The Belgium Connection

The relationship between Israel and Belgium once enriching is now troubling and turbulent

By David E. Kaplan

Present relations between Israel and Belgium are worrying. This past February, we saw at the annual carnival in the Belgian town of Aalst, a procession featuring Nazi uniforms, costumes of Jews as vermin despite the fact that the Nazis deported about 25,000 Jews from occupied Belgium to the Auschwitz death camp, where most were murdered. This followed a float in the previous year’s parade depicting puppets of hook-nosed orthodox Jews with rats sitting on money bags that led to UNESCO withdrawing it from its “intangible cultural heritage” list.

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A closer look at Belgium.

This February also saw Israel angry at Belgium for what Jerusalem said was a systematic campaign to demonize the Jewish state at the United Nations by using its privilege of holding the rotating presidency of the council in February by inviting speakers who hold anti-Israel bias.

However, despite recent hiccups, Israel and Belgium have enjoyed an enriching relationship revealing some fascinating history.

When famed Israeli football coach Guy Luzon – currently managing of Maccabi Petah Tikva – was appointed the coach of the Belgium football club Standard Liège in 2013, it reflected a long and enriching relationship between the Benelux country and the State of Israel.

While few in Belgium had ever heard of Luzon before he took Standard Liège close to winning the national title, few in Israel, knew too much about Belgium, beyond its chocolates, waffles and beer and for the more politically attuned that Brussels is the capital of the EU.

Food for Thought

While there are many restaurants in Israel offering European, Asian and American cuisine, has anyone ever seen a Belgium restaurant?

Curious as to what food is typically Belgium, this writer put the question to Sophie Katz from Tel Aviv who grew up in Antwerp, which is Belgium’s second largest city and has a Jewish community numbering some 18,000 people.

“French fries,” she replied. Hardly what this writer would have guessed as typically Belgium!

Contrary to conventional wisdom, ‘fries’ – that is, deep-fried chipped potatoes – are thought to have originated in Belgium. This revelation is substantiated by a book entitled Curiosités de la table dans les Pays-Bas-Belgiques written in 1781, which described how inhabitants of Namur, Dinant and Andenne around the Meuse River had eaten fried potatoes since around 1680.

Though made popular across the globe by the United States as “French Fries”, it is believed – without casting aspersions on American’s understanding of world geography – that Yank soldiers during the First World War erroneously thought they were being served the dish in France. In their defense, the way that trench war shifted, borders were somewhat blurred!

War has a way of shifting lives.

In the spring of 1943, the Jewish Defense Committee in Belgium conceived a bold plan to halt a deportation train to Auschwitz. Having learned the exact date and time of an impending deportation from the Mechelen transit camp, the resistance planned for action. On the night of April 19, 1943, as the train began its journey to Auschwitz, three members of a resistance unit sprang into action. Under the command of a young Jewish physician, Georges Livchitz, the group forced the train to stop by signaling it with a red lantern. Livchitz held the engineer at bay with a small caliber revolver, while his comrades forced open the doors of several cars. Under a hail of gunfire from the German guards, some prisoners escaped, some of whose descendants made their way to Israel.

Friends Indeed

Belgium stood with Israel at its moment of rebirth in 1947, when it voted in favor of UN resolution 181 calling for the partition of British-ruled Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. Following this, on January 15, 1950, Belgium recognized the State of Israel and ever since, the relations between Israel and Belgium have been friendly, as evidenced by the numerous reciprocal high-profile visits and tokens of friendship.

Most notable was the 1959 visit of Queen Elizabeth of Belgium, the grandmother of the present king, who helped save Jews during World War II and was granted the title of “Righteous among the Nations” by Yad Vashem. In welcoming her, Israel’s president Yitzhak Ben Zvi referred to her as “our great and faithful friend”.

Literally ‘cementing’ this relationship, a plaque in memory of her husband King Albert I, was unveiled in February 2010 at the Albert Square in Tel Aviv in the presence of the mayor of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Ron Huldai, and Ambassador Bénédicte Frankinet.

There was good reason to honor the King. On a visit to Palestine in 1933, he stood beside Tel Aviv’s first mayor, Meir Dizengoff, and expressed his deep support for the renewal of Jewish life in its ancestral homeland.

In the ensuing years, particularly following the late King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola’s meeting Israeli president Zalman Shazar when they came on pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1964, there has been a steady flow of Belgian ministers visiting Israel on official business and Israeli counterparts welcomed in Belgium.

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Royal Pilgrimage. Parting ceremony for Baudouin, King of Belgium, and his wife Queen Fabiola in the presence of President of Israel Zalman Shazar, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and Minister of Foreign Affairs Golda Meir, February 16, ’64.

Many cultural, scientific and economic bilateral agreements have been signed over the years between the two countries. Several Belgium-Israel friendship associations organize activities in both countries to promote and strengthen bilateral relations.

Each year, a number of scholarships are granted to Israeli students to study in Belgian universities and Belgian students also come to study in Israel each year thanks to scholarships offered by Israel. The faculty club and guesthouse of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, known as Beit Belgia, was built with the financial aid of the Belgian Friends of the Hebrew University. Sylvain Brachfeld, a Holocaust survivor, is a well-known journalist for the Belgian and Israeli press and is an expert on Belgian Jewry. He immigrated to Israel in 1974 and writes extensively on Belgian Jewish history. In his most recent book ‘200 Years of the Jewish Community of Antwerp’, he writes about the contribution of Belgian Jews to the State of Israel, both philanthropically and “how immigrants from Belgium have excelled in Israel in varied fields.”

Belgium is one of Israel’s most important commercial partners (largely due to the diamond industry) and a great number of Israeli companies have their European headquarters there as well.

Following impressive bilateral trade between the two countries, in March 2010, Israel and Belgium signed a new tax treaty agreement to improve the competitiveness of Israeli companies operating in Belgium and to encourage Belgian investment in Israel.

A ‘sporting’ example of this relationship was the 2013 ‘export’ to Belgium of Guy Luzon as coach of the Belgium football club Standard Liège.

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Field Of Dreams. Israeli coach Guy Luzon (3th from left) coaching the Belgium football club Standard Liège in 2013 (© Photo News)

A Gem of a City

Since the fifteenth century, when Antwerp Jewish diamond cutter, Lodewyk van Berken, invented the scaif, diamond cutting has been a major traditional Jewish craft both in Israel and in Belgium. “As I recall,” says Sophie Katz, “most of the fathers of my friends were one way or another connected to the diamond history in Antwerp.”  This corroborates with records showing that in the second half of the 20th century, the diamond industry was emerging as the main occupation for the Jews of Antwerp. Today, most of them remain either high skilled artisans who specialize in executing the most professional stages in the process of turning raw diamonds into high quality precious stones or merchants who are connected to the global network of diamond trade. “The diamond bourses of Antwerp are located inside the Jewish districts of the city and are closed on Friday afternoons before the onset of Shabbat (the Sabbath) and are deserted during Jewish holidays.”

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Antwerp Diamond Trade. Some 1,500 diamond firms and hundreds of cutting factories are located in the port city.

In recent years, changes in the world diamond industry have brought about a decline in the importance of Antwerp with resulting in a diminishing influence of Jewish-owned companies on the market.

“Many of my friends have moved to Brussels while others have or are considering immigrating to Israel,” says Sophie.

Winds of Change

In recent years there has been a spurt of younger Jews from Belgium immigrating to Israel. This phenomenon has come about in part because of an increase in anti-Semitism across Europe, “which was never the case in Antwerp when I was growing up,” says Sophie. “While the Jewish community there was divided between the ultra-Orthodox, traditional and secular, and my family fell in the secular group, the entire community was very insular; we all went to Jewish Day Schools and belonged to Jewish youth movements. Come school holidays, we were off to either summer or winter youth movement camps. It was a wonderful, secure life and the Jewish community prospered.”

It is hardly surprising that with its relatively large concentration of orthodox and ultra-orthodox Jews that Antwerp has been nicknamed the last ‘shtetl’ in Western Europe. This honorific is more evident when walking around the district of Pelikanstraat near the diamond district and Jootsewijk, home to 12,000 orthodox Jews. Here men dress in the Hassidic garb of black mantles and fur hats and speak Yiddish.

