Tom Gross Mideast Media Analysis

British Islamist leader: Grenfell Tower victims “were murdered” by British Zionists

July 09, 2017

 

[Note by Tom Gross]

Almost every day there are new reports about anti-Semitism from those close to the British Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who many pundits now believe may be on course to become Britain’s next prime minister.

I don’t want to inundate readers with too many articles, so I am just attaching two pieces below, one from today’s Sunday Telegraph, the other from yesterday’s Daily Telegraph.

 

BHAM CITED GOEBBELS’ COMPARISON OF JEWS TO “FLEAS”

The Daily Telegraph piece concerns an Islamist preacher who compared Jews to ‘fleas,’ who is due to speak in a government building in central London this weekend.

Amazingly, the building in question – the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Westminster – is run by the British government department responsible for tackling extremism and encouraging integration.

A plea to their own government by several Conservative MPs to stop the talk by Ebrahim Bham, who previously acted as an interpreter to one of the heads of the Taliban, from going ahead, under Britain’s hate crime laws, has gone unanswered.

Thousands of anti-Israel activists attended the first day of the event yesterday. Other speakers including radical Muslims, anti-Zionist Australian journalist John Pilger and Israel-hating former Israeli academic Professor Ilan Pappe.

Recordings of Bham’s can be found on the website of South Africa’s Council of Muslim Theologians, of which he is secretary general.

In one he says: “Goebbel [sic] was a very famous minister of the Nazis… One day he said that ‘People tell me that Jews are human beings. Yes, I know they are human beings. Just as fleas are also animals.’” (Goebbels went on to say that the fleas needed to be exterminated.)

 

BRITISH ISLAMIST LEADER: GRENFELL TOWER VICTIMS “WERE MURDERED” BY BRITISH ZIONISTS

The Sunday Telegraph piece today concerns a British Islamist leader, Nazim Ali, who claims the victims at Grenfell Tower (the west London high rise that burned down after a fridge caught fire last month) “were murdered” by British Zionists.

Of note:

Nazim Ali, like quite a number of senior Islamic extremists, and indeed several senior Nazis in Germany in the 1930s and 40s, is a doctor

Nazim Ali is also a “human rights activist”. As I have noted in past dispatches, the so-called “human rights industry” particularly in Western Europe and to some extent in the US, is riddled with racist and particularly anti-Semitic bigots.

Nazim Ali shared a platform with Jeremy Corbyn at the annual al-Quds Day march in London in 2012, a march inspired by the Islamic Republic of Iran with help from the Lebanese terrorist group Hizbullah.

 

CORBYN’S HENCHMEN TARGET MODERATE JEWISH MP

Among the moderate Labour MPs now being targeted for de-selection by Corbyn’s extremist supporters is my friend Luciana Berger in Liverpool, a longtime subscriber to this email list, who has also been targeted with anti-Semitic abuse (below) from people who support Corbyn.

The driving-force in the hard-left take-over of Berger’s Liverpool Wavertree constituency party is a Trotskyist organization run by notorious anti-Zionist conspiracy theorist Gerry Downing.

One of the others targeting Berger is Roy Bentham, a writer for the Socialist Fight website, run by Downing, who has previously said that the Labour Party must address “the Jewish question” and suggested that the 9/11 hijackers “must never be condemned”.

About 2,000 new members of Corbyn’s far-left wing Momentum movement have joined the local Liverpool Wavertree Labour party since 2015.

 

THOUSANDS AT ARTS FESTIVAL CHANT FOR CORBYN

This video is from Glastonbury, Britain’s last month’s major performing arts festival in the UK

You may also be interested in this short interview with me last month concerning Corbyn’s foreign policy views.

 

GIVING THE MIDDLE FINGER

In other news from the UK:

Pro-Palestinian protest at Radiohead concert earns middle finger

 

PHEW!

In separate news, 53 degrees Celsius -- a record high temperature for Saudi Arabia -- has been recorded in the last two days.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1125641/saudi-arabia


ARTICLES

OUTRAGE AS ISLAMIST CLAIMS GRENFELL TOWER VICTIMS WERE ‘MURDERED BY ZIONISTS’ WHO FUND CONSERVATIVE PARTY

Outrage as Islamist claims Grenfell Tower victims were ‘murdered by Zionists’ who fund Conservative Party
By Robert Mendick
Sunday Telegraph
July 9, 2017

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/07/08/outrage-islamist-claims-grenfell-tower-victims-murdered-zionists/

An Islamist activist has claimed the Grenfell Tower victims “were murdered” by Zionists who fund the Conservative party in an astonishing outburst now being investigated by police.

Nazim Ali, a director of the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), is accused of exploiting the tragedy during an anti-Israel demonstration in the days after the fire.

The Metropolitan Police said it was now investigating allegations of anti-Semitic comments made during the protest.

Mr Ali, who is managing partner of a private health clinic in west London which charges patients up to £150 for a GP consultation, told the rally on June 18: “As we know in Grenfell, many innocents were murdered by Theresa May’s cronies, many of which are supporters of Zionist ideology.”

In video footage posted online, Mr Ali goes on: “Let us not forget that some of the biggest corporations who were supporting the Conservative Party are Zionists. They are responsible for the murder of the people in Grenfell, in those towers in Grenfell, the Zionist supporters of the Tory Party.”

In another heated outburst, he says: “It is the Zionists who give money to the Tory party, to kill people in high rise blocks.... Careful, careful, careful of those rabbis who belong to the Board of Deputies, who have got blood on their hands.”

The al-Quds Day march is held annually on the last Friday of Ramadan and was initiated by the Islamic Republic of Iran in support of the Palestinian cause and in opposition to Israel. It also supports the political wing of Hizbollah. The group’s military wing is banned in the UK as a terrorist organisation.

Ahead of the march the IHRC encouraged its supporters to “bring a Hezbollah flag to show support for the political wing of Hezbollah. This is because the political wing of Hizbullah is not a proscribed organisation.”

Mr Ali, who chairs the rally, is listed as a director of the IHRC, which co-organises the event in the UK. In 2012, Mr Ali introduced Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, as the keynote speaker at the protest march. Mr Corbyn did not attend this year’s event.

The IHRC describes itself as an independent, not for profit campaign and advocacy group which works with the United Nations and submits reports to Government

The Community Security Trust, which monitors anti-Semitism in the UK, said it was appalled by Mr Ali’s comments and had reported him to the police. It said it was “grotesque” for Mr Ali to link the Grenfell Tower disaster, in which more than 80 people perished, with his opposition to Zionism.

A CST spokesman said: “In any circumstance, these comments would have been utterly hateful, but to hang them on what happened at Grenfell Tower beggared belief. It was, of course, a pro-Hizbollah demonstration, but such hatred would have been staggering even in Beirut or Tehran, never mind the streets of London.”

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: “We received an allegation of anti-semitic comments and it is being investigated by detectives from Westminster CID. The inquiry continues.”

The IHRC failed to respond to request for comment from The Telegraph.

In response Mr Ali told The Sunday Telegraph “You have not presented what I said accurately in the wider context of what was said in the prelude to the minute’s silence for Grenfell. As presented it sounds somewhat inelegant… To say that some of Theresa May or the Tory party’s supporters are Zionists is hardly controversial.”

 

ISLAMIST PREACHER WHO COMPARED JEWS TO ‘FLEAS’ TO SPEAK AT UK GOVERNMENT BUILDING

Exclusive: Islamist preacher who compared Jews to ‘fleas’ to speak at Palestine Expo event in government building
Ebrahim Bham once cited the Nazi minister Joseph Goebbels in a comparison of Jews to “fleas”
By Harry Yorke and Edward Malnick
Daily Telegraph
July 8, 2017

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/07/07/exclusiveislamist-preacher-compared-jews-fleas-speak-palestine/

An Islamic hate preacher who once cited a Nazi comparison of Jews to “fleas” has been given a platform to speak at a conference to be held in a prominent Government building run by the department responsible for tackling extremism and encouraging integration.

Ebrahim Bham, a South African cleric who previously acted as an interpreter to the Taliban’s head legal advisor, will address the Palestine Expo at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre this weekend, despite Home Office officials warning Sajid Javid, the Communities Secretary, to cancel the event, the Telegraph can disclose.

Last night a group of Conservative MPs and ex-servicemen called on the Prime Minister to intervene in order to prevent government buildings being used by “groups which oppose our values and ideals.” Mr Bham is due to speak at the conference tomorrow [SUN] afternoon having already attended events at a number of London mosques this week as part of a UK tour.

The Palestine Expo has been organised by the Friends of Al-Aqsa, whose chairman, Ismail Patel, once publicly denied that Hamas was a terrorist organisation.

In a letter written to the group on June 14 the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said Mr Javid was minded to cancel the event. It cited “concerns that your organisation and those connected with it have expressed public support for a proscribed organisation, namely Hamas, and that you have supported events at which Hamas and Hizballah – also proscribed – have been praised”.

Mr Patel subsequently threatened to take the department to court and DCLG allowed the event to continue, “following careful consideration”.

Recordings of Mr Bham’s sermons can be found on the website of South Africa’s Council of Muslim Theologians, of which he is secretary general.

In one he says: “Goebbel [sic] was a very famous minister of the Nazis, and he tried to justify the killing of the Jews. Now as far as we are concerned, we do not need to feel apologetic because it was not done by Muslims.

“The Muslims did not do it, but they had to suffer the consequences of the Holocaust. Because Europe, because of its guilt, had to shed its Jews. And they couldn’t put them in Europe, they put them in Palestine at the expense of the indigenous Palestinian Muslim people.”

Quoting Goebbels, he adds: “One day he said that ‘People tell me that Jews are human beings. Yes, I know they are human beings. Just as fleas are also animals. Just as fleas are also animals, they are also part of human beings like that.’

“Using that example, the psyche of the whole people [Jews] seems to be to mete out the very same treatment to others the way it was meted out toward them.”

In another lecture Mr Bham claims that “homosexuality is wrong, no matter how many people carry it out. Good and evil will never be equal, no matter how many people follow falsehood.”

Allowing this event to go ahead represents a blatant double standard from the government.

