James Edward Johnson

my thoughts from right to left

Posts Tagged ‘history

The Ghetto … worse than the films.

leave a comment »

A Film Unfinished is showing now at the Bijou Theater at the University of Iowa.  The Israeli documentary covers the known and lost footage taken by the Nazis of the Warsaw Ghetto.

I saw it last night and it is a very powerful film that makes even those familiar with the Holocaust pause in consideration of the terror of Naziism … well before the Jews were sent to the gas chambers.

Here is a preview:

Go watch it at the Bijou … between now and Thursday.

Advertisements

Written by JamesEJ

Sunday, October 24, 2010 at 5:44 am

Some Muslims are not just “moderate” …

leave a comment »

… they are downright righteous. I met such a Muslim Arab man – Bedouin to be specific – on Thursday at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois.

Ishmael Khaldi works for the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, most recently as Deputy Consul in the San Francisco consulate.  He speaks for the Jewish state of Israel and being a Muslim is no barrier to that fact.

He spoke clearly about the threats to Israelis – all Israelis – emanating from Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the delegitimization campaign against Israel.  Whether it is Iran’s race for nuclear weapons or the Boycott Divest and Sanction movement, these threats are threats to Arabs and Jews and others in Israel and often elsewhere.

I have met few people who have so clearly expressed the case for the Jewish state and the common bond shared among many Israelis – Jew and Arab alike.  Most striking was his explanation of the work that many Bedouins did to help give birth to the Jewish state.  For, while Israel’s independence is often simply described as the cause of war between Jews and Arabs, Khaldi made clear that a sizeable number of Bedouins supported the pre-state Jewish community and the state of Israel.

His was a story not lost on those of us familiar with the long tradition of Druze assistance to the Jewish community.  Once one peels back the simple narratives, one sees the plural multiculturalism that defines Israel as not just a Jewish state, but also as a democratic and liberal one.  Khaldi is just one of many examples of that multicultural liberal reality.

Read more about Ishmael Khaldi and buy his book through his website or on Amazon.

Written by JamesEJ

Saturday, October 23, 2010 at 7:10 pm

How to Manipulate Maps

with one comment

Israel bashers often present a series of maps similar to the ones featured here that attempt to show the “loss of Palestinian land.”  Judged individually, each one is basically accurate.  But, in combination, the maps rely on shifting definitions, broad generalizations, and a lack of context to smear Israel.  They serve as examples of the willingness of opponents of Israel to promote falsehood to serve an agenda.

First Map

“Jewish land” = land purchased, owned, and inhabited by Jews.

“Palestinian land” = all land in the British Mandate except Jewish land as defined above.  The vast majority of this land is government public property controlled by the British.  Almost the entire southern half of the map is the Negev desert, where almost no one lived or owned property.  There are areas on this map, near Hebron for instance, owned by Jews who fled after the 1929 anti-Jewish riots.  There are other smaller plots of land where Jews lived. Those areas are marked here as “Palestinian land.”  Also included in the “Palestinian land” areas is land owned by the Druze Arabs.  Many Druze fought for Israeli independence in 1948.  Today, the Druze in Israel are full citizens who have elected to serve in the Israeli Defense forces on a compulsory basis.

Other Issues: The land is labeled “Palestine,” but it was formally recognized as the British Mandate of Palestine, a British protectorate carved out of the Ottoman Empire after WWI that had nothing to do with ethnic or other pre-existing boundaries.  During Ottoman times, there was no such area recognized simply as “Palestine.”

In 1946, Arabs in the British Mandate mostly regarded themselves simply as Arabs or as Syrians.  The word “Palestine” was identified more closely with the Jewish population of the British Mandate.

Conclusion: This map is created with a maximalist perspective of what was Arab or “Palestinian” and a minimalist perspective of what was Jewish. Words are used in the map to extend today’s concepts of “Palestinian” into a historical context where such concepts did not exist.  While using today’s terminology helps a modern reader understand the map, it also creates the impression of a historical continuity that misrepresents the reality of 1946.

Map2Second Map

“Jewish land” = all the land allocated by the UN to a Jewish majority state.  Much of it was, and continues to be, owned and inhabited by Arabs, Bedouin, and Druze.

“Palestinian land” = all the land allocated by the UN to an Arab majority state and the land allocated to an international area to be administered by the UN in and around Jerusalem.  Some of this area was owned and inhabited by Jews.  Several areas previously marked as “Jewish land” have disappeared, particularly between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and north of Haifa.

Other Issues: It is important to note that the Palestinians were led at this time by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.  The Mufti had been an ally of Hitler, pushed for the implementation of the Final Solution in the British Mandate, and sought to extend the Holocaust to Palestine.  No Jews would be able to remain in the areas marked as “Palestinian land.”  Many Arabs have been able to live in the areas marked as “Jewish land.”

The UN partition plan was never implemented.  The UN passed the plan.  The Jewish organizations accepted it, albeit reluctantly.  The Arab states and representatives rejected it and waged war on the Jews.

Conclusion: This map is less maximalist in that its principal omission is in regards to the status of Jerusalem.  Its bias appears most prominently in the context of why this map never represented reality.  The Arabs rejected this map, preferring instead to leave the division, or more likely total usurpation, of the land to the result of a war with the Jews.

Map3Third Map

“Israeli land” = land owned by Jews, Arabs and Druze, but under the control of the state of Israel.  Admittedly, it includes fewer Arabs than before the war.  Israel did not permit Arabs to return to Israel out of fear of further ongoing hostilities.

“Palestinian land” = land annexed by Jordan, marked as “West Bank,” and land occupied by Egypt, marked as “Gaza.”  The Arab states never created a Palestinian state in these areas.  The Jews who tried to remain in these areas were expelled after the war.  The Jordanians blew up the largest synagogue in Jerusalem, the Hurva, which had stood for centuries in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.

Other Issues: There is no context regarding how we got to this map.  Jews accepted the UN partition and the Arabs rejected it.  War ensued and Israel won additional territory.

The map makes the Palestinian Arab areas appear to be autonomous.  They are shaded differently than Jordan and Egypt.  However, Gaza remained an occupied territory of Egypt and the West Bank was annexed by Jordan.  In both Palestinian Arab areas, and other Arab countries, Arab refugees were segregated in permanent refugee camps.  Those camps exist today, nominally administered by a UN entity separate from the main UN refugee organization.  Nothing is on the map to denote these segregated areas.

Conclusion: This map accurately indicates the borders of Israel after 1948, but has shifted the definitions in such a way that overstate the “loss” of “Palestinian land.”  Many Israeli Arabs retained control of their land after 1948 and, under this map, their land is considered “lost.”

Fourth Map

“Israeli land” = land controlled by Israel that is not “Palestinian land” as defined below.

“Palestinian land” = land administered by the Palestinian Authority and patrolled by Palestinian Authority police forces.  All Jewish settlement, even on land purchased by Jews, is strictly prohibited in these areas.

Other Issues: The most significant defect in this map is that it leaves a 30-plus-year gap from the prior map.  In 1967, Israel captured the areas labeled “Palestinian land” in the previous map.  Prior to 1993, there was no Palestinian Authority or territory administered by Palestinian organizations.  There should be a map prior to this one that, using these definitions, would have no area marked as “Palestinian land.”  The areas marked as “Palestinian land” here are not land that Israel failed to capture or control.  It is land where Israel began to transfer authority to the Palestinian Arabs in the hope of creating an independent Palestinian Arab state.  Some versions of this map are for 2005 instead of 2000.  In that case, the whole of Gaza is marked as “Palestinian land,” thereby additionally failing to recognize full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

The second most significant defect in the map is that it completely ignores the fact that Israel captured the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt in 1967 and later completely withdrew all Jewish settlement from it in exchange for peace with Egypt.

In 1967, the Arab nations launched a war against Israel, and Israel won, capturing the Sinai, Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.  Israel controls the Golan Heights today.  The mapmaker has conveniently left out the Golan, which has never had a Palestinian Arab population.

Over time, the Dead Sea, the landlocked body of water on the map, had lost significant area due to evaporation and the southern section is now physically separate from the northern section. The failure to reflect this fact is simply sloppy mapmaking.

Conclusion: This map completes the distortion begun in the earlier maps.  It has taken us from maximalist Palestinian Arab claims to the land to a minimalist view of what Palestinian Arab land might be now.  In the process, it has erased the history of Israel returning land for peace.  It has manipulated Israeli efforts towards peace, the creation of Palestinian Arab administered areas, to appear as Israeli efforts to take Palestinian Arab lands.

Written by JamesEJ

Friday, September 24, 2010 at 12:54 am

Posted in israel

Tagged with , ,

The Atlantic covers Persian Jews in America.

leave a comment »

Cyrus the Great allowing Hebrew pilgrims to return to and rebuild Jerusalem

Cyrus the Great allowing Hebrew pilgrims to return to and rebuild Jerusalem

Jews can trace their history in Persia back at least 2,500 years to the time of Cyrus the Great, who restored the Jews to Jerusalem from Babylonian exile.  Sadly, in the last several decades, the Jews in Persia have been reduced to one tenth their previous size.  Most Jews fled Iran because of the rising antisemitism and persecution that accompanied the Islamic Revolution and went to Israel.  A very large number also fled to the United States.

The Atlantic’s Elizabeth Weingarten has an amazing piece discussing the recent history of Persian Jews in the United States.  Here is what she reports on Persian Jewish thought on the possibility of a military strike on Iran:

“Its very difficult for us,” explains Hooshang Nemat, the executive vice president of the Iranian American Jewish Federation of New York. “You dont want to see your nation destroyed, and you dont want to see a conflict between your country of birth and the country that you sympathize with because of religion and because of shared history.” Nemat, a 67-year-old Mashadi Jew an small, ancient group from the Iranian city of Mashad, came to America in 1961 as a student at the University of Miami. He returned to Iran in 1972, and came back to the United States because of the revolution.