Contributing to Antwerp’s ‘shetl’ image, each community has their own synagogues – about thirty in all – batei-midrash (houses of Jewish learning), kosher butcheries and restaurants. Jewish education is provided by four main Jewish schools with more than eighty-five percent of the Jewish children in Antwerp attending Jewish schools, one of the highest rates anywhere in the Diaspora. Student and youth organizations include Agudath Israel, Bnei Akiva, Hashomer Hatzair, and Hanoar Hazioni, of which, Sophie and all of her friends had been members.

Jewish communal life is rife with a number of welfare Jewish organizations, two senior citizen homes and even a hospital.

The Romi Goldmuntz Center serves as the stage for many cultural events of the community, the Royal Maccabi Sports Club is the main Jewish sport center in Antwerp and its Belgisch Israelitisch Weekblad (“Belgian Jewish Weekly”) is the largest Jewish newspaper in Belgium.

However ‘the good life’ has begun to lose some of that ‘sparkle’ as Jews again are experiencing sporadic outbreaks of anti-Semitism.

In August 2019, Dimitri Verhulst claimed in an op-ed in the newspaper De Morgen that “being Jewish is not a religion, no God would give creatures such an ugly nose.” He also accused Jews of harbouring a superiority complex due to the notion of Jews as the chosen people and said “talking to the Chosen is difficult” because they unjustly accuse critics of antisemitism.

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Amusement Amounts To Antisemitism. A parade float at the Aalst Carnaval in Belgium featuring caricatures of Orthodox Jews atop money bags, March 3, 2019. (Courtesy of FJO, via JTA)

Belgian-Jewish journalist Cnann Lipshitz has written that what is most troubling about the current state of antisemitism in Belgium is the fact that officials and opinion-shapers have often defended the perpetrators of antisemitic incidents on the grounds of “free speech” or that no offense was supposedly intended. According to Lipshitz, “classic antisemitism” of a type he had thought “impossible in an established Western democracy in the heart of Europe,” is now “mainstream” in Belgium.

Aalst mayor Christoph D Haese (R) and a Jewish caricature pictured during the yearly carnival parade in the streets of A
Anguish In Aalst. The mayor of Aalst, Christophe D’Haese (r) and a Jewish caricature pictured during the early carnival parade in the streets of Aalst, Belgium, Sunday 23 February 2020 (Photo: Copyright Imago Images)

Mark Geleyn, a former Belgian ambassador to Israel, recently condemned his country’s policy towards Israel as “not the attitude of a friend.”

Speaking at a conference on diversity in Brussels in late 2019, Gelwyn said Belgium was an anti-Israel country that, unlike most others in Western Europe, has not opposed the ‘Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS)’ movement.

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Worrying Signs. Mark Geleyn, a former Belgian ambassador to Israel being interview on Flanders news.

Geleyn is honorary president of Belgian Friends of Israel and former Belgian ambassador to Israel and Germany.

He said, “After the creation of the State of Israel, the first Jews of Belgium, survivors of the Great Persecution, left our country to become citizens of the new state. By obtaining Israeli nationality, they would lose their Belgian nationality. But the survival of the new state, and its citizens, was very uncertain. Then the Belgian government at the time, rue de Loi (prime minister) and rue Quatre Bras (foreign affairs), decided that the Jews who were making aliyah and becoming Israeli citizens could, in fact, retain their Belgian nationality. No-one knew if they would ever come back. Thus the possession of dual nationality, so common now, originated in Belgian law. Belgium, and its government, was a friend of Israel.”

He went on. “In the seventies, many Soviet Jews wanted to leave the Soviet Union. Two or three international conferences were organized to help them claim their right of emigration. One of these conferences, under the slogan LET MY PEOPLE GO, was held in Brussels, in the very room where you are now. It required a certain diplomatic courage on the part of the Belgian government vis-à-vis the powerful Soviet Union to host this conference in Belgium. Belgium, and its government, was a friend of Israel.”

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One of this year’s floats featured Orthodox Jews next to gold bars.

But times have changed. He notes that when those in authority today visit Israel, they hesitate to accept an invitation to plant a tree, because they want to avoid the Zionist symbolism that planting a tree might imply. This is exactly the opposite of the attitude of which the former generation was proud. It is far from being the attitude of a friend.

And with the ugly parades in Aalst in 2019 and 2020, it appears Belgium is not embarrassed to “parade” its antisemitism.

 

 

 

 

The Business of Antisemitism

By Rolene Marks

I was asked recently if it would be possible to appear on an international news channel and be a “neutral” commentator on the announcement by the United Nations Human Rights Council of a blacklist of 112 companies doing business “related to settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” which for the UN includes the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem. This is an issue that defies neutrality for so many reasons. As Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin said, it recalled one of the darkest periods of our history, a time just before the outbreak of World War II, when Jews were forced to wear yellow stars, denoting us as different – and Jewish owned business boycotted, looted or destroyed.

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It defies all rationale when countries like Sudan, Venezuela, Algeria, Bahrain, Bolivia, Chad, Cuba, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, Libya and others form part of the bloc that sponsored the March 2016 resolution that led to the publishing of the blacklist. After all, these are not countries that enjoy good records on human rights.

There must be many victims of conflict wondering why their cries fall on deaf ears.  The United Nations prove time and again that when it comes to Israel, they have a focus that has become an obsession. Resolution after resolution time and again, single Israel out for opprobrium but gross human rights violations like those in Iran, Venezuela, Syria and many other places barely elicit a response.

 

The publishing of this blacklist also plays right into the hands of the BDS (Boycott Divestment and sanctions) movement whose desired end goal is for Israel to not exist, a desire expressed clearly on their website and in their rhetoric. BDS is anti-normalisation – they are against any discourse and interaction between Israelis and Palestinians.  For many who believe that peace will be built from the interaction between ordinary people and the provision of jobs and opportunities, a campaign like this deals a decisive blow to any efforts towards sustainable peace.

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According to NGO Monitor, an organisation that monitors the often murky activities of non-governmental organisations, many of whom are associated with the BDS movement, not only was this list made in conjunction with pro-BDS and PFLP-linked NGOs, but these companies have done nothing wrong and many are involved in providing goods and services to Palestinians pursuant to the Oslo Accords.

These companies help create employment and opportunity for many Palestinians, who stand to lose the most. The decision to create a blacklist of companies not only threatens Palestinian employment opportunities but blocks access to the much needed humanitarian aid and infrastructure that these companies provide. The blacklist also hearkens back to times when Jews were singled out and put on exclusionary lists and today, the growing practice of labelling products manufactured in the West Bank is tantamount to wearing a modern day yellow star. Why is Israel singled out for this treatment but other countries with conflict situations are not?

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(photo credit: REUTERS,JPOST STAFF)

 

A few weeks ago, I attended a conference where the CEO of SodaStream, Daniel Birenbaum, was a featured speaker. SodaStream is a well-known Israeli brand, sold to PepsiCo for a whopping $3.2billion, faces threats by BDS because their factory was situated in the West Bank.  Birenbaum addressed the discriminatory practice of labelling goods produced in the West Bank by saying “if they want labels, we will give them labels” and promptly displayed the label found on all on SodaStream products.

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SodaStream CEO Daniel Birenbaum addresses a conference the issue of labelling.

Perhaps it would behoove the UN to learn from examples of co-existence and not pander to campaigns that are anti-Semitic and fall into the trap of questioning Israel’s legitimacy as a sovereign state. Blacklists, boycotts and labelling campaigns are harmful to sincere peace building efforts.

The timing of this could not be more bizarre. The release of the blacklist comes against the background of the release of the Trump Peace Plan. Although the Palestinians have roundly refused to even look at the plan, it has been endorsed by countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt and other Arab countries.

The Arab world is slowly opening up to the realization that recognition of Israel and the potential mutual business potential only bode well for the people of the region – and helps stave off the massive threat posed by Iran, a country not exactly lauded for its record on human rights.

This move by the United Nations Human Rights Council is a dark day for the institution, for Israel and the Palestinians and gives a tailwind to anti-Semites. It is a failure of the power of an agency charged with the mandate of protecting global human rights.