South African intelligence documents claim that in 1997 Mr Bham acted as an interpreter for Nizamudeen Shamzai, the then head legal counsel to the Taliban.

The decision to allow the event was strongly criticised by Christian Concern, a group which had a booking at the centre cancelled in 2012 during its campaign against the legalisation of gay marriage.

Andrea Williams, Christian Concern’s chief executive, said: “Allowing this event to go ahead represents a blatant double standard from the government, after it earlier banned our conference on marriage at short notice from taking place in the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre.”

Writing in today’s Daily Telegraph, a group including four Conservatives MPs, Col Tim Collins, the Iraq War commander, and the chairman of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism state: “Whilst the government is rightly strong in its rhetoric, it must back this up by denying extremists of all kinds the platforms they require to divide our communities.

“We call on the Prime Minister to take all necessary steps to prevent Palestine Expo from taking place in UK taxpayer-owned buildings, and prevent the future use of such buildings … by groups which oppose our values and ideals.”

Mr Patel said the charge of extremism was simply an attempt to prevent pro-Palestinian voices from being heard, and that “our speakers are from across communities”. When he denied that Hamas was a terrorist organisation he was referring to the “political entity” rather than the proscribed military wing, he added.

Mr Bham denied preaching hate and said he had never supported the Taliban nor agreed with categorisations of Jews as “sub-human”. His citing of Goebbels was to make the point that “given what the Jews had undergone … Israel should be more sensitive of the human rights of Palestinians and not regard them as sub human.”

A DCLG spokesman said the QEII centre operates “at arm’s length from government” and “does not represent, endorse or support the views of any organisations hiring its event spaces.”

Any events must be “in line with fundamental British values.”

 

* You can also find other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia

Bibi and Modi frolic in the Med, as the Indian-Israeli love affair deepens

July 06, 2017

 

 

[Note by Tom Gross]

The ongoing historic visit of India’s Narendra Modi to Israel (the first by an Indian prime minister), spanning three days, has not received as much international media coverage as it might – perhaps because Modi becomes the first world leader in living memory to refuse to also pay a courtesy call to the Palestinian leadership by visiting them in Ramallah or Bethlehem.

As part of an action-packed schedule, now in its third day, Modi and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu this morning waded into the Mediterranean Sea as they visited a revolutionary Israeli-invented Mobile Desalination Unit (photo above).

The series of desalination plants Israel has built along its coast now supplies most of the water to the country’s homes, relieving Israel of the chronic water shortages it once suffered, as it pumps increasing amounts of water from the sea.

Arid nations and states around the world – from California to Egypt – are expected to copy Israel’s world leading centralized water management system.

You can watch a video of the two leaders wading in the waters here.

Modi and Netanyahu also signed a wide-ranging series of economic agreements as India, soon to the world’s most populous country, seeks Israeli help in agriculture, medicine, aerospace, defense and other areas.

As Nirpal Dhaliwal, a writer for India Today, says in the Haaretz article below:

“India’s prime minister has declared independence from the limited, privileged worldview of previous Indian leaders who adopted wholesale the British left’s coldness towards Israel.”

I attach for article extracts and four articles below.

-- Tom Gross

 

CONTENTS

1. “Modi and Netanyahu begin a beautiful friendship” (By Tunku Varadarajan, Wall Street Journal)
2. “India’s Pro-Arab stance was never rewarded by the Arab world” (By Harsh V. Pant, Indian Daily Mail, July 4, 2017)
3. Israel, India sign sweeping trade and research agreements (Israel Hayom)
4. Modi meets Israeli boy who survived terror attack on Mumbai Jewish center (Yediot Ahronot)
5. “Diplomacy in action: The India-Israel Breakthrough” (By Walter Russell Mead, The American Interest, July 3, 2017)
6. “Lovefest with Israel signals India’s final rejection of the Raj” (By Nirpal Dhaliwal, Haaretz, July 6, 2017)
7. “The touchy issue [Iran] left off the agenda of Modi’s visit to Israel” (By Barak Ravid, Haaretz, July 6, 2017)
8. “As India and Israel embrace, talk about a ‘Zionist-Hindu’ conspiracy is spiking in Pakistan: Even though conspiracy theories and anti-Semitism are ubiquitous in Pakistan, Modi’s visit to Israel has led them to alarming new heights” (By Kunwar Khuldune Shahid, Haaretz, July 6, 2017)
9. “Modi is coming to Jerusalem” (By Prof. Efraim Inbar, Asia Pacific Bulletin, June 7, 2017)

 

ARTICLE EXTRACTS

MODI AND NETANYAHU BEGIN A BEAUTIFUL FRIENDSHIP

Tunku Varadarajan writes in The Wall Street Journal:

No Indian premier considered visiting Israel for fear of upsetting India’s Arab allies - and, thereby, its supply of oil - as well as its sizable Muslim population. In truth, India and Israel have long done clandestine business. Israel helped India with weapons in its war with Pakistan in 1965. India returned the favor in 1967 when it gave Israel spare parts for its Ouragan and Mystere fighter planes. Israel played a key role in helping India win its war with Pakistan in 1999, with its supply of Searcher-1 drones.

With the global surplus in oil and gas, India no longer fears an Arab backlash to its embrace of Israel. After the Yom Kippur War of 1973, the Saudis ordered India to shut down Israel’s Consulate in Bombay or face a cutoff of oil. Indira Gandhi refused, and the country had to resort to a deal with the shah’s Iran that involved paying huge sums into a slush fund for a senior member of the shah’s household.

The world’s biggest democracy is now unabashedly in Israel’s corner. Modi and Netanyahu have formally acknowledged a civilizational bond between two peoples that share many of the same values and all of the same fears. India and Israel are allies for the long haul. The writer is a fellow in journalism at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

 

INDIA’S PRO-ARAB STANCE WAS NEVER REWARDED BY THE ARAB WORLD

Harsh V. Pant writes in The Indian Daily Mail:

India is no longer initiating anti-Israel resolutions at the UN and has made serious attempts to moderate the Non-Aligned Movement’s anti-Israel resolutions. This re-evaluation has been based on a realization that India’s largely pro-Arab stance in West Asia has not been adequately rewarded by the Arab world.

India has received no worthwhile backing from the Arab countries in the resolution of problems it faces in Kashmir. There have been no serious attempts by the Arab world to put pressure on Pakistan to reign in cross-border insurgency in Kashmir. On the contrary, the Arab nations have firmly stood by Pakistan, using the Organization of Islamic Conference to build support for Islamabad and the jihadi groups in Kashmir.

www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-4665864/India-s-stance-not-rewarded-Arab-world.html

 

ISRAEL, INDIA SIGN SWEEPING TRADE AND RESEARCH AGREEMENTS

Israel Hayom Reports:

Israel and India signed a series of sweeping trade, commerce, and research and development treaties during Indian Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Israel. Representatives from large Indian corporations signed trade agreements in the fields of industry, security, energy and medicine. The two countries will collaborate on adapting Israeli technologies to the extreme conditions of outer space. Another treaty will see Israel and India establish an international network aimed at cultivating young leaders worldwide.

 

MODI MEETS ISRAELI BOY WHO SURVIVED TERROR ATTACK ON MUMBAI JEWISH CENTER

Yediot Ahronot reports:

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Wednesday with Moshe Holtzberg, now ten years old, whose parents, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka, were murdered in the 2008 terror attack on the Chabad House in Mumbai. Moshe, who was 2 years old at the time, survived the attack thanks to his Indian nanny, Sandra Samuel, who came with him to Israel and was granted Israeli citizenship.


FULL ARTICLES

DIPLOMACY IN ACTION: THE INDIA-ISRAEL BREAKTHROUGH

Diplomacy in action: The India-Israel Breakthrough
By Walter Russell Mead
The American Interest
July 3, 2017

https://www.the-american-interest.com/2017/07/03/india-israel-breakthrough/

This week, Narendra Modi will make history as India’s first Prime Minister to make an official visit to Israel. As the FT reports, he will be putting the Palestinian issue aside to forge closer ties on defense, agriculture, tech, and trade:

“Mr Modi’s trip, which begins on Tuesday, puts the seal on an increasingly close relationship, underpinned especially by billions of dollars in arms sales. […]

“During the three-day visit, Mr Modi will discuss trade with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as addressing a crowd of around 4,000 people of Indian origin in Tel Aviv.

“But he is not planning to travel to Ramallah to visit Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. While Mr Modi hosted Mr Abbas in Delhi last month, this trip will be focused on India’s expanding defence, technological and commercial ties with the Jewish state.

“Mr Modi is de-hyphenating relations,” says PR Kumaraswamy, who teaches on the Middle East at Jawaharlal Nehru University. “Its links with Israel are no longer merely an aspect of its policy towards the Palestinians.”


25 years after establishing formal diplomatic ties, the India-Israel partnership is stepping out of the shadows. In part, theirs is a relationship built on defense dollars: as India makes a mad dash to modernize its military and upgrade its arsenal, Israel has become its third-largest arms supplier, with $599 million worth of weapons sold last year. And if April’s $2 billion arms deal is any indication, that figure will only rise in years to come, as Delhi turns to Israeli expertise on missile defense and cyber technology to boost its own capabilities, particularly along the Pakistani border.

The bilateral economic relationship has been blossoming in other sectors, too. When Modi visits Israel this week, he will bring 15 top executives from Indian firms like Wipro and Reliant to establish a joint CEO forum with Israel. That is a sign of how innovative commercial exchanges are already transforming the relationship. In the agriculture sector, for instance, Israeli water recycling technology is helping India grow food more efficiently; Israel has also established 26 agricultural expertise centers in India to teach local farmers new tricks. In the cyber field, meanwhile, Israel Aerospace Industries is working with local Indian partners on space cooperation and developing high-res radar satellites. All this redounds to India’s benefit; expect more high-profile deals in crucial sectors to be announced during Modi’s trip.

But this is not just a story about a transactional exchange of arms, money, and expertise. It is also about the successful expansion of Israeli diplomacy away from Europe. From the Gulf to Africa to all across Asia, Israeli diplomacy is more active and diversified than ever before.

This is important for many reasons, but fundamentally it reflects a recognition that Israel is not a West European state. Much of Israel’s population consists of refugees from the Arab world, many of whom fled or were driven from their ancestral homes by Arabs enraged and humiliated by Israeli victories in 1949, 1957 and 1967. Others come from parts of Russia that were never part of the West.

Israel’s integration into the non-western world was delayed by Arab hostility. But Arab power is weakening: of the world’s major cultural and economic regions, only sub-Saharan Africa has had less economic and political development since World War Two than the Arab world. As OPEC’s power over world oil prices declines, and as sectarian war and political failure rip the Arab world apart, Israeli tech prowess and close links to the United States make it a valued partner for more and more of the postcolonial world.

Westerners who judge Israeli leaders solely by their willingness to make concessions to the Palestinians have long considered Netanyahu a frustrating figure and a poor strategist. Frustrating he may be, but Israel’s steady progress in reducing its diplomatic isolation while diversifying its exports on his watch is a significant accomplishment. It’s difficult to think of any Western leaders who have done as much to advance their country’s interests. The fact that Netanyahu has done more to build Israeli ties with the third world than Obama managed to achieve for the U.S. is one of the ironies of the modern world.

As one of the world’s tech leaders, as a pioneer in cyberwar defense, as an emerging natural gas exporter, as a leader in desalinization and irrigation tech, and as one of the most accomplished arms producers in a world that is rapidly rearming, Israel is poised for a new era of diplomatic progress.

 

LOVEFEST WITH ISRAEL SIGNALS INDIA’S FINAL REJECTION OF THE RAJ

Modi visit: Lovefest with Israel signals India’s final rejection of the Raj

India’s prime minister has declared independence from the limited, privileged worldview of previous leaders who adopted wholesale the British left’s coldness towards Israel

By Nirpal Dhaliwal
Haaretz
July 6, 2017

Narendra Modi’s arrival in Israel marks not only an epochal moment in India-Israel relations, but also the final rejection of the psychological Raj that has hampered Indian diplomacy for so long - since independence in 1947.

While Jawarhalal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, fought for freedom from Britain, he and the wider political establishment that surrounded him were very much creations of the British and inheritors of their limited thinking.

A product of Harrow, Cambridge and London’s Inner Temple, Nehru swallowed the grandstanding logic of Britain’s bourgeois Left, adopting their ideas on many issues, from five-year economic plans to India’s foreign policy – including, of course, a coldness towards Israel, refusing diplomatic ties with a ‘colonial’ state and supporting the Palestinians instead.

This same pomposity compelled him to lecture the Americans on their moral failures while simultaneously asking them to give his people the food that his own policies could not provide: a tradition continued by his daughter, Indira Gandhi, who also enjoyed lecturing the world while failing to meet her population’s most basic needs.

Narendra Modi, however, is a very different character. He is neither the product of privilege nor of a British education, but the barefooted son of a chai-wallah who has clawed his way to the Prime Minister’s office, with a clearer and far more authentic understanding of his people’s needs than any Indian leader to date. For him, the national interest will always take priority over any political fashion.

Some have remarked that this trip represents a cynical marriage of convenience between two nationalist anti-Muslim prime ministers, but any Israeli leader, not just Benjamin Netanyahu, would find a friend in Modi, who is attracted by Israel’s intellectual and economic dynamism and the contribution it can make to his country, rather than any shared bigotry. Those who think this relationship is part of a wider Islamophobic menage a trois that includes Donald Trump conveniently overlook Modi’s strong relationship with leaders across the Islamic world – Pakistan aside – and also with Barack Obama, who put up no resistance to Modi staging a gala for 60,000 Indian ex-pats in Central Park.

The strength of his position in the Muslim world is evidenced by the general silence from them regarding this visit. “Iran will not dictate to India who it should be friends with,” the Iranian ambassador to India respectfully acknowledged recently.

A major importer of Middle Eastern oil, with a huge ex-pat community in the region – doing $30 billion in annual trade with UAE alone – India is being wooed across the Arab world and has been visited in recent times by the leaders of Turkey, Morocco and Oman: none of them have raised the matter of India’s relations with Israel.

And those who think Modi’s visit is, in part, to humiliate his domestic Muslims should remember that Muslims in India are not Arabs, nor do they emulate Arabs, as Pakistanis do. They are Indians, with roots as deep in Indian history as any Hindu, and are the products of the same multicultural tolerance that is India’s native tradition. Anti-Israeli sentiment has never been strong among them, as the many young Israelis who’ve travelled among India’s 180 million Muslims can testify. That the world’s second largest Islamic population is so at ease with Israel is something that should be far more widely known and advertised.

Israel and India are compatible in so many ways. Both democracies are ancient civilizations that have endured a great deal and today stand in the world on their own terms, in full possession of the wisdom of their experiences. And, like the Jewish people, Indians are to be found all over the planet, making a success of themselves in every field of endeavor. The two peoples are exceptionally well suited to the challenges and opportunities of globalization, having a deeper tradition of productive co-existence than most others.

This understanding of the dynamics of globalization have, I think, brought the two countries closer together more than any other consideration. Just as Israel has kept itself intimately connected with its diaspora, Narendra Modi has reached out to India’s thirty million-strong ex-pat community to enhance his country’s engagement with the world. While being deeply rooted in their own traditions, both Indians and Israelis are extremely international in their outlook and sensibility.

“India wants the world not just to be interconnected but also that it should be sensibly run,” said Angela Merkel during Modi’s recent trip to Germany. And in his later meeting with Emmanuel Macron, he pledged that India would go “above and beyond” its commitments in the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Modi is committed to India responsibly taking its rightful place in an increasingly integrated world, and in Israel he sees a partner that is uniquely equipped to make that happen: a democracy that shares India’s own deep cosmopolitanism and international mindset, and that seeks to capitalize on the opportunities of a fast-changing world through enterprise and innovation. Such a proudly independent program is indeed a thorough repudiation of the Raj mindset.

(Nirpal Dhaliwal is a British-Indian writer whose work has appeared in India Today)

 

THE TOUCHY ISSUE LEFT OFF THE AGENDA OF INDIA PM MODI’S VISIT TO ISRAEL

The touchy issue left off the agenda of India PM Modi’s visit to Israel

Netanyahu didn’t exaggerate when he called Indian PM Modi’s visit ‘historic.’ Wishing to avoid discord over India’s ties to Iran, visit focuses on civilian issues

By Barak Ravid
Haaretz
July 6, 2017

As soon as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi disembarked from his giant 747 aircraft at Ben-Gurion Airport he gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu one of his famous warm embraces. Netanyahu was in a very good mood and even appeared excited. “This is a historic day,” he told his Indian counterpart, shaking his hand for a long time.

As opposed to many instances in the past, this time Netanyahu wasn’t exaggerating. This is the first visit of an Indian prime minister to Israel. The atmosphere and the political context of the visit are also historic. Modi severed the permanent connection that India had made between promoting and openly displaying its ties with Israel and its position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He even elegantly skipped a visit to Ramallah. Netanyahu would want this trend to manifest itself in India’s voting in the United Nations – it’s too soon to tell whether it will.

The visit’s itinerary was also unusual. The subjects to be discussed are almost entirely civilian – a visit to a flower farm and discussions on cooperation in agriculture, talks on joint space projects and meetings with dozens of directors of companies in the private sector to encourage business. This is refreshing normalcy around here.

A diplomatic-security issue that is expected to come up is cooperation in the fight against terror. Both Netanyahu and Modi mentioned this in their public statements at the beginning of their dinner together. When Modi talks about terror, he means Jihadist groups identified with Al-Qaida and the Taliban which, encouraged and backed by Pakistani intelligence, commit terror attacks against India. The Indians are glad to accept any Israeli assistance in this area – both on the practical level and in terms of Israeli diplomatic support.

But there is terror that the Indians are not anxious to discuss. Five and a half years ago, Iranian agents carried out an attack against Israeli diplomats in New Delhi – within spitting distance of Modi’s office. The wife of the Defense Ministry attaché in India, Tali Yehoshua-Koren, was wounded in the attack and Israel’s ambassador to India, Daniel Carmon told the mass-circulation Hindustan Times last February in an interview that Israel would not rest until the last of the assailants stood trial. But the fact is that the Indians have not yet tried even the first of those involved.

In the months after the attack the Indians investigated and even arrested and indicted an Indian citizen on suspicion of assisting the assailants. But a short time later the Indians let the investigation disintegrate. The suspect was released and no verdict has been issued to this day. Moreover, although the Indians know full well that Iran was behind the attack, they still refuse to admit it officially and point a finger at the regime in Tehran.

Ahead of Modi’s visit the Foreign Ministry treated questions about India’s conduct in the attack like radioactive waste. “The government of India is not covering up the investigation of the attack,” Ambassador Carmon said when asked about it in a press briefing at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on Monday. “We continue to raise the matter,” he added.

But off the record, senior officials in the defense establishment and the Foreign Ministry concede that the issue has been covered up and made to go away by the Indians, who acted anemically toward the Iranians due to a long list of other interests that were more important. The Indians, who maintain close ties to Tehran in the areas of trade and energy, politely asked the Iranians not to commit any more attacks on Israeli targets in India, and swept the matter under the rug.

For the past eight years, the Iranian issue has been at the top of Netanyahu’s agenda in almost every meeting with foreign leaders, especially key powers. Since the signing of the nuclear agreement with Iran, and more so in the past year, the prime minister has spoken repeatedly about Iranian involvement in terror in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world. Netanyahu and his officials in the Foreign Ministry protest every trip of a European foreign minister or economic minister to Iran.

But ahead of the Modi visit, Foreign Ministry officials made every attempt to take the Iranian issue off the public and media agenda. Even if the issue comes up in the talks to be held in closed rooms during the visit, it is not expected to dominate the conversation. The reason is the desire to avoid any dispute during Modi’s visit, especially a public one, as well as to promote economic interests with India. One can understand the Indian cover-up; less understandable is why Israel is lending it a hand.

