Tom Gross Mideast Media Analysis

Labour mayor: Israel behind US school shootings (& a hero dies, aged 107)

March 29, 2018

This is a follow-up to these dispatches:

* “If it quacks like a duck…” (& Holocaust survivor brutally murdered in Paris)
* A rally in London, a rally in Paris



1. Macron, Le Pen denounce anti-Semitism, BBC website says it is only alleged
2. A hero dies, aged 107
3. Labour activists move to sack a black MP who stood up for the Jews
4. BBC presenter: “What about the Labour mayor who said Israel was behind the school shootings in the US, and that Zionism was orchestrating ISIS?”
5. A granddaughter writes: “Mireille, you’ve turned to be the grandma of so many”
6. The Guardian and anti-Semitism
7. “Why did I protest against Corbyn?” (By Hadley Freeman, Guardian, March 28, 2018)
8. “If you can’t see anti-Semitism, it’s time to open your eyes” (By Michael Segalov, Guardian, March 29, 2018)
9. “The row over anti-Semitism in Labour shows there’s nothing harder than owning up to a mistake” (By Jack Bernhardt, Guardian, March 27, 2018)
10. “Johan van Hulst, Dutch schoolteacher who saved hundreds of Jewish children during Holocaust, dies at 107” (Washington Post, March 29, 2018)



[Notes by Tom Gross]

Above, a flower tribute to the 85-year old French Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll who was murdered a few days ago in a frenzied anti-Semitic attack. (Photo taken by the victim’s granddaughter, who has corresponded with me after a reader forwarded her my dispatch on her grandmother from earlier this week. Further down this dispatch, I attach a statement by her.)

Amazingly, the BBC website was still claiming the attack was “allegedly” anti-Semitic even after the French police, having interviewed those arrested, announced that the sheer viciousness of the murder was a result of the perpetrators’ hatred of Jews, and even after French President Emmanuel Macron said “Mireille Knoll was killed in an appalling way because she was Jewish,” and even after the French National Front leader Marine Le Pen (who is trying to legitimize herself) condemned it as an anti-Semitic hate crime.

President Macron was among those who attended her funeral for Mireille Knoll, and up to 30,000 people attended a silent march in her memory on Wednesday evening past her apartment in a working class neighborhood of Paris.

An annual French government count of racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and anti-Christian acts – most of which involve threats, not violence – dropped in 2017 compared with the year before. But anti-Semitic violence increased by 26 percent, and criminal damage to Jewish places of worship and burial by 22 percent.



Above: Johan van Hulst, a Dutch schoolteacher who saved more than 600 Jewish children and babies during the Holocaust. He has died aged 107 in Amsterdam.

The Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem said that van Hulst, who was a devout Calvinist, ran one of the “largest-scale” rescue operations of Jews during the Second World War, aided by Walter Süskind, a German-born Jew, and Henriëtte Pimentel, who ran the Jewish nursery and smuggled Jewish children out to van Hulst.

A Dutch Holocaust museum, which is still under development, is being built on the site of van Hulst’s old school.

107,000 Jews in the Netherlands were sent to death camps by the Nazis and the many Dutch Nazi collaborators; 5,200 survived, one of those lowest percentages of any Jewish population in Europe.

Van Hulst was reluctant to speak about his rescue efforts during recent decades, saying he was still traumatized by memories of those he could not rescue. “Now try to imagine 80, 90, perhaps 70 or 100 children standing there, and you have to decide which children to take with you,” van Hulst said. “That was the most difficult day of my life… You know for a fact that the children you leave behind are going to die. I took 12 with me. Later on I asked myself: ‘Why not 13?’”

(I attach an obituary from today’s Washington Post below.)



Moderate British Labour MP David Lammy (above, fourth from the left), one of the few black Labour members of parliament, is under attack by Corbyn supporters in the Labour party who say they will seek to have him de-selected from parliament (he represents the north London constituency of Tottenham) after he attended Monday’s Enough is Enough rally against anti-Semitism in London.

Lammy has received vicious online abuse from left-wing activists for expressing solidarity with the city’s Jewish population. They claim he had failed to show “absolute loyalty” to party leader Corbyn.

(Corbyn last night made a public plea to Labour supporters to stop abusing David Lammy, Luciana Berger, John Woodcock, Ian Austin and Wes Streeting, all Labour MPs who have strongly denounced anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. [Berger and Austin are both subscribers to this email list.])

Separately, Labour’s anti-Semitism rift deepened earlier today when the party’s disciplinary chief Christine Shawcroft was forced to step down after an email was leaked revealing that she queried the suspension of a Labour candidate who claimed the Holocaust was a fantasy.

It was also revealed today that Corbyn himself, who denies being in any way anti-Semitic, was a personal member of a fourth and fifth Facebook group in which anti-Semitic views were expressed.

And there were also suggestions on Labour Party websites that it was the Jews, in the form of Mossad, who were behind the attempted murders (almost certainly by the Russians) of Russian dissident Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.



One of the few British TV presenters to properly challenge Labour anti-Semitism is Andrew Neil, who presents the Daily Politics show on BBC.

Neil (who is a longtime subscriber to this email list) said to a senior Labour party figure in an interview yesterday:

“What about the former mayor of Blackburn, then? Salim Mulla — he said Zionist Jews were a disgrace to humanity. And he also said that Israel, Israel, was behind the school shootings in the United states, and that Zionism was orchestrating ISIS. This is your party… he was reinstated, too. He’s in your party. This is the kind of thing the Nazis did in the 1930s. They accused the Jews of all sorts of things. And here is a member of your party who was suspended and then reinstated, blaming the Jews for the school shootings in the United States. I mean how high is the threshold before you get kicked out for anti-Semitism now?”



(Written in English today by one of Mireille Knoll’s granddaughters, which she has asked me to share. She lives in Israel and is a native French and Hebrew speaker. I decided not to name her on this public weblist in case some people find her online and write her unpleasant messages.)

Wow, I’m still under shock.

From all the love I received from my friends who knows me but beside, from hundreds of people around the world.

Muslims, French, Israeli, German, British, Russian, American and more... with your kind words, you made me feel like brothers and sisters. Thank you so much for all the love and sympathy!

I know grandma loved to be surrounded.

Well, she got more then 30,000 people walking a memorial and silent walk for her, and for all the others, who were killed by fanatics terrorist with no heart.

I didn’t imagine this story will go trough the entire world, I met my families both sides and so happy I met again my cousin that I didn’t see for 20 years.

This tragic story united us all together.

I’m so proud of my father, with his words that we have to love and respect each other, instead of war and hate, demanding for brotherhood.

Proud of my education and values I grew up with, the love of human race with no discrimination!

For the first time, I also met the press and media who didn’t let us even one second to breath and embrace the pain.

It’s so painful to deliver her story again but so important to reminisce, she was a survivor from holocaust, to be killed in such atrocity.

No memories, no pictures were left.

This tragedy will rest in our hearts.

Mireille, you’ve turned to be the grandma of so many. We all have families, we all have mothers, we are all affected.

The world needs to wake up!

Tomorrow someone else can be a victim. Cause I never imagined that this could happen to us.

I’m calling for peace, dignity, love, and brotherhood to the entire world.

“Together we stand, Divided we fall”



I mentioned in my previous dispatch that some senior staff editors at The Guardian (unlike most other British papers) still have a problem with admitting that Holocaust denial by Labour party members is anti-Semitic.

In fairness to The Guardian it has also run some strong pieces this week condemning anti-Semitism and I attach three of them below.

However, it would be helpful if The Guardian made some acknowledgement of its own past role in stoking anti-Semitism both among some of their writers and by allowing, over many years, truly vicious readers’ comments defaming Jews and Israel under its “Comment is free articles”.

I have cited examples of this on numerous occasions in these dispatches.

On one of the rare occasions that a Guardian editor acknowledged some anti-Semitism in the paper, I wrote a piece about it here.


I attach four articles below.

-- Tom Gross:



Why did I protest against Corbyn? Look at his long list of evasions
It felt good to join others demonstrating over the Labour leader’s conduct. He needs to take responsibility and tackle anti-Semitism in the party once and for all

By Hadley Freeman
The Guardian

March 28, 2018

It was a politely furious protest. I’ll talk about the politeness first. I arrived a few minutes late to Parliament Square for the demonstration against … well, let’s say the somewhat cavalier attitude towards antisemitism displayed by various members of the Labour party, and specifically the most senior member of the Labour party. The square was jam-packed, and despite all the people on my social media feed who had been urgently telling me for days that Jews were hysterically conniving to bring down Jeremy Corbyn, there was a notably peaceful air to the proceedings. While speakers such as Luciana Berger tried in vain to make themselves heard, the crowd made self-mocking jokes: surely there must be a buffet at a Jewish protest? I wished I’d made some signs: “Not antisemitic? Jew must be joking!” It was that kind of protest.

But there was also palpable fury beneath the politeness. I can’t speak for why all the other people at the protest felt furious – we didn’t establish a party line on this at our last general meeting because we were too busy discussing how to control the weather, as a US politician alleged last week. But I was furious after a weekend of news stories about how Corbyn had, once again, endorsed antisemitic behaviour and failed to take responsibility for it until public opinion forced him to do so. Deja vu? Groundhog Day, more like.

Let’s run through the greatest hits: there was the time Corbyn took tea with the hate preacher Raed Salah, and called him “a very honoured citizen”, even though he’d been charged in Israel with inciting anti-Jewish racism and violence; the time he hosted representatives from Hamas and Hezbollah, even though Hamas’s charter calls for the destruction of the Jews; the times he accepted a total of £20,000 for appearing on Iran’s Press TV, a channel that regularly hosts Holocaust deniers; the time he defended the Rev Stephen Sizer, who was later banned by church authorities from social media for sharing antisemitic material blaming Israel for 9/11; that he was an active member of three Facebook groups on which deeply antisemitic posts regularly appeared; and that now he has commented on Facebook in support of an absurdly antisemitic mural. Corbyn is frequently praised by his supporters for sticking to his guns, never wavering in his opinions, and yet when you bring up any of the above instances they wave them away as being “ages ago” and say he’s apologised since. Corbyn has always cried innocent, insisting that of course he abhors antisemitism (and-all-other-forms-of-racism). How could anyone accuse him of being soft on it? Don’t they know his mother was at the Battle of Cable Street? Yeah, well, my mother worked with Jim Henson – it doesn’t make me Big Bird.

Truly, I have never known a man to find himself alongside antisemites so often and not realise until it is publicly pointed out to him. Someone ought to make a sitcom about his misadventures with the antisemites. It could be called Oh, Jeremy Corbyn!, but with a more tutting tone than the usual triumphant one. A descending horn noise could sound whenever someone has to say it: “Have you just joined another antisemitic social media group? Oh, Jeremy Corbyn!”

I was furious after a weekend of watching his supporters – members of the public, journalists I once respected, various MPs – insist that this was all nonsense, a smear, a Zionist conspiracy designed to bring down infallible Jeremy. Quite how Jews have the wherewithal to conspire against Corbyn by cunningly making him endorse antisemites without his knowledge is never explained. So let’s get something straight: if someone has actually done something, reporting that action is not “a smear”, it’s “reporting”. And suggesting Jews always have an ulterior motive, even when reacting to antisemitism, is really not the best way to prove that you’re not antisemitic.

I’m furious with people who respond to these points by huffing that criticism of Israel, by Corbyn or anyone on the left, does not make one antisemitic, even though Israel had nothing to do with any of Corbyn’s antisemitic encounters; and I’m furious with people who imply a little antisemitism is a price worth paying to achieve Corbyn’s socialist society. I’m furious with people who spent all of last week reading Russian runes into an image of Corbyn’s hat on Newsnight, and this week insist they can’t see anything antisemitic about a blatantly antisemitic mural. Most of all, I am furious with people for insisting there is nothing to see here, when we all know that if a Tory or Ukip politician had done half of the things Corbyn has done, these same people would be insisting they be put in the stocks. The hypocrisy takes the breath away.

Finally, I’m furious with people making Corbyn seem like a passive participant in all this. Sure, we can talk about how antisemitism is “baked into” the far left, and Corbyn himself has started to push this narrative with his latest apology (his third, or possibly his fourth since Friday – I’ve lost count). He says “antisemitism has resurfaced within the Labour party”, as though it were nothing to do with him, and others refer to antisemitism as a sickness that they will now root out.

But you cannot help getting sick – you can, however, help turning a blind eye to antisemitism. Corbyn made his own choices about what he clicked online and who he had tea with. What Jewish people need is for him to take some responsibility, show some backbone and honesty, explain why he was willing to ignore antisemitism for so long, and apologise. Not for “feelings hurt”, but for endorsing racists.

But I’ll be honest, I’m not holding my breath. So in the meantime, going to the protest was a balm. It was a relief to be with people who weren’t gaslighting Jews by insisting that what they were seeing in front of their eyes wasn’t true, and it was nice to see the MPs who showed up – Harriet Harman, Jess Phillips, Stella Creasy, Chuka Umunna – and know that at least some Labour politicians weren’t laughing this off as a distraction.

By the time Labour MP Wes Streeting took the stand to talk about how this ongoing scandal was “a stain” on the Labour party, and that Shami Chakrabarti’s 2016 report into antisemitism in the Labour party was a laughable “whitewash”, emotions were running high. No yarmulkes fell off any scalps, but you could see the backs of necks pinking. It was a civil protest, but a passionate one, and a deeply serious and heartfelt one. And as I left I felt myself smiling a little. But I’ll be honest – I was still furious.

(Hadley Freeman is a Guardian columnist and feature writer)



Whatever his supporters think, criticism of Corbyn is not a Blairite plot

The row over antisemitism in Labour shows there’s nothing harder than owning up to a mistake by your own side

By Jack Bernhardt
The Guardian
March 27, 2018

“Oh, Jeremy Corbyn.” Remember when those words were a fun White Stripes chant? Now it’s just the thing I mutter sadly when I read the news. Last week, Corbyn was forced to say sorry for something he did on Facebook, after a comment he made in 2012 in support of a grotesquely antisemitic mural resurfaced. Corbyn’s original comment was dreadful both because it was supporting an antisemitic work, and because it implied the “art” was too edgy for the mainstream – the last refuge of the talentless hack.

In his apology this weekend, Corbyn regretted that he didn’t look more closely at the image before writing the comment. For what it’s worth, I don’t think Corbyn is actively antisemitic, I just think he’s very good at shouting about the things he wants to shout about (such as austerity, inequality or cuts to the NHS), but very bad at talking about murkier, more difficult questions (such as Brexit, antisemitism within the Labour party or foreign policy). He won’t tackle antisemitism seriously because it’s likely to split the party (and not the good split of Blairites v the Chosen People) – and ultimately cohesion within the far left is what he will prioritise.

But Corbyn isn’t really the problem – to me, he’s a flawed politician who is a symptom of our fractured politics. For evidence, look no further than the odious hashtag that started circulating after Corbyn’s apology: #PredictTheNextCorbynSmear. I know Corbyn isn’t responsible for every hashtag that uses his name, and I know there are plenty of people who broadly support him but found this hashtag to be utterly hideous – I don’t want to tar every single Corbyn supporter with the Canary brush. But there is a vocal minority who can only see events – from the antisemitic row and Corbyn’s handling of the Salisbury attack to the confusion over Brexit – through a prism that translates any legitimate criticism into a Blairite, neoliberal plot.

In their eyes, there’s no way that true Jewish Labour supporters could get upset about this – they must be faking their outrage to build support for a hated centrist, egged on by the Israel lobby. It’s a prism that demands loyalty above rationality, which turns would-be allies into enemies, which reduces brilliant Labour MPs such as Luciana Berger, who has been fighting against food poverty and corporate health and safety loopholes for years, into supposed stooges, ripe for antisemitic abuse.

This is in no way exclusively a “far left” problem. We all have our prisms through which we see politics. In America, Trump voters see any criticism of their hapless president as an attack on themselves, and any controversy as created by the establishment. That’s how evangelical Christians can ignore allegations of affairs with porn stars, as they are surely just a ploy to get a religion-hating Democrat in the White House. And there are few prisms as dogmatic and as swivel-eyed as the one through which the Daily Mail and the rest of the hard right view Brexit. For them, there are no legitimate concerns about the Irish border, or about the future of British trade, or about a spike in hate crimes – it must instead be a part of a Soros-funded campaign to keep our passports pink.

Sadly, remainers have their own prism: Brexit becomes the punchbag for everything, blinding us to wider problems, and making us see everything as a dumb binary choice between leave and remain. Any tiny slight is seen as evidence of corruption: Andrew Adonis recently tweeted that the BBC had a pro-Brexit bias because it didn’t carry a mention of a march he was on – a march I read about on the BBC website in an article that mentioned Adonis by name. For someone with the title “Lord Adonis”, he is weirdly fragile.

These prisms are easy. It’s easier to point to a conspiracy theory than face up to the bigger problems within your own “movement”. For Brexiteers, it’s easier to scream “betrayal” at anyone and everything than face up to the fact that your campaign was built on lies that are now impossible to deliver.

For remainers, it’s easier to shout about Russia hacking the campaign, or Cambridge Analytica, than to focus on why so many impoverished people felt so angry at the status quo that they would want to commit such an act of self-harm.

And for the far left, it’s easier to concoct tales of establishment smears than it is to root out the disturbing pockets of antisemitism that the leadership has ignored. At some point, though, it becomes unsustainable. At some point, we all have to break free from our prisms.

(Jack Bernhardt is a comedy writer and occasional performer)



If you can’t see antisemitism, it’s time to open your eyes
Jeremy Corbyn isn’t alone – everyone in the Labour party should have recognised how offensive that mural was

By Michael Segalov
The Guardian
March 29, 2018

Some forms of antisemitism are self-evident in their manifestation: neo-Nazis wielding swastikas, denial of the Holocaust, vile sentiments known as the “blood libel”, which suggest that Jews harvest the blood of Christians with which to celebrate religious festivals year on year. Most of us would recognise these as bigoted and hateful, an attack on a community that has for centuries experienced prejudice across the world.

In the days that have followed Jeremy Corbyn’s offensive Facebook post coming to public attention, there has been outrage from what appear to be two distinct camps. Some Labour members are deeply troubled by the situation, while others argue ignorantly that the Labour leader has done nothing wrong.

What has become obvious in the past few days, however, is that many simply do not understand the content of this mural and why it is so deeply offensive – this is a more subtle antisemitic sentiment, which takes contextualising to understand.

Considering the Jewish community makes up just 0.5% of the UK’s population, and that for many of us the closest we will have to an education in the history of discrimination faced by Jewish people amounts to a few months of GCSE history and Inglourious Basterds, it’s possible a simple explanation could rectify the confusion once and for all.

First, make sure to actually look at the mural. Don’t take a fleeting glance as you prepare to tweet your outrage, but pause for a moment and take it all in. Sitting around a table is a group of rotund men: one has a full beard, and is counting money. That, in and of itself, is an antisemitic symbol.

It’s not just the big, hookednoses and evil expressions that make this iconography offensive and troubling, these depictions mirror antisemitic propaganda used by Hitler and the Nazis to whip up hatred that led to the massacre of millions of Jews. This extends to the table these figures are sat at, resting on human bodies, as the Nazis also depicted.

Context here is also important. If you haven’t yet, then research The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. An entirely fabricated text printed first in Russia during the early 1900s, it purports to document a meeting of Jewish leaders setting out plans to take over the world by controlling the media and press, and fostering religious conflict to subjugate non-Jews across the globe.

During the 1920s and 1930s the Protocols were a key element of the Nazi propaganda programme – at least 23 editions were published by the party in the two decades that preceded the outbreak of the second world war in 1939. The domination of the world by hooknosed men wielding power and money? There is more than a visual connection in this mural to antisemitism – the messaging is full-blown Nazi too.

In other contexts Illuminati conspiracies are light-hearted and funny: it’s not antisemitic to joke that Kanye West and Taylor Swift are part of a secret, triangle-based plot to conquer the world. But the employment of an Eye of Providence symbol (often associated with the Illuminati and Freemasonry) in the offending mural is clearly antisemitic. Racist conspiracy theorists also long claimed that Jews are in control of the Freemason network – think the Rothschilds and George Soros. That is antisemitism too.

If you’re left in any doubt, just read the words of Mear One, the street artist who painted the mural: “Some of the older white Jewish folk in the local community had an issue with me portraying their beloved #Rothschild or #Warburg etc as the demons they are,” he has written.

Of course there are some people – within Labour and outside of it – who are pleased to have any excuse to attack Corbyn. Their motivation might be unpleasant, but the “weaponisation” of antisemitism is somewhat less troubling if it can perceived to be there in the first place.

A small handful of people in Labour’s ranks know only too well the connotations in this mural, yet continue to defend it. There is no space in the Labour party for you. Progressive organisations are better off without you inside.

Labour can’t just pledge to kick the antisemites it finds out of the party: it needs to make a plan for combating bigotry in opposition and for entering government too. The Chakrabarti report from 2016 into antisemitism in Labour must be implemented fully. A party bureaucracy that has slowed the process down cannot be allowed to do so any longer. Labour must pledge to improve the national curriculum – better political education is needed in schools across the country to ensure murals like this are understood for what they are.

There must also, starting now, be better investment in educating Labour’s 550,000-strong party membership. A party that prides itself on its commitment to equality can and must do better.

It’s somewhat understandable that some people jumping to Corbyn’s defence now do so as a kneejerk reaction, as years of smears have made members defensive. This, however, is no such nonsense.

Corbyn is no antisemite, but he displayed a lack of judgment and awareness that he – and it appears some members – need to address. Time must be taken for reflection and education, or it will prove impossible to ensure the left is never blind to this issue again.

(Michael Segalov is the news editor of Huck magazine)



Johan van Hulst, Dutch schoolteacher who saved hundreds of Jewish children during Holocaust, dies at 107
By Ellie Silverman
Washington Post
March 29, 2018

An inspector from the Dutch education ministry arrived at Johan van Hulst’s teacher training institute in Amsterdam on the morning of June 19, 1943. He noticed youngsters and, with SS soldiers standing nearby, asked, “Are those Jewish children?”

“You don’t really expect me to answer that, do you?” Dr. van Hulst replied.

The garden of Dr. van Hulst’s Reformed Teachers’ Training College bordered the garden of a Jewish nursery. Under Dr. van Hulst’s supervision, hundreds of Jewish infants and children had been passed across the hedge and hidden in his school. As Dr. van Hulst recalled, the inspector shook his hand and said, quietly, “In God’s name, be careful.”

Dr. van Hulst, who was credited with saving more than 600 Jewish babies and children during World War II and, in 1972, was named Righteous Among the Nations by the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center in Jerusalem, died March 22 in Amsterdam. He was 107.

The Dutch Senate, where Dr. van Hulst later served, announced his death but did not disclose the cause.

Dr. van Hulst was among more than 26,500 gentiles — 5,595 from the Netherlands — recognized by Yad Vashem for risking their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Yad Vashem described Dr. van Hulst as a Calvinist Protestant who smuggled children to safety in a “large-scale” rescue operation.

Germany invaded the Netherlands in May 1940 and, by the summer of 1942, the deportations of Jews had begun. During the next two years, 107,000 Jews in the Netherlands were sent to death camps; 5,200 survived. Less than 25 percent of the Dutch Jewish population survived the Holocaust, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Dr. van Hulst’s school was diagonally opposite a theater that was being used by the Nazis as a way station for Jews sent to the Westerbork transit camp in the northeastern part of the country. From there, Dutch Jews would be moved to death camps in German-occupied Poland.

At the theater, Jewish children under 12 were separated from their parents and sent to a Jewish nursery across the street, said Bart Wallet, a historian at Vrije University in Amsterdam. When there were too many children for the facility, authorities asked Dr. van Hulst if they could use the spare room in the teachers’ academy.

Wallet said that Dr. van Hulst set up an “ingenious system” along with Walter Süskind, a German-born Jew, and Henriëtte Pimentel, who ran the Jewish nursery.

Süskind had fled Germany after Hitler’s rise to power and established himself in Amsterdam. Through his involvement with the local Jewish council, one of many municipal administrations the Germans formed to carry out Nazi orders, Süskind was charged with running the theater and registering the local Jews.

But Süskind made hundreds of children vanish from the administrative records after they had been separated from their parents and kept at the nursery next to Dr. van Hulst’s school. If Pimentel transferred 30 children to Dr. van Hulst’s school, they only wrote down 25 names, Wallet said.

Wallet described Süskind, Dr. van Hulst and Pimentel as “the brains of this whole smuggling network,” which also involved the help of Dr. van Hulst’s students and some expert timing.

A tram ran through the street separating Dr. Van Hulst’s school from the theater. Dr. van Hulst and his student helpers waited for the precise moment the tram stopped, temporarily blocking the SS officers’ view of the school, to hide the Jewish children in baskets and sacks, Wallet explained.

The children would then be taken to their next underground destination in German-occupied Holland. Most scholars estimate this operation saved about 600 children, Wallet said.

In the spring of 1945, one of the collaborators in the operation was arrested and tortured into giving up Dr. van Hulst’s name, Wallet said. Fearing execution, Dr. van Hulst went into hiding until the Netherlands was liberated by Allied forces in May.

After the war, Dr. van Hulst turned to politics. He was a member of the Dutch Senate from 1956 to 1981 and of the European Parliament for much of the 1960s. He also was an emeritus professor of pedagogy at Vrije University and played in chess tournaments. He refrained from talking about his role in the resistance to German occupation.

“I resolutely closed the book,” he told the Dutch newspaper Het Parool in 2015. He said he declined to “play a resistance hero” in the media, adding, “I actually only think about what I have not been able to do. To those few thousand children that I could not have saved.”

A Holocaust museum, which is still under development, now occupies the site of Dr. Hulst’s old school.

Johan Wilhelm van Hulst was born in Amsterdam on Jan. 28, 1911. His father was a furniture upholsterer, and his mother was a homemaker.

He graduated in 1929 from a pedagogical academy in Amsterdam and, at Vrije University, received a master’s degree in philosophy, a second master’s in pedagogy and a doctorate.

His wife of 69 years, Anna Jannetta Donker, died in 2006. Survivors include two daughters, Catharina Koot-van Hulst and Diane Schoonemann-van Hulst; two grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren, according to Wallet.

For all the attention he later received for his success at saving lives, Dr. van Hulst said he was traumatized by memories of those he could not rescue. In September 1943, Dr. van Hulst recalled, he found out that the Jewish child-care center was about to be closed. He was asked how many of the remaining children he could smuggle to safety before they fell into the hands of the Germans.

“Now try to imagine 80, 90, perhaps 70 or 100 children standing there, and you have to decide which children to take with you,” Dr. van Hulst said, according to Yad Vashem. “That was the most difficult day of my life. . . . You know for a fact that the children you leave behind are going to die. I took 12 with me. Later on I asked myself: ‘Why not 13?’”


* You can also find other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page on Facebook

A rally in London, a rally in Paris

March 27, 2018



[Note by Tom Gross]

This is a follow-up to yesterday’s dispatch: “If it quacks like a duck…” (& Holocaust survivor brutally murdered in Paris)

And there is another later dispatch here: Labour mayor: Israel behind US school shootings (& a hero dies, aged 107)


The 85-year-old child Holocaust survivor murdered in her apartment in a working class neighborhood of Paris, who I wrote about yesterday morning, has now been named as Mireille Knoll. Besides being repeatedly stabbed and burned, police sources say she had her throat slit, and that anti-Semitism was the prime motive for her murder. Two suspects have been arrested.

As a nine-year-old girl, she was one of the survivors of the notorious Vel d’hiv round-up of Paris’s Jews by French police acting for the Nazis in 1942 -- events depicted in the 2010 film Sarah’s Key, starring Kristin Scott Thomas, which I recommended in this dispatch.

Knoll is the 11th person murdered in an act of anti-Semitism in France in the past 12 years, and many others, including children, have been badly injured.

Knoll’s late husband was an Auschwitz survivor. Some of her children and grandchildren had already emigrated to Israel in recent years, partly as a result of French anti-Semitism

A “silent march” outside her home in Paris, initiated by a French friend of mine and subscriber to this email list, is planned for tomorrow in her memory. It is expected to draw thousands of people. Unlike the march yesterday in London, in which only a handful of non-Jews joined British Jews in protesting anti-Semitism, significant numbers of French non-Jews are expected to join tomorrow’s vigil.


(I am told by staff at the New York Times that, prompted by my remarks on this in my dispatch yesterday morning and by my criticism in that dispatch of the New York Times for not sufficiently covering anti-Semitic attacks in Europe, the New York Times commissioned this piece which went on line late last night and is also on page 7 of the print edition today, May 27. Senior staff at the New York Times subscribe to this Middle East dispatch, invitation-only, email list.)



Below are a selection of today’s British newspaper covers. Only the Guardian, in denial about the ugly nature of the British far left as ever, talks of ‘perceived’ anti-Semitism.



As the left-wing Israeli paper Haaretz writes:

The rally by Jews outside parliament in London was “unprecedented. The Jewish community in a modern Western democracy is accusing one of the country’s largest mainstream political parties and its leader, who may well be the country’s next prime minister, of tolerating and enabling anti-Semitism. More remarkable is that it is happening in Britain, where the leaders of the Jewish establishment are notoriously timid and routinely shy away from any hint of controversy. And to the Labour Party, which historically fought against any racism or discrimination against minorities...”

“There will be no happy end to this sorry saga. At 68, and after nearly half a century of political activism, Corbyn is too old and dogmatic to change. His attitudes can’t shift. In the some way he is incapable of acknowledging that Russia was almost certainly behind last month’s poisoning of a former double agent in Salisbury, even though his beloved Soviet Union was long ago replaced in Moscow by Vladimir Putin’s kleptocracy, he is incapable of grasping that many of his fellow-travelers on the radical left are judeophobic. And many of those who now cling to Corbyn as their savior are equally incapable of hearing any ill spoken of him.”



Above is the cover of yesterday’s pro-Erdogan Turkish daily Yeni Akit, portraying German Chancellor Angela Merkel on its front cover as Adolf Hitler and accusing her of having a "Nazi mentality".

Merkel has in fact been rather timid in her condemnation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s continuing round up and imprisonment of thousands of Turkish human rights activists and journalists. Other western leaders too have been timid about their condemnation of Erdogan. As I wrote at the time, I believe it was a terrible strategic mistake of both former American President Barack Obama and former British Prime Minister David Cameron to travel to Turkey on almost their very first foreign policy trips and lavish praise on Erdogan who was already behaving like a ruthless dictator at the time.

-- Tom Gross


* You can also find other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page on Facebook

"If it quacks like a duck…" (& Holocaust survivor brutally murdered in Paris)

March 26, 2018

There are new revelations within the last few minutes that Britain’s left-wing “prime minister in waiting” Jeremy Corbyn – already mired in scandal for his links to anti-Semites, Holocaust deniers and Palestinian terrorists – is personally a member of this third anti-Semitic Facebook group (above).


After appearing to defend this anti-Semitic public wall mural in London by Los Angeles-based street artist Mear One, even though one of his own Labour MPs said it would not have looked out of place in Julius Streicher’s Der Stürmer, Jeremy Corbyn has distanced himself from it. (The mural uses traditional anti-Semitic imagery produced in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia.)

As I have outlined before on this list, since becoming head of the Labour party, Corbyn has been forced to distance himself from Labour party members and supporters who accused Jews and Israel of being behind the 9/11 attacks, from his own ten year association with the fake news anti-Semitic propaganda group founded by Britain’s leading Holocaust denier (the anti-Semitic Jewish-born Paul Eisen), from his ‘friends’ in Hamas and Hezbollah, from radical anti-Semitic Islamic sheikhs, from the honor Corbyn bestowed in memory of one of the terrorist masterminds behind the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre, from being a member of the closed Facebook group ‘Palestine Live’, in which a number of anti-Semitic posts appeared, and so on.



[Note by Tom Gross]

Less than 10 percent of subscribers to this email list live in the UK, and whereas left-wing anti-Semitism is now the lead story today across the British news media after the latest anti-Semitic scandal involving the head of the main opposition Labour party, this story has not been covered properly elsewhere, especially by prominent international newspapers such as The New York Times* which are largely sympathetic to the Labour party.

Despite Brexit (some might argue because of it), Britain remains a very important world power, and therefore the very real prospect that Britain’s next prime minister could be an extremist across a range of issues, should be of concern elsewhere.

Lord Stewart Wood, a Labour peer, and formerly the advisor to the previous Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, said: “The German Social Democrats had an expression in the 1890s: ‘antisemitism is the socialism of fools’. Sadly, Labour’s leadership now faces the challenge of having to convince our party and country that they will not tolerate those who confuse the two.” (Tom Gross: One might well argue socialism, even without the anti-Semitism, is itself a foolish, if perhaps on occasion well-intentioned, endeavor.)

Labour MP Ian Austin, who is a subscriber to this list, said “Jeremy would never have defended racist imagery aimed at any other group.”



Just as Corbyn’s positions and associations with anti-Semites have not been sufficiently reported outside the UK, readers of this list outside France may not have heard about the latest murder of a Jew there in a suspected anti-Semitic attack.

An 85-year-old French-Jewish Holocaust survivor was stabbed 11 times on Friday before her apartment was set on fire on Avenue Philippe Auguste in Paris’s working class 11th arrondissement, Le Parisien newspaper reports.

Police said the victim, “Mireille K.” whose surname is being withheld for the time being, had filed police complaints against a local resident who had threatened to burn her just as her family were burned in the Holocaust

French leaders called for judicial authorities to act swiftly and not cover up the motives “for this barbaric crime.”

Last year, when 65-year-old orthodox Jewish grandmother Sarah Halimi was severely beaten in her apartment, also in Paris’s 11th arrondissement, by an Islamist assailant and then thrown to her death from her window, even though the assailant had long screamed anti-Semitic curses at her and other Jews, a French court ruled that the Halimi case would not be prosecuted as an anti-Semitic hate crime.

After President Macron personally intervened to criticize the court, the judge admitted that the motive for the unprovoked murder had been anti-Semitic.



Sarah Halimi is not related to Ilan Halimi, another French Jew brutally murdered about whom it took French authorities some time to admit that the motives were anti-Semitic.

As I pointed out in this article in Canada’s National Post (no British or French paper agreed to publish the article) the Paris public prosecutor, Jean-Claude Marin, told French journalists that there was nothing anti-Semitic about the murder (before then French Prime Minister de Villepin stepped in to accuse both him and the police of covering up the anti-Semitic aspects of the murder).

And Le Figaro in Paris and The Observer in London (the Sunday edition of The Guardian with which it shares a website) reported the Ilan Halimi case while avoiding any mention of the fact that the victim was a Jew. “It is hard to imagine that The Observer, or its affiliate newspaper The Guardian, would report on an unprovoked racial attack on a black or Asian Muslim without mentioning that it was a racial attack, or who the perpetrators and victim were,” I wrote.

(See also this update on Ilan Halimi.)



Today, papers, at least in Britain, are in general more willing to allow a columnist to say that something is anti-Semitic.

I attach two articles, one from today’s Guardian and the other from yesterday’s London Sunday Times, by Rod Liddle titled “Nothing proves Corbyn is anti-Semitic – just everything he says and does”.

Corbyn “can backtrack all he likes,” writes Liddle. “But if it walks like an anti-Semite and repeatedly quacks like an anti-Semite, then it probably is an anti-Semite.”

The Guardian’s article is by one of their two token non-left-wing columnists, Matthew d’Ancona, who asks “How ‘closely’ did Corbyn have to look at the mural, which resembled a homage to the Nazi newspaper Der Stürmer, to spot its vicious hostility to Jews?”



Here are two of my short TV interviews criticizing Corbyn and the British left’s (and the British leftist media’s) extremist views on Jews and Israel, and on Corbyn’s views on the Russian and Iranian regimes.

* Updates, March 27, 2018

* There is a second dispatch on this subject here: A rally in London, a rally in Paris.

I am told by staff at the New York Times that, prompted by my remarks above on this subject earlier in the day and by my criticism of the New York Times for not sufficiently covering anti-Semitic attacks in Europe, the New York Times commissioned this piece which went on line late last night and is also on page 7 of the print edition today, May 27. Senior staff at the New York Times subscribe to this Middle East dispatch (invitation-only) email list.

*And there is a third dispatch here: Labour mayor: Israel behind US school shootings (& a hero dies, aged 107)



Corbyn’s ‘regret’ over an antisemitic mural doesn’t go remotely far enough

By Matthew d’Ancona

The party leader seems to respond as though hatred of Jewish people is an irritant, rather than a issue of fundamental rights

The Guardian, Opinion

March 26, 2018

If, as August Bebel, the 19th-century German leftist, warned, antisemitism is the “socialism of fools”, then it is becoming ever more pressing to ask whether the man who fancies himself our next prime minister might be rather foolish. Jeremy Corbyn’s gift for empathy does much to explain his remarkable electoral performance last June. But his wholly inadequate response to the Tower Hamlets mural controversy suggests that this gift may have clear – and alarming – limits.

To recap: in 2012, a wall painting by the street artist Mear One in east London was designated for removal by the local authority. Using grotesquely antisemitic imagery, it depicted Jewish financiers playing a Monopoly-style board game on the backs of naked people. On the artist’s Facebook page, Corbyn posted the following response to this decision: “Why? You are in good company. Rockerfeller [sic] destroyed Diego Viera’s [Rivera’s] mural because it includes a picture of Lenin.”

In the great discourse of left identity politics, Jews were now definitively on the wrong side of the line.

Last week, Luciana Berger, the Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree, asked the leader’s office for an explanation. The initial statement read as follows: “In 2012, Jeremy was responding to concerns about the removal of public art on grounds of freedom of speech. However, the mural was offensive, used antisemitic imagery, which has no place in our society, and it is right that it was removed.”

This made no sense, since the point of Corbyn’s original post was that the removal of the mural was unjustified. A second statement was issued, in which the Labour leader declared: “I sincerely regret that I did not look more closely at the image I was commenting on.” Again, this fell far short of what was required. “Regret” is the word politicians use when they wish to avoid apologising. And how “closely” did Corbyn have to look at the mural, which resembled a homage to the Nazi newspaper Der Stürmer, to spot its vicious hostility to Jews?

At this stage of the argument, Corbyn’s supporters object in two ways. The first is to engage in furious “whataboutery”: what about racism on the right? What about Conservative prejudice? To which I reply: having spent 20 years calling out Tory xenophobia and (more recently) Brexiteer bigotry, I don’t need permission to question Labour’s attitude to antisemitism.

Second, it is customary to dismiss questions about the leadership’s response to antisemitism as wilful distraction or even a means of sabotaging Corbyn’s position and plans. Last September, Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite, described previous allegations of antisemitism as “mood music that was created by people who were trying to undermine Jeremy Corbyn”. The film director Ken Loach put it no less pithily: “It’s funny these stories suddenly appeared when Jeremy Corbyn became leader, isn’t it?”

The real question is otherwise: why does Corbyn – admirably proactive in tackling other forms of prejudice – seem to squirm and dither when confronted with allegations of antisemitism? As Richard Gold, a party member active in the anti-racist Engage campaign, put it in his submission to Shami Chakrabarti’s inquiry into Labour antisemitism: “[It is] as though being unpleasant to Jews … should be excused or minimised, treated merely as rudeness or bad manners, rather than racist behaviour.”

In his recent book, Contemporary Left Antisemitism, David Hirsh argued that the problem was turbo-charged by three events in 2001: the collapse of the Middle East peace process, the anti-imperialist rhetoric that followed 9/11 and the UN conference in Durban at which “Zionism” was designated a form of white racism. This set the stage for, in Hirsh’s words, “an antisemitism which positions Jews themselves as ‘oppressors’ and … those who develop hostile narratives about Jews as ‘oppressed’.” In the great discourse of left identity politics, Jews were now definitively on the wrong side of the line: powerful, white, aligned with imperialism.

According to this twisted logic, Mear One’s mural could not, axiomatically, be judged racist – any more than Ken Livingstone’s outbursts, the antisemitic content posted on social media by the Labour MP Naz Shah, or the alleged hostility to Jews at the Oxford University Labour Club. The leadership might be forced by media or political pressure to take action against such conduct. But it manifestly did so with an eye to optics rather than as a matter of principle.

Antisemitism is on the rise all over the world. According to the Community Security Trust, a record number of antisemitic incidents were reported in the UK last year. Why does this bother Corbyn as little as it seems to? Does he believe in universal rights and equality of worth, or not? The fact that the Labour leader appears to regard allegations of antisemitism as an irritant rather than a fundamental issue says nothing good about him. In this respect, at least, the writing is upon the wall.



Nothing proves Corbyn is anti-Semitic — just everything he says and does
By Rod Liddle
London Sunday Times
March 25, 2018

[The first part of the piece is about another subject and is omitted here -- TG]

… It is not only women whom [Corbyn’s left-wing movement] Momentum doesn’t seem to like very much, of course. There are also Jews. Jeremy Corbyn resists the charge of anti-semitism, as you might well expect — heaven forfend, Jews are absolutely bloody marvellous, he will announce when challenged on this issue — but his other utterances, and indeed actions, tend to give the game away.

He has called the genocidal racists of Hamas and Hezbollah his “friends”, for example. He could not bring himself even to meet the Israeli prime minister last year (which must have really disappointed Benjamin Netanyahu), and a recent Labour Party fact-finding tour to Israel disdained to meet any Israeli politicians who don’t want to give their country over to the Palestinians first thing Monday morning.

Corbyn and the Momentum monkeys will undoubtedly argue that this is an anti-Zionist stance, not anti-semitic, per se. But then these lefties might ask themselves why it is Israel, of all the countries in the world, that so obsesses them, that so nurtures their hatred? Is it the only place where nasty things happen? Are there no other countries that might be the focus of their deranged and unrelenting wrath?

Then there’s the other stuff. The extraordinary tolerance shown by the party leadership to people who have said the most outrageously anti-semitic remarks. The whitewashed report into anti-semitism within the party. Jezza is also a member of a virulently anti-semitic Facebook group that accuses Jews of controlling the media, of wishing to establish a New World Order and of harvesting organs from Syrian prisoners.

Corbyn latterly claimed he’d been added to this forum without his knowledge. How’d that happen, Jezza? Most recently there’s the mural, a ghastly painting, titled Freedom for Humanity, by a talentless American graffiti artist called Mear One. It was commissioned in 2012 for a wall in east London (presumably at your expense somewhere down the line), then swiftly removed because of its quite astonishing anti-semitism. A cabal of hook-nosed money men playing Monopoly, the table resting on the backs of naked workers.

Even the Muslims in Tower Hamlets thought this was pushing it a bit: the mayor at the time, Lutfur Rahman, ordered the wall scrubbed clean, quickish. The artist complained, of course, and received immediate succour from Corbyn, who tweeted: “You are in good company. Rockerfeller [sic] destroyed Diego Viera’s [sic] mural because it includes a picture of Lenin.”

It is fairly clear he knew, then, why the mural had aroused offence. Now Corbyn has had to backtrack — yes, again, and again; it seems to happen every month — and disown his earlier appreciation of this garishly hideous, adolescent piece of racist trash, which, as one Labour MP put it, would not have looked out of place in Julius Streicher’s Der Stürmer.

All of these recantations! I was kicked out of the Labour Party for suggesting the anti-semitism present in the party was the result of two things. First, the growing number and influence of Muslim Labour councillors (several of whom were indeed disciplined by the party for making anti-semitic posts or remarks); and second, the asinine, West-hating, Jew-baiting white far left, such as Jezza. He can backtrack all he likes. But I suspect most Jewish people will take the view that if it walks like an anti-semite and repeatedly quacks like an anti-semite, then it probably is an anti-semite.”

'London's number one eye guy'

March 16, 2018

Tony Gross pictured in 1989 with models wearing his designs in The Sunday Times Magazine



[Note by Tom Gross]

There will be fewer Middle East dispatches this month because I have been busy organizing a funeral and dealing with other administrative matters on behalf of my uncle Tony Gross, whom I was very close to.

Tony, who was unmarried and childless, died suddenly, but peacefully, last week.

He was a pioneering fashion optician, who worked with people such as Elton John choosing glasses to match Elton’s exotic outfits before concerts. His glasses were worn in several films, including by Julia Roberts in Notting Hill.

As it says in The Times (of London) obituary below, Tony “set about turning glasses from unattractive, government-funded pieces of eye science into a fashion statement that was sexy and mysterious”.

Those who needed to wear glasses “should not have to feel glamour is no longer an option”, he insisted back in the 1970s.

Unfortunately, 11 years ago, Tony suffered a severe stoke and had to retire and sell his stake in Cutler and Gross to help pay for the medical care.

Since many of you on this Middle East list know me personally, for those interested I attach some obituaries below.

(My uncle was also a keen reader of these Mideast dispatches.)


A young Elton John wearing Tony Gross’s glasses, who signed the photo “To Tony with love”



Tony Gross, ‘London’s number one eye guy’ dies
Gross, once the leading fashion optician in the UK, designed glasses for Elton John, Madonna and Princess Diana
The Jewish Chronicle
March 8, 2018

Tony Gross, co-founder of British luxury eyewear brand Cutler and Gross, has died aged 78.

Described in the 1980s as “London’s number one eye guy” by W fashion magazine in New York, Gross was born into an observant Jewish family in London’s East End in 1939. Starting from relatively humble origins, he worked with Elton John in the 1970s, choosing glasses to match the bespectacled star’s suits. Later customers included Madonna, Tina Turner, George Michael, Hugh Grant, Grace Jones, Princess Diana, Sting, Bono, Rhianna, and Ava Gardner. His glasses were also worn in several films, including by Julia Roberts in Notting Hill.

Gross, who was in his heyday the leading fashion optician in the UK, was childless. His nephew, political commentator and occasional JC contributor, Tom Gross said: “He had been in a retirement home for the last few years following a stroke, but maintained his good humour and was his usual jolly self to the end.”

A family friend told the JC: “Whereas Tony’s late brother, the writer John Gross, was renowned for his literary skills – ‘Britain’s best read man’ as The Spectator called John – Tony was primarily a visual person, excelling at art and design.”


Tony Gross, snake in mouth, showing his more playful side



British optician and designer who made sunglasses a celebrity necessity
Obituary: Tony Gross
The Times (of London)
March 14, 2018

When Tony Gross began selling designer glasses in 1969, an appointment with an optician was widely regarded as an unfortunate “medical necessity” which he likened to “going to the chiropodist”.

Gross, who made many of Elton John’s outlandish spectacles and whose other clients included Madonna, Hugh Grant, Grace Jones, Princess Diana, Sting and Ava Gardner, set about turning glasses from “unattractive, government-funded pieces of eye science” into a fashion statement that was “sexy and mysterious”.

His designs banished the association of glasses with frumps and fogeys, and a visit to Cutler and Gross’s shop in Knightsbridge became a fun experience. It was akin to a trip to Biba or Mary Quant to purchase something that was chic and fashionable, and would be an essential accessory to a stylish wardrobe. Those who needed to wear glasses “should not have to feel glamour is no longer an option”, he insisted.

Gross and his business partner Graham Cutler, whom he met at optometry school at Northampton College, formed a formidable duo. Cutler was a down-to-earth optician with an eye for detail, who oversaw the complicated mechanics of producing bespoke spectacles. It was a vital role, for a top of the range pair could take eight weeks, 42 steps and 35 pairs of hands to make.

It was Gross who brought the creative flair with his stylish designs. As a committed bon viveur and man about town, his enthusiasm and taste acted as a magnet that brought pop stars, actors and royalty to Cutler and Gross’s door. Many of their celebrity clients also wore Cutler and Gross glasses on screen, including Julia Roberts in Notting Hill.

As a trained optometrist, he admitted that he had initially regarded the fashion world as “superficial, ephemeral and lightweight”. Yet he came to believe that it was “exactly these traits that make it so exciting”.

Gross collaborated with top designers at fashion shows, where his sunglasses became an integral part of the haute couture look. Indeed, he happily conceded that he was in large part to blame for the modern tendency of actors and pop stars to wear sunglasses indoors and all year round.

When Cutler and Gross opened for business “you could only sell sunglasses to old people who were worried about damaging their eyes”, he recalled. “And most of the styles were just awful. Very unflattering.” It was impossible to sell sunglasses during the winter at all and a wet summer was “bad for business”.

The big change, he believed, came in the yuppie era and what he called “the go-getting Thatcher years”, when he marketed his first pair sunglasses for more than £100 (in excess of £300 at today’s prices).

Bono was a regular client who appreciated how Cutler and Gross’s eyewear could dazzle. “Look, rock star with them on . . . ordinary bloke without them,” he candidly demonstrated, lifting them up and down, in the manner of Eric Morecambe.

Elton John was an early and longstanding customer who became a friend. Gross advised before concerts on which pair of glasses matched whatever outrageous costume the singer was planning to wear on stage. When trying on a new Cutler and Gross design, John would ask what other colours the frames came in and order a pair in every shade.

Yet, although Gross had an instinctive flair for self-projection and loved to entertain and tell stories, he was scrupulous in not gossiping about his celebrity clients. “Treating someone famous with integrity and being discreet is vital,” he said.

Despite his conservative appearance, he was a bohemian whose appetite for the good life was immense. He enjoyed clubbing all night and although he never married, he had a lively appreciation of female pulchritude and bestowed his affections liberally.

Howard Hodgkin and David Hockney were friends and he was a keen collector who owned a number of works by the French nouveau réaliste Yves Klein. He sold them before their saleroom price hit the sky, but he was not unduly concerned.

He was born Anthony Gross in 1939, in Whitechapel in the East End of London, where his father, Abraham Gross, was an immigrant Jewish doctor from a Polish shtetl. His mother, Muriel, who later worked in the Cutler and Gross store, was born in Britain to immigrants from Belarus.

Before German bombs began to fall on the East End, his father evacuated his wife and children, first to Sussex and then to Egham in Surrey. After the war both brothers were educated at the City of London School, although Tony was very much in the shadow of his brother John Gross, who was four years older and won a place at Oxford at the age of 16. He became the editor of the TLS and was dubbed “the best read man in Britain” by The Spectator.

His father’s insistence that it was time “to make something of himself” persuaded Gross, with less than total enthusiasm, to train as an optician. He initially set up a practice in the Holloway Road, London, but swiftly grew frustrated that the only frames he could offer were “boring, unsuitable or just plain ugly”.

His old college friend Graham Cutler had come to a similar conclusion and they agreed to pool resources. The result was what Gross called “the first high-tech shop in London” at 16 Knightsbridge Green.

After suffering a serious stroke that left him barely able to walk or talk, he sold his half of the company in 2008 to pay for his medical care. He spent his final years in a care home in Notting Hill Gate.

According to the writer and journalist Tom Gross, who regularly visited his uncle, he kept his sense of humour and remained good company. “His vocabulary was reduced to 20 or 30 words but we still had great conversations,” his nephew said.

Asked about his own choice of glasses, Gross revealed that he never wore his own designs. “Out of principle,” he said, “it’s like you’re trying to sell them.”

* Tony Gross, designer of glasses, was born on July 12, 1939. He died after several years of ill health following a stroke on March 6, 2018, aged 78


Tony Gross shows his range of spectacles to Princess Anne



Tony Gross, designer of fashionable glasses
Daily Telegraph
March 12, 2018

Tony Gross, who has died aged 78, was one half of Cutler and Gross, purveyors of trendy eyewear to the famous and the fashionable; earlier he had been house poker player at the White Elephant Club in Mayfair.

For Gross, glasses were about more than correcting vision. “Eye contact is the first sexual contact you can make with someone,” he explained.

Cutler and Gross opened in Knightsbridge Green in 1969, with Gross providing much of the creative input to Cutler’s managerial acumen.

Soon their distinct spectacles were being worn by the likes of David Hockney, Elton John and Grace Jones, who would sip cocktails in the store while encouraging customers to select increasingly outlandish styles.

In 1989 Sting was seen wearing the “Eccentric” frame, with one lens circular and the other oval, while in 1991 the Princess of Wales attended the British Grand Prix at Silverstone wearing Cutler and Gross sunglasses.

Gross, who was round and charming, enjoyed recreating designs of earlier years. He faithfully reproduced the iconic wraparound frames won by Aristotle Onassis and brought back the little round Algha spectacles of 1932 that could fit inside a gas mask.

Nor did sunwear escape his attention. “Sunglasses can be tribal, like a mask,” Gross explained, adding that the actual presence of the sun was irrelevant. “People wear them because they know they look good in them.”

Anthony Gross was born on July 12 1939 and brought up in Mile End, the son of Muriel and her husband Abraham, a Polish-born Jewish GP who ministered to a distinctly working-class part of the East End throughout the Second World War.

The family was highbrow and literate. Gross’s brother John, once described as “the best-read man in Britain”, became editor of the Times Literary Supplement.

Young Tony attended the City of London School and his father wanted him to take up medicine; he, however, preferred the clubs of Soho.

They compromised by Tony enrolling on the optometry course at Northampton Institute (now City University), where he met Graham Cutler. The pair were soon firm friends.

When they graduated in 1963 Cutler remained at college as a research assistant and Gross joined an optician’s practice in Holloway Road while moonlighting as a professional poker player. But they both became increasingly frustrated with the range of glasses on offer: either boring, unsuitable or just plain ugly.

They began collaborating in 1969 after chancing across a former hairdresser’s shop, bringing on board George Smith as their frame maker.

Nevertheless, the great British public took some convincing. “Your glasses were a medical necessity, not something to be enjoyed,” Gross recalled of the prevailing attitude.

At the time it was illegal for opticians to advertise, but as early as 1979 they got around the ban by shooting images of glasses chains. The law was changed in 1985.

The pair opened a second store in 1978, on St Christopher’s Place, although it quickly became more of a social club than a retail venture and closed in 1983. Yet the brand continued to thrive and soon Cutler and Gross were exhibiting at fashion weeks in Paris, Milan and London.

Gross, who adored being surrounded by beautiful people, explained how he had once shared all the typical accusations that the world of fashion was “superficial, ephemeral and lightweight”, but added: “I learnt that it’s exactly these traits that make it so exciting.” He retired ten years ago.

Tony Gross was unmarried. He is survived by a nephew, Tom, and a niece, Susanna.


[Update, March 29, 2018: The Guardian has now published an obituary.]


Julia Roberts in Tony Gross spectacles in the 1999 film Notting Hill

Tony Gross obituary
Optician whose company, Cutler & Gross, introduced glamour into eyewear and attracted a host of celebrity clients
By Veronica Horwell
The Guardian
March 29, 2018

Tony Gross, left, with Graham Cutler. They preferred to control the size and style of their business rather than selling it to an international fashion house.
Photograph: Cutler & Gross

Tony Gross, who has died aged 78, must have been the first optician to influence fashion. When he began peering into eyes professionally, in the early 1960s, spectacles were medically prescribed, their appearance subordinate to sight correction.

They had evolved marginally over time, their shapes depending on the frame materials: metal, wire, horn or plastic. But fashion round the eyes had come in only with sunglasses; then, starting in 1969, the small company of Cutler & Gross transposed the glamour of dark glasses to the design of remedial spectacles.

Elton John’s 70s at-the-piano image depended on a wardrobe of C&G’s emphatic frames; and models and designers, movie and music people wore them, including Bono, Sting, Grace Jones, Valentino, Versace, Diana, Princess of Wales, and Madonna.

Gross had no particular vocation for optics. He was the younger son of Abraham Gross, a Polish Jewish immigrant who had struggled to become a doctor in Mile End, east London, and his wife, Muriel, who later worked as a receptionist in the first Cutler & Gross shop. The Grosses cherished education, and Tony followed his elder brother, John (later a literary critic and writer), to the City of London school. A steady profession was expected for young Tony, so he trained as an optician, although by style and temperament he was better suited to an art school: interested in the look of things, curious about human behaviour, a dandy dresser and ubiquitous around town.

Gross’s tiny first consulting room was on unsmart Holloway Road in north London. He already collected old frames as the only alternative to the narrow range of available NHS standards, and sold them to rock musicians and fashion people he met as a clubgoing, poker-playing, restaurant diner; they recommended him to their circles. Advertising for medical purposes was legally prohibited, so he went uncredited when his vintage granny frames began to appear in magazine shoots.

Sting wearing glasses by Tony Gross

Still, business was good enough for him to form a partnership with a fellow former Northampton College optometry student, Graham Cutler (“I’m fashion and flair,” said Gross, “he’s the expert”), and in 1969 to rent an eccentric shop in the cul-de-sac of Knightsbridge Green. It had been an Edwardian pharmacy, then a wigmaker’s, and the architect Piers Gough revamped it in so movie-set a manner that clients fully expected a secret door to Q’s workshop behind the eye-charts.

The main problem was finding a manufacturer willing to undertake small, experimental, ever-changing orders. Big companies said a dismissive no, and the eventual supplier was an elderly repairer with a top-floor workshop in scruffy Shoreditch. Cutler & Gross began to produce prescription and plain-lens sunglasses too.

Through the 70s the firm remained discreet, but more customers were in the know, hence the ever more impressive clients. Gross gradually became a regular attender of international fashion and accessory shows, a charming owl with an order book, wearing vintage specs or the meanest shades, though never company products as that would be swanking. He never lost interest in devising classic frames in tortoiseshell or geometric steel, and ephemeral novelties in wild colours of resin, saying that the fashion world was superficial “but that’s what makes it exciting”.

Madonna on location for her film W.E. in New York, 2010, wearing Tony Gross glasses

By the 1980s, major fashion brands and designers were licensing production of spectacles, as well as sunglasses, in their names. Calvin Klein offered to buy Cutler & Gross for its cool reputation but the partners rejected the deal, preferring their own size and style of business. With the 1985 relaxation of the no-publicity regime, Gross was liberated to be spokesman, a shrewd, funny talker about the sexual power of the glance or the history of facial concealment, of masks, veils, hat brims and shades.

Besides his exhaustive collection of vintage glasses for inspiration, he sourced old supplies over decades from stockrooms of opticians across France and the UK, and opened another dotty shoplet on the Green to sell them. He continued designing until 2008, when, after poor health, then a stroke, he withdrew completely from the business.

Gross’s great satisfaction was that he had made it from Mile End to have both a craft-led business and a home in Knightsbridge. He passed through many relationships, including a long, close one with Monica Chong, who was later C&G creative director.

He is survived by a nephew, Tom, and niece, Susanna.

• Tony Gross, eyewear designer, born 12 July 1939; died 6 March 2018

The Queen embraced Assad, but now Israel finally gets an official royal visit

March 02, 2018

Queen Elizabeth II greeting Syria’s President Assad and his wife at a time when Assad was already known to be killing and torturing a large numbers of his citizens, as well as sponsoring terrorism and suicide bombing elsewhere



[Note by Tom Gross]

It was announced yesterday by Kensington Palace, that Britain’s Prince William will travel to Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority this summer.

This will mark the first-ever official visit by a member of the British royal family in Israel’s 70-year history.

Here is a TV interview with me about this from yesterday.


As I point out in the interview, and as was originally mentioned in a dispatch on this Middle East email list in 2009, in the first 57 years of her now 68 year reign, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II made over 250 official overseas visits to 129 countries, democracies and dictatorship alike. But the British foreign office, such was their historic hostility to the Jewish state, refused to let the Queen or any other British royal officially visited Israel.

It is not as though she wasn’t in the region: The Queen has visited Libya, Iran, Sudan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Jordan and Turkey.

Prince Charles has visited Saudi Arabia 12 times, Qatar 7 times, the United Arab Emirates 5 times, Bahrain 4 times. And he also visited Afghanistan, Iraq and many other countries.

British historian Andrew Roberts noted the prejudice on this dispatch list in 2009, and he reiterated his point today:

“The Foreign Office ban on Royal visits to Israel was all the more powerful for its being unwritten and unacknowledged, like so much ‘club’ or ‘social’ anti-Semitism in Britain. As an act of delegitimisation of Israel, this effective boycott was quite as serious as other similar acts, such as the academic boycott. Now it is over, and hopefully there will be many such visits, including of Prince Charles and he Duchess of Cornwall.”

Not only were the Israeli Right perturbed by this 70-year snub of the Jewish state, but so were the Israeli left.

I attach two pieces below from Haaretz and one from today’s New York Times in connection with Prince William’s forthcoming visit Israel.

-- Tom Gross


* Among previous dispatches on royal links with Arab dictators, please see this dispatch about Prince William’s wedding:

As Syria slaughters hundreds, its ambassador gets a wedding invite denied to Blair and Brown



First Royal Visit to Israel Is Sign of Britain’s Diminished Status in the World
Analysis By Anshel Pfeffer
Haaretz (front page story today)
March 2, 2018

The Brits are hoping the road to improved relations with Trump and Putin runs through Jerusalem and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

In 2007, Clive Alderton, the deputy principal secretary to Prince Charles, emailed his boss, Sir Michael Peat, complaining: “I’m being pursued by the [Israeli] Ambassador; no doubt you are too.”

Just like every Israeli ambassador to the Court of St. James’s before him, Zvi Heifetz had issued invitations to members of Britain’s royal family to visit Israel.

“Safe to assume there is no chance of this visit ever actually happening?” Alderton asked, wanting to make sure standing policy hadn’t changed. “Acceptance would make it hard to avoid the many ways in which Israel would want HRH [His Royal Highness] to help burnish its international image.”

What a difference 11 years makes. At the time, Ehud Olmert was Israel’s prime minister and he was deep in negotiations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on a comprehensive peace agreement. Nevertheless, the policy of Britain’s government remained that an official visit by a senior member of the royal family would take place only after any such agreement had been reached.

Fast-forward to 2018. Benjamin Netanyahu is prime minister, the diplomatic process with the Palestinians has been stagnant for years and never seemed more bogged down in intractable mud. Yet on Thursday morning, Kensington Palace announced that the second-in-line to the throne, Prince William, will be visiting Israel (as well as the Palestinian territories and Jordan) this summer. And you can bet that Netanyahu will be doing everything to use the visit to burnish Israel’s (and his) international image. Assuming he’s still in office, of course.

So what’s changed? A number of things – nearly all of them on the British side.

For a start, the United Kingdom – on what seems an irreversible course to leave the European Union following its Brexit vote – is trying to carve out a new niche for itself in international diplomacy.

With diminished clout on the world stage, it must utilize whatever assets it has. And the one unique thing Britain has is a young generation of royals who are instantly recognizable across the globe.

The relationship between Israel and the United Kingdom is currently slanted in Israel’s favor. Britain relies on Israel for intelligence on terror threats emanating from the Middle East much more than Israel needs the U.K.’s assistance.

Britain purchases Israeli high-tech and advanced weapons on a far larger scale than Israel buys similar “Made in Britain” products. And, no less crucial for U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, Netanyahu enjoys a far stronger personal relationship with both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin than she does. But Britain still has princes.

The end of the unofficial royal boycott of Israel (Prince Charles visited Israel in “a private capacity” to attend the funerals of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres; and his father, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, visited his mother’s grave on Mount Zion, likewise privately), allied with the imminent arrival of a “senior royal” on an official visit, is also a sign of shifting power in Whitehall.

The power of the Foreign Office’s professional diplomats, who routinely vetoed any notion of a royal visit to Israel in the past, is on the wane. The Conservative politicians in government are no longer heeding their considered advice on Brexit and other foreign policy. Prime Minister May and her foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, are both instinctively pro-Israel, and hopeful that Netanyahu can help them in the upcoming negotiations in Washington on Britain’s crucial trade deal (once it no longer enjoys the EU’s umbrella).

If the price the British government has to pay for gaining some goodwill in the Trump White House is giving Netanyahu the PR coup of being the first Israeli prime minister to host a 35-year-old unemployed helicopter pilot living off generous state benefits, then so be it.



Prince William Will Go to Israel, in First Official Visit by a British Royal
By Isabel Kershner
The New York Times
March 2, 2018

JERUSALEM — Seventy years after David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the independence of the state of Israel and an end to the British Mandate in Palestine, Israel will for the first time host an official visit by a member of the British royal family when Prince William travels there this summer, it was announced on Thursday.

The lack of a formal visit has long been a sore point for many Israelis. Some had interpreted it as a snub — a denial of recognition of the legitimacy of Israel — or, perhaps, the result of fear of harming British business interests in Arab countries.

The British legacy in the region is fraught. Last year, when Israel and Britain marked the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, an assurance of British support for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” the Palestinians reacted with fury and demanded an apology from the British government. None has been forthcoming.

Prince William, who is second in line to the British throne, will visit Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories in the occupied West Bank. No specific date was announced. His father and grandfather have traveled to Israel, but not as part of an official royal visit.

The prince will visit at the request of the government of his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II, Kensington Palace, his royal residence, noted. For now the assumption is that the prince will not travel with his family. He and his wife, Kate, are expecting their third child in April.

The British announcement, coming barely a week after the Trump administration said it was accelerating the opening of a United States Embassy in Jerusalem, was more good news for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is mired in corruption investigations. The embassy opening is expected on May 14, to mark the 70th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel.

“This is a historic visit, the first of its kind, and he will be welcomed here with great affection,” Mr. Netanyahu said of the prince’s visit in a statement.

Other Israelis reacted more wryly. “It only took 70 years, but finally the British royal family has gotten over the end of the Mandate,” Amit Segal, the political affairs commentator for Israel’s Channel 2 News, wrote on Twitter. He was referring to the quarter-century of British rule over the area, known as the British Mandate for Palestine, which ended in 1948, on the eve of Israeli independence.

But old grievances and present-day realities mean that traveling between Israel and the Palestinian territories will likely require all the royal finesse William can muster.

Israel’s 70th anniversary also marks 70 years of the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled or fled their homes and became refugees during the hostilities leading up to, and the war surrounding, Israel’s creation.

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said in a statement, “Prince William, who accepted an invitation from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, will be a welcome guest, not just of the leadership but of the Palestinian people who will provide him with the opportunity to share their stories firsthand and connect on a human level.”

“This trip will also serve to enhance diplomatic and cultural relations between His Royal Highness and the people of Palestine,” Ms. Ashrawi added.

Israel has extended many invitations before, but all previous visits by British royals have been classified as private and unofficial.

In October 1994, the queen’s husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, attended a ceremony honoring his mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, at Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial, for hiding Jews in her palace during the Nazi occupation of Greece.

The queen’s eldest son, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales and the heir to the throne, attended the funerals in Jerusalem of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 and the former prime minister and president Shimon Peres in 2016.

After Mr. Peres’s funeral, Prince Charles made a discreet visit to the grave of his grandmother Princess Alice at the Church of Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives. The visit was all the more diplomatically delicate because the grave is in East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed after the 1967 war in a move that was not internationally recognized.

A report in the British newspaper The Telegraph in 2015 said British royals were unlikely to visit Israel officially before the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was resolved.

Already, there was a mini-flap over the language of the announcement. Kensington Palace said on Twitter that Prince William would visit “Israel, Jordan and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” But Israel’s Haaretz newspaper noted that the Hebrew news release rendered the West Bank part of the visit as the Palestinian Authority, a term more palatable to many Israelis.

According to Haaretz, the British Embassy in Tel Aviv clarified that the translation was consistent with their terminology. That prompted Xavier Abu Eid, an adviser to the P.L.O’s Negotiations Affairs Department, to ask on Twitter, “Hey @ukinisrael, what kind of translator do you have? Or did occupation disappear from your terminology when talking to Israelis?”

Mr. Abu Eid later said the translation had been updated by the embassy. In a Facebook post, the British Embassy wrote in both English and Hebrew that the prince would visit the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Some critics retorted that given its colonialist past, Britain should be the last country to preach about occupation.



The Queen’s Royal Snub of Israel
By David Landau
Haaretz (editor in chief)

Is there another United Nations member-state that the British Royals have so consistently and assiduously snubbed in this way?

[This piece was originally published on May 29, 2012 by late Haaretz editor David Landau. It is being republished by Haaretz today amid news of the first-ever official royal visit to Israel.]

As a confirmed and life-long royalist, I rejoice in Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee.

I was especially gratified, vicariously, of course, to see that almost all the crowned heads of the world responded to the Queen’s invitation to join her recently for lunch at Windsor Castle as part of her jubilee celebrations.

I was sorry – and suitably offended – that the Spanish royals saw fit to boycott this regal and merry occasion because of some new blip in the endless old argument over Gibraltar. There must be something in the Iberian mindset that just cannot twig that places like Gibraltar and the Falkands are obviously British.

Particularly gratifying was the presence at Windsor, alongside the King of Swaziland, thePrince of Lichtenstein and the King of Tonga,of such wronged and forgotten royals as King Constantine of Greece and his blue-blooded colleagues from Romania and Bulgaria.

But perhaps most noteworthy of all, from our insular Israeli perspective, was the invitation to, and participation of, Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine of Yugoslavia.

Alexander’s career surely gives the term ‘pretender’ new import, in that he pretends both that the monarchy still exists and that the country itself still exists. (In fact, he is a popular figure in Belgrade where there is considerable support for a return of royalism, at least to Serbia.)

My point – again, from a trivial, Zionist angle, is that Yugoslavia, at any rate, is at peace. Permanent, eternal peace. Which was a factor, I presume, in the decision to invite their royal highnesses Alexander and Katherine to the British jamboree.

I say this because every time I’ve asked a British official why the Queen has boycotted the State of Israel for the entire six decades of her reign I get a muttered line about “when there’s permanent peace”

There has never been a Royal Visit to this country by Her Majesty, nor indeed by her consort, Prince Philip, nor by her heir, Prince Charles, nor by any member of her family, no matter how remote from the succession.

(When Mrs. Thatcher visited as prime minister, I had the chutzpa to ask her when the Queen would come. Her inimitable reply: “But I’m here”)

When the royals do come, as they sometimes have to – like when Rabin was killed or when Philip’s mother was interred in Jerusalem – Buckingham Palace and Whitehall make it pointedly clear that their visits are not Royal, nor even Official.

Is there another member-state of the United Nations that the British Royals have so consistently and assiduously snubbed in this way?

The conventional wisdom, of course, is that this is the Foreign Office’s spiteful work; that the Royals are mere puppets when deciding where to go and what to say.

But, as a confirmed royalist – and I mean that without cynicism – I’m not buying that any more. Just recently, Prince William disclosed in an interview that his grandmother told him and Kate to bin her mandarins’ draft guest-list to their wedding and draw up their own one when they complained that it was full of people they didn’t even know.

This marvelous, dedicated, 86-year-old sovereign is nobody’s puppet. If she wanted to visit the Jewish state or have one of her close family visit it, she could insist on it, and get her way.

The sad but inescapable conclusion, therefore, is that she herself is part of this nasty, petty British intrigue to deny Israel that rankling vestige of legitimation that is in their power to bestow or withhold – a royal visit.

She can and should bin these sour-smelling inhibitions and end this boycott.

And the Anglo-Jewish macherocracy, as it makes its perfectly proper diamond jubilee obeisances, should be loyally and lovingly telling her so.


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