Category: Michael Curtis

In Search of Justice in France


In one of his, essays Henry James remarked that “[l]ife is, in fact, a battle.  Evil is insolent and strong … goodness very apt to be weak.”  Recognizing that this is not illusion, it is heartening that individuals, rare though they might be, devote their lives to one essential task, displaying the strength of goodness in fighting the battle against evil and injustice, roguery and villainous men.  High on the list of those who dedicated their lives to this battle are an incomparable couple, a French Jew born in Romania and a Protestant German, daughter of a man who fought in the Wehrmacht in World War II but was not a Nazi.

A new book, Hunting the Truth: The Memoirs of Beate and Serge Klarsfeld, reminds us of this couple who hunted, exposed, and helped bring to justice Nazi criminals and French collaborators and participants in the Holocaust, the memory of which they perpetuated.  The couple pointed out and fought anti-Semitism in Europe and elsewhere and also modern-day acts of genocide, such as that of Bosnian Muslims in 1996, all over the world.  The Memoirs, written in alternating voices, relate the story of their exploits, not always presented elegantly.  But the very appearance of this book is a reminder of problems not only of the dark years in wartime Europe, but also still at large in contemporary France.

Serge, born in Budapest, Romania in 1935, was brought to France as a child and lived in Nice.  His father was arrested by the Gestapo on September 30, 1943 and sent to Auschwitz, where he died at age 39.  Serge, who hid behind a false wall in a cupboard when his father was arrested, was saved from capture by help from a charity organization and members of the Resistance.  Beate, born in Berlin, Germany in 1939, was the daughter of an insurance agent.  The couple had improbably met in a Paris metro station and spent their lives together creating the family business of tracking down evil criminals.  For their work, they received honors – the French Legion of Honor in 1984, upgraded in 2014 to the highest level, and the German Federal Order of Merit among others.  They have also been imprisoned for their beliefs, insulted, and threatened with death and car bomb attacks.

Beate, a supporter of Social Democrat Willy Brandt, became famous, even notorious, for her physical assault on German chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger.  She realized there was a conspiracy of silence in Germany about the fact that former Nazis were present in high echelons in postwar Germany.  Kiesinger had been a Nazi broadcaster and propagandist, a party member since 1933.  Wanting to draw attention to the fact that an ex-Nazi had become chancellor, she labeled him a subtle fascist.  She decided to act, first shouting at the chancellor, “Kiesinger, Nazi, resign” and then, on November 7, 1968, slapping him, an action for which she served four months in jail.

For Beate and Serge, the same issue was troubling in Germany and France: the vast majority of government officials who had committed crimes against humanity during World War II had not been indicted for war crimes.

The Klarsfelds, by their assiduous research and documentation, helped in the identification and capture of Nazis and others responsible for those crimes.  Their main activity was collecting the documents on Nazis and on the role of French officials of the Vichy regime, who participated in the Holocaust in France.  In 1979, they founded the Association of Sons and Daughters of Jews Deported from France, the FFDJF.

They were active physically as well as intellectually.  Serge took people to death camps and places from which French Jews were transported to their deaths.  They provided documents to all organizations concerned with memory of the Holocaust and were responsible for installation of plaques and other monuments at sites of Jewish tragedies.  They organized exhibitions and reference books as memorials of the deportation.

One memorial is a major achievement by any appraisal. French Children of the Holocaust: a Memorial, a 2,000-page work with an alphabetical listing of the 11,000 children who were among the 75,000 deported from France, including photos of the children.  Even today, this majestic work cannot be read, as President Emmanuel Macron has said, without tears and unspeakable disgust. 

The Klarsfelds will be remembered for their emphasis on using the legal system to try the perpetrators of the Holocaust and to prevent their rehabilitation as honored citizens.  Among the best known of the villains are Kurt Lischka, Jean Leguay, Alois Brunner, Klaus Barbie, Herbert Hagen, and Maurice Papon.

Kurt Lischka, head of the Gestapo in Cologne, became the Gestapo head in Paris and the deputy in France.  Serge once thought of kidnapping him and bringing him to France for trial.  On December 7, 1973, Serge threatened Lischka with a gun but did not kill him.  The issue, then as always with the Klarsfelds, was not personal vengeance, but bringing a criminal to justice.  This was belatedly done for Lischka in 1980 in Cologne. 

Serge tracked down Jean Leguay, wartime deputy chief of the French National Police.  Leguay became the first Frenchman to be officially charged with crimes against humanity. 

The Klarsfelds tried to track down and capture Alois Brunner, who was in Damascus working for President Hafez al-Assad, but failed to bring him to France.  They did unmask others, revealing the Nazi activities of Kurt Waldheim, then running for re-election as president of Austria, and Klaus Barbie.  Serge had tracked Barbie, epitome of the Nazi criminal and the man who had tortured to death Jean Moulin, the Resistance hero, to Bolivia and wanted him arrested.

Klarsfeld’s comment on these evil people, like Herbert Hagen, head of the Gestapo in Bordeaux and assistant of the S.S. police force in France, is insightful.  Serge held that like other Nazi criminals, Hagen was a desk killer.  He had not dirtied his hands and was not a sadistic torturer; rather, he used his fanatical intelligence in the service of evil.  Hagen was in fact convicted in absentia in France and in 1955 in Germany sentenced to life imprisonment. 

Klarsfeld’s argument and that of his son Arno, a lawyer and the former boyfriend of Carla Bruni, wife of former president Nicholas Sarkozy, is similar in the cases of French collaborators, particularly Jean Leguay in 1989; Rene Bousquet, 1993; Paul Touvier, 1994; and Maurice Papon, 1998. 

Papon had been a Vichy official and concerned with Jewish questions in Bordeaux in 1942.  He then became Paris chief of police, 1958-67, and minister of the budget.  Arno’s analysis on Papon was devastating.  Papon was not a bloodthirsty monster, but simply a man who forgot the republican values of compassion and humanity in his desire for professional advancement.  Papon never had the courage to say “no” in his quest for glory.  Interestingly, Serge was the only one of 16 witnesses at a jury on Papon to say there was justification for legal proceedings against him.  Finally, in January 1983, Papon was charged with crimes against humanity.

Serge challenged and disposed of the argument that Marshall Philippe Pétain, head of Vichy, was responsible for saving French Jews.  On the contrary, Serge made public a document that proved the decisive role by Pétain in the writing of the Jewish decree adopted by Vichy on October 3, 1940 and his deep anti-Semitism.  Pétain did not act to mitigate anti-Semitic acts in any serious way.  Serge was one of the first to argue that the Germans did not pressure the French into imposing an anti-Semitic decree on Jews in France.

Klarsfeld is unhappy that previous French presidents, François Mitterand and even Charles de Gaulle, remained silent about French collaboration during the war in the interest of appeasement and reconciliation of French people of different views, and who never said a word about French responsibility for the infamous Vel d’Hiv roundup of 13,152 Jews on July 16-17, 1942.  Appeasement by the presidents had prevailed over the truth.

Currently, French leaders are warning that this should no longer be the case.  In his generous tribute paid to Serge, President Macron follows Klarsfeld’s legacy in concluding that the corruption of minds and moral and intellectual weakness that racism and anti-Semitism represent are still present.  They take new shapes and choose more surreptitious wording. 

Macron complains that his country did not mobilize, neither press nor TV, in protest against recent outbreaks of anti-Semitism in France.  Hatred of Israel, anti-Zionism, has led to hatred of Jews, anti-Semitism.  It is welcome news that French leaders are determined not to surrender to this hatred.  Real good, as the French philosopher Simone Weil remarked, is always marvelous and intoxicating.

In one of his, essays Henry James remarked that “[l]ife is, in fact, a battle.  Evil is insolent and strong … goodness very apt to be weak.”  Recognizing that this is not illusion, it is heartening that individuals, rare though they might be, devote their lives to one essential task, displaying the strength of goodness in fighting the battle against evil and injustice, roguery and villainous men.  High on the list of those who dedicated their lives to this battle are an incomparable couple, a French Jew born in Romania and a Protestant German, daughter of a man who fought in the Wehrmacht in World War II but was not a Nazi.

A new book, Hunting the Truth: The Memoirs of Beate and Serge Klarsfeld, reminds us of this couple who hunted, exposed, and helped bring to justice Nazi criminals and French collaborators and participants in the Holocaust, the memory of which they perpetuated.  The couple pointed out and fought anti-Semitism in Europe and elsewhere and also modern-day acts of genocide, such as that of Bosnian Muslims in 1996, all over the world.  The Memoirs, written in alternating voices, relate the story of their exploits, not always presented elegantly.  But the very appearance of this book is a reminder of problems not only of the dark years in wartime Europe, but also still at large in contemporary France.

Serge, born in Budapest, Romania in 1935, was brought to France as a child and lived in Nice.  His father was arrested by the Gestapo on September 30, 1943 and sent to Auschwitz, where he died at age 39.  Serge, who hid behind a false wall in a cupboard when his father was arrested, was saved from capture by help from a charity organization and members of the Resistance.  Beate, born in Berlin, Germany in 1939, was the daughter of an insurance agent.  The couple had improbably met in a Paris metro station and spent their lives together creating the family business of tracking down evil criminals.  For their work, they received honors – the French Legion of Honor in 1984, upgraded in 2014 to the highest level, and the German Federal Order of Merit among others.  They have also been imprisoned for their beliefs, insulted, and threatened with death and car bomb attacks.

Beate, a supporter of Social Democrat Willy Brandt, became famous, even notorious, for her physical assault on German chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger.  She realized there was a conspiracy of silence in Germany about the fact that former Nazis were present in high echelons in postwar Germany.  Kiesinger had been a Nazi broadcaster and propagandist, a party member since 1933.  Wanting to draw attention to the fact that an ex-Nazi had become chancellor, she labeled him a subtle fascist.  She decided to act, first shouting at the chancellor, “Kiesinger, Nazi, resign” and then, on November 7, 1968, slapping him, an action for which she served four months in jail.

For Beate and Serge, the same issue was troubling in Germany and France: the vast majority of government officials who had committed crimes against humanity during World War II had not been indicted for war crimes.

The Klarsfelds, by their assiduous research and documentation, helped in the identification and capture of Nazis and others responsible for those crimes.  Their main activity was collecting the documents on Nazis and on the role of French officials of the Vichy regime, who participated in the Holocaust in France.  In 1979, they founded the Association of Sons and Daughters of Jews Deported from France, the FFDJF.

They were active physically as well as intellectually.  Serge took people to death camps and places from which French Jews were transported to their deaths.  They provided documents to all organizations concerned with memory of the Holocaust and were responsible for installation of plaques and other monuments at sites of Jewish tragedies.  They organized exhibitions and reference books as memorials of the deportation.

One memorial is a major achievement by any appraisal. French Children of the Holocaust: a Memorial, a 2,000-page work with an alphabetical listing of the 11,000 children who were among the 75,000 deported from France, including photos of the children.  Even today, this majestic work cannot be read, as President Emmanuel Macron has said, without tears and unspeakable disgust. 

The Klarsfelds will be remembered for their emphasis on using the legal system to try the perpetrators of the Holocaust and to prevent their rehabilitation as honored citizens.  Among the best known of the villains are Kurt Lischka, Jean Leguay, Alois Brunner, Klaus Barbie, Herbert Hagen, and Maurice Papon.

Kurt Lischka, head of the Gestapo in Cologne, became the Gestapo head in Paris and the deputy in France.  Serge once thought of kidnapping him and bringing him to France for trial.  On December 7, 1973, Serge threatened Lischka with a gun but did not kill him.  The issue, then as always with the Klarsfelds, was not personal vengeance, but bringing a criminal to justice.  This was belatedly done for Lischka in 1980 in Cologne. 

Serge tracked down Jean Leguay, wartime deputy chief of the French National Police.  Leguay became the first Frenchman to be officially charged with crimes against humanity. 

The Klarsfelds tried to track down and capture Alois Brunner, who was in Damascus working for President Hafez al-Assad, but failed to bring him to France.  They did unmask others, revealing the Nazi activities of Kurt Waldheim, then running for re-election as president of Austria, and Klaus Barbie.  Serge had tracked Barbie, epitome of the Nazi criminal and the man who had tortured to death Jean Moulin, the Resistance hero, to Bolivia and wanted him arrested.

Klarsfeld’s comment on these evil people, like Herbert Hagen, head of the Gestapo in Bordeaux and assistant of the S.S. police force in France, is insightful.  Serge held that like other Nazi criminals, Hagen was a desk killer.  He had not dirtied his hands and was not a sadistic torturer; rather, he used his fanatical intelligence in the service of evil.  Hagen was in fact convicted in absentia in France and in 1955 in Germany sentenced to life imprisonment. 

Klarsfeld’s argument and that of his son Arno, a lawyer and the former boyfriend of Carla Bruni, wife of former president Nicholas Sarkozy, is similar in the cases of French collaborators, particularly Jean Leguay in 1989; Rene Bousquet, 1993; Paul Touvier, 1994; and Maurice Papon, 1998. 

Papon had been a Vichy official and concerned with Jewish questions in Bordeaux in 1942.  He then became Paris chief of police, 1958-67, and minister of the budget.  Arno’s analysis on Papon was devastating.  Papon was not a bloodthirsty monster, but simply a man who forgot the republican values of compassion and humanity in his desire for professional advancement.  Papon never had the courage to say “no” in his quest for glory.  Interestingly, Serge was the only one of 16 witnesses at a jury on Papon to say there was justification for legal proceedings against him.  Finally, in January 1983, Papon was charged with crimes against humanity.

Serge challenged and disposed of the argument that Marshall Philippe Pétain, head of Vichy, was responsible for saving French Jews.  On the contrary, Serge made public a document that proved the decisive role by Pétain in the writing of the Jewish decree adopted by Vichy on October 3, 1940 and his deep anti-Semitism.  Pétain did not act to mitigate anti-Semitic acts in any serious way.  Serge was one of the first to argue that the Germans did not pressure the French into imposing an anti-Semitic decree on Jews in France.

Klarsfeld is unhappy that previous French presidents, François Mitterand and even Charles de Gaulle, remained silent about French collaboration during the war in the interest of appeasement and reconciliation of French people of different views, and who never said a word about French responsibility for the infamous Vel d’Hiv roundup of 13,152 Jews on July 16-17, 1942.  Appeasement by the presidents had prevailed over the truth.

Currently, French leaders are warning that this should no longer be the case.  In his generous tribute paid to Serge, President Macron follows Klarsfeld’s legacy in concluding that the corruption of minds and moral and intellectual weakness that racism and anti-Semitism represent are still present.  They take new shapes and choose more surreptitious wording. 

Macron complains that his country did not mobilize, neither press nor TV, in protest against recent outbreaks of anti-Semitism in France.  Hatred of Israel, anti-Zionism, has led to hatred of Jews, anti-Semitism.  It is welcome news that French leaders are determined not to surrender to this hatred.  Real good, as the French philosopher Simone Weil remarked, is always marvelous and intoxicating.



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Israel Tries Its Hand at a Travel Ban


Commenting on President Woodrow Wilson’s “long overdue ” decision to enter World War I, Winston Churchill wrote that if the president had acted earlier, it would have meant abridgement of the slaughter, sparing of the agony, and prevention of ruin and catastrophe.  Even if the parallel is not exact, Israeli authorities are acting to prevent further harm to their country by imposing a travel ban blocking members of organizations supporting BDS, the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, from entering the country.

Mark Twain in his book Innocents Abroad wrote that travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.  Unfortunately, as Israel has found, hostile activists can also encourage those qualities.

The travel ban implements the intention of the law passed in March 2017 that bars entry into the country by groups that actively promote anti-Israeli boycotts.  The ban is virtual recognition of the adage, “Oh, I have taken too little care of this.”  Israel has now taken the offense against those who are not simply rational critics of Israeli policies and actions, but either implicitly or explicitly refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of the State of Israel or seek its elimination.

By banning any foreign activist who has knowingly signed a public call to boycott Israel or pledged to take part in a boycott, Israel is preventing harm to its citizens. 

On January 7, 2018, Israel issued a ban on 20 worldwide organizations, including 11 European and six U.S. groups, that are involved and active in BDS activities.  They include the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC); Code Pink; the U.S.-based Jewish Voice for Peace; the U.K.-based Palestinian Solidarity Campaign; of which Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is a patron; the British group War on Want; and BDS organizations in France, Italy, Norway, and the Netherlands.

It is worth looking, if only as illustration of hypocrisy, at War on Want, an organization founded in 1951 in London as an antipoverty charity.  It supported liberation movements in Africa.  For a time, the anti-Israeli George Galloway was its general secretary; during that time, there were accounting irregularities, and reports were “materially misstated.”  In 2006, War on Want launched its Palestinian Rights movement and advocated BDS, calling for an embargo on arms to Israel.

One controversial incident resulting from this policy of banning occurred in 2016, when Isabel Phiri, a Malawian citizen living in Switzerland, the assistant general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva and former professor of African theology in South Africa, was refused a visa by Israel.  Israeli authorities maintained that she has been involved in BDS, and it was the first time a foreign national was refused for that reason.  Though the WCC has not formally called for an outright boycott against Israel, it believes that the “Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories is a tragedy for the Palestinian occupied.”

Let us be straightforward on this controversial issue.  The argument against the travel ban is that it violates freedom of expression, and of course, to some extent, this is true in a democratic country such as Israel.  The problem with this is that not only does the freedom to call for a boycott exist everywhere, but much of the expression on Israel is based on falsehood and misrepresentations and the Palestinian Narrative of Victimhood. 

Taking two examples illustrates the point.  The AFSC that won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1947 announced extravagantly on January 8, 2018 that “for 51 years Israel has denied Palestinians in the occupied territories their fundamental human rights in defiance of international law. ”  Then there is the absurdly disproportionate announcement issued on February 13, 2015 by over 100 British artists, including some well known personalities such as film directors Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, explaining their cultural boycott of Israel as based on the fact that “Palestinians have enjoyed no respite from Israel’s unrelenting attack on their land, their livelihood, their right to political existence.”

The BDS campaign calls for economic, cultural, and academic boycotts against the State of Israel and Israeli citizens.  But its real intention is not to advocate measures to alleviate the condition of Palestinians, but to implement the Palestinian campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel, founded mainly by Omar Barghouti, to refuse to recognize Israel as a legitimate state. 

What is important is that boycott activity is counterproductive, against peace.  It results in increasing hatred, and as Israeli president Reuven Rivlin has remarked, it symbolizes all that stands in the way of dialogue, debate, and progress.  It is against cooperation toward a peaceful solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A reminder of the past may be helpful in understanding the Israel travel ban.  On November 9-10, 1938, Kristallnacht occurred in German cities, with a pogrom against Jews, involving murders; beatings; and destruction of Jewish property and businesses as well as synagogues.  At the core and the call to German citizens was a boycott of Jews in all forms.

Obviously, actions such as calling for Israel to be excluded from international oganizations such as the world soccer governing body FIFA and the insistent commands by rock star Roger Waters to fellow performers not to perform in Tel Aviv are not on a par with the Nazi Holocaust, but it would be foolish to ignore the implications of BDS.  Implicitly if not explicitly, it promotes anti-Semitism as well as tolerating terrorist activity against Israel.

It does this by not criticizing the funds that the Palestinian Authority (P.A.), through its Martyrs’ Fund, gives to terrorists in Israeli prisons or to the families of those terrorists killed by Israel.  It is encouraging that the U.S. Senate by the Taylor Force bill is considering the issue in an appropriate way.  Named after the American citizen, a former U.S. army officer and a Vanderbilt University student, murdered in March 2016 by a Palestinian terrorist in the West Bank, the Taylor Force Act, introduced in 2016, aims to stop all U.S. economic aid to the P.A. as long as it continues to pay those salaries to terrorists and families.

Israel is proposing to prevent foreign supporters of BDS from entering Israel, although ministers have the right to deny individuals entry on a case-by-case basis, as in the case of Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of BDS, who is married to an Israeli citizen of Palestinian origin.  On January 7, 2018, Israel announced it plans to establish a task force to identify the hundreds of activists already in Israel and deport or deny entry to individuals who support BDS.

The Israeli travel ban might be considered in the context of the continuing war on Jews.  It is three years since Hypercacher, the Jewish Paris supermarket, was attacked by terrorists.  Four were killed.  Coinciding with the Israeli travel ban, on January 9, 2018, an arson attack burned down a French kosher grocery store in Creteil, a suburb of Paris, and the store was completely gutted by fire.  Six days earlier, two stores in the area were targeted with paintings of swastikas.

Hatred and anti-Semitism: this is the real essence of the boycott of Israel and Jews.

Commenting on President Woodrow Wilson’s “long overdue ” decision to enter World War I, Winston Churchill wrote that if the president had acted earlier, it would have meant abridgement of the slaughter, sparing of the agony, and prevention of ruin and catastrophe.  Even if the parallel is not exact, Israeli authorities are acting to prevent further harm to their country by imposing a travel ban blocking members of organizations supporting BDS, the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, from entering the country.

Mark Twain in his book Innocents Abroad wrote that travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.  Unfortunately, as Israel has found, hostile activists can also encourage those qualities.

The travel ban implements the intention of the law passed in March 2017 that bars entry into the country by groups that actively promote anti-Israeli boycotts.  The ban is virtual recognition of the adage, “Oh, I have taken too little care of this.”  Israel has now taken the offense against those who are not simply rational critics of Israeli policies and actions, but either implicitly or explicitly refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of the State of Israel or seek its elimination.

By banning any foreign activist who has knowingly signed a public call to boycott Israel or pledged to take part in a boycott, Israel is preventing harm to its citizens. 

On January 7, 2018, Israel issued a ban on 20 worldwide organizations, including 11 European and six U.S. groups, that are involved and active in BDS activities.  They include the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC); Code Pink; the U.S.-based Jewish Voice for Peace; the U.K.-based Palestinian Solidarity Campaign; of which Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is a patron; the British group War on Want; and BDS organizations in France, Italy, Norway, and the Netherlands.

It is worth looking, if only as illustration of hypocrisy, at War on Want, an organization founded in 1951 in London as an antipoverty charity.  It supported liberation movements in Africa.  For a time, the anti-Israeli George Galloway was its general secretary; during that time, there were accounting irregularities, and reports were “materially misstated.”  In 2006, War on Want launched its Palestinian Rights movement and advocated BDS, calling for an embargo on arms to Israel.

One controversial incident resulting from this policy of banning occurred in 2016, when Isabel Phiri, a Malawian citizen living in Switzerland, the assistant general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva and former professor of African theology in South Africa, was refused a visa by Israel.  Israeli authorities maintained that she has been involved in BDS, and it was the first time a foreign national was refused for that reason.  Though the WCC has not formally called for an outright boycott against Israel, it believes that the “Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories is a tragedy for the Palestinian occupied.”

Let us be straightforward on this controversial issue.  The argument against the travel ban is that it violates freedom of expression, and of course, to some extent, this is true in a democratic country such as Israel.  The problem with this is that not only does the freedom to call for a boycott exist everywhere, but much of the expression on Israel is based on falsehood and misrepresentations and the Palestinian Narrative of Victimhood. 

Taking two examples illustrates the point.  The AFSC that won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1947 announced extravagantly on January 8, 2018 that “for 51 years Israel has denied Palestinians in the occupied territories their fundamental human rights in defiance of international law. ”  Then there is the absurdly disproportionate announcement issued on February 13, 2015 by over 100 British artists, including some well known personalities such as film directors Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, explaining their cultural boycott of Israel as based on the fact that “Palestinians have enjoyed no respite from Israel’s unrelenting attack on their land, their livelihood, their right to political existence.”

The BDS campaign calls for economic, cultural, and academic boycotts against the State of Israel and Israeli citizens.  But its real intention is not to advocate measures to alleviate the condition of Palestinians, but to implement the Palestinian campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel, founded mainly by Omar Barghouti, to refuse to recognize Israel as a legitimate state. 

What is important is that boycott activity is counterproductive, against peace.  It results in increasing hatred, and as Israeli president Reuven Rivlin has remarked, it symbolizes all that stands in the way of dialogue, debate, and progress.  It is against cooperation toward a peaceful solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A reminder of the past may be helpful in understanding the Israel travel ban.  On November 9-10, 1938, Kristallnacht occurred in German cities, with a pogrom against Jews, involving murders; beatings; and destruction of Jewish property and businesses as well as synagogues.  At the core and the call to German citizens was a boycott of Jews in all forms.

Obviously, actions such as calling for Israel to be excluded from international oganizations such as the world soccer governing body FIFA and the insistent commands by rock star Roger Waters to fellow performers not to perform in Tel Aviv are not on a par with the Nazi Holocaust, but it would be foolish to ignore the implications of BDS.  Implicitly if not explicitly, it promotes anti-Semitism as well as tolerating terrorist activity against Israel.

It does this by not criticizing the funds that the Palestinian Authority (P.A.), through its Martyrs’ Fund, gives to terrorists in Israeli prisons or to the families of those terrorists killed by Israel.  It is encouraging that the U.S. Senate by the Taylor Force bill is considering the issue in an appropriate way.  Named after the American citizen, a former U.S. army officer and a Vanderbilt University student, murdered in March 2016 by a Palestinian terrorist in the West Bank, the Taylor Force Act, introduced in 2016, aims to stop all U.S. economic aid to the P.A. as long as it continues to pay those salaries to terrorists and families.

Israel is proposing to prevent foreign supporters of BDS from entering Israel, although ministers have the right to deny individuals entry on a case-by-case basis, as in the case of Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of BDS, who is married to an Israeli citizen of Palestinian origin.  On January 7, 2018, Israel announced it plans to establish a task force to identify the hundreds of activists already in Israel and deport or deny entry to individuals who support BDS.

The Israeli travel ban might be considered in the context of the continuing war on Jews.  It is three years since Hypercacher, the Jewish Paris supermarket, was attacked by terrorists.  Four were killed.  Coinciding with the Israeli travel ban, on January 9, 2018, an arson attack burned down a French kosher grocery store in Creteil, a suburb of Paris, and the store was completely gutted by fire.  Six days earlier, two stores in the area were targeted with paintings of swastikas.

Hatred and anti-Semitism: this is the real essence of the boycott of Israel and Jews.



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A Royal Resurgence in Britain


Perhaps once there was a way to get back homeward in British society and to end the role of the British monarchy.  But royalty and enthusiasm for it are going forward with two developments: the reappearance of a new Fab Four and the award of a knighthood in the 2018 New Year’s Honor List to Richard Starkey, aka Ringo Starr, the most well known, if not the best, drummer in the country, for his “services to music.”  He might, with his emollient behavior, have been rewarded for keeping the peace as well as the beat among his fellow Beatles.

In the midst of a host of problems and uncertainties related to the complex Brexit issue, much of the ascendant mood in the country is focused on interest, even adulation of the activities of members of what constitutes British royalty, not limited to the royal family.  Fifty years ago, in the mid-1960s, four citizens, the Beatles, became immensely internationally popular and received tumultuous welcomes wherever they appeared, in Britain, Madison Square Garden, and Berlin.  Symbolically regarded as the cultural icons of the counterculture, they were heralded as the Fab Four, a nickname coined by their publicist.

The old Fab Four were honored in their heyday when all of them in 1965 were given the Order of the British Empire, MBE.  Yet it is a sign of changes in British society and sensibilities that Ringo, sometimes seen as the least accomplished of the Beatles, should be given a knighthood.  Interestingly, one of his fellow honorees in the 2018 list is Nick Clegg, former member of the European Parliament, the former leader of the Liberal Democratic Party who served 2007-2015 as deputy prime minister in the government of David Cameron, and who ironically opposed Brexit and thought it would be deeply damaging to the economy.

The nickname “Fab Four” has now been accorded by the British media to the new four personalities who are the center of attention: the duke and duchess of Cambridge, William and Kate, and Prince Harry and his fiancée, Meghan Markle.  The four had a starring role in the royal family visit on Christmas Day to the church in Sandringham, Norfolk.

There is partial if not parallel symbolism in past and present.  The Fab Four Beatles were working-class boys from Liverpool, with grammar school education, coming from broken homes, who transcended their humble origins to become the world’s most successful music group.  Among their triumphs, they invaded and conquered the U.S. pop market, including The Ed Sullivan show.

American citizens since the nation’s independence owe no allegiance to the British monarch or family, though there are some apparent simulations and imitations, in the case of royal musicians: Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, King Oliver, and Count Basie.

Nevertheless, fairy tales can come true if you’re young at heart or a true believer.  The new British Fab Four now feature Rachel Meghan Markle, the 36-year-old U.S. citizen and actress, who comes from a divorced family in South Central Los Angeles, attended private schools, is herself a divorcée and feminist, and is of mixed race.  Her mother, a social worker, is an African-American.

Meghan identifies as half-black, half-white.  With her life experience, racial ethnic background, life as a divorcée, and strong work ethic, she is akin to the norm of 21st-century Western women.

What is important is that her life story makes her what might be hitherto seen as an improbable figure as the fiancée of a prince, Harry, fifth in line to the British throne.  She appears to have been accepted by the royal family, including the 91-year-old Queen Elizabeth, now in her Sapphire Jubilee.  The extraordinary contrast is with the rejection in Britain in 1937 of the twice divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson as the consort of King Edward VIII.

It is intriguing that Meghan, who descended from Africans enslaved in Georgia, glamorous, sexy, a good actress, was shortlisted as one of five possible Bond girls in the next film.  Since she is retiring from acting, her next soap opera performance will be on May 19, 2018 in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, in front of the archbishop of Canterbury and Queen Elizabeth II, not in the blockbuster film with Daniel Craig.

Even fairy tales have problems.  International problems intrude with invitations to the royal wedding on May 19.  The 33-year-old Prince Harry has apparently established cordial relations with former president Barack Obama and indeed interviewed the former president during his guest editorship of the BBC’s Radio 4 Today program on December 27, 2017.  Obama is likely to be invited to the wedding.  The dilemma is whether President Donald Trump, of whom Meghan was critical during the presidential election, will also be invited.  The problem is compounded by differences between Prime Minister Theresa May and Trump.

Whatever the decision on the guest list, royalty in Britain survives, with the monarch the national figurehead, symbolic of the unity of the country, and a family devoted to public events.  Some political figures such as Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn may favor the abolition of the monarchy but do not seek to abolish it.  Despite the difficulties and complexities of Brexit, there is little support in Britain for a republic, and no political party has an official policy favoring one.  Meghan and Ringo are showing the way forward.

Perhaps once there was a way to get back homeward in British society and to end the role of the British monarchy.  But royalty and enthusiasm for it are going forward with two developments: the reappearance of a new Fab Four and the award of a knighthood in the 2018 New Year’s Honor List to Richard Starkey, aka Ringo Starr, the most well known, if not the best, drummer in the country, for his “services to music.”  He might, with his emollient behavior, have been rewarded for keeping the peace as well as the beat among his fellow Beatles.

In the midst of a host of problems and uncertainties related to the complex Brexit issue, much of the ascendant mood in the country is focused on interest, even adulation of the activities of members of what constitutes British royalty, not limited to the royal family.  Fifty years ago, in the mid-1960s, four citizens, the Beatles, became immensely internationally popular and received tumultuous welcomes wherever they appeared, in Britain, Madison Square Garden, and Berlin.  Symbolically regarded as the cultural icons of the counterculture, they were heralded as the Fab Four, a nickname coined by their publicist.

The old Fab Four were honored in their heyday when all of them in 1965 were given the Order of the British Empire, MBE.  Yet it is a sign of changes in British society and sensibilities that Ringo, sometimes seen as the least accomplished of the Beatles, should be given a knighthood.  Interestingly, one of his fellow honorees in the 2018 list is Nick Clegg, former member of the European Parliament, the former leader of the Liberal Democratic Party who served 2007-2015 as deputy prime minister in the government of David Cameron, and who ironically opposed Brexit and thought it would be deeply damaging to the economy.

The nickname “Fab Four” has now been accorded by the British media to the new four personalities who are the center of attention: the duke and duchess of Cambridge, William and Kate, and Prince Harry and his fiancée, Meghan Markle.  The four had a starring role in the royal family visit on Christmas Day to the church in Sandringham, Norfolk.

There is partial if not parallel symbolism in past and present.  The Fab Four Beatles were working-class boys from Liverpool, with grammar school education, coming from broken homes, who transcended their humble origins to become the world’s most successful music group.  Among their triumphs, they invaded and conquered the U.S. pop market, including The Ed Sullivan show.

American citizens since the nation’s independence owe no allegiance to the British monarch or family, though there are some apparent simulations and imitations, in the case of royal musicians: Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, King Oliver, and Count Basie.

Nevertheless, fairy tales can come true if you’re young at heart or a true believer.  The new British Fab Four now feature Rachel Meghan Markle, the 36-year-old U.S. citizen and actress, who comes from a divorced family in South Central Los Angeles, attended private schools, is herself a divorcée and feminist, and is of mixed race.  Her mother, a social worker, is an African-American.

Meghan identifies as half-black, half-white.  With her life experience, racial ethnic background, life as a divorcée, and strong work ethic, she is akin to the norm of 21st-century Western women.

What is important is that her life story makes her what might be hitherto seen as an improbable figure as the fiancée of a prince, Harry, fifth in line to the British throne.  She appears to have been accepted by the royal family, including the 91-year-old Queen Elizabeth, now in her Sapphire Jubilee.  The extraordinary contrast is with the rejection in Britain in 1937 of the twice divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson as the consort of King Edward VIII.

It is intriguing that Meghan, who descended from Africans enslaved in Georgia, glamorous, sexy, a good actress, was shortlisted as one of five possible Bond girls in the next film.  Since she is retiring from acting, her next soap opera performance will be on May 19, 2018 in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, in front of the archbishop of Canterbury and Queen Elizabeth II, not in the blockbuster film with Daniel Craig.

Even fairy tales have problems.  International problems intrude with invitations to the royal wedding on May 19.  The 33-year-old Prince Harry has apparently established cordial relations with former president Barack Obama and indeed interviewed the former president during his guest editorship of the BBC’s Radio 4 Today program on December 27, 2017.  Obama is likely to be invited to the wedding.  The dilemma is whether President Donald Trump, of whom Meghan was critical during the presidential election, will also be invited.  The problem is compounded by differences between Prime Minister Theresa May and Trump.

Whatever the decision on the guest list, royalty in Britain survives, with the monarch the national figurehead, symbolic of the unity of the country, and a family devoted to public events.  Some political figures such as Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn may favor the abolition of the monarchy but do not seek to abolish it.  Despite the difficulties and complexities of Brexit, there is little support in Britain for a republic, and no political party has an official policy favoring one.  Meghan and Ringo are showing the way forward.



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Trump's Reality Therapy on Jerusalem


President Donald Trump broke free of the self-absorbed fantasies of the “international community.” He spoke truth to it with his acknowledgment that it “was time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel” and adopt a new approach to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. 

Jerusalem was established as the Jewish capital by King David around 1010 B.C., and his son Solomon built the Temple in 964 B.C.  Jerusalem was captured a number of times by invading armies from the Romans to the Crusaders and Arabs. However, it has for three thousand years always been a holy site for Jews, and the city is cited about 350 times in the Bible.

As a result of the 1948-49 war caused by the Arab military invasion of the newly created State of Israel, the Arab Legion captured the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, and Jerusalem, for the first time, was divided between 1948 and 1967 by the so called Green Line of barbed wire and sandbags. Israelis were not allowed by Jordan, the occupying power, to pray at the Western Wall, to attend the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus, or to live in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.

During the 1967 Six Day War, Israeli forces captured east Jerusalem which has remained under Israeli control ever since. On July 27, 1967 Israeli law and jurisdiction was extended to east Jerusalem: on July 30, 1980 Israeli law declared that “Jerusalem complete and unified is the capital of Israel.” 

For a variety of reasons, primarily Palestinian pressure, most countries did not legally recognize this declaration, or the reality on which it is based. At best, Jerusalem was identified as the seat of Israel government, while foreign embassies, including that of the U.S., are in Tel Aviv. Even in the November 29, 1947 UN General Assembly Resolution 181 that proposed partition of the disputed area, Jerusalem was viewed as a city to be accorded a special international status and placed under the administrative authority of the UN. 

Trump made clear that he was not taking a position on any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested issues. Those questions are up to the parties involved.

Trump argues that his decision on Jerusalem is combined with determination to broker a peace deal between the parties and reach a two-state solution. He was not preempting future discussion of final status. Not coincidentally, Jared Kushner has met three times with Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, with whom he has a close relationship, and also with Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.

Trump was simply echoing the Congressional law of 1995 that recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and asserted that the U.S. Embassy should be established there no later than May 31, 1999. It provided that the President has to sign a national security waiver every 6 months to keep the Embassy in Tel Aviv. 

Trump did sign a six-month waiver, but he kept his frequently reiterated campaign promise with his statement of recognition of Jerusalem. 

Negative reaction from Palestinians and leaders of many Muslim countries to Trump’s remarks was to be expected and automatic, as well as from the usual chorus of  Western pro-Palestinian pressure groups, fellow anti-Israeli travelers and the polically correct usual suspects,  though almost all misstated Trump’s actual remarks.  Instead, the more extreme condemned Trump’s collusion with “Israeli racist manipulation and its creeping process of ethnic cleansing, and its disregard for international law.”

Instead of examination and discussion of Trump’s statement, the Arab call was for violence and hostile demonstrations.  Senseless belligerence extended to attacks on Israelis riding on the Light Rail, the line that runs through Jerusalem, regarded by Palestinian groups not as a benefit in quick transport for all citizens but as a symbol of Israeli occupation. Noticeably , the animosity went far beyond the Jerusalem question. The calls were “Zionism must die,” a reminder of the lives lost and property destroyed in the August 1929 riots by Palestinians caused by fake news over access to the Western Wall. 

The terrorist groups Hamas and Hezb’allah, and Iran-backed Shiite militia fighting in Iraq and Syria called for a new, a third, Intifada, and the continuation of violence.   Those groups recall that this is the 30th anniversary of the first Intifada in 1987. Hamas engaged in its favorite contributions to world peace, firing rockets against Israel from Gaza, and continuing to build tunnels from which to attack Israel.

The Arab lobby was at work with extravagant rhetoric. Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian “negotiator” who never negotiates, said Trump’s statement created international anarchy and disrespect for global institutions and law. For him, Trump had taken a step that prejudges the conflict and thus disqualifies the U.S. from any role regarding the conflict. 

 The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, OIC, held in an absurd statement that Trump had undermined all peace efforts, and given an impetus to extremism and terrorism.  It held that Trump was encouraging Israel’s colonialism, ethnic cleansing and apartheid. 

The persecutor of the Kurds, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, conspicuous for his tirades against the U.S. and refusal to recognize the authority of the present U.S. Ambassador in Turkey, enigmatically stated that Trump and the US had crossed a “red line.”

But it is more difficult to understand the quick negative reaction of European leaders, the punditry of former U.S. State Department officials, and the resolution of the UN Security Council on December 8, 2017 that Trump’s statement was unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the Middle East, and would arouse the Arab world.  This unhelpful approach neglects the realities on the ground and suffers from a number of problems. 

The naysayers have argued that Trump has put U.S. allies, moderate Saudi Arabia and UAE, on the defensive, deepened divisions in the Middle East and delays the peace process. Yet both Saudi Arabia, custodian of the holy sites of Mecca and Medina, and the UAE have been involved in friendly discussions with Israel, particularly in security and intelligence co-operation against the menace of Iran. It is fallacious to argue that Trump has left them in the lurch. It was noticeable that that at the OIC conference Saudi Arabia and Egypt were represented at a low level, and that an interfaith  Arab delegation from Bahrain visited Israel.

The second point, neglected by the naysayers, is that the Israel-Palestinian conflict cannot be conflated with the “Middle East conflict.” It is no longer the main issue in the “Middle East” conflict. It is relatively minor, and one of many issues among the many conflicts raging in the Middle East — where real violence is continuing.  Total casualty figures in the fighting between Israel and Palestinians are about 7% of those killed in the bitter six-year-old Syrian civil war, and the end is nowhere in sight. Similar figures can display the extent of the casualties in other conflicts, Iraq (probably over 100,000 killed), Syria (at least 200,000 deaths), Sudan, Libya, and Yemen.

A third point is that Arab counties are no longer patrons of Palestinians in the light of the challenge to Sunni states from Iran. The real menace comes from that country, not from Israel, and there is no rational reason to support Palestinian animosity or intransigence towards Israel.

There is no blank check being offered by Trump.  On the contrary, his statement provides an opportunity for the international community to try to bring Palestinians to the negotiating table. It is time for the UN and other bodies to end the antisemitic bombast of Israel as an apartheid state. They might go back to the dream in Hatikvah, to be a free people in the Jewish land.

President Donald Trump broke free of the self-absorbed fantasies of the “international community.” He spoke truth to it with his acknowledgment that it “was time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel” and adopt a new approach to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. 

Jerusalem was established as the Jewish capital by King David around 1010 B.C., and his son Solomon built the Temple in 964 B.C.  Jerusalem was captured a number of times by invading armies from the Romans to the Crusaders and Arabs. However, it has for three thousand years always been a holy site for Jews, and the city is cited about 350 times in the Bible.

As a result of the 1948-49 war caused by the Arab military invasion of the newly created State of Israel, the Arab Legion captured the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, and Jerusalem, for the first time, was divided between 1948 and 1967 by the so called Green Line of barbed wire and sandbags. Israelis were not allowed by Jordan, the occupying power, to pray at the Western Wall, to attend the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus, or to live in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.

The Arab Legion in the process of destroying the Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue, Jerusalem, 25 May 1948

During the 1967 Six Day War, Israeli forces captured east Jerusalem which has remained under Israeli control ever since. On July 27, 1967 Israeli law and jurisdiction was extended to east Jerusalem: on July 30, 1980 Israeli law declared that “Jerusalem complete and unified is the capital of Israel.” 

For a variety of reasons, primarily Palestinian pressure, most countries did not legally recognize this declaration, or the reality on which it is based. At best, Jerusalem was identified as the seat of Israel government, while foreign embassies, including that of the U.S., are in Tel Aviv. Even in the November 29, 1947 UN General Assembly Resolution 181 that proposed partition of the disputed area, Jerusalem was viewed as a city to be accorded a special international status and placed under the administrative authority of the UN. 

Trump made clear that he was not taking a position on any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested issues. Those questions are up to the parties involved.

Trump argues that his decision on Jerusalem is combined with determination to broker a peace deal between the parties and reach a two-state solution. He was not preempting future discussion of final status. Not coincidentally, Jared Kushner has met three times with Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, with whom he has a close relationship, and also with Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.

Trump was simply echoing the Congressional law of 1995 that recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and asserted that the U.S. Embassy should be established there no later than May 31, 1999. It provided that the President has to sign a national security waiver every 6 months to keep the Embassy in Tel Aviv. 

Trump did sign a six-month waiver, but he kept his frequently reiterated campaign promise with his statement of recognition of Jerusalem. 

Negative reaction from Palestinians and leaders of many Muslim countries to Trump’s remarks was to be expected and automatic, as well as from the usual chorus of  Western pro-Palestinian pressure groups, fellow anti-Israeli travelers and the polically correct usual suspects,  though almost all misstated Trump’s actual remarks.  Instead, the more extreme condemned Trump’s collusion with “Israeli racist manipulation and its creeping process of ethnic cleansing, and its disregard for international law.”

Instead of examination and discussion of Trump’s statement, the Arab call was for violence and hostile demonstrations.  Senseless belligerence extended to attacks on Israelis riding on the Light Rail, the line that runs through Jerusalem, regarded by Palestinian groups not as a benefit in quick transport for all citizens but as a symbol of Israeli occupation. Noticeably , the animosity went far beyond the Jerusalem question. The calls were “Zionism must die,” a reminder of the lives lost and property destroyed in the August 1929 riots by Palestinians caused by fake news over access to the Western Wall. 

The terrorist groups Hamas and Hezb’allah, and Iran-backed Shiite militia fighting in Iraq and Syria called for a new, a third, Intifada, and the continuation of violence.   Those groups recall that this is the 30th anniversary of the first Intifada in 1987. Hamas engaged in its favorite contributions to world peace, firing rockets against Israel from Gaza, and continuing to build tunnels from which to attack Israel.

The Arab lobby was at work with extravagant rhetoric. Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian “negotiator” who never negotiates, said Trump’s statement created international anarchy and disrespect for global institutions and law. For him, Trump had taken a step that prejudges the conflict and thus disqualifies the U.S. from any role regarding the conflict. 

 The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, OIC, held in an absurd statement that Trump had undermined all peace efforts, and given an impetus to extremism and terrorism.  It held that Trump was encouraging Israel’s colonialism, ethnic cleansing and apartheid. 

The persecutor of the Kurds, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, conspicuous for his tirades against the U.S. and refusal to recognize the authority of the present U.S. Ambassador in Turkey, enigmatically stated that Trump and the US had crossed a “red line.”

But it is more difficult to understand the quick negative reaction of European leaders, the punditry of former U.S. State Department officials, and the resolution of the UN Security Council on December 8, 2017 that Trump’s statement was unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the Middle East, and would arouse the Arab world.  This unhelpful approach neglects the realities on the ground and suffers from a number of problems. 

The naysayers have argued that Trump has put U.S. allies, moderate Saudi Arabia and UAE, on the defensive, deepened divisions in the Middle East and delays the peace process. Yet both Saudi Arabia, custodian of the holy sites of Mecca and Medina, and the UAE have been involved in friendly discussions with Israel, particularly in security and intelligence co-operation against the menace of Iran. It is fallacious to argue that Trump has left them in the lurch. It was noticeable that that at the OIC conference Saudi Arabia and Egypt were represented at a low level, and that an interfaith  Arab delegation from Bahrain visited Israel.

The second point, neglected by the naysayers, is that the Israel-Palestinian conflict cannot be conflated with the “Middle East conflict.” It is no longer the main issue in the “Middle East” conflict. It is relatively minor, and one of many issues among the many conflicts raging in the Middle East — where real violence is continuing.  Total casualty figures in the fighting between Israel and Palestinians are about 7% of those killed in the bitter six-year-old Syrian civil war, and the end is nowhere in sight. Similar figures can display the extent of the casualties in other conflicts, Iraq (probably over 100,000 killed), Syria (at least 200,000 deaths), Sudan, Libya, and Yemen.

A third point is that Arab counties are no longer patrons of Palestinians in the light of the challenge to Sunni states from Iran. The real menace comes from that country, not from Israel, and there is no rational reason to support Palestinian animosity or intransigence towards Israel.

There is no blank check being offered by Trump.  On the contrary, his statement provides an opportunity for the international community to try to bring Palestinians to the negotiating table. It is time for the UN and other bodies to end the antisemitic bombast of Israel as an apartheid state. They might go back to the dream in Hatikvah, to be a free people in the Jewish land.



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Homage to a French Literary Giant


The Chinese have a character for “double happiness.” The French would benefit from a similar character of “double sadness” for the events of December 2017, when two giants of French culture, dissimilar in every way, died on successive days. This is not the first time this has occurred: Edith Piaf and Jean Cocteau died on successive days in 1963. However, in December 2017, two striking figures died and were honored on successive days, Johnny Hallyday, the champion of French rock, aged 74, by an elaborate tribute at the Madeleine Church in Paris, and the writer and philosopher Jean d’Ormesson, embodiment of the French classical tradition, aged 92, at a less elaborate function at the Cathedral of the Invalides. Curiously, though both men were national treasures, if not as symbolic as the Eiffel Tower or Mont-Saint-Michel, in their own country France, they were essentially unknown abroad.

In a sense, the two men illustrated complementary aspects of French civilization. Both loved life and both were seducers in their different ways. Johnny was a living legend whose music lives on. Jean was a prolific writer and latterly television personality, a graceful charmer with a playful spirit who loved life and communicated this. For Johnny, who appealed to emotion, music, beginning with rock, was his religion. For Jean, language and literature was his rock of reason.

France is a country that admires its intellectuals and writers. Jean d’Ormesson, born in 1925 of an aristocratic and diplomatic family who died in Paris on December 5, was the incarnation of French culture and defender of the French language, a charmer. He held right-wing political views but was not dogmatic and was admired by the left, as his friendships with political opponents such as Francois Mitterand and Nicolas Sarkozy, to whom he was close, showed. He was Catholic but more agnostic than believer.

In his writings and commentaries, he combined elegance with depth, humor with learning. At Jean’s funeral service, President Emmanuel Macron, who put a simple pencil on the tomb as Jean wished, eloquently pointed out some of his complexities. If he was an egotist he was also modest and passionate about others. If he had shadows, he was a master of clarity.

Jean was a prominent figure in the French literary world, publishing 40 books, novels, and plays, many of them bestsellers. He was general manager of Le Figaro for a few years, and for many other years a news commentator, and even in his last years a broadcaster and part-time actor on television. He was never as influential a commentator as Raymond Aron, who was more biting and penetrating, and never supported large causes or ideologies, rather addressing more specific issues from a conservative point of view. His prominence was recognized by the publishers of the Pleiades editions, which publishes the complete works of an author, an action which is considered to be a major sign of recognition of that author’s significance.

Jean was officially honored, and made an Immortal, appointed in 1973 at age 48 to the Academie Francaise, still a body of undeniable prestige, and one representative of the French esprit. At his death, he was the Dean of the Academie, the longest serving member of it. In 1980, he sponsored Marguerite Yourcenar, whom he called one of the greatest living writers, as a member. She was the first woman to be elected to the AF. So far only eight of the 729 members have been women. Jean in 2009 was also appointed to another high honor, Grand Officer, Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor, by President Francois Hollande.

Jean may have been an Immortal, but he was a constant presence with his charm and wit, which he exhibited on TV screens, including an acting performance with Charlotte Rampling. He was a prince of letters who never took himself too seriously. His comments on politics and on language typifies classical French moderate conservatism and humane politics.

Jean can be considered a modernist, conscious that the world was changing. Moreover, though it was always changing, it was now changing at a faster pace, and in that changing world, the triumph of science must be reconciled with humanism.

He illustrated that change in at least three ways. The French language that he loved had become less important; it was hard to challenge English as the dominant language in the world. Similarly, Europe was no longer the center of world affairs, nor was France the first country in Europe that had become less important, though it was wrong to talk about decline all the time.

As a result of the weakness of European countries, populism had advanced in some of them. He insisted that culture goes together with a flourishing economy and military power. Yet, though Africa was advancing, Europe must be praised and safeguarded; it had succeeded in forming a single currency and preventing war among its members.

Jean was concerned about the future of democracy. Europe must now be vigilant against populism and its manifestations with Brexit, elections in The Netherlands, in the U.S. with Donald Trump, but above all in his own country. Jean forecast accurately that Marine Le Pen would get 25-30% of the vote in the presidential election but would not win the election. He was fearful she might win in 2022, and posed a cultural as well as a political threat, especially a threat to freedom of the press. 

Some of d’Ormesson’s assertations are debatable. He thought that the French people had changed. Once they were happy and carefree; now quoting the jocular Jean Cocteau, they had become “like Italians in a bad mood.” France is moving politically to the right, and the Communist and Socialist parties no longer seem to exist in France. He was critical of the disastrous five years of the Hollande presidency.  The danger of terrorism remains, and the problem of migrants is acute.

Nevertheless, writers are still a privileged group in France and have a certain respected voice in society, even if the myth of the great influential writer, like Victor Hugo, or Francois Mauriac, or Andre Gide, is longer applicable to the present.

Jean did participate in the last year of his life in an interesting controversy about language and indeed about society. The present administration under President Macron is urging a gender-neutral version of the French language that the AF, including Jean, thought poses a danger to the purity of French. Historically, the masculine takes precedence over the feminine. A group of women only is referred to in feminine way, but if it includes even only one man, the entire group will be referred to as masculine. Proponents of change call for gender exclusiveness; opponents argue this would be an “aberration” that puts France in “mortal danger.”

The controversy continues, and purists and others will disagree, but all should agree that the prolific writings of Jean d’ Ormesson should be more widely translated. It would be particularly valuable to have the voice of moderate and sensible conserveatism in English in the United States at the present time.  

The Chinese have a character for “double happiness.” The French would benefit from a similar character of “double sadness” for the events of December 2017, when two giants of French culture, dissimilar in every way, died on successive days. This is not the first time this has occurred: Edith Piaf and Jean Cocteau died on successive days in 1963. However, in December 2017, two striking figures died and were honored on successive days, Johnny Hallyday, the champion of French rock, aged 74, by an elaborate tribute at the Madeleine Church in Paris, and the writer and philosopher Jean d’Ormesson, embodiment of the French classical tradition, aged 92, at a less elaborate function at the Cathedral of the Invalides. Curiously, though both men were national treasures, if not as symbolic as the Eiffel Tower or Mont-Saint-Michel, in their own country France, they were essentially unknown abroad.

In a sense, the two men illustrated complementary aspects of French civilization. Both loved life and both were seducers in their different ways. Johnny was a living legend whose music lives on. Jean was a prolific writer and latterly television personality, a graceful charmer with a playful spirit who loved life and communicated this. For Johnny, who appealed to emotion, music, beginning with rock, was his religion. For Jean, language and literature was his rock of reason.

France is a country that admires its intellectuals and writers. Jean d’Ormesson, born in 1925 of an aristocratic and diplomatic family who died in Paris on December 5, was the incarnation of French culture and defender of the French language, a charmer. He held right-wing political views but was not dogmatic and was admired by the left, as his friendships with political opponents such as Francois Mitterand and Nicolas Sarkozy, to whom he was close, showed. He was Catholic but more agnostic than believer.

In his writings and commentaries, he combined elegance with depth, humor with learning. At Jean’s funeral service, President Emmanuel Macron, who put a simple pencil on the tomb as Jean wished, eloquently pointed out some of his complexities. If he was an egotist he was also modest and passionate about others. If he had shadows, he was a master of clarity.

Jean was a prominent figure in the French literary world, publishing 40 books, novels, and plays, many of them bestsellers. He was general manager of Le Figaro for a few years, and for many other years a news commentator, and even in his last years a broadcaster and part-time actor on television. He was never as influential a commentator as Raymond Aron, who was more biting and penetrating, and never supported large causes or ideologies, rather addressing more specific issues from a conservative point of view. His prominence was recognized by the publishers of the Pleiades editions, which publishes the complete works of an author, an action which is considered to be a major sign of recognition of that author’s significance.

Jean was officially honored, and made an Immortal, appointed in 1973 at age 48 to the Academie Francaise, still a body of undeniable prestige, and one representative of the French esprit. At his death, he was the Dean of the Academie, the longest serving member of it. In 1980, he sponsored Marguerite Yourcenar, whom he called one of the greatest living writers, as a member. She was the first woman to be elected to the AF. So far only eight of the 729 members have been women. Jean in 2009 was also appointed to another high honor, Grand Officer, Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor, by President Francois Hollande.

Jean may have been an Immortal, but he was a constant presence with his charm and wit, which he exhibited on TV screens, including an acting performance with Charlotte Rampling. He was a prince of letters who never took himself too seriously. His comments on politics and on language typifies classical French moderate conservatism and humane politics.

Jean can be considered a modernist, conscious that the world was changing. Moreover, though it was always changing, it was now changing at a faster pace, and in that changing world, the triumph of science must be reconciled with humanism.

He illustrated that change in at least three ways. The French language that he loved had become less important; it was hard to challenge English as the dominant language in the world. Similarly, Europe was no longer the center of world affairs, nor was France the first country in Europe that had become less important, though it was wrong to talk about decline all the time.

As a result of the weakness of European countries, populism had advanced in some of them. He insisted that culture goes together with a flourishing economy and military power. Yet, though Africa was advancing, Europe must be praised and safeguarded; it had succeeded in forming a single currency and preventing war among its members.

