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Erdogan is in Trouble: Efraim Inbar, Besa Center, Dec. 29, 2013— Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the charismatic leader of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Prime Minister of Turkey, is embroiled in a significant graft scandal that might precipitate the end of his rule.
Turkey: Are Erdoğan's Days Numbered?: Harold Rhode, Gatestone Institute, Dec. 26, 2013 — Major political events have rocked the political scene in Turkey the past two weeks. Turkey's once seemingly-invincible prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, seems in a tailspin.
Iran’s Turkish Goldrush: Jonathan Schanzer & Mark Dubowitz, Foreign Policy, Dec. 26, 2013 — Turkey's Islamist government is being rocked by the most sweeping corruption scandal of its tenure.
On Topic Links
Islamist Turkey Replaces Iran as Hamas’ Sugar Daddy: Daniel Greenfield, Frontpage, Dec. 31, 2013
Turkey Stocks are Biggest Loser as Erdogan Crisis Persists: Ye Xie & Katia Porzecanski, Bloomberg, Dec. 30, 2013
The End of Erdogan’s Cave of Wonders: An I-Told-You-So: David P. Goldman, Spengler, Dec. 27., 2013
Erdogan in the Headlights: Crimes, Corruption and Conspiracies: Louis Fishman, Ha’aretz, Dec. 29, 2013
Why Erdogan Will Survive The Corruption Scandal Rocking Turkey's Government: Humeyra Pamuk & Orhan Coskun, Business Insider, Dec. 29, 2013
ERDOGAN IS IN TROUBLE
Besa Center, Dec. 29, 2013
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the charismatic leader of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Prime Minister of Turkey, is embroiled in a significant graft scandal that might precipitate the end of his rule. Erdoğan has won three consecutive national elections since 2002, serving as Turkey’s Prime Minister since 2003. He was catapulted to power largely because of widespread disgust with the corruption of the old Kemalist elites. It is therefore ironic that graft may bring Erdoğan down.
AKP ascendance to a pivotal role in Turkey’s political system came about as a result of several factors: rejection of discredited politicians and their blatant Kemalist secularism, an economic crisis, demographic trends bringing to the fore traditional elements in Turkish society, and the ascendance of an attractive political leader in Erdoğan. Erdoğan’s governments stabilized the economy and, for a while, demonstrated a cautious approach with regard to enhancing the role of Islam in the public sphere. This was accompanied by continuity in Turkish foreign policy: attempts to join the EU, membership in the Western alliance, and good relations with Israel.
But under Erdoğan, Turkey gradually adopted policies that amounted to a wholesale attempt to Islamize the country: putting restrictions on the sale of alcohol, enhancing the status of religious schools, encouraging the establishment of Muslim-oriented institutions of learning, and nominating Islamists to sensitive positions in the public sector. Many Turks started complaining about growing authoritarianism at home. This was particularly felt in the Turkish media that was subject to intimidation and takeover attempts. Journalists were sent to jail under a variety of charges. The business community felt informal pressure to conform to Muslim mores. More recently, the banking system was similarly subject to infiltration by government-sponsored Islamists.
Changes were also introduced in the foreign policy area. Fueled by Islamist and Ottoman impulses, Turkey devised a so-called “Zero Problems Policy” toward its Middle Eastern neighbors. Instead of the Kemalist hands-off policy toward the Middle East, the new approach emphasized good relations with Muslim neighbors in order to attain a leading role for Turkey in the Muslim world. As part of this attempt to gain hegemony in the Arab and Muslim worlds, Israel-bashing became an important tool of Erdoğan’s foreign policy, causing deterioration in relations between Ankara and Jerusalem. This policy also reflected a Turkish distancing from the West, basically giving up the long-cherished Turkish goal of becoming part of Europe. (The Europeans are partly at fault for that). The apex of this foreign re-orientation was the September 2013 decision to purchase an air defense weapons system from China, which is clearly and blatantly at odds with Turkey’s NATO membership. The Zero Problems policy backfired as its neighbors went into turmoil and Turkish hegemonic overtures were rebuffed. The political and economic crisis called the “Arab Spring” provided an opportunity for Turkey to sell itself as a model, as a successful bridge between Islam and modernity. But the Islamist zeal emanating from Ankara could not transcend the historic ethnic enmity between Turks and Arabs.
Foreign policy failures paralleled growing domestic discontent. The events around Gezi Park in Istanbul this past summer were a spark that galvanized popular opposition. Erdoğan seemed to have lost his touch and reacted aggressively to the demonstrators. Eliciting criticism even from allies, Erdoğan had to shelve the plan to hold a referendum to make the presidency a stronger political institution for which he could run in the future. Most important, a rift developed between the AKP and the Fetullah Gülen movement. The Gülens are seemingly modern Islamists and an important component of the AKP. They have become increasingly uncomfortable with Erdoğan’s policies. For example, they were not happy with Turkey’s new foreign policy, with Israeli-Turkish tensions, and with Turkish support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. They also criticized Erdoğan’s clumsy treatment of the Gezi Park affair. In November, the prime minister announced that he would close down the country’s private exam prep schools, or dershanes, roughly a quarter of which are run by Gülen’s followers. This further estranged the Gülenists, weakening Erdoğan’s domestic support. Gülen’s media outlet, Zaman, the largest newspaper in Turkey, has become openly critical of Erdoğan. The police and the judiciary, largely under the influence of Gülen, were responsible for the recent arrests of several Erdoğan’s protégés under charges of corruption. The prime minister executed a major reshuffling of his cabinet in an attempt to distance itself from the corruption scandal.
Erdoğan’s leadership is contested these days as never before. It is not clear yet how he and his party, the AKP, will come out of the current political crisis. The secularists in Turkey now have a chance to further erode Erdoğan’s popularity. Their own standing in Turkish politics has not improved much despite Erdoğan’s excesses. However, the more conservative secular elements on the Turkish political spectrum might build an alliance with the influential Gülens to remove Erdoğan. Municipal elections scheduled for March 2014 will be the first serious test of the extent of the political damage to Erdoğan, followed by presidential elections in June. Erdoğan’s authoritarian streak and strains on the economy will be issues in the campaign. It remains to be seen whether Erdoğan’s attempt to blame his domestic problems on foreigners is successful. The results of the municipal and presidential elections will not just be a popularity contest for Erdoğan, but a struggle for Turkey’s soul.
Major political events have rocked the political scene in Turkey the past two weeks. Turkey's once seemingly-invincible prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, seems in a tailspin. A few days ago, he lashed out at U.S. Ambassador Frank Ricciardone and threatened to expel him from Turkey. Erdoğan claimed the Ambassador told other Western diplomats that the "empire [Erdoğan and his associates] is about to fall."
Clearly, Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's policy of "Zero Problems With Our Neighbors" — meaning the alliance with Turkey's Sunni-ruled Arab neighbors — has failed. Turkey now has problems with almost all its neighbors. It appears that the Gülenists and the Atatürkists — not friends in the past — are now ascendant. It is unlikely that they, or whoever might take over in Turkey, would want to continue this failed approach.
Long-brewing political struggles within the ruling AK party have also surfaced. They boil down to two radically different views of Islam. In the first, Erdoğan's faction identifies and allies itself with the [Arab] Muslim Brotherhood. This faction was strongly supportive of the ousted Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood President Muhammad Morsi, and also of Syria's fundamentalists. In the second view, supporters of the Fethullah Gülen look down upon "Arab Islam." To them, "real" Islam is "the Islam of the Turks – meaning the people who live in Turkey, Central Asia, and Western China." To the outsider, these differences might seem to be distinctions without differences: supporters of both views understandably want Islam to be a major part of the political order. But for Turks, these differences are seismic: the question is, do they belong to the Middle Eastern Arab and Muslim political camp, or do they belong to the wider Turkish world?
