Salute to the Jew who freed 60 mil­lion Mus­lims

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY KAPIL KOMIREDDI

ONE OF the tragic ironies of his­tory is that Pak­istan, a coun­try cre­ated ex­plic­itly to safe­guard Mus­lims from preda­tory non-Mus­lims, per­pe­trated in 1971 the sin­gle-largest mas­sacre of Mus­lims since the birth of Is­lam.

The man whose plan halted the blood­bath in what was then East Pak­istan and led to the birth of what is now Bangladesh — one of the largest Mus­lim na­tions on earth — was Jewish.

Lieu­tenant Gen­eral (re­tired) Ja­cob Farj Rafael Ja­cob, who passed away at the age of 93 in New Delhi last week, was born in 1923 to a fam­ily of af­flu­ent “Bagh­dadi Jews” in Cal­cutta.

His par­ents shel­tered Jewish refugees flee­ing Adolf Hitler, and their sto­ries mo­ti­vated the young Ja­cob to en­list in the Brit-

JFR Ja­cob ish In­dian army, de­spite the ob­jec­tions of his fam­ily.

The only an­tisemitism he ever ex­pe­ri­enced, he later told an in­ter­viewer, “was from the Bri­tish in their army. Among In­di­ans [an­tisemitism] does not ex­ist.”

Ja­cob rose steadily through the ranks of the in­de­pen­dent In­dia’s army. The geno­cide in East Pak­istan — in which Pak­istani troops slaugh­tered three mil­lion, dis­placed 10 mil­lion, and co­erced half a mil­lion women into sex­ual slav­ery — made Ja­cob rest­less with rage.

As refugees be­gan flood­ing In­dia, Ja­cob, then chief of the east­ern com­mand of the In­dian army, started work on a plan for the lib­er­a­tion of East Pak­istan — which then had a pop­u­la­tion of 60 mil­lion.

His peers shouted him down but Ja­cob per­sisted, lay­ing down roads and build­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion in­fra­struc­ture for an even­tual war with Pak­istan.

On De­cem- Pales­tinian Mar­wan Shah­wan, 50, dis­plays some of items from his col­lec­tion of 3,000 arte­facts, which in­cludes Ro­man and Byzan­tine ob­jects. The Gaza Strip res­i­dent hires out some of the ob­jects to film­mak­ers for a liv­ing ber 3 1971, the Pak­istani air force launched a mas­sive pre-emp­tive at­tack on In­dia. In­dia re­sponded by punch­ing deep into the east­ern ter­ri­tory.

Ja­cob in­ter­cepted Pak­istan’s Gen­eral Ab­dul­lah Ni­azi on wire­less and ter­ri­fied him with news of an im­mi­nent In­dian as­sault aided by Ben­gali fight­ers. The next day, Ja­cob had the gov­er­nor’s man­sion bombed by the In­dian air force.

When Ni­azi agreed to a cease­fire, Ja­cob landed in Dhaka with an in­stru­ment of sur­ren­der. The Pak­istani gen­eral was fu­ri­ous. Who had said any­thing about sur­ren­der? Ja­cob, dogged as ever, placed the doc­u­ment on the ta­ble. “Gen­eral,” Ja­cob said, “I can­not give you any bet­ter terms. I will give you 30 min­utes.”

Smok­ing his pipe out­side Ni­azi’s of­fice, Ja­cob felt more anx­ious than ever: Ni­azi’s fight­ing force out­num­bered In­dia’s by 10 to one. Ja­cob said the Sh’ma Yis­rael and walked back in­side. “Gen­eral, do you ac­cept this doc­u­ment?” he asked. Ni­azi was in tears. Dhaka had fallen. But Ja­cob was not sat­is­fied with this enor­mous vic­tory. He wanted Ni­azi to sur­ren­der at the Ramna Green race­course in Dhaka, in front of the Ben­gali masses. “I won’t,” Ni­azi shrieked. “You will,” Ja­cob snapped. “You will also pro- vide a guard of hon­our.” On De­cem­ber 16 1971, Ni­azi sur­ren­dered. Ja­cob, aided by Ben­gali free­dom fight­ers, had lib­er­ated an en­tire na­tion in 13 days.

Ja­cob never re­ally re­tired. Af­ter leav­ing the army, he served as gov­er­nor of Goa and Pun­jab. Some saw him as an ideal can­di­date for the pres­i­dency of In­dia. He played a key part in the deep­en­ing of In­dia-Is­rael re­la­tions. Is­rael’s most revered lead­ers were his close friends, and his In­dian army uni­form is on dis­play at Is­rael’s Yad La-Shiryon mil­i­tary mu­seum — a recog­ni­tion of his role in forg­ing the friend­ship be­tween In­dia and Is­rael.



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