Telling the Truth about the IDF
Next week, Harvard University will be hosting the Israeli organization Breaking the Silence (BTS), an organization funded by anti-Israel groups that incites against the State of Israel and defames the IDF.
I served in the IDF during the Second Intifada. I also stood at checkpoints, stood guard, arrested people and fought in the Second Lebanon War. As an Israeli Arab and IDF solider in the Golani Brigade, I served together with Jews of all backgrounds, Druze and Bedouin. We were all equal, we were all brothers fighting side by side, and I can testify that I served in the most humane and moral army in the world, with the highest code of ethics and human values.
The IDF is an army that is level-headed and always keeps as its ultimate highest value human life. The IDF is an army that will bend over backwards to save lives and to ensure that innocent individuals are not harmed, even if it means complicating the military operation.
It is possible that there were incidents that did not live up to these standards, but these were the exceptions; they were not the norm and they were not the code by which the IDF is guided. They do not reflect the IDF nor the State of Israel.
During the Second Lebanese War, I was badly injured after I was hit by a Kornet missile that was fired by Hizbullah. My fellow soldiers saved my life while under attack; they risked their own lives to save mine.
Two days after BTS takes it stand at Harvard University, I will be there to speak to the students with Reservists on Duty.
The truth will prevail.
The writer, a resident of Nazareth, is an Arab Israeli Christian.
It is sometimes assumed that public criticism of the Allies’ failure to bomb Auschwitz began only in the late 1960s, when historians first began writing on the subject.
But a powerful new documentary film, to be screened in Jerusalem later this month, sheds light on a rabbi who publicly raised the issue just months after the war ended – and did so in the presence of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The Rumanian-born hassidic sage, Rabbi Yekutiel Yehudah Halberstam, better known as the Klausenberger Rebbe, was deported to Auschwitz in 1944 along with his wife and nine of their 11 children. He managed to survive the rigors of a slave labor brigade in Warsaw, as well as several death marches on the eve of the Allies’ liberation of Europe.
Rebbetzin Halberstam and 10 of their children were murdered by the Nazis. Their eldest son survived the Holocaust, only to die in a displaced persons camp shortly after.
The Rebbe ended up in Feldafing, a DP camp operated by the American occupation forces near Munich. That’s where he was on Yom Kippur in 1945, when Eisenhower, supreme commander of the Allied Forces in Europe and future president of the United States, was visiting the region.
Earlier this year, I spoke with Moshe Reich, whose father-in-law, Rabbi Yaakov Yitzhak Barminka, was an aide to the Klausenberger Rebbe. Reich (who has since passed away) shared with me his father-in-law’s eyewitness account of the Rebbe’s encounter with Eisenhower that Yom Kippur.
According to Barminka, the communist and Zionist DPs were at odds over who should have the honor of greeting Eisenhower and speaking at the welcoming ceremony. The compromise choice was the Rebbe. On Yom Kippur afternoon, the Rebbe ascended the podium where Eisenhower was seated.
Both the communists and the Zionists wanted to focus on postwar issues, rather than the Holocaust, but the Rebbe had other ideas. He spoke at length about what the Jews endured at the hands of the Nazis, then declared: “The Americans and England share in the guilt along with Hitler, because the Americans knew, for at least several years [what was happening in the death campus]. And they had the ability to bomb the railway lines [leading to Auschwitz] and they could have bombed the places [where Jews were being murdered]. A million Jews could have been saved [including] all the Jews of Hungary. If the Americans had intervened just a little bit earlier, it wouldn’t have happened.”
THE REBBE made his remarks in Yiddish. A simultaneous translation in English was provided to Eisenhower by Lt. Mayer Birnbaum, a young Orthodox soldier from Brooklyn who had been assigned to the American forces governing the DP camps. “Lt. Birnbaum told me that Eisenhower had tears in his eyes when the Rebbe finished,” Reich said.
We were saddened to see our tube poster at Russell Square defaced this morning. We have reported this graffiti & continue to welcome all to learn about Kristallnacht by visiting our exhibition pic.twitter.com/Bs3JmrI3aW
— The Wiener Library (@wienerlibrary) October 16, 2018
Videos of popular writers Jordan Peterson and Douglas Murray with Hebrew subtitles were blocked from being advertised on YouTube for being “dangerous and derogatory” this week, before being reinstated.
Books by both Peterson and Murray are due to be published in Hebrew in the coming months by Shibboleth, an imprint of the right-wing Sella Meir publishing house together with The Tikvah Fund, a conservative Jewish institution.
Earlier this week, two videos by Murray and one by Peterson that had been posted by Shibboleth were blocked from paid promotion on YouTube, which is owned by Google, with the claim that they contain “dangerous and derogatory content.”
The ban on advertising the content was lifted on Tuesday, shortly after a producer for commentator Erel Segal on 103FM, which is owned by The Jerusalem Post Group, asked Google about it.
Peterson and Murray are members of the “Intellectual Dark Web,” a group of heterodox academics and writers, most of whom became known through non-traditional media like YouTube, and consider themselves to be outside of the usual right-left political discourse.
Murray is a British political commentator who published The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity Islam last year. He is a critic of Islam and migration, and is on the international advisory board of the Israeli research institute NGO Monitor.
A massive march, with an estimated turnout of over 200,000 people held in the heart of Germany’s capital city on Saturday to protest right-wing extremism, featured speakers who urged the obliteration of the Jewish state and support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
The Jerusalem Post reviewed a video showing two speakers who called for the “liberation of all of Palestine 48” and “we must take a stand and boycott Israel. BDS.” The slogan to “liberate all of Palestine” reverts to the founding of the Jewish state in 1948 and is widely considered a euphemism to cleanse Israel of Jews.
The German Middle East expert Thomas von der Osten-Sacken wrote an article on the website of the Austrian-based think tank Mena-Watch, with the headline “Speaker at indivisible demonstration calls for Israel’s destruction.” The protest was called #unteilbar (indivisible) by its organizers.
Demonstrators at the march hoisted symbols in support of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), according to observers and German media reports. The European Union and the US designated the PFLP a terrorist group. In 2014, PFLP terrorists murdered four rabbis in a synagogue in Jerusalem.
The speakers who call for genocidal antisemitism against Israel and BDS delivered their talks under the banner of the pro-BDS and pro-PFLP organization International Alliance.
The Germany-based International Alliance supports sympathizers of the PFLP. As a result of the Post’s investigative series into terror finance and the BDS campaign, the US online payment service PayPal closed the account of the International Alliance in September. The Post reported on September 1 that the German bank Sparkasse Witten shut down the NGO’s account.
The Post reviewed photographs of supporters and flags from the Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany at the Indivisible march. The Marxist-Leninist Party formed an alliance with sympathizers of the PFLP. In 2017, a Post exposé caused the Deutsche Bank and the Postbank to pull the plug on accounts held by the party. The Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany suffered a stinging legal defeat in August when it sought to reverse the decision by Deutsche Bank and Postbank to terminate its accounts. A court in the city of Essen ruled in favor of Deutsche Bank and Postbank. The party is seeking to delist the PFLP as a terrorist organization. The party holds an account with the bank GLS in Bochum.
A pro-Israel group on Thursday denounced an “antisemitic” session recently hosted by an immigrant youth organization, which compared Israel with Nazi Germany and equated the movement for Jewish self-determination with white supremacy and genocide.
Handouts distributed to attendees at the “Palestine Without Borders” presentation at the 2018 United We Dream National Congress — which took place in Miami, Florida between October 5-7 — featured a number of disputed allegations, among them that Zionism seeks an “exclusively Jewish state that necessitates the wiping out” of Palestinians.
They also branded Israel as a “white dominant empire” and a “settler colony,” whose government seeks to maintain “a majority of … white Jewish people.”
