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Jewish Community Virtually Nonexistent in Bangladesh (But They Do Have a Muslim Zionist)
Baltimore Post-Examiner ^ | JUNE 12, 2012 | LARRY LUXNER

Posted on 07/01/2012 5:39:07 PM PDT by nickcarraway

Colorful Stars of David seem to decorate every other rickshaw crowding the streets of Dhaka. In the southern port city of Chittagong, a storefront advertises “Rabbi Foods.” And the country’s famous parliament building, the gigantic Jatiyo Sangsad Bhaban, was designed by a Jewish architect from Philadelphia.

But if you’re looking for kosher hot dogs, felafels, gefilte fish or lox and bagels, don’t come to Bangladesh. Most online sources estimate there are no more than 75 or 100 Jews among the 160 million Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Christians squeezed into an area smaller than Wisconsin.

And officially, at least, Bangladesh wants nothing to do with the State of Israel.

During a recent 11-day press trip sponsored by the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this Jewish correspondent looked everywhere for signs of yiddishkeit but found none. Unlike nearby India, Nepal and Thailand — all of which are flooded with Israeli backpackers — Bangladesh barely has enough Jews for a minyan.

Don’t, however, try to convince Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, a Dhaka newspaper publisher who was arrested and jailed in 2006 for attempting to visit Israel.

Choudhury, a self-described Muslim Zionist, insists his country is home to 5,000 Jews — but that nobody knows about them because they keep such a low profile.

“Jews in this country are in the most vulnerable situation,” said Choudhury, publisher of The Weekly Blitz. “The government, the political parties, the religious institutions and even most Bangladeshis want to see the elimination of Jewish existence in this country.”

Choudhury, whom we interviewed at Dhaka’s five-star Ruposhi Bangla Hotel, had promised to bring some local Jews to our meeting, but none ever showed up. He then arranged for his driver to show us “the synagogue” — an aging structure facing Purana Paltan Street across from the General Post Office.

This reporter walked around the building several times, taking photos and attracting curious stares from sidewalk peanut vendors, yet couldn’t find a single Hebrew inscription that would indicate its status as a Jewish house of worship. There was, however, a plaque clearly identifying the building as a Masonic lodge built in 1910.

Choudhury has an explanation for that too.

“The government would like to hide any trace that it was a synagogue, but I can assure you this building was used as a synagogue from 1910 to 1948,” he said, claiming that the government of East Pakistan (as Bangladesh was known before independence in 1971) had confiscated the structure but never returned it to the community.

Yet its highly doubtful that a Jewish community ever existed here — either before or after Great Britain partitioned the Indian subcontinent in 1947 between predominantly Hindu India and the divided, predominantly Muslim country of East and West Pakistan.

“There were two Jewish families in Bangladesh [after independence], but both migrated to India — one in 1973 and the other in 1975,” said historian Ziauddin Tariq Ali, a trustee at Dhaka’s impressive Liberation War Museum, adding that “the Armenians had a church here, but the Jews did not have a synagogue.”

One of the few Jews known to have lived in East Pakistan was Mordechai Cohen, who attended school in Rajshahi and later became a prominent TV news announcer in Dacca, as the capital city was then known. But the Arabs’ loss to Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War inflamed anti-Israel sentiment across the Muslim world, forcing the Cohen family to flee for India the following year.

Cohen’s uncle, Gen. J.F.R. Jacobs, is considered a hero by the millions of Bangladeshis old enough to remember him.

In 1971, as chief of staff of the Eastern Command of the Indian Army, he helped the long-suffering Bengalis overthrow their Urdu-speaking West Pakistani masters by outmaneuvering the head of Pakistan’s army in Dhaka, Gen. Niazi.

“Jacobs was in charge of the logistics, and it was his brilliance that caused the Indian Army to be so effective,” recalled Ali. “The logistical support behind the artillery and the infantry that backed up the Indians as they advanced were absolutely flawless.”

Jerusalem-based travel writer David Zetler, who visited Bangladesh last year on his American passport said: “The Pakistani army of 93,000 had surrendered to a Jew and, in doing so, had created the new Muslim country of Bangladesh. It was one of the biggest surrenders in the history of warfare.”

Visitors to the Liberation War Museum won’t find any mention of Jacobs in English, though the Jewish war hero — now 90 and living in New Delhi — is identified in Bengali script underneath a black-and-white photograph of the historic surrender ceremony in Dhaka.

Another famous Jew linked to the modern history of Bangladesh is Louis I. Kahn, the Philadelphia architect who designed the country’s imposing Jatiyo Sangsad Bhaban, or National Assembly building. Ranked as the world’s largest legislative complex, the modernist structure was begun in 1961 and completed only in 1982, eight years after Kahn’s death.

Bangladeshis hold the deepest reverence for Kahn — a fact that comes through quite clearly in the two-hour documentary “My Architect,” filmed by his son Nathaniel. Likewise, biographer Robert McCarter calls the Jatiyo Sangsad Bhaban “one of the 20th century’s greatest architectural monuments … without question Kahn’s magnum opus.”

Very few Bangladeshis, even among the educated class, have actually met a Jew, since they’re not allowed to visit Israel and since virtually no Jews live among them.

Even so, Ali, who’s visited the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, said he has deep sympathy for the six million Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis — a genocide he compares to the three million Bangladeshis slaughtered by Pakistan during the 1971 war of independence.

“I’m very liberal, and I believe the Jews have been wronged, mostly by Europe, throughout history,” said the historian. “But at the same time, I don’t believe that gives them the right to wrong the Palestinians today.”

That same reasoning largely explains why Bangladesh — 90 percent of whose people are Muslim — still has no diplomatic relations with Israel.

“In 1971, Israel had offered to help us in the war of liberation, but that didn’t materialize because our government at the time wanted to play it cautious. So they did not respond to the Israeli recognition of Bangladesh,” said Foreign Secretary Mohamed Mijarul Quayes.

The top official — interviewed on the sidelines of a state reception in Dhaka — said that Israel under the leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suffers from a “major ethical deficit,” despite Israel’s insistence that it is a democracy.

“There were some very positive vibes before Netanyahu came back into power, but the ball now rests in Israel’s court,” said Quayes. “The inherent rights of the Palestinian people should not be systematically denied. Peace eludes the Middle East not because of the intifada but because there has not been a resolution of the issue. That means the Palestinians must exercise their right of self-determination.”

The foreign secretary’s words notwithstanding, newspaper publisher Choudhury — the Bangladeshi Muslim who claims to be a Zionist — says “top-level military officials are now openly supporting relations with Israel, if not diplomatic, then at least economic. They fully understand that by embracing Israel as a friend, Bangladesh could benefit immensely from technology, agriculture, medical science and defense.”


TOPICS: History; Miscellaneous; Religion
KEYWORDS: bangladesh; israel; jewish

1 posted on 07/01/2012 5:39:18 PM PDT by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway
Cohen’s uncle, Gen. J.F.R. Jacobs, is considered a hero by the millions of Bangladeshis old enough to remember him.

In 1971, as chief of staff of the Eastern Command of the Indian Army, he helped the long-suffering Bengalis overthrow their Urdu-speaking West Pakistani masters by outmaneuvering the head of Pakistan’s army in Dhaka, Gen. Niazi.

“Jacobs was in charge of the logistics, and it was his brilliance that caused the Indian Army to be so effective,” recalled Ali. “The logistical support behind the artillery and the infantry that backed up the Indians as they advanced were absolutely flawless.”

Jerusalem-based travel writer David Zetler, who visited Bangladesh last year on his American passport said: “The Pakistani army of 93,000 had surrendered to a Jew and, in doing so, had created the new Muslim country of Bangladesh. It was one of the biggest surrenders in the history of warfare.”

Visitors to the Liberation War Museum won’t find any mention of Jacobs in English, though the Jewish war hero — now 90 and living in New Delhi — is identified in Bengali script underneath a black-and-white photograph of the historic surrender ceremony in Dhaka.

The Jewish general who beat Pakistan

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1344543/posts

By SHELDON KIRSHNER

In the annals of modern warfare, the 1971 war between India and Pakistan is regarded as a template of brilliance. Within 13 days, the Indian army routed Pakistan in one of the swiftest campaigns of the 20th century.

Occasionally compared to Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six Day War, and studied at military academies as a textbook example of efficient planning, the Indo-Pakistan war gave rise to a new state, Bangladesh, and established India as a regional superpower.

The major general who masterminded and spearheaded India’s offensive, and who accepted Pakistan’s surrender, was Jack Frederick Ralph Jacob, the scion of an old Jewish family from Calcutta. A spry bachelor of 81 who retired in 1978 as the commander of India’s eastern army, he considers that war the highlight of a long and distinguished career as a soldier. Having written a book about it, Surrender at Dacca, published in 2001 by Manohar, he claims that the war was “surely the greatest military feat in our history.”

Although historians are acquainted with his resumé, Jacob is not exactly a household name outside India. As I prepared for my trip to India late last year, I ran across his name in my research. Intrigued by the possibility of interviewing a Jewish warrior from an exotic country whose Jewish community is rooted in antiquity, I asked to meet him.

When I arrived in New Delhi on my last day in India, following relatively brief flights from Cochin and Mumbai, B.B. Mukherjee, a helpful contact from the ministry of tourism, was at the terminal to greet me with the news that Jacob had consented to an interview. I was pleased, but the timing was hardly fortuitous. I was tired, coming down with a cold and a hoarse voice, and my flight back to Toronto was just hours away. Nevertheless, I told Mukherjee I would be ready to talk to Jacob at his home in New Delhi at around five o’clock.

After a shower and change of clothes, I met Mukherjee in my hotel lobby, and off we drove to Jacob’s flat in a non-descript gray apartment building in the centre of this sprawling city and capital of India. When we arrived, one of his Nepalese houseboys opened the door and ushered us into a dimly lit room filled with French furniture and crowded with original Mogul art on the walls.

Jacob, a surprisingly small man with a café au lait complexion and a formal manner, was smartly decked out in a blue blazer, creased pants, shirt and tie. He motioned me to sit down next to him on a narrow couch.

I began by asking him about his role in the war – the 33rd anniversary of which was marked shortly before my trip to India – and his decision to become a soldier. Jacob, whose Baghdadi family settled in Calcutta more than 200 years ago and whose father – Elias Emanuel – was a businessman, was quite effusive, enunciating his words in a posh upper-class Indian accent.

A brigadier-general by 1963 and a major-general by 1967, he was appointed chief of the Eastern Command in 1969 by Gen. Sam Maneckshaw, the Parsi chief of staff. Jacob’s immediate superior was Lt. Gen. J.S. Aurora, a Sikh.

Jacob joined the British army in the summer of 1941 while at university and when India was still a British colony. He did so, he said, “to fight the Nazis.” After graduating from officers training school in 1942, he was posted to northern Iraq in anticipation of a possible German thrust to seize the Kirkuk oil fields. He trained with Glubb Pasha’s Arab Legion, which would be the backbone of Jordan’s army. In the wake of Japan’s defeat, he was assigned to Sumatra. Returning to an independent India after taking a gunnery course in Britain, Jacob commanded a mountain battery and served in an armoured division. Then, in short order, he took artillery and missile courses in the United States and was a general staff officer at Western Command headquarters.

“I didn’t plan to be a career officer,” he said. “I liked the army and stayed on. I did everything I was supposed to do.”

During the mid-1960s, when India fought a war with Pakistan, he was the commandant of the School of Artillery. Subsequently, he was in charge of an infantry division in Rajasthan, where he wrote a much-praised manual on desert warfare. Promoted to chief of staff of the Eastern Command, based in Calcutta, Jacob was soon grappling with insurgencies in Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram.

The Eastern Command was a sensitive one. The partition of the Indian sub-continent in 1947 had led to the emergence of India and Pakistan, which was made up of two distinct and geographically disconnected areas. Although East Pakistan was more populous than West Pakistan, political power rested with the western elite, causing resentment, unrest and calls for autonomy in the other half.

By 1971, East Pakistan was in revolt, and Pakistan’s ruler, Yahya Khan, cracked down. As the violence escalated, with a massive loss of life and an exodus of millions of Hindu refugees into Indian territory, Indo-Pakistani tensions rose.

When India’s prime minister, Indira Gandhi, extended assistance to Bengali rebels who sought to break away from Pakistan and form their own country, Pakistan responded first by attacking rebel camps in India and then, on Dec. 3, by bombing nine northern Indian airfields. In a dramatic broadcast to the nation, Gandhi declared war on Pakistan.

Having watched these developments with mounting concern, Jacob realized that conflict was imminent. “We knew we would have to intervene, but we hardly had any infrastructure and had to build it up,” he recalled.

In consultation with his superiors, he refined his plan to engage Pakistan in a “war of movement” in difficult terrain with few bridges and roads, crisscrossed by rivers and broken up by swamps, mangroves and paddy fields. Jacob’s strategy was clear. Dacca – the heart of East Pakistan – would be captured and Pakistani forces bypassed. Pakistan’s communication centres would be secured and its command and control capabilities destroyed, while its forces would be drawn to the border. Some Indian commanders raised objections to the unorthodox plan, but it was finally approved.

“I planned for a three-week campaign, but it went faster than I expected,” said Jacob, who instinctively understood that speed was essential and that a protracted war would not be in India’s interests: The United Nations would apply pressure on India to halt its offensive, and the Soviet Union – India’s ally – might not be able to fend off calls for a ceasefire.

As fighting raged, Jacob flew to Dacca and wrested unconditional surrender terms from his opposite number, Gen. Amir Niazi, who would later accuse Jacob of having blackmailed him into submission.

“It was a total victory over a formidable, well-trained army,” he observed. “Had Pakistan fought on, it would have been difficult for us.” Indian casualties were 1,421 killed and 4,058 wounded. “We expected higher casualties,” he admitted. The Pakistani figures were much higher, in India’s estimation: 6,761 killed and 8,000 wounded.

Jacob, who calls Surrender at Dacca the most authoritative and objective account of the war to date, ascribed his victory to a few factors – imaginative planning, flexibility of approach, the capacity to react to shifting and perhaps unforeseen events and, of course, luck. But for Jacob, a keen student of warfare, historical context was always of crucial importance. As he put it, “I’ve learned from every campaign since Alexander the Great and Napoleon.”

Looking back, he described his 37-year career in the army as “the happiest and most enjoyable period of my life.” Never once did he feel the sting of anti-Semitism in the Indian army. “But I had some problems with the British,” he said, declining to elaborate. “I don’t like to talk about it.”

Interestingly enough, Jacob – whose Hebrew name is Yaacov Rafael and who serves as president of New Delhi’s one and only synagogue – was not the only high-ranking Jewish officer in the armed forces. “There was another Jewish general, a chap named Samson, and he was in research and development and ordnance. And there was also a Jewish vice-admiral.”

Upon leaving the army, Jacob went into business. But in 1998, he was called out of retirement to be governor of Goa, a former Portuguese colony popular with Israeli tourists. He remained there until 1999, when he assumed the governorship of Punjab, a job he held until 2003.

A three-time visitor to Israel who was once invited there by Yitzhak Rabin when he was the prime minister, Jacob was also on friendly terms with Mordechai Gur, a former Israeli chief of staff. Jacob played an indirect role in India’s decision to establish diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992, but he refused to talk about his role in that diplomatic rapprochement.

Referring to himself as “a very private person,” he was likewise reluctant to speak about his family, apart from saying that his brothers and sisters are deceased.

Today, in his twilight years, Jacob is a writer and lecturer on military and political affairs. But he wryly described his current status as “unemployed.”

2 posted on 07/01/2012 6:28:46 PM PDT by James C. Bennett (An Australian.)
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To: nickcarraway

Lt-General (retd) J.F.R. Jacob

India Today | December 18, 2010

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/stars%20and%20stripes/0/123567.html

In 1965, while commanding a brigade in the Samba sector near Jammu, I was inspecting a border violation along with the General Officer Commanding. Escorted only by an inspector and a CRPF constable, we were confronted by a group of Pakistani rangers who fired on us. The general took cover in the long grass. A bullet grazed the inspector's turban and he fell, feigning death. The constable was hit in the stomach; a bullet glanced off my walking stick and the Pakistan radio reported me killed. I stuffed my handkerchief into the constable's wound, took his .303 rifle and bandolier, and engaged the rangers with rapid fire. As they retreated into the nulla, I told the policemen that I would return with two companies of Gorkhas positioned some distance away. I dashed back and returned with the Gorkhas who cleared the area of the rangers. The inspector was slightly hurt. I carried constable Harphool back. Years later, I met him again; breaking ranks at a parade I was inspecting, he hugged me.
On the night of December 13, 1971, I was the chief of staff of the Kolkata-based Eastern Command tasked with planning the eastward thrust. Things weren't going too well for India in East Pakistan. There were rumblings from the Chinese in the north; the US Seventh Fleet led by the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise was steaming through the Malacca Straits. The American resolution at the UN was vetoed by the Soviets who said there would be no more vetoes. We had advanced into East Pakistan to the outskirts of Dacca but we had nothing to show. The operational orders were to capture two ports, Chittagong and Khulna, nothing else. We did not take either Khulna or Chittagong but won the war.

