How Time Spent in a Japanese POW Camp Created a Zionist War Hero

The one-armed Russian veteran and Zionist pioneer Joseph Trumpeldor distinguished himself for his courage in fighting in the Jewish Legion during World War I; he may be best known in Israel today for his death defending the Galilean village of Tel Hai from Arab attack in 1920. According to legend his final words were, “It is good to die for our country.” But less well known is the story of how Trumpeldor’s commitment to Zionism was shaped by his experience in the Russo-Japanese war (1904-5). As Dor Saar-Man writes, Trumpeldor was captured by the Japanese in the battle of Port Arthur, during which he had been hit by shrapnel and Russian doctors had amputated part of his arm:

The Japanese physicians re-operated on his amputation injury and managed to prevent a life-threatening infection. Wishing to demonstrate [to the West] their proper treatment of Russian prisoners of war, . . . the Japanese allowed the Jews among them to have a somewhat autonomous community life within the [POW] camp. The Jews resided separately and held their own events and cultural activities, including some Zionist activities.

Trumpeldor had been drawn to Zionism even before the Russo-Japanese war, but [his attraction to the movement] intensified during his captivity. Until then he had been exposed primarily to assimilated Jews. . . . But in captivity, surrounded by Jewish and Zionist comrades, he became a zealous Zionist. He devoted his energies to establishing and maintaining a Jewish community in the camp, and began correspondening with Zionist leaders.

He arranged various activities: Trumpeldor had the prisoners publish a newspaper in Yiddish, which was distributed inside and outside the camp and was quite successful; he [also] organized a school for Jewish soldiers. Though he was not religious, and was not particularly concerned with holidays and prayers, Trumpeldor made sure that all the prisoners’ religious needs were met. This included prayers, holidays, kosher food for Passover, Rosh Hashanah cards, and the like. . . .

When the war ended, Trumpeldor was released. He was determined to come to the land of Israel to continue Zionist activity.

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Read more at Museum of the Jewish People

More about: History & Ideas, Japan, Jews in the military, Russia, Zionism

 

UN Troops in Lebanon Don’t Just Ignore Hizballah. They Protect It

Dec. 18 2018

Two weeks ago, IDF officers showed the commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) the tunnels that Hizballah has dug into Israeli territory. UNIFIL, whose primary mission is to keep Iran-backed jihadist group from using southern Lebanon to attack Israel, responded with a statement that failed even to name Hizballah. Not only is UNIFIL useless at doing its job, writes Evelyn Gordon, but its very presence helps Hizballah, since countries that contribute troops are afraid to put them in harm’s way by aggravating the terrorists they’re meant to contain.

It’s no coincidence that the major contributors to UNIFIL . . . oppose listing Hizballah in its entirety as a terrorist organization. The only EU country that does blacklist the entire organization is Holland, which has exactly one soldier in UNIFIL.

The EU and its other member states blacklist only the [organization’s] military wing, not the political wing. And that’s fine with Hizballah because, as the organization itself admits, any distinction between its political and military wings is purely fictitious. Thus, so long as the political wing is legal, Hizballah can still fundraise and recruit freely in Europe.

A complete ban, however, would genuinely hurt Hizballah. According to a 2017 German intelligence report, Germany alone has [on its soil] some 950 Hizballah operatives actively fundraising and recruiting for the organization. Much of that money is raised through charitable donations, but another significant source is organized crime. An EU report published in August described “a large network of Lebanese nationals offering money-laundering services to organized crime groups in the EU and using a share of the profits to finance terrorism-related activities. . . . An EU ban on Hizballah would thus put a serious crimp in its operations.

UNIFIL, by contrast, hasn’t put the slightest crimp in them. . . . To be fair, expecting UNIFIL to stop Hizballah was never realistic. As a senior Israeli official acknowledged this week, few countries would be willing to contribute troops to a mission that actually involved fighting Hizballah. . . . [Yet] UNIFIL has no problem making accusations against Israel. [A] November report that couldn’t “substantiate” Hizballah’s [illegal] arms transfers declared that UNIFIL had recorded 550 Israeli violations of Lebanon’s airspace and demanded their “immediate cessation.”

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Read more at Evelyn Gordon

More about: European Union, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Lebanon