11/28/14

“The New Anti-Semitism” Comes of Age a Decade Later

By: Fern Sidman

As one holds a copy of Dr. Phyllis Chesler’s updated book “The New Anti-Semitism” in their hands, we can all breathe a collective sigh and exclaim “this tome hasn’t come a minute too soon.” Thanks to the excellent research and prophetic analysis conducted by this acclaimed author, lecturer and activist, the reader is afforded the necessary context and perspective with which to understand the invidious phenomenon of contemporary Jew hatred.

Written over a decade ago in a compelling, easy to read and free flowing style, Dr. Chesler’s premise was and still is that classical anti-Semitism as espoused by such nihilists and evil madmen as Hitler and the scores that preceded him has now been deemed to be “politically correct” by the trendy denizens of the Western academy and the “intellectual” crowds. Chesler was among the first to have seen and denounced the suicidal alliance between the Western intelligentsia and fundamental Islam. The anti-Semite needed a new and more acceptable veneer and the little place on the globe known as Israel would serve as the perfect subterfuge. Thus, Zionism does not equal racism but anti-Zionism does. In fact, it is part of what makes the new anti-Semitism “new.”

There is no doubt that the al Aqsa intifada and the traumatic events of 9/11 served as an impetus for Dr. Chesler to pen this book as she naturally drew a correlation between the kind of terrorism that had become endemic to the state of Israel and the Jihadic terrorism that was let loose upon the world.  “War and a new kind of anti-Semitism had been declared,” she writes.

In the decades prior to the 9/11 and the advent of al Qaeda, Chesler is acutely aware of the festering anti-Semitism that appears to be increasingly more ubiquitous with each passing moment. She details major events that she personally encountered during her years as part of the vanguard of the second wave feminist movement and the reader can easily connect the proverbial dots to see and feel the palpable resentment of those who championed the politically correct cause against Israel, now known as liberalism.

Always sensing a strong undercurrent of such bigotry in the various human rights movements that came to define her raison d’etre, Chesler is most disheartened when women’s conferences and forums such as Copenhagen and a pre-Durban one were hijacked by Jew hating agendas. She justifiably laments the fact that some important conferences are cancelled because of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel bias. “Women, you see, cannot be accused of racism – unless, of course, they are Jewish women,” she sardonically writes.

Because she is keenly aware that anti-Semitism may start with the Jews but never ends with the Jews, she makes the logical connection between the opprobrium that is harbored for both America and Israel by those who assign blame to all forms of human oppression in terms of colonialism, capitalism, and imperialism. “The Palestinian uprising has increasingly been seen as the uprising of all oppressed peoples against their colonial oppressors, that is, Jews, Zionists and Americans,” she ruefully observes. And, she notes, few understand that Muslim history is one of imperialism, colonialism, conversion by the sword, gender and religious apartheid, and slavery. Only the post enlightenment Judeo-Christian West are seen as mighty sinners.

Unlike other authors who have offered works of this genre, Chesler’s meticulous research is beyond impeccable as she explores the genesis of post 9/11 Islamic terrorism specifically directed against the West and their global interests. Israel, of course is viewed as the little Satan by the retinue of pro-Palestinian apologists and their Western lackeys and Chesler takes the Big Lies and bold propaganda to task by exposing their motives. Case in point: The unfortunate Muhammed Dura incident and the use of “fauxtography” are given more than an ample dose of good old fashioned sunlight as she reveals one of the most egregious anti-Israel hoaxes ever sold to the public; however deceptively.

While reading this book, one is in retrospective mode as we imbibe a seemingly endless litany of horrifying anti-Israel and anti-Jewish events at university campuses that took place in the first decade of the new century and compare them to how much worse they are today. It should come as no surprise that the BDS movement and physical and verbal violence against pro-Israel Jewish students has gained a dangerous degree of momentum, power and economic viability in institutions of higher learning.

Chesler cites the palpable but surreal bellicosity that has become an endemic part of campus life for Jews who wish to express pro-Israel sentiments. Physical attacks, heckling of speakers, academic boycotts, incendiary street theater predicated on distortions, the lies being promulgated at the annual Jew roasting, better known as Israel apartheid week and the infinite amount of Orwellian rhetoric being circulated in every facet of academic life to just name a few. “The New McCarthyism on campus consists of the anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian point of view. No other view will be tolerated,” she writes.

Chesler is under no illusions and does not even attempt to sugarcoat the obvious. European anti-Semitism is at pre-World War II levels and the flames of destruction are being consistently fanned not only by the “usual suspects” but by the formidable fourth estate. The European press she writes “have continuously held Israel accountable for Palestinian terrorism, and justified human homicide bombing as a function of Palestinian “despair.”

This book is easy to read yet it is filled with a voluminous amount of facts and is definitely driven by concrete and verifiable data. What causes the words to leap off the pages, however, and to embed themselves in our collective psyches are the nuanced and urbane analyses proffered both by Chesler and by an extensive array of  experts. Frightening as it may be, they provide us with the kind of perspective we need to tackle anti-Semitic diatribes.

Yes, Dr. Chesler cautions us to grant this matter the gravitas it deserves and not to dismiss it as mere blather. In the expanded last chapters of the book she prodigiously confronts the Big Lies and blood libels as she challenges the sheer mendacity of pseudo and rather lethal Palestinian narratives in ways that are both comprehensible and thought provoking. On an uplifting note she provides us with ways in which each of us can support Israel and Judaism, either through economic empowerment against boycotts of Israeli made products and development of community and college based pro-Israel programs connecting with individual Israelis as part of our families.

In one of her final exhortations, Dr. Chesler has stumbled upon what may be the most important component in staying afloat as a people as we navigate the turbulent tide of anti-Semitism. She writes: “Dare I say it? I must. I implore Jews to stop fighting with each other. Even if we disagree, we must try to do so respectfully, soulfully….We are an eternal people engaged in an eternal struggle with evil.”

Definitely words to heed.

To purchase a copy of “The New Anti-Semitism” please click on this link:

http://www.amazon.com/New-Anti-Semitism-Phyllis-Chesler-ebook/dp/B00PWL472E/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1416514415&sr=8-3&keywords=the+new+anti-semitism

10/25/13

Raiders of the Lost Archive

From: Fern Sidman

Don’t return the rescued written treasures of Iraqi Jews to Baghdad.
(Originally published in The Jerusalem Post)

By: Sara Y Aharon

In 2003, a team of 16 American soldiers in Baghdad stumbled upon a lost treasure trove of thousands of documents belonging to Iraq’s Jewish community.

These rare materials, thought to have been stored originally in synagogues and private Jewish homes, were sitting in a moldy, flooded basement of the muhkabarat, Saddam Hussein’s feared secret police.

The collection, now referred to as the “Iraqi Jewish archive,” contains “2,700 Jewish books and tens of thousands of documents in Hebrew, Arabic, Judeo-Arabic and English, dating from 1540 to the 1970s,” including a 1568 Bible and several Torah scrolls, according to the National Archives in Washington.

After the initial 2003 discovery in Iraq, conservation teams from the National Archives determined that Baghdad did not have the appropriate facilities for preserving the documents, including temperature controls.

The Iraqi government thus permitted the Americans to take the collection to the US for conservation work, but only on condition of the archive’s eventual return to Baghdad.

The current scheduled date of departure to Iraq is June 2014, less than one year away.

The notion of permanently sending these thousands of Jewish items to Iraq is absurd. Violence still abounds in Iraq; there would be no proper accessibility to or preservation measures for the archive.

I wonder if there are even interested audiences in Iraq or proper frameworks for contextualization, considering that fewer than a dozen Jews live in Iraq today, and Iraqis visiting the collection almost surely have never met a Jewish person before.

The Iraqi Jewish archive’s discovery resonates personally; my grandfather was born and raised in a Jewish family in Baghdad. His family, along with the rest of Baghdad’s Jewish community, was allowed to emigrate in the early 1950s in an Israeli airlift only if they renounced their citizenships and their property assets.

Thankfully my grandfather was still able to complete his studies at the American University of Beirut’s medical school; he became a pediatrician.

But my grandfather’s passport, upon leaving Iraq, said that he was “stateless.” Meaning Iraq’s Jewish community of 100,000-plus was essentially robbed of its major possessions and its nationality. They left their country of origin belonging to nowhere.