According to a video of the workshop, which was led by activists from the Houston, Texas chapter of the anti-Zionist group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), one speaker described Zionism as “genocide and colonization” for “the indigenous people of Palestine,” and accused Israel of practicing “ongoing apartheid.”
“It’s basically a racialized law system,” akin to Nazi Germany, apartheid South Africa, and Jim Crow, he said.
He further argued that Israel — which collectively brought in tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews during major airlift operations in the 1980s and 1990s, and where the majority of Jews from Middle Eastern communities that were decimated by antisemitic violence and persecution during the 20th century found refuge — is “for white Jews only.”
News from Michigan tends to reach me here in Israel given my personal and professional ties to the state. Having taught at Queens College CUNY and at Yeshiva University, and as a lawyer whose undergraduate major and MBA concentration were in Organizations & Management, I now critique the situation at the University of Michigan from a legal and managerial perspective.
Professor John Cheney-Lippold recently reneged on his offer to write a recommendation letter for his student, Abigail Ingber, because and only because the institution to which Ingber sought admittance was an Israeli school. In his email to Ingber, Cheney-Lippold falsely claimed that his department has a policy of boycotting Israeli academic institutions, a claim he subsequently backtracked upon with highly questionable credibility, since official statements of the University’s position against academic boycotts were publicly issued in 2013 and 2017.
I emailed Cheney-Lippold’s department chair requesting a copy of that alleged policy; or, if the policy had not been put in writing, the minutes of the departmental meetings when the policy was instituted; or, if no such policy existed, to so confirm. The Chair courteously responded to me, and confirmed that her department has no such policy. The University’s Freedom of Information Officer subsequently sent me an official letter, which stated that “there are no departments within the University of Michigan with such a policy.”
These denials are quite credible, given the propensity of department chairs to meticulously ensure that their departments conform to general university policy. There nevertheless remains the slight possibility that one or more university departments have effectively instituted informal BDS support policies; if so, it would only take one unhappy camper within the department to expose the same, thereby profoundly undermining the University’s posture in a litigation situation. Sound risk management would dictate that the university obtain confirmation from all its departments that they have no formal or informal academic boycott policies — or else come clean and reverse any such policies forthwith.
A lecture at the University of Michigan several weeks ago that consisted of a slide comparing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Adolf Hitler included another antisemitic image, JNS has learned.
Student Alexa Smith captured the images from the slideshow, given by former Black Panther leader Emory Douglas, and posted them on social media.
Regarding the additional image, Smith said: “These images come from the playbook of Hitler and Goebbels. They invoke the most classical—and most genocidal—antisemitic conspiracy theories.”
The University of Michigan defended the lecture. “The image that offended a number of our students was on a single slide among nearly 200 other slides that were presented over the course of an hour,” said University President Mark Schlissel. “It juxtaposed photos of Israel’s prime minister and Hitler.”
“Israel was not singled out here as imagery critical of many other political leaders was also a part of the talk,” he continued. “This was the point of the talk itself—that imagery can be a powerful component of movements aimed at social justice.”
Schlissel response evoked a strong reaction from Smith.
“It is perverse and profoundly offensive for President Schlissel to play down the seriousness of our community’s concerns by declaring that the slide equating the Prime Minister of Israel to Hitler was ‘one of nearly 200 slides’ as if, in context, this was ‘no big deal,’” said Smith.
Sen. Robert Menendez hardly needs to establish his pro-Israel bona fides: He is guaranteed a standing ovation every time he appears at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and pro-Israel political donors are lining up to back him in an unexpectedly close race for re-election.
But the New Jersey Democrat joined a gaggle of colleagues last week in reaffirming one of his signature issues after the New York Times suggested that the Democrats’ support for Israel is tottering.
The story, headlined “A New Wave of Democrats Tests the Party’s Blanket Support for Israel,” may have overstated it: There have been a handful of high-profile nominees among Democrats who have indeed questioned orthodoxies about support for Israel, and there is more broadly a readiness to criticize the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, arising in part from his open pro-Trump partisanship.
The Times named a number of candidates challenging for seats in the US House of Representatives, among them: Ilhan Omar in Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York, Rashida Tlaib in Michigan and Leslie Cockburn in Virginia. All four have been tough on Israel in the past, and commentary by Omar has been outright hostile. Tlaib favors ending assistance to Israel. (Others mentioned in the article have been targeted by Republicans using guilt-by-association tactics, but have conventional Israel views.)
In the piece, Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, laments the “fact that this is allowed to metastasize in the Democratic Party without any real pushback.”
The Virginia Republican Party accused Democratic House candidate Leslie Cockburn of hating Israel and America in a new attack ad aimed at the contender.
“Leslie Cockburn hates veterans, hates ICE, hates Israel,” the footnoted ad posted late last week on the Virginia GOP Facebook and Twitter pages reads. “Basically, Leslie Cockburn hates America.”
Cockburn is a former “60 Minutes” producer running in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District against Republican Denver Riggleman, a former Air Force intelligence officer and distillery owner. They are seeking the seat to be left vacant by Thomas Garrett, a Republican, who announced he would not seek re-election after revealing that he was struggling with alcoholism.
The rural district includes the city of Charlottesville, the site of a white nationalist rally one year ago. The district is likely to lean Republican, according to reports.
John Findlay, executive director of the state Republican Party, defended the ad in comments reported in The Washington Post.
“She called ICE agents the Gestapo. She insulted our veterans. She blames American foreign policy for everything that’s wrong in the world,” he said. “What more do we need — a tape of her saying she hates apple pie?”
Cockburn and her husband, Andrew Cockburn, co-wrote a book published in 1991 titled “Dangerous Liaison” that was highly critical of the US-Israel alliance.
The Republican Jewish Coalition also launched a $300,000 ad campaign on television and social media this week emphasizing that Cockburn had dinner with Saddam Hussein’s sons Uday and Qusay, and tea with the late Libyan strongman Moammar Ghadafi, while a journalist for Vanity Fair more than two decades ago. It said the book co-written with her husband was called “Israel-bashing” in a review in The New York Times. The ad proclaims that Cockburn is “Out of Touch” and “Out to Lunch.”
The progressive advocacy group J Street claims to be “pro-Israel, pro-peace.” But during their decade-long history, they have advocated for policies that can only be described as dangerous to the safety and security of the Jewish state and have continuously supported candidates that are adamantly anti-Israel. The organization misled the public for years – denying they are funded by anti-Israel billionaire George Soros. So, it’s not surprising J Street compromises its so-called values when it comes to protecting their far-left agenda.
Belying its pro-Israel pretense yet again, J Street already has a credibility issue; but now it has a serious #MeToo problem.
“Clergy play a critical role in our movement,” according to J Street’s website. Indeed, the group has assembled a collection of left-leaning rabbis to write letters that appeal to moral authority as they lobby Congress for policies that fit their progressive agenda.
With regard to the principles that “guide” these rabbis, J Street declares: “Our work is grounded in the values on which we were raised.”
Which of these rabbinic values allows sexual misconduct to go unchecked inside their rabbinical cabinet?
At least two rabbis affiliated with J Street have been suspended for sexual misconduct, as well as Jewish leader Steven M. Cohen, and a third has been expelled by the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR).
Rabbi Larry Bach was a member of J Street’s Rabbinic Cabinet but disappeared from its website after multiple accusations of adultery.
The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) has condemned organizers and planners of the “Christ at the Checkpoint” Conference for hosting Rev. Dr. Stephen Sizer, a well-known purveyor of anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
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The conference is currently taking place in Oklahoma City as part of the organization’s concerted effort to turn Middle America away from supporting Israel.
One of the key points in the Christ at the Checkpoint ‘manifesto’ is that, “for Palestinian Christians, the occupation is the core issue of the conflict.”
“Sizer’s presence at a ‘peacemaking’ conference hosted in part by the United Methodist Church Foundation in Oklahoma is a shock,” said Dexter Van Zile, senior Christian media analyst for CAMERA. “Sizer’s animus toward Israel and his disdain for Jews is well-documented. He has demonized Israel and its supporters in the U.S. before audiences in Iran and Malaysia. He has posted anti-Semitic links on his social-media accounts.”
Sizer retired as a priest in the Church of England after a series of scandals prompted church officials to instruct him to remain silent about issues related to the Middle East. After retiring, he participated in a pro-Hezbollah conference that took place earlier this year in London.
“Sizer promotes a theological and political anti-Semitism that has made Jewish life increasingly difficult in England,” said Van Zile. “Why are Oklahoman Methodists helping to import his message to America’s heartland?”
A British man whose views were labeled “clearly anti-Semitic” by the Church of England is scheduled to speak this week to an evangelical group working to erode support for Israel within the Christian community.
Christ at the Checkpoint, which promotes the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, is holding its conference this week in Oklahoma City. One of its featured speakers is Stephen Sizer, whose stated views on Israel include suggesting they were behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 in the United States.
Sizer, a vicar who was banned by the Church of England from discussing the Middle East due to his frequent anti-Semitic social media postings, is a leading critic of “Christian Zionism.” Sizer was later ordered to “cease all preaching, teaching and leading of services” for good in 2017 after breaking his pledge to refrain from commenting on Israel, and is now retired from the church.
Sizer has long been spotlighted by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which celebrated his removal from the church, calling him a “repeat offender in the trafficking of antisemitic slurs.” The straw that broke the camel’s back for the church was his participation, after already being ordered to refrain from commenting on Israel, at an event where the Holocaust was blamed on the Jewish people.
Critics of the conference say Sizer’s participation is further evidence of the disruptive influence the group has on the relationship between Christians and Jews.
“Christ at the Checkpoint seeks to drive Christians away from supporting Israel,” said Luke Moon of the Philos Project, which aims to build support for Israel in the Christian community. “To do that, they invited Stephen Sizer, who authored the definitive work against Christian Zionism. Unsurprisingly, he is also an anti-Semite who cozies up with the Syrian regime and traffics in conspiracy theories that the Jews are responsible for 9/11.”
“It’s unfortunate that people like Sizer are given a platform to undermine the important work of Christian and Jewish relations,” Moon said.
The German city of Stuttgart, the capital of the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg, has removed the promotional page for a hardcore anti-Semitic boycotts group, after Benjamin Weinthal reported in The Jerusalem Post a week ago Sunday that the municipal promoted the entry for the pro-BDS organization Palestine Committee.
“BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] propagates the goal of an Israel boycott. Therefore, we have removed the address entry of the association of Palestine Committee Stuttgart from the website stuttgart.de,” Sven Matis, a spokesman for the city’s Green Party Mayor Fritz Kuhn, told the Post, Weinthal reported Friday.
Matis explained that additional research led to new conclusions that Palestine Committee lists “boycott measures against Israel” on its website and draws a parallel between Israel and an “apartheid state.” In contrast to other German cities – such as Munich, Frankfurt and Berlin – Stuttgart does not have a law prohibiting the use of city funds and space for BDS activity.
Germany’s best-selling newspaper Bild on Wednesday cited the fact that Mayor Kuhn allowed a boycott-Israel entry on the city’s website, financed by the taxpayers, as an example of modern anti-Semitism in the German Green Party.
“We are committed to combat BDS as a top priority, in Germany and elsewhere. We will address the Stuttgart authorities on the issue,” said Emmanuel Nahshon, spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during September 2018 shows that throughout the month a total of 204 incidents took place: 70 in Judea & Samaria, 10 in Jerusalem and 124 in the Gaza Strip sector.
In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 61 attacks with petrol bombs, eight attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), seven arson attacks, one shooting attack and three stabbing attacks.
Incidents recorded in the Gaza Strip sector included 66 attacks with petrol bombs, 35 attacks using IEDs and twenty-three grenade attacks. There were no cases of rocket or mortar fire during September.
One civilian was murdered and one member of the security forces was wounded in attacks that took place during September. The BBC News website did not produce any coverage at the time of the fatal stabbing in Gush Etzion on September 16th but mentioned it a week later in a subsequent report.
The ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip – including the incident in which a soldier was injured in a grenade attack along on September 21st – was not the topic of any dedicated BBC News website news reports throughout the month.
In summary, visitors to the BBC News website saw very belated coverage of just one (0.49%) of the 204 terror incidents which took place during September.
A Polish court has fined an Israeli teenager who admitted he urinated on a memorial at the site of the former Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, a court spokeswoman said Tuesday.
The 19-year-old man, who was identified only as Zeev K., committed the act in late March and was arrested the same day but released after admitting to it.
“The court found the accused guilty as charged and imposed a fine of 5,000 zloty ($1,350),” Daria Pichorz from the district court in the southern city of Krakow said.
Pichorz said that Zeev K. was not present for the verdict by a regional court in the nearby town of Oswiecim where Auschwitz is located, but added that he had agreed to pay the fine.
A guide from the museum and several other people witnessed the act.
The memorial in question is located between the ruins of the two crematoriums at the former death camp set up by Nazi Germany after occupying Poland during World War II.
Anti-Semitic and racist fliers supporting the Ku Klux Klan were dropped on dozens of homes in Cherry Hill, a Philadelphia suburb with a large Jewish population.
At least 30 homes in the southern New Jersey township discovered the fliers on lawns and front walkways on Saturday morning, according to local reports. The fliers were placed in Ziploc bags and weighed down with rice.
Some featured a picture of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. Others used the image of a black man on trial before a Jewish judge and wearing a shirt that says “Kill Whitey” with racist language.
“YOU are your own worst ENEMY if you do not join us to fight for your rights as a White American,” one flier reads.
The fliers all featured the emblem of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan at the bottom with a phone number to call.
Police are scanning home security video tapes in an attempt to identify those responsible for distributing the fliers.
“This type of hatred and bigotry will not be tolerated in our town,” Cherry Hill Mayor Chuck Cahn told the local CBS affiliate. “We will investigate this matter until we identify the individuals responsible and will prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”
Israel’s Aidoc, a maker of software that helps radiologists in their work, is on a roll: In August the company said it received US Food and Drug Administration approval for its first product, a deep learning solution that assists radiologists in detecting acute brain bleeds in CT scans, and earlier this month the startup was listed by Time magazine as one of the 50 Genius companies for 2018, along with the likes of Apple, Airbnb and Spotify.
Aidoc’s artificial intelligence-based software analyzes medical images immediately after patients are scanned and notifies radiologists of unusual findings, to assist with prioritization of time-sensitive and potentially life-threatening cases.
The startup, founded in 2016 by a team of alumni of an elite technology unit in the Israeli army, where they focused on AI-based projects, has been selling its products outside the US since December 2017. Its software has been deployed in over 50 medical centers worldwide, where they are used on a daily basis analyzing over 1 million exams a year, the company said in a recent statement.
With over 75% of all patient care involving radiology, the amount of imaging required has jumped. Radiologists are being pressured to produce quality results at a faster pace with increasing amounts of data — but with tools that are not up to the task, the company said.
By providing radiologists with a tool to analyze medical images like CT scans at high speed, the Tel Aviv-based company has helped practitioners save more than 50,000 hours of human work, Time magazine said.
The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations in Marseilles, France, will be dedicating close to a week of exploring current Israeli television.
The museum, known as Mucem, will kick off its Israeli TV Series Week on Thursday, with a slate of programming including a talk by Keshet CEO Avi Nir, who will discuss the history of Israeli television and its explosion onto the global stage over the past decade.
The world is in a golden age of television, the museum said, “and we are not witnessing another exclusive victory for American hegemony, since in less than a decade some small countries have become world leaders in this field: Denmark, Sweden, Australia and especially in Israel, the largest exporter of TV series per capita, some of which are broadcast in more than 40 countries.”
The four days of the special event have been divided up into three categories of television shows: women, religion and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The series to be screened about women include the HOT show Metumtemet (Dumb), created, written and starred in by Bat-Chen Sabag, and On the Spectrum, a HOT series about young adults with autism that won the top prize at Series Mania in France earlier this year.
On the topic of religion, local audiences can see episodes of the hit Yes show Shtisel, which focuses on an ultra-Orthodox family living in Jerusalem’s Meah She’arim; and Autonomies, the new HOT dystopia that imagines a State of Israel divided into two autonomous nations – haredi and secular.
“There’s a lot going on in Lemberg,” Otto von Wächter wrote breezily to his wife, Charlotte, in the spring of 1942.
For the recently installed Nazi governor of Galicia, they were indeed busy times.
His promotion to oversee the newly conquered territory — then part of Poland, now part of Ukraine — came in the same month the Wannsee Conference approved the greatest crime in human history, the attempted annihilation of European Jewry.
Over the next 18 months, on Wächter’s watch, the Nazis deported and murdered almost every Jew in Lemberg — modern-day Lviv — and the surrounding countryside. In total, an estimated 500,000 Jews were slaughtered in Galicia.
Wächter’s responsibility is of special interest to the British attorney, academic and international law expert Philippe Sands, whose grandfather’s family — some 80 men, women and children — perished in the city.
The author of the acclaimed 2016 book “East West Street,” Sands returns this month with a new project. “The Ratline” — a BBC-backed podcast which is also currently being broadcast on the corporation’s principal news channel, Radio 4 — goes in search of Wächter’s story. A follow-up book entitled “A Death in the Vatican” is set to follow in 2020.
But this is no ordinary investigation of the atrocious acts of a man who, as Sands concedes in the first of 10 gripping episodes, many people have never heard of. Instead, much of the drama turns on the extraordinary relationship between Sands and his accomplice, Wächter’s 79-year-old son.
“Even a hunter cannot kill a bird that flies to him for refuge.” This Samurai maxim inspired one gifted and courageous man to save thousands of people in defiance of his government and at the cost of his career. On Friday I came to Nagoya at the invitation of the Japanese government to speak in honor of his memory.
The astonishing Chiune Sugihara raises again the questions: What shapes a moral hero? And how does someone choose to save people that others turn away?
Research on those who rescued Jews during the Holocaust shows that many exhibited a streak of independence from an early age. Sugihara was unconventional in a society known for prizing conformity. His father insisted that his son, a top student, become a doctor. But Sugihara wanted to study languages and travel and immerse himself in literature. Forced to sit for the medical exam, he left the entire answer sheet blank. The same willfulness was on display when he entered the diplomatic corps and, as vice minister of the Foreign Affairs Department for Japan in Manchuria in 1934, resigned in protest of the Japanese treatment of the Chinese.
A second characteristic of such heroes and heroines, as the psychologist Philip Zimbardo writes, is “that the very same situations that inflame the hostile imagination in some people, making them villains, can also instill the heroic imagination in other people, prompting them to perform heroic deeds.” While the world around him disregarded the plight of the Jews, Sugihara was unable to ignore their desperation.
In 1939 Sugihara was sent to Lithuania, where he ran the consulate. There he was soon confronted with Jews fleeing from German-occupied Poland.
Three times Sugihara cabled his embassy asking for permission to issue visas to the refugees. The cable from K. Tanaka at the foreign ministry read: “Concerning transit visas requested previously stop advise absolutely not to be issued any traveler not holding firm end visa with guaranteed departure ex japan stop no exceptions stop no further inquires expected stop.”
Sugihara talked about the refusal with his wife, Yukiko, and his children and decided that despite the inevitable damage to his career, he would defy his government.
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