Monday, April 28, 2014

Trivializing the Shoah and Fabricating an African "Holocaust"


    Trivializing the Shoah and Fabricating an African "Holocaust"


By Steven Plaut


   In recent decades a new trend of Holocaust trivialization has developed.  While not quite as obscene as Holocaust Deniers claiming that the Holocaust was all some sort of hoax, these fabricators are morally the next best thing.  They claim that the Holocaust of Jews by the Nazis may have been quite horrific but it pales in magnitude when compared with the "other Holocausts" of even greater dimensions.  And increasingly the "other Holocaust" to which they point is the "genocide" of Africans in the slave trade. 


   After all, argue the "other Holocaust" propagandists, in World War II there were "only" six million Jews murdered, but a far larger number of Africans were murdered as part and parcel of the slave trade.  Such pseudo-historic nonsense has been repeated so often that it is finding its way into mainstream textbooks and media.  Even Israeli leftist columnists are citing the "African Holocaust," illustrated by one column I cited earlier this week by a radical hater of his own country.


      The "African Holocaust Lobby" likes to toss out numbers purportedly estimating the population killed during the African slave trade, starting at around 10 million and often going as high as 60 million.  This allows the Holocaust trivializers to dismiss demands that the Jewish Shoah be commemorated, since it was "only one sixth" the magnitude of the "African genocide."    


     The "60 million" number appears to have been originally invented by American Afrofascists, militant black racists and race hucksters.  The number however has been repeated so often that it is showing up in books and media.  Consider "Critical Pedagogy and Cognition: An Introduction to a Postformal Educational Psychology," written by a psychologist, Curry Malott, Springer Publishers, 2011.  Malott is no historian and certainly no demographer, yet he speaks about 60 million Africans killed in the "slave trade genocide."  A more widely cited book referring to the "60 million" is one by a pseudo-historian at the University of Hawaii, one David Stannard, Professor of American Studies,  in his book American Holocaust (published 1992 by Oxford University Press).  He estimates a 75-80% mortality rate in slave trade transit to come up with his number.


   So what are we to make of all this?  Let us begin by pointing out how absurd the claims about a 60 million victim African genocide are.  The number not only exceeds the total number of Africans enslaved (not just those sold in the American colonies and then the US) by a factor of six.  Indeed, the 60 million number exceeds the entire population of sub-Sahara Africa in the 18th century, when the slave trade was at its height.  In Concise Economic History of the World by R. Cameron, it is estimated that the entire population of the African continent in 1800 was about 90 million people, but a large portion of those were non-black people living in the Arab areas of North Africa.  That leaves the entire sub-Saharan population at less than the fictional 60 million "genocide victims" supposedly murdered in the slave trade.


       So while it is simple poppycock to toss around numbers like 60 million as estimates of the human cost of the slave trade, just how many Africans were really intentionally murdered as part of the slave trade?   The answer is - almost none.


       Now nothing here is meant to diminish the suffering and human tragedy of slavery in the era of slave trading.   I have no desire to excuse or minimize the horrors of trafficking in and ownership of slaves, nor of the commodification of humans as chattel and property.    


        All I am demanding is the use of common sense.  Once a human has been turned into property, then all of the incentives and economic behavior associated with all forms of property ownership kick in.  The simple fact of the matter is that once an African was enslaved, and no doubt some violence was involved in the capture of those slaves in Africa, then that African became property, an asset, something of pecuniary value, something worth preserving.  The owners of that property, and this includes the slave traders and shippers, had enormous motivation to preserve and protect the value of that property!  Ironically, this is what saved the lives of those slaves.  A live slave could be worth a fortune, while a dead slave was worth nothing.  While slave owners hardly had reason to treat their slaves with respect and dignity, neither did they have any reason to see their slaves maimed or killed.  Such injury and death represented a tremendous capital loss!  


     Slave ship owners had as much motive to preserve intact their cargoes of human property as they would for any other cargo.  No ship owner would intentionally allow cargoes of gold, silver, whale oil, molasses, or tobacco to be damaged or harmed, and the same selfish property preservation motivation operated for slaves.  Once purchased in slave auctions, the slave represented a capital investment, one whose loss would impose financial losses on its owners. 


     This is not to say that no slaves at all died during the transit from Africa to the Americas.  Cross-oceanic voyages were dangerous during the era of the slave trade, and deaths during those voyages were a clear and present danger for all, and not just the slaves.  Free persons immigrating to the Americans from Europe were also at risk during the voyages.  If anything, ship owners had more motivation to protect the bodies and health of the slave cargo than they did for simple ticket-holding passengers. 


     The life of a slave was one of misery and suffering.  But  once in slavery in the Americas, the property value of the slave continued to protect him from death and serious injury.   In the books by Thomas Sowell, it is described how plantation owners and other owners of slaves would employ Irish day laborers to do the really dangerous tasks, preferring not to risk their "property" in the form of African slaves. 


      From the perspective of the 21th century, none of this takes away any of our sense of horror at the sufferings of slaves during the era of the slave trade.   Some Africans were no doubt murdered in the process of capturing slaves, controlling slaves, and others died as a result of the hazards of oceanic shipment.  Medical knowledge and technology were of the most primitive form, and on-ship conditions were quite miserable.  Death was common for all aboard ships, and I have seen estimates that in some of the more famous exploration trips, over a third of the crews died of disease and starvation.


    But genocide?  An African "Holocaust"?   There was no such thing.    


    The fabricators of the fictional "African slave-trade Holocaust" may be driven by an urge to exaggerate the sufferings of the slave era in order to make a moral or political point.   A bit like the myriad forms of "advocacy statistics" that plague the modern world regarding so many other "causes" and issues.  But the truly malignant effect of the fabricators is to serve to trivialize the only real Holocaust.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Holocaust Remembrance Day at Haaretz



Holocaust Remembrance Day at Haaretz, the Palestinian newspaper printed in Hebrew:


Haaretz April 26, 2014 runs an Op-Ed article by one Omri Ben Yehuda, a doctoral candidate at the Hebrew University (in "comparative Jewish literature," whatever that is) and a radical homosexual anti-Israel activist.   There he writes, inter alia:


'When we compare the Holocaust to other events, we not only abandon our posturing as the eternal victim but even more importantly enter the stance as humans, as people required to think, choose and make determinations.  … When the Jew ceases to be ONLY a Jew, becoming partly a Turk, partly an Arab, and even sometimes a Nazi, he himself as a Jew becomes a participant.  Moreover, many researchers have noted in recent years the comparability between traumas in a multi-cultural society, in which there is also room for the Holocaust of the Jews, such as by comparing it with the Holocaust of black people in America and the Holocaust of the Arabs in 1948.  The proper role of the genocide of the Jews is not to dismiss the Holocausts of other peoples but rather to cope with the connections to those Holocausts…'


If you would like to let the heads of the Hebrew University know what you think of all this, write to




President of the Hebrew University

Prof. Menachem Ben-Sasson


The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem 91905

Tel. 02-6584143, 02-5881905

Fax. 02-5811023

Rector of the Hebrew University
Prof. Sarah Stroumsa


The Hebrew University of Jerusalem 
Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem 91905 
Telephone: 02-6719698, 02-5883676

Hebrew University "Friends of" Offices:



Yom Ha-Shoah and the Coming Era of Treason in Israel



Holocaust Remembrance Day begins in Israel in a few hours. 


It is hard to believe that for the past two decades the national policy of Israel has been to seek to achieve peace by rewarding Palestinian fascists whose highest desire in this world is to see a second Holocaust perpetrated upon the Jews.  Israeli policy has been to pretend to wean these barbarians from their plans for a Final Solution by granting them recognition, funds, arms, and the right to set up their own state.  The results are apparent for all to see.


If that is hard enough to believe, then even harder is the wave of treason that has enveloped the Radical Left in Israel and in the Jewish world in general.  The radical Left long ago ceased to operate as a movement of juvenile naiveté.  It was once a movement in which shallow posturing and utopian dementia displaced rational thought.  Today the Radical Left more and more openly identifies with Israel's genocidal enemies.  It more and more openly opposes Israeli sovereignty, democracy and freedom of speech in the country.  The Radical Israeli Left, led by the tenured Left, openly endorses aggression and terrorism against the citizens of its own country, particularly in the form of endorsements for BDS warfare against Israel.  Growing numbers of radical Leftists endorse terrorist atrocities against Israeli Jews, and not "only" in "settlements."   The article by Martin Sherman, reprinted in full below, expounds on this theme and is worth reading.    


I am an economist and, as such, need to be more cautious and reluctant than others in making predictions about the future (given the dismal track record of economist forecasting.)   Nevertheless, I occasionally give in to temptation.  About 15 years ago I predicted that the Israeli Left would adopt "Israel is an Apartheid Regime" as its slogan and mantra.  At the time no one in Israel was speaking about "apartheid," and my prediction was dismissed as deranged paranoia.  Well, today it is all but impossible to find a radical Israeli leftists who is NOT proclaiming Israel an apartheid regime.   


Hours before Yom Ha-Shoah, I would like to be indulged in making a new prediction.  It too will strike you as deranged paranoia.  So be it.


I believe that the next time a war breaks out between Israel and the Arabs, groups of Israeli leftists will participate in the war on the side of the Arabs.  Like "Taliban John" in the US, they will join the war efforts of the enemies of Israel against their own country.   And they will not limit their aggression to "pacific resistance."  Some will take up arms against their own country.


If that sounds to you completely insane, then consider the fact that there have already been attempts by the Radical Left to aid Arab terrorism and aggression against Israel and to interfere with the military operations of Israel and the IDF.  The radical Left is completely opposed to self-defense for Jews.   In the last campaign by Israel in Gaza, radical leftists set up barriers blocking the entrance into an air force base in Tel Aviv to prevent Israeli air crews from operating.  (You can see a report about that here:  

In countless other incidents, radical leftists held protests opposing all use of the military by Israel to end rocket and other terrorist attacks against Jews.  Leftists have also issued a series of calls for Israelis to refuse to serve in the military altogether.   Radical Leftists have denounced Israeli military operations against the terrorists as "war crimes" ever since 1982, when the radical Left took to the streets during the first Lebanese war to oppose Israel defending its civilians.  Led by Shulamit Aloni and Yossi Sarid, the protesters denounced Begin and Sharon as fascists and as war criminals.  Radical Leftists have for years engaged in violence in the attacks by the "anarchists" against Israeli soldiers and police operating in the West Bank.


True, the radical Left has generally not taken up arms against Israel (yet), with only a few exceptions, such as the Udi Adiv espionage ring of the 1970s and the Tali Fahima treason.  I believe that the squeamish "pacifism" of the anti-Israel Left will end.  I believe that radical Leftists from Israel will join the jihadis and pogromchiks in the next Arab-Israeli war, and will fight against their own country.  


Treason is becoming the raison d'etre of the radical Left.  Anti-Semitism is growing as its most prominent calling card.  Growing numbers of leftists call openly for suppression of democratic processes in Israel, in frustration at their failure to persuade more than a tiny handful of Israelis of the correctness of their "ideas" and agenda.  If Israelis are too stubborn to accept the agenda of the radical Left, then the radical Left will call upon its anti-Israel allies from around the world to coerce Israelis into accepting it, using force and sanctions.  And the leftist crusade against freedom of speech for non-leftists grows in intensity by the day.


Into the fray: Mainstreaming treason?


How long will we, as a society, tolerate the proactive propagation of harebrained, hazardous hallucinations-irrespective of how demonstratively detrimental they are to the security of the state & safety of its citizens?



The real question is not whether the Palestinians are willing to accept some semantic formula having to do with the Jewish state, but whether they are ready to accept the Jewish state itself. This question is raised in all its gravity by the Palestinian demand for a "right of return" to Israel for the Palestinian refugees of 1948 and their descendants... Israel can live without any semantic recognition of the Jewish state, but not with this demand… Is the Palestinians' current position their final word? The only way to put this to the test is by submitting a peace plan that would offer the Palestinians a viable state on the basis of the 1967 lines, with a right of return to the Palestinian state, but not to Israel. Because the present Israeli government will not produce such a plan, the United States should.

– Alexander Yakobson, "Jewish state – Semantics versus the real thing," The Jerusalem Post, April 17.

Don't you get it? They don't want peace. They want victory. We should want the same. 

– JPost reader "rebaaron" in a talkback to Yakobson's article.

This is not an article for those weak of stomach. It approaches bluntly – some might say brutally – most searing issue of today, one that threatens to rip apart the fabric of Israeli society. However, the topic must be broached boldly, without allowing the niceties of politically correct protocol to blur the issues.

The legitimate limits on free speech 

It has been a long accepted principle in the most democratic of nations that the right to free speech is neither unconditional nor unconstrained. This is especially true when such nations find themselves in a state of belligerency.

Thus, in the seminal ruling in Schenck v. US, justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. articulated the unanimous opinion of the US Supreme Court: "When a nation is at war, many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight, and that no court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right."

In a later case, Abrams v. US, in a minority dissenting opinion, Holmes essentially endorsed his previous position – although in contrast to the Schenck case, he argued against the prosecution of the plaintiffs. With justice Louis Brandeis concurring, he wrote: "I never have seen any reason to doubt that the questions of law that alone were before this court in the cases of Schenck [et al.] were rightly decided. I do not doubt for a moment that by the same reasoning that would justify punishing persuasion to murder, the United States constitutionally may punish speech that produces or is intended to produce a clear and imminent danger that it will bring about forthwith certain substantive evils that the United States constitutionally may seek to prevent."

Legitimate limits (cont.) 

In a 7,000-word study, "Media and National Security"( 2006), that I co-authored with Shabtai Shavit, former director of the Mossad, we pointed out that "although this [the Abram] opinion is commonly cited as a landmark, constituting 'the starting point in modern judicial concern for free expression,' it nevertheless recognized… that governments have the right – indeed duty - to restrict and even punish certain forms of expression, should they herald in 'substantive evils' which merit prevention."

We were at pains "to underscore that the raison d'être invoked for the curtailment of free expression in democratic societies is not founded on the conviction that the incumbent regime has… a monopoly on the truth – and thus all dissenting opinion should be suppressed as inadmissible falsehood. Rather it is based on the concern that freedom may be abused and exploited to harm the democratic collective, and the freedoms it stands for."

It is this potential abuse of individual rights and freedoms that may imperil collective freedoms and rights which comprises the major thrust of the ensuing discussion – in which, I should stress, the opinions expressed are mine alone, and should not be attributed to my esteemed co-author.

Debating when dissidence becomes disloyal 

In the past two decades, free speech in Israel has run wildly out of control.

For some time, the kind of policies propagated by leading public figures far exceed the bounds of what a rational society can condone as conforming to any commonsense constraints of national loyalty.

A particularly grievous example of this insidious intellectual impropriety featured recently in the iEngage series of articles, which are produced by scholars of the Shalom Hartman Institute and frequently appear in the Post's opinion section, as well as on the institute's website.

This was a piece, "Jewish state – Semantics versus the real thing," by Hartman's Alex Yakobson. It asserted, rightly, that Israel cannot live with the Palestinian demand for "right of return" and the potential influx of millions of Palestinian-Arabs into its pre-1967 borders.

However, according to Yakobson, explicit Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state "is not a real deal-breaker."

He claims this is something that Israel could forgo; and by means of contorted and convoluted semantic "gymnastics," some "mutually acceptable formula can be found." This would permit the Palestinians to refrain from overtly conceding that Israel (even in its pre-1967 configuration) is the nation-state of the Jewish people – provided that, substantively, any "right of return" is restricted to a Palestinian state established in the areas across the pre-1967 lines.

I will elaborate on why I find this Yakobson article so pungently offensive, and why it tests the limits of loyalty, a little later. However at this juncture, allow me a short legalistic digression.

Time to reinstate the 'T-word'?

Ever since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, and its cynical exploitation death by the proponents of political appeasement and territorial concessions, any honest discussion of what comprises disloyalty to the State of Israel has been viciously repressed. Any hints of raising for public debate the question of how far-reaching the willingness to accommodate (read "surrender to") enemy demands can be tolerated before it violates accepted/ acceptable bounds, has been delegitimized as dangerous incitement.

This has created the impression that virtually nothing, however preposterous and pernicious, can be classified as treasonous, which obscures the fact that in today's penal code, there are at least seven clauses that deal with the issue of treason (97 to 103) and refer to four offenses for which the death penalty can be imposed.

Significantly, this includes any act intended to remove territory from Israeli sovereignty or transfer territory to an alien sovereignty – Clause 97, "Undermining the sovereignty and integrity of the State."

A detailed discussion of the applicability of implementation of these clauses has to await discussion elsewhere.

However, the very existence of such existing legislation is enough to establish the fact – especially given Israel's beleaguered position – that a vigorous and hard-nosed debate on the question of disloyalty to the state is far from beyond the pale.

Reckless endangerment or depraved indifference? 

The US legal system stipulates two related offenses, "reckless endangerment" and "depraved indifference."

Without engaging in scholarly debate regarding the legalistic differences between the two, it would be true to say, in informed layman's terms, that the defining characteristic common to both is that they each entails conduct, exhibiting a clear disregard for foreseeable consequences of the act involved, which creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury to others. Significantly, the focus in these offenses is on the risk created by such conduct, not the actual injuries resulting.

In his writings, Yakobson has repeatedly called for action strongly reminiscent of such behavior. Thus, in a previous iEngage op-ed, "How to deflate the settlements as an issue," (December 12, 2013), he wrote: "The future peace treaty will draw a border between two independent states [and] should recognize the right of those Jews who will find themselves on the Palestinian side of the border to continue living there – as a minority under Palestinian sovereignty."

Yet elsewhere, he shows that he is well aware of the lethal consequences of his prescription: "…It is true that precedents for Jews living under Arab sovereignty, in the decades since Israel's independence, are not encouraging: No Jewish community has been able to survive anywhere in the Arab world."

So might not one be well excused for believing that, whatever the sentiments in his heart, Yakobson's proposal, in effect, comprises a call for conduct that displays clear disregard for foreseeable consequences of the act involved, creating a substantial risk of serious injury to others.

Reckless endangerment? Depraved indifference? 

'Clear and present danger' 

Yakobson's proposal to abandon Jews to alien sovereignty of course comprises a grotesque inversion of Zionist ideals, which always strove to achieve the opposite – bringing Jews to live under Jewish sovereignty. His latest article takes this manifestly misguided myopia even further.

The kind of policy prescription proposed by Yakobson, if adopted would certainly constitute a highly probable "clear and present danger" to the security of the state and its citizens – even within the pre-1967 lines.

For, what kind of reality would Yakobson's proposal probably expose the country and its citizens to? He would create a mega-Gaza adjacent to Israel's most heavily populated area, along a front of around 400 km.

(almost 10 times that of Gaza). But as opposed to the situation in the South, these territories completely dominate the entire Coastal Plain lying utterly exposed below it, and comprise the overwhelming bulk of Israel's urban centers, economic activity and vital infrastructure installations.

All of these – including countless kindergartens – would be in range of weapons being used today from areas evacuated in the past and transferred to Palestinian administration.

There is, of course, no way Yakobson can ensure control of the outcome of his proposal for any length of time.

Even in the unlikely event – now even more unlikely following the rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas – that some Palestinian partner could be found, who would undertake, in good faith, to execute the agreement, there is little chance that his incumbency could be maintained.

Accordingly, the purported sincerity of any Palestinian cosignatory to his envisaged agreement is irrelevant. For there is little Israel can do to prevent his replacement, by bullet or ballot, by a more inimical successor, who would renege on his predecessor's "perfidious capitulation to the Zionist invader/usurper." The very agreement itself might be the rationale for his removal.

Even if right of return is restricted...

Yakobson's willingness to accept the right of return into the vacated territories is hopelessly short-sighted – or worse, willfully unmindful of the consequences it would unavoidably precipitate.

Even if a fraction of the Palestinian diaspora, anomalously classified as "refugees," were to return to the putative Palestinian state, the consequences are liable to be intolerable for Israel and entail an intolerable strain on the stability on the nascent micro-mini state that he envisages.

The effects of trans-frontier problems, such as sewage, pollution, excessive exploitation of aquifers, would be overwhelming. Unemployment, social instability and political turmoil would almost surely ensue. Not only will all this gravely destabilize the purportedly pro-peace Palestinian regime, but all that would separate Israel from these nightmare realities would be a thin strip of concrete and barbed wire fences, i.e., the much maligned "security barrier."

The economic differential created by a GDP per capita approaching $40,000 on one side and little more than $1,000 on the other side would create irresistible pressure for massive infiltration into Israel – as along the US/Mexican border. Only here the migrants will have far greater incentives.

Undermining national sovereignty 

Yakobson is proposing implementation of a policy that has failed consistently and catastrophically for almost a quarter century, incurring the murder and maiming of thousands upon thousands of his countrymen.

But, because Israel's democratically elected government has not been sufficiently submissive to Palestinian demands in adopting such a perilous and imprudent policy, Yakobson suggests that it be promoted (read "imposed") by the US administration – whose misunderstanding and incompetence regarding the political realities in the international system in general, and the Mideast in particular, have been starkly apparent for at least a decade.

If this recommendation to have a disastrously disproven policy imposed on his own government by an inept alien entity does not constitute a clear and present danger to Israeli national security, it's difficult to think what does.

The trenchant question that remains is: How long will we, as a society, continue to tolerate, not only the articulation but the proactive propagation of harebrained, hazardous hallucinations, no matter how clearly detrimental to the national security of the state and the physical safety of its citizens, before they are accorded the public outrage and societal opprobrium they so richly deserve? 

Martin Sherman ( is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Swastika Passport




The Swastika Passport


By Steven Plaut



The story of Yaakov Frommer, his Swastika Passport, and the personal intervention by Winston Churchill is told in the weekly magazine "Matzav Ruach," which is one of the pamphlets distributed in Israel through synagogues on the sabbath.  It is not available online.  I am about to summarize the story in my words, although nothing is original here and I am simply paraphrasing the story as it appears in the pamphlet. 


In the 1930s the Frommer family lived in Haifa.  The father was Dov Frommer, who - with his wife - had made aliyah to Eretz Israel in 1935 from Olkusz, a small town in southern Poland.  He lived with his wife Leah Rosa and their two small sons.


In 1939, Leah Rosa felt an irresistible yearning to return for a visit to her home town in Poland, to see her family there.   She decided to take her two sons with her.  She was in the early stages of pregnancy.  They sailed from Mandatory Palestine, that is, the British-ruled colony in Eretz Israel, arriving in Danzig, the German port city on Poland's Baltic coast.  It was after the Munich accord, and after the German aggression against Czechoslovakia.   It was also smack in the middle of the days of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, when Hitler and Stalin were plotting to conquer and divide Poland between themselves.   Leah Rosa felt safe, since she was travelling on British papers.  As residents of Mandatory Palestine, they were citizens of the British Empire, and Great Britain was not yet at war.


It was only four days after the mother and children reached Olkusz when the Nazis invaded Poland.  Hours later Britain declared war and the family was marooned in the heart of the territory in which the Holocaust would reach its most horrific dimensions.  There were no ways in or out. 


The father of the family, Dov, began a feverish campaign of letter writing with the British authorities to try to win the release of his family in what was now German-annexed Polish territory, in essence part of the Third Reich.  The months dragged on.   Leah Rosa gave birth there to her third son, naming him Yaakov.  But the situation was deteriorating and getting more desperate.  The Jews of Olkusz were ordered to wear yellow stars and move into a part of the town that would serve as a ghetto.


In 1940 a glimmer of hope appeared on the horizon.  There were numerous civilians from the British Empire that were stranded in the territories conquered by Germany, but there were also German civilians in the British Empire.  In particular, "Palestine" held a large population of German "Templers."  These were German Protestant pietists who had migrated to "Palestine" in the 19th century and set up several colonies, including in Haifa, Jaffa, and Jerusalem.  In the 1930s many of these became devoted Nazis and, bizarre as it sounds, there were pro-Nazi marches complete with swastikas and Heil Hitlers on the streets of Israeli cities, organized by these Germans. 


Negotiations began for exchanges of the stranded civilians of the two sides.  The US, still a neutral power, aided the efforts.   In particular, a deal was in the offing for an exchange of German Templer civilians, mainly women and children, for civilians from Mandatory Palestine in Poland.  


There was a snag however.  While Leah Rosa and her two older sons were citizens of the British Empire, having been born in "Palestine," the youngest child, Yaakov, was not.  He had been born in German-annexed Poland and the Germans were unwilling to acknowledge him as a British national.  He was also not a Polish national, since Poland had ceased to exist.


The father back in Haifa was conducting frantic correspondence with the authorities in London.  Somewhat incredibly, Winston Churchill himself took a personal interest in the family's plight and wrote to the father in his own handwriting.  (A photo of the letter appears in the Matzav Ruach pamphlet upon which I am relying.)   Fearing the barbarism that was clearly approaching, relatives in Poland urged Leah Rosa to take the two older boys and escape for freedom, leaving the baby in their care, but the mother would hear nothing of it.


Eventually a deal was reached under which the baby Yaakov, officially a citizen of German-ruled Poland, would be allowed to leave with the rest of his family.   Relatives in the Olkusz ghetto still felt relatively safe in those days, as the mass exterminations had not yet begun, and suggested to Leah Rosa that perhaps she might be better off staying there with them rather than going off to the backwaters of "Palestine" with its many dangers and acts of barbarism about which they had heard.


It was shortly after Pearl Harbor when the family were allowed to escape as part of the exchange of the stranded populations.  They reached Vienna, and from there took a ship down the Danube to the Bulgarian coast of the Black Sea, and from there reached home.  Baby Yaakov Frommer had been equipped with a special Nazi passport, issued by the Reich authorities in control of Poland.  It featured the Nazi eagle emblem and swastikas.  From its serial number, it was the very first passport issued by the Nazi authorities in Poland.   Yaakov made aliyah on a Nazi passport, complete with swastikas. 


Once reunited in Haifa, the family resumed life as normal.  Yaakov grew up to be an electronics technician.  His oldest brother became a scientist at the Weizmann Institute, specializing in water treatment.  The middle brother became an air force navigator, headed an air force training school, and was captured during the Yom Kippur war when his plane fell in Lebanon.   A fourth younger son was born later and became a well-known psychologist.   The father of the family was one of the founders of the religious neighborhood Kiryat Shmuel near Haifa and was a principal at its religious high school.  Four years ago, Leah Rosa passed away at the age of 98.


Baby Yaakov, today 74 years old, allowed the magazine to photograph his swastika passport.    



Monday, April 21, 2014

Two Fast Thoughts for Esra-Chag


Two Fast Thoughts for Esra-Chag (8th day of Passover outside Israel, Mimona for some inside Israel)


1.    You probably have all seen the news reports about the fox that infiltrated the grounds of the White House and has made its home there, seen wondering about. I could not help but be reminded of the words of the Prophet Jeremiah near the end of the Book of Lamentations about how a fox moving into an area signifies the presence of absolute devastation!


2.   I hope I am not stepping on anyone's sensitive toes with this comment, but you know how Obama's followers always like to claim he is the Savior and even like to compare him with Jesus? Well, it occurred to me that this may all be based on the fact that Jesus ALSO had some ambiguities on his OWN birth certificate (such as an unclear domicile address for when he was born and also the question about what to put in the Baby's Father space on the form?).  That seems to explain everything!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Archeological Find to Resolve Ancient Rabbinic Dispute?



    Archeological Find to Resolve Ancient Rabbinic Dispute?

By Steven Plaut




     Passover is a good time to "pass over" political matters for a brief hiatus and speak about less upsetting matters.   This past weekend, the Makor Rishon newspaper revealed one of the most fascinating stories in Israeli archeology, one that has intriguing implications for resolving an ancient Rabbinic controversy.


     The discovery involves an ancient tefillin box discovered in a cave near the Dead Sea, south of the better known area where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.  This is where a number of artifacts from the Bar Kochba rebellion against Rome were found.   The Bar Kochba revolt ended in failure, and the Romans murdered Rabbi Akiva in retaliation, as well as nine other leading sages and thousands of their religious students.  This is the tragedy that we mourn during the first 33 days of the Counting of the Omer, which just began this past Tuesday evening.


     But the significance of the tefillin box was only uncovered by Dr. Yonaton Adler, who teaches at Ariel University (yes, the one the Left is calling for dismantling and boycotting) and also at the Hebrew University. 


   Adler is an expert on antiquities, with special interest in ancient tefillin.  The tefillin or "phylacteries" are two boxes attached to straps that Jews don every morning during prayer.  They represent the manifestation and application of the Torah commandment to Jews to place the words of God as a sign on their arms and in between their eyes.  Standard tefillin contain four small reams (small scrolls) of parchment, papyrus, or paper in the box placed on the forehead, representing the four senses that are contained in the head, and a single ream in the box placed on the forearm, for the sense of touch.  Short portions from the Torah appear on each ream, the best known of which is the paragraph recited twice daily by Jews that follows the recitation of the proclamation Shma Yisrael.  Both the boxes and their straps are made of leather and dyed pitch black and the boxes are squares.


     A number of ancient tefillin have been uncovered in archeological digs, some going back even before the period in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were composed, meaning well before the period of the Talmud, indeed back to when the Second Temple was still standing and operating intact.


     While perusing artifacts held in the Israeli Antiquities Authority, Dr. Adler discovered the tefillin box I am about to describe.  It was actually uncovered in 1960 from a cave containing Bar Kochba era relics (132-136 AD) but was apparently put aside and forgotten in the Antiquities Authority, probably because no one understood its significance or even realized that it was a tefillin box.  The problem is that it does not look like any tefillin box any living person has ever seen. 


    First, it is incredibly small.  The size of tefillin boxes seems to follow its own trend in fashion.  A generation back the boxes were usually pretty modest, but in recent years the trend among observant Jews is to use much larger boxes, large enough to hold a plum.  The box uncovered near the Dead Sea and analyzed by Adler is tiny.  It is a head tefillin  box and the parchments inside are so tiny that the writing must have been done by someone with uncanny skills in miniaturization, something that today could only be accomplished using a computer and robot.  The box in question is so small that those who actually discovered it in the cave probably did not understand that it was a tefillin box at all.  Some other ancient tefillin boxes with tiny writing were previously uncovered and analyzed.  


    Second, the box uncovered by Adler is not square, as are all tefillin  used today.  It is rectangular.  In addition, while its ancient color long ago faded, it is clear that it was not originally dyed black, but perhaps tan or brown.       


     Most important of all is the fact that the tefillin in question is complete, containing all four reams encapsulated in any head tefillin box.  And as such it promises to resolve an ancient theological dispute among two of the greatest sages of the Middle Ages.


    The four passages from the Torah that must be written on the reams inserted into the head tefillin box are spelled out in the Talmud and are accepted by all streams of Judaism.  However there is a famous disagreement about the ORDER of the passages.  Standard tefillin boxes follow the opinion of Rashi.  Just who was Rashi?  Only the most important Biblical and Talmudic commentator who ever lived.   Rashi (whose real name was Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki) died in 1105 in France.  In his lifetime he wrote a compendium of commentaries on the Torah that are so clear and understandable that they are still used today in nearly every study version of the Torah text, nearly a thousand years later.  No other commentator is so crisp and lucid.  Any book that contains at least one set of commentary on the Torah text will include Rashi's, although may include others as well.  Rashi also composed commentaries on non-Torah books of the Bible and a near-complete set of commentaries on the Talmud.  Standard editions of the Talmud today always contain the Rashi commentary.


    The problem is that Rashi's ruling regarding the order of the passages in the head tefillin box was challenged by his own grandson, Rabbeinu Tam.  His real name was Jacob Meir (died 1171 in same town as Rashi) and he himself was so eminent a scholar that he often allowed himself to challenge rabbinic rulings by his own grandfather.  Rabbeinu Tam was one of the more eminent contributors to the post-Rashi commentary on the Talmud known as the Tosafot.  The Tosafists were prominent scholars who took the rulings of Rashi as a starting point but not as unchallengeable.  (Rashi's own son-in-law was another well-known Tosafist.)  And Rabbeinu Tam rejected Rashi's ruling regarding the order of the reams in the head tefillin.


     While most standard tefillin boxes ever since then have followed the ruling by Rashi, the matter is considered to be still open and unresolved.  Some Jews pray in the morning using standard Rashi-edict tefillin boxes, and then at the end of prayer briefly don a second head tefillin box constructed according to Rabbeinu Tam's ruling and recite the Shma Yisrael a second time.


    If all this sounds a bit esoteric, the question has excited debate among Jewish scholars for nearly a thousand years.


    The matter was ALMOST resolved several years back when some ancient tefillin boxes from the site of the Dead Sea Scroll caves were recovered.  In the best preserved, only part of their reams were intact.  Infuriatingly, the archeologists who carefully removed the reams from the tefillin box did NOT record the ORDER in which the reams had been placed in the box!   So the Rashi-Rabbeinu Tam dispute could not be resolved.


     But the box uncovered by Dr. Adler IS fully intact and contains all four reams!  The problem at the moment is to figure out a technology that will allow the reams to be opened without crumbling into dust.  This is not a trivial problem for parchment that has sat in the desert for two millennia.  But just as the Dead Sea Scrolls were eventually opened and preserved, I trust a solution will be found here as well.


    When this happens, the dispute between Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam is likely to be resolved once and for all, nearly a thousand years after it was initiated.  


   Just one last interesting point about Rashi.  Today in standard Rashi commentaries on the Torah, Rashi often translates a difficult word from the Torah into Yiddish.  There is only one little problem with this.  Rashi did not speak Yiddish at all.  He spoke medieval French, a language very different from modern French, probably as different as English is from German.  So why do the commentaries show Rashi translating words into Yiddish?  Because no one today speaks medieval French and in standard texts, particularly those following Lithuanian scholarly traditions, the ancient French was replaced with Yiddish that the rabbinic students were thought to be able to understand.


     At the time Rashi lived, almost no one living in France was literate in this ancient French.  Many ancient languages were spoken only and writing skills for them developed later.   Indeed, very little was known about this ancient medieval pre-modern French.  Until linguists realized that they could reconstruct the ancient French using Rashi in reverse.  Taking the original Rashi commentaries in which Rashi translated Torah terms into Old French, the scholars worked in reverse and extracted a vocabulary of over 3000 words.  Hence, people who might have no interest in the religious importance of the Rashi commentaries themselves, including French linguists, found that the very same Rashi preserved and salvaged the earliest version of spoken French for all the world!


Moadim L'simcha!



Friday, April 18, 2014

Passover Week as Leftist Celebration of anti-Semitism and Self-Abasement



One would think that Passover week should be the time for triumphant Jewish pride and lowered profiles in embarrassment for the Jewish Left.  Nevertheless the past few days have seen an upsurge in Jewish anti-Semitism, defeatism, and self-abasement by the Jewish Left.


First we had the "mission" of the Israeli Far Left that made pilgrimage to Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), the "president" of "Palestine," on the day that the Israeli police officer Baruch Mizrachi was being buried.  The officer had been murdered while on his way to the Passover seder with his wife and five children.  Some of his kids were also injured.  There was not a dry non-leftist eye in Israel at the sight of Mizrachi's eight year old son saying kaddish at the funeral.  The Left decided that it would be a good day to run to the Terrorist in Chief and demand that Israel make more concessions.  The delegation  included leaders from the Israeli Labor Party and Meretz/Peace Now. 


Next we have the decision by the editors of Haaretz, that Palestinian newspaper printed in Hebrew, to devote its weekend holiday magazine supplement to a puff interview with Stephen Walt, the anti-Semitic "professor" who co-crayoned that book about the cabals of the Zionist Lobby and its nefarious conspiratorial control over Washington.  The magazine cover shows a glowing smiling Walt, who explains how the 9-11 attacks and the US campaign in Iraq are all consequences of the nefarious Zionist Lobby.  And of course the media in the US are also under Zionist occupation.  He attacks Noam Chomsky for not being sufficiently militant.  Even the Haaretz interviewer had to raise his eyebrows over some of the overtly anti-Semitic comments by Herr Walt.   (Interview in Hebrew is at )


Then there were the violent riots by the "Palestinian" hooligans on the Temple Mount yesterday.  The Israeli government decided to cope with the terrorism by closing off the Temple Mount to all Jews, this in the middle of Passover.  No, that is not a misprint.  They did not rule that Moslems be barred from the Mount until the violence ends, but rather that the Jewish targets of the violence be barred.  In addition, there have been calls from the Israeli cabinet to impose martial law on the West Bank settlement of Yizhar.  That is the home to some gangs of teenage Jewish rowdies who have engaged in vandalism, including attacks on soldiers.  The Yizhar rowdies definitely deserve a rigorous spanking with a hickory switch.  But martial law?  In the very same days when nothing at all is done by Israel in response to the Temple Mount violence or even the murder of Mizrachi noted above (in fact Israel held "talks" with the Palestinian Authority immediately afterwards.)


This week saw the Marxist anti-Israel hater of democracy Zeev Sternhell, professor at the Hebrew University,  opine that the demand that the "Palestinians" accept Israel as a legitimate Jewish state is nothing less than the road to apartheid (  Haaretz also ran an Op-Ed by its old editor-in-chief David Landau about Yassir Arafat's love of the Jewish Bible, in which it says, inter alia ( :   


"Why did Jacob go to Egypt?" Arafat innocently asked the kippa-wearer — and I walked straight into his trap. "Because there was a famine in Palestine. It's in the Bible," I offered.

"Ah! Yes! But the Palestinians didn't leave the land, did they?" The point was clear. "The Palestinians" — all the biblical tribes had been adopted by the PLO chairman as forbears — loved the land more than the Israelis' forbears. They had more sumud — the Arabic word for steadfastness.

Arafat's recognition of the biblical Israelites as the forefathers of the present ones was, of course, an important concession that contributed to the headline of the interview — "Arafat: Israel is Jewish." But Arafat's lasting (posthumous) contribution, yet to be applied, to Israel-Palestine negotiations came in the religious-historical discussion with me.



