Category: Michael Curtis

No Time for a Cold or Hot War


Nations prefer the temperature low, but we’re having a heat wave because of Russian defiance of international norms. As patrons of fashionable steak restaurants know, for over a year sophisticated chefs, for economic and other reasons, have created a standard of undercooking, serving steaks on the rare side. The trendiest steak is served “medium rare plus,” just enough to bring out the flavor and retain moisture with juice kept in the meat. If customers complain about overcooked meat, it has to be thrown out. If customers complain about undercooking the steak will simply be cooked a little longer. Overcooking is a sin in the fashionable contemporary culinary world. Recent events and the memory of various anniversaries evoke a parallel in the political world as political activity is being or has been overcooked.

One overcooking event sparked the racial problem. It is exactly 50 years ago that the passionate British Conservative politician Enoch Powell delivered his “Rivers of Blood” speech to Conservative party members in Birmingham. On the anniversary of the speech, the BBC broadcast the reading by an actor of the text of what many people considered an incitement to racial hatred. Discussing the contemplated government bill on immigration, the Race Relations Bill, which made it illegal to refuse housing or employment to anyone because of ethnic background, he declared, “I am filled with foreboding: like the Roman I see the River Tiber foaming with much blood.” He insisted that immigrants be returned to their country of origin.

More blood flowed on banks of U.S. rivers than on the Thames, but Powell’s premonition, that the “black man would have the whip hand over the white man,” was unfulfilled with the weakening of the system of racial segregation in Western countries. Nevertheless, the continuing existence of discrimination, the increase in anti-Semitism, and the fact that mass immigration is a key issue in Western countries show the need for undercooking of existing prejudice. 

A second anniversary is that of the Hadassah convoy massacre on April 13, 1948. A convoy, escorted by Haganah militia, bringing medical and military supplies to Hadassah hospital on Mount Scopus, outside Jerusalem, was ambushed by Arab troops that had blocked Jewish access to Hadassah hospital and the Hebrew University campus nearby. Seventy-eight Jewish doctors, nurses, students, patients, faculty members, and Haganah fighters were murdered.

The tragedy is the continued overcooking of Palestinian violence, by wars, rocket and mortar attacks, underground tunnels, indiscriminate assaults against the State of Israel and its citizens. Golda Meir once gave the recipe for undercooking, “When will the Palestinians love their children more than they hate their neighbors?”

Connected with overcooking is the fact that memory, especially of details, of the Holocaust is fading. A recent study by Schoen Consulting shows that in the U.S. detailed knowledge of the Holocaust was very low, especially among millennials, 22% of whom are ignorant of the Holocaust. In general, 41% of Americans, 66% of millennials could not name a single concentration camp or ghetto. Similarly, though the number six million has been endlessly restated, 31% and 41% of millennials believe that fewer than two million Jews were killed.

The result of this ignorance or disinterest about the reality of the Holocaust, or eradication of its memory, was displayed in an overcooked demonstration on April 11, 2018 at Columbia University in NYC. While preparations were being made at the university for a memorial to the six million Jews murdered, a group of students tore down all material supporting Israel and called for a Palestine “from the river to the sea… Palestine will be free.”

But clearly, the most egregious contemporary political overcooking is the behavior of Russia in disregard of international norms, and penchant for lying and spread of misinformation. Since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, international treaties, customs, and general principles of law have contributed to international rules accepted as binding, even if not precise legal texts, on relations between states as well on issues such as slavery, women’s suffrage. apartheid, and civil rights.

For centuries there has been an ongoing debate over the justification of military action. Is a “just war,” whether the decision to conduct hostilities or the precise conduct of those hostilities, morally justifiable? If there are differences about this on some issues and events, there are none on the use by a state of some form of poison gas or nerve agent. As a result of revulsion towards the use of poison gas by Germany on April 22, 1915 against French troops at Ypres, Belgium, the Geneva Protocol treaty was signed on June 17, 1925 prohibiting the use of chemical and biological weapons in international armed conflicts. It is true that the agreement has been violated by a number of countries: Japan, Italy, Spain, and by Saddam Hussein in Iraq. But it is the use of chemical weapons in recent days by Syria and Russia that has caused international overheating.

The overcooking of chemical weapons and poison gas, along with denials of responsibility by Russia has led to a situation which, if not as dramatically menacing as the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 or the Berlin crisis of 1961, is serious, and calls for political chefs to lower the temperature. This is unmistakable now that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons confirmed it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for the attack by military grade nerve agent, Novichoks, developed by Russia, used in Salisbury on March 4, 2018. The reckless and indiscriminate attack threatened the lives of innocent people as well as the intended targets, former Russian spy Sergei Skirpal and his daughter Yulia.

What is important is not simply the immoral nature of the nerve agent and gas attacks, but the denial and counterattack by the responsible party. Russian spokespersons provided alternative explanations of the real actors. One emphasis was that British MI6 was directly involved in the Salisbury attack; the Russians claimed “irrefutable evidence” that the attacks were staged with help of a foreign secret service.

As usual, British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said that there was no evidence that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was responsible, and more time was needed to find “incontrovertible” evidence that Assad was behind the use of chemical weapons in the attack on Douma on April 7, 2018 that killed at least 40 people.  However, he did know that the airstrikes on selected Syrian targets by four British Tornado jets were “legally questionable” actions.

The 19th-century French diplomat Talleyrand might have had Corbyn in mind when he wrote of the Bourbons, “They had learned nothing and forgotten nothing.” One imagines Corbyn in 1939 calling on the League of Nations to take time to verify the “alleged” Nazi aggression in Poland, and meanwhile for all parties to cease violence. In similar vein, Corbyn’s colleague Diane Abbott was uncertain who was the greatest danger to world peace, the U.S. or Russia.

He did not need help from Corbyn when Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov declared that Russia had “irrefutable” evidence that the attack on Douma on April 7 was staged with the help of a foreign secret service. According to British newspaper reports, Russia may have been helped by some senior British academics, at Edinburgh, Leicester, and Sheffield Universities, who have formed a group called SPM, Syria, Propaganda, and Media, that spreads disinformation that benefits Syria, and conspiracy theories propounded by Russia.

SPM had published a statement that questioned whether Russia had a secret nerve agent program. It then spread the allegation, repeated by the Russian ambassador, that a rebel-associated organization, the White Helmets (Syrian Civil Defense) staged the Douma attack. The White Helmets consists of 3,000 volunteers who engage in search and rescue after bombings in Syria.

It is disquieting that some countries, groups, and individuals persist in defending or not criticizing the actions of Assad. His forces had used sarin gas in an attack on August 21, 2013 on Ghouta, Damascus where hundreds were killed. After that, Russia promised to ensure that Syria would abandon all its chemical weapons. But Syria on April 4, 2017 used sarin gas in an attack on Khan Sheikhoun, killing 90 people. In response to this atrocity Trump on April 6, 2017 ordered U.S. forces to fire 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base.

Despite Russian denials, the use by Russians of chemical weapons in Salisbury and by the Syrian regime in Douma is clear, as are the responses that have taken place. French President Emmanuel Macron called the use of such weapons a “red line.” Trump threatened on April 11 that there would be a “big price to pay” for the mindless chemical attack, and that Russia and Iran were responsible for backing Assad. The rhetoric was followed by action by a U.S., French, and British coalition that French UN ambassador Francois Delattre called “proportionate and targeted.”

At the emergency UN Security Council meeting on April 14, 2018, the Russian resolution to condemn the U.S. was rejected by eight to three (Russia, China, Bolivia) and four abstentions. It is welcome that in this case international norms have been upheld.  It is now up Russia to find its moral compass, to stop its contentious actions and destructive effect on the system of international relations, and to consult its political cookbook to concentrate on undercooking its actions.

Nations prefer the temperature low, but we’re having a heat wave because of Russian defiance of international norms. As patrons of fashionable steak restaurants know, for over a year sophisticated chefs, for economic and other reasons, have created a standard of undercooking, serving steaks on the rare side. The trendiest steak is served “medium rare plus,” just enough to bring out the flavor and retain moisture with juice kept in the meat. If customers complain about overcooked meat, it has to be thrown out. If customers complain about undercooking the steak will simply be cooked a little longer. Overcooking is a sin in the fashionable contemporary culinary world. Recent events and the memory of various anniversaries evoke a parallel in the political world as political activity is being or has been overcooked.

One overcooking event sparked the racial problem. It is exactly 50 years ago that the passionate British Conservative politician Enoch Powell delivered his “Rivers of Blood” speech to Conservative party members in Birmingham. On the anniversary of the speech, the BBC broadcast the reading by an actor of the text of what many people considered an incitement to racial hatred. Discussing the contemplated government bill on immigration, the Race Relations Bill, which made it illegal to refuse housing or employment to anyone because of ethnic background, he declared, “I am filled with foreboding: like the Roman I see the River Tiber foaming with much blood.” He insisted that immigrants be returned to their country of origin.

More blood flowed on banks of U.S. rivers than on the Thames, but Powell’s premonition, that the “black man would have the whip hand over the white man,” was unfulfilled with the weakening of the system of racial segregation in Western countries. Nevertheless, the continuing existence of discrimination, the increase in anti-Semitism, and the fact that mass immigration is a key issue in Western countries show the need for undercooking of existing prejudice. 

A second anniversary is that of the Hadassah convoy massacre on April 13, 1948. A convoy, escorted by Haganah militia, bringing medical and military supplies to Hadassah hospital on Mount Scopus, outside Jerusalem, was ambushed by Arab troops that had blocked Jewish access to Hadassah hospital and the Hebrew University campus nearby. Seventy-eight Jewish doctors, nurses, students, patients, faculty members, and Haganah fighters were murdered.

The tragedy is the continued overcooking of Palestinian violence, by wars, rocket and mortar attacks, underground tunnels, indiscriminate assaults against the State of Israel and its citizens. Golda Meir once gave the recipe for undercooking, “When will the Palestinians love their children more than they hate their neighbors?”

Connected with overcooking is the fact that memory, especially of details, of the Holocaust is fading. A recent study by Schoen Consulting shows that in the U.S. detailed knowledge of the Holocaust was very low, especially among millennials, 22% of whom are ignorant of the Holocaust. In general, 41% of Americans, 66% of millennials could not name a single concentration camp or ghetto. Similarly, though the number six million has been endlessly restated, 31% and 41% of millennials believe that fewer than two million Jews were killed.

The result of this ignorance or disinterest about the reality of the Holocaust, or eradication of its memory, was displayed in an overcooked demonstration on April 11, 2018 at Columbia University in NYC. While preparations were being made at the university for a memorial to the six million Jews murdered, a group of students tore down all material supporting Israel and called for a Palestine “from the river to the sea… Palestine will be free.”

But clearly, the most egregious contemporary political overcooking is the behavior of Russia in disregard of international norms, and penchant for lying and spread of misinformation. Since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, international treaties, customs, and general principles of law have contributed to international rules accepted as binding, even if not precise legal texts, on relations between states as well on issues such as slavery, women’s suffrage. apartheid, and civil rights.

For centuries there has been an ongoing debate over the justification of military action. Is a “just war,” whether the decision to conduct hostilities or the precise conduct of those hostilities, morally justifiable? If there are differences about this on some issues and events, there are none on the use by a state of some form of poison gas or nerve agent. As a result of revulsion towards the use of poison gas by Germany on April 22, 1915 against French troops at Ypres, Belgium, the Geneva Protocol treaty was signed on June 17, 1925 prohibiting the use of chemical and biological weapons in international armed conflicts. It is true that the agreement has been violated by a number of countries: Japan, Italy, Spain, and by Saddam Hussein in Iraq. But it is the use of chemical weapons in recent days by Syria and Russia that has caused international overheating.

The overcooking of chemical weapons and poison gas, along with denials of responsibility by Russia has led to a situation which, if not as dramatically menacing as the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 or the Berlin crisis of 1961, is serious, and calls for political chefs to lower the temperature. This is unmistakable now that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons confirmed it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for the attack by military grade nerve agent, Novichoks, developed by Russia, used in Salisbury on March 4, 2018. The reckless and indiscriminate attack threatened the lives of innocent people as well as the intended targets, former Russian spy Sergei Skirpal and his daughter Yulia.

What is important is not simply the immoral nature of the nerve agent and gas attacks, but the denial and counterattack by the responsible party. Russian spokespersons provided alternative explanations of the real actors. One emphasis was that British MI6 was directly involved in the Salisbury attack; the Russians claimed “irrefutable evidence” that the attacks were staged with help of a foreign secret service.

As usual, British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said that there was no evidence that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was responsible, and more time was needed to find “incontrovertible” evidence that Assad was behind the use of chemical weapons in the attack on Douma on April 7, 2018 that killed at least 40 people.  However, he did know that the airstrikes on selected Syrian targets by four British Tornado jets were “legally questionable” actions.

The 19th-century French diplomat Talleyrand might have had Corbyn in mind when he wrote of the Bourbons, “They had learned nothing and forgotten nothing.” One imagines Corbyn in 1939 calling on the League of Nations to take time to verify the “alleged” Nazi aggression in Poland, and meanwhile for all parties to cease violence. In similar vein, Corbyn’s colleague Diane Abbott was uncertain who was the greatest danger to world peace, the U.S. or Russia.

He did not need help from Corbyn when Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov declared that Russia had “irrefutable” evidence that the attack on Douma on April 7 was staged with the help of a foreign secret service. According to British newspaper reports, Russia may have been helped by some senior British academics, at Edinburgh, Leicester, and Sheffield Universities, who have formed a group called SPM, Syria, Propaganda, and Media, that spreads disinformation that benefits Syria, and conspiracy theories propounded by Russia.

SPM had published a statement that questioned whether Russia had a secret nerve agent program. It then spread the allegation, repeated by the Russian ambassador, that a rebel-associated organization, the White Helmets (Syrian Civil Defense) staged the Douma attack. The White Helmets consists of 3,000 volunteers who engage in search and rescue after bombings in Syria.

It is disquieting that some countries, groups, and individuals persist in defending or not criticizing the actions of Assad. His forces had used sarin gas in an attack on August 21, 2013 on Ghouta, Damascus where hundreds were killed. After that, Russia promised to ensure that Syria would abandon all its chemical weapons. But Syria on April 4, 2017 used sarin gas in an attack on Khan Sheikhoun, killing 90 people. In response to this atrocity Trump on April 6, 2017 ordered U.S. forces to fire 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base.

Despite Russian denials, the use by Russians of chemical weapons in Salisbury and by the Syrian regime in Douma is clear, as are the responses that have taken place. French President Emmanuel Macron called the use of such weapons a “red line.” Trump threatened on April 11 that there would be a “big price to pay” for the mindless chemical attack, and that Russia and Iran were responsible for backing Assad. The rhetoric was followed by action by a U.S., French, and British coalition that French UN ambassador Francois Delattre called “proportionate and targeted.”

At the emergency UN Security Council meeting on April 14, 2018, the Russian resolution to condemn the U.S. was rejected by eight to three (Russia, China, Bolivia) and four abstentions. It is welcome that in this case international norms have been upheld.  It is now up Russia to find its moral compass, to stop its contentious actions and destructive effect on the system of international relations, and to consult its political cookbook to concentrate on undercooking its actions.



