PM Snubs German FM

One of the main topics of conversation in Israel last week was whether or not PM Netanyahu acted correctly in refusing to meet with the German Foreign Minister Herr Sigmar Gabriel because he also met with the leftist and generally anti-Israel NGO’s “B’Tselem” and “Breaking the Silence.”  Those who opposed Netanyahu’s decision think that he was giving an unnecessary and undiplomatic snub to the FM of a friendly country. Those, including myself, who support Netanyahu’s decision think that he was upholding the diplomatic standard that a visiting foreign diplomat does not interfere in the internal politics of a friendly country and does not support groups that (within a democracy) are actively working for the downfall of the Government and/or the country.

There were extenuating circumstances involved in this decision.  Although Gabriel is the FM of Germany, he is not from the ruling party, but is a member of the leftist partner of the ruling Coalition.  As such he has in the past made it clear that he not only opposes PM Netanyahu, but is also opposed to Israel’s policies and generally supports the Palestinian movement.  Secondly, he also made it clear that he intended to meet with groups opposing Netanyahu’s Government in Israel, even before he had met with Netanyahu. This is grossly undiplomatic, and is an insult not only to Netanyahu, but to Israel itself.

Not only do these organizations give evidence to foreign organizations against the State of Israel regarding its policies in the territories, but Breaking the Silence openly advocates that Israelis refuse to serve in the IDF and also publicizes so-called cases of abuse by the military that on several occasions have been shown to be false (by testimony of serving soldiers).  These organizations are allowed to operate within Israel because Israel is a functioning democracy.  But, these organizations receive massive funding from foreign governments to act against their own government, and one of the main governments that fund these leftist anti-Israel NGO’s is Germany.  So you could say that Gabriel was going to meet with his employees to get a report on how they are spending German money to undermine the Israel Government and the Israeli State.  Certainly this was good reason for Netanyahu to snub Gabriel’s visit.

On the other hand Netanyahu has met with the FM’s of other countries that also fund leftist anti-Israel organizations in Israel.  For example, he recently met with UK FM Boris Johnson, whose Foreign Ministry supports anti-Israel activities on the West Bank.  But, the difference is that Boris Johnson is known to be a supporter of Israel and the UK Conservative Government of Theresa May is a strong supporter of Israel.  Further the UK is a much smaller supporter of these anti-Israel leftist NGO’s than Germany.  

Can you imagine the scandal if a UK PM or a US President met with a visiting FM who was also going to meet with an organization advocating desertion from the UK or US Army.  It could never happen and it should never happen in Israel.  Why do the Germans and other Europeans think they are superior to us Jews and can tell us what to do in our own sovereign country?  This foreign Government funding of anti-Israel NGO’s in Israel should stop and the recent law that requires them to register the amount of such funding if it is over 50% is a step in the right direction.

According to a report in today’s Jerusalem Post, Gabriel’s anti-Semitism is a deliberate attempt to gain electoral votes during the current election campaign in Germany.  There is still a large percentage of Germans who will vote for an anti-Semitic candidate, and most of them are on the extreme left.



The North Korea Situation

The US, in the final analysis, cannot let North Korea and its crazy dictator develop nuclear armed ICBMs. Pres. Obama and his predecessors were prepared to let the North Koreans go ahead and develop their nuclear weapons without any serious opposition. They mainly wanted to avoid conflict and leave the problem for the next President. Thank goodness Pres. Trump is now prepared to face the issue and take the bull by the horns. But, so far his actions have been more or less defensive.  Sending a carrier task force towards North Korea and installing a defensive missile shield in South Korea.  

But, these moves are not looked upon with favor by the Chinese and the Russians.  No doubt when they were in Florida, Trump told the Chinese President that he would make some such moves. Now it is up to the Chinese to rein back the North Koreans or there may be a more serious outcome.  Presumably that is why Trump’s military and security experts are going to be briefing the Senate at the White House and the House of Representatives later on. He wants them informed and on board should something happen that could seriously unravel.  

But, the latest comment from the White House that negotiations might be possible has received a favorable response from the Chinese. Also, they have apparently cancelled their flights to Pyongyang.  Either they think there will be more trouble, such as military action, or they are beginning to put pressure on the North Korean regime.  Whatever the reasons, at last there seems to be some concerted action to stop this tiny megalomaniac with a huge army.

This situation has repercussions for the Middle East and Israel because North Korea has been supporting the nuclear program of Iran and giving military training to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.  What a combination, North Korea, Iran and Hezbollah, the baddest guys in the world working together.

Vulnerable yet resilient

It occurred to me how vulnerable we humans are when a few nights ago my wife and I were cowering under our blankets because we heard the droning of a mosquito.  I turned on the light, but we could not see it.  I opted to spray myself with mosquito repellent, but my wife simply cowered, only her nose extruding from the sheets.  Two huge animals, a trillion times bigger, cowering from a tiny insect.

Also a few nights ago while watching TV I noticed that I had something in my eye.  I assumed that it was an eye-lash, and I went and washed out my eye, but it did not go away.  So I tried again and again, also using a saline spray that usually works, but it did not do so.  It bothered me so much that I could not sleep and got up at 5,30 am to have a shower in the hope of washing it out.  When it did not, I went to the clinic, but the nurse wouldn’t touch my eye and said go to a doctor or an eye doctor.  Since my GP’s office was close by I went there and he saw me after a short wait (unusual) and told me he could not see any lash in my eye, but I did have a small infection that might develop into a sty. He gave me antibiotic drops.  So a tiny infection in my eye basically brought me to a standstill. 

Yet, on the other hand, human beings can be amazingly adaptable and can survive under incredibly adverse conditions.  My friend who survived the Shoah as a child lived under such appalling conditions of deprivation, starvation, cold and illness, being unable to make noise or play while in hiding in Poland for three long years.  But, he did survive and now has many grandchildren in Israel.  We humans are very vulnerable, but can also be very resilient.

The Art of Scandinavia

I watched the series on BBC (originally on Channel 4, but this was on BBC World News) by Andrew Graham-Dickson entitled “The Art of Scandinavia,” and if you haven’t seen it I highly recommend it. 

The first episode entitled “The Dark Night of the Soul” explores the often truly depressing art that comes out of a country like Norway that is dark for over half the year.  Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” could not have been produced in almost any other country or climate.  But, Munch (1863-1944) was depressed for good reason, he had witnessed the death of his favorite sister when he was a child, and seemingly never got over it.   There are several other Norwegian artists, such as Johan Christian Dahl (1788-1857), and Peder Balke (1804-1887), who painted the cold, unpopulated north, with dramatic mountain scenery with snow and ice, very atmospheric, but very desolate.

Henryk Ibsen (1828-1906) was one of the greatest dramatists, whose thrust was to dissect out Norways’s social conventions, sometimes in ways that were considered scandalous at the time.  Yet, from our point of view they were very modern, touching themes of adultery, rape, and aberrant behavior.  He represented the clear-eyed way in which Scandinavians have of skewering themselves and their society.

The second episode about Denmark was very interesting.  I did not realize previously the catastrophic effect of the defeat of 1864 by Prussia on Danish history and the Danish psychology.   He ended by saying that Denmark was the “ugly duckling” that needed to think of itself as a swan.  Very symbolic.  But, the trouble with that excellent analogy is that Hans Christian Andersen wrote it in 1844 (I looked it up) twenty years before the historic defeat.  But, it is not chance that Denmark passed from an Empire to Legoland, the littlest country in Europe.

The third episode “Democratic by design,” features Sweden.  Around the turn of the 20th century Sweden was like most other countries in Europe, with its bourgeoisie and Victoriana, only with more angst.  Strindberg (1849-1912) revolutionized the theater as an experience,   His palette knife paintings of the Swedish sea represented well his turbulent soul.  But, then came the Social Democrats, who really believed that everyone should be equal, but without a revolution.  

They believed a transformation of society should come about by sweeping away luxury and unnecessary frippery and making everything democratic, a movement called functionalism.  Thus came about Swedish design, beauty in simplicity, at an affordable price.  People should not live in separate houses, but in warehouses designed for the masses, with large windows (to get as much light in as possible), and interchangeable furniture and even down to the functional simplicity of the cutlery.  This all ended logically with Ikea, the commercial exploitation of affordable functional design.

But, then there was a reaction.  The Social Democrats were defeated, and the literature of Sweden took a decidedly unexpected turn, to brutal crime novels, a revelation of the unpleasant underbelly of Social Democracy, but often written by extreme Marxists. Here the novels of Stieg Larsen (‘The girl who kicked the hornet’s nest“) are representative. Yes, the Swedes wanted to welcome the new immigrants from Africa and Syria, but no they would not actually treat them as equals.  A quick detour back to Strindberg.  

A Jewish Malaise?

We went to the Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) commemoration at Temple Israel in Netanya, where Rabbi Birnbaum, himself a survivor, always organizes a memorable service.  This year he focused on Jewish resistance to the Nazis, to oppose the prevalent view that “the Jews went like lambs to the slaughter.”  

There are many instances of Jewish resistance that have been documented.  Perhaps the most famous was the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in April, 1943 (for a detailed analysis see “Flags Over the Warsaw Ghetto” by Moshe Arens, 2013).  It took the German Army (Wehrmacht) 4 weeks to defeat the Polish Army and capture half of Poland (the other half was occupied by the Soviets under the Nazi-Soviet pact, until Operation Barbarossa when the Germans attacked the Soviets).   It took the German Army 6 weeks to defeat the French Army and capture most of France (except for the southern Vichy region that was a German proxy).   Yet it took the Germans 7 weeks to crush the resistance of a few hundred Jewish fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, with ca. 10,000 German troops.  

In Germany itself, under the most adverse of conditions there were two mainly Jewish resistance groups, the Baum Group, that consisted of ca. 100 members.  They set fire to an anti-Semitic German exhibit organized by Goebbels in 1940 in Berlin.  Most of them were caught and tortured and murdered, some of them by decapitation.  There was also the “White Rose” group, mainly students at Munich University who distributed anti-Nazi pamphlets and posters.  They were captured by the Gestapo in 1943 and executed.  

There were many uprisings in Ghettos and concentration camps.  In Sobibor the organized uprising killed most of the German staff and set the camp on fire. Although ca. 300 hundred prisoners got away, ca. 100 were eventually captured and killed.  But, this break-out caused the Germans to close the camp and destroy it.  There were uprisings in many other camps, such as Treblinka where 1,000 prisoners took part, and Auschwitz-Birkenau (see for example “Jewish Uprisings in Ghettos and Camps 1941-44” of the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC at ). 

However, one must admit that given the huge numbers of Jews involved (ca. 6 million), the amount to actual resistance was small. Nevertheless there are many reasons for this: 1. The Germans arrested most of the able-bodied men first; 2. The Jews were civilians without military training; 3. The Jews were with their families and tried to save them first; 4. It was almost impossible to obtain any form of arms (the Polish underground refused to sell guns to the Jews even at exorbitant prices); 5. The Germans carried out a ruthless policy of revenge killings, for the murder one SS officer ca. 120 Jews were killed, so that resistance was suppressed.

But, there is another reason.  Some time ago a German acquaintance of mine told me that the reason why so many Jews were killed was because “when you live among wolves you must behave as a wolf.”   Perhaps this was the basis of the Jewish malaise, a passivity in the face of hatred and death, due to hundreds of years of conditioning.  The Jews, having experienced so much hatred and so many attacks and killings and murders, did not recognize that this time it was even more serious, that caught behind enemy lines without any means of protection they were defenceless, which only whetted the murderers’ appetite.   

The Germans, in order to carry out “the Final Solution to the Jewish Problem,” as decided at the Wannsee Conference in 1941, committed huge resources to the task.  Thousands of trains had to be organized, roundups of Jews in every city and village, the use of thousands of guards on the trains and in the camps.  Then there were the SS and the cadre of murderers, including the infamous Latvian, Estonian, Lithuanian and Ukrainian guards, whose bloodthirsty hatred of Jews knew no bounds (even the SS complained at the horrific “games” they played with prisoners at Auschwitz).   Suppose the Germans had not carried out this plan then, but had waited until after the War (that they expected to win), and had put all these resources into actually fighting the armed enemy, would that have tipped the outcome into the German’s favor.  It was very close, but we shall never know.  At the very least the obsession of the Germans with murdering all of European Jewry added to their vulnerability in prosecuting the War.

In another respect, the Jews were deficient, after the War, there were very few Jewish attacks of revenge.  We should have revenged ourselves on the majority of Europeans (only in Denmark, Bulgaria and Albania were the Jews saved).  So finally we must admit that the European Jews did have a kind of malaise, but it was to have been too civilized and too humane to ever believe that such a plan as “the Final Solution” could ever be hatched and then executed by human beings in the 20th century. Those of us Jews who were lucky enough to have survived this terrible onslaught will make sure not only that it never happens again, but that we will retain our sovereignty in our own State of Israel against all comers and at all costs.  Let our enemies today know this, tell it to the BDS activists and the “Jews for Palestine,” you are fightng a losing battle.   

