Israeli leaders’ Nazi comments derail European summit
By JOSEF FEDERMAN
Tuesday, February 19
JERUSALEM (AP) — Poland on Monday withdrew from a European summit in Jerusalem, derailing the meeting and embarrassing its Israeli hosts, to protest claims by Israel’s acting foreign minister that Poles collaborated with the Nazis and “suckled anti-Semitism with their mothers’ milk.”
The abrupt cancellation marked a new low in a bitter and long-running conflict between Poland and Israel over how to characterize Polish actions toward its Jewish community during World War II.
It also was a diplomatic setback for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had touted the gathering as a milestone in his outreach to the emerging democracies of central and eastern Europe. Netanyahu has courted these countries to counter the criticism Israel typically faces in international forums.
Tuesday’s meeting of the leaders of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic — known as the Visegrad group — was to be the first time the summit has been held outside of Europe.
The gathering began to unravel last week when Netanyahu, during a visit to Warsaw, told reporters that “Poles cooperated with the Nazis.” The comments infuriated his Polish hosts, who reject suggestions that their country collaborated with Hitler.
Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, announced Sunday that he was pulling out of the summit and that his foreign minister would go instead.
But Morawiecki canceled Polish participation altogether after the comments made by Israel’s acting foreign minister, Israel Katz, that he denounced as “racist” and “absolutely unacceptable.”
Katz, who was only appointed to the foreign minister’s post on Sunday, made his remarks in a pair of TV interviews.
Noting that he himself is a child of Holocaust survivors, Katz said that “Poles collaborated with the Nazis, definitely.” He then quoted the late former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who said that Poles “suckled anti-Semitism with their mothers’ milk.”
Israel’s Foreign Ministry confirmed Monday that the summit had been called off, saying all four European countries had to be present.
Instead, a government official said that Netanyahu and the three remaining European leaders were expected to hold a series of bilateral meetings on Tuesday, along with a group news conference and joint lunch. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the schedule had still not been finalized.
Netanyahu, in a speech Monday to visiting Jewish American leaders, made no mention of the crisis.
Poland was the first country invaded and occupied by Adolf Hitler’s regime and never had a collaborationist government. Members of Poland’s resistance and government-in-exile struggled to warn the world about the mass killing of Jews, and thousands of Poles risked their lives to help Jews.
However, Holocaust researchers have collected ample evidence of Polish villagers who murdered Jews fleeing the Nazis, or Polish blackmailers who preyed on helpless Jews for financial gain. Many of Israel’s founding generation, including Shamir, fled anti-Semitism in Poland or elsewhere in eastern Europe in their youths, and Shamir has said his father was murdered by Poles.
These dueling narratives have been a source of great tension between Israel and Poland, which otherwise have strong relations.
Last year, Poland and Israel were embroiled in a bitter dispute over a Polish law that made it a crime to blame the Polish nation for complicity in the Holocaust.
Israeli officials saw it as an attempt by Poland to suppress discussion of the killing of Jews by Poles during and after the wartime German occupation. Netanyahu faced criticism from historians in Israel for not opposing the law, which critics said distorted history.
Critics also have accused Netanyahu of cozying up too closely to other nationalistic leaders in eastern and central Europe who have promoted a distorted image of the Holocaust and turning a blind eye to anti-Semitism. These include the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, another participant at the Israeli-hosted gathering.
Lost in the diplomatic uproar was that Netanyahu was actually defending his close alliance with Poland and other eastern European leaders when he made the comments that offended the Poles.
In response to a question from The Associated Press during his two-day visit to Warsaw, Netanyahu said he has raised the issue of historical revisionism with the various leaders. He rejected the notion he was a partner to diminishing anyone’s complicity in the genocide of Jews in World War II.
“I know the history. I don’t starch it and I don’t whitewash it,” he said.
Netanyahu is seeking re-election in April, and it is possible both he and Katz are trying to gain favor with their nationalist base by standing up to Poland’s criticism. Likewise, Poland’s leaders are preparing for both national and European elections this year.
But Oded Eran, a former Israeli ambassador to the European Union, said the diplomatic cost clearly outweighed any domestic benefit.
