A tribute to Hedy Epstein

Hedy Epstein

Hedy Epstein, a 91-year-old Jewish holocaust survivor, was invited & slated to be honored by the Austrian parliament at a March event titled “In Grandmother’s Words…The Fate of Women in the Second World War”.

Epstein fled persecution in Germany in 1939 at the age of 15 & eventually ended up living in the US, including NYC, Minneapolis, & now St. Louis, Missouri. She is a long-time activist for affordable housing, reproductive rights, anti-war, & was arrested in St. Louis protesting in solidarity with the Black community of Ferguson after the murder of Michael Brown in 2014. She became a supporter of Palestinian rights in 1982 after the massacres at the Sabra & Shatila Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon which the Israeli military was involved in. She is an active member of Palestinian solidarity as a speaker & an agitator–as an anti-Zionist who rejects a Jewish-only state & promotes a democratic secular state; supports the economic & cultural boycott (BDS) of Israel; & she was a participant in the 2011 Gaza Freedom Flotilla to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza & deliver humanitarian aid & solidarity.

Zionist organizations absolutely disgraced themselves in a maelstrom of flatulent objections to get Epstein disinvited. The chief Nazi hunter from the Simon Wiesenthal Center said Epstein “is not a survivor in the classical sense.” A Zionist professor from Indiana University said she “likes garnering public attention as a ‘survivor,’ although whether she is one is debatable.” The same jamoke once wrote Epstein was part of the “moral emptiness of Holocaust survivors who took on Israel.”

The Jerusalem Post, a rightwing Zionist publication, apparently interviewed Epstein by phone & tried to reignite previous controversies they’ve lit up around her. They queried if she likened Israel to the Nazis & if she opposed the EU & US designations of Hamas as a terrorist organization. Only a halfwit would try to make chopped liver out of someone who’s been a political activist most of her adult life. She answered that Israel & Nazi Germany have similarities but she refused to make direct comparisons; she answered that Hamas was democratically elected. When asked about Hamas rocket attacks on Israel, she answered “Hamas has a right to defend themselves.”

Today, a spokeswoman for the Austrian parliament informed the Jerusalem Post that the event honoring Epstein has been canceled “in consideration for the concerns against some of the participants.” The Zionist ideologues who vilified her lauded the Austrian parliament for their speedy capitulation to political pressure.

It’s of course an outrage that the Austrian parliament folded without even putting up a fight but it really isn’t the appropriate venue to honor a person of the political stature & dignity of Hedy Epstein. The Austrian government has set limits on the number of refugees it will allow to enter the country; it’s using the army to stop refugees from transiting through to Germany; it’s busing refugees back to the border & stepping up deportations; it’s offering refugees chump change to go home (€500); & it’s urging Austrians to create vigilante militias to patrol the border against refugees.

Hedy Epstein is a remarkable, tough-minded woman who does not rely on honorifics to do the right thing. She’ll put the affront behind her by dinnertime tonight. But we should take a moment to honor her & to let her know those who stand with refugees, with Palestinians & against Israeli apartheid, for women’s rights, Black civil rights, against war, consider her one of our most honored & respected teachers. May she inspire all of us to live as admirably as she does. May her life be long.

(Photo of Hedy Epstein from Reuters)