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The Truth about Fake News


Say it isn’t so – you can’t stop people from talking and writing, but say it isn’t so.  It is a matter of grave concern that the U.S. is confronting a serious and growing problem related to the prevalence of fake news that undermines honest and serious coverage of public affairs.  It is urgent to tackle the issue of the growth of major fake news and propaganda, deliberately and intentionally fabricating misleading information, made up and packaged to appear as fact.  It is also important to assess the contention of President Donald Trump, who on many occasions has equated fake news with press coverage he has received that he regards as unfair or biased.

It is currently all the more serious for several reasons: the possible impact of fake news not only as pivotal in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, but also on future political activity, and thus a threat to democracy; the need for developing policy by official and non-official bodies to address the existence of distortions in information about the state of affairs; the general lack of knowledge about the impact of social media in American life; and internet illiteracy about rapidly changing analog and digital technology.

Two questions immediately arise.  One is presently the subject of inquiry by Congress and by the American public.  Was the 2016 election affected by exposure to fake news, and if so, how persuasive or pivotal was it?  Did fake news affect or change voting intentions?  No clear answer is yet available, but surveys show that about two thirds of U.S. adults obtained their news from social media, especially Facebook, where fake news has been widely shared.  Indeed, one survey indicates that the top 20 fake news stories on the 2016 election got more attention than the top 20 news stories from major media outlets.

Fake news has gone viral, present in at least 190 countries.  In the 2016 U.S. election campaign, more than two thirds of the major stories about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump came from fake news sites.  Also, in the French parliamentary election in May 2017, Facebook targeted 30,000 fake accounts.

The second issue, always difficult in democratic societies, is the possible need for some form of control over fake news.  There are two aspects: how to deal with extremist political bias and hate speech, which may occasion some limits of expression, and how to limit foreign, particularly Russian intervention now that Russia has been seen to have exploited the U.S. free system.

Fake news is not synonymous with satire or parody, intended essentially for amusement, or with unintentional reporting mistakes, or with false statements by politicians.  Fake News is different from interpreting terms or expressions on the lines of the Talmudic Method.  It is false, fabricated presentation, with misleading content or opinion pieces pretending to be news, or doctored photos, made up and packaged to appear as fact.  No one is likely to be deceived by the idea of “illiberal democracy” devised by Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, or the slick presentation by Marine le Pen to change the name of her party from National Front to National Rally (Rassemblement National) to make it look less toxic.

Fake news by other names, of course, goes back to the early days of history.  Hundreds of examples can illustrate this.  The chariot Battle of Kadesh in 1274 B.C. was not an Egyptian victory, as Ramesses the Great claimed.  Jewish communities have suffered and been massacred because of “blood libel” charges, particularly after the fake accusations in Norwich in 1144 and Blois in 1171.

The Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 was not divine retribution for sinning.  In the U.S., many were deceived by the Great Moon Hoax of 1835, when articles were published on the discovery of life on the Moon.  No one watching Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane can forget the pseudo-William R. Hearst proclaiming, “You furnish the pictures.  I’ll furnish the war.”  Nor can one erase the memory of the dishonest Stalinist show trials, 1936-38, that eliminated both rivals of the dictator, so-called “enemies of the state,” and thousands of innocent people in the Soviet Union.

The existence and problem of fake news is qualitatively greater now and more extreme because of the internet ecosystem, social media, the ease in setting up websites, and the increase in publishing outlets.  Whether the relatively new term “fake news” was popularized or not by President Donald Trump is irrelevant to the fact that this generation is the most informed one in history, with the multitude of rival claims and competing narratives, and the impact of WhatsApp; Snapchat; and, above all, Facebook with its 2.2 billion users.  Studies show that two thirds of Facebook users got their news from the site.  Society faces the dilemma of whether it is possible to supervise or control the spread of information in an age of smartphones, news flashes, films, and satellite images.

Some attempt has been made at fact-checking information by groups such as PolitiFact and the International Fact-Checking Network (Poynter Institute), launched in September 2015.  But the examination in the media and now by the U.S. Senate of CEO Facebook Mark Zuckerberg on particular issues, such as the scandals in which the privacy of millions of users of Zuckerberg’s site were violated and the criticism of content allowed on the site, is an indication of inadequate control.  Facebook did not have a complete record of information that had been transferred.  The most grievous revelation is that sensitive data of 87 million Facebook users were obtained without permission by Cambridge Analytica.

The fundamental question is not simply one of the inadequacies of Facebook, or the carelessness or inefficiency of companies, or the need for disclosures from online political advertisers, though these are real problems, but the power of technology.  There is the antitrust issue, breaking up the existing virtual monopoly of Facebook and others.  But that is separate from the more basic issue of whether there should be regulation of the high tech industry, now the main source of fake news.

The press and general media must supervise themselves more deliberately.  Yet it is time to consider the case that government should play a role in regulating not only technical issues, such as transparency or data transmission, but the content of information.

Adherents of relativism may deny the feasibility of complete objective truth, while postmodernists hold, in rather obscure language, that truth conceals structures of power.  Yet, even if real news reinforces allegiance to a particular point of view, it can be distinguished from fake news.

George Orwell once wrote that in a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.  Even the more timid in Washington and elsewhere should be prepared to deal with the negative impact of fake news and the failure of social media to expurgate hate speech and terrorist designs.

Say it isn’t so – you can’t stop people from talking and writing, but say it isn’t so.  It is a matter of grave concern that the U.S. is confronting a serious and growing problem related to the prevalence of fake news that undermines honest and serious coverage of public affairs.  It is urgent to tackle the issue of the growth of major fake news and propaganda, deliberately and intentionally fabricating misleading information, made up and packaged to appear as fact.  It is also important to assess the contention of President Donald Trump, who on many occasions has equated fake news with press coverage he has received that he regards as unfair or biased.

It is currently all the more serious for several reasons: the possible impact of fake news not only as pivotal in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, but also on future political activity, and thus a threat to democracy; the need for developing policy by official and non-official bodies to address the existence of distortions in information about the state of affairs; the general lack of knowledge about the impact of social media in American life; and internet illiteracy about rapidly changing analog and digital technology.

Two questions immediately arise.  One is presently the subject of inquiry by Congress and by the American public.  Was the 2016 election affected by exposure to fake news, and if so, how persuasive or pivotal was it?  Did fake news affect or change voting intentions?  No clear answer is yet available, but surveys show that about two thirds of U.S. adults obtained their news from social media, especially Facebook, where fake news has been widely shared.  Indeed, one survey indicates that the top 20 fake news stories on the 2016 election got more attention than the top 20 news stories from major media outlets.

Fake news has gone viral, present in at least 190 countries.  In the 2016 U.S. election campaign, more than two thirds of the major stories about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump came from fake news sites.  Also, in the French parliamentary election in May 2017, Facebook targeted 30,000 fake accounts.

The second issue, always difficult in democratic societies, is the possible need for some form of control over fake news.  There are two aspects: how to deal with extremist political bias and hate speech, which may occasion some limits of expression, and how to limit foreign, particularly Russian intervention now that Russia has been seen to have exploited the U.S. free system.

Fake news is not synonymous with satire or parody, intended essentially for amusement, or with unintentional reporting mistakes, or with false statements by politicians.  Fake News is different from interpreting terms or expressions on the lines of the Talmudic Method.  It is false, fabricated presentation, with misleading content or opinion pieces pretending to be news, or doctored photos, made up and packaged to appear as fact.  No one is likely to be deceived by the idea of “illiberal democracy” devised by Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, or the slick presentation by Marine le Pen to change the name of her party from National Front to National Rally (Rassemblement National) to make it look less toxic.

Fake news by other names, of course, goes back to the early days of history.  Hundreds of examples can illustrate this.  The chariot Battle of Kadesh in 1274 B.C. was not an Egyptian victory, as Ramesses the Great claimed.  Jewish communities have suffered and been massacred because of “blood libel” charges, particularly after the fake accusations in Norwich in 1144 and Blois in 1171.

The Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 was not divine retribution for sinning.  In the U.S., many were deceived by the Great Moon Hoax of 1835, when articles were published on the discovery of life on the Moon.  No one watching Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane can forget the pseudo-William R. Hearst proclaiming, “You furnish the pictures.  I’ll furnish the war.”  Nor can one erase the memory of the dishonest Stalinist show trials, 1936-38, that eliminated both rivals of the dictator, so-called “enemies of the state,” and thousands of innocent people in the Soviet Union.

The existence and problem of fake news is qualitatively greater now and more extreme because of the internet ecosystem, social media, the ease in setting up websites, and the increase in publishing outlets.  Whether the relatively new term “fake news” was popularized or not by President Donald Trump is irrelevant to the fact that this generation is the most informed one in history, with the multitude of rival claims and competing narratives, and the impact of WhatsApp; Snapchat; and, above all, Facebook with its 2.2 billion users.  Studies show that two thirds of Facebook users got their news from the site.  Society faces the dilemma of whether it is possible to supervise or control the spread of information in an age of smartphones, news flashes, films, and satellite images.

Some attempt has been made at fact-checking information by groups such as PolitiFact and the International Fact-Checking Network (Poynter Institute), launched in September 2015.  But the examination in the media and now by the U.S. Senate of CEO Facebook Mark Zuckerberg on particular issues, such as the scandals in which the privacy of millions of users of Zuckerberg’s site were violated and the criticism of content allowed on the site, is an indication of inadequate control.  Facebook did not have a complete record of information that had been transferred.  The most grievous revelation is that sensitive data of 87 million Facebook users were obtained without permission by Cambridge Analytica.

The fundamental question is not simply one of the inadequacies of Facebook, or the carelessness or inefficiency of companies, or the need for disclosures from online political advertisers, though these are real problems, but the power of technology.  There is the antitrust issue, breaking up the existing virtual monopoly of Facebook and others.  But that is separate from the more basic issue of whether there should be regulation of the high tech industry, now the main source of fake news.

The press and general media must supervise themselves more deliberately.  Yet it is time to consider the case that government should play a role in regulating not only technical issues, such as transparency or data transmission, but the content of information.

Adherents of relativism may deny the feasibility of complete objective truth, while postmodernists hold, in rather obscure language, that truth conceals structures of power.  Yet, even if real news reinforces allegiance to a particular point of view, it can be distinguished from fake news.

George Orwell once wrote that in a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.  Even the more timid in Washington and elsewhere should be prepared to deal with the negative impact of fake news and the failure of social media to expurgate hate speech and terrorist designs.



Source link

Islam and Secularism in France


Throughout history the relationship between religion and politics has vacillated with ongoing disputes about the power and influence of religious institutions in secular, political, and social affairs, and with encroachment of religion in the everyday life of citizens. If religion has brought consolation, religious disputes have also been the cause of hostility and warfare that has decimated populations as in the destructive 30 Years War (1618-48) that killed a third of the German population.

Agreement was slow to come, but in contemporary democratic countries there is now a general consensus on the desirability of a distinction, a separation between the political and the religious realms. For the state and for individuals in those countries, religious belief is a private matter separate from their political opinions or public status as citizens. The problem, however is that dissociation between the two realms is never complete. It is still undeniable that religious beliefs often have played and still play a role in the formation of individual and social consciousness and in the creation of an ethical consensus that affects action. Alexis de Tocqueville remarked that there is hardly any human action which does not result from some very general conception people have of religious views.

In recent years, the relationship between the two realms is being discussed from different points of view. One is that of Pope Benedict XVI, who on September 12, 2008 said it was time to reopen the debate on the relationship of Church and State in France, in order to preserve the religious freedom of citizens, and the responsibility of the state towards them. The Pope was troubled by what he saw as the spread of secularism and increasing hostility to churches and religious believers.

Another point of view was expressed on June 4, 2017 by British prime minister Theresa May after the third terrorist attack in UK in as many months. She talked of the need for “embarrassing conversations” to root out extremism in the UK, though her actions have been less determined on the issue. The terrorist networks, she said, were bound together by the single evil ideology of Islamist extremism that preaches hatred, sows division, and promotes sectarianism. Similarly, former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls in January 2015 declared that France was at war against radical Islam, not against a religion or civilization, but against terrorism and radical Islam in order to defend “our values which are universal.”

Now French president Emmanuel Macron has entered this challenging arena of French values in a discussion of the fundamental concept of French “laicite,” translated as secularism, a concept that has never been fully defined in a legal or constitutional text. On February 11, 2018 Macron declared that his goal was to discover what lies at the heart of secularism, the possibility of being able to believe as well as not to believe. He is concerned with preserving national cohesion while at the same time having free religious consciousness.

Macron’s predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, in a speech at the Vatican on December 20, 2007, struggled with the issue and meaning of “laicite.” The concept, he held, does not mean negation of the past or the elimination from France of its Christian roots: France is the oldest daughter of the Church. That would weaken the cement of national identity. At the same time, while accepting its Christian roots, France values and continues to defend secularism. He called for a “positive laicite” that recognized the contribution of religion to French culture.

France has struggled with the issue of religious tolerance for centuries, almost since Charles Martel, the Frank Christian leader, won the Battle of Tours against Spanish Muslim Moors in October 732. The Edict of Nantes in 1598 allowed Huguenots — Calvinist Protestants — tolerance, and ended religious wars in France.

However, it is the law of December 9, 1905 that framed the principle of “laicite,” the separation of church and state, the freedom of citizens and organizations from the influence of organized religion, essentially the Catholic Church at the time. The French state is neutral towards religious beliefs and there is no state religion, and freedom of conscience is allowed, while no religion can interfere in the functioning of government. The state simply recognizes the existence of religious organizations and religious beliefs. It does not pay or subsidize nor endorse any religious sect.

One consequence is that religious education is banned in public school. All religious buildings are the property of the state and city councils. Separation of state and church is essential for freedom of thought. Though it overlaps with and is related to anti-clericalism, opposition to religious authority in social and political affairs, the two are not synonymous.

President Macron must now focus, as have former leaders on difficult issues in the diverse and multicultural French society with its six million Muslims, nine percent of the population: wherefore is Islam different from all other religions in France? Christians and Jews accept the principle of laicite, and pose no threat to state authority, and the state makes no attempt to manage them. The issue is whether the principle of laicite is being challenged or opposed by Muslim activity.

French government actions to regulate Muslim activity have been controversial. Among them are the ban on wearing of Muslim veils by public-sector employees. In 2004 the ban on all conspicuous religious symbols in public schools. In 2010 the ban on wearing full face veil in public, and on the burqa, the full body covering if it covers the face. In January 2018 the ban on religious garb in the National Assembly.

In dealing with Muslims in France, President Macron faces two problems regarding whether their religion and activity is compatible with the values of the French Republic: what is the fundamental nature and basic objectives of Islam in France where since 2015 more than 230 citizens have been killed by Islamist terrorists; and what is the degree of funding by and influence on French Muslims by foreign countries.

On the first issue, the basic objectives of Islam, there are acute differences of French opinion: is fundamentalism, violence, extremism, and jihadism central to Islam or is the essential religion being derailed by radical Islamists who are not typical of the majority? The issue is specifically germane in France because of the constant violence in the banlieus, the suburbs of largely low-income housing projects with foreign Muslim residents where assimilation has been difficult. France has witnessed young Muslims, cogs in a system, turning to extremism, and the rise of Wahhabism and Salafism, extreme and austere movements, in France.

Or is jihadism marginal in French Islam, and can young Muslims more properly be seen as troubled individuals preoccupied with fantasies of cruelty and violence, while the majority are not radicalized? Do terrorists in France kill in the name of religion though they may not be pious, or are they petty criminals, many of whom have experienced a prison term? Will there be a move from Islam in France to Islam of France, a more moderate concept?

To help in this respect, Nicolas Sarkozy in May 2003 set up the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), as the official interlocutor with the state to observe and advise on religious activities. Though not a legal entity, it is in effect the representative of French Muslims. Former President Hollande in 2015 sent French imams to training institutes in Rabat, seemingly moderate places. Macron has suggested imams be given courses on civil liberties and theology, and appears to imply the appointment of a Grand Imam, on lines similar to the French Grand Rabbi.

The second problem, one not confined to France, is the funding by foreign countries and institutions of Islam in France, including hundreds of mosques, paying and training imams in France. The CFCM has been influenced by and several hundred imams are paid by foreign governments and organizations in Morocco, the Gulf states, and Turkey. The need is urgent, to reduce outside influences, and ensure that French law with laicite takes precedence over Islamic law.

By extraordinary coincidence the Islamic issue was encountered in France in a single day in both fictional and realistic fashion. On November 19, 2015 a novel Soubmission (Submission, the literal translation of the Arab word Islam) by the provocative writer Michel Houellbecq was published. It deals with a Muslim presidential victory in 2022, and the consequential introduction of Islamic law, polygamy, veiling of women and their removal from the marketplace. On the same day, two Islamist terrorists attacked the offices in Paris of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, which published caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, and killed 12 people. France faces the problem, can the fictional novel one day become reality? President Macron faces the problems, can Islam in France become the Islam of France, and can laicite survive?

Throughout history the relationship between religion and politics has vacillated with ongoing disputes about the power and influence of religious institutions in secular, political, and social affairs, and with encroachment of religion in the everyday life of citizens. If religion has brought consolation, religious disputes have also been the cause of hostility and warfare that has decimated populations as in the destructive 30 Years War (1618-48) that killed a third of the German population.

Agreement was slow to come, but in contemporary democratic countries there is now a general consensus on the desirability of a distinction, a separation between the political and the religious realms. For the state and for individuals in those countries, religious belief is a private matter separate from their political opinions or public status as citizens. The problem, however is that dissociation between the two realms is never complete. It is still undeniable that religious beliefs often have played and still play a role in the formation of individual and social consciousness and in the creation of an ethical consensus that affects action. Alexis de Tocqueville remarked that there is hardly any human action which does not result from some very general conception people have of religious views.

In recent years, the relationship between the two realms is being discussed from different points of view. One is that of Pope Benedict XVI, who on September 12, 2008 said it was time to reopen the debate on the relationship of Church and State in France, in order to preserve the religious freedom of citizens, and the responsibility of the state towards them. The Pope was troubled by what he saw as the spread of secularism and increasing hostility to churches and religious believers.

Another point of view was expressed on June 4, 2017 by British prime minister Theresa May after the third terrorist attack in UK in as many months. She talked of the need for “embarrassing conversations” to root out extremism in the UK, though her actions have been less determined on the issue. The terrorist networks, she said, were bound together by the single evil ideology of Islamist extremism that preaches hatred, sows division, and promotes sectarianism. Similarly, former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls in January 2015 declared that France was at war against radical Islam, not against a religion or civilization, but against terrorism and radical Islam in order to defend “our values which are universal.”

Now French president Emmanuel Macron has entered this challenging arena of French values in a discussion of the fundamental concept of French “laicite,” translated as secularism, a concept that has never been fully defined in a legal or constitutional text. On February 11, 2018 Macron declared that his goal was to discover what lies at the heart of secularism, the possibility of being able to believe as well as not to believe. He is concerned with preserving national cohesion while at the same time having free religious consciousness.

Macron’s predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, in a speech at the Vatican on December 20, 2007, struggled with the issue and meaning of “laicite.” The concept, he held, does not mean negation of the past or the elimination from France of its Christian roots: France is the oldest daughter of the Church. That would weaken the cement of national identity. At the same time, while accepting its Christian roots, France values and continues to defend secularism. He called for a “positive laicite” that recognized the contribution of religion to French culture.

France has struggled with the issue of religious tolerance for centuries, almost since Charles Martel, the Frank Christian leader, won the Battle of Tours against Spanish Muslim Moors in October 732. The Edict of Nantes in 1598 allowed Huguenots — Calvinist Protestants — tolerance, and ended religious wars in France.

However, it is the law of December 9, 1905 that framed the principle of “laicite,” the separation of church and state, the freedom of citizens and organizations from the influence of organized religion, essentially the Catholic Church at the time. The French state is neutral towards religious beliefs and there is no state religion, and freedom of conscience is allowed, while no religion can interfere in the functioning of government. The state simply recognizes the existence of religious organizations and religious beliefs. It does not pay or subsidize nor endorse any religious sect.

One consequence is that religious education is banned in public school. All religious buildings are the property of the state and city councils. Separation of state and church is essential for freedom of thought. Though it overlaps with and is related to anti-clericalism, opposition to religious authority in social and political affairs, the two are not synonymous.

President Macron must now focus, as have former leaders on difficult issues in the diverse and multicultural French society with its six million Muslims, nine percent of the population: wherefore is Islam different from all other religions in France? Christians and Jews accept the principle of laicite, and pose no threat to state authority, and the state makes no attempt to manage them. The issue is whether the principle of laicite is being challenged or opposed by Muslim activity.

French government actions to regulate Muslim activity have been controversial. Among them are the ban on wearing of Muslim veils by public-sector employees. In 2004 the ban on all conspicuous religious symbols in public schools. In 2010 the ban on wearing full face veil in public, and on the burqa, the full body covering if it covers the face. In January 2018 the ban on religious garb in the National Assembly.

In dealing with Muslims in France, President Macron faces two problems regarding whether their religion and activity is compatible with the values of the French Republic: what is the fundamental nature and basic objectives of Islam in France where since 2015 more than 230 citizens have been killed by Islamist terrorists; and what is the degree of funding by and influence on French Muslims by foreign countries.

On the first issue, the basic objectives of Islam, there are acute differences of French opinion: is fundamentalism, violence, extremism, and jihadism central to Islam or is the essential religion being derailed by radical Islamists who are not typical of the majority? The issue is specifically germane in France because of the constant violence in the banlieus, the suburbs of largely low-income housing projects with foreign Muslim residents where assimilation has been difficult. France has witnessed young Muslims, cogs in a system, turning to extremism, and the rise of Wahhabism and Salafism, extreme and austere movements, in France.

Or is jihadism marginal in French Islam, and can young Muslims more properly be seen as troubled individuals preoccupied with fantasies of cruelty and violence, while the majority are not radicalized? Do terrorists in France kill in the name of religion though they may not be pious, or are they petty criminals, many of whom have experienced a prison term? Will there be a move from Islam in France to Islam of France, a more moderate concept?

To help in this respect, Nicolas Sarkozy in May 2003 set up the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), as the official interlocutor with the state to observe and advise on religious activities. Though not a legal entity, it is in effect the representative of French Muslims. Former President Hollande in 2015 sent French imams to training institutes in Rabat, seemingly moderate places. Macron has suggested imams be given courses on civil liberties and theology, and appears to imply the appointment of a Grand Imam, on lines similar to the French Grand Rabbi.

The second problem, one not confined to France, is the funding by foreign countries and institutions of Islam in France, including hundreds of mosques, paying and training imams in France. The CFCM has been influenced by and several hundred imams are paid by foreign governments and organizations in Morocco, the Gulf states, and Turkey. The need is urgent, to reduce outside influences, and ensure that French law with laicite takes precedence over Islamic law.

By extraordinary coincidence the Islamic issue was encountered in France in a single day in both fictional and realistic fashion. On November 19, 2015 a novel Soubmission (Submission, the literal translation of the Arab word Islam) by the provocative writer Michel Houellbecq was published. It deals with a Muslim presidential victory in 2022, and the consequential introduction of Islamic law, polygamy, veiling of women and their removal from the marketplace. On the same day, two Islamist terrorists attacked the offices in Paris of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, which published caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, and killed 12 people. France faces the problem, can the fictional novel one day become reality? President Macron faces the problems, can Islam in France become the Islam of France, and can laicite survive?



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Migrants on the March


Caravans were once romantic.  Duke Ellington informed us musically about the night and stars above that shine so bright and the mystery of their fading light that shines upon our caravan.  Neither the United States, where a caravan is threatening to come, nor the State of Israel, troubled by immigration problems, is likely to be singing that chorus now that both are confronted with considerable numbers of migrants.  Both countries are aware of the Arab-Turkish saying: “The dogs may bark, but the caravan moves on.”

Both the U.S. and Israel are faced at this moment with the nature of immigration problems that trouble and divide Western democracies on both an individual level and a social one.  A continuing major problem for the West is the increasing number of individuals who want to enter Western countries because of real or alleged difficulties in their own: war, bad economy, poverty, oppression, crime, persecution, gang violence, political unrest.

The Trump administration is currently faced with the organized march of about 1,500 migrants, mostly from Honduras, traveling through Mexico toward the U.S. border.  These marches are not new and have been occurring for 15 years, and many of those in previous marches have been able to enter the U.S.  This march was organized by a group, People without Borders (Pueblo Sin Fronteras), an immigrants rights group banding people together to make their march as safe as possible.

The response of President Donald Trump has been to assert that Mexico is doing little, if anything, to stop the flow of people through its southern border, nor to stop them trying to enter the U.S.  On this occasion, Trump repeats his cardinal policies: that the U.S. needs the wall on its southern border, that Congress must pass stronger immigration laws, and that any NAFTA agreement may be halted if Mexico, “the cash cow,” does not help the U.S. and secure its border.

The issue has become more complicated because of differences over DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program that applies to young aliens who were under 16 when brought to the U.S. illegally, who were under 31 in June 2012, and who have continuously lived in the U.S. without legal status since June 2007.  There are about 700,00 people in that predicament.  As far as Trump is concerned, resolution of DACA is no longer on the table, though the attempt to end the program in March was stalled in federal courts.

This is a decisive moment for Trump to end conflicting statements.  At times, he has suggested extending citizenship to illegal aliens, but his main thrust has generally been criticism both of those who entered the U.S. illegally and of former administration policy, which allowed laxity in preventing the flow of immigrants.  Trump now threatens in strong language to send U.S. troops to the Mexican border: “[w]e will do things militarily until we have a wall and proper security.”  At the same time, Mexico may try to disband the caravan and allow some people in it to apply for asylum in Mexico.

Israel is confronted not with a caravan, but with a problem of a somewhat confusing agreement aiming to resolve its crisis of thousands of African migrants.  According to official reports in 2017, there were 34,187 asylum-seekers from Sudan and Eritrea in Israel, many living in poorer areas in southern Tel Aviv and often blamed for the rise in crime in the city.

Israel signed in March 2018 an agreement with the U.N. high commissioner on refugees, a post usually critical of Israel, by which the UNHRC would work with European governments to take 16,250 of these asylum-seekers from Israel.  In return, Israel, instead of deporting illegal aliens, would grant official status to residents to remain and would grant legal status to protected populations among the asylum-seekers, some 218,00 refugees.  However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had named the accepting countries as Canada, Germany, and Italy, though the UNHRC did not, and the countries were unaware of any agreement.  Because of internal and external difficulties, Netanyahu at first suspended and then canceled the UNHRC agreement.

The basic problem for Israel is that more than 60,000 people crossed from Egypt into Israel after 2005, leading Israel to build a steel barrier in 2012.  The Israeli coalition government is divided.  It is the latest illustration of the tension within Israel of what kind of country it is and will be: a normal state or one that will be a light unto the nations?  On the one hand, Israel, because of the history of Jews, has a heritage of being a harbor of refuge for the persecuted.  On the other hand, many in the country are sensitive to the reality that behavior of non-Jewish Africans does not accord with Israeli ideals or culture.  Israel’s original plan to send its asylum-seekers to Rwanda and Uganda in exchange for cash payments was refused by the two countries.

The two present cases in the U.S. and Israel must be seen in the context of the reality that the invasion of the West by people from third-world or developing countries will continue.  Criticism of this reality cannot and should not be considered racist.  Real problems must be faced.  Is the West guilty if it tries to maintain its borders without illegal immigration?  Will this be a renunciation of world brotherhood and charity?  Will the would-be migrants enrich the West in any way or be a real hindrance?  In an extreme view, will immigration become a tidal wave that will lead to the collapse of Western civilization because of migrants who do not want to share in Western culture or adopt it?  Or is there little or no danger from immigration, as many critics of the capitalist system, left-wing activists, goodwill humanitarians, and religious idealists believe?

The alternatives are stark.  One is for the West to accept migration, accommodate reasonable numbers of the migrants, and live with the consequences, though as a result, the nature of the indigenous system may be changed.  The other is to stop or limit immigration to a minimum, and to hold that multiculturalism, diversity, and mixing of people are not likely to be harmonious or peaceful and that it is utopian to think otherwise.

According to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, signed in November 1998, “everyone shall be free to leave any country including his own.”  But there is no international law for admission to any other country without permission.  Western countries should abide by this as an axiom of their immigration policies.

Caravans were once romantic.  Duke Ellington informed us musically about the night and stars above that shine so bright and the mystery of their fading light that shines upon our caravan.  Neither the United States, where a caravan is threatening to come, nor the State of Israel, troubled by immigration problems, is likely to be singing that chorus now that both are confronted with considerable numbers of migrants.  Both countries are aware of the Arab-Turkish saying: “The dogs may bark, but the caravan moves on.”

Both the U.S. and Israel are faced at this moment with the nature of immigration problems that trouble and divide Western democracies on both an individual level and a social one.  A continuing major problem for the West is the increasing number of individuals who want to enter Western countries because of real or alleged difficulties in their own: war, bad economy, poverty, oppression, crime, persecution, gang violence, political unrest.

The Trump administration is currently faced with the organized march of about 1,500 migrants, mostly from Honduras, traveling through Mexico toward the U.S. border.  These marches are not new and have been occurring for 15 years, and many of those in previous marches have been able to enter the U.S.  This march was organized by a group, People without Borders (Pueblo Sin Fronteras), an immigrants rights group banding people together to make their march as safe as possible.

The response of President Donald Trump has been to assert that Mexico is doing little, if anything, to stop the flow of people through its southern border, nor to stop them trying to enter the U.S.  On this occasion, Trump repeats his cardinal policies: that the U.S. needs the wall on its southern border, that Congress must pass stronger immigration laws, and that any NAFTA agreement may be halted if Mexico, “the cash cow,” does not help the U.S. and secure its border.

The issue has become more complicated because of differences over DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program that applies to young aliens who were under 16 when brought to the U.S. illegally, who were under 31 in June 2012, and who have continuously lived in the U.S. without legal status since June 2007.  There are about 700,00 people in that predicament.  As far as Trump is concerned, resolution of DACA is no longer on the table, though the attempt to end the program in March was stalled in federal courts.

This is a decisive moment for Trump to end conflicting statements.  At times, he has suggested extending citizenship to illegal aliens, but his main thrust has generally been criticism both of those who entered the U.S. illegally and of former administration policy, which allowed laxity in preventing the flow of immigrants.  Trump now threatens in strong language to send U.S. troops to the Mexican border: “[w]e will do things militarily until we have a wall and proper security.”  At the same time, Mexico may try to disband the caravan and allow some people in it to apply for asylum in Mexico.

Israel is confronted not with a caravan, but with a problem of a somewhat confusing agreement aiming to resolve its crisis of thousands of African migrants.  According to official reports in 2017, there were 34,187 asylum-seekers from Sudan and Eritrea in Israel, many living in poorer areas in southern Tel Aviv and often blamed for the rise in crime in the city.

Israel signed in March 2018 an agreement with the U.N. high commissioner on refugees, a post usually critical of Israel, by which the UNHRC would work with European governments to take 16,250 of these asylum-seekers from Israel.  In return, Israel, instead of deporting illegal aliens, would grant official status to residents to remain and would grant legal status to protected populations among the asylum-seekers, some 218,00 refugees.  However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had named the accepting countries as Canada, Germany, and Italy, though the UNHRC did not, and the countries were unaware of any agreement.  Because of internal and external difficulties, Netanyahu at first suspended and then canceled the UNHRC agreement.

The basic problem for Israel is that more than 60,000 people crossed from Egypt into Israel after 2005, leading Israel to build a steel barrier in 2012.  The Israeli coalition government is divided.  It is the latest illustration of the tension within Israel of what kind of country it is and will be: a normal state or one that will be a light unto the nations?  On the one hand, Israel, because of the history of Jews, has a heritage of being a harbor of refuge for the persecuted.  On the other hand, many in the country are sensitive to the reality that behavior of non-Jewish Africans does not accord with Israeli ideals or culture.  Israel’s original plan to send its asylum-seekers to Rwanda and Uganda in exchange for cash payments was refused by the two countries.

The two present cases in the U.S. and Israel must be seen in the context of the reality that the invasion of the West by people from third-world or developing countries will continue.  Criticism of this reality cannot and should not be considered racist.  Real problems must be faced.  Is the West guilty if it tries to maintain its borders without illegal immigration?  Will this be a renunciation of world brotherhood and charity?  Will the would-be migrants enrich the West in any way or be a real hindrance?  In an extreme view, will immigration become a tidal wave that will lead to the collapse of Western civilization because of migrants who do not want to share in Western culture or adopt it?  Or is there little or no danger from immigration, as many critics of the capitalist system, left-wing activists, goodwill humanitarians, and religious idealists believe?

The alternatives are stark.  One is for the West to accept migration, accommodate reasonable numbers of the migrants, and live with the consequences, though as a result, the nature of the indigenous system may be changed.  The other is to stop or limit immigration to a minimum, and to hold that multiculturalism, diversity, and mixing of people are not likely to be harmonious or peaceful and that it is utopian to think otherwise.

According to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, signed in November 1998, “everyone shall be free to leave any country including his own.”  But there is no international law for admission to any other country without permission.  Western countries should abide by this as an axiom of their immigration policies.



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Hamas Seeks the Elimination of the State of Israel


On March 30, 2018 Hamas called on Gazans to demonstrate in a “March to Return.” Palestinian protestors, variously estimated but probably 30,000, massed along the Israeli border, burning tires, throwing stones and fire bombs at Israeli soldiers. Those soldiers respond with live fire and riot dispersal measures, including tanks, and earth movers to make temporary barriers. Hamas had sent women and children to the security fence. In the fight 16 Palestinians died and more than 1,000 were injured.

Almost all media accounts of the confrontation missed the point of the incident. The real issues were the land of Palestine and the existence of the State of Israel. The organizing group Hamas, regarded as a terrorist organization not only by Israel but also by the UK, the EU, the U.S., and other countries, has proclaimed the reality on many occasions. On the day of the march, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said “our people will not give up Jerusalem or Palestine.” This March of Return is the beginning of the return to all of Palestine: “our people will not agree to keep the right of return only as a slogan.”

Hamas founded in 1987 is the Arab synonym for Islamic Resistance Movement. Its 1988 Charter is stark and foreboding. Jews have usurped Palestine. They also control the media of the world, they were behind the French Revolution and secret societies, and they control imperialist countries. Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for Moslem generations until Judgement Day. Hamas strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.

The call is to return to “historic Palestine” — in effect the destruction of the State of Israel — and will be accomplished by all means including violence. Even if it is true that Israel pulled all its troops and settlers out of Gaza in 2005, Hamas argues it still controls air space, perimeters, and the waters around Gaza. Hamas fought three major wars against Israel, in December 2008, November 2012, and the 50-day Operation Protective Edge in July 2014.

Hamas for some years was under pressure by more moderate Arabs to update and modify the 1988 Charter. Seeking to end criticism over the language in some of the articles in the Charter that are explicitly anti-Semitic, Hamas did alter one position; now its conflict is with the Zionist occupation, the “Zionist project,” not with Jews.

A document issued in May 2017 did appear to accept the idea of a Palestinian state within the lines (there were and still are no borders) before 1967: that would include the West Bank, Gaza, and all of Jerusalem. According to Klaled Meshaal, then head of Hamas, this would be a stage toward liberation of all of Palestine. This means the land from the River Jordan in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west.

It remains clear that Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to exist anywhere in Palestine. It is equally clear for Hamas, in a grandiose statement, that resistance to occupation by all means and methods is a legitimate right guaranteed by divine laws, customs, and international laws. The 2018 March was symbolically organized on March 30, the annual day commemorating Land Day in 1976 when a march and demonstrations were organized in response to the Israeli plan to expropriate some land in Galilee to build new settlements. In the fighting six Arabs were killed and a hundred injured.

The 2018 march took place in the context of two other factors. One is the poor economic situation in the Gaza Strip. The other is the continuing struggle between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, run by Fatah, which has been going on for a decade. The PA in 2017 cut salaries of employees in the public sector and in the professions. Yet the basic problem remains, the relentless and continuing violence against Israel. More of that can be expected on May 15, Nakba (catastrophe) day.

That day is concerned with the refugees and the right to return. But again, the reality must be stated on this whole issue. The Palestinian refugee problem began as a result of the invasion of the State of Israel on May 15, 1948, one day after the creation of the State, by five Arab armies. Israel survived, but acute differences persist on who was responsible for Arabs leaving their homes. Was it Israeli strategy or Arab incompetence or ineptness? Some well-known authorities suggest the latter. General Sir John Bagot Glubb, British commander of the Jordan Arab Legion, said the Arab villages were frequently abandoned even before they were affected by the progress of the war. Others suggest that the Arab Higher Committee gave orders for people to leave. There is no consensus on the matter, but the reality existed that an estimated 700,000 Palestinians left their homes, and their number increased as a result of the 1967 Six-Day War.

According to a UN organization, Palestinian refugees are defined as persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period June 1, 1946 to May 15, 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict. By that very definition, few Palestinian refugees remain alive: some estimates suggest between 20-30,000. All the other supposed refugees are descendants to the third or even fourth generation of original refugees, and even adopted children, and only by tortuous logic can be construed as refugees.

It is the UNRWA that persists in regarding those descendants, which it calculates as 5 million, as refugees eligible for its services. About a third live in 58 recognized refugee camps in Middle Eastern countries as well as in the West Bank and Gaza. UNRWA does not own or administer the camps but it does provide services, maintaining schools and health centers.

Three things are appropriate. It is time for Arab countries to absorb the alleged refugees and give them citizenship. Otherwise, the March of Return means the elimination of the State of Israel. Secondly, Israel is already aware that many of its Arab citizens raise Palestinian flags at moments of protests. Thirdly, the U.S, which gives $20 million to Palestinian schools, is aware that these schools teach the desirability of jihad and martyrdom and encourage violence against Israel. Perversely, at least 24 schools are named after Palestinian terrorists, and pictures of martyrs are posted on school walls. President Donald Trump should make this known when he meets PA President Mahmoud Abbas in the near future.

On March 30, 2018 Hamas called on Gazans to demonstrate in a “March to Return.” Palestinian protestors, variously estimated but probably 30,000, massed along the Israeli border, burning tires, throwing stones and fire bombs at Israeli soldiers. Those soldiers respond with live fire and riot dispersal measures, including tanks, and earth movers to make temporary barriers. Hamas had sent women and children to the security fence. In the fight 16 Palestinians died and more than 1,000 were injured.

Almost all media accounts of the confrontation missed the point of the incident. The real issues were the land of Palestine and the existence of the State of Israel. The organizing group Hamas, regarded as a terrorist organization not only by Israel but also by the UK, the EU, the U.S., and other countries, has proclaimed the reality on many occasions. On the day of the march, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said “our people will not give up Jerusalem or Palestine.” This March of Return is the beginning of the return to all of Palestine: “our people will not agree to keep the right of return only as a slogan.”

Hamas founded in 1987 is the Arab synonym for Islamic Resistance Movement. Its 1988 Charter is stark and foreboding. Jews have usurped Palestine. They also control the media of the world, they were behind the French Revolution and secret societies, and they control imperialist countries. Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for Moslem generations until Judgement Day. Hamas strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.

The call is to return to “historic Palestine” — in effect the destruction of the State of Israel — and will be accomplished by all means including violence. Even if it is true that Israel pulled all its troops and settlers out of Gaza in 2005, Hamas argues it still controls air space, perimeters, and the waters around Gaza. Hamas fought three major wars against Israel, in December 2008, November 2012, and the 50-day Operation Protective Edge in July 2014.

Hamas for some years was under pressure by more moderate Arabs to update and modify the 1988 Charter. Seeking to end criticism over the language in some of the articles in the Charter that are explicitly anti-Semitic, Hamas did alter one position; now its conflict is with the Zionist occupation, the “Zionist project,” not with Jews.

A document issued in May 2017 did appear to accept the idea of a Palestinian state within the lines (there were and still are no borders) before 1967: that would include the West Bank, Gaza, and all of Jerusalem. According to Klaled Meshaal, then head of Hamas, this would be a stage toward liberation of all of Palestine. This means the land from the River Jordan in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west.

It remains clear that Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to exist anywhere in Palestine. It is equally clear for Hamas, in a grandiose statement, that resistance to occupation by all means and methods is a legitimate right guaranteed by divine laws, customs, and international laws. The 2018 March was symbolically organized on March 30, the annual day commemorating Land Day in 1976 when a march and demonstrations were organized in response to the Israeli plan to expropriate some land in Galilee to build new settlements. In the fighting six Arabs were killed and a hundred injured.

The 2018 march took place in the context of two other factors. One is the poor economic situation in the Gaza Strip. The other is the continuing struggle between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, run by Fatah, which has been going on for a decade. The PA in 2017 cut salaries of employees in the public sector and in the professions. Yet the basic problem remains, the relentless and continuing violence against Israel. More of that can be expected on May 15, Nakba (catastrophe) day.

That day is concerned with the refugees and the right to return. But again, the reality must be stated on this whole issue. The Palestinian refugee problem began as a result of the invasion of the State of Israel on May 15, 1948, one day after the creation of the State, by five Arab armies. Israel survived, but acute differences persist on who was responsible for Arabs leaving their homes. Was it Israeli strategy or Arab incompetence or ineptness? Some well-known authorities suggest the latter. General Sir John Bagot Glubb, British commander of the Jordan Arab Legion, said the Arab villages were frequently abandoned even before they were affected by the progress of the war. Others suggest that the Arab Higher Committee gave orders for people to leave. There is no consensus on the matter, but the reality existed that an estimated 700,000 Palestinians left their homes, and their number increased as a result of the 1967 Six-Day War.

According to a UN organization, Palestinian refugees are defined as persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period June 1, 1946 to May 15, 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict. By that very definition, few Palestinian refugees remain alive: some estimates suggest between 20-30,000. All the other supposed refugees are descendants to the third or even fourth generation of original refugees, and even adopted children, and only by tortuous logic can be construed as refugees.

It is the UNRWA that persists in regarding those descendants, which it calculates as 5 million, as refugees eligible for its services. About a third live in 58 recognized refugee camps in Middle Eastern countries as well as in the West Bank and Gaza. UNRWA does not own or administer the camps but it does provide services, maintaining schools and health centers.

Three things are appropriate. It is time for Arab countries to absorb the alleged refugees and give them citizenship. Otherwise, the March of Return means the elimination of the State of Israel. Secondly, Israel is already aware that many of its Arab citizens raise Palestinian flags at moments of protests. Thirdly, the U.S, which gives $20 million to Palestinian schools, is aware that these schools teach the desirability of jihad and martyrdom and encourage violence against Israel. Perversely, at least 24 schools are named after Palestinian terrorists, and pictures of martyrs are posted on school walls. President Donald Trump should make this known when he meets PA President Mahmoud Abbas in the near future.



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No More Cheating: Time to Apply the Rules of the Game to Politics


In his brilliant film, La Règle du Jeu, often considered one of the greatest ever made, the director, Jean Renoir, discusses the mores that specify proper behavior.  Each clique in the world has its own customs, mores, and language.  Breakage of those rules is seen as a moral transgression as well as outrageous cheating.

When should rules be enforced, and who should be punished?  Realistically, political and official organizations like human beings lie and cheat, tell white lies, utter what Winston Churchill once called “terminological inexactitudes,” in conduct that contradicts generally accepted ethical codes but is not a cause for alarm or condemnation. 

This was not the case with the breakage of the rules of the game by the Australian cricket team playing in Cape Town in the third test match with South Africa.  Australia was losing and, in an act of desperation, deliberately tampered with the ball to get advantage.  Three members of the team conspired to use sandpaper to make the ball swing more than normal, making it more difficult to hit.  On March 25, 2018, the three responsible players of the test team were sent home in disgrace as a result of behaving “not in the laws of the game,” euphemism for cheating.

Cheating of this kind is not unknown.  A particularly infamous incident in the U.S. was the scandal concerning the “golden boy” of football, quarterback Tom Brady, who was accused of conspiring to deflate footballs used in the AFL Championship game in January 2015 and who was suspended for four games for violating NFL policy on the integrity of the game.

The rules of the game are important for sport – so why not for politics?  The Australian captain confessed his responsibility for cheating and apologized.  The difference in political behavior is the unwillingness to admit breakage of the rules, or indeed even refusal to admit that they exist.  Many cases can illustrate this, but a few examples can suffice.

First is Russia, now accused by more than a dozen countries of using of a military-grade nerve agent in an attempt to murder a former Russian double agent and his daughter in Salisbury on March 4, 2018.  Russian authorities persist in denying any responsibility, protest the decisions to expel Russian diplomats, and threaten to retaliate against the actions of more than 20 countries and organizations in expelling more than 150 Russian diplomats and intelligence officers.

Russian assertions are shameless.  They say Russia does not have any information on the lives of Russian citizens on the territory of Britain.  Yet they know that the British intelligence special services played a role in the poisoning.  They argue that British authorities have acted at the expense of common sense, rules of civilized interstate dialogue, and principles of international law.  Russia denies the use of nerve gases, including Novichok, that target part of the body’s nervous system, though the agent is made in the Russian lab Yasenevo, run by the SVR. 

Britain was slow to deal with the 14 suspicious deaths in the last decade of various Russians living in the country.  Now the U.K. has begun to implement the rules of the game.  It is beginning a counter-offensive against fake news by Russia as well as terrorists on social media to combat propaganda, misinformation, and extremist material.

The U.K. is also examining, as are U.S. authorities, the extent of money-laundering by anonymous owners in the country.  According to the U.S. Treasury, some $300 billion is laundered in the U.S. every year.  Estimates for the U.K. suggest $125 billion.  In both cases, it is probable that the largest share is held by Russians, including property transactions of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Unexpectedly, we have just learned that the rules of the game apply in the Far East.  The meeting on March 26-27 in Beijing of Chinese president Xi Jinping and North Korean president Kim Jong-un may have been harmonious and intimate, but the Chinese leader reminded his guest of the rules.  The elder generations of leaders of the two countries maintained cordial relations, trusted, and supported each other.  But Kim had broken the rules since he came to power in 2011.  He had purged officials close to Beijing; one of them was his uncle, Kim Jong-nam.

In the Middle East, the Palestinians also have been unwilling to recognize rules of the game.  Two instances need be mentioned.  One is that the U.S. Taylor Force Act suspends aid to the Palestinian Authority as long as it pays stipends. to the families of terrorists killed while attacking Israelis and to captured terrorists.  Yet the P.A. still pays directly to the families, providing $343 million, 7% of the P.A. annual budget.  A second issue concerns Hamas, which is organizing a March of 100,000 Gazans to storm the Israeli security fence around Gaza.  This is supposed to signify the return of Gaza “refugees” to their homes.  Left unsaid is the nonexistence of more than a few “refugees.”  A refugee born on the same day of the creation of Israel on May 14, 1948 would be almost 70.

A third persisting issue in which the rules of the game are absent is the flagrant anti-Semitism in the British Labor Party, and the inability or unwillingness of the leader Jeremy Corbyn to deal with it, to condemn forthrightly manifestations of this disease, and to expel from the party those responsible for it.  Since he became leader in 2015, more than 300 cases of anti-Semitism by Labor Party members have been referred to Corbyn.

In recent weeks a number of breakage of rules have appeared.  An M.P. named David Lammy, one of the few black Labor M.P.s, was attacked by leftists in the party who want to deselect him from Parliament because he expressed solidarity with the Jewish population in his constituency.

It gets worse.  A few Labor websites have proclaimed that it was the Jews, in the form of the Israeli Mossad, who were responsible for the Salisbury poisoning.

A former mayor of Blackburn, the Pakistani-born Salim Mulla, declared that Israel was behind the recent school shooting in the U.S. and behind ISIS.  Worst of all, a more prominent person, Christine Shawcroft, member of the Labor executive committee, head of the “disputes panel” and director of the Trotskyist group Momentum, defended a former L.P. candidate who had posted on Facebook an article denying the Holocaust.  The candidate had been suspended for posting the article that was entitled “The International Red Cross confirms the Holocaust of 6 million Jews is a hoax.”

Perhaps we need a new formula – a film, a documentary, even a musical – to explain the meaning and significance of the rules of the political game.  Our leaders must stress the importance of the principles that uphold moral conduct and punish without qualification the transgressors who break the rules.

In his brilliant film, La Règle du Jeu, often considered one of the greatest ever made, the director, Jean Renoir, discusses the mores that specify proper behavior.  Each clique in the world has its own customs, mores, and language.  Breakage of those rules is seen as a moral transgression as well as outrageous cheating.

When should rules be enforced, and who should be punished?  Realistically, political and official organizations like human beings lie and cheat, tell white lies, utter what Winston Churchill once called “terminological inexactitudes,” in conduct that contradicts generally accepted ethical codes but is not a cause for alarm or condemnation. 

This was not the case with the breakage of the rules of the game by the Australian cricket team playing in Cape Town in the third test match with South Africa.  Australia was losing and, in an act of desperation, deliberately tampered with the ball to get advantage.  Three members of the team conspired to use sandpaper to make the ball swing more than normal, making it more difficult to hit.  On March 25, 2018, the three responsible players of the test team were sent home in disgrace as a result of behaving “not in the laws of the game,” euphemism for cheating.

Cheating of this kind is not unknown.  A particularly infamous incident in the U.S. was the scandal concerning the “golden boy” of football, quarterback Tom Brady, who was accused of conspiring to deflate footballs used in the AFL Championship game in January 2015 and who was suspended for four games for violating NFL policy on the integrity of the game.

The rules of the game are important for sport – so why not for politics?  The Australian captain confessed his responsibility for cheating and apologized.  The difference in political behavior is the unwillingness to admit breakage of the rules, or indeed even refusal to admit that they exist.  Many cases can illustrate this, but a few examples can suffice.

First is Russia, now accused by more than a dozen countries of using of a military-grade nerve agent in an attempt to murder a former Russian double agent and his daughter in Salisbury on March 4, 2018.  Russian authorities persist in denying any responsibility, protest the decisions to expel Russian diplomats, and threaten to retaliate against the actions of more than 20 countries and organizations in expelling more than 150 Russian diplomats and intelligence officers.

Russian assertions are shameless.  They say Russia does not have any information on the lives of Russian citizens on the territory of Britain.  Yet they know that the British intelligence special services played a role in the poisoning.  They argue that British authorities have acted at the expense of common sense, rules of civilized interstate dialogue, and principles of international law.  Russia denies the use of nerve gases, including Novichok, that target part of the body’s nervous system, though the agent is made in the Russian lab Yasenevo, run by the SVR. 

Britain was slow to deal with the 14 suspicious deaths in the last decade of various Russians living in the country.  Now the U.K. has begun to implement the rules of the game.  It is beginning a counter-offensive against fake news by Russia as well as terrorists on social media to combat propaganda, misinformation, and extremist material.

The U.K. is also examining, as are U.S. authorities, the extent of money-laundering by anonymous owners in the country.  According to the U.S. Treasury, some $300 billion is laundered in the U.S. every year.  Estimates for the U.K. suggest $125 billion.  In both cases, it is probable that the largest share is held by Russians, including property transactions of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Unexpectedly, we have just learned that the rules of the game apply in the Far East.  The meeting on March 26-27 in Beijing of Chinese president Xi Jinping and North Korean president Kim Jong-un may have been harmonious and intimate, but the Chinese leader reminded his guest of the rules.  The elder generations of leaders of the two countries maintained cordial relations, trusted, and supported each other.  But Kim had broken the rules since he came to power in 2011.  He had purged officials close to Beijing; one of them was his uncle, Kim Jong-nam.

In the Middle East, the Palestinians also have been unwilling to recognize rules of the game.  Two instances need be mentioned.  One is that the U.S. Taylor Force Act suspends aid to the Palestinian Authority as long as it pays stipends. to the families of terrorists killed while attacking Israelis and to captured terrorists.  Yet the P.A. still pays directly to the families, providing $343 million, 7% of the P.A. annual budget.  A second issue concerns Hamas, which is organizing a March of 100,000 Gazans to storm the Israeli security fence around Gaza.  This is supposed to signify the return of Gaza “refugees” to their homes.  Left unsaid is the nonexistence of more than a few “refugees.”  A refugee born on the same day of the creation of Israel on May 14, 1948 would be almost 70.

A third persisting issue in which the rules of the game are absent is the flagrant anti-Semitism in the British Labor Party, and the inability or unwillingness of the leader Jeremy Corbyn to deal with it, to condemn forthrightly manifestations of this disease, and to expel from the party those responsible for it.  Since he became leader in 2015, more than 300 cases of anti-Semitism by Labor Party members have been referred to Corbyn.

In recent weeks a number of breakage of rules have appeared.  An M.P. named David Lammy, one of the few black Labor M.P.s, was attacked by leftists in the party who want to deselect him from Parliament because he expressed solidarity with the Jewish population in his constituency.

It gets worse.  A few Labor websites have proclaimed that it was the Jews, in the form of the Israeli Mossad, who were responsible for the Salisbury poisoning.

A former mayor of Blackburn, the Pakistani-born Salim Mulla, declared that Israel was behind the recent school shooting in the U.S. and behind ISIS.  Worst of all, a more prominent person, Christine Shawcroft, member of the Labor executive committee, head of the “disputes panel” and director of the Trotskyist group Momentum, defended a former L.P. candidate who had posted on Facebook an article denying the Holocaust.  The candidate had been suspended for posting the article that was entitled “The International Red Cross confirms the Holocaust of 6 million Jews is a hoax.”

Perhaps we need a new formula – a film, a documentary, even a musical – to explain the meaning and significance of the rules of the political game.  Our leaders must stress the importance of the principles that uphold moral conduct and punish without qualification the transgressors who break the rules.



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The United States Must Leave the UN Human Rights Council


By now, it is clear that the U.N. Human Rights Council, created in 2006 with noble intentions on the basis of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is one of the international organizations that has little interest in the real violations of human rights in the world.  The majority of the 47 members of the UNHRC have shown little concern for their mandate: to be responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe, for addressing situations of human rights violations, and ro making recommendations on them.  How sanguine could one be about a group that includes Cuba, Congo, Burundi, Angola, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Venezuela, China, and Pakistan?

 Moreover, the geographical distribution of membership is weighted in favor of Africa and Asia: African states 13, Asia and Pacific 13, Latin America and Caribbean 8, Western Europe and others 7, and Eastern Europe 6.  Membership can also be evaluated in the light of the Global Gender Gap report of the World Economic Forum that lists the gap in144 countries: almost at the bottom are Pakistan, Qatar, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, members of the UNHRC.

It is not too strong to argue that UNHRC has been perverted to such a degree that it is a useless and worthless organization, hypocritical and skilled in its formulation of double standards for different countries.  Those double standards mostly relate to the disproportionate amount of time and number of critical resolutions relating to the State of Israel.  As of 2017, Israel was condemned 78 times, compared with peace-loving Syria 29 times, friendly North Korea 9, times and Iran 6 times.  Most non-democratic states, such as Saudi Arabia, Russia, and China, have never been condemned.

Every observer recognizes that the agenda of the council is biased against Israel, virtually transforming it into an international anti-Israeli platform.  Only one country is permanently on the UNHRC agenda: Israel.  Every March, the UNHRC spends two sessions debating human rights violations in the countries of the world, with one whole session devoted just to Israel.

What is most disappointing in the operation of the UNHRC is that the democratic states have been reluctant to end the anti-Israeli bias but have acquiesced in it, often by abstaining.  The continuation and the extent of the bias was fully displayed by the meeting of the 37th session of the UNHRC on March 23, 2018, which approved eight critical resolutions, one each on the peace-loving countries North Korea, Iran, and Syria, which evidently have not troubled the world, and five on Israel, which the council apparently considers a menace to the world.

It is worth looking at the five specific anti-Israeli resolutions, to see the extent of the hypocrisy and bias of the UNHRC.  Details have been drawn from the analysis of Hillel Neuer, executive director of U.N. Watch.

The first is a resolution drafted by Syria and submitted by the Islamic group.  The UNHRC is deeply concerned at the suffering of the Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan due to the systematic and continuous violation of their fundamental and human rights by Israel since the Israeli occupation of 1967.  The resolution was accepted, 25-14, with 7 abstentions.

A second resolution called on all states to ensure their obligations of non-recognition, non-aid, and non-assistance with regard to the serious breaches of “peremptory norms of international law” by Israel.  In particular, it referred to the acquisition of territory by force and called for cooperation to reverse Israel’s illegal policies and practices.  This was passed by 43 to 2 (Australia and the U.S.), with 1 abstention.  Besides the U.S., Australia, a new member of the UNHRC, was the only country that voted against this and all the other anti-Israeli resolutions.

The third resolution expressed grave concern at the continuing violation of international humanitarian law and the systematic violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people by Israel, the occupying power.  This was agreed to by 41 countries to 3 disagreements (Australia, Togo, the U.S.).

The fourth called on all states not to provide any assistance to be used specifically in connection with the settlements in the territories occupied since 1967.  This included financial transactions, investments, purchases, procurements, provision of services, and other economic and financial activities benefiting Israeli settlements.  It passed 34 to 4 (Australia, Hungary, Togo, the U.S.), with 8 abstentions.

The fifth resolution, somewhat incoherent, called on everybody to implement the recommendations in three reports: the independent commission of inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict (written by William Schabas); the independent international mission on the implications of Israeli settlements for the civil, political, economic, and cultural rights of the Palestinian people; and the U.N. Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (the Goldstone report).  Most important was non-involvement in the provision of arms to Israel.  It passed, 27-4-15, and the majority included Belgium.

Interestingly regarding this resolution, left unsaid were two factors.  One was that Schabas had worked as a legal consultant of the PLO, and his report cannot be considered neutral.  The other was that the report by Judge Richard Goldstone was critical, but in April 2010, he retracted many of the charges he made in it.

Australia and the U.S., by voting against all the five resolutions, demonstrated political sanity in this theater of the absurd.  Surprisingly, Germany voted in favor of three and the UK in favor of two resolutions.

The UNHRC has been obsessed with the question of Israel and disputed or occupied territory and Israeli settlements.  In September 2014, it approved, by 32 votes and 15 abstentions, a database of companies doing business in areas under Israeli “occupation” including East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.  In February 2018, it reported on 206 companies with ties to settlements, in effect a backlist of Israeli and multinational companies active in disputed territory, and really advocacy of BDS.

The biased resolutions of the UNHRC are not simply obstacles to any hopes for progress for negotiations to end the Israel-Palestinian conflict and thus counter-productive.  They are also an obstacle to any real discussion of violations of human rights in the world and are therefore a defeat for anyone interested in ending these violations.

The UNHRC resolutions have no enforcement mechanism, but they are a disgrace to impartial analysis and do not reflect any perspective for a just and lasting solution of the conflict.  U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley has been strongly critical of the UNHRC, has said U.S. patience with it is not unlimited, and has threatened to leave.  The time to leave is now.  President Donald Trump, disappointed with international organizations, has already quit UNESCO and cut U.N. funding.  He should now withdraw the U.S. from the UNHRC.

Image: Cory Doctorow via Flickr.

By now, it is clear that the U.N. Human Rights Council, created in 2006 with noble intentions on the basis of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is one of the international organizations that has little interest in the real violations of human rights in the world.  The majority of the 47 members of the UNHRC have shown little concern for their mandate: to be responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe, for addressing situations of human rights violations, and ro making recommendations on them.  How sanguine could one be about a group that includes Cuba, Congo, Burundi, Angola, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Venezuela, China, and Pakistan?

 Moreover, the geographical distribution of membership is weighted in favor of Africa and Asia: African states 13, Asia and Pacific 13, Latin America and Caribbean 8, Western Europe and others 7, and Eastern Europe 6.  Membership can also be evaluated in the light of the Global Gender Gap report of the World Economic Forum that lists the gap in144 countries: almost at the bottom are Pakistan, Qatar, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, members of the UNHRC.

It is not too strong to argue that UNHRC has been perverted to such a degree that it is a useless and worthless organization, hypocritical and skilled in its formulation of double standards for different countries.  Those double standards mostly relate to the disproportionate amount of time and number of critical resolutions relating to the State of Israel.  As of 2017, Israel was condemned 78 times, compared with peace-loving Syria 29 times, friendly North Korea 9, times and Iran 6 times.  Most non-democratic states, such as Saudi Arabia, Russia, and China, have never been condemned.

