Archive for the ‘Press’ Category

In New Book, Grave Robbing and Other Stories of Poles’ Complicity

February 27, 2011
‘Golden Harvest’: Polish peasants with skeletal remains at Treblinka, where Gross said they dug for gold and jewels in the killing fields. Gross said the photograph was the starting point for his new book.

Gazeta Wyborcza
‘Golden Harvest’: Polish peasants with skeletal remains at Treblinka, where Gross said they dug for gold and jewels in the killing fields. Gross said the photograph was the starting point for his new book.

By Donald Snyder

Published February 23, 2011, issue of March 04, 2011.

Jan Gross is once again forcing Poland to take a new look at its past.

The Polish-American historian, whose previous books generated heated controversy and self-examination, has written a searing new indictment of Polish behavior toward Jews during World War II.

“Golden Harvest,” a new book by Gross and his former wife, Irena Grudzinska-Gross, charges that some Poles tried to profit from the Holocaust by digging for gold and jewels in the killing fields at Treblinka, the Nazi death camp where Germans murdered more than 800,000 Jews.

The book, which will be published in Poland on March 10, also accuses Poles of looting Jewish property.

“Poles accepted the fact that Jews were going to be destroyed,” Gross, a Princeton University historian, said in a telephone interview with the Forward. “The Poles participated in the murder of Jews, and this was done all over the country.”

In response, some of Poland’s right-wing media have branded Gross as anti-Polish.

“Jan Tomasz Gross has earned the deserved name of an untiring enemy of Poland and Poles. A swindler and a cheat,” Jerzy Robert Nowak wrote in the February 2 edition of Niedziela, a Roman Catholic publication distributed in churches.

“There is no place in Gross’s book for decent Poles, not an example,” complained a writer in the far-right tabloid Nasz Dziennik. “He only describes barbarians and villains. The purpose of the book is to make the American elite see Poles the way Jan Gross sees them.”

When asked about criticism of his work and about the allegations that he is anti-Polish, Gross responded gruffly: “This is all nonsense.”

Gross, who was born in Poland shortly after World War II, is no stranger to Polish readers. Born to a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, he fled his native country in 1968 because of an anti-Semitic campaign conducted by the Communist Party.

Gross has published two other books whose negative images of Poles provoked anger in the country of his birth.

“Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland,” published in 2001, investigated the 1941 massacre of about 1,600 Jewish villagers by their Polish neighbors. Poles were outraged when a government commission confirmed Gross’s findings.

A later book, “Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz,” published in 2006, asserted that Poles persecuted and murdered Jewish survivors.

Despite the controversy over “Golden Harvest,” Gross is not the first scholar to bring to light the Polish conduct at Treblinka. “The book is a synthesis of information uncovered by young Polish scholars,” said Michal Bilewicz, director of the University of Warsaw’s Center for Research on Prejudice. Bilewicz, who read a review copy of the book, said during a phone interview with the Forward that this information is little known outside Poland.

Gross acknowledges getting much of his material from Polish scholars who have conducted “excellent work” about Polish-Jewish relations during the war. “Much of this material has not been published in English, and it adds to our knowledge of Polish complicity in the murder of Jews,” he said.

The book also includes a photograph of Polish peasants at the edge of the gravesite at Treblinka, which previously had been published only in Gazeta Wyborcza, a leading Polish daily newspaper.

According to Bilewicz, Gross said in the book that the Polish behavior at Treblinka was criminal and abhorrent, but not inspired by anti-Semitism. “Gross says in the book that all of us are capable of committing the same crimes — if faced with the starvation the peasants experienced,” Bilewicz said.

Martyna Rusiniak-Karwat, a Warsaw University historian and author of a book on Treblinka, gave “Golden Harvest” a mixed review. “He based his book on work done by others, and used sources only selectively, including mine,” she told the Forward in a phone interview, through an interpreter.

Rusiniak-Karwat, who comes from a village about 20 miles from Treblinka, told the Polish daily Rzeczpospolita that as a child, she heard stories about Poles looking for gold that belonged to Jews murdered at Treblinka.

“When I started my research,” she said, “I found records on digging the mass graves, and that was shocking to me. I know they were searching the graves, but I didn’t have the slightest idea they went that far.” Her book “Extermination Camp Treblinka 2 in Social Memory, 1943–1989” was published in 2008.

“The peasants didn’t think of the place as a Jewish graveyard.” Rusiniak-Karwat said. “They were driven by the desire to reap a profit. They were depraved and deprived of all normal standards.”

Amid the anger Gross’s book has provoked, his inclusion of the photograph purporting to show Polish peasants searching for valuables among the dead has been especially provocative. The photograph, of which the origins are uncertain, first appeared in the January 8, 2008, edition of Gazeta Wyborcza.

Konstanty Gebert, a columnist for the newspaper, told the Forward in an e-mail: “There is a controversy about that photo and Gross acknowledges it. The photo either represents diggers, or people who were collecting human remains for future disposal.”

Rusniak-Karwat raised similar doubts. “Jan Gross used the picture as his primary evidence,” she said. “And we know little about its origin.”

Gross said he first saw the picture in Gazeta Wyborcza and learned that it had been given to a museum at Treblinka in the 1960s by an employee of a local railroad station. The photograph was the starting point for his book.

“On the surface, it appears to be a very banal photograph,” he said. “But when you realize that the crops in front of [the peasants] are not beets or potatoes but skulls and bones, that is a very freaky experience,” he observed.

Znak, the book’s Roman Catholic publisher in Krakow, acknowledged receiving many e-mails denouncing publication of the book.

Henryk Wozniakowski, president of Znak, said at a news conference in Warsaw on February 8 that the book was being published to “revise our memory and confront it with historical truth.” He said charges that the book is anti-Polish are groundless, and that profits from its sale will be donated to charity. “We don’t consider this book a business project,” he noted. The first printing will be 50,000 copies.

But the controversy over the book has also sparked internal conflict at the publishing company. Znak Director Danuta Skora said at the same news conference that she was opposed to publishing the book. According to a report in Gazeta Wyborcza, she called the book “unjust” and apologized to Poles who were hurt by its allegations.

The book hits a raw nerve because Poles believe they acted honorably during the brutal German occupation. Six million Polish citizens — half of them Jews — were killed during the war, and the Polish Underground performed courageously, including during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. And Poland has had more citizens honored as Righteous Gentiles at Yad Vashem than any other European country. This is part of the Polish identity.

“Poles regard themselves as innocent victims of history and find it difficult to concede they may be something else,” Gebert said.

The chief rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich, gave this assessment: “There is no way to justify what happened, but the people who were going into the graves were very hungry. We have to think of what the times were then. It was starvation. Did they do this because the victims were Jewish, or did they do it because they thought they could find something to feed their families?”

An English edition of the book is scheduled for publication in August.

Contact Donald Snyder at feedback@forward.com

Read more: http://www.forward.com/articles/135643/#ixzz1EyTvVMA8

Advertisements

WikiLeaks exposes Obama

February 25, 2011

Op-ed: Leaked documents refute US President Obama’s fundamental assumptions

Yoram Ettinger

Published: 12.09.10, 11:37 / Israel Opinion
 

Recently published Wikileaks documents expose the failure of President Obama’s counter-terrorism policy. 

While reaffirming a 1,400 years old Muslim track record, the documents refute Obama’s fundamental assumptions, which have shaped his counter-terrorism policy: that the Palestinian issue is a root cause of Middle East turbulence and anti-Western terrorism; that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are allies of the US; that there is no Islamic terrorism since Islam promotes peace and not terrorism; that there is no Jihadist terrorism since Jihad is a process which purifies the soul; that there is no global terrorism; that Islamic terrorists represent a Muslim minority which rejects modernity and that Islam has always been part of the American story.

According to the documents, Islamic terrorism has afflicted the globe from Latin America through the US and overseas American targets, Western Europe, the former USSR, Africa, the Middle East (hitting mostly fellow-Muslims), South Asia, the Far East and Australia.

The worldwide proliferation of Islamic terrorism is orchestrated and executed, also, by multi-lingual graduates of Western universities, who proficiently use the Internet, Blackberry, iPod, Twitter and Facebook. Contrary to Obama’s assumption, modern-day Islamic terrorists do not reject modernity. In fact, they leverage modernity in order to advance Islam’s historical values and goals. They believe that Islam’s destiny of religious and territorial domination of the globe is divinely-ordained. And, they pursue their goals via violence, intolerance toward “infidels” and “apostates,” totalitarianism and “Holy Wars” (Jihad) against civilizations and entities that undermine their megalomaniac aspirations, which transcend the Palestinian issue and Israel’s policies or existence.

Irrespective of the Palestinian issue and the Arab-Israeli conflict, Muslim terrorists operate along the joint border of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, as well as in San Paulo, Foz do Iguacu and Parana, Brazil. Independent of Israel’s policies and existence, the Lashkar-E-Taiba, Jaish-E-Mohammed and other Islamic terrorist organizations – operating with the backing of Pakistan – target India. Moreover, Lashkar-E-Taiba expands its presence in Pakistan – where it collaborates with the Inter Services Intelligence – Sri Lanka and Nepal in order to intensify terrorism in India.

Tailwind to terrorists

According to WikiLeaks – quoting a December 2009 Secretary of State Clinton memo – Saudi Arabia (especially), Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are the chief financial supporters of global Islamic Sunni terrorism, such as al-Qaeda, Taliban and Lashkar –E-Taiba, raising funds for terrorism through seemingly philanthropic organizations during pilgrimages to Mecca.

The May 31, 2010 edition of The Sunday Times reported that Afghanistan’s financial intelligence unit, FinTraca, documented a $1.5 billion transfer from Saudi Arabia to Afghani terrorists, mostly Taliban. The British daily asked: “One wonders how much of this money was used to buy weapons that killed 1,268 American soldiers and maimed thousands more in Afghanistan?!”

Undersecretary of the Treasury for Financial and Terrorism Intelligence, Stuart Levey, testified at an October 6, 2009 Senate Banking Committee hearing that “money is leaving Saudi Arabia to fund terrorism…Undoubtedly, some of that money is going to Iraq, to South-East Asia and to any other place where there are terrorists…”

For example, the Riyadh-based al-Rajhi Bank was implicated in funding the Islamic Chechen Mujahedeen. Saudi involvement in anti-Western Islamic terrorism was also reported in 2009 by Pakistan’s police, including a $15 million transfer to Jihadists who were involved in the murder of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. A November 15, 2010 report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), a US Congress investigative unit, maintained that Saudi Arabia made progress in curbing terror-funding within the kingdom but did not cooperate in de-funding Islamic terrorism outside the kingdom.

Saudi-funded Islamic non-profit foundations – with direct and indirect ties to terror organizations – proliferate globally. The first foundation, the Muslim World League was established in 1962, five years before the Six-Day War, before the first settlement was established, while Jordan and Egypt occupied parts of Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and Gaza and the Palestinian issue did not preoccupy Western

policymakers. More Saudi-supported foundations followed, including the USA-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the North American Islamic Trust (NAIS), the Holy Land Foundation (HLF), etc.

However, President Obama has overlooked the fact that those who finance and incite terrorism are more culpable than the brainwashed terrorists who execute terrorism. President Obama has subordinated counter-terrorism to wishful thinking, oversimplification, misreading of the writing on the wall and a series of wrong assumptions, such as a supposed linkage between the Palestinian issue and countering-Islamic terrorism and preventing Iran’s nuclearization. Thus, wrong assumptions have produced wrong policies, which have yielded tailwind to terrorists and rogue regimes and headwind to Western democracies.

Rahm Emanuel elected mayor of Chicago

February 24, 2011

Former aide to Barack Obama overwhelms five rivals to take the helm of the third-largest US city

  • Paul Harris in New York
  • guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 23 February 2011 08.18 GMT
  • Rahm Emanuel wins race for Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel wins race for Chicago mayor Photograph: guardian.co.uk

    Rahm Emanuel, the former top aide to Barack Obama, has become the new mayor of Chicago.

    With 88% of precincts finished counting in America’s third largest city, Emanuel had a commanding leading of 55%; a long way ahead of his nearest rival, the former Chicago schools president Gery Chico, on 24%.

    Emanuel needed to win the race by 50% or more to avoid a run-off election and capture City Hall at his first try. He has done that easily despite the election for the mayor’s office once being seen as the most competitive in a generation.

    “Thank you Chicago for this humbling victory,” a smiling Emanuel told supporters at his victory rally in the city. “You sure know how to make a guy feel at home.

    “It is easy to find differences but we can never allow them to become divisions. Tonight we are moving forward in the only way we truly can. Together. As one city with one future.

    “It’s you. It’s the hard-working, plain-speaking folks who share a love for their city and a determination to keep it strong. I share that love and I am determined with your help to meet our challenges head on and to make a great city even greater.”

    Chicago’s political machinery is notorious within American politics and this last race was the first in 64 years not to feature an incumbent candidate. Since 1989 the spot was held by Emanuel’s predecessor Richard M Daley, who never faced a serious challenge and was known as King Richard.

    But Emanuel’s seeming outsider status wasn’t borne out by his well-funded campaign, with his war chest dwarfing those of his rivals.

    It showed the benefits of Emanuel’s time as the president’s chief of staff in Washington where he gained national prominence on the back of an image as a tough-talking and foul-mouthed operative who rarely took prisoners.

    That reputation was hardly a disadvantage in Chicago where rough and tumble politics are the norm. The main threat to Emanuel’s victory during the campaign came not from any candidate at the ballot box but from a protracted legal fight aimed at proving he did not have the right residency qualifications for the race.

    Emanuel eventually triumphed in court but only after an appeal.

    The former Congressman from the city and native Chicagoan has often said that the chance to become mayor was a “dream job” and the only reason he would leave the White House. But he is now faced with the realities of wielding civic power in one of America’s biggest cities.

    Across America local governments are facing deep budget cuts in the wake of the Great Recession. Chicago is no exception. City finances are stretched and ways of raising fresh revenue are being squeezed. There is a projected shortfall in the city budget of some £1bn and an unemployment rate of almost 9%. Chicago’s police force is stretched and short of funds and there is a serious crime problem, especially in the city’s traditionally black southside neighbourhoods.

IDF razes wall dividing Jewish and Arab areas east of Jerusalem

August 15, 2010

Work starts to remove concrete barrier at Gilo built in 2002, later becoming one of the enduring symbols of the Second Intifada.

By Nir Hasson

Work began east of Jerusalem Monday morning to remove one of the city’s enduring symbols of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, a two-meter-high concrete barrier built to separate the Jewish neighborhood of Gilo from the Arab district of Beit Jalla. The army’s home front command began the demolition at the request of Jerusalem’s municipality, after security checks suggested that the wall, designed to protect Gilo residents from sniper fire, was no longer needed. A crane lifts part of a concrete barrier put up eight years ago to protect residents in Gilo, August 10, 2010 AP

Gilo, which is beyond the Green Line but which Israel considers part of Jerusalem, was sealed off from Beit Jalla eight years ago, when the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, saw violence flare across the West Bank. In response, the Israel Defense Forces launch Operation Defensive Shield, the largest military deployment in the Palestinian territories since 1967. “The wall was built at the time of Defensive Shield and right now we don’t see a problem in getting rid of it,” said Lt. Col. Hezi Ravivo, a military engineer in charge of the demolition. During the two years between the start of the intifada in 2000 and the construction of the wall two years later, Gilo was hit regular sniper and machine gun fire, with one attack seriously wounding a Border Guard. Today Gilo is quieter. “I don’t expect the gunfire to resume,” Ravivo said. “If the need arises we can put it up again,” he said, adding that in the current security climate, it would even be safe for Israeli tour guides and groups to enter Bethlehem, a major Palestinian city that lies just south of Jerusalem. But the demolition has angered local residents, who say the army has left them exposed. “It gave us a certain feeling of security,” said Aviva Klein, who lives nearby. “I didn’t feel the wall was shutting me in – I felt safe.” The army said in a statement: “The IDF will continue to protect the citizens of the State of Israel continuing to assess the changing security climate.” A section of the concrete barrier separaing Gilo from Bait Jalla.

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/idf-razes-wall-dividing-jewish-and-arab-areas-east-of-jerusalem-1.308134

The Flotilla Farce

August 15, 2010

Whether they are from Turkey, Ireland or Cyprus, those that participate reek of hypocrisy.

By DANNY AYALON

A couple of years ago, a Palestinian refugee camp was encircled and laid siege to by an army of tanks and Armored Personnel Carriers. Attacks initiated by Palestinian militants triggered an overwhelming response from the army that took the life of almost 500 people, including many civilians. International organizations struggled to send aid to the refugee camps, where the inhabitants were left without basic amenities like electricity and running water. During the conflict, six U.N. personnel were killed when their car was bombed.

Government ministers and spokesmen tried to explain to the international community that the Palestinian militants were backed by Syria and global jihadist elements. Al Qaeda condemned the government and the army, declaring that the attack was part of a “crusade” against their Palestinian brothers.

AFP/Getty ImagesA Palestinian refugee collects metal and plastic objects at a garbage dump in the Palestinian refugee camp of Beddawi near Tripoli.

ayalon

ayalon

While most will assume that the events described above took place in the West Bank or Gaza, they actually took place in Lebanon in the summer of 2007, when Palestinian terrorists attacked the Lebanese Army, which struck back with deadly force. The scene of most of the fighting was the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in Northern Lebanon, which was home to the Islamist Fatah al-Islam, a group that has links with al Qaeda.

At the time, there was little international outcry. No world leader decried the “prison camps” in Lebanon. No demonstrations took place around the world; no U.N. investigation panels were created and little media attention was attracted. In fact, the plight of the Palestinians in Lebanon garners very little attention internationally.

Today, there are more than 400,000 Palestinians in Lebanon who are deprived of their most basic rights. The Lebanese government has a list of tens of professions that a Palestinian is forbidden from being engaged in, including professions such as medicine, law and engineering. Palestinians are forbidden from owning property and need a special permit to leave their towns. Unlike all other foreign nationals in Lebanon, they are denied access to the health-care system. According to Amnesty international, the Palestinians in Lebanon suffer from “discrimination and marginalization” and are treated like “second class citizens” and “denied their full range of human rights.”

Amnesty also states that most Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have little choice but to live in overcrowded and deteriorating camps and informal gatherings that lack basic infrastructure.

In view of the worsening plight of the Palestinians in Lebanon, it is the height of irony that a Lebanese flotilla is organizing to leave the port of Tripoli in the next few days to bring aid to Palestinians in Gaza. According to one of the organizers, the participants are “united by a feeling of stark injustice.”

This attitude exposes the dishonesty of the whole flotilla exercise. Whether it is from Turkey, Ireland or Cyprus, those that participate in these flotillas reek of hypocrisy. There are currently 100 armed conflicts and dozens of territorial disputes around the world. There have been millions of people killed and hundreds of millions live in abject poverty without access to basic staples. And yet hundreds of high-minded “humanitarian activists” are spending millions of dollars to reach Gaza and hand money to Hamas that will never reach the innocent civilians of Gaza.

This is the same Gaza that just opened a sparkling new shopping mall that would not look out of place in any capital in Europe. Gaza, where a new Olympic-sized swimming pool was recently inaugurated and five-star hotels and restaurants offer luxurious fare.

Markets brimming with all manner of foods dot the landscape of Gaza, where Lauren Booth, journalist and “human rights activist,” was pictured buying chocolate and luxurious items from a well-stocked supermarket before stating with a straight face that the “situation in Gaza is a humanitarian crisis on the scale of Darfur.”

No one claims that the situation in Gaza is perfect. Since the bloody coup and occupation by Hamas of Gaza in 2007, in which more than 100 Palestinians were killed, Israel has had no choice but to ensure that Hamas is not able to build up an Iranian port on the shores of the Mediterranean. Until Hamas meets the three standards laid out by the international community, namely renouncing violence, recognizing Israel’s right to exist and abiding by previously signed agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Hamas will continue to be shunned by the international community.

While Israel’s policy is to continue to see that all civilian needs are addressed, it can not allow Hamas to rearm and use Gaza as a base to attack Israel and beyond. For this reason, Israel initiated a blockade, fully legal under international law, to ensure that no items can be appropriated by Hamas to attack innocent civilians. Organizations that wish to join the U.N. and the Red Cross to deliver goods or aid to Gaza are welcome to do so through the Kerem Shalom crossing or even through Egyptian ports. Those that refuse and seek to break the legal blockade to boost Hamas are interested in provocation. If Israel allows these confrontational flotillas to successfully open up a shipping lane for arms smuggling for an Iranian proxy, then the region will suffer from continuous conflict. Actions that embolden the extremists will be at the cost of the moderates and this will pose a grave danger to moving the peace process forward.

The latest flotilla preparing to leave from Lebanon fully exposes not only the hypocrisy but the danger of these provocative vigilante flotillas. The Lebanese flotilla, whose organizers claim injustice while ignoring the dire human rights situation of the Palestinians in Lebanon, amply demonstrate that these flotillas have nothing to do with humanitarian concerns and everything to do with delegitimizing Israel.

Mr. Ayalon is Israel’s deputy minister of foreign affairs.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703940904575395022140188274.html 

 

 

Column One: Weathering the approaching storm

June 19, 2010

Column One: Weathering the approaching storm.

Column One: Weathering the approaching storm


Israel is endangered today as it has never been before.

//

Sunset News: Joys of Muslim Women

June 17, 2010

Sunset News: Joys of Muslim Women.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Joys of Muslim Women

Joys of Muslim Women
by Nonie Darwish

In the Muslim faith a Muslim man can marry a child as young as 1 year old and have sexual intimacy with this child. Consummating the marriage by 9.

The dowry is given to the family in exchange for the woman (who becomes his slave) and for the purchase of the private parts of the woman, to use
her as a toy.

Even though a woman is abused she can not obtain a divorce.

To prove rape, the woman must have (4) male witnesses.

Often after a woman has been raped, she is returned to her family and the family must return the dowry. The family has the right to execute her (an honor killing) to restore the honor of the family. Husbands can beat their wives ‘at will’ and he does not have to say why he has beaten her.

The husband is permitted to have(4 wives) and a temporary wife for an hour (prostitute) at his discretion.

The Shariah Muslim law controls the private as well as the public life of the woman.

In the West World ( America ) Muslim men are starting to demand Shariah Law so the wife can not obtain a divorce and he can have full and complete control of her. It is amazing and alarming how many of our sisters and daughters attending American Universities are now marrying Muslim men and submitting themselves and their children unsuspectingly to the Shariah law.

By passing this on, enlightened American women may avoid becoming a slave under Shariah Law.

Learn More…. Read:
Cruel and Usual Punishment just released in most bookstores.

Ripping the West in Two.

Author and lecturer Nonie Darwish says the goal of radical Islamists is to impose Shariah law on the world, ripping Western law and liberty in two.

She recently authored the book, Cruel and Usual Punishment: The Terrifying Global Implications of Islamic Law.

Darwish was born in Cairo and spent her childhood in Egypt and Gaza before emigrating to America in 1978, When she was eight years old, her father died while leading covert attacks on Israel . He was a high-ranking Egyptian military officer stationed with his family in Gaza .

When he died, he was considered a “shahid,” a martyr for jihad. His posthumous status earned Nonie and her family an elevated position in Muslim society.

But Darwish developed a skeptical eye at an early age. She questioned her own Muslim culture and upbringing. She converted to Christianity after hearing a Christian preacher on television.

In her latest book, Darwish warns about creeping sharia law – what it is, what it means, and how it is manifested in Islamic countries.

For the West, she says radical Islamists are working to impose sharia on the world. If that happens, Western civilization will be destroyed.

In twenty years there will be enough Muslim voters in the U.S. to elect the President! I think everyone in the U.S. should be required to read this, but with the ACLU, there is no way this will be widely publicized, unless each of us sends it on!

This is your chance to make a difference…!

The Dreyfus affair: Pointing fingers | The Economist

June 16, 2010

The Dreyfus affair: Pointing fingers | The Economist.

For the Soul of France: Culture Wars in the Age of Dreyfus. By Frederick Brown. Knopf; 336 pages; $28.95. Buy from Amazon.com

The Man on Devil’s Island: Alfred Dreyfus and the Affair that Divided France. By Ruth Harris. Allen Lane; 524 pages; £30. Buy from Amazon.co.uk

Why the Dreyfus Affair Matters. By Louis Begley. Yale University Press; 249 pages; $24 and £18. Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk

HE LED an unremarkable, bourgeois life in fin-de-siècle Paris, riding his horses in the Bois de Boulogne, and sending his family to the Normandy coast to take the sea air. He was a conscientious, if not particularly likeable, army officer, and a graduate of Polytechnique, the highly competitive French engineering school. His father was a successful industrialist from Alsace (which had fallen to the Germans after the Franco-Prussian war in 1870-71), supplying him with an unusually handsome income for a man of his rank. He also happened to be Jewish.

In 1894, Captain Alfred Dreyfus was secretly arrested, wrongfully convicted by a court martial of high treason, sentenced to life imprisonment, stripped of his military rank and shipped off in chains to solitary confinement in the sweltering heat of Devil’s Island, a French territory off the coast of South America. The only evidence presented at his trial was a torn-up note containing confidential military information, which had been found in a wastepaper basket at the German embassy by a cleaning lady working as a French spy. It was written in a hand that was said, implausibly, to resemble the captain’s.

How could the French army have conspired to bring down an innocent man in the name of national security? To this day, and despite the scores of books on the subject, the affair that rocked and divided France fascinates historians. Three new works re-examine what happened for contemporary readers.

In a dense study, Frederick Brown of the State University of New York, sees the affair as the product of culture wars. The French army was humiliated by the loss of Alsace-Lorraine, then shaken by the Paris Commune uprising. Nationalist feeling, spiced with paranoia about traitors and spies, took hold at a time when the top brass was forced to improve military performance through reform. Meritocratic recruitment drew in outsiders like Dreyfus. But this also made him the object of suspicion by the old Catholic families, who traditionally manned France’s officer class.

Mr Brown is particularly good on the battle of ideas, symbolised by the construction of two of the capital’s landmarks. In 1875 the first stone was laid for the Sacré Coeur basilica in Montmartre, designed as a statement of religious renewal, national atonement and devotion to Rome. Across the river, the following decade, Gustave Eiffel began work on his monumental iron tower as an emblem of industry and science. The clerical elite was scandalised: it towered over the churches, did not speak to God, and reflected “imbecility, bad taste and foolish arrogance”. As one anti-Semitic writer declared at the time, “Only a Jew could have submitted such a project.”

Political instability and insecurity fuelled social paranoia and anti-Jewish sentiment. Conspiracy theories about Jewish financiers were the talk of Paris salons. “La France Juive”, by Edouard Drumont, an anti-Semitic tract published in 1886, became a bestseller. The respectable Catholic press, notably La Croix, joined in. In one diocesan newsletter in the Cévennes, readers were told about “the Jew”, who, it declared, was: “Servile, slithering, artful, filthy and vile when he is the weaker one; he becomes arrogant when he has the upper hand, as he does now.”

Against this background, the clubby French military elite hunted for a traitor. A perfunctory internal investigation swiftly fingered Dreyfus, the only Jewish trainee officer on the General Staff. He stood out, in the words of Lieutenant-Colonel Jean Sandherr, head of intelligence, as reported to a young diplomat, for “his indiscreet curiosity, his constant snooping, his air of mystery, and finally his false and conceited character, in which one recognises all the pride and all the ignominy of his race.” The military hierarchy closed ranks: its singular aim to defend its honour, and incriminate Dreyfus, triumphed over the facts.

In the end, justice prevailed. Yet it took five years before the Dreyfusards secured a second military trial, at which the captain was again found guilty, this time after the top brass forged evidence against him. Dreyfus’s name was not officially cleared until 1906. He was readmitted to the French army, served in the first world war and died in 1935. In another scholarly study, Ruth Harris, an Oxford University historian, shows how the battle to establish his innocence was never, as myth would have it, a neat tale pitting the forces of truth and justice against paranoid military authority and national honour. This, she writes, was “good rhetoric but poor history”.

Anti-clerical republicans—most famously, Emile Zola and his front-page letter to President Félix Faure entitled “J’Accuse”—took on the Catholic elite, with its hold over the military hierarchy. But the Dreyfus affair often cut across political and religious lines. Léon Blum, Georges Clemenceau, Jean Jaurès and other Dreyfusards intellectuels, a term originally coined to insult them, were aghast at left-leaning friends who refused to join the campaign. Through a close reading of a mass of private documents, Ms Harris subtly draws the complex, and contradictory, human behaviour behind the public affair.

Louis Begley, an American novelist and retired lawyer, and a Jewish refugee from Nazi-occupied Poland, has produced the shortest of the three books. It is also the paciest read. As a primer on the affair, this is a first-rate narrative and a heartfelt plea to modern democracies to stick to their values and defend basic liberties, however threatened they feel.

The author draws an intriguing parallel between the Dreyfus affair and the Guantánamo detainees under President George Bush, held on suspicion of terrorist links, grossly mistreated and denied basic rights. Yet he stretches his point. Dreyfus was innocent, like some of those held at Guantánamo. Crucially, however, he was the “enemy” within: picked from the ranks of the officer class, by the military’s own elite, and in a country—unlike America—that was not at war.

More than a century on, the Dreyfus affair still holds important lessons about freedom, notably the fragility of basic liberties when national security is invoked. It is also a reminder of the deep roots of anti-Semitism, in France and beyond. Even after Dreyfus’s death, the family felt the consequences. As Mr Begley notes, Dreyfus’s wife, Lucie, changed her name and fled Vichy France for the free zone in the south. Her granddaughter, Madeleine, who fought in the French Resistance, was sent to Auschwitz

Amos Oz talks to Sharon

March 10, 2010

The following is a reprint of an interview with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by Amos Oz as originally published in the Israeli daily Davar on 17 December 1982. The man referred to as C. is Sharon.

The interview of Ariel Sharon by Amos Oz

[Sharon]:

“You can call me anything you like. Call me a monster or a murderer. Just note that I don’t hate Arabs. On the contrary. Personally, I am much more at ease with them, and especially with the Bedouin, than with Jews. Those Arabs we haven’t yet spoilt are proud people, they are irrational, cruel and generous. It’s the Yids that are all twisted. In order to straighten them out you have to first bend them sharply the other way. That, in brief, is my whole ideology”.

“Call Israel by any name you like, call it a Judeo-Nazi state as does Leibowitz. Why not? Better a live Judeo-Nazi than a dead saint. I don’t care whether I am like Ghadafi. I am not after the admiration of the gentiles. I don’t need their love. I don’t need to be loved by Jews like you either. I have to live, and I intend to ensure that my children will live as well. With or without the blessing of the Pope and the other religious leaders from the New York Times. I will destroy anyone who will raise a hand against my children, I will destroy him and his children, with or without our famous purity of arms. I don’t care if he is Christian, Muslim, Jewish or pagan. History teaches us that he who won’t kill will be killed by others. That is an iron law”.

“Even if you’ll prove to me by mathematical means that the present war in Lebanon is a dirty immoral war, I don’t care. Moreover, even if you will prove to me that we have not achieved and will not achieve any of our aims in Lebanon, that we will neither create a friendly regime in Lebanon nor destroy the Syrians or even the PLO, even then I don’t care. It was still worth it. Even if Galilee is shelled again by Katyushas in a year’s time, I don’t really care. We shall start another war, kill and destroy more and more, until they will have had enough. And do you know why it is all worth it? Because it seems that this war has made us more unpopular among the so-called civilised world”.

“We’ll hear no more of that nonsense about the unique Jewish morality, the moral lessons of the holocaust or about the Jews who were supposed to have emerged from the gas chambers pure and virtuous. No more of that. The destruction of Eyn Hilwe (and it’s a pity we did not wipe out that hornet’s nest completely!), the healthy bombardment of Beirut and that tiny massacre (can you call 500 Arabs a massacre?) in their camps which we should have committed with our own delicate hands rather than let the Phalangists do it, all these good deeds finally killed the bullshit talk about a unique people and of being a light upon the nations. No more uniqueness and no more sweetness and light. Good riddance.”

“I personally don’t want to be any better than Khomeini or Brezhnev or Ghadafi or Assad or Mrs. Thatcher, or even Harry Truman who killed half a million Japanese with two fine bombs. I only want to be smarter than they are, quicker and more efficient, not better or more beautiful than they are. Tell me, do the baddies of this world have a bad time? If anyone tries to touch them, the evil men cut his hands and legs off. They hunt and catch whatever they feel like eating. They don’t suffer from indigestion and are not punished by Heaven. I want Israel to join that club. Maybe the world will then at last begin to fear me instead of feeling sorry for me. Maybe they will start to tremble, to fear my madness instead of admiring my nobility. Thank god for that. Let them tremble, let them call us a mad state. Let them understand that we are a wild country, dangerous to our surroundings, not normal, that we might go crazy if one of our children is murdered – just one! That we might go wild and burn all the oil fields in the Middle East! If anything would happen to your child, God forbid, you would talk like I do. Let them be aware in Washington, Moscow, Damascus and China that if one of our ambassadors is shot, or even a consul or the most junior embassy official, we might start World War Three just like that!”

……We are talking while sitting on the balcony of the pretty country house belonging to C. which is situated in a prosperous Moshav. To the west we see a burning sunset and there is a scent of fruit trees in the air. We are being served iced coffee in tall glasses. C. is about fifty years old. He is a man well known for his (military) actions. He is a strong, heavy figure wearing shorts but no shirt. His body is tanned a metallic bronze shade, the colour of a blond man living in the sun. He puts his hairy legs on the table and his hands on the chair. There is a scar on his neck. His eyes wander over his plantations. He spells out his ideology in a voice made hoarse by too much smoking:

“Let me tell me [sic] what is the most important thing, the sweetest fruit of the war in Lebanon: It is that now they don’t just hate Israel. Thanks to us, they now also hate all those Feinschmecker Jews in Paris, London, New York, Frankfurt and Montreal, in all their holes. At last they hate all these nice Yids, who say they are different from us, that they are not Israeli thugs, that they are different Jews, clean and decent. Just like the assimilated Jew in Vienna and Berlin begged the anti-Semite not to confuse him with the screaming, stinking Ostjude, who had smuggled himself into that cultural environment out of the dirty ghettos of Ukraine and Poland. It won’t help them, those clean Yids, just as it did not help them in Vienna and Berlin. Let them shout that they condemn Israel, that they are all right, that they did not want and don’t want to hurt a fly, that they always prefer being slaughtered to fighting, that they have taken it upon themselves to teach the gentiles how to be good Christians by always turning the other cheek. It won’t do them any good. Now they are getting it there because of us, and I am telling you, it is a pleasure to watch.”

“They are the same Yids who persuaded the gentiles to capitulate to the bastards in Vietnam, to give it in to Khomeini, to Brezhnev, to feel sorry for Sheikh Yamani because of his tough childhood, to make love not war. Or rather, to do neither, and instead write a thesis on love and war. We are through with all that. The Yid has been rejected, not only did he crucify Jesus, but he also crucified Arafat in Sabra and Shatila. They are being identified with us and that’s a good thing! Their cemeteries are being desecrated, their synagogues are set on fire, all their old nicknames are being revived, they are being expelled from the best clubs, people shoot into their ethnic restaurants murdering small children, forcing them to remove any sign showing them to be Jews, forcing them to move and change their profession.”

“Soon their palaces will be smeared with the slogan: Yids, go to Palestine! And you know what? They will go to Palestine because they will have no other choice! All this is a bonus we received from the Lebanese war. Tell me, wasn’t it worth it? “Soon we will hit on good times. The Jews will start arriving, the Israelis will stop emigrating and those who already emigrated will return. Those who had chosen assimilation will finally understand that it won’t help them to try and be the conscience of the world. The ‘conscience of the world’ will have to understand through its arse what it could not get into its head. The gentiles have always felt sick of the Yids and their conscience, and now the Yids will have only one option: to come home, all of them, fast, to install thick steel doors, to build a strong fence, to have submachine guns positioned at every corner of their fence here and to fight like devils against anyone who dares to make a sound in this region. And if anyone even raises his hand against us we’ll take away half his land and burn the other half, including the oil. We might use nuclear arms. We’ll go on until he no longer feels like it…”

“…You probably want to know whether I am not afraid of the masses of Yids coming here to escape anti-semitism smearing us with their olive oil until we go all soft like them. Listen, history is funny in that way, there is a dialectic here, irony. Who was it who expanded the state of Israel almost up the boundaries of the kingdom of King David? Who expanded the state until it covered the area from Mount Hermon to Raz Muhammad? Levi Eshkol. Of all people, it was that follower of Gordon, that softie, that old woman. Who, on the other hand, is about to push us back into the walls of the ghetto? Who gave up all of Sinai in order to retain a civilised image? Beitar’s governor in Poland, that proud man Menahem Begin. So you can never tell. I only know one thing for sure: as long as you are fighting for your life all is permitted, even to drive out all the Arabs from the West Bank, everything.”

“Leibowitz is right, we are Judeo-Nazis, and why not? Listen, a people that gave itself up to be slaughtered, a people that let soap to be made of its children and lamp shades from the skin of its women is a worse criminal than its murderers. Worse than the Nazis…If your nice civilised parents had come here in time instead of writing books about the love for humanity and singing Hear O Israel on the way to the gas chambers, now don’t be shocked, if they instead had killed six million Arabs here or even one million, what would have happened? Sure, two or three nasty pages would have been written in the history books, we would have been called all sorts of names, but we could be here today as a people of 25 million!”

“Even today I am willing to volunteer to do the dirty work for Israel, to kill as many Arabs as necessary, to deport them, to expel and burn them, to have everyone hate us, to pull the rug from underneath the feet of the Diaspora Jews, so that they will be forced to run to us crying. Even if it means blowing up one or two synagogues here and there, I don’t care. And I don’t mind if after the job is done you put me in front of a Nuremberg Trial and then jail me for life. Hang me if you want, as a war criminal. Then you can spruce up your Jewish conscience and enter the respectable club of civilised nations, nations that are large and healthy. What you lot don’t understand is that the dirty work of Zionism is not finished yet, far from it. True, it could have been finished in 1948, but you interfered, you stopped it. And all this because of the Jewishness in your souls, because of your Diaspora mentality. For the Jews don’t grasp things quickly. If you open your eyes and look around the world you will see that darkness is falling again. And we know what happens to a Jew who stays out in the dark. So I am glad that this small war in Lebanon frightened the Yids. Let them be afraid, let them suffer. They should hurry home before it gets really dark. So I am an anti-Semite? Fine. So don’t quote me, quote Lilienblum instead [an early Russian Zionist – ed.]. There is no need to quote an anti-Semite. Quote Lilienblum, and he is definitely not an anti-Semite, there is even a street in Tel Aviv named after him”. (C. quotes from a small notebook that was lying on his table when I arrived:)

‘Is all that is happening not a clear sign that our forefathers and ourselves…wanted and still want to be disgraced? That we enjoy living like gypsies.’ That’s Lilienblum. Not me. Believe me. I went through the Zionist literature, I can prove what I say”.

“And you can write that I am disgrace to humanity, I don’t mind, on the contrary. Let’s make a deal: I will do all I can to expel the Arabs from here, I will do all I can to increase anti-semitism, and you will write poems and essays about the misery of the Arabs and be prepared to absorb the Yids I will force to flee to this country and teach them to be a light unto the gentiles. How about it?”

It was there that I stopped C.’s monologue for a moment and expressed the thought passing through my mind, perhaps more for myself than for my host. Was it possible that Hitler had not only hurt the Jews but also poisoned their minds? Had that poison sunk in and was still active? But not even that idea could cause C. to protest or raise his voice. After all, he said to have never shouted under stress, even during the famous operations his name is associated with.

(Interview by Amos Oz in 1982Amos Oz reproduced this interview, with others, in his book in Hebrew, Amos Oz: Poh va-sham be-Erets-Yisra’el bi-setav, 1982, republished by Am Oved,Tel-Aviv, 1986. The interview is on pp. 70-82. Amos Oz does not mention the name of Sharon, but uses the abbreviation Z. The facts indicated by Amos Oz clearly confirm that the person interviewed is Ariel Sharon. This book has been published in French: Amos Oz: Les voix d’Israël, translatedby Guy Seniak, Calmann-Lévy, Paris, 1983. The interview is on pages 79-91. Here again, Amos Oz does not mention the name of Sharon, but uses the abbreviation T. A French version is also produced in: Letter no 2 of FAITS ET DOCUMENTS, 3 September 2001: http://www.argent.fr/fetd2.htm. The same book has been published in English: Amos Oz: In the Land of Israel, translated by Maurie Goldberg-Bartura. 1st Vintage Books Edition. New York: Vintage Books, 1984. Here again, Amos Oz does not mention the name of Sharon,but uses the abbreviation C.The interview is here distributed as published by: http://www.counterpunch.org/pipermail/counterpunch-list/2001-September/01 3054.html It is indicated that the man referred to as C. is Sharon).

New bill would make conversion insufficient for Israeli citizenship

March 9, 2010

March 09, 2010 Adar 23, 5770
web haaretz.com

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
(Daniel Bar On)

New bill would make conversion insufficient for Israeli citizenship
By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz Correspondent
Tags: Israel conversion

Proposed legislation that would broaden the authority of the Chief Rabbinate in Israel on matters of conversion would also alter the Law of Return, distinguishing between that law and the Citizenship Law.

The bill, put forth by MK David Rotem of Yisrael Beiteinu, is the result of negotiations he held with both Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar and the ultra-Orthodox Shas party. According to this legislation, conversion – even if done in Israel – will be insufficient basis for requesting Israeli citizenship.

The bill proposes that the Law of Return only be applicable to Jews or their offspring, and not to non-Jews who opted to convert – even if the conversion follows Orthodox procedure in line with state religious courts in Israel.

The proposed legislation will be brought before the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, and represents the manifestation of one of Yisrael Beiteinu’s electoral promises to its constituency, namely to improve the status of those considered non-Jews according to halakha (Jewish religious law).

However human rights organizations maintain that the bill would hurt the rights of converts by broadening the power of the Chief Rabbinate on this issue.

For years, Orthodox conversions in Israel have been carried out almost exclusively by special religious courts for conversion, headed by Rabbi Haim Druckman. The courts that are controlled by the Chief Rabbinate have avoided carrying out conversions.

The conversion courts have experienced a crisis in recent years, in part due to administrative problems and also as a result of Chief Rabbinate rulings that considered thousands of conversions void.

The bill would authorize rabbis that have been appointed by the Chief Rabbinate to cities to carry out conversions there, which is expected to ease the process. According to the proposal, the city rabbis would be able to carry out conversions through the use of a panel of three qualified rabbis, and would also be able to register marriages for those who have converted.

If the bill passes into law, it will effect the law on the chief rabbinate as well as the Citizenship Law. The latter will be amended to allow citizenship to be given not to those who convert or to those “who were not eligible to become an immigrant prior to their entry to Israel.”

Rabbi Shaul Farber of the Itim Institute said “We are shocked by this law. Jewish tradition has always considered converts fully part of the fate of the Jewish people. It is hard to accept a situation in which a person who underwent state-sponsored conversion in Israel will be considered a second class Jew and will not be entitled to immigrate.”

The Movement for Progressive Judaism described the bill as a “coup meant to bypass the Supreme Court over the issue of who is a Jew,” because it denies converts the right to become Israeli citizens.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1154520.html