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David Gerald Littman (4 July 1933 – 20 May 2012) was a British Jewish activist[6][7] best known for organising the departure of Jewish children from Morocco when he was 28. He then worked as a lobbyist at the United Nations in Geneva and was also an historian.[8][9] He was married to Bat Ye'or.

David Gerald Littman
Born(1933-07-04)4 July 1933
London, England[1]
Died20 May 2012(2012-05-20) (aged 78)[2]
EducationBA and MA degrees
Alma materCanford School, Dorset, England; Trinity College, Dublin; University of London
Known forOperation Mural; Representation at the UN; historian[3]
Spouse(s)Bat Ye'or
Parent(s)Joseph Aaron Littman (father)[1]
Awards"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 Littman was born on 4 July 1933, in London, England. He was educated at Canford School, Dorset, England (1951), and Trinity College, Dublin, where he earned his BA with honours and MA degrees in Modern History and Political Science, followed by post-graduate studies at the Institute of Archaeology, University of London. He married his wife Gisèle (née Orebi; originally from Egypt and later known by her nom de plume Bat Ye'or), in September 1959. They moved to Lausanne, Switzerland, the following year.

The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization was founded by his brother, Louis Littman.[10]

Operation MuralEdit

In 1961, Littman volunteered for a clandestine humanitarian mission to evacuate Jewish children from Morocco to Israel, via Switzerland. Moroccan Jews had been forbidden from leaving the country since 1956.[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, Littman ran the Casablanca office of the Geneva-based international NGO for children Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants de l'Afrique du Nord (OSSEAN).[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.[4][5] In all, he assisted in evacuating 530 Jewish children to Israel.[3][4] The children's families joined them several years later.[11]

An article about Operation Mural by Shmuel Segev was published in the magazine Maariv in 1984.[5] Littman's work was then recognized by President Chaim Herzog and later President Shimon Peres, who presented him with the Mimouna award in 1986.[4][12] A documentary film on the operation, filmed by Yehuda Kaveh, screened in 2007.[1]

On 1 June 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 honoured by the Israel Intelligence Heritage and Commemoration Center in a unique ceremony on 1 July 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 (23–26 March) 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. He supervised its publications until 1974, and then served as an advisor.

Since 1986, he has appeared several times before the United Nations Human Rights Council (formerly the United Nations Commission on Human Rights) on behalf of various NGOs. From 1986–91 he was main representative of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ). In February 1992, he joined René Wadlow (main representative of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation; (IFOR)), then with the World Federalist Movement (WFM). 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. 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.

Release of Russian JewsEdit

In March 1987, the Soviet delegation to the UN walked out when Littman arranged for Natan Sharansky to speak to the Commission about refuseniks.[3] Also in 1987, he accused the Soviet delegate of antisemitism when he appeared before the UN Commission on Human Rights.[13] In 1988 he requested that several Jews in the USSR who were refused permission to emigrate should be allowed to do so. He repeated the request to Boris Yeltsin in 1991.[14] In August 1989, he appeared before the Commission representing WUPJ.[15][16]


From January 1989 Littman 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.[17][18]

Release of Syrian Jewish womenEdit

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 requested that they appoint a special representative to investigate; and in August 1991, he urged it to work for their release.[19][20]

Lebanese Jewish hostagesEdit

In August 1991, he appeared before the Commission on behalf of the WUPJ to urge the release of Lebanese Jews held as hostages in Lebanon.[21][22] 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.[23]

Claim of UN conference being hijackedEdit

When Israel withdrew from the Durban World Conference Against Racism in 2001, joining the US in protesting perceived anti-Israel and anti-Semitic remarks, The Hindu reported that Littman and WUPJ Rabbi Francois Garai filed a statement saying that the conference had been "hijacked by dictatorial regimes" interested in pursuing jihad against Israel.[24]

Christoph BlocherEdit

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."[25]

Shariah, violence against women, and anti-semitismEdit

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."[26][27][28]

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][29][30] Representatives from Egypt, Pakistan, and Iran (speaking on behalf of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference) forced a halt to the proceedings, saying that any discussion of Islamic religious law was insulting to the faith.[3] After deliberations, 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 amend his remarks.[3][31] Littman gave and amended statement and released copies of the original statement for review.[3][32] A similar incident occurred at the Council's ninth session, when Littman had prepared a text protesting the antisemitic writings of the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar University in Egypt. He was ordered by the new Council President Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi to desist.[3] In March 2009 he was again denied the opportunity to speak, 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.[33]


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. He also published historical writings with Les Editions de l'Avenir, which distributed its publications in a similar manner.[34] 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.[34] 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.[35][36]

  1. ^ a b c "David G. Littman; Biography". Archived from the original on 23 June 2007. Retrieved 13 January 2010.
  2. ^ "R.I.P. David Littman". Retrieved 20 May 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Dacey, Austin (3 December 2008). "Sensitive Words". Trouw / article stored at the Nederlands Gesprek Centrum. Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 21 November 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "The Moroccan connection". The Jerusalem Post. 22 June 2009. Retrieved 10 May 2010.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "Conferring the "Hero of Silence" Order on David G. Littman; "Operation Mural": Casablanca 1961; Presentation by President Shimon Peres". New English Review. 1 July 2009. Retrieved 13 January 2010.
  6. ^ Medick, Veit (13 March 2009). "Germany Asked to Boycott UN Racism Conference". Der Spiegel. Retrieved 10 January 2010.
  7. ^ "Religious Freedom to Get Spotlight Conference to Focus on Persecuted Church", The State, p. B2, 12 March 1998, accessed 12 January 2010
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Islam et judéo-christianisme: texte inédit: Intervention philosophique, p. 38, Jacques Ellul, Presses universitaires de France, 2004, ISBN 978-2-13-054215-5, accessed 13 January 2010
  10. ^ Littman Library of Jewish Civilization.
  11. ^ [Mideast file, Volume 5, Issue 4, Mekhon Shiloaḥ le-ḥeḳer ha-Mizraḥ ha-tikhon ṿe-Afriḳah, Learned Information, 1986, accessed 14 January 2010]
  12. ^ Sheleg, Yair (17 December 2007). "Codename: Operation Mural". Haaretz. Retrieved 12 January 2010.
  13. ^ "NATIONS UNIES : devant la sous-commission des droits de l'homme Le délégué soviétique s'est exposé à l'accusation d'antisémitisme," Le Monde, 22 August 1987, accessed 12 January 2010
  14. ^ "La réunion de la sous-commission des droits de l'homme de l'ONU La "glasnost", enfin, mais toujours sélective," Le Monde, 9 September 1988, accessed 12 January 2010
  15. ^ "ONU: la disparition de M. Mazilu Le silence du vice-président roumain de la sous-commission des droits de l'homme...", Le Monde, 13 August 1989, accessed 12 January 2010
  16. ^ "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, 3 September 2001, accessed 12 January 2010
  17. ^ Bostom, Andrew G., "Confronting Hamas' Genocidal Jew-Hatred", American Thinker, 2 January 2009, accessed 12 January 2010
  18. ^ Avni, Benny, "Effort Afoot To Expel Jewish Group From U.N.," The New York Sun, 4 June 2008, accessed 12 January 2009
  19. ^ "The Fate of 20 Jewish Women in Syria," The Jerusalem Post, 2 October 1990, accessed 12 January 2010
  20. ^ Canadian Jewish Chronicle (Winnipeg), p. A21, 13 March 1991, accessed 12 January 2010
  21. ^ "Lebanese Jews' Release Sought in Prisoner Deal," The Jerusalem Post, 16 August 1991, accessed 12 January 2010
  22. ^ "Syrian Jews," The Jerusalem Post, 25 August 1991, accessed 12 January 2010
  23. ^ "U.N. gets plea on Jewish hostages," The Washington Times, 26 December 1991, accessed 12 January 2010
  24. ^ "U.S., Israel pull out of Durban meet," The Hindu, 3 September 2001, accessed 12 January 2010
  25. ^ Herald-Journal, "Nationalist Billionaire Elected to powerful Swiss Cabinet post", Herald-Journal, 10 December 2003, accessed 12 January 2010
  26. ^ Bayevsky, Anne, "UN-speakable hypocrisy", The New York Daily News, 2 June 2008, accessed 12 January 2009
  27. ^ "Debatte über Uno-Gremium; Religionsfreiheit vor Menschenrecht?", Der Spiegel, 4 July 2008, accessed 13 January 2009
  28. ^ "Polèmica per la llei islàmica al Consell de Drets Humans", El Periódico de Catalunya, 19 June 2008, accessed 13 January 2009
  29. ^ Lindeborg, Lisbeth, "Rättigheter under attack", Sydsvenskan, 9 December 2008, accessed 12 January 2010 Archived 10 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ 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 13 January 2010
  31. ^ Simon, Anne-Catherine, "Kritik an Sharia oder Fatwas verboten," Die Presse, 1 July 2008, accessed 13 January 2009
  32. ^ Dacey, Austin, "Wat was hier aan de hand?", Trouw, 18 April 2009, accessed 12 January 2009
  33. ^ Edwards, Steven (9 March 2009). "Jewish speaker outraged after debate cut short". Ottawa Citizen. Archived from the original on 13 March 2009. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
  34. ^ a b David G. Littman website
  35. ^ 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
  36. ^ Amazon link for The Century of Moses Montefiore