For the United Nations that is fast losing credibility and the regard the institution once held, the publishing of this blacklist, coupled with the obsessive focus on Israel at the expense of other conflicts and human rights issues around the world prove that or this once venerable body, antisemitism is just business as usual.

President’s Peace Plan

A Time To Discuss And Negotiate Rather Than Reject

By Allan Wolman

Claiming that the world rejects the Trump peace plan is indeed misleading but in line with the type of biased journalism of those determined to contribute to the vilification of the Jewish State; lying seems to come naturally to some journo’s and commentators given what they claim about the support or rather lack thereof for this latest peace plan.

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Pursuing Peace. President Trump unveils his Mideast peace plan with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side, but regrettably with no Palestinian representative in attendance at the White House on Jan. 28, 2020. (Sarah Silbiger / Getty Image)

Apart from Israel, the following countries have so far demonstrated support for the US Administration’s plan are Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, I.K., India, Oman, Italy, Brazil, Poland, Australia, Austria, Egypt, Columbia, Morocco, Denmark, Japan and Czech Republic.

Publicly playing support were the ambassadors from Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates who attended the unveiling of the President’s plan frequently referred to as the “Deal of the Century.” Their attendance was seen as a warming of ties between the Arab world and Israel.

However, no surprise that Palestine, Turkey, Venezuela and Iran are openly against it.

Whilst I am no supporter of the US president and in fact thought that the press conference at the unveiling of the peace initiative was contrived and somewhat embarrassing – not withstanding my personal view – this “deal” is certainly a refreshing beginning to negotiations that could result in a real and lasting peace settlement. Of course, that would depend on the Palestinian leadership agreeing to sit down to discuss and negotiate, as many of her brethren across the Middle East have urged.

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Game-Changer Not Playing Games. Kushner tells Egyptian TV Peace Plan aims to block settlements expansion.

As US envoy Jared Kushner told the Egyptian MBC Masr network in an interview, “If the Palestinians don’t like where the line is drawn, they should come and tell us where they want to draw it.” Further expressing to the Egyptian anchor Amr Adib, Kushner continued that “If the leaders of the Palestinians want to do what is best for their people, I think they will read the plan. They should come to the table, sit with the Israelis and say: ‘Look, We appreciate the gesture you have made. There are some major compromises [in the plan] you have never made before. These are the four or five or six things that we would like you to consider changing. And if you do this, you have a deal.’ That is how people who are ready to have a state make deals,” Kushner said.

However, in line with Palestinian intractability, the plan was rejected even before unveiled!

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OutRAGEious. Palestinians protest as smoke rises from burning tires before the announcement by US President Donald Trump of his Middle East peace plan [Mohammed Salem/Reuters]

The knee jerk reaction from that leadership optimizes the stubborn and corrupt leadership of the Palestinians where the masses have certainly not reacted as violently as expected and in fact the ‘silent majority’ have indeed shown a certain willingness to see where the proposals could lead to. Of course organizations like the BDS, Media Review Network, UNHRC and the Arab League vented their rejection without considering the people most affected by this plan, especially the future wellbeing of the Palestinian people, who too frequently are a political tool of the political agendas of others.

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Antisemitism as a counter action to a Peace plan BDS South Africa posts antisemitic cartoon in response to peace plan

All their efforts are channeled at the destruction of Israel and the Palestinians are simply a convenient platform to achieve this aim. In an ideal world, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would have been resolved, peace secured and the Jew haters – disguised as anti-Zionists – would have had to dig even more deep to come up with other initiatives to further their cause.

American law professor and civil libertarian, Alan Dershowitz, recently asked an audience to consider where were the concerned liberals during the Cambodian, Rwandan, Darfur and Congolese genocides and where are they today with the unfolding genocides in Myanmar, Yemeni and Syria in full view of the world? The simple answer: These liberal folks including the UNHCR, ICC, BDS and others are all too busy castigating Israel than being bothered with the genocide of millions of people. Indeed, many millions of people mercilessly slaughtered and not one single country or human rights bodies not only did / do nothing about such vile acts but hardly voiced any objections in world forums to such carnage. No, the most important item on their agendas was malicious defamation of the only democracy in the Middle East.

Isn’t that more important than a few million people including women and children being slaughtered?

This must raise questions as to the morality of such people who would level their focus at denigrating a country whose human rights record, democratic institution’s, an independent judiciary, a free press and gender equality is not only without equal in the region but can stand head and shoulders with any free country in world. Yet all these attributes fade into oblivion in the face of rubbishing Israel at every and any opportunity.

Where is the ANC so quick to downgrade diplomatic relations with Israel but at the same time have visions of being a peacemaker? Rich indeed given the ongoing hostility that they perpetuate against Israel and digest the fake news and lies being bandied about by those driven by hate. Not surprising given the ANC degeneration into racial ideology having abandoned the vision of racial equality and unity of Nelson Mandela.

The real tragedy is the timing of the “peace deal” debate coming hard on the heels of the two international gatherings one in Jerusalem on World Holocaust Remembrance Day and the other at the site of the infamous Auschwitz death camp commemorating the liberation of that camp. At both events the rise of anti-Semitism took centre stage with world leaders together with Holocaust survivors highlighting this scourge and warning just how today’s hatred could so easily become a repetition of past genocides.

Will world leaders sit up and listen and more importantly will they do anything to counteract this plague?

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Parading Hatred. Despicable display of modern antisemitism when a parade float at the Aalst Carnaval in Belgium featuring caricatures of Orthodox Jews atop money bags in March 3, 2019. (Courtesy of FJO, via JTA)

Events in Belgium last year where caricatures of Jews formed part of a carnival float procession through the main streets elicited hardly any censure form officialdom in that country, with some mielie-mouthed explanation of freedom of speech and expression.

Is that the way countries are going to combat ant-Semitic expression?

 

 

About the author:

Birds of a feather4Allan Wolman is a recent immigrant to Israel from South Africa. Matriculating from Parktown Boys high School in Johannesburg, in 1967, he joined 1200 young South Africans to volunteer to work on agricultural settlements in Israel during the Six Day War. After spending year in Israel, he returned to South Africa where he met and married Jocelyn Lipschitz. The couple have three sons. Allan ran one of the oldest travel agencies in Johannesburg – Rosebank Travel which he still runs together with his son in Johannesburg.

 

*Feature Picture: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images

Who’s Calling Who a “Nasty Little Country”

By Stephen Schulman

A recent OP-ED entitled “South Africa’s emerging Department of Homeland Security” in the Daily Maverick by the Head of the Department of Journalism, Film and Television at the University of Johannesburg, Professor Jane Duncan, opened with the following:

Every sensible person should be horrified at the racist, ethno-nationalist developments over citizenship around the world, notably in the US, Europe, Brazil, India and Israel. We need to ask ourselves – do we really want to join the growing list of nasty little countries that have defined themselves recently according to who they can exclude, repress and marginalise?”

(By Jane Duncan January 2020)

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Jane Duncan is a professor and Head of Department of Journalism, Film and Television at the University of Johannesburg. She is author of ‘Stopping the Spies: Constructing and Resisting the Surveillance State in South Africa’ (Wits University Press, 2018).

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https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2020-01-20-south-africas-emerging-department-of-homeland-security/

 

Lay Of The Land publishes hereunder an Open Letter response to the Op-Ed by a former South African  – Stephen Schulman (M.A. in Education), who is today a citizen of Israel.

 

Dear Jane,

You don’t know me, and actually there is no reason why you should or would want to, since I am living in Israel that in your opinion is one of those “nasty little countries” that “defined themselves recently according to who they can exclude, repress and marginalize”.

Now, dear Jane, while I am not as learned as you (being a professor and all that!), I would, with your kind permission, like to draw your attention to a few pertinent facts.

My “nasty little country” is a true functioning democracy according civil rights to all its citizens irrespective of race or religion. In fact, it is acknowledged as the only one of its kind in the Middle East.

My “nasty little country” has a parliament (called the Knesset) that has representation that even includes parties calling for its very dissolution.

My “nasty little country” has an independent functioning judiciary.

My “nasty little country” allows and guarantees freedom of worship. Jews, Moslems and Christians have their safeguarded places of worship and holy sites. The Baha’i faith, long persecuted in Iran, has a splendid home here. Druze and Circasians as well.

In my “nasty little country” the LGBT community openly lives and functions – as opposed to the rest of the Middle East.

In my “nasty little country” – unlike in yours – you can walk around at all hours without fear of robbery, assault, murder or rape.

In my “nasty little country“, children do walk around freely on the streets – we do not have your reported twice daily kidnappings for ransom, slavery or muti.

In my “nasty little country“, there is freedom of the press and toleration of differing points of view. You are free to express your opinions without looking over your shoulder.

In my “nasty little country” it is possible to take public transport without fear of assault, robbery and hijacking.

In my “nasty little country“, the trains run on time. There is no arson, wholesale burning of coaches, stealing of cables and equipment. The busses run on time as well. You do not fear for your life. On our intercity lines there is no need to worry about being held up by assault rifle armed bandits.

In my “nasty little country“, the electricity supply is stable. The electricity company is not riddled with nepotism, cronyism and corruption, resulting in bankruptcy and inefficiency. We do not have the euphemistically labeled daily “load shedding” that you every day enjoy.

My “nasty little country“, as many others, has its own political/economic refugee problems. However, it does not have the asylum seekers in terror for their own lives from the local population huddling and clustering around church doors for sanctuary.

My “nasty little country” while having its own imperfections – as all counties do – is not ruled by an institutionalized kleptocracy intent on plundering the state coffers with such impunity that a large percentage of the GNP goes into personal pockets at the expense of the impoverished general public.

Dear Jane, there are some nasty little minds with attendant nasty little vision problems clouded with bias, bigotry that find it politically correct to exclude certain countries from their field of view. Consequently, I humbly take it upon myself to enlighten you, a self proclaimed “public intellectual” about some of those that you have chosen to exempt.

China has a horrific human rights record dating from its invasion of and massive resettling of Tibet. It has hounded the Falon Gong sect, incarcerating, torturing, murdering and harvesting the organs of its members. It is currently also incarcerating and relocating Uighur Moslems causing them great suffering. Why is it absent from your list? Is it because that country has huge investments in South Africa, and you do not want to bite the hand that holds the chopsticks that feed you?

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People hold a banner during a protest against China’s human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province, calling on U.S. government to take action against Beijing, on April 06, 2019 in Washington, United States. (Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Turkey under Erdogan has an abysmal record of suppression of the press, persecution of journalists, trampling of freedom of expression and human rights. It has arbitrarily dismissed tens of thousands of teachers and civil servants. You, a proclaimed crusader for freedom of the media, have failed to include it on your list.

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A newsstand in Istanbul in 2018. The Turkish government’s ban on Wikipedia was part of a larger suppression of free expression. (Chris Mcgrath/Getty Images)

Iran is a theocracy, intolerant of dissent that has lately had its peaceful protesters murdered by live fire from its law enforcers. Many of its citizens are imprisoned and have been tortured. This country along with Saudi Arabia holds the world record for the highest number of executions. It exports world terrorism, denies the Holocaust and preaches genocide against Israel – a member of the community of nations.

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Iran executes the most people in the world per capita for crimes which include being gay and drinking alcohol. Not uncommon for the ‘condemned’ to be executed by being hoisted on cranes with nooses around their necks.

The Palestinian Authority and Hamas in Gaza blatantly flaunt human rights and religious freedom. Christians live in fear in Gaza. The once Christian majority in Bethlehem has shrunk to ten percent as many have fled overseas. Journalists are terrorized into toeing the official line.

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Hamas arrests and beats seven journalists covering economic protests in Gaza on February 24, 2019. ( Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

And lest we forget: Saudi Arabia is a member of the same club – a medieval kingdom that with an iron hand suppresses dissent, human rights, religious freedom and practices public floggings and limb amputations. It has chosen to exclude all Moslem refugees, not admitting a single one.

Why your silence on these countries?

Is it because you do not wish your Moslem fellow citizens howling at your door that you are a white racist?

Dear Jane, amongst others, you further failed to include North Korea, Pakistan and Russia. I note that your myopia exempts them too. I find it ironic that you condemn Europe that has taken in millions of refugees, paying a high price in the increase of crime and the burden of social welfare whilst you blithely ignore their brethren in the Gulf States who have closed their doors to them.

In conclusion, I find your words deeply disturbing. Your silence regarding a host of countries that practice “racism and ethno-nationalism” that “exclude, suppress and marginalize” is ominous. Your ethical double standards reek of a flawed morality dictated by a  possibly self-serving current political correctness. For an academic, the “public intellectual”, your bigotry and bias is both blatant and shameful.

Stephen Schulman

Ramat Hasharon

Israel

 

 

 

About the writer:

Stephen Schulman, is a graduate of the South African Jewish socialist Youth Movement Habonim, who immigrated to Israel in 1969 and retired in 2012 after over 40 years of English teaching. Stephen, who has a master’s degree in Education, was for many years a senior examiner for the English matriculation and co-authored two English textbooks for the upper grades in high school. Now happily retired, he spends his time between his family, his hobbies and reading to try to catch up on his ignorance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unto Every Person There Is A Name

The Stolpersteine Project

By  Rolene Marks

Unto every person there is a name. If you think about it, our names are the only possessions that we retain throughout our lives and many of us worry if they will be remembered long after we pass. In Jewish tradition, names are symbolic of divine energy.

Memory can be also regarded as the lifeblood of Jewish tradition. We remember our dead every year with special dates in the Hebrew calendar that mark the anniversary of their death and by lighting a yahrtzheit (memorial) candle. But what of the millions who perished in the Holocaust? Whole families and communities who were murdered? How do we remember them?

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 Illuminating Loved ones – A traditional “Yahrtzheit” (memorial) candle.

One poignant way is through a project called Stolpersteine (stumbling stones).

If you walk through the streets of Prague or Berlin or any number of European cities, you will come across brass plates, no bigger than 10cm x 10cm, dotted all over the cities. These are Stolpersteine.

Stolpersteine or “stumbling stones’ was founded by artist, Gunter Demnig.  The project was started as a way to commemorate the victims of the Nazis. These plates are painstakingly and respectfully placed into the pavement in front of the last voluntarily chosen places of residence of the victims of the Nazis. Their names and fate are engraved into a brass plate on the top of each Stolpersteine.

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Art of remembrance – The German artist Gunter Demnig best known for his “Stolpersteine” memorials to the victims of Nazi persecution and oppression.

These modest memorials keep memory alive; they bear testament to the tenet that here too, lived a person. This person had a life, a family and a future. The person that lived at this address ceased to exist because of hatred and intolerance.

It is not just Jews that are honoured by the Stolpersteine project. Famed Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, once commented that not all the victims were Jewish, but all the Jews were victims. The Nazis with their racist ideology, also deemed the Sinti and Roma, people from the political or religious resistance, people who had physical or mental disability and were “euthanized”, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and anyone who they felt was “sub-human” and not a perfect Aryan.

For some families, participating in the Stolpersteine project, it is not just a way to eternally memorialise their lost loved ones, but a way to learn family history. It is also important for the descendants of those who perished, to have the opportunity to restore dignity to the victims that were so cruelly robbed and to give their loved ones the funerals they never had.

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Solemn Ceremony – Participating in the Stolpersteine ceremony of Dr. Max & Therese Oppenheimer in Pankow, Berlin are their grandchildren (R) Prof. Amnon Carmi,  Mrs Yachida Chelouche and on (L) Chairman of the Stolpersteine Volunteers Committee in Berlin – Pankow, retired pastor Gerhard Hochhuth.

Yair Chelouche has a Stolpersteine dedicated to his family members in Berlin and Halle, Germany shared some thoughts:

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Berlin Family – Dr. Max & Therese Oppenheimer (née Karfunkel) with grandchildren, Amnon Carmi sitting on Max’s lap and his sister Yachida Chelouche (née Carmi) standing (1932).

“When I visited Berlin a couple of years ago and participated in a guided tour, I became curious where these Stolpersteine came from. I wrote to the project founders; and was told that my application was referred to the relevant region where my family came from and that it could take a few years to process. One day, I was contacted by one of the volunteers who dealt with the Stolpersteine in Pankow, where my family lived. Finding information on my grandmother was easy because all the documentation was there, where she lived and where she died later in Theresienstadt. My grandfather was more of an enigma; but after a lot of intense research, we found out that he was a PhD from Heidelberg University and one of the founders of one of the first Jewish student fraternities of that university.  He was a great Zionist who knew Herzl, Bodenheimer and others who were giants of the Jewish world,” continues Yair, a great-grandchild who searched for his family roots and history.

 

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Home of the Oppenheimers – Outside the home they lived, Stolpersteine for the great grandparents of Yair Chelouche, Dr. Max & Therese Oppenheimer in 31 Breitestrasse. Pankow – Pankow.

“Finally, we were able to tie up all the loose ends and close the painful chapters of our family history that we did not know. Through learning about our family during this process, we were able to give them their name, their dignity, make sense of the places they lived in. We were able to follow in their footsteps until the cruel end of their lives”, he says.

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The Artist And The Family – At the ceremony for Dr. Max & Therese Oppenheimer, (l-r) grandson Prof. Amnon Carmi, the artist Mr Gunter Demnig and granddaughter Mrs. Yachida Chelouche.

Stolpersteine exist in many countries across Europe but not everyone embraced the memorials. The German city council of Munich rejected the Stolpersteine following objections from Munich’s Jewish community (and particularly its chairwoman, Charlotte Knobloch, then also President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and herself a former victim of Nazi persecution). Knobloch objected to the idea that the names of murdered Jews be inserted in the pavement, where people might accidentally step on them. It would be seen as “walking on the graves of dead Jews”.

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Ernst and Nelly Grünberger  from Halle, Germany (Uncle & Aunt of Prof. Amnon Carmi and Mrs Yachida Chelouche)

Founder of the Stolpersteine project, Demnig, participated in the discussions, stating that “he intends to create a memorial at the very place where the deportation started: at the homes where people had lived last”. A compromise was reached where plaques were put up on the walls of homes of individuals and not the pavement.

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Hate Prevails. A Stolpersteine outside the home of Ernst & Nelly Grünberger, in 32 Kleine Ulrichstrasse, Halle, Germany. A few minutes walk from a synagogue where a heavily armed assailant ranting about Jews, tried to force his way in on Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day, then shot two innocent people to death nearby ( 09 October 2019).

In other cities, permission for the project was preceded by long, sometimes emotional discussions. In Krefeld, the vice-chairman of the Jewish community, Michael Gilad, said that Demnig’s memorials reminded him of how the Nazis had used Jewish gravestones as slabs for sidewalks.  A compromise was reached that a stolpersteine could be installed if a prospective site was approved by both the house’s owner and (if applicable) the victim’s relatives. Since 2009, 23 Stolpersteine for the Belgian city of  Antwerp have been produced but have not be placed due to local resistance against the project. They have been stored in Brussels where they are regularly exhibited.

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Laying Flowers – Lena Sonneberg at the Stolpersteine outside the building where her grandparents lived in Berlin.

Most cities across Europe welcome this initiative. They recognize that as time passes and the numbers of survivors dwindle, projects like Stolpersteine play an important part in saying, I too existed. I too lived and loved.

I too had a name.  

 

 

 

 

 

*Feature picture: A view of some “stolpersteine” in Berlin, August 2012. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images via JTA)

“If I Forget Thee O Jerusalem”

World leaders spoke but will they act?

From the 2020 World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem to the protest against Lithuania in Tel Aviv 24 hours later

By David E. Kaplan

They came but who saw2

As world leaders from some 50 countries descended on the capital of the Jewish people for the  World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, on the 23rd January 2020, marking 75 years since the “gates of Hell” were opened at Auschwitz, one commentator on i24NEWS remarked:

 “This conference is about education,” to which another in the panel skeptically responded:

 “Yes, but young people in Europe today not only know nothing about the Holocaust; they also don’t want to believe it. They deny it!”

And this is Europe where the largest mass murder in history  occurred? Where the majority of its Jews today lie beneath its surface while above the horrific truth is obscured, denied, ignored, equated or “they had it coming”?

And with a world increasingly directing the “new antisemitism” on the ‘collective Jew’ – Israel – it was only fitting that the World Holocaust Forum was held in the centre of the Jewish people – Jerusalem – Israel’s eternal capital since King David over 3000 years ago.

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World leaders gather at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem for the 5th World Holocaust Forum.

If a world – and in particular one where its young generations – need to hear the truth, who better to hear it from than the President of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier who addressed the memorial forum with:

Seventy-five years after the liberation of Auschwitz, I stand before you all as President of Germany – I stand here laden with the heavy, historical burden of guilt.”

He confessed his country’s guilt to the world with:

Germans deported them. Germans burned numbers on their forearms. Germans tried to dehumanize them; to reduce them to numbers; to erase all memory of them in the extermination camps.”

No less important for the world to hear was Steinmeier’s admission that Germans had not learned the lesson of the Holocaust as Jew-hatred was not disappearing but growing and that despite different times, the “same evil” prevails today. And while the German State President wished he could say that Germans had learned from history, he felt compelled to admit that “I cannot say that when Jewish children are spat on in the schoolyard; I cannot say that when crude antisemitism is cloaked in supposed criticism of Israeli policy,” and “I cannot say that when only a thick wooden door prevents a right-wing terrorist from causing a bloodbath in a synagogue in the city of Halle on Yom Kippur.”

 

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‘Laden With Guilt’. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier delivers a speech during the Fifth World Holocaust Forum at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem on January 23, 2020.

Beginning and ending by reciting in Hebrew the Jewish blessing of “Shehehiyanu”, Steinmeier  told the world there remains only one answer:

To ensure – “Never again! Nie wieder!

But who was hearing in order to remember?

Even with Prince Charles representing the United Kingdom, President Emmanuel Macron representing France, Vice President Mike Pence representing the USA and President Vladimir Putin representing Russia, I switched TV channels to notice there was hardly a mention on CNN , Sky, BBC or RT of the event. The exceptions were France 24, i24NEWS and Israel’s Hebrew channels that gave live coverage.

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Right Royal. 75 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, “hatred and intolerance still lurk in the human heart, tell new lies, and seek new victims,” says Prince Charles at the 5th World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum on January 23, 2020 in Jerusalem, Israel.

Far more important than for Israelis to hear –  Jews know what happened –  it was for the billions across the world, in particular, the Europeans to listen, and to hear from their national leaders.

Did these international news networks not believe there was any interest despite the gathering of world leaders in Jerusalem? When these very same leaders were in Davos only a few HOURS before for the 50th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum, there was continuous news coverage.

Even over news content, global economics trumps Jewish existential anxiety so are we surprised that antisemitism is here to stay?

For this writer, it was poignantly ironic and telling that only one day after the World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem titled ‘Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Antisemitism” initiated by the President of the European Jewish Congress Dr. Moshe Kantor, that there was a demonstration of Jews of Lithuanian descent outside Lithuania’s embassy in Ramat Gan in the district of Tel Aviv.

While I was there covering the event for Lay Of The Land it was also personal, and I  had helped draft the invitation notice in English:

No One Saved Their Lives, Lets Save The Truth

Come protest Friday 24th January 2020 outside Lithuanian Embassy, Ramat Gan.

We won’t forget and we won’t forgive!

And why did over 200 people brave the freezing cold and rain  to protest? They came to register their opposition to Arūnas Gumuliauskas, chairman of the Lithuanian parliament’s Commission on the Fight for Freedom and Historical Memory, who intends to propose a parliamentary resolution declaring that:

Lithuania has no responsibility for the murders and extermination of Lithuanian Jews during the Second World War because it was occupied by Soviets and then by Nazi Germany.”

The proposed resolution is to absolve Lithuania and Lithuanians of involvement in the Holocaust for the murder of 95% of Lithuanian citizens because it was occupied successively by Russia and Germany!

The protestors knew the truth and could relate stories of members of their families who were killed. Etched in the memory of this writer,  was my visit to Lithuania in 1992 when I met for the fist time a cousin who had survived the war by escaping into the forest and joining with the partisans. Alexander Judelis related the only reason he had not perished in his Shtetl of Riteva with his family was, “that my father had sent me to a Yeshiva in the north only a few weeks before the Nazi invasion. In fact, I did not want to go because I was not religious, but he saved my life.”  Judelis further related that , “the day before the Nazis entered Riteva,  local Lithuanians in our village, people who we knew all our lives, wanted to impress the Nazis before they came and went on a rampage of murdering most of the Jews,” which included members of his family.

