World briefs: Jewish groups fail to stop Arizona from offering gas chamber for executions and more

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Zyklon B
Empty poison gas cans of the pesticide Zyklon B are exhibited in the museum of the former concentration camp Auschwitz I. (Kay Nietfeld/picture alliance via Getty Images via JTA.org)

Jewish groups fail to stop Arizona from offering gas chamber for executions

An unusual scenario played out in Arizona recently: The son of a Jewish woman who fled the Nazis was asked if he wanted to be executed by the same gas the Nazis once used, JTA reported.


Frank Atwood, who was convicted of murdering an 8-year-old girl in 1984, has been on death row for decades. For his method of execution he was given the choice between lethal injection, Arizona’s default method, or a gas chamber — which the state refurbished last year in preparation for possibly killing Atwood and one other death row inmate.

Arizona’s intent to restart gas executions, and the state’s purchase of materials to make hydrogen cyanide — a version of which, Zyklon B, was used by the Nazis to murder Jews in Auschwitz — is strongly opposed by its Jewish community.

In February, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Phoenix and two members of the Jewish community partnered with the local American Civil Liberties Union chapter to sue the state over its planned use of the gas, calling the punishment “cruel and inhumane.”

A superior court judge threw out the suit in April, saying that the Jewish community had failed to sufficiently challenge the law’s constitutionality, and that the state’s constitution permits execution by gas in some cases.

Chad restores full diplomatic relations with Israel

Israel has an ambassador to Chad for the first time in 50 years, adding to Israel’s growing ties to African countries, JTA reported.

Ben Bourgel, who serves as a nonresident ambassador to several African countries, added Chad to his list on May 17 when he presented his credentials to Chad’s president, Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno.

Several African nations whose leaders had friendly relations with Israel severed those ties in the 1970s, following pressure by Arab nations. Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prioritized restoring diplomatic ties with many of them, and he met with Chad’s former president, Idriss Déby Itno, in 2018.

Boris Johnson vows to solve Northern Ireland’s Brexit-related kosher food shortages

During a visit to a synagogue in Belfast, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to fix bureaucratic complications connected to Brexit that have caused kosher food shortages in Northern Ireland, JTA reported.

There is no need for “laborious checks on products uniquely important to the Jewish community being moved from Great Britain into Northern Ireland,” Johnson said. “We will see this situation resolved.”

Northern Ireland has remained in the European Union’s single market even though the United Kingdom, of which Northern Ireland is a part, pulled out of the bloc in 2020. This fact has complicated shipments of food and other products from the United Kingdom to Northern Ireland, resulting in kosher food shortages, among other issues.

The Jewish community of Manchester in England is the main kosher food supplier for the Belfast Jewish Community Synagogue, which services that community of a few hundred people.

90-year-old Jewish man allegedly pushed to his death in Lyon, France

A dispute between neighbors in France ended with the death of a 90-year-old Jewish man, according to police, who do not suspect an antisemitic motive, JTA reported.

Police arrested a 51-year-old neighbor of the deceased, René Hadjaj, sometime after Hadjaj’s death on May 17 outside his home in Lyon in eastern France, the Tribune Juive Jewish newspaper reported. The suspect pushed Hadjaj to his death from an elevated story of their residential building, prosecutors told Le Progrès.

That paper reported that police had initially investigated a possible antisemitic motive but have now excluded it. They believe the incident stemmed from an argument unconnected to the fact that Hadjdaj was Jewish. French media have not reported the suspect’s identity.

Reports about the incident evoked anger and disbelief among multiple French Jews on social networks and beyond.

Hungarian writer known for antisemitic remarks addressed CPAC conference

Zsolt Bayer, a Hungarian journalist condemned by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum for calling Jewish critics of Hungary “excrement,” spoke to an influential American conservative conference that also was addressed by former President Donald Trump, JTA reported.

Bayer, Trump and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban all appeared this past weekend at Conservative Political Action Committee conference, held this year in Budapest. CPAC, a leading U.S. conservative attraction, chose Hungary in part because Orban is seen as a bulwark against liberalism.

In 2011, furious at criticism of Orban’s newly imposed restrictions on media, Bayer singled out three Jewish critics — Andras Schiff, the noted Hungarian pianist; Nick Cohen, a British journalist; and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a French politician — as “stinking excrement” and suggested it was “unfortunate” that more Jews were not killed in a 1919 massacre of Hungarian communists.

— Compiled by Andy Gotlieb

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