Remembering a Heroic Rebel against Soviet Tyranny

Sept. 30 2020

On Sunday, the nuclear physicist and former Soviet dissident Yuri Orlov died in Ithaca, NY at the age of ninety-six. Orlov’s signature idea was to use the Kremlin’s signing of the Helsinki Accords—a 1975 international agreement that included pledges to protect human rights—to call attention to the USSR’s own wrongdoings. While not Jewish himself, he worked closely with such activists as Natan Sharansky, who writes of his late friend:

In May 1976, eleven people led by Uri Orlov founded the Moscow Helsinki Watch group. In the next nine months, we had created and published nineteen official reports about human-rights violations in the USSR, presenting hundreds of concrete cases. We made them public through press conferences, and passed them on to various international bodies, including a special committee that the American Congress created to monitor the application of the Helsinki Accords. For the first time, we didn’t have to smuggle information out: we were invited instead to pass it officially to the American embassy.

Eight months later, Orlov—on the run from the KGB—met with Sharansky and a few other collaborators:

“I want you to arrange a press conference,” [Orlov] told me. “But the second I come back here with foreign reporters the KGB will arrest you,” I said. “They’re searching for you all over the Soviet Union!”

Orlov waved my objection away. “We cannot hide. All our strength lies in our public stand, in our appeal to the world’s public opinion.”

The next morning, Yuri was arrested. Three weeks later, so was I. But thanks to Yuri’s vision, our work didn’t disappear, and the truth couldn’t be buried in the KGB’s dungeons. We made the USSR’s crimes public, and they could not be hidden again.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Natan Sharansky, Soviet Jewry, Soviet Union

 

The End of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, and the Rise of the Arab-Israeli Coalition

Nov. 30 2022

After analyzing the struggle between the Jewish state and its Arab neighbors since 1949, Dan Schueftan explains the current geopolitical alignment and what it means for Jerusalem:

Using an outdated vocabulary of Middle Eastern affairs, recent relations between Israel and most Arab states are often discussed in terms of peace and normalization. What is happening recently is far more significant than the willingness to live together and overshadow old grievances and animosities. It is about strategic interdependence with a senior Israeli partner. The historic all-Arab coalition against Israel has been replaced by a de-facto Arab-Israeli coalition against the radical forces that threaten them both. Iran is the immediate and outstanding among those radicals, but Erdogan’s Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean, Syria—and, in a different way, its allies in the Muslim Brotherhood—are not very far behind.

For Israel, the result of these new alignments is a transformational change in its regional standing, as well as a major upgrade of its position on the global stage. In the Middle East, Israel can, for the first time, act as a full-fledged regional power. . . . On the international scene, global powers and other states no longer have to weigh the advantages of cooperation with Israel against its prohibitive costs in “the Arab World. . . . By far the most significant effect of this transformation is on the American strategic calculus of its relations with Israel.

In some important ways, then, the “New Middle East” has arrived. Not, of course, in the surreal Shimon Peres vision of regional democracy, peace, and prosperity, but in terms of a balance of power and hard strategic realities that can guardrail a somewhat less unstable and dangerous region, where the radicals are isolated and the others cooperate to keep them at bay.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Abraham Accords, Israel-Arab relations, Middle East, Shimon Peres, U.S.-Israel relationship