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How the Jewish State is Being Demonized: Clifford D. May, National Post, Oct. 30, 2014— Last week, a terrorist drove his car into a crowd at a light rail station in Jerusalem, killing a three-month-old baby.
Willful Blindness To Academic Anti-Semitism: Richard L. Cravatts, Jewish Press, Oct. 29, 2014 — As yet more evidence that academics are regularly able to engage in what George Orwell sardonically referred to as “doublethink” – “the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them,” 40 professors of Jewish studies recently published a denunciation of a study that named professors who have been identified as expressing “anti-Israel bias, or possibly even antisemitic rhetoric.”
Amid Growing European Anti-Semitism, New Jewish Museum in Poland ‘Reveals Hope’ : Ruth Ellen Gruber, JTA, Oct. 28, 2014 — In a Europe wracked by fears of rising anti-Semitism, and in a country whose Jews were all but annihilated in the Holocaust, a dazzling new “museum of life” celebrates the Jewish past and looks forward to a vital future.
An Old Man in Prague: Roger Cohen, New York Times, Oct. 30, 2014 — An old man went to Prague this week.
Europe’s Alarming New Anti-Semitism: Jonathan Sacks, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 2, 2014
Nobel Prize Winner Patrick Modiano Summons the Shadow-World of Postwar French Jewry: Clémence Boulouque, Tablet, Oct. 20, 2014
Eichmann Before Jerusalem (Book Excerpt): Bettina Stangneth, National Post, Oct. 30, 2014
The Democratic Embrace of Al Sharpton: Heather Mac Donald, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 24, 2014
Clifford D. May
National Post, Oct. 30, 2014
Last week, a terrorist drove his car into a crowd at a light rail station in Jerusalem, killing a three-month-old baby. Eight others were injured, including a 22-year-old woman who died a few days later. The attacker fled the scene pursued by police who shot and killed him. Terrorists also have struck in Ottawa and New York in recent days. So Israelis are not alone. But many feel alone — perceiving that an increasing number of Europeans and Americans see them not as a tiny nation on the front lines in a global conflict against jihadism, but as bullies culpable for the war being waged against them.
The first AP report on the terrorist attack bolstered that impression. It carried the headline: “Israeli police shoot man in east Jerusalem.” A little later, that was changed to “Car slams into east Jerusalem train station.” Finally, following protests on social media, the headline became: “Palestinian kills baby at Jerusalem station.” There also was this: The Fatah movement, led by “moderate” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, called the vehicular terrorist a “heroic martyr” who had “executed the Jerusalem operation which led to the running over of settlers in the occupied city of Jerusalem.” If that evoked outrage in any Western capitals, I missed it.
Joshua Muravchik, a fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced Studies, has been studying the growth of anti-Israelism. He presents his analysis in a cogent and valuable book: Making David into Goliath: How the World Turned Against Israel. Start with the good news if for no other reason than there’s not much of it: Polls show a clear majority of Americans continue to support Israel, continue to believe the Jewish state has a right to exist and to defend itself. But over the last few decades, intellectuals of the Left, academics, the UN, human rights organizations, some mainstream Protestant churches and the media have grown not just unsympathetic but, in many cases, hostile toward Israel and Israelis. At the same time, they have been indulgent of Israel’s enemies, Islamist terrorists included. An article over the weekend in the International Herald Tribune noted that “Britain’s center-left Labour Party often sympathizes instinctively with the Palestinian cause.” Hamas — which claimed responsibility for the murders of the woman and child in Jerusalem last week — defines the Palestinian cause as the extermination of Israel and the murder of Jews. (It’s in the Hamas Charter. Look it up.)
If Britain’s Labour Party sympathizes with that, it is probably a learned, not instinctive, response. Muravchik notes that as recently as the 1960s, Israel was almost universally admired. Leon Uris’ Exodus shaped the prevailing narrative, one which saw “the founding of the Jewish state as a story of heroism, sacrifice and redemption … both just and necessary.” Muravchik recounts how, in May 1967, Egyptian leader Gamal Abdul Nasser sent his troops into the Sinai, closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping (an act of war) and vowed that Egypt, joined by other Arab armies, would “destroy Israel … This is Arab power. This is the true resurrection of the Arab nation.” Opinion in the West, popular and elite alike, came down firmly in support of the Jewish state. “As the crisis deepened,” Muravchik writes, “a luminous group of intellectuals,” including thousands of academics, called upon the U.S. government to help Israelis defend themselves. When the fighting concluded, Israel had prevailed, taking Gaza from Egypt and the West Bank from Jordan. U.S. Sen. George McGovern, who would become the Democratic Party’s “peace candidate” in 1972, said he hoped Israel would “not give up a foot of ground” until the Arabs made peace.
This summer, by stark contrast, as Hamas fired thousands of missiles at Israel, anger was directed at Israel. The media focused almost exclusively on Palestinian victims — even though the Israeli Defense Forces did more than any army in history ever has to protect non-combatants, many of whom Hamas used as human shields. How did this change come about? After the 1967 war, Israel’s enemies and critics stopped talking about an Arab-Israeli conflict. It became a Palestinian-Israeli conflict instead. The new David was supported by the diplomatic, political and economic clout of 22 Arab states, oil giants among them, as well as more than 50 nations that self-identify as Islamic. Another significant factor has been what Muravchik calls “the transformation of the paradigm of Leftism from class struggle to ethnic struggle.” More than half of all Israeli Jews come from families who for centuries made their homes in Muslim lands. In the 1940s and 1950s, most of them were forced to flee. Nevertheless, the narrative shaped by the Left is of oppressed third world Palestinians rising against colonialist European usurpers.
Views prevalent on the Left have a tendency to “seep, albeit in diluted form, into the mainstream,” Muravchik adds. And the “anti-Israel camp does not need to win America fully to its side. Merely to neutralize it would radically alter the balance of power and put Israel in great jeopardy.” Muravchik doesn’t rule out the possibility that, should this process continue, should “Israel’s enemies succeed, the result could be a second Holocaust.” I was looking forward to Muravchik’s thoughts on efforts to counter the rise of anti-Israelism (and the anti-Semitism now inextricably attached to it), why such efforts have fallen short, and what else might be considered by those who are anti-anti-Israeli – or even just anti-genocide. But he didn’t provide that. Perhaps he will tackle the subject in his next book. Or maybe he is leaving the task to writers of a less scholarly and more activist bent. Either way, he has made a persuasive case that such thinking is urgently needed.
Richard L. Cravatts
Jewish Press, Oct. 29, 2014
As yet more evidence that academics are regularly able to engage in what George Orwell sardonically referred to as “doublethink” – “the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them,” 40 professors of Jewish studies recently published a denunciation of a study that named professors who have been identified as expressing “anti-Israel bias, or possibly even antisemitic rhetoric.” While the 40 academic “heavyweights” claim they, of course, reject anti-Semitism totally as part of teaching, they were equally repelled by the tactics and possible effects of the AMCHA Initiative report, a comprehensive review of the attitudes about Israel of some 200 professors who signed an online petition during the latest Gaza incursion that called for an academic boycott against Israeli scholars. Calling “the actions of AMCHA deplorable,” the indignant professors were insulted by the organization’s “technique of monitoring lectures, symposia and conferences,” something which they believe “strains the basic principle of academic freedom on which the American university is built.”
Only in the inverted reality of academia could a group of largely Jewish professors denounce a study which had as its core purpose to alert students to professors who have demonstrated, publicly and seemingly proudly, that they harbor anti-Israel attitudes, attitudes which unfortunately frequently morph into anti-Semitic thought and speech as part of discussions about Israel and the Middle East. Since the individuals named in the report teach in the area of Middle East studies, they are also likely to bring that anti-Israel bias into the classroom with them, and students, therefore, would obviously benefit from AMCHA’s report. Can anyone believe that had the AMCHA Initiative issued a report that revealed the existence of endemic racism, or homophobia, or sexism, or Islamophobia in university coursework, and had warned students who might be negatively impacted to steer clear of courses taught by those offending professors, these same 40 feckless professors would have denounced such reports as potentially having a negative effect on teaching and learning?