Escape Tunnels in the Shoah

This is written for Holocaust (Shoah) Memorial Day in Israel, April 24, that commemorates the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.  Recently an escape tunnel was discovered under the trees and fields of the Ponar Forest outside Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.  It was discovered using modern technology, although its existence had been known about since the end of WWII.  The Ponar Forest was the site of an infamous massacre in 1941, when the Jews of Vilnius and surroundings were rounded up and transported to the nearby forest where they were murdered by Lithuanian fascists usually by shooting or more brutal means. Approximately 100,000 people were killed there!  

Towards the end of the war in 1944, the Nazis were concerned to cover up all instances of the mass murders of Jews, and they selected a group of young Jewish men to help remove all trace of the victims of the massacres at Ponar.  The Jews had in fact been massacred in several large depressions in the earth and then buried.   The terrible job of this brigade was to dig up the remains of the Jews and then burn them and destroy their bones, grind them to dust.  

While they were doing this, day after day, they concocted a plan to dig a tunnel to enable them to escape from their hell.  Using spoons and other implements they dug a tunnel that enabled ca. 20 of them to escape before they were detected.  Most of them were killed in the subsequent search, but a few managed to get far enough away and joined the partisans in the nearby forest. At least one of the survivors, Motke Zeidel, made it to Israel after the War.

Only now many years later did a group of archeologists using ground-seeking radar and electrical resistivity instruments find conclusive evidence of the presence of the tunnel. It is too narrow and delicate to excavate, but the entrance is being prepared as an exhibit by the Jewish Museum in Vilnius (see Smithsonian Magazine, “The Holocaust’s Great Escape” Matthew Shaer, March 2017 p. 42)

In Kaunas (Kovno) the second largest city in Lithuania, the Jews were mainly killed in the Ninth Fort, the last and largest of the forts ringing the city, that had never been completed and had a large central pit.  It was the site of perhaps the first massacre of Jews in WWII on March 18, 1941.  German Jews were sent by train to the east to be exterminated. Looking for places to do this the Nazis came up with the Ninth Fort.  The first 5 trains, carrying ca. 4,500 Reich Jews was sent there and the Jews (men, women and children) were shot by the special Einsatzgruppen and their bodies dumped into the pit and covered.  

Subsequently many other Jews were simply beaten and thrown into the pit, altogether about 30,000 were murdered in this way!  In 1943, fearing the approach of the Russians, the Nazis sent a group of Jewish prisoners to extract the bodies of the Jews and burn them.  A group of Jews began to investigate the subterranean tunnels and structures under the fort. They came to an iron door that led to the outside and managed to drill a hole and get through it.  This was a meticulously planned escape and on Christmas Day, 1943 all 64 Jews managed to escape (see “Escaping the Ninth Fort,” Jewish Resistance in the Holocaust, based on “The Black Book,” eds. Aaronburg and Grossman, Am Oved, 1991).

Terrorism in France

The numbers in France are chilling, 240 killed and hundreds injured in 22 terrorist attacks since the Charlie Hebdo/Jewish Supermarket attacks in 2015.   Over 20,000 individuals (Muslims) are on the terrorist watch list and 15,000 of them are considered to be actively dangerous.  The French police simply cannot cope with the numbers and lack the capabilities to monitor them all.  The latest attack on the Champs Elysee in the very heart of Paris two days before the Presidential election by a French-born Muslim of North African origin, named Karim Cheurfi (39), may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Martine Le Pen is calling for all people on the terrorist watch list to be expelled from France.  This is understandable, but problematic since many of them are French-born or are French naturalized citizens.  She has said that she would immediately expel all foreign-born suspects (shades of Trump).  Note that most of them have not yet committed a crime.  But, Cheurfi had, he had attacked a policeman 5 years ago and a few months ago had threatened to kill police, although there was not enough evidence to hold him. Such people, petty criminals who are Muslims, should be the highest suspects and should be removed from society.  This attack may help Marine Le Pen to be elected, and if it does then the extremist Muslims will get what they want, a rabid anti-Muslim French Government that they can accuse of anti-Muslim bias and then fight it openly.

If Marine Le Pen gets elected over this attack, then she may do a Frexit, and that would signal the end of the EU and of the tendency for the European countries to join together to avoid European wars.  How that would work out in time is unpredictable.  But, we are getting ahead of ourselves, Le Pen has not been elected yet, and maybe the more moderate centrists will pull their irons out of the fire in time.  

Now the French and other Europeans are finding what it is like to be an Israeli, under constant Muslim attack.  But, of course they still don’t get it, they think that Israel is oppressing the Palestinians due to some “imperialist, colonialist, occupation.”  That’s all fantasy, just as much as that Israel is called “apartheid.”  I can assure any reader that this is a total fiction, there is certainly more apartheid in the USA than in Israel!