Since Erdoğan and his fellow Islamic fundamentalists took power in 2002, Gülen and his forces have been in the background, building prep-schools and propagating their version of Islam — in Turkey, in the Turkic world, and also in America. It is not surprising that when Gülen faced legal difficulties in Turkey in 1999, he fled to the U.S., ostensibly for medical treatment, apparently still ongoing. On May 31, 2010, Erdoğan's government backed and encouraged a flotilla of Turkish ships supposedly to bring needed supplies to the Gaza Strip, ruled by their fellow Muslim Brotherhood fundamentalists, Hamas. Gülen may have seen this as an opportunity indirectly publicly to chastise Erdoğan. In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Gülen argued that as Israel legitimately controlled the waters off Gaza, the flotilla should have asked for Israel's permission to land there. Gülen did not criticize Erdoğan directly; people rarely criticize others directly in Turkey. But culturally, his choice of words indicated to Turks that he was blamed Erdoğan for creating the crisis.
Gülen has not been known to be supportive of the Jews, nor for that matter of the U.S. or the West. But now his battle is evidently to ensure that Turkish Islam defeats the so-called Arab-Muslim Brotherhood type of Islam supported by Erdoğan, the Jews and the West might well seem useful allies. As many Middle Easterners say, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." A friendship, or alliance, might be temporary, but may continue as long as required. Earlier this year, the enmity between Erdoğan and Gülen broke out into the open, evidently ignited by Turkey's Gezi Park protests — weeks of riots and demonstrations against the Turkish prime minister. Erdoğan encountered enormous difficulty putting them down; in so doing, he alienated large sections of Turkey's population. Gülenists, active in this uprising, possibly discerning political weakness, may well have used that crisis as an opportunity to try to defeat their opponents. Perhaps in revenge, Erdoğan — often quick to respond emotionally — proposed laws to ban dershane [prep-schools], the bread and butter of the Gülen movement, and where Gülen recruits followers, who later become the political and financial backbone of his movement. For the Gülenists, Erdogan's proposed ban appears to have been the decisive provocation. Since Gülen's self-imposed exile, his supporters, well-placed throughout the Turkish bureaucracy, have continued to provide him with extensive influence inside the Turkish police and judiciary, and are believed also to have infiltrated the secret services, law enforcement offices and even the AK party itself. Gülen's supporters responded to this proposed ban by arresting 52 members of Erdoğan's closest associates, including sons of two of his cabinet ministers, and charging them with corruption. According to rumors circulating in Turkey, some of Erdoğan's relatives are also involved in the plot ; the facts are still unclear. The central figure in this corruption scandal is an Iranian Azeri, Reza Zarrab — married to a popular Turkish singer — who was illegally trading with Iran. Zarrab is charged with bribing the sons of the Turkish ministers — some of Erdoğan's closest associates.
At the same time, the Israeli national airline, El Al, announced that, after a six-year hiatus, it would resume flights to Turkey. Apparently the Turkish government had been refusing to let Israel observe the flight security procedures it follows everywhere else in the world, but out of nowhere, Turkey seems suddenly to have acceded to Israel's security demands. Further, the judiciary released from jail the retired General Çevik Bir, who had been a strong advocate of U.S.-Turkish-NATO relations. Bir had been the central figure in the "February 28 Plot" — evidently dreamed up by Erdoğan and his associates as a means of finding some legal ground for which to prosecute opponents. Bir, it was claimed, was the central figure of this alleged plot, allegedly hatched by the Generals of National Security Council, to overthrow the Islamist government of Erdoğan's mentor, Turkish Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan. Bir was also one of the major architects of the Turkish-Israeli rapprochement in the 1990s, and a strong opponent of Fethullah Gülen, whom he apparently saw as an Islamic fundamentalist and a long-term danger to Turkey's secular and democratic Atatürkist Republic. Because of Bir's outspoken animosity against the Islamists, which included the powerful Gülen, Bir seems to have been an important factor in Gülen's decision to flee the country. So why was Bir — an opponent of Gülen — released by a heavily Gülenist judiciary? Although the reasons behind Bir's release are not yet clear, as an opponent of the Erdoğan government, however, he could now be an ally of Gülen.
Where Turkey's once highly influential military stands is unclear. So far, it has been silent. It has historically been — and its senior officers still are — steeped in the Atatürkist secular and pro-Western tradition. At least for the moment, the Islamist Gülenists seem to have forged an alliance of convenience with Turkey's secularists. The beneficiaries of this political upheaval could well be the West, the U.S., NATO, and Israel. Stay tuned.
[To Read the Full Article With Footnotes Click the Link –ed.]
IRAN’S TURKISH GOLDRUSH
Jonathan Schanzer & Mark Dubowitz
Foreign Policy, Dec. 26, 2013
Turkey's Islamist government is being rocked by the most sweeping corruption scandal of its tenure. Roughly two dozen figures, including well-connected business tycoons and the sons of top government ministers, have been charged with a wide range of financial crimes. The charges ballooned into a full-blown crisis on Dec. 25 when three ministers implicated in the scandal resigned, with one making a dramatic call for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to step down as well. An exhausted-looking Erdogan subsequently appeared on television in the evening to announce a Cabinet reshuffle that replaced a total of 10 ministers. The drama surrounding two personalities are particularly eye-popping: Police reportedly discovered shoeboxes containing $4.5 million in the home of Suleyman Aslan, the CEO of state-owned Halkbank, and also arrested Reza Zarrab, an Iranian businessman who primarily deals in the gold trade, and who allegedly oversaw deals worth almost $10 billion last year alone.
The gold trade has long been at the center of controversial financial ties between Halkbank and Iran. Research conducted in May 2013 by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Roubini Global Economics revealed the bank exploited a "golden loophole" in the U.S.-led financial sanctions regime designed to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions. Here's how it worked: The Turks exported some $13 billion of gold to Tehran directly, or through the UAE, between March 2012 and July 2013. In return, the Turks received Iranian natural gas and oil. But because sanctions prevented Iran from getting paid in dollars or euros, the Turks allowed Tehran to buy gold with their Turkish lira — and that gold found its way back to Iranian coffers. This "gas-for-gold" scheme allowed the Iranians to replenish their dwindling foreign exchange reserves, which had been hit hard by the international sanctions placed on their banking system. It was puzzling that Ankara allowed this to continue: The Turks — NATO allies who have assured Washington that they oppose Iran's military-nuclear program — brazenly conducted these massive gold transactions even after the Obama administration tightened sanctions on Iran's precious metals trade in July 2012. Turkey, however, chose to exploit a loophole that technically permitted the transfer of billions of dollars of gold to so-called "private" entities in Iran. Iranian Ambassador to Turkey Ali Reza Bikdeli recently praised Halkbank for its "smart management decisions in recent years [that] have played an important role in Iranian-Turkish relations." Halkbank insists that its role in these transactions was entirely legal.