Why should a professor’s political attitudes not be known to students, especially, as in this case, when those anti-Israel attitudes are extremely germane to their area of teaching, namely Middle East studies? The AMCHA researchers did not furtively investigate the private lives of the 200 professors, nor did they delve through their association memberships, reading habits, or private writings without the professors’ knowledge or consent. They were not spied upon and their courses taped by students. The signatories were also skeptical about the guidelines used by AMCHA to gauge instances of anti-Semitism and an acceptable definition by which campus speech, teaching, publications, and events could be judged to include manifestations of anti-Semitism and not just vituperation and critique of Israel. AMCHA’s “definition of antisemitism is so undiscriminating as to be meaningless,” the professors’ statement asserted, ignoring the fact that AMCHA based its own definition on earlier working definitions of anti-Semitism carefully developed by the U.S. State Department, the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (now the Fundamental Rights Agency), and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under the Law, among others.
It is not as if campuses are unaware of the prevailing sensitivities of groups normally considered to be protected classes – black students, gay students, Muslim students, Hispanics, among others. Earlier this month, in a breathtaking act of moral incoherence, Britain’s National Union of Students (NUS) voted against condemning ISIS after the Black Students Officer, Malia Bouattia, opposed the motion, not because students did not have sincere concern for Syrians and Kurds being slaughtered, but because “condemnation of ISIS appears to have become a justification for . . . blatant Islamophobia.” None of the Jewish Studies professors seemed to be concerned with investigations of purported instances of Islamophobia on campus and elsewhere, and how exposing those occurrences might lead to a stifling of someone’s academic free speech or “chilling” of scholarly debate. In fact, FBI statistics indicate that acts of anti-Semitism occur with eight times the regularity of anti-Muslim incidents, and that between 2011 and 2012 alone, the number of anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses tripled.
So regardless of how significant the professors seem to think the problem of anti-Semitism actually is, and whether they wish to minimize the virulence of anti-Semitism because they insist on conflating it with, and making it part of, the furious academic debate about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the AMCHA report shows us that the “oldest hatred” is still with us, creeping noxiously up the ivy walls.
Ruth Ellen Gruber
JTA, Oct. 28, 2014
In a Europe wracked by fears of rising anti-Semitism, and in a country whose Jews were all but annihilated in the Holocaust, a dazzling new “museum of life” celebrates the Jewish past and looks forward to a vital future. Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday jointly inaugurated the long-awaited core exhibit of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, a more than $100 million complex first conceived more than 20 years ago. “It is not a museum of the Holocaust, it is a museum of life,” Rivlin, who was making his first trip abroad since his election this summer, declared at the opening ceremony. “It is the place that commemorates everything that is gone and will never return. And it reveals hope for a different future.” Komorowski stressed the same hopes, declaring that the museum opening was a history-making event that bore witness to Poland’s development into a democratic state since the fall of communism. “One of the central themes in our drive to freedom was to put right the account of history that had been corrupted, manipulated and distorted in so many ways during the non-democratic communist era,” Komorowski said.
Before the Holocaust, some 3.3 million Jews lived in Polish lands. Thousands of survivors fled anti-Semitism in the postwar period. The fall of communism sparked a remarkable revival in Jewish life and identity, but the Jewish population today is still tiny, estimated at 15,000-20,000 in a country of nearly 40 million people. “We are here!” Auschwitz survivor Marian Turski, chairman of the Council of the Jewish Historical Institute, one of the institutional founders of the museum, said in an emotional speech at the opening ceremony. “That is the message: We are here!” The museum is housed in a shimmering glass building erected on the site of the Warsaw Ghetto facing the dramatic monument erected atop the rubble left when the Nazis crushed the ghetto uprising in 1943. Described as a “theatre of history,” the core exhibit uses state-of-the-art technology and multimedia installations to narrate 1,000 years of Polish Jewish history.
