David Littman, 1933-2012: He Showed Us The Mettle of His Pasture

David and Gisele Littman, with their daughter Diana, at the time of Operation Mural (1961)


My friend and generous mentor, the historian and fearless human rights activist, David Gerald Littman, died yesterday, May 20, 2012, succumbing to acute myelogenous leukemia, after a stoic, typically intrepid struggle.

In addition to amassing his own unique and prodigious output, David was a devoted husband and champion of the pioneering scholarship of his wife of 53 years, Gisele Orebi, better known under her nom de plume, Bat Ye’or. Despite stultifying modern taboos, together, the Littmans worked indefatigably to educate humanity—non-Muslim and Muslim, alike—about the genocidal living legacy of jihadism.

David’s remarkable personal biography melded first-rate, original scholarship, with uniquely erudite and brave activism—combined efforts spanning over 50 years.

For example, Littman was the driving force behind the daring 1961 Operation Mural (chronicled in this  55 minute documentary). Mural was Mossad’s code-name for David whose cover was a public-school-educated Anglican gentleman, a cordial tennis partner with the British consul, and also possessing excellent security contacts in Casablanca. David Littman successfully completed the mission: defying the Moroccan ban on Jews wishing to emigrate to Israel, he smuggled 530 Jewish children out of Morocco to what the Moroccan authorities thought was a holiday camp in Switzerland—in reality, a mere way-station to their permanent re-location to Israel.

Ever resilient, David Littman overcame a speech defect (i.e., stuttering), and developed into a truly gifted orator, who made countless presentations to the Orwellian-named UN Human Rights Commission (UN-HRC). These frequently memorable appearances showcased David’s erudition, valor, and wry sense of humor, while he tackled vexing and critically important issues—cynically ignored by all other UN-HRC representatives in there monomaniacal focus on Israel’s putative “abuses”—including: the first public exposures of Hamas’ 1988 charter sanctioning the jihad genocide of Israeli Jews, the related heinous advocacy by Islamic religious clerics of jihad “martyrdom operations,” i.e., homicide bombings, which included the deliberate targeting of non-combatants, and Iran’s nuclear jihad genocidal aspirations toward Israel; highlighting the scourge of female genital mutilation, and its specific sanctioning, for example, by the Shafiite school of Sunni Islamic “jurisprudence,” which helped elucidate, unapologetically, why this misogynistic barbarity was an overwhelming problem in Islamdom;  and the repeated exposure of mainstream institutional Islam’s efforts—via the Organization of the Islamic Conference (now Organization of Islamic Cooperation)—to impose Sharia-sanctioned abrogation of freedom of conscience and speech and nullify modern human rights constructs, founded upon the US Bill of Rights and the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

As a trained historian, and meticulous independent scholar, David was equally bold and original His recently published magnum opus, L’Exil Au Maghreb. La Condition Juive Sous L’Islam 1148-1912. [Presses De L’Université Paris-Sorbonne] Paris, 2010. 792pp.], written in collaboration with Dr. Paul Fenton, will likely remain the definitive sourcebook and analysis of the plight of Jews in North West Africa [Maghreb] under Islam between 1148-1912.

But it is a much less auspicious work by Littman (with assistance  from Professor Yehoshafat Harkabi) that captured his singular ability to quickly digest and disseminate the most urgent ideas of our era, with unmatched prescience. Littman’s updated Preface to the 4th edition (made available online) of this seminal work, “Arab Theologians on Jews and Israel,” describes its origins:

In January 1971, while browsing in the library of St. Anthony’s College, Oxford University, awaiting a friend, I came across the 1970 English edition of the Proceedings of this Al Azhar Conference, published by the ‘Cairo General Organization for Government Printing Offices’. Only a few months earlier, I had met professor Yehoshafat Harkabi in Tel Aviv, author of a seminal work, Arab Attitudes to Israel (1971; Hebrew edition, 1968), who informed me of the contents of the Arab edition which he showed me, particularly the lecture by Kamal Ahmad Own on “The Jews are the Enemies of Human Life as is Evident from their Holy Book”. On discovering the English translation by chance, the article by the ‘Vice-principle of Tanta Institute’ caught my eye, as well as a fascinating trove of vivid ‘explanations’ on Jihad and other theological subjects. I immediately informed Professor Harkabi and suggested that it might be a good idea to publish extracts from the 935 page edition (no official copyright was indicated) which I would prepare, and our joint introduction. It could be published by Editions de l’Avenir in Geneva and would be widely distributed by the Centre d’Information et de la Documentation sur le Moyen Orient (CID) in Geneva, recently founded, with friends, by my wife and I, whose publications we directed then.

Littman effectively captured the ugly essence of the full 935 pp. Proceedings—a modern doctrinal elaboration of  Islam’s timeless institution of jihad, sacralized Islamic Jew-hatred, and salient aspects of Islamic Law—the Sharia. Most importantly the extracts, and certainly the more extensive full Proceedings which Littman helped bring to world attention, made plain how the entire global umma, including Muslim immigrant communities living outside Islamdom sought to re-establish regional and ultimately global hegemony via jihad, beginning, axiomatically, with the jihad destruction of Israel. Thus four decades before its advent, Littman had uncovered and brought to our awareness what might aptly be described as “The Protocols of The Elders of the Arab Spring.”

Upon receipt of the Mossad Hero of Silence Order, July 1, 2009, a gracious and humble David Littman commented,

Looking back, I can truly say that the best decision I ever made in my life was to marry my wife, Gisele, and the second best was to volunteer to bring out Jewish children from Morocco to Israel, via Switzerland. Our Casablanca mission remains indelible in our minds, as will this unforgettable moment here. In conclusion, I wish to quote those inspiring words of the prophet Jeremiah: “Behold, I will bring them from the north country and gather them from the coasts of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child . . .: a great company shall return thither. They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them . . . . And there is hope in thine end, saith the Lord; that thy children shall come again to their own border” [31:8-9]. Yes, the children of Israel have returned to “to their own border”— to the Land of Israel—and the long history of Moroccan Jewry is a special part of Israel’s unique saga, achieved with much tears, pain, and suffering, but also with joy and hope, and great expectations over the ages. The Casablanca mission remains indelibly in my mind. When I think of those days, let me say from my heart in simple Hebrew: Toda raba la Malam

When the occasion demanded it, David could be edifying, while appropriately firm and blunt. Shortly after I met him and Gisele, they both delivered invited lectures to a group of Jewish and Muslim students at Georgetown University, who were apparently under the corrosive thrall of the University’s notorious apologist for Islam, John Esposito. With sad predictability, the craven Jewish students turned on the Littmans for simply describing the tragic consequences for non-Muslims of Islam’s living institutions of jihad and dhimmitude. Addressing a particularly strident, if cowardly Jewish student, David remonstrated,

If you continue to behave like this, you’ll perish.

Finally, David would often, albeit half in jest, exhort colleagues, quoting Shakespeare (Henry V, Act III, Scene 1),

…[S]how us here The mettle of your pasture

David Littman’s rich life example was one of enduring moral, physical, and intellectual mettle.

May his noble soul rest for eternity, in peace.



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