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A week of soul-searching on anti-Semitism

A week of soul-searching on anti-Semitism
A group of students from Newport Harbor High School in Newport Beach, pictured above, were photographed giving Nazi salutes around a swastika made out of red cups at a house party. (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, March 9, 2019. In the interest of starting off with bad news so it can only get better from there, I’ll begin by reminding you that the annual menace known as the migration to daylight saving time happens at 2 a.m. tomorrow morning. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

Events in Southern California and in Washington this week prompted some deep soul-searching on anti-Semitism. Locally, a video that emerged of high school students in Orange County giving a Nazi salute and making a swastika out of red plastic cups went viral, touching off widespread outrage and questions over how effectively our schools and communities are educating students about World War II and the Holocaust. Writing on our Op-Ed page, Navy veteran James Seddon says the incident in Orange County reminded him of why he continues to hold onto the “assortment of swastikas” his grandfather brought home with him after fighting in Europe in World War II:

After the tragic events in Charlottesville, I sat with my wife and son, who is about the age of the Orange County drinkers. We examined the swastikas my grandfather claimed as his spoils of war. We paged through the Nazi party membership book he brought home, with dues stamps, a speech by Adolf Hitler, and special stamps to commemorate and verify attendance for the book’s owner at rallies.

The items reek of evil.

I talked with my son about why we keep them, about how tangible items can bring history alive. They were seized by my grandfather at the Nazis’ downfall, and they are a lasting legacy to my grandfather and his comrades who stopped the spread of a terrible plague.

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In Washington, comments by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) speculating about the divided loyalty of Israel’s strongest supporters touched off a disagreement among Democrats about what exactly they should condemn — anti-Semitism in particular, since Omar’s comments were interpreted as repeating anti-Semitic tropes, or hate expressed against any group more broadly. In a blog post, deputy editorial page editor Jon Healey writes that the fight among House Democrats shows just how much more difficult it is for them to be in charge:

There have been outliers in Congress for years in both parties, including weirdos such as James Traficant (D-Ohio) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) and extremists such as Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). And while they occasionally embarrassed their colleagues, they were never held up as representative.

Yet Omar somehow gets held up as the face of the Democratic Party?

The House Democratic leadership is partly to blame for this. Republicans’ criticism of Omar prompted Democrats to take action against her to prove that they were as tough on anti-Semitism as the next elected official, rather than counting on the public to recognize the statements of a single, obscure pol for what they were. That was mistake No. 1.

Mistake No. 2 was refusing to single out Omar for criticism, or even denounce just the anti-Semitism implicit in the tropes she invoked. Instead, being Democrats, the resolution they offered also denounced a laundry list of other ills, for fear of singling out the person who caused the problem in the first place.

>> Click here to read more

Clarence Thomas’ opinions are starting to get scary. UC Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky warns that two dissents by the conservative Supreme Court justice could signal major changes to important constitutional protections. In one opinion, Thomas expressed the view that persons accused of crimes for which they can be sent to prison may not be entitled to legal representation, and in another he said New York Times vs. Sullivan was wrongly decided. L.A. Times

In California, it’s dry even when it’s wet. That’s the paradox faced by state regulators who still must convince the public that despite a plentiful Sierra Nevada snowpack and persistent rain throughout California, it’s still important for us to watch our water use. In an interview with Patt Morrison, Niki Woodard of the state Department of Water Resources sums up the situation in California: “We have such a variable climate that we never know when the next drought’s around the corner. We're still recovering from a major four-year drought that was quite devastating in parts of the state. So we never know when those conditions are coming back, and we can all work to keep that water in the ‘bank.’” L.A. Times

Vaccine-hesitant parents are victims, not fools. There are so many of them in California that the state eliminated the so-called personal belief exemption in 2015 — and yet measles cases are still popping up here. The solution: Resist the urge to scream at parents reluctant to vaccinate their children, and remember that they’re the victims of a slick misinformation campaign. Offer counter-narratives, and show some compassion. The only way to persuade is to get them to listen. New York Times

Benjamin Netanyahu: villain or victim of political persecution? Famed lawyer Alan Dershowitz says it’s the latter, and that the “crimes” the Israeli prime minister has been accused of committing aren’t really crimes. On the opposing side is Israeli activist and columnist Mika Almog, who accuses Netanyahu of “systematically gutting Israeli democracy and repeatedly attacking its gatekeepers.” L.A. Times

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