How a Jewish Novelist’s Account of Armenian Courage Inspired Jews to Fight the Nazis

Over the weekend, Joe Biden became the first president to recognize the Ottoman government’s mass slaughter of Armenians during World War I, a series of atrocities that were accompanied by attacks on Ottoman Christians of other ethnicities, as well as the persecution of Jews. Much of the world first became aware of the Armenian catastrophe thanks to the Austrian Jewish novelist Franz Werfel’s carefully researched 1933 novel The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, which in turn helped to inspire Jewish revolts against the Nazis during World War II. Matt Lebovic writes:

In the Warsaw ghetto, The Forty Days of Musa Dagh was the most popular book in circulation. When Jewish resisters decided to fight back in the Bialystok ghetto, they spoke of the ghetto’s “Musa Dagh” moment at the planning meeting. . . . Throughout Eastern Europe, Jewish resisters used the phrase “to organize a Musa Dagh.”

In Lithuania’s Vilna ghetto [too], The Forty Days of Musa Dagh was the most popular book in circulation, reported the librarian [and chronicler] Herman Kruk. Jewish resisters attempting to flee the ghetto to join partisan units “passed the book from hand to hand,” according to reports. [Commenting on] the popularity of the novel, the resistance fighter Haika Grosman wrote that the massacre of Armenians “in full view of the entire world reminded us of our fate.”

Jews trapped in the ghettos of Nazi-occupied Europe were not the only ones deriving inspiration from The Forty Days of Musa Dagh. In pre-state Israel, Jewish leaders were actively preparing for the prospect of a German invasion. The defense plan called for creating a Masada-like fortress atop Mount Carmel, where Jewish fighters could retreat for a “last stand” against German forces. Although the plan is largely remembered as the “Masada plan” or the “Carmel plan,” it was also referred to as the “Musa Dagh plan.”

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Armenians, Genocide, Holocaust, Joseph Biden, Ottoman Palestine, Resistance


Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy