c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service<
NEW YORKBefore the mayoral candidates find something new toargue about, there are a few questions still reverberating from theset-to between Ruth Messinger and the Rev. Al Sharpton over LouisFarrakhan's anti-Semitic rants. They have far less to do with thebattle for City Hall than with race relations in this ethnic stewof a city.
In case you forgot, Sharpton was asked at a breakfast last weekif he would denounce Farrakhan, the minister of the Nation of Islam. No, he said. Then he was asked if he thought Farrakhan wasan anti-Semite. No, again, a response that certainly raisedeyebrows, given the Muslim leader's use of terms like ``gutterreligion,'' ``bloodsuckers,'' and ``wicked deceivers'' to describeJudaism and Jews.
Unless Josef Goebbels is your spinmeister, can you make thosewords be anything but anti-Semitic? Politics aside, many felt thatSharpton was properly taken to task by Ms. Messinger, who in noparticular order is one of his Democratic opponents for mayor, theManhattan borough president and a Jew.
Those questions linger, however.
One is this: Why do so many peoplewhites above alltake asa given that any black public figure, including one with acelebrated mouth like Sharpton, has to answer for Louis Farrakhan?
There's a flip side: Why, once Farrakhan's excesses are on thetable, do so many black public figures either couch their criticismof him in squishy language or, worse, as with Sharpton, dismissthem as not so bad? For sure, Sharpton carries heavy baggage. Hehas said his share to worsen race relations in New York, and hasaligned himself with Farrakhan more than once, as with the MillionMan March in 1995. But he is not a Farrakhan disciple or aconspicuously close ally.
``Some people try to act like Louis Farrakhan and I are part ofthe same movement,'' he said the other day. ``That's not true, andhas never been true.'' It is not unfair to ask about Farrakhan, hesaid. But: ``Do I think it's unfair to stick him with me? Yes.Because there's no stick.''
More to the immediate point, some cannot shake the feeling thatany black candidate, even someone as idolized as Colin Powell,would be called to account for Farrakhan. No one asks Ms. Messingerabout, say, Rabbi Meir Kahane, or Mayor Rudolph Giuliani aboutDavid Duke.
Former Mayor David Dinkins sees a double standard. ``You canbelieve that almost any black who holds office or aspires to officeis obliged to have a view on controversial black figures,'' Dinkinssaid. ``I'd like to be asked about controversial white figures fora change.''
What bothers the Rev. Calvin O. Butts III is a ``paternalistic''attitude. ``I was never asked what I thought about MinisterFarrakhan,'' said Butts, who has had Farrakhan to his AbyssinianBaptist Church in Harlem. ``I was always told: Denounce him! It'san order! Do it or else!''
But Butts, a Messinger supporter, said it would be naive in thisheavily Jewish city not to expect questions about Farrakhan. And toMichael Meyers, executive director of the New York Civil RightsCoalition, Sharpton's own past made last week's encounternecessary. ``It was a chance for him to atone, and he blew it,''Meyers said.
That goes to Question No. 2. Why do so many prominent blacks,when given the chance, tiptoe around the Farrakhan issue, raisedfairly or not?
Forget Sharpton, whose inability to see anti-Semitism strikesmany as a bad case of myopia. Even fully mainstream figures havetrouble saying much more about the Muslim leader than ``I whollydisagree with a lot that he said in the past.''
That particular commentnot quite a rocketwas made monthsago by Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., the son of you know who, toofficials of Jewish organizations in New York, who walked awayunsatisfied.
Jackson's host, Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundationfor Ethnic Understanding, detected cultural differences. ``You havean African-American community that publicly espouses the beliefthat one can separate the message from the messenger,'' he said.``That belief is alien to the Jewish community.''
Sharpton made a similar point. ``What I won't do is condemnpeople,'' he said, insisting, however, that it does not mean heagrees with Farrakhan about Jews.
``Don't put a bow tie on me,'' he said, referring to the Nationof Islam's dress code. ``Attack me for something else.''
No doubt, someone will.
c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service<
BELFAST, Northern IrelandA policewoman of the Royal UlsterConstabulary was shot in the chest and seriously injured inLondonderry on Thursday.
The Irish Republican Army took responsibility for the attack onthe 46-year-old officer. The shooting added to the mountingviolence in Protestant-dominated Northern Ireland in the first weekof the campaign for British parliamentary elections. There are 18seats at stake in Northern Ireland.
The policewoman, whose name was not disclosed, was shot once bya gunman from the back of a passing van at about 4 p.m., the sametime that the IRA had been widely expected to make a statement thatit would end its armed campaign for the duration of the electioncampaign.
The officer had been on duty outside a courthouse in the centerof Londonderry, a predominantly Catholic city in the western partof the province. About 93 percent of the police in the province areProtestant.
The violence over the last week in this British province hasraised fears of more to come in the days before the May 1elections.
The recent violence has included the burning of three Catholicchurches by Protestant thugs, arson attacks by Catholic gangs onProtestant Orange Order meeting halls, and sniper attacks on twoarmy security posts by gunners also believed to be IRA operatives.
Neither the IRA nor Protestant paramilitary groups haveacknowledged responsibility for those recent attacks. But officialsand analysts said the nature of the attacks left no doubt as to whowas responsible.
Until this week, the IRA had concentrated its activities on theBritish mainland.
A further threat to stability in the province came from thebreakdown of negotiations on Wednesday between Catholics andProtestants on the issue of the Protestant patriotic parades thathave led to widespread violence in recent years. The parades, whichgo on all summer and peak in mid-July, celebrate the anniversary ofthe Protestant victory over Catholics at the Battle of the Boyne,in 1690. Many Catholic communities resent the Protestant paradespassing through their areas.
On Thursday, Brendan McAllister, head of the Mediation Network,an independent mediation organization, said that the breakdown intalks meant that Northern Ireland was heading for a civil warcomparable to that in Bosnia.
The IRA motive, experts say, is to emphasize to a newly electedBritish government that it is a force that must be dealt with ifthe stalled Northern Ireland peace talks are to make progress whenthey resume, as scheduled, in June.
The shooting on Thursday was immediately denounced by leaders ofall political parties except Sinn Fein, the political wing of theIRA.
Normally, Sinn Fein says it is against violence, but will notsingle out any organization for condemnation.
Sir Patrick Mayhew, Britain's Northern Ireland secretary, saidthat the shooting was ``sickening'' and would further delay SinnFein's entry into broad-based peace talks. Prime Minister JohnBruton of the republic of Ireland said that the shooting wasanother reason for Northern voters not to vote for Sinn Fein inBritish Parliamentary elections.
In the election campaign, Sinn Fein is hoping to gain seats inthe British Parliament at the expense of the mainstream CatholicSocial Democratic Labor Party. Sinn Fein's president, Gerry Adams,is seeking to regain the seat he lost five years ago to Joe Hendronof the Social Democratic Labor Party.
c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service<
BERLINOne of Europe's largest insurance companies promised onThursday to investigate claims from the families of thousands ofEuropean Jews whose insurance policies were confiscated by theNazis in World War II.
The announcement by the Munich-based Allianz AG insurance groupsuggests that German insurance companies are taking a moreconciliatory stance than Switzerland's banks, which for yearsrebuffed families of Jewish depositors who died in the Holocaust.
Christopher Worthley, a spokesman for Allianz, said that thecompany planned to hire an American consultant to arbitrate claimsand would take a number of steps to make it easier to seekcompensation.
``This is an enormous issue and an enormously important issue,''Worthley said.
