Benoit Mandelbrot: Mathematical Genius and Jewish Survivor

The late Benoit Mandelbrot, best known as the founder of fractal geometry, was born in Warsaw to a family of Polish-speaking Jews in 1924. In 1931 he and his family moved to Paris. They spent World War II hiding in a French village, where friends of his uncle—also a famous mathematician—took them in. In his posthumous memoir, The Fractalist, Mandelbrot tells the story of his childhood as well as of his later mathematical career. Adam Kirsch calls attention to Mandelbrot’s reflections on how he escaped the fate of most of French Jewry:

“Our constant fear,” Mandelbrot writes, “was that a sufficiently determined foe might report us to an authority and we would be sent to our deaths. . . . We escaped this fate. Who knows why?” One reason why, he suggests, is that his academic brilliance won him special consideration. “Xenophobia lost, meritocracy won,” he writes, and this would become the motto of his French experience.

The history of Eastern Europe, according to Mandelbrot, “included a growing number of stories in which a would-be ‘butcher’ is oversupplied with potential victims, and a person perceived to be special is somehow spared. Father must have felt it was very bad to be overly conspicuous, but very good to be seen as rare and special. This attitude, which he probably brought from Warsaw, created in me an elevated level of commitment and ambition.”

Read more at Tablet

More about: Holocaust, Jewish genius, Mathematics, Vichy France

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security