Pope Francis meets a delegation of rabbis from the “World Congress of Mountain Jews” of Caucasus, during a private audience at the Vatican, Nov. 5, 2018. Photo: Vatican Media / Handout via Reuters.
Pope Francis called on Monday for the eradication of antisemitism following an increase in attacks and hate crimes against Jews in several countries and said it was vital to preserve the memory of the Holocaust.
In the worst attack ever against US Jews, a gunman yelling, “All Jews must die,” stormed a Pittsburgh synagogue on Oct. 27, killing 11 worshipers and wounding six other people including four police officers, before he was arrested.
“We are called to commit ourselves to ensure antisemitism is banned from the human community,” Francis said during a meeting with rabbis from the World Congress of Mountain Jews.
Mountain Jews are the descendants of Jews who left ancient Persia and settled in the Caucasus.
A 94-year-old German appeared in court in a wheelchair on Tuesday accused of assisting in the murder of hundreds of…
Francis said the Holocaust, in which the Nazis murdered six million Jews around Europe during World War Two, must continue to be commemorated to keep its memory alive.
“Without a living memory, there will be no future, for if the darkest pages of history do not teach us to avoid the same errors, human dignity will remain a dead letter,” he said.
He noted the recent 75th anniversary of the deportation of Rome’s Jews by Nazi occupiers and that Nov. 9 will be the 80th anniversary of “Kristallnacht,” the night when mobs ransacked thousands of synagogues and Jewish businesses in Germany and Austria.
“Sadly, antisemitic attitudes are also present in our own times. As I have often repeated, a Christian cannot be an anti-Semite, we share the same roots,” Francis said, stressing the importance of interfaith dialogue.
In the run-up to Tuesday’s contentious US elections, in which immigration has become a central issue, racist fliers have been reported on university campuses in at least five states, while synagogues in New York and California have been sprayed with antisemitic graffiti.
Last week British police launched an investigation into alleged antisemitic hate crimes within the opposition Labour Party, after a report that Labour itself had found evidence of party members threatening politicians.
How did sausages help protect Jews from persecution?
During my recent travels in Portugal, we visited several museums, including the fascinating Centre for the Interpretation of Sephardi Culture in the Northeastern Trás-os-Montes, which is located in the city of Bragança. This museum “…aims at revising the lives and experiences of Sephardic Jews from the Northeastern Trás-os-Montes,...” The ancestry of Sephardic Jews extends back to Jewish communities in Spain and Portugal during the Middle Ages, and who spread to various regions after the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492. Jews have lived in the Iberian region for over two thousand years.
This map shows 32 Jewish communes in Portugal during the 14th century. In 1492, when the Jews were expelled from Spain, about 3000 traveled to Bragança, but near the end of the 15th century, even the Jewish communities in Portugal faced a dire threat.
In 1496, King Manuel I issued an edict that all the Jews in Portugal either had to convert to Christianity or leave the country without their children. Not much of a choice. Even those who attempted to leave the country were often coerced into staying and converting. All of the converted Jews and their descendants would become known as “New Christians.” However, many of these Jews only pretended to convert and secretly practiced their religion, fully aware of the harsh penalties if they were caught. In Hebrew, they were known as anuism, the “forced ones.
In 1536, the situation worsened with the formation of the Portugal Inquisition, which especially targeted the New Christians, seeking to ensure whether their conversion was true or not. The Jews needed to be clever, to maintain their disguise as converted ones, and sausages played a role in this deception. Sausages???
In the region of Trás-os-Montes, many people prepared their own pork sausages, meat which could easily last through the winter, and they would commonly hang the sausages from the rafters of their homes. These sausages were easily visible and homes without such sausages might be suspect, as Jews didn’t eat pork. Thus, in a clever stratagem, Jews decided to create their own type of sausage, something to hang in their own rafters, to avoid drawing attention to themselves.
Possibly originating in the city of Mirandela, the alheira was born, a sausage made from chicken, garlic and bread crumbs. No pork was used in the creation of these sausages. When they were hanging out, they appeared to be a normal sausage and no one was the wiser. In the photo above, you can see slices of alheira, and it somewhat resembles an exploded sausage due to the fillers within it. Nowadays, alheira sausages come in many different variations, such as using different meats or even no meat at all.
During my trip, we enjoyed alheira during several different meals, generally sliced and placed on a plate with another type of sausage. The alheira has a more unique texture, cause of the fillers, which might seem odd to you at first if you’ve never tasted these sausages before. I liked the taste of the alheira, with it’s nice blend of spices and garlicky taste, and it wasn’t as salty as some other sausages I’ve tasted. If you travel to northern Portugal, seek out alheira and remember how they helped to save Jews from persecution.
(NotíciasMagazine) Há um novo fenómeno no interior português. Milhares de turistas judeus estão a invadir lugares como Castelo de Vide, Belmonte ou Trancoso para conhecer o património judaico nacional. No último ano, o número de visitantes aumentou extraordinariamente. Há novas linhas aéreas entre Portugal e Israel, novas agências especializadas, novos hotéis, novas lojas kosher. História de um retorno.
Para Elisha Salas, rabino de Belmonte, este interesse renovado dos judeus por Portugal é puramente emocional. «Desde Moisés ao Holocausto, passando pela Inquisição, a história dos judeus é uma história de perseguição constante. A partir do momento em que tornamos a ser aceites, temos uma grande obsessão por descobrir as nossas raízes, perceber de onde vimos.»
A semana passada, a Secretária de Estado do Turismo fez uma digressão pelas comunidades semitas dos Estados Unidos para promover o país como destino religioso judeu. «A ideia é mostrar Portugal como lugar tolerante e seguro e com uma herança judaica muito forte», disse Ana Mendes Godinho à Notícias Magazine. «Este mercado interessa-nos. É um turismo que vai descobrir o país, que vai descobrir o interior, que traz investimento e empreendedorismo aos territórios mais deprimidos.»
«Quando uma terra se entranha no sangue de um povo, pertence a esse povo para sempre», diz Fabiana Oliveira Bezerra, uma brasileira do Recife, descendente de judeus portugueses, na sinagoga de Trancoso.
«O turismo representa cinco milhões de euros para o nosso concelho, é um dos vetores essenciais da nossa economia. E hoje posso dizer que a fatia mais importante vem precisamente deste nicho», diz o presidente da câmara de Trancoso, Amílcar Salvador. «Pense no que isto representa para um concelho como o nosso. Todos os meses entram no centro de interpretação judaico 800 pessoas, este ano o número ainda aumentou 30 por cento.»
Até 2015, o hotel Monte Filipe, em Castelo de Vide, recebia cerca de 150 hóspedes judeus por ano. Em 2017 esse número subiu para mil e este ano esperam dobrar o milhar de dormidas em junho. «Estamos a treinar os nossos empregados para nos adaptarmos às necessidades desta nova clientela», diz o proprietário António Lopes. «A comida tem de ser confecionada sob os preceitos kosher. A carne, por exemplo, tem de ser cortada na direção de Israel.»
Uma sala de homenagem aos judeus mortos pela Inquisição no remodelado museu-sinagoga de Castelo de Vide. O número de visitantes disparou no último ano e as pequenas localidades do interior que recebem turistas judeus estão a criar novos mudeus e centros de interpretação para acolher um novo público.
Depois de dez anos a viver em Israel, Arieh Hatchvel, um brasileiro de São Paulo descendente de judeus sefarditas decidiu estabelecer-se em Belmonte. «Casei com uma judia portuguesa daqui e quando percebi esta história comecei a sentir um chamamento, como uma década antes tinha sentido o chamamento de viajar para Israel. É como se esta fosse uma nova terra prometida para mim.»
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Os números do INE são esclarecedores: se no início desta década contavam-se em média cinco mil hóspedes israelitas por ano nos hotéis nacionais, em 2017 o número disparou para 105 mil, um aumento de mais de dois mil por cento.
«O mercado israelita tornou-se em 2017 a segunda nacionalidade estrangeira a visitar o concelho, atrás de Espanha, que fica a 15 quilómetros, e ultrapassando países como Inglaterra, Alemanha, França ou Itália», diz António Pina, presidente da câmara de Castelo de Vide. «Há três anos, o nicho judaico representava menos de três por cento do nosso turismo, agora ultrapassa os vinte por cento. Isto está a criar um dinamismo como há muito não víamos no município.»
Uma pedra exposta no Museu Judaico de Belmonte e encontrada naquele território no início do século XX, que se acredita remontar ao século XII. Os traços da presença judaica em Portugal estão a criar um mercado para os investigadores. Há famílias a contratar portugueses para descobrirem as raízes das suas famílias.
Texto Ricardo J. Rodrigues | Fotografias Rui Oliveira/Global Imagens
Nas cozinhas dos hotéis que vão nascendo junto à raia, toda a gente sabe para que lado fica Jerusalém. «Essa foi uma das primeiras coisas que tivemos de aprender quando os turistas judeus começaram a chegar», diz António Lopes, proprietário do hotel Monte Filipe, um quatro estrelas com cinquenta quartos nos arredores de Castelo de Vide. Até 2015 acolhiam em média 150 hóspedes hebreus por ano, gente que vinha à procura das suas raízes no interior português.
Mas em 2017 esse número subiu para mil e neste ano esperam dobrar o milhar de dormidas em junho. «Há um verdadeiro boom no turismo judaico e isso está a revelar-se um balão de oxigénio para nós. Neste momento, estamos a treinar todos os nossos empregados para nos adaptarmos às necessidades desta nova clientela. Sobretudo na cozinha, onde a comida tem de ser confecionada sob os preceitos kosher. A carne, por exemplo, tem de ser cortada na direção de Israel.»
Na semana passada, a secretária de Estado do Turismo fez uma digressão pelas comunidades semitas dos Estados Unidos para promover o país como destino religioso judeu. «A ideia é mostrar Portugal como lugar tolerante e seguro e com uma herança judaica muito forte», dizia Ana Mendes Godinho à Notícias Magazine na véspera da partida.
«O número de israelitas a visitarem-nos explodiu e queremos que este nicho convoque gente também do outro lado do Atlântico. Portugal pode ser visitado enquanto destino final mas também pode ser um stopover [paragem por uns dias] para quem viaja para Israel.»
Depois desta ação em território americano, aliás, o governo planeia estender a promoção ao Canadá e ao Brasil, onde também existem comunidades relevantes. «Este mercado interessa-nos. É um turismo que vai descobrir o país, que vai descobrir o interior, que traz investimento e empreendedorismo aos territórios mais deprimidos.»
Os números do Instituto Nacional de Estatística são esclarecedores. Se no início desta década contavam-se em média cinco mil hóspedes israelitas por ano nos hotéis nacionais, em 2017 o número disparou para 105 mil, um aumento de mais de dois mil por cento.
Este boom teve efeitos diretos na aviação civil. Em novembro, a TAP e a EL AL – Air Israel abriram um acordo de codeshare para simplificar as conexões entre os dois países nos aeroportos para onde ambas voassem. Mas, um mês depois, a companhia de bandeira israelita percebeu o interesse nos voos para Portugal e decidiu reforçar uma linha com sete ligações semanais diretas entre a capital portuguesa e Telavive – que entra em funcionamento em março.
no início da década contavam-se em média cinco mil hóspedes israelitas por ano nos hotéis nacionais, em 2017 o número disparou para 105 mil. Um aumento de mais de 2000 por cento.
Não há dados que digam quantos destes turistas viajam por vocação religiosa, mas nas pequenas cidades e vilas do interior, onde resistem os traços mais emblemáticos da presença judaica em Portugal, está a acontecer uma revolução.
«O mercado israelita tornou-se em 2017 a segunda nacionalidade estrangeira a visitar o concelho, atrás apenas de Espanha, que fica aqui a quinze quilómetros, e ultrapassando países como Inglaterra, Alemanha, França ou Itália», diz António Pina, presidente da Câmara de Castelo de Vide.
«Há três anos, o nicho judaico representava menos de três por cento do nosso turismo, agora ultrapassa largamente os vinte por cento. Isto está a criar um dinamismo como há muito não víamos no município.»
«Temos casais israelitas a mudarem-se para aqui para abrir turismos rurais especializados, temos os hotéis da região a adaptarem-se às novas exigências, vamos abrir um cinco estrelas na cidade até ao fim do ano. Numa zona completamente abandonada, escondida atrás da serra, isto é o melhor que nos podia ter acontecido.»
A hotelaria é a face mais visível da mudança que os judeus estão a trazer à raia. Em abril de 2016 abriu o Belmonte Sinai Hotel, a primeira unidade do país criada propositadamente com foco no turismo judaico. Está classificada com quatro estrelas e tem 27 quartos.
«Das 16 mil dormidas que recebemos anualmente, mais de metade são judeus», diz o diretor, Ricardo Abreu. Sobretudo israelitas, americanos, brasileiros e argentinos. «Além da comida, dedicamos grande atenção ao sabbath, que começa no pôr do Sol de sexta feira e só termina no sábado à noite.
É um dia sagrado de descanso em que não se pode, por exemplo, tocar em dinheiro ou tecnologia. Então desligamos as televisões, entregamos chaves manuais em vez das eletrónicas, os quartos ficam apenas equipados com luzes de presença.» Os elevadores, da marca Schindler, o industrial alemão que salvou 1200 judeus do Holocausto, também não são usados em dia santo.
A história repete-se 65 quilómetros para norte, no Hotel Turismo de Trancoso, também de quatro estrelas. «Abrimos há oito anos, mas de há dois para cá começámos a receber excursões atrás de excursões e agora decidimos instalar duas cozinhas, uma delas vocacionada exclusivamente para alimentação kosher», diz Júlio Sarmento, o proprietário.
