Hedy Lamarr: The Jewish Actress Whose Technical Wizardry Made Wi-Fi Possible

The subject of a recent documentary, the Austrian-American actress Hedy Lamarr was one of cinema’s first female sex symbols; her best known Hollywood role was that of the titular temptress in Cecil B. DeMille’s Samson and Delilah. But her greatest contribution might well have been in engineering, as co-inventor of a technique for communicating across radio frequencies. Lamarr kept her Jewish origins a secret for most of her career—even her children were surprised to learn of it. In his review of the documentary, J. Hoberman writes:

Hers was a particular sort of Jewish life. Hedwig Kiesler was the only child of wealthy Jewish parents living in Döbling, an affluent, heavily Jewish neighborhood in north-central Vienna. Her father was a bank manager; her mother a would-be concert pianist who converted to Catholicism. Hedy attended a predominantly Jewish secondary school whose students had included Sigmund Freud’s daughters. . . .

Hedy married the millionaire munitions manufacturer Fritz Mandl, a seller of arms to Nazi Germany despite his Jewish heritage. The wedding was Catholic; the marriage was stormy. Hedy escaped Mandl and Austria on her third attempt, a year ahead of the German Anschluss. After a brief time in London, where she attracted the attention of Louis B. Mayer, she arrived in America at twenty-two, with no English, a new last name, and a contract with MGM. . . .

Her hobby was inventing . . . and as war broke out in Europe, she sought to invent something that would help defeat the Nazis. Together with [the composer George] Antheil, the twenty-six-year-old Lamarr developed plans for a radio-controlled torpedo that by switching from one frequency to another, could elude enemy detection and jamming. (The idea for frequency-hopping came in part from Antheil’s attempt to synchronize player pianos; the knowledge of weaponry was Lamarrr’s.) . . .

Their plan for a guided torpedo reached the U.S. Navy [in 1941] and was rejected as too heavy—although the Patent Office did issue two patents on the Antheil-Lamarr “secret communication system.” The Navy acquired the patents and did nothing until, once expired around 1960, the plans became the basis for the similar “spread-spectrum” technology that would ultimately lead to wi-fi, surveillance drones, satellite communications, GPS, and many cordless phones.

Read more at Tablet

More about: History & Ideas, Hollywood, Technology, World War II

An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security