Sunday, May 22, 2011

Nakba Nonsense

Just as Israel is physically surrounded by hostile regimes, one can’t open a website, turn a news page or flip a channel without it getting attacked in the media.

While Israel was being infiltrated by angry mobs crossing into its territory on May 15th in “Nakba” protests (Nakba, or calamity in Arabic, when Israel was reborn) from across the Syrian, Lebanon and Gaza borders, it’s publicly criticized by Jewish intellectuals, writers aligned with left-leaning politics and high-profile celebrities.

This month, in a reversal of misfortune, Tony-Award winning playwright Tony Kushner, who was at first barred from receiving an honorary degree from CUNY due to his stance on Israel is now set get one. Yet, in his letter of protest to the CUNY board, he writes, “I believe that the historical record shows, incontrovertibly, that the forced removal of Palestinians from their homes as part of the creation of the state of Israel was ethnic cleansing.”

It’s not just from outside the perimeter of Israel, that it’s equated with terminology usually reserved for the most abhorrent regimes. From within Israel, Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy writes, “Were Israel a little more confident…all schools in Israel, Jewish and Arab alike, would today mark Nakba Day.”

One is reminded of Akiva’s saying, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” For a non-Jewish outsider to look in they must wonder, “Why support Israel when even the Jews are so vehemently critical?” Indeed, being critical of Israel is one thing, but portraying Israel’s birth as a “Nakba” is a dangerous misreading of history as CAMERA points out.

Yet like so many Big Lies, it’s believed when repeated over and over again. What’s omitted is that in 1948 a Palestinian state could have been fulfilled, but instead Palestinian Arabs rejected it and Israel was attacked. As historian Benny Morris notes, “the Palestinian Arab leaders, headed by the exiled chief and Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and ally of Hitler, Hajj Amin al Husayni, rejected partition and launched a three-day general strike, accompanied by a wave of anti-Jewish terrorism in the cities and on the roads.”

Another lie by omission is how nothing is ever mentioned about the disaster suffered by the Jews expelled from Arab states, and especially from Egypt, Iraq, and Syria. As Professor Ada Aharoni of the World Jewish Congress points out; Egypt’s Jewish community comprised 90,000 Jews in 1948. Today, only 38 Jews live there. Yet, the Arabs (who prefer to call themselves Palestinians) who live in Israel today constitute 20% of the population.

The noose of hostility surrounding Israel is further exacerbated by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas when he created an alliance with Iran-backed Hamas, a terrorist group that refuses to accept Israel’s existence and has fired over 328 rockets and mortars at Israel’s civilians according to The Israel Project. In September, he’ll seek unilateral recognition of a Palestinian State in front of the UN. Yet were Abbas to have his way, the so-called right of return would bring an estimated 4.8 million Palestinian refugees and descendants to Israel. The result of such an action would ensure an ethnic cleansing—of Jews in Israel.

I suggest that the “Nakba” protests have nothing to do with the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but are in reality in existential opposition of Israel as a Jewish State—in any form.

But why believe the pro-Israel press and Jewish organizations dedicated to understanding the truth behind the news? Just tune into Al Aqsa TV and you will find Yunis al Astal, a member of the Palestinian Authority parliament, spelling out his organization’s vision for the genocidal annihilation of the Jewish people. In a television interview last week Al Astal described the ingathering of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel in terms of a divine plan that would give the Arabs “the honor” of annihilating “the evil of this gang.”

Better yet, read your history of the Jews and then ask, “Do we still have to wonder what is actually being planned?”

Demystifying Eichmann

Tuesday May 17, 2011

Finally, on the 50th anniversary of the Eichmann trial, historian Deborah Lipstadt has taken an analytical approach, demystifying this seminal moment in 20th century court history with her book, "The Eichmann Trial."

For fifty-years, the term, “banality of evil” has been part of the political and cultural lexicon, due to Hannah Arendt’s famous book describing the trial of Adolf Eichmann, “Eichmann in Jerusalem.”

Now through scrupulous research, Lipstadt’s insightful book reveals facts that had been overlooked and exposes opinions that became lore.

No stranger to either the subject of the Holocaust (she was a consultant on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum), or court trials related to it, (she successfully won her case against Holocaust denier David Irving and authored a book on the subject, “History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier.”) Her new book describes the capture, trial and worldwide response to it; the latter with a particular focus on Arendt.

In laying the groundwork in her introduction, while she draws comparisons to her own trial and Eichmann’s, their main commonality being a deeply rooted anti-Semitism, she is careful to make distinctions. In the Eichmann trial the Nazi was the defendant and survivors were called as witnesses to testify. In her own trial, the burden of proof was on her.

Importantly, her greatest contribution is in proving that Eichmann was not the “order-taker” he claimed and that Arendt portrayed him as, but that he was responsible to “ensure that the freight cars should be used to their maximum capacity.” Additionally she reveals transcripts not used in the trial to show that in Hungary, even in the face of Allied bombardment of rail stations, he resolved to “still march” the Jews to the lower Austrian border.

Equally significant is her exposure of Arendt’s detached, phenomenological approach to the trial where it was, “the transformation of seemingly normal people into killers” that intrigued her. Beyond emotional detachment, Lipstadt also points out how Arendt was in fact physically absent for several weeks of the trial vacationing in Basel.

Beyond this, another of the more significant changes that the trial stylistically bore was the term, “Holocaust.” She writes, it was “cemented into the lexicon of the non-Hebrew-speaking population.”

On that note, while the media in 1961 had nowhere near the lightning speed and utter ubiquity it possesses today, the term “Holocaust” had been on the front pages of newspapers and created a focus and attention previously unseen.

The trial also provided worldwide interest in a new field of study giving birth to countless academic institutions now offering genocide and Holocaust studies.

But perhaps the most profound effect was…

“…as a result of the trial, the story of the Holocaust, though it had previously been told, discussed, and commemorated, was heard anew, in a profoundly different way, and not just in Israel but in many parts of the Jewish and non-Jewish world. The telling may not have been entirely new, but the hearing was.”

On this, her book comes at a crucial time, when through the lens of the internet and 'Do-It-Yourself ' media reporting, fact and fiction frequently blur. Lipstadt summons a razor sharp perspective, clearly and incisively delineating the two and setting the historical record straight.