A lawsuit filed last week in U.S. district court in New Yorkaccuses Allianz, Assicurazioni Generali, one of Italy's largestinsurance companies, and five other European insurers of refusingto make good on policies and annuities taken out by people who diedin the Holocaust. It calls on the companies to pay out on thepolicies in today's dollars, and estimates a typical policy wouldbe worth about $75,000.
The American lawsuit was filed on behalf of nine people. LindaGerstel, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said that so manypeople have come forward that she expects that the compensationsought, including attorneys fees and investigative costs, willexceed $1 billion.
Germany's insurance companies appear to have been taken bysurprise by the American lawsuit and are holding a meeting onMonday to discuss the issue.
It was not immediately clear how many people could be affectedor how any eventual compensation would be calculated.
Ms. Gerstel said she was confident that more than 10,000American plaintiffs will eventually come forward. Many Jews inprewar Europe bought such policies as insurances and investments,and families outside the United States could make claims directlyto the companies.
Documents assembled for the lawsuit show that insurancecompanies rejected some claims for payment because the Nazis didnot issue death certificates on those they killed, although theydid keep lists naming their victims.
Others were told that when payments on policies stopped, usuallybecause the insured had been sent to the Nazi concentration camps,the cash value of the policy was used to keep it in force until itsvalue was exhausted.
The issue has its roots in the years leading up to the SecondWorld War, when the Nazi regime gradually tightened its demands onJews, finally forcing them to draw up lists of their assets. Thoselists were then used to expropriate life insurance funds and otherproperty.
Jewish assets were seized first in Germany, before the war, andlater in the countries the Nazis occupied.
``Eventually, they seized everything, both the assets of peoplewho had left the country and then specifically the assets of peoplebeing sent to death camps.'' said Worthley, the spokesman forAllianz.
``The Nazis kept lists of people and their assets and they wouldgo to the insurance companies to have the assets seized andtransferred,'' he said.
Worthley said that insurance companies were powerless to preventthis from happening. However, he said, Allianz did keep filesrelating to the expropriations and these were used in the postwarera to help settle claims against West Germany.
After the war, Worthley said, West Germany assumedresponsibility for compensating Jewish losses and that ``severalthousand'' insurance claims were settled.
Over the past 10 years, however, he said there had been no newclaims until the New York lawsuit revived the issue.
Worthley indicated that Allianz had decided to move quickly tohead off the sort of acrimony that had embroiled Switzerland inbitter dispute with American Jewish groups. After months ofcriticism, Swiss authorities announced they would set up a fund tocompensate Holocaust victims.
Worthley said the amounts involved and the likely number ofclaimants are still unclear. But, in order to resolve the issue,Allianz had decided to call in the accounting and auditing companyof Arthur Andersen to examine ``all the files that could berelevant and see if any are still open.'' If those inquiries toturn up people who were owed money, he said, the company would seekthem out and pay them.
``All we can do is to make it as easy as possible for people tocome forward,'' Worthley said. ``We are not expecting lots ofpeople to come.''
While the Allianz company expected claimants to producedocumentation, ``we are not going to be legalistic and bureaucraticabout this,'' he said.
Reacting to the Allianz statement, Elan Steinberg, executivedirector of the World Jewish Congress, said: ``Those are verypositive comments.''
But Larry Anderson of Anderson Kill & Olick, one of the lawfirms bringing the lawsuit, said: ``They had a duty to researchtheir records and pay people, but they did nothing until thislawsuit was filed last week. Where have they been for the last 50years?''
Worthley said Allianz plans to set up telephone help lines inlanguages including Hebrew to advise potential claimants onprocedures. Additionally, he said, historians would be offeredaccess to company archives to draw up a full history of itsdealings in the Nazi era.
In the postwar era, many claims settled by the West Germanauthorities were, by today's standards, very low because of acurrency revaluation that set the price of one, new German mark asequivalent to 10 prewar and wartime marks.
Thus, Worthley said, settlements were of the order of 250 Germanmarks since many life insurance policies had been valued at 2,500Reichsmarks.
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