The Story of Holocaust Refugees in Tehran Teaches a Lesson in Jewish Solidarity

In 1942, thousands of Polish-born children, most of them without their parents, were evacuated from Soviet Asia to Iran; among them were some 1,000 Jews. Thanks to the efforts of the local Jewish community, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), and the Zionist movement, these Jewish children were cared for and then transported to the Land of Israel. The Israeli-born scholar Mikhal Dekel, whose father and aunt were among those children, tells this story in a recent book. While Allan Arkush expected this work to be composed in the same fashionably post-Zionist key as Dekel’s previous writings, he found something quite different—both to his surprise and the author’s:

There are [several] occasions [in the book] on which Dekel muses about the accidental character and mutability of nationality, but more often, she takes note of its enduring strength. As she retraces her family’s route from Poland to Palestine, she talks with the locals—some quite knowledgeable and some not—about the tensions between the Jews and their neighbors in the past as well as the present. She also read thousands of documents pertaining to the Polish government-in-exile, which revealed precisely what she hoped not to see: “the exclusion of Jews from resources and from their very identity as Poles, and concurrently a denial of this exclusion by Polish authorities.”

Conversely, Dekel was deeply impressed by the evidence she found of a sense of Jewish mutual responsibility all over the world. In the past, she had always thought of the JDC as a somewhat hapless organization. After learning, however, of the efforts it had made to assist the wartime Jewish refugees in Central Asia, she “was amazed by the ingenuity and expediency with which the JDC purchased and shipped the medicines, and by the commitment and urgency with which it acted.”

There was help from closer by, too. When the children and other refugees showed up in Tehran, the local Jewish communities bent over backward to help them.

Reading this, I thought of the 17th-century situation [when Jewish] benefactors from all over the world chipped in to help Polish Jews who had been carried off to the East, and then, too, the local Jewish communities reached deep into their pockets to redeem them. One 20th-century difference—an enormous one—was the fact that one of the Middle Eastern Jewish communities prepared to help was the embryonic Jewish state based in Palestine, and it could do so with more than money.

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More about: Holocaust, Iran, post-Zionism, Soviet Union, World War II, Zionism

 

The Palestinian Authority Is Part of the Problem, Not the Solution

Jan. 31 2023

On Thursday, Palestinian Authority (PA) officials announced that they had ceased all security cooperation with Israel; the next two days saw two deadly terrorist attacks in Jerusalem. But the PA has in the past made numerous threats that it will sever its ties with the Israeli government, and has so far never made good on them. Efraim Inbar poses a different set of questions: does cooperation with Palestinian leaders who actively encourage—and provide financial incentives for—the murder of Jews really help Israel protect its citizens? And might there be a better alternative?

The PA leader Mahmoud Abbas seems unable to rule effectively, i.e., to maintain a modicum of law and order in the territories under his control. He lost Gaza to Hamas in 2007, and we now see the “Lebanonization” of the PA taking place in the West Bank: the emergence of myriad armed groups, with some displaying only limited loyalty to the PA, and others, especially the Islamists, trying to undermine the current regime.

[The PA’s] education system and media continue propagating tremendous hostility toward Jews while blaming Israel for all Palestinian problems. Security cooperation with Israel primarily concerns apprehending armed activists of the Islamist opposition, as the PA often turns a blind eye to terrorist activities against Israel. In short, Abbas and his coterie are part of the problem, not of the solution. Jerusalem should thus think twice about promoting efforts to preserve PA rule and prevent a descent into chaos while rejecting the reoccupation of the West Bank.

Chaos is indeed not a pleasant prospect. Chaos in the territories poses a security problem to Israel, but one that will be mitigated if the various Palestinian militias vying for influence compete with each other. A succession struggle following the death of Abbas could divert attention from fighting hated Israel and prevent coordination in the low-intensity conflict against it. In addition, anarchy in the territories may give Israel a freer hand in dealing with the terrorists.

Furthermore, chaos might ultimately yield positive results. The collapse of the PA will weaken the Palestinian national movement, which heretofore has been a source of endemic violence and is a recipe for regional instability in the future.

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More about: Israeli Security, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror