The Other Side of Roman Vishniac

Best known today for his poignant pictures of Jews from Poland and sub-Carpathian Ruthenia (a region now located in the southwesternmost corner of Ukraine), Roman Vishniac was an accomplished photographer whose work took in a variety of locales and subjects. A new exhibit on display at San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum, and an accompanying volume, show off his oeuvre, as Diane M. Bolz writes:

The exhibition . . . embodies a reappraisal of Vishniac’s total body of work—from his Berlin street photography of the 1920s and early 1930s, through his portraiture and documentary images of the postwar period in America, to his groundbreaking efforts in color photomicroscopy (photography through a microscope) of the 1950s to 1970s. A versatile, prolific, and innovative photographer whose career spanned more than five decades, Vishniac brought his Rolleiflex and Leica cameras, along with his eye for bold composition, to such diverse subjects as stylish pedestrians on cosmopolitan streets, Orthodox Jews in rural villages, performers in New York nightclubs, and children in displaced-persons camps. For those who are familiar only with Vishniac’s widely published images of East European Jews, the exhibition and book will be a revelation.

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More about: Arts & Culture, East European Jewry, Holocaust, Photography, Roman Vishniac

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy