The purveyors of “Israel Apartheid Week” haven’t seen the Israel I saw.

Beth-Shemesh, Israel…

Spring is usually when the enemies of the Jewish state hold their hate fest known as “Israel Apartheid Week” on college campuses across America.  Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and their allies perform various acts that allege discrimination committed by the Jewish state against Arabs.  The irony is that these performers of alleged “Apartheid” have not been to Israel, nor have they witnessed everyday life in Israel that this reporter has.  Israel may not encompass human perfection, but it certainly exhibits freedom, opportunity and tolerance seen nowhere in this region of the Middle East and beyond.

On a sunny April afternoon, one among many such days throughout the year in Israel, I walked the Tel Aviv Boardwalk in what is known here as the “Namal” or “the Port of Tel Aviv.” In restaurants that abound on this shorefront of the Mediterranean Sea, families and couples were enjoying expensive meals, others were strolling along the boardwalk.  In the restaurants, Arab women in head scarfs and their boyfriends were loudly conversing in Arabic. Passing by outside were Arab families with their children mingled with Israeli children, enjoying the playground.  None of the Arab families appeared hesitant or uncomfortable in the setting…in fact they seemed totally nonchalant, as if saying “this belongs to me, too.”

In Israel, you won’t find the kind of “banilieues” you can encounter in France or Sweden, where local police won’t enter, and native citizens dare not set foot.  There are however Arab, Druze, and Circassian villages in northern (The Galilee and Golan) Israel, and Bedouin-Arab villages in the Negev (southern Israel).  In the cities, such as Jerusalem, Haifa, and Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Arab-Israelis and Jews intermingle without distinction.  Were it not for the occasional and specific head cover worn by Arab women, one would never know who is who or which is which.

Go to a Super-Pharm store in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv or Beth-Shemesh, and invariably you will find an Arab pharmacist helping you.  At Rambam hospital in Haifa or Kaplan hospital in Rehovot, you are bound to find Arab doctors and nurses, not to mention the Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem.  Christian and Muslim Arabs are involved in virtually all trades and professions in Israel, including 13 members in the Israeli Knesset (Israeli Parliament), a Supreme Court Justice, military officers, teachers, etc.

This reporter had personally experienced the comfortable, if not perfect integration of Arabs in Israeli society.  As the sun was setting, driving down from the Golan Heights, my friend Avi (a former paratrooper and currently a tour guide) and I stopped at a fish restaurant in Kibbutz Ein Gev on the Sea of Galilee.  After dinner, as we set out to drive back to Beth-Shemesh, it did not take long to discover that our head-lights and brake-lights on our rental car were burnt out and inoperable.  Passing drivers honked to alert us of the problem.  We slowly made our way to a shopping strip in Tzemach, 12 kilometers from Tiberias.  We called the 24 hour emergency road service, and a few hours later a service van appeared.  George, an Arab-Israeli from a central Galilee village showed up to help us.  He was truly a life saver. While waiting for him to show up, we had coffee at Aroma, a national chain of Israeli restaurants.  Next to us were three young Arab couples, loudly laughing and conversing in Arabic.  They were all dressed in chic styles, and clearly flaunting their identity.

At the Ruppin Technical College in Emek Hefer, the head of the Practical Engineering Department is an Arab-Israeli named Yunis Dapar.  Shlomo, my brother’s grandchild, who attends the school, informed me that half of his classmates are Arabs.  “On many occasions,” he said, “we go as a group, Arab and Jewish students, to an Arab village to eat in a restaurant.  We are treated well and without distinction between Arab and Jew.”  He added, “In real life, there is not much of a difference between Arab and Jew.”

Waheed, a 35-year old Arab-Muslim Palestinian from the West Bank (Gush Etzion area) has his own construction and fixing company.  Waheed fixed my brother’s porch staircase. During his work, my sister-in-law brought him coffee, and he ate with us in the house during the lunch break.  When he finished, my brother drove him and another Arab worker back to their village.  Given the spate of knifings and car rammings by Palestinians, I asked my brother if he had any apprehension about driving alone with two Palestinian Arabs next to him. His reply was “These Palestinian-Arabs working here are making a nice living, and they are content to keep the peace.”  He then added, “We treat each other as human beings, not as Arab and Jew.” Clearly, on a grassroots level, Palestinian-Arabs and Israelis get along rather well.  It is the Palestinian leadership, as well as the Arab-Israeli Knesset Members, who continue to incite their populations against the Jewish state.

Bet-Shemesh has grown in recent years to become a city of approximately 150,000 inhabitants, situated off the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv super-highway #1, and along route 38.  It is surrounded by the Judean Hills.  Many of its residents are ultra-Orthodox Jews, and English is the second most spoken language. In the Rami Levi supermarket in the city center, I came across Mona, a 30’ish Arab-Muslim woman from East Jerusalem, who comes here daily to work as a cashier.  Other cashiers included a young, black, Ethiopian Jewess, followed by an older Sephardi Jew with a skullcap, and another Arab woman with a white head scarf.  Young supermarket workers sit outside the store on their break, smoking cigarettes. They are a mix of Arabs, along with Arabic-speaking Israeli Jews. They are indistinguishable in their green uniform store shirts, and appear to be a band of brothers, sharing stories and jokes in Arabic and Hebrew.

When I proposed to the store manager that on American campuses, Israel is portrayed as an “apartheid state,” she chuckled. “So you see apartheid here?” she asked.  When I offered to take their picture, Mona, with her Arab and Jewish co-workers were thrilled.  When I asked her how she was getting along with her Jewish co-workers and management, she replied in Hebrew “Baruch Ha’shem” (Thank God).

Rami Levi supermarkets are a reflection of Israel’s diversity and harmony among Arabs and Jews, and an unlikely place for the detractors of Israel to want to see and acknowledge. It seems that the SJP crowd cares not to see the truth about Israel’s diversity and democracy.  Moreover, given the security risks from Palestinian jihadi terrorists, and terrorists from the Islamic State, Hezbollah, and Hamas, Israel is an amazing experiment in democratic tolerance.  In searching for “apartheid” in Israel, I found a reality that even those who are hardened pro-Zionists might not realize.  Israel is truly an open society, a model of tolerance and acceptance, in a region where hate, intolerance, and bloodletting is common.

Originally Published in FrontPageMag.

So You Think Israel is Apartheid?

Once again accusations of Israel being an apartheid state have hit the headlines.  A UN committee ESCWA (Economic Social Commission of Western Asia) has released a report accusing Israel of practicing ‘apartheid,’ which has since been pulled from their web site. The term itself refers to what took place in South Africa between 1948 and 1994. However, its popularity increased primarily as a result of a book written by former President Jimmy Carter-  “Peace, Not Apartheid” released in November 2006. Carter, a strong supporter of Hamas and Yasser Arafat, sought, to portray Israeli policies toward the terror groups committed to its destruction as racist and discriminatory.

To call Carter’s use of the term “apartheid” a mischaracterization is akin to calling the Pacific Ocean a tiny lake. Moreover, his use of said term suggests he either doesn’t understand its meaning, or he is truly anti-Israel, which is more likely.

Let me illustrate….

During apartheid South Africa was comprised of approximately 70 – 75% black people with roughly 25 – 20% whites. Under the apartheid system of government, the small minority of white people ruled the country. The black majority was forced to live in ghettos, which were separated from the white cities. Plus, they were surrounded by walls or fences, making it impossible for blacks to come and go freely. The gates were guarded and no black could leave without proof of ID and the strict understanding they were only allowed to leave for specific purposes, such as work.

Within the cities they lived in “townships,” which were very rundown separate slum areas. All non-whites were required to carry special passes which designated where they lived. They were required to show them to police upon demand.

After a prolonged series of negotiations between 1990 and 1994 the apartheid system was done away with and free elections took place. Nelson Mandela, a hugely popular black activist who had been imprisoned for 27 years was elected President.

Comparing and Contrasting

Let’s review why use of the term “apartheid” is so incorrect.

First off, the situation in South Africa occurred within the sovereign borders of the country. In the Israeli-‘Palestinian’ conflict there are three distinct areas. The land within the ’67 lines, Judea/Samaria (disputed territories) and the Gaza Strip, which is run by the terrorist group Hamas, whom Carter is quite fond of. Both the major terror groups Fatah in the disputed territories and Hamas in Gaza have charters which commit them to destroy the Jewish state of Israel.

Unlike the blacks under apartheid in South Africa, the ‘Palestinians’ in Judea/Samaria and Gaza have always had the option of resolving the conflict by renouncing terror and accepting the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. In South Africa the blacks and whites all lived within the country. The blacks were subjected to overtly racist laws and were harshly mistreated by the white Afrikaners, and never had the same options as the ‘Palestinians.’ In other words their fate was not in their hands, whereas the ‘Palestinians’ have always had that option. To date they have not committed to peacefully co-exist with the Jewish state of Israel. This is an important distinction.

Unlike the blacks of South Africa the ‘Palestinians’ have weapons and have made it clear they prefer to murder innocent Jewish Israeli’s rather than live in peaceful co-existence with them.  Plus, their charters specifically call for the destruction of Israel, to be replaced by a single Muslims controlled ‘Palestinian’ state. Whereas, all the ruling white Afrikaners had to do was agree to fully integrate the country and allow democracy to take hold, which is what ended up happening in 1994. There were no border issues in South Africa, everything occurred within the sovereign nation. This is another distinction.

However, with the ‘Palestinian’s’ commitment to eliminate the Jewish state and kill innocent civilians it makes unilateral moves of full integration impossible for Israel. Plus, the demographic s would shift dramatically, placing the Jewish majority of Israel at risk.

Apartheid Practice inside ’67 Lines?

Israel has been accused of practicing apartheid within the ’67 lines as well. This is absolutely false. Within the ’67 lines there are roughly 1.5 million Arabs who are full Israeli citizens. They own homes and businesses. They vote, hold local government positions, are elected to the Knesset, and serve on the Israeli Supreme Court.

They are fully integrated into Israeli society, sitting side by side with Jewish Israelis throughout the overall workforce in virtually all cross sections of industry. They are construction workers, taxi drivers, truck drivers, electricians, etc. Go to a supermarket and you’ll find Arabs working side by side with Jews. The same is true in hospitals. In fact in certain industries Arabs make up virtually all the employees on the weekend because of the Jewish Sabbath, (Shabbat).

Arabs are professors, students, doctors, lawyers, gas station attendants and virtually every other profession.

Fact Checking President Carter

Regarding President Carter, here are some of his comments, which question his integrity and truthfulness:

  • For example, in his book he describes Yasser Arafat as a man of peace saying “the PLO has never advocated the annihilation of Israel.”  (pg. 62)
    Fact check: “Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine.” (Article 9 PLO Charter)
  • He also says there would be peace if Israel would only return to the 1967 borders. (pg 242)
    Fact check: The PLO was founded in 1964, 3 years before the Six Day War of 1967. The goal of the PLO is to replace the Jewish state of Israel with a Muslim controlled Arab state.
  • He said “Since August 2004 Hamas has not committed a single act of terrorism that cost an Israeli life, not one.” (PBS Newshour interview Nov. 28, 2006.
    Fact check: There have been 44 Israeli deaths from terror attacks from Gaza since 2004.

I once had the opportunity to speak with him one on one when he was a guest on a talk show. He stuck to the same lies as indicated in the aforementioned quotes. I, along with the show host took him to task for his remarks. He remained immovable.

There are also critics who say if Israel wishes to be seen as truly ‘democratic,’ it should cease the practice of Zionism, which they describe as racist. Former Secretary of State John Kerry for example, said” Israel can be Jewish or Democratic, it cannot be both.” Let’s examine this…

Jews were scattered all over the world after the failed revolt against Roman Emperor Hadrian in 135 AD. In his anger he renamed Judea Phillistia. For two millennia they were separated from their ancestral homeland and the center of their spiritual life. The Zionist movement sought to bring Jews home to the land which was given to them by God. The realization of the Zionist dream provides the only nation on earth the Jewish people can truly say is their home. This, in spite of its 20% Arab population. Keep in mind there are already 22 sovereign Arab nations in the Middle East with a population of almost 400 million. One tiny nation with 6.5 million Jews as the majority should be fully understandable by any fair minded person.

I’ve had the privilege of speaking with Arabs who live within the ’67 lines and they have acknowledged the quality of their lives is superior than if they lived under ‘Palestinian’ rule, or in a Muslim dominated country. They also indicated those who accuse Israel of practicing apartheid are incorrect.

I suggest those who accuse Israel of such practice take a closer look at themselves, and check their own level of racism.

For more of Dan Calic’s articles visit his Facebook Page.

Glenn Greenwald, Apartheid and Me

I just had an animated back and forth via email with celebrated journalist Glenn Greenwald, for whom I have great respect — and now I’m pissed. At issue: Greenwald’s contention that Israel is an apartheid state, which it clearly is not.

You know who Glenn Greenwald is. From Glenn Greenwald is one of three co-founding editors of The Intercept. He is a journalist, constitutional lawyer, and author of four New York Times best-selling books on politics and law. His most recent book, No Place to Hide, is about the U.S. surveillance state and his experiences reporting on the Snowden documents around the world. Prior to co-founding The Intercept, Glenn’s column was featured at The Guardian and Salon. He was the debut winner, along with Amy Goodman, of the Park Center I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism in 2008, and also received the 2010 Online Journalism Award for his investigative work on the abusive detention conditions of Chelsea Manning. For his 2013 NSA reporting, he received the George Polk award for National Security Reporting; the Gannett Foundation award for investigative journalism and the Gannett Foundation watchdog journalism award; the Esso Premio for Excellence in Investigative Reporting in Brazil (he was the first non-Brazilian to win), and the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Pioneer Award. Along with Laura Poitras, Foreign Policy magazine named him one of the top 100 Global Thinkers for 2013. The NSA reporting he led for The Guardian was awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for public service.

That someone as obviously bright and well-informed as Greenwald could believe that Israel is an apartheid state has always baffled me. I won’t bore you with the back and forth itself; suffice it to say that I concluded matters with this:

“Glenn: I will say again that as a fellow journalist I have great respect for you, but I’m afraid that on this issue we must disagree. The Palestinians have been slaughtering Jewish men, women and children in cold blood since the 1920s; have partnered with Hitler to bring the Holocaust to then-Palestine; and since the establishment of the state have never stopped murdering, raping, committing acts of terrorism, de-legitimizing Israel, and otherwise exporting their hate around the world. Just as cold-blooded murderers do not enjoy full rights here or in any civilized country, terrorist/murderers like the so-called Palestinians (there is no Palestinian people in real life) should have no rights in Israel. But the fact is…………… they do. And so they continue their crimes.”

Greenwald never wrote back.

As an extra added favor to a fellow journalist, I also sent Greenwald a link to a Huffington Post (!) article entitled 10 Reasons Israel Is Not An ‘Apartheid’ State, to which author Jake Beaumont, a research analyst for HonestReporting Canada, added another 15 reasons. Here they all are:

1. All people living in Israel have full equal rights.
There are no inferior or second-class citizens, unlike non-whites in South Africa or minorities in Islamic or Arab countries. Moreover, Arabs occupy senior positions on the Israeli police force, the Knesset and the Israeli judiciary. For example, Salim Joubran, who currently serves on the Israeli Supreme Court, is a Christian Arab. South Africans living under apartheid could only dream of obtaining these types of positions.

Ishmael Khaldi, an Islamic Bedouin, is currently a diplomat in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Majalli Wahabi (Druze) was the acting president of Israel in 2007. These are just a few examples out of the many minority groups holding prominent positions in Israeli society.

2. An Arab judge, George Karra, sentenced an ex-Israeli president Moshe Katsav to prison for seven years.
When an Arab judge sentences a former Israeli president to jail — this is truly a testament to Israel’s equality amongst all citizens, regardless of race or ethnicity.