«Em dois anos, o mercado judaico, que não existia, passou a representar 25 por cento da nossa faturação e temos tido aumentos de lucro na casa dos dez por cento anuais. Em 2017, as contas fecharam nos 440 mil euros, o que é extraordinário numa região desertificada como a nossa.»
Esse sucesso tem efeitos colaterais, diz. Para abastecer as refeições, criaram acordos com fornecedores especializados em toda a Beira Interior. «Nos distritos da Guarda e de Castelo Branco estão a aparecer cada vez mais produtores de carne, queijo e azeite que seguem as leis da Tora. Isto está a mexer muito com a nossa economia.»
Mas porque é que, 500 anos depois de terem sido expulsos do país, os judeus estão a regressar agora, precisamente agora, a Portugal? «Há dois motivos essenciais para as coisas terem mudado», diz a historiadora Carla Santos, que a partir de Trancoso investiga a presença judaica no país.
«O primeiro é o real funcionamento de uma Rede Nacional de Judiarias a partir de 2015. O segundo é a lei do mesmo ano que garante dupla nacionalidade a quem provar ter como ascendentes judeus sefarditas, que foram expulsos de Portugal no século XV.»
Vamos por partes. A Rede Nacional de Judiarias foi criada em 2011 por iniciativa da Região de Turismo da Serra da Estrela e integra 37 municípios portugueses. Tem sede em Belmonte e tem feito um trabalho notável de catalogação do património material judaico existente no país.
As bibliotecas destas povoações estão por estes dias cheias de investigadores e historiadores, contratadas por famílias judias estrangeiras para descobrirem as raízes em Portugal.
No final de 2014, a EEA, uma instituição norueguesa que financia projetos que reduzam a disparidade entre o Norte e o Sul da Europa, decidiu atribuir uma bolsa de cinco milhões de euros à rede portuguesa para que se pudessem recuperar edifícios e criar centros interpretativos. A partir daí abriram-se museus, recuperaram-se sinagogas, colocaram-se placas sinaléticas onde elas não existiam.
A organização tremeu em novembro do ano passado, quando o secretário-geral, Marco Baptista, acabado de perder as eleições autárquicas na Covilhã, desapareceu levando alegadamente consigo 115 mil euros dos cofres da instituição. Ainda assim, um mês depois, a EEA anunciou novo investimento de cinco milhões de euros nas judiarias portuguesas.
A lei que concede nacionalidade portuguesa aos descendentes de judeus expulsos de Portugal nos séculos xv e xvi foi iniciativa do governo de Passos Coelho. Entrou em vigor em março de 2015 e, desde então, o interesse forasteiro pelo país é inegável. Há 12 mil pedidos de cidadania de estrangeiros e 1800 já foram aprovados. Um dos problemas da concessão é encontrar o rasto genealógico – afinal, todos os documentos da Inquisição foram queimados.
Israel tornou-se em 2017 a segunda nacionalidade estrangeira a visitar Castelo de Vide, atrás de Espanha, que fica a 15 quilómetros, e ultrapassando Inglaterra, Alemanha, França ou Itália.
Mas até isso está a abrir um novo nicho de mercado no país. «Desde que a lei foi aprovada, não há semana em que não tenha investigadores licenciados em História, contratados por judeus de Israel, Estados Unidos ou Brasil, a virem para a nossa biblioteca e o nosso centro de arquivo», diz Carla Santos.
A secretária de Estado do Turismo concorda: «Há todo um mercado na investigação genealógica que se está a desenvolver paralelamente ao turismo judaico.»
Para Elisha Salas, rabino de Belmonte, este interesse renovado por Portugal é puramente emocional. «Veja a história deste povo. Desde Moisés ao Holocausto, passando pela Inquisição, a história dos judeus é uma história de perseguição constante. A partir do momento em que tornamos a ser aceites, temos uma grande obsessão de descobrir as nossas raízes, perceber de onde vimos.» Na vila onde mora há, aliás, a última comunidade criptojudaica conhecida do mundo.
Os judeus de Belmonte viveram em total sigilo durante cinco séculos, até aos anos oitenta do século passado. Nas suas casas ainda há sinagogas secretas, ladaínhas aprendidas em surdina, rituais que insistem fazer à porta fechada. «Na televisão israelita passam constantemente reportagens sobre Belmonte», diz ele.
«E eu sempre tive a sensação de que a história deste povo, destas 25 famílias que resistiram durante tanto tempo, que pagaram cara a perseverança de se manterem unidos, nomeadamente com os problemas de saúde decorrentes da consanguinidade, é mais conhecida em Telavive do que em Lisboa ou no Porto. Agora que os turistas hebraicos chegaram, é claro que eles querem vir aqui.»
Apesar de as duas principais cidades do país terem também assistido a um enorme incremento no fluxo do turismo judaico, é aqui, nas terras esquecidas pelos portugueses, que ele tem maior impacto. «O turismo representa cinco milhões de euros para o nosso concelho, é um dos vetores essenciais da nossa economia.
E hoje posso dizer que a fatia mais importante vem precisamente deste nicho», diz o presidente da Câmara de Trancoso, Amílcar Salvador. «Pense no que isto representa para um concelho como o nosso. Todos os meses entram no centro de interpretação judaico 800 pessoas, neste ano o número ainda aumentou trinta por cento. São pelo menos 25 mil visitas numa cidade que não tem mais de três mil habitantes. Agora, uma coisa é certa, temos de estar preparados para acolhê-los.»
Na faixa onde a presença judaica foi mais forte – a linha montanhosa do interior centro – as câmaras apostam fortemente em melhorar a oferta. Em Belmonte foi criado em 2005 um espetacular museu judaico que conta a história dos hábitos religiosos da comunidade local, e que em 2017 aumentou as visitas em 33 por cento, apesar de ter estado fechado quatro meses para remodelação.
A história de Belmonte é hoje mais conhecida em Telavive do que em Lisboa. Foi o último povo judaico a viver escondido do mundo, até aos anos oitenta do século XX.
Em Trancoso, o Centro de Interpretação da Cultura Judaica Isaac Cardoso está a ser renovado, tem uma sinagoga para acolher cerimónias religiosas dos judeus que a visitam, e em março do ano passado abriu portas o Museu Bandarra, dedicado ao profeta medieval acusado pela Inquisição de ser judeu.
Em Castelo de Vide, está prestes a abrir a Casa da Inquisição, num antigo palacete na judiaria da cidade, onde há alçapões que dão acesso a esconderijos e mobiliário que se abre para garantir acesso a uma secretíssima sinagoga. Também terá um centro de genealogia, para ajudar judeus e investigadores a encontrarem as origens das suas famílias.
«Este turismo interessa-nos», diz a Secretária de Estado do Turismo. «Ainda mais porque vai descobrir as zonas mais deprimidas do interior do país.»
«É realmente a estes sítios que as pessoas querem ir», diz Isaac Assor, diretor-geral da Alegretur, uma agência turística portuguesa especializada neste nicho de mercado. «Os circuitos começam por norma na capital e terminam no Porto, mas as experiências mais marcantes acontecem sempre na Cova da Beira.»
Há cinco anos, diz ele, não acolhia mais de dez grupos por ano, agora o número quintuplicou. «Vêm normalmente excursões de trinta a quarenta pessoas, maiores de 50 anos, de classe média alta. E o seu interesse está concentrado precisamente na faixa onde se fixou a população de Sefarad, o nome hebreu da península.»
As viagens duram em média uma semana. Também podem ir a Tomar, onde existe uma sinagoga sefardita, a Castelo Branco, Idanha-a-Nova ou Covilhã, onde há marcas judaicas bem preservadas, mas o facto é que Castelo de Vide, Belmonte e Trancoso são as paragens obrigatórias, a alma dos milhares que se esconderam, foram convertidos e acabaram por se converter em cristãos-novos.
No centro de uma das judiarias mais intactas do país, a de Castelo de Vide, Carolino Tapadejo criou um museu para homenagear o legado familiar. Presidente da câmara durante toda a década de 1980, descendente de ferreiros judeus e ele próprio escultor de ferro, é uma autoridade na história sefardita da cidade.
Quando terminou a carreira autárquica, decidiu tirar o curso de Turismo Cultural – e foi aí que começou verdadeiramente a explorar aquele legado esquecido durante séculos. Hoje passa os dias a dar palestras sobre a história judaica da cidade.
«Vou constantemente a Israel, sou professor na Universidade da Extremadura, em Espanha, tenho viajado pelo mundo todo a falar da nossa Sefarad», atira. «Depois acolho grupos estrangeiros que vêm aqui. Falo hebraico, e isso ajuda.»
Acompanhá-lo pelas ruas da judiaria é toda uma lição de história. «Os primeiros relatos da presença judaica vêm de 1320, quando sete famílias de Gibraltar se instalam aqui para desenvolver o negócio das tinturarias. Mas é no século XV, claro, que as coisas mudam de figura.»
Há ainda hoje rituais que derivam da tradição judaica. Como os maranhos e as alheiras, enchidos sem porco. Como o descruzar de braços quando se faz uma promessa, que a cruz foi o tormento dos judeus.
Em 1492, os reis católicos expulsam toda a comunidade de Espanha e muitos rumam a Portugal, onde D. João II aceita acolhê-los. «De repente, Castelo de Vide, que na altura tinha oitocentos habitantes, vê-se com um acampamento de quatro mil judeus à porta da cidade. O país na altura não tinha mais de um milhão de pessoas e pelo menos cem mil hebreus dão entrada nesse ano nas nossas fronteiras. Há de ter sido uma revolução.»
Ao contrário da população católica, os sefarditas tinham um nível elevado de educação. Isso ameaçava o grupo que detinha o monopólio da cultura – o clero. «É por isso e pelo poder económico crescente dos judeus que D. João III cria em 1536 a Inquisição e o povo sefardita recebe ordem de expulsão.»
Abrem-se tribunais em Lisboa, Coimbra e Évora, que até à abolição dos autos de fé pelo Marquês de Pombal, em 1773, condenam à morte quarenta mil pessoas. «Ou saíam, ou eram queimados vivo, ou se convertiam em cristãos-novos e eram expropriados de todos os bens. Mas muitos continuavam a praticar a sua religião em segredo e a cidade está apinhada de marcas dessas práticas secretas.»
Desde logo na arquitetura das casas. Os edifícios judeus têm sempre duas portas, uma para a habitação, outra para a loja. E depois há menorás, os famosos candelabros de sete velas, esculpidos nas ombreiras das portas, ou cruzes a assinalar a nova cristandade. «Muitas tradições subsistem. Aqui, por exemplo, é comum ver as mulheres varrer a casa às sextas-feiras e deixar uma vela acesa escondida dentro de um pote na noite de sexta para sábado, durante o sabbath.»
A comida é outro sinal claro. Enchidos feitos de aves, como as alheiras do Norte, ou de cabra, como os maranhos do centro, serviam para despistar as autoridades eclesiásticas. «Mas talvez o traço principal aconteça na semana da Páscoa, quando se mata o cabrito ou o borrego e se deixa o sangue do mesmo à janela, como fazia no primeiro testamento bíblico o povo de Israel.»
Foi durante uma das viagens a Israel em que contou estas mesmas histórias na televisão que Carolino Tapadejo viveu um dos momentos mais emocionantes da sua vida. Uma mulher contactou-o depois de o ver no canal israelita e contou-lhe que a sua família tinha fugido de Castelo de Vide no século .
«Era uma senhora de uma certa idade e com muito pouca mobilidade. Disse-me que a sua família passara de geração em geração a promessa de um dia aqui voltar. E, nisto, abre a mala e mostra-me uma chave muito antiga, de ferro.»
«A história deste povo é uma história de perseguição. Quando Portugal nos abre as portas, nós queremos viajar para aqui e conhecer as nossas raízes.»
Era a chave da casa daquela família na cidade alentejana, guardada durante mais de quatrocentos anos à espera do retorno. Carolino tira a chave do bolso e mostra-a com um mar nos olhos. «Ela pediu-me que a guardasse. Nunca tinha estado em Portugal, mas esta era a terra dela.»
Essa ideia do retorno está a ser revivida uma e outra vez. Veja-se Arieh Hatchvel, um brasileiro de São Paulo descendente de judeus sefarditas que, depois de dez anos a viver em Israel, decidiu estabelecer-se em Belmonte. «Casei-me com uma judia portuguesa daqui e quando percebi esta história comecei a sentir um chamamento, como uma década antes tinha sentido o chamamento de viajar para Israel. É como se esta fosse uma nova terra prometida para mim.»
Daniela Mourão, a sua mulher, viveu dois anos em Haifa com os pais, Moisés e Isabel, membros da comunidade criptojudaica da vila. «Eu estudei Gestão Hoteleira e, quando saí daqui, não havia oportunidades de trabalho. Mas isso está a mudar e é por isso que decidimos voltar.»
A casa da família Mourão fica num dos bairros novos da vila e tem uma enorme estrela de David em frente ao portão. Moisés construiu o monumento ainda antes de emigrar para a terra prometida.
«Cinco séculos passou a minha família a esconder-se e agora, imagine, o que andámos a esconder é o que toda a gente nos pede para mostrar», diz Moisés Mourão, judeu de Belmonte.
«Tínhamos aqui uma vida boa, mas a Tora diz que um judeu deve estar com o seu povo, e por isso decidimos emigrar.» Foram dois anos bons, mas Portugal continuava a bailar-lhes na cabeça. «Há duas semanas decidimos que era tempo de voltar. Este aumento do turismo dá-nos a possibilidade de construir aqui uma vida decente.»
Para mostrar o que fala, o homem decide ir buscar o projeto arquitetónico que está a planear para o centro da vila. É mais um hotel de quatro estrelas, vocacionado exclusivamente para hóspedes judeus, mais uma vintena de quartos. «Concorremos a financiamentos europeus, mas ainda não tivemos sorte. Haveremos de construí-lo de outra forma», suspira.
Enquanto isso não acontece, decidiram abrir uma loja de produtos kosher, que vai abrir portas nesta semana em Belmonte. Produtos alimentares, artigos religiosos, tudo o que sirva para abastecer esta nova vaga de turismo que começou a chegar.
Chama-se a Casa da Judiaria e abri-la é quase cumprir uma profecia. «Cinco séculos passou a minha família a esconder-se e agora, imagine, aquilo que andámos a esconder é o que toda a gente nos pede para mostrar.»
Moisés ri-se e abana a cabeça. Às tantas as gargalhadas contagiam a mulher, a filha e o genro, está toda a gente numa alegria desbragada. Ali, nos montes do interior do país, os judeus estão em casa.
«Vim ver um lugar onde nunca tinha estado e percebi que cheguei a casa»
Há um grupo de turistas brasileiros a percorrer as ruas de Trancoso. Chegaram em dois autocarros de turismo e cumprem a excursão inevitável. Começaram em Lisboa, estiveram em Castelo de Vide e em Belmonte, agora desaguaram ali.
Andam acompanhados por uma guia local a ver os traços de judaísmo que enfeitam a arquitetura da cidade. Aqui o património é riquíssimo e as autoridades locais criaram guias dos principais pontos, em português e hebraico, para alimentar a curiosidade forasteira.
Vitrais com candelabros, marcas cruciformes nas portas, até um Leão de Judah esculpido na parede de um edifício. Mas é quando entra na sinagoga do centro judaico que Fabiana Oliveira Bezerra se emociona verdadeiramente.
Pernambucana do Recife, é descendente de judeus sefarditas que fugiram para a Holanda e daí para a América do Sul. Na sua cidade há uma das comunidades mais antigas do continente. A sua história não há de ser diferente dos milhares de judeus que estão a visitar o interior português.
«É estranho», diz enquanto enxuga as lágrimas. «Vim ver um lugar onde nunca tinha estado e percebi que cheguei a casa. Podem passar quinhentos anos, podem até passar mil, mas quando uma terra se entranha no sangue de um povo, essa terra pertence a esse povo para sempre.»
Os quatro heróis portugueses da promoção do turismo judaico
Mesmo que o nome de Aristides de Sousa Mendes seja o mais conhecido, a promoção do turismo judaico em Portugal conta com outros três nomes de portugueses que se destacaram na resistência ao Holocausto.
São os quatro cidadãos portugueses classificados como Justos entre as Nações pelo Memorial do Holocausto de Jerusalém – precisamente por terem resistido ao extermínio de judeus durante a Segunda Guerra Mundial.
O caso do cônsul de Bordéus é o mais conhecido. Ignorando as ordens de Salazar, passou vistos a trinta mil judeus que fugiam da perseguição nazi. Mesmo que tenha destruído a carreira e morrido na miséria, a história guarda-o como o homem que mais vidas salvou do Holocausto.
Depois há Sampaio Garrido, embaixador português em Budapeste, que não só emitiu setenta passaportes para judeus em fuga como escondeu 12 pessoas na sua casa.
José Brito Mendes, um emigrante português em França, foi declarado Justo entre as ações por proteger uma criança judia cujos pais morreram em Auschwitz, assumindo-a como filha.
E por fim um padre, Joaquim Carreira, reitor do Colégio Pontifício Português em Roma quando os alemães se instalaram na cidade. Ali acolheu, escondeu e alimentou pelo menos quarenta pessoas que fugiam das autoridades nazis. Homens que arriscaram a vida para proteger outras. Portugueses. E justos.
JERUSALEM (AFP) – Brazil’s president-elect Jair Bolsonaro has told an Israeli newspaper he intends to defy the Palestinians and most of the world by moving his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Brazil would become the second major country after the United States to do so.
Asked in an interview with Israel Hayom published Thursday if he would move Brazil’s embassy, as he had indicated during his campaign, Bolsonaro said Israel should decide where its capital is located.
“When I was asked during the campaign if I’d do it when I became president, I said ‘yes, the one who decides on the capital of Israel is you, not other nations’,” he told the paper, which is a firm backer of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israel considers the entire city its capital, while the Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, with international consensus being that the status of the whole city must be negotiated between the two sides.
Israel occupied east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.
In December, President Donald Trump reversed longstanding US policy and recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, prompting Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to boycott his administration.
The embassy was officially transferred on May 14, with Guatemala and Paraguay following suit, though the latter announced last month it would return its embassy to Tel Aviv.
Bolsonaro, 63, who won a run-off election on Sunday, has outraged many with his overtly misogynistic, homophobic and racist rhetoric.
Following his victory, Netanyahu told Bolsonaro he was certain his election “will lead to a great friendship between our peoples and the tightening of links between Brazil and Israel.”
An official in Netanyahu’s office told AFP the Israeli premier was “very likely” to attend Bolsonaro’s inauguration ceremony in January.
(C-J) Liberal commentators try to equate all criticism of the international order with the anti-Semitism that motivated the synagogue murderer.
The massacre of 11 worshippers during Sabbath services at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday was indisputably an act of anti-Semitic terror, and the most savage attack against American Jewry in its history. The killer, Robert Bowers, made clear on social media his belief that Jews are in control of the United States and are intent on destroying it by importing millions of Muslim immigrants. “There is no #MAGA,” posted Bowers, “as long as there is a kike infestation.” Curiously, Bowers’s insect metaphor echoed Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan’s recent comment that he is not in fact an anti-Semite, but an “anti-termite.” Though Bowers and Farrakhan probably don’t agree on much else, anti-Semites have a long history of representing the Jewish people as vermin and as underminers of cultural and national supports.
Following the attack, however, many commenters on the Left rushed to blame it on President Trump, his supporters, and their political agenda, claiming that their pejorative use of the term “globalist”—supposedly a code word for “Jew” in the white-supremacist lexicon—makes them complicit in the Pittsburgh slaughter. (Bowers used “globalist” and “globalism” a lot, too.) In the Washington Post, Dana Milbank alleged that Trump has made America unsafe for Jews as a result of his “full-throated targeting of Jewish ‘globalists.’” In New York, Jonathan Chait argued that Trump has always agitated sub rosa against Jews, “lambast[ing] his enemies as ‘globalists,’ which, through its implication of extra-national loyalty, closely tracks the primary accusation made against Jews.” And comedian Sarah Silverman alerted her 12 million Twitter followers to the “Dogwhistle reminder that these words used by our openly Nationalist President are winks to the alt right: Soros = The Jews Globalist=dirty jew Nationalist = white Nationalist.”
These critics claim that Trump, along with Lou Dobbs and other conservative commentators, is more or less consciously referencing the 1903 forgery Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and similar propaganda that propounds worldwide, malevolent Jewish domination. According to this line of thought, critique of supranational institutions like the EU, NAFTA, and the United Nations is rooted in a corrupted ideology of racial nationalism that in its most powerful incarnation, produced the Holocaust.
But the fact that Bowers and a handful of like-minded lunatics are hypnotized by a fantasy of malevolent Jewish domination of the world monetary system doesn’t mean that Trump’s critique of post-nationalist thinking is necessarily wrong. The two phenomena have nothing to do with each other, aside from the fact that they both use the word “globalist.” Globalism in its contemporary usage didn’t exist around 1900, when modern anti-Semitism was formulated. Empires ruled distant lands from imperial capitals, but outside of the halls of the World Esperanto Congress, the novels of John Buchan, and the dreams of the Second Communist International, there was no recognized international system of governance that imposed itself upon nation-states such as we have today, represented by manifold and overlapping hierarchies of rule-making bodies, multilateral trade agreements, and mutual-defense pacts.
Drawing a comparison between anti-Semitic slurs from Tsarist Russia or Henry Ford’s fervid ruminations, and today’s analysis of the postwar world order is facile in the extreme. At the recent Jewish Leadership Conference, held in New York the day after the killings in Pittsburgh, Yoram Hazony, an Israeli philosopher whose recent book The Virtue of Nationalism defends vigorously the traditional nation-state, responded in an interview to the argument that criticism of “globalism” is anti-Semitic. “The word ‘globalism,’” explained Hazony, “has been used for the last generation both in academic settings to describe a technical worldview that has nothing to do with Jews, and also in the public sphere to describe a broad political and intellectual vision that likewise has nothing to with Jews.” Hazony continued: “There are always going to be bigots and haters who are twisting words and using them in all sorts of strange ways. . . . So many terms that have clear and normal meanings—and ‘nationalism’ and ‘globalism’ are just a few of them—are being interpreted as though their principal valence is about race and bigotry, that you cease to be able to have an intelligent conversation about the central ideas.”
It is unsurprising that the Left has sought to tie the murderous hatred of Robert Bowers—who said explicitly that he thinks of President Trump as a “globalist” stooge of Jewish puppet-masters—to Trump’s agenda of promoting American interests above a nebulous vision of global progress, because the Left is committed to pursuing that latter vision at all costs. Its hatred of Trump and his millions of deplorable supporters is so intense, and at this point so beyond reason, that it pounces on a savage act of hatred as an opportunity to score political points.
Seth Barron is associate editor of City Journal and project director of the NYC Initiative at the Manhattan Institute.
People mourn the loss of life as they hold a vigil for the victims of Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, Oct. 27, 2018. Photo: Reuters / John Altdorfer.
The Shabbat morning massacre at a synagogue in Pittsburgh — in which 11 Jews were murdered by a white supremacist gunman — has drawn condemnation from an interfaith range of religious figures and groups across the world.
At St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican on Sunday, Pope Francis said, “All of us are wounded by this inhuman act of violence,” and he asked God “to help us to extinguish the flames of hatred that develop in our societies.”
Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh USA (HSS) said in a statement, “We, the Hindu American community know all too well what it is to be a victim of hate crimes and terrorism. We relate with the Jewish community as it experiences such extraordinary pain and anguish. Accepting and respecting differences, a hallmark of democracy and a proud American tradition, must guide our actions.”
The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) tweeted, “Our hearts are broken at the news of a shooting and casualties at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA. We pray for strength and healing for the congregation and Jewish communities nationwide. We offer our sympathies for and solidarity with the American Jewish community.”
Tributes to the victims of Saturday’s shooting massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh continued to pour in…
Our hearts are broken at the news of a shooting and casualties at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA. We pray for strength and healing for the congregation and Jewish communities nationwide. We offer our sympathies for and solidarity with the American Jewish community.
Wasi Mohammed — executive director of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh — called the attack “really heartbreaking.”
Pastor John Hagee — founder and chairman of Christians United for Israel – said in a video statement, “Our Jewish brothers and sisters are hugging their children close in anguish as they try to grapple with this evil. Every Jewish mother and father in America faces the daunting task of telling their sons and daughters there are some in this country who want to kill them because they are Jewish. It is an unthinkable pain and an intolerable reality.”
“Now is the time to pray for our friends, to reach out personally with words of comfort and love, and to visibly stand with them against the antisemitic poison that fueled this attack,” he added.
(Economist) Simon Levis Sullam unpicks the accepted version of events.
The Italian Executioners: The Genocide of the Jews of Italy. By Simon Levis Sullam. Translated by Oona Smyth with Claudia Patane.Princeton University Press; 208 pages; $26.95 and £21.
The police report said that “the terrified child, Emma Calò, aged 6, clung, weeping, to the clothes of the concierge…Mr and Mrs Berna begged the official to desist from his intentions, but he was adamant.”
Told that this heart-wrenching scene took place in Rome in 1944, most Italians could confidently guess the background: the official would have been a Nazi engaged in the round-up of Jews that followed Italy’s withdrawal from the second world war, when the Italians’ German allies became their occupiers. As for the Bernas, their compassionate behaviour typified the Italian nation, which had been seduced by fascism but was never anti-Semitic.
The official, however, was not German, but Italian. And, as Simon Levis Sullam’s vigorously revisionist history makes clear, while many Italians stood up for the Jews, many did not. Some looked away, and some took an active, even enthusiastic, part in the persecution and removal of the 6,746 Jews sent from mainland Italy to German extermination camps. This was particularly true in the Italian Social Republic (rsi), the fascist-run state in the north.
To ingratiate themselves with the victors after the war, Italian bigwigs exalted the role of the Jews’ defenders while minimising that of their persecutors. Hampered though it is by the disappearance of much of the documentary evidence, Mr Levis Sullam’s short book sets out to give the latter group their sinister due.
It is hard to overstate the pervasiveness and potency of what became the accepted version of events. Even the leaders of the surviving Jewish community adopted it. “Everyone”, declared the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities in 1956, was “careful to warn the doomed innocent victims; all the friends, the acquaintances, the neighbours were ready to take them in, to hide them, to help them.” That story has entered history textbooks and has even been embraced by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem: one of its publications states that Italians rejected anti-Semitism as “contrary to Italian traditions”.
But, as a German diplomat explained in a note to Berlin as the deportations began in December 1943, “with the forces at our disposal in Italy, it is impossible to comb through all the towns”. Italians took part in 2,210 arrests; 1,898 were made by Italians alone. Then there were informers who betrayed Jewish acquaintances and people who worked willingly for such bodies as the General Inspectorate of Race and in Italy’s seldom-mentioned concentration camp at Fossoli near Modena. (Fossoli was no Buchenwald, but nor was it a holiday camp: in February 1944, prisoners appealed to Catholic prelates for help in alleviating their “miserable conditions” and for “aid that the elderly, women, children and the ill implore from human solidarity”.)
