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March 13, 2014 - Image 44

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2014-03-13

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points of view

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rrance Should Own Up To Survivor Justice

he French government is
acknowledging its failure to
pay reparations to Holocaust
survivors now living in the U.S. but
who had been deported to Nazi
Germany-run death camps in French
trains. The late acknowledgment is a
byproduct of French business aspira-
tions in America.
SNCF, a French government-owned
rail company that operated the trains
and is now bidding on a Maryland light
rail system, is at the core of the con-
troversy. It and a subsidiary, Keolis,
are eyeing the bounty of America's
light rail contracts.
Maryland lawmakers are seeking to
prevent Keolis from receiving a con-
tract for the planned 16-mile light rail
line until SNCF compensates U.S. vic-
tims of its Nazi past. Maryland would
be the first state to enact legislation
barring companies with Holocaust
ties from earning U.S. government
contracts until reparations are paid.
Other states should take heed.
About a year ago, the French gov-
ernment initiated negotiations with


the U.S. Department of State. The lat-
est round of talks was held Feb. 6 in
Paris, the Washington Post reported
on Feb. 20.

Power Broke

At least we know the negotiations are
in good hands. The U.S. chief nego-
tiator is Stuart Eizenstat, a widely
respected Washington lawyer serv-
ing as special adviser to Secretary of
State John Kerry on Holocaust issues.
During his years serving the Clinton
administration, Eizenstat negotiated
compensation agreements among the
U.S. and Germany, Switzerland and
Austria, the Post reported.
"I think the French
really want to get this
done quickly — and
we do, too — because
of the age and infir-
i itr\iih mitt' of the people
involved," Eizenstat
told the Post.
Survivors who rode
SNCF cattle cars are
now in their mid-70s

to late-90s.
SNCF has allocated more than $6
billion for reparations to some survi-
vors living in Europe (about $45,000
per person) but nothing to survivors
living in America. Some European
widows and orphans of survivors have
received lesser reparation amounts.
News of the U.S.-centered talks
is music to the ears of the Coalition
for Holocaust Justice, which has
fought long and hard for reparations
stateside while representing 250
Americans; some had been SNCF

Shifting Tides

After World War I, Paris was a
bustling center of Jewish cultural
life. When the ruling French Third
Republic fell under German attack in
1940, 350,000 Jews lived in France
although the majority were not citi-
zens; many were refugees who had
fled Nazi persecution.
Between 1942 and 1944, during
the height of the Wermacht, SNCF
deported 76,000 Jews and other

prisoners to Nazi death camps from
the suburbs of Paris. The railway
was paid per person per kilometer to
furnish the trains, cars and manpower.
Only about 2,000 deportees managed
to survive.
The railway maintains it was forced
to abide by Nazi orders. In 2011, it
apologized for its wartime role. SNCF
maintains that, under French law,
only the French government can pay
reparations for deportations that hap-
pened under France's Nazi-backed
Vichy government. For its part, the
railway told the Post it gives money to
France's Holocaust memorial and edu-
cation programs.
The U.S. House is considering the
Holocaust Rail Justice Act, which
would effectively waive governmental
immunity and enable Holocaust survi-
vors to sue SNCF in U.S. courts. The
bill has a minimal chance of enact -
ment, but it does point up the urgency
of the Eizenstat-brokered talks that
could well land reparations — justice
served, 69 years later — for America's
Holocaust survivors. E

Iran's Supposed Olive Branch Is Hollow

he morning after Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
told America's largest pro-
Israel lobby that the civilized world
must keep a tight rein on Iran's nuclear
ambitions, Israeli commandos inter-
cepted an Iranian ship transporting
dozens of medium-range rockets.
The missiles were believed headed
to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, a
danger-laden neighbor of Israel.
So much for Iran's international
plea for mercy from diplomatic sanc-
tions. Tehran wants the world to think
its nuclear program is noble. They eye
only peaceful use of nuclear energy,
not nuclear-powered weapons, Islamic
Republic leaders say unpersuasively.
It's essential to global security that
President Obama doesn't let the frag-
ile hand of diplomacy overtake the
staggering effect of sanctions (and
the threat of military intervention) as
he confronts the multinational chal-
lenge of preventing Iran from having
even the capacity to develop nuclear
arms. The Israeli raid resulted, in part,
from U.S. intelligence.
The Syrian-made rockets that were
intercepted on March 5 range up to
200 kilometers, or about 125 miles.
Had they reached sanctuary in Gaza,
the M-302 rockets would have been


March 13 • 2014

capable of hitting almost any target
in Israel. Lebanon-based Hezbollah
blasted this kind of rocket at Haifa
during its 2006 conflict with Israel.

After Israel seized the rocketry,
Netanyahu put the haul in perspec-
tive: "This is the real Iran, and this
country must not be allowed to obtain
nuclear weapons. We will continue to
No Surprise
do everything we must to protect the
On March 5, the Israeli navy seized
citizens of Israel."
control of the rocket-filled vessel,
Addressing the American Israel
dubbed Klos-C, in international waters
Public Affairs Committee's annual
of the Red Sea, off the Somali coast,
policy conference in Washington a day
as it sailed toward Sudan. The Israeli
before the IDF interception, the prime
Defense Forces had been tracking the
minister declared: "Iran says it only
shipment from Syria, where Iran is
wants a peaceful nuclear program.
known to store large arsenals. After
So why is it building a heavy water
they were flown to Iran, the rockets
reactor, which has no purpose in a
were loaded onto a Panama-flagged
peaceful nuclear program? Iran says
ship with a Turkish captain. The ship
it has nothing to hide. So why does it
stopped in Iraq to hide the cache
ban inspectors from its secret military
under sacks of cement and also blur
sites? Why doesn't it divulge its mili-
the smuggling route. In Sudan, the IDF tart' nuclear secrets — the secrets of
believes the rockets would have been
its military nuclear activities? They
trucked 600 miles to tunnels leading
absolutely refuse to say a word about
into Gaza via Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.
that. Iran says it is not building nucle-
The seizure, about 900 miles
ar weapons. So why does it continue
south of Israel, gives credence to
to build ICBMs, intercontinental ballis-
Netanyahu's supposition that Iran
tic missiles, whose only purpose is to
seeks to outfit Hamas with sophisti-
carry nuclear warheads?"
cated weapons so the terrorist regime
He reminded the AIPAC faithful
becomes a well-armed Iranian proxy
that ICBMs can strike "right now or
along Israel's southern border — even
very soon, the eastern seaboard of
as Tehran feigns a cooperative spirit
the United States — Washington — and
with world powers on its nuclear
very soon after that, everywhere else
in the United States, up to L.A."

United Front

Israel's takedown of the Klos-C came a
day after a U.S. House subcommittee
hearing about Iran's role as the leading
state sponsor of terror. Pete Hoekstra,
Shillman Senior Fellow with Steve
Emerson's U.S.-based
I Investigative Project
on Terrorism and
a former Michigan
congressman, testi-
fied that America
must speak with one
clarion voice against
Pete Hoekstra
Iranian provocation,
which isn't intended
just to destabilize the Middle East.
Testified Hoekstra, a staunch
defender of Israel while in Congress:
"What happens in Iran doesn't stay in
Iran. It has global ramifications."
It sure does.
Purim, which begins at sundown
Saturday, is a timely moment to
underscore this important point.
The joyous holiday commemorates a
time when the Jewish people living
in Persia (now Iran) were saved from
extermination thanks to the interven-
tion of a king, Ahasuerus, who luckily
changed his allegiance from the villain
Haman to his queen, Esther, and her
cousin Mordechai.

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