Jean was concerned about the future of democracy. Europe must now be vigilant against populism and its manifestations with Brexit, elections in The Netherlands, in the U.S. with Donald Trump, but above all in his own country. Jean forecast accurately that Marine Le Pen would get 25-30% of the vote in the presidential election but would not win the election. He was fearful she might win in 2022, and posed a cultural as well as a political threat, especially a threat to freedom of the press. 

Some of d’Ormesson’s assertations are debatable. He thought that the French people had changed. Once they were happy and carefree; now quoting the jocular Jean Cocteau, they had become “like Italians in a bad mood.” France is moving politically to the right, and the Communist and Socialist parties no longer seem to exist in France. He was critical of the disastrous five years of the Hollande presidency.  The danger of terrorism remains, and the problem of migrants is acute.

Nevertheless, writers are still a privileged group in France and have a certain respected voice in society, even if the myth of the great influential writer, like Victor Hugo, or Francois Mauriac, or Andre Gide, is longer applicable to the present.

Jean did participate in the last year of his life in an interesting controversy about language and indeed about society. The present administration under President Macron is urging a gender-neutral version of the French language that the AF, including Jean, thought poses a danger to the purity of French. Historically, the masculine takes precedence over the feminine. A group of women only is referred to in feminine way, but if it includes even only one man, the entire group will be referred to as masculine. Proponents of change call for gender exclusiveness; opponents argue this would be an “aberration” that puts France in “mortal danger.”

The controversy continues, and purists and others will disagree, but all should agree that the prolific writings of Jean d’ Ormesson should be more widely translated. It would be particularly valuable to have the voice of moderate and sensible conserveatism in English in the United States at the present time.  



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Rutgers University Must Deal with Anti-Semitism


On the banks of the old Raritan stands Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, with its 30 schools and colleges making it one of the top 25 public universities in the United States. Committed to academic inquiry and scholarship, it is dedicated to principles and values of respect for people of all backgrounds. Its reputation has been enhanced by its history as the birthplace of college football, since it hosted the first intercollegiate football game, beating a team from would-be Princeton University in 1869.

That reputation has continued to be upheld by its academic programs, its Scarlet Knights football team, once graced by Paul Robeson, and by a song in the 1947 Broadway musical High Button Shoes. However, that reputation is now being questioned by manifestations of bigotry and anti-Semitism and perverse comments about the State of Israel and by anti-Israeli animosity exhibited by some members of the faculty. A Rutgers football song proclaims “The Bells must Ring.” The question now is whether the bells are discordant.

The Rutgers administration and faculty are now confronted, as are so many other academic institutions, by an issue involving the nature and limits of free speech, and by behavior in public statements and social media that violates the principles and values held by academic institutions such as Rutgers.

The present issue is concentrated on the behavior and opinions of three members of the faculty: Michael Chikindas, professor of food science, Jasbir Puar, associate professor of women’s and gender studies, and Mazen Adi, political scientist and adjunct professor of international law. who served as a Syrian diplomat at the United Nations between 2007 and 2014.

Chikindas, a microbiologist, is director of the Rutgers Center for Digestive Health, but has issued statements and Facebook pronouncements that go far beyond his academic field. It is troubling to see the extent and variety of those statements, reported in the journal The Algemeiner. Some of the reported allegations of those statements go beyond the edge of racism, since they hold that Judaism is the most racist religion in the world. The Talmud is said to feature racist and supremacist passages.

Chikindas appears to be a believer in the tropes of Jewish conspiracies. The conspiracies are past and present. Israel, he is quoted in one post, is the terrorist country aimed at genocidal extermination of the land’s native population, Palestinians. Yet, also in incredible fashion, the Jewish conspiracy was also present in the events starting in April 1915 with the extermination of at least 1.5 million Armenians, the so-called Armenian Genocide, by the Young Turks, the Turkish government at the time. He holds this was orchestrated by the Turkish Jews who pretended to be real Turks. He appears to believe that Ottoman crypto Jews, descended from the 17th-century fake messiah Sabbatai Zevi, infiltrated the Young Turks and were behind the genocide. It is not coincidental that Chikindas was educaed in schools in Armenia, and gained a doctorate in genetics in Moscow.

Other academics outside Rutgers have joined in similar lunacy. Rutgers officials should note the case of Joy Karega, assistant professor of rhetoric at Oberlin College, who asserted that ISIS is really an arm of Israel, and U.S. intelligence agencies, and that Israel was behind the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris in January 2015 committed by gunmen from the al-Qaeda branch in Yemen. Oberlin authorities decided, as Rutgers should do, that academic freedom does not cover inaccurate or false facts, and dismissed Karega because of failure to demonstrate intellectual honesty.

Rutgers must consider a similar approach towards Chikindas, who among other insights has held that American Jews and Israel were behind 9/11. For no apparent reason he also touches on the fact that Israel has one of the highest percentage of gays in the world; according to him 25% of Tel Aviv inhabitants are gay or lesbians. Rutgers officials should heed the argument of Karl Popper in The Open Society and its Enemies that conspiracy theories draw on imaginary plots stemming from paranoid scenarios based on tribalism, chauvinism, or racism.

Chikindas has denied he is anti-Semitic and said his Facebook account was hacked, but the images on the graphics he published are telling. They show the Jews, portrayed with large, hooked noses, controlling the Federal Reserve, Hollywood, and sex trafficking, and an Israeli flag over the White House. As expected, he supports the BDS movement, as well as making uncomplimentary remarks about a variety of figures, Ayelet Shaked, Israeli justice minister, Israeli culture minister Miri Regev, and Melania and Ivanka Trump.

The views of a second individual, Mazen Adi, are also pertinent to this inquiry. Ali, appointed at Rutgers in 2015, was previously a legal adviser to Syria and part time charge d’affaires for the Syrian Foreign ministry for 16 years, including a stint as a Syrian diplomat at the UN between 2007and 2014.

In that role at the UN, it was natural for Ali to defend the atrocities and killings committed by the Assad regime, and to argue that Syria was restoring security and stability. But it was not appropriate for him on April 25, 2012 to argue that international gangs led by some Israeli religious figures were trafficking in children’s organs. Israel, he argued, is committing crimes against humanity, adopting a slow kill policy against 1.5 million Palestinians, and responsible for ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and genocide. He did not realize this was a new, if indirect, reference to the old blood libel against Jews.

His conclusion is that acts of international aggression, occupation, and piracy by Israel cannot be hidden from the international community. Perhaps the best comment on this view is that Ali on the laws of the international community is as sensible as the view of Harvey Weinstein on preventing sexual harassment.

A third controversial figure is Jasbir Puar, who, though nominally academically involved in women’s and gender studies at Rutgers, and seemingly a disciple of queer theory and of Michael Foucault, made known at an event sponsored by a number of departments at Vassar College on February 3, 2016 that she is an expert in Israeli nefarious activity. Vassar students two days earlier had anticipated their future internal deprivation by approving a resolution upholding the BDS movement, and calling for disinvestment from and no purchases, and therefore no eating, from Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, apparently known to Vassar for its link to international Jewish conspiracies involving ice cream.

Puar, in barely comprehensible language, held that Israel and Jewish populations in general “have thoroughly hijacked the discourse of trauma through exceptionalizing Holocaust victimization.” In similar fashion to Ali, she is reported to have alleged that the “bodies of young Palestinian men were mined for organs for scientific research,” by Israel. This, according to her, is genocide in slow motion. Therefore what is needed is the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement as part of organized resistance and armed resistance in Palestine.

What is disappointing in this event is the mild response of the Rutgers administration, especially that of President Robert Barchi at an event on November 16, 2017 to this painful and harmful nonsense of three of the faculty. He correctly regarded some of the alleged remarks as repugnant but said they were constitutionally protected. The university is reviewing the issue. University spokesman have articulated that the university seeks to foster an environment “free from discrimination as articulated in our policy prohibiting discrimination.” In the matter of Chikindas, it will see if “actions taken in the context of his role as a faculty member” about Jews and their role in the massacre of Armenians in 1917 may have violated that policy”. But the absurd remarks of Chikindas hardly need examination.

Everyone knows that free speech must be upheld as far as possible, but that speech should be based on facts and reality not on bigotry. Academic freedom must be strongly defended, but hate speech must be outlawed and punished. The least that university officials can do is to be forthright on this. The Rutgers bells should be ringing the right notes.

On the banks of the old Raritan stands Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, with its 30 schools and colleges making it one of the top 25 public universities in the United States. Committed to academic inquiry and scholarship, it is dedicated to principles and values of respect for people of all backgrounds. Its reputation has been enhanced by its history as the birthplace of college football, since it hosted the first intercollegiate football game, beating a team from would-be Princeton University in 1869.

That reputation has continued to be upheld by its academic programs, its Scarlet Knights football team, once graced by Paul Robeson, and by a song in the 1947 Broadway musical High Button Shoes. However, that reputation is now being questioned by manifestations of bigotry and anti-Semitism and perverse comments about the State of Israel and by anti-Israeli animosity exhibited by some members of the faculty. A Rutgers football song proclaims “The Bells must Ring.” The question now is whether the bells are discordant.

The Rutgers administration and faculty are now confronted, as are so many other academic institutions, by an issue involving the nature and limits of free speech, and by behavior in public statements and social media that violates the principles and values held by academic institutions such as Rutgers.

The present issue is concentrated on the behavior and opinions of three members of the faculty: Michael Chikindas, professor of food science, Jasbir Puar, associate professor of women’s and gender studies, and Mazen Adi, political scientist and adjunct professor of international law. who served as a Syrian diplomat at the United Nations between 2007 and 2014.

Chikindas, a microbiologist, is director of the Rutgers Center for Digestive Health, but has issued statements and Facebook pronouncements that go far beyond his academic field. It is troubling to see the extent and variety of those statements, reported in the journal The Algemeiner. Some of the reported allegations of those statements go beyond the edge of racism, since they hold that Judaism is the most racist religion in the world. The Talmud is said to feature racist and supremacist passages.

Chikindas appears to be a believer in the tropes of Jewish conspiracies. The conspiracies are past and present. Israel, he is quoted in one post, is the terrorist country aimed at genocidal extermination of the land’s native population, Palestinians. Yet, also in incredible fashion, the Jewish conspiracy was also present in the events starting in April 1915 with the extermination of at least 1.5 million Armenians, the so-called Armenian Genocide, by the Young Turks, the Turkish government at the time. He holds this was orchestrated by the Turkish Jews who pretended to be real Turks. He appears to believe that Ottoman crypto Jews, descended from the 17th-century fake messiah Sabbatai Zevi, infiltrated the Young Turks and were behind the genocide. It is not coincidental that Chikindas was educaed in schools in Armenia, and gained a doctorate in genetics in Moscow.

Other academics outside Rutgers have joined in similar lunacy. Rutgers officials should note the case of Joy Karega, assistant professor of rhetoric at Oberlin College, who asserted that ISIS is really an arm of Israel, and U.S. intelligence agencies, and that Israel was behind the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris in January 2015 committed by gunmen from the al-Qaeda branch in Yemen. Oberlin authorities decided, as Rutgers should do, that academic freedom does not cover inaccurate or false facts, and dismissed Karega because of failure to demonstrate intellectual honesty.

Rutgers must consider a similar approach towards Chikindas, who among other insights has held that American Jews and Israel were behind 9/11. For no apparent reason he also touches on the fact that Israel has one of the highest percentage of gays in the world; according to him 25% of Tel Aviv inhabitants are gay or lesbians. Rutgers officials should heed the argument of Karl Popper in The Open Society and its Enemies that conspiracy theories draw on imaginary plots stemming from paranoid scenarios based on tribalism, chauvinism, or racism.

Chikindas has denied he is anti-Semitic and said his Facebook account was hacked, but the images on the graphics he published are telling. They show the Jews, portrayed with large, hooked noses, controlling the Federal Reserve, Hollywood, and sex trafficking, and an Israeli flag over the White House. As expected, he supports the BDS movement, as well as making uncomplimentary remarks about a variety of figures, Ayelet Shaked, Israeli justice minister, Israeli culture minister Miri Regev, and Melania and Ivanka Trump.

The views of a second individual, Mazen Adi, are also pertinent to this inquiry. Ali, appointed at Rutgers in 2015, was previously a legal adviser to Syria and part time charge d’affaires for the Syrian Foreign ministry for 16 years, including a stint as a Syrian diplomat at the UN between 2007and 2014.

In that role at the UN, it was natural for Ali to defend the atrocities and killings committed by the Assad regime, and to argue that Syria was restoring security and stability. But it was not appropriate for him on April 25, 2012 to argue that international gangs led by some Israeli religious figures were trafficking in children’s organs. Israel, he argued, is committing crimes against humanity, adopting a slow kill policy against 1.5 million Palestinians, and responsible for ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and genocide. He did not realize this was a new, if indirect, reference to the old blood libel against Jews.

His conclusion is that acts of international aggression, occupation, and piracy by Israel cannot be hidden from the international community. Perhaps the best comment on this view is that Ali on the laws of the international community is as sensible as the view of Harvey Weinstein on preventing sexual harassment.

A third controversial figure is Jasbir Puar, who, though nominally academically involved in women’s and gender studies at Rutgers, and seemingly a disciple of queer theory and of Michael Foucault, made known at an event sponsored by a number of departments at Vassar College on February 3, 2016 that she is an expert in Israeli nefarious activity. Vassar students two days earlier had anticipated their future internal deprivation by approving a resolution upholding the BDS movement, and calling for disinvestment from and no purchases, and therefore no eating, from Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, apparently known to Vassar for its link to international Jewish conspiracies involving ice cream.

Puar, in barely comprehensible language, held that Israel and Jewish populations in general “have thoroughly hijacked the discourse of trauma through exceptionalizing Holocaust victimization.” In similar fashion to Ali, she is reported to have alleged that the “bodies of young Palestinian men were mined for organs for scientific research,” by Israel. This, according to her, is genocide in slow motion. Therefore what is needed is the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement as part of organized resistance and armed resistance in Palestine.

What is disappointing in this event is the mild response of the Rutgers administration, especially that of President Robert Barchi at an event on November 16, 2017 to this painful and harmful nonsense of three of the faculty. He correctly regarded some of the alleged remarks as repugnant but said they were constitutionally protected. The university is reviewing the issue. University spokesman have articulated that the university seeks to foster an environment “free from discrimination as articulated in our policy prohibiting discrimination.” In the matter of Chikindas, it will see if “actions taken in the context of his role as a faculty member” about Jews and their role in the massacre of Armenians in 1917 may have violated that policy”. But the absurd remarks of Chikindas hardly need examination.

Everyone knows that free speech must be upheld as far as possible, but that speech should be based on facts and reality not on bigotry. Academic freedom must be strongly defended, but hate speech must be outlawed and punished. The least that university officials can do is to be forthright on this. The Rutgers bells should be ringing the right notes.



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A New Saudi Arabia — a New Middle East?


I’ve been convinced after thinking it through that the best thing for Saudi Arabia would be Israel. The figures on the chessboard of politics are forever changing with regard to each other. It is an agreeable surprise that for the first time a young Jewish woman is competing in the contest to become Miss Germany. More significantly, changes in the Middle East based on mutual interests was shown in a New York synagogue where Efraim Halevy, former head of the Israeli Mossad, met Egyptian Prince Turki bin Faisal al Saud, longtime head of Saudi Arabian intelligence agency. Another encounter was in a synagogue in Paris, visited in November 2017 by two former Saudi officials, a minister for justice, and a minister for education.

It is exactly 40 years since the historic visit of President Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem paved the way for the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. The time is now ripe for a closer relationship, an open diplomatic one, between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Saudi Arabia cannot yet be considered an open society, but things are changing, with a certain amount of discussion allowed in social media, and concerts and performances, and a new, dynamic, and bold leader, the 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, appointed to the rank in June 2017.

The Crown Prince, a young man in a hurry if somewhat impulsive, has already acted to exert control over the country, and has been consolidating and centralizing power since his appointment. He has replaced the former crown prince, his older cousin Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, first as interior minister who was in control of security arrangements. He removed Prince Mitreb bin Abdullah as head of the national guard, the internal police force.

Particularly surprising were the events of November 4, 2017, when there was a purge of senior princes and business leaders accused of corruption. They included the billionaire Alwaleed bin Tatal, one of the world’s richest men, who has been nicknamed the Warren Buffet of Arabia. Moreover, Salman has shown his power by what appears to be the house arrest on charges of systematic corruption involving $100 billion of more than 200 prominent and rich people now housed in the palatial and prestigious Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh, which hosted President Donald Trump in May 2017.

The Crown Prince appears to have two major objectives: to confront Iran politically, diplomatically, militarily, strategically, and theologically; and to modernize Saudi Arabia, eliminate corruption, and foster a more competitive economy. Two of Salman’s projects to introduce economic and social change and end the reliance on oil are especially impressive, plans for a Mega-city, and the Neom project. The Mega-city proposal is a $500 billion plan for a unit that spans Egypt and Jordan as well as Saudi Arabia, powered by energy from different sources. The Neom project is planned as a large center for innovation and trade, linking industry and technology.

With the decline in oil prices the Saudi economy has faltered, and had a budget deficit of $79 billion last year. The main plan for change, Vision 2030, envisages increasing non-oil revenue to 600 billion riyals, ($169 billion) by 2020, and 1 trillion riyals by 2030. Part of the revenue would come from privatizing part of the state oil company, Saudi Aramco. The plan would create what Salman calls the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund. Economic liberalization will involve financial cuts in benefits for civil servants and military personnel, and in energy subsidies.

Social changes related to the plans are changes in the educational curriculum, increasing women’s participation in the workforce, allowing women to drive, and investing $3 billion in the entertainment sector.

Saudi Arabia has become more active politically and militarily, acting to preserve its territorial integrity and political stability. Salman led a boycott of Qatar in June 2017 for allegedly providing supplies to Yemen. He had already intervened in fighting in Yemen in order to restore the government of Yemeni president Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi who was forced to resign in January 2015 under pressure from Shia militia.

Salman pressured Lebanese prime minister Saad al-Hariri to resign on November 4, 2017, defying the views of UK, EU, France, and Germany. He has used some of the nomadic tribes that originate in Saudi Arabia to influence activity in the Middle East beyond its border.

Undoubtedly the main issue for Saudi Arabia is its rival Iran, the font of all evils, seen as an existential threat. Saudi Arabia, with armed forces of 250,000, and 900 battle tanks confronts the more powerful Iran which has 560,000 armed forces and 1,500 battle tanks. Saudi’s only military advantage is its more up-to-date combat air fleet.

Already there are proxy wars between the two countries. In Yemen, in a war that has cost 10,000 lives, Iran has supplied ballistic missiles fired by Shia Houthi rebels who are opposed by the Saudis. In Syria, rebels funded by the Saudis have been defeated by the forces of President Assad helped by Iran. In Lebanon the Hizb’allah, supported and armed by Iran, is an increasing problem for the Saudis who see it as a force for instability in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia, to gain support, has formed an alliance of Sunni countries against Shia Iran. Prince Salman on November 26, 2017 convened a meeting, attended by all members except Qatar, in Riyadh to energize the military coalition, the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism coalition of 41 members set up by the Saudis in 2015. It is essentially a military alliance among Sunni Muslim states against Islamic terrorism activity, financing, and ideology. Iraq, Syria, and Iran, are not members.

This meeting was a response to the November 24, 2017 the bomb and gun attack on a mosque in north Sinai, frequented by Islamic Sufis, considered a heretical sect. The attack that killed 305 and injured 128 was carried out by assailants who carried an ISIS flag.

Saudi political and religious authorities have made clear that the enemy is terrorism, not sects, religions, or races. One of the greatest dangers of this extremist Islamist terrorism is held to be distorting the reputation of “our tolerant religion.” An interesting and important departure is the view of the Grand Mufti, Abdul Alash-Sheikh, of the country, who remarked both that killing Jews and fighting against Israel was inappropriate for Muslims, and that Hamas is a terror organization.

An open question is the relationship with Israel now that the Saudis need friends in the bitter rivalry with Iran. Its general problem had been worsened by the result of the U.S.-led coalition in 2003 in Iraq that ended the regime of Saddam Hussein, a regime that, with all its brutalities, was for the Saudis a Sunni Arab counterweight to Shia Iran. Now the Shia dominated political leadership in Iraq is close to Iran, and an Iraqi Shia militia is helping Assad.

There is no likelihood at present of any kind of formal peace with Israel, or full diplomatic and economic relations with Israel but nor is there any real Saudi concern about Palestine. Any deal about Palestine, especially one based on the 2002 Saudi peace initiative, based on Israel withdrawal from occupied territory, would be acceptable. The Saudis could then normalize relations with Israel without fear of backlash from Arab countries.

It is time for the Saudis to follow the trend in other countries that are friendly to or cooperating with Israel. In 2015 Israel opened its first office in the UAE, and some Arab countries are thinking of suspending their ban on Israeli aircraft flying over Arab air space. It is too strong to envisage Israel and Saudi Arabia as de facto allies in the struggle with Iran, but there is common concern over the possibility of Iran as a nuclear state and increasing power.

Some covert meetings and intelligence cooperation have occurred between the two countries. This is insufficient. Normalization of relations will benefit both sides in trade, military and now cyberspace intelligence. It will also benefit the whole Middle East.

I’ve been convinced after thinking it through that the best thing for Saudi Arabia would be Israel. The figures on the chessboard of politics are forever changing with regard to each other. It is an agreeable surprise that for the first time a young Jewish woman is competing in the contest to become Miss Germany. More significantly, changes in the Middle East based on mutual interests was shown in a New York synagogue where Efraim Halevy, former head of the Israeli Mossad, met Egyptian Prince Turki bin Faisal al Saud, longtime head of Saudi Arabian intelligence agency. Another encounter was in a synagogue in Paris, visited in November 2017 by two former Saudi officials, a minister for justice, and a minister for education.

It is exactly 40 years since the historic visit of President Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem paved the way for the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. The time is now ripe for a closer relationship, an open diplomatic one, between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Saudi Arabia cannot yet be considered an open society, but things are changing, with a certain amount of discussion allowed in social media, and concerts and performances, and a new, dynamic, and bold leader, the 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, appointed to the rank in June 2017.

The Crown Prince, a young man in a hurry if somewhat impulsive, has already acted to exert control over the country, and has been consolidating and centralizing power since his appointment. He has replaced the former crown prince, his older cousin Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, first as interior minister who was in control of security arrangements. He removed Prince Mitreb bin Abdullah as head of the national guard, the internal police force.

Particularly surprising were the events of November 4, 2017, when there was a purge of senior princes and business leaders accused of corruption. They included the billionaire Alwaleed bin Tatal, one of the world’s richest men, who has been nicknamed the Warren Buffet of Arabia. Moreover, Salman has shown his power by what appears to be the house arrest on charges of systematic corruption involving $100 billion of more than 200 prominent and rich people now housed in the palatial and prestigious Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh, which hosted President Donald Trump in May 2017.

The Crown Prince appears to have two major objectives: to confront Iran politically, diplomatically, militarily, strategically, and theologically; and to modernize Saudi Arabia, eliminate corruption, and foster a more competitive economy. Two of Salman’s projects to introduce economic and social change and end the reliance on oil are especially impressive, plans for a Mega-city, and the Neom project. The Mega-city proposal is a $500 billion plan for a unit that spans Egypt and Jordan as well as Saudi Arabia, powered by energy from different sources. The Neom project is planned as a large center for innovation and trade, linking industry and technology.

With the decline in oil prices the Saudi economy has faltered, and had a budget deficit of $79 billion last year. The main plan for change, Vision 2030, envisages increasing non-oil revenue to 600 billion riyals, ($169 billion) by 2020, and 1 trillion riyals by 2030. Part of the revenue would come from privatizing part of the state oil company, Saudi Aramco. The plan would create what Salman calls the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund. Economic liberalization will involve financial cuts in benefits for civil servants and military personnel, and in energy subsidies.

Social changes related to the plans are changes in the educational curriculum, increasing women’s participation in the workforce, allowing women to drive, and investing $3 billion in the entertainment sector.

Saudi Arabia has become more active politically and militarily, acting to preserve its territorial integrity and political stability. Salman led a boycott of Qatar in June 2017 for allegedly providing supplies to Yemen. He had already intervened in fighting in Yemen in order to restore the government of Yemeni president Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi who was forced to resign in January 2015 under pressure from Shia militia.

Salman pressured Lebanese prime minister Saad al-Hariri to resign on November 4, 2017, defying the views of UK, EU, France, and Germany. He has used some of the nomadic tribes that originate in Saudi Arabia to influence activity in the Middle East beyond its border.

Undoubtedly the main issue for Saudi Arabia is its rival Iran, the font of all evils, seen as an existential threat. Saudi Arabia, with armed forces of 250,000, and 900 battle tanks confronts the more powerful Iran which has 560,000 armed forces and 1,500 battle tanks. Saudi’s only military advantage is its more up-to-date combat air fleet.

Already there are proxy wars between the two countries. In Yemen, in a war that has cost 10,000 lives, Iran has supplied ballistic missiles fired by Shia Houthi rebels who are opposed by the Saudis. In Syria, rebels funded by the Saudis have been defeated by the forces of President Assad helped by Iran. In Lebanon the Hizb’allah, supported and armed by Iran, is an increasing problem for the Saudis who see it as a force for instability in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia, to gain support, has formed an alliance of Sunni countries against Shia Iran. Prince Salman on November 26, 2017 convened a meeting, attended by all members except Qatar, in Riyadh to energize the military coalition, the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism coalition of 41 members set up by the Saudis in 2015. It is essentially a military alliance among Sunni Muslim states against Islamic terrorism activity, financing, and ideology. Iraq, Syria, and Iran, are not members.

This meeting was a response to the November 24, 2017 the bomb and gun attack on a mosque in north Sinai, frequented by Islamic Sufis, considered a heretical sect. The attack that killed 305 and injured 128 was carried out by assailants who carried an ISIS flag.

Saudi political and religious authorities have made clear that the enemy is terrorism, not sects, religions, or races. One of the greatest dangers of this extremist Islamist terrorism is held to be distorting the reputation of “our tolerant religion.” An interesting and important departure is the view of the Grand Mufti, Abdul Alash-Sheikh, of the country, who remarked both that killing Jews and fighting against Israel was inappropriate for Muslims, and that Hamas is a terror organization.

An open question is the relationship with Israel now that the Saudis need friends in the bitter rivalry with Iran. Its general problem had been worsened by the result of the U.S.-led coalition in 2003 in Iraq that ended the regime of Saddam Hussein, a regime that, with all its brutalities, was for the Saudis a Sunni Arab counterweight to Shia Iran. Now the Shia dominated political leadership in Iraq is close to Iran, and an Iraqi Shia militia is helping Assad.

There is no likelihood at present of any kind of formal peace with Israel, or full diplomatic and economic relations with Israel but nor is there any real Saudi concern about Palestine. Any deal about Palestine, especially one based on the 2002 Saudi peace initiative, based on Israel withdrawal from occupied territory, would be acceptable. The Saudis could then normalize relations with Israel without fear of backlash from Arab countries.

It is time for the Saudis to follow the trend in other countries that are friendly to or cooperating with Israel. In 2015 Israel opened its first office in the UAE, and some Arab countries are thinking of suspending their ban on Israeli aircraft flying over Arab air space. It is too strong to envisage Israel and Saudi Arabia as de facto allies in the struggle with Iran, but there is common concern over the possibility of Iran as a nuclear state and increasing power.

Some covert meetings and intelligence cooperation have occurred between the two countries. This is insufficient. Normalization of relations will benefit both sides in trade, military and now cyberspace intelligence. It will also benefit the whole Middle East.



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Is It Goodbye to Good Friday in Northern Ireland?


All or nothing at all — three-quarters of a country never appealed to him, nor did the idea of a political entity called Northern Ireland that was created in 1920, comprising the six northeastern counties of Ireland in the province of Ulster. Gerry Adams is still adamant about the need for a united Ireland. As a political entity, the Republic of Ireland, first called the Irish Free State, was created in 1922. On November 18, 2017 the 69-year-old Adams, president since 1983 of Sinn Fein, the left-wing political party, announced that it was time for a change and that he would not run for another term in 2018, or seek re-election to the parliament of the Republic of Ireland, the Dail Eirean, which he represented in the border constituency of Louch.

Adams has been the dominant person in Irish republican politics for over 30 years, an individual whose activity made Sinn Fein, founded in 1905, a political force and a dominant group in the republican movement. He has been a major political figure, among other things an MP in the British Parliament for the constituency of West Belfast for a number of years. However, like his party colleagues he was an absentee from Westminster, unwilling to take his seat in order to avoid the obligatory House of Commons oath of loyalty to the Queen.

The essential controversial aspect of the complex Adams is the amnesia about his membership, role, and indeed leadership of the IRA, the Irish Republican Army. He had entered politics to defend the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland from discrimination and attacks by Loyalist extremists, as did other Catholic republicans concerned with discrimination in employment, housing, and police actions. His introduction was the civil rights march in Londonderry (Derry to the republicans) on October 5, 1968. But this led to his membership in the IRA, which he never admitted, and whose actions he never condemned.

Ambiguity surrounds him. Is Adams to be regarded as a terrorist or helpful in peacemaking? At the core of the problem is his denial, against the opinion of unprejudiced people, that he was a member of the IRA. His father was an IRA member who was jailed for eight years for his activity in an ambush. Adams may, probably, have joined the IRA in the 1960s and became its commander. The armed wing of the IRA, the Provisionals, was a violent group to which 1800 deaths are attributed between 1970 and 1997.  

It is almost certain Adams was a member of the IRA Army Council and was involved in the July 1972 Bloody Friday events when the IRA set off 26 bombs in and around Belfast. In recent years, Adams was accused of taking part, indeed ordering, in December 1972 the execution of a woman wrongly accused of being a police informer; her body was not found until 2003.

It is worthwhile to compare Adams with his longtime associate Martin McGuiness, an acknowledged proud member of IRA, who admitted his role, and who renounced terrorism and became the chief negotiator for Sinn Fein in peace talks.

McGuiness is assumed to have been the IRA chief of staff., and the second in command of the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre in Londonderry. But he became minister of education between 1999-2002 in the power-sharing arrangement, and on May 8, 2007 became deputy first minister, under Ian Paisley, his former rival, the loyalist politician, Protestant religious leader, and founder of the Democratic Unionist Party, DUP.

On an historic occasion McGuiness met Queen Elizabeth and exchanged handshakes, a highly symbolic union of nationalists and unionists. He even toasted the Queen at Windsor Castle. He was admitted to President Obama’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration, while Adams was not, for “security” reasons.

But the legacy of Gerry Adams remains, and the future of Northern Ireland remains unresolved. The republicans, mostly Catholic, primarily want to be part of the Republic of Ireland though the conflict is basically territorial, not religious.

The Northern Ireland entity functioned as a self-governing region of the United Kingdom, with headquarters at Stormont, outside of Belfast, and controlled by Protestant Unionists who did not want to be part of a self-ruled Ireland. Violence occurred, with over 3,500 killed and more than 50,000 injured over the 30-year period known as the time of Troubles. It was the multilateral Belfast Agreement, Good Friday April 10, 1998, that set up a devolved system of government and introduced power sharing in Belfast. The coalition between the two groups ended in January 2017, when the chief nationalist group, Sinn Fein, withdrew from the coalition. effectively bringing government to a standstill.

Can peace come and the coalition be restored? Sinn Fein is now the largest left-wing party in the Republic of Ireland, with 23 of the 158 seats, and the largest national party in the Northern Ireland Assembly with 27 of 90 seats. If love is not present, can hatred be ended between the two sides? As Adams is departing his party leadership, Sinn Fein appears to have increased its demands, especially for the use of the Irish language to be given the same legal status as English and to legislate same-sex marriages.

The Troubles of the late 20th century seemed to be over after the 3,500 killed between 1968 and 1998. The essential problem is whether Sinn Fein nationalists can return to support power sharing, or whether the problems of culture and identity will continue. Will Sinn Fein still honor the memory of the IRA, and continue to commemorate IRA members killed in conflict? The answer is made more uncertain because the whole issue is interrelated with the problem of Brexit in Britain and the likelihood that the citizens of the Republic of Ireland would have to pay higher taxes if it absorbed the northern six counties. 

All or nothing at all — three-quarters of a country never appealed to him, nor did the idea of a political entity called Northern Ireland that was created in 1920, comprising the six northeastern counties of Ireland in the province of Ulster. Gerry Adams is still adamant about the need for a united Ireland. As a political entity, the Republic of Ireland, first called the Irish Free State, was created in 1922. On November 18, 2017 the 69-year-old Adams, president since 1983 of Sinn Fein, the left-wing political party, announced that it was time for a change and that he would not run for another term in 2018, or seek re-election to the parliament of the Republic of Ireland, the Dail Eirean, which he represented in the border constituency of Louch.

Adams has been the dominant person in Irish republican politics for over 30 years, an individual whose activity made Sinn Fein, founded in 1905, a political force and a dominant group in the republican movement. He has been a major political figure, among other things an MP in the British Parliament for the constituency of West Belfast for a number of years. However, like his party colleagues he was an absentee from Westminster, unwilling to take his seat in order to avoid the obligatory House of Commons oath of loyalty to the Queen.

The essential controversial aspect of the complex Adams is the amnesia about his membership, role, and indeed leadership of the IRA, the Irish Republican Army. He had entered politics to defend the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland from discrimination and attacks by Loyalist extremists, as did other Catholic republicans concerned with discrimination in employment, housing, and police actions. His introduction was the civil rights march in Londonderry (Derry to the republicans) on October 5, 1968. But this led to his membership in the IRA, which he never admitted, and whose actions he never condemned.

Ambiguity surrounds him. Is Adams to be regarded as a terrorist or helpful in peacemaking? At the core of the problem is his denial, against the opinion of unprejudiced people, that he was a member of the IRA. His father was an IRA member who was jailed for eight years for his activity in an ambush. Adams may, probably, have joined the IRA in the 1960s and became its commander. The armed wing of the IRA, the Provisionals, was a violent group to which 1800 deaths are attributed between 1970 and 1997.  

It is almost certain Adams was a member of the IRA Army Council and was involved in the July 1972 Bloody Friday events when the IRA set off 26 bombs in and around Belfast. In recent years, Adams was accused of taking part, indeed ordering, in December 1972 the execution of a woman wrongly accused of being a police informer; her body was not found until 2003.

It is worthwhile to compare Adams with his longtime associate Martin McGuiness, an acknowledged proud member of IRA, who admitted his role, and who renounced terrorism and became the chief negotiator for Sinn Fein in peace talks.

McGuiness is assumed to have been the IRA chief of staff., and the second in command of the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre in Londonderry. But he became minister of education between 1999-2002 in the power-sharing arrangement, and on May 8, 2007 became deputy first minister, under Ian Paisley, his former rival, the loyalist politician, Protestant religious leader, and founder of the Democratic Unionist Party, DUP.

On an historic occasion McGuiness met Queen Elizabeth and exchanged handshakes, a highly symbolic union of nationalists and unionists. He even toasted the Queen at Windsor Castle. He was admitted to President Obama’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration, while Adams was not, for “security” reasons.

But the legacy of Gerry Adams remains, and the future of Northern Ireland remains unresolved. The republicans, mostly Catholic, primarily want to be part of the Republic of Ireland though the conflict is basically territorial, not religious.

The Northern Ireland entity functioned as a self-governing region of the United Kingdom, with headquarters at Stormont, outside of Belfast, and controlled by Protestant Unionists who did not want to be part of a self-ruled Ireland. Violence occurred, with over 3,500 killed and more than 50,000 injured over the 30-year period known as the time of Troubles. It was the multilateral Belfast Agreement, Good Friday April 10, 1998, that set up a devolved system of government and introduced power sharing in Belfast. The coalition between the two groups ended in January 2017, when the chief nationalist group, Sinn Fein, withdrew from the coalition. effectively bringing government to a standstill.

Can peace come and the coalition be restored? Sinn Fein is now the largest left-wing party in the Republic of Ireland, with 23 of the 158 seats, and the largest national party in the Northern Ireland Assembly with 27 of 90 seats. If love is not present, can hatred be ended between the two sides? As Adams is departing his party leadership, Sinn Fein appears to have increased its demands, especially for the use of the Irish language to be given the same legal status as English and to legislate same-sex marriages.

The Troubles of the late 20th century seemed to be over after the 3,500 killed between 1968 and 1998. The essential problem is whether Sinn Fein nationalists can return to support power sharing, or whether the problems of culture and identity will continue. Will Sinn Fein still honor the memory of the IRA, and continue to commemorate IRA members killed in conflict? The answer is made more uncertain because the whole issue is interrelated with the problem of Brexit in Britain and the likelihood that the citizens of the Republic of Ireland would have to pay higher taxes if it absorbed the northern six counties. 



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Snowflakes and the Great William Gladstone


The meaningful, if unstated, question is whether the Beatles, the enormously successful rock band formed in Liverpool, northern England, in 1960 can save William Gladstone, the British politician and leader of the Liberal Party who served as prime minister for 12 years in nonconsecutive four terms between 1868 and 1894, the only British prime minister to serve four terms.

Now, students at the University of Liverpool, led by a 20-year-old named Alisha Raithatha, are petitioning the university to have Gladstone’s name removed from a dorm, a hall of residence, which also carries the name of Roscoe, in a building which is currently being demolished to be redeveloped. Raithatha may be regarded as one of the increasing number of “snowflakes” among British students, youngsters who are part of and live according to the prescriptions of grievance culture, judging the past by the standards of today, more prone to take offence than previous generations, disinviting or preventing controversial speakers at their universities. The sad situation now is, as Professor Robert George has said, “too few have courage to stand up to those who want to shout down dissenting speech.”

Snowflakes are falling and keep falling all over the political place, bringing with them an atmosphere of self-righteousness, temper tantrums, and unwillingness to engage in any robust debate on issues not to their liking. The snowflakes are attempting to “decolonize” the English Department at Cambridge University in England, to remove the 19th century imperialist, though generous philanthropist, Cecil Rhodes from Oriel College, Oxford, to influence the BBC TV production of Howard’s End by incorporating black characters who never appear in the famous novel by E.M. Forster published in 1910. Curiously, a sentence from the book seems relevant to present circumstances: “Actual life is full of false clues and signposts that lead nowhere. We nerve ourselves for a crisis that never comes.”

The issue of past slavery is a compelling one in Britain as in the U.S. One surprising target in recent years has been and remains Lord Nelson, the heroic and widely admired admiral, whose tall statue in Trafalgar Square, London, is the welcome home for pigeons who rest on his head. Snowflakes have called for the removal of the statue. The pigeons should not suffer because Nelson used his seat in the House of Lords to support friends who ran slave plantations in the West Indies. And now in New York City, Italian-Americans and others may soon be saying Goodbye Columbus to the great 16th century Admiral from Genoa.

The Liverpool snowflakes were “horrified” that were living in a building that was made unpleasant by the name of Gladstone. The students evidently lack any real knowledge of this austere figure, educated at Eton and Oxford, member of Parliament at age 23, a reformer who switched parties from conservative to liberal, and grew more radical with age. In many ways he laid the basis of the British welfare state, introduced the secret ballot for voting, expanded in 1884 the vote to working men in rural areas, critic of imperialism, and a person who spent a lifetime trying to obtain Home Rule for Ireland, a project that was defeated in the House of Lords in 1893. 

The snowflakes did not know all this, but they perhaps know that William’s father, Sir John Gladstone, owned sugar plantations in the Caribbean, British Guyana, and Jamaica, for which he was compensated with £100,000 for losing hundreds of slaves when slavery was abolished in 1833. As an MP, William Gladstone, who favored banning the slave trade, had also favored owners getting compensation as well as calling for the improvement of the conditions of the slaves.

Instead of Gladstone, the snowflakes suggested the name of their building should be changed to Jon Snow, a Channel 4 newsreader. Paradoxically, Snow, now 70, had been expelled from the university in 1970 while a law student there for participating in a demonstration against the university’s investments in apartheid South Africa. However, later in 2011 he got an honorary degree from the university.

This call for change of name in the case of Gladstone resembles that a few years ago when the Colston Girl’s School in Bristol, west England, had to grapple with the call to change the name of the school because of the link to Edward Colston, a prominent slave trader in the 17th century.  He had shipped 100,000 African slaves to the West Indies and America, but was also a leading philanthropist in Bristol and had financed the creation of the school. The Colston name remains.

In the case of Gladstone in Liverpool, the Beatles may come to the rescue. One of their well-known songs is “Penny Lane,” written in 1967 probably by Paul McCartney. Penny Lane is a bus terminus and a shopping area in Liverpool where McCartney and John Lennon used to meet.  The possible problem is not the sexual allusions in the song, but that the area is named after James Penny, a slave ship captain, a local slave trader who opposed the abolition of the slave trade.

Liverpool public authorities are not likely to entertain, and thousands of Beatle fans would agree, any call to remove the name Penny Lane, “in my ears and in my eyes.”  It must remain, irrespective of past slavery. Similarly, Liverpool University authorities should act in similar fashion. And perhaps the remaining Beatles might write another song, Gladstone is my bag.

The Liverpool snowflakes should go back to their dorm and their studies and be informed of the amusing words of Benjamin Disraeli on Gladstone, his fierce political rival, “he had no single redeeming defect.” From a meteorological point of view, snowflakes are light and pleasant, but in mass they are dangerous, and may cause a blizzard and obstruction. Liverpool should take care. 

The meaningful, if unstated, question is whether the Beatles, the enormously successful rock band formed in Liverpool, northern England, in 1960 can save William Gladstone, the British politician and leader of the Liberal Party who served as prime minister for 12 years in nonconsecutive four terms between 1868 and 1894, the only British prime minister to serve four terms.

Now, students at the University of Liverpool, led by a 20-year-old named Alisha Raithatha, are petitioning the university to have Gladstone’s name removed from a dorm, a hall of residence, which also carries the name of Roscoe, in a building which is currently being demolished to be redeveloped. Raithatha may be regarded as one of the increasing number of “snowflakes” among British students, youngsters who are part of and live according to the prescriptions of grievance culture, judging the past by the standards of today, more prone to take offence than previous generations, disinviting or preventing controversial speakers at their universities. The sad situation now is, as Professor Robert George has said, “too few have courage to stand up to those who want to shout down dissenting speech.”

Snowflakes are falling and keep falling all over the political place, bringing with them an atmosphere of self-righteousness, temper tantrums, and unwillingness to engage in any robust debate on issues not to their liking. The snowflakes are attempting to “decolonize” the English Department at Cambridge University in England, to remove the 19th century imperialist, though generous philanthropist, Cecil Rhodes from Oriel College, Oxford, to influence the BBC TV production of Howard’s End by incorporating black characters who never appear in the famous novel by E.M. Forster published in 1910. Curiously, a sentence from the book seems relevant to present circumstances: “Actual life is full of false clues and signposts that lead nowhere. We nerve ourselves for a crisis that never comes.”

The issue of past slavery is a compelling one in Britain as in the U.S. One surprising target in recent years has been and remains Lord Nelson, the heroic and widely admired admiral, whose tall statue in Trafalgar Square, London, is the welcome home for pigeons who rest on his head. Snowflakes have called for the removal of the statue. The pigeons should not suffer because Nelson used his seat in the House of Lords to support friends who ran slave plantations in the West Indies. And now in New York City, Italian-Americans and others may soon be saying Goodbye Columbus to the great 16th century Admiral from Genoa.

The Liverpool snowflakes were “horrified” that were living in a building that was made unpleasant by the name of Gladstone. The students evidently lack any real knowledge of this austere figure, educated at Eton and Oxford, member of Parliament at age 23, a reformer who switched parties from conservative to liberal, and grew more radical with age. In many ways he laid the basis of the British welfare state, introduced the secret ballot for voting, expanded in 1884 the vote to working men in rural areas, critic of imperialism, and a person who spent a lifetime trying to obtain Home Rule for Ireland, a project that was defeated in the House of Lords in 1893. 

The snowflakes did not know all this, but they perhaps know that William’s father, Sir John Gladstone, owned sugar plantations in the Caribbean, British Guyana, and Jamaica, for which he was compensated with £100,000 for losing hundreds of slaves when slavery was abolished in 1833. As an MP, William Gladstone, who favored banning the slave trade, had also favored owners getting compensation as well as calling for the improvement of the conditions of the slaves.

Instead of Gladstone, the snowflakes suggested the name of their building should be changed to Jon Snow, a Channel 4 newsreader. Paradoxically, Snow, now 70, had been expelled from the university in 1970 while a law student there for participating in a demonstration against the university’s investments in apartheid South Africa. However, later in 2011 he got an honorary degree from the university.

This call for change of name in the case of Gladstone resembles that a few years ago when the Colston Girl’s School in Bristol, west England, had to grapple with the call to change the name of the school because of the link to Edward Colston, a prominent slave trader in the 17th century.  He had shipped 100,000 African slaves to the West Indies and America, but was also a leading philanthropist in Bristol and had financed the creation of the school. The Colston name remains.

In the case of Gladstone in Liverpool, the Beatles may come to the rescue. One of their well-known songs is “Penny Lane,” written in 1967 probably by Paul McCartney. Penny Lane is a bus terminus and a shopping area in Liverpool where McCartney and John Lennon used to meet.  The possible problem is not the sexual allusions in the song, but that the area is named after James Penny, a slave ship captain, a local slave trader who opposed the abolition of the slave trade.

Liverpool public authorities are not likely to entertain, and thousands of Beatle fans would agree, any call to remove the name Penny Lane, “in my ears and in my eyes.”  It must remain, irrespective of past slavery. Similarly, Liverpool University authorities should act in similar fashion. And perhaps the remaining Beatles might write another song, Gladstone is my bag.

The Liverpool snowflakes should go back to their dorm and their studies and be informed of the amusing words of Benjamin Disraeli on Gladstone, his fierce political rival, “he had no single redeeming defect.” From a meteorological point of view, snowflakes are light and pleasant, but in mass they are dangerous, and may cause a blizzard and obstruction. Liverpool should take care. 



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Hedy Lamarr and E Phones


That face, that face, that wonderful face. It shines, it glows, all over the place. Who would have thought that this face was the countenance of a Hollywood siren who was also a brilliant scientist whose invention helped pave the way for present day Wifi, GPS, and Bluetooth?

We know there is no official competition or Oscar for the title of the most beautiful woman in the world, and especially one who would shine anywhere. If the search was confined to Hollywood actresses in the mid-1900s, the Golden Age, the likely winner would be Hedy Lamarr, a close winner over other beauties, Elizabeth Taylor and Rita Hayworth.

Lamarr, born Jewish as Hedwig Kiesler in Vienna in November 1913, the daughter of a bank director and a pianist, grew up in the Jewish quarter of Vienna. She began her acting career as a teenager, aged 17, and gained notoriety for her role in the controversial Czech film Ecstasy in 1933 with its sensual passages. In one of them she appeared riding naked on a horse, and in another she simulated female orgasm. Almost certainly she was the first non-porn actress to do this on screen. The film was attacked by Pope Pius XI.

After a brief unhappy marriage with Fritz Mandl, a wealthy Austrian munitions manufacturer who sold arms to Nazi Germany, the young Kiesler escaped from Vienna disguised as a maid and went to Paris, London, and then on the same ship as Louis B. Mayer, head of M.G.M., to New York and Hollywood where he signed her to a long-term contract as Hedy Lamarr. In spite of the unhappy marriage she did however acquire from Mandl some understanding of military technology.

Few would consider Hedy a great actress with exceptional scope, but her beauty led to roles in 37 films with Hollywood’s galaxy of leading men, starting in 1938 with Charles Boyer in Algiers, and then with Robert Taylor, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, and Victor Mature among others. Interestingly, she was the first choice for the lead in Casablanca, but the role went to Ingrid Bergman.

On November 15, a documentary film, Bombshell: the Hedy Lamarr Story, produced by Susan Sarandon, is opening in London’s Jewish Film Festival and in Tribeca in New York. It brings to light the little-known fact that the film star, mostly known for offscreen romances and six marriages in her colorful life, was more than just a pretty face. The film in itself is a delightful shift from the ongoing distasteful revelations or allegations of sexual abuse in Tinsel Town.

 Perhaps disarmingly, Lamarr herself complained about Hollywood’s obsession with appearances, and mentioned her face was her “misfortune” and a “mask I cannot remove.” Brains, she insisted, were more important than looks. In an earlier ghost-written autobiography, she identified herself not only as an actress but also as a scientist who found inventions easy to do. Among others she introduced a device to help people with limited mobility to get in and out of a bath. She helped the producer Howard Hughes create a kind of wing shape to make his planes go faster.

Lamarr deserves a place in the American story because of her invention, in partnership, of a device which can be regarded as an important key to present-day wireless communication. Hedy partnered in this research with George Antheil, born in Trenton, New Jersey, an avant garde composer, with many film scores, but also a versatile person with other interests including film reporting, writing murder mysteries, and works on military affairs. Before World War II he was a member of the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, and sponsored an exhibition of art banned by Nazi Germany.

Antheil purported to be an expert in female endocrinology and this brought him in touch with Hedy who was concerned to enhance her upper torso. But their relationship quickly moved from gland treatment to torpedoes.

Hedy had realized the significance of radio-controlled torpedoes that could damage or sink enemy ships. She also realized these torpedoes could be easily detected and jammed, thus causing the torpedo to go off course. She had some knowledge of these matters from her first husband, Friedrich or Fritz Mandl, a munitions manufacturer, and she devised the idea of “frequency hopping.” This meant using a piano roll to change randomly the signal sent to the torpedo with a range of 88 frequencies (the keys on a piano). The code was held by both the controlling ship and the torpedo, thus encrypting the signal, because the enemy could not jam the constant changes in radio signals in all 88 frequencies. Lamarr and Antheil worked out controlling the frequent hopping in a player-piano mechanism.

The pair were granted a patent for developing the system on August 11, 1942. However, the project was not immediately adopted by the U.S. Navy. Not until 1962 was the Lamarr idea used by U.S. military ships during the Cuban crisis. And not until 1997 was the contribution of Hedy officially recognized when the Electronic Frontier Foundation gave her an award. The electronics business adopted her device, and the U.S. navy has used her invention to help transmit the underwater positions of enemy submarines.

It is now clear that Hedy Lamarr should be honored as a pioneer of wireless communication, as a heroine who aimed to combat Nazi Germany and prevent classified messages from being intercepted by enemy personnel. Her frequency hopping idea overlaps with spectrum communication technology and Wifi network connections, and cellphones, cordless, and wireless telephones. Her work is an early form of spread spectrum techniques in which a signal generated in a particular bandwidth is spread over a wide frequency range. Her mechanism to synchronize changes between 88 frequencies was ahead of the efforts of Nazi engineers working on similar activity.

Every youngster today takes advantage of Hedy’s contribution to innovative technology and their electronic devices and e-phones. They may be unfamiliar with her performances in the films of the Golden Age of Hollywood, but they can now honor her as a pioneer of wireless communications. They can appreciate that the most beautiful girl in the world can shine anywhere. 

That face, that face, that wonderful face. It shines, it glows, all over the place. Who would have thought that this face was the countenance of a Hollywood siren who was also a brilliant scientist whose invention helped pave the way for present day Wifi, GPS, and Bluetooth?

We know there is no official competition or Oscar for the title of the most beautiful woman in the world, and especially one who would shine anywhere. If the search was confined to Hollywood actresses in the mid-1900s, the Golden Age, the likely winner would be Hedy Lamarr, a close winner over other beauties, Elizabeth Taylor and Rita Hayworth.

Lamarr, born Jewish as Hedwig Kiesler in Vienna in November 1913, the daughter of a bank director and a pianist, grew up in the Jewish quarter of Vienna. She began her acting career as a teenager, aged 17, and gained notoriety for her role in the controversial Czech film Ecstasy in 1933 with its sensual passages. In one of them she appeared riding naked on a horse, and in another she simulated female orgasm. Almost certainly she was the first non-porn actress to do this on screen. The film was attacked by Pope Pius XI.

After a brief unhappy marriage with Fritz Mandl, a wealthy Austrian munitions manufacturer who sold arms to Nazi Germany, the young Kiesler escaped from Vienna disguised as a maid and went to Paris, London, and then on the same ship as Louis B. Mayer, head of M.G.M., to New York and Hollywood where he signed her to a long-term contract as Hedy Lamarr. In spite of the unhappy marriage she did however acquire from Mandl some understanding of military technology.

Few would consider Hedy a great actress with exceptional scope, but her beauty led to roles in 37 films with Hollywood’s galaxy of leading men, starting in 1938 with Charles Boyer in Algiers, and then with Robert Taylor, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, and Victor Mature among others. Interestingly, she was the first choice for the lead in Casablanca, but the role went to Ingrid Bergman.

On November 15, a documentary film, Bombshell: the Hedy Lamarr Story, produced by Susan Sarandon, is opening in London’s Jewish Film Festival and in Tribeca in New York. It brings to light the little-known fact that the film star, mostly known for offscreen romances and six marriages in her colorful life, was more than just a pretty face. The film in itself is a delightful shift from the ongoing distasteful revelations or allegations of sexual abuse in Tinsel Town.

 Perhaps disarmingly, Lamarr herself complained about Hollywood’s obsession with appearances, and mentioned her face was her “misfortune” and a “mask I cannot remove.” Brains, she insisted, were more important than looks. In an earlier ghost-written autobiography, she identified herself not only as an actress but also as a scientist who found inventions easy to do. Among others she introduced a device to help people with limited mobility to get in and out of a bath. She helped the producer Howard Hughes create a kind of wing shape to make his planes go faster.

Lamarr deserves a place in the American story because of her invention, in partnership, of a device which can be regarded as an important key to present-day wireless communication. Hedy partnered in this research with George Antheil, born in Trenton, New Jersey, an avant garde composer, with many film scores, but also a versatile person with other interests including film reporting, writing murder mysteries, and works on military affairs. Before World War II he was a member of the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, and sponsored an exhibition of art banned by Nazi Germany.

Antheil purported to be an expert in female endocrinology and this brought him in touch with Hedy who was concerned to enhance her upper torso. But their relationship quickly moved from gland treatment to torpedoes.

Hedy had realized the significance of radio-controlled torpedoes that could damage or sink enemy ships. She also realized these torpedoes could be easily detected and jammed, thus causing the torpedo to go off course. She had some knowledge of these matters from her first husband, Friedrich or Fritz Mandl, a munitions manufacturer, and she devised the idea of “frequency hopping.” This meant using a piano roll to change randomly the signal sent to the torpedo with a range of 88 frequencies (the keys on a piano). The code was held by both the controlling ship and the torpedo, thus encrypting the signal, because the enemy could not jam the constant changes in radio signals in all 88 frequencies. Lamarr and Antheil worked out controlling the frequent hopping in a player-piano mechanism.

The pair were granted a patent for developing the system on August 11, 1942. However, the project was not immediately adopted by the U.S. Navy. Not until 1962 was the Lamarr idea used by U.S. military ships during the Cuban crisis. And not until 1997 was the contribution of Hedy officially recognized when the Electronic Frontier Foundation gave her an award. The electronics business adopted her device, and the U.S. navy has used her invention to help transmit the underwater positions of enemy submarines.

It is now clear that Hedy Lamarr should be honored as a pioneer of wireless communication, as a heroine who aimed to combat Nazi Germany and prevent classified messages from being intercepted by enemy personnel. Her frequency hopping idea overlaps with spectrum communication technology and Wifi network connections, and cellphones, cordless, and wireless telephones. Her work is an early form of spread spectrum techniques in which a signal generated in a particular bandwidth is spread over a wide frequency range. Her mechanism to synchronize changes between 88 frequencies was ahead of the efforts of Nazi engineers working on similar activity.

Every youngster today takes advantage of Hedy’s contribution to innovative technology and their electronic devices and e-phones. They may be unfamiliar with her performances in the films of the Golden Age of Hollywood, but they can now honor her as a pioneer of wireless communications. They can appreciate that the most beautiful girl in the world can shine anywhere. 



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