An IDF Veteran Reflects on an Indian Graveyard in Jerusalem

Nov. 13 2017

While Americans observe November 11—the anniversary of the end of World War I—as Veterans’ Day, for the British Commonwealth it is Remembrance Day, and ceremonies are held at military cemeteries around the world. Matti Friedman comments on one such commemoration held near his home:

My most unsettling neighbors here in Jerusalem are Indians: Afzal Hussein Shah, Chulam Muhammad, Mansub Ali. . . . They, [and those buried alongside them], were children of British India, attached to units like the 124th Duchess of Connaught’s Own Baluchistan Infantry. Many were Muslims; others were Hindus and Sikhs. They traveled far from home to fight the Islamic empire of the Ottoman Turks in Palestine. They must have expected, or at least hoped, to make it back to their families. They were instead felled by bullets, shrapnel, or disease, and remained in this cemetery through the improbable creation of a Jewish state.

They could hardly have imagined that the empire that sent them to fight would vanish—that some of their hometowns would lose their connection not only to Britain but also to India and would become part of a different country entirely, Pakistan. How could they have known that the cause for which they died would become nearly incomprehensible within the span of the lives they should have lived? Only the dead are frozen in their old wars. The soldiers who walk away are left to watch everything change. . . .

In my own time in an Israeli infantry company in the last three years of the 20th century, during a small but very long border war against Hizballah, I believed that an isolated hilltop outpost in southern Lebanon was worth my life and those of my friends. But in the spring of 2000 the army withdrew, and soldiers from my company blew up the outpost. Now it was worthless. . . .

Seventeen years have passed. It’s not that today’s Middle East would be unrecognizable only to the soldiers of 1917, like those buried in my neighborhood. Today’s Middle East would be unrecognizable to the younger version of me who reported to a draft office twenty years ago.

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More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Jerusalem, War, World War I

How Israel Can Best Benefit from Its Newfound Friendship with Brazil

Jan. 21 2019

Earlier this month, Benjamin Netanyahu was in Brazil—the first Israeli prime minister to visit the country—for the inauguration of its controversial new president Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro has made clear his eagerness to break with his predecessors’ hostility toward the Jewish state, and Netanyahu has responded positively. To Emanuele Ottolenghi, the improved relations offer an opportunity for joint cooperation against Hizballah, which gets much of its revenue through cooperation with Brazilian drug cartels. In this cooperative effort, Ottolenghi cautions against repeating mistakes made in an earlier outreach to Paraguay:

Hizballah relies heavily on the proceeds of transnational crime networks, especially in the Tri-Border Area [where] Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay [meet], but until recently, Brazilian officials were loath to acknowledge its presence in their country or its involvement in organized crime. [But] Bolsonaro’s top priority is fighting organized crime. Combating Hizballah’s terror finance is a vital Israeli interest. Making the case that Israel’s and Brazil’s interests dovetail perfectly should be easy. . . .

But Israel should be careful not to prioritize symbols over substance, a mistake already made once in Latin America. During 2013-2018, Netanyahu invested heavily in his relationship with Horacio Cartes, then president of Paraguay. Cartes, . . . too, had a genuine warmth for Israel, which culminated in his decision in May 2018 to move Paraguay’s embassy to Jerusalem. Most importantly, from Israel’s point of view, Paraguay began voting with Israel against the Arab bloc at the UN.

However, the Paraguayan side of the Tri-Border Area remained ground zero for Hizballah’s money laundering in Latin America. The Cartes administration hardly lifted a finger to act against the terror funding networks. . . . Worse—when critics raised Hizballah’s [local] terror-financing activities, Paraguayan ministers confronted their Israeli counterparts, threatening to change Paraguay’s friendly international posture toward Israel. [And] as soon as Cartes left office, his successor, Mario Abdo Benítez, moved Paraguay’s embassy back to Tel Aviv. . . . Israel’s five-year investment ultimately yielded no embassy move and no progress on combating Hizballah’s terror network. . . .

Israel should make the battle against Hizballah’s terror-finance networks in Latin America its top regional priority.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Brazil, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Latin America