Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Jennifer Loewenstein - A legacy of two martyrs

Expand Messages
  • Caroline Herzenberg
    Friends - This seems to me well worth reading. - Carol ..................................... A legacy of two martyrs by Jennifer Loewenstein on September 1,
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 1, 2012
    • 0 Attachment
      Friends -

      This seems to me well worth reading.

      - Carol


      A legacy of two martyrs

      by Jennifer Loewenstein on September 1, 2012

      Madison, WI

      Sixty-seven years after the end of World War II, a team of researchers and
      cameramen from the Anne Frank House in Holland showed up at the Capitol
      Lakes retirement center in Madison, Wisconsin to interview my
      father-in-law, Fritz Loewenstein. Fritz is the only known person still
      living who had been boyhood friends with Anne Frank’s “secret annex”
      companion, Peter van Pels (known in the Diary as Peter van Damm).

      The oral historical account Fritz gave lasted over two hours, the
      interviewers – including Teresien da Silva, head of collections at the
      Anne Frank House in the Netherlands – asked probing and thorough
      questions about every aspect of his life before his family fled Germany,
      especially insofar as it intersected with Peter van Pels’. For Fritz this
      meant recalling many unwanted ghosts of his own past and what it was like
      for him as a Jewish schoolboy growing up under the darkening cloud of
      Nazism in 1930s Germany. There is no question that Anne Frank’s life and
      death, and all who played a part in it, still capture the imagination of
      millions long after her senseless and systematic killing. Fritz’s account
      of his childhood friendship with Peter will be featured prominently in new
      documentary footage on Anne Frank that will become available at the Anne
      Frank House later this year. Over a million people visit the Anne Frank
      House annually to see for themselves the place where Anne lived with her
      family and the van Pelses in hiding for more than three years.

      Fritz Loewenstein’s father was a doctor in Osnabrueck in the 1920s and
      1930s. Germany had been their family’s home for generations and they had
      lived successfully there for decades, cultured and upstanding German
      patriots. The Loewensteins hoped very much to weather the worst of the
      National Socialist rule, but as time passed it grew clearer to Fritz’s
      father and mother that they would have to get their family out. Fritz
      recalls his own, personal anti-Hitler campaign: washing the swastikas off
      the door of his father’s clinic each morning. That was in the spring of
      1937 as it grew increasingly difficult for Jews to leave Germany. The
      Loewenstein family, at least that part of it, was fortunate: they were
      able to get out with some of their belongings and immigrate to the United
      States, the first choice of many Jews fleeing the horrors of the Nazi
      regime. They ended up in Binghamton, New York, where my husband, David
      Loewenstein, grew up.

      Throughout the interview with the crew from the Anne Frank House, David
      marveled at what an iconic figure Anne Frank has become. People of all
      ages the world over still read Anne’s remarkable Diary and visit the
      place where Anne hid from the Nazis with her family after the Germans
      invaded and occupied Holland. I remember reading Anne Frank’s Diary when I
      was twelve, utterly absorbed in the world of this creative and eloquent
      child despite the fact that she and her family were caught and deported to
      concentration camps where everyone but Anne’s father, Otto, ultimately
      perished. She nevertheless remains a beacon of hope and perseverance to
      victims everywhere who have suffered persecution. Although some have tried
      to claim that Anne’s life and death were uniquely Jewish experiences,
      fully comprehensible only to other Jews,I believe that the source of
      Anne’s appeal is universal. In both her life and death, Anne Frank
      embodies the human will and desire to live and resist some of the worst
      odds imaginable. We recognize in Anne a child wrestling with the
      circumstances of a nightmarish human condition.

      On August 28th, 2012 in Israel, Judge Oded Gershon issued the verdict in
      the civil trial of Rachel Corrie. Unsurprisingly, however, the Israeli
      State and Military Machine exonerated itself from all responsibility for
      Rachel’s killing. I expected this. In the nine years since she was crushed
      to death by a D-9 armored Caterpillar bulldozer that was out doing routine
      – illegal and unconscionable – work destroying the landscape and the
      lives of tens of thousands of people from Rafah, Gaza, Rachel Corrie is
      still virtually unknown to the vast majority of the educated US public.
      Unlike Anne Frank, whose life has been immortalized by the circumstances
      of her death, Rachel’s name, life, and death have been virtually blacked
      out of US official history like the news out of Palestine generally. Both
      remain unknown, obscured, or distorted by deliberate disinformation.

      The cause Rachel died defending, and the people she stood up for – people
      whose voices have yet to receive equal validation as credible and
      legitimate voices bearing witness to their own suffering and ruin – are
      still waiting to receive the long overdue recognition they deserve as the
      indigenous inhabitants of historic Palestine against whom a crime of
      unimaginable brutality and magnitude was committed. Until Israel
      acknowledges, offers reparation, and honors International Law and the
      Universal Declaration of Human Rights; until the Israeli State can
      publicly apologize for the enormous historic injustice committed against
      the indigenous people of Palestine – the wound it has created will
      continue to fester and spread, as it already has, across the Middle East
      and into the four corners of the world casting modern day Israel into the
      role of a Pariah State. Its status as such has been increasingly
      recognized, even by western powers, that understand Israel can continue to
      act with impunity only as long as it remains under the protective umbrella
      of US military power.

      Rachel Corrie was a resilient, articulate, and defiant 23-year-old college
      student who went to Gaza with other members of the International
      Solidarity Movement to bear witness to Israel’s ruthless and deliberate
      destruction of a coherent Palestinian national life, history, and culture.
      Because Rachel stood up for the voiceless victims on the wrong side of
      US-Israeli Middle East policy, her name and legacy have been blacked out
      of official historical records like classified information. She exists in
      whispers only; a shadow in the halls of power and in the mainstream media
      where the official version of modern political-historical events is
      authorized and spun; where US support and complicity in Israel’s regional
      hegemonic goals help sustain the necessary illusion of Israel’s overall

      If official America has so far successfully committed to the dustbin of US
      foreign affairs the life and death of a courageous white heroine who
      nevertheless chose to fight for justice on the ‘wrong’ side of American
      policy; what does this tell us about the overall status and credibility of
      Palestinians and other Arabs and Muslims trying to get their voices heard
      and their cases re-opened? How many Palestinian Rachels have left diaries
      that will never be read? What school will require its students to read the
      hundreds of personal accounts and records of the abuses their people have
      suffered at the hands of colonial and imperial powers and their
      supplicants over the last century?

      The Anne Frank’s and Rachel Corrie’s trapped in today’s US military
      arenas must be censored out of our consciousness. Their words threaten to
      expose the abominable policies of the United States and its allies. How
      many people, young and old, will die in drone attacks against civilians,
      never having had the chance to ask why they have been condemned to such a

      The occupation, ethnic cleansing, dispossession, fragmentation, and
      wholesale colonization of Palestine have been essentially reclassified in
      language used to render legitimate the tactics and goals of modern Israel.
      Its overtly racist framework and raison d’etre, and the methodologies used
      to perpetuate policies that will maintain the Jewish majority of the
      state, have been carefully redefined in the US’ and Israeli narratives as
      the necessary social and political preconditions all Palestinians must
      accept before “peace” talks can begin again. In plain English, only a
      total capitulation of sovereignty over the land, including sacred
      religious sites, and the renunciation of Palestinian nationhood would
      satisfy Israel’s leadership, which has the audacity to insist that the
      Palestinian leadership “come to the negotiating table without
      preconditions” -- Netanyahu’s offer of a non-viable “statelet”

      Rachel saw for herself how the destruction of Palestine was being
      engineered and implemented in the Gaza Strip. With clear eyes, keen
      perception, and a conscience too rare in today’s world, Rachel Corrie
      would describe in her diary and in letters to her mother the unspeakable
      misery Israel’s routine procedures had from the most trivial to the most
      significant aspects of Gazan life: everyone and everything was affected by
      the checkpoints, settlements and settler roads, the curfews and closures.

      No one – then or today – can live a life free of the soldiers with their
      guns, their guard towers, walls, and fences; of the barbed wire, motion
      sensors, and the futuristic “crossings” that suck the humanity out of the
      beings that enter them, commanding them with remote controlled voices;
      turning them into lifeless spare parts on a new age assembly line. No one
      can avoid the Orwellian surveillance technologies that infiltrate the
      lives of the inhabitants of Gaza, or that float like the ethereal white
      blimp above the Gaza Strip gathering “intelligence” on every aspect of the
      on-going lives below; no one can predict when the tanks and armored
      personnel carriers or the helicopter gunships and F-16s will invade or
      appear instantaneously, as if out of nowhere, to incinerate people
      identified as “suspects” in a matter of seconds. No one can avoid the
      sadistic and gratuitous actions that result from carefully-crafted
      strategies intended to humiliate, dehumanize, inflict pain, fear, and
      permanent psychological damage on children and adults alike. The water and
      food shortages; the daily electricity blackouts; the open sewage and
      dangerously inadequate infrastructure; the shortages of food, medicines,
      and the materials to rebuild the world that is literally crumbling into
      dust and debris all around them define the average day for Gaza’s unpeople.

      Rachel Corrie’s death occurred during a time of great violence; during the
      second Palestinian Intifada (uprising), and – in the United States – just
      days before the Bush II administration began its war on Iraq. The timing
      and pretexts used to justify more land theft and natural resource
      appropriation could not have been better. America’s “War on Terror” was
      about to peak with the beginning of the “Shock and Awe” campaign over
      Baghdad. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had skillfully linked his
      administration’s policies to the psychopathic US obsession with “terror”
      and “terrorists” initially concocted by conservative and neo-conservative
      politicians and corporations devising ways to expand and consolidate US
      hegemony over a region saturated with oil and natural gas resources.

      The violent context of the Second Intifada exacerbated the most racist and
      sanctimonious assertions by those who claimed Israel was defending itself
      against terrorist-infidels and that Sharon’s crusade was a necessary and
      vital component of the United States’ battle against Evil. Little, if
      any, effort was put into US reporting from the Palestinian side because it
      was understood – part of the accepted canon – that Israel was fighting
      for its survival. To portray the Palestinian cause as a just and necessary
      struggle for freedom, independence, and self-determination was as unheard
      of when Rachel lived in Gaza as it is today, inviting the most vicious
      attacks and outrageous accusations.

      Like many who bear witness to criminal regimes that oppress, dispossess,
      and kill people under their rule, Rachel Corrie was deeply troubled by
      what she had been witnessing in Gaza – in a landscape that defied
      description. On the day she was crushed to death, Rachel stood between a
      bulldozer and a family home to protest one of the infinite number of
      indignities and crimes hurled like grenades at a population of
      overwhelmingly poor and defenseless refugees trying each day to find new
      ways of surviving without going mad. According to the Israeli courts,
      Rachel’s death was a “regrettable accident;” Rachel had put herself into
      a dangerous situation in the middle of a war zone. She was to blame. The
      victim was responsible for her own murder; the stateless, poor, and
      dispossessed were to blame for their status as refugees; for their
      relentlessly miserable treatment; their imprisonment, dehumanization, and

      Rachel left a diary, letters and a legacy of courage and steadfastness
      that mirrored the courageousness and determination of the people around
      her. She refused to move when the bulldozer came closer and, after a
      certain point, she was trapped and unable to escape. Her death, like her
      life, reflected the outrage of a young woman who knew she was too weak to
      prevent the demolition of homes and the creation of a “closed military
      zone” in an area earmarked for destruction long before she’d ever arrived
      in Rafah.

      In another age, Rachel’s diary, Let Me Stand Alone, would be the iconic
      classic of a young woman living a great adventure; determined to survive
      and fight for what she believed was right. In another time Rachel’s story
      would be read by school children around the world and millions of people
      would visit the place where she stood alone facing an armored bulldozer to
      say with her body, “this has to stop!” In our day she is an unknown martyr
      in the annals of official history. Her courage has been decried and
      condemned; her name sullied and vilified. But I believe that Anne Frank
      would have admired Rachel Corrie. She would have recognized the universal
      call for justice in the face of war and terror, the dangers inherent in
      the dehumanization of an entire people and the brutal occupation of their
      land. She would have verified the violence that a silent and indifferent
      world bestows upon the victims of nations bloated with power and a
      righteous sense of their God-given destiny, nations determined to avenge
      their past, and licensed to kill. Equally, I believe she would have been
      mortified by the way her own Diary and the death she was subjected to were
      used as moral justifications for the actions of a state defined by blood
      and soil, and by the way her own popularity was buoyed by an ideology she
      would most probably have found repugnant and contrary to the lessons she
      herself had learned and the horror she experienced. I believe Anne Frank
      would have agreed with Rachel’s mother, Cindy, who – when asked if she
      thought Rachel should have moved away from the bulldozer –replied, “I
      don’t think that Rachel should have moved. I think we should all have been
      standing there with her.”

      Jennifer Loewenstein is a faculty associate in Middle East Studies at the
      University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has lived and worked extensively in
      Lebanon, Israel, and occupied Palestine and has traveled throughout the
      Middle East. She is a human rights activist and a freelance journalist and
      can be reached at: amadea311@...


    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.