September 11, 2017

'Bashert' is Yiddish for: it was meant to be.

In 1960 my father wrote a book about his time in Auschwitz and Buchenwald and of the murder of his parents and most members of his family during the Holocaust.
‘The Yellow Star’ was recently republished after 50 years.
This is the story of how it got to be republished.
It appears as the afterword to the new book.

It’s sad to see how so much of the world seems to have descended into a new epoch of Jew hatred. However much they try to disguise themselves as anti-Israel or anti-Zionist, these are anti-Semites just like the duck analogy walks and talks and looks.

And just as in Germany the Nazis emerged from a highly cultured and educated society, the main sources of this resurgent Jew-hatred are in academia, the arts and cultured classes where anti-Semitic parlour chatter is rife and almost trendy.  Israeli scientists with ground-breaking medical cures are boycotted whilst artists who immortalise Palestinian suicide bombers are lauded and awarded. Most people agree that being supportive of Israel is ‘the kiss of death’ in media and academia; no advancement, no promotion, no prospects.

I am therefore always amazed when any non-Jewish personality actually stands up for Israel. ‘Why do they do it?’ I wonder. ‘What bad dream did this person have that compelled them to risk ridicule and eternal peer-abuse by standing up for the Jewish state?’

Such a question came to me on October 16th 2009 when a British army officer and commander of forces in Ireland, Bosnia and Afghanistan stood up at the UN in Geneva and delivered this speech:

“I am the former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan. I served with NATO and the United Nations; commanded troops in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Macedonia; and participated in the Gulf War. I spent considerable time in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, and worked on international terrorism for the UK Government’s Joint Intelligence Committee.

Mr. President, based on my knowledge and experience, I can say this: During Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defence Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.

Israel did so while facing an enemy that deliberately positioned its military capability behind the human shield of the civilian population.
Hamas, like Hizballah, are expert at driving the media agenda. Both will always have people ready to give interviews condemning Israeli forces for war crimes. They are adept at staging and distorting incidents.

The IDF faces a challenge that we British do not have to face to the same extent. It is the automatic, Pavlovian presumption by many in the international media, and international human rights groups, that the IDF are in the wrong, that they are abusing human rights.

The truth is that the IDF took extraordinary measures to give Gaza civilians notice of targeted areas, dropping over 2 million leaflets, and making over 100,000 phone calls. Many missions that could have taken out Hamas military capability were aborted to prevent civilian casualties. During the conflict, the IDF allowed huge amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza. To deliver aid virtually into your enemy's hands is, to the military tactician, normally quite unthinkable. But the IDF took on those risks.

Despite all of this, of course innocent civilians were killed. War is chaos and full of mistakes. There have been mistakes by the British, American and other forces in Afghanistan and in Iraq, many of which can be put down to human error. But mistakes are not war crimes.

More than anything, the civilian casualties were a consequence of Hamas’ way of fighting. Hamas deliberately tried to sacrifice its own own civilians.

Mr. President, Israel had no choice apart from defending its people, to stop Hamas from attacking them with rockets.

And I say this again: the IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.

Thank you, Mr. President.”

I was brimming with admiration, but yet still wondering: why?

I got the answer two years later on a plane out of Tel Aviv where I spotted the officer, Colonel Richard Kemp, in the opposite aisle seat. 
I said I wanted to shake his hand and thank him for his courageous defence of my people. We exchanged cards and deplaned in London.

Later that evening I got the following email from him : 

“Many years ago I read a book called The Yellow Star by somebody who was I believe called S B Unsdorfer. Any relation?”  

I replied: “Wow .. what a coincidence. That was my father's book. Long out of print.”

He replied: “A remarkable coincidence. I never expected to have the honour to meet the author of The Yellow Star, or indeed his son. I read the book when I was about 14 or 15. A phenomenal work. Without question, of the many books I have read in my life, your father's made by far the greatest impression on me. I read a battered paperback copy that belonged to my aunt, and I still have it.”

Well – this time I got my answer to my eternal question about what makes such a person speak out for Israel.

I decided there and then to republish and digitize The Yellow Star with thanks to Richard for his inspiration and for agreeing to write a personal foreword.

We are now good friends and I continue to follow Richard's outstanding advocacy for Israel and her armed forces in forums all over the world, and his support of all those brave souls, in and out of uniform, who are fighting the just war against radical Islamist terrorism and the forces of jihad.

The Yellow Star is available at Amazon and other online vendors.

See Richard Kemp's blog here.
Watch his UN speech here

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