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July 5, 2015 / 18 Tammuz, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Soviet’

A Russian Refusenik Remembers Jerusalem

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

As one of the “youngest” holidays in Jewish tradition, Jerusalem Day holds a special place in the Jewish calendar today.  It marks the reunification of Jerusalem during the Six Day War of 1967, the first time that the entire city had come under Jewish sovereignty in thousands of years.  Even before King David conquered and built his monarchy in Jerusalem over 3,000 years ago in 1000 BCE, the city has always been the most holy city in Jewish tradition.  There was never, however, an official Jewish holiday that honored the city until after June 1967.

When Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, the tragic event spurred thousands of years of mourning for the sacred capital.  The remembrance of the destruction of Jerusalem and hope for its rebuilding manifested itself in Jewish holidays, prayers and even on the happiest of occasions—weddings –with the groom’s breaking of the glass cup. Jews would turn and pray in the direction of Jerusalem three times a day. There were even efforts throughout history where Jewish people attempted to restore political sovereignty over the city and re-establish it as the national capital.

For Yuli Edelstein, the Minister of Diaspora and Public Affairs, who as a Russian refusnik was sentenced three years in a Soviet Labor camp, Jerusalem Day holds deep significance. Tazpit News Agency interviewed the minister in light of Jerusalem Day which falls on Sunday, May 20 (Iyar 28) this year. “I was very young when the Six Day War happened and I remember everyone around me being terribly scared,” Edelstein told Tazpit News Agency. “According to reports on Soviet radio, Israel was disappearing.”

“A close friend of the family came by to tell us that the Soviet radio reports were lies. “”I just heard that the Arab armies destroyed Israel not once, but twice!” he told my parents.”

Edelstein grew up under the repressive and restrictive policies of the Soviet Union era, which muted Jewish traditional and cultural life for decades. State-sponsored anti-Semitism also prevented Jews from working in certain government sectors and advancing in their work.

Edelstein explained that his family felt a great sense of hope now that Jerusalem had come under Israel’s hands. “We felt great relief when we heard later that Jerusalem was actually in the hands of Israel and not in the hands of the Arab armies from Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. The Jews in Russia and the Ukraine were astonished that little Israel could win the war.”

“The reunification of Jerusalem, the Temple Mount in Israel’s hands, and the outcome of the Six Day War, changed the standing of Israel in the eyes of Jews across the world, but especially for the Jews in the former Soviet Union,” said Edelstein.

“For at least two million Soviet Jews, a reunited Jerusalem brought a feeling that there is a homeland and that they must start fighting for the existence of Israel. There was a whole change of attitude—one from relief to pride.”

Edelstein himself was born in Czernowitz in what is now the former Soviet Union. In 1979, he applied for an exit visa to Israel but was refused as Soviet policy rarely allowed its residents to emigrate and so Edelstein became a dissident.  As a Russian refusenik, Edelstein was actively involved in Zionist circles in Moscow and taught Hebrew secretly.  He was arrested by the KGB in 1984 on false charges of drug possession and was sentenced to three years in a grueling Soviet labor camp. He was released in 1987 and was finally allowed to immigrate to Israel with his family.

“For me, Jerusalem is more than just a capital to be proud of.  As the former Minister of Immigrant Absorption, I can say that for Jews who immigrated to Israel–from as far as Ethiopia– making aliya to Israel always meant returning to Jerusalem, to Zion.”

Soviet Union Financed African American ‘Freedomways’ Magazine: FBI Archive

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Accuracy in Media reported that newly declassified documents from Operation SOLO, an FBI program to infiltrate the Communist Party of the United States, reveal that a journal titled “Freedomways,” which was influential in the African American community for decades, was subsidized by the Soviet and Chinese Communist Parties.

“Freedomways” has been called “one of the most influential African-American literary and political journals of the 1960s and 1970s.” It began in 1961 and ceased publication in 1986.

During the 25 years it served as a propaganda organ for the CPUSA and Soviet front organizations such as the World Peace Council, “Freedomways” published articles by such figures as Derrick Bell, Martin Luther King, Jr., Congressman John Lewis, and Jesse Jackson.

Europe is in Denial Yet Again

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

It is a familiar pattern. Whenever a terrorist commits an atrocity, his apologists start blaming society or, even worse, the victims. Hence, it was not surprising that after Mohamed Merah, a French jihadist of Algerian descent, killed a rabbi and three Jewish children in Toulouse last week, some immediately blamed the Jews.

Merah had cold-bloodedly videotaped how he chased an eight-year old girl across a school playground and murdered her with three bullets in the head, and how he executed Rabbi Sandler and his three- and six-year old sons. Even so, some did not hesitate to compare his acts to military operations of the Israeli army in Gaza.

That alone is shocking, but that the comparison was made by the head of foreign policy of the European Union makes matters even worse. And yet, one week after comparing the Jewish children that were intentionally murdered in Toulouse with young Palestinian victims of the Israeli army’s defensive air strikes in Gaza, Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, is still in office. Not a single one of the 27 governments of the member states of the European Union is asking for her resignation.

Israeli politicians reacted with indignation to Ashton’s comparison. Her remarks, however, are not surprising given her past as an activist who belonged to the “Blame the West first” crowd. Some people, when confronted with sociopathic behavior, collaborate with it or look for arguments to prove that it is actually not a symptom of emotional disorder, but an attempt to right a wrong which someone has committed.

The European Union is one of the most outspoken and frequent international critics of Israel. Last week, this column pointed out its frequent unfair and biased reports about Israel. As Israel is a Western country, it is hated by anti-Western elements in the EU who depict the Palestinians as permanent victims of Israeli aggression.

Americans do not seem to be aware of it, but people with an anti-Western past control more than one third of the EU’s top positions. Catherine Ashton began her political career in the early 1980s when she was the treasurer of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), the main British peacenik organization, which, according to former Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, was on the Soviet Union’s payroll. She apparently still subscribes to these discredited and potentially self-destructive policies — evidently still as blind to totalitarian abuse of power as she was three decades ago. She is as unable to see the autocratic nature of Islam today as she was unable to see the autocratic nature of Communism then.

“Imagine,” The Economist wrote in 2010 when Ashton was appointed to head the EU’s foreign department, “a 1980s Europe where CND had triumphed, … surrendering to Kremlin pressure and propping up the evil empire. … Given the Soviet Union’s history of mass murder, subversion, and deceit, it is astonishing that even tangential association with Soviet-backed causes in the past does not arouse … moral indignation.”

No rigorous scrutiny of Ashton’s remarks then, no rigorous scrutiny of Ashton’s remarks last week.

Unfortunately, Ashton is not alone. Ten of the 27 members of the European Commission, the EU’s executive, were on the side of repressive totalitarian rule during the Cold War. They were either Communist Party apparatchiks or anti-Western Marxist Socialists who considered the West as bad as the Soviet Union. Two of the current EU commissioners were members of the Soviet Communist Party (the Estonian Siim Kallas and the Latvian Andris Piebalgs), two were members of the Czechoslovakian Communist Party (the Czech Štefan Füle and the Slovak Maroš Šefcovič), one was a member of the Yugoslav Communist Party (the Slovenian Janez Potočnik), one was a member of the Greek Communist Party (Maria Damanaki), and one was a former member of the Portuguese Maoist Party (EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso). Two others were Marxist Social-Democrats close to the Communist Party (the Hungarian László Andor and the Spaniard Joaquín Almunia), and one, Catherine Ashton, was active in a Soviet sponsored “peace organization” attempting to prevent the West from defending itself against Soviet aggression.

Apart from a vain attempt by Gerard Batten, a British Member of the European Parliament, to block the appointment in 2010 of EU commissioners who “have been associated with oppressive regimes” or “have participated in non-democratic governments or political movements,” no one seemed to mind that a third of the members of the European Commission are former collaborators of a regime that slaughtered 20 million of its own people under Josef Stalin. Today, Israel is paying the price for this lack of rigorous scrutiny on the part of the Europeans.

After Ashton was criticized by Israeli politicians for making the Toulouse-Gaza comparison, she expressed her “sadness at the distortion of my remarks.” Instead of apologizing, she blamed her critics for “distorting” her message. Meanwhile, she manipulated the transcript of her remarks by adding to the online version of her speech a reference to Israeli children in Sderot who have been the victims of literally thousands of Palestinian rocket attacks. If thousand of rockets were to land, year after year, in the suburbs Brussels or Florence, what would you recommend the residents there do? Reward the adversary by abandoning those cities? In any event, the previous online version of the transcript made no reference to Sderot.

Raoul Wallenberg’s 100th Birthday: Iranian Participation, New Investigation

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

A celebration of the 100th birthday of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved the lives of over 20,000 Hungarian Jews in the final days of World War II, also marks the renewal of investigations into the events surrounding his death.

The event, which took place in the portrait hall of Budapest’s National Museum in Hungary, was attended by a slew of international representatives, including the wife of late Congressman Tom Lantons, who was saved by Wallenberg, and Holocaust survivor and Israeli Minister-without-Portfolio Yossi Peled.  A surprise to attendees was the participation of Iranian Ambassador to Hungary Seyed Agha Banihashemi Saeed, who remained throughout the duration of the ceremony, including during a speech made by Peled.  Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is an open Holocaust denier and has made frequent calls for the destruction of Israel.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who was also in attendance, has asked experts to open a new probe into what happened to Wallenberg after his capture in 1945.

Wallenberg was personally responsible for the issuing of Swedish diplomatic papers to Hungarian Jews beginning in July 1944, as well as for establishing hiding places for Jews throughout Budapest.

Wallenberg was arrested by Russian officers on January 17, 1945.  He was never heard from again, and his whereabouts or circumstances of death were never established. He was 32 years old at the time of his disappearance.

The new investigation will be led by Hans Magnusson, who began his inquiry into Wallenberg’s whereabouts in the 1990s along with Russian experts.  At the time, the Russians said Wallenberg was probably killed on June 17, 1947 in Soviet custody.  At the time, the Soviets said Wallenberg died of a heart attack in prison.  However, some evidence and eye-witness reports suggest he may have survived beyond that date.

Moreover, two US researchers are now saying a recently discovered Swedish document shows that the KGB intervened to thwart Magnusson’s investigation of Wallenberg’s disappearance.

At the ceremony, Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi admitted that Hungary played a role in the deaths of 600,000 Hungarian Jews, and reaffirmed Hungary’s current support for Israel.

The year of Wallenberg’s 100th birthday will include a Hungarian commemorative stamp, a national competition for high school students on Holocaust history, and an event honoring Hungarian non-Jewish “Righteous Among the Nations” at Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust museum.

Sharansky: Reagan Right, Critics Wrong

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011
Ronald Reagan, who would have been 100 this past Sunday, had an instinctive affinity for Jews and Israel. As an actor who spent decades in the heavily Jewish environment of Hollywood and who counted scores of Jews among his friends and colleagues, he moved easily in pro-Israel circles. Both as a private citizen and as governor of California he was a familiar sight and a favored speaker at various functions for Israel.
In his memoirs Reagan wrote: “I’ve believed many things in my life, but no conviction I’ve ever had has been stronger than my belief that the United States must ensure the survival of Israel.”
Reagan inaugurated what Israeli journalists Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman termed the “Solid Gold Era” in U.S.-Israel relations – a golden age that endured despite a number of disagreements and policy differences between the administration and the Israeli government.
Through it all, Reagan provided more military and financial aid to Israel than any of his predecessors. Washington also worked closer with Israel on the economic front, and in 1985 the administration signed a landmark Free Trade Area agreement, long sought by Israel, which resulted in a hefty boost in Israeli exports to the U.S.
Beyond the Middle East, the plight of Soviet Jews was bound to strike a sympathetic chord with someone as unbendingly anti-Communist as Reagan.
   The Reagan administration was instrumental in gaining the release in 1986 of prominent Jewish dissident Natan Sharansky, imprisoned for nine years on trumped-up treason charges. As Rick Richman notes on Commentary magazine’s Contentions blog, Reagan focused his attention on Sharansky shortly after taking office in 1981. He sent a handwritten letter to [Soviet President Leonid] Brezhnev which appears in The Reagan Diaries, published in 2007, three years after Reagan’s death.

   The letter reads in salient part:

 

     There is one matter however which I feel I must bring to your attention. All information having to do with my govt’s practices & policies past & present is available to me now that I hold this office. I have thoroughly investigated the matter of the man Scharansky [sic] an inmate in one of your prisons. I can assure you he was never involved in any way with any agency of the U.S. govt. I have seen news stories in the Soviet press suggesting that he was engaged in espionage for our country. Let me assure you this is absolutely false.
     Recently his wife called upon me. They were married and spent one day together before she emigrated to Israel assuming that he would follow shortly thereafter. I believe true justice would be done if he were released and allowed to join her.

