‘JFR’ Jacob, India’s highest-ranking Jewish military officer, dies at 92
Lt. Gen. Jacob-Farj-Rafael “JFR” Jacob, an Indian Jew who had a storied career in India’s military, has died at 92. (Some reports said he was 93.)
Jacob died Jan. 13 in New Delhi following a short illness, according to several Indian media outlets.
The American Jewish Committee, which in 2013 awarded Jacob with its Global Leadership Award, said in a statement Wednesday that the general was “for decades the most prominent member of his country’s Jewish community” and was its highest-ranking Jewish military officer.
Among his countrymen, Jacob was best known for negotiating the 1971 surrender of more than 90,000 Pakistani soldiers in Bangladesh’s struggle for independence.
According to India’s The Tribune, Jacob’s body was held in state at Brar Square in Delhi Cantonment and then handed over to “Delhi’s small Jewish community at the Judah Hyam Synagogue in central Delhi for his final rites.”
The chief general of India’s army, Dalbir Singh Suhag, said Jacob was a “pillar of military leadership and personified the best qualities of a soldier and a statesman,” according to the Tribune.
Jacob served as governor of Punjab and administrator of Chandigarh between November 1999 and May 2003, according to the Tribune, which said he was known “for dropping in unannounced in public offices.”
Israeli Ambassador Daniel Carmon told the Tribune that Jacob was a staunch supporter of India-Israel relations and “shall forever be remembered as a human bridge between our peoples.”
Born in Calcutta to religious Jewish parents, Jacob was inspired by the Holocaust to enlist in the British Indian Army in 1942. He served on various fronts during World War II, including in Burma and Sumatra.
Interviewed in 2012 by OpenTheMagazine, Jacob said his family originally came from Iraq, settling in India in the mid-18th century.
“I have never been a very religious man,” he told the magazine. “I believe in God, I can say a few Jewish prayers, but that’s it. When we were young, our parents hired tutors to teach us Hebrew. Unlike my brothers, I was not bothered to learn. I regret that now.”
The article noted that he had been to Israel many times “and engaged in some behind-the-scenes diplomacy to foster Indo-Israeli relations,” developing friendships with numerous Israeli military and political leaders, including former President Shimon Peres.
Asked by OpenTheMagazine if he was ever tempted to move to Israel and offer the country his military expertise, he said, “Israel has outstanding military leaders of their own, they do not need me. Besides, India has always been very good to us. I am proud to be a Jew, but am Indian through and through. I was born in India and served her my whole life. This is where I want to die.”
Jason Isaacson, AJC associate executive director for policy, in a statement provided by the AJC, said: “Jack Jacob’s contributions to peace and security in South Asia, as well as to the burgeoning and mutually beneficial relationship between India and Israel, are incalculable and enduring. A warrior, a man of peace, a patriot, a man of letters, and a committed Jew, he was a giant — and he will be missed.”
Jacob, who never married, retired from the military in 1978.
Pregnant Israeli stabbed in West Bank
A pregnant Israeli was stabbed in the West Bank less than 24 hours after a mother of six was stabbed to death in a settlement there.
Michal Froman, 30, suffered moderate wounds to her upper body on Monday after being attacked at a clothing warehouse in the Tekoa settlement, the Israel Defense Forces said.
After attempting to flee the scene, the alleged Palestinian attacker was shot by a Tekoa resident, according to the IDF. The teenage assailant was in serious condition at an Israeli hospital.
On Monday, the IDF ordered all Palestinian workers employed in the Gush Etzion bloc to leave. Gush Etzion, a bloc that includes Tekoa, has been the scene of several deadly incidents since the spate of Palestinian attacks against Israelis began in October.
Froman reportedly is the daughter-in-law of the late Rabbi Menachem Froman, a peace activist and the former chief rabbi of Tekoa.
On Sunday, Dafna Meir was stabbed by an assailant who broke into her Otniel home. Three of her six children witnessed the attack.
Ambassador blasts ‘two standards’ of law in West Bank
The U.S. ambassador to Israel reportedly slammed the Israeli legal system in the West Bank, saying, “Too much Israeli vigilantism in the West Bank goes on unchecked.”
Daniel Shapiro, speaking Monday at a Tel Aviv conference organized by the Institute for National Security Studies, added that “at times it seems Israel has two standards of adherence to rule of law in the West Bank — one for Jews and one for Palestinians,” Ha’aretz reported.
Shapiro emphasized the U.S. government stance that a two-state solution is the best solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The United States is “concerned and perplexed” by recent Israeli government actions on the settlements, “which raise questions about Israeli intentions,” he said.
That evening, the Prime Minister’s Office of Israel issued a statement condemning Shapiro’s remarks as “unacceptable and incorrect.”
“The words of the ambassador, on a day in which a murdered mother of six is buried and on a day in which a pregnant woman is stabbed — are unacceptable and incorrect,” the statement said. “Israel enforces the law for Israelis and Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority is the one responsible for the diplomatic freeze, and continues to incite and refuse talks.”
Shapiro’s criticism echoes other expressions of concern voiced by the U.S. government in recent weeks.
Following Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon’s approval of a new settlement in a church compound in the West Bank, State Department spokesman John Kirby said at a news briefing that the administration was “deeply concerned” by Israeli actions that demonstrate a lack of commitment to the two-state solution.
Israel’s decision to establish a new settlement “only expands this significant majority of the West Bank that has already been claimed for exclusive Israeli use,” Kirby told reporters, according to Ha’aretz.
The State Department has also expressed concerns over Israel’s controversial NGO bill, rejecting comparisons between the Israeli proposal requiring registration of foreign-funded NGOs and U.S. laws registering foreign interest lobbyists.