How Iran Became a Home to Jewish Refugees from Soviet-Occupied Poland

In 1942, over 100,000 refugees of Polish origin made their way to Iran. Many had been in the eastern parts of Poland during the Soviet invasion, and were from there exiled by Stalin to Central Asia, whence they made their way to Iran. Others had been part of the so-called Anders Army, a Polish fighting force organized with the approval of London and Moscow to fight Germany. Among both soldiers and civilians were a large number of Jews; one of the officers, in fact, was the future Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin. Mikhal Dekel tells part of their story:

Three thousand, perhaps more, [of the refugees] were Jewish, including four rabbis and nearly 1,000 unaccompanied children who were taken from Polish orphanages in the Soviet Union. There were also several hundred Polish Jewish stowaways, recent converts to Catholicism, women who pretended to be married to Polish officers, and the like.

Christian and Jewish Polish citizens had been exiled by the Soviets together, first from Soviet-occupied Poland to the Soviet interior and later to the Central Asian republics. In Central Asia, they received aid that was collected by U.S.-based and international Jewish and Catholic charities and distributed by representatives of the Polish government in exile; in the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic’s cities of Samarkand and Bukhara, Jewish and Christian children were housed jointly in Polish orphanages. And amid tensions and animosity—Jewish refugees received less aid, Jewish children were sometimes taunted and beaten in Polish orphanages—there had also been the intimacy of Polish-speaking citizens who shared a common fate.

These discrepancies only worsened in Iran, until assistance from the Jewish Agency for Palestine was able to provide some support. Then the story took another unexpected turn:

By early 1943, after rising bread costs spurred widespread demonstrations among the local population, the majority of Polish refugees—both Jewish and Christian—would evacuate Iran to India, Lebanon, and Syria. The largest number would be transfered to British-controlled Palestine. There, Jewish children would be raised on kibbutzim, at boarding schools, and with foster families as future citizens of a Jewish state, while Polish children would attend Catholic schools in Jerusalem and Nazareth, and mixed schools in Tel Aviv. . . . In Palestine, tensions between Christians and Jews subsided considerably. Most civilian Christian refugees stayed there until 1947, when the British mandate over Palestine ended.

Most of the Christian soldiers swiftly departed Palestine for Italy, where they fought alongside the British.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Menachem Begin, Poland, Polish Jewry, Soviet Union, World War II

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy