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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.

Read more at New York Times

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

Why a Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza Is Unlikely

Feb. 16 2018

High-ranking figures in the IDF, along with some Israeli and foreign officials, have been warning that economic troubles combined with severely deficient public works could lead to an outbreak of starvation or epidemic in the Gaza Strip; their warnings have been taken up and amplified in sensationalist stories in Western media. Hillel Frisch is skeptical:

The most important factor behind real humanitarian crises—mass hunger and contagious disease—is first and foremost the breakdown of law and order, and violence between warring militias and gangs. This is what occurred in Darfur, Somalia, and the Central African Republic. In such situations, the first to leave are the relief agencies. Then local medical staffs evacuate, along with local government officials and anyone professional who can make it out of the bedlam. The destitute are left to fend for themselves. Hospitals, dispensaries, schools, and local government offices are soon abandoned or become scenes of grisly shootouts and reprisals.

Nothing could be farther from such a reality than Gaza. Hamas, which is the main source of [misleading reports] of an imminent humanitarian crisis, rules Gaza with an iron fist. Few developed democracies in the world can boast the low homicide rates prevailing in the Strip. Nor have there been reports of any closings of hospitals, municipal governments, schools, universities, colleges, or dispensaries. . . .

Nor have there been news items announcing the departure of any foreign relief agencies or the closure of any human-rights organizations in the area. Nor is there any evidence that the World Health Organization (WHO), which rigorously monitors the world to prevent the outbreak of contagious disease, is seriously looking at Gaza. And that is for good reason. The WHO knows, as do hundreds of medical personnel in Israeli hospitals who liaise with their colleagues in Gaza, that the hospital system in Gaza is of a high caliber, certainly by the standards of the developing world. . . .

Hamas, [of course], wants more trucks entering Gaza to increase tax revenues to pay for its 30,000-strong militia and public security force, and to increase the prospects of smuggling arms for the benefit of its missile stockpiles and tunnel-building efforts. How Israel should react is equally obvious. You want more humanitarian aid? . . . Free the two mentally disabled Israelis who found their way into Gaza and are imprisoned by Hamas.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian economy