Danny Kaye: Actor, Singer, Dancer, Comedian, and Zionist

March 5 2019

Sunday marked the 32nd anniversary of the death of Danny Kaye, who had a series of leading Hollywood roles in the 1940s and 50s, in addition to a successful career onstage and on television. In 1956, he made the first of many visits to Israel, a country he supported staunchly throughout his life. Meirav Kaminsky—the granddaughter of Kaye’s Israeli cousin—describes Kaye’s commitment to the Jewish people and the Jewish state:

[Kaye] is fondly remembered for having conducted the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra at a number of benefit performances for Israel, which he . . . unconditionally supported during difficult periods, including wartime. . . .

In the . . . television drama Skokie (1981), based on a true story, Kaye played the role of Max Feldman, a Jewish Holocaust survivor who was one of the leaders of the protest against the proposed neo-Nazi march through the suburb of Skokie, Illinois, home to many Jewish Holocaust survivors. The elderly Kaye was already suffering from heart disease, but he insisted on playing the part despite his declining health. . . .

On leaving Israel after his first visit, he said:

As the moment of my leaving this country approaches, I am filled with more and more sadness. I want you to know that I leave Israel a different man than when I arrived. My visit to Israel was the greatest experience of my life. I was given a new perspective. My faith is renewed. . . . I plan to return to Israel soon, maybe even sooner than you think. But then I won’t come as a representative of the UN or as an American “star,” or even as a tourist—I will come as a simple Jew.

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Read more at The Librarians

More about: American Jewish History, Arts & Culture, Hollywood, Israel & Zionism

Who Changed the Term “Nakba” into a Symbol of Arab Victimization?

April 19 2019

In contemporary Palestinian discourse, not to mention that of the Palestinians’ Western supporters, the creation of the state of Israel is known as the Nakba, or catastrophe—sometimes explicitly compared with the Holocaust. The very term has come to form a central element in a narrative of passive Palestinian suffering at Jewish hands. But when the Syrian historian Constantin Zureiq first used the term with regard to the events of 1948, he meant something quite different, and those responsible for changing its meaning were none other than Israelis. Raphael Bouchnik-Chen explains:

In his 1948 pamphlet The Meaning of the Disaster (Ma’na al-Nakba), Zureiq attributed the Palestinian/Arab flight to the stillborn pan-Arab assault on the nascent Jewish state rather than to a premeditated Zionist design to disinherit the Palestinian Arabs. “We [Arabs] must admit our mistakes,” [he wrote], “and recognize the extent of our responsibility for the disaster that is our lot.” . . . In a later book, The Meaning of the Catastrophe Anew, published after the June 1967 war, he defined that latest defeat as a “Nakba,” . . . since—just as in 1948—it was a self-inflicted disaster emanating from the Arab world’s failure to confront Zionism. . . .

It was only in the late 1980s that it began to be widely perceived as an Israeli-inflicted injustice. Ironically, it was a group of politically engaged, self-styled Israeli “new historians” who provided the Palestinian national movement with perhaps its best propaganda tool by turning the saga of Israel’s birth upside down, with aggressors turned into hapless victims, and vice-versa, on the basis of massive misrepresentation of archival evidence.

While earlier generations of Palestinian academics and intellectuals had refrained from exploring the origins of the 1948 defeat, the PLO chairman Yasir Arafat, who was brought to Gaza and the West Bank as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords and was allowed to establish his Palestinian Authority (PA) in parts of those territories, grasped the immense potential of reincarnating the Nakba as a symbol of Palestinian victimhood rather than a self-inflicted disaster. In 1998, he proclaimed May 15 a national day of remembrance of the Nakba. In subsequent years, “Nakba Day” has become an integral component of the Palestinian national narrative and the foremost event commemorating their 1948 “catastrophe.”

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Arab World, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, New historians, Yasir Arafat