A Pathetic 2017 for BDS
I was beginning to feel a little sorry for campus boycott activists. After all, if any year was going to be their year, it was 2017. You would think that even the most poisonous variants of the politics of the left would do reasonably well in the atmosphere created by the surprise victory of Donald Trump.
Yet the campus BDS movement this year, until recently, had notched wins solely at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, which has been passing divestment resolutions with wearying regularity since 2004, and the University of California-Riverside, where a symbolic and ineffectual blow against Sabra Hummus was struck. Meanwhile, BDS activists lost at Ohio State (for a third time), University of Illinois-Urbana, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Columbia University.
But Passover did bring news of two BDS wins. At Tufts University, in a vote announced four days in advance, and held the day before Passover, the student government called on Tufts to divest from certain companies alleged to be involved in human rights violations against Palestinians. The timing of the vote led not only the Anti-Defamation League but also the president of Tufts to express concern that the supporters of the resolution chose to put it on the agenda when, you know, the Jews would be out of town.
There is, of course, nothing nefarious about accomplished civil rights activists moving from one organization to another, and there is nothing wrong with anyone engaging in civic opposition. Moreover, as a steadfast and vocal critic of the Trump administration and its misdeeds, I’m the first to applaud any organization that does serious and conscientious work to guarantee that no rights are trampled and no group threatened by any decree, design, or mishap.
But there’s something wrong with using a universal icon of innocent suffering to costume a sock puppet in partisan politics. Those opposing Gorka and “resisting” Trump must learn how to behave like serious political adults. If they have arguments against Gorka’s proposed policies or his professional credentials, bring them forth and debate their merits. Hiding behind the moral mantle of a dead Jewish girl while calling someone a Nazi with absolutely no evidence is just plain revolting.
And, in the age of social media, it’s also plain dangerous. With so many soapboxes on which to stand and shout these days, it’s easy enough for anyone to simply create organizations that claim to represent entire constituencies and then use them to validate and promote their agenda. No track record is necessary, and no real supporters necessary—all you need is some funding and a good brand name and you’re off to the races. It’s the sort of icky top-down skullduggery that liberals have for decades been accusing conservatives of practicing with impunity, and it uses Facebook, Twitter, and other amplifiers to short-circuit the traditional and essential kind of political coalition-building predicated on actual affinity by real people with real lives and real ideas.
If the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect—which is now at best tangentially associated with the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam—wants, as it claims, to bring about the “kinder and fairer world of which Anne Frank dreamed,” it should probably dedicate itself to the less glamorous work of correcting ahistorical comments, avoiding ugly witch hunts, and teaching others how to avoid meaningless political theater. Anne Frank has suffered enough.
Executive Summary (Click for PDF Version of this report)
- A number of government-funded Palestinian and European NGOs repeatedly manipulate human rights through the use of “resistance” rhetoric, blurring the lines between violence and nonviolence, denigrating security concerns, and legitimizing attacks against civilians. Some of these groups also have ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) – a designated terrorist organization by the EU, U.S., Canada, and Israel.
- “Resistance” is the term used by Palestinians to refer to armed groups that carry out attacks on Israel, including the PFLP, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, and is used in this way by many of the NGOs discussed in this report.
- Spanish NGO Novact – funded by Spain, the EU, and the UN – invited Palestinian NGO activists Munther Amira and Manal Tamimi to an EU-funded conference on “preventing violent extremism.” Tamimi has incited violence and glorified terrorism numerous times on Twitter, tweeting in September 2015: “Vampire zionist celebrating their Kebore day by drinking Palestinian bloods, yes our blood is pure & delicious but it will kill u at the end.” Amira has described a violent demonstration organized by him as part of a “struggle against the Nazi occupation.” Both Amira and Tamimi were arrested upon arrival in Barcelona for suspected terrorist activities.
- Palestinian NGO PASSIA implements a project together with the German public-benefit federal enterprise GIZ. PASSIA calls the wave of stabbings that began in October 2015 as a “youth uprising” and refers to “Palestinian martyr, Baha Eleyan,” who was one of two murderers to board a bus in Jerusalem in October 2015 armed with a gun and a knife, killing three and injuring seven.
- The NGO ties to the PFLP range from establishment and operation of NGOs by the PFLP itself to NGO officials and staffers being convicted of terrorism charges by Israeli courts. Some of these individuals have been denied entry and exit visas by Israeli (and Jordanian) authorities due to security concerns.
- Donors to the PFLP-linked NGOs include the EU, the governments of Sweden, Denmark, Spain, Norway, Ireland, UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France, and Switzerland, and the United Nations.
Dani Dayan: Support For Israel Must Not Become Partisan
The concept of nation-states is growing increasingly unpopular among progressives. They are inclined to associate the idea of a nation state with tribalism, particularism and exclusion, and in an ideal world, I might share some of these reservations.
But the world is an increasingly dangerous place, and Israel is a nation-state for all the right reasons. When the Jewish community of Ethiopia was under immediate threat, Israel sent an entire air fleet to Addis Ababa to rescue its tens of thousands of brethren.
Given the Jewish people’s history and experience with persecution—not just in ancient times but in the 20 th century and today across Europe and the Middle East—Israel must exist as a nation-state in order to ensure Jewish survival.
But our existence is not limited to only serving ourselves. Israel is always among the first to send rescue and assistance missions to all continents when catastrophe hits—in Haiti, Turkey, Nepal, Japan and elsewhere.
Does the world know, or appreciate the fact that Israel is endangering its own people to provide humanitarian aid to Syrian citizens in Syria itself—a sworn enemy of our country and our people? Or that Israel is extending innovative technologies to sub-Saharan African countries that save the lives of many and improve the lives of many more?
Israel is not perfect, but every day we strive to make the world a better place, living by the principles that we share with progressives in this country and elsewhere. Even in its imperfection, Israel deserves their strong support. Those who believe in trying to make our values a reality should stand with us.
As the Trump administration continues to weigh a possible move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the Israeli capital of Jerusalem, newly-sworn in Ambassador to Israel David Friedman is settling into his new job – and looking for a new house.
While the Ambassador already owns a private residence in Jerusalem’s Talbiya neighborhood, State Department officials ruled out his request to work out of the home, saying that it does not meet the logistical requirements necessary for the Ambassador’s office or residence, where foreign officials are received for official events.
Nevertheless it appears Ambassador Friedman will be working in the Israeli capital, not the US Embassy in Tel Aviv as is customary.
Since his appointment as Ambassador to Israel, Friedman has requested that he work in Jerusalem, where the US maintains several facilities operated by the US Consulate.
According to a report by Channel 10, aides to the ambassador and Jerusalem city officials are currently searching for a new residence in the city.
“Are you a Democrat?” US president Harry S Truman’s special adviser, Clark Clifford, asked James McDonald on the phone in June 1948.
Once McDonald replied in the affirmative, Clifford informed him that he had been named as Washington’s first head of diplomatic mission to the newly established State of Israel. Later, McDonald was upgraded to ambassador.
The question is the opening entry in a diary of McDonald’s, parts of which appear for the first time today in The Jerusalem Post.
After his 28-month tour of duty, McDonald published a memoir called My Mission in Israel, 1948-1951. The book omitted many pithy details, because of its release so close to the unfolding of momentous events. But all has not been lost, thanks to what McDonald did write down in his own private diary.
McDonald, his daughter Barbara (Bobby) and assistants arrived in Israel in August 1948, in the middle of the War of Independence. Signs of war were in plain view. Buildings in Tel Aviv were damaged by Egyptian Air Force bombs. It was difficult to find an apartment, and McDonald’s entourage took over a few rooms on the second floor of the Gat-Rimon Hotel on the Tel Aviv beach. Above them, on the third floor, lived the Soviet Union’s diplomatic mission. The flags of the two powers flew next to each other on the hotel’s masts.
A man named George Robinson (of whom I have not been able to dig up much information) travelled in then Palestine and Syria in 1830, with his book Travels in Palestine and Syria being published in 1837.
It is a fascinating look at the Holy Land and its residents back then – 30 years before Theodor Herzl was even born – which certainly dispels myths and false narratives we are bombarded with in modern times.
Take for instance the part of the book dealing with Robinson’s description of Jerusalem.
On pages 116-117, Robinson describes Jerusalem as a practical ghost town and “expiring city.” Note how he also refers to the “Musselmen”, the term used for the Muslims (not “Palestinians,” a term invented much, much later)
A radical left-wing activist and advocate for Sharia law in the United States has been selected as this year’s commencement speaker at a branch of the City University of New York.
Linda Sarsour, 37, who helped organize the Women’s March in Washington in January and was arrested protesting outside of Trump Hotel in New York, was tapped by the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy to address this year’s graduating class.
An aide to the school’s dean confirmed in a statement that Sarsour had been chosen to speak at the commencement, The Daily Caller reported.
“I am delighted to confirm that Linda Sarsour will indeed speak at our June 1 commencement at the Apollo Theater,” said Barbara Aaron, chief of staff to the school’s dean, Ayman El-Mohandes.
Aside from her history of far-left activism, Sarsour has drawn criticism in the past for her advocacy of Sharia law in the United States and her attacks on prominent anti-Sharia figures.
As London students prepare to protest an upcoming on-campus talk by Israeli Ambassador to the UK Mark Regev, the event’s moderator told The Algemeiner on Thursday he hoped attendees would maintain open minds.
Eric Heinze — a professor of law and humanities at the Queen Mary University of London’s School of Law and an outspoken defender of free speech — will be hosting the hotly-debated Regev event, scheduled to take place at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) this coming Thursday evening.
Heinze encouraged those eager “to engage with pose, politeness, and intelligence” on Israeli-Palestinian issues to come to the program, organized jointly by the SOAS Jewish Society (JSoc) and Model United Nations Society. Students who were “wholly and viciously hostile to all things Israeli, yet willing and able to listen” would be welcome, he noted.
It is unclear if anti-Israel students will participate, as SOAS Palestine Society (PalSoc) posted a statement on Facebook soon after the event was publicized denouncing it as “an official exercise in [Israeli] state propaganda” hiding under “the cover of an academic setting.”
The statement — signed by a coalition of 36 student groups, including the SOAS Israel Society — also blasted the administration for allowing the program to go forward, given a 2015 campus-wide vote in favor of BDS.
The Texas House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill banning state entities from dealing with businesses that boycott Israel or its settlements.
The bill approved Thursday follows the state Senate’s approval of a similar bill in March by overwhelming numbers. Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign a reconciled version of both bills next month.
In statements, pro-Israel groups that lobbied for the bills praised its passage.
“The relationship between the Jewish state and the Lone Star State is built upon shared values, including a rock-solid commitment to standing up for liberty – especially when it is threatened by radical Islamic extremism,” Pastor John Hagee, the founder of Christians United For Israel, said in a statement.
Opposing the narrative of Israeli apartheid is personal for two Zionist South Africans who spoke with The Algemeiner last month as they embarked on a tour of US universities.
Tshepo Ndlovu and Neo Mangope — who traveled to six East Coast campuses from March 27 to April 7 as part of a diverse delegation of pro-Israel leaders sponsored by educational group StandWithUs — said South Africans’ history with apartheid can have a profound impact on their understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“In the US, there is a misconception about the word ‘apartheid,’ because they don’t know the deeper meaning,” said Mangope, a lawyer who first learned about Israel when she participated on a tour with Africans for Peace, an independent academic group. “But South Africans should know better. We know what real apartheid looks like, and we should know that you can’t compare that to Israel.”
But Ndlovu, who heads public diplomacy for the South African Zionist Federation, explained that it was precisely because of South Africans’ intimate experience with apartheid that they can be “very receptive” to the Palestinian narrative of Israel being another iteration of colonialist oppression of an indigenous people.
“From a young age, in the media, at home, in school, we are taught to label Israel as the enemy,” he said, adding he has seen educational intervention as early as high school can have a deep effect on students’ involvement in activities surrounding the conflict once they reach university.
An Israeli court has agreed to temporarily suspend a travel ban on a co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as he prepares to receive a “peace award” at a ceremony at Yale University this weekend, the organization granting the prize announced this week.
According to the statement from a group called Promoting Enduring Peace (PEP), Omar Barghouti will be in New Haven on Sunday to get the Gandhi Peace Award in person even though he was initially banned from leaving Israel after being arrested last month on suspicion of dodging some $700,000 in taxes.
PEP said it was “delighted that Omar Barghouti will be able to come to the United States to accept this well-deserved award for his leadership in the non-violent struggle for Palestinian human rights.”
According to a promotional flyer, the PEP ceremony is being co-sponsored by the Yale chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, who have also advertised the event on their Facebook page.