This remarkable recovery of Baghdad’s Jewish archive is not the first time such a dramatic unearthing of Jewish materials in the Middle East and Central Asia has occurred. The most well known example is the Cairo Geniza, a collection of thousands of documentary fragments, many from the medieval period, found in that city’s Ben Ezra Synagogue.

The Cairo Geniza was removed to England en masse by scholar Solomon Schechter in the 1890s.

“Geniza” refers to a hidden repository where Jewish communities stored written materials, from religious texts to private commercial and social papers such as handwritten letters and legal contracts.

And just within the past few years, scholars were stunned by discoveries of Jewish documents in Afghanistan dating from 1,000 years ago. This Afghanistan Geniza, rumored to number about 200 documents, was already dispersed to antiquities dealers around the world by the time the press heard about the trove.

The Israel Museum in Jerusalem is trying to acquire the Afghan Geniza items, and as of this past January, it had successfully purchased 29 documents from antiquities dealers.

Discoveries of these magnitudes typically lead to questions regarding possession.

Who rightfully owns a cultural heritage? Baghdad argues that the Jewish archive belongs to Iraq as a collection stored in the country. From that perspective, the Americans, if they keep the collection, are the raiders, rather than the saviors, of this lost archive.

However, for Iraqi Jews – the owners of the archive’s materials, as well as the descendants of its original owners – the Iraqi government is the true raider, the party that stole their citizenship, their property assets and their written treasures.

The American government should not set a precedent where Jewish artifacts recovered from the Middle East and Central Asia are sent back to war-torn countries, particularly with the current turmoil following the Arab Spring. If we suddenly heard about centuries- old Jewish documents found in Aleppo, and they were brought to America for conservation, would the US seriously entertain the idea of returning those precious materials to Syria? The Iraqi Jewish archive’s manuscripts, documents and holy books, some from five centuries ago and some from just 50 years ago, belonged to real people. Jewish people.

They and their relatives may still be alive to claim them.

The National Archives is now displaying 24 of the Iraqi Jewish artifacts in its new exhibit, “Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage,” which opened earlier this month and runs through January 5, 2014.

For those who cannot visit, the National Archives explains that “a special website to launch this fall will make these historic materials freely available to all online as they are digitized and catalogued.”

Ostensibly the digitization project is also supposed to offer consolation to those angry and upset about the Jewish archive’s planned removal to Iraq.

I’m deeply grateful to and wholeheartedly thank the National Archives for saving the Iraqi Jewish archive.

It’s not enough, however, to digitize the collection. A noble and essential goal, to be sure, but frankly it’s insufficient when these hundreds of- years-old documents already reside safely in the US.

What if this archive holds my great-grandfather’s journal? What if those are my great-great-grandmother’s letters that were rescued from ruin? Why won’t I ever be able to feel and touch their own works? The entire collection must remain permanently in the United States or Israel. A Jewish institution would be the most fitting, but not strictly necessary. If the Iraqi Jewish materials can stay together in the National Archives, for instance, I’d be thrilled.

I write this op-ed as a concerned American woman with Ashkenazi and Sephardic heritage from Jewish communities around the world. Our family escaped the pogroms in Russia-Poland at the turn of the century, and they survived the 1941 pogrom in Baghdad, called the Farhud, against its Jews.

I write this op-ed for my grandfather.

I write this op-ed as a researcher of modern Jewish history who understands firsthand the extreme difficulties of finding new primary source materials from the Middle East and Central Asia, let alone translating them.

The crucial goal is not to send this Jewish archive to live in Iraq, where there’s no security or open access for all scholars, researchers and global citizens. I write this oped as a descendant of a once vibrant community effectively expelled from Iraq, the country that still wants to keep Jewish belongings, if not Jewish citizens.

The writer is the author of From Kabul to Queens: The Jews of Afghanistan and Their Move to the United States (Decalogue Books and the American Sephardi Federation).

http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Op-Ed-Contributors/Raiders-of-the-lost-archive-329540

10/8/13

Reality Eclipses Love in “An American Bride in Kabul” – A memoir by Phyllis Chesler

By: Fern Sidman

In her 15th book, prolific author and iconic second wave feminist Phyllis Chesler takes her readers on both a trenchant and profoundly intimate sojourn, 50 years in the past, to a harrowing chapter in her life in this deeply poignant and absolutely enthralling memoir entitled, “An American Bride in Kabul” (Palgrave MacMillan).

For those not in the know, Chesler is the author of such bestsellers as ” “Women and Madness” (1972), “Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman” (2001), “The New Anti-Semitism (2003) and “The Death of Feminism (2005).

Speaking in a duality of voices; one of a young, winsome and naive Jewish woman seeking a glorious adventure and that of a seasoned veteran with a here-and-now retrospective tone replete with a sagacious wisdom; Chesler imparts her spellbinding narrative with the level of adroitness that only a consummate raconteuse can muster. Relying on the array of indelible memories etched in the recesses of her mind and her copious dairy entries, Chesler recounts her nightmarish experiences in vividly descriptive prose as her words leap off the pages and into our souls.

The year is 1961, and the young Ms. Chesler’s academic proclivities bring her to an American college on a full scholarship. It is there that she meets and falls deeply in love with an exotic man she would later refer to as an “Omar Sharif” look alike. His name is Abdul Kareem, a westernized, wealthy Muslim foreign student from Afghanistan. “He is suave and self-assured and has thick dark hair, golden skin, and penetrating eyes. I have never met anyone life him,” she writes.

Their love, however, transcended the physical, as they crafted their very own European salon of sorts; traversing the intellectual and bohemian realm and engaging in seemingly endless hours of riveting conversation on “Camus, Sartre, Dostoevsky, Strindberg, Ibsen and Proust” amongst other esoteric matters.

After her paramour offered her a grand tour of European capitals and a visit to his native Afghanistan, the alluring temptation was simply impossible for Chesler to resist. Only one caveat, said Abdul Kareem. They must get married, he said, or else they could not travel together. One suspects that he did not want to offend his family’s devout Muslim beliefs in morality. And so it was.

Their time spent in Europe was only the proverbial calm before the storm. When she arrives in Kabul, her American passport was taken from her in a trice; never to be returned. That was only the tip of the iceberg. Most painfully, what was taken from Chesler was her youthful innocence; her freedom, independence and dignity. For the lessons that she learned served to inextricably link her to the feminist mission that defined her professional career.

Among the multitude of culture shockers in store for Chesler was the fact that her father-in-law was a polygamist; having three wives and three sets of children; all living behind the high walls of the family compound. If that weren’t enough to digest, she was to discover that she was to be held captive in a “posh purdah” style of existence. Simply put, Chesler was now in a veritable harem; against her will and with no way out.

“I am expected to live with my mother-in-law and other female relatives, wear hijab, and live in purdah. That means that I cannot go out without a male escort, a male driver, and a female relative as chaperones. I am also expected to convert to Islam. I am living in a culture where extreme gender apartheid is the norm and where my reactions to it are considered abnormal, ” she writes.

As Chesler offers her nuanced perspective of life in Kabul for the five months she spent there, the reader is transported back in time; as the author treats us to a magic carpet ride to an arcane land. We go into sensory mode as we imbibe the plethora of sights, smells and sounds of Kabul as Chesler experienced them.

Besides dealing with a tyrannical mother-in-law who could only be described as an escapee from Bellevue, Chesler was somewhat comforted by the kindness of her sister-in-laws who attempted to protect her from the family matriarch and the abuse that she would endure from her husband.

Her days were spent sequestered in the compound with the other distaff members of the family, doing virtually nothing productive. Because their lives were circumscribed for them, they did not leave home and everything was done for them by the bevy of servants who were treated like slaves by none other than their own personal, “Mommy Dearest”

She writes: “The daily routine is as follows: In the morning Abdul Kareem and the men disappear and are gone all day. The women mainly stay at home. The servants clean and cook. Bebegul (her mother-inlaw) stays in her own quarters and sews and hums to herself. She orders her servants about, chcks on their work and sits in the garden.”

As she literally battles a raging hunger each day because her mother-in-law has ordered the servants not to cook her food in Crisco but in foul tasting ghee, Chesler starts scrounging around for canned foods before she was beset with a horrible case of dysentery and later the near fatal hepatitis that killed most foreigners that year.

Now that her physical well being is in jeopardy, her mother-in-law works on spiritual end by coercing Chesler to convert to Islam. Fearing for her life, she does so reluctantly and the guilt she harbors for doing so is reflected in her work.

When she tries to sunbathe in a bikini, Chesler almost causes a mini-riot amongst the men folk who catch a glimpse of this anomalous sight. When she tries to explore Kabul on her own, she is followed by a baneful man in a car. When she sees burqas all around her and registers a complaint to her husband, he callously dismisses her grievances as being hyperbole, as he does when she tells him of the reprehensible way her mother-in-law is treating her.

Abdul Kareem eventually becomes emotionally and physically abusive; yelling and hitting Chesler, when he can’t keep her under the patriarchal grip that he would like to.

Severely weakened by the hepatitis and fending off her mother-in-law who tries to kill her by pulling out the life sustaining IV from her arm, Chesler concludes that she must get out at all costs. She beseeches the American consulate in Kabul to help her and is summarily refused because she has no US passport. She then contrives a plan with the assistance of a foreign couple, but at that juncture, her dapper father-in-law intervenes and acquires an Afghani passport for her to leave on the grounds of her illness.

When Chesler kissed the ground at Idlewild Airport (now JFK) in New York City, she carried with her a fierce determination to focus on the horrendous plight of women and for the kind of equality that had eluded them.

When Abdul Kareem arrives in New York prior to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1980, they reunite for visits and she even develops an amiable relationship with his children from another marriage. His patriarchal arrogance is evidenced, however, as he chides her for not showing enough ambition about bringing Afghanistan into the modern world as he had done as a cultural minister there and for writing books that he asserts few people read.

What makes this book so compelling is that Chesler’s personal narrative is juxtaposed with historical and factual insights that really provide the reader with an education for the reasons she was treated like chattel. And it is precisely this part of the book that even trumps her roller coaster of a ride story.

Quoting a treasure trove of Western sources; mainly of American, British, French and Scottish travelers who has embodied the pioneering spirit and visited Afghanistan in the last few centuries, Chesler allows the reader a comprehensive understanding of the role of tribal warlords, of Afghani monarchy and the culture it engendered.

The genesis of the inferior status of Afghani women and the “indigenous barbarism” they were subjected to is meticulously explored as is the abject history of the Jews who were persecuted in economic, religious and social ways.

Says Chesler, “I had no idea that historically Muslims had viewed themselves as superior to all infidels, but especially to Jews, whom they tolerated but also tithed, impoverished, humiliated, persecuted, exiled, and massacred.”

She adds, “Abdul Kareem had loved me, he had loved a Jew. I do not doubt this. I loved him, too – although everything changed after my first month in Kabul.”

Her conversations with her ex-husband are rife with a visceral intensity and when she speaks of the tragic attacks on 9/11 we understand why this book as written. How could it not be? Afghanistan was the country she lived in and it was there that the plans for these attacks were incubated.

Chesler is to be lauded for prodigiously plunging into dark and treacherous waters; for penning a book where each page is brimming with rich insights and for serving as an avatar of inspiration for all oppressed peoples fighting for freedom.

10/3/13

“An American Bride in Kabul” Debuts at 92nd Street Y

By: Fern Sidman

Dr. Phyllis Chesler speaks with audience members at the 92nd Street Y and signs copies of her new book, “An American Bride in Kabul”

“This is the story of a young and naive Jewish American woman who meant to rebel against tradition—but who found herself trapped in the past, stuck in the Middle Ages, without a passport back,” declared the redoubtable Dr. Phyllis Chesler to the mesmerized audience before her at the 92nd Street Y on Tuesday evening, October 1.The occasion was the debut of Dr. Chesler’s 15th book entitled, “An American Bride in Afghanistan” (Palgrave MacMillan).

As part of the vanguard of the second wave feminist movement, Dr. Chesler is an emerita professor of psychology and women’s studies at CUNY, psychotherapist and most notably an internationally renowned author and lecturer. Among her best selling books are “Women and Madness” (1972), “WomAn’s Inhumanity to WomAn” (2001), “The New Anti-Semitism (2003) and “The Death of Feminism (2005).

On this evening, however, Dr. Chesler not only celebrated her 73rd birthday, but she honored the often tortuous trajectory of a dark chapter in her life in her new and enthralling memoir. Over the years she had written intermittently about her horrific experiences as a winsome Jewish woman held in marital captivity in Afghanistan in 1961, but it was only recently that she made the decision to detail these harrowing memories in full length book form.

In a voice reverberating with a profound passion, Dr. Chesler said in a private interview that the reason that her book was published now is because, “The material is so rich, so irresistible. The 9/11 plot was hatched in a country that I once lived in – how surreal, how destined is that! How could I remain silent? Wasn’t I obligated to share what I had seen and now know? ” Momentarily rueful, she added, “The Afghan burqa seems to have followed me to America and into the future. I needed to provide an accounting of what I experienced, witnessed, and the lessons learned.”

Joining Dr. Chesler on stage before a capacity crowd at the Buttenwieser Hall at the storied Y was Mr. Ibn Warraq, celebrated writer and founder of the Institute for the Secularization of Islamic Society and a senior research fellow at the Westminster Institute, focusing on Koranic criticism. Amongst his scholarly exegeses are: “Why I am Not a Muslim”, “Leaving Islam: Apostates Speak Out” and most recently, “Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said’s Orientalism.”

Also standing beside Dr. Chesler was Ms. Raquel Evita Saraswati, a religious Muslim feminist human rights activist who has worked prodigiously with Dr. Zuhdi Jasser of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD).

Introducing Dr. Chesler and the other speakers was the organizer of the evening’s event, Rabbi Paulette Posner, Acting Director of the Center of Jewish Diversity. The panel was deftly moderated by Rabbi David Kalb.

Commencing with a reading of an excerpt of “An American Bride in Kabul”, Dr. Chesler held her book, and with a palpable intensity, read the words that she penned with the help of the indelible memories etched in her mind and her copious diary entries:

I once lived in a harem in Afghanistan. I am eighteen and I have just met my prince. He is a dark, handsome, charming, sophisticated, and wealthy foreign student. We are in college in America. True, he is a Muslim and I am a Jew. I am very Jewish. But he is the Agha Khan, and I am Rita Hayworth. He is Yul Brynner, and I am Gertrude Lawrence in The King and I.

When we land in Kabul officials smoothly remove my American passport which I never see again. Suddenly, I am the citizen of no country, and have no rights. I have become the property of a polygamous Afghan family and am expected to live with my mother-in-law and other female relatives, wear hijab, and live in purdah. That means that I cannot go out without a male escort, a male driver, and a female relative as chaperones.

I am also expected to convert to Islam. I am living in a culture where extreme gender apartheid is the norm and where my reactions to it are considered abnormal,

Why am I writing this book?

I believe that my American feminism began in Afghanistan. It is a feminism that many Muslim and ex-Muslim feminists and dissidents, both religious and secular, welcome and support. We are all anti-Islamists: We oppose totalitarianism, terrorism, and gender and religious apartheid and support individual, human, gay, and women’s rights.

This is an accounting of sorts. A young Jewish American woman once came to this wondrous, Asiatic country and fled harem life. She finally uncovered the history of what happened to the Jews of Afghanistan, and she has told their story in order to redeem her soul.

At the conclusion of her reading a hush fell over the room. It was then that Dr. Chesler and her co-panelists began fielding a veritable potpourri of questions from audience members. She explained why she married in the first place. “Ah—I was young and I fell in love. My Afghan bridegroom was a Westernized man I had known for nearly three years at college in America. He cooked for me, he was tender and attentive—he just never mentioned that his father had three wives and twenty-one children or that I would be expected to live under a polite form of posh house arrest–or that I would be expected to convert to Islam.”.

She added that, “I lived as a member of an Afghan family and as such learned about the Afghan people in a way that the great Western travelers could not. Afterward I was often able to see the West with Eastern eyes.”

When queried as to whether Islam can ever be reformed, Ibn Warraq, an expert in Muslim ideology and the intricacies of the Koran, said that it could not due to the present day extreme influences that guide it.

Eloquently and with great erudition, Raquel Evita Saraswati addressed the paramount issues that swirl around various honor cultures and women’s rights therein. Considered the foremost scholar on the endemic scourge of both Islamic and Hindu honor killings of women, Dr. Chesler also spoke about on the same theme, utilizing the plethora of facts she gathered for her articles in The Middle East Quarterly, an academic journal under the aegis of Dr. Daniel Pipes.

