David Gerald Littman
Born (1933-07-04)July 4, 1933[1]
London, England[1]
Died May 20, 2012(2012-05-20) (aged 78)[2]
Citizenship British
Education BA and MA degrees
Alma mater Canford School, Dorset, England; Trinity College, Dublin; University of London
Known for Operation Mural; Representation at the UN; historian[3]
Spouse(s) Bat Ye'or
Children 3
Parents Joseph Aaron Littman (father)[1]

"President’s private Commemoration" for Operation Mural in Casablanca 1961 by Israeli President Shimon Peres;[4][5]

"Hero of Silence" Order from Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center Mossad 2009[5]

David Gerald Littman (July 4, 1933 – May 20, 2012) was a British historian[6][7][8][9] and a human rights activist[10][11] at the United Nations in Geneva, representing various NGOs.[1]

Biography[edit | edit source]

David Littman was born on July 4, 1933, in London, England. He was educated at Canford School, Dorset, England (1951), and Trinity College, Dublin, where he earned his BA with honors and MA degrees in Modern History and Political Science, followed by post-graduate studies at the Institute of Archaeology, University of London.[1] He married his Egyptian-born wife Gisèle (née Orebi) (later known by her nom de plume Bat Ye'or), in September 1959. They moved to Lausanne, Switzerland, the following year.[1][12]

The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization was founded by his brother, Louis Littman.[13]

Operation Mural[edit | edit source]

Littman volunteered for a clandestine humanitarian mission to evacuate Jewish children from Morocco to Israel, via Switzerland. At the time, Moroccan Jews were prohibited from leaving the country.[3] Littman thought he was working for the Jewish Agency – years later it was revealed it was arranged with the assistance of the Mossad.[3][4] From March–July 1961, posing with his wife and baby daughter as Christians, the 27-year-old Littman ran the Casablanca office of the Geneva-based international NGO for children Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants de l'Afrique du Nord (OSSEAN).[1][3][4][5] His code name was "Mural",[4] and the code name for the mission was "Operation Mural". After months of negotiation by Littman, the children left Morocco in five convoys under the guise of a supposed holiday in Switzerland (with Littman accompanying the last convoy), and from Switzerland went to Israel.[3][4][5] In all, he assisted in evacuating 530 Jewish children to Israel.[3][4] The children's families joined them several years later.[14]

The story of Operation Mural was first made public in 1984, in an article in Maariv.[5] That in turn led to public recognition by President Chaim Herzog at an official presidential reception, followed in 1986, on the 25th anniversary of the operation, by a gathering of the children at which Littman was honored with the Mimouna award in recognition of his activities.[4][15] A documentary film on the operation, filmed by Yehuda Kaveh, screened in 2007.[1]

On June 1, 2008, at a special private commemorative event at the presidential Jerusalem residence – with Littman, his wife, two children, three grandchildren and former key agents from the Mossad, who had worked with Littman – Israeli President Shimon Peres, said:[3][5]

"Well, it is a belated ceremony, but it doesn’t lose its value, because what you did stands on its own legs and is not affected by time. I think that the saving of 530 children is, I imagine, the most moving experience a man can have. You say in Hebrew: 'The one who saves one life, is like the one that saved the life of the whole world.' But when you save 530 children, it’s really unforgettable. I want to express, on behalf of our people, our nation, our recognition of your courage, your wisdom, of your determination under extremely difficult conditions".[5]

A year later Littman was honored by the Israel Intelligence Heritage and Commemoration Center in a unique ceremony on July 1, 2009,[4] with 200 persons, when the "Hero of Silence" Order was conferred on him, he being the 9th person to receive it since 1985. ("An order of highest esteem and appreciation, awarded to David Gerald Littman: A clandestine warrior, who risked his life and who served a sacred cause of the People and of the State of Israel"). A few months earlier a Casablanca French newspaper, Le Soir Echos, interviewed him through a Swiss colleague, with their own questions; and published the Operation Mural story integrally in four successive issues (March 23–26) with their own positive titles and sub-titles throughout, and no editing.[4] It was the first time that Moroccans learned about the affair.[4]

In 1970, the Littmans helped to found the Centre d'Information et de Documentation sur le Moyen Orient (CID) in Geneva, which published studies on Middle East subjects until the mid-1980s.[1] He supervised its publications until 1974, and then served as an advisor.[1]

Activism[edit | edit source]

Littman has been presenting on human rights issues at the United Nations in Geneva on behalf of various NGOs since 1986.[3][16] He appears before the United Nations Human Rights Council (formerly the United Nations Commission on Human Rights).[3] From 1986–91 he was main representative of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ).[1] In February 1992, he joined René Wadlow (main representative of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation; (IFOR)), then with the World Federalist Movement (WFM).[1] He has been an accredited representative for the Association of World Citizens (AWC) and for the Association for World Education (AWE) since 1997, and an accredited representative and main spokesman for the WUPJ again since 2001.[1] He has made oral and written statements (some jointly) at the UN Commission on Human Rights for the WUPJ, IFOR, WFM, International Committee for European Security and Cooperation (ICESC), Christian Solidarity International (CSI), Simon Wiesenthal Center, International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), AWC, AWC, and other NGOs.[1]

Release of Russian Jews

In March 1987, Littman caused a walk-out by the entire Soviet delegation when he arranged for Natan Sharansky to speak about refuseniks at the Commission on behalf of WUPJ.[1][3] That same year, he appeared before the UN Commission on Human Rights, charging the Soviet delegate with antisemitism in an ascerbic diatribe,[17] and in 1988 he appeared before a meeting of the Commission which heard various "experts" discuss glastnost, raising the cases of several Jews in the USSR who were being refused the right to emigrate; he extended his request to Boris Yeltsin in 1991.[18] In August 1989, he appeared before the Commission representing WUPJ.[19][20]


Since January 1989, Littman has sought to make public at the Commission the fact that Hamas in its ideology calls for the annihilation of Israel, and points to Islamic texts for support of its position.[21][22]

Release of Syrian Jewish women

In October 1990, as the WUPJ's representative to the Commission, he petitioned for the release of single Jewish women from Syria; in March 1991 he urged the Commission to name a special representative to inquire into their situation; and in August 1991, he urged it to work for their release.[23][24]

Lebanese Jewish hostages

In August 1991, he appeared before the Commission on behalf of the WUPJ, stating that voices were being raised on all sides for the release of Lebanese Jews held as hostages in Lebanon.[25][26] In December 1991, he wrote a letter on behalf of the WUPJ appealing to UN Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar, asking him to discover the fate of the 11 Lebanese Jews who had been kidnapped in the mid-1980s.[27]

Israel AIDS libel

In March 1997, Littman responded to a Palestinian Authority charge that Israel had infected Palestinians with AIDS by reminding the Commission, in a speech to it, that this was not the first time such libels were leveled at Israel, inasmuch as in 1983 then-Palestine Liberation Organization-chairman Yasser Arafat accused Israel of "poisoning Palestinian schoolgirls" in a letter addressed to the UN Secretary General, a charge later shown to be false by a team of independent medical experts, according to the Jerusalem Post.[28] The following month, despite Littman's request that Miroslav Somol (President of the Commission, and Czech Ambassador to the UN in Geneva) take action against what Littman called the "mendacious and racist allegations", after meeting with a delegation of Arab ambassadors Somol withdrew his promise to circulate as an official Commission document his letter condemning a Palestinian representative's accusation that Israel spread AIDS among Palestinian babies.[29]

Perceived Anti-Israel remarks and anti-semitism at the UN

When Israel withdrew from the Durban World Conference Against Racism in 2001, joining the U.S. in protesting perceived anti-Israel and anti-Semitic remarks, The Hindu reported that in an appeal on behalf of the WUPJ Rabbi Francois Garai and "historian Mr. David Littman, who represent the [WUPJ] at the U.N.'s European headquarters in Geneva, said the Durban conference was being used to prepare a 'holy war' against Israel and could wreck the world body." The appeal said:

"The U.N. is now undergoing its most shameful metamorphosis since its creation in 1945. Will you allow a U.N. conference intended to combat racism and discrimination to be brazenly hijacked by dictatorial regimes and mass demagogic NGO groups, thereby preparing a 'final solution', 'jihad', against Israel"?[30]

Christoph Blocher

In December 2003, when Christoph Blocher, who was known in the first instance for his inflammatory anti-immigrant rhetoric, won a seat in the Swiss Federal Council, Littman defended him from charges of anti-Semitism, saying "I personally do not accept the accusation that he is anti-Semitic and await with interest the new policies he will propose for Switzerland."[31]

"Creeping Islamism" at the UN

After the 7 July 2005 London bombings, he tried to convince the UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights to condemn killings in the name of religion, but was interrupted so many times by delegates from Muslim countries he could not finish his request.[32]