“The abandonment or postponement of the Visegrad summit is a major blow to Netanyahu’s foreign policy, which he has been developing for several years now,” said Eran, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies think tank in Tel Aviv. “Any consolation he would get from a boost in the polls is completely outweighed by the damage he has done.”
Jewish leaders in Poland issued a statement saying that Shamir’s words about Polish anti-Semitism were “unjust” when he said them in 1989.
“They are even more unjust today, 30 years later, when so much has been done on both sides for a mutual understanding of our very difficult, but shared history,” the statement added.
Jonathan Ornstein, head of the Jewish Community Center in Krakow, called on Katz to apologize or resign.
“As a proud Israeli and Polish citizen, I feel that Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz should apologize or resign after his offensive, xenophobic remarks about Poland. On his first day in office, no less. Truly Shameful,” Ornstein said on Facebook.
Associated Press writers Aron Heller and Isabel DeBre in Jerusalem, Vanessa Gera in Warsaw and Karel Janicek in Prague contributed to this report.
Concentration camps in the South African War? Here are the real facts
February 18, 2019
Author: Fransjohan Pretorius, Emeritus professor of History, University of Pretoria
Disclosure statement: Fransjohan Pretorius receives funding from the National Research Foundation..
Partners: University of Pretoria provides funding as a partner of The Conversation AFRICA.
More than a century after 48 000 people died in concentration camps in what’s known as the South African War between 1899 and 1902 – or the Anglo-Boer War – the events of that period are back in the headlines.
The camps were established by the British as part of their military campaign against two small Afrikaner republics: the ZAR (Transvaal) and the Orange Free State.
The scandalous campaign is back in the news following controversial comments by British Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg on a BBC television programme.
Rees-Mogg’s statements have caused consternation because they were riddled with inaccuracies. It’s time to set the record straight and to refute his inaccuracies one by one. I do this based on the historical research I’ve done on the South African War for the last 49 years.
Setting the record straight
The claim that caused the most upset was Rees-Mogg’s allegation that the concentration camps had exactly the same mortality rate as was the case in Glasgow at the time.
This is simply factually incorrect.
In its recent Glasgow Indicators Project the Glasgow Centre for Population Health gives the death rate of people in the city as 21 per 1000 per annum in 1901.
The death rate for Boer civilians in the concentration camps in South Africa exceeded this by a factor of 10. It’s well established that 28 000 white people and 20 000 black people died in various camps in South Africa. Between July 1901 and February 1902 the rate was, on average, 247 per 1000 per annum in the white camps. It reached a high of 344 per 1000 per annum in October 1901 and a low of 69 per 1000 per annum in February 1902.
The figures would have been even higher had it not been for the fact that British welfare campaigner Emily Hobhouse exposed the deplorable conditions in the camps. A subsequent report by the Government’s Ladies Commission prompted the British Government to improve conditions. Another factor that reduced the fatality rate was that Lord Milner, High Commissioner for South Africa and Governor of the Cape Colony, took over administration of the camps from the military from November 1901.
Rees-Mogg also revealed his total lack of understanding why the British military authorities established the concentration camps in statements such as:
- Where else were people going to live when … (the Boers were fighting the war)?
- People were put in camps for their protection.
- They were interned for their safety.
- They were being taken there so that they could be fed because the farmers were away fighting the Boer War.
The reality was very different.
The origins of the camps
After Lord Roberts, chief commander of the British forces, occupied the Free State capital, Bloemfontein, on 13 March 1900, he issued a proclamation inviting the Boers to lay down their arms and sign an oath of neutrality. They would then be free to return to their farms on the understanding that they would no longer participate in the war.
Eventually about 20 000 Boers – about a third – made use of this offer. They were called the “protected burghers”. Roberts had banked on this policy to end the war. But after the British occupation of the Transvaal capital, Pretoria, on 5 June 1900, there was no end in site. On the contrary, the Boers had started a guerrilla war, which included attacks on railway lines.
In reaction Roberts issued a proclamation on 16 June 1900, stating that, for every attack on a railway line the closest homestead would be burnt down. This was the start of the scorched earth policy. When this didn’t work, Roberts issued another proclamation in September stating that all homesteads would be burnt in a radius of 16 km of any attack, and that all livestock would be killed or taken away and all crops destroyed.
This policy was intensified dramatically when Lord Kitchener took over from Roberts as commander in November 1900. Homesteads and whole towns were burnt down even if there was no attack on any railway. In this way almost all Boer homesteads – about 30 000 in all – were razed to the ground and thousands of livestock killed. The two republics were entirely devastated.
Meanwhile the Boer leaders were reorganising their commandos after some major setbacks. One action was to remobilise the Boers who had laid down their arms.
Roberts felt he should protect his oath takers and gather them in refugee camps. The first two were established in Bloemfontein and Pretoria in September 1900.
But the scorched earth policy had led to more and more Boer women and children being left homeless. Roberts decided to bring them into the camps too. They were called the “undesirables” – families of Boers who were still on commando or already prisoners of war. They were given fewer rations than others in the camps.
These families eventually outnumbered the protected burghers and their families by 7:3.
These families were taken against their will. They were forcibly put on ox wagons and open railway trucks and taken to the camps. They were not, as Rees-Mogg claimed, moved for their protection and safety. Nor were they moved to the camps to be fed. Rather, their internment had everything to do with ending the resistance of Boers still fighting the British.
The administration of the camps was appalling. Food was of a very poor quality, sanitation deplorable, tents were overcrowded and medical assistance shocking. Little was known at the time about how to handle epidemics of measles and typhoid.
This isn’t all. Rees-Mogg is also obviously unaware of the action that the British commanders took against black South Africans. A total of 66 black concentration camps where set up across the Transvaal and Free State where conditions were just as bad and the death rates similar.
These camps were set up to get black people off the land so that the Boers couldn’t get supplies from them. In addition, forcing black farmers off their land also enabled the British to use black men as labourers on gold mines.
Rees-Mogg was right on one point: the concentration camps didn’t have the same aims as Adolf Hitler’s extermination camps during the Second World War. The aim in South Africa wasn’t systematic murder.
But this shouldn’t detract from his numerous other falsehoods.
The survivors of clergy sexual abuse who finally pushed the Vatican to recognize the problem
February 17, 2019
Author: Brian Clites, Instructor and Associate Director, Case Western Reserve University
Disclosure statement: Brian Clites does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: Case Western Reserve University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
The Vatican’s decision to defrock Cardinal Theodore McCarrick comes just days before the world’s leading bishops gather in Rome for a summit on the clergy sexual abuse crisis.
The bishops were instructed to meet with victims in their home countries, and some survivors are also slated to speak at the summit.
Survivors have long fought for recognition from the bishops.
The first survivor movements
As a scholar, I have been working with survivors since 2011, and I wrote my dissertation on the history of Catholic survivor organizations. The Catholic survivor movement in the United States was founded by two women: Jeanne Miller and Marilyn Steffel.
Miller got involved after learning that her son was abused by their priest at St. Edna’s Parish in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights, Illinois. At the time, Steffel was the director of religious education at St. Edna’s.
According to Miller, Steffel was the only parishioner who stood by her family after they came forward in 1982.
As Miller told me in 2015, she asked the Archdiocese of Chicago to remove their son’s abuser from ministry. Miller also requested a meeting with the archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. Initially, Bernardin delegated the task to other bishops, but in 1985 he met with Miller and her son.
As a result of publicly challenging the church, the Miller family suffered years of trauma. As Miller said in media interviews, friends and neighbors turned a cold shoulder to them. Their son too was known to be bullied in school. And the archdiocese threatened Miller and Steffel with excommunication for speaking openly about the abuse.
This experience led the two to set up the first survivor nonprofit in the United States. Miller and Steffel called the organization Victims of Clergy Abuse Linkup, or VOCAL. Later, it came to be known simply as Linkup.
Linkup began modestly, first as a local support group and then as a national telephone hotline for survivors. It went on to reach survivors of clergy sexual abuse globally. In 1992, Miller and Steffel organized the world’s first mass gathering of Catholic abuse victims. The event, called “Breaking the Silence,” brought together nearly 500 victims from 11 countries.
The goal was to help attendees heal by showing them that they were not alone. Cardinal Bernardin initially accepted Miller’s invitation to deliver the keynote address, but he backed out at the last minute.
Linkup later chose to be under the leadership of Tom Economus, an independent Catholic priest. Independent priests come from a number of Catholic denominations not subject to the “Roman” authority of the Vatican. Under this spiritual guidance, Linkup developed a vision of restorative justice, with some victims reaching out to their perpetrators to initiate conversations that would help them both come to terms with the suffering of childhood sexual abuse.
More survivors speak up
In 1989, Linkup member Barbara Blaine founded her own group for clergy abuse victims, called the Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests, referred to as SNAP. Blaine alleged she was abused for five years as a young adolescent in the Diocese of Toledo, Ohio. Her alleged abuser was removed from ministry in 1992, and in 2005 the bishop of Toledo apologized.
Blaine was already trained as a Catholic organizer because she had spent the past decade as an anti-nuclear and peace activist, and volunteered full-time as a Catholic Worker running two of the Workers’ Chicago Houses of Hospitality, which minister to the homeless and sick.
As Blaine described to me, she believed that many victims carried a profound sense of misplaced shame. As she explained in the National Catholic Reporter, Blaine’s goal was to recognize that they were actually survivors of attacks that were not their fault.
She structured SNAP meetings around a model of speaking about one’s abuse and naming one’s abuser. Blaine would often foreground her own feelings of shame when explaining why other survivors should tell their stories publicly.
Founding of New England chapter
A SNAP member, Phil Saviano, helped the Boston Globe unravel systemic patterns of abuse and cover-up in the Archdiocese of Boston. Saviano had gone public with his story in 1992, when he also founded SNAP’s New England chapter.
According to Saviano, the Globe ignored his tips about clergy sexual abuse for several years. Spotlight reporter Michael Rezendes recalled with fondness the extensive research Saviano shared with their team.
The Boston Globe’s reporting showed survivors across the country that they were not alone. The coverage also spurred an unprecedented wave of support from nonvictims. A group of resourceful parishioners in Wellesley, Massachusetts began to hold listening sessions, and soon formed a new nonprofit called Voice of the Faithful.
Their leadership included authors, doctors, lawyers and professors. Many of these accomplished parishioners already had extensive experience in nonprofit activism, such as James Muller, a recipient of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize for co-founding the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.
The goal of the sessions was to make space for survivors to share their pain and betrayal with the broader community. According to the group, they grew from just 30 parishioners to more than 700 local Catholics. By the end of 2002, Voice of the Faithful had swelled to more than 25,000 survivor-advocates from across the United States.
This group also devoted itself to reform issues including celibacy, homosexuality and female ordination in the church. Several additional nonprofits grew out of this group. The most enduring is Bishop-Accountability.org, whose first goal is that bishops acknowledge their responsibility in the clergy sexual abuse crisis and hold one another accountable – including by forcing offending priests and bishops to resign from their posts.
American bishops have usually been reluctant to meet directly with survivors. This has forced many victims to place their hope in courtrooms and grand juries.
Today, many bishops insist that survivors can speak to them only when both parties’ attorneys are present. Yet many survivors continue to hold hope for a more pastoral response from the church. Many survivors want to be included in the church’s conversations about how to minister to them and protect future generations.
Prior to this week’s meeting, Pope Francis’s most significant effort to engage survivors had been the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
But in May 2017, the last survivor on the commission, Marie Collins, resigned in protest. In explaining her resignation, Collins cited the church’s unwillingness to acknowledge victims’ pain and suffering.
Over the next few days, Catholics will be scrutinizing press releases from the summit to discern whether the church will finally shift its policies to adopt a more conversational, less legalistic approach.
Meanwhile, survivors will also be watching closely to see if former cardinal Theodore McCarrick is charged with any crimes in the United States. To date, no American bishops have been convicted in connection with the clergy sexual abuse crisis.