The U.S. Congress and President Obama closed this "golden loophole" in January 2013. At the time, the Obama administration could have taken action against state-owned Halkbank, which processed these sanctions-busting transactions, using the sanctions already in place to cut the bank off from the U.S. financial system. Instead, the administration lobbied to make sure the legislation that closed this loophole did not take effect for six months — effectively ensuring that the gold transactions continued apace until July 1. That helped Iran accrue billions of dollars more in gold, further undermining the sanctions regime. In defending its decision not to enforce its own sanctions, the Obama administration insisted that Turkey only transferred gold to private Iranian citizens. The administration argued that, as a result, this wasn't an explicit violation of its executive order. It's possible that the Obama administration didn't have compelling evidence of the role of the Iranian government in the gold trade. However, the president may have also simply sought to protect his relationship with Ankara and didn't want to get into a diplomatic spat with Erdogan, who he considers a key regional ally.
If the administration didn't feel that the sanctions in place at the time were sufficient to take action against Halkbank, after all, it could have easily shut down the gold trade by amending its executive order. But at the time, Turkey was also playing a pivotal role in U.S. policy in Syria, which included efforts to strengthen the more moderate opposition factions fighting President Bashar al-Assad's regime. It's also possible, however, that the Obama administration's decision had less to do with Turkey, and more to do with coaxing Iran into signing a nuclear deal. In the one-year period between July 2012, when the executive order was issued, and July 2013, when the "golden loophole" was closed, the Obama administration's non-enforcement of its own sanctions reportedly provided Iran with $6 billion worth of gold. That windfall may have been an American olive branch to Iran — extended via Turkey — to persuade its leaders to continue backchannel negotiations with the United States, which reportedly began as early as July 2012. It could also have been a significant sweetener to the interim nuclear deal eventually reached at Geneva, which provided Iran with another $7 billion in sanctions relief. Indeed, why else would the administration have allowed the Turkish gold trade to continue for an extra six months, when Congress made clear its intent to shut it down?
This brings us back to the current corruption drama in Turkey. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been claiming that it is a victim of a vast conspiracy, blaming everyone from Washington to Israel to U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen for its woes. Some Turkish media have pointed a finger at David Cohen, the Treasury Department's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, who happened to be in Turkey as the news began to break. Erdogan even raised the possibility of expelling the U.S ambassador to Ankara, Francis Ricciardone. But if the charges stand against the panoply of well-connected figures fingered, the AKP will have only itself to blame. While the gas-for-gold scheme may have been technically legal before Congress finally shut it down in July, it appears to have exposed the Turkish political elite to a vast Iranian underworld. According to Today's Zaman, suspicious transactions between Iran and Turkey could exceed $119 billion — nine times the total of gas-for-gold transactions reported.
Even if the Turkish-Iranian gold trade represents only a small part of the wider corruption probe, the ongoing investigation could provide a window into some nagging questions about the relationship between Ankara and Tehran. Perhaps we will finally learn why the Turkish government allowed Iran to stock up on gold while it was defiantly pursuing its illicit nuclear program — and whether the Obama administration could have done more to prevent it.
CIJR wishes all our readers a happy 2014!
The Isranet Daily Briefing will not be published Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014
Islamist Turkey Replaces Iran as Hamas’ Sugar Daddy: Daniel Greenfield, Frontpage, Dec. 31, 2013 — If any of the police investigators in Turkey who still haven’t been fired by the Erdogan regime are looking to track down where some of the stolen money went, they might want to look at the same place the Egyptian cops are looking; Gaza.
Turkey Stocks are Biggest Loser as Erdogan Crisis Persists: Ye Xie & Katia Porzecanski, Bloomberg, Dec. 30, 2013 — The mounting power struggle between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the judiciary is turning the country’s stock market into the world’s worst performer and driving the currency to unprecedented lows.
The End of Erdogan’s Cave of Wonders: An I-Told-You-So: David P. Goldman, Spengler, Dec. 27., 2013 — Turkey is coming apart. The Islamist coalition that crushed the secular military and political establishment–between Tayip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party and the Islamist movement around Fethullah Gulen–has cracked.
Erdogan in the Headlights: Crimes, Corruption and Conspiracies: Louis Fishman, Ha’aretz, Dec. 29, 2013 — The uncovering of a slew of financial scandals in Turkey shocked the country and exposed what appears to be a government corrupt to its bones.
Why Erdogan Will Survive The Corruption Scandal Rocking Turkey's Government: Humeyra Pamuk & Orhan Coskun, Business Insider, Dec. 29, 2013 — Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan still enjoys the fierce loyalty of pious voters and wealthy elites, which should be enough to keep him in power in the face of a corruption scandal that has rocked his government and reached his family.
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Christianity's Savior in the Middle East – Israel: Lawrence Solomon, Huffington Post, Dec. 23, 2013 — With one exception, Christians throughout the countries of the Middle East are at risk or on the run, their churches burned, their property expropriated, their personal safety in peril from thugs intent on beatings, rapes, and murders.
Despite Plight of Mideast Christians, Some Leaders Still Single Out Israel: Benjamin Weinthal, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 26, 2013 — The deadly bomb attacks in Christian districts of Iraq’s capital Baghdad on Christmas Day caused the deaths of 37 people.
Israel's Christian Awakening: Adi Schwartz, Wall Street Journal, Dec. 27, 2013— As Christmas neared, an 85-foot-high tree presided over the little square in front of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth.
Arab Discrimination Against Christians Must Stop: Michael Curtis, American Thinker, Dec. 28, 2013 — Now is the winter of Christian discontent in Arab Middle Eastern countries.
Palestinian Christ Persecuted by Israel?: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Dec. 27, 2013
Christmas Brings Little Hope for Syria's Christians: Alaa al-Halabi, Al-Monitor, Dec. 23, 2013
Christmas—A Time of Fear for Christians in Iraq: Leah Barkoukis, Town Hall, Dec. 25., 2013
Book Review: 'The Global War on Christians,' by John L. Allen Jr.: Philip Jenkins , Wall Street Journal, Dec. 19, 2013
What the Middle East Would Be Like Without Christians: Christa Case Bryant, Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 22, 2013
CHRISTIANITY'S SAVIOR IN THE MIDDLE EAST – ISRAEL
Lawrence Solomon Huffington Post, Dec. 23, 2013
With one exception, Christians throughout the countries of the Middle East are at risk or on the run, their churches burned, their property expropriated, their personal safety in peril from thugs intent on beatings, rapes, and murders. The one exception — where Christians flee to rather than from, where they increase rather than decrease in numbers — is Israel. A century ago, the Middle East was about 20 per cent Christian. Today, following waves of persecutions, the proportion is 4 per cent and falling. Some fear that the Middle East — the very birthplace of Christianity — may soon be all but emptied of Christians. Gaza, for example, is continuing to lose its few remaining Christians — 3,000 of them all told, or about one-sixth of 1 per cent of the total population — amid anti-Christian violence and an Islamist government that increasingly limits Christian institutions.
In Israel, the history of decline is reversed. The Christian community of 34,000 at the time the modern state of Israel was created in 1948 has more than quadrupled to 158,000. Part of that quadrupling stems from a natural population increase — the Christian fertility rate modestly exceeds the 2.1 children per woman required to maintain a population. Most of it stems from Christian immigration into Israel, often following upheavals in neighboring countries or far-flung parts of the world. The economic turmoil associated with the breakup of the Soviet Union in the 1990s led to one major influx of Christians. Under Israel's immigration laws, anyone with a Jewish grandparent (or the spouse of someone with a Jewish grandparent) is entitled to Israeli citizenship upon landing in Israel, leading many Russian Christians to settle in Israel in pursuit of a better life. Likewise, Christians with Jewish blood from poor countries in Africa, Asia, South America and Eastern Europe migrated to Israel to escape economic hardship. Wars and conflicts also boosted Israel's Christian population. After Israel pulled out of Lebanon in 2000, it granted refuge to several thousand Christian Maronites in Lebanon who had been allied with Israel, to avoid their expected slaughter at the hands of Lebanese Muslims. Israel also has absorbed Christian refugees from African and Asian countries, including Vietnamese boatpeople. Upheavals aside, Christians come to Israel to work, then marry and remain. Or they join relatives through family reunification provisions.
