R.I.P. David Littman

DLRSMay2010.jpgWe have lost a lion

It is with great sadness that I must report that my friend David Littman, one of the foremost warriors for human rights of our age, has died today in Switzerland.

Longtime Jihad Watch readers will recall his many reports at this site (see here — scroll down), recording his numerous valiant efforts to call the attention of the UN’s Human Rights Council to the human rights abuses arising from Islamic law.

This was just one small part of his long, vigorous and multifaceted lifelong fight for justice. His heroic efforts to save Jewish children from Islamic supremacist persecution in Morocco in the early 1960s became the subject of a documentary, Operation Mural. He assisted his wife, the great historian Bat Ye’or, in her pioneering work to uncover the forgotten history of dhimmitude, the institutionalized mistreatment of non-Muslims under Islamic law. He wrote a great deal about that and related matters himself. And he did so much more besides to defend the oppressed and downtrodden, such that this would go on forever if I enumerated it all.

David Littman was a man of breadth and vision and humor, a man of astounding vigor such that even in his last years he was much more active and accomplished than many people half his age. He was a man of genuine compassion and true kindness, such that one encounters only very rarely these days. He was a delightful raconteur, an amiable dinner companion, a dear friend, a great soul.

The world will not see the like of David Littman again for a long, long time. May his memory be eternal.

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  1. says

    One of the virtues of David Littman that to me seems remarkable (though less remarked upon) was his implicit trust in, and respect for, the United Nations as an institution and process.

    For decades, it has become a glib truism among many (particularly those “on the Right” and their “libertarian” cousins) that the U.N. is utterly bankrupt if not pernicious, alternately laughed at and demonized. One may reasonably infer, however, from Littman’s indefatigable efforts, as part of his advocacy of human rights, to work within the U.N. system, that he did not share this glib truism. Given his age (born 1933), one presumes he remembers the classic age of the U.N. when it unfolded upon its formulation of its Declaration of Human Rights (1948), and that he always held on to the faith and hope that it was salvageable amid its tyrant-members and their representatives who periodically have tried to corrupt and co-opt it.

    The profoundly corrosive cynicism and pessimism about the U.N. which has become fashionable — and which too often goes beyond constructively scathing criticism to a darker gnostic denunciation — may be part and parcel of a broader trend to distrust all Western authorities as gnostic “powers and principalities” against whom we must fight a crypto-apocalyptic war, when we are not nourishing this pneumopathology in the laboratory of our alienated minds in constantly haunted anticipation of it. To frame the problem of Islam in these terms, however amorphous they may be, is to botch the whole thing, grievously and catastrophically.

  2. says

    This is a true loss. When we finally win this war (after we finally start admitting it exists) and the history books are written, he will be recorded as one of the very few brave enough to stand up for the truth against a furious onslaught of fascism, butchery, corruption, cowardice, lies and ignorance. Rest in peace Mr. Littman.

  3. says

    David Littman was a champion of freedom, human rights, and equality. We can learn from, and be inspired by, his example. My sympathies to his wife Bat Ye’or, and to his family and friends.

  4. says

    With sincere sorrow. We truly lost one of a kind human being. How unfortunate that the world will not recognize or acknowledge this loss to all mankind. Rest in peace David.

  5. says

    More on David Littman’s achievements.


    Monday, 2 April 2012

    The Oeuvre of David Littman


    “He has published, with Paul Fenton, a book called ‘Exile in the Maghreb, the Jewish Condition under Islam’.

    ‘This is one of the major references on the subject.

    ‘It speaks so scrupulously and in detail about the “legal and social status of Jews in Islamic Maghreb between the Middle Ages and the era of French colonization.” It contains translated excerpts and annotated historical chronicles in Arabic and Hebrew, Muslim theological texts, eyewitness accounts written by European travelers – prisoners, diplomats, doctors, clerics, and adventurers. This is the kind of book you read and to which you constantly return when you need details and accurate sources.

