Tom Gross Mideast Media Analysis

Amos Oz: “Without a wound,” he once said, “there is no author”

December 29, 2018

Amos Oz speaking at the funeral of President Shimon Peres at Mount Herzl, Jerusalem, in 2016.



[Note by Tom Gross]

Amos Oz, perhaps Israel’s greatest writer, died yesterday at age 79 after a short battle with cancer. For those who haven’t read it, his autobiographical novel A Tale of Love and Darkness, is an outstanding contribution to modern Jewish, Israeli and European history.

Oz won multiple awards in many countries and many people around the world repeatedly urged the Nobel committee to award him the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday from Brazil (where he is on a state visit), that Oz was “one of Israel’s greatest ever authors” who “deftly and emotionally expressed important aspects of the Israeli experience… His words and his writings will continue to accompany us for many years.”

Ayman Odeh, one of Israel’s most senior Arab politicians, who heads the Joint Arab List party in the Knesset, said yesterday. “I met Amos Oz a number of times and even when we argued (quite a lot!) he was a partner who stood for equality, ending the occupation and peace. He was not afraid to speak his mind and was an exceptional talent.”



I attach five obituaries and articles about Amos Oz from today’s British and American media.

I would like to add that while many of the tributes tend to focus on his criticism of the Israeli government, he was also often a staunch defender of Israel against a wave or European-led criticism.

For example, in this dispatch in 2014 (Amos Oz: I would like to ask you some questions), in a German media interview, Oz strongly defends the Netanyahu government during the 2014 Gaza conflict:

“I never agreed with Jesus Christ about the need to turn the other cheek to an enemy. Unlike European pacifists I never believed the ultimate evil in the world is war. In my view the ultimate evil in the world is aggression, and the only way to repel aggression is unfortunately by force. That is where the difference lies between a European pacifist and an Israeli peacenik like myself. And if I may add a little anecdote: A relative of mine who survived the Nazi Holocaust in Theresienstadt always reminded her children and her grandchildren that her life was saved in 1945 not by peace demonstrators with placards and flowers but by Soviet soldiers and submachine guns.”

In this dispatch from 2015, Oz asked why some on the far left in America and Europe were questioning Israel’s right to exist. “Nobody presented this question in Germany during the days of Hitler or in Russia under Stalin,” said Oz. “But the question is being presented more and more often about Israel, and I don’t like it… there is something dark, looming underneath that is based on the assumption that Jews are not like everybody else.”

You may want to watch this short clip of Amos Oz being interviewed by the BBC in 2016.


* More on Amos Oz here:

Amos Oz: Doves should be hawkish on Palestinian compliance (& Saudi ‘Game of Thrones’; Corbyn applauds call for ‘dismantling’ of Israel)



I would also like to pay brief tribute to Veronika Jacobs (pictured above), who drowned to death yesterday while walking her dog. (The exact circumstances are not yet known.) Veronika previously worked as a political advisor at the Israeli embassy in Prague. She was a long-standing subscriber to this Mideast email list and I always found her to be a talented, engaging and sweet person. -- Tom Gross




Amos Oz: the novelist prophet who never lost hope for Israel
By Jonathan Freedland
The Guardian
December 28, 2018

To critics at home, Oz was a bleeding-heart liberal – but to audiences around the world he was a literary giant, steadfast in his belief for a two-state solution

On Friday afternoon, a text arrived from Israel letting me know of the death of Amos Oz, hailed for decades as that country’s greatest novelist. “The last, best voice of an Israel that is all but gone,” it read.

Oz himself would doubtless have found a way to wave aside such talk, dismissing it as melodramatic. But there’s truth in it. For he was indeed the embodiment of a particular Israel, one that dominated in the first years of the state’s life but which has steadily receded to the margins.

To his internal critics, he was the face of the mainly-Ashkenazi, European Jewish elite that built the country, a bleeding-heart liberal constantly scolding the nation for its ongoing occupation of Palestinian lands, a founder of the Peace Now movement who never stopped demanding his fellow Israelis behave more wisely and more justly. More than once he was denounced as a traitor, an insult he once told me he regarded as nothing less than “a badge of honour”, putting him in the same company as Jeremiah, Abraham Lincoln and Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion.

Outside the country, however, he could make diaspora Jewish audiences swoon; they saw him as a pin-up for the Israel of their dreams. Ruggedly handsome, his face battle-scarred by service in Israel’s 1967 and 1973 wars, he could have been a model of the “new Jew” the first Zionists longed to forge in the Mediterranean sun. They wanted the new Israeli to be a soldier, farmer and poet. Oz was all three, a member of Kibbutz Hulda where he took his turn picking fruit and washing dishes, turning over the proceeds of his novels to the collective coffers.

In a way, that man was Oz’s first invented character. He was not born an Oz, but a Klausner, growing up not on a kibbutz, but in Jerusalem. His father was a scholar and librarian; the future novelist was raised in what he called “a house full of footnotes”. He fled to the kibbutz aged 15, renaming himself Oz – Hebrew for strength.

The trigger for that escape and reinvention may well have been the suicide of his mother, Fania, when Amos was just 12. Indeed, that event haunted Oz’s fiction. When we met in 2001, he told me that it was the mystery he had spent his life, and his books, “trying to decode”. He confronted it most explicitly in what may well be his finest work, A Tale of Love and Darkness, a novelistic memoir thought to be the biggest-selling literary work in Israeli history.

Throughout Oz’s fiction, the same motifs recur: interlocking love triangles, oedipal longings, unspoken desires, often attached to a protagonist paralysed into inaction and a woman out of reach. A mystery might linger – perhaps a buried scandal, related to the country’s recent past. They are quiet, but intensely evocative stories, full of both the intimacy of relationships and of place, especially the Jerusalem of the author’s youth.

Yet Oz’s novels were fated to be read as manifestos, each one assumed to be a veiled address on the state of the nation. It was not abnormal for Shimon Peres to review an Oz novel; Peres was only one of several Israeli prime ministers known to summon the novelist for what he called “a late night tête-à-tête”. Part of that was what Oz described as “the Judeo-Slavonic tradition”, which insisted a novelist also play the role of prophet, telling the tribe where they were going wrong. Oz chafed against that a bit, once complaining to me that, “No one expected Virginia Woolf to write about the Munich agreement, but everyone assumes my novels are parables about the new intifada.”

But part of it was his own fault, because Oz had a twin career as an essayist and polemicist. He was one of a group of young writers to edit an anthology immediately after the six-day war of 1967 – they called it The Seventh Day – which argued that Israel should immediately give up the land it had won in the West Bank and Gaza, and seek the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. That was an outlandishly radical stance at the time, but within three decades it would become the international consensus. Oz never abandoned it.

His great gift was to express complex moral ideas through compelling metaphor, even in his second language of English. He would argue that after the Holocaust the Jews were a drowning man: they therefore had the right to grab hold of a piece of driftwood, even if it meant forcing another man, the Palestinians, to share it. What they did not have was the right to grab the entire piece of wood and force the other man into the sea – which is what Israel had done in 1967. He would say that Jews and Palestinians both understood that a two-state solution was necessary, the problem lay with their leaders: “The patient is ready for the operation,” he wrote. “But the surgeons are cowards.”

Some found him hard to categorise. In Israel, he was a trenchant critic and dissenter. Outside, he was a fierce defender of his country with little patience for those who could not understand the Jewish need for a home of their own. If he had an ideology, it was hostility to fanaticism and a belief in compromise. He believed that compromise was too often seen “as weakness, as pitiful surrender”. Whereas, he wrote, “in the lives of families, neighbours and nations, choosing to compromise is in fact choosing life”. The opposite of compromise is not pride or integrity, he argued. “The opposite of compromise is fanaticism and death.”

Oz was garlanded with prizes and adoring audiences in Europe especially – his essay How to Cure a Fanatic is taught in Swedish schools – and he was often mentioned as a possible Nobel contender. In Israel, he continued to enjoy a large and attentive readership. But his views, which once reflected those of half of the population, became ever more marginal in his own land. The peace constituency shrank; fewer Israelis rallied to his message of enlightened compromise.

But he never lost his belief that the story of Israel and Palestine would end with resolution. Like so many before him in that part of the world, he insisted the promised land lay ahead – even if he would not live to see it.



Amos Oz, Israeli Author and Peace Advocate, Dies at 79
By Isabel Kershner
The New York Times
Dec. 28, 2018

JERUSALEM – Amos Oz, the renowned Israeli author whose work captured the characters and landscapes of his young nation, and who matured into a leading moral voice and an insistent advocate for peace with the Palestinians, died on Friday. He was 79.

His death was announced by his daughter Fania Oz-Salzberger, who wrote on Twitter that he had died after a short battle with cancer, “in his sleep, peacefully.” She did not say where he died.

In recent years Mr. Oz had been living in Tel Aviv.

One of Israel’s most prolific writers and respected intellectuals, Mr. Oz began storytelling in his early 20s. He published more than a dozen novels, including “My Michael” and “Black Box,” as well as collections of short fiction, works of nonfiction and many essays. His work was translated into more than 35 languages.

His acclaimed memoir, “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” was first published in Hebrew in 2002 and became an international best seller. A movie based on the book, directed by and starring Natalie Portman, was released in 2016.

Among a generation of native Israeli writers that included A. B. Yehoshua and David Grossman, Mr. Oz wrote richly in modern Hebrew. The revival of that ancient language was extolled by the founders of the state as a crucial element in forging a new Israeli identity.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in Brazil on Friday, described Mr. Oz as “one of the greatest authors” Israel has produced and said that he “deftly and emotionally expressed important aspects of the Israeli experience.”

Alluding to Mr. Oz’s piercingly eloquent left-wing advocacy, Mr. Netanyahu, a conservative, added, “Even though we had differences of opinion in many fields, I greatly appreciate his contributions to the Hebrew language and the renewal of Hebrew literature.”

Mr. Oz published more than a dozen novels, including “My Michael” (1968), as well as collections of short fiction, works of nonfiction and many essays.

Mr. Oz came into the world nine years before the state of Israel was established, in what was then Palestine under British rule, and his life spanned the country’s history. He weathered its upheavals and pried into its divisions like an angry, secular prophet.

His own soul was scored by early tragedy after his mother committed suicide when he was 12. Much of his writing revolved around intimate portraits of Israeli life laced with a sense of loss and melancholy.

“Without a wound,” he once said, “there is no author.”

Though a passionate voice for peace, Mr. Oz was not a pacifist and had no illusions about the hostile neighborhood in which Israel exists. He served in the military, fought in two wars as a reserve soldier in a tank unit and said it was sometimes necessary to use force in order to fight aggression, in the tradition of pragmatic Labor Zionism.

Soon after the 1967 Middle East war, in which Israel conquered the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, Mr. Oz began advocating for withdrawal and a two-state solution, meaning the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, long before the idea became mainstream.

In the late 1970s he helped found Peace Now, a left-wing group that formed during the negotiations for a peace treaty with Egypt.

With the weakening of the Israeli left in the wake of the violence of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, which broke out in 2000, and the national shift toward the right, Mr. Oz’s voice seemed to become increasingly anachronistic. Critics on the far right called him a traitor.

Mr. Oz said there was nothing new in that. In a 2014 interview with the newspaper Yediot Ahronot on the occasion of the publication of his novel “The Gospel According to Judas,” published in English as “Judas” in 2016, Mr. Oz said that he was first branded a traitor as a child when he was seen associating with a British sergeant, and that he had been called a traitor since 1967.

“Sometimes – not always, but sometimes,” he said, “the title, traitor, can be worn as a badge of honor.” He suggested that he was in good company, citing others who had been so branded, including Winston Churchill, David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin.

Nor was he immune to criticism from the far left. In a review of Mr. Oz’s last book, “Dear Zealot,” in the liberal newspaper Haaretz, Avraham Burg, a former politician who posits that the two-state solution is dead and calls for a single, binational Jewish-Palestinian state, wrote, “Oz, as a fanatic supporter of the two-state solution, tramples everything on the way to his expired solution.”

“Dear Zealot,” a slim volume published in 2017, is made up of three essays on the theme of fanaticism, which Mr. Oz termed the worst scourge of the 21st century. He described the book as loaded “with the conclusions of a whole life.”

Mr. Oz’s concern about zealotry in Israel and beyond was already pronounced nearly two decades ago. Days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001, he wrote in an opinion piece in The New York Times, “Being the victims of Arab and Muslim fundamentalism often blinds us so that we tend to ignore the rise of chauvinistic and religious extremism not only in the domain of Islam but also in various parts of the Christian world, and indeed among the Jewish people.”

While many Israelis blame the Palestinians for the impasse in the peace process, dismissing the Palestinian leadership’s willingness or ability to reach a deal, Mr. Oz held Israeli leadership accountable. And he rejected any notion of a one-state solution, saying he was not ready to live as a minority in what would inevitably become an Arab country.

In addition, Mr. Oz wanted the character of Israel to be defined by humanistic Jewish culture, not only by Jewish religion and nationality.

He was born Amos Klausner in Jerusalem on May 4, 1939, and his early years were spent in an atmosphere that was both scholarly and militant. His father, Yehuda Arieh Klausner, a librarian, and his mother, Fania Mussman, had immigrated from Eastern Europe. They met in Jerusalem. Though polyglots themselves, they insisted that their son speak only Hebrew.

Amos spent his childhood in the city in a suffocating, book-crammed apartment with a steady diet of what he called “blood and fire,” referring to his parents’ belief in the necessity of strength and power to establish and maintain the Jewish state. As a young teenager, two and a half years after his mother’s suicide, he rebelled and moved to Kibbutz Hulda, swapping his urban home for fresh air and a communal life. It was there that he changed his surname to Oz, Hebrew for courage.

He said he “decided to become everything his father was not.”

He completed his secondary education in Hulda and worked in the rolling farmland between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The hardy, pioneering characters of the Socialist kibbutz movement would later inhabit some of his novels.

In Hulda, he met Nily Zuckerman. They married in 1960. She and their three children, Fania, Galia and Daniel, survive him, as do several grandchildren.

After Mr. Oz completed mandatory military service in 1961, the kibbutz assembly sent him to study at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he received a B.A. in philosophy and literature.

Returning to Hulda after graduation, he settled into a routine of writing and farming. He also did guard and dining-room duty and taught in the kibbutz high school.

He fought in the 1967 and 1973 wars and spent a year as a visiting fellow at Oxford University.

After returning to Israel, the family moved from lush Hulda to the southern desert town of Arad, where the dry air was considered beneficial for their son, Daniel, who suffered from asthma. They made Arad their home for decades.

There, Mr. Oz described a daily routine of rising at 5 a.m., drinking coffee and going for a walk to breathe the desert air before settling down to write in his small basement study.

In a 2009 interview with The New York Times, he said he marked the separation between his political and literary writing by using pens with two colors of ink, one blue and the other black, that sat on his desk.

“I never mix them up,” he said of the pens. “One is to tell the government to go to hell. The other is to tell stories.”

Mr. Oz also became a professor in the department of Hebrew literature at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, in Beersheba.

He won some of the literary world’s highest honors, including the Goethe Prize and the French Knight’s Cross of the Légion D’Honneur. He was perennially considered a possible recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature.

In awarding him the prestigious Israel Prize in 1998, the judges wrote, “For some 35 years, in his writing he has accompanied the realities of Israeli life and expressed them uniquely as he touches upon the pain and ebullience of the Israeli soul.”

Politics often infused his literary efforts, and he sometimes used literature to explicate politics.

Torn by the 100-year conflict with the Palestinians, Mr. Oz told The New York Times in 2013: “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a clash of right and right. Tragedies are resolved in one of two ways: The Shakespearean way or the Anton Chekhov way. In a tragedy by Shakespeare, the stage at the end is littered with dead bodies. In a tragedy by Chekhov, everyone is unhappy, bitter, disillusioned and melancholy, but they are alive. My colleagues in the peace movement and I are working for a Chekhovian, not a Shakespearean conclusion.”

Two years later, as an act of protest against the government, he said he would no longer participate in Foreign Ministry events at embassies overseas.

Still, the strong feelings he professed for Israel never faded.

“I love Israel even when I cannot stand it,” he wrote in his last book. “Should I be fated to collapse in the street one day, I want to collapse in a street in Israel. Not in London, nor Paris, nor Berlin, nor New York. Here strangers will come and pick me up (and when I’m back on my feet, there will certainly be quite a few who would be pleased to see me fall).”

He added, “What I have seen here in my life is far less and far more than what my parents and their parents dreamed of.”



Amos Oz obituary: Widely translated Israeli novelist regarded as the conscience of his country
The Times (of London)
December 29 2018

Many saw Amos Oz as a latter-day prophet. He spent a lifetime calling to the people of Israel, first from a kibbutz, then from a hill top in the Negev desert and latterly from his studio in Tel Aviv, urging them to see where they and their nation were going wrong.

He spent decades pushing for a peaceful end to his country’s conflict with the Palestinians, believing in the ideal of a two-state solution. Yet in the past decade he had become an increasingly lonely voice. “It’s very comfortable to think the Palestinian problem is fast asleep and we can live our lives normally,” he told The Times in 2012. “This is an illusion. Sooner or later it’s going to hit us in the face.”

Although staunchly secular, he was a master of Hebrew, his language rich with biblical idiom. My Michael (1968), his most acclaimed work, which was compared to Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, is set in the Jerusalem of the 1950s and gives a brooding, melancholic description of the breakdown of a marriage. Yet for many it told the story of the collective anti-climax felt by the post-independence Jewish nation. Black Box (1986) was written as a fractious correspondence between several people and seemed to suggest that Israel, like the heroine, faced a choice between the old Ashkenazi liberalism and the new Middle East extremism. The Same Sea (1999), a novel in verse, dealt with ethnicity in describing the lives of four people brought together by death.

Oz believed that what makes the Israeli experience different from that in most other countries is that the country was created out of dreams. “Let’s not forget that a dream come true is a disappointment,” he said. “The only way to keep a dream rosy and unspoiled is never to live it out. This is true not just of building a country, it’s true of a sexual fantasy or writing a novel.”

He was born Amos Klausner, an only child, in 1939 in Jerusalem. His Lithuanian father was Yehuda Klausner, a leading philologist Oz once described as a “right-wing, secular intellectual who could read 17 languages and converse in 12”. The atmosphere at home was stiflingly intellectual. It was, Oz said, “a house full of footnotes”.

Young Amos was telling stories before he learnt to write. “The children, even the girls, would gather to hear my stories because I put a lot of suspense, action and violence in them,” he said. He recalled a boyhood in British-run Jerusalem in How to Cure a Fanatic (2004). “I was a stone-throwing kid . . . In fact, the first words I ever learnt to say in English except for ‘yes’ and ‘no’ were ‘British, go home!’, which is what we Jewish kids used to shout as we were throwing stones at the British patrols.”

He was 12 when his Polish-born mother, Fania (née Mussman), who had abandoned her studies to be an increasingly depressed housewife, took her own life. He explored the repercussions in his powerful memoir A Tale of Love and Darkness (2002), the first work of modern Hebrew to appear in an official Chinese textbook. In 2015 it was made into a Hebrew-language film directed by Natalie Portman.

His father remarried and Amos acquired a half-brother, David, and a half-sister, Marganita. By then he had rebelled, changing his last name to Oz (Hebrew for strength) and running away at the age of 14 to join the Hulda kibbutz in central Israel, where he had ambitions to be a “tall, suntanned tractor driver”. He recalled that Wednesdays were film night: “Some films were X-rated, but along with the other underage kids I managed to sneak in once the lights went down. Sex was very accessible for kibbutz boys and girls of 15 and 16. No one was embarrassed about going to bed together.”

He stayed at Hulda for 30 years, so that for a time Israel’s most celebrated writer could be found taking his turn as a nightwatchman with the other kibbutznikim. Once he was published, the kibbutz gave him a studio and time to write, with his royalties going into kibbutz coffers.

His first ten years were interrupted by service in the Arab-Israeli war of 1956. About this time he met Nily Zuckerman, who instilled in him a love of recorder music. They married in 1960. She survives him with their daughters, Fania, a professor of history in Haifa, and Gallia, a film director, and their son, Daniel, a poet, whose asthma prompted a move in 1986 to the dry air of Arad in the Negev.

Oz’s first work, Where the Jackals Howl, a collection of short stories, was published in 1965. He made his breakthrough the next year with Elsewhere, Perhaps, which dealt with the intensity of kibbutz life. Some took it as a metaphor for life in Israel, a burden that almost all of his fiction would have to bear, but he insisted that it was to be read as a tale in its own right.

Military service in the Six-Day War of 1967 and the Yom Kippur War of 1973 left scars of several types, including two on his face that gave him a rugged handsomeness. His contribution to The Seventh Day, a collection of memories from combatants in the conflict, was a dissenting cry against the euphoric chorus that greeted the Israeli victory, in which he criticised the term “liberated territories”, declaring: “Only people, not land, can be liberated.” Later Oz came to know England well during a year as a visiting fellow at the University of Oxford, from 1969 to 1970. His books, translated by Nicholas de Lange and published by Chatto, acquired an important place in the British canon.

Unto Death (1971) showed that Oz could widen his scope: set in medieval times, its main characters were crusader knights. Similarly, Touch the Water, Touch the Wind (1973) entered a realm of Jewish magical realism. He returned to more familiar ground in The Hill of Evil Counsel (1976), a collection of stories describing Jerusalem seen through the eyes of a boy during the twilight of the British Mandate for Palestine. The kibbutz was the setting of A Perfect Peace (1982).

All these kept the Israeli book prizes coming in, but none had the international success of My Michael until In the Land of Israel (1983), a record of his travels around the Jewish state after the Lebanon War, which sold five million copies in English alone. Particularly provocative was the chapter that Oz virtually “handed over” to the voice of a man he called Z, who advocated a fascistic solution to the “Arab problem”.

Oz was small with grey hair and a worn face, who had bright and observant eyes. His basement study in the Negev had three walls lined from floor to ceiling with books, while the fourth overlooked an overgrown garden. His routine involved rising early and enjoying a walk before writing, which he did standing up.

He was once offered a safe place on the Labour Party’s list for the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, but refused, saying: “Who would write my stories for me?” Nevertheless, he was a late-night visitor to more than one Israeli prime minister – although not Benjamin Netanyahu, of whom he was a fierce critic.

In 2013 Oz and his wife left the desert for Tel Aviv. Then Judas (2016), set in Jerusalem in the winter of 1959, was shortlisted for the Man Booker international prize. Last year his final collection of essays, Dear Zealots, was published, reflecting his strong belief that a better future was still possible. Oz would never have been pompous enough to say so, but he became a conscience for the Israeli people. Above all he was a passionate Jew and a passionate Israeli: fiery, idealistic and, despite everything, incurably optimistic.



Amos Oz obituary
Leading Israeli writer, political activist and peace campaigner
By Julia Pascal
The Guardian
December 29, 2018

A child of European Jewry, the Israeli writer Amos Oz, who has died aged 79, became the father of a Hebrew literature where the personal and the public overlapped. Oz was prominent as a supporter of the Oslo peace accords of the 1990s and in the debates that followed. Although he was a frequent critic of Israeli politics, he was shamelessly in love with the newly emerging modern Hebrew. “I feel for the language‚” he said, “everything that perhaps I don’t feel for the country.”

Oz was born into a Jerusalem household bursting with failed literary and intellectual ambitions, chiefly those of his father. His parents had arrived from eastern Europe in Palestine in the mid-1930s, when the country was packed with a highly competitive, multilingual European Jewish intelligentsia. Oz’s upbringing was coloured by this hothouse of debate and the rebellions against the British at the end of the Mandate. He was also imbued with the heroic ideal of “the new Jew”.

Writing of this in detail in his 2004 autobiography, A Tale of Love and Darkness, he poignantly described the birth of the new Hebrew language and the modern Hebraic state of mind. He also showed how the Jewish culture of the enlightenment fizzled out in the 30s and 40s. If the Palestinian Jews were at war with the British, they were also at war with themselves.

Oz observed this political and personal Jewish trauma, which was to become the seedbed of his own writing career. The Yiddish mysticism and romantic melancholia of his mother, Fania (nee Mussman), collided with the European rationalism of his father, Yehuda Klausner. When his mother took her own life, Amos was 12, and it is the death of a rebellious woman locked into a sterile marriage that haunts his memoir. After his mother’s death, Amos Klausner changed his surname to Oz, the Hebrew word for strength.

Oz, witness to his parents’ failed marriage and to the failure of the European diaspora dream, did not belong to their internal landscape. Where they were Jews, he was an Israeli. Where they brought the values of the 19th century to Jerusalem, he adopted the values of the socialist kibbutz, as a tractor driver, security patrol and canteen worker. Where his parents were ill at ease in Hebrew, he was to become its champion. Where they were of the right and admired Vladimir Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin, he was the prince of the left and the Israeli NGO Peace Now.

He reinvented himself, discarding the stereotype of the ghetto Jew as a pale, urban weakling. Klausner became Oz, the rugged, outdoor, tough guy. He left Jerusalem for Kibbutz Hulda at the age of 15, by which time he had already decided to be a writer. When he was six he had posted a sign on his bedroom door – “Amos Klausner, author”. His early works in Hebrew publications included the story A Gift to Mother (1953) and a variety of poetry (1959). It was when his fiction was translated into English in 1969 that his international reputation was established.

Oz’s public image was not just that of a great Hebrew writer but that of an author-politician. He acknowledged that he was part of a “Judeo-Slavonic tradition” where writers are also expected to be prophets for their people. He longed for a two-state solution. “It will come, everyone knows it will come,” he told me in 2004. “The question is when.” Always recognising Palestinian desire for sovereignty, he asked: “Why can’t we just divorce like the Czechs and the Slovaks. Without blood?” In 2004 he published Help Us to Divorce.

During the hopeless period of the Lebanon war and the intifadas of the late 20th century, Israel needed voices that spoke to the outside world offering a more humanitarian face than that of Ariel Sharon. Oz and his contemporaries – the novelist AB Yehoshua and playwright Joshua Sobol – became Israel’s alternative spokesmen. They were the artist-politicians, much as Bertolt Brecht, Jean-Paul Sartre and George Orwell had been in the first part of the century. But, if Oz was fighting the bullish Sharon he was also the self-declared enemy of the orthodox and the fundamentalists.

Oz had a huge literary and personal following. Of all his artistic peers, he was the most photogenic and won admirers of all generations. Wounded in the 1967 and 1971 wars, he was Israel’s most beloved peacenik. At Kibbutz Hulda, where he lived for more than 30 years, he learned his socialist politics. His fellow kibbutzniks inspired many of the characters in his writing and, in return, his royalties went to the common budget.

His best known works are My Michael (1968), The Hill of Evil Counsel (1976), A Perfect Peace (1982), To Know a Woman (1989), Don’t Call It Night (1995), Black Box (1988) and The Same Sea (1999).But an Israeli novelist cannot escape the political crucible. One newspaper editorial criticised My Michael because “no nice Jewish girl would dream of falling in love with an Arab”. Even prime ministers telephoned Oz in the middle of the night to ask for his political advice. But, as Oz pointed out, “of course, they never took it”.

After leaving the kibbutz in 1986, Oz became professor of Hebrew literature at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev (1987-2005), living far from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, at Arad, one of the driest places on earth. He was a visiting professor at Berkeley, Oxford, Boston and Princeton.

Oz was not only a novelist but also a provocative non-fiction writer. With In the Land of Israel (1983), he produced a striking collection of hard-hitting monologues by Jews and Arabs from wildly differing political standpoints. To many reading him in English translation, his non-fiction carried the greatest weight. Israel needed champions and it was in these direct narratives that Oz explored the complexity of a country so often depicted in the western press as a rogue state.

In 2012 he wrote Jews and Words, “a conversation” with his daughter Fania exploring language, Jewish culture and gender. Three years later came Natalie Portman’s movie of A Tale of Love and Darkness.

If his essays and political interventions were positively received, the often lyrical style of Oz’s novels had much less impact abroad. Either way, he was a bestseller in Israel, often topping sales of more than 10,000 copies a day.

In Judas (2016), his first novel in 10 years, he challenged the central Christian trope of the Jew as traitor as embodied in the New Testament figure. His volume of essays Dear Zealots: Letters from a Divided Land (2018), maintained his reputation as a major interlocutor in Jewish political history.

Among many honours, he was made a Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur (1997), received the Bialik prize (1986), the Israel prize for literature (1998) and the Franz Kafka prize (2013).

In 1960 he married Nily Zuckerman. She survives him, along with their son, Daniel, and two daughters, Fania and Gallia.



(This article appears on the front page of today’s New York Times.)

Amos Oz, a Writer Who Grasped Depths of the Israeli Soul
The New York Times
By Gal Beckerman
December 29, 2018

Israel, born out of a dream, a yearning, and then forced to face, for better or worse, what reality brings, found in Amos Oz a writer who combined both the country’s essential idealism and the ability to see the cracked nature of what had been wrought.

Mr. Oz, who died on Friday at the age of 79, was Israel’s most significant cultural ambassador for nearly 50 years, perennially mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature. But what he most proudly championed was modern Hebrew itself, the form of the language that Zionism revived.

Mr. Oz never stopped professing an enduring love for its mongrel qualities. He thrilled at the chance to work in a tongue that had deep biblical references embedded in the root of nearly every word, but that also borrowed heavily from Yiddish, Russian, English and Arabic.

This new-old language was the perfect vehicle for the role Mr. Oz came to embody, a sort of sociologist and psychologist of the Israeli soul. “I bring up the evil spirits and record the traumas, the fantasies, the lunacies of Israeli Jews, natives and those from Central Europe,” Mr. Oz said in a 1978 interview with The Times. “I deal with their ambitions and the powderbox of self-denial and self-hatred.”

His biography suited him well for this job – he was in many ways the quintessential new Jew that Zionism had hoped to create. As a teenager, he left Jerusalem on his own, changed his last name from Klausner to Oz, which means courage in Hebrew, and moved to a kibbutz, one of the socialist farming communities where Israelis lived out their truest fantasies of cultivating themselves and the land to become robust and hearty.

Inspired by “Winesburg, Ohio,” Sherwood Anderson’s collection of realist stories about small-town life, Mr. Oz began writing in his twenties about the characters he saw around him in his kibbutz. Those stories eventually made up his first collection, “Where the Jackals Howl,” published in 1965. Anderson, he would later say, “showed me that the real world is everywhere, even in a small kibbutz. I discovered that all the secrets are the same – love, hatred, fear, loneliness – all the great and simple things of life and literature.”

As a writer, Mr. Oz kept returning to the rural, communal life of the kibbutz in a spare, modernist style that focused on the complexities of interpersonal relations, from his 1973 novel, “Elsewhere, Perhaps,” to his 2013 story collection, “Between Friends.”

But his breakthrough, both in Israel and internationally, was a far more psychological work, “My Michael,” a 1972 novel, his first book to be translated into English. It is told from the perspective of Hannah Gonen, a young woman misunderstood by, and alienated from, her husband. Mr. Oz follows her sexual obsessions, which seem to emerge from a need to be seen – creating a sort of “Madame Bovary” set against the backdrop of white Jerusalem stone. Hannah describes one moment early in her relationship with Michael, her then-boyfriend, when he unbuttoned his coat and drew her inside it to the warmth of his body: “He felt very real. So did I. I was not a figment of his thoughts, he was not a fear inside me.”

Mr. Oz’s masterpiece is his 2004 memoir, “A Tale of Love and Darkness.” It was unlike anything he had ever written, telling the story of his own coming of age in Jerusalem with precision and brutal honesty. He captured the mystical air of the city, how it was transformed with the birth of the state, his own bookish youth and his mother’s depression, which led to her suicide when Mr. Oz was 12. In the memoir, he remembers his mother telling him: “I think you will grow up to be a sort of prattling puppy dog like your father, and you’ll also be a man who is quiet and full and closed like a well in a village that has been abandoned by all its inhabitants. Like me.”

It’s an extraordinary book that will endure as one of the greatest works in modern Hebrew. In many ways, through this memoir, Mr. Oz perfected what he had tried to do again and again in his fiction – to capture the coming together of the personal and the political, with neither of the two elements suffering from the collision.

Mr. Oz’s politics defined him to the international audience he often dazzled with his metaphors to explain the conflict (“the only solution is turning the house into two smaller apartments”; “I would say that the patient, Israeli and Palestinian, is unhappily ready for surgery, while the doctors are cowards”). He became a critic of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza following the Six-Day War, and was a mainstay of the left who insistently argued, in essays and opinion pieces and speeches, that the only solution to the conflict with the Palestinians was to create two states for two peoples.

Given how he envisioned the future of his country, his voice became an increasingly marginalized one in Israel in recent years, even as his stature continued to grow around the world. The native-born, kibbutz-influenced, adamantly secular, left-leaning Israelis of European descent who dominated Israel throughout much of Mr. Oz’s life have had to make way for Sephardic and Russian Jews, and the Orthodox, putting Mr. Oz increasingly in the position of an aging lefty, a prophet with fewer people willing to listen to him in his own country.

In his last novel, “Judas,” shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, he explored, by revisiting the story of the New Testament traitor, what exactly it means to be out of step with your own society. “Anyone willing to change will always be considered a traitor by those who cannot change and are scared to death of change and don’t understand it and loathe change,” he told me when I interviewed him in 2016. He felt himself a man possessed of moral clarity but denigrated for it in a country that could not make the difficult decisions he thought were necessary.

For all his frustrations with Israeli society and its direction, he was always an optimist, a man who had gone all in on the Zionist experiment and saw no reason to believe that perfection was ever on offer.

In his final essay collection, “Dear Zealots,” published at the end of last year, he wrote that he was, “afraid of the fanaticism and the violence, which are becoming increasingly prevalent in Israel, and I am also ashamed of them.” But this didn’t get in the way of his love of Israel. “I like being Israeli. I like being a citizen of a country where there are eight and a half million prime ministers, eight and a half million prophets, eight and a half million messiahs. Each of us has our own personal formula for redemption, or at least for a solution. Everyone shouts, and few listen. It’s never boring here.”


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Christian evangelical volunteers helping Jews in the ‘Biblical Heartland’ (& record tourism in Bethlehem)

December 20, 2018

Christian volunteers in the West Bank pick grapes



[Note by Tom Gross]

Yesterday, contrary to the impression often given by anti-Israel campaigners, new statistics released by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics again show that the government of Benjamin Netanyahu is cutting the rate of building growth for Jewish settlers in the West Bank (known by many in Israel as Judea and Samaria). (This is despite the settlers’ often high birth rates, for which they argue they need to be able to buy additional housing.)

Settlement construction dropped sharply in the third quarter of 2018, according to the CBS’ figures released Wednesday, and are down 52 percent compared to the same quarter last year, and down 17 percent during the first three quarters of the year compared to the same period in 2017.

Netanyahu’s government, described as “very right-wing” by its critics, is regarded as not nearly pro-settlement enough by the Israeli hard right.



The Reuters news agency reports that tourism in Palestinian-administered Bethlehem in the West Bank, is booming as Christmas nears.

Bethlehem is a town holy to both Jews and Christians and attracts visitors from many places in the world.

Reuters reports:

Bethlehem is enjoying its busiest Christmas season on record, the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism said on Monday, with hotels in the birthplace of Jesus almost fully booked for the holiday.

Tourism has recovered following a fall in knife and car-ramming attacks which helped push visitor numbers in the biblical city to a 10-year low in 2015. Bethlehem store owners also said they were benefiting from a surge of visitors to Israel in its 70th anniversary year.

Hotel occupancy rates in Bethlehem are expected to exceed 95 percent by the end of December, the city’s hoteliers’ association said.

Israel is also enjoying a record year of tourism.


I attach a special investigation below by the (anti-settlement) Israeli newspaper Haaretz into Christian volunteers helping Jewish farmers in the West Bank.



Inside the Evangelical Money Flowing Into the West Bank
By Judy Maltz
December 7, 2018

A Haaretz investigation reveals that Christian groups have invested up to $65 million in projects in the ‘Biblical Heartland’ over the past decade. That doesn’t include services they provide free of charge, like volunteer laborers

When the first Christian evangelical volunteers descended on the religious West Bank settlement of Har Bracha about 10 years ago, offering to harvest grapes for the local Jewish farmers free of charge, not everyone welcomed them with open arms.

After all, for generations Jews had been taught that when Christians go out of their way to be nice, it is probably because they are secretly plotting to convert them, and, therefore, it’s best to keep a distance.

Much has changed since then. There are still Jewish settlers not completely comfortable with the idea of Christians living in their midst and working their fields. But they are far less vocal these days.

Hayovel, the U.S. organization that brings them to Har Bracha, is among a growing list of evangelical groups that operate exclusively in the so-called “biblical heartland.” Over the past decade, it has brought more than 1,700 volunteers to the settlements – and only the settlements because, as a matter of principle, its volunteers do not assist farmers within Israel proper.

Explaining the organization’s special attachment to this disputed piece of land – that most of the international community does not recognize as part of Israel – Hayovel states on its website: “Every country in the world has turned its back on Judea and Samaria, the heartland of Israel, where 80 percent of the Bible was either written or occurred.”

There were many years when Hayovel operated under the radar, believing that the less Israelis knew what it was up to, the better.

No longer. These days, the nonprofit is more than happy to host journalists and the curious at its main campus, located on this settlement that overlooks the large Palestinian city of Nablus. Its willingness to be so aboveboard about its activities is evidence of how mainstream such interactions between Christian evangelicals and Jewish settlers have become.


The Heart of Israel (also known as the Binyamin Fund) is another nonprofit benefiting from these ties. Established three years ago, the organization raises hundreds of thousands of dollars yearly for earmarked projects in the settlements, according to its American-born founder, Aaron Katsof.

Although Katsof says evangelicals do not account for the bulk of the money he raises, they do account for the vast majority of his donors. “You have to realize that while the average Jew gives $1,500, the average Christian gives $50,” he says. “But their share is growing very, very fast.”

Asked what prompted him to set up this new fundraising organization, Katsof – who lives in the West Bank settlement of Shiloh – responds: “The more evangelicals I met over the years, the more I realized how thirsty they were to connect to the settlements. When they land in Tel Aviv, they often tell me that it isn’t how they imagined Israel. But when they come out here to the settlements, they say this is exactly how they imagined it.

“They are our biggest, biggest, biggest, biggest allies,” he adds.

His is not the only organization trying to translate this groundswell of evangelical support for the settler movement into dollars and cents. But estimating the scope of this financial assistance is difficult, as nonprofits and churches registered in the United States are not required to list their sources of funding or to specify where the money is going. In addition, some of this charity takes nonmonetary forms, such as free labor hours (in the case of Hayovel), or free marketing and sales services.

A 2015 report by Molad, a progressive Israeli think tank, tried to estimate the amount of money being invested in the settlements by the evangelical community. It concluded that it was virtually impossible – among other reasons because “many of the Israeli NGOs active in Judea and Samaria do not fully abide by the rules of transparency and do not report to the NGO Registrar, in violation of the law.”

Nonetheless, the report concluded that a “hefty share” of all evangelical investment in Israel ends up beyond the Green Line (Israel’s pre-1967 borders), and that the beneficiaries include regional councils, right-wing NGOs, illegal outposts, businesses and travel companies specializing in settlement tours.

A review of the financial statements of the main organizations active in raising money from evangelicals for the settlement project indicates that the numbers are still relatively small in absolute terms. But they appear to be growing. It also appears that more and more of these initiatives are taking root.

Often, the best way to determine whether such organizations are directing their fundraising efforts at evangelicals, as opposed to Jews, is to look at the language used in their fundraising pitches (many of which are featured on their websites). When the word “God” is used, as opposed to “Hashem,” the audience is most likely Christian. So, too, if the term “Bible” is preferred over “Torah” and “Biblical Heartland” over “Judea and Samaria.”

Another giveaway is the use of the phrase “fulfillment of biblical prophecy” when explaining the significance of such donations. It is a phrase widely known to win the hearts and open the pockets of evangelicals.

Based on this review, as well as on media reports about specific projects, Haaretz estimates the total amount of funding raised in the past 10 years at somewhere between $50 million and $65 million. The calculation takes into account all the major nonprofits that direct their fundraising efforts at the evangelical community and enjoy 501c status in the United States.


Some 400,000 Jews live in West Bank settlements, accounting for about 6 percent of the total Jewish population in Israel and the occupied territories. An estimated two-thirds of them are religious.

Since Orthodox Jews have traditionally been more wary of Christian outreach efforts than their secular counterparts, their strengthening ties with the evangelical community were far from obvious.

“Conventional wisdom would say that the religious community would be the last to embrace this support,” says Rabbi Tuly Weisz, the publisher of Israel365 – a daily newsletter distributed to 150,000 evangelicals around the world. “But I believe it’s the most logical relationship,” he adds. “These Christians support Israel in general, and Judea and Samaria in particular, because of the biblical foundation – and that is something religious Jews can definitely relate to.”

It helps, he notes, that evangelicals who backed Donald Trump in the presidential election have since been pressuring him to pursue policies in line with positions embraced by the settler movement. These include moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and enabling new settlement construction in the West Bank.

“There’s definitely more of a movement within the religious Jewish community to accept friendship from evangelicals for these reasons,” says Weisz.


Hayovel scored a major coup in its quest to gain acceptance in Israel several months ago: The Strategic Affairs Ministry informed its founders that, starting this year, they will receive a set annual fee from the Israeli government. This is not for their work in the fields of Samaria, but their advocacy work on behalf of Israel and the settlement movement in their communities abroad.

“The government realizes that the hundreds of volunteers we bring here each year can serve as speakers and ambassadors for Israel abroad,” says Caleb Waller, the 27-year-old son of Hayovel founder Tommy Waller.

For now, the government has offered Hayovel a small sum of $16,000 a year, but has indicated that this figure will grow, according to Caleb Waller. Asked how he and his fellow Christian volunteers feel about accepting money from Israeli taxpayers, he responds: “Well, the Israeli government gives money to the LGBT community of Tel Aviv as well, so there’s no reason I should feel bad.”

Indeed, it often seems there is more that unites the Christian right and Jewish right these days than divides them. Tomer Persico, a visiting professor at the Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies, notes that many settler rabbis have been able to overcome their instinctive resistance to Christian outreach efforts because the evangelical community has been so helpful in promoting their agenda – and not only on the political front.

“Not all the settler rabbis – but definitely most – have embraced this new cooperation and friendship, which is based not only on the mutual agenda of resistance to any Jewish withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, but also, importantly, on a shared conservative worldview as far as gender relations, LGBT rights, minority rights, the place of religion in the public sphere and nationalism is concerned,” he says.

“Religious social conservatives on both sides have found support in each other and a shared language,” Persico adds. “In fact, so much so that religious-Zionist Israelis today sound a lot like evangelical Republicans.”

Aaron Lipkin, who serves as spokesman for the settlement of Ofra, notes that many of the Orthodox rabbis known to be opposed to Christian outreach efforts have toned down their rhetoric, noting, “They’re much more quiet these days.”

And since the election of Trump, he adds, attitudes are changing at the grassroots level as well. “Until Trump came along, it was mainly Anglo-Saxons living out here who connected with evangelicals,” says Lipkin. “Now, there is a sense of gratitude among other residents as well. They see that the evangelicals are very good friends to us.”

Lipkin owns and runs a travel agency that specializes in evangelical tours to the settlements. It’s a niche, he says, that has proven very lucrative.

“This is a population that is really into the Bible,” he says, “and 99 percent of the events in the Bible took place in this area – in Hebron, Shiloh, Shechem [Nablus] and Jerusalem. Regretfully, 99 percent of the tourists who come to this country don’t go to where the Bible took place. I’ve made it my job to change that.”


Christian Friends of Israeli Communities raises about $1 million a year for settlement projects, with almost all of the donations coming from evangelicals. Established in 1995, CFOIC was the first Christian charity of its kind to focus exclusively on the settlements.

It is probably no coincidence that the driving force behind this enterprise is an American – a former Clevelander, to be exact – who lives in the settlement of Karnei Shomron. Neither is the timing of its establishment a coincidence. As Sondra Baras, the founder and Israel director notes, the idea took root around the time the Israeli government had begun to concede sovereignty over sections of the West Bank – she prefers to call them Judea and Samaria – as part of the Oslo Accords. Her evangelical friends were so outraged by these territorial concessions that Baras, an Orthodox Jew, proposed setting up an organization that invested exclusively in the settlements.

Among religious Jews in the settlements, Baras says she detects far less resistance to the type of work she does these days. “Initially, there were vicious attacks against me – but all attempts to boycott me failed,” she says. “Our organization hasn’t had problems with rabbis in a number of years.”

Katsof, whose Heart of Israel fundraising initiative is modeled on Baras’, says he has noticed a similar trend. “People used to be more scared, but I see the religious Zionist community getting more open to this,” he says. “They realize that at the end of the day the missionizing activities they were so concerned about simply don’t happen.”


Among Orthodox Zionist rabbis, one of the most outspoken critics of this budding relationship is Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – the spiritual leader of the settlement of Beit El.

In a manifesto published almost two years ago, Aviner described Christians who love Israel as “the world’s biggest scam.” He wrote that all forms of Christian aid to Israel aim to erase Israel “in one way or another,” and warned that Orthodox Jews should not be lured by “statements of love, hugs and kisses.”

Evangelicals are the most dangerous of all Christian groups, he wrote, because they see Israel as a stepping stone to the Second Coming and believe that at the end of days, after most of the Jews have been killed, those remaining will convert to Christianity. “This is why they shower us with love and money,” he stated.

But it seems Aviner is increasingly finding himself in the minority. A key factor working against Aviner and others like him is a landmark ruling by Har Bracha’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, who is a respected religious authority in the Zionist Orthodox community. Melamed had been asked to weigh in on the case of Hayovel, and after considerable deliberation concluded that it was fine for Christians to work the fields of Jewish farmers, so long as they did not engage in missionary activities.

This ruling was seen as a green light for settlers to welcome evangelicals into their midst and accept whatever help these Christians wished to extend.

Persico explains why evangelicals are such avid supporters of Israeli settlers and Jewish claims to the entire West Bank. For these groups, he says, “it is essential that Israel control Jerusalem and the entire Promised Land, in order to set in motion the events of the much anticipated Armageddon. The settlers, of course, do not believe this narrative, but they are happy to take advantage of evangelical beliefs in it.”

Dr. Sara Yael Hirschhorn, a professor of Israel Studies at Northwestern University and a leading authority on Americans in the settler movement, notes that it is these Americans who have been “at the forefront of the rapprochement between Jews and evangelicals.”

She cites Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, founder of the settlement of Efrat, as a leading example. A former New Yorker, Riskin established the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation, and is active in Christians United for Israel – an organization founded by popular U.S. televangelist and megachurch Pastor John Hagee – which has more than 4 million members.


JH Israel, headquartered in Alabama, focuses its fundraising efforts almost exclusively on Ariel, one of the largest settlements in the West Bank. Heather and Bruce Johnston, who founded the organization, had been close friends of Ron Nachman, the late mayor of Ariel and among the first settler leaders to identify the potential in evangelical philanthropy.

Ariel is largely secular, unlike many other West Bank settlements, so there was also less resistance to overcome there.

Over the past 10 years, JH Israel has more than quadrupled the amount of funding it raises for Ariel, and in the most recent fiscal year that sum has hovered at around $1 million. Over the years, the Johnstons have hosted dozens of schoolchildren from Ariel at a Christian retreat they run in northern California. It was during one such visit, about 10 years ago, that the idea was floated to create a similar facility in Ariel.

The $2 million outdoor experiential facility they built in Ariel – known as the National Leadership Center – hosts thousands of Israeli high school students every year. As Haaretz revealed several months ago, the Israeli Education Ministry decided this year, for the first time, to subsidize the center to the tune of 1 million shekels ($270,000) yearly. Like the funding to Hayovel, it highlights how the Israeli government is using taxpayer money to seemingly strengthen the evangelical-settler alliance.

Among the settlements, Ariel is by far the largest beneficiary of evangelical charity. In 2008, the John Hagee Ministries invested $8 million in a sports complex in the settlement. (John Hagee Ministries has also donated close to $1 million to Riskin’s Jewish-Christian center in Efrat.) Although Friends of Ariel, the American fundraising arm of the settlement, maintains close ties with evangelical churches, it is not clear how much of its funding comes from Christians.

Nachman once explained that the reason he courted evangelicals was that Jews did not give him money. “I go to the Christians because the Jewish organizations boycott me,” he told Israeli daily Maariv in 2010. “No [Jewish] community abroad wants to adopt us. Their money they distribute to the criminals at the New Israel Fund,” he added, referring to the U.S.-headquartered organization dedicated to promoting progressive causes in Israel. He has a point: Most of the mainstream Jewish philanthropies put little, if any, money into the settlements.

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) and Christians United for Israel – two of the best-known evangelical charities devoted to Israel – do provide money to projects in the settlements. But supporting these communities is not their primary mission. The same holds true for the main evangelical organizations headquartered in Israel: Bridges for Peace, the International Christian Embassy and Christian for Israel, for example.


Far and away the largest organization operating in the field is IFCJ, which raises on average $140 million a year. According to founder Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, only a tiny share of this, about 1 percent, actually goes to the settlements.

“We now have a whole bunch of requests for drones in the settlements – and we are going to provide them, because that’s the kind of thing we do,” he says. “If there are settlers who are poor and needy, and in need of food and heating, we will also include them. But we don’t try to link churches with settlements,” he adds.

Adding up all the money raised by such charities does not tell the entire story, however.

Blessed Buy Israel, for instance, does not hand out funds, but instead helps promote settlement business in the United States. Founded and run by Steve and Doris Wearp, an evangelical couple from eastern Texas, Blessed Buy Israel sells products made by about a dozen family-run businesses in the settlements directly to churches (as well as online).

Sales totaled $50,000 in 2017, the first year of operation, and are expected to double this year. Without the Wearps peddling their merchandise, these businesses might not have such access to the U.S. market. The Wearps and their five boys also volunteer six to seven weeks every year with Hayovel.

“It’s funny, but in many ways I feel closer to many Orthodox Jews here than I do to many Christians in the United States and around the world,” notes Steve. “There’s more common vision, more common purpose and deeper spiritual ties to our friends here.”

During the harvest season that just ended, Hayovel says its 175 volunteers picked 340 tons of grapes in the settlements, putting in a combined total of 4,930 hours. Given the current minimum wage, they saved local farmers about $40,000 in expenses over the three-month period.


On Haaretz’s visit to Har Bracha, volunteers from the United States, Sweden, Norway, Hong Kong, Austria and New Zealand could be heard singing Christian hymns as they picked grapes in the vineyards owned by Tura Winery. Some of the women had babies strapped to their backs as they moved up and down the rows.

Asked whether the farmers have offered to share their profits with the volunteers, Hayovel’s designated spokesman, Luke Hilton, responds: “These farmers aren’t rich guys. Every dollar we can save them, they can put back into this land – and we want to allow them to be on this land.”

Tura Winery is owned by Nir Lavie, who was born in Israel but spent part of his childhood in the United States, while his father served as an overseas emissary. Those years in the United States, he says, taught him there was nothing to fear about Christians. When he opened the winery 20 years ago, it produced 3,000 bottles the first year. Since Hayovel volunteers began lending a hand, production has expanded dramatically and he now produces 50,000 bottles a year.

To hear it from Lavie, there is no reason to take pity on him or his business.

Asked if the winery was profitable, he responds: “Baruch Hashem” (“Thank God”). He becomes more defensive, though, when asked how much money he saves from all the free help. “And what about the kibbutzim?” he responds angrily. “They didn’t save money with all their volunteers from Holland and Sweden?”

He has a point, of course, except that volunteers on kibbutzim traditionally received room and board in exchange for their work. Hayovel volunteers do not; they are required to cover all their expenses on their own.

“In any event,” continues Lavie, “what’s really important is that these people eventually become goodwill ambassadors for Israel around the world. And they also benefit because doing this work makes them happy. So let’s just say each of us needs the other. Thank God we have them, and I hope it continues another 200 to 300 years.”


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The Turkish dissidents kidnapped from Europe (& ‘Jew’ Sarah Jessica Parker attacked by Erdogan MP)

The plane used for kidnapping Turkish civilians in Kosovo, sitting alongside President Erdogan’s own plane, at Tegel Airport, Berlin, September 27, 2018


Sarah Jessica Parker is the latest to be on the receiving end of anti-Semitic attacks from Erdogan supporters. Below there is also an article that mentions “Mastermind”, a “documentary” produced by a pro-Erdogan’s TV station, that claims to show 3,500 years of the Jews’ plots to undermine Turkey and the world



[Notes by Tom Gross]

This dispatch concerns Turkey, a country which under the increasingly dictatorial President Erdogan has one of the world’s worst human rights records, but remains a NATO member.

Last week, journalists from nine international media outlets together released a report on the disappearances and kidnappings of Turkish journalists, human rights activists, and ordinary citizens, that has been occurring not just in Turkey itself but on the streets of Europe, Asia and Africa over the last two years.

Those who subsequently got away, told western journalists in Europe that they had been “frequently beaten by guards, subjected to electric shocks, threatened with rape and warned their family would also be raped unless they gave false statements against others.”

I attach two articles from one of these nine media outlets, the Israeli paper Haaretz:

“Kidnapped, Escaped, and Survived to Tell the Tale: How Erdogan’s Regime Tried to Make Us Disappear”.

And “Revealed: Turkey Uses These Jets to Abduct Dissidents”.

The United Nations says that in addition around 160,000 people have been publicly arrested, including hundreds of journalists, judges and prosecutors, since the failed coup of July 2016 – a coup many say was orchestrated by Erdogan himself as an excuse to institute the widespread repression that followed.



The third article below, “The Secret Jewish Plot Against Turkey”, is by the British academic expert on Turkey, Dr Simon Waldman.

He writes: “Erdogan, who rose out of a party whose leader compared Jews to bacteria, likes to name-drop ‘The Mastermind’: a Jewish conspiracy preventing Turkey taking its rightful place as a world superpower. No surprise, then, that he’s now targeting George Soros.”

“In Turkey,” writes Waldman, “anti-Semitic conspiracies are not merely present, they are part and parcel of government ideology.”

Among them is the absurd claim that “the Jew [French intellectual] Bernard-Henri Levy” working with the Mossad, has tried to destroy Turkey by supporting the 2017 independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan.



Foreigners living in Turkey are also being arrested for having the “wrong” books on their shelves.

Austrian journalist Max Zirngast writes in the Washington Post following his release:

“It started as a normal raid. Shortly before 6 A.M. on Sept. 11, Turkish anti-terrorism police showed up at my apartment door in Ankara with an arrest warrant. They rifled through my books, found some titles by liberal writers they don’t like and took me into custody.”

He then describes the harrowing interrogations he was subjected to in jail, while they tried to force him to say he supported basic rights for Kurds.

As an Austrian he was released. Turks are not so lucky.

For example, last week Professor Gencay Gursoy, one of the country’s leading neurologists, aged 79, was sentenced to 26 months in prison, for signing a petition three years ago calling for reconciliation talks between Turkey and the country’s repressed Kurdish minority.

Turkey ranks 157 out of 180 in the World Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, below Russia.

Only countries such as Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are ranked lower.

But unlike Turkey, those countries don’t aspire to join the European Union, and don’t belong to NATO.



A key ally of President Erdogan in the Turkish Parliament on Monday attacked Sex and the City actress Sarah Jessica Parker for allegedly undermining Turkey.

In attacking the American actress, Turkish MP Aydin Ünal told the pro-government Yeni Safak newspaper: “Her father and her husband are Jewish. She is also a notorious Israel defender.”

The basis for Ünal’s attack was a photo of Parker published last week on the website of Vogue magazine in New York in which she can be seen with a copy of a new collection of short stores by Selahattin Demirtas, a Kurdish pro-democracy activist imprisoned in Turkey. The photo was widely reproduced in pro-Erdogan media in Turkey.

In Demirtas’ collection of short stories (called ‘Dawn’), he “captures the voices of ordinary people living through extraordinary times,” according to the book’s American publishers. “A cleaning lady is caught up in a violent demonstration on her way to work. A five-year-old girl attempts to escape war-torn Syria with her mother by boat. A suicide bombing shatters a neighborhood in Aleppo.”

Parker’s father is Jewish as is the mother of her husband Matthew Broderick. She has almost never publically spoken about Israel though she has said she finds it hard to debate extreme critics of Israel. She told one interviewer: “I can’t have the conversation [with them] because there’s no logic that applies. If you don’t understand why Israel has to defend itself.… that the extremists want the Jews gone. So why should the Jews feel safe?”

One of Turkey’s few remaining independent news outlets yesterday called Ünal’s remarks racist, and said “being Jewish is not a crime.”



For more information on the violently repressed 2013 Gezi Park protests against government plans to demolish one of Istanbul’s last remaining green spaces, which are referred to in the Haaretz article below, please watch these shocking videos:

I also noted in 2013 that Erdogan claimed then that Gezi Park protests were a “Jewish conspiracy” against Turkey.

Most of Turkey’s historic Jewish community has left and there only about 20,000 Jews remaining in Turkey, living among 80 million Muslims. (Before Erdogan, Turkey was relatively tolerant towards Jews, and also helped some Greek Jews escape during the Holocaust.)

For more on the current investigation into kidnappings of Turkish opponents of Erdogan, see here:

I attach three articles below.




Kidnapped, Escaped, and Survived to Tell the Tale: How Erdogan’s Regime Tried to Make Us Disappear
Ever since the coup attempt in Turkey it happens again and again. Now, two victims describe what it’s like to be cut off from the world, tortured and pressured to testify against their friends
By Rachel Goldberg
December 12, 2018

BERLIN – One morning in the first half of 2017, a black van stopped on a street in the Turkish capital Ankara. Two men in civilian clothes stepped out and pounced on a man walking by. They dragged him into the van and sped off. The whole incident took no more than a few minutes, according to media reports and human rights groups.

The man who was kidnapped tried to fight off his assailants, but they beat him, covered his head with a black hood and cuffed his feet, he said. A year after the incident, he still has a big scar on his leg, a souvenir of the wound he sustained during the kidnapping.

“I quickly realized that there was no point in trying to defend myself, and that I had to calm down and act in a calculated way,” the man, who is using the pseudonym Tolga, told Haaretz and other journalists in a joint investigation by nine international media coordinated by the nonprofit newsroom CORRECTIV.

As the kidnappers’ vehicle approached the facility where Tolga would remain for months, he heard a large iron gate open. He was taken to a closed facility, where he was put in a cell. The door closed and he could hear instructions over a loudspeaker: Every time there was a knock at the door, he would have to turn to the wall and look at the floor so he would not see his captors.

“I saw all my loved ones before my eyes – I thought they were going to kill me,” he said.

In the weeks following his abduction, his relatives, along with lawyers and human rights activists, tried to locate Tolga but could find out nothing. His family launched a campaign on social media, and also appealed to the foreign media and the international community – but not a shred of information could be found.

Since the coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016, several disappearances of civilians have been reported; most occurred in Ankara in broad daylight. They all follow a similar pattern: The victims were pulled into a black commercial vehicle, a Volkswagen van, by people who didn’t try to conceal themselves. Subsequent attempts to locate the abducted person failed, and many families reported that the authorities ignored their requests for help.

Testimonies, videos and documents that reached Haaretz and the other journalists raise suspicions that the Turkish government is behind the forced disappearance of Turkish citizens, most of them linked to the movement of the cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in exile in Pennsylvania and who the government accuses of orchestrating the attempted coup.

Tolga and another man, Ali (also a pseudonym), related separately and without knowing each other the chain of events. They both said they were held for a long time in facilities they could not identify, and that for their entire captivity they had no access to the outside world. They underwent interrogation and torture designed to make them testify against their friends.

By press time, the Turkish government had not responded to queries about forced disappearances. But Mustafa Yeneroglu, the chairman of the Turkish parliament’s human rights committee, told BBC Turkey in June 2017 that the committee had opened an investigation into the cases that had been referred to it.

Turkish officials, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan among them, have rejected accusations of torture during arrests in Turkey. Officials have called such accusations unfounded and said the government’s policy is “zero tolerance for torture.”

The shock of the night of July 15, 2016, can still be felt in Turkey. That night, a group of army officers tried to take over key installations in Ankara, Istanbul and other cities, with the declared objective of taking power in defense of a democratic and secular Turkey. But forces loyal to the government, helped by many civilians, quelled the coup within 12 hours. In one of the night’s most dramatic moments, Erdogan recorded a cellphone message that was broadcast on TV in which he blamed Gulen for staging the putsch.

After the failed coup, Erdogan launched a campaign against alleged opponents of the regime. At least 150,000 people were fired and thousands of institutions linked to Gulen were closed. Around 160,000 people were arrested, including hundreds of journalists, police commanders, judges and prosecutors, the United Nations said. These people are usually taken to Turkish prisons and other official detention facilities, unlike the cases of Tolga and Ali, who apparently aren’t the only ones to suffer an ordeal.

Haaretz and the other journalists recently met with Tolga in a hotel room in a Western European country, where he has received asylum based on human rights violations that threatened his life. For several hours Tolga described his experiences during and after his arrest. “The cell I was in was 2 meters by one and a half meters,” he said. “The floor was dark and covered in soft cloth, as were the walls, apparently so that inmates couldn’t commit suicide by bashing their heads against them.”

At the beginning, Tolga said, he was interrogated frequently; guards beat him, delivered electric shocks, threatened him with rape and warned him that they would do the same to his family if he did not cooperate. Tolga said the room looked like it had been designed for torture.

“High on the wall were rings for attaching hands to the wall, with lower ones for the feet. There were other torture instruments and clubs,” he said. Tolga’s statements could not be independently verified, but the day after his release he documented his story on videotape, which the researchers watched.

Tolga had worked in an institution that is identified with Gulen and was closed down after the coup attempt. He was a member of Gulen’s movement for years, and his interrogators wanted him to supply information related to that. “They showed me photos of people from work; they pointed to them and asked questions,” he said.

Tolga says his captors wanted to recruit him to take part in trials against Gulen’s movement as an anonymous witness, testifying from behind a curtain to conceal his identity. Eren Keskin, a lawyer and human rights activist who was involved in cases accused of taking part in the failed coup, confirmed for researchers that this was common practice.

“They use anonymous witnesses because there is no other evidence,” she said. “This is an undemocratic method that doesn’t exist in law-abiding states.”

Toward the end of his detention, Tolga said, he pretended to collaborate with his captors and the torture abated. “They told me they could send instructions to the courts and all charges against me would be dropped,” he said. “We’ll give you a new identity, money, everything you need – just help the state, that’s all. They always referred to themselves as the state.”

One day he was taken by car back to the center of Ankara and released. He quickly went underground, and when he got a chance, he fled to Europe. “Neither myself nor my family have gotten over the trauma,” he said. “These people use all the state’s power.”

Ali also worked at an institution associated with Gulen, and was abducted in broad daylight in a city in western Turkey. He was missing for a long time. He too says he was kept in a small cell in a large facility he couldn’t identify. Every day he was interrogated and tortured for hours. He says he was forced to stand for hours with his head in a sack, and when he collapsed he was told to stand up.

“They told me I’m a terrorist and accused me of all sorts of things,” he said in his interview. “When the government doesn’t have enemies, they can’t steer the country in the direction they want to.”

Ali said it seemed that the interrogators had many sources of information, and that they had detailed knowledge about his children. After his release, Ali also managed to flee to Western Europe, where he received refugee status.

Concerns about the fate of Turkish citizens who have disappeared drove the director of Human Rights Watch in Europe and Central Asia, Hugh Williamson, to write to Turkey’s justice minister in August. Williamson called for an urgent investigation, saying there was reason to believe that government agents had abducted the missing persons.

In addition, family members have appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, which in turn asked the Turkish government to clarify whether government agents had taken part in abductions. Also, last year, members of the largest opposition party, the Republican People’s Party, called on then-Prime Minister Binali Yildirim to release information on the investigation of 11 civilians thought to have been “disappeared.”

The United Nations defines “forced disappearance” as an instance in which a person’s liberty is denied by agents working for a government that later denies any involvement while refusing to divulge information on the whereabouts or fate of the abducted person.

This isn’t a new phenomenon in Turkey. At the height of the government’s campaign against the Kurds in the 1990s, hundreds of civilians disappeared, according to UN sources. Ozturk Turkdogan, a lawyer who heads Turkey’s Human Rights Association, which represents families of people who have gone missing, told researchers that “apparently this practice is in use again.”

It is of course hard to ascertain how many people have been kidnapped. But the Stockholm Center for Freedom, which was established by journalists who fled Turkey after the coup attempt, says that since 2016, 20 such cases have been reported of academics, teachers and public servants.

One case sounds similar to Tolga and Ali’s stories. According to Politico, witnesses saw Onder Asan, a former teacher who lived in Ankara, being taken into a black car in April 2017. After 42 days in which nothing was known about his fate, he was located in a regular police facility, Politico said.

According to the Stockholm Center for Freedom, Asan told his attorney that he was interrogated and tortured at an unknown location, with no access to the outer world, and that after his release he was told to give himself up to the police. Various media outlets have also provided testimony by another man, Cemil Kocak, who had been abducted by three men in Ankara.

Turkdogan, the attorney who represents families of the missing, said he had transferred the information he had to a UN committee dealing with forced disappearances, as well as to a committee on human rights in Turkey’s parliament, and to the Turkish state prosecution. He says law enforcement agencies in Turkey were making no progress in investigating these cases.


Turkey gives no details on civilians who have disappeared on its territory. It does, however, publish information on Turkish citizens associated with Gulen who have been arrested in other countries and brought back to Turkey by the country’s MIT intelligence service. According to reports in various countries, such operations have taken place in Kosovo, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Gabon and Ukraine.

Such operations are described in the Turkish media as the “return of terrorists.” Erdogan referred to this issue in a speech in Ankara in July to party members: “We’ll return Gulen’s people who fled, thinking they’re safe, one by one,” he declared. “We’ll continue our battle against Gulen supporters who have seriously harmed our country socially, politically and economically, until we completely eradicate them.”

Even though Turkey announced that it was undertaking such operations, it’s unclear how they are carried out. Some details may be gleaned from a widely reported incident that occurred in March in Kosovo.

Early one morning, a jet with the tail marking TC-KLE landed in the capital Pristina. Two hours later it took off with six Turkish citizens, five of them teachers, landing later at an airbase in Ankara. The wife of one of the men said her husband had been abducted by local men who had presented themselves as policemen, after stopping him on the highway in a village near Pristina.

The plane used in Kosovo is owned by the Turkish tourism and construction company Birlesik insaat Turizm Ticaret ve Sanayi. It is registered in Ankara; its address is an apartment building belonging to the Turkish intelligence service, near its headquarters. According to a website that monitors planes, the jet that was used for the alleged abduction was seen in September parked next to Erdogan’s plane while he was visiting Germany. According to the website ADS-B-Exchange, which monitors flights, in early December the plane landed in Venezuela while Erdogan was visiting that country.

Also, in widely reported incident in July, there was a foiled attempt to bring a school principal back from Mongolia to Turkey. He was working in a school associated with Gulen in the capital Ulan Bator. After the man was arrested, his family complained in the media and at the last minute the Mongolian government prevented the plane that had been sent from Turkey from taking off. The jet, photographed by the media, had the tail marking TT-4010. Documents show that the plane is also registered as belonging to the tourist company located in the compound belonging to the Turkish intelligence service.

In the majority of the cases, Turkey is greatly helped by countries where Turkish citizens are arrested. Thus, in September, seven employees of a high school associated with Gulen’s movement were arrested in Chisinau (Kishinev), the capital of Moldova, and flown to Turkey.

According to the Moldovan media, the seven Turkish citizens were picked up by local policemen at home or on the way to the school and flown to an airport near Istanbul. Moldovan authorities said they cooperated with Turkey in arresting the seven men because they “posed a danger to national security.” In this case, the men were flown to Turkey on a plane usually used for chartered flights.

According to senior Turkish officials, Turkey has so far brought back 100 people linked to the Gulen organization, from 18 countries. Amnesty International has complained about these abductions from foreign countries, which are illegal. According to the abductees’ families, after their return to Turkey, many of these men are accused of terrorism and put in regular prisons.



Revealed: Turkey Uses These Jets to Abduct Dissidents
Erdogan’s regime arrests Turkish citizens and brings them back to Turkey
Operations have taken place in Kosovo, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Gabon and Ukraine

By Rachel Goldberg
December 12, 2018

BERLIN - Early one morning, a jet with the tail marking TC-KLE landed in the capital of Kosovo, Pristina. Two hours later it took off with six Turkish citizens, five of them teachers, landing later at an airbase in Ankara, a joint investigation by nine international media coordinated by CORRECTIV found.

The wife of one of the men said her husband had been abducted by local men who had presented themselves as policemen, after stopping him on the highway in a village near Pristina.

The plane used in Kosovo is owned by the Turkish tourism and construction company Birlesik insaat Turizm Ticaret ve Sanayi. It is registered in Ankara; its address is an apartment building belonging to the Turkish intelligence service, near its headquarters.

According to a website that monitors planes, the jet that was used for the alleged abduction was seen in September parked next to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plane while he was visiting Germany. According to the website ADS-B-Exchange, which monitors flights, in early December the plane landed in Venezuela while Erdogan was visiting that country.

Also, in widely reported incident in July, there was a foiled attempt to bring a school principal back from Mongolia to Turkey. He was working in a school associated with Erdogan’s nemesis Fethullah Gulen in the capital Ulan Bator.

After the man was arrested, his family complained in the media and at the last minute the Mongolian government prevented the plane that had been sent from Turkey from taking off. The jet, photographed by the media, had the tail marking TT-4010. Documents show that the plane is also registered as belonging to the tourist company located in the compound belonging to the Turkish intelligence service.

In the majority of the cases, Turkey is greatly helped by countries where Turkish citizens are arrested. Thus, in September, seven employees of a high school associated with Gulen’s movement were arrested in Chisinau (Kishinev), the capital of Moldova, and flown to Turkey.

According to the Moldovan media, the seven Turkish citizens were picked up by local policemen at home or on the way to the school and flown to an airport near Istanbul. Moldovan authorities said they cooperated with Turkey in arresting the seven men because they “posed a danger to national security.” In this case, the men were flown to Turkey on a plane usually used for chartered flights.

According to senior Turkish officials, Turkey has so far brought back 100 people linked to the Gulen organization, from 18 countries. Amnesty International has complained about these abductions from foreign countries, which are illegal. According to the abductees’ families, after their return to Turkey, many of these men are accused of terrorism and put in regular prisons.



The Secret Jewish Plot Against Turkey: Erdogan, who rose out of a party whose leader compared Jews to bacteria, likes to name-drop ‘The Mastermind’: a Jewish conspiracy preventing Turkey taking its rightful place as a world superpower. No surprise, then, that he’s now targeting Soros

By Simon A. Waldman
Haaretz (Opinion)
December 13, 2018

For Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling elite, there’s a hidden, pernicious and conspiring hand that works tirelessly against the Republic of Turkey. Were it not for the connivance of this clandestine network, Turkey would be a global power and leader of nations.

Who are these sinister conspirators who plot within the murky shadows of international corporations, governments and transnational bodies against the Turkish Republic? You guessed it: Jews. And global bogeyman George Soros is just one of them.

On November 21, Erdogan pointed the finger at George Soros for apparently conspiring against the Turkish government.

He did this by claiming that the Turkish businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala, currently detained and awaiting trial, was working for “the famous Hungarian Jew George Soros.”

Erdogan added that Soros “is a man who was assigned to divide nations and shatter them. He has so much money and he is spending it in these ways,” including, apparently, to orchestrate the 2013 Gezi Park protests against government plans to demolish one of Istanbul’s last remain green spaces, and which became a protest against Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule.

In Turkey, anti-Semitic conspiracies are not merely present, they are part and parcel of government ideology.

Back in 2013 many Turkish citizens took to the streets to protest the imminent demolition of Gezi Park. Soon, the demonstration morphed into widespread protests that expressed discontent towards Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Instead of recognizing that not all in Turkey were satisfied with the Government’s performance, the then Deputy Prime Minister, Besir Atalay, claimed that the chief orchestrators of the protests were not Turks, but international Jewry. One of Erdogan’s chief advisors was even so brazen as to attack government rivals for “raising soldiers for the Jews.”

Baffling economists and political analysts alike, Erdogan accused the Gezi Park protestors of being provocateurs for the “interest rate lobby,” a group whose previous existence was unknown. But as Efrat Aviv notes, in her 2017 book “Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism in Turkey,” an explanation emerged - from a newspaper owned by none other President Erdogan’s son-in-law.

Who’s the despicable group seeking to manipulate Turkey’s interest rates for their own profit, to wreak havoc among Turkey’s economy? A network of Jewish financiers, working in cahoots with Opus Dei and the Illuminati!

After the Gezi protests, Erdogan named the body responsible for all of Turkey’s ills and difficulties - “The Mastermind.” Several months later, Haber, a pro-government television channel, aired a documentary also called “The Mastermind.”

With the help of pro-government academics, journalists and other cognoscenti, the documentary explains that Jewish machinations are as ancient as the story of Moses, the descendants of whom, Jews, have sought global dominance for 3,500 years.

It was they who brought down the Ottoman Empire, forced the demise of Islamist governments, and continue to plot against Turkey, even manipulating the U.S. government.

Since then, Erdogan has repeatedly mentioned “The Mastermind.” Since the explanatory documentary has been aired (several times) by a network sycophantic to him, it’s clear that every reference he makes means only one thing: Jews.

Secret Jewish conspiracies are part in parcel of the ideology from the political environment from which Erdogan and the AKP emerged.

The Islamic Milli Gorus (National Outlook) movement surfaced during the 1970s. Central to the Milli Gorus ideological perspective is an idiosyncratic type of anti-Semitism which points the accusatory finger at either Jews or Donmes (followers of the 17th century “false messiah” Shabbtai Zvi) for bringing about the demise of the Ottoman Empire and creating a secular society upon its charred remains.

Such a movement would have been but a meager footnote in the relentlessly vast history of anti-Semitism, were it not for the rise of the Islamic Welfare Party, a later incantation of the Milli Gorus tradition. Under the leadership of Necmettin Erbakan, an old political bruiser if ever there was one, the party entered government in 1996 with Erbakan as Prime Minister, only to be ousted after a military intervention the following year.

Turkey’s precursor to the AKP, the Islamic Welfare Party leader Necmettin Erbakan addresses the last session of his parliamentary group in Ankara. Feb. 17, 1998Turkey’s precursor to the AKP, the Islamic Welfare Party leader Necmettin Erbakan addresses the last session of his parliamentary group in Ankara. Feb. 17, 1998 AP
Erbakan was a rabid anti-Semite of the highest order who liked to rabble rouse about Jewish conspiracies while offering a sprinkle of nasty slurs to top it off. Jews as bacteria, that sort of thing.

Fast forward to today, and is it any wonder that the intellectual inheritors of nonsense passed as knowledge allege that there is a secret Jewish plot against Turkey? And still it continues unabated, and in full force.

Erdogan is on record as making vulgar anti-Semitic slurs (“You are the spawn of Israel!” he told a member of the public who dared to criticize him). He has brazenly stated conspiratorial nonsense such as Jewish capital being behind the New York Times, after the leading daily criticized his anti-democratic practices.

He tried to delegitimize the 2017 independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan by insinuating the referendum was a result of Jewish duplicity. In Erdogan’s words: “You have the former foreign minister of France [Bernard Kouchner] on one side and another Jew [Bernard-Henri Levy] on another, working at the table together,” while also alleging that the Mossad and the Kurds work hand-in-hand.

Turkey’s current financial crisis, a result of the country’s current account deficit, foreign currency debt, lack of central bank autonomy and the President’s aversion to interest rates, has also been blamed on Jews.

In August as the Turkish lira tumbled against the dollar, Burhan Kuzu, AKP co-founder and member of parliament until the June elections of this year, commented that it was “Jewish banking families” who were responsible. Erdogan himself said those behind the 2016 attempted coup were the same people responsible for the currency crisis. Who were those people?

The failed coup of July 2016 was not merely perpetrated by a Gulenist faction among the military. It was, according to supporters of Erdogan, part of a wider Jewish plot.

They claim that Fetullah Gulen, the Turkish Islamic preacher in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania and Turkey’s public enemy number 1, is actually a Jew, a Karaite Jew in fact says Ersin Ramoglu, a columnist from pro-government newspaper Sabah, echoing Fuat Ugur, another pro-Erdogan journalist.

Tamer Korkmaz of the pro-government daily Yeni Safak explained that Gulen is part of the Zionist - Crusader alliance which seeks to reduce Turkey to a colony of the West. According to Korkmaz, the venerable Jewish community organization B’nai Brith is in on the plot!

Such assertions were seconded by other columnists from leading dailies such as Can Kemal Ozer of pro-government Yeni Soz, and AKP parliamentary deputies such as Orhan Deligoz.

From this perspective, Gulenist activities, the chaos in Syria and even the activities of ISIS, are all machinations of the Jewish “Mastermind”, a ventriloquist puppet master, a Jewish Mephistopheles seeking to bring Turkey down.

Turkish anti-Semitism is a central bedrock of the ideological thinking of President Erdogan, his AKP government and their supporters. Try this easy test: The next time you hear of a negative political or economic development in Turkey, look out for the anti-Semitism. You can’t miss it.


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

“Macron, whore of the Jews” (& NY Times photographer praises murderer of Jewish baby)

December 16, 2018


[Notes by Tom Gross]

A huge banner reading “Macron, whore of the Jews” was hung on a bridge on Route A6, the main road between Paris and Lyon, Israeli and French media have reported.

Many of the protestors from both extreme left and extreme right participating in the anti-government “Yellow Vest” protests and riots, have increasingly started to use anti-Semitic slogans and chants either accusing President Emmanuel Macron of being Jewish (he is not) or being “controlled by the Jews.”

On some social networks he is referred to as “President Rothschild.”

On Saturday morning December 8, the Jewish Chabad House in central Paris closed for services for the first time in years, under police advice that they may not be able to protect worshippers inside.

The anti-Semitic French entertainer Dieudonné M’bala M’bala and his admirers reportedly joined the demonstrators and gave Nazi salutes.

Among various pro-”Yellow Vest” videos uploaded to YouTube is one by French musician Stephen Ballet, inciting protesters to “understand that the real enemy are the Jews.” It received 36,000 views before it was taken down by YouTube.




Swastikas were painted on tombstones and on the Holocaust memorial at Strasbourg’s Jewish cemetery (above) last week a day after an Islamist terror attack on a Christmas market in the city. Many of Strasbourg’s Jews were deported to Auschwitz and other death camps.




Over two years after being asked to, the British Labour party, under pressure from the Sunday Times of London, has suspended a key party official who blamed “all the wars in the world” on Jewish people,

The Sunday Times reports today that: “In February 2016 Mohammed Yasin (above with party leader Jeremy Corbyn) shared a post headlined ‘Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.’ (These are the same words used in Nazi rallies in 1930s Germany and Austria.)

Yasin also shared a post, “Why Israel is a problem”, stating that “due to Holocaust propaganda” Israel threatens the world. He shared a picture showing a rabbi next to the words: “Goyim [non-Jews] were born only to serve us. They have no place in the world – only to serve the people of Israel.”

In January 2016 he shared a video about the “Rothschilds, the world’s most wicked and wealthiest family” and that year he also praised the Zimbabwean cleric, Mufti Ismail Menk, as “one of the finest Islamic scholars of our time” after the Mufti had said in his sermons that gay people “are worse than animals.”

Once again, it has taken a news organization owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News International (this time the Sunday Times) to highlight anti-Semitism in Europe, whereas supposedly liberal newspapers such as The Guardian have been very reluctant to highlight the rampant anti-Semitism on the British and European left.



Among other past items on Corbyn:




Since the international media has barely reported on this, here is a note I placed on Facebook last Wednesday evening:

December 12, 2018

The Israeli baby delivered prematurely after being shot in his mother’s stomach in Sunday evening’s Hannukah terror attack died this evening of his wounds. Earlier in the day, the baby’s parents Shira and Amichai, hospitalized for injuries sustained in the attack, visited their baby for the first and last time.

“The baby died embraced by his family’s love,” said Dr. Alona Ben Nun, who heads the Shaare Zedek hospital’s prenatal unit. The baby received the maximal care possible but was not able to survive his injuries,” she said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Our hearts are with Shira and Amichai over the passing of their four day old son who did not even have a name. The murderers are abhorrent, the most deviant criminals on earth. The security forces are pursuing them and I hope that there will be news soon on this matter. We will not slacken until we find them and deal with them to the fullest extent of the law.”

UPDATE: The baby was buried this evening within two hours of dying, in accordance with Jewish tradition. He was given a name upon burial, Amiad Yisrael. Over 300 hundred people attended the funeral on the Mount of Olives, overlooking Jerusalem’s Old City. Mourners used umbrellas to shield the baby’s tiny body from the rain.

The baby’s parents, Shira and Amichai, were both recovering from gunshot wounds at the hospital and unable to attend the funeral. The baby was buried by his grandparents.

Hamas held celebrations to mark the baby’s death this evening. The Palestinian Authority said it would financially reward the terrorist and his family.



Wissam Nassar, a Pulitzer-nominated Palestinian photographer for the New York Times caused outrage after he posted praise on Instagram for the murderer of the baby Amiad Yisrael.

His post was removed after 24 hours. Nassar has long been criticized for his inflammatory anti-Israeli photos and the New York Times has been criticized for employing him.


I attach a piece below about Anti-Zionism being as dangerous as anti-Semitism, by Bret Stephens (a lone voice among much anti-Zionist incitement at the New York Times).




When Anti-Zionism Tunnels Under Your House
By Bret Stephens
New York Times
December 14, 2018

In 2002, Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah, was said to have given a speech noting that the creation of the state of Israel had spared his followers the trouble of hunting down Jews at “the ends of the world.” The Lebanese terrorist group has prominent apologists in the West, and some of them rushed to claim that Nasrallah had uttered no such thing.

Except he had. Tony Badran of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies tracked down the original recording of the speech, in which Nasrallah carries on about “occupied Palestine” as the place appointed by Allah for the “final and decisive battle” with the Jews. By “occupied Palestine,” he wasn’t talking about the West Bank.

Sometimes anti-Zionists are – surprise! – homicidal anti-Semites, too.

That’s a thought that can’t be far from the mind of anyone living in northern Israel, where in recent days the Israeli Army has discovered at least three tunnels dug by Hezbollah and intended to infiltrate commandos under the border in the (increasingly likely) event of war. Given the breadth of Hezbollah’s capabilities, the depth of its fanaticism, and the experience of Hamas’s excavation projects in Gaza, it’s fair to assume other tunnels will be found.

What would Hezbollah do if it got its fighters across? In 1974, three Palestinian terrorists crossed the border from Lebanon and took 115 hostages at an elementary school in the town of Ma’alot. They murdered 25 of them, including 22 children.

Another infiltration from Lebanon in 1978 left 38 Israelis dead. Given Hezbollah’s long record of perpetrating massacres from Buenos Aires to Beirut to towns and cities across Syria, it’s a playbook it wouldn’t scruple to follow in a war for the Galilee.

All this is to say that Israelis experience anti-Zionism in a different way than, say, readers of The New York Review of Books: not as a bold sally in the world of ideas, but as a looming menace to their earthly existence, held at bay only through force of arms. It’s somewhat like the difference between discussing the effects of Marxism-Leninism in an undergraduate seminar at Reed College, circa 2018 – and experiencing them at closer range in West Berlin, circa 1961.

Actually, it’s worse than that, since the Soviets merely wanted to dominate or conquer their enemies and seize their property, not wipe them off the map and end their lives. Anti-Zionism might have been a respectable point of view before 1948, when the question of Israel’s existence was in the future and up for debate. Today, anti-Zionism is a call for the elimination of a state – details to follow regarding the fate befalling those who currently live in it.

Note the distinction: Anti-Zionists are not advocating the reform of a state, as Japan was reformed after 1945. Nor are they calling for the adjustment of a state’s borders, as Canada’s border with the United States was periodically adjusted in the 19th century. They’re not talking about the birth of a separate state, either, as South Sudan was born out of Sudan in 2011. And they’re certainly not championing the partition of a multiethnic state into ethnically homogenous components, as Yugoslavia was partitioned after 1991.

Anti-Zionism is ideologically unique in insisting that one state, and one state only, doesn’t just have to change. It has to go. By a coincidence that its adherents insist is entirely innocent, this happens to be the Jewish state, making anti-Zionists either the most disingenuous of ideologues or the most obtuse. When then-CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill called last month for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea” and later claimed to be ignorant of what the slogan really meant, it was hard to tell in which category he fell.

Does this make someone with Hill’s views an anti-Semite? It’s like asking whether a person who believes in separate-but-equal must necessarily be a racist. In theory, no. In reality, another story. The typical aim of the anti-Semite is legal or social discrimination against some set of Jews. The explicit aim of the anti-Zionist is political or physical dispossession.

What’s worse: To be denied membership in a country club because you’re Jewish, or driven from your ancestral homeland and sovereign state for the same reason? If anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are meaningfully distinct (I think they are not), the human consequences of the latter are direr.

The good news is that the conversation about anti-Zionism remains mostly academic because Israelis haven’t succumbed to the fatal illusion that, if only they behaved better, their enemies would hate them less. To the extent that Israeli parents ever sleep soundly, it’s because they know what they are up against. And, to borrow Kipling’s line, they never make mock of uniforms that guard them while they sleep.

The same can’t be said for that class of scolds who excel in making excuses for the wicked and finding fault with the good. When you find yourself on the same side as Hassan Nasrallah, Louis Farrakhan and David Duke on the question of a country’s right to exist, it’s time to re-examine every opinion you hold.


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

Divorcing from 27 other countries isn’t easy (& Pets killed for food in Venezuela)

December 15, 2018

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher campaigning to “Keep Britain in Europe” in 1975, on the previous occasion Britain held a referendum on the matter.

(Many of her supporters argue that, had she still been alive, she would have voted to leave in the 2016 referendum. Others say she would have followed the same pragmatic line of thinking as Theresa May and voted to stay.)



[Note by Tom Gross]

This is another in a very occasional series of dispatches on Brexit.

I attach some TV interviews with myself followed by two pieces.

The first piece below, by Simon Jenkins, points out that over the last 1600 years, by his count, Britain has already left (and eventually rejoined) Europe eight times.


The second piece, about Venezuela, is a warning of what might happen in a Jeremy Corbyn-led Britain (an increasingly likely prospect as the British Conservative party implodes over Brexit).

Despite having the world’s largest oil reserves, socialist economic polices there have turned Venezuela into a disaster zone, creating one of the world’s biggest refugee crises.

Zoos have seen their animals killed for food, and pets stolen to provide meals.

Meanwhile the ruling socialist elites continue to enrich themselves. The daughter of former President Hugo Chavez is now believed to be Venezuela’s wealthiest individual, worth billions of US dollars.


Among past dispatches on Brexit:

Harvard Professor: Britain’s “lunatic referendum formula isn’t democracy” (June 28, 2016)



These three short TV interviews with me are from Wednesday evening.

* “Do the British people still want Brexit? Divorcing from 27 other countries isn’t easy”

* Theresa May clings on to power, but is Brexit doomed?

* The Brexit delusion: The final end of the British Empire




Britain will go back into the European club. History proves it
We’ve been in an on/off relationship for centuries. Even if we leave now, it won’t be forever
By Simon Jenkins
The Guardian
November 21, 2018

Sometimes, when politics screams and tears its hair out, history can rush forward with a comfort blanket to wrap round its shoulders. It’s all right, it says, calm down, we have been here before. Britain has left Europe in a huff, and been drawn back in again. It has turned its back on Europe, and turned it back again almost as often. Today is just one of those times.

The ancient province of Britannia was firmly part of the Roman empire for four centuries before that empire’s disintegration forced it to leave, in 410. Two centuries later, in 664, England voted at the Synod of Whitby to rejoin what was emphatically a European union, that of the Roman Catholic church, albeit with many a squabble under the likes of Henry II and King John. In 1534, Henry VIII spectacularly withdrew from that union, and Reformation England held itself aloof from Europe’s wars of religion throughout the 16th and 17th centuries.

Then in 1704, England changed its mind and the Whigs plunged into the war of the Spanish succession against Louis XIV. The Tories reverted to detachment after Utrecht in 1713 and the Hanoverians left Europe well alone. In 1734 Walpole could boast to Queen Caroline that “50,000 men are slain in Europe this year, and not one an Englishman”. The Pitts would subsidise selected European allies but refused to fight with them, until Britain was drawn into the war against Napoleon. It then triumphed at Trafalgar and Waterloo, and a London square and a station were erected as memorials to the cause of a newly united Europe.

At the Congress of Vienna in 1815 Britain helped found the Concert of Europe, to resolve the continent’s future conflicts peacefully. But it soon lost interest, to concentrate on trade with our old friend “the rest of the world” – or rather, the empire. It re-engaged for the Crimean war but disengaged to leave Bismarck his supremacy. Lord Salisbury declared a European policy to be one of “splendid isolation … drifting lazily downstream, occasionally putting out a boat-hook to avoid collision”.

In the 20th century isolation met its nemesis: Britain was drawn into a great war it should have helped avoid. It then appeased France’s desire for revenge against Germany, and appeased its inevitable outcome, the rise of Hitler. When Baldwin in 1934 promised “freedom from adventures and commitments abroad, and no rearmament”, it was the climax of the age of leave. The outcome was a second world war.

After that war, a new Europe, or half a Europe, saw Britain fully engaged in Nato. But it declined to join the Common Market in 1957, changed its mind six years later, and finally joined in 1973. Thatcher eulogised the Single European Act in 1986 as “a single market without barriers – visible or invisible – with direct and unhindered access … to 300 million of the world’s wealthiest people.” She was ecstatic.

Only at Maastricht in 1992 did the old hesitancy return, due largely to the EU’s drift to “ever closer union”. It upset the delicate equilibrium between the benefits of union and Britain’s sense of independence. John Major declined to join the eurozone and the EU social chapter. The slope was now downhill to two years ago, in 2016. That year, on my count, Britain left Europe for the ninth time in its history.

The lessons of the past are glaringly obvious. The decision to leave is bound to be reversed – some time, somehow. Articles 49 and 50 of the Lisbon treaty are clear: that any state can apply to rejoin. Public pressure to rejoin will be greater the “harder” Brexit proves to be. Erecting borders and barriers across the Channel is likely to prove so costly and inconvenient as to fuel the rejoiners’ cause.

I think it more likely that the EU will degenerate into something else. The Concert of Europe broke down, as did the 1925 Locarno treaty, because of diminishing relevance amid the strands of Europe’s ever variable diplomacy. Of these, the most serious would be a descent into war. Nato remains somewhat hesitantly in place. In a time of military threat from Russia or elsewhere, it would be the European Union of necessity, and Britain is a full member of that.

A more likely scenario has Europe itself changing and dividing, as its economic space has to adjust to the changing politics, economies and cultures of its nations. The EU has clearly become too insensitive, too brittle, to survive for ever. All Europe’s great settlements – Westphalia, Utrecht, Vienna, Versailles, Yalta – have lasted no more than two generations.

History suggests an EU that could evolve into a new Holy Roman Empire: a confederation of states, some big, some small, some little more than cities, like Monaco, San Marino and Liechtenstein. The old Holy Roman Empire was much derided by historians of the age of empires. Yet as its biographer, Peter Wilson, has written, its weakness was in truth its strength. It threatened no one. Its status as an essentially German empire guaranteed its members a local autonomy that was “multi-layered, from household, parish, community, territory, region to empire.”

This empire lived, mostly at peace, for an astonishing 1,000 years, until smashed by Napoleon and Bismarck. It gave Europe among its greatest architects, artists, composers and philosophers. From such an example of graduated union I can see emerging one day a new form of union that Britain would be happy to rejoin.

The “populist” states of eastern Europe might mimic Britain and leave. The eurozone might grow increasingly unstable. Others may default to greater separatism, like today’s Slovaks, Catalans, Corsicans and Scots. There will be many Europes for Britain to want to join. Europe has often felt the need of Britain, as in 1704, 1815, 1914 and 1939. But Britain too benefited from these engagements.

Like it or not, globalisation means states cannot sensibly barricade themselves off from their neighbours. They must find reconciliation and trade. Geography has always been the tyrant of history. You can take Britain out of the EU as often as you like; you can never take Britain out of Europe.



Venezuela is a brutal lesson to the UK’s socialist apologists
By Brian Monteith
City A.M.
November 28, 2018

I know it is very hard to believe, but at some point we shall stop talking about Brexit.

We shall get back to discussing what we can do to improve our lives and those of others.

And we shall look for inspiration from other countries to learn lessons from catastrophic failures or discover truly amazing successes.

As we leave Brexit behind and begin to look towards the next election, we shall start to ask more serious questions of the opposition parties, especially what their economic policies will mean.

The views of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell will come under greater scrutiny, and for that reason their admiration for the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela must be given serious analysis.

This is important because it defines what the Labour leaders think is possible: that you can defy the rules of the market and the laws of economics. It presents a warning, because the story of Venezuela is a shocking one – and those who try to excuse it must surely never come close to the UK’s economic levers of power.

Despite having the world’s largest oil reserves, Venezuela is now an economic basket case, with rampant inflation, widespread government corruption, a massive refugee problem as citizens flee to neighbouring countries, and huge shortages in health supplies, food, and basic essentials.

Zoos have seen their animals killed for food and pets stolen to provide meals.

Venezuela’s problems are of its own making; they are the result of bad policy choices and a revolution that has turned against its own people. And the reason the country is so relevant today is that the excuses made for it by Labour’s devoutly socialist leadership signal that the same mistakes could be repeated here – with catastrophic results.

Two decades ago, there were 650,000 private companies in Venezuela. Now there are only 140,000, a loss of almost 80 per cent.

And the problems are worsening. Just recently Colgate Palmolive halted production at its detergent plant due to a shortage of cardboard for packaging. This was a direct result of the Venezuelan government seizing the Smurfit Kappa cardboard plant in August, and the subsequent cessation of production.

This is not an isolated incident. The regime regularly seizes private companies when they announce that they can no longer continue, promising to restart production.

Such was the fate of Kellogg’s cereal plant when it closed due to “the current economic and social deterioration in the country”, but no cereal has yet been produced.

Some apologists try to blame the US, the EU, and other western nations for Venezuela’s plight, suggesting that economic sanctions are to blame.

But this is disingenuous and deceitful. There is no US ban on importing Venezuelan oil or oil products – indeed, if it were not for the import of Venezuelan oil, the situation in the country would be unimaginably worse.

The economic sanctions that do exist are targeted at politicians and officials of the regime to try to prevent them from expropriating the country’s wealth as they loot Venezuela of its earnings and capital.

It is no coincidence that the daughter of former President Hugo Chavez is believed to be Venezuela’s wealthiest individual, worth billions of US dollars.

Meanwhile, the healthcare system is in a state of collapse, with a systematic shortage of drugs, and the continued haemorrhaging of skilled doctors and nurses who are leaving the country. The same sorry state exists in schools – many have closed due to a lack of teachers and the inability of pupils to attend due transport failures.

Venezuela is a parallel to what happened in Chile in the early seventies. There, a Marxist-inspired government under Salvador Allende came to power and started to appropriate private property, changing the constitution and laws so that his politicians could reign supreme.

It ended in a bloody coup, and thousands of people were murdered or disappeared as the military, under General Augusto Pinochet, ended Allende’s rule.

Since the end of Pinochet’s dictatorship and Chile’s transition back to a parliamentary democracy, the country has become a beacon of comparative economic success.

Over the years, Chile has restored private property rights and adopted an open market economy. Its privatisation of pensions has created a future wealth fund for ordinary people which we in the UK could only dream of.

In comparison, Venezuela under the current President Nicolas Maduro is already in a worse state than Chile under Allende, suggesting that this situation too can only end in bloodshed.

The British Labour leaders should take note: there is no such thing as a successful Marxist economy. Advocates of trying such experiments in the UK should look to a history of failures and recognise the limitations of state intervention.


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

Forgotten forever prisoners: Is the oldest detainee in Guantanamo innocent?

It seems that 71-year-old Saifullah Paracha, the oldest prisoner in Guantánamo Bay, will probably die in detention without ever being charged. Above Paracha, formerly a wealthy middle-aged Pakistani businessman, and his son Uzair, who is also being held by the United States, in Indiana, although a federal judge has now ruled Uzair may be innocent.



[Note by Tom Gross]

The continuing detention without charge of prisoners by the United States government in the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba remains a stain on American democracy.

Almost two decades after the 9/11 attacks, now more then ever, they should either be charged and tried, or released. (I have argued this on several occasions over the past 17 years.)

When Barack Obama ran for office in 2008 he repeatedly pledged to quickly close Guantánamo but then broke his promise. The pro-Obama parts of the American media, such as the New York Times and Washington Post, which on a near daily basis had been highly critical of President George W Bush for not closing Guantánamo, were then remarkably silent for the following eight years when Obama left Guantánamo open.

Embarrassed that “their” president, Obama, had left the camp open, they have also now failed to highlight the issue during President Trump’s first two years in office. Trump, who unlike Obama, has been critical of the Afghan war that gave rise to Guantánamo, has nevertheless been adamant that he will not close the camp. (Over the years many prisoners have been released without charge by successive presidents but dozens still remain.)

(One reason Obama was reluctant to release more prisoners once in office, is that 12 men released from the camp when George W Bush was president, then went on to launch attacks against US or allied troops in Afghanistan, killing five troops and a female aid worker in Afghanistan.)


Needless to say, in its totality, American democracy is much more humane than brutal regimes such as those in China, Russia, Iran, Turkey, and the Arab world.

Yet the presumption of innocence needs to be a cornerstone of any democratic system. People who the authorities are not able to charge with any crime, let alone convict them, need to be released, however controversial any political views they hold might be.

Below, I attach a lengthy article about Saifullah Paracha, formerly a wealthy middle-aged Pakistani businessman and now the oldest prisoner in Guantánamo Bay, and his son, who is in a US federal prison, from the British paper The Guardian.

Both father and son insist they are innocent.


Before returning to Pakistan, Saifullah Paracha studied computer science at the New York Institute of Technology, and then started a travel agency and bought a house in Jamaica Estates – the Queens neighborhood that was also home to Donald Trump.

He later met Osama bin Laden and requested that Bin Laden be interviewed for a Pakistani TV program.

But being part of a group of two dozen Pakistan business people who were granted an audience with Bin Laden, does not make him a criminal.

Bin Laden was also interviewed many times by western media including by the British paper The Independent and by CNN, when he answered questions about why he had declared jihad against the US. You can watch it here.


Saifullah was arrested at Bangkok airport in 2003 as he flew to Thailand for a meeting with an American business colleague. He was “taken to a black site in Thailand operated by US intelligence agencies” and tortured. He said he told his interrogators in vain: “I’m completely innocent, I’ll talk to anybody. No need to use thumbscrews.”

His son, also arrested 15 years ago in New York, was then held in “the darkest corner of the US federal prison system.”

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s nephew and other al-Qaida operatives told US interrogators that neither of the Parachas had anything to do with al-Qaida.


Until now, Saifullah has never been told, in full, what he has been accused of, nor allowed to defend himself in court.

On 25 September 2018, at its most recent hearing, the review board ruled that detaining Saifullah remained necessary to protect against “a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States”.


Meanwhile after years of proclaiming his innocence, his son may be released from the maximum security Indiana prison where he is being held.

Last summer, a US federal judge ruled that Uzair’s conviction should be thrown out, and granted him a new trial based on evidence that has emerged since he was convicted.

But his 71-year-old father may yet die in Guantánamo without ever being charged.

Nine detainees have died at Guantánamo, including seven from apparent suicide.

-- Tom Gross




Forever prisoners: were a father and son wrongly ensnared by America’s war on terror?

Saifullah Paracha, the oldest prisoner in Guantánamo Bay, will probably die in detention without ever being charged. His son is currently in a US prison. Both have been in custody for almost 15 years, accused of aiding al-Qaida. But did they?

By Saba Imtiaz
The Guardian
Friday December 14, 2018

On a summer day in 2003, a wealthy middle-aged businessman arrived at Karachi airport to board a flight to Bangkok. Saifullah Paracha was heading to the Thai capital to join his American business partner for a meeting with buyers for Kmart, the retail chain.

His wife accompanied him to the airport. The Parachas – Saifullah, Farhat and their four children – lived across town, in the upscale Karachi neighbourhood, Defence. Saifullah’s 14-year-old son, Mustafa, loved gaming, and had asked his father to bring him back a graphics card for his computer from Bangkok.

Saifullah’s eldest son, Uzair, wasn’t there to say goodbye. Earlier that year, the Paracha family had been shocked by the news that Uzair, who was 23, had been arrested by the FBI in New York. Farhat thought that he might have been detained because of the paranoia about Asians, especially Muslims, in the US after 9/11.

A few hours later, Saifullah’s plane landed safely at Bangkok airport – but he never made it to his meeting. Instead, as he left the airport, he was captured in an FBI-led operation. From there, he was transported to Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, where he learned that he was accused of aiding al-Qaida. US authorities claimed that he had, among other activities, facilitated financial transactions for senior al-Qaida members and tried to help them smuggle explosives into the US.

Fifteen years later, Saifullah is still in US custody. He has not been charged with a crime. At 71, he is the oldest prisoner at Guantánamo Bay detention camp, where he has been held since 2004. Saifullah has never had a chance to see the full extent of what he has been accused of, let alone properly defend himself in court. He has not been tried by a military commission, but nor has he been cleared for release by a review board. “There are no charges against him at this time,” a defense department spokesperson told me when asked about charges against Saifullah. “I cannot speculate about the future.”

Guantánamo once held more than 650 men; today, only 40 remain, some of whom have been nicknamed “forever prisoners”. The majority were transferred out or released by successful legal petitions during the Bush and Obama administrations. Nine detainees have died at Guantánamo, including seven from apparent suicide.

“Guantánamo has come to symbolise torture, rendition and indefinite detention without charge or trial,” Erika Guevara Rosas, director for the Americas at Amnesty International, said in a statement earlier this year. “Its closure is both essential and long overdue.” Yet Donald Trump, who campaigned on a promise to keep the prison open and “load it up with some bad dudes”, has shut down the state department office charged with negotiating detainee release. The current US policy on Guantánamo, according to Daniel Fried, an Obama-era envoy for the closure of the prison, appears to be: “Keep it as it is, and repeat that these are all dangerous terrorists.”

Over the years, detainees have gone on hunger strike a number of times, with authorities responding by force-feeding them. “Maybe I will lose my sight, and go blind – but in here I have nothing to see,” Ahmed Rabbani, a Pakistani detainee on hunger strike, wrote last year in an op-ed for the Pakistani newspaper Dawn. “We have lost our sanity, our health, our humanity and our dignity,” Shaker Aamer, the last British resident to be held at Guantanamo, said in 2013. Saifullah once described life at Guantánamo as “being alive in your own grave”.


In New York, 1,432 miles away, Saifullah’s son Uzair is serving a 30-year prison sentence on charges of providing material support for terrorism by helping an al-Qaida member. Back in Pakistan, the Paracha family have become pariahs, abandoned by all but a tiny circle of friends and relatives.

Yet both father and son insist they are innocent, claiming that they did not realise that the men they were helping were al-Qaida operatives, since they had assumed false identities. In separate interrogations, the alleged al-Qaida members they are accused of helping have said the same thing, claiming that the Parachas had no knowledge of who they were involved with.

For 15 years, Saifullah and Uzair have been held in different spheres of the US justice system, bound by the allegations against them. Guantánamo’s forever prisoners have receded from public consciousness – and even in Pakistan, the Parachas have largely been forgotten, except as a rarely mentioned cautionary tale of how urbane, educated men could be involved in militancy. It is almost as if, having disappeared into US prisons, father and son ceased to exist as anything but a statistic of the war on terror, forever labelled as terrorists. But that convenient narrative ignores one basic question: did they even commit a crime?

In the decades before he was captured, Saifullah Paracha had worked hard to achieve what you might call the Pakistani dream, opening several businesses – including a media production house and a factory that made cement bags – and gaining the trappings of the wealthy: a fancy house, numerous cars, household staff.

Saifullah grew up in poverty in a rural town in newly independent Pakistan. He made his way to Karachi for college, and in 1971, received funding from a youth organisation to study computer science at the New York Institute of Technology, as he told a tribunal at Guantánamo years later. His brother joined him while he was studying in the US.


In New York, Saifullah met a Pakistani woman called Farhat, who was studying for a master’s degree in sociology at New York University. She converted from Christianity to marry him in 1979. Their first son, Uzair, was born in 1980, followed by their daughter, Muneeza. Around that time, Saifullah and Farhat gained permanent US residency, but in 1986, they relocated to Karachi; a relative told me that Saifullah wanted to establish his business in the city, and that he felt happier living in Pakistan. They had two more children, Mustafa and Zahra.

Unlike their father, Saifullah’s children grew up privileged, studying at the city’s best schools. They gained permanent US residency through their parents and regularly travelled to the US. Uzair, the eldest, went to a prestigious Karachi boys’ school, where he was known as a “burger” – 90s slang for westernised, rich Pakistani kids. “He had a goatee when this was considered to be an epitome of a burger kid’s outlook,” one of Uzair’s old schoolmates told me. “I remember he had friends who were girls and maybe a girlfriend. In a middle-class boys’ school, this was an inspiration and achievement!”

While his kids were studying, Saifullah was tending to his many commercial ventures, from his production house that sold original programming to Pakistani media networks, to a garment-buying house with a New York-based partner that facilitated shipments between Pakistan and the US. Saifullah donated to charitable causes and prayed regularly at a mosque affiliated with the prominent cleric Dr Israr Ahmed, who ran the Tanzeem-e-Islami, a conservative religious organisation. He helped build a hospital in his native district in the Punjab province, and chaired a group of small non-profits called the Council of Welfare Organization. His many business and charitable endeavours brought him into contact with Pakistan’s ruling classes – according to his son, Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif, the ex-prime minister of Pakistan and his influential brother, were among Saifullah’s acquaintances, though it’s possible he exaggerated how well connected he was.

Even though Saifullah was the youngest of nine siblings, over time he became the family patriarch who people turned to for advice and support. He was congenial, generous, high-spirited and a little self-important, cutting the figure of the quintessential Pakistani uncle who loves to talk and talk. When out at a restaurant, he would joke with the staff and give advice to the manager. Saifullah’s businesses had their lean moments, but he was always thinking up new ventures and areas of investment. And in pursuit of new business ideas and networking, he would travel and meet people. It was one of those trips, and a business card, that would change his life beyond belief.

In the 1990s, religious groups in Pakistan would sometimes organise trips to Afghanistan for businessmen, encouraging them to invest there. After the Taliban took power in 1996 – with the backing of Pakistani intelligence – Pakistan was one of only three countries to recognise the new Afghan government as legitimate, and several Pakistani officials and religious leaders had close relationships with Taliban leaders.


Between 1999 and 2001, Saifullah made three trips to Afghanistan, including with religious figures, delegations of businessmen and trustees from the Council of Welfare Organization, which he chaired. The Council’s website listed these trips as “delegations to Afghanistan to promote their economy, which has been shattered and destructed in the last two decades of war”. They are briefly described in the public records of Saifullah’s hearings at Guantánamo over the course of the past 15 years, but offer a confusing picture: the transcripts, particularly from the early years of his detention, consist of vaguely worded, occasionally incomprehensible, questions and answers. In some places, words are redacted or misspelt.

What is certain is that on one of these trips, in 1999 or 2000, Saifullah was part of a group of two dozen people who were granted an audience with Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader who was then living in Afghanistan as a guest of the Taliban government. At the time, Bin Laden was wanted by US authorities for funding and organising numerous terrorist attacks, including the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Yet in Pakistan Bin Laden retained a degree of popularity, particularly among religious conservatives. In 1998, legislators from Pakistan’s Punjab province told US diplomats that Bin Laden had become a folk hero among their constituents after the US ordered a series of airstrikes against him in Afghanistan. But most Pakistani businessmen visiting the country did not get invited to meet Bin Laden, which suggests that Saifullah was indeed well connected.

The meeting with Bin Laden took place in Kandahar. “When I met Osama, he delivered [read] the Qur’an [presumably to the audience in the hall], and said he was a prophet,” Saifullah would later tell a hearing at Guantánamo. “He said nice things, very impressive.”


At the meeting, Saifullah seized the opportunity: he wanted to take advantage of Bin Laden’s celebrity by featuring him in a TV programme, talking about religion as a scholar. “I wanted to make a programme on a common personality between Christian, Judaism, and Islam,” Saifullah later told a Guantánamo review board hearing. “The programme was designed to try and reduce the gap between the international communities and the Muslim community as much as we can,” he said at another hearing. Bin Laden had been interviewed several times before, including in 1997 by CNN, when he answered questions about why he had declared jihad against the US.

In Kandahar, Saifullah handed Bin Laden his business card, but when he returned to Pakistan he didn’t hear back from him. Saifullah returned to Afghanistan the next year, he later told a review board hearing, as part of another delegation that had an audience with Bin Laden. This time, the two did not speak.


In May 2001, with not a little self-importance, Saifullah wrote a five-page letter to George HW Bush, which was copied to George W Bush, in which he laid out the challenges for the Taliban government, asked for sanctions on Afghanistan to be lifted and suggested that the Taliban could help US tackle “communism, terrorism and controlling drugs”.

Later that year, after the September 11 attacks, Saifullah, who was in Pakistan, called his American business partner in New York to check he was safe and to offer his condolences. He also sent his condolences to the US consulate in Karachi. He even wrote a few letters to George W Bush, urging him to pursue peace in Afghanistan.

Then, in the summer of 2002, Saifullah received an unexpected visit at his office in Karachi from a man who had his business card – and claimed to have a message from Afghanistan. According to Saifullah’s testimony at a Guantánamo tribunal in 2016, the visitor, who introduced himself as Mir, wanted to know more about his idea for a TV programme featuring Bin Laden.

The two formed a seemingly casual acquaintance. Mir would come to meet Saifullah at his office, and they sometimes prayed and ate together. Saifullah didn’t make much of the fact that Mir claimed to help with Bin Laden’s media operations – in Pakistan, he would later recall, people often boasted about being close to Osama bin Laden. Perhaps someone more paranoid or cautious would not have entertained Mir, but Saifullah does not seem to have thought much of it. While Pakistan had by then become an ally of the US in the “war on terror”, within the country there was still some support for Bin Laden, as well as for homegrown militant networks fighting against India in the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Over the next few months, Mir asked Saifullah for a few favours, such as helping him open a bank account in Karachi. Mir also gave Saifullah up to $200,000 to hold as a potential investment, which Saifullah returned when asked in November 2002. Mir also introduced Saifullah to a young associate of his named Mustafa, who would occasionally meet Saifullah to discuss technical details about media production, throwing in the odd question about making shipments to the US, though not letting on what he wanted to ship.

Later, Saifullah would say that he had thought Mir and Mustafa – who clearly had a lot of cash at their disposal – might be interested in his latest business venture, Cliftonia, a 330-apartment complex near Karachi’s seafront. Saifullah had committed to invest in the project, which was being developed by a local real estate company, and was looking to raise the finance by finding buyers for the flats.


During this time, Uzair was working at his father’s office in Karachi. While his fellow business school graduates were starting jobs at multinationals and banks, Uzair was planning to travel to New York to market Cliftonia to Pakistani-American expats. When Mir’s associate Mustafa learned that Uzair was heading to the US, he asked for a favour. He had a Pakistani acquaintance, who had come to the US with his family as a teenager in 1996, after his parents were granted asylum. This acquaintance was now living in Karachi and needed help sorting out the paperwork for his US residency status.

Saifullah says he didn’t think much of it: it was his kid helping out another Pakistani Muslim kid – of course Uzair would do it. Shortly before Uzair flew to New York, he and his father met up with Mustafa and the acquaintance who needed help, whose name was Majid Khan, at an ice-cream parlour. Khan gave Uzair a list of tasks: he had to pose as Khan and call the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) on a payphone, as well as close a post office box in Khan’s name, deposit money in his bank accounts, and use his credit cards. The purpose of these tasks, it seems, was both to give the impression that Khan was still in the US, while also helping Khan obtain the documents that would, in fact, enable him to return to the US from Pakistan.

On 17 February 2003, Uzair arrived in New York. During the days, he worked out of the office of his father’s business partner in Manhattan’s garment district; at night, he stayed with relatives in Brooklyn. At the time, Uzair was planning to propose to his girlfriend and had an engagement ring ready.

After Uzair had been in New York for a little while, Khan called him to ask if he’d made any headway. Uzair didn’t have much to report: he hadn’t had much luck getting through to the INS on the phone. He was later able to get through once, but because he didn’t have Majid’s details handy, he only received general information. He did not get round to the other tasks, such as using Khan’s credit cards or depositing money in his accounts.


Then, on 28 March 2003, Uzair was at his desk in Manhattan when agents of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force walked into the office. Uzair was taken in for questioning and asked about Khan. At first, Uzair said he was just helping out a business contact of his father. But as the questioning continued into the early hours of the following morning, Uzair changed his story. He said that he knew that Majid Khan was a member of al-Qaida.

On 31 March, Uzair was placed under arrest.

In early March 2003, a few weeks before Uzair was arrested in New York, Saifullah claims he made a startling discovery. Watching TV in Pakistan, he saw a news report about a raid that had recently taken place in the city of Rawalpindi, in which a dishevelled and burly-looking man had been captured by security forces. When Saifullah saw his picture on the TV, he realised that the man he had known as Mir, the man who’d given him the $200,000 to hold, the man who had introduced his associate “Mustafa” to Saifullah, was anything but a potential investor. His real name was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and, as the alleged architect of the 9/11 attacks, he was one of the world’s most wanted men.

Uzair later told law enforcement agents that Saifullah had phoned him in New York, to tell him what had happened. Uzair asked Saifullah if he should get rid of Khan’s documents – presumably the driving licence and credit cards that were in his possession. Saifullah told him to keep them safe for the time being.

On 5 March 2003, Majid Khan was captured by Pakistani officials in Karachi. While in the custody of the Pakistani government, where he was allegedly tortured, Khan mentioned Uzair and Saifullah Paracha. This information made its way to the CIA site where Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was being interrogated, using torture techniques such as waterboarding, stress positions and sleep deprivation. According to the summary of the US Senate report on CIA torture, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was asked about the Parachas on 24 March 2003, after he had been waterboarded for the 15th time. He said that Saifullah had agreed with his associate Mustafa to use his business as a cover to smuggle explosives into the US. Four days later, Uzair was arrested.


“Mustafa” would turn out to be Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s nephew Ammar al-Baluchi. After being captured in Pakistan, Baluchi was also transferred to CIA custody, and tortured while under interrogation. But he would deny that the Parachas had anything to do with al-Qaida. According to CIA documents obtained by BuzzFeed ( earlier this year, Baluchi told US interrogators that Saifullah had “no relation to this business” – that is, no relation to al-Qaida. A document dated 2 May 2003 details an “interview” with Baluchi, where he described talking to Saifullah about media equipment and shipping but without any specifics.

Nonetheless, with Uzair under arrest already, US authorities still wanted to track down Saifullah. On 6 May 2003, the chief of operations for the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center wrote an email to the organisation’s lawyers: “we MUST have paracha arrested without delay and transferred to cia custody for interrogation using enhanced measures. i understand that paracha’s us person status makes this difficult, but this is dynamite and we have to move forward with alacrity. what do you need to do that?” (The unclassified summary of the Senate torture report does not make clear what, exactly, was “dynamite”.)

In late May 2003, Baluchi reaffirmed his earlier claims about the Parachas, claiming that Saifullah was “unwittingly being used”. Baluchi told interrogators that he was using his friendship with Saifullah as part of a plan to attack the US that he was developing with Majid Khan, which required knowledge about how to establish a business in Pakistan, or using Saifullah to do business with a company of Majid’s in the US.

Under further “enhanced” interrogation, Baluchi confirmed Saifullah’s claim that he had only discovered Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s true identity when he saw reports of the raid. Baluchi described Saifullah as “only a businessman who was sympathetic to the mujahideen” – but also claimed that Saifullah continued to meet with him, as a friend, even after Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s arrest. Notes from the interrogation state that Baluchi assumed at this point that Saifullah “probably knew [Baluchi’s] al-Qaida affiliation as well”. (To confuse matters further, in his own Guantánamo tribunal hearing four years later, Baluchi denied being a member of al-Qaida.)

Saifullah has insisted that he did not know that any of the men were al-Qaida operatives – though if he did meet Baluchi after Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s arrest, he was either very naive or very confident he was doing nothing wrong, given that he had been introduced to Baluchi by one of the world’s most wanted men.

It is difficult to know how much of the information obtained through interrogations and torture was actually true. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who remains in Guantánamo, subsequently said that he had lied under torture. Moreover, in the absence of a trial for Saifullah, and given the fact that the available testimony of key witnesses was obtained under torture, it is essentially impossible to make any claim for Saifullah’s innocence or guilt.


In the wake of his son’s arrest in New York, it seems that Saifullah had little idea that he, too, was a wanted man. Instead, he focused on Uzair. “My father was very, very distraught,” Mustafa Paracha, Uzair’s younger brother, recalled. Saifullah wrote to the US ambassador in Pakistan, seeking an appointment to clear his son’s name, though at this stage Uzair had not been charged with a specific crime. According to Mustafa Paracha, his father also spoke to Hamid Gul, the now-deceased former head of Pakistan’s spy agency who wielded influence among Pakistani militant groups and with the Afghan Taliban.

At the same time, Saifullah could not abandon his business commitments. When his business partner in New York asked him to come to Bangkok for a meeting, he went ahead and booked a flight. On 5 July 2003, as Saifullah’s family saw him off at the airport, Mustafa, who was 14 at the time, says he felt apprehensive. “I think he [Saifullah] had the idea that something was about to go wrong, but didn’t really have an idea what,” Mustafa said. As they left the airport, Mustafa had a “weird, impending feeling of doom”.

In Bangkok, as Saifullah left the airport, he was captured by masked men, who hooded him and bundled him into a car. According to his lawyer, Gaillard T Hunt, when Saifullah realised what was happening, “His first thought was: ‘This is an American operation. I’ll be all right.’”


Saifullah was taken to what was most likely a black site in Thailand operated by US intelligence agencies. “They blindfolded him and hung him up on hooks and cut his clothing off,” Hunt said. “He definitely was abused, at the first encounter there in Thailand. But his policy all along was ‘I’m completely innocent, I’ll talk to anybody. No need to use thumbscrews.’”

A few days after his capture, Saifullah was transported from Thailand to Bagram airbase in Afghanistan. A year later, he was transferred to Guantánamo. In 2004, Saifullah had a combatant status review tribunal hearing at Guantánamo, to determine whether or not he could be classified as an “enemy combatant”. If he was found to be an enemy combatant, he would remain at Guantánamo; if not, he would be transferred out.

At Saifullah’s tribunal hearing, a basic summary of unclassified evidence against him was set out. The allegations included that he had met Osama bin Laden twice, supported the Taliban and al-Qaida, been involved in a plan to smuggle explosives into the US, offered media facilities to al-Qaida, taken al-Qaida money for investment, and helped al-Qaida efforts to get hold of chemical and biological weapons.

Saifullah denied the allegations, save for the fact that he had met Bin Laden.

He was declared a combatant.

One key element of the case against Saifullah came from his son, Uzair. When he was first taken in for questioning at FBI offices in New York, Uzair had denied knowing that Majid Khan belonged to al-Qaida, and said he knew nothing about any terror plots. It wasn’t until 4am, after hours of questioning, that Uzair changed tack, telling law enforcement that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if his father were linked to al-Qaida, as Saifullah had met Bin Laden and described him as a “very humble guy”. That night, Uzair agreed to stay at a hotel, accompanied by FBI agents. It was not until the following morning that he was advised of his Miranda rights.

Over the next couple of days, as the questioning continued, Uzair offered more contradictory statements. After having denied he knew that Majid Khan was a member of al-Qaida, for instance, he then said he did know after all. Uzair went back to the night of the meeting at the ice-cream parlour in Karachi. That evening, when Khan had given Uzair a lift on his bike, he had allegedly hinted to Uzair how “good brothers” could help them out.

On 31 March, three days after he had voluntarily agreed to be questioned by law enforcement agents, Uzair was formally placed under arrest as a material witness.

Later, Uzair would claim that he had lied to law enforcement agents. At the time he was first questioned, Uzair was 23 years old and did not have a lawyer by his side. He claimed that his mobile phone was taken from him, he was subjected to a strip search, and that he was threatened with arrest or jail if he tried to invoke his right to a lawyer. (The government denies these accusations.) “I had already told them the truth and I did not go home,” he said at trial. “That is when I started lying.”

Uzair said he’d lied even after his arrest, with his lawyer, a government prosecutor and law enforcement agents present. He’d lied that his father was involved with al-Qaida, and about the alleged transactions and meetings between his father and members of al-Qaida.


In August 2003, Uzair was charged with providing material support to a terrorist organisation and for his assistance to Majid Khan – who, the government said, Uzair knew was an al-Qaida associate. He was held at the notoriously grim Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York for two-and-a-half years before his trial finally began. For most of this time, Uzair says, he was placed in solitary confinement. “About one in 10 guards treated us like human beings. About one in 10 hated us with a passion and terrorised us at every opportunity,” Uzair wrote in a chapter for Hell is a Very Small Place, a book about solitary confinement.


In autumn 2003 Uzair was offered a plea deal: five to eight years in jail if he pleaded guilty. He refused. In December 2003, he was put in an extreme form of solitary confinement, “special administrative measures”. One recent report described these measures as “the darkest corner of the US federal prison system, combining the brutality and isolation of maximum security units with additional restrictions that deny individuals almost any connection to the human world.”

Uzair felt this was a ploy to coerce him into taking the plea deal. His lawyers told him to take it. His relatives, who believed he was innocent, agreed, begging him to take the plea deal. But Uzair was adamant. “Basically, he did istikhara,” said one relative, who wished to remain anonymous, referring to a religious practice where a person prays for guidance. “And the istikhara did not say to take the plea deal. Which, you know … we tried our best.” The relative believes that the cruel treatment Uzair was subjected to made it impossible for him to make rational decisions.

At his trial, which finally began in November 2005, Uzair’s defence rested on the claim that although he did try to help Majid Khan obtain documents to allow him to enter the US, he did not realise that Khan was an al-Qaida terrorist or that he was plotting an attack on the US.

On 23 November 2005, Uzair was found guilty of providing material aid and financial support to al-Qaida terrorists. On 20 July 2006, he was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Karachi is a city of more than 14 million people, but it can feel like a small, gossipy town, particularly in wealthy neighbourhoods: everyone goes to the same few schools, belongs to the same social clubs and hangs out at the same cafes. As word spread about Uzair and Saifullah, people couldn’t quite fathom the news. After all, the Parachas were a wealthy family who, as far as their acquaintances and relatives knew, were religious but had no links to religious extremism or militant political movements.


“It was shocking,” Uzair’s schoolmate who remembered him as a “burger”, said in an email. “I always thought that if he would do anything bad that would be related to an overdose of booze or drugs which are considered to be the symbols of our liberal elites but it was completely the other way round. Islamic extremism and him??!?”

Although Karachi’s elite rally around some human rights causes, the fate of Guantánamo prisoners is not one of them. In the years after 9/11, many affluent Pakistanis embraced a selective amnesia about the recent past, backing the military regime of General Pervez Musharraf – who claimed to be promoting an “enlightened” and “moderate” Islam – while they turned a blind eye to the rendition of hundreds of men to US authorities and the enforced disappearances of Pakistanis by their own state. Even as homegrown militancy thrived, terrorism was, and is still, seen as a problem that only emerged after September 2001, rather than something that had existed, often with the support of the state, for decades.

The Parachas don’t fit into any of the stereotypes of the other Pakistanis who have been caught up in the war on terror: they’re not poor, nameless men who were mistakenly picked up in a warzone, nor do they seem like fanatical jihadist plotters. Instead, for many Pakistanis, Saifullah looks awkwardly like a typical wealthy businessman – whose meetings and contacts might not have sounded any alarm bells in Pakistan before 9/11.

After all, the Pakistani government dealt with the Taliban and other militant groups, militant leaders regularly appeared in the press, and well-connected businessmen wouldn’t have dreamed they’d be charged for associating with such figures. Saifullah made no secret of his meeting with Bin Laden – his son Mustafa told me that as a kid, before 9/11, he had even told his schoolfriends that his father had met Bin Laden.

With Saifullah at Guantanamo and Uzair in prison in the US, the Paracha family was torn apart. In Pakistan, Saifullah’s many contacts faded away, while relatives refused to come to their house. Uzair’s younger brother Mustafa remembers their attitude as “‘we don’t know you, we don’t want to know you, we don’t care about you, we never knew you’”. Religious organisations that Saifullah had supported now ignored Farhat, Saifullah’s wife, according to his niece.

Farhat was traumatised, recalls Zofeen Ebrahim, a journalist who interviewed her and other members of the family several times from 2006 to 2009. “She told me that she had gone through so much, that she was taking medical counselling, psychiatric help, she was in depression,” Ebrahim said. “But if you look at the family, they were such a normal family like yours or mine would be.”

At the time, the younger Paracha children were still in school, and Farhat and her eldest daughter, Muneeza – who went to the same business school as Uzair – dealt with legal appeals, gave interviews and tried to handle Saifullah’s business affairs. Farhat also worked hard to keep her children on the straight and narrow. When Mustafa “messed up his A-levels tremendously”, as he put it, his mother told him he had to step up. “I made a resolve at that point in time – I’m going to work really, really super hard,” Mustafa told me. “I need to catch up with people studying at Harvard, because I’m going to hold myself to the same standards. My mom worked really hard to keep me in that school, to keep me going in a certain way … “ But there were challenges: a business relationship that went south entangled the family in even more legal and financial problems.

Mustafa and his siblings graduated from university, forged successful careers, and a new family dynamic emerged, revolving around their mother and a close-knit circle of relatives and friends. Around 2017, after years of interviews and court hearings – and seeing nothing come of it – the Parachas mostly stopped speaking to the press. While they continue to support Uzair and Saifullah, in Karachi they will always be seen as “that family” and treated with suspicion or wariness. Earlier this year, they sold their house in Karachi and moved to a new city for a fresh start.

One of Uzair’s fondest memories of his past, back when the Parachas were still a prosperous and well-respected family, were the Eids of his childhood. It was a time when they would get together, a time when Saifullah would preside over dinners and check up on relatives. Those days are long gone.

At Guantánamo, the detainees have become a family of sorts and Saifullah has become something like an elderly uncle, who detainees call “chacha” (the Urdu word for uncle). He has taught informal business classes, advising detainees on the kinds of businesses they could develop after they were released. Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, his current lawyer from the non-profit Reprieve, describes Saifullah as a prolific letter-writer who communicates with prison authorities on detainee issues.

Every month, Saifullah has a video call with his family, arranged by the International Committee of the Red Cross. They’re only allowed to share family news, and talk about things such as marriages, births, graduations and deaths. In the years Saifullah has been held at Guantánamo, three of his siblings have passed away. Saifullah tells his family he is well, and even makes the occasional joke, referring to Gitmo as “shitmo”. Even without access to the internet, he likes to stay up to date with the world. When Mustafa mentioned he was interested in renewable energy, Saifullah said he’d read a whole case study on the subject.

Periodic review-board tribunals – instituted by the Obama administration to review detainee cases and recommend further detention or transfer – have denied Saifullah release. On 25 September 2018, the review board ruled that detaining Saifullah remained necessary to protect against “a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States”. The statement said the factors that contributed to the board’s determination included his past involvement and interaction with al-Qaida members.

“The detainee statements regarding his mindset and potential for re-engagement are not credible in light of his continued minimization of his interactions with Al Qaeda, the change in justification for engaging with Al Qaeda, failure to exhibit any remorse for the actions he does acknowledge, and dishonesty in his responses to Board questions,” the statement read.

In the years since he was convicted, Uzair has lost hair and gained weight. He is now 38 years old, and his incarceration and solitary confinement have left him with deteriorating eyesight and claustrophobia. He served time at ADX Florence in Colorado – one of the US’s most notorious high-security prisons – and then at Terre Haute in Indiana.

Uzair approached his incarceration as a way of learning. He memorised the Qur’an, he studied Arabic, he read every Islamic book in the prison library – by his estimate, over 50,000 pages on everything from Islamic jurisprudence to Qur’anic sciences. He used to read the Economist, but hasn’t for a while, and occasionally gets copies of the Pakistani newspaper Dawn. Last year, he self-published a book called Secular Stagnation – an account of US economic history that explores the causes of the recession. “I am deeply grateful for the blessings that allowed it all to come to fruition,” he wrote in the acknowledgments, “so much of it was due to opportunities far beyond my control.”

Uzair says he does not regret his decision to turn down the plea deal. “Sometimes the loss is hard to bear but other times I have to remind myself that this was God’s will and I benefited a lot from my time in prison,” Uzair wrote to me recently. The experience of incarceration, Uzair says, has “been a lesson in humility, patience, reliance on Allah, and other important lessons in life.” Even though the Parachas are observant Muslims, to his family, Uzair comes across as particularly devout. He once argued with his younger sister over the phone about her adulation of the poet Rumi, who Uzair called a heretic.

“I am not sure I would enjoy the company of my younger self,” he wrote. “I have changed a lot.”

Fifteen years after Saifullah and Uzair were captured, their cases remain murky. Was Saifullah a devious financier, who, along with his son, knowingly helped terrorists who were planning to attack the US, or were they merely pawns in a plot they knew nothing about? Should Saifullah’s interaction with Bin Laden before 2001, and his dealings with a man that he knew was connected to Bin Laden, be seen as a sign of obvious guilt, or simply business meetings that many conservative Pakistanis wouldn’t have been alarmed by? The full extent of evidence against Saifullah is still classified, and Saifullah’s case in the US about the legality of his detention is still ongoing.

The Parachas have continued to insist on their innocence. Their claim, that they didn’t knowingly or deliberately provide assistance to al-Qaida, has become stronger with time, as more details have emerged in additional declassified documents as well as in the Senate torture report and previously unseen transcripts of tribunal hearings from Guantánamo. (In 2012, in exchange for a reduced sentence, Majid Khan pleaded guilty to war crimes, including working with al-Qaida and helping to plot terrorist attacks in the US. Ammar al-Baluchi is still in Guantánamo, awaiting trial.)

In a stunning reversal this summer, a US federal judge ruled that Uzair’s conviction should be thrown out, and granted him a new trial based on evidence that has emerged since he was convicted. That evidence includes newly declassified statements from Ammar al-Baluchi, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Majid Khan. These statements throw doubt on the claim, made by the prosecution in the original case, that Uzair knew he was helping an al-Qaida member. In his statement granting the motion, the judge wrote: “The Court concludes that the newly discovered material evidence would yield a fundamentally different trial and likely create a reasonable doubt” about Uzair’s guilt.

Ramzi Kassem, a professor of law at the City University of New York who has handled terrorism cases as a defence attorney, told me: “The ruling in the Paracha case isn’t just an indictment of the endemic lack of transparency at Guantánamo and in its military commissions, which potentially cost Mr Paracha many years in prison. It also calls into question the integrity of post-9/11 terrorism trials in US courts more broadly. History will judge most of these cases harshly, in part because defendants are often denied exculpatory evidence on purported security grounds.”

Uzair is again being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York, and was initially briefly held in solitary, back where he started all those years ago. In a filing in November countering Uzair’s motion for bail, attorneys for the Southern District of New York cited Majid Khan’s guilty plea to make the case that Uzair knew of his identity and that the government believes it has as strong a case as it did at the initial trial. James Margolin, a spokesperson for the US attorney’s office, declined to comment on whether the government would appeal the ruling for a new trial.

While Uzair will likely have another chance to convince a jury that he is innocent, the only way Saifullah can be released is if he is cleared by a periodic review board, or through a successful habeas petition in the US courts. Neither of those seem likely, and after years of optimism, Saifullah is losing his spirit. “The last couple of times he’s seemed more worried; earlier he’d be joking a lot,” says Saifullah’s niece, Riffat. His physical health is also deteriorating. Saifullah has a history of cardiac problems, as well as diabetes and psoriasis. He told his current lawyer that he was taken to intensive care twice last September. It seems increasingly likely that he will die at Guantánamo.

In Pakistan, Saifullah’s health or continued detention has not made him a cause célèbre. There are five Pakistani citizens detained at Guantánamo, including Ammar al-Baluchi and Majid Khan, but they find little mention in public or political discourse.

“They [the detainees at Guantánamo] have been detained as the ‘worst of the worst’,” says Farhatullah Babar, a former senator from the late Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples party, referencing a phrase from former US vice-president Dick Cheney. “I would say they are the wretched of the wretched. And nobody is bothered about the wretched of the wretched people.”


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

Ohio man planned deadly synagogue attack, Twitter CEO slammed, Corbyn endorses Zionism, & God violates MeToo

December 11, 2018

Above: Finnish neo-Nazis mark Finland’s Independence Day by flying swastikas in Helsinki last week (December 6, 2018)

This dispatch contains a variety of items, many concerning anti-Semitism. Dispatches about Middle East politics will follow in a few days.



1. Hannukah terror attack underreported by international media
2. Ohio man arrested for planning deadly synagogue attack
3. Twitter CEO slammed for ignoring Rohingya as he praises ‘joyful’ Myanmar
4. Ninety percent of European Jews say anti-Semitism getting worse, EU report finds
5. Johannesburg renames major road after Palestinian airline hijacker
6. MeToo hasn’t reached the UN
7. Anti-Semitic hate crimes up 60 percent in Canada
8. International chess championship moved from Saudi Arabia after Israelis barred
9. International media covering anti-Semitism in special reports
10. Israel requests Germany to “end funding of anti-Israel groups”

11. NYC ‘Fame’ high school bans Nazi symbols from ‘Sound of Music’
12. Holocaust cobblestone memorials stolen from Rome street
13. New British play about anti-Semitism is targeted by anti-Semites
14. Pelosi says Democrats remain sympathetic to Israel
15. Representatives-elect Tlaib, Omar effectively call for an end to Israel
16. This year, White House invites Jewish Democrats to Hanukkah Party
17. Video: When George H.W. Bush spun a dreidel at the White House
18. Corbyn “accidentally endorses Zionism and the Jewish connection to Jerusalem”
19. Argentina reveals Israeli technology prevented attacks at G-20 Summit
20. Another Jew in the Kushner family, and she speaks some Hebrew
21. God violates MeToo




[Notes below by Tom Gross]

I mention this news because it has received little international media coverage:

A 30-weeks pregnant woman, two 16-year-old girls and two 16-year-old boys, were among nine Israelis shot and injured by terrorists at a bus stop on Sunday evening. The victims were on their way home from Hannukah celebrations. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas refused to condemn the shooting. Hamas welcomed it.

The pregnant woman (Shira Ish-Ran above with her husband Amichai, who was also shot in the terror attack) suffered serious life-threatening injuries but it looks as though she will now survive. Doctors delivered her baby prematurely, but the baby is still fighting for his life and his condition is critical.




Damon Joseph (above) was charged yesterday in a U.S. District Court in Toledo, Ohio, with planning to shoot people dead in a synagogue and with attempting to provide material support to ISIS. The FBI said he was also planning to assassinate a local rabbi. Joseph, who converted to a radical form of Islam, told an undercover FBI agent that he was inspired by the gunman who shot dead 11 Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue in October.

Joseph sent a plan for his intended attack on the Toledo synagogue to the undercover agent earlier this month with a request for two AR-15 rifles and ammunition. He took possession of the weapons from the agent last Friday and was then arrested in a sting operation, according to the Toledo Blade newspaper.

The FBI said that law enforcement became aware of Joseph earlier this year through his activities on social media. Joseph’s plans were said to be “highly calculated and inspired by hatred of Jews.”


On Saturday, anti-Semitic fliers were found scattered around Squirrel Hill, the Pittsburgh neighborhood that was the site of the October synagogue attack, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on Sunday.

The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police said “Such hate-filled material will not be tolerated in Pittsburgh – not by residents, city officials nor law enforcement. We will follow every investigative avenue to find the perpetrator or perpetrators.”


For background, please see these dispatches:

* The funeral of David and Cecil Rosenthal
* In Pittsburgh, Jewish doctors treated Bowers for his injuries
* Pittsburgh synagogue massacre: “For some, the only real culprit here is Donald Trump”



Jack Dorsey is being criticized by human rights groups for ignoring the plight of Rohingya in a series of tweets he sent out last week.

The Twitter CEO encouraged his 4 million twitter followers to visit Myanmar and enjoy a 10-day silent meditation retreat there. “The people are full of joy and the food is amazing,” he told his followers, making no reference to the hundreds of thousands of refugees that have fled in the last two years.

Dorsey told his millions of followers that he had travelled to northern Myanmar last month for meditation, encouraging them to visit and do the same. Nearby, the UN says crimes against humanity -- including torture, rape, sexual slavery, other forms of enslavement, and mass extermination -- have been occurring.

A journalist for al-Jazeera said Dorsey’s tweets had left him “utterly speechless”.

Critics have noted that both Twitter and Facebook played a prominent role in spreading misinformation on behalf of the Myanmar authorities in the Rohingya crisis.

Last month, Facebook apologized after a report found it had failed to prevent its Burmese language platform being used to incite violence in Myanmar.

* Among related dispatches, please see:

The Rohingya: Mass murder under the gaze of a Nobel peace laureate



The European Union yesterday published its most widespread report ever on anti-Semitism.

The EU polled 16,395 Jews in 12 member states (including Britain). About one third of Jews said they have considered emigrating in the past five years because they did not feel safe as Jews.

More than 80 percent of respondents said anti-Semitism was “the most pressing problem” facing them. Nearly 40 percent said they had experienced an anti-Semitic incident over the past five years, and of those, 79 percent said they didn’t report it because they thought doing so would be a waste of time. The last such survey was in 2012.

Vera Jourova, the EU commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality, called the poll’s data “shocking” in an address she delivered yesterday in Brussels during the presentation of the 86 page report.

An overwhelming Mmajority of European Jews said that hatred of Israel was anti-Semitic, and was not being expressed in a normal terms as criticism of other states is, but in thinly disguised anti-Semitic terms. (Last year, French President Emmanuel Macron said that France will “not surrender to anti-Zionism because it is merely a reinvention of anti-Semitism.”)

More than 80 percent of respondents said they had heard statements comparing Israel with Nazi Germany during the past 12 months.

Over 60 percent of Jewish respondents had been told in the last year that the Holocaust was exaggerated or did not happen.

Those who say anti-Semitism is ‘a very big’ or ‘a fairly big’ problem rose significantly in the UK from 48 percent in 2012 to 75 percent in 2018, in Germany from 62 percent to 85 percent, and in Sweden from 60 percent to 82 percent.

The report said “anti-Semitism is most problematic on the internet and social networks (89 per cent), followed by public spaces (73 percent), the traditional media (71 percent) and politics (70 percent).”

In the two countries with the largest Jewish populations from among those that were surveyed – France and Britain – 34 percent and 32 percent respectively said during the past year they had heard the claim from someone they know that Israel should cease to exist.

The 12 member states included in the survey were Austria, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Spain, France, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and the United Kingdom. According to the report, 96 percent of the European Union’s Jews live in these countries.

Yesterday’s EU report, described as “the biggest survey of Jewish people ever conducted worldwide,” comes nearly two weeks after CNN issued its own poll of 7,000 non-Jewish Europeans revealing one in four respondents were anti-Semitic.

However, CNN also reported that significantly more people said they had a favorable opinion of Jews than an unfavorable one.



The South African city of Johannesburg has renamed one of its major roads, “Leila Khaled Drive.”

The Johannesburg City Council passed the motion to rename Sandton Drive – which runs through one of the city’s most prominent Jewish neighborhoods – after Khaled at the behest of the ruling ANC.

Khaled is a notorious Palestinian terrorist who helped pioneer airline hijacking, leading to many of the security measures we now face today at airports around the world.

Among the airline hijackings she was involved in was a TWA flight from Rome in 1969, and then the hijacking of a flight from Amsterdam the following year. She was captured at London’s Heathrow airport in 1970, but in a move that outraged her victims, the British government (giving in to threats of violence from the PLO) released her a short time later. She now lives in Jordan.

South African Jewish organizations described the move “as extremely divisive, inflammatory and polarizing, one that detracts considerably from South African values of social cohesion and nation-building.”

The United States consulate is also located on the newly renamed “Leila Khaled Drive.”

(I’ve previously criticized the Guardian’s now editor Katharine Viner for appearing to glamorize Khaled: “The gun held in fragile hands, the shiny hair wrapped in a keffiah, the delicate Audrey Hepburn face.”)



The New York Post reports (December 8) that Youssef Amrouche used his wife’s diplomatic immunity to escape a domestic violence charge, after he beat his wife, a British diplomat, at their home on East 47th Street near Second Avenue. The police came to arrest him but were forced to release him because he holds a diplomatic passport.

The NY Post adds:

In October 2017, Sudanese attache Hassan Salih allegedly groped a young woman at an East Village bar. Police had to let him go.

In July 2017, Afghan diplomat Mohammad Yama Aini was protected after he allegedly beat his wife so badly she was hospitalized.

In January 2017, Sudanese diplomat Abdalla Ali was released after being arrested for grinding his crotch on a woman on a subway train.



Canadian media have reported that, with 360 registered incidents in 2017, Jews remain the most targeted minority group in the country, even more than they were in 2016.

“It is disturbing to think an anti-Semitic hate crime takes place every 24 hours in our country,” Shimon Koffler, a Canadian Jewish leader, said. “History demonstrates that those who target Jews and other minorities pose a threat to society as a whole. All Canadians should be vigilant in standing against hate.”



Under threat of legal action from the US, international chess’s governing body has been forced to move one of its most prominent tournaments from Saudi Arabia just a few weeks before it was to be held there for the second consecutive year. Last year, the Saudis refused to issue visas for Israeli players (among them some of the world’s best chess players) and it looked as though the Israeli players would again be refused entry.

The international chess body, the Fédération Internationale des Échecs, said the tournament would be held in Russia instead.

Last year, the chess body was accused of failing to enforce its own policies that reject “discriminatory treatment against players on national, political, racial, social or religious reasons or on account of gender”.

Other Gulf Arab countries have recently begun allowing in Israeli athletes, as I have noted in recent dispatches, for example, here.



According to this extensive CNN poll across Europe, a shocking 18% of Europeans blame Jews themselves for being attacked, and a third of Europeans know little or nothing about the Holocaust:

The Guardian’s “Long Read” feature had a special report on French anti-Semitism:

“Inside Higher Education” reports on the rise in anti-Semitism on American college campuses:



In a leaked document obtained by the German newspaper Tageszeitung, Israel has asked the German government to stop publically funding dozens of political, cultural and religious organizations that according to the Israeli government agitate hatred against Israel.

The Israeli government also criticized the German government-funded Berlin Jewish Museum over its current temporary exhibition on the city of Jerusalem, which they say includes untrue anti-Israeli propaganda, some of it produced by anti-Zionist Jews such as Neturei Karta, as well as for “regularly hosting events with prominent supporters of the BDS movement.”

Germany’s international “Berlinale” film festival was also singled out for inciting against the state of Israel in a number of its featured films.



Some Holocaust educators are unhappy that the Nazi symbols at the end of “The Sound of Music,” a musical about a singing family who defy Austria’s Nazis, have been removed from a production of the musical at one of New York’s most prominent high schools.

The New York Daily News reports that the principal of LaGuardia High said she believes Nazi symbols and flags have no place in her performing arts school. (The school was made famous after the musical “Fame” was based on it.) In the film of “The Sound of Music,” the Third Reich symbols appear in the context of the von Trapp family opposing the Nazis.

“This is a very liberal school, we’re all against Nazis,” one sophomore performer told the Daily News. “But to take out the symbol is to try to erase history. Obviously the symbols are offensive. But in context, they are supposed to be.”



A play scheduled to open in London this evening about rising anti-Semitism in Britain has become the target of a torrent of anti-Semitic abuse on social media.

The play, “One Jewish Boy,” by Stephen Laughton, concerns the hatred and abuse experienced by a Jewish man and his non-Jewish partner.

Laughton, who is a Jewish far-left critic of Israel, said he was taken back by the level of hate against the play by other left-wingers.

This despite the fact that at the end of each performance there will be a collection for Medical Aid for Palestinians, a charity that campaigns against Israel.



Over 20 Stolpersteine (“Stumbling Stones”) – small bronze cobblestones that commemorate some individual Holocaust victims – were uprooted and stolen in downtown Rome over the weekend, report Italian media.

With rising anti-Semitism in Italy, Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi said there would be no tolerance for anti-Semitism or desecration of Holocaust memorials and that they would make every effort to apprehend the perpetrators.

The Stolpersteine memorial project was begun in Germany in the 1990s. Brass “cobblestones” are placed in front of the homes of people from where they were deported to their deaths during the Holocaust.



Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat who will be the next Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, made clear her party remained fundamentally sympathetic to Israel.

“We have people very well placed to share our values [with Israel],” Pelosi said last week, while standing close to Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the minority leader in the Senate, who is also trying to push back against reports in the New York Times that Democrats have drifted away from Israel.

Pelosi advised people not to pay “attention to a few people who may want to go their own way,” apparently referring to newly elected Congress members Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, both of whom have expressed anti-Israel sentiments.



Representative-elect Rashida Tlaib told the online leftist publication The Intercept last week that one of her first priorities in Congress will be to form and lead a Congressional Delegation to the West Bank, which will not meet with any Israelis.

She also told the Intercept that she continues to support the BDS movement, even though some among its leadership seek an end to Israel.

Before Tlaib won her primary in August, her campaign represented her as opposing BDS and supporting a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

But since her primary victory, she has explicitly endorsed a one-state solution that would see the end of the state of Israel. This led the left wing lobby group J Street to withdraw its support for her.

She said she was for a single Palestinian state, and “This whole idea of a two-state solution doesn’t work.”

Representative-elect Ilhan Omar has also drawn past criticism for calling Israel an “apartheid regime.

She added: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”

In November, Tlaib and Omar became the first two Muslim women to be elected to Congress.



Last year, the Trump White House was strongly criticized for holding its annual Hannukah party without inviting any congressional Democrats. In response, this year it invited all 29 Jewish Democratic members of Congress and many of them came to the event last Thursday. The White House Hanukkah party is a tradition that was started by President George W. Bush and continued by his successor, Barack Obama.

In recent years other countries, such as Britain, have followed suit, with Prime Minister Theresa May hosting a Hannukah party at Downing Street, and also issuing annual greetings (as she does for Muslim, Hindu and other holidays too).



Here is a video (which is amusing in part) of the late President George H.W. Bush playing dreidel with a young visitor to the White House during Hanukkah. Former Vice President Dan Quayle is seen on the far left.

The 41st president of the United States, George H.W. Bush, was memorialized in a service in Washington, DC, last Wednesday.



British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has been much criticized for allowing anti-Semitism to flourish in sections of his party, has also issued his annual Hannukah message.

However, it has come in for a certain amount of parody:



An Israeli company using special Israeli-developed technology, and hired by the Argentina Defense Ministry, detected and prevented several potential attacks by drone at the recent G-20 summit, according to a report in Argentina’s Clarin newspaper.

These included an unauthorized drone that was neutralized after it flew near a group of world leaders entering a gala at the famous Colon Theatre in Buenos Aires.



The New York Post reports:

Karlie Kloss ‘clearly knows her stuff’ after converting to Judaism
December 3, 2018

Supermodel Karlie Kloss spent Shabbat with husband Josh Kushner at an event for Britain’s former chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. Kloss, who converted to Judaism, was reading in Hebrew and “clearly knows her stuff,” according to onlookers.

A source added: “They blended in.” Referring to Kushner’s brother Jared, President Trump’s son-in-law, the source said: “Someone asked Sacks about politics, and he said that religion is a unifier and is separate from politics … It didn’t seem pointed at Josh. They seemed like a very down-to-earth, very tall couple.”



Another professor reveals why many people think some academics are unnecessarily provocative.

Newsweek reports:

God Wrongfully Impregnated Teenage Mary Without Consent Says Minnesota Professor


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