The Francophone Greek Jewish Novelist Who Wrote the International Law on Refugees, Identified Rising Anti-Semitism, and Mocked the League of Nations

Aug. 21 2019

Born Avraham Coen in the Greek island of Corfu in 1895, the writer later known as Albert Cohen spoke only the local Jewish dialect for the first five ears of his life. His family moved to Marseille when he was a child, and he went on to pursue a career as a lawyer. Before publishing his first book, a collection of poetry titled Paroles Juives (Jewish Words) in 1921, he had already publicly embraced Zionism, as Matt Alexander Hanson notes:

In the wake of the Balfour Declaration, . . . Cohen met Chaim Weizmann, whose support granted him the editorship of La Revue Juive. His writers included Martin Buber, Sigmund Freud, and Albert Einstein. [Yet] Cohen never visited Israel, despite serving as a liaison for the Jewish Agency for Palestine and rallying for [Jewish] statehood in the prime of his diplomatic career.

That diplomatic career involved international law as it pertains to refugees and stateless persons. Cohen wrote a protocol on the subject that became Article 28 of the 1951 Geneva Convention, and he worked for many years at international organizations based in Geneva. Hanson notes:

Cohen’s contribution to international refugee law was his attempt to save Jews [deprived of ] citizenship. As early as 1929, he saw it coming. In his debut [novel], Solal, published in 1930, anti-Semitic crows in Geneva croak of danger in a xenophobic country where Jews were demonized . . . as an incomprehensible race of worms.

Cohen also used his fiction, including his most celebrated work, Belle du Seigneur, to expose

the emasculated sham of international organizations, whose art-deco opulence and chauvinistic classism he mocked in indisputably perfect French. . . . Cohen [depicts] League of Nations employees boasting of earning more than Mozart, making anti-Semitic jokes, and seducing compliant women in decadent halls on the way to sterile hearings.

In other words, not unlike the League’s successor, the United Nations.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Anti-Semitism, French Jewry, International Law, Literature, United Nations, Zionism

 

Why the Recent Uptick of Israeli Activity in Syria?

Sept. 23 2022

On September 16 and 17, the IDF carried out airstrikes in the vicinity of Damascus, reportedly aimed at Iranian logistical centers there. These follow on an increase in the frequency of such attacks in recent weeks, which have included strikes on the Aleppo airport on August 31 and September 6. Jonathan Spyer comments:

The specific targeting of the Aleppo airport is almost certainly related to recent indications that Iran is relying increasingly on its “air bridge” to Syria and Lebanon, because of Israel’s successful and systematic targeting of efforts to move weaponry and equipment by land [via Iraq]. But the increased tempo of activity is not solely related to the specific issue of greater use of air transport by Teheran. Rather, it is part of a broader picture of increasing regional tension. There are a number of factors that contribute to this emergent picture.

Firstly, Russia appears to be pulling back in Syria. . . . There are no prospects for a complete Russian withdrawal. The air base at Khmeimim and the naval facilities at Tartus and Latakia are hard strategic assets which will be maintained. The maintenance of Assad’s rule is also a clear objective for Moscow. But beyond this, the Russians are busy now with a flailing, faltering military campaign in Ukraine. Moscow lacks the capacity for two close strategic engagements at once.

Secondly, assuming that some last-minute twist does not occur, it now looks like a return to the [2015 nuclear deal] is not imminent. In the absence of any diplomatic process related to the Iranian nuclear program, and given Israeli determination to roll back Iran’s regional ambitions, confrontation becomes more likely.

Lastly, it is important to note that the uptick in Israeli activity is clearly not related to Syria alone. Rather, it is part of a more general broadening and deepening by Israel in recent months of its assertive posture toward the full gamut of Iranian activity in the region. . . . The increasing scope and boldness of Israeli air activity in Syria reflects this changing of the season.

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Read more at Jonathan Spyer

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria, War in Ukraine