An American Diplomat’s Remarkable Role in Rescuing Romanian Jews from the Depredations of Communism

When he visited Bucharest in 1976 as part of an American Jewish Committee delegation, Alfred Moses was approached by two Jews who began to tell him about the pervasive anti-Semitism and official mistreatment meted out to them and their coreligionists. From then on, Moses worked to help Jews leave the country, which at the time was under the tyrannical rule of Nicolae Ceausescu. In the 1990s, he became the U.S. ambassador to Bucharest, and he has recently published a memoir of his experiences. Ben Zehavi writes:

Working with American Jewish and government leaders [from 1976 on], Moses successfully lobbied the U.S. Congress to extend the most-favored-nation status annually to Romania in return for, among other things, Ceausescu allowing its Jews to emigrate to Israel. . . . According to its census, there were nearly 25,000 Jews in Romania in 1977. By 1992, there were fewer than 9,000. The last count in 2011 recorded 3,271 Romanian Jews.

Another of Moses’ legacies is the saving of Bucharest’s Great Synagogue, the oldest house of worship in the Romanian capital, in 1985. “I got a call from the Romanian chief rabbi who said Ceausescu was clearing two square miles of downtown Bucharest to clear space for his new ‘City of the People,’ and two of the buildings in the path of destruction were the Sephardi synagogue and the Great Synagogue,” Moses said.

The Israeli ambassador and the mayor of Bucharest tried feverishly to save the edifices and received assurances from Ceausescu that neither building would be harmed. But the ambassador shortly thereafter walked around the block and saw that the Sephardi synagogue was gone. It had been destroyed the night before.

It took the intervention of then-Secretary of State George Shultz to save the Great Synagogue.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Anti-Semitism, Communism, East European Jewry, History & Ideas, Romania

 

What Egypt’s Withdrawal from the “Arab NATO” Signifies for U.S. Strategy

A few weeks ago, Egypt quietly announced its withdrawal from the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), a coalition—which also includes Jordan, the Gulf states, and the U.S.—founded at President Trump’s urging to serve as an “Arab NATO” that could work to contain Iran. Jonathan Ariel notes three major factors that most likely contributed to Egyptian President Sisi’s abandonment of MESA: his distrust of Donald Trump (and concern that Trump might lose the 2020 election) and of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman; Cairo’s perception that Iran does not pose a major threat to its security; and the current situation in Gaza:

Gaza . . . is ruled by Hamas, defined by its covenant as “one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.” Sisi has ruthlessly persecuted the Brotherhood in Egypt. [But] Egypt, despite its dependence on Saudi largesse, has continued to maintain its ties with Qatar, which is under Saudi blockade over its unwillingness to toe the Saudi line regarding Iran. . . . Qatar is also supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, . . . and of course Hamas.

[Qatar’s ruler] Sheikh Tamim is one of the key “go-to guys” when the situation in Gaza gets out of hand. Qatar has provided the cash that keeps Hamas solvent, and therefore at least somewhat restrained. . . . In return, Hamas listens to Qatar, which does not want it to help the Islamic State-affiliated factions involved in an armed insurrection against Egyptian forces in northern Sinai. Egypt’s military is having a hard enough time coping with the insurgency as it is. The last thing it needs is for Hamas to be given a green light to cooperate with Islamic State forces in Sinai. . . .

Over the past decade, ever since Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power, Israel has also been gradually placing more and more chips in its still covert but growing alliance with Saudi Arabia. Egypt’s decision to pull out of MESA should give it cause to reconsider. Without Egypt, MESA has zero viability unless it is to include either U.S. forces or Israeli ones. [But] one’s chances of winning the lottery seem infinitely higher than those of MESA’s including the IDF. . . . Given that Egypt, the Arab world’s biggest and militarily most powerful state and its traditional leader, has clearly indicated its lack of confidence in the Saudi leadership, Israel should urgently reexamine its strategy in this regard.

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More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy