thank Allah that we can all come together,” said Haji Dukuray, the uncle of Haja Dukuray, who died with three of her children and her husband.
Men and women alike wept openly as six children and nine adults were given final rites before their caskets were returned to the hearses.
Ibrahim Saho’s reddened eyes welled with tears as he rattled off the family names of the deceased. “A lot of people, too many people,” he said, dabbing tears.
Amid the mourning, there was also frustration and anger, as family, friends and neighbors of the dead tried to make sense of the tragedy.
“There’s outcry. There’s injustice. There’s neglect,” said Sheikh Musa Drammeh, who was among those leading the response to the tragedy.
Some residents said space heaters were sometimes needed to supplement the building’s heat, and apartment repairs weren’t always done in a timely fashion — if at all.
Because of the magnitude of the tragedy, funeral organizers insisted on a public funeral to bring attention to the plight of immigrant families across New York City.
“We want the world to know that they died because they lived in the Bronx,” Drammeh asserted. “If they lived in midtown Manhattan, they would not have died. Why? Because they wouldn’t need to use space heaters. This is a public outcry. Therefore, there has to be responsibility from the elected officials to change the conditions that causes death every single day.”
New York City Mayor Eric Adams, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin, as well as two officials representing the Gambian government, attended the funeral services.
Protesters held a demonstration outside the Queens office of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) on Jan. 14.
The activists, not representing any one organization, say their purpose was to persuade Ocasio-Cortez, also known as AOC, to introduce legislation in the House of Representatives in D.C. to stop America’s military involvement in Yemen.
Several who participated were senior citizens, giving the illusion of a Woodstock reunion.
Alice Sturm Sutter has been participating in anti-war demonstrations since she was 20, during the Vietnam War era. “I’m here because I’m so horrified that we’re still in the war attacking the people of Yemen,” she told The Epoch Times.
Sutter sees the situation as a “humanitarian catastrophe.”
“People are suffering starvation, cholera,” she said. “People cannot get food.”
While Sutter’s winter coat was adorned with buttons that read “Black Lives Matter” and “Climate Emergency,” she puts the blame on both parties, saying the United States has been cozying up to Saudi Arabia (at the center of the conflict) in each administration since President Obama’s.
Sutter doesn’t think it’s up to any one party to fix the situation.
“I’d like everyone in Congress to listen to their conscience and to spearhead a resolution,” she said. “We’re appealing to AOC because we think we have some chance of success.”
However, Ocasio-Cortez’s website currently has a notice stating that neither of her New York offices are staffed, due to public health guidance from the House physician.
“Just less than a year ago, on Feb. 5, President Biden said that the war in Yemen was a disgrace and a humanitarian disaster, agreeing with most of the world,” Brian Terrell told The Epoch Times.
“And he said then that this war had to stop and the U.S. was going to stop providing weapons to the Saudis.”
Biden has yet to make good on that promise.
Terrell feels the money currently being made in weapons manufacturing is an example of what President Eisenhower meant when he spoke about the “military-industrial complex.”
The demonstration was organized by Alice Pote, a 30-year-old from Manhattan.
“There’s ample opportunity and a very clear need based on the situation in Yemen for someone in AOC’s position to act, and given all that she’s said about opposing war and so on, it’s pretty outrageous that she’s not acting,” Pote told The Epoch Times.
“What are these progressive politicians actually doing?” asked Pote.
Several speakers used a megaphone to address the demonstrators and passersby, leading chants of “Biden, you can’t hide; you’re supporting genocide” and “We don’t want a photo op; we want this war to stop.”
“This is an extraordinary situation where with very few members of Congress who we think might do something and could do something,” said Terrell. “I have great hopes in AOC that she might.”