Yad Vashem Honors Its First Arab Righteous Gentile

In 2013, Yad Vashem recognized Mohamed Helmy as belonging to the Righteous among the Nations for hiding a Jewish family friend in his Berlin home for the duration of World War II. Helmy died in 1982 and had no children, but Yad Vashem managed to track down some of his relatives—who refused to accept a certificate and medal on his behalf, due to their hostility toward Israel. But now Helmy’s nephew has come forward to receive the honors due his uncle, the first Arab ever to be so recognized. Ofer Aderet writes:

Helmy was born in Khartoum in 1901, in what was then Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. He went to Germany to study medicine in 1922, settling in Berlin. After completing his studies, he was hired by the Robert Koch Institute in the city, where he eventually became head of urology. Helmy saw Jewish doctors fired from the hospital in 1933, after the Nazis came to power, and was himself fired in 1937 [on “racial” grounds]. A 2009 study by the institute showed that it was heavily involved in Nazi medical policy. . . .

When the Nazis began deporting Jews from Berlin, [Helmy] hid Anna Boros, twenty-one-years-old and a family friend, in his cabin in the city’s Buch neighborhood. She remained there for the duration of the war. Whenever Helmy was under police investigation, he would arrange for her to hide elsewhere. Anna lived as a Muslim under an assumed name, wore a hijab, and even married a Muslim in a fictitious marriage. . . .

Helmy also helped [Anna’s] mother Julie, stepfather Georg Wehr, and grandmother Cecilie Rudnik. Providing for them and attending to all their medical needs, he arranged for Rudnik to be hidden in the home of a German woman, Frieda Szturmann, who was herself later recognized as Righteous among the Nations. For over a year, Szturmann hid Rudnik, sharing her meager food rations.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: History & Ideas, Holocaust, Muslim-Jewish relations, Righteous Among the Nations, Yad Vashem

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood