The Yom Kippur War, 1973

On Yom Kippur as well as repentance we should think of the Yom Kippur War of 1973, when Israel came closest to being destroyed.  The Israel Defense Ministry has released archives that reveal the drama of that time, including the incredible intelligence blunder of the Head of Military Intelligence Maj-Gen. Eli Zeira, who completely ignored signs of an impending Egyptian attack, and the fears of Defense Minister Moshe Dayan that “Israel will not be able to defend itself.”  Zeira and the Head of the Southern Command Maj-Gen. Shmuel Gonen were relieved of their commands.

Gen. Ariel Sharon was called back from retirement and given command of an Armored Division under Gen. Bar-Lev, who did not trust him.  He was ordered not to attack but to await further orders, but he ignored that and immediately attacked the Egyptian forces and cut a way through towards the southern end of the Suez Canal, where with incredible foresight in 1967 he had built a ramp from which to construct a bridge over to the Egyptian side of the Canal.  He had a mobile bridge following in the wake of his tank attack. Unfortunately they blundered into an Egyptian armored division waiting in reserve and at the battle of the Chinese Farm defeated them.  They went on against incredible difficulties (and against orders) to bring up the bridge and construct the crossing and he raced his tanks over to the other side and not only destroyed the Egyptian missile defenses against the IDF, but also prevented all supplies getting to the main Egyptian Army.  He had encircled the Egyptian 3rd Army and in effect he had won the war.  So his daring insubordination paid off.

More Israelis died in that war (ca. 3,000) due to the lack of foresight of the Generals and the intelligence echelon than in any other war.  But, despite it being on Yom Kippur and the element of surprise, Israel scored a stunning victory that paved the way for the Israel-Egyptian Peace Treaty of 1979.  The Israeli Defense Ministry learned several hard lessons from this war, that in effect made the IDF even more capable than before.



Concentration Camps

Recently the left-wing Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Contez caused a stir by suggesting that the holding camps for families of illegal immigrants at the US border were “concentration camps.”  The allusion to the Holocaust was intended, even though she is anti-Semitic and denies the Holocaust.  But, of course, her use of the term was totally inappropriate, because the Central Americans came there willingly, they were not coerced or even “concentrated” by the US.

An early example of a concentration camp was Norfok Island that is about 1,000 miles north-east of the mainland. Since Australia itself was already a penal colony, what should the authorities do with recalcitrant criminals, they established a penal colony in 1824 on Norfolk Island, and there convicts were treated much like dogs. The favorite sport of the Warden was to chase runaway convicts with dogs and horses.  They were given 100 lashes that killed them, and many bodies were buried there.  It reminds one of the story “The Penal Colony” by Franz Kafka, in which prisoners had their crime written into their flesh.  Of course, the Soviets established many Penal Colonies after the Revolution that were far more murderous and cruel than those found under the Czar.

The idea of a “concentration camp” was in fact invented by the British during the Boer Wars in South Africa (Second Boer War 1899-1902), as a means to bring pressure on the rebellious Boers, they concentrated their families in camps as a means to pressure them to stop fighting.  In these camps the families of women and children were treated abominably, but that was what imperial forces did at that time (and since).  However, they were not actually death camps, the civilians were not deliberately killed or massacred as the Jews were in Nazi Concentration camps, some of which, such as Auschwitz, were actually extermination camps where 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, were murdered.

There were other cases of concentration camps, for example, the Belgian Forces in the Congo used concentration camps to round up families as a blackmail to get the men to go into the jungle and harvest rubber, during the “rubber war” (1895-1908), but the women and children were usually left to starve and when the men returned with the rubber they were usually killed.  The actions were so extreme that it led to the Belgian Government taking over control of the Congo from King Leopold who actually owned it personally (see “King Leopold’s Ghosts” by Adam Hochschild, Houghton Mifflin, 1999).

So one can only have contempt for a person such as this Congresswoman who would use such a loaded term so inappropriately for political purposes.

The Virtue of Nationalism

Yoram Hazony has written an excellent and important book entitled “The Virtue of Nationalism.” He is an Israeli who is appropriately President of the Herzl Institute in Jerusalem.

In this book he considers the transitions of political organizations from family-clan-tribe-nation-empire and concludes that “the best form of political order is an order of independent national states” (p. 51).  In particular he excoriates all those who adhere to a universalist doctrine, be it Christianity, Islam, Nazism or Communism, that seeks to impose on the world a single belief system, that then allows such believers in ultimate truth to persecute and destroy those who are particularist and refuse to submit to their credo.

After WWII it was concluded that the nationalism of the German Nazis was the source of all evil and so the nations of Europe and the world opted for a universalist anti-nationalist vision of peace and prosperity.  But, as Hazony points out, Nazism and Communism were not nationalist, they were imperialist, openly declaring their intention of taking over the world in the name of their ideology, and then set about doing so.  It was the toll of this imperialism that the nations of the world united against, not the nationalism of ordinary Germans or Russians.

The revulsion against war blamed nationalism and the competition among nation states for the suffering and destruction and this led to an increase in the liberal belief that universalist organizations, such as the UN and the EU, that are supra-national or imperial, could keep the peace.  In fact, as we have seen they are not able to do so, unless they take more and more power to themselves.  This tendency has been increased as the Security Council and the EU bureaucracy (without an actual Emperor) take decisions that are against the interests of single states (whether they be morally justified or not).  Thus, the UN might decide to criticize Israel for an action that other states such as Iran, China, Syria or so on might also carry out, but are not criticized for it. And the EU might decide that Hungary should receive a certain number of Muslim immigrants that its government and people do not want to accept.  The UK’s decision of Brexit to leave the EU is clearly opposing that tendency.

In general, I agree with Hazony’s analysis and strongly support the views he expounds in his book.  But, I find myself disagreeing with the clear-cut and rational analysis he bases some of his conclusions upon.  For example:

  • The Family: Hazony bases his analysis of the family on the traditional nuclear family, but in fact that family is much less common than it used to be; in the US it is estimated that only two thirds (66%) of all family units in the US are of this type, with many single parent and homosexual units as families.
  • The Tribe: In an era of Nationalism, the tribe was looked down upon as primitive, as if it only existed in Africa. But in fact all nation states are based on the tribe, and certainly Europe is a patch-work of nations based on tribes, German, Slavic, Hungarian, French, Spanish, and so on.
  • The Imperial State: In many cases Hazony refers to the ‘imperial state,’ but in a sense that contradicts his clear distinction between state and empire.  For example, he states “imperialism and nationalism represent irreconcilable positions in political thought” (p. 24).  In my opinion most nation states in their messy history are in fact imperial states.  For example he says that the English “adopted” the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish (p. 128), whereas in fact England conquered these three Celtic nations, for example the Highland clearances in Scotland and the Irish troubles, and forced them to become part of its United Kingdom.  The United States is an imperial state from its beginnings.  In the Civil War the Northern States fought to retain the Union and conquered the Southern secessionists.  Also the US bought and annexed the Louisiana Purchase from France and Alaska from Russia, the natives of these areas had no say in the matter, and the USA conquered Hawaii and Puerto Rico. The same could be said of the forced unification of France, Spain, Germany and Italy.  And Russia is a Federation of conquered areas.
  • Hatred: It may be that one can rationally explain the distinction between German nationalism and Nazism, nevertheless these analyses somehow leave out the intense human hatred that could lead one tribe to murder so many innocent human beings of another tribe.

Overall, this is an excellent book that adds to our understanding of current political trends. It is topical and should be read by anyone who supports the Jewish State and also by anyone who is puzzled as to why Israel is held in such low esteem by the liberal universalists in Europe.

Immigration: The Case of Austria

The first speaker to the MEF group in Vienna was Martin Engelberg, precisely one of those Jews who remained in Austria after the War, grew up there, and is now a member of Parliament for the People’s Party (PP).  He is active in the Jewish Community and has never found this to be a problem.  He noted that in Europe there is a move to the right with the upsurge of the Natl. Rally of Marine Le Pen in France, Victor Orban’s Fidusz Party in Hungary, and Matteo Salvini’s League in Italy.  Also in Germany the centrist parties lost in the EU elections and the Greens were the big winners.  Note that immigration is not a major issue for the Greens.

Austrians have never owned up to their responsibility for the Holocaust.  Their excuse is that they were integrated into the German Reich and had no choice, but this neglects the fact that the Austrians enthusiastically supported the Anschluss and were virulently anti-Semitic.  On the right is the Austrian Freedom Party (FP), that was formerly the party of Chancellor Kreisky, who had 4 former Nazis in his cabinet.  Then there was the  Waldheim scandal in 1986, but after that experience they took steps to change and now the FP is supposedly free of anti-Semitism.  For 1.5 years there has been a coalition agreement between the PP and the FP.  But right now that has collapsed due to the corruption case.

While we were in Austria, the Government collapsed due to the release of a video made two years before, of Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache of the FP, having a drunken dinner with several people posing as Russian contacts, and agreeing to do favors for them for money.  This caused the coalition to collapse and the Government to resign. The question is, why did the makers of the video hold it for 2 years?  The leader of the PP, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called for new elections.  Some, such as Christian Zeitz, who spoke to us at dinner,  speculate that he engineered the revelation of the video, so that in the next election the FP will receive many fewer votes and the PP will be able to form a Government without them.

Regarding the immigration issue, the Govt. of Kurz did allow a small number of Muslims to settle in Austria.  Out of a total population of ca. 8 million there are ca. 600,000 Muslims (mainly Turks). The Govt. did enact legislation to control the situation, and is a leader in that respect.  The Islam Law forbids foreign financing of Muslim activities and Imams (since Erdogan in Turkey was trying to control them) and requires all Muslim teaching to be carried out in German.   Because of their refusal of accept these conditions, some communities were closed.  They also forbid the use of burkas and radical literature.  Also, immigrants must work.  Recently, they have also banned the use of headscarves in elementary schools, because it is a clear sign of radicalism.  Since the closing of Austria’s borders there is no more immigration, the Balkan route is closed.  Germany is in fact paying off Erdogan to stop the flow of immigrants.   Also, Italy has cracked down on traffickers who were actively pumping immigrants into southern Italy.  They area now heading for Spain.

Chancellor Kurz of Austria is friendly towards the Jewish community and respects Israel.  He has gone on record as supporting the security needs of Israel and also maintains friendly relations with some Arab States.  Austria is more friendly towards Israel than the EU, but how this will work out in the future is uncertain.

We also heard presentations by: Eric Frey, a journalist educated in Princeton, who is Senior Editor of Der Standard, a centrist newspaper in Austria.  He is Jewish and was born in Austria. And Dr. Thomas Grischany, former aide to the Austrian Interior Minister and teacher at the Webster University in Vienna.  He described the situation of Muslim migration into Austria and the EU and suggested possible solutions that might avoid the Islamization of European society.



Immigration: The Case of Hungary II

John O’Sullivan, who is a former editor of the National Review and now makes his home in Budapest, gave a very spirited and articulate presentation to the MEF group.  He explained two main topics, why Hungary under Victor Orban is different from all other countries in the EU, and why he moved there.  In relation to Victor Orban he has written widely on the subject. and just to be very brief, he regards him as a new form of national conservative, in other words on the right, but no longer a protest or populist movement (such as the Brexit Party in the UK, or the United Rally in France), but both a moderate nationalist (not radical) and a free market supporter (see  Some would say Victor Orban has gone too far in becoming less democratic and more authoritarian.  But, that is a matter for discussion.  Daniel Pipes summarized it nicely by saying that Orban doesn’t want to leave the EU (like the UK), but wants to take it over!

We discovered that some politically conservative people who are fed up with the leftist control of their countries, with the mass immigration of hostile elements and who seek greater security and quiet, are moving to Hungary,.  Many are now finding a haven in Hungary, and we met two Germans who have done this, escaping politically motivated hostility and seeking improved security.  The main problem is that you have to learn Hungarian!

Maria Schmidt is a historian and former adviser to PM Orban.  She initiated the Terror Museum in Budapest that documents the torture used by both the Nazi Gestapo and the Soviet KGB.  After WWI, Hungary lost 2/3 of its territory as well as groups of Hungarian-speaking peoples, especially to Romania.  But, it became a much more homogeneous and quieter country.  With the collapse of Communism there were the first partially free elections in 1980.  But, the liberals formed a coalition with the communists, for which they have never been forgiven.  Since 2008, Victor Orban has promoted a market economy and has increased his majority at each election since.  He wants to keep Hungary prosperous without mass immigration. Hungarians are determined that there be no repeat of living under Turkish rule! Also, Hungarians have never had colonies in Africa or the Middle East and do not see why they should have to accept migrants from there.  She pointed out that Jews in Hungary before WWII were part of the society, not separate as in Poland, and many more remained in Hungary than in any other country after the Holocaust.  Victor Orban is pro-Israel and philo-Semitic.  It is clear that he hopes Jews and Israel will support him in his campaign, and that is why he visited Israel and met with PM Netanyahu recently.  Daniel Pipes pointed out that Hungary and Israel are unique in having both conservative governments and increased population growth compared to all other Western countries.

When we met Rabbi Koves, I asked him about the controversy over the planned Hungarian Holocaust Museum that historian Maria Schmidt was supposed to be curating, but her interpretations were challenged by a group of eminent Holocaust scholars.  He would only comment that the matter was under review and would be resolved soon.  I did not raise this issue with Maria Schmidt, but today in the Jerusalem Post there is an article that reports that Maria Schmidt has been removed by agreement with the Hungarian Government as a curator of the “House of Fates” museum. 

Next we heard from Peter Kreko, Director of the Political Capital Institute, a centrist, who assured us that anti-Semitism is not a live issue in Hungary.  The Jews in Hungary are in no danger, there is no Muslim minority, no immigrants and no Islamic radicalism.  There is anti-Semitism in public opinion, like the Jews control the economy, but it is unfocused.  After the economic collapse of 2009 the Jobbik party was anti-Semitic, but it was replaced by Victor Orban and Fidusz, and the government now has good relations with the Jewish community and with Israel.  He refuted the claims that there is no free press or a lack of democracy in Hungary.  

We also heard from Boris Kalnocky, the correspondent for Die Welt German newspaper in Hungary, and Kent Ekeroth, a former member of the Swedish Parliament now living in Budapest.  Purely for reasons of space I will have to skip describing their interesting presentations.



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  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.