    It is, above all, a work that constitutes a final and conclusive answer to the legend so widespread of a peaceful and fraternal coexistence between Jews and Muslims in Islamic lands…’.

    And this. He did not only write, or speak. At a certain moment in his life, with his dear wife – who was at that time pregnant with their second child – he **acted**.


    Conferring the “Hero of Silence” Order on David G. Littman (July 1, 2009)

    “Operation Mural”: Casablanca 1961

    Presentation by President Shimon Peres
(Presidential Commemoration Ceremony June 1, 2008).

    I will add that his daughter Ariane, an artist, lives in Israel, and has three children, one of whom achieved the rank of 2nd Lieut. in the IDF.

    He was truly a David: Dodavehu, Beloved of the LORD.



  6. says

    There is a great exchange between Littman and delegates / officers on the United Nations Human Rights Council over the treatment of women (especially the barbaric female genital mutilation, etc.) within Islamic countries in R. Spencer’s book, “Stealth Jihad, How Radical Islam Is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs,” approximately pages 76 – 79.

  7. says

    One English version of the Mourners’ Kaddish; I found it in an English translation of the Siddur, or Jewish prayerbook, some time ago, and transcribed it into my own prayerbook.

    It is a magnificent and very demanding prayer, requiring of the mourner an affirmation of the holiness and goodness of God at a time when that holiness and that goodness may be very difficult to discern.

    “Let us magnify and let us sanctify the great name of G-d
    In the world which he created according to his will.
    May His kingdom come and his salvation flourish
    in your lifetime and in your days and in the lifetime of the family of Israel:
    quickly and speedily may they come. – Amen.

    “May the greatness of His being be blessed from eternity to eternity.

    ‘Let us bless and let us extol, let us tell aloud and let us raise aloft
    let us set on high and let us honour, let us exalt and let us praise the Holy One – blessed be He – though he is far above all blessings, songs, and honours that can be spoken of in this world. – Amen

    “May great peace from heaven, life and fulfilment, salvation and consolation, healing and redemption, forgiveness and atonement, relief and deliverance, be granted to us and to all the family of Israel. – Amen.

    ‘May He who makes peace in the highest bring this peace upon us and upon all Israel.


    More details, including the Hebrew and Aramaic text and literal English glosses, here:



  8. says

    “May the angels lead you into paradise;
    may the martyrs come to welcome you
    and take you to the holy city,
    the new and eternal Jerusalem.

    May choirs of angels welcome you
    and lead you to the bosom of Abraham;
    and where Lazarus is poor no longer
    may you find eternal rest.


  9. says

    My condolences to Bat Yeor and others in Littman’s family.

    While I admired what Littman would do to draw the attention of UN bodies to Muslim abuses of human rights, the reason it would draw yawns was the seeming assumption on his part that the UN was still a force for good. In this, I agree w/ Lemonlime above – he probably still associated the UN w/ what it was in the wake of WWII, and beyond. Unfortunately, that completely overlooked the fact that the bulk of its members were either Leftist countries, or Muslim, and sometimes both – a transition that took place particularly in the 60s and after.

    Much as I respected him, I always thought that approaching UN organizations for fair treatment wasn’t that different from approaching the Arab League or the OIC and asking them to address Judeophobia within Muslim societies.

  10. says

    I was reading about David Littman and Operation Mural in Sir Martin Gilbert’s “In Ishmaels House” a week ago.

    My condolences to the Littman family.

  11. says

    World Prayer Assembly Takes Place in Indonesia Amid Growing Concern Over Rise of Islamism

    Friday concluded five days of prayer and discussion for more than 9,000 evangelical church leaders from over 60 countries who assembled in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, for the World Prayer Assembly (WPA), a grand Evangelical event that kicked off Monday after four years of preparations.

    The WPA, believed to be the world’s largest Christian intercessory prayer event, reportedly received permission from the government of the predominantly Muslim country, and home to the world’s largest Muslim population, to invite Christians from countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, Laos, Vietnam, Egypt, China, and even North Korea. The WPA events were held at the 11,000-seat Sentul International Convention Center in Jakarta and other venues.

    Read more: http://www.colindye.com/2012/05/21/over-9000-evangelical-leaders-conclude-joint-prayer-event-in-worlds-largest-muslim-country/#ixzz1vUdrqr4p

  12. says

    There have been many rumours about a beheading that had happened in Mali, I had the privilege to sit with one man from Mali who was a brother and gave me a short view of how Christianity is lived in Mali today and also about the beheading that happened in Mali, which in itself was a false report that happened.

    Read more: http://www.maghrebchristians.com/2012/05/21/pastor-in-mali-beheading-was-a-false/#ixzz1vUzW0rEu


  13. says

    If each of us takes up a part of his battle against Islam and if each of us nurtures freedom daily in our own lives, we will continue David’s impact and legacy in this world.

    May God continue to bless David’s family and many, many friends.

  14. says

    If each of us takes up a part of his battle against Islam and if each of us nurtures freedom daily in our own lives, we will continue David’s impact and legacy in this world.

    May God continue to bless David’s family and his many, many friends.

  15. says

    Prayers for this heroic man’s soul as well as his beloved family. May the God of truth comfort them at this difficult time.

  16. says

    Prayers for this heroic man’s soul as well as his beloved family. May the God of truth comfort them at this difficult time.

  17. says


    I noticed that. The only thing I agreed w/ you above was the reason behind Littman’s hope and faith in the UN. As you might guess, I certainly don’t agree w/ the idea that the UN is a hopeful institution for mankind.

    It did show a brief glimpse of hope in the early 90s, during Operation Desert Shield and so on, but after 9/11, it’s gone back to being an association of US hating loser nations.

    Problem is that a lot of institutions that were relevant during the Cold War have exceeded their expiry date. The Warsaw Pact was disbanded in 1989, but NATO still lives on. It’s irrelevant, and problem is that most people who support it are still fighting yesterday’s war. The most brazen example of it is still having Turkey in the organization, while excluding Israel and Russia. If the world were sensibly organized now as it was during the Cold War, you’d have an anti-Islamic alliance made up of all non Muslim countries – US, Canada, Australia, European countries, Russia, Israel, India, Thailand, China, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and so on – going face to face against the OIC.

    Similarly for the UN – under the one country one vote model, the UN would only be a force for good if a majority of countries were either allied w/, or at least not hostile to, the US. But if a majority of countries are hostile to the US, the UN would end up voicing them, and that ‘voice’ is often erraneously referred to as the world community. It’s hogwash – a fruit seller in Malawi or a Llama owner in Peru doesn’t care one way or another about whether Israel builds settlements in Judea/Samaria, whether Serbs are ill-treating Kosovo Muslims, or whether the Assad regime is cracking down on its citizens. However, the UN does lend a facade to whatever a majority of its members want.

    As has been pointed out here, the largest bloc in the UN today is the 50 odd OIC membership, and then, there are members of what used to be the Non-Aligned Movement during the Cold War, which was essentially a pro-Soviet bloc (Cuba, Yugoslavia and most Arab countries were members). As a result, whenever the UN votes, the result is a lopsided pro-Islamic vote.

    As long as that is the case, the idea that the UN is a hopeful institution for mankind is a distant dream. Particularly when its membership includes all those 50 Muslim countries.

  18. says

    The world has lost a great man. My condolences to Mr. Littman’s widow, Bat Ye’or, family and friends. May his memory be eternal, indeed.

  19. says

    The world has lost a great man. My condolences to Mr. Littman’s widow, Bat Ye’or, family and friends. May his memory be eternal, indeed.

  20. says

    The world has lost a great man. My condolences to Mr. Littman’s widow, Bat Ye’or, family and friends. May his memory be eternal, indeed.

  21. says

    The world has lost a great man. My condolences to Mr. Littman’s widow, Bat Ye’or, family and friends. May his memory be eternal, indeed.

  22. says

    David was a fighter who loved people and who loved life. His great sense of humour, his compassion and deep respect for others were not dimmed by his frustrating and difficult terminal illness. My sincerest condolences go out at this time to his wife and family.

  23. says

    Two mesmerisingly beautiful instances of a non-Jewish artist or artists inspired by a powerful Jewish text.

    Ravel and the soprano Montserrat Caballe.


    Paul Robeson. (I never knew, till I went looking for artistic meditations on the Kaddish prayer, that Paul Robeson seemingly knew Yiddish).


    Let these two artists speak for all of those Gentiles in Europe and in the USA who mourn for David Littman.

  24. says

    He both argued for and gave a defense of civil man. I shall:

    Remember his zest for inquiry, sharp focus and good nature;
    Honor his intellectual depth and compassion for humanity;
    Offer condolences to the partner he so obviously adored.

  25. says

    DDA, Jan, and Wellington:

    Yes, Robeson was a magnificent artist, but Wellington beat me to the punch (as he often does), about how I asses him. However, as I said above, I like to think that the Methodist preacher’s son Robeson was didn’t completely die in him.

  26. says

    Infidel Pride,

    Actually, as my post elucidated, I agree with Littman (as I trust he thought) that the U.N. remains a hopeful institution for mankind.

  27. says

    Just a reminder, dda, that Paul Robeson greatly admired Stalin and the USSR and accepted the Stalin Peace Prize. Robeson was far harsher on America than he ever was on Communist Russia. America certainly was wrong in its treatment of blacks, terribly wrong, but Robeson, I submit to everyone, was a fool in the final analysis by extolling Stalin’s totalitarian state.

    I much prefer the likes of Joe Louis, the great heavyweight boxer, and of course a black man (the Brown Bomber), who, when asked why he enlisted in the American Armed Forces during WWII, considering that his people were discriminated against in America, replied, “Well, whatever’s wrong with America, it’s nothing Hitler can fix.” Louis was a great and wise American. Robeson wasn’t.

  28. says

    Re Paul Robeson: Robeson was a Communist from the New York area who lived in an era when many of the Comrades were of Eastern European Jewish origins. Hence, I do not doubt that he picked up a fair amount of Jewish lore.

    But, given his Meditations on the Kaddish, perhaps deep down inside he remained something of the Methodist preacher’s kid he originally was, and not cocmpletely sunk in the idolatry of the loathsome Stalin.

    However, Yiddish, apart from a chunk of its vocabulary and the letters with which it is written, is fundamentally German rather than Semitic. The Mourner’s Kaddish, however, is Aramaic.

    I also will readily admit that the Kaddish is a prayer that always brings out a meditative streak, with certain sentiments similar to those found in the Second Petition of the Lord’s Prayer (“Thy Kingdom come”). Its dignity and gravity have always impressed me, especially the focus on God’s majesty and eschatological hope, which are so appropriate in a time of mourning.

    And, in this day when dark and destructive forces are very much in evidence, “May His Kingdom come and his salvation flourish.”

  29. says

    I hope you didn’t think that by including this clip I was implying approval of Robeson’s politics. You should know me better than that by now.

    The man, irrespective of anything else, had a magnificent voice.

    And in performing this *particular* piece, i do not think Robeson was placing that voice at the service of evil; it is a rendition – partly in English, partly in Yiddish – of a profoundly Jewish poem written ‘de profundis’. A poem that, even as it argues with God, and laments over and rages against the evil that humans commit against one another while God seems to stand aside, also *acknowledges* God.

    Great art can transcend the moral failures of the performer.

  30. says

    ”The man, irrespective of anything else, had a magnificent voice”.

    So true. I really *hate* the idea that one should ignore, or disapprove of talent, because one disagrees with the politics of the artist. Robeson was a useful idiot, but he *still* had a superb voice. One shouldn’t cancel out the other.

  31. says

    For the record, I readily admit Robeson had a great voice. He also had other talents, for instance he was a great athlete. But the man was so blind to the way the world really works and was so duped by Stalin’s soothing words, that I for one simply cannot let praise of Robeson, or anyone like him, for instance Wagner, stand alone without mentioning the person’s foolish or heinous side. Besides, in the final analysis, who you are is more important than what you do well.

  32. says

    A light has gone out in the world but heaven shines all the brighter for it. Thank you David Littman for leaving our world a better place than when you entered it.

    Hi DDA, you said “Great art can transcend the moral failures of the performer.”

    I agree 100%. It was not until around 2002 that Israel allowed even snippets of Wagner’s music to be played within the country. To this day Israel has not allowed a complete production of one of Wagner’s operas.


    That is strange to me because it wouldn’t take much to morph the dwarves in Der Ring des Nibelungen into Nazis (or Jihadis). It would also be quite easy to morph Alberich into Hitler. The Ring, is a morality play in which is shown that you can only defeat the ultimate hate by applying the ultimate love (i.e. “No greater love hath a man than he lay down his life for a brother.” This is from Babylon 5 but is a paraphrase of John 15:13)

    Tolkien picked up on this and fashioned his Lord of the Rings on much of Wagner’s opera. It is not a coincidence that the king who turns the tide against the evil of Sauron is an old man named Theodin, a synergism of Theos (God) + Odin.

    If Tolkien had spurned the ideas in Wagner’s opera we might never have had the L.O.T.R. or we might have had a lesser work of art involved with the novel.

    Israelis refuse to distinguish between the man, who they know to have been an anti-Semitic racist, and the artist who had been given a gift by God. Silencing art to me is akin to burning books. C’est la vie, it’s Israel’s loss.

    What I have always found depressing in this story is the fact that when I ask my Israeli friends about this they support Israel’s decision but when I ask them to give me one example of the anti-Semitism they can’t do it. They don’t even bother to research the topic after I ask the question. I’m not pointing this out to defend Wagner, he was anti-Semitic but does anyone know to what degree? This is not like pregnancy where you are either pregnant or you are not.

    So, I will remember Robson for his wonderful voice and for what he tells us about American history. What he tells us is that racism existed in 1900 or so but it WAS NOT an impediment to success. The liberal left has spun this part of American history to the point that sometimes it appears that every white was a closet KKK member.

    As Robeson’s Wikipedia bio says:

    He finished university with four annual oratorical triumphs[35] and varsity letters in multiple sports.[36] His play at end in football[37] won him recognition as a first-team All-American in both junior and senior years. Walter Camp considered him the greatest defensive end ever.[38] Academically, he was accepted into Phi Beta Kappa[39] and Cap and Skull.[40] His classmates showed their respect by[41] electing him class valedictorian.[42] They published a poem in The Daily Targum featuring his achievements.[43] In his valedictorian speech, he exhorted his classmates to work for equality for all Americans.[44]

    A brilliant beginning to be sure and evidence that colour was not a bar to success. Both the Skulls and Phi Beta Kappa are societies from which future leaders are intended to emerge and that should have been Robeson’s future but as Wellington, Kepha and Jan point out he fell from grace and “what a falling off was there.”

  33. says

    You said:

    ”Kepha and Jan point out he fell from grace and “what a falling off was there.”

    Actually, Peter, I was pointing out the same thing as dumbledoresarmy; ie, that irrespective of his political foolishness, Robeson had a superb voice (didn’t know about his other talents), and the one shouldn’t obviate the other.

    Or rather, because a person has unpleasant personal views (eg your example of Wagner and Israel) to ignore or repudiate their talents and abilities *because* of those views, is foolish and self-defeating.

    Rather like saying because Byron was in his personal life selfish, arrogant, cruel and possibly incestuous, one should refuse to recognise and appreciate the merits of Childe Harold.

  34. says

    Right you are Jan. Sorry for totally misrepresenting what you said. Obviously, I had to have been asleep at the keyboard when I included you in the list. Thanx for correcting the error. I will endeavour to be more careful (or less sleepy) in the future. Take care.

  35. says

    Actually, a better example of a work by Lord Byron that transcends his personal moral failures would have been his rousing poem ‘The Assyrian Came Down Like a Wolf on the Fold’. He seems to be firmly on the side of besieged Jerusalem.

    In Byron’s case, of course, despite his manifest personal moral failures, there was just one big thing he got right. He (like certain other English romantic poets of that era) sided with the non-Muslim Greeks in their struggle for liberation from the Ottoman Muslim yoke.

    “Byron, the most celebrated philhellene of all, lent his name, prestige and wealth to the cause.
    “Byron spent time in Albania and Greece, organizing funds and supplies (including the provision of several ships), but died from fever at Missolonghi in 1824.”

  36. says

    When you said “because a person has unpleasant personal views… to ignore or repudiate their talents and abilities *because* of those views, is foolish and self-defeating” I thought not of Byron but of Mozart – not the actual historic Mozart but the version we see in the film ‘Amadeus’.

    Salieri, deeply devout, has only a second-rank talent; he is *furious* to discover that God has chosen to lavish oodles of musical talent upon a person whom Salieri regards (and the play represents) as unworthy to receive or exercise it.

    I think we see this in the arts – especially the performing arts, that is, in playing or singing (rather more than in composing, though I’ve just mentioned the discussion of that in ‘Amadeus’), dancing, acting – perhaps more clearly than elsewhere.

    Is it possible for an actress who may, in her private life, be immoral and not even particularly wise, to represent – on stage – a wise and virtuous woman? And the uncomfortable answer is this: that if she is a good *actress* – if she knows and loves her craft – and if she obeys the guidance of a good *director*, then irrespective of what she does offstage, onstage she will give a more *convincing* portrayal of a chaste virgin – say, Shakespeare’s Miranda – than will the most earnest ingenue who may be a *real* virgin, and a very nice girl indeed, but, alas, cannot act. The same paradox, of course, applies to a male.

    And I think that is how we must see someone like Robeson. He was not so far as I know a composer, but a performer. And the songs he’s best known for, the recordings that have long outlived his own death, transcend any particular narrow political agenda even if he himself might have thought he was using them to push one.

    I heard some of his performances – Old Man River, and The Song of the Volga Boatmen, and, too, ‘Go Down Moses, Let My People Go’ – when I was a young child. I knew *nothing* about his life or his politics and I defy anyone to derive them from the songs alone. *I* certainly didn’t! All one gets from the songs, **on their own** is a powerful communication of the *composers’* reflections upon injustice and human suffering in general.

    And that was why I thought his wonderful performance of that Yiddish poem – which I had never heard before, but which is totally arresting – *was* appropriate in a thread devoted to David Littman, who stood up to and defied and denounced the worst oppressors in the world – Muslims.

    Maybe out there somewhere is a version of the same musical setting of the same Yiddish poem, by a performer of equal or superior voice and musical talent but who *also* happens to hold acceptable political views and is of impeccable personal morality. If such a recording can be found, people are welcome to share the link.

    Oh, by the way, I just found out something.

    Robeson defied orders from his Communist hosts when he sang that song at a concert in Russia. He did so very cleverly, and the Authorities could not stop him.


    Oh, and no matter what *else* he got wrong, it seems he sang this particular song – ‘The Kaddisch of Levi Yitzhak’ for **Israel**.

    “Paul Robeson, for example, the noted black singer, sang it following World War II at the great rallies for European Jewry and for the State of Israel during the early years of the young state’s struggle for independence and subsistence.’

    My intuition was correct.

    This song, sung by that man, *does* belong in a thread devoted to David Littman.