3. In 1953, the Bantu Education Act was passed.
This separated blacks from whites in the South African educational system. The government created a new curriculum for black people in which they were taught skills related to manual labour and serving in their Bantustans. In Israel, citizens are given equal opportunity in the workplace and educational department as evidenced by the fact that there are Palestinians and Arabs in Israeli universities who both study and teach as professors.

Today in Israel there are hundreds of Arab schools. Furthermore, education in the Palestinian areas of the West Bank is controlled by the Palestinian Authority. Courts, laws, taxes, police etc. are also under PA jurisdiction in the majority of the West Bank.

4. Incitement to racism is a criminal offence in Israel.
This is the polar opposite of apartheid in South Africa, whose government specifically passed incendiary racist legislation.

5. Arabs and Israelis receive the same treatment in hospitals.
The Hadassah Medical Organization which operates two hospitals in Jerusalem, was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize due to its push for peace in the Middle East and its equal treatment of Palestinians and Israelis. Furthermore, Arab and Israeli children are born amongst each other in the same hospitals.

Even during Israeli-Palestinian conflicts, Palestinians receive top-of-the-line treatment in Israeli hospitals. During apartheid, blacks were specifically given limited access to health care.

6. Non-whites in South Africa had separate amenities.
These include hospitals, beaches, buses, restrooms, drinking fountains and even designated park benches to sit on. None of this discrimination is prevalent in Israel and a law prohibits discrimination in public places.

7. Israeli Arabs have their own political parties in the Knesset — some of whom are Israel’s harshest critics.
The Joint List is an example of this. They received 13 seats in the 2015 Israeli election. Furthermore Arabs have equal voting rights, whereas coloured people during apartheid were not allowed to participate in the political process.

8. Arab citizens are allowed to seek redress through the courts and government if they feel they have been wronged.
Arab citizens also receive trial based on the facts, not ethnicity. This is nothing compared to apartheid South Africa, where discrimination was authorized from the highest position in the government.

9. Arabs in Israel have more fundamental rights than other Islamic and Arab countries in the Middle East.
Ironically, they have more rights than they do in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank.

10. In Israel, there are 1.6 million Arab citizens integrated within Israeli society.
They make up 20 per cent of Israel’s population. There was no such integration in South Africa. Furthermore, according to a poll done by Harvard University, 77 per cent of Arab citizens living in Israel would rather live there than any other country in the world. If these citizens were experiencing “apartheid,” why are so many of them supportive of Israel?

To proclaim that Israel is an “apartheid state” is to undermine and trivialize the harsh and actual struggles many blacks went through during that dark time of human history. These are the words of many South Africans who would also concur that Israel is not an “apartheid” state.

Arabs have the right to move freely, vote, obtain an education, work in prominent positions, receive world-class health care, own land and speak freely. Blacks in South Africa had none of these rights.

Regardless of the unfounded criticisms, Israel will still strive in the face of growing adversity. Those who seek to delegitimize, malign and deprecate Israel have lost their moral compass.

While those who are able to discern the truth for themselves, are able to recognize the fact that Israel is a beacon of freedom and democracy in the Middle East.

11) Arabs can participate fully in the political process. They have equal voting rights. Coloured people during apartheid were not allowed to participate in the political process.

12) Israeli Arabs have their own political parties in the Knesset – some of whom are Israel’s harshest critics. The Joint List is an example of this. They received 13 seats in the 2015 Israeli election. This is a testament to Israel’s vibrant democracy. Non-white South Africans were often tortured or killed for small political actions like peaceful protests.

Break the BDS

13) It was written in Israel’s Declaration of Independence of May 14, 1948 that: “The State of Israel… will be based on the precepts of liberty, justice, and peace taught by the Hebrew Prophets; will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex…” The concept of apartheid would go against the very legislation Israel is based upon. Furthermore, the declaration encourages Israeli Arabs to “participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.” Protests are allowed and actually are commonplace in Israel. Many different ethnic groups protest and are well within the laws of doing so. Israel allows the freedom to protest and the freedom to congregate. During apartheid, blacks were specifically not allowed to protest, and the few protests that did happen, resulted in many deaths from police officers firing indiscriminately into the crowds. Furthermore, no officers were ever convicted in these massacres. In 2000, following the Second Intifada, the Israeli Cabinet set up the Or Commission, in which a report was created to review the discrimination experienced by Israel’s Arab Minority. The report concluded that this discrimination ‘is the most sensitive and important domestic issue facing Israel today.’ Furthermore, as a result of the reports, eight policemen were reprimanded due to excessive violence. This is empirical evidence that Israel has been making active efforts in addressing racial and economic inequality.