Israel's Christian population would be larger still but for reluctance — by both Israelis and Christians — to face the political consequences. After Israel in the 1967 Six Day War won the West Bank, including Jerusalem and the nearby Christian satellite town of Bethlehem, it decided to incorporate Jerusalem within Israel's borders and to separately administer Bethlehem and the rest of the West Bank. Five hundred and fifty Bethlehem leaders then asked Israel to incorporate Bethlehem within Israel's borders, partly because Bethlehem's economy depended on Jerusalem, partly to maintain ready access for Christians to pray at two of Christendom's holiest shrines, Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, where Jesus was born, and Jerusalem's Church of the Sepulchre, where Jesus was buried. But Israel declined, fearing the international condemnation that would follow an annexation as well as the prospect of ruling over Bethlehem's substantial Muslim population. Bethlehem tried once again, this time prior to Israel's intent under the 1993 Oslo Accords to turn over Bethlehem and other areas of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat. "Bethlehem will become a town of churches devoid of Christians, if you transfer the area to the Palestinian Authority," said the Christian Mayor of Bethlehem, Elias Freij, in trying to convince Israel's then prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, to keep control of Bethlehem. Rabin agreed but only on condition that the heads of the Christian church officially and publicly request that Bethlehem remain under Israeli rule. The church declined, unable to unambiguously embrace Israel for fear of Muslim revenge against Christians in the Holy Land and beyond. Christians then left in large numbers — thousands reportedly applied for Israeli citizenship, most left for North America and other countries welcoming to Christians. As a result of such mutual fears, an exodus of Bethlehem's Christians made it a Muslim majority town, its Christian proportion now estimated to be as low as 10 per cent to 15 per cent.
While Christians, including Arab Christians, fare poorly in the Muslim world, many fare well in Israel, in some measures outperforming Jews. Arab Christians graduate from high school at a higher rate than either Jews or Muslim, they score higher, and in higher education are far likelier to be accepted in medical schools. Twenty-five per cent of Israel's Arab Christians work in academic professions, the same as Jews. And Christians in Israel have, of course, complete freedom of religion. But until recently, the loyalties of Israel's Arab Christians were split, with many identifying with their Arab more than their Christian heritage, and few feeling loyalty toward the nation of Israel. Sympathy for Arab Muslims, for example, prevented Arab Christians from enlisting in the Israeli armed forces. That may be changing, however, with signs that Arab Christians may be aligning themselves with Israel and Zionism…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link –ed.]
[Lawrence Solomon is a National Post columnist
and a Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.]
DESPITE PLIGHT OF MIDEAST CHRISTIANS,
SOME LEADERS STILL SINGLE OUT ISRAEL
Jerusalem Post, Dec. 26, 2013
The deadly bomb attacks in Christian districts of Iraq’s capital Baghdad on Christmas Day caused the deaths of 37 people. One bomb appeared to target congregants leaving a Catholic church. Last December, The Jerusalem Post delved into the question “What do Mideast Christians face in 2013?” The results were horrific and lethal. In October, four Coptic Christians were riddled with bullets in front of their church in Cairo, and the Islamic Republic of Iran sentenced Christians to 80 lashes for drinking wine during communion and operating a satellite television dish. Also in 2013, Muslim Brotherhood activists torched Egyptian churches and kidnapped Coptic Christians. Radical Islamic extremists stamped out a Christian presence in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa. Jihadists are believed to be behind the kidnapping of 12 Syrian nuns.
Sadly, if past is prologue, next year will see continued waves of bloody repression against a highly vulnerable minority in the Mideast. In a December Wall Street Journal book review of John L. Allen Jr.’s book The Global War on Christians, the review quotes Allen Jr. saying Christians “indisputably are the most persecuted religious body on the planet.” The ongoing decimation of Middle East Christians prompted Prince Charles and Pope Francis to spotlight the need to help struggling Christians in the region. “It seems to me that we cannot ignore the fact that Christians in the Middle East are increasingly being deliberately targeted by fundamentalist Islamist militants,” said Charles. In November, after meeting with patriarchs from Syria, Iraq, and Syria, Pope Francis said: “We will not resign ourselves to imagining a Middle East without Christians.” There was a growing trend – perhaps nearly a consensus – in 2013 that Islamic radicalism poses the gravest threat to Christianity in the Middle East.
All of this makes all the more bizarre the remarks of Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, on Christmas. “Today, singing of Bethlehem, we see injustices in Palestine and Israel, where land is taken or rockets are fired, and the innocent suffer,” said Welby. In sharp contrast to Welby, the archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, said “Christians are the most widely persecuted religious group in the world today, and this evening we think especially of the Middle East, especially of Egypt, Iraq and Syria.”
Why Israel was singled out by Welby in the midst of massive violence directed at Christians in Egypt, Syria and Iraq is nothing short of perplexing. After all, Israel’s Christians are largely immune from the persecution and violence inflicted on their fellow Christians in the heartland of the Middle East and other nations in the greater Middle East (Pakistan and Nigeria)…
While Israel remains the principal safe haven for Christians and the practice of their faith in the Middle East, the situation is not perfect. There have been “price-tag” attacks on Christian institutions in Israel and the disputed territories, including the scrawling of anti-Christian graffiti on Christian worship sites. To return to the question of what Middle East Christian will face in 2014, times will likely grow even tougher and more grueling for this persecuted minority in Muslim-majority countries. The disengagement of the US and West from the Middle East will only compound the misery of Middle East Christians.
ISRAEL'S CHRISTIAN AWAKENING
Wall Street Journal, Dec. 27, 2013
As Christmas neared, an 85-foot-high tree presided over the little square in front of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. Kindergarten children with Santa Claus hats entered the church and listened to their teacher explain in Arabic the Greek inscriptions on the walls, while a group of Russian pilgrims knelt on their knees and whispered in prayer. In Nazareth's old city, merchants sold the usual array of Christmas wares. This year, however, the familiar rhythms of Christmas season in the Holy Land have been disturbed by a new development: the rise of an independent voice for Israel's Christian community, which is increasingly trying to assert its separate identity. For decades, Arab Christians were considered part of Israel's sizable Palestinian minority, which comprises both Muslims and Christians and makes up about a fifth of the country's citizens, according to the Israeli government. But now, an informal grass-roots movement, prompted in part by the persecution of Christians elsewhere in the region since the Arab Spring, wants to cooperate more closely with Israeli Jewish society—which could mean a historic change in attitude toward the Jewish state. "Israel is my country, and I want to defend it," says Henry Zaher, an 18-year-old Christian from the village of Reineh who was visiting Nazareth. "The Jewish state is good for us." The Christian share of Israel's population has decreased over the years—from 2.5% in 1950 to 1.6% today, according to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics—because of migration and a low birthrate. Of Israel's 8 million citizens, about 130,000 are Arabic-speaking Christians (mostly Greek Catholic and Greek Orthodox), and 1.3 million are Arab Muslims…
As a minority within a minority, Christians in Israel have historically been in a bind. Fear of being considered traitors often drove them to proclaim their full support for the Palestinian cause. Muslim Israeli leaders say that all Palestinians are siblings and deny any Christian-Muslim rift. But in mixed Muslim-Christian cities such as Nazareth, many Christians say they feel outnumbered and insecure. "There is a lot of fear among Christians from Muslim reprisals," says Dr. Ramon. "In the presence of a Muslim student in one of my classes, a Christian student will never say the same things he would say were the Muslim student not there." "Many Christians think like me, but they keep silent," says the Rev. Gabriel Naddaf, who backs greater Christian integration into the Jewish state. "They are simply too afraid." In his home in Nazareth, overlooking the fertile hills of the Galilee, the 40-year-old former spokesman of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem is tall and charismatic, dressed in a spotless black cassock. "Israel is my country," he says. "We enjoy the Israeli democracy and have to respect it and fight for it."
That is the idea behind the new Forum for Drafting the Christian Community, which aims to increase the number of Christians joining the IDF. It is an extremely delicate issue: Israeli Arabs are generally exempt from military duty, because the state doesn't expect them to fight their brethren among the Palestinians or in neighboring Arab countries. Israeli Palestinians, who usually don't want to enlist, say they often face discrimination in employment and other areas because they don't serve. "We were dragged into a conflict that wasn't ours," says Father Naddaf. "Israel takes care of us, and if not Israel, who will defend us? We love this country, and we see the army as a first step in becoming more integrated with the state." According to Shadi Khaloul, a forum spokesperson, the total number of Christians serving in the Israeli military has more than quadrupled since 2012, from 35 to nearly 150. This may seem a drop in the ocean, but it was enough to enrage many Palestinian Israelis. Father Naddaf says that his car's tires were punctured and that he received death threats, worrying him enough that he got bodyguards. Hanin Zoabi, an Arab-Muslim member of the Israeli parliament, wrote Father Naddaf a public letter calling him a collaborator and accusing him of putting young Christians "in danger." "Arab Palestinians, regardless of their religion, should not join the Israeli army," Ms. Zoabi told me. "We are a national group, not a religious one. Any attempt to enlist Christians is part of a strategy of divide-and-rule. "Many Arab Christians don't see it that way. "We are not mercenaries," says Mr. Khaloul, who served as a captain in an IDF paratrooper brigade. "We want to defend this country together with the Jews. We see what is happening these days to Christians around us—in Iraq, Syria and Egypt."…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link –ed.]
ARAB DISCRIMINATION AGAINST
CHRISTIANS MUST STOP
Michael Curtis American Thinker, Dec. 28, 2013
Now is the winter of Christian discontent in Arab Middle Eastern countries. In all those countries, Christians have been suffering a sad fate: killings; torture; rape; abduction; forced conversion to Islam; seizure of homes and property; and bombings of churches, Christian institutions, and schools, and Christian businesses. All too many well-meaning individuals and group have swallowed the fallacious Palestinian Narrative of Victimhood in the contemporary Middle East and fail to recognize that the Christians living there are the real victims. It was fitting that Pope Francis on December 26, 2013 urged people to speak out about the discrimination and violence that Christians were suffering; "injustice must be denounced and eliminated." For some time the puzzling question has been why human rights groups, non-governmental organizations, and mainstream Western churches have been so completely or relatively silent on the issue of the persecution of Christians, individuals, and groups rooted in their societies and loyal to them.
On December 10, 1948 the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 18 states that "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion." In the Arab countries today, this worthy principle does not apply to Christians or to Jews. The world is aware that since 1948 Jews have almost completely departed from those countries and only a small number remain. It is less aware that Christian communities, many living in fear, have also been leaving or fleeing or forced to leave their countries. With 12.8 million (3.8% of the total population) estimated in the whole Middle East region, those communities now constitute less than 1% of the world's Christian population. Even the figures reported in the mainstream Western media of Christians in Arab countries are wildly overstated. The Pew Research Center report of December 2011, corrected February 2013, on Global Christianity provides what appears to be an objective statistical summary of present reality. Taking just three of the countries in the report, the estimates are as follows. Egypt has a Christian population of 4.2 million (5.3% of the population) ; Syria has 1.0 million (5.2%); and Iraq 270,000 (0.9%). Of these 43.5% are Catholics, 43% are Orthodox, and 13.5% are Protestant. These figures have to be put into the context of the history of the Middle East. The Christians suffering today are the descendants of the oldest Christian communities in the world. In the early years of Islamic rule, Christian scholars and doctors played a considerable role in the life of Middle East countries. Monks translated medical, scientific, and philosophical texts into Arabic. But for four centuries, until the early 16th century, Christians were persecuted and massacred. Under the Ottoman Empire from that point on Christians, as well as Jews, were treated as second-class citizens…
It is a poignant commentary that this Christmas period should have witnessed attacks and outbreaks of hostility against Christians. These were particularly violent in Iraq… [which has] already been the scene of killing of the Archbishop of Mosul in 2008, the kidnappings of clerics in 2005 and 2006, and attack on a Catholic Church in Baghdad in 2010 and an outdoor market that killed 58 people. An Islamist group affiliated with al-Qaeda termed the 2010 attack as involving a "legitimate target." In Christmas 2013 there were further senseless terrorists actions, especially against Christians. These included three bombings in Christian areas, including a car bombing in the Dora section of Baghdad as worshippers were leaving the Christian service; 38 were reported killed. Egypt is embroiled in its internal hostilities between the military group now in control and the forces of the Muslim Brotherhood and armed jihadists and supporters of the deposed President Mohamed Morsi, that have killed hundreds of people and led to the imprisonment of thousands. Though Egyptian Coptic Christians are not central to this conflict, they have been persecuted. It is true that Copts were largely sympathetic to the overthrow of Morsi. It was perhaps also impolitic for the Coptic Pope Tawadros II to appear on television with General Abdel Sisi, who removed Morsi from office. Yet these did not justify the savage attacks by Islamists against the Orthodox Christian Copts. Since the 2011 ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, more than a hundred Christians have been kidnapped. So far in 2013, the Islamist violence in Egypt resulted in more than 200 churches attacked and 43 totally destroyed. In addition, discrimination and violence has been frequently exercised against homes and businesses of Christians who feel imperiled. One Coptic Church in Minya province that had stood for a hundred years was burned. The Church of the Archangel Michael, outside of Cairo, was burned in August 2013.
Resolutions and calls for action in Middle East affairs are now frequent. Perhaps the call that is most urgent today is for the protection of Christians who should be accorded equality in law and culture in Arab and Muslim countries in the Middle East. The mainstream churches and the groups purportedly interested in human rights ought to heed the plea of Pope Francis.
Palestinian Christ Persecuted by Israel?: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Dec. 27, 2013 — On the most important week of the year for Christian faith, you would think that churches around the world and the Western media would bear witness to the accelerated persecution of Christians in Arab lands by the forces of Islam.
Christmas Brings Little Hope for Syria's Christians: Alaa al-Halabi, Al-Monitor, Dec. 23, 2013 — According to Christian clergy, the terrible damage wrought by the Syrian crisis is not only limited to Christians
Christmas—A Time of Fear for Christians in Iraq: Leah Barkoukis, Town Hall, Dec. 25., 2013 — As Christians around the world prepare to openly celebrate Christmas this year, many believers in the Middle East will not be so lucky.
Book Review: 'The Global War on Christians,' by John L. Allen Jr.: Philip Jenkins , Wall Street Journal, Dec. 19, 2013 — On Oct. 31, 2010, a dozen Islamist gunmen stormed the Catholic cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation, in Baghdad. Striking during a service, they butchered some 60 priests and worshipers, notionally in revenge for insults to Islam.
What the Middle East Would Be Like Without Christians: Christa Case Bryant, Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 22, 2013 — From Iraq to Syria to Egypt, Christians are under siege. How their faith – including at a Bethlehem church – sustains them and how their decline is altering the region.
The American Studies Association’s embrace of “BDS” restrictions against democratic Jewish Israel has been condemned in many quarters. That it is based on ignorance, hypocrisy and implicit anti-Semitism goes almost without saying; that the motion was passed by a small voting minority of the 5,000- member association is less known. But what concerns me here are the implications of its action as a professional academic group, which raise questions about the appropriateness of professional associations and other corporate groups, and above all universities, taking overt political positions.
As a professional association, the ASA's primary purpose is to promote the professional concerns of its academic members, not to take highly ideological and politicized public positions (which–as in the case of this group–often do not in any case represent the majority of their members: only ca.40% of the ASA membership voted, and of that group, over a third, I gather, opposed the motion, meaning a minority of the overall membership determined its policy).
But the key issue, nevertheless, isn't whether a clear majority did, or didn't, support the ASA's action. It is about whether it is appropriate for academic entities–colleges and universities, and the Faculties and departments which compose them, as well as professional academic associations-to take public political positions binding on all their members.
In terms of these unique institutions, the key consideration, and principle, must be respect for academic freedom (as the American Association of University Professors, in opposing academic boycotts of any kind, has affirmed). Above all, care must be taken not to violate the rights of individual faculty members. As importantly, we are citizens before we are "faculty", and as such our primary political arena–within which political action is not only legitimate, but incumbent on us, and where rights and freedoms are guaranteed by constitutions, human rights charters and civil law–is not the university or professional association, but the state, or "society", generally.
Again, an academic unit or association is a pedagogical, not a political, entity; its primary duty is teaching and research, not politics. Politicizing it, even for what may at the moment seem an issue of over-riding importance, can in the longer run prove inimical to its fundamental purpose and ethos.
That academics do, or should, stand for key shared values, is evident and appropriate. And like them, the larger body of which they are part, the university, embodies (or should embody) shared liberal values of freedom, the quest for truth, and mutual respect.
This means, however, that it should not allow ideological-political values to determine University policy (or tenure and promotion decisions, or how we evaluate student performance, and so on). But the fact that the University is a "values-laden" corporate entity insofar as its function, and functioning, are concerned does not give it (which means those bodies and persons entrusted with directing it) the moral right to take specific and implicitly coercive political-ideological positions in the name of all its many, and different, members.
That happened in the great German universities in the '30s (and, less well-known, to Russian universities with the advent of Bolshevism after 1917, and Italian universities after fascism came to power in the 1920’s), to their eternal shame: the philosopher Martin Heidegger, “boycotting” Jewish academics and imposing Nazi values as installed Chancellor of Freiburg U., was a representative example, not an anomaly. A contemporary imagined analogue would be Quebec universities proclaiming–as universities, i.e., as corporate entities taking actions supposedly binding on their members—political support for separatism (not, I hasten to add, because Pequistes are Nazis, but because insofar as the coercive effect of such an act is concerned the result–stifling the very freedom on which the university is founded—would be similar: muffling, if not excluding, difference and opposition, and compelling consent.
The ASA case, like a number of other recent “BDS” examples, is simply a screen for a highly tendentious and politicized ideological position, a hypocritical act of bumbling, self-righteous mediocrities wishing to impose their views on others. That it singles out democratic Israel, the Jewish state, the (only) shining example of representative justice and the rule of law in its region, while ignoring the scores of con-temporary dictatorships truly oppressing, often murderously, their own people as well as subordinate religious and political groups, condemns the organization itself. And, clearly, the self-righteous and uninformed ASA leadership (again, not representing a clear majority of all its members), in its rush to single out Jewish Israel, is also, consciously or unconsciously, antisemitic.
The ASA’s act exemplifies the dangers of allowing corporate, and above all academic, entities supposedly dedicated to individual liberty, free speech and objective research, to violate their specific purposes and values and, despite their “progressive” rationales, to act in an authoritarian manner by committing their members to highly politicized and prejudicial courses of action.
That there may well be “boundary” situations in which corporate academic political stances vis-à-vis external socio-political causes or crises in the larger polity are justified is a related, but different, issue. In the case of the SAS and its embrace of “BDS” sanctions against democratic Israel, however, the action is clearly, insofar as its professional mandate is concerned, ultra vires. And insofar as simple morality and justice are concerned, it is indefensible, and rightly to be condemned.
(Dr. Krantz is Professor of History, Liberal Arts College, Concordia University, and Director of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research [Montreal])
The CIJR family congratulates Research Chairman Baruch Cohen and his beautiful bride Sonia on their 70th wedding anniversary! Mazel Tov & Bis zu hundert un’ zwanzig!
Ha’aretz Debases Warsaw Ghetto Uprising: Isi Leibler, Israel Hayom, Dec. 26, 2013 — I rubbed my eyes in disbelief this week when I read an article prominently featured on Haaretz's website titled "The Warsaw Ghetto Myth."
Will Victims of the Greatest Theft in History Finally Get a Fair Hearing?: Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel, Dec. 27, 2013 — In the chaotic days ending World War II, the Allies quickly realized they had collected more than a million looted art objects from across the Third Reich.
The Eyewitness: Bernard Edinger, Jerusalem Report, Dec. 15, 2013 — “I stayed silent for many years because, when I did talk about what I had seen, people said I was making it up, or showing off.
Abetting the Holocaust: Arthur Hays Sulzberger and the New York Times: David Horowitz, Frontpage, Dec. 9, 2013— As the New York Times enables the anti-Jewish axis created by Islamic Nazis in the Middle East who are preparing a new Holocaust of the Jews, it is important to remember that this is nothing new and has happened before.
The Boycott Israel Campaign: a Taste of 1930s Berlin: Edgar Davidson, Jewish Press, Dec. 6, 2013
Downplaying the Holocaust — Sulzberger & NY Times: Anna Blech (Video): Youtube, Oct. 30, 2013
Eight Things Holocaust Survivors Need You to Know: Debbie Callahan, Jewish Press, Dec. 6, 2013
‘Tis the Season 2013: How Anti-Israel NGOs Manipulate Christmas: NGO Monitor, Dec. 23, 2013
Thessaloniki to Build Holocaust Museum and Research Center: Jerusalem Post, Dec. 23, 2013
HA’ARETZ DEBASES WARSAW
Israel Hayom, Dec. 26, 2013
I rubbed my eyes in disbelief this week when I read an article prominently featured on Ha’aretz's website titled "The Warsaw Ghetto Myth." The story asserts that the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the largest single revolt by Jews under Nazi occupation, was extremely limited in scope and duration. The most obscene aspect of the article is the allegation that the fighters were responsible for the death of the 50,000 Jews inside the ghetto who had not yet been deported. This unquestionably distorted interpretation of events typifies the historical revisionism to which Ha’aretz is predisposed, not only with regard to post-Zionism but now also to Jewish history. That such an article is given prominence in an Israeli daily newspaper with a wide Internet English readership reflects adversely on us all.
