Truth & Lies

Once again, I’m writing a politically charged article that I had not planned to write. But what I have to say needs attention as history is repeating itself, albeit in a different arena.

One of the many reasons we moved to Israel (and there are many) was the fact that it provided us a much more affordable launching pad to travel to Europe. We always dreamed of traveling, and have been able to take advantage of low-cost airfare and shortened travel times.

John and I just returned from two glorious weeks in the Czech Republic. For our last day’s excursion, we arose very early to make the hour train ride from Prague to Terezinstadt, one of the 633 European Nazi concentration camps. We knew it would be a most difficult day.

In 1780, the Hapsburg emperor, Josef II had a fortified town built as a deterrent to Prussian attacks. Surrounded by high walls and moat, the lovely island of a village was continually inhabited until 1941, when a truly diabolical plan was hatched.

There needed to be a spin put on the Nazi’s true program of liquidating the Jewish population of Europe. A different face to show the world. A kinder, gentler, human face. A mask for what was truly happening. A concentration camp “showplace” so to speak, to prove to the International Red Cross and other humanitarian agencies that anything they might have heard about the unethical, inhumane treatment of “undesirables” was just rumor. Terezinstadt became the perfect place for their propaganda machine.

The town was emptied of its Bohemian residents, which once numbered about 5,000 people. Apartment buildings were turned into dormitories for over 500,000 Jews over the next three years. But this was no ordinary camp. For most, it was a sorting place on the way to the death camps in the East. For a select few of the most elite… artists, composers, writers, doctors, professors – and children – it served a different purpose. While most people suffered and died from malnutrition, disease, cruelty, a select few thousand were chosen to be the faces of Nazi propaganda.

Away from the crematoria, the fierce guard dogs, the machine-gunned sentries, the brick walls and iron bars, was a lovely village. Lush gardens filled with fresh vegetables tended by the Jews in their model village(which actually served the Gestapo…the Jews were forbidden to eat from the plots they tended upon threat of being shot if discovered). There were cafés, theaters, a symphony orchestra, choirs, and happy Jewish families, well-dressed, well-fed, well-cared-for. A large town square provided for ample fresh air, exercise, picnics and outdoor concerts. All a lie. The inmates were only allowed out of doors when visitors came. It was a cruel ruse. A mere facade. An act.

From this part of the town, propaganda films were made. Fake documentaries to hide the truth of atrocities being committed just a few hundred meters away. Films like “The Fuhrer Gives the Jews a City” and”GhettoTheresienstadt. “For three all-too-short years, these chosen few (many were children) had a temporary reprieve as humanitarian agencies were paraded through this “typical” camp.

However, from within the walls of Terezin, something else amazing was happening. The children were organized and taught by artists such as Friedl Dicker-Brandeis. They wrote stories and poems and published their own little weekly newspaper. They created art. With the help of composers Viktor Ullman, Patel Haas and Hans Krasa, they staged magnificent plays. The most famous is an original children’s operetta, Brundibar, about a mean organ grinder(Hitler) persecuting helpless children in a dystopian land. With the help of brave woodland animals, they chase the organ grinder away. It was performed over 50 times for the Nazi officers and their special guests, although no one seemed to catch on to its symbolism. Still, the weekly artistic performances gave the Jews an outlet for their misery and proved a temporary diversion.

After the SS and Gestapo sat to have their portraits drawn by rather famous artists of the day, another type of art was being produced…. and hidden away for posterity. These were the true sights of what life was like within the camp. As under cover of darkness, trains of human cargo would come and go; more people added to the pre-existing crowded conditions; death ruled, and crematoria destroyed the reality of human life snuffed out prematurely, the truth was being painfully recorded.

After the Jewish inhabitants served their purpose, they were sent on to the death camps of Auschwitz, Treblinka and Bergen-Belsen. Thousands crowded into boxcars standing room only, deprived of water, food and bathroom facilities for days at a time. Many of whom died in transit. Soon, World War II would be over, only to be replaced by the Communist regime. Terezin would be reinhabited by local population.

