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

 

A University of Michigan Professor Exposes the Full Implications of Academic Boycotts of Israel

Sept. 26 2018

A few weeks ago, Professor John Cheney-Lippold of the University of Michigan told an undergraduate student he would write a letter of recommendation for her to participate in a study-abroad program. But upon examining her application more carefully and realizing that she wished to spend a semester in Israel, he sent her a polite email declining to follow through. His explanation: “many university departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel in support of Palestinians living in Palestine,” and “for reasons of these politics” he would no longer write the letter. Jonathan Marks comments:

We are routinely told . . . that boycott actions against Israel are “limited to institutions and their official representatives.” But Cheney-Lippold reminds us that the boycott, even if read in this narrow way, obligates professors to refuse to assist their own students when those students seek to participate in study-abroad programs in Israel. Dan Avnon, an Israeli academic, learned years ago that the same goes for Israel faculty members seeking to participate in exchange programs sponsored by Israeli universities. They, too, must be turned away regardless of their position on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. . . .

Cheney-Lippold, like other boycott defenders, points to the supposed 2005 “call of Palestinian civil society” to justify his singling out of Israel. “I support,” he says in comments to the [Michigan] student newspaper, “communities who organize themselves and ask for international support to achieve equal rights [and] freedom and to prevent violations of international law.”

Set aside the absurdity of this reasoning (“Why am I not boycotting China on behalf of Tibet? Because China has been much more effective in stifling civil society!”). Focus instead on what Cheney-Lippold could have found out by using Google. The first endorser of the call of “civil society” is the Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine, which includes Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and other groups that trade not only in violent “resistance” but in violence that directly targets noncombatants.

That’s remained par for the course for the boycott movement. In October 2015, in the midst of the series of stabbings deemed “the knife intifada,” the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel shared a call for an international day of solidarity with the “new generation of Palestinians” who were then “rising up against Israel’s brutal, decades-old system of occupation.” To be sure, they did not directly endorse attacks on civilians, but they did issue their statement of solidarity with “Palestinian popular resistance” one day after four attacks that left three Israelis—all civilians—dead.

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More about: Academia, Academic Boycotts, BDS, Israel & Zionism, Knife intifada