The “Irish Oskar Schindler”

As depicted in the 1983 film The Scarlet and the Black, Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty (played by Gregory Peck), an Irish priest serving in the Vatican, worked to keep hundreds of Jews out of the hands of the Nazis. A group in his hometown is now petitioning Yad Vashem to recognize him. Michael Riordan writes:

O’Flaherty grew up the son of a golf steward in Killarney, Ireland, and his skill at the game helped ease his way into Roman society. The priest played with social luminaries like Benito Mussolini’s son-in-law Count Galeazzo Ciano, as well as the former king of Spain. All of his connections were to become very useful when he took on the unforeseen mantle of rescuer.

In the last years of the war, as the Italian government collapsed, O’Flaherty organized a group of priests, anti-fascists, and diplomats to help shelter Jews, escaped POWs, and refugees. He set up a network of safe havens in rented apartments and religious houses throughout Rome. . . .

After the Gestapo became aware of O’Flaherty’s activities they painted a white line across St. Peter’s Square, dividing the neutral Vatican from fascist-controlled Rome. They placed guards nearby ready to snatch the Monsignor if he ever crossed. As a result O’Flaherty became known locally as the Scarlet Pimpernel because of the many disguises he donned during his forays into the capital.

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More about: Catholic Church, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Ireland, Italy, Righteous Among the Nations

 

Syria’s Downing of a Russian Plane Put Israel in the Crosshairs

Sept. 21 2018

On Monday, Israeli jets fired missiles at an Iranian munitions storehouse in the northwestern Syrian city of Latakia. Shortly thereafter, Syrian personnel shot down a Russian surveillance plane with surface-to-air missiles, in what seems to be a botched and highly incompetent response to the Israeli attack. Moscow first responded by blaming Jerusalem for the incident, but President Putin then offered more conciliatory statements. Yesterday, Russian diplomats again stated that Israel was at fault. Yoav Limor comments:

What was unusual [about the Israeli] strike was the location: Latakia [is] close to Russian forces, in an area where the IDF hasn’t been active for some time. The strike itself was routine; the IDF notified the Russian military about it in advance, the missiles were fired remotely, the Israeli F-16s returned to base unharmed, and as usual, Syrian antiaircraft missiles were fired indiscriminately in every direction, long after the strike itself was over. . . .

Theoretically, this is a matter between Russia and Syria. Russia supplied Syria with the SA-5 [missile] batteries that wound up shooting down its plane, and now it must demand explanations from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. That won’t happen; Russia was quick to blame Israel for knocking over the first domino, and as usual, sent conflicting messages that make it hard to parse its future strategy. . . .

From now on, Russia will [almost certainly] demand a higher level of coordination with Israel and limits on the areas in which Israel can attack, and possibly a commitment to refrain from certain actions. Syria, Iran, and Hizballah will try to drag Russia into “handling” Israel and keeping it from continuing to carry out strikes in the region. Israel . . . will blame Iran, Hizballah, and Syria for the incident, and say they are responsible for the mess.

But Israel needs to take rapid action to minimize damage. It is in Israel’s strategic interest to keep up its offensive actions to the north, mainly in Syria. If that action is curtailed, Israel’s national security will be compromised. . . . No one in Israel, and certainly not in the IDF or the Israel Air Force, wants Russia—which until now hasn’t cared much about Israel’s actions—to turn hostile, and Israel needs to do everything to prevent that from happening. Even if that means limiting its actions for the time being. . . . Still, make no mistake: Russia is angry and has to explain its actions to its people. Israel will need to walk a thin line between protecting its own security interests and avoiding a very unwanted clash with Russia.

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More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war