Even though the camp serves as a memorial to the atrocities of man’s inhumanity to man, today there are stark and surreal inconsistencies. Local villagers now inhabit many of the town’s dormitories that once housed The Jewish population. Laced curtained windows look out across the street from old abandoned barracks once crammed with the suffering. Who in their right mind could live here? What could they think? How can you raise a healthy young family with reminders of torture, suffering and death directly across the street?

It’s an indescribable juxtaposition. The most inconceivable absurdity was the antique bazaar, set up in an unused, dilapidated dormitory building. Today it sells old furniture, housewares, vintage clothing – and leftover remnants from the Nazi and Communist regimes. For me, it was just too much to bear.

It was a bone-chilling winter day. Bleak. Strangely silent except for my muffled sobs as we walked the desolate streets haunted by memories of the past. The train ride back home was equally painful, punctuated by the deafening squeals of the metal wheels of the train as it pulled into Prague Station. John and I just needed time to decompress. To find something a bit more uplifting.

We returned to the comfort of our warm hotel room and turned on the television to watch the Winter Olympics from South Korea. We don’t have television in our home in Israel ( by choice), so this was a real treat. Or so we thought.

About fifteen minutes into the pageantry and festivities, the camera turned to a lovely young woman and a bevy of her smiling, clapping, red-outfitted entourage. This was none other than North Korean Kim Jung Un’s sister, second in command and Minister of Propaganda!!! This, a head of an absolutely evil, totalitarian regime, was being hailed by the commentators as a diplomat, an ambassador of peace and goodwill!!! After the day’s outing, we could hardly believe what we were seeing. “How radiant and happy they are! So cute! Look at her smile!” This was the same story being peddled to the ignorant masses around the world. The personification of an Evil Empire bent on the destruction of man disguised as innocence and congeniality. Obviously, the propaganda was having its desired effect. I could only think of the starving millions in North Korea, the defectors, the over 150,000 “political” prisoners – and of Otto Warmbier, the young Jewish student who made a class trip to North Korea. He was imprisoned for taking down a poster as a souvenir of his time there, brutally tortured, then shipped back to the States many months later, comatose. His last few days were spent in a US hospital, never regaining consciousness…. just one example of the cruelty of this regime. Were his parents watching this mockery- and what could they think? As the American reporters fawned over Kim Yo Jung and bashed Vice President Pence as a nefarious sort, we recalled a subtitle from the Terezin documentary:

We are, ironically, about a week away from the Jewish holiday of Purim. A time when we celebrate the bravery of Queen Esther and her heroic saving of the Jewish people from destruction. It was during the captivity of Israel in what is now present day Iraq/Iran. A decree had gone out under the evil Haman, the king’s vizier, for all the Jews to be killed. His plan was thwarted by a fearless and outspoken woman, who drew the king’s attention to the diabolical scheme ( which would mean her ultimate death as well). This was a favorite play of the Terezinstadt Jews, performed numerous times as a source of hope and reminder of eventual justice. We need more people today, willing to call attention to the TRUE injustices of the world – at what reality truly exists. We can no longer gloss over the twisted and evil and downplay the good. Or we will be doomed to replay the same tragedies.

If you have been touched by this article in any way, please share this post. The world needs to see the hidden truths.

Hidden Truths

I really had not planned to write a political post. Not at this time, anyway. But after this week’s events, I cannot keep silent.

Last Wednesday  I received a series of ‘interesting ‘ emails and calls from one of my daughters in Los Angeles. She had been out with a group of her young, hip, urbane, well-educated friends. It was a very diverse group racially, religiously, politically. They had begun discussing the Mid East. And they had begun discussing Israel: the colonialist, apartheid, unjust occupier of Palestinian land. Their talk led to the unfair treatment and persecution of all Arabs, most notably, Ahed Tamimi, Palestinian  poster child.

My daughter tried to refute the many assaults against Israel….after all, several family members have made Aliyah. She stated historical facts not only about the Jewish people returning to their ancient and promised homeland, but cited modern day treaties and declarations.  She explained that Israel was the only true democracy in the Middle East, a place where Arabs have rights, where Arab women do not have to wear burkas or hijabs- where Arab women drive freely, unescorted; where the university system is open to all; where not only Jews, but Christians & Muslims can and do serve as members of Knesset (Parliament), doctors, engineers, architects, actors.

The discussion then moved on to the current US administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the rightful capital city of Israel. My daughter confronted one of the men as being anti-Semitic. His response to her was that he was by no means anti Jewish, but was anti Zionist (against Jewish people claiming Israel as their home). And then the Tamimi affair popped up.

Ahed Tamimi is the blond haired, blue eyed 17 year old Palestinian activist. She is often pictured wearing “love” and “peace” T shits and jeans. Very Western. She hails from a long line of Hamas supporters. Her  cousins include the first female plane hijacker and a female suicide bomber. The parents of Ahed have a long history of using their children, most notably, Ahed, in the front lines of protesters, rioters, and hecklers of IDF soldiers. In the latest video clip, two IDF soldiers have come to the Tamimi home. There were only two soldiers. It was not a raid. That December day, there had already been several outbreaks/riots in the village of Nebi Salih. There was a report to check  the Tamimi house, as that was a usual hotspot for terrorist activity.

In the clip, Ahed can be seen taunting the soldiers. She and her sister (filmed on cell phone by a friend), slap and punch the soldiers, spit on them, curse them, and punch them about the face and head. The soldiers show great restraint and eventually leave the premises. They do not engage or respond to the verbal or physical abuse. After the video is posted to Facebook and other social media as a resistance movement advert, Ahed is arrested. It has since become a propaganda piece for those who claim the injustice of the Israeli occupiers towards the Palestinians.

My daughter texted me and called to find out what we knew about it. She wanted factual information to rebut what she perceived as inaccurate reporting. I had been following the story for the past month in several of our media outlets. In fact, I bookmarked a couple of the stories.

My first surprise came when I went to retrieve the articles. They had been removed!!! So I googled Ahed Tamimi. I found plenty of articles from the mainstream American and European news outlets, Memri, Al Jezeera, NPR, the Guardian, the BBC, Newsweek. All slanted in Tamimi’s favor. It wasn’t until page 16/20 that I found an article published in The Tower which told the whole story. I copied it and sent it to my daughter. An hour later, I could no longer bring up that exact article in my google search. Also, all the other reports from our Israeli news outlets were not present. I finally reached the end of my search on page 20 to find this:

IMG_3986

The plain truth is that the real truth has been hidden. Obscured. Obfuscated. Obliterated.

I have recently been hearing about how Google, Facebook, YouTube and other outlets have been selectively removing facts with which they do not agree. But here it was up close and personal, so to speak. Revising facts. Absolute censorship. Selective reporting. Even fake news. I was seeing it all firsthand. How can one see both sides of complex issues when truth is hidden? How can this happen when there is supposed to be freedom of press and speech? Where is our world heading when basic up-to-date information is twisted, slanted, or in this case, altogether buried?

Much food for thought. In the meantime, we are trying to provide our daughter with both sides of this story, as well as with reports of the good that comes from this country. Operation Good Neighbor: the IDF work to provide food, clothing, and desperately needed medical care to Syrian War civilian casualties. The Search & Rescue teams Israel sent after the Nepalese and Mexican earthquakes. The well digging, water purification and reclamation projects by Israel to help draught-stricken African nations.

In conclusion, I refer you to an article written in November,2015 in The Tower Magazine(thetower.org). It is entitled “How a Family Became a Propaganda Machine.” I hope my next posts will resume a more pleasant tenor….

The Political Post

In the past few months, I’ve been asked by so many of my American audience for updates on the political situation in the MidEast. It seems there is less than limited coverage of actual events unfolding throughout the region, and even that is radically slanted and misrepresented. I thought I would get away from the “news-junkie-addiction” I had developed back in the States, but it has more than intensified here. And so, after weeks of incredible research, here is my take on what is happening:

The developments and players here are more than complex, built upon years and years, and layers upon layers of perceived wrongs, switching alliances, and actual problems. Like a sticky, old spiderweb encrusted with layers of dust, the problems are many and complicated. So, please bear with me…

Most of you by now have heard of the recent spate of seemingly random terror attacks on the Jewish population throughout Israel. It started around Yom Kippur and is insidiously evil: both dangerous and meant to instill a spirit of fear, as well as to gain attention from the media for the Palestinian cause of alleged “Israeli occupation.” It started with knife attacks in Jerusalem, and has radiated outward to other parts of the country. All very calculated. Mahmoud Abbas is leader of the Palestinian Authority, and he is losing power rapidly to other groups vying for attention and control of the West Bank and Gaza. (Please take a look at the map of Israel below. The West Bank is not a little sliver of land as it sounds, but the huge purple swath in the middle that nearly divides the North from the South. This leaves an 11 mile strip of land in the center from which Israel would have to defend itself. Gaza, on the coast, was previously owned by Israel, but given up for peace, displacing all the Jewish inhabitants, to the Palestinians ten years ago. They have since been using it as a military launch pad for attacks under the control of Hamas, instead of building a peaceful society.).

1948

Besides Abbas (Palestinian Authority and Fatah), Hamas is also fighting for control. Since 1937, land for an independent Palestinian state has been offered four times, and rejected four times. The first in 1937 with the Peel Commission Report; again in 1947 as part of the Petition Plan; in 2000 at the Camp David Accords; and finally in 2008. All were flatly rejected as the Palestinians wanted complete control of the Holy Land and Jerusalem. They refused to recognize a Jewish state or its existence in the land. The Palestinians for the most part have been using the land occupation narrative as the source of their unrest. That story line has shifted to a more dangerous one in the past month, since Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles for the Jews. Hamas has been receiving funds and direction from both Iran and Hizbollah (Lebanon). It is in the latter’s interest to further sow seeds of unrest in Israel and depose Abbas in the West Bank. Abbas at the moment is not liked and holds very little clout among the people. Seemingly, the directives from Iran and Hizbollah have mutated from a political to a religious narrative. The local imams are now calling for a holy obligation to regain the Temple Mount in the Holy City of Jerusalem. They are calling for un uprising and unrest and for the “pure blood of martyrs” who are willing to give their lives in the killing of Jews, either by knife attack or car ramming incidents. This is not yet a true Intifada, however, it has been called for. Despite recent arms and ammunitions caches being discovered at the holy mount; numerous arrests of terror suspects; and the closing of the Temple Mount (Al Aqsa Mosque area) to all but Muslims, there is more. The UN has just recognized Palestine as an independent state and, in coordination with the Palestinians, last week they called for international intervention and oversight of the area. The Palestinians then proclaimed their desire for complete ownership of the entire area, including the Kotel, Western Wall Plaza, the most sacred place in the world for the Jewish people and Israel. This announcement was then dropped after 36 hours, but it was put forth nonetheless. Hamas is using the mosque as leverage to gain political authority over the West Bank in their rise for dominance with the Palestinian peoples. When there is an increase in terror, Hamas gains favor.

As I have stated, the problems are many. It does not help that the funds pumped into the West Bank and Gaza for relief and education are mostly being used for purposes of training terrorists. The conditions are awful across the border. There is a 47% dropout rate in the schools as opposed to a 1% dropout rate in the rest of Israel. There are few (at best) social clubs, sports or cultural opportunities for them. Because of their insistence on armed resistance, and terror attacks against the resident Israeli population, walls and fences have had to be erected and checkpoints established, much to their own detriment. Many of the youth see absolutely no hope or future, and aspire to martyrdom to achieve recognition and financial stipends for their families upon their deaths. Because of social media, the fans can be flamed through the population of youth in little time. Gangs of terrorists (usually in their early teens to mid twenties in age) form posses atop the mountain passes hurling large rocks, cinderblocks and flaming tires down upon the motorists stuck on the roads below. Just two weeks ago, the Joint List Members of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) who represent the Arabs, held a rally of over 20,000 in the town of Saknin in the Galilee Region. They called for an upsurge in “protests” and solidarity with the pro-Palestinian cause. There have been weapons caches discovered by the IDF in Nazareth and Jenin, and in the Upper Golan area. Terror rings have been arrested before they could carry out their coordinated attacks in Tiberias and Nazareth. The stabbings have radiated outward from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, the central Gush Dan region, and to Beersheba in the South. A few rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel, exploding in barren fields causing no casualties, but stirring up fear.  There are few agreed upon solutions, especially as the Palestinians will not recognize the existence of the Jewish state in their charter.

The Sunni Muslim countries of United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudia Arabia, and Jordan are allied with Fatah. They are calling for the rebellion to be brought under control, so the region can be stabilized. The West Bank also shares a border with Jordan to the East. Hamas is Shi’ite, backed by Iran/Hizbollah. With all the unrest happening internally, this creates a great smoke screen for the buildup in the North. It is extremely difficult to put out many fires at once, and if the people are only focused on the internal acts of terrorism, their eyes are diverted from the bigger, more threatening picture. This is by no means meant to diminish the reality the Palestinian situation inside Israel.

Middle-East-map

Where does the United States come in? For years now, we have been hearing Obama refer to what everyone else calls ISIS –  as ISIL. He is very deliberate in using this name. What is the difference? What actually is ISIL? Very interesting indeed. ISIL stands for The Islamic States of Iraq and the Levant, very different than just the Islamic State in Syria. ISIL is a self-titled caliphate, a multi-national region that extends from Turkey in the North, including Syria, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon all the way down to Egypt. If you look at the map above, what one nation stands in the middle of this Muslim caliphate, the Levant? Yes, it is little Israel.

The Islamic State is now a viable presence in Iraq. It is an organized force controlling Bagdad, Ramadi, Mosul, and Falluja, all territories conquered after the United States pulled out of the region. Iraq is now split into three warring camps:Iran/Shi’ites, ISIS/Sunnis, and the Kurds. There is much infighting as they struggle for power over the region. Israel is bordered by Syria to the Northeast. Assad and the Alawite Regime, which is more secular, although dictatorial, is pitted against the rebel forces (the Free Syrian Army and the Kurds, moderates relatively speaking) and the combined forces of ISIS and Al Nusra (Sunni). Russia, China, and Cuba have entered the game to back up Assad. In just the past week,in addition to what they had already placed in the area, Russia has brought 30 fighter jets, plus cargo planes and attack helicopters into Syria. Also propping up the Assad regime under Russia, 2000 Iranian Revolutionary guards, 2000 Iraqi Shi’a militia and 1000 Hizbulla elite from Lebanon(supported by Iran) have crossed into Syria and are camped around Quneitra just a few miles off Israel’s Northeastern border. According to Elhanan Miller of the Times of Israel, IS is gaining ground on the Golan border, operating openly now. Russian airstrikes have been targeting both the rebels and IS throughout Syria, but now they are active closer to Israel. Assad and the Russians according to Russian intelligence and operations are strategizing a much larger presence in the area.  In addition, 30 plus fighter jets are now stationed at Latakia in Syria, 155 miles north of Israel and at Al Tiqaddum Air Force Base outside Bagdad. This creates an “arc of power” making what they call an impenetrable elect/cyber barrier across the MidEast making Israeli penetration more than difficult as Iran continues to develop ballistic missiles which can be used to deliver nuclear warheads. And although there have been meetings between Netanyahu and Putin over the use of airspace and the right of Israel to defend her borders, the Russians are flying ever closer in their bombing sorties (nearer the Golan).

So, Iran is baking Hamas and the insurgency of Palestinian terrorists against Israel, creating a real threat, but also a smokescreen for strategies to the North. The situation is very complex as Prime Minister Netanyahu has to carefully strategize for all fronts as well as deal with internal affairs. Not only must he act to alleviate the present situation, but plan for whatever the future holds. Hopefully in the next month I will continue this post in light of what is happening to the South of Israel as well.

sources include:         `                                                                                                                                                          Times of Israel; Breaking Israel News; DEBKA file; Arutz Sheva; The Jerusalem Post; Fitnaphobia; Jerusalem Online; Memri; Legal Insurrection; Mosaic.