The Jewish Starlets of Old Bollywood

March 21 2016

While the prominent role of Jews in the early years of Hollywood is well known, more obscure is the part played by Jews in the founding of “Bollywood,” the Indian film industry. Indian Jews were filmmakers and occasionally actors but, most of all, actresses. Navras Jaat Aafreedi writes:

[O]f all the diverse ethnic and religious groups in the world’s second-most-populous country, these earliest female stars came from a minority within India’s smallest religious minority, the Jews, who constitute no more than 0.0004 per cent of its total population. The Baghdadis (as the Jews who came from a number of Middle Eastern countries . . . came to be called), were one of the three Jewish communities in India; they were [also] among those [ethnic and religious] communities in India who completely Anglicized themselves. . . .

Baghdadi Jewish women, highly Westernized in their lifestyle and outlook, . . . did not have the reservations [about the] performing arts that women from other communities in India—including the other Jewish communities, the Bene Israel and the Cochin Jews—had. By doing so they paved the way for women from respectable families from other communities to follow suit. . . .

The first star of Indian cinema was Sulochana (née Ruby Myers, 1907-83). . . . A hugely popular dance of Sulochana’s from the film Madhuri was added to a short film on Mahatma Gandhi . . . which also happened to be India’s first “talkie.”

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Read more at Asian Jewish Life

More about: Arts & Culture, Film, India, Indian Jewry

The Impossibility of Unilateral Withdrawal from the West Bank

Feb. 19 2019

Since throwing his hat into the ring for the Israeli premiership, the former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz has been reticent about his policy plans. Nonetheless, he has made clear his openness to unilateral disengagement from the West Bank along the lines of the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, stating the necessity of finding “a way in which we’re not controlling other people.” Gershon Hacohen argues that any such plan would be ill-advised:

The political and strategic precepts underlying the Oslo “peace” process, which Gantz echoes, vanished long ago. The PLO has unequivocally revealed its true colors: its total lack of interest in peace, unyielding rejection of the idea of Jewish statehood, and incessant propensity for violence and terrorism. . . . Tehran is rapidly emerging as regional hegemon, with its tentacles spreading from Yemen and Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea and its dogged quest for nuclear weapons continuing apace under the international radar. Even the terror groups Hizballah and Hamas pose a far greater threat to Israel’s national security than they did a decade ago. Under these circumstances, Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank’s Area C, [the only part still under direct Israeli control], would constitute nothing short of an existential threat.

Nor does Israel need to find a way to stop “controlling other people,” as Gantz put it, for the simple reason that its control of the Palestinians ended some two decades ago. In May 1994 the IDF withdrew from all Palestinian population centers in the Gaza Strip. In January 1996 it vacated the West Bank’s populated areas (the Oslo Accords’ Areas A and B), comprising over 90 percent of the West Bank’s Palestinian residents, and handed control of that population to the Palestinian Authority (PA). . . .

This in turn means that the real dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as within Israel itself, no longer revolves around the end of “occupation” but around the future of eastern Jerusalem and Area C. And since Area C (which is home to only 100,000 Palestinians) includes all the Jewish West Bank localities, IDF bases, transportation arteries, vital topographic sites, and habitable empty spaces between the Jordan Valley and the Jerusalem metropolis, its continued retention by Israel is a vital national interest. Why? Because its surrender to a potentially hostile Palestinian state would make the defense of the Israeli hinterland virtually impossible—and because these highly strategic and sparsely populated lands are of immense economic, infrastructural, communal, ecological, and cultural importance, not to mention their historical significance as the bedrock of the Jewish ancestral homeland

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More about: Benny Gantz, Israel & Zionism, Two-State Solution, West Bank