Haaretz then runs an Op-Ed by its late columnist Reuven Pedatzur, who died a few days ago, about how the entire Middle East has been destabilized by the fact that Israel's Arrow anti-missile system has proven so successful ( ).


But the crème de la crème of Jewish self-abasement and Jewish anti-Semitism showed up this week on the anti-Semitic blog "Mondoweiss," run by Jewish anti-Semite Philip Weiss.  His web site specializes in maniacal attacks against Israel (see   It even runs the chronically-unemployed pro-Iran pro-Hamas anti-Semitic blogger Richard "Little Dickie" Silverstein, whose own blog has been used by him to smear his own parents (see


Well, this week Mondoweiss ran an article claiming that Israel was behind the murders in Kansas by the Klan fascist:     It earlier ran material claiming that Israel was also behind the 9-11 attacks on the US.  Mondoweiss is so openly anti-Semitic that the far-leftist Daily Kos has condemned it. 


You probably already heard that the Klan terrorist of Kansas cited with approval articles published by the Jewish anti-Semite Max Blumenthal: .  In fact, the anti-Semitic Left contributed to the Kansas pogrom:


Naomi Wolf's latest jihad against Jews, Zionism and feminism is described here: .




2.  On a lighter note ("lighter" being used with double entendre), as you know I always try to stay abreast of trends in political correctness and, to avoid any ambiguity, let me say that the breast that I try to stay abreast of is a non-gender-specific one.  So I wanted to ask your advice about something.  Would I be correct to assume that the person described in the following news story qualifies as transgendered?


Rapper Andre Johnson Cuts Off His Penis, Jumps Off Building in Alleged Suicide Attempt

 (I am not sure whether his health problems are covered under Obamacare). 



3.  A funny interview with Obama is here:

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Jewish Leftists defending Censorship by Brandeis



1.  The leftwing fascist "Reform Rabbi" and Haaretz columnist Eric Yoffie endorses the censorship at Brandeis, where Brandies decided to deny a critic of Islam an honorary degree:   Brandeis Gets it Right on Islam



Yoffie's position was also endorsed by ultra-liberal Deborah Lipstadt.  She has also recently endorsed the pilgrimage of Harvard students to Arafat's grave and has been lobbying against the release of Pollard.  A few years back she called me a moron for trying to get the Neo-Nazi Norman Finkelstein fired at DePaul University, insisting it would backfire and DePaul would not fire him.  Well it did not backfire and my campaign was instrumental in getting Finkelstein fired there.  The DePaul Senate was officially directed to read my analysis of the Finkelstein fiasco and I exposed the pseudo-academic anti-Israel streetwalkers who were rallying to defend Finkelstein and help get him tenured. 


Lipstadt also recently signed a petition endorsing Kerry's initiative.  While Lipstadt deserves enormous credit for her valuable work on the Holocaust, she has long been undermining that legacy with her obsessive shallow ultra-liberalism.   



2.  Ron Pundak, the clueless halfwit who was sent by Shimon Peres illegally to "negotiate" with the PLO in Oslo in 1992 in preparing the Oslo "deal" and "accord," died on Friday.  Haaretz and the Left are unable to control their tears.  Obituaries in the press from J Street (which recently demanded that Israel stop insisting that the "Palestinians" recognize it as a legitimate Jewish state) and Meretz pretty much tell you all you need to know about Pundak.


Pundak was a pseudo-academic with virtually no academic credentials who teamed up with Yair Hirschfeld, another failed wannabe academic, and set off at the behest of Beilin and Peres to conduct "negotiations" with the PLO behind the back of the democratically elected government of Israel.  Naturally, these "negotiations" consisted of the non-elected duo agreeing to most of the demands of the PLO while getting no concessions at all in return.  In particular the rejected the idea that the PLO should be subjected to any tests to see if its "moderation" and interest in peace were genuine.  Of course, they were not  genuine, but the Pundak formula was: Damn the Tests of Behavior, Full Speed Ahead into Oslo Oblivion.


Pundak was a leading advocate of the idea that peace in the Middle East can be achieved by pretending that war does not exist.   The obstacle to peace was, in his view, Israel refusing to conduct "talks" with terrorists who were conducting mass murder of Jews and claiming that Jews drink the blood of gentile children for Passover.  Pundak believed that Israel must abandon all of its positions and agree to pretty much everything the PLO demanded.  He later teamed up with Yossi Beilin in proposing the "Geneva Agreement," an outline for a final solution of the Middle East conflict based upon near-complete Israeli capitulation.


Pundak, in short, was the epitome of everything that went wrong in Israel over the past 2 decades.  He embodied and symbolized the detachment from reality of the Israeli Left, and also the Left's deep loathing for Jewish self-respect and Zionism, as well as its disrespect for elections and democracy.  


Israel is far, far worse off thanks to the "career" of Pundak.   He was the poster boy for abandoning the idea that analysis and thinking and history are things that should guide Israeli public policy.  He believed that Israel should adopt positions that make people like him feel good, that would allow leftists to feel righteous, that would allow them to feel comfortable when hanging about with their leftist gentile friends from other lands, and never mind how much worse the consequences that any implementation of their "ideas" would be for Israel.   He was the symbol of the replacement of the thinking Jew with the wish-upon-a-star Jew, the Jew who was willing to ignore reality and concentrate on fantasies about a "New Middle East."


He, Hirschfeld, Beilin, and Peres are directly responsible for the nearly 2000 murdered Israeli victims of Oslo, and for the thousands of rockets that have been launched into Israel by their "peace partners."  Yet none of these has ever been made to pay a price for their folly.  Pundak is now beyond caring.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Poof the Clueless Kerry



As you know, John Kerry recently used the term "poof" to describe what happened to the "peace talks" when Israel refused to capitulate any further to the demands of the savages.   Curiously, none of the caring crowd denounced Kerry for using such a homophobic expression as "poof."


Nevertheless, the use of the term by His Poofiness raises some interesting thoughts.  Among these are the need for new lyrics to that classic by Peter, Paul and Mary:




Poof the Clueless Kerry 



Poof the Clueless Kerry, traveled overseas, 

And frolicked in the springlike mist in a land called Iz-Ra-Lee, 
Little Barack Bama loved that rascal Poof, 
And gave him Secretary perqs and other fancy stuff, oh 

Poof the Clueless Kerry, traveled overseas, 

And frolicked in the springlike mist in a land called Iz-Ra-Lee, 
Poof the Clueless Kerry, traveled overseas, 

And frolicked in the springlike mist in a land called Iz-Ra-Lee.

To Ramallah he traveled in his diplomatic ride 
Obamie kept a lookout back in Foggy Bottom's tide, 
Arab kings and terrorists would bow whene'er he came, 
Abbas counted chickens every time Poof squeaked his name, oh! 

Poof the Clueless Kerry, traveled overseas, 

And frolicked in the springlike mist in a land called Iz-Ra-Lee, 
Poof the Clueless Kerry, traveled overseas, 

And frolicked in the springlike mist in a land called Iz-Ra-Lee.

The Big Lie lives forever about Palestinian "rights," 
Like Santa Claus and Obamacare, imaginary plight, 
One grey night it happened, Bibi caved no more 
And Poof that Foggy Bottomer, he vanished from our sight. 

His weird head bent in sorrow, green tears then fell like rain, 
Poof no longer went to play the terrorizers game. 
Without his life-long jihad, Poof could not be brave, 
So Poof that Secretary sadly slipped into his cave, oh! 

Poof the Clueless Kerry, traveled overseas, 

And frolicked in the springlike mist in a land called Iz-Ra-Lee, 
Poof the Clueless Kerry, traveled overseas, 

And frolicked in the springlike mist in a land called Iz-Ra-Lee. 

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

The Passover Peacock

The Passover Peacock

By: Steven Plaut

Published: April 25th, 2012


It was a few days before Passover when I first heard the horrific cackling. “What,” I asked family members, is that? It sounded just like the longtime leftist agitator Shulamit Aloni. But it wasn’t.

Soon thereafter my wife came running into the house.

“There is a peacock downstairs in the yard,” she proclaimed.

Hmmm, just in time for Passover, I said to myself.

Down I went to investigate. And there standing in our yard was a giant turkey, like something out of a Thanksgiving poster in a Walmart store.

We live not far from the Haifa zoo, and various critters, especially those in possession of wings, tend to escape the place in search of friendlier, quieter surroundings.

The zoo, you see, is rather noisy. Late at night throughout our neighborhood one can hear the elephants in the zoo making loud noises. And – how shall I put this delicately – the noises they are making are not from their mouths.

Zoology is not my wife’s strong point, so you will have to forgive her classification error in ornithology. But she had good reason for mistaking the turkey for a peacock. Years back we actually had a male peacock refugee – long blue peacock feathers and all – take refuge in our yard.

The kids were young back then and nicknamed the peacock “Notsi,” from the Hebrew word for feather, notz. The yard guest lost a feather, which we saved and still use to this day in the late-night search for any crumbs of chametz the night before the Passover Seder.

The kids discovered that peacocks really like Bamba, a peanut butter-tasting Israeli puffy snack. Bamba, by the way, is kosher for Sephardim during Passover, and it seems peacocks must be Sephardic because they love gobbling up Bamba even during Passover. We know, we fed it.

The newest “Notsi” was, however, an obnoxious and aggressive male turkey. The various cats on the street found themselves intimidated and chased down the block by the monster whenever they came to investigate and got too close.

No one quite knew what to do with the turkey. Being the only American around, I of course proposed fattening it up and trying to keep it around until the last week of November, when all Americans know just what the proper use for such yard guests should be.

The neighbors, however, cringed at the thought of the noisy gobbling lasting that long.

Meanwhile, the children all along the street were carrying plastic bags full of chametz out to the garbage containers. I invited them over to feed the scraps to our Passover turkey instead of dumping or burning them. I am sure it was the highlight of Passover for many of them, and for years they will remember feeding the beast far better than they will recall reading about Pharaoh in the Haggadah.

The Passover turkey did have some problems during the actual days of Passover, though. It was not crazy about matzah – not even egg matzah or French toast-style matzah.

Anyway, the parking situation near the zoo was horrendous during Passover, with some cars stopping as far away as the front of our building just to get to the zoo. But the lazier families halted their climb up the hill when they got to our yard. They let the kids chase and photograph the Passover turkey.

Alas, the turkey did not last very far into the counting of the Omer. One morning it was just gone, and I suspect one of the other critters that lives in the Haifa wadis or gorges came out one night and had its own snack. There are wild boars and huge porcupines down there.

There went my plans for Thanksgiving!

But all is not lost. I went for a climb up the Carmel today to get some serious coffee, and a few buildings up the hill from my own I heard a new but different cackle. It wasn’t Shulamit Aloni this time either. (She has never quite recovered, by the way, from letting Hansel and Gretel escape her clutches.)

This time it really was a peacock, the newest refugee from the zoo, though a female this time, meaning she did not have any of those glorious blue feathers. If she hangs around until Shavuos, I’ll let you know if she eats cheesecake.


2.  I have posted the following story regularly, but a few asked me to re-post it for Passover.

A few years back, I took the kids to the Haifa beach promenade during Passover, where they had French fries. While sitting there, some Russian Jews who had not been in the country very long came and sat down. They ordered some salads, and asked the Arab waiter to bring it to them with Matzos because they did not want to eat Chometz during Passover. Then they asked the Arab to also bring them beers. The Arab stood and explained to them that it was not only bread that is Chometz but actually beer is also considered Chometz and so is also prohibited for consumption by Jews during Passover. The Russians thanked him enthusiastically for explaining that to them.

I was reminded about the section in Pirkei Avot where it says one must feel beholden and gratitude to anyone who teaches one Torah or even a single Hebrew letter. These Russian Jews were beholden to their Arab waiter for teaching them Torah.

Only in Israel!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

The Tale of Two Passover Beggars

A Tale of Two Beggars

Published: April 14th, 2009

Once upon a time, somewhere in the steppes of Eastern Europe, in the Pale that contained many a Jewish village, there roamed two beggars. One of the hobos was a Jew, the other a gentile.

The two transients were friends and far too lazy to hold any job or do any real work. So they wondered carefree, aimlessly and uselessly from village to village, begging for food, sometimes collecting discarded things to sell, here and there stealing some eggs or fruits off farm trees. It was a hard life and they often found themselves on the brink of starvation.

One day, as the two were looking for someone from whom they could shnorr some food, they came upon a shtetl whose residents were all buzzing about, hurrying, scouring pots and pans, cleaning their homes and cooking.

The Jewish beggar suddenly realized it was but a few hours before Passover was to begin.

“We have extraordinary good luck today,” he said to his comrade. “Tonight begins Passover, a Jewish holiday. Indeed, it is in many ways the happiest holiday of the year, with mountains of food and drink. So here is my plan. Let us come into the village just before evening. We will stand in the back of the synagogue. We will tell them that you and I are both Jewish wanderers, far from home, traveling to do some trading and seek our fortunes. And the local Jews will invite us to the most wonderful banquet of our lives!”

Just as the Jewish beggar had predicted, the plan went off like clockwork. The locals competed with one another to see who would have the honor of hosting one of the beggars at his own Passover Seder. After the evening prayers, the Jewish beggar went off to feast with one family, while his gentile friend, pretending to be Jewish, went off to dine and celebrate with another family.

The gentile beggar’s mouth was already watering with the thought of the wonderful delicacies he was about to devour. His belly was grumbling with anticipation. But things were not going the way he had expected.

His hosts ushered him into a chair at a large table set with candles and many empty dishes.

In the center of the table he saw nothing but some pathetic hard-boiled eggs, a few leaves, and a single small shank bone of meat.

“This is for the entire assembly?” he thought. Then, instead of pouncing on the food, his host poured everyone a single tiny cup of wine.

Things just got worse. The hosts finished drinking their wine and offered everyone at the table a few small leaves to nibble. Not even enough to satisfy a rabbit! And they even insisted he dip these into an awful salty solution, which only made him more thirsty and desperate to drink some real grog. Then, to celebrate this “meal,” they broke into song and laughter, which went on for a whole hour.

When he was expecting them to serve dessert, they handed him instead a piece of bread, but one unlike anything he had ever seen before. It was dry, evidently having been left out in the sun for a week, and barely resembled real bread. It was hard and it crackled when he chewed on it. Moreover, it was served plain, with no oil or molasses or fat.

“This is the feast my friend promised me?” the beggar said to himself. “This is the mountain of food these Jews eat to celebrate their happiest holiday?”

And just imagine his horror at what came next. Each of the people at the table was given the most bitter and disgusting glob of horseradish, something he would never ordinarily eat even if he were famished. They even blessed God when they swallowed that horrid-smelling and evil-tasting slop!

Convinced the “meal” was over, the beggar excused himself, saying he was needed elsewhere with great urgency, and left his hosts with an apology. In a rage, he wandered the streets of the village, looking for his Jewish friend and intending to thrash him and scream at him for his empty promise of a full stomach and a glorious meal.

Four hours later, he finally found his Jewish friend. The Jewish beggar was wandering through the alleys, shirt buttons popping, belly overfull, picking at his teeth and belching his pleasure. His gentile friend was so weak with hunger that he was unable even to pummel his friend. The Jewish beggar examined his starving comrade with surprise.

“Some feast you promised me!” grumbled the non-Jewish beggar. And then he told the Jewish beggar what had happened, how his hosts had offered him a thimble of wine, less than a handful of pathetic leaves in brine, a stale piece of bread of some sort with nothing on it, and some horrid bitter glob.

“At that point I decided enough is enough,” he explained, “and I got up and left.”

The Jewish beggar could not control his laughter. “You do not understand,” he said. “Those were simply the earliest preliminaries of the feast. You snatched hunger from out of the horn of plenty! Had you stuck things out for just a few more minutes, you would have been served the most sumptuous feast of your life, a meal for kings, food that would have sufficed you for a whole week of wanderings. But, you see, you abandoned hope only a few moments too soon. Because you were impatient, you spoiled everything.”

* * *

The story of the two beggars is neither a fairy tale nor for children. The gentile beggar in the story, the one who spoiled everything because of his own ignorance and impatience, is the state of Israel.

Like the beggar who did not understand where he was or what was going on, the state of Israel was on the verge of entering the most wonderful, prosperous and liberated period of its existence in the early 1990s.

Had it listened to the Jewish beggar, all would have been well. Had it found patience and stamina to stick things out for just a little longer, it would have achieved its deepest desires and fulfilled its strongest yearnings.

By 1990, the first Palestinian intifada had been put down, suppressed by force of Israeli arms. The dimensions of Palestinian violence were dropping each month. It would likely have ended altogether had Israel used even more vigorous force against it.

In fact, Israelis who felt Israel should use greater force to end the violence outnumbered by perhaps four to one those saying less force should be used. It was a landslide consensus. Israelis were in no mood to appease or capitulate.

In 1990, Palestinian terrorists were so desperate for weapons that they were reduced to concocting zip guns out of household materials and Molotov cocktails far more likely to scorch the throwers than any targets.

The best the terrorists could do in most cases was toss rocks at Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip or in parts of the West Bank, a phenomenon unpleasant but not life-threatening, and one that certainly posed no existential threat to the survival of the state. Many sections of the West Bank were fairly tranquil, including Bethlehem and Jericho. Jews could walk or ride in security in many parts of the “occupied territories,” as they could in all of Israel.

The leaders of the Palestinian terrorists were off in distant Tunis, with a few others in Damascus, places from which they could do little more than pout and bluster. The world – or at least the United States – had made its peace with the Israeli position that the PLO was not an acceptable partner in any Arab-Israeli peace talks. The most the Palestinians could hope for was a limited autonomy, with no role whatsoever for the PLO.

The number of Israelis who took seriously the notion that the Palestinians deserved their own state was relatively small. Israelis were willing to treat them as the Palestinian branch of the Arab people, entitled perhaps to control their own lives and conduct their own local affairs – but only on the condition that they would eschew further violence. This was also, in essence, the formula backed by the United States.

The Israeli economy in the early 1990s was booming, riding the crest of the high-tech revolution. The country was flooded with immigrants from the nations that had comprised the Soviet empire. The standard of living in Israel had reached the levels of the middle tier of Western European countries.

While many Israeli Arabs voted for anti-Zionist parties to show their solidarity with Israel’s enemies, many others did not and voted for Zionist parties while maintaining cordial relations with Jews.

Into this relative tranquility burst the Oslo “peace process,” led by the ignorant beggar who did not understand that the greatest of feasts was nigh.

Oslo was based on the proposition that economic interests and consumerism had replaced military power as the determinants of international relations in the post-modern world – that armies are obsolete, as is patriotism; that appeasement of fascist terrorists is the surest path to true peace; that Israeli self-abasement is the highest form of Jewish nationalism; that cowardice is the highest form of valor; that the best way to end war is to pretend it doesn’t exist.

It sought to reduce tensions with the Palestinian Arabs, who had just been defeated in their intifada, by importing the PLO leadership from Tunis and Damascus into the “occupied territories” and then allowing it to build up an army in the suburbs of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, bankrolled and armed by Israel itself.

Like the beggar who snatched starvation from the jaws of plentitude, the Israeli government of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres succeeded in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Peres and Rabin became convinced that the most promising path to a full and permanent peace with all of Israel’s neighbors lay in Israeli capitulation to Arab demands and appeasement of the planet’s worst Islamofascist terrorists.

They took to lecturing the country on how the utopian state of affairs they envisioned had not yet come about because Israelis were not strongly enough desirous of it.

The Oslo era was defined by a massive assault on Israeli pride, morale and confidence by its own leaders and intellectual elites. Israeli academics wrote books and articles castigating the country for its shortcomings, both real and imagined.

“New historians” and “post-Zionists” zealously set about the task of rewriting history texts and school curricula to debunk what they regarded as pernicious Israeli propaganda, promoting instead the Arab “narrative,” beginning with the Original Sin of Israel’s founding.

The Israeli media, heavily leftist on nearly every level, bludgeoned the country on a daily basis, promoting the Palestinian position in editorials, op-ed columns and even ostensibly objective news stories.

This self-flagellation produced a situation in which each and every atrocity committed by Arabs was greeted with calls from the Israeli chattering classes for further concessions and appeasements by Israel. Some, including tenured extremists at the universities, went so far as to justify and celebrate Arab acts of terror as necessary to force Israelis to come to their senses and make peace on terms favored by the extremists.

The Left promoted insubordination and mutiny by Israeli soldiers, with not a few leftists endorsing boycotts of Israel by overseas anti-Semites. The Israeli press adopted the practice of overseas Israel-bashers in referring to Palestinian terrorists and suicide bombers as “activists” and “militants.”

In return for its endless goodwill gestures and masochistic eagerness to placate its enemies and world opinion, Israel got a campaign of Nazi-like hatred led by the Palestinian Authority, down to and including virulent Holocaust denial accompanied by Holocaust justification (never mind the contradiction).

* * *

For 16 years now, Israel’s elites have been living in a make-believe world in which Jews are to blame for nearly everything and Arabs are merely expressing “frustration” at being “mistreated” for so many years by Jews.

And the psychological war mounted by Israel’s elites against national pride, dignity and self-respect – indeed against national existence – has been accompanied by a set of diplomatic policies expressing little more than self-loathing – policies that in effect allow no act of Arab violence to go unrewarded.

The Oslo and post-Oslo eras will be known in history as the period when it became evident that a great many Israelis – and nearly all the Israeli elite – had lost the will to survive as a nation.

After centuries during which Jews maintained the most militant self-assurance even while being mistreated, despised and humiliated, here were the Israelis – possessing one of the great armies of the world and a record of achievement on a variety of fronts that put far older, larger and wealthier countries to shame – abandoning all pride and promoting self-humiliation and self-destruction.

An Israel no more than two generations removed from the Holocaust was willing to hold “peace talks” with people who denied there ever was a Holocaust and who insist that Jews use the blood of gentile children to make Passover matzos.

The nation that had fought against enormous odds and won spectacular battlefield victories was acquiescing in a “peace process” that involved unilateral gestures from Israel in exchange for Arabs continuing to make war against the Jews.

Israel’s leaders chose to behave like the foolish beggar in the story who had no idea of what was going on, who let his hunger get the best of him, and who stormed out of the house in irritation, just before the delights of the feast were to begin in earnest.

Because of frustration that Palestinian guttersnipes were tossing rocks at Israeli troops, Israel swapped the stone-throwers for suicide bombers exterminating hundreds of Jewish children and other civilians in Jerusalem and Haifa.

And while the events of the past decade and a half have taken the shine off the visions offered by Rabin and Peres and all the others who brought us the Oslo disaster, make no mistake: the foolish beggar is still with us.

But where is the Jewish beggar – the one who understood the rituals of the Seder and knew his heritage, the one who had the wisdom to wait patiently and achieve the delightfully bloated belly of satisfaction and prosperity?

I search, but cannot find him anywhere. Can you tell me where he’s gone?

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?