Jewish Gravestones Were Used to Pave the Streets of Prague

During World War II, the Nazis and their collaborators routinely destroyed Jewish cemeteries, and in many instances used the headstones as pavement. Ongoing renovations in the Czech capital’s tourist district provides evidence that the Communist government of Czechoslovakia did something similar. Moreover, this didn’t happen during the Czechoslovakian Communist party’s orgy of anti-Semitism in 1952, but far more recently. Robert Tait writes:

Jewish leaders hailed the unearthing as proof of long-held suspicions that the Communist authorities . . . had taken stonework from Jewish burial sites for a much-vaunted pedestrianization of Wenceslas Square during the 1980s. The flagship project was showcased during a walkabout tour by the then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987.

The names of the dead are unidentifiable because the headstones have been broken to form cobblestones. One person appears to have died in 1877, when Prague was part of the Habsburg empire, while the most recent death is shown to have happened in the 1970s, during the height of Communism. The stones appear to have been taken from different cemeteries.

Synagogues and cemeteries were allowed to fall into disrepair under an officially sanctioned hostile policy towards religious institutions in general and Judaism in particular, making them vulnerable to looting. František Bányai, the chairman of Prague’s Jewish community, [said that] “more Jewish synagogues were destroyed in the area of the current Czech Republic during Communist times than under the Nazis.”

Read more at Guardian

More about: Anti-Semitism, Communism, Czech Republic, Czechoslovakia


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