 

AS INDIA AND ISRAEL EMBRACE, TALK ABOUT A ‘ZIONIST-HINDU’ CONSPIRACY IS SPIKING IN PAKISTAN

As India and Israel embrace, talk about a ‘Zionist-Hindu’ conspiracy is spiking in Pakistan

Even though conspiracy theories and anti-Semitism are ubiquitous in Pakistan, Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel has led them to alarming new heights

By Kunwar Khuldune Shahid
Haaretz
July 6, 2017

The three most popular articles on Dawn, Pakistan’s most popular English newspaper, this Wednesday, related to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Israel visit. That level of interest, and its frequently conspiracist turn, isn’t surprising for anyone familiar with popular Pakistani narratives on most issues, domestic or foreign.

That a ‘Zionist-Hindu’ conspiracy is behind most of Pakistan’s problems is an idea held by many of the country’s officials, and that the jihadists targeting the state are actually Jews or Hindus, a popular conspiracy theory.

That the Indian intelligence agency’s Research & Analysis Wing is trying to enforce radical Islam through these jihadist groups, is the implied narrative of the Pakistani state, which stresses that the likes of Taliban are funded by India and linked to the Mossad as well.

The Pakistani Defense Minister issued a nuclear threat to Israel last year over a fake news report, and it isn’t uncommon for state officials to highlight proximity to Israel as a feature of its nuclear-capable ballistic missiles’ reach.

It is under this backdrop that the mainstream news channels have been busy underlining the ‘joint Indian-Israeli plot to destroy Pakistani nuclear weapons’ or Israel’s long-held desire to ‘rule the world’ with New Delhi’s help, as the actual reason behind Modi’s visit.

While some English publications covered the Israeli foreign ministry’s recent statement that there was ‘no difference between Lashkar-e-Taiba or Hamas’, the mainstream media, especially the popular Urdu publications, interpreted the Israel: India alliance against terrorism as a hostile Israeli declaration against Pakistan.

With Pakistani nationalism deemed synonymous with Islam, and perpetuated as such in school curricula, the Modi-Netanyahu meeting was commonly characterized as a ‘declaration of war against Islam’ in the Pakistani media and among mainstream opinion makers as well.

While the conspiracy theorists are interpreting the meetup as the formal Indo-Israeli announcement of the ideological – and nuclear – war against Pakistan and Islam, the more realistic discussion on developments in Tel Aviv has centered around the arms deals between the two states, which of course have direct strategic implications for Pakistan.

Where the realists and conspiracists overlap is in delineating the commonalities in the Modi and Netanyahu-led governments, and the occupations of Kashmir and Palestine respectively. Underscoring the ‘troika’ of Trump, Modi and Netanyahu and their ‘anti-Muslim agendas’ is also an area in which the two camps find common ground.

Even though the Israeli Defense Force’s actions are often used to create a false equivalence between Zionism and Islamism among the progressive circles in Pakistan, the critique of state brutalities in Kashmir or Palestine is mostly based on genuine human rights concerns among the liberal opinion-makers.

Pakistan is among the 31 states that don’t recognize Israel. While the liberal sections of the population, and those representing the country overseas, would have you believe that this is owing to the occupation of West Bank and Gaza – which doesn’t explain the refusal to recognize Israel between 1948 and 1967 –popular opinion in the country is against Israel’s right to exist.

Like most Muslim countries, this sentiment is rooted in the prevailing anti-Semitism in the country, which is inherent to Islamism – an ideology which dominates Pakistani policymaking. This is why yahoodi, the Urdu word for Jew, is a common slur in the country, and yahoodi saazish (Jewish conspiracy) a ubiquitous two-word explanation for most of its ills.

The irony in Pakistan’s ideological position on Israel is that these are the only two post-colonial states founded on religious nationalism. This is what has prompted arguments in favor of Pakistan reviewing its stance on Israel being published in the local media as well.

This, however, remains a fringe opinion even in liberal circles, with support for Pakistan’s ties with Israel being deemed synonymous with ignoring the Palestinian plight – although no such sensitivity is on display for Tibetans, Turkestanis, Cypriots or Kurds, with China and Turkey among Pakistan’s closest allies.

This taboo on diplomacy with Israel, coupled with prevailing anti-Semitism and ensuing conspiracy theories, have ensured that any meetings between officials of the two states have remained behind the scenes.

In 2012, former president Pervez Musharraf said in an interview with Haaretz that ‘relations with Israel could help Pakistan’. It was Musharraf’s foreign minister Khursheed Kasuri’s meeting with his Israeli counterpart in 2005 that remains the only publicly acknowledged talks between the two states.

But while the then mulling of diplomatic ties with Israel might’ve been a corollary of Pakistan firmly being in the U.S. camp, Washington’s recent snubbing of Pakistan and the growth of its relations with New Delhi, seemed to have closed that particular window for Islamabad, which has put all its bets on Beijing.

Even so, with Pakistan militarily spearheading the Saudi ‘Islamic’ coalition aligned against Iran, Tel Aviv and Islamabad’s interests in the Middle East shouldn’t clash. But the growing Indo-Israeli defense ties, and conflation of militancy affecting the two states, could mean Pakistan upping the ante vis-à-vis Palestine, as a global vehicle for its Kashmir narrative – especially among the Arab states.

This should mean ‘Zionist-Hindu conspiracies’ skyrocketing in the near future.

(Kunwar Khuldune Shahid is a Pakistan-based journalist and a Correspondent at The Diplomat.)

 

MODI IS COMING TO JERUSALEM

Modi Is Coming to Jerusalem
By Prof. Efraim Inbar
Asia Pacific Bulletin
June 7, 2017

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The first trip to Israel by an Indian prime minister reflects the significant expansion in relations between the two countries that has taken place since the establishment of full diplomatic relations in 1992. The burgeoning relationship is based on similar strategic agendas and buttressed by extensive defense ties. Modi’s government has shed its predecessors’ reservations about regular public discussions regarding India’s ties with Israel and has even modified voting patterns at multilateral fora.

***

At the beginning of July, Narendra Modi will arrive for a first-ever visit by an Indian PM to Israel. This trip reflects the significant expansion in relations between the two countries that has taken place since the establishment of full diplomatic relations in 1992.

Since Modi and the BJP came to power in May 2014, his administration has shed its predecessors’ reservations about regular public discourse regarding India’s ties with Israel. It is worthy of note that Modi’s trip to Israel is not planned to be “balanced” with a visit to the Palestinian Authority, indicating that India has freed its relations with Israel from its historical commitment to the Palestinian issue. Indeed, India has modified its voting pattern at international organizations by refraining to join the automatic majority against Israel.

India and Israel display high levels of threat perception and share a common strategic agenda. Both have waged major conventional wars against their neighbors and have experienced low‐intensity conflict and terror, as they are both involved in protracted conflicts characterized by complex ethnic and religious components not always well understood by outsiders. Both face weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the hands of their rivals.

The two nations share a common threat: radical offshoots of Islam in the greater Middle East. Israel regards parts of the Arab world – Saudi Arabia in particular – as hubs for Islamic extremism, while India views Saudi‐Pakistani relations with suspicion. Moreover, India fears the Pakistani nuclear arsenal might ultimately fall into the hands of Islamic radicals.

For Israel, Islamic radicals in the Arab world and in the Islamic Republic of Iran constitute a constant security challenge. This challenge has become more acute as Iran’s nuclear potential has grown. The more recent ISIS phenomenon has ramifications beyond the battlefields of Iraq and Syria, as its offshoots threaten the stability of Egypt and Jordan – Israel’s neighbors – and are increasingly sources of concern in south and southeast Asia.

India has gradually overcome its inhibitions and engaged in security cooperation with Israel. In the wake of diplomatic normalization in 1992, then Indian Defense Minister Sharad Pawar admitted to having already cooperated with Israel on counterterrorism. This cooperation, which involves exchange of information on the finances, recruitment patterns, and training of terrorist groups, is conducted away from the public eye. The November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks underscored the need for better counterterrorism preparations in India and elicited greater cooperation with Israeli agencies.

Arms supply and technology transfer have become important components in the bilateral relationship. Initially, Russian failure to deliver promised weapons at expected prices and/or schedules led India to turn to Israeli companies to upgrade some of its aging Soviet platforms, such as its Mig‐21s and T‐72 tank fleet.

Difficulties in the development of weapons systems at home have led to the purchase of Israeli products and to partnership in developing advanced military technology. New Delhi purchased advanced radar and communications equipment from Israel, as well as portable battlefield radars, hand‐held thermals, night warfare vision equipment, and electronic fences to improve border monitoring. A long list of Israeli military items, such as ammunition, UAV parts, and even missiles (Spike anti‐armor, the Python‐4 air‐to‐air, naval Barak‐8 surface‐to‐air) are being produced in India.

Examples of high-end items include the airborne Phalcon radar Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) , which is mounted on the Russian IL‐76 transport aircraft, and the long-range Green Pine radar. The sale of the Phalcon by Israel to India required American approval, which was finally secured in May 2003. India signed a contract for the purchase of two additional Phalcon/IL‐76 AWACS valued at $1 billion during the November 2016 visit of Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin to India. Israel was the third‐largest arms supplier to India in the three years ending March 2016.

In April 2017, India signed a contract worth about $2 billion to procure anti‐tank missiles and air defense systems from the Israel Aerospace Industry (IAI). This was the largest order in Israel’s history. One month later, the IAI secured another contract for $630 million to supply Barak‐8 missiles for the Indian Navy. Both deals involve technology transfer and production in India. These deals are part of PM Modi’s $250 billion plan to modernize the armed forces by 2025 amid tensions with neighbors China and Pakistan.

The Indian‐Israeli nexus has various Indian Ocean implications, particularly in response to China’s growing presence. The Indian Ocean, where India is an important actor, has become an area of growing interest for Israel because of its apprehensions about Iran and Pakistan.

While India, a major player in the international system, has improved relations with Washington, New Delhi’s links with Jerusalem have the potential to smooth over some of the remaining difficulties in dealing with the US. Working with Israel fits into Modi’s plan to deepen relations with the US given the US‐Israel friendship.

New Delhi believes its normalization of relations with Israel in 1992 had a positive effect on the American disposition toward India. The often‐exaggerated power of the Jewish lobby in America was appreciated in New Delhi. In the 1990s, the American Jewish organizations valued the importance of India for the US and for Israel, as well as the potential advantages of nurturing good relations with the Indian community in America, whose congressional power is on the rise. Many members of the Indian lobby, the US‐India Political Action Committee (USINPAC), which was formed in September 2002, expressed the desire to emulate American Jewish groups and showed interest in cooperation.

The Jewish and Indian lobbies worked together to gain the Bush administration’s approval for Israel’s sale of the Phalcon to India. Moreover, in July 2003, they were successful in adding an amendment to a bill giving aid to Pakistan that called on Islamabad to stop Islamic militants from crossing into India and to prevent the spread of WMD. In the fall of 2008, Jewish support was important in passing through the US Congress the US‐India nuclear deal, which allowed India access to nuclear technology for civilian use despite its not being a party to the Non‐Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Two strategic developments of the 21st century are likely to strengthen the strategic glue between India and Israel: the decline of the US and the rise of China. In the Middle East, the Obama administration projected weakness and encouraged Iran’s quest for hegemony. US weakness is inevitably having ripple effects in other parts of the globe. Indeed, Asian states view the declining American role with concern. It is not clear whether new American president Donald Trump will adopt a more assertive foreign policy than that of his predecessor. Nor is it known how he will go about confronting China, as he displayed isolationist impulses during his election campaign.

India and Israel represent two ancient civilizations. They share a British colonial past and were the first to become independent (in 1947 and 1948, respectively) in the post‐WWII decolonization wave. Both were born as the result of messy partitions and have maintained democratic regimes under adverse conditions ever since. Nevertheless, it took over four decades to establish a fruitful bilateral relationship.

For Israel, good relations with India reflect awareness of structural changes in the international system as the center of gravity moves to Asia and the Pacific Rim. India is an extremely important protagonist that requires Israel’s utmost attention.

 

* You can also find other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia

My aunt had a dinner party, and then she took her guests to kill 180 Jews (& “Please look after this bear”)

July 02, 2017

Michael Bond, the author of the Paddington Bear books, has died aged 91. In interviews, Bond said Paddington was inspired by the Kindertransport children he saw at English railway stations with signs around their necks – the Kindertransport connection was not mentioned by several news outlets in their obituaries, including the New York Times

 

Austro-Hungarian Countess Margit Batthyany in Hamburg in the 1960s. Her Swiss nephew has received threats from family members and others for his new book about the murderous ball she held in 1945, where she invited guests to take turns to shoot dead 180 Jews on her estate in between dinner courses.

 

This is another in an occasional series of dispatches about the legacy of the Holocaust. The continuing anti-Semitism in many countries makes it harder for Israel to trust guarantees that international institutions will protect Israel should it be attacked after it returns to what Abba Eban called the pre-1967 “Auschwitz borders”

-- Tom Gross

 

CONTENTS

1. “Please look after this bear. Thank you.”
2. Professor who welcomed Jewish student’s death in North Korea is an anti-Israel activist
3. Jewish groups slam Hungarian PM for praising Hitler ally as an “excellent statesman”
4. Macron and Netanyahu to jointly mark deportation anniversary
5. Simone Veil, one of only a few French to be awarded honor established by Napoleon
6. On Finsbury Park mosque
7. “Ukraine city to hold festival in honor of Nazi collaborator whose troops killed thousands of Jews” (JTA)
8. “Christopher Wray, Trump’s nominee for FBI chief, hunted Nazis hiding in the U.S.” (Haaretz)
9. “Anti-Semitism: The bias that a college ignores?” (Inside Higher Education Magazine)
10. “My aunt had a dinner party, and then she took her guests out to kill 180 Jews” (Haaretz)

 

[Notes by Tom Gross]

“PLEASE LOOK AFTER THIS BEAR. THANK YOU.”

Michael Bond, the author of the Paddington Bear books, passed away last Wednesday in London aged 91.

Bond, who was not Jewish, said in various interviews that Paddington was inspired by Jewish refugee children he saw at London railway stations with signs around their neck in the run up to World War TRwo.

From 1938-1940, 7,500 Jewish children from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia were allowed into Britain (without their parents and siblings, most of whom were then murdered) in what became known as the Kindertransport.

“I remember their labels round their necks as the children just sat there on the platform,” Bond told the Daily Telegraph and other papers, years later.

The Paddington story begins: Mr. and Mrs. Brown first met Paddington on a railway platform... The small brown bear was seated on an old leather suitcase and wearing a tag that reads: “Please look after this bear. Thank you.” He had arrived by himself from “darkest Peru”.

(The New York Times, along with other papers, failed to mention the Kindertransport in their lengthy obituary of Bond, which is why I mention it here.)

Bond also criticized the makers of the 2014 Paddington movie for turning the role of Dr. Gruber – a Jewish refugee who is Paddington’s friend and who is based on an adult German Jewish refugee that Bond was close to – into a non-Jewish character.

Paddington Bear books have sold more than 35 million copies and have translated into over 40 languages, and adapted into television series and films.

 

Otto Warmbier in court givng a forced confession to his non-crime

 

PROFESSOR WHO WELCOMED JEWISH STUDENT’S DEATH IN NORTH KOREA IS AN ANTI-ISRAEL ACTIVIST

Kathy Dettwyler, a professor of anthropology at the University of Delaware, wrote on Facebook that American student Otto Warmbier (above), who went on a tourist trip from China to North Korea and was tortured and returned by the regime brain dead, “got exactly what he deserved”.

Professor Dettwyler, along with some of the other US writers and academics who have sickeningly praised or made fun of Warmbier’s death, is also a virulent anti-Israel activist and supporter of the BDS movement. She is also a signatory to “Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions.” The University of Delaware has said that she will not now be rehired to teach next year.

Warmbier, whose mother is Jewish was active in Jewish cultural groups on campus, and had said one of the highlights of recent years was his “birthright” trip to Israel in 2014.

Negotiations with North Korea for his release were carried out over a 15-month period by my friend Mickey Bergman, who works with Bill Richardson, and who is a subscriber to this dispatch list.

Among media outlets that have published unsavory columns about Otto Warmbier, are the Huffington Post, and Salon.

See:

* While Otto Warmbier Languished in North Korea, Salon and HuffPo Mocked Him for ‘White Privilege’

* Did Otto Warmbier Really Die Because North Korea Denied Him White Privilege?

* Looking Back At The Progressive Left’s Treatment Of Otto Warmbier

Prominent Jewish anti-Semites in London have falsely said Otto died because he was a “Zionist spy”.

http://www.gilad.co.uk/writings/2017/6/22/was-otto-warmbier-an-american-student-or-an-israeli-spy

 

JEWISH GROUPS SLAM HUNGARIAN PM FOR PRAISING HITLER ALLY AS AN “EXCELLENT STATESMAN”

Jewish groups have condemned Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s praise for Hitler’s wartime Hungarian ally who introduced anti-Semitic legislation and oversaw the murder of 565,000 Hungarian Jews.

In a speech as part of a nationalist campaign Orban is conducting in the run-up to next year’s elections, and to prevent voters moving to even more extreme right-wing parties, Orban called Miklos Horthy an “exceptional statesmen”.

The president of the Mazsihisz umbrella group of Hungarian Jewish organizations said in a statement that it was outraged by Orban’s statement.

Even before the Nazis arrived to help the Hungarian Fascists kill their Jewish population, Horthy deported 20,000 Hungarian Jews to Ukraine Fascists, who immediately murdered them.

The U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington called Orban’s praise for Horthy “a gross distortion of historic facts” and “the latest in long line of attempts by Mr. Orban’s government to rewrite Hungarian history.”

Orban and other rightwing polticians in Hungary have repeatedly tried to rehabilitate wartime fascists in recent years.

In 2014, Mazsihisz briefly suspended its ties to Orban’s government when a statue seen to deny Hungarian complicity during the Holocaust was unveiled in Budapest’s Freedom Square.

A poll in 100 countries commissioned by the ADL in 2014 found that 41 percent of Hungarians harbor anti-Semitic attitudes.

On Saturday Hungary’s foreign minister Peter Szijjártó defended his prime minister’s praise for Horthy.

But Szijjártó then added in a statement: “However, it belongs in the category of historical sin that laws which discriminated against Jews were introduced during Horthy’s time in office, and that hundreds of thousands of Jews fell victim to the Holocaust.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to visit Hungary later this month.

 

MACRON AND NETANYAHU TO JOINTLY MARK DEPORTATION ANNIVERSARY

French President Emmanuel Macron has invited Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to join him in Paris on July 16 for a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the deportation of tens of thousands of French Jews to death camps by the wartime French government.

Macron and Netanyahu who have already spoken on a number of occasions by phone, met for the first time on Saturday when they both attended a memorial service for the former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in Strasbourg.

 

SIMONE VEIL, ONE OF ONLY A FEW FRENCH TO BE AWARDED HONOR ESTABLISHED BY NAPOLEON

Simone Veil, French feminist and politician and France’s most prominent Holocaust survivor, has died aged 89.

In 2012 she was awarded France’s highest honor, the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor. Less than 70 people have received the Grand Cross since Napoleon Bonaparte established it in 1802.

“May her example inspire our fellow countrymen, who will find in her the best of France,” President Macron said in a message to Veil’s family. “Her uncompromising humanism, wrought by the horror of the camps, made her a constant ally of the weakest,” Macron added.

Throughout her public life Veil helped the disadvantaged, including people with disabilities and neglected children.

Veil was born Simone Jacob in Nice, and deported to Auschwitz and then Bergen-Belsen, where she survived slave labor. Her mother was murdered in Auschwitz and her father and brother were deported to Estonia where they were murdered by Estonians working for the Nazis.

She wore long-sleeved dresses in the French parliament to cover the Auschwitz number tattooed on her forearm.

 

ON FINSBURY PARK MOSQUE

You may want to watch my short interview about the attack on worshippers near a north London mosque last month. (It was watched on YouTube over 30,000 times within two days of being posted.)


ARTICLES

UKRAINE CITY TO HOLD FESTIVAL IN HONOR OF NAZI COLLABORATOR WHOSE TROOPS KILLED JEWS

Ukraine city to hold festival in honor of Nazi collaborator whose troops killed Jews
JTA
June 28, 2017

The Ukrainian city of Lviv [Lvov, Lemberg] will hold a festival celebrating a Nazi collaborator on the anniversary of a major pogrom against the city’s Jews.

Shukhevychfest, an event named for Roman Shukhevych featuring music and theater shows, will be held Friday.

Eduard Dolinsky, the director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, in a statement called the event “disgraceful.”

On June 30, 1941, Ukrainian troops, including militiamen loyal to Shukhevych’s, began a series of pogroms against Jews, which they perpetrated under the auspices of the German army, according to Yale University history professor Timothy Snyder and other scholars. They murdered approximately 6,000 Jews in those pogroms.

The day of the festival is the 110th birthday of Shukhevych, a leader of the OUN-B nationalist group and later of the UPA insurgency militia, which collaborated with the Nazis against the Soviet Union before it turned against the Nazis.

Shukhevychfest is part of a series of gestures honoring nationalists in Ukraine following the 2014 revolution, in which nationalists played a leading role. They brought down the government of President Viktor Yanukovuch, whose critics said was a corrupt Russian stooge.

On June 13, a Kiev administrative court partially upheld a motion by parties opposed to the veneration of Shukhevych in the city and suspended the renaming of a street after Shukhevych. The city council approved the renaming earlier this month.

In a related debate, the director of Ukraine’s Institute of National Remembrance, Vladimir Vyatrovich, who recently described Shukhevych as an “eminent personality,” last month defended the displaying in public of the symbol of the Galician SS division. Responsible for countless murders of Jews, Nazi Germany’s most elite unit was comprised of Ukrainian volunteers.

Displaying Nazi symbols is illegal in Ukraine but the Galician SS division’s symbol is “in accordance with the current legislation of Ukraine,” Vyatrovich said.

In Russia, meanwhile, Henri Reznik, a former president of the Moscow City Bar Association, resigned his teaching position at the state-run Moscow State Law University over its inauguration of a plaque honoring Joseph Stalin, a former leader of the Soviet Union who killed millions of suspected dissidents and implemented anti-Semitic policies.

Reznik, who is Jewish, wrote in the Moscow Echo Tuesday that it was “unacceptable” for a state institution devoted to justice to celebrate the legacy of a man who flaunted judicial process and “deported entire peoples.”

 

TRUMP’S NOMINEE FOR FBI CHIEF, HUNTED NAZIS HIDING IN THE U.S.

Christopher Wray, Trump’s nominee for FBI chief, hunted Nazis hiding in the U.S.
Allison Kaplan Sommer
Haaretz
June 8, 2017

Christopher Wray’s cases included the denaturalization of the notorious former Sobibor death camp guard John Demjanjuk, which paved the way to his deportation to Germany

Christopher Wray, U.S. President Donald Trump’s nominee for FBI chief, is best known for his reputation as a white-collar criminal lawyer. But during his 2003 to 2005 tenure as assistant attorney general in charge of the criminal division, he also helped spearhead efforts to strip U.S. citizenship from and deport numerous former Nazi concentration camp guards living in the United States.

His cases included the denaturalization of the notorious former Sobibor death camp guard John Demjanjuk, which paved the way to his deportation to Germany.

Demjanjuk was stripped of his U.S. citizenship by a federal court in 2002, but appealed the decision. Under Wray in 2004, the Justice Department successfully argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals that the government had proved convincingly that Demanjuk had committed crimes that exploited and exterminated Jews in Poland.

At the time, Wray said that “Those, like Demjanjuk, who participated in Nazi atrocities do not belong in this country. We will take all appropriate steps to make sure that these individuals do not enjoy the privileges of U.S. citizenship.”

Demanjuk, a retired Ukrainian auto worker in Cleveland, had been famously extradited to Israel in 1986, where he was convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death. But the former camp guard returned to the U.S. after the Israeli Supreme Court found that reasonable doubt existed as to whether Demjanjuk was indeed the notorious “Ivan the Terrible.”

After the collapse of the former Soviet Union, however, evidence emerged that Demanjuk was a “willing” concentration camp guard who participated in the murder of tens of thousands of Jews in gas chambers. With the new evidence, Demjanjuk was charged again in 2001. He was stripped of his citizenship, but remained in the U.S. until 2009, when Germany agreed to take him in. He died in Germany in 2012, a year after he was convicted by a German court of murdering tens of thousands of Jews.

Demjanujuk was the highest profile of numerous cases in which Wray oversaw the stripping of U.S. citizenship and in several cases, successful deportation of former Nazi prison guards, or, in some cases, members of police forces in Eastern Europe who actively participated in atrocities against Jews and others. The prosecutions were pursued in partnership with Eli M. Rosenbaum, Director of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, who was popularly known as the “Nazi-hunter” for his effort to track down Nazi war criminals who lived covertly in the U.S. and blocking those who tried to enter the country.

In 2005, Wray left the Justice Department for private practice.

Trump’s choice of Wray must now go before the U.S. Senate for approval. He will replace former FBI Director James Comey, who the president fired last month amid the agency’s ongoing probe into alleged Russian meddling into the U.S. election. Trump’s announcement of his selection of Wray comes just before Comey is to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Moscow’s alleged interference and any potential ties to Trump’s campaign or associates.

Ray’s two-year tenure at the DOJ’s criminal division marked a period of intensive activity identifying perpetrators of Nazi atrocities. Only one of Wray’s cases from that time remains unresolved as he returns to the Justice Department - the case of 92-year-old Jakiw Palij, a Polish man who still lives in Jackson Heights, Queens. Palij was dubbed “The Nazi Next Door” by New York tabloids when yeshiva students protested outside his home on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

In November 2003, Wray announced the initiation of deportation proceedings against Palij based on his service as an armed guard at a Nazi forced labor camp in German-occupied Poland – now part of Ukraine – following the revocation of his U.S. citizenship. Wray stated at the time that, “By guarding prisoners of Nazi forced labor camps and preventing their escape, Palij and his fellow guards actively aided the Nazis’ scheme to annihilate the Jews of Europe.”

In the document charging him, it was detailed that Palij guarded the camp while armed with a rifle and prevented the prisoners from escaping. On November 3 and 4, 1943, while Palij was there, the document said, “the approximately 6,000 surviving prisoners of the camp, along with tens of thousands of other prisoners in Poland, were murdered as part of an operation to which the SS assigned the macabre code-name ‘Operation Harvest Festival.’”

When Palij applied for an immigration visa to the United States in 1949, he falsely claimed that he worked on his father’s farm and then worked in Germany. In fact, he served with the Nazi in Poland during that period. Palij denies the accusations against him and has stayed in his New York home despite the revocation of his citizenship and ordered deportatio. Neither Ukraine, Poland, nor Germany has been willing to accept him.

In an editorial this year, the Daily News called on German chancellor Angela Merkel to receive Palij and try him for his crimes. The piece counted Palij among the other undocumented criminals that Trump has advocated to force out of the country.

“President Trump has long talked about deporting people who shouldn’t be here. He should put Palij first on the list – and if Merkel won’t take Palij, dump him in Guantanamo.”

 

THE BIAS THAT A COLLEGE IGNORES?

The Bias That a College Ignores?
Lawsuit charges San Francisco State allowed anti-Jewish discrimination, not intervening when events were disrupted, and that some students feel scared to walk around campus.
By Jeremy Bauer-Wolf

Inside Higher Education Magazine
June 29, 2017

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat speaks to a group of San Francisco State University students in April 2016.
Jacob Mandel can remember the first time he heard the screams of the anti-Israel protesters three years ago.

The recent San Francisco State University graduate was celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, in May 2014 with other Jewish students. They had pinned up Israeli flags in Malcolm X Plaza, the central campus hub, and were dancing.

Mandel recalled the disruption – supporters of Palestine were shouting over the festivities. They had unplugged the microphone during the remarks of the president of Hillel, the Jewish student organization.

What bothered him wasn’t the groups favoring the Palestinian cause. Rather, it was that Jewish students organizing the event were disrupted and prevented from holding their event, with no one appearing to care.

“They were very hostile, and very angry,” Mandel said in an interview, referring to members of the campus group known as the General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS). “I remember thinking ‘maybe this isn’t a good place for me to be.’ I was definitely scared.”

A few years later, nothing has bolstered the morale of the Jewish community at the public institution of 35,000 students. Though the university has long served as a battleground for students siding with either the Palestinians or the Israelis, past leadership of the university had soothed tensions between the two factions.

Not so in recent years, when relations between present administrators and Jewish students and faculty have collapsed, to the point that current and former students filed a federal lawsuit against university officials and the Board of Trustees overseeing the entire California State University System, claiming they perpetuated anti-Semitism and left Jewish students vulnerable because of their religion, in violation of federal civil rights statutes.

Mandel, a plaintiff in the suit, said he would find alternative routes around campus to dodge Palestinian students’ events. He said he was threatened by them. One student once told Mandel he would kill him if witnesses weren’t present. Mandel would text his friends: leave the letters of your Jewish fraternity at home. Tuck away your Star of David. Don’t be identifiable.

The Lawfare Project, a pro-Israel legal nonprofit, is representing the plaintiffs, along with law firm Winston & Strawn.

The conflict has captured the attention of those far outside the campus boundaries, politicians in California’s Legislature and Jewish supporters in San Francisco and beyond.

Critics in interviews largely lay blame on the university president, Leslie Wong, who was hired in 2012, but expressed frustration overall with a tepid response from officials to address anxieties and the wishes of Jewish students.

University representatives declined comment for this story and would not make Wong available for an interview.

Wong has issued statement after statement in response to continual disputes, affirming the university’s commitment to its Jewish population – but they ring hollow for many, and promises Wong has made, like hiring staffers to combat anti-Semitism, have gone unmet.

“The campus problems at San Francisco State won’t go away because the administration’s response is not authentic,” said Fred Astren, chairman of the department of Jewish studies. “They don’t seem to be aimed at building trust; they don’t seem to be aimed at taking a meaningful position. They offer bureaucratic responses.”

Shouted Down

A talk in April 2016 worsened the campus environment. Hillel, led by Mandel, had invited the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, to speak. No more than six minutes into Barkat’s speech, pro-Palestinian students, those aligned with the GUPS group, stood and began chanting. They repeated, among other lines, “If we don’t get no justice, then you don’t get no peace” and “Get the fuck off our campus.”

At one point, they yelled through a megaphone, a violation of university policy.

GUPS did not respond to email request for comment.

Students who wanted to listen to the mayor tightened around him in a circle, though some later told an independent investigator of the incident that it was impossible to hear Barkat. Wong commissioned an outside firm to conduct an investigation of the incident shortly after the mayor’s visit.

Despite the disruption, no student affairs officials stopped the protest, the investigator unearthed. University officials later told the investigator that they were unclear of their responsibilities. The dean of students concluded that indeed the protesters had infringed on university rules, but no one was ever disciplined. University offices ignored complaints filed by three students over the event, the investigator found.

Though the university’s chief of police moved to halt the interruption, he was ignored. He was dressed in plain clothes, not a uniform, and students said they were unaware he was connected to the university.

The investigator also chided the university for shoddy planning. Mandel said in his interview that such difficulties with administrators – uncertainty about the venue and poor or no communication – were typical.

Wong apologized, penning a lengthy letter to a local weekly Jewish newspaper, J. The Jewish News of Northern California, saying he would invite Barkat back to campus.

“I have spent considerable time thinking about the event and what it means for the future of our university,” Wong wrote in May 2016. “University campuses are not quiet spaces, and I would argue that they shouldn’t be. But the noise should come from sessions where tough and difficult ideas are confronted in a spirit of learning and respect. Bullhorns don’t do it, and the idea of silencing and preventing the marketplace of ideas is both sad and disturbing.”

This year Barkat’s return appearance, planned for April 6, was canceled. He accused the university of failing to advertise it adequately, though Wong refuted that in a statement, saying the mayor had not given the university enough notice.

“By failing to provide the necessary public forum and properly publicize my lecture, the university has contributed to the continuing marginalization and demonization of the Jewish state,” Barkat said in the statement. “If I were a representative of any other country, no institution of higher learning would have allowed my speech to be drowned out by protesters inciting violence and then bring me back to campus in a limited, secluded way.”

Indeed, the university’s response does not match those of other institutions that have dealt with protesters stifling campus speakers.

Middlebury College was the center of national outrage after students’ screams stopped a talk by controversial author Charles Murray in March. When he left, a professor with him was attacked and protesters – whom the college believe were unaffiliated with the campus – stomped on the car that had come to take him away.

The college punished at least 67 students for that incident.

Mandel said he felt as though university officials went out of their way to shield the disrupters of Barkat’s appearance. “They went out of their way to protect their free speech rights … they weren’t concerned about mine,” he said.

Accusations

The university, in declining interviews, emailed a statement that had already been published to its website.

The statement condemns “all forms of hate and anti-Semitism” but said the university strongly disagrees with the legal complaint.

“Lawsuits seeking to force SF State to both protect free speech and assure diversity and inclusion are unnecessary and redundant. SF State remains committed to furthering free speech and defeating discrimination, including anti-Semitism. Rather than litigation, we welcome the plaintiffs, and any other organizations similarly committed to these ideals, to join us in pursuing that objective,” the statement reads.

It does not address the specific accusations of the lawsuit, like Hillel’s exclusion from a university fair in February. The Know Your Rights event was planned to help “vulnerable populations who may be feeling targeted in the new political climate in the country since the presidential election.” The pro-Palestinian student group, GUPS, was one of the organizers.

It featured a speaker from the American Civil Liberties Union and workshops on self-defense and legal resources. A Hillel representative received an emailed invitation to the fair, which the organizers later rescinded – he was told that the event was at capacity.

The lawsuit alleges that GUPS and other organizations changed the registration deadline to deliberately force Hillel out, and that university officials knew about it.

Again, Wong ordered an investigation, the results of which, one faculty member familiar with the inquiry told Inside Higher Ed, “will be damning.”

The mayor’s visits in particular have prompted repercussions with outside organizations, including donors.

The Koret Foundation, a Jewish philanthropic group in San Francisco, had initially promised $1.7 million to the institution, but expressed reluctance after the incident with the mayor. Wong requested Jewish faculty members join him in a meeting with Koret to reassure the donor, the lawsuit states – this meeting was confirmed to Inside Higher Ed.

Professors were uncomfortable, the lawsuit states, as they did not wish to “whitewash” the situation on campus.

And Wong has not endeared himself to faculty, particularly in the Jewish studies department. In 2014, he, flanked by two other administrators, gathered together all the Jewish studies professors and threatened to take away their status as a department, claiming it was overstaffed and not raking in enough money. Professors assert that the department actually receives five-figure gifts annually from Jewish donors, and that Wong “ignored” $7 million in departmental endowments.

“While we should have been praised as the university’s shining example of town-gown partnership, we were shamed as a group of professors who were not pulling their weight in a cash-strapped institution,” Fred Astren, professor and chairman of the department, and Marc Dollinger, Richard and Rhoda Goldman Chairman in Jewish Studies and Social Responsibility, wrote in J.

In a separate interview, Astren said that since he arrived on campus in the fall of 1996, he has not observed such fear – Jewish students have approached him to discuss their worries, he said.

History and Outside Response

San Francisco State has been grappling with campus clashes on the Israel-Palestine conflict for more than a decade.

In 2002, Hillel sponsored a pro-Israel rally at which the GUPS group launched a counterprotest. The two sides were separated by barricades for most of the event, but when it wrapped up, some pro-Palestine students confronted pro-Israel students, shouting at them and demanding they take down the Israeli flag they had hung.

The university received emails criticizing the pro-Palestine movement, prompting then President Robert Corrigan to release a statement and meet with Jewish students to hear their concerns.

Later that year, fliers advertising a Muslim Student Association event were passed out with the image of a baby and the caption “Palestinian Children Meat – Slaughtered According to Jewish Rites Under American License.”

Corrigan held meetings with the association, Hillel and GUPS, which was also listed on the flier, and later garnered an apology from the Muslim students. The president’s response was applauded as strong and direct at the time.

Noa Raman, the Northern California campus coordinator for StandWithUs, a national Israel education organization, said in a statement she has witnessed a reluctance from administrators to take a stand when pro-Israel events are disrupted.

“Jewish students have exercised their voice in the past and feel they are not heard. Therefore, they are pursuing other avenues to improve the climate on campus,” Raman said.

The Anti-Defamation League in a statement said the group was troubled by “serious and repeated episodes” of campus anti-Semitism.

“The league has outlined a series of actions and steps the SFSU administration should take to improve the situation for the Jewish community on campus. We continue to engage in dialogue with the university and urge the administration to take the necessary actions to ensure that all Jewish, Zionist and Israeli students are welcome,” the statement says.

The current administration’s apathy has also prompted some frustration from the Jewish Community Relations Council, which covers San Francisco, said its spokesman, Jeremy Russell. The council has met with administrators consistently but not been pleased with their lack of responsiveness, Russell said, pointing to delays in the investigation into the protests at the mayor’s talk, and the Know Your Rights fair. The council currently has no meetings scheduled with administrators.

A university spokeswoman said that a number of initiatives have been completed or are underway. A task force to judge the campus climate will be convened in August, and the probe into the Know Your Rights event will be completed no later than July 13. A series of talks by professors to discuss campus issues, and adoption of a new statement against intolerance, will come in the fall.

Attempting to assuage concerns, Wong has also talked with community groups, J. reported – per that article, Wong said that Hillel and other Jewish groups have received more of his time than any other student organization, creating the perception he favored Jewish students. Wong confirmed this conversation to the reporter.

Wong has also been attacked for a 2015 speech in which he lauded the GUPS group, saying that “they have helped me when I have to tell other community groups to mind their own business,” which Jewish organizations took as a thinly veiled slight against them.

In June, Wong released another statement after anti-Semitic materials appeared on campus, his strongest yet.

“I want to be clear: anti-Semitic attacks are not just a crime against members of our Jewish community. They are an assault on our democratic values and an offense against everyone who stands for justice. Individual geopolitical or religious views do not establish a right to harass individuals on campus.”

Russell said the council had urged a letter-writing campaign to Wong about the perceived animus toward Jewish students, which then was escalated to Timothy White, the chancellor of the California State University System. White in response declared full support for Wong.

Members of the Jewish caucus in the California Legislature met with both Wong and White two weeks ago, said State Senator Scott. Wiener, who is Jewish, said he phoned Wong about a month ago to discuss the campus issues.

In May, the chairman of the Jewish caucus and six other legislators representing other caucuses wrote to White, telling him that the leaders of San Francisco State needed to unequivocally state that Jews, Israelis and Zionists are welcome and safe on the campus.
Wiener in his interview called for an outside review of the of the problems Jewish students face. He said current administrators are not objective enough to do such an evaluation.

Right now, no lawmakers have proposed legislative remedies, Wiener said. “I want to see the administration take a much more proactive and direct approach, including communication toward welcoming Jewish students on campus.”

“We are very carefully watching what they’re doing.”

 

MY AUNT HAD A DINNER PARTY, AND THEN SHE TOOK HER GUESTS TO KILL 180 JEWS

My Aunt Had a Dinner Party, and Then She Took Her Guests to Kill 180 Jews

Swiss journalist Sacha Batthyany knew he belonged to an aristocratic family, centered around his respected aunt. He didn’t know about the murderous ball held in 1945, that led to a personal quest, threats from relatives and a book

By Gili Izikovich
Haaretz
June 29, 2017

One morning in April 2007 journalist Sacha Batthyany was approached by an elderly colleague at the Swiss daily where they both worked at the time.

The colleague waved a newspaper clipping in front of him. It was an investigative report entitled, “The Hostess from Hell,” published by a German daily.

Glancing at the headline, Batthyany didn’t understand why he was being shown this article, but then he looked at the picture of the hostess and recognized it immediately. It was Margit, his father’s aunt – someone to whom the family demonstrated the utmost respect and also around whom they tended to tread carefully.

So he started to read the piece. In March 1945, it said, just before the end of World War II, Margit held a large party in the town of Rechnitz on the Austrian-Hungarian border to fete her Nazi friends. She, the daughter and heiress of European baron and tycoon Heinrich Thyssen, and her friends drank and danced the night away.

At the height of the evening, just for fun, 12 of the guests boarded trucks or walked to a nearby field, where 180 Jewish slave laborers who had been building fortifications were assembled. They had already been forced to dig a large pit, strip, and get down on their knees. The guests took turns shooting them to death before returning to the party. The organizer of this operation was Margit’s lover Hans Joachim Oldenberg. Margit’s husband, Count Ivan Batthyany, Sacha’s grandfather’s brother, was also at the party.

It was the first time that Batthyany, then 34, had heard about this incident. He was shocked. “Let’s set aside that it was my aunt,” said Batthyany, who visited Israel last week as a guest of the Jerusalem Book Fair. “It’s just an incredible, brutal story of this night. I mean, I know there are hundreds and thousands of other [violent stories] from the war – I don’t want to compare, but if you read what happened that night it is just unbelievable.”

In the article in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the writer, David Litchfield, describes the party as a celebration of death. Killing for dessert. “I was in shock. I was shocked and surprised that I had never heard of this. And I had studied history, I knew more than the average person, but I’d never heard about this massacre or about Rechnitz, or about my family’s connection to any kind of story connected to the Holocaust.

“I remember that I had to finish a stupid assignment I was working on but all I was thinking was that I couldn’t wait to talk to my father.

“This area between Budapest and Vienna is where my family comes from, where my family owned land and castles and stuff. I remember asking him, ‘Did you ever hear of Rechnitz?’ And he said, ‘Yes, of course.’ Then I asked him, ‘Did you know about the massacre?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, yeah. I knew about it. I heard about it, of course, I’m not stupid.’ So I asked, ‘Did you know that Margit was at the party that night when it happened?’ And he replied, ‘Yes, everyone knew it.’

“So I wasn’t talking as logically as I am now, but I said more or less, ‘So you knew A and you knew B, but you never made the connection?’ And he said no. I asked him why not and he said, ‘I don’t know why not.’

“And it was this moment that was the starting point of all the emotional stuff about not drawing the connection. Why not? Who has the power to decide not to ask? He said he never thought about it. He never thought there was a connection between the people in the castle and what happened there. Everyone knew that [Margit] had affairs with Nazis, she was a German who was very much into the Nazi regime and she had affairs, but no one ever wanted to ask the questions.”

Personal upheaval

These questions led to the appearance a decade later of “A Crime in the Family,” the fascinating book that Batthyany wrote about the incident, originally in German, and translated into English by Anthea Bell. Batthyany set out that morning in April 2007 on an in-depth search.

With the caution of a sapper dismantling a bomb, he peeled away the historical details he needed to expose. The fact that he was asking questions of his aristocratic family, the fact that he was uncovering the layers of this embarrassing history demanded a great deal of courage. It was also a personal upheaval: How was he connected to this history? How had it shaped his life, his personality, and his image?

Everything is integrated in the book from several points of view. It’s not just the story of that sickening night. Batthyany also explores the connection between his grandmother, Marita, and an Argentinean woman named Agnes Mandel, a Jewish refugee from the village in which the two grew up, one as the daughter of the local nobleman and the other as the daughter of village Jews who were murdered.

He also tells the story of his grandfather, who was imprisoned for a decade in Siberia and came out a shadow of a man; of how his paternal grandparents fled with his father, then a teenager, from Soviet-occupied Hungary to the home of the wealthy Countess Margit. And he examines the family pathology, the pathology of men who were eternally grateful to Margit and who preferred never to ask any questions.

The Batthyanys were European aristocrats who lost most of their property under the Soviet occupation but who had obviously been important. Batthyany says that when he visited Hungary, his name jolted the hotel staff, who treated him with great respect and sent champagne and fruit to his room.

Growing up in Switzerland he was regarded as the slightly strange son of immigrants (“I have a difficult name and people thought I was from India”) and had no clue that somewhere there were streets, castles, parks and even a chocolate cake bearing the family’s name. He also had no knowledge of the dozens of Batthyany descendants who held periodic family gatherings in Austria or Hungary.

But what Batthyany saw in that German newspaper report changed everything. He responded like a journalist, getting his editor to agree to give him time off to investigate. He began reading and searching in archives and also began to question distant relatives whom he had never met. When some of the cousins told him about a family gathering that was to take place, he announced that he was coming and that he planned to discuss the story.

In his book he describes the meeting: A few dozen Batthyanys, eating sandwiches and drinking coffee from elegant cups, none of them too thrilled to discuss the matter. “After a while it became really nasty,” he says. “One of the old uncles said, ‘What if it’s all not true’ and ‘Who owns the media’ and about vested interests and all this anti-Semitic stuff. Elfriede Jelinek, an Austrian playwright, wrote a play about the story, and they were talking about her and it became nasty.”

He recalls that the deeper he dug, the more intense the reactions became, to the point that relatives warned him to stop. “They called me like in a Mafia movie – no joke, anonymous calls saying ‘your name doesn’t matter, I’m just telling you to stop.’” At that family gathering an uncle of his with whom he’d actually been quite close said, ‘Don’t play with the name of our family. You have no idea what could happen.’”

But Batthyany continued his search, travelling to Rechnitz three times, the first time as a tourist. “Then I talked to the mayor; the mayor was nice. I even spoke to a woman who was that the party that night, who has since died. She told me that not only was my aunt there, but also her husband, Ivan, who is directly my family. My father and Ivan were friendly.

“It took months. I was working at a magazine then and my boss at the time allowed me to focus on this, but after some weeks I realized that this was going to be different than any other investigative piece I’d done.”

Batthyany’s initial research resulted in a magazine feature, but the topic gave him no rest. Though it was only one night in the history of a family that ostensibly felt distant enough from the event to be able to suppress it, Batthyany was tormented. He continued to work, married and had a family. Today he and his wife and three children live in Washington, where he is a correspondent for the Germany daily Süddeutsche Zeitung and other publications. But what he thought would end with a magazine article continued to haunt him.

When the Soviets occupied Hungary, tens of thousands of people, including his father and grandfather, fled. But unlike others, who ended up in a Red Cross refugee camp, their journey ended when the rich aunt sent a private chauffeur to pick them up and bring them to a castle near the Italian-Swiss border. Their first meal was an elegant dinner with glasses of sherry.

Aunt Margit employed Batthyany’s grandfather in one of her factories, completely financed his father’s education and, as he later understood, was the dominant matriarchal figure in the family.

“I couldn’t let it go,” he says. “I knew what I had to know, but I wasn’t done. I understood that this was my family and the questions didn’t stop. The title of the book in German is exactly the question that intrigued me then: ‘What Does it Have to do With Me?’ I realized this was the question I was interested in, but I had no idea how to approach it and answer.”

The answer he found was complex. Batthyany started to see a psychoanalyst, and the insights he derived from the conversations with him appear in the book. There are also sections of a diary his grandmother wrote and diligently edited in the last years of her life. The grandmother talks about the Mandels, the parents of Agnes who ended up in Argentina. Batthyany found Agnes and her daughters and formed a close relationship with them based on a shared fate and shared insights.

He also traveled with his family to Siberia to trace his grandfather’s life in the gulag and to understand what happened to him during that decade no one ever spoke about.

The picture that emerges from the book is well-rounded, moving from the personal to the historic, as it emerges that the victim and the criminal are part of the same family. Batthyany’s obsession with the past, with what happened and who was involved, seems at times like a mirror image of what so preoccupies Israelis, a desire to dig deeply and to decipher the present through people who are long lost.

Batthyany writes on the last page of the book about the similarity between him and the children and grandchildren of Agnes, again like a mirror image. He says that Agnes and the daughters and even the children of the daughters “always went to Hungary to this little tiny village in the middle of nowhere.”

He recalls: “There’s really nothing there. And they always went there to – I don’t know, to look for something or just to be there, and it was always surprising to me that even the generation afterwards, is still kind of haunted and interested in their roots.”

He says that while he studied history and psychology in university, even as a journalist he never, or hardly ever did stories on Hungary or World War II. “Before [2007] I wasn’t that interested in my family’s history. I knew just that the name is a very important name in Hungary.

“It was out of the blue,” he says that he became interested, “and I really think it probably has to do with my character,” he reflects.

“But I think [the lack of interest in history] also has to do with Switzerland. I really do think that Switzerland, although it’s in the midst of everything, is some kind of historic vacuum. There’s nothing that makes it think about what happened. There are no monuments, for example. When you’re in Hungary, even the tiniest village has three, four, five monuments in the center of the village. For example, one is for the victims of the Holocaust, the other is for the victims of Stalin’s gulags, and they are still fighting about which one is higher. That’s Hungary.

“So the only thing connected to all of these things and all these dark chapters of our history is in school, when you have your teacher – but it’s all in theory, not something you share on an emotional level.”

He says most Swiss children do not ask their parents and grandparents what they did during the war. “You don’t ask because there wasn’t much,” he says. Basically, he observes, life in Switzerland doesn’t demand any confrontation with your past, or any past at all.

He recalls that his first readers were friends or journalists from Switzerland. While they liked his writing, they would also write things like ‘I don’t really understand this thing with the past,’ he says. In Switzerland, this connection with the past is considered odd, he says.

“I think I’m a bit jealous.”

Batthyany laughs and says: “I was scared because I thought I shouldn’t have done it.
“But then the book was received entirely differently in Hungary, Germany and Austria [than in Switzerland]. You always carry the past with you, it’s what you are. There are those who don’t want to be aware, but if you feel the burden of the past you will see the connection to the present, to who you are.”


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