Though his focus is on the cruelty Jews endured, Mr Levis Sullam acknowledges that the story was many-sided. After a Jewish man and his mother were caught trying to flee to Switzerland, the local fascist chief released them and returned their seized property. The Bernas’ efforts to save Emma Calò met with the “tacit agreement” of a policeman accompanying the official.
Not that they succeeded in saving the little girl. She died in Auschwitz two months later. The official was acquitted of all charges after the war, “thanks to the activities that he claimed to have carried out on behalf of the Resistance”.
Brazilian presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro. Photo: Reuters / Diego Vara.
Opinion in Brazil’s Jewish community remains divided over Jair Bolsonaro, the right-wing politician widely expected to win the second round of the Latin American country’s presidential election on Oct. 28, a leading political analyst told The Algemeiner on Monday.
“The Brazilian Jewish community is split on Bolsonaro,” said Dr. Guilherme Casarões — a professor of international relations at the EAESP University in São Paulo and a contributor at the Instituto Brasil Israel — during a discussion of an election that has been dominated by accusations against the 63-year-old former army officer of racism, homophobia, and an unhealthy nostalgia for the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 until 1985.
“My guess is that there is a large share of Brazilian Jews who will vote for Bolsonaro with reservations, moved by their disgust for the PT (the left-wing Workers’ Party that governed Brazil between 2003-16),” he said.
Casarões added that “there are smaller fractions of the community who will vote for Bolsonaro out of conviction, or who will vote for (rival PT candidate Fernando) Haddad either because of ideological affinity or because they see Bolsonaro as a threat to democracy.”
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Bolsonaro has appealed for the support of Brazil’s Jewish community, the second-largest in Latin America, with an uncomplicated embrace of the State of Israel. “My heart is green, yellow, blue and white,” Bolsonaro famously told a meeting at a Jewish center in Rio de Janeiro in 2017, in a reference to the colors of the Brazilian and Israeli flags.
After he was stabbed at a street rally in southeastern Brazil in September, Bolsonaro demonstratively chose to make his recovery at the Albert Einstein Hospital, a Jewish institution, in São Paulo. But when some of Bolsonaro’s supporters enthusiastically proclaimed that their candidate would be “protected” at the hospital by the Mossad, Israel’s secret service, Brazilian Jewish leaders felt compelled to dismiss this assertion — along with the allegation that Bolsonaro would have risked assassination had he been treated at an Arab community-owned hospital — as a “frivolous” attempt to “import international conflicts into Brazilian society.”
Yet it is Bolsonaro himself who sets the example when it comes to bombastic communications. A former congressman who served with nine different right-wing parties over 27 years, Bolsonaro has earned international notoriety for a string of abusive statements targeting women and minorities. In 2014, for example, he told a rival congresswoman that she “wasn’t worth raping,” while in 2016, he referred to a group of black activists as “animals” who should “go back to the zoo.” Interviewed in 2011 by Playboy magazine, he flatly rejected the notion that he could ever love a son who was gay with the quip, “I would prefer my son to die in an accident than show up with a mustachioed man.”
“Although I personally don’t like to call him a fascist, he is certainly stirring fascist sentiments among his voters,” Dr. Casarões observed. “And this is unfortunate, because many Bolsonaro‘s supporters who do not support violence ended up turning a blind eye to his controversial statements against minorities and in favor of torture and dictatorship, out of sheer hatred of the PT.”
The PT’s dismal record during 13 years of government certainly helped to lay the groundwork for Bolsonaro’s radical presidential bid. The party’s last president, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached in August 2016 because of a corruption scandal, while her charismatic predecessor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, or Lula, is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence on charges of corruption and money laundering. During the PT’s latter years in power, a growing economic crisis resulted in a recession this year, while inflation reached a 12-year high.
Casarões said that while Brazil’s predominantly middle-class Jewish community had been appreciative of Lula’s more conservative economic policies, “as the economy plummeted under President Rousseff, leading to massive deindustrialization, the community also suffered, especially among businesspeople and liberal professionals.”
On Israel, too, Casarões highlighted a distinction between the Lula and Rousseff presidencies.
“Lula’s relationship with Israel was good: bilateral trade skyrocketed and Brazil worked for a free trade agreement between the Mercosur trade bloc and Israel,” he argued. “Also, despite intense relations with Arab countries, Lula tried to maintain an even-handed approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, having paid official visits to both countries in 2010.”
By contrast, Casarões said, “relations under Rousseff were marked by growing tension.” During the summer 2014 war between Hamas and Israel in Gaza, Rousseff denounced Israel for committing a “massacre” and withdrew the Brazilian ambassador from Tel Aviv. Two years later, relations worsened when the Brazilian government refused to accept the credentials of Israel’s nominated ambassador, Dani Dayan, because of his previous role as chair of the Yesha Council, a group representing Israeli communities in the West Bank.
Meanwhile, “Bolsonaro’s pro-Israel views have been nurtured in the past few years,” Casarões continued, identifying four key factors behind the candidate’s backing for the Jewish state.
“First, Bolsonaro sees Israel as a role model in military technology and public safety policies, which speaks to his background as an army captain,” Casarões said. “Second, Bolsonaro stresses Israel’s democratic character to oppose the PT’s alignments with authoritarian Arab governments across the Middle East and Africa.”
Thirdly, Casarões said, in electoral terms, support for Israel was an important means of winning the backing of Brazil’s community of Evangelical Christians, who now make up nearly 30 percent of a population that was almost exclusively Catholic just 50 years ago. Finally, Casarões suggested that Bolsonaro’s views on Israel might help him become friends with the Trump administration.
“He has been promising to shut down the Palestinian Embassy in Brasília, while transferring Brazil’s Israel Embassy to Jerusalem,” Casarões said. “He will probably try to change Brazil’s long-standing stance on the two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
French singer Charles Aznavour performs during the Quebec Summer Festival, July 6, 2008. Photo: REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger/File Photo
Legendary French singer Charles Aznavour, whose family helped rescue Jews during the Holocaust, died on Sunday at the age of 94.
Aznavour, commonly referred to as the “Frank Sinatra of France” was active as a musician and actor for nearly 70 years, releasing his first album in 1953. He wrote over a thousand songs and performed to sold out audiences all over the world well into his 90s.
Born in France to Armenian parents who fled the Turkish genocide in the early 20th century, Aznavour grew up in an immigrant neighborhood which included many Jewish families. It was only late in his life, however, that Israeli professor Yair Oron revealed that the Aznavours had rescued many of their Jewish neighbors during the Nazi occupation of France, hiding them from the German authorities who sought to deport them to the death camps.
“We grew up together” Aznavour said of his Jewish neighbors in an interview with Haaretz. “My father’s stall in the market was next to the stalls of Jewish merchants. Armenian merchants, among them my father, protected the Jewish stalls after they were arrested in the great deportation of Parisian Jews in June 1942.”
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“Because of this,” he added, “the acceptance and concealment of Jews in our house during the war was the simple and natural thing from our point of view: They were our neighbors and friends, we had a shared life. We were for them and they were for us.”
Aznavour played in Israel numerous times, with his last appearance in the country taking place just last year. He had a lifelong affinity and affection for the Jewish state.
In an interview with Hebrew news site Wallabefore his last concert in Israel, Aznavour said, “I have many good memories of Israel. I love the country. In the last 70 years, you’ve succeeded in building a dynamic and passionate country. If only you could enjoy peace with your neighbors.”
Asked about his choice to play in Israel given the political situation, he replied, “To sing in Israel is not a political act. I am a free man — and I will sing wherever I want.”
Aznavour also had a little-known but strong familial connection to the Jewish people: His grandson was born to a Jewish father and eventually embraced his Jewish identity and became observant. In 2014, Aznavour took the opportunity of one of his appearances in Israel to attend his grandson’s belated Bar Mitzvah.
“I’m returning with my grandson,” he told Yediot Aharonot at the time. “His father was Jewish, but until recently he did not take part in the life of the community. In the last few years, he started to observe the Jewish holidays, so we thought we would celebrate his Bar Mitzvah — even if it’s belated. I know this will be complicated but I promised myself to at least try to make it happen.”
“I am a secular person,” Aznavour said, “but this is not a contradiction. Religion and faith are important. … My grandson wants to be a Jew. He wants to know more about his roots, and this is marvelous to me.”
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Photo: Reuters / Lai Seng Sin.
The Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir bin Mohamad, is being feted during a two part visit to Britain despite a long history of antisemitic statements and a virulent anti-Israel speech delivered at the General Assembly of the United Nations last week.
According to the UK’s Daily Mail, on his initial arrival in Britain last week, Mohamad first visited Imperial College, where he was warmly welcomed by the vice-president and provost. He followed this with a visit to Oxford University, where he gave a speech at the Centre for Islamic Studies. He will shortly deliver a speech at Chatham House, a major British think tank.
The Chairman of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, Gideon Falter, told the Mail, “It is utterly appalling that at a time when antisemitism is so raw, a man who is proud to be an antisemite is being courted. It is equally unforgivable that he was invited to tour our most prominent educational institutions and share his opinions with students.”
“Those who have extended the red carpet treatment to this abhorrent racist and self-confessed antisemite must apologize,” he added. “We are looking into whether universities may have breached their own codes on racist speakers.”
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Mohamad is perhaps one of the world’s most powerful antisemites. He has said that he is “glad to be labelled anti-Semitic” and equated the Jews with the Nazis.
“The Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million,” he said in 2013. “But today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them.”
In 2010, he stated, “Jews had always been a problem in European countries. They had been confined in ghettos and periodically massacred. But they still remained and still thrived and held whole governments to ransom. Even after their massacre by the Nazis in Germany, they survived to be a source of even greater problems to the world.”
Mohamad has also asserted that Jews “are not merely hook-nosed, but understand money instinctively.”
In his UN speech on Friday, Mohamad blamed Israel for world terrorism and endorsed the Palestinian “right of return,” which would entail the destruction of the Jewish state by weight of demography.
Saying “this present war against the terrorist will not end until the root causes are found,” Mohamad asked, “What are the root causes? In 1948, Palestinian land was seized to form the state of Israel. The Palestinians were massacred and forced to leave their land. Their houses and farms were seized.”
Apparently referring to the 1967 Six Day War, he added, “They tried to fight a conventional war with help from sympathetic neighbors. The friends of Israel ensured this attempt failed. More Palestinian land was seized. And Israeli settlements were built on more and more Palestinian land and the Palestinians are denied access to these settlements built on their land.”
The Six Day War was the result of the massing of Arab armies on Israel’s borders with the declared intention of annihilating Israel.
Regarding Palestinian violence, Mohamad declared, “The Palestinians fired ineffective rockets which hurt no one. Massive retaliations were mounted by Israel, rocketing and bombing hospitals, schools and other buildings, killing innocent civilians including school children and hospital patients.”
He condemned the US’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, saying it was “deliberately provoking Palestine.”
Referring to the Palestinian use of terrorism, Mohamad said, “It is the anger and frustration of the Palestinians and their sympathizers that cause them to resort to what we call terrorism.”
“Let the Palestinians return to reclaim their land,” said Mohamad, endorsing the right of return. “Let there be a state of Palestine. Let there be justice and the rule of law. Warring against them will not stop terrorism. Nor will out-terrorising them succeed.”
(Economist) Arguments persist over how to keep Israel safe
IN THE twin towers of Israel’s Ministry of Defence and the neighbouring headquarters of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) in central Tel Aviv, the brass hats summed up the end of the Jewish year with their customary briefings to politicians and journalists. With slideshows of maps and graphs showing why Israel’s armed forces are still the best in the region, the generals displayed their success in knocking out Iranian targets in Syria and stopping Hamas from menacing Israel from Gaza. While doing so, they have prepared their combat units to fight an all-out war, should they be obliged to.
But one old soldier insisted on spoiling the party. Major-General Yitzhak Brik retired from active service in 1999 but has served as the army’s ombudsman for the past decade. Last month he presented the cabinet and some members of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, with a secret report. It warned that Israel’s forces, especially the army, are not ready for a major war.
Stung by these accusations, the respected chief of staff, Lieutenant-General Gadi Eisenkot, responded by insisting that the army he has led for nearly four years is indeed ready for battle and that its units have undergone an unprecedented number of live-fire exercises. Both generals say they have based their assessments on raw data and direct impressions from the field. But frequent calls on the army to conduct internal-security operations have disrupted its training for all-out war. One mid-ranking IDF field commander says “it’s true that the tempo of exercises has gone up” but many of them are disrupted or cancelled “by urgent duty when Palestinians begin rioting in Gaza or the West Bank.”
Does it matter if the IDF is less than ready to fight a major war? Though Israel seems further from achieving a two-state peace deal with the Palestinians than at any point since the Oslo accords 25 years ago, it has seldom felt as secure in the region. Two of its once mortal enemies, Egypt and Jordan, are now allies. Syria’s army has been torn to shreds by civil war. Only on the border with Lebanon does Israel face a potent foe, in Hizbullah. In 2006 this militia-cum-political party fought Israel to a stalemate in a war on the border. Now, bloodied from its involvement in the Syrian war on the side of the regime, its fighters are experienced veterans. IDF officers mutter that Hizbullah’s forces are more seasoned than their own.