     If you could find it in your heart to do this the matter would be strictly between us which is why I’m writing this letter by hand.

 

   Reagan got nowhere with Brezhnev, but the president never let up in his efforts to free Sharansky and alleviate the plight of Russia’s Jews.
   “Soviet leaders,” recalled former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir,  “told me that every time they met with [secretary of state George] Shultz, he raised the issue of Soviet Jewry.”
   Sharansky has written of his reaction when, in 1983, confined to a tiny cell in a prison near the Siberian border, he saw on the front page of Pravda that Reagan – much to the ridicule and outrage of American and European liberals – had labeled the Soviet Union an “evil empire.”

   As Sharansky describes it:

 

     Tapping on walls and talking through toilets, word of Reagan’s “provocation” quickly spread throughout the prison. We dissidents were ecstatic. Finally, the leader of the free world had spoken the truth – a truth that burned inside the heart of each and every one of us. I never imagined that three years later I would be in the White House telling this story to the president…. Reagan was right and his critics were wrong.”

 

 

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Kissinger Apology Falls Short

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

‘Twas the day before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except, of course, Henry Kissinger’s publicists and strategists who decided that the slowest news day of the year was the perfect time for him to apologize, sort of, for telling Richard Nixon in 1973 that “if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.”

They may finally have realized – an apt epiphany given the season – that by not issuing such an admission of regret earlier, Kissinger had violated his own maxim that “whatever must happen ultimately should happen immediately.” They probably also hoped that no one would pay attention over a holiday weekend and that what has become the most embarrassing contretemps (that’s French for public relations train wreck) in the former secretary of state and Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s illustrious career would fade into oblivion.

Not so fast.

For almost two weeks since the now infamous Oval Office remarks first appeared in The New York Times, Kissinger had refused to acknowledge that he had said anything inappropriate. He at first tried to get out from under his predicament with a disingenuous statement that “The quotations ascribed to me in the transcript of the conversation with President Nixon must be viewed in the context of the time.”

Without expressing any contrition whatsoever for what even some of his Jewish defenders deemed to be a “disturbing and even callous insensitivity toward the fate of Soviet Jews,” Kissinger’s statement contended that he and Nixon had, in fact, raised Jewish emigration from the former Soviet Union “from 700 per year to close to 40,000 in 1972.”

He and the president feared, the statement continued, that efforts to make “Jewish emigration a foreign policy issue” through Congressional legislation – to wit, what became the 1974 Jackson-Vanik Amendment – “would reduce emigration, which is exactly what happened. Jewish emigration never reached the level of 40,000 again until the Soviet Union collapsed.”

Unfortunately for Kissinger, he seems to have gotten his facts wrong. As Richard Schifter, assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs in the Reagan administration, pointed out in the Forward, “Kissinger’s analysis is not reflected in the actual emigration data. He was close on the 1970 emigration figure, which was 1,027. His quiet diplomacy during detente did increase that number to an annual average of 20,516 from 1971 to 1974. But after Jackson-Vanik’s passage in 1974, the average for 1975 to 1978 dropped only slightly to 18,271 annually. Then, in 1979, the number of emigrants jumped to 51,320, much more than anything achieved under the Nixon-Kissinger policy.”

According to Schifter, it was only after the December 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the ensuing “serious deterioration of U.S.-Soviet relations” that Soviet Jewish emigration figures “dropped sharply, reaching a low of 876 in 1984.”

When the furor over the “gas chambers” remarks not only failed to subside but also produced a Clyde Haberman column in The New York Times that considerably raised the temperature, three prominent American Jews wrote a letter to that newspaper chastising Kissinger’s critics. “Never,” they insisted, “have we heard him speak in a disparaging way about the Jewish community.”

The bleeding didn’t stop. During a protest demonstration outside Kissinger’s Manhattan office, New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio denounced Kissinger’s remarks as “monstrous,” and the next wave of Anglo-Jewish weeklies across the country brought new excoriations.