Barghouti, an Arab resident of the Israeli city of Acre, will be introduced at the PEP ceremony by Rebecca Vilkomerson, the executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace — the group that honored Palestinian terrorist Rasmea Odeh at their national conference earlier this month.
Former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters, known for his strident anti-Israel stance, will release his first rock album in a quarter of a century in June, his record company said Thursday.
“Is This the Life We Really Want?” features 12 new tracks from the highly political singer-songwriter, including one track based on a poem by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.
Columbia Records said the album was a “forthright commentary on the modern world and on uncertain times” and a “natural successor” to Pink Floyd’s “Animals” and “The Wall” albums.
Waters told Rolling Stone Magazine that the song “Wait for Her” was inspired by an English translation of “Lesson from the Kama Sutra (Wait for Her)” by Darwish.
The Israeli Embassy in Dublin is “concerned” by a “disturbing trend” of local initiatives targeting the Jewish state, a spokesperson told The Algemeiner on Thursday, after Trinity College Dublin (TCD) was announced as the location for an upcoming pro-BDS academic conference.
The spokesperson said the scheduling of a meeting of a group called “Academics for Palestine” (AfP) for the week before Rosh Hashanah in September was is only the latest in a number of upsetting incidents in the Irish capital, including a “one-sided motion put forward by a Dublin City Council member to fly a Palestinian flag over Dublin City Hall during the month of May [to coincide with Israel’s Independence Day].”
The spokesperson said the AfP conference — which will feature a keynote speech by Steven Salaita, who was fired from his post at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2014 after he made antisemitic comments on Twitter — was reminiscent of a similar gathering held earlier this month at University College Cork (UCC), during which Israeli Mossad agents were accused of “cheering” the 9/11 attacks. The spokesperson called the UCC event “an antisemitic circus.”
“[There is] significant cause for concern that yet another Irish university will be used as a forum for the espousal of hate against the state of Israel,” the spokesperson said.
While 17 student senators were absent either observing Passover or Easter, the Pitzer College student senate passed an anti-Semitic resolution preventing the Student Activities Fund from purchasing Israeli products. This resolution was passed with 22 yes votes, 4 abstentions, and zero votes in opposition. Article III of the Pitzer College Budgetary Committe By-laws were amended to include the following clause:
Student Activities Funds shall not be used to make a payment on goods or services from any corporation or organization associated with the unethical occupation of Palestinian territories. Products include those products from corporations and organizations as delineated in the boycott list maintained by bdsmovement.net/get-involved/what-toboycott
According to The Claremont Independent, Pitzer’s senate moved forward with this resolution a week after Claremont Students for Justice in Palestine Jewish Persecution hosted its annual “Israeli Apartheid Week” and when there would be considerably less opposition to the blatantly anti-Semitic language specifically calling out Israel for supposed human rights violations. The resolution did not address countries like Lebanon and Jordan, which impose devastating apartheid laws on Palestinian-Arab refugees in their respective countries.
The Algemeiner also reported that the amended language would prevent students from spending money on products from Sabra Humus, Ahava Dead Sea products, SodaStream, Caterpillar and Hewlett Packard (HP). One student senator, who was asked to remain anonymous, said that the majority of the students who were absent for the meeting were attending religious services in honor of Passover and Easter.
So what is the logical response when you are Amnesty International’s crisis manager for Syria and there has been a recent chemical attack on his own civilians by President Assad at Khan Sheikhoun followed by 100 Syrian civilians killed by a suicide bomber as residents of the villages of Fuaa and Kafrya were being taken to safety?
Well, if you are Kristyan Benedict you arrange a meeting at Amnesty about human rights in Israel!
Benedict, Amnesty’s crisis manager for Syria, is notorious for comparing Israel to Islamic state, making a sick joke at the expense of three Jewish MPs on twitter and for threatening me when I questioned, at one of his events, an obviously doctored photo of a Palestinian boy with a Star of David allegedly carved into his arm by an Israeli soldier.
On Wednesday 19th April at Amnesty in London he assembled a panel of four human rights activists:
Rachel Strouma – Public Committee Against Torture in Israel.
Rina Rosenberg – Adalah, which is based in Israel.
Neil Sammonds – Medical Aid for Palestinians.
Nada Kiswanson van Hoydonk – Al Haq, which is based in Ramallah.
Politico’s report “Iranian-Americans, livid over Trump visa ban, to get their day in court,” (April 17, 2017) sanitizes the role of Iranian militias fighting in Iraq and Syria.
In an article about a lawsuit brought forth by Iranian-American groups against a U.S. visa ban, Politico reporters Josh Gerstein and Nahal Toosi claim that “Iranian-supported militias have fought alongside U.S.-backed Iraqi forces to beat back the Islamic State.” Although this is true—and Politico does note Tehran’s role as a state-sponsor of terror—it omits important information about the militias.
Iranian-backed militias are indeed fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). However, they are not doing so out of some altruistic motive as the Politico article might lead some to believe. Rather, the groups—also known as Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs)—are seeking to extend Tehran’s influence. And, as CAMERA has noted, they are frequently committing atrocities while doing so (“Washington Times Covers Underreported Iran-backed Shi’ite Militias,” CAMERA, Sept. 16, 2016). For example, mass graves of hundreds of executed Sunni Muslim civilians who were “liberated” from the Islamic State by PMUs, have been discovered.
When I think of a “super theme class,” I think of the time in fourth grade that my school had a “State Fair,” for which each student picked a U.S. state to design a booth for, and the younger students came to the class for activities and snacks relevant to each state. What I don’t think of is a Nazi propaganda-themed history lesson.
According to JTA and a Portuguese-language Brazilian newspaper, the Santa Emilia School in Recife, Brazil, a private Catholic school, has faced criticism in recent weeks because of an immersive, experiential lesson plan for a third-grade unit on totalitarianism. This included decorating the classroom with swastika banners and candles, and the teacher wearing a swastika-emblazoned Nazi armband.
In attempting to make such a topic accessible and appealing to elementary school children, it appears that the school—even if inadvertently—trivialized a genocide of unthinkable proportions.
The school subsequently celebrated their unconventional pedagogical approach on social media, writing on Facebook (in a post that has since been deleted): “Third-grade students have experienced a super theme class, almost a super production. The theme of the class prepared by Professor Luiz Fernando addressed the origins of totalitarian states, their characteristics, concepts and forms. Did they enjoy it? Of course.” According to the Brazilian newspaper, the post was criticized by those wondering how the horror of Nazi ideology could possibly be impressed upon students who were also being exposed to effective propaganda symbols.
Amid discussions on limiting ritual slaughter of animals in Belgium, a leader of the country’s Jewish community pleaded with lawmakers not to “repeat the Nazis’ acts.”
The statement Thursday by Philippe Markiewicz, president of the Consistoire organization of Belgian Jewry that is responsible for providing religious services, was unusual because Jewish community officials rarely draw comparisons between present-day issues and the Nazi occupation, which remains a sensitive subject in Belgium.
“The last assault on ritual slaughter was in October 1940 under the Nazi occupation because they knew how important it was for Jews,” Markiewicz said during an address in the city of Namur at the Parliament of Wallonia, one of three autonomous regions that make up the federal kingdom of Belgium. “I implore you not to repeat this act,” the Belga news agency quoted him as saying.
Markiewicz spoke to lawmakers during a discussion on a plan to impose new limitations on any slaughter of animals that does not involve stunning – a prerequisite in shechitah, the Hebrew-language name for kosher slaughter of animals, and its Muslim variant.
City officials from a Dutch municipality near The Hague said they would remove from its main monument for Jewish Holocaust victims the names of three SS soldiers also honored there.
The inclusion of the German soldiers’ names was discovered through research by the local Historical Association of Leidschendam-Voorburg, the Algemeen Dagblad daily reported Wednesday.
The monument, which also includes the name of a local criminal, was unveiled 10 years ago and contains approximately 400 names of Jewish Holocaust victims and some resistance fighters, the report said. Hubert Berkhout, a researcher for the Dutch Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, told the daily that he has never encountered the inclusion of Nazis in recently constructed monuments.
“It occurs in monuments set up shortly after the war when there was not so much information,” he said.