Because “An American Bride in Kabul” also provides an in-depth look into the history of Jews in Afghanistan and mentions the present day state of affairs in Israel, an audience member asked Dr. Chesler about the “violations of Palestinians” that purportedly take place there. Her response drew enthusiastic applause as she swiftly and passionately spoke truth to power to what she calls, “The Big Lies”, better known as blatant propaganda aimed at Israel.

Receiving a standing ovation and a rousing round of applause at the evening’s conclusion, Dr. Chesler graciously appeared in the hall’s lobby where she autographed her book for the dozens of people lined up to purchase it.

“I really didn’t know what to expect when I came here tonight,” said audience member Audrey Levinson, 62, of Gramercy Park, as she waited on line to get her copy of the book autographed. “I certainly knew of Phyllis Chesler and had read “Women and Madness” when I was in college, but I must say that my curiosity was piqued when I had read some pre-publication reviews of “An American Bride in Afghanistan.” She added that, “Hearing Dr. Chesler’s words here this evening really sent a lightning jolt throughout my entire being. To say that it was enlightening and exceptionally informative was an understatement. I know what I’ll be reading in bed tonight.”

09/30/13

A Geo-Political Time Bomb About to Explode: An Interview with Phyllis Chesler, author of “An American Bride in Kabul” (Palgrave MacMillan)

By: Fern Sidman

Dr. Phyllis Chesler, internationally renowned pioneer feminist, professor, psychotherapist and prolific author and op-ed contributor to Arutz Sheva has a feverish schedule these days. On October 1, her latest book entitled, “An American Bride in Kabul” is scheduled to be released and there is no question that the pre-publication copies have caught the attention of the media. As she juggles interviews with major outlets and plans an international speaking tour, Dr. Chesler graciously took time out to discuss her compelling memoir; a tome that is both an epochal personal narrative and scholarly monograph at the same time. There is no doubt that this is a book whose time has come.

Q Dr. Chesler, there is no secret that your life has taken many twists and turns and you have written about your experiences as a young woman held captive in Afghanistan previously. Why did you choose this particular juncture in time to write your account in full length book form?

A With the increasing persecution of Muslim women and with the rise in Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism, I had no choice. The time was right to expose my mystical but misguided romance with Ishmael and with the Muslim world. We are at a moment in history when gaining an understanding of Islamic gender and religious apartheid is imperative for our survival as a modern civilization. In addition, Heroic Muslim resisters—those who are anti-Islamists– need recognition and support from the Western world in their battle to stem the avalanche of Islamic fundamentalism.

The material is also so rich, so irresistible. The 9/11 plot was hatched in a country that I once lived in – how surreal, how destined is that! How could I remain silent? Wasn’t I obligated to share what I had seen and now know? The Afghan burqa seems to have followed me to America and into the future. I needed to provide an accounting of what I experienced, witnessed, and the lessons learned.

I could never forget the kindness of some Afghan women towards me. Their fate haunted me, our lives had touched, viewing their kind of powerlessness taught me that in many cultures and countries women did not really have power, freedom, education, any individual rights.

I learned that Muslim-on-Muslim violence, fratricide is pandemic and indigenous. Like stoning and honor killing, it has not been caused by the West. I also learned that so many Muslim are also kind, humble, funny, philosophical, principled and life-loving.

Q As much as your experience in Afghanistan was frightening, you also write so passionately of the people of the Eastern world. Did you always have an interest in that part of the world?

A I have always possessed an abiding love for Eastern culture; a powerful attraction to its people; its architecture, food, geography; to its rich and tapestried history and I weave that all into my book. Something had called to me. In the Bible, we know that Abraham was from Ur Kasdim (perhaps in Iraq near Turkey) and I saw biblical scenes in Afghanistan; camel caravans, veiled women, turbanned men, shepherds, and nomads. There was something about Eastern customs and traditional people that I found exotic and at the same time it was something familiar to me.

Q Can you tell us about the genesis of your relationship with your ex-husband? What kind of dynamic prevailed between the both of you?

A: I married a man from the East but in the West where I had met him. He was Muslim and I am a Jewish woman. We both felt a bit marginalized in America. We dated for two and half years and he said that if I want to visit his homeland, we must get married or we could not travel together in the Islamic world.. At the time, neither of us was religious, but the vision of Isaac and Ishmael living in harmony was a powerful, mystical dream. The half-brothers do make peace, They bury their father Abraham together. I was so young and naive.

Q As you have written, your feminism was forged in Afghanistan. Your book deftly but painfully offers graphic descriptions of the horrific treatment that women endured and still do in that region of the world. Do you think that contemporary Western society acknowledges the dangers that this represents to our freedoms?

A I fled Afghanistan at the very end of 1961, but I see the explosion of burqa clad women on the streets of New York City. This is an important point because it represents the nullification of women. Burqas are nothing more than sensory deprivation isolation chambers and have little to do with Islamic religious law. I am not talking about head covering, which are fine since they do not obscure identity and one can see, hear, taste, smell, talk, and be part of the public world. When a woman wear niqab, (a face mask) she exits the social conversation; she is totally isolated in her body bag. I am offended, frightened, when I see women wearing dark, black, heavy burqas. Why would we, in the West, welcome that or want to support such intolerance in the name of “tolerance”?

I also understand that it is particularly difficult for Jews to vocalize their opposition to such garb, as they feel that if the government intervenes and imposes laws against wearing such articles, as has happened in France, then perhaps their own rights to wear religious head coverings and other garb might be infringed upon. There is a huge difference, however. No one is physically suffocated in religiously Jewish style of dress and that difference stands in stark contrast to the oppressive garments that Muslim women are increasingly compelled to wear. Many girls and women have been honor murdered by their families for refusing to wear hijab or niqab.

There is no place in the Koran where it states that women are commanded to wear burqas and niqab. As a matter of fact,in the 1950s, the King of Afghanistan strongly supported modern dress for women, so there is a perilous regression taking place. Once, the women of Turkey, Egypt, Iran and some countries in the Arab Middle East, and the Mahgreb won or were granted the right to be naked-faced.

What I witnessed so long ago in Afghanistan was both religious and gender apartheid: polygamy, a shut-in purdah existence for women; honor killings, forced marriages. And the same rings true today. It is far worse, far more medieval today; post the Soviet invasion. We see the rise of the Taliban, the civil wars of the warlords, the growth of opium as a cash crop. We really have to understand the depth of this misogyny. In Israel, you can fight to change religious laws, but in tribal countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan womens’ lives are highly circumscribed and endangered.

They are shot for trying to go to school or for wanting to marry someone of their choosing. This is true in Gaza and on the West Bank today, just as it is true in Afghanistan or Pakistan or Saudi Arabia.

Q As a winsome Westernized young woman, you describe the women in your ex-husband’s family with a sense of compassion and outrage. Can you tell elaborate on that?

A In my book I speak of my cruel and probably mentally ill mother-in-law and the fact that her husband was a polygamist. He had two other wives and three sets of children—twenty one in all–living in the same compound. My mother-in-law tried to control me in every way imaginable, but I will never forget the kindness of my sister-in-laws who did everything they could to physically protect me against my mother-in-law and my husband. There are memories that are seared in my soul; as I recount the brutal manner in which my mother-in-law treated her female servants, and how I literally had to force a sweater on a young female servant who was pregnant and cold and how my mother-in-law cursed her and then fired her for accepting it.

Q Your book contains a great many stories from writers dating back centuries ago who traveled throughout the length and breadth of Afghanistan. What sort of historical backdrop does this afford the reader?

A I wanted readers to gain an appreciation of the political, geographic and cultural history of Afghanistan. Westerners who traveled to the East have left a grand record of their adventures. This includes women who visited harems, married Bedoiun sheiks, climbed awesome mountains and survived dangerous sandstorms.

Like me, they also came down with dystentery and hepatitis, and unlike me, with malaria, parasites or worse. Their courage is amazing. They also confirm the gender and religious apartheid that I witnessed as well as the slavery and Dhimmi status of Jews and other infidels. Once, Afghanistan was a flourishing center of Paganism, Zoroastrianism, Buddism, Hinduism, and Judaism. Islam did not fully conquer this part of Central Asia until the ninth century. I once slept in what was once the crossroads of the known world.

Q You write that you have maintained a friendship with your ex-husband, Abdul Kareem and his children from another wife. In lieu of your support for Israel, has your relationship changed over the years?

A I do not regret this act of compassion to a stranger at my gate. He arrived here just after the Soviets had invaded his country. Once, he had married a Jewish woman. Now, over time my ex-husband’s views on Israel seems to have changed. His family has a “politically correct” position on Israel as well. Their opinions are heavily informed and shaped by the left-oriented, secular media. They are probably disappointed in me because they once viewed me as a “heroic, anti-racist” and now they feel betrayed because I am passionately pro-Israel. And these people are not mosque going Muslims. Even some assimilated, westernized Muslims believe Israel is gassing people and this causes me great anguish. Many educated Muslims and non-Muslims, for that matter, believe all the Big Lies told about Israel, that it is an apartheid state because they are fed such disinformation on a routine basis. One Muslim feminist writer, as brave as she is, begins one of her books by saying that she is not a Zionist and repeats this mantra throughout her work.

Q The latter part of your book is dedicated to the history of the people of Afghanistan and you even include a chapter on the tortuous history of the Jews living there.

A Jews have had a very long history in Afghanistan.. On mountain rocks on the Silk Road between Herat and Kabul there are Hebrew inscriptions that date back to the year 750 CE. When Arabs conquered the land, they forced Islam on the people. In 2011-12, a great deal of Jewish written material from the 11th century was found in a cave in northern Afghanistan. In the 19th century, Jews who had fled to Meshed, Iran, long ago, fled after one of many terrible pogroms—to Herat, in Afghanistan. Safe for a while, they soon encountered tragedy, returned to Meshed, where it was worse, and then returned to Afghanistan where they stayed for one hundred years.

Once, the Jews and Hindus were the consummate traders and bankers of Afghanistan. They exchanged currencies and had trading posts going up to Russia, China, Thailand, down to India, and to Europe and the new worlds. Their outposts were along the old silk road. They dealt in textiles, furs, carpets, spices, jewels, currencies and much else. However, overnight, they were literally impoverished by royal edict in in the very early 1930s.. Afghanistan made alliances with Nazi Germany and after World War II, sheltered Nazis (physicians, engineers, scientists) whom they also exploited.

Q: There are a multitude of facts about 20th century refugees, heroic Muslim women, and Jews, you cover them thoroughly in your book. What kind of effect do you think this will have on opinion makers?

A. Well, let’s start with the hypocrisy of the United Nations. In 1980, the UN and the ‘international community” did not help the five million Afghan Muslim refugees in Pakistan. Compare this to the heavily orchestrated campaign which funded and focused upon the 1.6 million Palestinian refugees (These are the UN’s own figures). The UN is not interested in helping Muslim refugees — only in demonizing Israel. . As I said in my book, in 2013, an Afghan acquaintance of mine told me that at least one and a half million Afghan refugees are still festering in camps.

As for women in Afghanistan, many are quite heroic as they stand up to surreal misogynists. They are death threatened and targeted for assassination and they still continue their work in hospitals, schools, as police officers and in public office. Western women can learn quite a bit about courage from them. The humanitarian work being done in Afghanistan has only been possible only because of the Western military presence. As the West pulls out — as it must – this landlocked country which has little infrastructure will be plunged into permanent civil war, tyranny, and a very fierce misogyny. Doctors Without Borders had to pull out many years ago because their physicians were being seen as infidel proselytizers and murdered.

In the 1930s, there was a highly significant Nazi influence in Afghanistan. Jews always had to wear distinctive clothing in Afghanistan and in other Muslim majority countries and Jewish women did not go to school.

My ex-mother-in-law used to speak of a Jewish family that she was close with named the Sharbani and kept asking me if I knew them and was in a quandary as to why they left Afghanistan after 1948. I document the heinous slaughters, forced conversions and the expulsion of Jews in Muslim majority countries including Afghanistan throughout the centuries, so that might give you some idea of why Jews were not welcome there. Interestingly enough, my ex-husband, in his capacity as a government official in Afghanistan was very proud that he had restored a Jewish synagogue in Herat.

Jews from Afghanistan eventually migrated to Israel and to Queens, New York.

Q Because your book is so very topical; a real eye opener in every respect, what kind of impact do you expect it to have?

A I think this book will appeaI to a very wide audience on both sides of the aisle. Many Muslims, both religious and secular have praised the book as have conservatives and feminists. Perhaps it will be a cross-over book, perhaps I will be able to get people to think about Islam’s history of imperialism and apartheid in a new way. Hopefully, my work will serve as a beacon of hope for all oppressed peoples and will be an inspiration in the perennial battle against Islamic misogyny, racism and anti-Semitism.

Q Speaking of the book’s release date; how can readers purchase this book and what venues can they hear you speak at?

A Anyone can purchase my book online at Amazon or any other online book retailers. For those who will be in New York City on October 1st, I will be speaking at the 92nd Street Y on Manhattan’s upper east side and I will be speaking at the Barnes & Noble at Columbia University on October 9th at 6 pm, I hope to be posting my entire speaking schedule on my web site which is: www.phyllis-chesler.com and please visit me on my Facebook page where I supply regular updates.

12/17/12

Jewish Boy Among Those Killed In Connecticut School Shooting

By: Fern Sidman

In the heinous massacre that has rocked the nation to its core, it has been reported that among the 20 children that were killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday morning, December 14th, was six-year-old Noah Posner, a Jewish boy. His twin sister, also a student at the Sandy Hook school, escaped with her life. Upon receiving the news that her son had been one of the first graders killed, Noah’s mother, Veronique, a nurse at a local hospital, completely broke down, according to Rabbi Shaul Praver of Temple Adath Israel in Newtown.

The youngest of all of the victims, Noah celebrated his 6th birthday on November 20th and was remembered in a deeply emotional Sabbath service led by Rabbi Praver at the Adath Israel synagogue. Telling his congregants that the “culture of violence” would have to change, at a community prayer session on Saturday, Rabbi Praver said, “We live in a culture of violence. All of our culture is based on violence and we need to teach the kids about the ways of peace. We need to change everything. There’s too much war, too much violence in our streets.”

Speaking of the ephemeral aspects of life, Rabbi Praver said, “Don’t think that life is somewhere over the rainbow. What you’ve got right now, with your family, your friends, your house: This might be as good as life is ever going to be. So hug your children, love your children… Life is not happening on the other side of the rainbow. We are on the other side of the rainbow.”

Rabbi Praver advised his congregation not to back away from facing reality. “We need to walk back into that school and as soon as the doors open up and go right back to school and continue on with our lives,” he said. After the prayer services, the rabbi told reporters, “I don’t buy the notion that only violence sells. Violence sells because someone chose to sell that product, meaning violent video games and movies. We can sell the product of peace.” He added that, little Noah “was at the wrong place at the wrong time and his little body could not endure so many bullets like that.”

Earlier, Rabbi Praver told National Public Radio Weekend Edition host Scott Simon that he spent Friday — which he termed “the day from Hell” — consoling Posner’s mother, who is a member of the synagogue. “I told the mother that was grieving that I personally believe in the eternity of the soul, and I believe that she will see her son again,” Praver said. “Other than that theological comment, the rest of it was getting her to think about taking a breath and not trying to plan the rest of her life out right now, because she says, ‘What am I going to do without my baby?’”

Praver also spoke about a second victim, six-year-old Benjamin Wheeler, who he called “a very spirited boy.” He and his parents, David and Francine Wheeler, were not members of the synagogue, but they attended its Chanukah celebration. There’s always some brave individual who goes up to the dance floor to get everybody involved. That was Ben Wheeler,” he said. “Just delightful people.”

Praver was among the group of assorted clergy, social workers and psychologists who arrived at the firehouse near the school where many of the victims and their families congregated after the shooting.

In response to the question of why such tragedies happen, Praver replied: “I don’t know the answer to that. I never try to present a theological answer to that. I think what’s more important is to have compassion, humanity and hold someone’s hand and hug them and cry with them.”

The horrific drama unfolded on Friday morning, a little after 9:30 a.m. when a lone gunman identified as Adam Lanza, 20, of Newtown, burst through the school’s security system and headed for a classroom of first graders. Possessing hundreds of rounds of ammunition, Lanza used a Bushmaster .233 semi-automatic rifle, killing 18 of the children on site, with two being rushed to the local hospital where they were pronounced dead on arrival.

He also killed their teacher, 27-year-old Victoria Soto, along with the school principal Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, 47, school psychologist, Mary Sherlach, 56, permanent substitute teacher Lauren Rousseau, 30, and teachers Rachel Davino, 29, and Anne Marie Murphy, 25. Lanza then turned the gun on himself, taking his own life, when he heard the first responders approaching. All together, he snuffed out the lives of 26 individuals in the second largest school shooting in US history.

Before carrying out the gruesome massacre at the Sandy Hook school, Lanza, using guns legally registered to his mother Nancy, fatally shot her in the face in the family home in Newtown. In addition to the Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle, he was armed with two automatic handguns.

A relative told ABC News that Adam was “obviously not well.” Family friends in Newtown also described the young man as troubled and described Nancy as rigid. “Adam was not connected with the other kids,” said Barbara Frey, who also said he was “a little bit different, kind of repressed.”

Nancy and her husband Peter, Adam’s father, divorced in 2009. Peter Lanza, who drove to northern New Jersey to talk to police and the FBI, is a vice president at GE Capital and had been a partner at global accounting giant Ernst & Young.

In a condolence letter to President Obama following the massacre, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew a parallel to the acts of barbaric Arab terrorism Israel has to deal with. “I was shocked and horrified by today’s savage massacre of innocent children and adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut,” Netanyahu wrote. “We in Israel have experienced such cruel acts of slaughter and we know the shock and agony they bring. I want to express my profound grief, and that of all the people in Israel, to the families that lost their loved ones. May you and the American people find the strength to overcome this unspeakable tragedy.”

Israeli President Shimon Peres on Saturday called the massacre “atrocious” and “incomprehensible” and said that Israelis’ hearts were with the bereaved families. In his own letter of condolence to the US President, Peres said there was no experience that could be likened to that of a parent losing a child. “We stand with you today in contemplation and grief over the atrocious, incomprehensible massacre of 20 children and six adults — educators – at Sandy Hook Elementary School,” he wrote. “No crime is more heinous than the killing of a child,” he added. “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.”

Earlier, Tzipi Livni, head of the newly formed centrist party Hatnuah and a former foreign minister, sent a message to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “On this sad day, all Israelis share the deep sorrow of the Americans over the loss of so many lives of women, men and innocent children,” she said.

12/13/12

PLO Calls On EU To Take Tougher Measures Against Israel

By: Fern Sidman

On Tuesday, December 11th, PLO Executive Committee member, Hanan Ashwari called on those foreign ministers gathered on Monday December 10 at the European Union summit in Brussels to “reconsider” it’s political and trade relations with Israel over what it called “provocations.”

The EU’s meeting in Brussels was convened to debate Israel’s approval last week of the thousands of housing units to be built in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. As had been predicted, the meeting resulted in a severe condemnation of Israel’s decisions. Following discussions on the matter, the EU issued a statement saying that it was, “deeply dismayed by and strongly opposes Israeli plans to expand settlements in the West Bank, including in east Jerusalem, and in particular plans to develop the E1 area,” and said all of its agreements with Israel only applied to the pre-1967 lines. Diplomatic sources have indicated that they fear that the language in the council statement as it pertained to recognition of Israel only within the context of the 1967 borders, was placed there to lay the groundwork for labeling and possibly banning settlement products in the future.

While praising the EU condemnation of Israeli settlement plans, Ashwari exhorted them to take further punitive measures against the Jewish state. “We call on the EU to hold Israel accountable for its illegal occupation of Palestine, reconsider its political and trade relations with Israel and agreements, including the EU-Israel Association agreement, implement a ban on Israeli settler products and extremist settlers, and rescue the chances for peace and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state based on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital,” Ashrawi said. Specifically condemning Israel for “settlement activities and the rise of settler violence,” Ashwari also accused Israel of “the blatant attack on Palestinian security forces, the raiding and plundering of the offices of Palestinian NGOs and civil society organizations, and the increase in home demolitions.”

In response to inflammatory statements made over the weekend by Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal on his premier visit to Gaza, in which he called for Israel’s annihilation, the EU released a statement saying that it denounces as “unacceptable” statements by Hamas “that deny Israel’s right to exist.” Pressured to speak out against the objectives of Hamas by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who issued his own condemnations of the failure of the international community to stand up for Israel in the face of direct threats made by terrorist organizations, the EU said in a statement released following the meeting that the bloc reiterated its “fundamental commitment to the security of Israel, including with regard to vital threats in the region,” adding it “will never stop opposing those who embrace and promote violence as a way to achieve political goals.”

The announcement of Israeli plans for the expansion of Jewish settlements and the addition of 3000 new homes near the E1 area of Jerusalem has significantly raised the ire of the international group and prompted them to issue further condemnations. “The E1 plan, if implemented, would seriously undermine the prospects of a negotiated resolution of the conflict by jeopardizing the possibility of a contiguous and viable Palestinian state and of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states,” the EU claimed. “In the light of its core objective of achieving the two-state solution, the EU will closely monitor the situation and its broader implications, and act accordingly,” the statement concluded.

In an interview Tuesday with Israel Radio, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman sent shockwaves when he compared European diplomacy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the Holocaust. “I’m not pleased with Europe’s position that again, again in history, ignores calls to annihilate the nation of Israel.” Hamas, he said, missed no opportunity to clearly state its objective of annihilating the state of Israel, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, he insisted, supported that position. “We already went through this Europe at the end of the 30s, in the 40s. They are sacrificing all their values in favor of their interests. Even then, in the 40s they knew what was going on with the concentration camps, to the Jews, and they didn’t exactly act,” Lieberman said.

12/13/12

Nazi Concentration Camp Guard Claims He Was Forced To Join SS

By: Fern Sidman

A former Nazi concentration camp guard who has lived for the last 50 years in western Pennsylvania, is now engaged in legal wrangling against deportation proceedings initiated by the government. According to published reports, on Thursday, December 6th, 88-year old Anton Geiser, took his fight against deportation to the nation’s highest immigration court, proffering the argument that he shouldn’t be punished because he served in Hitler’s army against his will. Geiser, of Sharon, Pennsylvania, who has acknowledged his service in the Nazi SS as a guard in the Sachsenhausen and Buchenwald concentration camps, had his appeal in the case heard by the Board of Immigration Appeals in Falls Church, Virginia.

Back in 2010, a federal judge ordered him deported on grounds of engaging in crimes against humanity. Geiser’s attorney, Adrian Roe, has argued that the court should have considered that Geiser was forced to join the SS against his will as a 17-year-old. Lawyers representing the government have argued to uphold the deportation decision, saying that federal law places former Nazis in a harsher immigration category, and no exceptions should be made because of compulsory service. Mr. Roe has acknowledged that Congress did indeed place Nazis in a separate, harsher category when it comes to determining their rights to immigrate to and live in the United States, but he said that not everyone conscripted into the Hitler war machine is truly a Nazi. “The label Nazi itself sort of goes to belief,” Roe said. “If they were a true believer, we don’t want them here. If they were a forced participant, are they really a Nazi?”

Geiser, who was recently hospitalized, did not attend Thursday’s hearing. He came to the U.S. in 1956 and was naturalized in 1962. He lived in Sharon, about 75 miles north of Pittsburgh, where he worked in a steel mill for decades and raised five children.

Susan Siegal, a Justice Department lawyer cast credible doubts on Geiser’s assertion that his service as a Nazi SS camp guard was truly involuntary. She said he could have requested a transfer back to the Russian front, where he was initially serving, or that he could have simply walked away from service or defied immoral orders. She said the Nuremberg trials after World War II and military code established the precedent that following immoral orders is not an adequate defense. “I’m sorry- Mr. Geiser did engage in crimes against humanity,” Siegal said.

Roe took exception to the portrayal of Geiser as a war criminal. Geiser says he was forced to join the SS in 1942 and that he never killed anyone, though tens of thousands are believed to have died at Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen. Geiser does not dispute that the Nazi camps were horrific and he previously told prosecutors he was ashamed of his service. “I was not proud where I served and I didn’t like it then and I didn’t like it now,” he said.

The hearing, for the most part, did not focus on Geiser’s crimes during the war, but on narrow questions of legal precedent and procedural issues. Roe argued that a 2009 Supreme Court decision requires immigration judges to consider whether an alleged perpetrator of persecution was doing so voluntarily. More broadly, he said US law in nearly all aspects takes into account whether a person was compelled to behave against his will and he asserted that the same principles should be extended to Geiser’s case.

The three members of the Board that heard the case – two appointed by Republicans, one by a Democrat – are expected to issue their ruling in a few months. While it is the highest immigration court, it is an administrative body and its rulings are subject to review by federal judges and the Supreme Court. It is expected that the board’s ruling will be appealed by the losing side.

“We hope that Geiser is deported,” said Joy Braunstein, director of the Holocaust Center of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. But Kurt Schrimm, the head of the special prosecutors’ office in Germany that investigates Nazi war crimes, said they aren’t currently investigating Geiser’s case and the Austrian Justice Ministry said it hasn’t corresponded with American authorities.

In the case of Johann Breyer of Philadelphia, another accused former Nazi guard, a judge allowed him to stay in the US reasoning in part that because Breyer had joined the SS at age 17, he couldn’t be held responsible for what he did as a minor. Federal prosecutors, however, say that even if Anton Geiser didn’t kill anyone, his work as a concentration camp guard makes him a party to the persecution of countless men, women and children, no matter how long ago that happened. Geiser escorted prisoners to slave labor sites and was under orders to shoot any prisoners who attempted to escape. Both sides agree that Geiser guarded only the perimeter of the camps, but previous court rulings have found that doing so is enough to make someone ineligible for US citizenship.

The Sachsenhausen and Buchenwald camps held some political and military prisoners, but tens of thousands of people also died there under horrific conditions, such as starvation, slave labor, medical experiments and executions. Peter Black, the senior historian at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, said that it’s “very difficult” to tell whether any particular individual actually volunteered for the SS or was pressured to join, but he did say that guards were essential to the concentration camp system.

“Even if they don’t have any contact with a prisoner, by walking the perimeter as an armed guard, they are helping to keep the people inside that place where they are enduring persecution,” Black said, adding that SS guards were paid, received leave time and health benefits for their service.
In 2006, a federal judge in Pittsburgh revoked Geiser’s citizenship and then was ordered deported by a federal judge four years later. Having lost a circuit court appeal in 2008, the US Supreme Court refused to hear his case in 2009. In 2010 an immigration judge ordered him deported to Austria, or any other country that will take him. The Austrian Embassy in Washington, D.C. did not immediately respond to a question about whether the country would accept Geiser.

The Justice Department didn’t respond to questions for comment on the Geiser case, which is part of its efforts to investigate former Nazis. Since the 1979 inception of the program, it has won more than 100 cases.

12/7/12

Anti-Semitic Blood Libel Resurrected In Sweden

By: Fern Sidman

In an apparent attempt to revivify medieval anti-Semitic blood libels, the Swedish culture and news magazine, “Filter,” ran a 17-page article in its most recent issue in which it vindicated the author of a 2009 polemical piece that charged Israel with “stealing human organs” from young Palestinian men and then killing them.

Originally appearing in another Swedish magazine called “Aftonbladet,” author Donald Boström leveled accusations at the Israel Defense Forces for purportedly absconding with human organs belonging to 69 Palestinian men in the early 1990s. Asserting that the IDF conducted “macabre operations” in the West Bank, Boström told his readers that these unnamed Palestinian men in the “occupied territories” were “being captured and tortured, subjected to involuntary autopsies and then robbed of their organs before being killed.”

Roundly categorized as “yellow journalism” by reputable media outlets for its unsubstantiated claims and for promulgating mendacious conspiracy theories, the article also sparked a diplomatic crisis. When it first appeared in 2009, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded that the Swedish government take the newspaper to task for its propaganda appeal and Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor called it “a mark of disgrace” for the Swedish press.

The thrust of Boström’s indictment against Israel as an international “human organ peddler” is predicated on an amorphous connection with events that took place years apart. He points to the 2009 organ trafficking ring in New Jersey that was masterminded by a Brooklyn rabbi named Levy Izchak Rosenbaum. According to authorities, the operation brokered the sale of black-market kidneys (buying them from Israel and selling them to U.S. patients). Bostrom then links this “supply and demand” theory to Israel’s low organ donations rates in the early 1990s. Moreover, speaking of interviews he conducted with Palestinian families and UN employees while in Israel in the 1990s, Boström suggests that the International Court of Justice launch an investigation into the Israeli army for the “theft of human organs and murder” based on the claims of such that these people allegedly made to him.
The firestorm of publicity that erupted in the aftermath of the article’s publication not only generated adverse implications for Boström, but also for Aftonbladet’s editor, Åsa Linderborg, who had been hired just two months before the article appeared in print. Linderborg dismisses critiques that the story reflected centuries-old anti-Semitic canards and says that charges against the publication for promoting conspiracy theories are entirely unfounded. She is quoted as saying, “There is this pattern in Sweden that If you criticize Israel’s actions towards Palestine, you are labeled as an anti-Semite and that is why many journalists here keep quiet on this issue.”

Despite its extraordinary length however, the Filter article lacks any verifiable evidence to substantiate the bilious claims about the IDF and glosses over the pervasive accusations that Aftonbladet had intentionally presented Boström’s story in a tendentious climate against Israel. The Filter piece also assigns blame to critics for the polemical maelstrom that ensued, asserting simply that readers “cried anti-Semitism a bit too soon.”

Not everyone is in agreement with Filter’s supposition and detractors of the Aftonbladet story from across the political spectrum insist that the article represented irresponsible journalism at best, and, at worst, was blatantly anti-Semitic. Jonathan Leman, a reporter for Expo, an anti-racist magazine, says, “It is absolutely not anti-Semitic in itself to present accusations about Israel, but it so happens that these ideas about global networks of Jews and of organ plundering very closely match classic, medieval anti-Semitic accusations that can also be found in racist and right-wing forums today. And so, if you move in that territory you have to be aware of this and be aware that your story can be misused by intolerant people. And that is, in fact, precisely what has happened. But it’s as if Linderborg and Boström are unwilling even to entertain that thought.”

Feeling victorious by Filter’s “vindication” of their actions, Linderborg and her associates have published pompous editorials in which they castigate the Swedish media for what they label as their “betrayal.” They have also proffered arguments insisting that the uproar caused by Boström’s article had a direct impact in bringing illegal organ trading in Israel to a screeching halt.

In an effort to defend his writing, Bostrom told reporters that, “I wanted to include all the material I had to make people feel like: OK, he knows what he’s talking about, he’s spoken to people on both sides, he’s gone through the material.”

What Boström neglected to report was the truth about illegal organ removals in Israel. About a decade before the New Jersey organ trafficking story appeared, the Israeli daily newspaper, Yediot Achronot published a detailed investigative piece about the Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine in Israel and its chief pathologist, Yehuda Hiss.

Published evidence reveals that during the 1990s, Hiss had engaged in illegal extrications of bodily organs and tissues, and replaced them with toilet paper rolls and metallic rods to hide the thefts. In 2001, Israel ordered an inquiry into these nefarious practices and had confirmed their veracity. Yediot reported that Hiss, along with his staff, had taken thousands of indiscriminate body parts from 125 people including Israeli soldiers, Palestinians, tourists and guest workers. Offering a public disclosure of his misdeeds, Hiss spoke candidly about the illegal confiscation of organs in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2. Boström, however, neglected to mention this in his piece.

Yediot Ahronot reporter Ronen Bergman, who was behind the exposé, recently told Swedish Radio that he was “shocked” when reading Aftonbladet’s story. He asserts that they had “distorted and falsified” the findings of the report by directly implying that the IDF was purposefully targeting Palestinians in order to slake the desires of the rogue pathologist at Abu Kabir. “What I discovered is that the forensic institute was stealing organs from everybody… the only criteria was if the bodies were fresh enough and if the staff would be able to hide the organs without being caught,” he said. The IDF was not involved in any way.

Now admitting that both Israelis and Palestinians had been victimized in this grotesque crime at Abu Kabir, Linderborg says that the Palestinian men “were not killed because Israel needed organs, but they were killed in a conflict with Israel and one took the opportunity to take their organs.” This admission, of course, is a completely different version of the events that transpired from the original 2009 story that Aftonbladet published. The wording of the original article had led readers to believe that young Palestinian men were “captured” by Israeli soldiers and were an essential part of Israel’s “organ bank” at a juncture in history when the Israeli populace was highly reluctant to sign up for voluntary donations.

“When Aftonbladet, a big Swedish newspaper, publishes a text like this it carries a certain weight and that is why it is constantly referenced,” said Leman, the journalist from Expo magazine. “For instance it was cited by those who claimed that Israeli relief efforts in Haiti after the earthquake were a smokescreen for organ theft operations,” he added.

Linderborg, however remains adamant that there are potent geo-political components to this story and apparently refuses to acknowledge her own biases in the face of clear cut facts and inexorable proof. “However you twist and turn Boström’s article and the Israel-Palestine conflict, in the end it’s about one and the same issue and that is that Palestinians are being killed by Israel in a 64-year-old conflict,” she said.

On another front in Sweden, it appears that in the wake of a devastating series of anti-Semitic attacks, including an assault on two Jewish women in Malmo recently, the president of the European Jewish Congress (EJC), Moshe Kantor, was prompted to warn that the Swedish Jewish community “is in grave danger.”

Kantor ruefully observed that “the community is slowly being pushed out; it is dying,” of what he termed ‘a thousand cuts.’ He added that, “The situation is intolerable for Jews in Malmo and every week we hear of another attack. Each attack should be seen and dealt with as part of a greater pattern to make Jewish life unsustainable in Sweden. The attacks against Jews should be seen in their entirety and there is a concerted attempt to rid certain areas of Sweden, if not the whole country, of Jews.”

On two occasions earlier this week, huge swastikas were scrawled on several doors belonging to two separate Jewish homes in Malmo, according to a report in Sydsvenskan, a local daily. The paper reports that one home was burglarized and amongst items that were stolen were a computer and Judaica. As the perpetrators of the robbery returned to the scene of the crime, it was reported that the homeowners called police four times during the weekend. Prior to this home invasion and robbery, vandals attacked a synagogue in Malmo, a rabbi was viciously brutalized in the street and several assaults were carried out against the Jewish community in the last couple of months.

According to statements made to the media by Kantor, “The EJC will request a meeting with the Prime Minister of Sweden to discuss the issue and the need for greater policing, enforcement of anti-racism laws and a long-term strategy for dealing with the attacks on the Jewish community because we are reaching a tipping point for the Jews in Sweden.”

Lena Posner-Korosi, President of the Swedish Council of Jewish Communities, exhorted the political leadership in Malmo as well as the government of Sweden to employ all measures, “to end the spiral of increased hatred and violence against Jews in the country.” She added that, “Breaking into Jewish homes and deliberately stealing items of great personal and emotional value is outrageous.”

12/4/12

“Israel Needs U.S. Support More Than Ever” – Says Rep. Michele Bachmann

By: Fern Sidman

Thousands gather for 30th annual Yeshiva Bet El dinner.

A palpable electricity filled the air on Sunday evening, December 2nd, as over 2000 people gathered for the annual gala dinner supporting the town of Bet El, a vibrant and growing Jewish community nestled in the hills of the Shromron in Israel. Held at the illustrious Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square and sponsored by the American Friends of Bet El Yeshiva Center, this year’s event marked their 30th soiree and featured a veritable panoply of distinguished personalities in the Jewish and pro-Israel communities.

Highlighting the evening’s proceedings was guest speaker, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) of Minnesota, a former GOP candidate for president in the recent 2012 elections. As a boldly outspoken supporter of Israel and the expansion of the Jewish settlement movement in Judea and Samaria, Ms. Bachmann told her audience to thunderous applause, “Israel is G-d’s idea. All we’re doing is following Him.” Calling the modern state of Israel a “miracle” and the fulfillment of the prophecies spoken of in the book of Ezekiel in the Bible, Ms. Bachmann heaped copious praise on the Jewish nation saying, “the Jewish people inspired the world with Jewish faith, Jewish values and Jewish tenacity, and it is the Jewish people who were privileged to be the keepers of the light of the Torah.”

Recalling the time she spent in Israel living on a kibbutz in the Negev in the summer of 1974 as an 18-year old, fresh out of high school, Ms. Bachmann said, “I will never, ever forget that most memorable experience. As a naive girl from the mid-West, I didn’t know what to expect. The conditions there were primitive; it was the summer and there were no ice cubes to be had and I picked weeds in the cotton fields while soldiers carrying machine guns went through the fields searching for land mines. I felt honored and deeply moved to be just a small part of helping to make the state of Israel blossom. It is in my heart and soul forever.”

Referencing the recent war between Israel and Hamas terrorists in Gaza, Ms. Bachmann spoke in a voice reverberating with profound resolve when she said, “Israel has the right and obligation to defend herself and history has proven that no concessions that Israel could ever make would be acceptable to their enemies.”

Calling the United Nations recent vote granting the Palestinians non-member observer statehood, “wildly inappropriate” and “shameful,” Ms. Bachmann said that the UN had “rewarded Hamas with their first step toward statehood” and reminded her audience that “Israel’s enemies are committed to the complete destruction of Israel and the Jewish people.”

Ms. Bachmann also took issue with the Obama administration for their constant pressure of Israel to make suicidal concessions in the name of a false peace. “When we heard President Obama’s infamous speech in Cairo, it was quite clear that his support for Israel was not certain at all,” she intoned. “Since the inception of the modern state of Israel and since the days of Harry Truman, we always had Israel’s back. Now, Israel needs US support more than ever,” she added.

Calling on the US and the international community to throw their total support behind Israel in the face of mounting concerns about its security, Ms. Bachmann said, “Such groups as Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran are the epitome of evil. Throughout the Middle East, benign autocratic regimes have been replaced with governments that call for the ascendancy of Sharia law. We must rise up to our moral obligation of calling these forces for what they are and that is evil. There is no other word for it. They are evil.”

She also exhorted her audience to exercise their rights of self-expression. “We must vote with our feet and our wallets. We must call upon our government to stop funding the UN with money borrowed from China. The PLO should now lose all US aid because of their misguided UN initiative and Israel must be accorded the respect of any other sovereign nation.”

“Our ongoing support of Israel is why we’ve been singularly blessed as a nation. As we know, G-d blesses the nations that bless Israel. To that end, President Obama must declare Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel and he must immediately move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” Ms. Bachmann added.

Beginning the evening with the recitation of Psalm 130, the list of this year’s awardees were announced. Rabbi Pesach Lerner, the executive vice president emeritus of the National Council of Young Israel was the recipient of the coveted Rabbinic Leadership Award for his outspoken support for Torat Yisrael, Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael. Rabbi Lerner has been in the forefront of the movement seeking the release of Jonathan Pollard from federal prison. “We are now entering the 28th year of Jonathan Pollard’s imprisonment,” he said. “Just the other day Jonathan collapsed in prison and was hospitalized. His health is deteriorating rapidly. We ask that you keep Jonathan in your prayers. Keep speaking out for his freedom. Keep writing letters to your elected officials and never forget our brother, Jonathan,” he added.

Brian Decker, a senior vice-president of Bear, Stearns and Company, was presented with the Shomer Bet El Award for his constant dedication to Israel’s survival. Earlier this year, Mr. Decker made his first trip to Bet El, where he quickly bonded with the initiatives and energies of the community and with Bet El founder and Knesset Member Ketzaleh.

Giving a “shout out” to Arutz Sheva editor, Rochel Sylvetsky, prominent New York attorney and real estate investor, Mark Langfan was presented with the auspicious Shomer Yisroel award for his tenacious work as a champion and defender of Israel’s rights. For the last several decades, Mr. Langfan has exclusively dedicated himself to explaining Israel’s security needs to government officials and audiences throughout the world. Using a three-dimensional topographical model and map of Israel that he designed himself, Mr. Langfan discusses the implications of the strategic height and depth of the mountains of Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights for the future of Israel’s vital security interests.

This year’s esteemed Guests of Honor were Shelley and Ronnie Summers, active Bet El committee members for over a decade. Having dedicated countless hours working behind the scenes to ensure that each and every Bet El dinner is a resounding success, the Summers’ have served in leadership roles at the Young Israel of Hillcrest for many years and are deeply devoted to the continued growth of the Bet El community that they love so very much.