How Natan Sharansky and Andrei Sakharov Faced Down Soviet Tyranny and Persevered

On Tuesday, the Russian supreme court decided to shut down Memorial, a highly regarded institution dedicated to documenting the horrors of Stalinism. The court issued a similar ruling yesterday against its sister organization, Memorial Human Rights Center, which fights present-day violations of civil rights. In light of the disturbing direction in which Russia has been headed, Michael Mandelbaum reflects on two of the heroic figures who helped to bring down Soviet tyranny: the refusenik leader Natan Sharansky and the atomic-scientist-turned-dissident Andrei Sakharov.

In his powerful and affecting memoir, Fear No Evil (1988), Sharansky several times mentions the name of Andrei Sakharov. In his excellent biography of Sakharov (2002), Richard Lourie reports that Sharansky keeps a portrait of Sakharov in his office, to remind himself of his fellow dissident’s “straight, clear, pure moral thought.” Sakharov was a scientist of great accomplishment. . . . He was also, however, a free thinker, and the development of his ideas led him to express publicly his opposition to the regime’s oppressive practices and to support, again publicly, those similarly opposed.

Sharansky, Sakharov, and their fellow dissidents stand as luminous examples of courage in the face of perilous circumstances. They illustrate the value of persistence in a righteous cause even when success seems distant, or even impossible. And they testify to the power of the political ideas that govern democracies. After his release, Sharansky said, “They tried their best to find a place where I was isolated. But all the resources of a superpower cannot isolate a man who hears the voice of freedom, a voice I heard from the very chamber of my soul.”

Nor are the qualities that Sharansky and Sakharov personified relevant only to the past. In the face of Putin’s dictatorship in Russia, the repressions of the Communist Party in China, the assault on freedom by the ruling mullahs in Iran, and threats to life and liberty elsewhere, courage, persistence, and a determined and often perilous commitment to the ideals of democracy remain, alas, both relatively rare and still greatly needed.

Read more at American Purpose

More about: Natan Sharansky, Soviet Jewry, USSR, Vladimir Putin

Ordinary Gazans Are Turning against Hamas—and Its Western Sympathizers

In the past few days, difficult-to-confirm reports have emerged of unrest in the Gaza Strip, and of civilians throwing stones at Hamas operatives. A recent video from Al Jazeera showed a Gazan declaring that “God will bring Qatar and Turkey to account” for the suffering of Palestinians in the current war. Being an agent of the Qatari government, the journalist turned away, and then pushed the interviewee with his hand to prevent him from getting near the microphone. Yet this brief exchange contributes much to the ongoing debate about Palestinian support for Hamas, and belies the frequent assertion by experts that the Israeli campaign is only “further radicalizing” the population.

For some time, Joseph Braude has worked with a number of journalists and researchers to interview ordinary Gazans under circumstances where they don’t fear reprisals. He notes that the sorts of opinions they share are rarely heard in Western media, let alone on Al Jazeera or Iran-sponsored outlets:

[A] resident of Khan Younis describes how locals in a bakery spontaneously attacked a Hamas member who had come to buy bread. The incident, hardly imaginable before the present war, reflects a widespread feeling of “disgust,” he says, after Gazan aspirations for “a dignified life and to live in peace” were set back by the Hamas atrocities of October 7.

Fears have grown that this misery will needlessly be prolonged by Westerners who strive, in effect, to perpetuate Hamas rule, according to one Gazan woman. Addressing protesters who have taken to the streets to demand a ceasefire on behalf of Palestinians, she calls on them to make a choice: “Either support the Palestinian people or the Hamas regime that oppresses them.” If protesters harbor a humanitarian motive, she asks, “Why don’t we see them demonstrating against Hamas?”

“Hamas is the destruction of the Palestinian people. We’ve had enough. They need to be wiped out—because if they remain, the people will be wiped out.”

You can watch videos of some of the interviews by clicking the link below.

Read more at Free Press

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian public opinion