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Posts Tagged ‘Michael Freund’

From Wannsee To Tehran

Friday, January 20th, 2012

This week marks the seventieth anniversary of one of the most chilling events of the modern era.

On January 20, 1942, as related by Dr. Erwin Birnbaum in an in-depth front-page essay on page 1 of this week’s Jewish Press, senior Nazi officials headed by SS General Reinhard Heydrich convened at a villa outside of Berlin in the suburb of Wannsee to discuss the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question.”

Though the Germans had already been busy murdering Jews en masse for some time, the Wannsee Conference, as it came to be known, sought to coordinate efforts across the various arms of the Nazi regime with the aim of fully implementing Hitler’s plan to eradicate the Jewish people.

It set in motion a full-fledged and synchronized bureaucratic endeavor unprecedented in the history of mankind, one that resulted in the systematic murder of six million Jews.

As we look back at that frightening event, and consider just how close its participants came to achieving their monstrous goals, there are two words which inevitably ring loudly in our minds: Never Again.

After the Holocaust, with all the defiance and determination we could muster, the Jewish people made a vow that we would not allow another genocidal fiend to threaten our existence.

But the question we need to ask ourselves with utmost sincerity is: do we really mean it?

After all, there is a gathering storm over the horizon, as the Iranian regime drives relentlessly toward its goal of developing a nuclear arsenal.

Are we really prepared to take the steps necessary to stop them?

Make no mistake. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the would-be Hitler of Persia, has spoken openly of his ambition to wipe Israel off the map, in effect promising to complete what the plotters of Wannsee began.

On January 3, the tyrant of Tehran was quoted by Iranian television as saying once again that Israel will be destroyed. “Zionists, who have no faith in religion or even God, now claim piety and intend to take away the Islamic identity of Jerusalem,” he declared.

“This ridiculous move is in fact the continuation of the colonialist policies of oppressors, which will not save the Zionist regime, but also take the regime closer to the endpoint of its existence,” he vowed.

Indeed, Ahmadinejad’s rants about exterminating the Jewish people have become so routine that they no longer receive much attention in the Western press.

But just because his threats have lost their news value does not mean they pose any less of a danger. We would be making a fateful and perhaps existential error to think otherwise.

Consider how belligerent Iran has been in just the past few weeks. Earlier this month, Iran’s Revolutionary Court had the audacity to sentence an Iranian-American to death on trumped up charges, accusing him of being a CIA spy.

The ayatollahs have also repeatedly threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a critical transit route for international oil shipments, in retaliation for Western sanctions.

And the Iranians even went so far as to confirm reports that they have begun to enrich uranium at a second facility in defiance of United Nations resolutions.

They are openly thumbing their noses at the international community, obviously calculating that they can get away with doing so.

If this is how Iran conducts itself before acquiring a nuclear capacity, you imagine what they would do if they were actually to obtain a nuclear arsenal. The threat a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to Israel and the entire Western world cannot and must not be underestimated.

On a visit to Venezuela on January 10, Ahmadinejad and his host Hugo Chavez joked before the television cameras about having a “big atomic bomb” at their disposal. An atomic Iran would threaten its neighbors, undermine the stability of the region, and endanger the future of Western civilization.

Like it or not, 2012 is a year of decision. In the coming months there will be no shying away from a momentous choice. Iran will either be stopped, or the ayatollahs will be able to construct their own weapons of mass destruction.

No one is itching to pull the trigger and to start bombing Iran. Such a course of action would have plenty of unintended consequences and would throw the Middle East into turmoil.

But several rounds of sanctions and attempts at diplomatic pressure have all failed to dissuade the Iranian regime.

At this point, there is no choice left but for Israel or the United States to resort to military force. Iran simply cannot be allowed to go nuclear.

Sure, the thought of attacking Iran is terrifying. But as alarming as the idea might seem, it pales in comparison with the ayatollahs being able to threaten the world. As the events of seven decades ago at Wannsee demonstrated, when people say they plan to annihilate you, you had best believe them.

The Invention Of Palestine

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

What a remarkable breath of fresh air.

For the first time in recent memory, a prominent American politician has had the courage to speak some unvarnished truths about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

In video footage released on December 9, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich told the Jewish Channel, a cable TV network, that the Palestinians are an “invented people.”

“Remember, there was no Palestine as a state – it was part of the Ottoman Empire,” the former speaker of the House of Representatives said.

“I think we have an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs and historically part of the Arab community,” Gingrich declared.

Whatever one might think of Gingrich’s stance on various other political matters, in this case there can be no disputing the historicity of his remarks.

Palestine and the Palestinians are in fact a modern invention, a fiction created with the aim of dismantling Israel and undermining its claim to its ancient patrimony.

Indeed, prior to the 1947 UN partition plan, even Palestinian Arab leaders openly affirmed this to be the case.

Take, for example, Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, who testified in 1937 before the Peel Commission, which was established by the British government to investigate the outbreak of Arab violence in British-ruled Palestine. Abdul-Hadi told the commission, that, “There is no such country as Palestine! ‘Palestine’ is a term the Zionists invented! There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria.”

A decade later, in May 1947, the representative of the Arab Higher Committee told the UN General Assembly much the same.

Palestinian nationalism only gained steam in subsequent decades, as the Arab states found it to be a useful proxy tool in their ongoing war against the Jewish state. They cultivated a Palestinian national consciousness and identity in order to create a narrative of Arab victimhood and Israeli aggression, which suited their political agenda.

Thanks to the left and the media, the Palestinians’ claims to the Land of Israel became amplified and even accepted by a large percentage of people around the world, many if not most of whom do not know the first thing about the history of the Middle East. Sadly, even many Jews are no longer cognizant of or familiar with the historical record and have come to accept Palestinian assertions as true.

But as Gingrich correctly pointed out, there has never in all of history been a Palestinian state.

His comments echoed similar remarks made by the late Golda Meir. In an interview with the Sunday Times on June 15, 1969, Meir said, “There were no such thing as Palestinians. When was there an independent Palestinian people with a Palestinian state?”

Furthermore, she noted, “It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.”

To our ears, such assertions may sound jarring because they are so at odds with what has come to be accepted as the conventional wisdom. But that is merely because we have succumbed to decades of pro-Palestinian propaganda and indoctrination.

Needless to say, the reaction to Gingrich’s remarks by the Palestinians and their supporters was predictably swift and vitriolic. The PLO’s Hanan Ashrawi accused Gingrich of “ignorance and racism,” while Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called his assertions “despicable” and “the lowest point of thinking anyone can reach.”

Neither, of course, dared to challenge Gingrich with evidence, presumably because they have none in their favor. They know he is on to something, and so they resort to name-calling and venom in an effort to delegitimize the opinions he expressed.

But we cannot allow them to succeed. The brouhaha surrounding Gingrich’s statements provides an important opportunity for pro-Israel activists to right the historical record and begin to undercut decades of successful Palestinian propagandizing.

We must seize on this opening to remind people of what many have forgotten: Palestine is a myth with no basis in historical reality. Last Saturday night, during a Republican presidential debate, Gingrich was asked about his comments regarding the Palestinians. Refusing to back down, he reiterated that what he said had been factually correct, and added that, “Somebody ought to have the courage to tell the truth.”

Here’s hoping others will follow in his wake.

Michael Freund is chairman of Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), which assists lost tribes and hidden Jewish communities to return to the Jewish people.

Open Microphones, Sealed Minds

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

For a brief moment last week, the world got to peek behind the diplomatic curtains and catch a glimpse of what the American and French presidents really think of Israel’s prime minister.

It was not a pretty sight.

In remarks unintentionally overheard by a gaggle of journalists at the G20 summit in Cannes, Nicolas Sarkozy insulted Benjamin Netanyahu, telling Barack Obama that “I can’t stand to see him anymore, he’s a liar.”

And just how did Obama respond to this slur against the leader of America’s closest friend and ally in the Middle East?

By essentially agreeing with Sarkozy, of course. “You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him every day,” Obama moaned.

The conversation was transmitted to members of the press after the microphones in the presidential meeting room had been turned on inadvertently. Mon dieu!

This bad-mannered blunder made international headlines and proved to be a major embarrassment to both Obama and Sarkozy.

It is not every day that we get to hear what politicians really think without handlers, spinmeisters and advisers crafting their choice of words.

Interestingly, White House spokesman Jay Carney pointedly did not deny the remarks attributed to Obama, in effect signaling that the accounts in the press were accurate.

Recognizing the damage that had been done, Sarkozy moved quickly to mitigate the impact of the affair. Over the weekend he reportedly sent a personal letter to Netanyahu in which he took a firm stand on Iran’s nuclear ambitions and signed it, in his own hand, “with friendship.”

And according to a report in the French newspaper Le Figaro, Sarkozy has tentatively agreed to pay a special visit to the Jewish state in January.

Like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar, the French leader is now trying to “make nice.”

But these gestures will not obscure the unvarnished truth: the open microphone revealed some rather sealed minds.

At its root, Sarkozy and Obama’s hostility to Netanyahu has little to do with the latter’s veracity or genuineness, and everything to do with his entirely justifiable skepticism regarding the peace process.

By refusing to capitulate to pressure to make still more concessions to the Palestinians, Netanyahu has run afoul of the French and American presidents, who apparently have trouble accepting the fact that Israel has the right to pursue its own interests as it best understands them.

It does not seem to matter to them one whit that Netanyahu has offered to relaunch direct bilateral talks without preconditions, and that it is Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas who refuses to return to the negotiating table or even to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

The mere fact that Netanyahu does not agree to return to the pre-1967 borders with minor adjustments is enough to set them off.

Sarkozy and Obama are so fixated on appeasing the Palestinians, and are so close-minded about what they see as the need to establish a Palestinian state, that they find dealing with Netanyahu to be a burden.

Rather than expressing a measure of support for the leader of a fellow democracy, the French and American presidents decided to turn policy disagreements into personal attacks.

They would much rather have a more pliable Israeli counterpart, one willing to toss aside Israel’s vital security needs as well as its historical, moral and religious rights, for the sake of international acclaim and applause.

But their candor reveals far more about them than it does regarding the Israeli premier.

It shows, particularly in Obama’s case, that for all the public posturing and talk about standing with Israel, the president is no close friend of the Jewish state.

Preserving Jewish Cemeteries In Poland

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

         Every spring and summer, there is renewed activity throughout Poland regarding the preservation of Jewish cemeteries. There are two kinds of work being done: Some are done by private people who see a situation in a cemetery in the region from where their family originated and attempt to restore the cemetery on their own. The other type approaches the Jewish community with a proposal to do the work and it is then channeled through the proper authorities. In the next few weeks, I will be reporting on a few instances that have recently occurred.

 

         Michael Freund, chairman of Shavei Israel, who has shown great interest in helping to restore Jewish life in Poland, was instrumental in restoring the cemetery in his ancestral town of Siedlezcka. Working with the Rabbinic Commission in Poland and the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland (www.fodz.pl), as well as gaining the cooperation of the local government, he did an exemplary job in preserving the remains of the cemetery. He sent the following report:

 

         SIEDLEZCKA, POLAND (Tuesday, May 27, 2008) – In the town of Siedlezcka in Galicia, Poland, yesterday, Monday, May 26, a moving ceremony took place marking the completion of the restoration of the local Jewish cemetery, which was established in 1850. Attending the ceremony, which took place at the ancient cemetery’s entrance, were Michael Freund, chairman of Shavei Israel, and the mayor of Kanczuga, Jacek Solek (who agreed to pave a new road to the cemetery at the town’s expense).

 

         The restoration works, which were financed in part by Freund and his family (through the Warsaw-based Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland and the Siedlezcka-Kanczuga Landsmanschaft headed by Howard Nightingale) included: the general cleaning of the cemetery, restoration of the gravesites and building anew the stone wall surrounding the cemetery. The urgent need to build a wall arose recently due to the incursion into the cemetery by local Polish farmers attempting to expand their farming area.

 

 



Michael Freund in front of the new gate of the restored Jewish cemetery.


 

 

         The town of Siedlezcka is located in the district of Galicia, which is in the southeast of Poland near the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains. For many years the local Jewish cemetery served various Jewish communities in the area, among them: Kanczuga (the community where Michael Freund’s family is from), as well as the villages of Gac, Bialoboki, Markowa, Manasterz, Zagorze, Chmielnik, Jawornik Polski and Zabratówka. It is estimated that to date only 500 graves remain, with the last known burial having taken place in 1940.

 

         In 1942 the Nazis rounded up over 1,000 Jews from Kanczuga, marched them to the grounds of the cemetery and murdered them before tossing their bodies into a mass grave on the site.

 

 


Michael Freund at the recently recovered matzevah of a relative.

(Photos are courtesy of Michael Freund)

 

 

         In his address at the ceremony, Michael Freund said that he could no longer stand by passively and watch the ongoing neglect of the Jewish cemetery and so he decided to fund its restoration. “It was sad for me to see that a number of the gravestones collapsed or were broken and that the cemetery was overgrown by trees and bushes and essentially looked like a forest. It was also evident that many gravestones were taken from the cemetery over the years to pave local streets, or were looted by local persons.” Freund added that, “today when I look over the result of the restoration work, I am very hopeful that the cemetery is now safe from plunder and that it will continue to serve as a monument to the thousands of Jews who lived in this area before the Germans arrived and destroyed everything.”

 

         About the town of Kanczuga:

 

         The first recorded Jewish presence in the town dates back to 1638. According to the 1921 census, the Jewish population was 967 people, but by the start of World War II, it had grown to over 1,000, and Jews made up more than 80 percent of the town’s population. Among the Israelis who originated in Kanczuga were former Knesset Member and Mapam party founder Meir Yaari and Binyamin Siegel, a former senior officer in the Israel Police Department. 

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/preserving-jewish-cemeteries-in-poland/2008/06/04/

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