These question-marks over the army’s preparedness come at an awkward time for the generals. The IDF is set to launch a controversial plan to shorten the mandatory conscription period of 32 months for men, while offering enticing contracts to key personnel it wants to keep for longer periods. Critics say this jeopardises the IDF’s ethos of a “people’s army”.
At the same time, the generals have been blindsided by Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, who has just proposed his own “IDF 2030” programme, envisaging more spending on long-range missiles, cyber-warfare and intelligence gathering, instead of beefing up ground forces. Mr Netanyahu, who served as a commando officer 50 years ago, has often expressed impatience with the large armoured divisions of the regular army, and has always wanted more cash for sophisticated intelligence, special forces and the air force.
As Israelis observed Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, this year on September 18th-19th, they may have reflected on the national trauma of 1973. Then, Israel’s leaders failed to heed warnings by the head of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service, that neighbouring Arab armies were planning to attack on the Jews’ holiest day. Israel ultimately won that war, but only after suffering heavy casualties and a blow to its self-confidence. It serves as a reminder that even the best intelligence can be useless when not backed by shrewd leadership and well-trained men on the ground.
Pope Francis on Jan. 8, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Andrew Medichini / Pool.
Pope Francis paid tribute on Sunday to Jews killed by the Nazis and victims of murder and deportation by the Soviet KGB, in twin visits to memorials marking the darkest periods of Lithuania’s history.
On the 75th anniversary of the wartime liquidation of the Vilnius ghetto, Francis stopped to pray at a simple stone monument commemorating the 200,000 Lithuanian Jews killed either in the country or in Nazi concentration camps in Europe.
Minutes later, he paid an emotional visit to the nearby Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights, a former KGB basement jail where Lithuanians who were considered enemies of the Soviet Union were either executed or tortured before being sent to labor camps in Siberia.
A somber-looking Francis prayed and lit a candle in a room whose walls were lined with pictures of Catholic priests and bishops either killed or tortured in the jail.
UK Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn slammed Britain’s former chief rabbi on Sunday, calling his comments on Labour’s and his…
He then entered the execution chamber where, according to the Genocide and Resistance Research Centre, more than 1,000 people were killed during the Soviet period. In at least one case, nearly 50 were killed in just one night.
“Your cry, O Lord, is echoed in the cry of the innocent who, in union with you, cry out to heaven,” Francis said in a prayer to a crowd outside that included several survivors in their 90s.
The jail, Francis said, evoked the “sorrow and bitterness, of abandonment and powerlessness, of cruelty and meaninglessness” that Lithuanians suffered “as a result of the unrestrained ambition that hardens and blinds the heart.”
After Lithuania broke from the Soviet Union in 1991, the remains of nearly 800 people executed in the jail were found in a mass grave in Vilnius.
“This was our nation’s Golgotha, a trial of our faith,” Bishop Sigitas Tamkevicius, 79, who was imprisoned there in 1983 before spending six years in Soviet labor camps and who accompanied the pope to the jail, told Reuters before the visit.
About 70,000 Lithuanians died at the hands of Soviets.
On Sunday morning in Kaunas, Lithuania’s second-largest city, Francis said society should be vigilant for “any whiff” of resurgent anti–Semitism, calling for new generations to be taught the horrors of the Holocaust.
“The Jewish people suffered insults and cruel punishments,” Francis told a crowd of about 100,000 at an open-air Mass.
“Let us … ask the Lord to give us the gift of discernment to detect in time any seed of that pernicious attitude, any whiff of it that can taint the heart of generations that did not experience those times,” he said.
Reports of anti-Semitic acts have increased in Europe, coinciding with the rise of populist, right-wing parties in a number of countries.
(Mosaic) In the late 14th century, as the persecution of Spanish Jews by their Christian rulers grew more severe, many fled to nearby Portugal. Many more would arrive after the expulsion of the Jews in 1492; only a few years later, however, the Portuguese monarchy forcibly converted its own Jewish population. As a result, crypto-Judaism persisted in Portugal much longer than it did in Spain. The historian Henry Abramson describes several weeks spent in Portugal on a tour of Jewish sites, and tells the story of the country’s Jews;
Portugal boasts an ancient Jewish settlement that reached a population of some 30,000 by the end of the 15th century. Perched on the edge of the Iberian peninsula, Portugal earned a reputation for tolerance that had long attracted Jews fleeing Spanish oppression, including [the 15th-century rabbi and diplomat] Don Isaac Abravanel’s grandfather Samuel, who fled the 1391 riots and forced baptisms [in Spain] to reclaim his Jewish faith in Portugal. . . .
In a break with Portugal’s history of relative religious tolerance, King João II initially refused to admit the estimated 100,000 Jewish refugees massing at his borders [in 1492]. Intensive petitioning finally moved the king to grant a six-month transit visa to 600 prominent families, at the exorbitant price of six cruzados per person (approximately $20,000 in contemporary currency). Despairing, many Jews chose to turn back, accept Christianity, and risk the depredations of the Inquisition. Others entered Portugal illegally, hoping to blend into the local population.
Both João and his successor Manuel I imposed harsh anti-Semitic decrees aimed at forcing the Jews to accept baptism, including the kidnapping of Jewish children and exiling them to São Tomé, a recently acquired island off the coast of west Africa; according to the historian Samuel Usque, himself a Jewish refugee from Portuguese persecution, nearly 2,000 of the 2,500 children abandoned on São Tomé died there, perhaps eaten by huge indigenous lizards. By 1497, the Portuguese persecution reached its nadir with the mass conversion of all remaining Jews, both Portuguese [natives] and Spanish refugees, such that the entire Iberian Peninsula was rendered [officially] Judenrein: free of Jews.
Amazingly, [these Jews] persisted. Traces of crypto-Jewish activity over the following centuries are recorded in Inquisition trial records and memoirs of those who managed to emigrate to safe havens like Amsterdam. [S]ecret traditions continued through the centuries, right up to the 20th century, when a Polish Jewish civil engineer named Samuel Schwarz . . . heard rumors of a Portuguese community that practiced Judaism in a tiny village called Belmonte. . . . Schwarz reported that the Belmonte conversos were skeptical that he was even Jewish. Only when he recited the familiar words of the Sh’ma prayer did they accept the fact that the Inquisition had not reached every living Jew.
(EXP) Raphael Gamzou, embaixador de Israel em Portugal: “O antissemitismo é um ingrediente da cultura ocidental”
Raphael Gamzou, embaixador de Israel em Portugal
“O antissemitismo é um ingrediente da cultura ocidental”
Celebrando as semelhanças entre portugueses e israelitas, que deteta inclusive na fisionomia, o representante em Portugal do Estado hebraico queixa-se de tentativas de boicote no nosso país
O que é que atrai os israelitas em Portugal?
Culturalmente é um país fascinante, com muito para ver. Os meus familiares e amigos que cá vêm notam que cidades como Lisboa ou Porto, sendo grandes, não têm a tensão e o stresse que se encontra nas metrópoles, mesmo europeias. Aqui sentem-se relaxados. A cidade é grande, mas relaxante. As pessoas são fantásticas e não há agressividade nas ruas, o que é muito importante.
Os números do turismo têm crescido?
No verão passado visitaram Portugal cerca de 130 mil israelitas. É muito, para um país minúsculo como o nosso. Há dias em que aterram quatro ou cinco aviões de companhias israelitas em Lisboa e mais dois no Porto. No final de outubro teremos o primeiro voo direto regular da [linha aérea israelita] El Al em muitos anos, duas vezes por semana. Havia um voo direto do aeroporto Ben-Gurion, em Telavive, mas foi interrompido, creio que em 2000. Isto também é muito importante para o mundo empresarial. E a TAP, que já tem voos em code-share com a El Al, também pondera lançar o seu próprio voo.
As previsões são, então, de interação crescente entre portugueses e israelitas.
Há muitas semelhanças entre nós, de comportamento e mentalidade, pelo que os israelitas se sentem facilmente em casa em Portugal. O meu amigo e colega Miguel Almeida de Sousa, até há um ano embaixador em Israel e hoje em Dublin, dizia que ao andar pelas ruas de Telavive se esquecia de que era estrangeiro. Até na fisionomia das pessoas, na forma de vestir, e já nem entro naquela ideia de que todos os portugueses têm algum ADN judeu! Ainda este fim de semana estive no Porto e em Guimarães, onde a israelita Dvora Morag era artista convidada numa bienal de arte. E a caminho de Serralves vi uma rapariga com dois filhos e disse à minha mulher: “Passava bem por israelita!”. A Dora diz que em Bragança, onde esteve o ano passado, ainda é mais assim.
Essa identificação tão intensa é surpreendente.
Senti o mesmo recentemente, da primeira vez que fui a um concerto na Gulbenkian. O auditório estava cheio mas não havia show-off na atitude nem nas roupas, as pessoas estavam lá mesmo para ouvir a música. Também é assim em Israel. Quando fui nomeado recebi imensos telefonemas de amigos próximos, e não só, a celebrar o facto de vir para um país tão bom. É engraçado que nós, israelitas, raramente estamos de acordo. Discutimos por tudo e por nada. Mas em relação a Portugal há um consenso.
Contribui para isso o facto de não haver em Portugal o antissemitismo que se vê noutros países europeus?
A Universidade de Lisboa realizou, em junho, uma conferência sobre a história dos judeus em Portugal, com professores portugueses e israelitas, americanos, alemães, holandeses… alguns deles usavam quipá [barrete judaico]. E eu disse-lhes que em Lisboa ou no Porto um judeu pode andar de quipá na rua sem preocupações, o que infelizmente já não sucede na maioria das grandes cidades europeias.
Encontrou no nosso país manifestações do movimento BDS (boicote, desinvestimento, sanções) contra Israel?
Sim, mas de pequena dimensão e, felizmente, sem êxito. Dois exemplos: no início do ano abrimos uma exposição de arte do Museu de Israel no museu Berardo, fruto de uma maravilhosa colaboração entre as instituições. Logo surgiu um movimento de solidariedade com a Palestina a escrever cartas ao museu Berardo a acusar o Museu de Israel de ter sido construído em solo palestiniano. E quando fizemos, em junho, um concerto de angariação de fundos para as vítimas dos incêndios de 2017, pedi apoio à Câmara de Cascais, que também foi alvo de protestos. Mas fizémo-lo à mesma, com o cantor israelita David d’Or, na presença do Presidente da República portuguesa, e foi uma noite muito bonita. A rede internacional do BDS, a pretexto de pressionar Israel no tocante aos territórios, pretende na verdade demonizar e deslegitimar o país.
A que motivos atribui o reforço do antissemitismo na Europa? Há casos de judeus nados e criados em países europeus que optam por se mudar para Israel.
Creio que o antissemitismo, tristemente — e de forma consciente ou não — é um ingrediente da cultura ocidental. Está lá, é atávico, desde que os judeus foram acusados da morte de Cristo. Depois, tornou-se oficial até ao Concílio Vaticano II. Era o que toda a gente ouvia na missa ao domingo. Nas fachadas de importantes igrejas e capitais vemos estátuas de duas memórias. Uma, Sinagoga, representa o Velho Testamento. É representada vendada, pois não vê a Verdade. A outra mulher, Eclésia, representa o Novo Testamento e tem os olhos descobertos. Isto é algo tão enraizado que mesmo entre judeus vemos, por vezes, comportamentos antissemitas, de um certo ódio por si mesmos.
Esse antissemitismo é, não raro, inconsciente, o que não o torna menos grave.
Claro, muita gente não sabe que é antissemita, mas depois diz coisas como “Vocês, judeus, têm imenso dinheiro!” Está sempre ligado ao mito de que os judeus eram ricos, por estarem associados ao dinheiro, aos empréstimos, na Europa de antes do Holocausto. Ora, sempre houve Rothschilds, mas houve pobreza terrível e miséria em muitos bairros judeus. Trabalhavam com dinheiro porque muitas outras profissões lhes estavam barradas e porque a igreja católica proibia os seus fiéis de trabalhar com dinheiro.
Já sentiu o antissemitismo na pele?
Quando era mais novo, mais magro e mais bonito, tive uma namorada australiana, filha de imigrantes jugoslavos, que achava que o antissemitismo era coisa do passado. Mas depois reagiu muito mal quando eu lhe disse, a meio de um passeio romântico pela Piazza Navona, em Roma, que com o apelido Kosovič podia passar por judia! Acabou por me pedir desculpa. E recordou que na escola que frequentara, se um miúdo pedisse dinheiro emprestado a outro, este respondia-lhe “não sejas judeu”. E nem um nem outro sabiam, sequer, o que vinha a ser um judeu.
Em Portugal também se diz “não sejas somítico” ou “não faças judiarias”.
É algo arraigado, mas reforçado nos últimos tempos pelo fundamentalismo islâmico. As grandes vagas de migração muçulmana para a Europa criam coligações desafortunadas entre a extrema-esquerda e o Islão radical. Misturam o ódio aos judeus com as críticas ao Estado de Israel e com isso legitimam atos como o do muçulmano que entrou em casa de uma senhora de idade judia em Paris para a assassinar.
A extrema-direita também é antissemita.
Claro! Sempre tendeu a odiar as minorias. Agora foca-se nos migrantes islâmicos, mas eu aconselho sempre os judeus a desconfiarem de quem hoje os trata bem enquanto dedica racismo aos muçulmanos. Um racista é sempre um racista e parte da extrema-direita é-o declaradamente. A questão é mais complexa com a extrema-esquerda porque esta não é consciente do seu ódio visceral e patológico a Israel.
Não há atos do Governo israelita que reforcem essa confusão entre Estado e povo?
Represento um país que é não só uma democracia, como uma democracia selvagem. Temos uma imprensa muito agressiva. Por exemplo, o jornal “Há’aretz” é sempre muito crítico do Governo, seja qual for a sua cor política. Até a televisão estatal chega a enfurecer [o primeiro-ministro] Benjamin Netanyahu. A opinião pública israelita não é homogénea e há críticas justas a fazer. O antigo secretário de Estado americano Henry Kissinger dizia que Israel não tem política externa, só interna. Temos sempre governos de coligação cuja sobrevivência depende de manobras. Enquanto que em Portugal só o ministro dos Negócios Estrangeiros fala de política externa, e ainda bem, em Israel é um caos: o ministro da Saúde ou da Educação fazem declarações para satisfazer os respetivos eleitorados. Digo sempre que o principal desporto israelita é o debate.
Então o problema de Netanyahu são os parceiros de Governo?
Ou a ignorância sobre eles. Ouço dizer “os judeus ultraortodoxos são de extrema-direita”. Não é verdade, ainda que sejam conservadores! Aliaram-se a Netanyahu por motivos pragmáticos: querem dinheiro para as suas escolas religiosas, querem continuar isentos do serviço militar, mas em relação aos territórios palestinianos são menos assertivos. Podiam aliar-se aos trabalhistas se estes tivessem vencido as eleições. E até há um partido não-ortodoxo, a Casa Judaica, que é bem mais nacionalista.
O que está a dizer é que o seu país tem mais matizes do que se possa crer?
Deve saber que Israel não tem uma Constituição, apenas Leis Básicas. Uma delas, muito importante, diz respeito à dignidade e liberdade dos cidadãos. É muito progressiva, garante liberdade plena de expressão, trabalho, e em todos os aspetos, a toda a população de Israel. Recordo que temos um importante partido árabe no Parlamento, e além disso há deputados árabes em todos os partidos, trabalhistas, do Likud [direita, no poder], até no partido de Avigdor Lieberman [Yisrael Beiteinu, nacionalista, liderado pelo ministro da Defesa]. Mas no partido Lista Conjunta [árabe], que tem 12 deputados, muitos são extremistas e, apesar de jurarem lealdade ao Estado quando tomam posse, têm discursos que vão para lá de críticas ao Governo e mostram que o seu desejo é ver Israel desaparecer enquanto Estado judaico. Não me refiro a um Estado teocrático, sou um judeu secular e isso era a última coisa que queria. Mas esses deputados fazem muito mail às relações entre judeus e árabes no meu país. Dito isto, penso que a maioria dos árabes israelitas são cidadãos leais.
Isso devia ajudar a alcançar a paz…
O facto de os dirigentes palestinianos se recusarem a reconhecer Israel como Estado legítimo do povo judeu inculca nos israelitas a ideia de que o que os palestinianos desejam é a via do salame, plasmada nas suas escrituras. Quando no partido Fatah [do presidente palestiniano Mahmud Abbas] se começou a debater o diálogo com Israel, houve um dirigente muito moderado, Issam Sartawi, que foi o primeiro a defender as negociações com Israel. Veio a ser assassinado em Portugal, onde viera a uma reunião da Internacional Socialista. Os debates entre dirigentes palestinianos vão sempre dar à tal via do salame ou teoria das fases. Para justificar uma abordagem pragmática às negociações, não defendem mudanças profundas mas a ideia de que toda e qualquer porção de território que consigam obter é valiosa, fatia a fatia. Não porque exista uma mudança de corpo e alma. Esperam que com o tempo a demografia os torne maioritários e Israel desapareça.
A eterna disputa pela Terra Santa.
Foram os judeus que fizeram de Israel a Terra Santa. Só depois se tornou santa para os cristãos e, em seguida, para os muçulmanos. Somos nós os fundadores da terra e de Jerusalém. Mesmo depois de expulsos pelos romanos, quando estavam na Europa e até aqui, na Península Ibérica, asquenazes e sefarditas — e eu descendo de uns e de outros — rezavam voltados para Jerusalém. Mais nenhuma religião o faz! Os muçulmanos rezam virados para Meca. E nós até mencionamos Jerusalém nas nossas orações. Nos casamentos judaicos, partimos copos em memória da destruição do Templo, para que a nova família que nasce seja a sua reconstrução. No jantar da Páscoa, que foi o da última ceia de Cristo, lemos a Hagadá [texto sagrado pascal] e acabamos com “para o ano, em Jerusalém”. Logo, ao longo de 2000 anos, é claro que é a nossa terra. Quando os guarda-costas portugueses me perguntam se nós conquistámos a Palestina, digo-lhes que não. Nunca houve um Estado palestiniano e nós até fomos os primeiros a oferecer um Estado aos palestinianos. Mais pequeno do que sonhavam, é certo, mas Israel também é mais pequeno do que era a Palestina, mesmo durante o mandato britânico. Palestina é um termo inventado pelos romanos que junta os filisteus, o povo helénico a que pertencia o gigante Golias, e a palavra hebraica palash, que significa “invadir”.
Como descendente de sefarditas, talvez tenha direito à nacionalidade portuguesa.
Tenho tudo planeado. Quando me reformar peço a nacionalidade portuguesa e candidato-me a vosso embaixador em Israel [risos]!
Como antigo jornalista freelancer, que título daria à história de Israel?
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Photo: Reuters / Pierre Albouy.
Nearly 40 percent of British Jews would “seriously consider emigrating” if Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn became prime minister, according to a poll published by The Jewish Chronicleon Wednesday.
Labour has been roiled by a series of antisemitism scandals since the far-left Corbyn took control of the party in 2015.
Jonathan Goldstein — the chair of the Jewish Leadership Council — was quoted as saying of the poll:
“As someone who has always been a proud British Jew, it saddens me that almost 40% of our community would consider emigrating if Jeremy Corbyn became prime minister. This is deeply worrying.
“Our community is open, confident and proud of our traditions, while at the same time also being proud how we are integrated across society and public life. The current difficulties with the Labour leadership serve as a sharp reminder that our values and our people have often needed defending.
“The Jewish Leadership Council and its members will always work to ensure that our community is protected and secure both physically and otherwise.
“Ultimately, we must also remind everyone that antisemitism is the world’s most reliable early warning sign of a major threat to freedom. If members of our community would even consider leaving Britain because they feel threatened by the prospect of our potential next prime minister, this should worry everyone.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May — the head of the Conservative Party — said during Prime Minister’s Questions at the House of Commons on Wednesday, “Jewish people living in this country should feel safe and secure — and not have to worry about their futures in their own country.”
Also on Wednesday, Dave Rich — the head of the Community Security Trust (CST) ––told a parliamentary committee that a recent surge of antisemitic incidents in the UK was linked to the Labour situation.
“Over the last two years we have seen a much closer correlation between events in the Labour Party and our antisemitic incidents statistics than any other single factor,” he said, according to a Daily Mail report.
(PUB) A história não volta atrás, mas pode-se evitar que o imóvel previsto para o Largo do Rato venha, em democracia, completar a obra de ocultação de uma época há muito terminada.
No seu artigo de 31 de Agosto, a jornalista Bárbara Reis começa por questionar as expressões pejorativas utilizadas para qualificar o projecto para o Largo do Rato, contestando os argumentos de origem estética e arquitectónica apresentados para o denegrir.
Nesse ponto concordo com ela, porque sei bem que quando se quer deitar abaixo uma obra é frequente falsificar as características da mesma, exagerando a sua dimensão, os materiais e outras.
Também não sou jurista e não sei se o projecto viola ou não os princípios constitucionais da “igualdade e da liberdade religiosa” que terá invocado o Ministério Público para embargar a obra.
O que sei é que o Ministério Público tem razão em dizer que o edifício do Rato “acentuará de modo especialmente gravoso o enclausuramento da sinagoga, escondendo-a e afastando-a ainda mais da cidade e dos cidadãos” e que é falso afirmar como a autora o faz que de qualquer modo a comunidade judaica “nunca mostrou o mínimo interesse em abrir-se à cidade”.
Bárbara Reis sabe certamente que a construção da sinagoga de Lisboa, inaugurada numa época em que ainda vigorava a Constituição de 1826, teve de se conformar com a obrigação expressa no seu artigo 6.º: “A Religião Católica Apostólica Romana continuará a ser a Religião do Reino. Todas as outras Religiões serão permitidas aos Estrangeiros com o seu culto doméstico, ou particular, em casas para isso destinadas, sem forma alguma exterior de Templo”. Inaugurada em 1904, antes da instauração da República, segundo um projecto do arquitecto Ventura Terra, a sinagoga foi em consequência construída dentro de um quintal muralhado sem fachada para a rua. Para a Comunidade Israelita de Lisboa e respectiva sinagoga, a República ou dito de outro modo a separação Estado/Religião veio demasiado tarde…
Mas isso não impede hoje a Comunidade de procurar abrir-se à cidade: todos os dias durante o ano lectivo, escolas de todo o país fazem visitas de estudo à sinagoga; todos os dias grupos de turistas e visitantes, judeus ou não, visitam a sinagoga; os seus cursos de hebraico e história judaica estão abertos e são frequentados por judeus e não judeus, tal como as conferências, concertos ou efemérides diversas.
No entanto, tal como outros templos de outras religiões, a sinagoga não é um lugar público, é um espaço privado no qual as visitas são feitas por marcação por razões de organização e por razões de segurança. Interpretar este facto como “desinteresse em abrir-se à cidade”, é alhear-se por completo da realidade europeia e confundir dois conceitos completamente distintos: visibilidade e segurança. Quem quiser visitar uma sinagoga em França, Bélgica, Roma, ou Berlim poderá constatar que grande parte dessas sinagogas são visíveis da rua, com fachadas por vezes imponentes viradas para a calçada. A sua construção terá sido possível dessa forma, tal como a sinagoga do Porto inaugurada em 1938 ou a de Belmonte em 1996. Mas o mesmo visitante será confrontado nomeadamente nas sinagogas dos países europeus acima mencionados (e outros) com uma barreira de segurança extremamente rígida. Será necessário explicar porquê?
Em síntese, a ser construído o imóvel previsto para o Largo do Rato, a Sinagoga de Lisboa ficaria de facto penalizada duplamente: em primeiro lugar sem a reduzida visibilidade que ainda disfruta a partir do Largo, mas ficaria também privada de luz, enclausurada num espaço escondido lembrando os priores momentos dos “guetos” medievais.
A história não volta atrás, mas pode-se evitar que o imóvel previsto para o Largo do Rato venha, em democracia, completar a obra de ocultação de uma época há muito terminada.
Famed Israeli director Amos Gitai’s next project will be a period drama about Doña Gracia Mendes Nasi, the wealthy Jewish woman who helped smuggle Conversos out of Spain in the 16th century.
According to an exclusive report in Variety, Gitai will be directing Doña Gracia, a project he has been developing for several years along with Marie José Sanselme. The film will begin shooting next year in Europe and Israel, said the report.
Nasi “was among the most formidable figures of the Sephardi world in the 16th century,” according to the Jewish Women’s Archive. Born in Portugal in 1510 to Jewish parents who had fled Spain, she later moved to Antwerp, and then Italy amid the persecution of the Portuguese Inquisition. In Ferrara, Italy, Nasi was able to openly practice Judaism for the first time, and became a well-known benefactor of Jewish life in the city. She also continued her work in aiding “fugitives from the Iberian Peninsula, providing relief to Jewish captives and Jews in distress elsewhere, and supporting rabbinic scholars, hospitals, and synagogues throughout the Ottoman Empire,” said JWA. Later, while living in Constantinople, Nasi organized a boycott of the port of Ancona to protest the city’s persecution of Jews.
Gitai is attending the Venice Film Festival this week where two of his latest works – A Tramway in Jerusalem and A Letter to a Friend in Gaza – are being screened. In an interview this week on the sidelines of the festival, Gitai slammed the current Israeli government and Culture Minister Miri Regev.
“[Regev] wants to censor everything that moves,” the director told ScreenDaily.com. “We have a culture minister who wants to constrain and to dominate the industry… We have to be semi-underground to not be confronted by the government pressure. I think it’s even stronger on young filmmakers. It makes some of them move to much more conformist works and I think that’s a pity.”
According to an AFP report on Monday, Gitai told reporters that Israel is heading in the wrong direction and that “the government can destroy the very idea of an open society.” The director slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for welcoming Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to Israel with open arms.
“You see Netanyahu shaking hands with the worst antisemitic leaders in Europe and at the same time he allows shooting unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza,” Gitai said. “He only believes in physical force. This is very un-Jewish so it needs to be criticized.”
(JerusalemPost) Years from now, it will also likely be looked at as one of the most significant decisions Avigdor Liberman will have made as Israel’s defense minister.
An Israeli mobile artillery unit fires during a combined forces drill in Shizafon military base, near Eilat in southern Israel June 7, 2016. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
The idea has long been in the works, but the Defense Ministry’s decision on Monday to finally purchase new precision ground-to-ground rockets for the Ground Forces is nothing short of a revolution. Years from now, it will also likely be looked at as one of the most significant decisions Avigdor Liberman will have made as Israel’s defense minister.
The idea to establish a “Missile Corps” has been floating around for years in Defense Ministry corridors but has traditionally run up against opposition from the air force. The thinking was simple: Proponents believed it was important to diversify Israel’s offensive capabilities, while opponents feared budgets would be taken away from the IAF, which until now has had a monopoly on Israel’s sole long-range offensive strike capability.
For years, the IAF lobby succeeded in warding off the corps’ establishment – until now. While the idea might seem new, Liberman has been pushing it for about 15 years, ever since he was a junior Knesset member.
At the time, though, the technology was not yet ripe and he was not in a position to implement the idea. Now he can.
The changes are both in the technology and in the threats Israel faces on the battlefield. Technologically, Israeli companies like Israel Military Industries manufacture rockets today that are guided by GPS and have the ability to strike their targets with unprecedented precision in all weather conditions – sun, rain or fog.
The rockets have various ranges of between 30 and 150 kilometers.
The need for such rockets stems from changes on the battlefield. The IDF today faces enemies that are fast and slippery. Hamas and Hezbollah don’t operate out of identifiable military bases, but rather move between homes, schools and hospitals through underground passageways.
The IDF not only needs to be quick when engaging the enemy but, due to the civilian environment, it also needs to be accurate. Firing 170,000 artillery shells like it did during the Second Lebanon War in 2006 won’t have much of an effect in a future war with Hezbollah. They need to be accurate.
While the IAF has long objected to the establishment of the missile corps – it will cost about NIS 500 million of initial investment – the procurement of the rockets will actually benefit the air force by freeing it up to focus on strategic missions.
Coordinating missions, as is done today between the infantry corps and the IAF, is a complicated and long process. In times of war it goes faster but is still not immediate. Having a rocket capability attached to ground forces gives infantry commanders the independence to take out targets faster than in the past. Considering how Hezbollah and Hamas operate, this is a huge advantage.
All of this is made possible by the dramatic upgrade to IDF communication networks, particularly integration of the Tzayad battle management system, which enables all IDF units to see one another on digital maps and then to identify the position of enemy forces by simply hitting their location on the screen.
It will take some time before we see these rockets in action, but one thing can be said about Liberman’s decision: Israel is once again revolutionizing modern warfare.
CRIF President Francis Kalifat (center), Culture Minister Francoise Nyssen (second left) and philosopher and human rights advocate Bernard-Henri Lévy (far right) were among those leading the March 2018 rally in Paris for murdered Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll. Photo: Reuters / Gonzalo Fuentes.
Antisemitism in France has moved “from the streets directly into the homes of Jewish people,” the head of the country’s 465,000-strong Jewish community told The Algemeiner on Wednesday.
“The Jews in France feel threatened in their own homes,” Francis Kalifat — president of CRIF, the French Jewish communal body — said during a discussion of the antisemitism that has resulted in several deaths and injuries among French Jews over the past decade.
Kalifat underlined that “what used to be attacks on buildings, or insults thrown in the street, has evolved into the most violent acts.”
In the last eighteen months, two elderly Jewish widows in Paris — Sarah Halimi in April 2017 and Mireille Knoll in March 2018 — have been murdered in brutal antisemitic assaults, while several incidents of violent raids on Jewish homes involving gangs of mainly Muslim youths have also been reported.
Sadly, as Kalifat acknowledged, the problem is not new — though the pattern of Jewish response is changing.
Following what Kalifat called “the paroxysm” of antisemitic violence in 2012-13 — a year that witnessed the murders of a rabbi and three young children during a terrorist attack at a Jewish school in Toulouse — French aliyah to Israel climbed precipitously, with 8,000 Jews emigrating to Israel in 2015 alone. That trend has now slowed, Kalifat said, overshadowed by what some call an “internal aliyah.”
“We’re seeing a new phenomenon whereby Jews are leaving the neighborhoods where they were born and raised,” Kalifat said. “It’s happening in Paris, in Marseille, in Lyon, in Toulouse and in other cities. They are moving into neighborhoods that are more Jewish.”
This movement of population was the consequence of “day-to-day antisemitism,” Kalifat explained. “It’s not necessarily related to violence, often it’s more low level — for example mezuzot being ripped from the doorposts, hostile looks in the street, graffiti on the walls.”
The wider political environment in France isn’t necessarily more comforting. Kalifat pointed out that France has both a powerful extreme right, led by Marine Le Pen of the Front National (FN), and a powerful extreme left, led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the head of a bloc of left-wing parties known as La France Insoumise.
“We reject both, because we believe that both of them are participating in the rise of antisemitism in France,” Kalifat remarked. “On the extreme right, we are talking about old-fashioned antisemitism, very often masked by positive comments about the State of Israel. On the extreme left, the antisemitism is masked by a very violent anti-Zionism and hatred of Israel, and there is strong support for the BDS movement.”
Kalifat continued: “We refuse to have relationships with these groups, because they are fueling antisemitism in our country.”
On the other hand, current President Emmanuel Macron — the victor in the bitterly-fought presidential election of April 2017 — does inspire confidence among Jews. “This president is very conscious of what Jews have brought to France and French culture,” Kalifat said.
“Macron, like former Presidents [Francois] Hollande and [Nicolas] Sarkozy, is very serious about fighting antisemitism and is willing to use the available means to do so,” Kalifat stated. All three administrations were distinguished by their support for their Jewish community in the face of indifference to antisemitism among the wider population, he added.
For now, French Jews are anxiously awaiting the next development in the investigation into the murder of Sarah Halimi. Having believed that Halimi’s killer, Kobili Traore, would be standing trial despite the efforts of his lawyers to have the case dismissed on the grounds of alleged mental illness, the community received a shock in July. A new assessment of Traore’s mental health commissioned by the investigating judge concluded that he lacked the mental awareness required for a charge of intentional homicide aggravated by antisemitic prejudice.
The panel’s finding flatly contradicted the conclusion of a previous expert, Dr. Daniel Zagury, who examined Traore in September 2017. As The Algemeiner reported at the time, Zagury deemed that Traore’s brutal assault on Halimi — which culminated in her being thrown to her death from a third-floor window — was both “antisemitic” and a “delirious act” influenced by the assailant’s heavy consumption of marijuana. However, Zagury was clear that Traore was not sufficiently intoxicated at the time of the attack to be absolved of criminal responsibility — a key demand of Traore’s lawyers.
“I can’t explain why the judge ordered a second expert assessment, and their conclusion is totally incomprehensible to us,” Kalifat said. “We have many reasons to believe that this was an antisemitic attack. He [Traore] chanted verses from the Quran as he was torturing Halimi, he shouted ‘Allahu Akhbar!’ when he threw her from the window.”
Kalifat said that a third assessment into Traore’s mental state had now been ordered, with a report expected later this year.
“We hope that at the end of the day, the killer will be held responsible,” Kalifat said.
He expressed the same hope with the more recent murder of 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll, whose assailants were reported by police to have talked about”rich Jews” prior to their frenzied assault.
Criminal trials in both the Halimi and Knoll cases would serve a dual purpose, Kalifat argued.
“On trial would be the killers themselves, alongside the system that enables antisemitism to kill in this country,” he said.
(Times) Archive papers released to The Times show that Churchill’s bastion of propaganda and censorship allowed prejudice towards Jews to grow relentlessly. Dominic Kennedy reports
That enduring motto of British stoicism, “Keep calm and carry on”, was coined by Winston Churchill’s Ministry of Information.
The morale-boosting message has been revived on mugs, posters and teatowels as a cheerfully ironic invocation of the wartime spirit that defeated the Nazis.
Yet archive papers released to The Times show that Churchill’s bastion of propaganda and censorship harboured one of the most disturbing secrets of the Second World War: throughout the struggle against Hitler, British prejudice towards Jews grew relentlessly.
The discovery will revive nagging doubts about whether, had the Nazis invaded, Britons would have betrayed or rescued their Jewish neighbours.
A long withheld file, called Antisemitism in Great Britain and disclosed by the National Archives, shows that officials confronted by reports of rising prejudice decided that Jews themselves were to blame.
On May 26, 1943, Cyril Radcliffe, the ministry’s director-general, gathered his regional information officers to brief him. Mr Radcliffe wrote to his minister that the only regions untroubled by antisemitism were northeastern England and Northern Ireland.
“All the others showed general agreement on the fact that from the beginning of the war there had been a considerable increase in antisemitic feeling,” Mr Radcliffe wrote. “They seemed to regard it as quite beyond argument that the increase of antisemitic feeling was caused by serious errors of conduct on the part of Jews . . .
“This view held true both of officers dealing with industrial centres and those dealing with rural areas; it held true of officers coming from old-established Jewish centres, such as Manchester and Leeds, and officers coming from areas which had known the Jews mainly as war-time evacuees from the cities.
“The main heads of complaint against them were undoubtedly an inordinate attention to the possibilities of the ‘black market’ and a lack of pleasant standards of conduct as evacuees.
“I reminded them that it was part of the tragedy of the Jewish position that their peculiar qualities that one could well admire in easier times of peace, such as their commercial initiative and drive and their determination to preserve themselves as an independent community in the midst of the nations they lived in, were just the things that told against them in wartime when a nation dislikes the struggle for individual advantages and feels the need for homogeneity above everything else.
“I thought that our main contribution from headquarters would be to try to keep before people’s minds the recollection that antisemitism was peculiarly the badge of the Nazi.”
The tensions around evacuation have long been forgotten but they were noted by Tony Kushner, professor of Jewish/non-Jewish relations at the University of Southampton, in his 1989 study The Persistence of Prejudice. His book estimated that about half those fleeing the East End of London were Jews. Among prejudiced comments from provincials were that Jewish evacuees had “extraordinary bad manners — noisy, aggressive, loud and tactless”.
The worst civilian disaster of the war unleashed a wave of antisemitism. In March 1943, 173 people were killed in a stampede at the Bethnal Green bomb shelter in east London. The public blamed panicking Jews, although when the bodies were identified only five Jewish people were among the victims. An inquiry found the slur to be baseless.
Mr Radcliffe wrote: “If specific stories hostile to the Jews could be traced and pinned down as untruths, such as the recent canard of the Jews being responsible for the London shelter disaster, this should be done by countering it with the individuals who were putting it about, not by giving it general publicity.”
After the war, Mr Radcliffe drew the “bloody line” that partitioned India from Pakistan. He was knighted and became a law lord.
As Mr Radcliffe’s minute was being typed, in Amsterdam the Nazis began to round up Jews for the death camps. Anne Frank, still 13 and hiding in the secret annexe of a warehouse, was recording in her diary how, despite the hot weather, the family needed to light a fire each day to burn vegetable peelings. Any rubbish thrown into bins might arouse suspicions. “One small act of carelessness and we’re done for!” she wrote. She died in Bergen-Belsen before the camp was liberated by the British.
The depths of the horrors uncovered by the liberators transformed the public’s view of the enemy. The historian Antoine Capet has written of “the peculiar atmosphere of the summer and autumn of 1945, when ‘the Nazi camps’ provided a ready-made ex post facto justification for the war in Britain”.
Antisemitism became taboo. In the post-war movie Oliver Twist, Alec Guinness as Fagin was made up faithfully to replicate the caricature by the illustrator George Cruikshank in the original 1838 Charles Dickens novel, complete with long hooked nose and beard. Outrage ensued. The film was banned in Berlin following demonstrations. Hollywood was so offended that the release was delayed for three years in the United States; eventually only a heavily censored version was shown.
Prejudice against Jews on the home front was quietly forgotten and tidied away. The file released by the National Archives was due to be kept under lock and key until 2021 but was opened early in response to a request from The Times under the Freedom of Information Act.
The caste of leaders confronted with the rise in British prejudice belonged to the decadent interwar generation satirised in works such as Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies “walking into the jaws of destruction again”.
Churchill’s first information minister was Duff Cooper, married to the exquisite society beauty and actress Lady Diana Cooper. The politician’s gossipy diaries were edited posthumously by their son, the much loved author John Julius Norwich. Cooper’s great-great nephew is David Cameron.
Cooper’s set ranged from the Jewish banking family the Rothschilds to the minor aristocrats the Mosleys, among them the MP Sir Oswald Mosley, known as “Tom” to family and friends. “I can’t bear the Mosleys,” Cooper once confided to his diary, which was protected from prying eyes by a lock. “The sight and sound of them talking their tedious twaddle makes me feel sick.”
When Cole Porter telegrammed him an invitation for dinner at the Ritz, Cooper sat alone in the Piccadilly hotel until it dawned on him that his musical friend had meant the one in Paris. Fred Astaire, Rita Hayworth and Cary Grant added vim to Cooper’s social whirl.
The Coopers attended the Mosleys’ fancy dress barge party in Venice on September 7 1922. According to the diaries, Diana made a friend “up as a Venetian Jew and he looked very well . . . Tom Mosley made a declaration of love to Diana this evening. She told him not to be silly. He said he had adored her all this summer — that he had never felt anything like it in his life before.”
Then there was Brendan Bracken, an Irish Catholic fantasist who entered British high society by pretending to be the orphaned son of Australians who died in a bush fire.
Bracken inspired the character of Rex Mottram, the vacuous colonial adventurer satirised in Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited who, after complaining that he could not taste brandy served in what he derided as a “thimble”, was brought “a balloon the size of his head”.
Among those fooled by the Irish chancer was Cooper, whose diary entry for January 15 1924 recalls a dinner with Winston Churchill, his wife Clemmie “and a young Australian journalist called Bracken. It was a very enjoyable evening.” Cooper dined at Claridge’s with Anthony de Rothschild, known to him as “Tony Rothschild”.
Sir Oswald ultimately had as little success in seducing the electorate as he did with Cooper’s wife. Losing his seat in the Commons, he founded the British Union of Fascists in 1932. Cooper recalled on February 26 1933: “I attended a debate between Tom Mosley and [James] Maxton [radical Clydesider and leader of the Independent Labour Party] on Fascism v Socialism, in which I thought that Mosley got the best of it.”
When Hitler took power, Jews in Britain were quick to rally. Anthony de Rothschild became founding chairman of the Central British Fund for German Jewry, whose creators read “like a Who’s Who in Anglo-Jewry”, according to Men of Vision, the fund’s history by its late archivist Amy Zahl Gottlieb.
Britain had earned a reputation as a haven from persecution. During the 19th century, 140,000 Jews fled here from pogroms. The Jewish-born Benjamin Disraeli became prime minister for the first time as early as 1868. At the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 the Jewish Chronicle proclaimed: “England has been all she could be to Jews, Jews will be all they can be to England.”
The leading Jewish families all “benefited from Britain’s liberalism of the late 19th century, which had granted political emancipation to its Jews”, Gottlieb wrote. “Members of the cousinhood were soon elected to parliament. Some were elevated to the peerage.”
Now Simon Marks of Marks & Spencer, the chief rabbi and the banking brothers Anthony and Lionel de Rothschild set about helping Jews in peril from the Nazis.
Communal tensions peaked with the Battle of Cable Street in 1936, when Jews and locals erected barricades and fought running battles to prevent Mosley’s fascist Blackshirt marchers entering Jewish neighbourhoods in the East End.
In the Kristallnacht emergency, Anglo-Jewry’s fund arranged for 10,000 unaccompanied Jewish children to escape from Hitler to Britain in a humanitarian rescue known as the Kindertransport.
Cooper stuck out in the 1930s as an opponent of appeasement and was the only cabinet minister to resign in protest against Neville Chamberlain’s popular but doomed Munich agreement with Hitler. Cooper’s friend Noël Coward sent a handwritten note congratulating him on his strength and courage while lamenting how odd and unpleasant it had been “to see thousands and thousands of English people wildly cheering their own defeat”.
Cooper was alert to antisemitism. In the final years of peace, he warned Chamberlain’s secretary of state for war, the Jewish politician Leslie Hore-Belisha (who introduced the eponymous beacons as transport minister) of impending bigotry. The episode is recalled in Kushner’s The Persistence of Prejudice.
Hore-Belisha, who became lifelong friends with Cooper and Lady Diana, wrote in his diary that Cooper predicted that “the military element might be very unyielding and they might try to make it hard for me as a Jew”.
Once war broke out Chamberlain indeed sacked Hore-Belisha because “there was a prejudice against him”.
Hore-Belisha was then vetoed as a potential minister of information by the Foreign Office, whose attitude was summed up by the undersecretary Sir Alexander Cadogan: “Jew control of our propaganda would be a major disaster.”
Churchill, appointed prime minister in 1940, sent Cooper to run the Ministry of Information. The airwaves were buzzing with Nazi propaganda. As many as six million listeners a night were tuning in to William Joyce, the Hitler enthusiast known as “Lord Haw-Haw”.
The virulent antisemite, known for his catchphrase “Germany Calling”, sought to undermine British morale with broadcasts threatening bombing raids against civilian targets.
“Frequently ‘Lord Haw-Haw’ warned the Eastenders what was coming to them,” recalled R G Burnett in These My Brethren, his history of a mission that tended to London’s poor. “He tried to make their flesh creep — and succeeded.” After the war, Joyce would become the last man hanged for treason against Britain.
An early warning was sounded of wartime British prejudice. Anthony de Rothschild wrote to “Dear Duff” on March 26 1941 that: “There is an impression that there has been of recent weeks a growth of antisemitism in the country and there is some reason for supposing that it may not be unconnected with enemy propaganda, although this is hard, of course, to establish.
“Representatives of the Jewish community in London have considered the matter and are naturally perturbed from their own point of view, but it also seems to them that developments on this line help the enemy and damage the war effort.” He suggested a radio broadcast condemning antisemitism as potentially destructive to Britain.
Cooper wrote back to “My dear Tony”, stating: “I shall be very pleased to have a talk with you about the important matter.”
Cooper’s position as minister of information was weak. John Julius Norwich recalled: “The appointment was not a success. The press, terrified of censorship, mounted a virulent campaign against him.” Newspapers derided the ministry’s social surveyors, sent out to question the public about morale, as “Cooper’s snoopers”. An Achilles’ heel was that Cooper had allowed the ten-year-old John Julius to be evacuated to safety in America.
Four months after replying to Anthony de Rothschild, Cooper was replaced as minister of information by none other than Churchill’s friend, the imposter Bracken.
There was no doubt where Cooper’s heart lay. He went on to complete a wartime biography of the biblical King David, dedicating it “to the Jewish people to whom the world owes the Old and the New Testaments and much else in the realms of beauty and knowledge: a debt that has been ill repaid”.
The importance attached by Cooper, at the Ministry of Information, to challenging antisemitism never bore fruit. Bracken would be the minister who received Radcliffe’s memorandum recording that prejudice had risen throughout the war.
In northwest England, police in Salford discovered a clandestine basement printing press that was flooding the market with forged clothing coupons. In a confidential memo of April 17 1942, a regional information officer wrote: “Since the Salford coupon case we have observed anxiety among the Jews culminating in the visit of two representative Jews to the regional office.”
Jews believed that they were being discriminated against for jobs: “In spite of the shortage of nurses and the wishes of the Ministry of Health, local authorities are unwilling to employ Jewish girls.”
The official blamed Jews for the prejudice against them: “It appears that the Jewish leaders are so anxious to avoid admitting that ‘The People’ have been especially blameworthy in black markets that they are unwilling to take strong spiritual and communal action. Blindness to facts and alternate periods of arrogance and whines are unlikely to endear the Jewish cause to Britain.” A London civil servant applauded the “reasoned arguments put forward in this memorandum”.
The Ministry of Information was secretly housed away from Whitehall in the University of London’s Senate House amid the elegant garden squares of Bloomsbury.
The early skyscraper, when it was opened in 1937, was the second tallest building in the capital, almost as high as St Paul’s Cathedral.
There was hostility to an institution dedicated to such an un-British endeavour as propaganda. The ministry employed some of the finest writing talents of the age, including appointing Laurie Lee as publications editor.
The future poet laureate John Betjeman, working on government films, immortalised in verse his muse “Miss Joan Hunter Dunn”, whom he found there doing the catering. Yet the ministry remained unloved.
Graham Greene, a recruit, recalled “the high heartless building with complicated lifts and long passages like those of a liner and lavatories where the water never ran hot and the nail-brushes were chained like Bibles. Central heating gave it a stuffy smell of mid-Atlantic except in the passages where the windows were always open for fear of blast and the cold winds whistled in.”
George Orwell’s wife worked in its censorship division, while the author himself broadcast ministry-approved propaganda at the BBC.
In Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, a thinly disguised Senate House served as the Ministry of Truth where Winston Smith worked.
“The Ministry of Truth — Minitrue, in Newspeak — was startlingly different from any other object in sight. It was an enormous pyramidal structure of glittering white concrete, soaring up, terrace after terrace, 300 metres into the air. From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:
WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.”
There has been speculation that Big Brother was deliberately given the same initials as Brendan Bracken.
The Ministry’s ham-fisted meddling extended to refusing permission for Coward’s classic wartime morale-boosting movie In Which We Serve, with officials complaining that “the film was exceedingly bad propaganda for the Navy, as it showed one of HM’s ships being sunk by enemy action”.
The story was inspired by the loss of HMS Kelly, captained by Lord Mountbatten, who saved the movie by submitting a script to George VI. Filming went ahead after the King wrote that “the spirit which animates the Royal Navy is clearly brought out in the men”. It won an Oscar.
The ministry was quickly closed down in peacetime and replaced by the more modest Central Office of Information.
Through much of continental Europe, Jewish people in countries falling to the Nazis were rounded up and sent for slaughter.
Jews in Britain expected the same fate if the Germans invaded. “Some East End Jews, knowing what had been done to their compatriots by the Nazis in Germany, made ready for the coming of Hitler by carrying pellets of poison,” wrote R G Burnett in These My Brethren. “There was a moment when some began to trek out of London, pushing their belongings on handcarts, like the continental refugees in countries overrun by the Germans.”
An Eastender born in 1902 told the Jewish Museum London’s oral histories that he believed that British antisemites would not have bothered to gas Jews, as Hitler had done: “I’ve always maintained it, if they had their way here . . . while you’re alive, they would absolutely chop lumps off you. They wouldn’t wait to put you in a gas chamber, they’d be so eager to get at you.”
The British government’s only wartime acknowledgement of the Holocaust came in 1942 when Anthony Eden, the foreign secretary, told the House of Commons that “the German authorities are now carrying into effect Hitler’s oft-repeated intention to exterminate the Jewish people in Europe”.
Scepticism remained. Victor Cavendish-Bentinck, chairman of the joint intelligence committee, regarded the reported use of gas chambers as an exaggeration by Jews “to stoke us up”, according to Tony Kushner in The Persistence of Prejudice. “Doubts of the atrocity stories, based on distrust of Jewish sources, continued in government circles until the end of the war,” Professor Kushner wrote.
On June 2 1943, the Lvov ghetto in Poland was liquidated by the Nazis and the last of the city’s 110,000 Jews were sent to a concentration camp.
The same day, it fell to Margaret Corbett Ashby to struggle to sound the alarm about rising antisemitism in Britain.
Mrs Corbett Ashby had begun her political activism campaigning for women to have the vote, creating a group called the Younger Suffragists when she was 18 at the turn of the century.
Now 61, she was the grande dame of English liberalism and was invited to a meeting of the committee advising Bracken. She confided her concerns that Jews in Britain were facing increasing hostility and prejudice. Doubtless she was heard in respectful silence. Behind her back, though, officials treated her warning with disdain.
One civil servant responded by leafing through issues of the Home Office Special Branch’s fortnightly summary. In a paper marked “Secret” he wrote to a colleague that the following were the only examples of anti-Jewish action that he could find.
•November 15 1942: Large numbers of an antisemitic [sticker] portraying two Jews and bearing the words “Britannia rules the waves — yeth, but we rule Britannia” found affixed to doors and windows of business premises in Shoreditch, east London.
•January 1-15 1943: A Fascist typewritten broadsheet called The Flame featured antisemitism.
•March 16-31 1943: A pamphlet by R D Lees, who formed a branch of the wartime far-right movement the British National Party in Blackpool, argued that antisemitism was provoked by Jews. He opposed any measures for succouring Jews now under Nazi domination.
•March 1943: Antisemitic slogans chalked and painted on walls and pavements in London districts and in Old Trafford, Manchester. Reference was made to the Jewish connections of Churchill, the foreign secretary Anthony Eden and other public figures. At Hove, typewritten slips bearing the words “Down with the filthy Jews” were found fixed to shop windows of a tobacconist and confectioners, the proprietor of which was Jewish, and to the windows of a Jewish hotel.
•April 1-15 1943: Edward Godfrey of the British National Party bought 1,000 copies of the antisemitic booklet The Truth About The Jews published by Alexander Ratcliffe of the British Protestant League, Glasgow.
•April 16-30: Antisemitic notices such as “burn the Jews” were chalked on five occasions in the Paddington area of west London. Slogans were chalked on a wall in Old Trafford.
The civil servant wrote: “You will agree that there is nothing in all this to suggest anything in the nature of organised activity, at any rate on an important scale.”
A scrawled response to the typed memorandum states: “I did not think that Mrs Corbett Ashby’s account showed signs of careful consideration.”
Nearly all the Jews from Lvov would be killed by November.
Once the war ended, there was a price to pay for the British authorities’ tolerance of antisemitism.
A shop in London run by Victor Burgess, who had been temporarily interned as a suspected enemy sympathiser under the same defence regulations as Sir Oswald and his wife Lady Diana Mosley, was issuing “anti-Jewish propaganda”, officials were told in January 1945. The Home Office was alerted but did nothing. Burgess persisted to become a notorious post-war fascist orator.
Returning from the war, appalled Jewish ex-servicemen formed the 43 Group, which physically smashed up Mosley’s gatherings and attacked fascists and antisemites. “Any six of us was more than a match for 20 of them. We never failed, we always won. We always closed their meetings down, never failed to close a meeting down,” Len Sherman, a martial arts expert from the Welsh Guards, told the Jewish Museum London’s oral history collection.
In 1947 anti-Jewish riots spread through many parts of Britain, triggered by the hanging of two British sergeants in Palestine by the Irgun, an insurrectionary Jewish paramilitary group. A crowd of 700 broke windows at Jewish-owned shops in Eccles, Manchester. Anti-semitic slogans and the fascist sign were daubed on a synagogue in Plymouth. There were days of rioting in Liverpool. Slaughtermen at Birkenhead refused to handle kosher meat.
Officials had turned a blind eye to latent antisemitism throughout the war. When the Ministry of Information staged a touring show, The Evil We Fight, highlighting Nazi atrocities to rouse the public against Hitler in 1944, copies of a subversive pamphlet were found stuffed into exhibition screens.
The typewritten, two-page tract warned that parliament was controlled by “The City of London International Jew Finance” and rejoiced that “Hitler is ridding the world of Jews and Judaism”. Condemning the British authorities, it said: “They lock up Fascists who at least want Britain for the British and clear the country of these slimy, oily, greasy, immoral Jewish dagoes . . . ANTI-SEMITISM MUST BE ENCOURAGED! Britain for the British and to Hell with Jews and all other alien swine.”
One official wrote: “It is my opinion that the open letter to Fellow-Britons is not antisemitism — it is pure German propaganda. Antisemitism is merely a part of the whole.”
Another commented in a handwritten note that it was childish nonsense which left him quite unconcerned. At the Ministry of Information, they kept calm and carried on.