Jun 2006 Journal
Letters to the Editor
Israelis and Palestinians
I found an article by Robert Fisk in The Independent (1 April 2006) very disturbing. He wrote, inter alia, about the massacre of Sabra and Chatila supposedly by Israeli troops. Similarly, the unlawful killing (inquest result) of the British journalist James Miller needs answering. I also do not like to see pictures of Arab homes being destroyed, allegedly to root out terrorists and to pay for suicide attacks. On the other hand, seeing Arab children provoking Israeli troops by throwing stones at them is not a very sensible thing to do.
Recently a reporter on the Radio 4 programme 'From Our Own Correspondent' talked about the Palestinians in their newly acquired Gaza Strip - how they fired mortar shells into Israeli territory, hitting schools, houses, killing children and their parents. I did not see this reported anywhere else. It does not encourage Israel to make concessions! I was heartened, however, by the Chief Rabbi's 'Thought for the Day' on 4 April when he talked about Daniel Barenboim's efforts to bridge the divide with music.
I feel too little attention is paid to the atrocities of others, whereas the Jews of Israel are singled out for condemnation. This does not excuse wrongdoing by Jews. It does, however, show that anti-Israel feelings are beginning to descend into growing antisemitism. We have all been here before!
I wonder if your readers listened to Daniel Barenboim's Reith Lectures, broadcast on Radio 4 in April and May. Together with the Palestinian Edward Said, Barenboim founded the West Eastern Divan Orchestra, made up of young Israeli and Arab musicians. They have been performing with great success. Making music together encourages a greater understanding of each other's culture. Translated into political reality, it could put an end to the never-ending killings.
I cannot do better than quote from the address Barenboim gave to the Knesset in May 2004 when he received Israel's prestigious Wolf Prize, awarded to artists and scientists who have contributed notably to the benefit of mankind:
Can we, despite all our achievements, ignore the intolerable gap between what the Declaration of Independence promised and what was fulfilled, the gap between the idea and the realities of Israel? Does the condition of occupation and domination over another people fit the Declaration of Independence? Is there any sense in the independence of one at the expense of the fundamental rights of the other? Can the Jewish people, whose history is a record of continuous suffering and relentless persecution, allow themselves to be indifferent to the rights and suffering of a neighbouring people? Can the State of Israel allow itself an unrealistic dream of an ideological end to the conflict instead of pursuing a pragmatic, humanitarian one based on social justice?
Letter from Israel
Anti-Zionists and Antisemites
Poles, Jews and Antisemites
I turned my back on that unhappy country - or rather it would be more correct to say that Poland spurned me, as manifested by the brutal attacks against the pitiful remnant after the liberation, including my hometown of Ostrowiec, where five survivors were cruelly done to death.
On a visit to Poland in the nineties, I found that little had changed. I encountered mostly hostility wherever I went. One may not sense this, keeping to the well-trodden path leading to the camps, to which most visitors head, or attending the Cracow Festival of Jewish Music and Culture, which, incidentally, the Poles never acclaimed when the Jews were around.
Professor Brent suggests that one should not dwell on the past. On the contrary, it is incumbent on us to honour the memory of the countless victims betrayed and murdered by Poles. Those 'passing' for non-Jews like my sister and I were, ironically, more afraid of Poles than Germans. The latter were gullible enough to believe in their own infallibility - that Jews were only to be found inside ghettoes and camps.
Eva Hoffman, whom Professor Brent quotes, is a gifted writer and a good 'ambassador' for Poland. She even disputes the figure of 1,600 Jews burnt alive by their neighbours in Jedwabne, based on the exhaustive study by Professor Jan T. Gross, and prefers to rely on a Polish source that came up with a figure of between 250 and 400. The Poles I have spoken to, both here and in Poland, conveniently blame it all on the Germans, and everything since the war on the Communists, as if the latter were not Poles. They remain adamant that they have nothing to answer for, as they themselves were victims of the Nazis.
Are there too many immigrants?
Wiener Library Project
The project will offer a series of linked seminars. Through using some of the specialist material available at the Wiener Library, the 15 participants will gain a clearer understanding of their families' past, the ongoing generational effects of exile and genocide, an understanding of where and how to access historical and genealogical information, and develop a sense of community with other members of the group.
If you know, or are aware of, any 'Third Generation' members who might be interested to find out more about this project, please ask them to contact me at the Wiener Library on 020 7636 7247 or email me at Lowenberg@WienerLibrary.co.uk.
We anticipate that the time commitment for the project will be up to six one-day meetings from September 2006 to February 2007. All reasonable travel expenses will be reimbursed and lunch and refreshments provided.