There are few Jews in Lithuania today.  The Holocaust in German occupied Lithuania resulted in the near total destruction of Lithuanian Jews (Litvaks) and as all who stood shivering in the cold outside the Lithuanian embassy knew, their forebears who died in peacetime were the lucky ones lying beneath simple gravestones. Those that came after them have no gravestones –   they were dragged out of town, marched into the woods and shot to death in front of mass pits.

Many watching them dig their own graves before pulling the triggers of the submachine guns were their fellow Lithuanians. To the rat-a-tat soundtrack of gunfire, they gloated while murdering their neighbours, impressing their smiling German invaders.

This is the horrendous visual truth that Gumuliaskas wants to conceal by parliamentary legislation!

And this is what the shivering protestors outside the Lithuanian Embassy were determined not to permit – not without a fight.

Law is designed to reveal the truth not to hide it!

As chairman of the Association of Lithuanian Immigrants in Israel, Arie Ben-Ari expressed at the protest that “In the first months of the Nazi occupation, most of Lithuanian Jewry was annihilated by Lithuanians, and that from published information, over 22,000 Lithuanians participated in and carried out the murders in 214 places in Lithuania. Many of them advanced and subsequently served the Nazis as guards and murderers of Jews in concentration and extermination camps, including in Auschwitz.”

Yes, the very Auschwitz which in Jerusalem the day before, the world leaders assembled not only to commemorate its  liberation 75 years earlier but to impress upon the world the words:

Never Again”.

Conspicuous by his absence at the World Holocaust Forum was the President of Lithuania, Gitanas Nausėda, who declined to attend. He  joined the Polish President Andrzej Duda who also did not come. Setting aside their issues with Putin, Duda  too is introducing a law in Poland imposing fines and jail time on anyone who refers to Polish complicity in the Holocaust.

Instead of trying to conceal their nefarious past by introducing laws, had both presidents attended the World Holocaust Forum, they would have heard the wise words of former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yisrael Meir Lau, a Holocaust survivor who 75 years earlier, was liberated as a 7-year-old from the Buchenwald concentration camp.

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You Have The Power To Lead For good, So Lead. Holocaust survivor and former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, sends strong message to world leaders at World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem.

Drawing a parallel of the world leaders before him together in one tent in Jerusalem with Noah’s ark where all the animals of the world  – many of them too natural enemies –  proved no threat to each other. With arms outstretched and looking at the world leaders in front of him he posed the question:

How did the snake and the lion share the confined space with the lamb and the dove?  The answer was they feared a common enemy – “the flood”.

The “flood” today is poverty, disease, war, and antisemitism.  “You as world leaders have the power to work together against these threats to mankind”.

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Call To Arms Against Antisemitism. A view of the audience at the Fifth World Holocaust Forum at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem on Jan. 23, 2020.

But the presidents of Poland and Lithuania were not present to hear these words. While world leaders were all expressing “Never Again”, Lithuania had another use of the word “never” – that Lithuanians were “never” involved in the mass murder of its fellow Jewish citizens and that future generations must “never” hear again of Lithuanians mass murdering Jews.

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We remember. Protestors holding placards outside Lithuanian Embassy in Ramat Gan (Photo: LotL – D.E Kaplan).

The banners at the protest outside the Lithuanian embassy  included  with the wording “Lithuania – take responsibility for the Holocaust”, “Zero Tolerance For Antisemitism” and “Gumuliaskas – no law can wash away Jewish blood’.

And when the rain poured, the umbrellas went up and the protestors stayed at their posts.

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Come Hell Or High Water. Downpour of rain did not deter the protestors outside Lithuanian Embassy countering attempts to deny past evils (Photo: LotL – D.E Kaplan).

Moderated by Zohar Cheskov,  other speakers included Chairman of the Vilnius Association Mickey Cantor, the CEO of the Wiesenthal Center Dr. Ephraim Zuroff, Holocaust historian and researcher Remi Neiderfer  and 91-year-old Holocaust survivor from Kovna (Kaunas) Rosa Bloch,  who said Lithuanians “started to kill the Jews even before the Germans arrived.”

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Truth Be Told. Chief Nazi-hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the director of its Israel Office Efraim Zuroff (left) with former South Africans living in Israel and of Lithuanian decent (l-r)Abel Levitt, Marcelle Kornel, the writer, David Kaplan and Barry Kornel holding a banner in Hebrew “Gumuliaskas – no law can wash away Jewish blood”.(Photo: LotL – D.E Kaplan).

Since I was in Lithuania in 1992, the country has come a long way in confronting her wartime past.

However, maybe again, and possibly emboldened by the recent path of Poland’s leadership, does Lithuania too want to rewrite history and erase its ugly history of Nazi collaboration?

The message from the protestors outside the Lithuanian Embassy on the 24th January 2020 in Tel Aviv is a call for protest  not only by Jews of Lithuanian descent; but all decent people around the world  to join together against the rising “flood” in Lithuania and oppose the despicable resolution of Arūnas Gumuliauskas.

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Resolute Against Resolution. Protesting opposition to Arūnas Gumuliauskas resolution declaring Lithuania not responsible for the murders and extermination of Lithuanian Jews during the Second World War (Photo: LotL – D.E Kaplan).

To the murdered Jews of Lithuanians:

No One Saved Their Lives, Lets Save The Truth

When Healers Became Killers

75 years after Auschwitz – The importance  today of educating medical professionals on the Holocaust

By Dr. Tessa Chelouche

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The Legacy Of Nazi Medicine. A shameful past of a proud profession, the dark side of medicine under the Nazis.

On the 27th of January the world commemorates the 75th liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In the past few years, the world has witnessed violent and disturbing antisemitic attacks in many countries. One of the ways to combat antisemitism is to educate on the Holocaust. The medical profession has a major responsible role to play in perpetuating this education because unlike other instances of genocide that the world has witnessed, the Holocaust was a medically sanctioned genocide. The greatest stain on the record of medicine in the 20th century was the role played by German physicians during the Nazi period.

When the Nazis came to power in Germany, medicine there was among the most sophisticated in the world. German medicine had contributed to, and shaped, academic and clinical medical practice worldwide. Despite its preeminence, however, German medicine became enmeshed in the Nazi ideology and broadly complicit in the conceptualization and promulgation of the Nazi racial and social programs. The engagement of the medical profession was extensive and was led by the active involvement and support of the academic establishment. Medicine was not alone in its support of National Socialist policies, but the medical profession differed from the other professions in its explicit commitment to an ethical basis, to a humanitarian stance and to a 2000-year-old Hippocratic Oath that placed the sufferer first.

German physicians began to elevate service to the state above medical ethics well before the Holocaust – the term used for the genocide of the Jews – occurred. In the early years of the 20th century, German physicians promoted policies of racial hygiene and eugenics in their eagerness to limit the reproduction of people believed to have hereditary disorders: the disabled and the chronically ill who were considered as a burden to society. Between 1939 and 1945 they sterilized an estimated 400,000 Germans with mental and physical disorders. Following this, German physicians designed and implemented the notorious T-4 “Euthanasia” program, where they performed medical murder on their mentally, physically and socially handicapped patients with the goal of producing a pure Aryan race. This policy was ethically sanctioned by the Nazi medical profession in Germany. Traditional medical ethics was adapted and altered to suit the policies of National Socialism. Nazi physicians did not abandon medical ethics as is usually perceived, but rather replaced traditional fundamental universal medical ethics with selective medical ethics. The disabled and the chronically ill, the feebleminded and the “unproductive” members of society were perceived as living “lives unworthy of living” and as such did not deserve to be treated according to the regular medical code. This new ethical code was taught at every medical school in Nazi Germany and a special textbook was required reading for this compulsory course. More physicians were members of the Nazi party than any other free profession. They were not forced but joined of their own free will and they joined early on. In this manner, German medicine became an arm of Nazi state policy. Nazi physicians failed to see themselves as physicians first, with a calling and an ethic dedicated to healing and caring for the well-being of human beings. Instead they believed that the welfare of the state was to take precedence over their individual loyalty to their patients.

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Doctors Determining Death. This poster (from around 1938) reads: “60,000 Reichsmark is what this person suffering from a hereditary defect costs the People’s community during his lifetime. Fellow citizen, that is your money too.”

The above-mentioned medical programs of sterilization and “Euthanasia” became enmeshed with the policy of virulent antisemitism, and as such were the forerunners for the Holocaust – the genocide of the Jews at concentration camps like Auschwitz-Birkenau and many others. The ‘medical murders’ that began in the hospitals in Germany and Austria, culminated in the murder of the Jews and other minorities in the camps, as the extermination of millions of people was considered as “treatment” for the state. The same professionals who were involved in the T4-“Euthanasia” program, among them many physicians, were consulted when the camps were built and were the medical experts who were consulted in the design and activation of the gas chambers.

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Death By Design. View of the cemetery at the Hadamar Institute, where victims of the Nazi euthanasia program were buried in mass graves.

Although the subject of ‘Medicine and the Holocaust’ usually brings to mind the cruel and barbaric experiments, medicine was involved long before the infamous experiments were performed at the various camps, hospitals and clinics. In 1946 one of the first post war trials to be held was the “Nuremberg Doctors’ Trial.” For the first time in history, physicians were tried for crimes against humanity for their participation in murderous and tortuous experiments conducted in the Nazi concentration camps. In the final judgment, the court articulated what is known as the “Nuremberg Code”, the first international code for human experimentation. In fact, it was in the ashes of the Holocaust, through the formulation of the Nuremberg Code that modern medical ethics, known as bioethics, was born. All contemporary bioethical codes are based on what transpired in the profession in the years preceding and during the Holocaust. Every ethical issue under consideration today – among others: the value of human life, disability care, equity in medical care, genetics, public health, research ethics, health system economics, reproductive medicine, abortion, military medicine, refugee care, death and dying – includes inquiry influenced by the Nazi medical crimes.

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Doctors In The Dock. Medical practitioners on trial in Nuremberg for intentional unethical malpractice on behalf of the German state.

Medicine is a powerful profession and was especially so under the National Socialist regime. The questions that need to be asked are:

  • How did a professional group that was internationally respected, scientifically innovative and ethically advanced, evolve an understanding of their social, ethical and scientific obligations only to lead them to use their advanced medical knowledge and professional ethics to justify committing cruel and heinous medical crimes against humanity?
  • How did healers become killers?

It was precisely the success and power of the profession in Nazi Germany that led to its hubris and collusion with a racist political regime. These physicians were not peripheral actors in the attempt at collective regeneration. Rather, they were central and crucial to the running of Auschwitz and the other camps as well as to the evolution and fulfillment of broader extermination policies.

Medicine was abused then and is constantly in danger of being abused today. It is not enough just to say, “Never Again.” As medical professionals, we have a responsibility to act so that this does not happen again, certainly within our profession. Education on ‘Medicine and the Holocaust’ can contribute significantly to professional identity formation of healthcare students. This history can help to instill a moral compass in future generations of healthcare professionals. Learning from the past can provide them with a way of reflecting and discussing inherent medical challenges in the present. Using this lens, we can encourage the aversion to racism and overt prejudice. But in addition to the value that this discourse can have on the next generation of medical professionals, the inclusion of education on the Holocaust in today’s world can also do much to vanquish the evil that is antisemitism.

75 years after Auschwitz the time has come to teach!

When Healers became killers5
Shedding Light On A Dark Subject. This important casebook on the phenomenon of medical treatment and physicians’ behavior during the holocaust was edited by the article’s author,  Dr. Tessa Chelouche.

 

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Dr Tessa Chelouche, born in South-Africa, is a Family Physician in Israel. She is the Co-chair of the Unesco Deaprtment for Bioethics and the Holocaust, Unesco Chair of Bioethics, Haifa and the Co-director of the Maimonedes Institute for Medicine, Ethics and the Holocaust.

 

 

*Feature Picture: Nazi Medicine: In the Shadow of the Reich & The Cross and the Star (1997) – studies the step by step process that led the German medical profession down an unethical road to genocide. It graphically documents the racial theories and eugenics principles that set the stage for the doctors’ participation in sterilization and euthanasia, the selection at the death camps, as well as inhuman and unethical human experimentation. Director John J. Michalczyk

 

 

 

 

 

What “Woke” Women Want?

By  Rolene Marks

In 2017 a movement was born. The Women’s March sprung to global consciousness with a host of well-coordinated marches in cities across the United State. Decked out with signs, banners and some highly questionable head gear (pussy hats anyone?), it looked like a movement that was poised to take on the important issues facing women today like gender parity, equality and sexual harassment.

You could bet your knitted pussy hat that every “woke” woman wanted to be a part of this. At last there seemed to be a collective voice and the leaders seemed so articulate, the issues were important, and all women could identify and there were celebrities! Lots of them – in questionable headgear.

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March On Washington. Decked out with banners, posters and pink ‘Pussy Hats’, women march to support rights for equality. In 2017 they marched for their first time in Washington, D.C

But then it changed.

It seemed that this noble feminist movement met hatred at the intersection of consciousness and antisemitism. ‘Intersectionality’, which is the latest buzzword in understanding how all aspects of social and political identities discrimination overlap, made its way to the March. It is not necessarily a bad thing because it is important that we examine and look for solutions where issues such as race and gender meet but in an age of rising antisemitism, it seemed that not all hatred were deemed equal.

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Not All Are Equal. Who is “her” and what does “her” support or not support particularly when it comes to Jews and Israel?

At a number of these marches and their offshoots which included the Chicago Dyke March, it became evident that Jewish women who identified as Zionist were effectively not welcome. On this occasion, rainbow flags with a Star of David on them were banned. The reason given was that it the Star of David “looked too much like the Israeli flag” and it was a symbol of “violent nationalism”.

But it was the leadership of the movement that caused the greatest controversy – and concern.

It is important to have allies that support your cause but what happens when your allies are people like Louis Farrakhan?

Three of the original leaders, Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez used antisemitic language and blamed Jewish people for exploiting people of colour. They denied this charge but refused to denounce Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, a blatantly antisemitic and anti-gay conspiracy theorist with whom Mallory and Women’s March co-founder Linda Sarsour have considerable ties.

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Quite A TIME. Women’s Match organizers Carmen Perez, Bob Bland, Tamika D. Mallory, and Linda Sarsour attend the TIME 100 Gala on April 25, 2017, in New York. CHARLES SYKES / INVISION / AP

Mallory referred to Farrakhan as the GOAT – Greatest Of All Time.

Accusations of in-fighting, antisemitism and mismanagement of funds, eventually led to all three stepping down as leaders of the Women’s March. However, their replacement was hardly an improvement.

Zahra Billoo – famous for statements like blaming Hamas for firing rockets at (Apartheid) Israel which was like “blaming a woman for punching her rapist”  – was their replacement. Billoo was appointed on a Monday and then quicker than you can say let’s knit a pussy hat, was booted out on the Wednesday.

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March Of Folly. This cartoon captures Zahra Billoo throwing an antisemitic fit. No sooner had Billoo, the executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) been appointed to replace Linda Sarsour as a board member of the Women’s March, her appointment was cancelled. The Women’s March realized there was no sense replacing an anti-Semite with an even bigger anti-Semite.

Billoo hit out after her firing claiming to have been targeted by an “Islamophobic smear campaign led by the usual antagonists” as a retaliation for her “support of Palestinian human rights.” She declared that her heart was broken upon seeing the leaders of the Women’s March “casting aside a woman of color, a Muslim woman.” She defiantly affirmed that she stood by her words, as she had “told the truth.”

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Not all hatreds are equal? Zahra Billoo was fired for antisemitic tweets.  (CAIR).

Just when you thought that their course had been corrected, more shocking news was released early 2020.

It has now come to light that notorious anti-Israel organization, Code Pink, is listed as co-founders of the Women’s March. Code Pink are known for supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) which is anti-Israel as well as  supporting a nuclear Iran and Hamas. Oh the irony! If they only knew how women were treated by Iran or Hamas……

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True Colours. The Dark Side Of Code Pinker Ariel Gold

Why is this all important?  As movements like the Women’s March, #MeToo and many others that are fighting justifiably so for gender equality are gaining momentum, so too, is global antisemitism.

