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Remembering the Heroism of Varian Fry

Sept. 12 2017

Visiting Berlin as a journalist in 1935, Varian Fry was among the first to report for the American press on the Nazi government’s brutal anti-Semitic violence. Upon returning to the U.S., he founded the Emergency Rescue Committee, devoted primarily to getting Jewish artists and intellectuals out of Europe. He later went to Vichy France to help rescue refugees who had fled there from Germany. Ginia Bellafante writes:

In August 1940, Fry, a Protestant and thirty-two-year-old, went to Marseilles to begin a covert rescue operation that during his thirteen-month stay would result in the escape of more than 2,000 people, among them many artists and intellectuals, including Marc Chagall, Hannah Arendt, Max Ernst, . . . Marcel Duchamp, . . . and Alma Mahler [Gustav’s widow]. . . .

In June 1940, he had sent a letter to Eleanor Roosevelt explaining that there was an urgent need for someone—“an adventurous daredevil”—to go to France and risk his life in an attempt to “save the intended victims of Hitler’s chopping block.” But Fry did not see himself in the role, in part because his own command of French and German was merely “halting,” he wrote, and because he had “no experience whatever in detective work.”

He hoped that either Mrs. Roosevelt or her husband could suggest someone, but when no such individual surfaced, he volunteered as if there were no other reasonable choice—strapping $3,000 to his leg as he left New York, holding meetings in bathrooms with the water running to evade the detection of German spies who had planted listening devices. Moral calling inserted him in a world of black-market money, forged passports, and visas and clandestine mountain routes. He stayed in France, having originally imagined it would only be for a few weeks, long past the point at which he understood it was dangerous.

Read more at New York Times

More about: History & Ideas, Holocaust, Refugees, United States, World War II

 

Israel’s Economy Thrives While the Middle East Disintegrates

Jan. 19 2018

Now that the data have come in from 2017, it is clear that the Israeli economy had another successful year, expanding at a rate higher than that of any other advanced country. Israel’s per-capita GDP also grew, placing it above those of France and Japan. Daniel Kryger notes some of the implications regarding the Jewish state’s place in the Middle East:

The contrast between first-world Israel and the surrounding third-world Arab states is larger today than ever before. Israel’s GDP per capita is almost twenty times the GDP per capita of impoverished Egypt and five times larger than semi-developed Lebanon.

Like any human project, Israel is a never-ending work in progress and much work remains to integrate ḥaredi Jews and Israeli Arabs into Israel’s knowledge economy. Properly addressing Israel’s high costs of living requires more economic and legislative reforms and breaking up inefficient oligopolies that keep the prices artificially high. However, by any standard, the reborn Jewish state is a remarkable success story. . . .

Much has changed since OPEC launched its oil embargo against the West after the failed Arab aggression against Israel in October 1973. Before the collapse of the pro-Arab Soviet empire, China and India had no official ties with Israel and many Western and Japanese companies avoided doing business with Israel. Collapsing oil prices have dramatically eroded the power of oil-producing countries. It has become obvious that the future belongs to those who innovate, not those who happen to sit on oil. Israel has today strong commercial ties with China and a thriving partnership with India. Business delegations from Jamaica to Japan are eager to do business with Israel and benefit from Israel’s expertise. . . .

[For its part], the boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) movement may bully Jewish and pro-Israel students on Western campuses. However, in real life, BDS stands no chance of succeeding against Israel. The reason is simple: reborn Israel has . . . become too valuable a player in the global economy.

Read more at Mida

More about: BDS, Israel & Zionism, Israeli economy, Middle East, OPEC