Like Nemat, most Iranian American Jews are against a military strike on Iran — whether it is from Israel or from the United States. But while theyd prefer a diplomatic solution, others say they would still support Israel in defending itself against a virulently anti-Semitic, and potentially dangerous, regime. Sam Kermanian, the former secretary general of the Iranian American Jewish Federation, believes that an Israeli strike “would be viewed as a justifiable act of defense,” adding that “the reaction of the Iranian American Jewish community wont be much different than the reaction of the majority of the people of Iran, who view the current regime as oppressive, and in conflict with the interests of the people of Iran.”

via Iranian Jews in America: Torn Between Homelands – International – The Atlantic.

This is just a small sample of what Weingarten shares.  The entire piece is worth reading and provides valuable insight on the views of religious minorities from Iran.

cross-posted at The View From Damavand

Written by JamesEJ

Wednesday, September 1, 2010 at 2:23 am

The lynching of Leo Frank.

leave a comment »

Leo and Lucille Frank during his trial, 1915

Leo and Lucille Frank during his trial, 1915

Jews have it pretty good in the United States.  Indeed, it is the only place where large numbers of Jews have lived as a minority with equal rights  and without having faced genocide or ethnic cleansing.

Even so, Jews have had reason to fear persecution in America.  General Ulysses Grant issued his infamous General Order 11 in 1862, expelling all the Jews of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky.   It was revoked within one month – after President Lincoln ordered its revocation.

Even today, hate crimes are disproportionately perpetrated on the basis of an anti-Jewish bias.  Only anti-gay bias is more disproportionate as a motivation for hate crimes in the US.

But, perhaps the worst (certainly the most notorious) hate crime perpetrated against a Jew in the US was the lynching of Leo Frank, 95 years ago today.

Frank was a pencil manufacturer in Atlanta and was accused of murdering a young girl who was an employee at his factory.  He was convicted in a show trial and sentenced to death.  Reports of the trial describe antisemitic outbursts in the courtroom.  There is little doubt that the conviction was the result of an antisemitic animus and that exculpatory evidence was ignored in the trial.

The governor of Georgia commuted Frank’s sentence to life in prison.  In an unsuccessful attempt on his life, Frank’s throat was slit by another inmate.

A group that would later form the (second) Ku Klux Klan began openly planning the lynching of Frank.  Dozens of people were involved.  They went to the jail where he was being held, removed him, and drove him in a motorcade 150 miles to near the home town of the murdered girl.  There he was hanged before a large crowd of onlookers.  No one was charged with his murder.

Frank’s lynching led to many things.  The perpetrators re-established the Ku Klux Klan.  Jews established the Anti-Defamation League.  Half of Georgia’s Jews fled the state.

Thankfully, no Jew has been lynched in America in the interceding 95 years.

Written by JamesEJ

Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 5:30 pm

The Kurds were good to Jews and so …

leave a comment »

I have always been a supporter of the Kurdish people, their right to establish a state, and our obligation (as Americans, Jews, etc.) to help them.  I did not, however, always know about the unique debt that we Jews owe to the Kurds.  Last week, The Jerusalem Post illuminated my understanding:

We have a moral and a historic debt to the Kurdish people in all the geographic regions in which they live, especially the Kurdish community in Iraq. Following the riots, pogroms and harsh conditions that Iraqi Jews were exposed to, since the founding of the State of Israel and even before, it was the Kurdish people who helped Jewish families escape from Iraq to Turkey, and from there to reach the Land of Israel.

via Where is our gratitude to the Kurdish people? – The Jerusalem Post.

Particularly at this time, when Iran is making itself into a pariah and Turkey is moving away from the West, we have an obligation to reciprocate the support we have received from the Kurds.   Just as the Jews were stateless, so too are the Kurds stateless.  Many of them need our support both in Kurdistan and among their diaspora.  We should do more to establish and maintain diplomacy with them and for them.  Read the rest of the piece at The Jerusalem Post.

Written by JamesEJ

Saturday, July 17, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Posted in international

Tagged with , , , ,

Satloff’s ‘Among the Righteous’ – bookletized.

leave a comment »

I am a fan of Robert Satloff’s book, Among the Righteous.  It provides an important opening into a serious discussion of the history of the Jewish experience in Muslim lands.  A booklet promoting such ideas, therefore, is a good idea in my opinion.

However, as Bataween, over at Point of no return points out:

Laudable though this initiative is, one cannot help feeling misgivings. As Lyn Julius wrote in her review of Robert Satloff’s book, Satloff has himself failed to convey a sense of the almost universal tide of sympathy the Arab world felt for the Nazis. Between 150,000 and 300,000 Muslims fought on the side of the Axis. The scholar Jeffrey Herf has researched the huge impact of Nazi propaganda on the mostly illiterate Arab World.

via Point of no return: Booklet on Muslim Holocaust heroes can mislead.

Bataween’s point is well taken.  If you are unfamiliar with this viewpoint, subscribe to Point of no return.  It, more than any other blog, is an excellent resource for understanding oppression and loss suffered by Jews in Muslim lands.

Written by JamesEJ

Wednesday, July 7, 2010 at 8:30 am