Every observer recognizes that the agenda of the council is biased against Israel, virtually transforming it into an international anti-Israeli platform.  Only one country is permanently on the UNHRC agenda: Israel.  Every March, the UNHRC spends two sessions debating human rights violations in the countries of the world, with one whole session devoted just to Israel.

What is most disappointing in the operation of the UNHRC is that the democratic states have been reluctant to end the anti-Israeli bias but have acquiesced in it, often by abstaining.  The continuation and the extent of the bias was fully displayed by the meeting of the 37th session of the UNHRC on March 23, 2018, which approved eight critical resolutions, one each on the peace-loving countries North Korea, Iran, and Syria, which evidently have not troubled the world, and five on Israel, which the council apparently considers a menace to the world.

It is worth looking at the five specific anti-Israeli resolutions, to see the extent of the hypocrisy and bias of the UNHRC.  Details have been drawn from the analysis of Hillel Neuer, executive director of U.N. Watch.

The first is a resolution drafted by Syria and submitted by the Islamic group.  The UNHRC is deeply concerned at the suffering of the Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan due to the systematic and continuous violation of their fundamental and human rights by Israel since the Israeli occupation of 1967.  The resolution was accepted, 25-14, with 7 abstentions.

A second resolution called on all states to ensure their obligations of non-recognition, non-aid, and non-assistance with regard to the serious breaches of “peremptory norms of international law” by Israel.  In particular, it referred to the acquisition of territory by force and called for cooperation to reverse Israel’s illegal policies and practices.  This was passed by 43 to 2 (Australia and the U.S.), with 1 abstention.  Besides the U.S., Australia, a new member of the UNHRC, was the only country that voted against this and all the other anti-Israeli resolutions.

The third resolution expressed grave concern at the continuing violation of international humanitarian law and the systematic violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people by Israel, the occupying power.  This was agreed to by 41 countries to 3 disagreements (Australia, Togo, the U.S.).

The fourth called on all states not to provide any assistance to be used specifically in connection with the settlements in the territories occupied since 1967.  This included financial transactions, investments, purchases, procurements, provision of services, and other economic and financial activities benefiting Israeli settlements.  It passed 34 to 4 (Australia, Hungary, Togo, the U.S.), with 8 abstentions.

The fifth resolution, somewhat incoherent, called on everybody to implement the recommendations in three reports: the independent commission of inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict (written by William Schabas); the independent international mission on the implications of Israeli settlements for the civil, political, economic, and cultural rights of the Palestinian people; and the U.N. Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (the Goldstone report).  Most important was non-involvement in the provision of arms to Israel.  It passed, 27-4-15, and the majority included Belgium.

Interestingly regarding this resolution, left unsaid were two factors.  One was that Schabas had worked as a legal consultant of the PLO, and his report cannot be considered neutral.  The other was that the report by Judge Richard Goldstone was critical, but in April 2010, he retracted many of the charges he made in it.

Australia and the U.S., by voting against all the five resolutions, demonstrated political sanity in this theater of the absurd.  Surprisingly, Germany voted in favor of three and the UK in favor of two resolutions.

The UNHRC has been obsessed with the question of Israel and disputed or occupied territory and Israeli settlements.  In September 2014, it approved, by 32 votes and 15 abstentions, a database of companies doing business in areas under Israeli “occupation” including East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.  In February 2018, it reported on 206 companies with ties to settlements, in effect a backlist of Israeli and multinational companies active in disputed territory, and really advocacy of BDS.

The biased resolutions of the UNHRC are not simply obstacles to any hopes for progress for negotiations to end the Israel-Palestinian conflict and thus counter-productive.  They are also an obstacle to any real discussion of violations of human rights in the world and are therefore a defeat for anyone interested in ending these violations.

The UNHRC resolutions have no enforcement mechanism, but they are a disgrace to impartial analysis and do not reflect any perspective for a just and lasting solution of the conflict.  U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley has been strongly critical of the UNHRC, has said U.S. patience with it is not unlimited, and has threatened to leave.  The time to leave is now.  President Donald Trump, disappointed with international organizations, has already quit UNESCO and cut U.N. funding.  He should now withdraw the U.S. from the UNHRC.

Image: Cory Doctorow via Flickr.



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The March of Time, Washington and Paris


“Everywhere I hear the sound of marchin’, charging feet, cause summer’s here and the time is right for fighting in the street.”  The words were written in 1968 by Mick Jagger, who said he wrote them after an antiwar rally at the U.S. Embassy in London.  He was inspired by the student rioters in Paris in May 1968.  At that time, protests in various countries of Europe, in the U.S., in Mexico City, and in Brazil were directed against the Vietnam War.  The most spectacular event, the May Days in Paris, was a student-led protest movement that began on March 22, 1968 as an antiwar rally at Nanterre University.  It became a revolt against the political and academic establishment.

It is tempting to compare those events on their fiftieth anniversary with the organized demonstrations, the March for Our Lives, on March 24, 2018, protesting gun violence in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere in the U.S., resulting from the murder of students on February 14, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 were killed by a teenage gunman.  The D.C. march attracted an estimated crowd of 800,000 and was financed by celebrities such as George and Amal Clooney, Oprah Winfrey, Stephen Spielberg, and the Gucci group, along with pop artists and performers.

In his address on March 25, 2018 at the Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis, without specifically alluding to the Washington demonstration, urged young people not to let themselves be manipulated.  “Young people,” he directed, “you have it in you to shout.  It’s up to you not to keep quiet.”  Certainly, young people in 2018 have done this, as they did in May 1968.

Since the writings of Polybius, the Greek historian of the Hellenistic period, the question has been discussed of history as repeating a cycle of events, of regular patterns, of people animated by the same desires and passions.  Youths in 2018 and 1968 have expressed those qualities, displaying energy and a spirit of resistance and defiance, even quasi-revolt.  Yet, even admitting that history can be seen as a sequence of causes and effects, the two events show we are not doomed to repeat the past.

Both events, 1968 and 2018, began with a particular incident: one, the university administrative actions against student activists at Nanterre University, the new campus in the suburb of Paris; the other the Parkland massacre.  Both called for change of some kind, university or more broadly social.  Both can be regarded as nationwide movements.

But there are important differences.  May 1968 was concerned at first with a specific issue: rigidity in the hierarchy of the French University, with students wanting more political freedom, since political meetings were normally forbidden.  However, it became transmuted into a wider, more disjointed affair, including calls for the overthrow of institutions.  Twenty-eighteen, at least so far, is pinpointed on a concrete, single purpose.

The 1968 events started as the result of a specific action: the detention of students in the antiwar rally.  With provocative slogans, it spread to the main Sorbonne and other Paris educational units, transforming itself into a revolt against established institutions and advancing social changes, including protests against capitalism and U.S. imperialism.

May ’68 exhibited ideological confusion, indicating different left-wing political orientations, as well as bizarre slogans like “imagination in the leadership” and “demand the impossible.”  In contrast, 2018 is not partisan or ideologically expressed in any real way.  Students in France in May ’68 were joined by support from factory workers who organized a general strike, the largest in France, and 11 million workers who occupied factories went on strike.  No similar action has been contemplated in support of 2018.  In May ’68, word spread in the streets, while in 2018, social media spread the word in an instant, and the whole world is aware of the issue.  Above all, May ’68 quickly became violent; March 2018 has been noisy but nonviolent.

In May ’68, universities and factories were occupied throughout France.  Paris was the scene of cobblestones being torn up from the pavements, barricades, street fighting with the police, cars overturned, and stores looted.  At one point, the turmoil and threats seemed so serious that President Charles de Gaulle on May 29 fled the country, for a day, to go to a French military base near Baden-Baden in Germany.

The protest of May ’68 was violent but became mixed and even incoherent with the infighting among the student groups, including Trotskyists, Maoists, anarchists, surrealists, and moderate socialists.  It was not a unified or cohesive group, but a number of individual personalities among the various improvised leftists fighting among themselves, even if some vague concept of anti-imperialism emerged.  They had no coherent program or structure, but claimed to act in “uncontrollable spontaneity” that gave them an impetus without it being canalized.  Jean-Paul Sartre was impressed with this – with the attempt, as he said, to implement imagination into reality.  

Others were critical.  Raymond Aron saw the student participants as actors imitating the French revolutionary past, a kind of “psychodrama,” and merely acting in a rehearsal held almost two centuries after the play had been staged.  Indeed, some student protagonists labeled themselves Les Enragés – not a unified party, but the radical extremists who opposed the Jacobins in June 1793 and who spoke on behalf of the poor.

In May ’68, some leaders emerged, the most well-known being Daniel Cohn-Bendit, nicknamed “Danny the Red” because of the color of his hair.  Born in France of German parents, a philosophy student at Nanterre, an anarchist if he can be classified, he inspired the movement with his captivating oratory, courage, and humor.  So far, no single similar figure has emerged in 2018 as similarly inspiring, though some 17-year-olds have been eloquent and expressed rhetoric that has gone beyond the single issue of controlling guns.  One speaker went beyond the manifest purpose of the march, not only by demanding more general social change and getting rid of politicians, but also by enthusiastically giving the black power salute at the end of his peroration.

May ’68 did lead to some social and political changes, including raising minimum wages.  It also led to President de Gaulle calling a referendum on April 27, 1969 on government decentralization and for changes in the French Senate.  The referendum was rejected by 52% of the voters, and de Gaulle resigned the presidency the next day.  It remains to be seen if there will be similar political consequences of the March for Our Lives.

“Everywhere I hear the sound of marchin’, charging feet, cause summer’s here and the time is right for fighting in the street.”  The words were written in 1968 by Mick Jagger, who said he wrote them after an antiwar rally at the U.S. Embassy in London.  He was inspired by the student rioters in Paris in May 1968.  At that time, protests in various countries of Europe, in the U.S., in Mexico City, and in Brazil were directed against the Vietnam War.  The most spectacular event, the May Days in Paris, was a student-led protest movement that began on March 22, 1968 as an antiwar rally at Nanterre University.  It became a revolt against the political and academic establishment.

It is tempting to compare those events on their fiftieth anniversary with the organized demonstrations, the March for Our Lives, on March 24, 2018, protesting gun violence in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere in the U.S., resulting from the murder of students on February 14, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 were killed by a teenage gunman.  The D.C. march attracted an estimated crowd of 800,000 and was financed by celebrities such as George and Amal Clooney, Oprah Winfrey, Stephen Spielberg, and the Gucci group, along with pop artists and performers.

In his address on March 25, 2018 at the Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis, without specifically alluding to the Washington demonstration, urged young people not to let themselves be manipulated.  “Young people,” he directed, “you have it in you to shout.  It’s up to you not to keep quiet.”  Certainly, young people in 2018 have done this, as they did in May 1968.

Since the writings of Polybius, the Greek historian of the Hellenistic period, the question has been discussed of history as repeating a cycle of events, of regular patterns, of people animated by the same desires and passions.  Youths in 2018 and 1968 have expressed those qualities, displaying energy and a spirit of resistance and defiance, even quasi-revolt.  Yet, even admitting that history can be seen as a sequence of causes and effects, the two events show we are not doomed to repeat the past.

Both events, 1968 and 2018, began with a particular incident: one, the university administrative actions against student activists at Nanterre University, the new campus in the suburb of Paris; the other the Parkland massacre.  Both called for change of some kind, university or more broadly social.  Both can be regarded as nationwide movements.

But there are important differences.  May 1968 was concerned at first with a specific issue: rigidity in the hierarchy of the French University, with students wanting more political freedom, since political meetings were normally forbidden.  However, it became transmuted into a wider, more disjointed affair, including calls for the overthrow of institutions.  Twenty-eighteen, at least so far, is pinpointed on a concrete, single purpose.

The 1968 events started as the result of a specific action: the detention of students in the antiwar rally.  With provocative slogans, it spread to the main Sorbonne and other Paris educational units, transforming itself into a revolt against established institutions and advancing social changes, including protests against capitalism and U.S. imperialism.

May ’68 exhibited ideological confusion, indicating different left-wing political orientations, as well as bizarre slogans like “imagination in the leadership” and “demand the impossible.”  In contrast, 2018 is not partisan or ideologically expressed in any real way.  Students in France in May ’68 were joined by support from factory workers who organized a general strike, the largest in France, and 11 million workers who occupied factories went on strike.  No similar action has been contemplated in support of 2018.  In May ’68, word spread in the streets, while in 2018, social media spread the word in an instant, and the whole world is aware of the issue.  Above all, May ’68 quickly became violent; March 2018 has been noisy but nonviolent.

In May ’68, universities and factories were occupied throughout France.  Paris was the scene of cobblestones being torn up from the pavements, barricades, street fighting with the police, cars overturned, and stores looted.  At one point, the turmoil and threats seemed so serious that President Charles de Gaulle on May 29 fled the country, for a day, to go to a French military base near Baden-Baden in Germany.

The protest of May ’68 was violent but became mixed and even incoherent with the infighting among the student groups, including Trotskyists, Maoists, anarchists, surrealists, and moderate socialists.  It was not a unified or cohesive group, but a number of individual personalities among the various improvised leftists fighting among themselves, even if some vague concept of anti-imperialism emerged.  They had no coherent program or structure, but claimed to act in “uncontrollable spontaneity” that gave them an impetus without it being canalized.  Jean-Paul Sartre was impressed with this – with the attempt, as he said, to implement imagination into reality.  

Others were critical.  Raymond Aron saw the student participants as actors imitating the French revolutionary past, a kind of “psychodrama,” and merely acting in a rehearsal held almost two centuries after the play had been staged.  Indeed, some student protagonists labeled themselves Les Enragés – not a unified party, but the radical extremists who opposed the Jacobins in June 1793 and who spoke on behalf of the poor.

In May ’68, some leaders emerged, the most well-known being Daniel Cohn-Bendit, nicknamed “Danny the Red” because of the color of his hair.  Born in France of German parents, a philosophy student at Nanterre, an anarchist if he can be classified, he inspired the movement with his captivating oratory, courage, and humor.  So far, no single similar figure has emerged in 2018 as similarly inspiring, though some 17-year-olds have been eloquent and expressed rhetoric that has gone beyond the single issue of controlling guns.  One speaker went beyond the manifest purpose of the march, not only by demanding more general social change and getting rid of politicians, but also by enthusiastically giving the black power salute at the end of his peroration.

May ’68 did lead to some social and political changes, including raising minimum wages.  It also led to President de Gaulle calling a referendum on April 27, 1969 on government decentralization and for changes in the French Senate.  The referendum was rejected by 52% of the voters, and de Gaulle resigned the presidency the next day.  It remains to be seen if there will be similar political consequences of the March for Our Lives.



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The State of Israel: Normal or Unique?


Ecclesiastes warns, “Of making many books there is no end.”  Certainly, the output on Jews and the State of Israel continues in full flood.  The latest work is In Search of Israel: The History of an Idea (Princeton U.P.), written by Michael Brenner, German-born historian, child of a Holocaust-survivor, who teaches at the University of Munich and American University.  It is a splendidly written and fair-minded work combining thoughts on the emergence and bewildering diversity of Zionist ideas and on the nature and changes in the State of Israel, and it appears fortuitously at a time when racist bigotry against Jews continues to raise its ugly head.

Disgracefully and almost unchallenged by members of the Congressional Black Caucus was the declaration “the powerful Jews are my enemy,” expressed by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan in Chicago on February 25, 2018.  Even worse, one member of the caucus, Danny Davis (D-Ill.), defending Farrakhan, explained that the “the world is so much bigger than the Jewish Question.”  His insensitive statement recalls the phrase, used once to discuss issues of the status and condition of Jews in European countries, but also long used by anti-Semites and those seeking destruction of the State of Israel and made infamous by the Nazi formula “The Final Solution to the Jewish Question” – the Holocaust, planned at the Berlin suburb of Wannsee on January 20, 1942.

The words of the Israeli national anthem, Hatikva (The Hope), first written as a poem in 1878, end with the aspiration “to be a free people in our land, the Land of Zion and Jerusalem.”  The anthem echoes the 2,000-year hope for Jews to return to the land of Israel, restore it, and become a sovereign nation.  Brenner’s book discusses the ideas behind the creation of the Jewish state and the ongoing debate about whether that free state, now the State of Israel, should be or can be considered a normal state or unique.  Is Israel a state like any other, or does it have a Sonderweg, a special path?

The book goes over much familiar ground, telling the story of how Zionism emerged as one of the paths for overcoming the age-old discrimination and persecution of Jews and for normalizing their condition.  The proposals for ending persecution varied: thorough assimilation as proposed by Walter Rathenau, Jewish German businessman and politician; Diaspora autonomy, best expressed by Simon Dubnow, historian in Odessa; a Jewish society and a state that would be a spiritual center of creativity and cultural values, envisioned by Ahad Ha’am; the Eastern European Jewish socialists known as the Bund, who concentrated on social and economic issues and aimed at a “new Jew” working the land in collective settlements by kibbutzim; Orthodox Jews, who wanted a society based on Halakha, Jewish religious law; cultural Zionists, who wanted the renewal of the Hebrew language and a distinct secular culture; and the mainstream Zionism, established as a Jewish mass movement by Theodore Herzl in Basle in 1897, though anticipated by others such as Leon Pinsker and Max Nordau.

From the start, Zionist writers differed, and no single solution was accepted.  Herzl himself was a secular liberal interested in saving the Jews from anti-Semitism, proposing a society for Jews and non-Jews.  In it, religion and Jewish culture would not be significant, and languages used would be German, English, and French, not Hebrew.

Brenner fairly traces the arguments of the Zionist pioneers and their followers – among others, Ber Borochov; Aaron Gordon; Rabbi Kook; Israel Zangwill; and Vladimir Jabotinky, who held that Jews should settle on both sides of the Jordan and have a strong state with sovereignty.  At the core was always the question of the “idea” of a state, a normal one like others or one that is exceptional unlike any other, a model society with a mission, “a light unto the nations.”  Tension was always present between idealism and pragmatism.  Was the state to be secular or religious?  Early on, in view of increasing persecution and the Nazi menace, the question of a place for Jews as immediate refuge, a safe haven, was crucial: Africa, Australia, South America, and Tasmania were choices.

What indeed was the “national home” promised by the Balfour declaration of 1917 to become?  The meaning of Jewish sovereignty remained unclear, and proposals by Zionist thinkers and actions in the State of Israel reflected differences regarding the character of Jewish self-determination.  Brenner makes the point that both the mainstream Zionist movement and socialist Zionists were inclined to favor autonomy under British or international rule until World War II.  Interestingly, the legacy of Herzl is claimed both by the right as nationalist and by the left as cosmopolitan.

The State of Israel since its creation has struggled with these issues in a changing society and an insecure and hostile international environment.  Brenner believes that Israel has achieved many goals of the Zionist movement, but it is not a state like any other.  One indication is that it has been subjected to far more international attention, as shown by the disproportionate condemnations by U.N. and other resolutions, far more than any other country in the world.  It has been seen as exceptional not only by itself, but, for prejudiced reasons, by many in the “international community.”

In his address to the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry in 1946, David Ben-Gurion, whom Brenner calls Herzl’s heir, explained that a Jewish state meant a Jewish country, labor, colony, agriculture, and industry along with Jewish seed.  It would be characterized by Jewish language, schools, culture, safety, security, and autonomy.  But he held contradictory views, holding on one hand that the state would be a nation like any other nation but also rejecting on the other hand that notion in arguing that Israel occupies a unique place in the intellectual and cultural history of mankind, a light unto other states.

For many, the founding and survival of Israel is seen as a miracle, and by some as a normalization of Jewish history.  Israel was created as a Jewish state, with flag, anthem, language, official Jewish holidays, and the Law of Return.  Brenner discusses a number of the real problems that have arisen in the state.  Israel has been unable to draft a formal constitution, nor has it formulated an exact definition of “Jewishness,” but it has drafted a number of basic laws.  It lacks a single document that clearly defines its essence.  At the beginning, Israel had an overwhelmingly secular Jewish population and a quiescent religious minority with religious symbols.  Many of the original Jewish settlers came from Eastern Europe, penniless, little educated, refashioning the land and making it cultivable.  The Hebrew language was restored and modernized, and a compromise was made on the role of religion, with acceptance of openings on Sabbath and of secular rulings by the courts.

Israel has changed, become less secular and socialist and more nationalist and religious.  The settler ideal has, to an extent,  begun to replace two features: the ideal of kibbutzim, now reduced in numbers from 5% of the population to less than 2%, and the prominence of social democratic governments.  More common are capitalist and technological entrepreneurs and control by divided but more right-wing political groups.  Symbolically, Israel exports 20 times more in high-tech goods than in agriculture.

The dilemma of normality or uniqueness remains in the present deeply divided Israeli society.  In the 1900s, there were four groups: a large secular majority and three minority groups: a national-religious minority, an Arab minority, and a Haredi minority.  Today, the secular population and universalist values are declining, while religious and more particularist elements are increasing.  Brenner holds that Israel has made enormous achievements, but it also has setbacks.  The 1967 Six-Day War victory made Israel, still evolving in realpolitik and perhaps in fantasy, a more combative power.

In the present Israeli order, there is no clear majority or even clear minority groups, but four “tribes” different from each other and increasing in size.  A national-religious minority, once moderate, is now more concerned with settlements.  Then there are an Arab-Palestinian minority, now over 20% of the population, unequal in ownership and local administrative services, which demands of Israel a “state of all its citizens,” and less prominent Jewish symbols and actions; a Haredi ultra-Orthodox minority, growing and now playing a larger role, with many, perhaps most, seeing themselves as more Jewish than Israel, but who have modified their critical or hostile position toward the state; and a declining purely secular population.

The future is open.  The model of Israel is more than simply a choice between the “normal” Tel Aviv, a secular and hedonistic city, quasi-Western, and the diverse, unique Jerusalem more dominated by religion of various kinds, a part of the Middle East.

A state of Israel has always meant different things.  To its secular founders in their revolt against Jewish history, it would normalize Jewish history.  For Orthodox Jews, it symbolized continuity, not a break with Jewish history, but its culmination, a vehicle to messianic goals.

With its consumer society and shopping malls, multinational corporations, and start-up companies; privatization of state owned enterprises; new economic oligarchies; and increase in travel abroad, today’s Israel is symbolized more by microchips than by oranges.  One can conclude that Israel is both Jewish and democratic, though not as democratic as many wish, nor as religious as the Orthodox want.  The question of normal or unique is still open.  Brenner carefully concludes that the goal of becoming a state like any other remains elusive.

Ecclesiastes warns, “Of making many books there is no end.”  Certainly, the output on Jews and the State of Israel continues in full flood.  The latest work is In Search of Israel: The History of an Idea (Princeton U.P.), written by Michael Brenner, German-born historian, child of a Holocaust-survivor, who teaches at the University of Munich and American University.  It is a splendidly written and fair-minded work combining thoughts on the emergence and bewildering diversity of Zionist ideas and on the nature and changes in the State of Israel, and it appears fortuitously at a time when racist bigotry against Jews continues to raise its ugly head.

Disgracefully and almost unchallenged by members of the Congressional Black Caucus was the declaration “the powerful Jews are my enemy,” expressed by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan in Chicago on February 25, 2018.  Even worse, one member of the caucus, Danny Davis (D-Ill.), defending Farrakhan, explained that the “the world is so much bigger than the Jewish Question.”  His insensitive statement recalls the phrase, used once to discuss issues of the status and condition of Jews in European countries, but also long used by anti-Semites and those seeking destruction of the State of Israel and made infamous by the Nazi formula “The Final Solution to the Jewish Question” – the Holocaust, planned at the Berlin suburb of Wannsee on January 20, 1942.

The words of the Israeli national anthem, Hatikva (The Hope), first written as a poem in 1878, end with the aspiration “to be a free people in our land, the Land of Zion and Jerusalem.”  The anthem echoes the 2,000-year hope for Jews to return to the land of Israel, restore it, and become a sovereign nation.  Brenner’s book discusses the ideas behind the creation of the Jewish state and the ongoing debate about whether that free state, now the State of Israel, should be or can be considered a normal state or unique.  Is Israel a state like any other, or does it have a Sonderweg, a special path?

The book goes over much familiar ground, telling the story of how Zionism emerged as one of the paths for overcoming the age-old discrimination and persecution of Jews and for normalizing their condition.  The proposals for ending persecution varied: thorough assimilation as proposed by Walter Rathenau, Jewish German businessman and politician; Diaspora autonomy, best expressed by Simon Dubnow, historian in Odessa; a Jewish society and a state that would be a spiritual center of creativity and cultural values, envisioned by Ahad Ha’am; the Eastern European Jewish socialists known as the Bund, who concentrated on social and economic issues and aimed at a “new Jew” working the land in collective settlements by kibbutzim; Orthodox Jews, who wanted a society based on Halakha, Jewish religious law; cultural Zionists, who wanted the renewal of the Hebrew language and a distinct secular culture; and the mainstream Zionism, established as a Jewish mass movement by Theodore Herzl in Basle in 1897, though anticipated by others such as Leon Pinsker and Max Nordau.

From the start, Zionist writers differed, and no single solution was accepted.  Herzl himself was a secular liberal interested in saving the Jews from anti-Semitism, proposing a society for Jews and non-Jews.  In it, religion and Jewish culture would not be significant, and languages used would be German, English, and French, not Hebrew.

Brenner fairly traces the arguments of the Zionist pioneers and their followers – among others, Ber Borochov; Aaron Gordon; Rabbi Kook; Israel Zangwill; and Vladimir Jabotinky, who held that Jews should settle on both sides of the Jordan and have a strong state with sovereignty.  At the core was always the question of the “idea” of a state, a normal one like others or one that is exceptional unlike any other, a model society with a mission, “a light unto the nations.”  Tension was always present between idealism and pragmatism.  Was the state to be secular or religious?  Early on, in view of increasing persecution and the Nazi menace, the question of a place for Jews as immediate refuge, a safe haven, was crucial: Africa, Australia, South America, and Tasmania were choices.

What indeed was the “national home” promised by the Balfour declaration of 1917 to become?  The meaning of Jewish sovereignty remained unclear, and proposals by Zionist thinkers and actions in the State of Israel reflected differences regarding the character of Jewish self-determination.  Brenner makes the point that both the mainstream Zionist movement and socialist Zionists were inclined to favor autonomy under British or international rule until World War II.  Interestingly, the legacy of Herzl is claimed both by the right as nationalist and by the left as cosmopolitan.

The State of Israel since its creation has struggled with these issues in a changing society and an insecure and hostile international environment.  Brenner believes that Israel has achieved many goals of the Zionist movement, but it is not a state like any other.  One indication is that it has been subjected to far more international attention, as shown by the disproportionate condemnations by U.N. and other resolutions, far more than any other country in the world.  It has been seen as exceptional not only by itself, but, for prejudiced reasons, by many in the “international community.”

In his address to the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry in 1946, David Ben-Gurion, whom Brenner calls Herzl’s heir, explained that a Jewish state meant a Jewish country, labor, colony, agriculture, and industry along with Jewish seed.  It would be characterized by Jewish language, schools, culture, safety, security, and autonomy.  But he held contradictory views, holding on one hand that the state would be a nation like any other nation but also rejecting on the other hand that notion in arguing that Israel occupies a unique place in the intellectual and cultural history of mankind, a light unto other states.

For many, the founding and survival of Israel is seen as a miracle, and by some as a normalization of Jewish history.  Israel was created as a Jewish state, with flag, anthem, language, official Jewish holidays, and the Law of Return.  Brenner discusses a number of the real problems that have arisen in the state.  Israel has been unable to draft a formal constitution, nor has it formulated an exact definition of “Jewishness,” but it has drafted a number of basic laws.  It lacks a single document that clearly defines its essence.  At the beginning, Israel had an overwhelmingly secular Jewish population and a quiescent religious minority with religious symbols.  Many of the original Jewish settlers came from Eastern Europe, penniless, little educated, refashioning the land and making it cultivable.  The Hebrew language was restored and modernized, and a compromise was made on the role of religion, with acceptance of openings on Sabbath and of secular rulings by the courts.

Israel has changed, become less secular and socialist and more nationalist and religious.  The settler ideal has, to an extent,  begun to replace two features: the ideal of kibbutzim, now reduced in numbers from 5% of the population to less than 2%, and the prominence of social democratic governments.  More common are capitalist and technological entrepreneurs and control by divided but more right-wing political groups.  Symbolically, Israel exports 20 times more in high-tech goods than in agriculture.

The dilemma of normality or uniqueness remains in the present deeply divided Israeli society.  In the 1900s, there were four groups: a large secular majority and three minority groups: a national-religious minority, an Arab minority, and a Haredi minority.  Today, the secular population and universalist values are declining, while religious and more particularist elements are increasing.  Brenner holds that Israel has made enormous achievements, but it also has setbacks.  The 1967 Six-Day War victory made Israel, still evolving in realpolitik and perhaps in fantasy, a more combative power.

In the present Israeli order, there is no clear majority or even clear minority groups, but four “tribes” different from each other and increasing in size.  A national-religious minority, once moderate, is now more concerned with settlements.  Then there are an Arab-Palestinian minority, now over 20% of the population, unequal in ownership and local administrative services, which demands of Israel a “state of all its citizens,” and less prominent Jewish symbols and actions; a Haredi ultra-Orthodox minority, growing and now playing a larger role, with many, perhaps most, seeing themselves as more Jewish than Israel, but who have modified their critical or hostile position toward the state; and a declining purely secular population.

The future is open.  The model of Israel is more than simply a choice between the “normal” Tel Aviv, a secular and hedonistic city, quasi-Western, and the diverse, unique Jerusalem more dominated by religion of various kinds, a part of the Middle East.

A state of Israel has always meant different things.  To its secular founders in their revolt against Jewish history, it would normalize Jewish history.  For Orthodox Jews, it symbolized continuity, not a break with Jewish history, but its culmination, a vehicle to messianic goals.

With its consumer society and shopping malls, multinational corporations, and start-up companies; privatization of state owned enterprises; new economic oligarchies; and increase in travel abroad, today’s Israel is symbolized more by microchips than by oranges.  One can conclude that Israel is both Jewish and democratic, though not as democratic as many wish, nor as religious as the Orthodox want.  The question of normal or unique is still open.  Brenner carefully concludes that the goal of becoming a state like any other remains elusive.