In February 2006, Paul Beliën reported that Littman whom he calls "an expert on the 'creeping Islamism at the UN'",[33] had been testifying before the UN as a representative for the AWE to the UN in Geneva, "but was censored when he quoted moderate Muslims condemning Jihadist bombings. According to the 56 member states of the Organization of the Islamic Countries, even the use of "the prefix ‘Islamic' before ‘terrorism' is sacrilege.”"[34]

Shariah, violence against women, and anti-semitism

The New York Daily News referred to Littman as a "rare but tenacious [voice] who confront[s] Islamic human rights abuses at the UN at every turn," and cited his complaining to the Council that Iranian law "still allows the marriage of girls at only 9 years old, and justifies the stoning of women for alleged adultery."[35][36][37]

When Littman sought to make a three-minute statement before the Council’s eighth session in June 2008 (on behalf of the AWE) with regard to various forms of violence against women (including female genital mutilation) and shariah, he was blocked after 22 seconds from finishing his statement.[3][38][39] Representatives from Egypt, Pakistan, and Iran (speaking on behalf of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference) forced a halt to the proceedings, saying that "Islam will not be crucified in this Council", and arguing that any discussion of Islamic law was an "insult" to the religion.[3] A tense exchange—with 16 points of order—led to a 45-minute recess, after which Council president Doru Romulus Costea of Romania said: "The Council is not prepared to discuss religious questions and we don’t have to do so. Declarations must avoid judgments or evaluation about religion."[3] He told Littman to avoid any reference to the word shariah, and any evaluation of a religious matter.[3][40] By not mentioning those words, Littman was allowed to conclude his statement after an hour and a half.[3][41] At the Council's ninth session, when he spoke about the antisemitic writings of the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar University in Egypt, the Egyptian delegate objected:

"Here in the Council, we’re here to promote religious freedom. We can discuss religious freedom, but we cannot discuss religion. We cannot discuss the basic tenets of religion. I argue that except for the distinguished representative of the Holy See, nobody in this Council is qualified to discuss theology. . . . Really, we should find something more interesting to do in life—like find a hobby, or grow a moustache or something."[3]

Ordered by new Council President Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi to stop without completing his statement, Littman stepped down, saying, "This is impossible, sir."[3] In March 2009 he was again cut short, this time for being "off topic" when calling for a universal condemnation of defamations of Judaism during a discussion of freedom of expression and hate speech.[42]

Lecture controversy[edit | edit source]

Controversy surrounded lectures given by Littman and his wife at Georgetown University in October 2002 on "Ideology of Jihad, Dhimmitude and Human Rights". He presented a version of a talk he had given at the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, first providing a copy to the student organizers. One Jewish student requested that he not deliver his lecture; Littman refused and faced a negative reaction from Muslim students, in particular when he mentioned disapprovingly that Muhammad's favorite wife, Aisha, was a small child when she was married off to the Prophet. A story subsequently appeared in the campus newspaper in which a Georgetown Israel Alliance spokesman said: "The speakers gave us certain ideas about what they would speak about so that they could get in the door, and once they were in, they gave a completely different idea of what we had wanted. It was two-faced and manipulative." Littman said that unless the student organizers retracted their accusations that he and his wife deceived them, he would consider a libel suit. He and his wife said this demonstrated how the Jews and Christians of Georgetown had embraced a dhimmi mentality, by abasing themselves before the sensibilities of Muslims, whose co-religionists persecute and oppress Jews and Christians abroad, and that political correctness had demanded that Islam be represented as inherently peaceful and tolerant, and no explorations of its history and doctrines that would lead to a contrary view were deemed acceptable.[43][44][45]

Writings[edit | edit source]

Early in his career, Littman's writings were published in the Wiener Library Bulletin, a periodical of the Wiener Library. Others were published by the CID, which disseminated its publications by mailing them to prominent people and institutions.[1] He also published historical writings with Les Editions de l'Avenir, which distributed its publications in a similar manner.[12] Since 1971, Littman has published articles on historical and human rights issues in academic journals, including in Jean-Paul Sartre's Les Temps Modernes, in the press, and in three books.[12] He also published a chapter in The Century of Moses Montefiore (1985), published by the Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, under the auspices of the Oxford University Press.[46][47]

Littman contributed multiple chapters to The Myth of Islamic Tolerance: How Islamic Law Treats Non-Muslims (2005), edited by Robert Spencer, Prometheus Books 2005, ISBN 1-59102-249-5.[48] Reviewing it, Asia Times identified Littman as one of the few people willing to address directly and openly (lest they be called anti-Muslim) the question of what is ailing Islam in the 21st century in terms of: "Is it all simply a matter of interpretation (i.e., abuse for personal or political gain), or does the sustained prevalence of such patterns reveal something inherent about the faith?"[49]

He has translated many articles by Bat Ye’or into English and co-translated three of her major books, the last published in 2005.[50][51]

Death[edit | edit source]

Robert Spencer, on the Jihadwatch website, reported that David Littman had died in Switzerland on May 20, 2012.[2]

Published work[edit | edit source]

Notes and references[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 "David G. Littman; Biography". dhimmitude.org. http://www.dhimmitude.org/littman-biography.html. Retrieved January 13, 2010. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "R.I.P. David Littman". jihadwatch.org. http://www.jihadwatch.org/2012/05/rip-david-littman.html. Retrieved May 20, 2012. 
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 Dacey, Austin (December 3, 2008). "Sensitive Words". Trouw / article stored at the Nederlands Gesprek Centrum. http://www.nederlandsgesprekcentrum.nl/user/file/aphilosopheratthehumanrightscouncilartikelaustindacey-trouw.doc. Retrieved November 21, 2011. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 4.9 "The Moroccan connection". The Jerusalem Post. June 22, 2009. http://www.jpost.com/Features/Article.aspx?id=146367. Retrieved May 10, 2010. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 "Conferring the "Hero of Silence" Order on David G. Littman; "Operation Mural": Casablanca 1961; Presentation by President Shimon Peres". New English Review. July 1, 2009. http://www.newenglishreview.org/custpage.cfm/frm/52539/sec_id/52539. Retrieved January 13, 2010. 
  6. West, Diane, The Death of the Grown-up (MacMillan, 2007), 171
  7. Thomas, Martyn and Adly A. Youssef, Copts in Egypt: A Christian Minority under Siege, (Orthdruk Bialystok, 2006), 190; David Gerald Littman: Historian, born in London, received his BA and MA degrees in modern history and political science at Trinity College Dublin.
  8. "David Littman, an historian, is a representative to the United Nations (Geneva) of the Association for World Education." in Littman, David, "Islamism Grows Stronger at the United Nations", Middle East Quarterly, September 1999, Middle East Forum, and "David G. Littman is a historian. Since 1986, he has been active on human rights issues at the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. His recent statements on this subject were made as a representative of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, a nongovernmental organization." in Littman, David, "The Truth About the Mideast: Fourteen fundamental facts about Israel and Palestine", National Review Online, October 7, 2007
  9. Islam et judéo-christianisme: texte inédit: Intervention philosophique, p. 38, Jacques Ellul, Presses universitaires de France, 2004, ISBN 2-13-054215-8, ISBN 978-2-13-054215-5, accessed January 13, 2010
  10. Medick, Veit (March 13, 2009). "Germany Asked to Boycott UN Racism Conference". Der Spiegel. http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,613193,00.html. Retrieved January 10, 2010. 
  11. "Religious Freedom to Get Spotlight Conference to Focus on Persecuted Church", The State, p. B2, March 12, 1998, accessed January 12, 2010
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Website of David Littman's wife Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "littmanwebsite" defined multiple times with different content
  13. Littman Library of Jewish Civilization
  14. [Mideast file, Volume 5, Issue 4, Mekhon Shiloaḥ le-ḥeḳer ha-Mizraḥ ha-tikhon ṿe-Afriḳah, Learned Information, 1986, accessed January 14, 2010]
  15. Sheleg, Yair (December 17, 2007). "Codename: Operation Mural". Haaretz. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/935128.html. Retrieved January 12, 2010. 
  16. Eurabia: the Euro-Arab axis, p. 331, Bat Ye'or, Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 2005, ISBN 0-8386-4077-X, 9780838640777, accessed January 13, 2010
  17. "NATIONS UNIES : devant la sous-commission des droits de l'homme Le délégué soviétique s'est exposé à l'accusation d'antisémitisme," Le Monde, August 22, 1987, accessed January 12, 2010
  18. "La réunion de la sous-commission des droits de l'homme de l'ONU La "glasnost", enfin, mais toujours sélective," Le Monde, September 9, 1988, accessed January 12, 2010
  19. "ONU: la disparition de M. Mazilu Le silence du vice-président roumain de la sous-commission des droits de l'homme...", Le Monde, August 13, 1989, accessed January 12, 2010
  20. "En vertu d'une résolution de la sous-commission des droits de l'homme L'ONU devrait se saisir de la question du Tibet", Le Monde, September 3, 2001, accessed January 12, 2010
  21. Bostom, Andrew G., "Confronting Hamas' Genocidal Jew-Hatred", American Thinker, January 2, 2009, accessed January 12, 2010
  22. Avni, Benny, "Effort Afoot To Expel Jewish Group From U.N.," The New York Sun, June 4, 2008, accessed January 12, 2009
  23. "The Fate of 20 Jewish Women in Syria," The Jerusalem Post, October 2, 1990, accessed January 12, 2010
  24. Canadian Jewish Chronicle (Winnipeg), p. A21, March 13, 1991, accessed January 12, 2010
  25. "Lebanese Jews' Release Sought in Prisoner Deal," The Jerusalem Post, August 16, 1991, accessed January 12, 2010
  26. "Syrian Jews," The Jerusalem Post, August 25, 1991, accessed January 12, 2010
  27. "U.N. gets plea on Jewish hostages," The Washington Times, December 26, 1991, accessed January 12, 2010
  28. "PA official: Israel infected Palestinians with AIDS," The Jerusalem Post, March 17, 1997, accessed January 12, 2010
  29. "UN won't counter Palestinian AIDS allegation", The Jerusalem Post, April 11, 1997, accessed January 12, 2010
  30. "U.S., Israel pull out of Durban meet," The Hindu, September 3, 2001, accessed January 12, 2010
  31. Herald-Journal, "Nationalist Billionaire Elected to powerful Swiss Cabinet post", Herald-Journal, December 10, 2003, accessed January 12, 2010
  32. Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom, p. 244, Bruce Bawer, Random House, Inc., 2009, ISBN 0-385-52398-X, 9780385523981, accessed January 14, 2010
  33. The death of the grown-up: how America's arrested development is bringing down Western civilization, p. 178, Diana West, Macmillan, 2007, ISBN 0-312-34048-6, ISBN 978-0-312-34048-3, accessed January 13, 2010
  34. Beliën, Paul, "Eurabia Scholars Gather in The Hague," Canada Free Press, January 20, 2006, accessed January 12, 2010
  35. Bayevsky, Anne, "UN-speakable hypocrisy", The New York Daily News, June 2, 2008, accessed January 12, 2009
  36. "Debatte über Uno-Gremium; Religionsfreiheit vor Menschenrecht?", Der Spiegel, July 4, 2008, accessed January 13, 2009
  37. "Polèmica per la llei islàmica al Consell de Drets Humans", El Periódico de Catalunya, June 19, 2008, accessed January 13, 2009
  38. Lindeborg, Lisbeth, "Rättigheter under attack", Sydsvenskan, December 9, 2008, accessed January 12, 2010
  39. Stealth jihad: how radical Islam is subverting America without guns or bombs, pp. 76–77, Robert Spencer, Regnery Publishing, 2008, ISBN 1-59698-556-9, ISBN 978-1-59698-556-8, accessed January 13, 2010
  40. Simon, Anne-Catherine, "Kritik an Sharia oder Fatwas verboten," Die Presse, July 1, 2008, accessed January 13, 2009
  41. Dacey, Austin, "Wat was hier aan de hand?", Trouw, April 18, 2009, accessed January 12, 2009
  42. Edwards, Steven, "Jewish speaker outraged after debate cut short," Ottawa Citizen, March 9, 2009, accessed January 13, 2010
  43. "Damned If You Do; Historians dare to criticize Islamic dhimmitude at Georgetown and pay a price," The National Review, October 29, 2002, accessed January 12, 2010
  44. "Stateside: News from Jewish America", The Jerusalem Post, November 8, 2002, accessed January 12, 2010
  45. "Evidence of Bigotry Absent from Lectures," The Hoya, November 19, 2002, accessed January 12, 2010
  46. Citation in: Proceedings of the Twelfth British Conference on Judeo-Spanish Studies (2001) edited by Hilary Pomeroy, Michael Alpert, Institute of Jewish Studies, Studies in Judaica, Brill
  47. Amazon link for The Century of Moses Montefiore
  48. "The Myth of Islamic Tolerance: How Islamic Law Treats Non-Muslims (Hardcover)", Amazon, accessed January 12, 2010
  49. "Book Review: Addressing Muslim rage; Myth of Islamic Tolerance," August 26, 2005, accessed January 12, 2010
  50. "Article: Religion of War," The Jerusalem Post, January 2, 1997, accessed January 12, 2010
  51. "Article: The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude, Seventh-Twentieth Centuries. (book reviews)", History: Review of New Books, March 22, 1997, accessed January 1, 2010
  52. Human rights and human wrongs, Issue 2, by David Littman, Martin Gilbert, World Union for Progressive Judaism, Anatoly Shcharansky, Published under the auspices of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, 1986, accessed January 14, 2010

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