When Annette Cabelli walked into the auditorium at Pabellón de los Jardines de Cecilio Rodríguez, a pavilion of the Cecilio Rodríquez Gardens at Madrid’s Retiro Park, all conversations ceased and eyes turned to her. A survivor of three concentration camps and three death marches, Cabelli had traveled from France at the invitation of Casa Sefarad and Madrid’s Jewish community. She came to Spain—as a Sephardic Jew, her ancestral home—to share her testimony during the Holocaust remembrance week that takes place annually around Jan. 27, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
“Every year we invite a Holocaust survivor,” Yessica San Román told me; she is Casa Sefarad’s director of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism department, which works with teachers throughout Spain to foster Holocaust education. “For quite a few years we’ve only had men so it was important to invite a woman. [Cabelli] is Sephardic, and she can tell the story in Ladino, a language we don’t hear very often. For younger people to meet a Sephardic descendant is extra special.”
Now 92, Cabelli walked slowly and needed help when she went up or down the stairs, but her voice never failed her. During the week in Madrid, she participated in Holocaust commemoration events in the senate, at the Asamblea de Madrid, at the Municipal Council of Alcobendas, at the ministry of education, at a local school, and in the nearby city of Avila. “Everyone needs to know what happened because this must never happen again,” said Cabelli, explaining how she maintained such a busy schedule. “And that’s why, until the final moment I can speak, I will.”
It’s pins and needles time for the 24 elderly Holocaust survivors and Israeli chefs who worked together on “Grandma Cooks Gourmet,” a cookbook which has been named by Gourmand International as a contender for the Best Cookbook in the World category and charity category.
The winners will be announced at ceremonies on May 27 and 28, held in Yantai Wine Bay in China.
The cookbook was published in 2016 as a project of Shorashim — an Israeli non-profit organization that works with two populations, the elderly and Ethiopians — that brought together elderly Holocaust survivors and Israeli chefs, creating classic dishes from the survivors’ kitchens, modernized by their partnering chef.
It has already won several cookbook awards in Israel, and was shortlisted with nine others in Gourmand’s Best Cookbook in the World category, and with four others in the charity category.
Fine sunny weather and the forest’s delightful spring blossoms welcomed around fifty performers from 27 countries throughout Europe, who had come to share the unique experience of planting a tree in Israel.
“I’m excited to be here in Israel, and planting a tree here is an amazing feeling,” declared singer Artsvik, from Armenia.
The Eurovision competitors had come to spend four days in Israel as guests of KKL-JNF and of the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage, and the municipalities of Tel Aviv and Herzliya. During their time in the country they toured Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and also gave a special concert for Eurovision fans.
The official reception was held at the Herzliya Marina immediately upon the delegation’s arrival in Israel. KKL-JNF was represented by Board member Itamar Herman, who told those present: “We are happy to show you the attractive aspects of Israel. Planting a tree expresses both a connection to Israel and the importance of conserving the environment.”
One of the high points of the visit was the planting of a tree at KKL-JNF’s planting center in the President’s-Tzora Forest. For Kasia Moś, Poland’s representative in Eurovision, this was the first time she had ever planted a tree. “As I love nature and the environment very much, and spend a lot of time rambling in the forest, I’m very glad indeed to have this opportunity to plant my first tree,” she said. Speaking of her experiences during her visit she added: “Israel is wonderful, the people are warm, the food is excellent and we feel very welcome here.”
Far from the city center but close to the wide Amstel River, Anne Frank’s childhood home is found in the tidy River Quarter. Although vast changes have occurred in some Amsterdam neighborhoods since World War II, the well-planned enclave in which the diarist grew up has been relatively untouched.
As a destination of choice for thousands of German Jews fleeing the Nazis, the River Quarter of the 1930s boasted large new housing projects and a sense of distance from the cramped inner city — including the dilapidated Jewish Quarter. The boulevards were wide and filling up with new trees, and many apartments had the coveted rarity of central heating. Trams connected the neighborhood to downtown, but like today, many people rode bicycles.
The Frank family’s apartment was on the Merwedeplein, a triangle-shaped cluster of housing blocks extending out from Amsterdam’s first high-rise, the 12-story wolkenkrabber, or skyscraper. Tenants’ children made constant use of the large courtyard, which was essentially a communal sandbox. To call down their playmates, children whistled personalized tunes outside each other’s windows. For these and other reasons, Frank called the Merwedeplein square, “The Merry.”
“Each building was like the next, its simple façade sand-colored brick, its shutters a plain white, its balconies in back just large enough for two chaise lounges,” wrote Melissa Muller in her acclaimed biography of Anne Frank. “This was modern city-planning, uncomplicated, versatile, inexpensive, without history and without profile — and perhaps for those very reasons perfect for people who had to start fresh.”
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