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Silence, Blacks, and Louis Farrakhan


Silence may be the perfect herald of joy but sometimes has unfortunate consequences. Sir Thomas More, 16th-century lawyer and Lord High Chancellor of England in 1532, refused to approve the decision of King Henry VIII to divorce his wife, Catherine of Aragon, and as a result was tried for high treason and executed. In the play A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt, based on this issue, the question of the interpretation of silence is disputed. The prosecution asserted that More’s silence on the King’s action meant denial. More replied that the maxim of the law is “Silence gives consent.” Therefore, “You must construe that I consented.”

This principle is pertinent to the silence, the selective lack of global outrage, by the media and particularly by so called humanitarian groups and individuals, such as the American Friends Service Committee, very active in the boycott against the State of Israel, concerning atrocities committed around the world in recent years. A few examples illustrate the astonishing silence about events in Nigeria, Indonesia, Syria, and Myanmar, among so many others.

In the United States the silence is deafening on the part of the media and Twitter concerning members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and others tolerant of or not critical of the raucous bigoted rhetoric of Louis Farrakhan (once Louis Walcott and Louis X), the African-American activist who has been leader of the Nation of Islam (NOI) since 1975 after considerable infighting within the organization. Its current membership is said to be 50,000.

As a young man Farrakhan played the violin and recorded calypso music as “The Charmer,” before being influenced by Elijah Muhammad and his Nation of Islam in 1955. At that time, he informed the world that the original humans were black and God who was black created them.

Farrakhan’s unreserved stormy rhetoric and his activism for forty years have drawn large audiences and support, including a $5 million loan and gift from Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi. He organized the Million Man March in Washington, D.C. on October 16, 1995, the largest gathering to that point of African-Americans. His speech on that day can politely be described as “remarkable” when he commented on the statue of Abraham Lincoln in Washington which is 555 feet high. When you add the number “1” in front of it you get 1555 and that is the year “our first fathers landed on the shores of Jamestown, VA, as slaves.”

Irrespective of this inaccurate historical commentary, Farrakhan is best known for his nonstop attacks from the beginning of his career until today on the “worst enemy of black and African -American advancement.” In speech after speech he has denounced the Jews, people of “a dirty religion,” who appear to be in his eyes the dominant group in life. Only a small sampling of his rants is necessary to make the point. In Chicago on February 25, 1990 he denounced the Jews, a small handful, who have control over the “movement of this nation,” and a stranglehold on Congress. They are responsible, he wrote in a message on June 24, 2010 to the Southern Poverty Law Center, for the trans-Atlantic slave trade, plantation slavery, Jim Crow, sharecropping, and the condition of “our people.”

His most recent announcements were at the NOI’s annual Savior’s Day convention in a large arena in Chicago on February 25, 2018, where he delivered a three-hour speech, and on Twitter on March 7, 2018 when he asserted that the FBI was the worst enemy of black advancement and the Jews have control over these agencies of government. In Chicago, he talked of Jews as the “Synagogue of Satan.” Jews, we are informed, have chemically injected homosexuality in black men through marijuana.

His speech in Chicago will interest or amuse some international leaders in the U.S., Russia, France, and the EU. According to Farrakhan, the people, part of that Synagogue of Satan, who are running Mexico are Mexican Jews, and the Jews also control Ukraine, France, Poland, and Germany. Of course, Jews who were the “mother and father of apartheid,” also control, among other things, the U.S. government and Hollywood, as well as the FBI.

Farrakhan’s tirades and prejudices have long been familiar and been discounted by every rational person as over the line of acceptable political and social dialogue. What is disconcerting are two things: the refusal of members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), the very people concerned with discrimination and bigotry, to condemn wholeheartedly or to dissociate themselves from Farrakhan’s bigotry; and the almost universal absence of critical, explicit, candid commentary by most of the mainstream media on these failings.

Foremost in the CBC is Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, who as a young man was employed by the NOI for 18 months in 1995 in Minnesota, and who had links with NOI for a number of years though he falsely claimed to have never been a member. Later he said, he found the views of Farrakhan upsetting and unacceptable. Ellison has never made anti-Semitic remarks himself, and publicly disavowed NOI in 2006 and rejected bigoted and anti-Semitic ideas and statements, after having defended him against charges of racism.

Yet he has had some meetings with Farrakhan, though at first he denied them. One was a meeting after Hurricane Katrina at a church in New Orleans in 2005. Another was at a private dinner in New York for U.S. Muslim leaders hosted by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in 2013. A third was a private meeting, together with Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind-7), the second Muslim elected to Congress, with Farrakhan in his hotel suite in 2016.

Carson replied to critics who called for his resignation over his ties to Farrakhan by saying that the “outcry” over Farrakhan’s recent anti-Semitic and racist remarks by Jewish organizations had no “credibility with him.” Instead, Carson called on the Republican Jewish Coalition to condemn Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli government for discrimination against Africans who he held are migrating, who are fleeing dictatorships, who are fleeing oppression.

Among other members of the Caucus are Rep. Danny Davis, D-Illinois, and Rep. Maxime Waters, D-Cal. Davis is reported to have said that Farrakhan is “an outstanding human being.” However, his position is somewhat ambiguous. On one hand, he said he rejected, condemned, and opposed Farrakhan’s views on the Jewish people and the Jewish religion. Yet earlier, he remarked that Farrakhan’s position on the so-called “Jewish question” did not bother him.

Waters has decided views on some issues but seems to be silent or suffer from lack of memory on other questions. On January 12, 2018 she termed President Donald Trump a racist, a dangerous, disturbed, deceitful man. However, she was silent when at a California convention in 2002, Farrakhan defended Palestinian suicide bombers who made themselves weapons against Israel. At that meeting Farrakhan applauded her presence, calling her “our great congresswoman from this area.” She refused requests to comment on the speech. Waters, together with some other black leaders, met after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005. When asked about this meeting, her secretary said, “She was traveling and unable to answer.”

One particularly disconcerting aspect of these recent events is the tolerance and apparent support of Farrakhan by women associated with the Women’s March, co-leaders Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez, and Linda Sarsour. By their behavior they have disgraced the principles of the women’s movement.  Mallory, a Christian black community activist, who identifies herself as a “strong black woman,” attended the 2018 Chicago rally and calls Farrakhan the greatest of all time. She explains that the black community is very complex. She condemns antisemitism and racism, but has not explicitly condemned Farrakhan. Should we expect her to do so? The answer is that a woman who calls herself a progressive leader and refuses to condemn the anti-Semitic Farrakhan is hypocritical.

Perez posted a video of herself watching a Farrakhan speech in 2016 when he spoke of “truth to power,” thus apparently justifying him. She pointed out a need to understand the significant contributions people, like Farrakhan, have made to black and brown people. There are, she said, no perfect leaders. Linda Sarsour, a Muslim Palestinian-American activist, is proud of her speech at a 2015 rally organized by Farrakhan. She declared that “the same people who justify the massacres of the Palestinian people are the same people who justify the murder of young black men and women.”

One final note, rather intriguing, resulting from the inquiry into the Congressional Black Caucus. Farrakhan had remarked that Barack Obama was the first Jewish president, the people who selected him were rich, powerful members of the Jewish community. However, a photo taken in 2005 was recently made public for the first time of then Senator Barack Obama meeting with Farrakhan. The photographer said he had suppressed its publication at the request of an unnamed member of the caucus.

Farrakhan long ago crossed the line of acceptable dialogue. What is very troubling is that the current members of the Congressional Black Caucus do not appear to have publicly condemned, systematically or otherwise, his bigotry against Jews. Remembering Thomas More, is silence consent? The CBC should come face to face with their past actions and confess and renounce any past ties to Farrakhan, or any tolerance of his bigotry. In addition, the mainstream media by its silence should not exemplify “hello darkness, my old friend.”

Silence may be the perfect herald of joy but sometimes has unfortunate consequences. Sir Thomas More, 16th-century lawyer and Lord High Chancellor of England in 1532, refused to approve the decision of King Henry VIII to divorce his wife, Catherine of Aragon, and as a result was tried for high treason and executed. In the play A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt, based on this issue, the question of the interpretation of silence is disputed. The prosecution asserted that More’s silence on the King’s action meant denial. More replied that the maxim of the law is “Silence gives consent.” Therefore, “You must construe that I consented.”

This principle is pertinent to the silence, the selective lack of global outrage, by the media and particularly by so called humanitarian groups and individuals, such as the American Friends Service Committee, very active in the boycott against the State of Israel, concerning atrocities committed around the world in recent years. A few examples illustrate the astonishing silence about events in Nigeria, Indonesia, Syria, and Myanmar, among so many others.

In the United States the silence is deafening on the part of the media and Twitter concerning members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and others tolerant of or not critical of the raucous bigoted rhetoric of Louis Farrakhan (once Louis Walcott and Louis X), the African-American activist who has been leader of the Nation of Islam (NOI) since 1975 after considerable infighting within the organization. Its current membership is said to be 50,000.

As a young man Farrakhan played the violin and recorded calypso music as “The Charmer,” before being influenced by Elijah Muhammad and his Nation of Islam in 1955. At that time, he informed the world that the original humans were black and God who was black created them.

Farrakhan’s unreserved stormy rhetoric and his activism for forty years have drawn large audiences and support, including a $5 million loan and gift from Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi. He organized the Million Man March in Washington, D.C. on October 16, 1995, the largest gathering to that point of African-Americans. His speech on that day can politely be described as “remarkable” when he commented on the statue of Abraham Lincoln in Washington which is 555 feet high. When you add the number “1” in front of it you get 1555 and that is the year “our first fathers landed on the shores of Jamestown, VA, as slaves.”

Irrespective of this inaccurate historical commentary, Farrakhan is best known for his nonstop attacks from the beginning of his career until today on the “worst enemy of black and African -American advancement.” In speech after speech he has denounced the Jews, people of “a dirty religion,” who appear to be in his eyes the dominant group in life. Only a small sampling of his rants is necessary to make the point. In Chicago on February 25, 1990 he denounced the Jews, a small handful, who have control over the “movement of this nation,” and a stranglehold on Congress. They are responsible, he wrote in a message on June 24, 2010 to the Southern Poverty Law Center, for the trans-Atlantic slave trade, plantation slavery, Jim Crow, sharecropping, and the condition of “our people.”

His most recent announcements were at the NOI’s annual Savior’s Day convention in a large arena in Chicago on February 25, 2018, where he delivered a three-hour speech, and on Twitter on March 7, 2018 when he asserted that the FBI was the worst enemy of black advancement and the Jews have control over these agencies of government. In Chicago, he talked of Jews as the “Synagogue of Satan.” Jews, we are informed, have chemically injected homosexuality in black men through marijuana.

His speech in Chicago will interest or amuse some international leaders in the U.S., Russia, France, and the EU. According to Farrakhan, the people, part of that Synagogue of Satan, who are running Mexico are Mexican Jews, and the Jews also control Ukraine, France, Poland, and Germany. Of course, Jews who were the “mother and father of apartheid,” also control, among other things, the U.S. government and Hollywood, as well as the FBI.

Farrakhan’s tirades and prejudices have long been familiar and been discounted by every rational person as over the line of acceptable political and social dialogue. What is disconcerting are two things: the refusal of members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), the very people concerned with discrimination and bigotry, to condemn wholeheartedly or to dissociate themselves from Farrakhan’s bigotry; and the almost universal absence of critical, explicit, candid commentary by most of the mainstream media on these failings.

Foremost in the CBC is Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, who as a young man was employed by the NOI for 18 months in 1995 in Minnesota, and who had links with NOI for a number of years though he falsely claimed to have never been a member. Later he said, he found the views of Farrakhan upsetting and unacceptable. Ellison has never made anti-Semitic remarks himself, and publicly disavowed NOI in 2006 and rejected bigoted and anti-Semitic ideas and statements, after having defended him against charges of racism.

Yet he has had some meetings with Farrakhan, though at first he denied them. One was a meeting after Hurricane Katrina at a church in New Orleans in 2005. Another was at a private dinner in New York for U.S. Muslim leaders hosted by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in 2013. A third was a private meeting, together with Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind-7), the second Muslim elected to Congress, with Farrakhan in his hotel suite in 2016.

Carson replied to critics who called for his resignation over his ties to Farrakhan by saying that the “outcry” over Farrakhan’s recent anti-Semitic and racist remarks by Jewish organizations had no “credibility with him.” Instead, Carson called on the Republican Jewish Coalition to condemn Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli government for discrimination against Africans who he held are migrating, who are fleeing dictatorships, who are fleeing oppression.

Among other members of the Caucus are Rep. Danny Davis, D-Illinois, and Rep. Maxime Waters, D-Cal. Davis is reported to have said that Farrakhan is “an outstanding human being.” However, his position is somewhat ambiguous. On one hand, he said he rejected, condemned, and opposed Farrakhan’s views on the Jewish people and the Jewish religion. Yet earlier, he remarked that Farrakhan’s position on the so-called “Jewish question” did not bother him.

Waters has decided views on some issues but seems to be silent or suffer from lack of memory on other questions. On January 12, 2018 she termed President Donald Trump a racist, a dangerous, disturbed, deceitful man. However, she was silent when at a California convention in 2002, Farrakhan defended Palestinian suicide bombers who made themselves weapons against Israel. At that meeting Farrakhan applauded her presence, calling her “our great congresswoman from this area.” She refused requests to comment on the speech. Waters, together with some other black leaders, met after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005. When asked about this meeting, her secretary said, “She was traveling and unable to answer.”

One particularly disconcerting aspect of these recent events is the tolerance and apparent support of Farrakhan by women associated with the Women’s March, co-leaders Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez, and Linda Sarsour. By their behavior they have disgraced the principles of the women’s movement.  Mallory, a Christian black community activist, who identifies herself as a “strong black woman,” attended the 2018 Chicago rally and calls Farrakhan the greatest of all time. She explains that the black community is very complex. She condemns antisemitism and racism, but has not explicitly condemned Farrakhan. Should we expect her to do so? The answer is that a woman who calls herself a progressive leader and refuses to condemn the anti-Semitic Farrakhan is hypocritical.

Perez posted a video of herself watching a Farrakhan speech in 2016 when he spoke of “truth to power,” thus apparently justifying him. She pointed out a need to understand the significant contributions people, like Farrakhan, have made to black and brown people. There are, she said, no perfect leaders. Linda Sarsour, a Muslim Palestinian-American activist, is proud of her speech at a 2015 rally organized by Farrakhan. She declared that “the same people who justify the massacres of the Palestinian people are the same people who justify the murder of young black men and women.”

One final note, rather intriguing, resulting from the inquiry into the Congressional Black Caucus. Farrakhan had remarked that Barack Obama was the first Jewish president, the people who selected him were rich, powerful members of the Jewish community. However, a photo taken in 2005 was recently made public for the first time of then Senator Barack Obama meeting with Farrakhan. The photographer said he had suppressed its publication at the request of an unnamed member of the caucus.

Farrakhan long ago crossed the line of acceptable dialogue. What is very troubling is that the current members of the Congressional Black Caucus do not appear to have publicly condemned, systematically or otherwise, his bigotry against Jews. Remembering Thomas More, is silence consent? The CBC should come face to face with their past actions and confess and renounce any past ties to Farrakhan, or any tolerance of his bigotry. In addition, the mainstream media by its silence should not exemplify “hello darkness, my old friend.”



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