There is hardly a day that goes by without appalling incidents occurring all over the world, and in the USA alone, antisemitism has risen dramatically – and violently.

Having notorious antisemites on the roster does not bode well for a movement that prides itself on being “woke”.

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Code Pink support a nuclear Iran which has called for the distruction of Israel. (photo credit: YURI GRIPAS / REUTERS)

If the Women’s March wants to regain a sense of credibility when it comes to advocating not just for gender equality for social justice across the board, they need to lead by example and take a stand against antisemitism. Failure to do so is a great injustice to the women’s movement and all who claim to fight for social equality.

Perhaps it is time the “woke” wake up!

 

*Feature Picture: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File

A Burning Issue, Doused

Israel ingenuity proves  ‘Light’ Years” ahead with its ‘Light Blade’ laser, ready to counter Gaza’s burning kites and fire balloons

By David E. Kaplan

Having repeatedly tried to devise life-saving responses to counter existential threats from Gaza – most notably the ‘Iron Dome’ that intercepts missiles and sophisticated technology to thwart terror tunnels – next up for Israel inventiveness was a solution to deal with the threat of kites and balloons.

Kites and balloons?

While kites and balloons would conjure up in most parts of the world images of ‘kid’s stuff’, not so in Israel’s Western Negev where for local residents, they are associated with death, devastation and destruction.

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Play With Fire. A battery of young Gazans directing their lethal kites to Israel.

These balloons and kites have caused over eight thousand acres of Israel farmland, forests and nature reserves being reduced to burnt-black swaths across a once verdant landscape.

However, what a difference a year makes in the “Start-up Nation”!

In October 2018, a writer in Ynetnews penned an article titled ‘Kite, Balloon Terrorism Continues Scorching Israel’s Land’.  Lamenting that despite the IDF’s efforts following 100 days of kites and balloons terrorism, which caused massive damage to agricultural produce and destroying Israeli land, the writer noted that “the threat was only increasing.”

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Field Of Fire. An IDF soldier runs in a field near Kibbutz Mefalsim, which was set on fire by balloons from in Gaza. In 2018, the Mefalsim was the first location set ablaze by a fire balloon. (photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)

The article further noted that while the IDF was operating a system able to detect and track the balloons and kites, they were however, still “not being intercepted while in the air.”

Rising to the challenge, Israel has come up with an answer.

It was revealed in The Jerusalem Post this past 2019 Christmas Day that  “Israeli security forces have unveiled a new laser-beam system designed to take down incendiary aerial devices which have burned countless acres of land over the past two years as well as drones infiltrating into Israeli airspace.”

Dubbed the ‘Light Blade’, the system was developed by engineers in the private sector along with researchers from Ben Gurion University  of the Negev (BGU) and technological departments within the Israel Police and IDF.

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Blade Runner. Eagle eye ‘Light Blade’ ready to laser any income incendiary balloons or kites.

Trial ‘Balloon’

Successfully tested by the police, it is believed the Light Blade system is the world’s first system to destroy deadly “fire kites and arson balloons”. Not only is this a game-changer to counter the balloon and kite threat from Gaza, trials optimistically further  indicate that the Light Blade would also neutralize armed drones – a threat mostly emanating from Iranian-sponsored terrorists in the north.

The Light Blade is a laser system that looks much like a miniature Iron Dome – the more familiar anti-missile defense system that protects Israel from short-range rocket attack. The Light Blade tracks the suspicious airborne object, locks onto it, and blasts it with a unique laser beam. If the incoming projectile is a balloon loaded with flammable material, it will explode in the air. If it is a drone, its motor will be ZAPPED forcing it to crash.

The result – another major threat to Israel neutralized.

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Taking On Terror. Israel’s new Light Blade laser-defense system set to neutralize the balloon and kite threat from Gaza. (Credit: Israel Police)

The Charge Of The Light Blade

The Light Blade can work night and day and has a two-kilometer (1.2 miles) range. It is also relatively inexpensive to produce which will enable the security forces to equip themselves quickly with a large supply.

The system was developed over the past year by three experts in electro-optics and lasers: Prof. Ami Yeshaya, Dr. Rami Aharoni and Dr. Udi Ben Ami. They established a company called OptiDefense to create the technology, signing a cooperative agreement with the police led by Border Police chief, Yaakov Shabtai.

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Leading Light. Leading the ‘Light Blade’ project, Border Police chief, Yaakov Shabtai.

According to Israel’s Channel 12 News that witnessed a string of tests, the Light Blade passed with flying colors.

The system provides an almost complete response to the threat of balloons and kites and provides an effective and safe solution to the drone threat,” a beaming Shabtai proudly told the network.

Hopefully this will  mean the end of the arson balloon and kite threat that have caused millions of dollars of ecological damage in the south, burning thousands of acres of cropland and forests.

Who knows what new threats may emerge that will forever require Israeli ingenuity to neutralize!

C’est la vie

 

Standing Strong

By Gina Raphael

Almost daily, we receive news of anti-Semitic activity in the United States; whether it is Jews attacked, houses of worship damaged or other forms of hatred. Last week, I came across a company called Offensive Crayons, with a colour they market called Auschwitz Ash. To add further insult, the Company also manufactures an adult colouring book, Little Dictators, featuring Adolf Hitler in a comedic form.

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Being Offensive Has No Bounds. A grey crayon called Auschwitz Ash.

At a time when anti-Semitic activity is at an all-time high, these types of products ignite the flame that encourages hatred by dehumanizing and minimizing the lives of those brutally murdered. This product is not alone. There have been Christmas ornaments and beach towels featuring Auschwitz on them as well. There have been campaigns to have these items removed from Amazon and other retailers.

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Trivializing The Holocaust. A page in in colouring book of Hitler’s mountaintop retreat – Eagle’s Nest at Berchtesgaden.

We must be committed to “Standing Strong” against hatred. In a letter to the Company, I explained to them that during the Holocaust, 6 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis. At, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Jews were sent to gas chambers and their bodies cremated in ovens to ASH. More than one million Jews were murdered at Auschwitz alone.

I explained that “Hitler compared Jews to germs. He stated that diseases cannot be controlled unless you destroy their causes.”  Hitler set out to exterminate the Jews across the world and eliminated 2/3 of the Jews in Europe. Featuring Adolph Hitler in a coloring book trivializes the horrors he committed.”

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Sick Society. Draw Hitler using a crayon named ‘Auschwitz Ash’.

 

I was moved by a quote that had relevancy on the topic from Rabbi David Saperstein. “the Holocaust is used as the ultimate benchmark for our generation of the worst atrocity ever committed against one group of people.”

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The book that contains the word JEW 6,000,000 times.

When my husband and I were honored by the Anti-Defamation League several years ago as Humanitarians of the Year, Abe Foxman, the former National Director of the ADL,  gave me a book that I keep in my office to remind me every day of the atrocities committed by the Nazis. It is powerful and incredibly moving.  The book has the word JEW written on each page with 40 columns per page and 120 lines per page. The word JEW is written 4800 times per page and there are 1250 pages in the book. The book contains the word JEW 6,000,000 times, conveying the magnitude of the tragedy. I used this book to explain to the creators of the Company the magnitude of the horrors at hand.

We must stand strong against these types of products. Holocaust distortion is a form of antisemitism, prejudice against or hatred of Jews. Holocaust distorters generally perpetuate long-standing anti-Semitic stereotypes, hateful beliefs that helped lay the groundwork for the Holocaust. Holocaust distortion & misuse undermine the truth and our understanding of history.

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Shaming The Shoah. The damaging impact of these commercial ‘fun’ products have on kids.

 

 

 

About the writer:

Gina RaphaelGina Raphael is as an entrepreneur and business owner in Beverly Hills, CA. A graduate of Wellesley College and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business Gina is Chair of  WIZO Los Angeles (Women’s International Zionist Organization), and  Chair Israel Bonds Western Region. She is the mother of three daughters – Danielle Gross (21), Sydney Gross (19) and Mia Gross (10).