How the Man Who Decoded the Dances of Honeybees Survived the Nazis

The Austrian-born zoologist Karl von Frisch received a Nobel prize in 1973 for his studies of animal behavior and communication, including his discovery that bees danced in order to inform each other where sources of pollen could be found. When the Nazis came to power in Germany, Frisch, who had a professorship at the University of Munich, quickly found himself in trouble with the regime. Reviewing a new biography of Frisch, Martha Kearney writes:

[B]y the time Hitler gained power in 1933, it was possible to conduct a purge [at the university] and many Jewish members of the staff were sacked. Frisch faced anonymous accusations of hiring too many Jews, and . . . a pamphlet, The Neutral Scholar, attacked an unnamed professor for devoting too much attention to insects while neglecting his own Volk.

Far more dangerous was the accusation that Frisch himself was Jewish. It seems extraordinary now that while the Nazis prepared for war, they were devoting resources to a genealogical department designed to root out anyone of Jewish descent from the government payroll. These zealous officials discovered that Frisch’s maternal great-grandparents were Jewish converts to Catholicism. The chillingly bureaucratic letter arrived, demanding that he resign his job because he was a “second-degree crossbreed.”

Various academics tried to intervene on Frisch’s behalf without success. Help came in an unexpected form: a disease called nosema, which was wiping out German bees. . . . The president of the South Bavarian Beekeepers wrote to Nazi HQ imploring them to spare “the most successful bee researcher of the world” in order to help the “catastrophic emergency situation.” . . . [A]fter further pressure on the Ministry of Food and Agriculture citing the issue of 800,000 dying colonies, it was finally agreed that Frisch could continue his work to combat the nosema plague.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, History & Ideas, Nazis, Science

Palestinian Acceptance of Israel as the Jewish State Must Be a Prerequisite to Further Negotiations

Oct. 19 2018

In 1993, in the early days of the Oslo peace process, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) under Yasir Arafat accepted the “right of the state of Israel to exist in peace and security.” But neither it nor its heir, the Palestinians Authority, has ever accepted Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, or the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. Robert Barnidge explains why this distinction matters:

A Jewish state for the Jewish people, after all, was exactly what the [UN] General Assembly intended in November 1947 when it called for the partition of the Palestine Mandate into “the Arab state, the Jewish state, and the city of Jerusalem.”

Although the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state does not stand or fall on this resolution—in declaring the independence of Israel on the eve of the Sabbath on May 14, 1948, the Jewish People’s Council, [the precursor to the Israeli government], also stressed the Jewish people’s natural and historic rights—it reaffirms the legitimacy of Jewish national rights in (what was to become) the state of Israel.

The Palestinians have steadfastly refused to recognize Jewish self-determination. [Instead], the PLO [has been] playing a double game. . . . It is not simply that the PLO supported the General Assembly’s determination in 1975, rescinded in 1991, that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” It is that that the PLO leadership continues to speak of Jews as a religious community rather than a people, and of Zionism as a colonial usurper rather than the national liberation movement that it is.

The U.S. government, Barnidge concludes, “should demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist in peace and security as a Jewish state” and refuse to “press Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians unless and until that happens.”

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Peace Process, PLO, US-Israel relations, Yasir Arafat