It was then and only then that Kissinger bit the bullet and did what he should have done in the first place. In a Washington Post op-ed posted online last Friday, Dec. 24, and published on Sunday, Dec. 26, Kissinger wrote, “References to gas chambers have no place in political discourse and I am sorry I made that remark 37 years ago.” His comments, he went on, were “in a kind of shorthand that, when read 37 years later, is undoubtedly offensive.”

What are we to make of this reluctant quasi-apology? To be sure, the requisite expression of remorse, albeit palpably grudging, is there, almost like the allocution a defendant has to make in open court before the judge accepts a guilty plea. And yet, terminal damage to Kissinger’s reputation has, I think, been done.

A Belated Appreciation

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

As the Monitor is only too aware, having received a fair number of admonishing e-mails on the subject, this column has disappointed at least some readers with what one called its “shameful silence” on the subject of William Safire in the weeks since the former New York Times columnist passed away in late September.

Guilty as charged. Frankly, though, at this point there’s not much left to say that is either original or insightful about a man whose career has been so thoroughly assessed by both admirers and detractors.

Safire’s move from the Nixon White House to the op-ed page of the Times, where he perched for better than three decades as its token non-liberal, has been well documented, as has been the initial hostility he faced from his illiberal liberal colleagues at the Times.

His polemical skills were complemented by his grammatical dexterity; indeed, his weekly “On Language” column became a Times fixture, read, respected and happily argued with even by those who could not abide the views he expressed in his Pulitzer-prize winning political column.

His books – collections of his language columns, historical novels, a meditation on the biblical story of Job, and his magnum opus, Safire’s Political Dictionary – were all well received. He was a popular guest on the Sunday morning talk-show circuit.

While dealing with the dilemma of trying to come up with a belated tribute that would not merely repeat what had already been said, the Monitor stumbled upon some of Safire’s columns on the Middle East from the miserable Jimmy Carter years. The prescience of those columns – their surprising timeliness all these years later – stands as a tribute in its own right to the man who wrote them. A few examples will suffice:

In a column dated May 24, 1976 – a year before Israel elected its first Likud prime minister, six years before the first Lebanon war, eleven years before the first intifada – Safire was complaining about “Dovish writers and longtime liberals, including many Jews, who are uncomfortable with positions of strength, and who urge the beleaguered Israelis to adopt appeasement under the labels of ‘accommodation,’ ‘flexibility,’ and ‘risks for peace.’ ”

How things never change.

From the same column, thirty years before anyone would hear of Walt and Mearsheimer: “Hating individual Jews does not make you a bigot. Being anti-Israel does not make you a bigot. But undertaking a crusade to persuade the American people that they are being brainwashed and manipulated by a cabal of Jews who sit astride most of the channels of communication, and thereby encouraging an irrational hatred of Jews – that makes you a bigot.”

In October 1977, after Carter responded to critics of his administration’s decision to convene a U.S.-Soviet conference on the Middle East by claiming he’d accomplished a diplomatic miracle of sorts because the Soviet Union up till then had “never recognized the right of Israel to exist,” Safire, normally a man with little positive to say about the Soviets, took the ignoramus to school:

Not only has the Soviet Union repeatedly recognized the right of Israel to exist, the Soviets were the first to recognize the state of Israel…. Through two breaks in diplomatic relations, the Soviets have continued to recognize Israel as a state, and therefore its “right to exist.”… How, in light of 30 years’ continuous recognition, and with hundreds of Soviet restatements of Israel’s right to exist, could President Carter say “they have never recognized the right of Israel to exist”?Okay. Now the Official Correctors will explain that, um, you see, the president “misspoke.” But he does not misspeak; he misthinks. His foot is not so much in his mouth as in his mind. Mr. Carter really believes he has bargained the Soviets into recognizing Israel’s existence.

Despite his status as the Times’s House Conservative, Safire was politically unpredictable; his positions on social issues were significantly to the left of the Republican base and he supported Bill Clinton in the 1992 presidential election over the Republican incumbent, George Herbert Walker Bush.

Of course, Bush’s coolness toward Israel was a major factor in Safire’s defection. Safire never apologized for his support of Israel. Responding to criticism of his close relationship with former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, Safire once said, “I don’t feel the least bit ashamed or embarrassed about presenting [Sharon’s] views, because they are my views. Actually, mine are a little more hawkish.”

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/media-monitor/a-belated-appreciation/2009/11/04/

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