Good News and Bad News for Jews

It’s usually like this, there is good news and bad news for Jews.  In  Jewish tradition lets have the bad news first:

  1. A Hamas terrorist infiltrated the Gaza border yesterday and not only shot and wounded an IDF officer and two soldiers, but was able to remain on the Israeli side for two hours before he was shot dead.  This was a major embarrassment for the IDF, which had detected him in time, but failed to take effective action.
  2. A Jewish man was shot dead in a drive-by shooting while waiting outside the Miami Beach Synagogue to go into prayers.  Fortunately the shooter did not enter the synagogue, as one did in Pittsburgh a few months ago and killed 11.  This shooting was a shock to the Jews of Florida and the USA again.  More security is needed.
  3. The UK Labour opposition party under Jeremy Corbyn has been exposed in an investigation as the most anti-Semitic ever. Let’s hope they never get a chance to be the Government of the UK.

Now the good news:

  1. The US House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning the BDS movement and boycotts of Israel.   This was in response to the move by Palestinian-American Rashida Tlaib (who does she represent?) who sought to introduce a Bill supporting BDS.
  2. The UK has a new Conservative PM, Boris Johnson.  He is known to be a great friend of Israel and his Cabinet is supposed to be the most pro-Israel ever.  But, they are distracted by Brexit, which they have to deliver.
  3. The Arrow-3 anti-missile missile was tested in Alaska and the test was fully successful.  This is a joint US-Israel project and the test was carried out with the Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer present.   This should protect Israel against future missile attacks planned by Iran.
  4. Pres. Trump took another step against Iran by sanctioning its Foreign Minister and spokesman Javid Zarif.  He is also trying to organize an international consortium to protect oil tankers in the Persian Gulf from Iranian attack.
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Liberal Fascism

In his important book, “The Virtue of Nationalism” Yoram Hazony defines “liberal imperialism” as a belief that liberal views are (somewhat like certain religious beliefs) correct and morally right and anyone who transgresses against them should be prevented from speaking.   There are many cases where liberal-leftist intolerance against opposing views have been manifested.

Some years ago an acquaintance in the UK, a member of a teacher’s union, asked me as an Israeli to communicate with the Head of his Union in relation to an anti-Israel resolution due to be considered at their annual conference.  I wrote to him and we had an exchange of views.  But basically he dismissed my views as not worth being  considered since I was biased being a Jew.  He told me that his father had fought fascism and he was continuing in that tradition.  I replied that my father also fought fascism, and what he was manifesting in his attitude was typically fascist, that my view didn’t count because I was a Jew and that his Union’s anti-Israel resolution was in fact continuing the policies of the Nazis, to prevent Jews expressing themselves or having self-determination. I called him a “liberal fascist“, which he greatly resented and stopped the correspondence (the resolution was ultimately dropped by the Union from fear of being sued).  

This came to mind when I read recently of several cases of liberal imperialism at work, for example the British journalist Melanie Phillips wrote in a recent column that when she mentioned that Israel is a democracy she was shocked that the audience broke out into laughter.  Also, in a BBC Panorama documentary, it was revealed that followers of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn had interfered in the process of a supposedly independent panel set up to investigate cases of anti-Semitism within the Party (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJq-7OSVgC4).  Several former members of the Party who had experienced anti-Semitism described their experiences to the BBC.  One, Izzy Lenga, stated that she was subjected to abuse and was told “Hitler was right” and “Hitler did not go far enough.” If that isn’t liberal fascism what is?  (incidentally we should note that Nazi stands for National Socialism).

Immigration: The Case of Hungary I

In our visit to Budapest, our group was granted an interview with Deputy Minister Balasz Orban (no relative of PM Victor Orban) in a very ornate meeting room inside the Hungarian Parliament building.  He spoke very persuasively about the need for Hungary to determine its own course and to protect itself against the mass immigration of foreign elements (see for example https://europeanconservative.com/2019/05/a-safe-space-in-hungary/).  The fact of the matter is that Hungary is a small homogeneous country in the middle of Europe and has no responsibility for events happening far away.  The feeling is that if they have problems they should solve them themselves, and the fact that Victor Orban’s Fidusz party was elected several times proves that the electorate supports him.  He erected barriers so that migrants could not enter Hungary illegally.  And this is now a legal case before the European Courts.

Seeing the problems in western Europe in countries that have allowed mass migration, such as France, Germany and Sweden, Hungarians are convinced that they did the right thing.  Also, to form a group of like-minded nations, the four countries Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have joined together in the Visegrad group.  They do not wish to leave or destroy the EU, rather they wish to persuade the EU of the rightness of their actions.  I mentioned that I had experienced anti-Semitism when I was in high school in England from a Hungarian emigre from the anti-Communist uprising  in Hungary in 1956.  He assured us that although Fidesz is a right-wing, nationalist party it is nevertheless not anti-Semitic, what would be the point, that is not in their interest, and furthermore they are pro-Israel, as Victor Orban’s recent visit to Israel shows.

We then met with the Chabad Rabbi Slomo Koves, who is effectively the Chief Rabbi of Hungary, at the Obuda Synagogue that survived the War.  He was a charming man, native of Budapest, but fluent in English having studied in Pittsburgh.   He stated that life for Jews is good in Hungary.  Many thousands of Jews had survived the Shoah and the communist era and were now accepted as native to Hungary.  He pointed out that there were no guards at the entrance to the Synagogue, because there was no need for them, since most of the anti-Semitic incidents throughout Europe were caused by Muslims, and there were very few in Hungary.

When challenged on the anti-George Soros media campaign carried out by Victor Orban, that many considered anti-Semitic (George Soros is a Hungarian Jew who survived the Shoah, amassed a fortune and is very leftist and anti-Israel), the Rabbi replied that they were concerned about this too and had conducted their own media survey, asking Hungarians randomly what they think of when they see the image of George Soros, and only 2% said “Jew”.  From experience he is sure there is no strong anti-Semitic feeling now in Hungary, and he has very good relations with Victor Orban and the Government.  This was an eye-opening meeting for us.  

We had a further series of lectures from several experts and personalities in Budapest, that I will describe in a later blog post.

Immigration: The Case of Poland

Surprisingly, in our visit to Poland, the first place we visited was the Muslim Mosque and Community Center in Warsaw. It is a very modern building, paid for by Saudi money. We were greeted by a delightful young woman who spoke perfect English.  She is Polish and went to London to study, where she had a Muslim boyfriend who introduced her to Islam.  Eventually she broke with him, but became fascinated by Islam, converted in London and went to Qatar to study Arabic.  Now she is the custodian of the Muslim Center.  She answered questions very openly and we had a pleasant visit there.   I told her she was a “poster girl” for Islam, in the sense that she is very moderate and integrated into Polish society, certainly not typical of immigrants.  There are in fact very few Muslim immigrants in Poland since the Government in 2015 agreed to take 1,000, and eventually reduced that number and ended up taking only 94 (most of the others went to Germany). Fortunately Poland was not on the main route of immigration from Greece and Italy towards Germany, Sweden and the UK.

The first speaker in our lecture series in Warsaw was Boguslaw Winid, from the Office of the President, responsible for foreign policy and security, including immigration.  He gave us a summary of the history of Poland, emphasizing that Poland lost its independence in 1795 for 123 years until the end of WWI.  It lost it again in 1939 when it was divided between Germany and Russia.  After WWII Poland was a communist satellite for 40 years until the collapse of communism.  Poland has generally been a country of emigration, not immigration, with 3 million Poles and Jews emigrating mainly to the US before the 1920’s. Now Poland is in the EU there is in principle free movement, and Poland has developed economically with a 4% GDP  and only 4% unemployment.  There are two main groups of immigrants into Poland, Ukrainians and Vietnamese!  The Civic Forum has exploited the massive immigration into western Europe to sow fear among Poles.  There was no discussion of Jewish restitution, which the Poles have deliberately avoided.

Greg Lewicki, a political analyst who studied at LSE, referred to Arnold Toynbee’s concept of an internal proletariat, that nowadays is identified with Muslim immigration.  He introduced the concept of State Power Index, and noted that the Islamic States are low on that index. He criticized “political correctness” and gave examples.  But, Eastern Europe as opposed to Western Europe has not been exposed to this kind of cultural trauma.  Poland is a more homogeneous and religious country that Western Europe.

Constantin Gebert is a Jewish Pole, a journalist, whose family survived the Holocaust and remained in Poland.  He grew up in Warsaw and considers it his home. He believes as a Jew it is his moral obligation to help immigrants.  If he saw a family in a boat he would have no hesitation in helping them to immigrate.  But, he accepts that there must be limits to immigration. Immigrants have rights, but they must also accept obligations.  Fortunately in Poland it is not relevant, since Poland is not a country of mass immigration.  But, the fear is being used politically by the right.

Dariusz Stola is Director of the Polin Museum.  He explained how the museum came about as a collaboration between the City of Warsaw, the Polish Ministry of Culture and the Inst. for Jewish Research (YIVO) in Poland and America.  Although American Jews provided a lot of the funding, the largest single donor was a Catholic Pole.  They also had significant contributions from Germany and Norway, that earmarked funds for education.  The Museum is located in an area that was the Jewish part of the city and the Ghetto during WWII.  Before WWII, Warsaw was the largest Jewish city in Europe and the Museum is intended to tell the history of the Jews in Poland, not exclusively focusing on the Holocaust, although there is a section that does.  Their biggest group of visitors are Polish children who go in school groups, over 450,000 have been, and there is a remarkable interest in things Jewish in Poland.  The second largest group of visitors are Israelis.  They started a yellow daffodil project proposed by Marek Edelman to remember the Ghetto uprising, and they distributed 200,000 of them.  They started a project for children to research the history of Jews in their town and each city must do something, that is on their web-site.  They were voted European Museum of the year in 2018.

In a previous blog (May 29) I wrote about the presentation of Gregorz Lindenberg, a sociologist who presented population data, including statistics on immigration and projections of future population growth.  His was the most fact-based and in a way the most frightening presentation.  If his predictions come true there could be a massive wave of up to 200 million immigrants mainly from Africa invading Europe in the next 50 years.  He predicts there will be conflicts between locals and immigrants.  I asked if he thought they might resolve the problem with concentration camps.

The last speaker in Warsaw was Adam Bodnar, the Government Ombudsman.  He is a human rights lawyer who once worked for the Polish organisation “Never Again!” In his office he was 300 lawyers and he prosecutes many cases of discrimination.  Before 2015 the majority of cases of hate speech were against Jews and gays, but after 2015 it is against Muslims.  He was prepared to discuss the issue of Jewish restitution.  He pointed out that beyond the Bug river in the east people get ca. 20% of the value of the property.  But, in the rest of Poland, if you can prove ownership with documentation and you have skillful lawyers you can regain property or get compensation, but it is difficult.

 

The Izlamization of Europe

Muslims tried to conquer Europe by force three times in the past:

  • In 732 ce the French King Charles Martel with his army stopped an invading Arab army from Spain at Poitiers in southern France.  Note that Islam did not spread because it is a peaceful religion, but was spread by armies.  They burst out of Arabia soon after Mohammed died in 632 ce, and conquered Jerusalem in 639, North Africa in 652 and Andalusia in 711.  Since anyone who did not become a Muslim was an infidel, a lot of killing went on.  Jews and Christians were supposed to be exempt, because Muslims regard their books (the Bible and the New Testament) as holy, but often that didn’t work in practice.  But, the victory at Poitiers, 100 years after Mohammed’s death, stopped the spread of Islam and saved Europe from the wave of Islamic conquests. 
  • Much later when the Caliphate had shifted to Turkey, twice Christian armies defeated Turkish armies at Vienna, which was the capital of the Habsburg Empire.  In 1529 and in 1683 the Turks besieged Vienna.  In 1683 at the battle of Kahlenburg Mountain (which we visited), the entry of the Polish King John Sobieski with 100,000 mainly Polish troops resulted in the final defeat of Muslim attempts to conquer Europe by force of arms.  The consequences for the Turkish Empire of this defeat were significant, as detailed by Bernard Lewis in “What Went Wrong?: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response.”  Suffice to say they never did catch up.

However, things have changed drastically since then  Islamic infiltration of Europe, whether deliberately planned or as a result of ad hoc events, has been continuing apace.

  • There have been terrible Islamist terrorist attacks all over the continent, in Madrid, London, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, Cannes, Glasgow, Milan, Toulouse, and so on; there were 8 deaths in 2012, and 150 in 2015!
  • “No-Go” Areas: In the banlieue around French cities there are no-go areas where the French police are afraid to enter.  Any police car that ventures in there is attacked and burnt.  The French Government needs to take back control of these sovereign areas using the Army, but it won’t.  They have become effectively Muslim-controlled areas of France that will gradually expand as more and more Muslims move in and are born.  They will become the nucleus of a Muslim-dominated France and Europe unless something drastic is done.
  • Muslims attack individual Jews, with knives and other weapons, throughout Europe, who have any outward sign of being Jewish, especially a yarmulka (kippa).  What is the advice of the German official in charge of anti-Semitism?  That Jews should not wear kippot, not that Muslims should stop attacking Jews.  So Jews must once again hide their identity in Europe for fear.  In London I was advised not to wear a Magen David around my neck, especially in the Underground, since there is a wave of young people attacking Jews wearing them and snatching them.
  • Recently both Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany and Pres. Macron in France effectively stated that there is no longer such a thing as “German” or “French” culture.  It has all been ceded to a multicultural milieu in which practically anything goes.
  • Muslim massacres of Christians have been going on throughout the centuries, in 1914 the Turks massacred about 150,000 Greek Christians in Smyrna (Izmir) and in 1915 the Turks carried out genocide against the Armenian Christian minority, murdering ca. 1.5 million.  In 1920, Iraqi Muslims massacred about 200,000 Chaldean/Assyrian Christians, and this continues even until today.  In Syria, Aramean Christians have been systematically murdered.  The Coptic Christian minority in Egypt (ca. 10%) have been continually attacked and murdered, even until today.  The formerly Christian city of Bethlehem in the Palestine Authority has gone from 80% to 20% Christians in 25 years.  Will this process stop if they live in Europe?

There are now estimated to be ca. 19 million Muslims in the EU, and a total of 54 million Muslims throughout Europe (including Bosnia) and the number is growing.

Vienna, Austria

Vienna, like London, was the capital of a large empire, and the architecture and buildings reflect that.  Vast palaces, huge war ministries, large statues of men on horses, wide boulevards, linked by narrow labyrinthine alleys.  After WWI the Habsburg Empire was dismantled and reduced to ethnically-uniform States, according to the preferences of US Pres. Woodrow Wilson, including Austria and Hungary.  Austria never quite got over its demotion from capital of an Empire to a small central European State. Some former components (colonies) were lumped together in Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia (the south Slavs), which much later split again into many smaller parts (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Kossovo).

To the east Vienna is flat, but to the west begin the first foothills of the Alps, and that is from where Vienna got its name, Wien, from the wine grown actually within the city limits. During our bus tour of the city it was quite startling to hear the guide say that Beethoven wrote his 9th symphony in that house, or that Mozart gave his first concerts there.  There were of course many famous Viennese Jews in the 19th and 20th centuries, including Sigmund Freud, and most of the rich Jews had their houses around the famous Ringstrasse that followed the line where the first city walls had been.  There was some damage in Vienna during WWII, most of it took place when the Soviet Forces reached the Danube River and a pitched battle took place between them and the defending German forces.

We had an old Austrian man as our guide for a walking tour of the city.   We started at the official Holocaust monument, that is not very impressive, and walked for several hours.  This guide took the standard Austrian line, that Austria did not exist as a separate entity during WWII, but after the Anschluss was incorporated into Hitler’s Third Reich.  That all the Jews who were killed were Austrians and so they don’t report the numbers separately, that many Austrians died at the hands of the Germans, and so on.  I asked him point blank how many Austrians were killed during WWII and he said 1 million (out of a total of ca. 7 million then), but I looked the number up afterwards and it was a total of ca, 120,000 of whom ca. 65,000 were Jews.  I complained about his lack of accuracy.

Later we took a walking tour of the Jewish districts.  In Vienna’s history there were three. The first was in the ancient walled city, that thrived until 1420 when there was a terrible massacre and all Jews were killed.  The area is now known as the Judenplatz, where there is a more effective Holocaust memorial, in the form of a concrete library with the book’s spines inside.  The second was the ghetto in the 16-17th centuries across the river on the other side of Vienna and there we saw the site of the great synagogue that was of course destroyed in WWII.  As Austria became more enlightened in the 19th century, the Jews spread into central Vienna and along the Ringstrasse.  They formed the cultural, intellectual and scientific elite of the country before they were cruelly expelled and murdered.  There are small brass plaques on the sidewalk with the names of those who had lived in adjacent buildings (stolperstein or stumbling stones).  Today there are some ten thousand Jews living in Vienna, including many ultra-Orthodox.  We went to a kosher bakery in the Jewish district and had lunch there.  

There had been ca. 80 synagogues in Vienna before WWII, but only one of them survived.  It did so, as in other places where we saw surviving synagogues in Amsterdam and Berlin, because it was part of a much larger building and to blow it up or burn it would  have caused great damage to non-Jewish areas.  We visited  the Stadttempel, which was constructed in 1824 and has a circular rotunda, and were given a complete history by an excellent guide in English.  It was renovated and is still in use today.

 

 

 

Budapest, Hungary

I visited Budapest with my wife several years ago, as well as recently with the MEF trip focused on the topic of immigration.  Hungary is a very important country to visit in this respect, because its PM Victor Orban, was the only head of State that defied the UN in 2015 and erected a border fence and banned any mass immigration into Hungary.

Budapest is a very European city, it was bombed, but not totally destroyed like Warsaw,  during WWII.  It consists of two regions separated by the River Danube, Pest is the flat eastern region and Buda is the hilly western area.  It was occupied by the Ottoman Turks for 140 years, but eventually they were defeated and Hungary became a part of the Habsburg Empire also known as the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Buda is the more picturesque region and has the massive Imperial Castle on its peak.  The huge and ornate Houses of Parliament are on the Pest side by the river.

During WWII Hungary under Admiral Horthy was allied with Germany, and so was subject to attack by the Allies, including the Soviets from the East. The Hungarian nationalist Arrow Cross party was allied with the Nazis, and when Horthy tried to make an armistice with the Allies, the German Army invaded in March, 1944, deposed Horthy and replaced him with the leader of the Arrow Cross, Ferenc Szalasi. 

Hungary had a large Jewish population before WWII (ca. 600,000) of which the majority lived in Budapest.  Until the middle of 1944, when the Nazis took over, approximately 200,000 Jews had been drafted into forced labor gangs and ca. 100,000 were killed in various assaults.  However, it was only after Hungary was occupied by the Nazis that Adolf Eichmann moved to Budapest and the systematic expulsion and massacre of the Jews began.  For a detailed description of these harrowing events I suggest reading “The Summer That Bled” by Anthony Masters, which includes a biography of Hannah Senesh (Szenes), a young Hungarian Jew from Palestine, who was trained as a British paratrooper, dropped behind enemy lines, was captured, tortured and executed.  Approximately 400,000 Jews were forcibly marched to Auschwitz in Poland (the Germans did not have enough trains to transport them) and murdered there in late 1944-early 1945.  Approximately 100,000 Hungarian Jews survived, most left Hungary after the War, but a core remained and we met one of them who grew up and lives in Budapest (more on that later).

There is today a thriving Jewish population in Hungary (est. 100,000).  We visited the Chabad Rabbi in his synagogue.  We noted that here were no guards outside the synagogue!  The famous large Dohanyi Street Synagogue, that can seat ca. 8,000, was not destroyed during WWII and is completely restored and is a major tourist attraction.