14) In South Africa, sex or marriage between whites and non-whites was prohibited – legislation was passed – the Immortality Act. There are many inter-racial relationships prevalent in Israel.

15) Israel recently okayed a $4 billion upgrade plan for its Arab communities. The 5-year plan will focus on housing and improved education.

16) In 2014, the most popular name in Israel was Mohammed with 2,650 newborn Mohammed’s.

17) According to a poll done by Harvard University, 77% of Arab citizens living in Israel would rather live in Israel than any other country in the world. If these citizens were really experiencing “apartheid”, why are so many of them supportive of Israel? Furthermore, polls show that from 1,000 people polled, 83% of Arabs in Israel would not move to the west bank if a Palestinian state was created there. Fifty-four percent of these respondents said that they’d rather live in the democratic state of Israel with higher living conditions.

18) The result of Israel’s acquiring land in the west bank in 1967 was due to Arab countries initiating an act of aggression – an attempt at genocide of the Israeli people – and Israel simply defended its people’s very right to exist. Israel obtained these territories in defensive purposes. Even so, generous Israeli offers were made to give up various lands for peace (1967, 1978, 2000) – only to be met with Palestinian denial and rejectionism. Furthermore, the west bank is not subjected to Israeli law, as per the Oslo Accords signed in 1993 by late Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat. Their courts, laws, taxes, police etc. are under Palestinian jurisdiction in the majority of the west bank, while Gaza is not “occupied” and is completely under the control of the Hamas terror organization.

19) Israel has made peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt which demonstrates its commitment to make calculated risks to achieve peace. The PA and Hamas, on the other hand, refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist, making it harder for Israel to withdraw from territory, due to a denial for compromise and mutual acceptance. Furthermore, non-whites never sought the destruction of South Africa, rather the end of apartheid. The UN has recognized, endorsed and administered these Israeli peace agreements – giving these efforts international legitimacy.

20) Arabic is an official language in Israel, and there exists a thriving Arabic theatre and literature scene in Israel.

21) The freest Arabic media in the Middle East is in Israel. Apartheid signifies segregation; this is just representative of integration and equality. Government censorship of media was also a prevalent theme in South Africa.

22) There are no restrictions for Arabs or special privileges for Jews to lease private land in Israel, whereas Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the PA in the west bank, has stated that “any Arab who sells land to a Jew should be put to death.” Furthermore, blacks in South Africa were only allowed to purchase land in their demarcated territories.

23) Signs in Israel are written in Hebrew, Arabic and English. If Israel is an “apartheid” state which, defined by most dictionaries means segregation and separation – why are they helping to accommodate their Arab population?

24) All religions in Israel are free to practice. There are Muslims, Christians, Druze, Buddhists, Sikhs and Hindus living in Israel. There are mosques, churches and temples to accommodate people of all faiths. This is another example of tolerance and pluralism within Jewish society.

25) Blacks had their own different means of transportation. They were relegated to an often dilapidated form of transport. Arabs and Jews have the same means of transportation and can be found riding the same trains/buses in Israel.

Facts, my friends.


Opting Out of Freedom

During the occupation of Poland by Nazi Germany, a young woman found herself traveling on a packed tram. She was Jewish but living in hiding and pretending to be a non-Jew so as to save herself and the few people in her family who were still alive. The tram was not only packed to the brim, but also filled with German officers, raising the risk of her being caught.

The woman was sitting next to a Polish peasant woman who was in town to sell produce. At one point during the ride, an insane impulse grabbed hold of the woman, and she suddenly reached out and pinched the peasant’s leg, right there, in the middle of the packed tram, crawling with Germans.

This could have been the end of her. The Nazis could have grabbed her and snuffed out her life, as they did with millions of others. The reason I know she did not meet her end is that I would not be here to tell the story if she had: The young woman was my grandmother.

What happened? The peasant woman did not scream out in pain or curse my grandmother. She kept still, quiet and unresponsive to my grandmother’s unprovoked violence. The tram continued on its bumbling way, and my grandmother, perhaps drawing a long breath, was saved by the peasant woman’s grace.

I have thought about this story countless times over the years. My grandmother never gave a straight answer to why she acted in this manner, putting her life at risk on a whim. The more I thought about it, however, the more I came to realize that my grandmother’s act was not necessarily meaningless, even if it was extremely reckless.

I have come to believe that her act — a rather reprehensible act of violence — was an impulsive act of defiance. It was a way of punching fate in the face, as it were, and challenging it to a fight at a time of extreme oppression and total absence of freedom. Showing her hostile and ruthless surroundings that she was there, too, not just a shadow hiding from extinction, but a living being forced to spend her every breathing moment guarding her life from extinction.

But why did the peasant woman keep quiet? She did not know my grandmother and she could have screamed and cursed her, drawing the attention of the German officers. My guess is that this rare woman, stoic as she was, instinctively realized that any pinch from my grandmother was a caress compared to the pain that the Germans would have unleashed and she would have no part of it. She saved herself, most likely, along with my grandmother.

After the war, the occupier’s flag changed and instead of the swastika came the hammer and sickle as the Soviets mercilessly snuffed out any brief euphoria. Eastern Europe was a place bereft of freedom, where the thought police controlled all avenues of communication and the only accepted speech was that parroting the communist slogans of the Soviet politburo.

My grandmother continued her life in this “communist paradise,” where there was no freedom from communist orthodoxy — although conditions in Poland were far from being the worst among the countries behind the Iron Curtain — and where, in the words of George Orwell, if you wanted to keep a secret, it was best to keep it hidden even from yourself.

Having been inoculated against any and all versions of communism and socialism from a very early age — a natural consequence of having felt the effects of those ideologies in real life and not just as “beautiful” theories — I often marvel at the speed with which history is forgotten.

It has only been a quarter of a century since the United States conclusively won the Cold War against the Soviets, yet I often ask myself whether the Soviets aren’t metaphorically jumping for joy from their place in hell, considering how political correctness has permeated public discourse in the United States and Western Europe.

After all — and tragically very few people know this — the standard tropes of political correctness, especially in Israel-related discourse, were conceived by the Soviets. When young people think they are fighting for social justice and freedom, they are often repeating Soviet tropes that would have made Communist Party leader Leonid Brezhnev proud. It was he who, after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, told Yasser Arafat that the invasion amounted to “the same genocide against Palestinians that the Nazis committed against other people during World War II.”

The terrible accusation that Israel is an apartheid state is also a Soviet invention, which has refused to die even after the demise of its inventors. There is a certain irony in the fact that young college-age Americans, who in the old days would have been fighting the Soviets, are now reciting Soviet slogans.

I wonder at the ease with which perfectly free people throw away their freedom of speech in favor of living up to the expectations of political correctness, rigid as they are in all their reductionist groupthink. Living in free societies, they are seemingly incapable of appreciating how precious that freedom is, and how easily it can be snuffed out. Not by invading armies of the totalitarian kind, but by the equally totalitarian impulse to adhere to a particular rendition of reality.

Current generations living in the West have never gone through the experience of being reduced to complete silence, desperately communicating their anger by pinching total strangers on trams. They have the entire world at their feet and still they choose to narrow it to its smallest components, censoring themselves and others who disagree with them, until all that is left is the embarrassing sight of shrunken, small minds, fearful of sticking out in the crowd.

“The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness, and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better,” George Orwell wrote in his satirical book “1984.” Political correctness, and all the ills of intellectual dishonesty and moral cowardice that flow from it, can only become as pervasive as it is when the majority prefers happiness over freedom.

This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.