The author, Eli Gat, is a Holocaust survivor who, in 2009 privately published a shoddy book, "Not Just Another Holocaust," describing his sufferings and alluding to the revisionist nonsense incorporated in his current article. His book was completely ignored and very few people would have even heard his name until Ha’aretz published his article. In his article, Gat dishonors the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and diminishes its historical and symbolic significance. He insists that there were fewer than 700 ghetto fighters and that the revolt lasted a mere two days, after which time many fighters fled. Gat has the gall to repudiate the accepted view that the most significant portion of the uprising took place over the course of a month and specifically dismisses the assertion confirming this by the late Professor Israel Gutman, a respected Holocaust historian and participant in the uprising.
The most obscene aspect of "The Warsaw Ghetto Myth" is the allegation that the ghetto fighters were responsible for the death of the 50,000 Jews who remained in the ghetto and were working in factories producing goods for the Nazi war effort, claiming that these Jews might have survived had the revolt not taken place. He justifies the tragically mistaken and failed policies of most of the Judenrat, the Jewish council appointed by the Nazis to oversee the ghetto inhabitants, who opposed resistance and were convinced that acquiescing to the Nazis demands might save them. The unqualified fact, however, is that the Nazis were unaffected by the Warsaw Ghetto heroes' decision to die with honor rather than be led to slaughter; their commitment to a program of complete extermination was already absolute.
This article is only one example of Ha’aretz's irresponsible and biased journalism. Over recent years the newspaper has served as the primary vehicle for promoting destructive post-Zionism. It has engaged in deliberate campaigns to demonize Israel and frequently published articles promoting the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. Indeed, its online edition now represents one of the principal sources of fodder for global hatred against the Jewish state by the hostile international media and anti-Israeli politicians. It has inflicted and continues to inflict enormous damage on Israel. A most blatant example of Ha’aretz's self-hating approach was its vitriolic campaign against the Israel Defense Forces, in which it published numerous examples of alleged war crimes committed by individual soldiers. These allegations were subsequently proved to be unfounded, but only after the damage had been done. The stories were reproduced on the front pages of the major media outlets throughout the world, fomenting the hostile climate which paved the way for the notorious Goldstone Report.
There are a number of Ha’aretz journalists who are often indistinguishable from Palestinian propagandists. In April this year, after an incident in which a 3-year-old Israeli girl was critically injured when a car driven by her mother was struck by a stone, Amira Haas, notorious for her pro-Palestinian bias, even justified the act, stating, "Throwing stones is the hereditary right and duty of someone under a foreign power." Ha’aretz publisher Amos Schocken defended her, stating, "Sometimes you have to fight violence with violence." Gideon Levy, who regularly churns out articles that quote verbatim obscene Palestinian allegations of Israeli oppression and criminality, produced a front page story in October last year titled "Most Israelis support apartheid regime in Israel." Israelis were outraged and five days later, Ha’aretz was forced to publish an apology. But again, the damage was done and newspapers throughout the world widely disseminated this lie.
There are endless similar examples of the constant rabid maligning of Israel and blaming it as solely responsible for the failure to reach a peace settlement with the Palestinians. But in recent years, Ha’aretz has extended its post-Zionism to promoting a revisionist narrative that undermines the core of Jewish continuity, questions links of today's Jewish people with the biblical era, and challenges the validity of a Jewish nation. Last year it published an article resurrecting the theory that the majority of Jews are descendants of the Khazars, converted in the eighth century, who now represent the bulk of European Jewry. This absurd notion was employed in the past by anti-Semites and is now heavily promoted by the Arabs to prove that the Jews of today have no link to the biblical land of Israel.
Ha’aretz's unprofessionalism is simply inexcusable. In its zeal to undermine the core principles of Zionism, it has done irrevocable damage. The distortion of facts and outright lies have aided our enemies and confused our friends, including Jews living in the Diaspora, with limited understanding of Jewish or Israeli history. The Gat article demonstrates to what depths Ha’aretz will sink, twisting the facts — even of Holocaust history — in order to provoke its readers and disallow them even the smallest measure of Jewish pride. Freedom of the press allows Ha’aretz, like any newspaper in Israel, the right to publish what it deems fit. However, newspapers are dependent on readers and the rapidly diminishing number of Ha’aretz subscribers should do what is necessary and take the most effective steps to influence the publisher and editor to prevent the paper from serving as a launching pad for enemies of Israel and the Jewish people.
WILL VICTIMS OF THE GREATEST THEFT IN
HISTORY FINALLY GET A FAIR HEARING?
Times of Israel, Dec. 27, 2013
In the chaotic days ending World War II, the Allies quickly realized they had collected more than a million looted art objects from across the Third Reich. Some were found in rubble, others saved by the now legendary Monuments Men from a network of Nazi depots in far-flung monasteries and castles, including a huge trove in booby-trapped salt mines in rural Austria. With a mass of art and Judaica in hand, the Allied forces converted two Nazi administration buildings into collecting points in Munich, Germany, dubbed Gallery One and Gallery Two. It was hoped the art would be expeditiously documented and restored to institutions or individuals with passable provenance records. Makeshift catalogue systems were created by the few staff members who understood the thorough research needed for restitution. Works were returned as early as fall 1945.
Despite the best of intentions, resources were tight and mistakes made. Owners were dead and their scattered heirs impossible to find. The surviving heirs, struggling to forge a new life, were uninformed of their property rights and didn’t seek their family treasures. In Germany, by August 1948, the Allies relinquished control of the art to the German Trustee Administration for Cultural Property and restitution efforts continued there. Eventually most art was returned, aside from 2,300 works and some 10,000 coins and books, which are still today under German government custodial protection. Many of the 2,300 are on long-term loan to museums, government buildings and institutions, which are ordered to continue the provenance research, and since the late 1990s, numerous claims have been made against them by would-be heirs with varied results.
While modern-day Germany is currently drawing criticism from the international community over a lack of transparency and expediency following the shocking November publication of a controversial Munich art collection case, legislators in Bavaria are attempting to amend statute of limitations laws, a move that just may open up art restitution claims against private individuals — an area relatively untouched by heirs. Last month Bavarian Justice Minister Winifred Bausback told leading German newspaper Der Spiegel his team was drafting legislation that would address “bad faith acquisitions” — namely forced sales or Nazi-tainted art — and prevent invoking the statute of limitations for these civil law claims.
This week the German Culture Ministry confirmed the pending legislation and, raising the stakes, told The Times of Israel, “The federal government is going to look into the legislative initiative.” As to whether the notorious Munich collection would be open to claims under this new legislation, the ministry cryptically wrote, ”The German constitution will only allow repercussions of such a law within narrow, strict limits on those cases whose statute of limitations has already expired.”
Hidden for 70 years and sold piecemeal to cover 81-year-old “owner” Cornelius Gurlitt’s ballooning medical bills, the collections is surrounded by legal questions that involve the expiration of the statute of limitations — and just whose property is it anyway? The legal ramifications are so complicated that, as German solicitor Peter Bert laughs, “If you had come up with this case as an exam question, people would say it’s a professor’s imagination gone wild.”…
Jerusalem Report, Dec. 15, 2013
“I stayed silent for many years because, when I did talk about what I had seen, people said I was making it up, or showing off. And when the subject became a topic of national interest in 2010, journalists were not interested in what I had to say because they assumed a non-Jew didn’t have anything to contribute.” Denise Tavernier is now 94 years old, and people are finally listening. When she was 23 and a trainee social worker with the Paris police, she was present in the French capital’s indoor cycling stadium, the Vélodrome d’Hiver, into which collaborationist authorities packed away more than 8,000 Jews during the biggest anti-Jewish roundup in France in World War II.
On July 16-17, 1942, during the cynically codenamed operation, Vent Printanier (Spring Wind), thousands of French police swooped down on Paris neighborhoods where Jews lived to arrest 13,152 immigrant and foreign refugee Jews from Poland, Russia, Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia at the behest of the occupying German authorities. Childless couples and unmarried adults were taken to existing internment camps. But families, including 1,129 men, 2,916 women and 4,115 children, were bussed to the totally ill-equipped stadium, known colloquially as Vel’ d’Hiv, where they were held in increasingly dire conditions for between four and six days.
Tavernier was the youngest member of a department tasked with handling the needs of policemen’s families. A trained nurse, she had only recently graduated from a course for social welfare workers, and had been at her new job for just four months. Her office sent her to the Vel’ d’Hiv because the Red Cross had complained about the situation there. “I arrived on the second day and it was already awful. More than 8,000 people, half of them children, including many newly born babies, were packed together with no water whatsoever,” Tavernier recalls in an interview with the Jerusalem Report.
“Conditions were so terrible that I went back to police headquarters in a daze and reported what I saw to the head of my department. She arranged for me to be seen almost immediately by the chief secretary to the head of the police force. I told him that animals were not treated as badly as the people I’d seen. I said it was enough to make one ashamed of being French, and he became angry and said he did not believe what I was describing to him. He also warned me against repeating to people outside of the police what I had told him.” But the senior official did write an official memo that duly noted: “Miss Tavernier, social worker, reports: ‘Jews starting to react. Women: epileptic fits, nervous breakdowns, sick children, toilets clogged… noodles not arrived, no water, not enough bread, soup served irregularly, only two doctors present, raining inside.”
Some 41 years later, French Nazi-hunter and Holocaust historian Serge Klarsfeld found the note while delving through police archives and published it in “Paris-Auschwitz,” one of his many books on the fate of French Jewry during the war. Between 1942 and 1944, some 76,000 Jews, a quarter of those in France at the time, were killed, most of them gassed after being transported to the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz in Poland. Speaking to the Report, Klarsfeld says, “In 2010, the feature film, “La Rafle”, (The Roundup), which is about the 1942 events, was released, and it was a monumental success seen by more than three million people in France. It brought the subject up again for national examination and introspection. There were debates on television and radio day after day, with some of the few survivors offering their testimony. “One day, I received a telephone call from a woman who identified herself as Denise Tavernier to say she was an eyewitness towhat she had to say. I soon remembered the note I’d found in police records years before and we met later that very day,” relates Klarsfeld.
Since then, Tavernier has become a noted personality whose reminiscences are now sought after by historians and journalists. She also speaks to children’s groups. Klarsfeld also introduced her to French President François Hollande. This summer, in recognition of her conduct, that of a very junior official denouncing conditions at Vel’ d’Hiv to her powerful superiors, Hollande made Tavernier a member of the Legion of Honor, the French national order. It was Klarsfeld who pinned the Legion’s red ribbon on Tavernier’s lapel during the annual ceremony marking the anniversary of the July 1942 roundup. The ceremony took place in the presence of hundreds of members of the Association of the Sons and Daughters of Jewish Deportees from France (FFDJF) that Klarsfeld founded and heads. Klarsfeld, who has tracked down Nazi war criminals as far as South America and who is known for his iron will and nerves, was overcome with emotion and his voice cracked when he made the presentation. Klarsfeld’s own father, arrested in 1943 in southern France, was killed at Auschwitz.
Tavernier recalled during the ceremony that six weeks after the roundup, nearly all of the 13,152 people arrested on July 16-17 had been handed over to the Germans and shipped to Auschwitz. When the war ended in May 1945, only about 100 of the adults had survived. None of the 4,115 children returned. “What I did then [in denouncing conditions at the Vel’ d’Hiv to her superiors] was very simple and I could not have done anything else,” she said. Speaking to the Report in Klarsfeld’s office in November, Tavernier says: “Those events were so powerful that they remain imprinted in my mind in such a way that I sometimes think I am looking at them as if I were looking into a mirror.”…
ABETTING THE HOLOCAUST: ARTHUR HAYS
SULZBERGER AND THE NEW YORK TIMES
Frontpage, Dec. 9, 2013
As the New York Times enables the anti-Jewish axis created by Islamic Nazis in the Middle East who are preparing a new Holocaust of the Jews, it is important to remember that this is nothing new and has happened before. Take ten minutes to view this talk, posted below, by Anna Blech: ”Downplaying the Holocaust: Arthur Hays Sulzberger and the New York Times.”
Anna Blech won first prize at the New York City History Day competition for her research paper, “Downplaying the Holocaust: Arthur Hays Sulzberger and the New York Times.” For this paper, she also was awarded The Eleanor Light Prize from the Hunter College High School Social Studies Department and membership in the Society of Student Historians. Anna’s paper on anti-slavery sentiment in pre-Civil War children’s literature was published in The Concord Review. Anna was a finalist at the 2013 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, where she won third place in microbiology for her project, “Reinventing Antibiotics.” She has received national and regional Scholastic Writing awards, mostly for her one-act musical comedies, and she is an active member of the Hunter theater community.
[To View the Video Click the Following Link –ed.]
Remembrance: Edgar M. Bronfman Sr., the billionaire former chairman of Seagram Ltd. and prominent philanthropist, transformed his family's Canadian liquor empire into an international conglomerate and, for decades, brought the same organizational zeal to fighting for Jewish causes. Mr. Bronfman, who died in his home Saturday at the age of 84, may be best known for his philanthropy and advocacy on behalf of Jews around the world. As president of the World Jewish Congress for nearly three decades, he is credited with turning the organization into a forceful, and often critical, voice in Jewish matters. In a condolence letter to the Bronfman family on Sunday, Israeli President Shimon Peres called Mr. Bronfman a champion of Israel and said, "the Jewish world has lost a great leader." Wall Street Journal, Dec. 22, 2013
CIJR wishes all its friends and supporters Shabbat Shalom!
The Boycott Israel Campaign: a Taste of 1930s Berlin: Edgar Davidson, Jewish Press, Dec. 6, 2013 — While Israel continues to be subject to intensified terrorist atrocities – six attacks in the last 2 days – (ignored as usual by the main stream media), the campaign to boycott Israel also intensifies.
Downplaying the Holocaust — Sulzberger & NY Times: Anna Blech (Video): Youtube, Oct. 30, 2013
Eight Things Holocaust Survivors Need You to Know: Debbie Callahan, Jewish Press, Dec. 6, 2013 — Dying at an alarmingly fast rate (nearly one per hour in Israel), Holocaust survivors, some of the last first-hand witnesses to the atrocities committed during World War II, will soon become just another memory, and their words left to just mere paragraphs in text books.
‘Tis the Season 2013: How Anti-Israel NGOs Manipulate Christmas: NGO Monitor, Dec. 23, 2013 — As in previous years, NGOs (non-government organizations) and well-known charities are exploiting the 2013 Christmas season with political warfare against Israel.
Thessaloniki to Build Holocaust Museum and Research Center: Jerusalem Post, Dec. 23, 2013 — The northern Greek city of Thessaloniki will build a Holocaust research center at the site where some 50,000 of the city’s Jews were deported to Nazi death camps.