The exhibition’s eight thematic and chronological galleries detail the complex ebb and flow of Jewish life in Poland from the early middle ages to the present, including periods of prosperity as well as persecution. They recount grand events but also use letters, diaries, photos and other intimate material to provide personal viewpoints. This is particularly notable in the Holocaust gallery, which narrates the history through the words and deeds of the people who experienced it. Other highlights include the reconstructed and elaborately painted ceiling and bimah of the now-destroyed wooden synagogue in Gwozdziec (in present-day Ukraine) and a painted animation of 24 hours in the life of the famous yeshiva in Volozhin (now Belarus).
But the core exhibit is only part of the story. The museum’s impact “stretches way, way beyond the building,” said Piotr Kadlcik, president of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland. “And it’s not about a museum of the history of Polish Jews — it’s about Polish Jews. History means past, and it’s not about the past.” Hundreds of thousands of people — Poles and Jews, locals and foreigners — have visited the museum in the 18 months since the building was opened to the public. Organizers expect a half-million or more each year now that the core exhibit has been opened. The museum is part of a wider movement since the fall of communism “to reconnect with the past, including the Jewish past,” said Dariusz Stola, the museum’s director. “The museum is the most visible element in this movement. But without the broader movement it wouldn’t have happened.” This broader movement includes a number of new Jewish studies programs at Polish universities, new or revamped museums, permanent exhibits and memorials on Jewish or Holocaust themes in a number of provincial towns and scores of grassroots initiatives ranging from Jewish cemetery cleanup actions to Jewish culture festivals. This year alone, some 40 Jewish culture festivals took place in Poland, mostly in places where no Jews live today. “The Jewish presence in Polish consciousness is vast, vast,” said Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, the program director of the core exhibit. “It means that there is a kind of inverse relationship between the numbers of Jews living in Poland and what we call Jewish presence in Polish consciousness.”
The POLIN museum was built as a public-private institution, with the Polish government and the city of Warsaw providing $60 million for construction and more than 500 private and institutional donors, many of them Jewish, contributing $48 million for the core exhibition. “Though Europe has seen a recent rise in anti-Semitism, in Poland we are seeing a revitalization of Jewish life and culture that is being experienced by – and truly driven by – both Poland’s Jewish and gentile communities,” the San Francisco-based philanthropist Tad Taube, head of Taube Philanthropies and the Koret Foundation, said in a statement. The two organizations were the largest private donors to the museum with a total contribution of $16 million. “The opening of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews is a game changer that will break down negative stereotypes about Poland,” Taube said. The hope, his statement added, is that its lessons “will have ripple effects throughout Eastern Europe as Poland’s neighbors seek to develop their own major modern cultural institutions and broader, more inclusive narratives of their multicultural histories.”
New York Times, Oct. 30, 2014
An old man went to Prague this week. He had spent much of his life keeping quiet about his deeds. They spoke for themselves. Now he said, “In a way perhaps I shouldn’t have lived so long to give everybody the opportunity to exaggerate everything in the way they are doing today.” At the age of 105, Sir Nicholas Winton is still inclined toward self-effacement. He did what any normal human being would, only at a time when most of Europe had gone mad. A London stockbroker, born into a family of German Jewish immigrants who had changed their name from Wertheim and converted to Christianity, he rescued 669 children, most of them Jews, from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia in 1939. They came to Britain in eight transports. The ninth was canceled when Hitler invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939. The 250 children destined for it journeyed instead into the inferno of the Holocaust.
Winton, through family connections, knew enough of the Third Reich to see the naïveté of British officialdom still inclined to dismiss Hitler as a buffoon and talk of another war as fanciful. He raised money; he procured visas; he found foster families. His day job was at the Stock Exchange. The rest of his time he devoted to saving the doomed. There were enough bystanders. He wanted to help. Now he has outlived many of those he saved and long enough to know that thousands of their descendants owe their lives to him.
Back in Prague, 75 years on, Winton received the Order of the White Lion, the highest honor of the Czech Republic. The Czech Air Force sent a plane. He was serenaded at Prague Castle, in the presence of a handful of his octogenarian “children.” The only problem, he said, was that countries refused to accept unaccompanied children; only England would. One hundred years, he said, is “a heck of a long time.” The things he said were understated. At 105, one does not change one’s manner.
Only in 1988 did Winton’s wartime work begin to be known. His wife found a scrapbook chronicling his deeds. He appeared on a BBC television show whose host, Esther Rantzen, asked those in the audience who owed their lives to him to stand. Many did. Honors accrued. Now there are statues of him in London and Prague. “I didn’t really keep it secret,” he once said. “I just didn’t talk about it.” Such discretion is riveting to our exhibitionist age. To live today is to self-promote or perish. Social media tugs the private into the public sphere with an almost irresistible force. Be followed, be friended — or be forgotten. This imperative creates a great deal of tension and unhappiness. Most people, much of the time, have a need to be quiet and still, and feel disinclined to raise their voice. Yet they sense that if they do not, they risk being seen as losers. Device anxiety, that restless tug to the little screen, is a reflection of a spreading inability to live without 140-character public affirmation. When the device is dead, so are you.
What gets forgotten, in the cacophony, is how new this state of affairs is. Winton’s disinclination to talk was not unusual. Silence was the reflex of the postwar generation. What was done was done because it was the right thing to do and therefore unworthy of note. Certainly among Jews silence was the norm. Survivors scarcely spoke of their torment. They did not tell their children. They repressed their memories. Perhaps discretion seemed the safer course; certainly it seemed the more dignified. Perhaps the very trauma brought wordlessness. The Cold War was not conducive to truth-telling. Anguish was better suffered in silence than passed along (although of course it filtered to the next generation anyway.)
But there was something else, something really unsayable. Survival itself was somehow shameful, unbearable. By what right, after all, had one lived when those 250 children had not? Menachem Begin, the former Israeli prime minister whose parents and brother were killed by the Nazis, put this sentiment well: “Against the eyes of every son of the nation appear and reappear the carriages of death. … The Black Nights when the sound of an infernal screeching of wheels and the sighs of the condemned press in from afar and interrupt one’s slumber; to remind one of what happened to mother, father, brothers, to a son, a daughter, a People. In these inescapable moments every Jew in the country feels unwell because he is well. He asks himself: Is there not something treasonous in his existence.”
Winton’s anonymity, for decades after the war, was of course also the result of the silence or reserve of the hundreds he had saved. How strange that seems today, when we must emote about everything. The deed speaks — and occasionally someone lives long enough to know in what degree.
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Europe’s Alarming New Anti-Semitism: Jonathan Sacks, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 2, 2014—This year, Europe’s Jews enter Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, with a degree of apprehension I have not known in my lifetime. Anti-Semitism has returned to Europe within living memory of the Holocaust. Never again has become ever again.
Nobel Prize Winner Patrick Modiano Summons the Shadow-World of Postwar French Jewry: Clémence Boulouque, Tablet, Oct. 20, 2014—Pour que tu ne te perdes pas dans le quartier (“So that you don’t get lost in the neighborhood”), Patrick Modiano’s latest novel, which came out one week before he received the Nobel Prize, opens on a quote by Stendhal: “I cannot give the reality of facts, I can only present its shadow.”
Eichmann Before Jerusalem (Book Excerpt): Bettina Stangneth, National Post, Oct. 30, 2014 —Adolf Eichmann’s fame surpasses even that of SS leader Heinrich Himmler and holocaust architect Reinhard Heydrich. So why write another book? It was the simplest of questions: I wanted to find out who knew Adolf Eichmann before the Mossad famously snatched him from Argentina and put him before a court in Israel.
The Democratic Embrace of Al Sharpton: Heather Mac Donald, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 24, 2014—The Rev. Al Sharpton once epitomized New York’s bad old days of the 1980s, when the then-corpulent, gold-medallion-bedecked tub thumper inflamed racial hatred and courted violence.
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