In East Pakistan's capital, martial law administrator Lt-Gen AAK Niazi had declared, “Dacca will fall over my dead body” and was holding out for a UN-sponsored ceasefire. I knew of Niazi from the Second World War. He had served with distinction on the Burma front as a young officer and had even got a Military Cross for fighting the Japanese and earned the honorific ‘Tiger’. I could see the ‘it's-all-your-fault’, ‘your strategy’ fingers pointing at me. It was the longest, most crucial night in my life. Next morning, I received an intelligence intercept. There was a meeting of the East Pakistan administration being organised at Government House in Dacca. I had asked the air force to strafe the building. That turned the tide. Niazi’s will broke. He sent a ceasefire proposal that specified a withdrawal of armed forces and paramilitary and the government was to be handed over to the UN. There was no mention of India or the Indian Army in his proposals. The ceasefire proposals were outrightly rejected by Z.A. Bhutto in New York where he was to attend a Security Council meeting. Bhutto tore up the resolution, vowing to fight on. India announced a ceasefire the following day on December 15. The next morning, I was asked by Army chief Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw to “just go and get a surrender”. I took along with me a draft instrument of surrender that I had sent to Delhi some days earlier, which the army chief had declined to confirm. At Dacca, I was met by UN representatives who asked me to go with them to take over the government. Fighting was still going on in the capital between the Mukti Bahini and the Pakistan army. I thanked them but regretted their offer and proceeded in a Pakistan army staff car accompanied by a Pakistani brigadier. A few hundred yards down the road, the Mukti Bahini fired at the car. I was unhurt. The guerillas wanted to kill the brigadier, but I persuaded them to let us proceed.

I walked into Niazi’s headquarters to meet him, carrying nothing other than my swagger stick and the surrender document. There were scowls all around. Niazi was calm. He was ready for a UN-brokered ceasefire. I presented him with my draft of the instrument of surrender. He turned pale and refused to sign it. I said I would not be able to guarantee the safety of him and his men from the mobs outside. I gave him 30 minutes to respond. He had 26,400 troops in Dacca; we some 3,000 outside. The UN was in session; he could have fought on for at least two more weeks and had he fought on for even one more day, the UN would have ordered a withdrawal and taken over the government.

Niazi broke down and wept. We had won. A ceasefire proposed under the UN was converted into an unconditional public surrender and signed after some four hours, the only public surrender in history at the Race Course. About 93,000 Pakistan Army soldiers surrendered to the Indian Army. A new nation Bangladesh was born and India emerged as a regional superpower. Field Marshal Friedrich von Paulus had surrendered at Stalingrad with 91,000 troops.

The outcome of the Dacca incident set me thinking. Sometimes, things never go right. I've been injured in combat and I've seen brave men wet themselves under artillery fire. A hero to my mind is someone, though afraid, does not show fear. Human beings experience fear. It is human nature but a true hero just doesn't show it. When you are a leader of men, you rise above your fears and lead by personal example.

--------------------------------------------------------

BTW, this was a war in which the United States aided Pakistan.

3 posted on 07/01/2012 6:34:35 PM PDT by James C. Bennett (An Australian.)
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To: James C. Bennett

Governor and General JFR Jacob is still alive. Up to 2008 he had a blog http://jacoblectures.blogspot.com/


4 posted on 07/01/2012 9:08:07 PM PDT by rmlew ("Mosques are our barracks, minarets our bayonets, domes our helmets, the believers our soldiers.")
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To: AdmSmith; AnonymousConservative; Berosus; bigheadfred; Bockscar; ColdOne; Convert from ECUSA; ...

Thanks nickcarraway.


5 posted on 07/02/2012 5:02:24 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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