Staying Jewish after the Holocaust

Nov. 20 2015

Mordechai Ronen [né Markovits] survived Auschwitz, along with his two brothers. After the liberation, the three returned to their hometown in Romania and debated whether to remain Jews:

So there we were, we three brothers, in Dej, Romania, with a serious decision to make. We had just endured unspeakable horrors, all because of our religion. We discussed whether to keep our Jewish identity or abandon it. After all, if these tragedies happened once, they could happen again. There was only one reason why we were targeted for extermination: we were Jews. We knew anti-Semitism had been around for millennia, and in all likelihood, would continue well into the future. All it would take was another obsessed, manipulative dictator for us to be targets once again. . . .

As you might imagine, these were intense conversations for someone of my age. I was only thirteen years old and my brothers were barely into their twenties. We discussed it every day while staying in Dej. We tried to weigh all the pros and cons, considered the history, and our possible futures. We had just escaped from hell and shuddered at the thought that future generations of Markovitses would have to endure similar experiences.

But I could never get the words my father told me out of my head. “Go to Israel,” he said. I just couldn’t betray his trust, his love, and his hopes for me. I just couldn’t stop being Jewish.

So we three brothers decided to be loyal to our heritage, our parents, our religion, and our roots. We feared the risks could be high. But at the end of the day, there really wasn’t any other option. We simply couldn’t live with ourselves unless we were Jewish. And we figured the best place in the world to be Jewish was Israel.

Read more at National Post

More about: Auschwitz, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Israel, Romania


Leaked Emails Point to an Iranian Influence Operation That Reaches into the U.S. Government

Sept. 27 2023

As the negotiations leading up to the 2015 nuclear deal began in earnest, Tehran launched a major effort to cultivate support abroad for its positions, according to a report by Jay Solomon:

In the spring of 2014, senior Iranian Foreign Ministry officials initiated a quiet effort to bolster Tehran’s image and positions on global security issues—particularly its nuclear program—by building ties with a network of influential overseas academics and researchers. They called it the Iran Experts Initiative. The scope and scale of the IEI project has emerged in a large cache of Iranian government correspondence and emails.

The officials, working under the moderate President Hassan Rouhani, congratulated themselves on the impact of the initiative: at least three of the people on the Foreign Ministry’s list were, or became, top aides to Robert Malley, the Biden administration’s special envoy on Iran, who was placed on leave this June following the suspension of his security clearance.

In March of that year, writes Solomon, one of these officials reported that “he had gained support for the IEI from two young academics—Ariane Tabatabai and Dina Esfandiary—following a meeting with them in Prague.” And here the story becomes particularly worrisome:

Tabatabai currently serves in the Pentagon as the chief of staff for the assistant secretary of defense for special operations, a position that requires a U.S. government security clearance. She previously served as a diplomat on Malley’s Iran nuclear negotiating team after the Biden administration took office in 2021. Esfandiary is a senior advisor on the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group, a think tank that Malley headed from 2018 to 2021.

Tabatabai . . . on at least two occasions checked in with Iran’s Foreign Ministry before attending policy events, according to the emails. She wrote to Mostafa Zahrani, [an Iranian scholar in close contact with the Foreign Ministry and involved in the IEI], in Farsi on June 27, 2014, to say she’d met Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal—a former ambassador to the U.S.—who expressed interest in working together and invited her to Saudi Arabia. She also said she’d been invited to attend a workshop on Iran’s nuclear program at Ben-Gurion University in Israel. . . .

Elissa Jobson, Crisis Group’s chief of advocacy, said the IEI was an “informal platform” that gave researchers from different organizations an opportunity to meet with IPIS and Iranian officials, and that it was supported financially by European institutions and one European government. She declined to name them.

Read more at Semafor

More about: Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy