Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Vultures, Argentina, and Israel

Argentina and the "vultures" are back in the news, which makes this a good time to resurrect the post below, which was banned from Firedoglake last summer. Una versión de este artículo está disponible en español.

News of the Argentinian government's debt default is a hot media item recently but there is more to this story than meets the eye. The major actor pushing Argentina into default is a "vulture fund" manager named Paul Singer. Mother Jones last year portrayed Singer as "the GOP's Go-To Guy on Wall Street" which, while true, does not tell the whole story.

Like the New York Times, Mother Jones has covered up the Israel angle on Singer, which is an important part of his campaign against Argentina. Furthermore, in portraying him as a Republican, MJ neglects to mention Singer's strong ties to the Democratic Party.

As reported by the Inter Press Service (IPS) last year:
When Argentina defaulted on its national debt in 2001, U.S. hedge funds swooped in to buy the nation’s bonds at pennies on the dollar, confident they would eventually prevail in the U.S. legal system and force the country to pay out in full.
That battle is set to reach the Supreme Court later this year, but the country’s creditors on Wall Street – labeled 'vulture capitalists' by their critics – are also making their case in Congress and the court of public opinion, with a current media campaign aimed at painting Argentina as an increasingly rogue nation in bed with Washington's enemies.
The public relations effort, which focuses on Argentina's increasingly friendly relations with Iran ...
The vehicle for that effort is called the American Task Force Argentina (ATFA) and "the people who head up" the ATFA, "the main lobbying organization behind Singer's current campaign ... sit on the high councils of the Democratic Party and would likely be part of any Hillary Clinton administration."

The ATFA is led by three people: Robert Raben, whose legislative career began with seven years on Barney Frank's staff and who eventually served as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Clinton Administration; Robert J. Shapiro, who is a Senior Fellow of the Progressive Policy Institute and was appointed U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs under Bill Clinton, whom he advised during his first presidential campaign; and, Nancy Soderberg who served in the Clinton White House on the National Security Council and later as an Alternate Representative to the United Nations. Soderberg also helped the "tiny team [that] nailed down [the] Jewish vote for Obama" in 2012.

As IPS puts it: "The details of Argentina's relationship with Iran – which consists mostly of agricultural exports – are not terribly important to ATFA, however." Instead, the ATFA has chosen to portray Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner as having made "a pact with the devil" in reference to a 2013 "agreement establishing a joint 'truth commission' with Tehran" whose allegedly "only purpose ... is to whitewash Iran's responsibility for the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires ..."

Singer's targeting of Iran via the ATFA dovetails nicely with his own support of the Jewish state as Iran has long been in Zionist crosshairs. According to the IPS:
In 2007, Singer described himself as a believer in American exceptionalism, noting that he has given "millions of dollars to Republican organizations that emphasize a strong military and support Israel." Speaking to the New York Times, Singer explained that he believes the West "finds itself at an early stage of a drawn-out existential struggle with radical strains of pan-national Islamists."
But to return to the financial stakes for Argentina for a moment let's go back to the article by Conn Hallinan on truthdig:
A recent decision by federal District Judge Thomas Griesa in Manhattan may not only force Argentina to pay the vultures, it could unravel a 2006 debt deal between Buenos Aires and other creditors. Under the highly controversial principle of "pari passu" ("equal ranking among creditors"), if the vultures are compensated, so must all the other creditors, even those who settled back in 2006. That bill could reach $15 billion. Given that Argentina has only about $28 billion in foreign reserves, the tab could send Buenos Aires into a recession or force the country into bankruptcy.
The "sleight of hand" involves the fact that the countries the vultures prey on are not really in debt to creditors such as Singer and Eric Hermann of FH International Asset Management LLC. The hedge funds look for distressed countries, then buy their debt at bargain basement prices and sit on it. In the meantime, other creditors cut a deal to take a reduced payment on their bonds, which in turn helps improve the debtor's economy and allows it to emerge from default.
That's when the vultures sue, threatening to shut down outside aid programs, seize assets and freeze debtor nations out of international finance if they don't pay up. Recent examples involving Singer include the Republic of Congo being forced to pay him $90 million on a $10 million investment. Singer's investment of $48 million in Argentina's debt would net him a 1,608 percent profit if Buenos Aires pays in full. Peru was similarly plundered.
With the default announcement today Forbes was saying:
Things couldn't have come out worse. Everyone lost: Argentina defaulted on its sovereign debt for the second time in nearly 13 years, the holdout bond holders were left empty handed, and Federal Judge Thomas Griesa's strategy to force Argentine to negotiate a settlement with the so-called venture funds failed.
But, not so fast. The Jewish Business News predicted, also today: "Paul Singer Will Likely Collect Most of His $1.3 Billion Even as Argentina Defaults on Debt Payments". And that's a good thing because, according to Liel Leibovitz, writing in Tablet Magazine: "Jewish law, in its infinite wisdom" says "Sorry, Argentina, but a Debt Is a Debt" and "Pay Up, Argentina: It's the (Jewish) Law" even if the return on 'investment' is 1,608% and payment results in possibly years of hardship for millions of people. Of course, if Argentina had a sugar daddy bankrolling them as Israel does they wouldn't be in this mess now would they?

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

The 5th Annual Bill Henry International Eat-a-Cheeseburger Day

Bill Henry, Z"L,circa 1940
Saturday, October 4, 2014, is the 5th annual Bill Henry international Eat-a-Cheeseburger day. This day honors the memory of Bill Henry (né Herskovitz), Z"L, for a decision that quite possibly saved an eight-year-old boy from a life of "Jewish chauvinism and exclusivism". For the full story behind Eat-a-Cheeseburger Day please see the 2011 post about this momentous day.

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Saturday, August 02, 2014

Buitres, Argentina, e Israel

El artículo que sigue fue traducido de una versión inglesa. Sin embargo, soy ni un locutor nativo del español. Me disculpo por cualquier error de la traducción. Las correcciones son agradables.

Las noticias del impago de la deuda del gobierno argentino es un elemento multimedia caliente recientemente, pero hay más en esta historia que parece a simple vista. El actor principal que empuja Argentina en default es un 'fondo buitre' gerente llamado Paul Singer. El año pasado la revista Mother Jones descrito Singer como "the GOP's Go-To Guy on Wall Street", que, aunque es verdad, no cuentan toda la historia.

Al igual que el New York Times, Mother Jones ha oculto la conexión de Israel detrás de los esfuerzos de Singer, que es una parte importante de su campaña contra Argentina. Además, en retratarlo como republicano la revista deja de mencionar los fuertes vínculos de Singer con el Partido Demócrata

Como ha informado la agencia Inter Press Service (IPS) el año pasado:
Cuando Argentina entró en suspensión de pagos (default) de su deuda en 2001, varios fondos especulativos estadounidenses se abalanzaron a comprar los deprimidos bonos por unos centavos, confiados en que a la postre vencerían en los estrados de su país y obligarían a Buenos Aires a pagar hasta el último dólar del precio nominal.

La batalla por esa deuda llegará a la Corte Suprema de Estados Unidos este año, pero los acreedores de Wall Street –llamados "capitalistas buitres" por sus críticos—también llevaron el caso al Congreso legislativo y a la opinión pública con una campaña mediática que presenta a Argentina como una nación cada vez más "renegada" y asociada con los enemigos de Washington.

Este esfuerzo de relaciones públicas, que se centra en las relaciones crecientemente más amistosas de Buenos Aires con Teherán ...
El vehículo para que el esfuerzo se llama el Grupo de Tareas Estadounidense para Argentina (ATFA, por sus siglas en inglés). Las "personas que encabezan" la ATFA, "la principal organización de lobby detrás de la actual campaña de Singer ... se sientan en los altos consejos del Partido Demócrata y son probable que sea parte de cualquier administración Hillary Clinton".

El ATFA está liderado por tres personas: Robert Raben, cuya carrera legislativa comenzó con siete años en el personal de Barney Frank y que con el tiempo se desempeñó como Fiscal General Asistente del Director Adjunto en el gobierno de Clinton; Robert J. Shapiro, quien es un Senior Fellow del Instituto de Política Progresista y fue nombrado subsecretario de Comercio de EE.UU. para Asuntos Económicos del gobierno de Bill Clinton, a quien aconsejó durante su primera campaña presidencial; y, Nancy Soderberg que sirvió en la Casa Blanca de Clinton en el Consejo de Seguridad Nacional y luego como Representante Alterno ante las Naciones Unidas. Soderberg también ayudó al " pequeño equipo [que] clavado [el] voto judío de Obama "en 2012.

Como IPS lo expresa así: "Los detalles de las relaciones de Argentina con Irán –que consisten mayoritariamente en exportaciones agrícolas– no le interesan mucho a la ATFA." En cambio, el ATFA ha elegido para retratar el presidente argentino de Cristina Kirchner por haber hecho "un pacto con el diablo", en referencia a un 2013 "acuerdo que establezca un 'comisión de la verdad' conjunta con Teherán", cuyo supuestamente "único propósito ... es para encubrir la responsabilidad de Irán por el atentado contra el centro comunitario judío en Buenos Aires 1994 ..."

Focalización de Singer de Irán a través de la ATFA encaja muy bien con su propio apoyo del Estado judío como Irán ha sido durante mucho tiempo en el retículo en cruz sionistas. Según los IPS:
En 2007, Singer se describió a sí mismo como un creyente del excepcionalismo estadounidense y reveló haber aportado “millones de dólares a organizaciones republicanas que insisten en (la necesidad de) un ejército poderoso y en el apoyo a Israel”.

En entrevista con el periódico The New York Times, Singer dijo creer que Occidente “se encuentra en una etapa temprana de una prolongada lucha existencial con grupos radicales de islamistas pannacionales”.
Pero volvamos a las apuestas financieras de Argentina por un momento vamos a ir de nuevo a el artículo de Conn Hallinan en Truthdig:
Una reciente decisión del juez de distrito federal Thomas Griesa en Manhattan no sólo puede obligar a Argentina a pagar a los buitres, podría desentrañar un acuerdo sobre la deuda de 2006 entre Buenos Aires y otros acreedores. Bajo el principio muy controvertido de "pari passu" ("clasificación de igualdad entre los acreedores"), si se compensan los buitres, así que deben todos los demás acreedores, incluso los que se establecieron en 2006. Ese cuenta podría alcanzar los $15 mil millones. Teniendo en cuenta que Argentina tiene sólo alrededor de $28 mil millones en reservas en moneda extranjera, en la pestaña podría enviar a Buenos Aires en una recesión o forzar al país a la bancarrota.

El "juego de manos" implica el hecho de que los países que los buitres se aprovechan no están realmente en deuda a acreedores, tal como Singer y Eric Hermann de FH International Asset Management LLC. Los fondos de cobertura buscan los países en dificultades, y luego comprar su deuda a precios de ganga y lo manténgalo. Mientras tanto, los demás acreedores llegaron a un acuerdo para tomar un pago reducido de sus bonos, que a su vez ayuda a mejorar la economía del deudor y le permite salir de default financiero.

Fue entonces cuando los buitres demandar, amenazando con terminar los programas de ayuda exterior, confiscar los activos y excluir las naciones deudoras de las finanzas internacionales, si no pagan. Ejemplos recientes que involucran Singer incluyen la República de Congo está obligado a pagarle $90 millones en una inversión de $10 millones. El inversión de Singer de 48 millones de dólares en la deuda argentino se le ganaria 1.608 por ciento de beneficio si Buenos Aires paga en su totalidadsi Buenos Aires paga en su totalidad. Perú fue saqueado de manera similar.
Con el anuncio de del default financiero Forbes estaba diciendo:
Las cosas no podían haber salido peor. Todos perdieron: Argentina dejó de pagar su deuda soberana, por segunda vez en casi 13 años, los holdouts, o "no colaboradores" se quedaron con las manos vacías, y la estrategia de la jueza federal Thomas Griesa para forzar argentino para negociar un acuerdo con los así llamados fondos de capital riesgo fallaron.
Pero, no tan rápido. La Los Noticias de Negocios Judío predijo, también hoy: "Paul Singer Recogerá Probablemente la Mayoría de sus $1.3 mil millones a Pesar de que Argentina Los Impagos de Pagos de la Deuda". Y eso es una buena cosa porque, de acuerdo con Liel Leibovitz, la escritura en la Revista Tableta: "La ley judía, en su infinita sabiduría", dice "Lo siento, Argentina, pero una deuda es una deuda" y "¡A Pagar!, Argentina: Es la (judía ) Ley" incluso si el retorno de la "inversión" es 1.608% y el pago posiblemente cause años de dificultades para millones de personas. Por supuesto, si la Argentina tenía un viejo rico financiando ellos como hace Israel ellos no estarían en este lío ahora ¿verdad?

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Gaza

Death rides forth flag high
His sign a six-pointed star
Dirt dries on mass graves

-by Jeanette D.

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Mediocrity of James Rhodenhiser

Late last month, Henry Herskovitz of Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends extended an invitation to the Rev. James C. Rhodenhiser of St. Clare of Assisi Episcopal Church to meet with him and other critics of JWPF's vigil. The specific occasion for the offer was the visit to Ann Arbor of Dan McGown and Paul Eisen of Deir Yassin Remembered. After the invite and an explanation Herskovitz wrote, "We would certainly be willing to listen to what you and other invitees have to say." Below, via Herskovitz, is Rhodenhiser's response in toto and unedited except for the addition of one hyperlink.
Henry, can't get the mayor or Ken early Saturday a.m. To hear why scapegoating is a good idea. apologizing would be the way to get Jewish community attention and door to actual dialogue, not posters advocating overthrow of Israel or blaming Zionism for Nazism. Peace is always the result of mutuality not hostility. Ken and I are willing to put up an Israeli flag at our places if you wanted to give Beth Israel a break those weekends, we could make up a schedule together. God bless, james
Reading this, one wonders if Rhodenhiser is really so ill-informed or ill-educated that he actually believes there is any scapegoating going on. Merriam-Webster defines a scapegoat as "a person who is unfairly blamed for something that others have done". However, Beth Israel Congregation (BIC) has never been blamed "unfairly" nor for what "others have done".

BIC is fairly subject to protest for their own public support for the Jewish state that was created by force by a minority population in someone else's homeland. BIC is fairly subject to protest for indoctrinating children into militant Zionism. BIC is fairly subject to protest for its cheer-leading when Israel goes to war. BIC is fairly subject to protest for its toleration of its senior rabbi's apologetics of torture.

Rhodenhiser writes about opening (?) the "door to actual dialogue". He would do well to read read "When Dialogue is NOT our Hope" by Joseph Phelps in the Mennonite journal, Conciliation Quarterly.Here's part of what Phelps writes:
We cannot dialogue when: ...

When an issue of justice is involved.

This is the most complex reason for halting dialogue. Some conflicts are more than a difference of perspectives. As Martin Luther King reminded us, sometimes there are reasons "why we can't wait." People of God cannot be content to engage in dialogue with perpetrators of evil and injustice. We must be hesitant and cautious to place such strong labels on an individual or group, but sometimes we must.

There are times when action must take precedence over talk, when conflict should be pursued in place of a false peace. This what Jeremiah (6:14) accused the prophets of Jerusalem of doing: "They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, 'Peace, Peace,' when there is no peace." A dialogue between Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus company which tried to force her to give up her seat in the 1950s was not in order ... Clearly, the time for talking had passed. An act of resistance, a shifting of sentiment, and a redefinition of power was necessary before honest dialogue could resume.

Jesus reminded us that there would be issues worth (non-violently) fighting over: "Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather dissension" (Luke 12:51). His stance for justice and true holiness put Him in constant conflict with those who preferred the status quo. The conflict exposed the need for radical change. To have quelled the conflict through dialogue would have been to neglect the work for which He was sent ...
Yes, a talking shop would be much easier and more comfortable than actually taking a decade-long public, prophetic stand but JWPF is not a dialogue group; it is a peace and justice action group. Here is its position:
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends will end the vigils if Beth Israel satisfies our three previously stated requests or if equivalent goals are achieved through negotiations with Beth Israel: committing to work for the equal rights for the Palestinian citizens of Israel; committing to work for the end of the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem; and committing to work for the right of Palestinians to return to the homes from which they were forcibly removed in what was to become Israel.
The above words were written by a JWPF founder, the late Sol Metz (they are erroneously and mysteriously attributed to someone else on the MLive web site). No dialogue with BIC is necessary or warranted. Just as the Montgomery bus company ended its support for segregation, BIC can ends its support for Jewish supremacism in Palestine. However, I suspect the folks at BIC are far more devoted to their racist cause than the owners of the bus company ever were.

I've never met the Rev. Rhodenhiser. I know of him only through the little that I've read by him and about him. Based on that small sample though he strikes me as the kind of cleric the Rev. William Sloane Coffin had in mind when he said: "I think the bright flames of Christianity are now down to smoldering embers, if not ashes, of feeling comfortable. The church is pretty much down to therapy and management. There's really little prophetic fire ... we have mediocre politicians, and the clergy is pretty mediocre also."

I can easily imagine a long ago version of Rhodenhiser scolding the prophet Jeremiah as he stood "in the gate of the LORD'S house" and rebuked Israel (Jeremiah 7). I can see him chastising Amos for telling Beth Israel in the Lord's name: "I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies" because the Israelites had turned "justice to wormwood" and brought "righteousness to the ground." Look, there's James Rhodenhiser denouncing Isaiah to the city officials for telling Israel they are a "sinful nation, [a] people laden with iniquity" whose "hands are full of blood".

And, hey, isn't that the Rev. Rhodenhiser admonishing Jesus of Nazareth, wagging his finger and telling him "Peace is always the result of mutuality not hostility" after, all in one episode, Jesus: Drove the money-changers from the Temple; provoked the elders and chief priests to anger with his defiance and teachings; called the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites, blind fools, snakes, and vipers; and condemned the Holy City saying "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!"? Jesus wasn't much for Rhodenhiser-style dialogue, it would seem, and Rhodenhiser isn't much for Jesus or Coffin-style prophetic fire.

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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Beth Sholom Salutes JWPF on Ten Years

Earlier this month Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends celebrated ten years of faithfulness in the struggle for justice and peace in Palestine. Once again, Temple Beth Sholom has marked the occasion.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

1,443 Words of (Mostly) Balderdash

There is no such thing, it is said, as bad publicity. However, a recent article in Tablet Magazine would have been better publicity for Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends (JWPF) if author Steve Friess had been committed to telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Friess would also benefit by learning a thing or two about professional journalism from Ryan Stanton. Below are several excerpts, preceded by "SF", from Friess' September 12 article, "500 Days of Protest in Ann Arbor", my comments follow each excerpt.

SF: "protesters ... wave doctored Israeli flags, with red lines crossing out the Star of David in the middle, and solicit honks from passing motorists."

Only one "doctored" Israeli flag has appeared at the protest outside the Beth Israel Congregation (BIC). On that flag, the red slash of the international no/prohibition symbol does indeed cross the "star of David", aka the "magen David", but solely because it is the central emblem adorning the flag of the State of Israel. That emblem, a hexagram, is not an ancient Judaic symbol.

As noted in the "Magen David" entry in the Encyclopaedia Judaica, the hexagram was used "as early as the Bronze Age ... in many civilizations and in regions as far apart as Mesopotamia and Britain." The symbol also "appears in early Byzantine and many medieval European churches ... Probably in imitation of church usage – and certainly not as a specifically Jewish symbol – the hexagram is found on some synagogues from the later Middle Ages ..."

So, how did the hexagram become associated with Jews and Judaism? According to the Encyclopaedia Judaica: "The prime motive behind the wide diffusion of the sign in the 19th century was the desire to imitate Christianity. ... From such general use it was taken over by the Zionist movement. The very first issue of Die Welt, Herzl's Zionist journal, bore it as its emblem."

Judaism 101 adds: "The Magen David gained popularity as a symbol of Judaism when it was adopted as the emblem of the Zionist movement in 1897, but the symbol continued to be controversial for many years afterward. When the modern state of Israel was founded, there was much debate over whether this symbol should be used on the flag."

SF: "the group—known as Jewish Witnesses For Peace and Friends even though Herskovitz is its only regular Jewish participant ..."

This false and misleading. Marcia Federbush, who is Jewish, also attends the vigil regularly. While it is true that a majority of current participants are not Jewish, this was not always the case. When the vigil started, Jews comprised a majority. Several Jews quit because they were not able to stand up to the pressure and smears meted out by Zionist Jews. Further, other Jews who were there from the beginning, such as Rachel Persico, Larry Hochman, and Sol Metz, have since died. It is, perhaps, a sign of the moral decrepitude of the larger Jewish community that no younger Jews have come forward to take their places.

SF: "Almost every Shabbat since Sept. 13, 2003, they have appeared at this corner on Washtenaw Avenue decrying the synagogue as an agent of Palestinian oppression."

This is also misleading. No one in JWPF asserts that BIC is "an agent of Palestinian oppression". As AnnArbor.com reported nearly a month ago: "Herskovitz said his group isn't blaming the synagogue for the actions of a foreign government — just holding the congregation accountable for supporting the state of Israel."

What is at issue is the synagogue's active and willful complicity in the oppression of Palestinians. This takes the form of its public expressions for the existence of a Jewish state in Palestine, the silencing of all but the most tepid of Jewish critics of the Jewish State, its trips to Israel to indoctrinate BIC youth into militant Zionism, and its cheer-leading when Israel goes to war. Not surprisingly, BIC leaders and members want to support Israel without experiencing the moral opprobrium that is their due.

SF: "But [Henry] Herskovitz's efforts are rooted in an old-fashioned intra-faith grudge: In 2003, the synagogue refused to let him present a slideshow of photographs he'd taken at a Palestinian refugee camp that he felt documented human rights abuses. Incensed, he turned to local pro-Palestinian groups for support."

To reduce Herskovitz's objections to being silenced by his synagogue, which had no problem hosting yoga classes on the sabbath, to an "old-fashioned intra-faith grudge" is a way of trivializing the issue. One can imagine a 17th century Steve Friess similarly characterizing Spinoza's expulsion from Amsterdam's Jewish community as an "old-fashioned intra-faith grudge".

Curious readers are invited to view the photos Herskovitz collected on his 2002 visit to the Balata refugee camp in the West Bank. His photos document the experience that began the transformation of a nominally Zionist Jew into a stalwart enemy of Jewish hypocrisy and chauvinism. Also, Herskovitz first turned to fellow Jews and the peace community from which he came when his efforts were rejected by Rabbi Dobrusin.

SF: "Beth Israel's rabbi, Robert Dobrusin, said he rejected the original request because he didn't know what context Herskovitz planned to use for his presentation. 'If what's happened since then is any indication, I was right,' Dobrusin said this week."

This is a rather strange assertion. Why didn't Dobrusin ask Herskovitz about the "context" and content? And why didn't Friess ask Dobrusin about that? In fact, I've spoken to Henry Herskovitz and he says Dobrusin knew exactly what he wanted to do.

SF: "Herskovitz, for his part, first called on Beth Israel to denounce Israel's existence, and now promises they'll stand down if Dobrusin removes the Israeli flag from the sanctuary."

Here is Herskovitz's comment on the Tablet Magazine web site:
Friess' claim that "Herskovitz, for his part, first called on Beth Israel to denounce Israel’s existence" is simply not true. Though I personally believe that Israel has no right to exist as a Jewish supremacist state, I have never called upon Beth Israel to do the same, whether it was when the vigils started, nor now.

Rather, as our deceased friend and vigiler Sol Metz reiterated in the Ann Arbor News (July 17, 2009): "Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends will end the vigils if Beth Israel satisfies our three previously stated requests or if equivalent goals are achieved through negotiations with Beth Israel: Committing to work for the equal rights for the Palestinian citizens of Israel, committing to work for the end of the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, and committing to work for the right of Palestinians to return to the homes from which they were forcibly removed in what was to become Israel."
It is also inaccurate to report that removing the flag will end the vigils. That is Herskovitz's personal issue, JWPF has never adopted that position collectively.

SF:"[Herskovitz] says he attended High Holiday services at Beth Israel before Dobrusin's 1988 hire, but now he spends Yom Kippur each year taunting fasting worshippers by dubbing it International Eat-a-Cheeseburger Day."

Herskovitz never dubbed Yom Kippur anything and he certainly doesn't taunt anyone, no one brings burgers to the vigil. The only way "worshippers" would even know about the Bill Henry, Z"L, international Eat-a-Cheeseburger Day is if they chose to read about it here, in Herskovitz's weekly vigil reports, or, now, from Friess' article. Not much of a taunt.

SF: "[Herskovitz] and his group are scrupulous about staying off synagogue property and not obstructing anyone's ability to come and go—just as the synagogue has been scrupulous about respecting Herskovitz's First Amendment right to carry on protesting."

There is some truth to this. JWPF has been scrupulous about not obstructing people, the only people ever investigated or arrested by police in connection with the protests were a Beth Israel congregant, Eli Avny (Assault with a Deadly Weapon), and a BIC guest, Abraham Seligman (Assault and Battery). But there is a false equivalence suggested here. For, while JWPF has never sought any means, legal or extra-legal, to prevent people from attending services, the congregation has not been similarly respectful of the rights of JWPF members.

In 2007, it came to light that BIC was handing out a leaflet entitled,"Frequently Asked Questions About the Synagogue Protesters". It included these words:
Since what they are doing is legal, we cannot force them to leave, and we do not want to hand them the publicity a legal fight would entail. Our instincts in this area have been affirmed by the current and former Ann Arbor police chiefs, and by numerous other attorneys and community leaders we gave consulted. We continue to investigate legal options, albeit without much optimism.
It is clear that the leaders of BIC acknowledge the free speech rights of JWPF only grudgingly and, at least at that time, they continued look for the means to silence them.

SF: "But even many who are sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians regard Herskovitz's group as an embarrassment. Imam Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Michigan, denounced the protest to The Arab American News, noting: "We'd be hypocrites to say it's not civil in front of mosques yet to endorse it taking place at other houses of worship ... There's a time and place for everything, and it would not be fitting for us as Muslims to protest in front of Jewish synagogues on the Sabbath day."

Interesting. Friess writes about "many" but, quoting a two-year-old article, he only cites a one person, Dawud Walid, a self-described "Black American Muslim" and a "revert to Islam" (read Walid's contribution in All-American: 45 American Men on Being Muslim). Here's something else attributed to him: "Dawud Walid ... said the root cause of the conflict [in Lebanon] was Israeli occupation of Lebanese, Palestinian and Syrian territory, not Islamic fundamentalist terrorists as the Bush Administration would prefer people to believe. He also told the cheering crowd that the interests of Israel are not the same as and should never supersede America's." (Source: Art Aisner, "Marchers protest war: Multiple speakers at rally highly critical of Israel", Ann Arbor News, August 12, 2006).

So, yes, if he still believe as he did seven years ago then Walid can probably fairly be said to be sympathetic to Palestinians so why does he object to the vigils?  Not for Walid is the reasoning of Rabbi Abraham Heschel: "Worship preceded or followed by evil acts becomes an absurdity. The holy place is doomed when people indulge in unholy deeds." He is uninterested in what goes on in the synagogue or what it stands for.

It's simple, Walid doesn't want people protesting outside mosques. Here's what Herskovitz said about this in the same article Friess cites: "I would say that if a mosque was a Zionist mosque, as strange as that may sound, I would certainly not attack a group for protesting in front of such a mosque; we have protested in front of Zionist churches and synagogues before."

Perhaps, Walid's head-in-the-sand approach helps explain why he and an Episcopal bishop collaborated with Rabbi Dobrusin on an op-ed about torture. You see, a year before that op-ed was published Rabbi Dobrusin explained at a sabbath service how torture could be "justified" under Judaic law. Here's the key paragraph in Dobrusin's sermon:
Some might ask: Doesn't making torture illegal tie the hands of our military in the event that an act of torture might possibly save thousands of Americans? Think about how we would respond if, God forbid, our family members were in danger. We would do what we thought we had to do, and then would seek to defend ourselves as having committed a justified act of self-defense. But we don't go into situations saying that morals don't matter in how we live our lives.
Yes, opposition to torture matters--all the way up to the point that it doesn't. When the situation gets challenging then "We would do what we thought we had to do ..."

SF: "Others point out that Dobrusin is a poor target, because the rabbi has been outspoken in his support for a two-state peace settlement. 'The rabbi is one of the most outspoken for addressing full equality for Arab citizens,' said Ann Arbor City Councilman Chuck Warpehoski, director of the local Interfaith Council, which has condemned Herskovitz and his followers. 'That's his dream for what Israel should be. We're talking about one of the people most willing to be critical of Israeli policy and he's the one who's targeted for this kind of abuse. It boggles the mind.' "

What truly "boggles the mind" is that any supposedly rational, ethical person could think that "support for a two-state peace settlement" is in any way about peace, justice, or "full equality." The South African apartheid regime, too, wanted separate states for Whites and Blacks but no decent, thinking person ever fell for that. By talking about "Arab citizens" Warpehoski also conveniently leaves 4.9 million Palestinian refugees of 1948 and 1967 out in the cold. Perhaps dollar signs are obscuring his moral vision, earlier this year the editor of A2Politico.com described Warpehoski as "a walking conflict of interest".

SF: "Herskovitz was happy to elaborate ... 'I said it's incumbent upon Jews to understand why they were hated and why they were treated so badly not only in Germany but other places,' he said. 'For one thing, the Bolsheviks from Russia were coming into Germany and Hitler feared the Bolsheviks, which were dominated by Jewish leadership. So he looked around and said, "Well, I have all these Jews in Germany." It's like the Japanese-Americans in World War Two, we didn't trust them so we rounded them up. That's what Hitler did.' Such commentary, while historically suspect and abhorrent to most Jews, has made Herskovitz a celebrity of the anti-Israel fringe."

Certainly, it is the burden of Jewish mainstream discourse to defend and propagate the notion of Jews as eternal innocents and their 'enemies' as irrational people who hate them only because of Jews' innate goodness, material success, godliness, or ________ (fill in the blank with a positive attribute of your choice). However, there are Jews (no one else can be trusted with such matters, right?) who lend credence to the idea that the rise of Nazism and the policies of the Third Reich were influenced by the behavior of Jews.

As Theodor Herzl explained in The Jewish State (1896):
... Governments will never take action against all Jews. The equal rights of the Jew before the law cannot be withdrawn where they have once been conceded; for the first attempt at withdrawal would immediately drive all Jews, rich and poor alike, into the ranks of revolutionary parties. The beginning of any official acts of injustice against the Jews invariably brings about economic crises. Therefore, no weapons can be effectively used against us, because these injure the hands that wield them. Meantime hatred grows apace.
Although Herzl was clearly mistaken in failing to anticipate the Third Reich his main point is well-taken and Nazi Germany is an exception that proves the rule. Jews did use their power to create an economic crisis in Germany and their efforts to topple Hitler may well have succeeded if they hadn't been halted by Jews

Dennis Prager and Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, writing in Why the Jews?: The Reason for Antisemitism (2007), develop the idea that Jewish radicalism helps explain animosity toward Jews. In fact, they have a whole chapter on the subject where they state flatly: "During the last century some of these Jews have contributed to intense Jew-hatred. These are radical and revolutionary Jews" (p. 42). They assert, "The association of Jews with revolutionary doctrines and social upheaval has not, unfortunately, been the product of antisemites' imaginations" (p. 43). They take note of "the highly disproportionate role played by Jews in radical causes ..." (p. 43) explaining that "radical alienated Jews have been active in societies as diverse as despotic and antisemitic czarist Russia, the democratic Weimar Germany, and the United States" (pp. 44-45).

They remind readers, for example, that "Béla Kun, a Jew, established the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic in March of [1919]. Of the 48 people's commissars in his government, 30 were Jews as were 161 of its 202 highest officials" (p. 46)."In Germany," they write, "until 1933 when Hitler came to power, the predominance of Jews on the radical left was as pronounced as in Russia. ... These Jewish radicals wielded a major influence over the cultural and intellectual life of Weimar Germany, an influence utterly disproportionate to their numbers ... " and "to many Germans ... they stood out as destroyers of everything German" ( p. 46).

In The Fatal Embrace: Jews and the State (1993), Benjamin Ginsberg argues "Jews played key roles in constructing a number of the most important states to emerge ... over the past 700 years. ... For many of these states, Jews were crucial in building and staffing institutions of extraction, coercion, administration, and mobilization ... these relationships have been the chief catalysts for organized anti-Semitism" (p. 11). Of Soviet Russia and the USSR, he says: "the special contribution of the Jews to the Bolshevik state involved the organization of coercion. From the beginning, the Soviet state relied heavily upon military, police, and security services to sustain itself, and Jews were active in these agencies. ... Jews had traditionally been at the margins of Russian society and, hence, prepared to staff and direct the coercive instruments upon which the state relied to control its citizens" (pp. 30-31).

Ginsberg also goes into some detail about how Jews were central to the creation of the Weimar Republic and dominated German economic, political, and cultural life during the inter-war period. And Ginsberg cites Rosa Luxemburg, a Jewish communist, as "one of the most prominent leaders" of the failed German Revolution of 1918–19, and mentions three other Jews prominent in the communist coup d'etat in Bavaria that resulted in the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic in 1919: Eugen Leviné, Gustav Landauer, and Ernst Toller (p. 29).

From Samuel Landman, in Great Britain, the Jews and Palestine (1936) and echoing British PM Lloyd George, we learn that American Zionist Jews were mobilized on a "quid pro quo contract basis" to bring the US into World War I on the side of Britain and France (p. 4). The payoff was the Balfour Declaration. Landman was a British Jewish Zionist insider and he claims: "The fact that it was Jewish help that brought U.S.A. into the War on the side of the Allies has rankled ever since in German—especially Nazi—minds, and has contributed in no small measure to the prominence which anti-Semitism occupies in the Nazi programme" (p. 6).

Regarding Bolshevik Russia, Winston Churchill averred in 1920: "There is no need to exaggerate the part played in the creation of Bolshevism and in the actual bringing about of the Russian Revolution, by these international and for the most part atheistical Jews, it is certainly a very great one; it probably outweighs all others. With the notable exception of Lenin [in fact, Lenin, too, had Jewish ancestry] the majority of the leading figures are Jews. Moreover, the principal inspiration and driving power comes from the Jewish leaders." Of course, since Churchill is not Jewish he cannot be regarded as a reliable source in this matter.

Now, let's sum up what we have learned in this final section. Contra Friess, there is nothing "suspect" about Herskovitz's "commentary" about attempting to understand the rational basis for German antipathy to Jews. This is not to excuse the irrational imputation of collective guilt to all Jews qua Jews but to point out that there is evidence that Jews, a tiny minority, exercised disproportionate power in Russia, Germany, and elsewhere. Jews used power in their perceived self-interest and in a manner which alienated and angered members of the majority populations of these countries. Jews may find this truth "abhorrent" but they do no one, least of all themselves, any favors by refusing to wrestle with it.

Finally, Friess claims that Herskovitz's "commentary" has made him "a celebrity of the anti-Israel fringe." My last question to Friess is what fringe? There is reason to believe that the pro-Israel crowd may be the true fringe. According to an international scientific poll commissioned by the BBC this year, only 21% of respondents thought Israel had a "mainly positive" influence in the world. 52% thought Israel had a "mainly negative" influence, putting the country in the same class with North Korea.

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Sunday, September 01, 2013

Zionist 'Humanitarianism'

AnnArbor.com has a recent article about the 10th anniversary of the Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends vigil in front of Beth Israel Congregation. In the article, reporter Ryan Stanton quotes congregant Barry Gross touting congregants who "pledge to donate money to humanitarian causes for every protester who shows up on Saturdays".

Their two recipient organizations are the Magen David Adom (MDA)--the Israeli counterpart of the American Red Cross--and Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam (NSWAS), which is described in the article as "a cooperative village jointly founded by Israeli Jews and Israeli Palestinian Arabs to show they can live side by side in peace." The humanitarian value of these two entities is, at best, questionable and, thus, they are very appropriate charitable choices for Zionists.

Emblem of the Magen David Adom
(lit. "Red Shield of David")
The MDA is an adjunct of the Zionist movement and the Israeli military and has a track record of not serving all citizens of Israel equally (see here and here). Two anecdotes will give you a further sense of the values of the Magen David Adom. Last year, the MDA created a rabbinical committee to "dictate religious guidelines" to MDA volunteers. The head of the committee is Shmuel Eliyahu (also transliterated as "Eliahu"), the Chief Rabbi of Safad, and who is on the Israeli government payroll. I first wrote about Eliyahu in 2008 when he was singing the praises of "a revenge that is so painful, it will burn into their souls the message of all our enemies that Jewish blood is more valuable than gold and platinum."

A year earlier Eliyahu had been calling for mass killings of Palestinians. Eliyahu has a track record of violent incitement and racism that even embarrasses the 'progressive' Zionist Jews who are calling for his ouster--it's a shande far di goyim don't you know? Please ponder for a moment the outcry if the American Red Cross appointed a similar committee of liberal Christian clergy, let alone violent reactionaries on the government payroll.

My second MDA anecdote concerns its Greater Tel Aviv spokesman, Mydan Ben Yoash. It seems Ben Yoash is a funny man who shared his humor on Facebook. Here's a joke that got him into a bit of trouble last June:
Q: How long does it take an Arab woman to bring down the garbage?
A: Nine months!
Get it? Ha, ha. Is this guy a card or what?

As for NSWAS, here's a description from Mulham Assir writing in the Palestine Chronicle: "Neve Shalom is a fraudulent propaganda construct created (like the Wall of Shame itself, on stolen land) to fool the world with the slogan 'peaceful coexistence is possible.' The subtext is 'if only Palestinians would accept the occupation, the dispossession, our refusal to allow the refugee to come home even as we import people from all over the world to man our "Jewish state" machine, if they accepted their "métèque" and wog status in their own land, but above all, if only most of them would go away voluntarily so we wouldn't have to allay our demographic fears by using tanks, missiles and bulldozers that put a crimp in our image abroad.' "

Elsewhere, Assir refers to NSWAS as a Potemkin village. His critique is underscored by information on the NSWAS web site. For instance, the community is not self-supporting but dependent upon funding from "International Friends' Associations around the world," the European Union, the Israeli government, and, of course, Zionists like Barry Gross and friends. Also, the village is for "Jewish and Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel," Palestinian refugees from 1948 Nakba or 1967 Naksa need not apply. And, yes, you must apply to live in NSWAS and be approved first by "a committee" and then by "the plenum".

Furthermore, the goals and achievements of NSWAS are quite limited: "We talk about 'living with the conflict', 'conflict management', sometimes 'conflict transformation'. We don’t look at our work as 'conflict resolution' because realistically, the conflict requires a political solution." Elsewhere, discussing "problems" arising "in the current political and economic situation" the community admits "Issues also revolve around the imposition of inequalities, rules and trends by the wider society upon the village. An obvious example is that Jews are recruited into the army where they are exposed to danger and possibly active service against Arabs. Another is the fact that Arabs are subject to subtle and less subtle forms of discrimination in the wider society." All this has resulted in the "lowering of optimism regarding chances for an equitable coexistence since September 2000 [the beginning of the al-Aqsa Intifada]" and "a questioning of the degree to which NSWAS's own form of coexistence is successful."

As an aside, there is also the irony that NSWAS was founded by the Rev. Bruno Hussar, a Jewish convert to Roman Catholicism who became a Dominican priest, on land leased and later donated, by a Christian monastery. Yet, today, "the majority of the village members are either secular or regard religious belief as a personal matter, religion is seen more in terms of being a component of one's cultural identity."

All in all, I'd say that MDA and NSWAS reflect the values of Barry Gross and friends quite well. The MDA supports the Israeli military, discriminates against Palestinians, and appoints Jewish racists to high profile positions and NSWAS is a, perhaps, noble experiment that is in fact powerless to address that circumstances responsible for its creation. Why deal with Jewish supremacism when you can simply evade the issue, write a check, and feel smug about it to boot? 

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Coleman v. AATA Settled

I want to give readers a belated update on Coleman v. AATA. It will come as no surprise to readers of this blog that the lawsuit resulted in a pyrrhic victory for the plaintiff, Blaine Coleman.

In a nutshell, Judge Goldsmith ruled that the AATA had violated Coleman's First Amendment rights but gave them the opportunity to reconsider Coleman's proposed advertisement under a revised policy which he declared constitutional with the result that the ad was once again rejected. Last July, the Coleman and his attorneys at the ACLU threw in the towel and settled the lawsuit in return for partial payment by AATA of its fees and expenses.

AnnArbor.com reporter Ryan Stanton writes: "[ACLU attorney Dan] Korobkin said the ACLU brought the case to support the principles of free speech. From the ACLU's standpoint, he said, the legal case never had anything to do with Israel." This attitude doomed the lawsuit before the first hearing; Israel was always a central issue.

Because of this attitude, the conflicts of interest by the judge and other public officials in the case never got the scrutiny they deserved. As I wrote in a comment on the Ann Arbor Chronicle:
One thing that puzzles me, though, is why the Ann Arbor Chronicle hasn't been as thorough in exploring the potential for judicial bias in this case. Suppose this were a case about a provocative abortion rights advertisement (imagine, for example, a bloody coat hangar and some language about driving women back into the hands of unsafe back-alley abortionists) and it turned out that, according to public records, the assigned federal judge was a leading member of an organization staunchly and actively opposed to abortion, he had proudly sent his minor daughter to intern with Operation Rescue, and was a significant investor/donor to militant anti-abortion groups.
In such a case, can anyone doubt that the judge's political activities and inclinations would be a matter for journalistic scrutiny? I understand that the Plaintiff in this AATA case has chosen not to raise the question of judicial bias but does that completely negate the matter? I don't think so. This case is about everyone's 1st Amendment rights and the independence and fairness of federal judges is a matter that should concern us all. Then, too, there are conflict of interest/bias issues concerning the AATA Board and its corporate counsel that have also not been explored by the Ann Arbor Chronicle and other mainstream media. Why not put some hard, probing questions to the people on the public payroll in this matter?
That never happened.

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

The 4th Annual Bill Henry International Eat-a-Cheeseburger Day

Saturday, September 14, 2013, is the 4th annual Bill Henry international Eat-a-Cheeseburger Day. This day honors Bill Henry (né Herskovitz) for a decision that quite possibly saved an eight-year-old boy from a life of "Jewish chauvinism and exclusivism". For the full story behind Eat-a-Cheeseburger Day please see the 2011 post about this momentous day.

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Protesting Bonai Shalom Congregation

We learn via Henry Herskovitz of a monthly synagogue protest in Boulder, CO. Michael Rabb and other members of CU-Divest began protesting outside Congregation Bonai Shalom (CBS) in November. We would be happy to find a synagogue representing the Judaic mainstream that is not pro-Israel but it appears we'll have to keep looking.

You see, CBS celebrates Yom Ha'atzmaut, which marks a bitter milestone in the Nakba--the violent ethnic cleansing of Palestine by Jews in 1948. Yom Ha'atzmaut celebrates the declaration of "independence" by the Jewish state. This year, as Palestinians commemorated Nakba Day--which is illegal within the Jewish state--with protests, CBS was represented in Boulder's Yom Ha'Atzmaut celebration. CBS Rabbi Marc Soloway was there, along with "past and present IDF soldiers". On a day when Palestinians were brutalized, Jews in Boulder celebrated.

On the CBS web site, Rabbi Soloway makes clear his ethically bankrupt left/liberal Zionist stance: "Recently I was in the locker room of my gym in a conversation with someone who started talking in a very one-sided way about the brutality of the Israeli occupation, which had oppressed Palestinians for hundreds of years! I launched into a passionate, emotional lecture about Israel as the only democracy in the region and its right to self-determination and security and the world's media's bias towards the Palestinian side and what it feels like to be surrounded by people who want to destroy you!"

So, Michael and friends, we bid you godspeed. You have selected an appropriate place for your protests. As Elliott Abrams once observed: "Where is it possible to find a group of Jews who are committed to Israel, and whose children are likely to honor that commitment? The answer is, in a synagogue on the Sabbath."

See also: "Left Zionism exposed"

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

AATA Ordered to Reconsider Anti-Israel Ad

The Ann Arbor Chronicle reports: "In an order filed Dec. 17, 2012, judge Mark Goldsmith of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan has ruled that the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority must reconsider an advertisement it had previously rejected for placement on the sides of its buses." It is inconceivable that the AATA will approve the advertisement under its new policy so inquiring minds want to know what is the point of this order?

See also:

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Monday, October 01, 2012

Coleman v. AATA Update

The Associated Press reports: "A judge has ruled against the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority [AATA] in a lawsuit that challenges the bus agency's rejection of an anti-Israel ad." The ruling may, however, turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory for the Plaintiff, Blaine Coleman, because Judge Mark Goldsmith's "OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER AND/OR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION AND DENYING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS" does not, in fact, grant the relief Plaintiff requested in his motion nor does it finally deny the Defendant's motion to dismiss the suit.

As Judge Goldsmith notes: "In his motion for preliminary injunction, Plaintiff requests that the Court enter an order directing Defendants to immediately accept and display Plaintiff's advertisement on terms no less favorable than those given to other advertisers." Opinion at p. 38. Yet, instead of doing that, Goldsmith leaves open the possibility of giving AATA another bite at the apple: "Another option could be to allow AATA to craft a new policy without the constitutional infirmities identified by this opinion." Opinion at pp. 38-39.

On the matter of the defense's motion to dismiss, Goldsmith writes: "Regarding the other issues raised by Defendant's motion to dismiss and not addressed in this Opinion (i.e., viewpoint discrimination and the as-applied vagueness challenge to the 'persons or group of persons' language), the Court will determine whether such issues remain to be adjudicated after it reviews the parties' forthcoming supplemental briefs." Opinion at p. 40.

With such a ruling, it's hard not to wonder if Goldsmith's pro-Israel bias isn't showing and this is all setting the stage for allowing AATA to reject the ad and/or a dismissal of the suit. If that turns out to be the case then it will be a pity that the Plaintiff and his attorneys at the ACLU of Michigan haven't asked Goldsmith to recuse himself. In the meantime local taxpayers will continue to foot the bill as the AATA's lawyers defend their right to violate Blaine Coleman's First Amendment rights. Parenthetically, it should said that the best southeast Michigan coverage of this case, so far, is on AnnArborChronicle.com. Their reporting has been far superior to that of the AP or AnnArbor.com.

See also:

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The 3rd Annual Bill Henry International Eat-a-Cheeseburger Day

Wednesday, September 26, 2012, is the 3rd annual Bill Henry international Eat-a-Cheeseburger Day. This day honors Bill Henry (né Herskovitz) for a decision that quite possibly saved an eight-year-old boy from a life of "Jewish chauvinism and exclusivism". Since Eat-a-Cheeseburger Day follows the Jewish calendar, it actually starts at sunset on 9/25 and ends at sunset on 9/26.

For the full story behind Eat-a-Cheeseburger Day please see last year's post about this momentous day.

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Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Power of Naming

Robert Azzi has an interesting new article entitled "Challenging the Power of Privilege" where he discusses Jewish control of the narrative of Israel's creation. Referring to Israel's so-called New Historians, he notes: "It took Israeli historians to legitimize the Palestinian story. It took Israeli historians to legitimize the truth." Point taken. Sadly, Azzi has not the courage or insight to acknowledge that Jewish, not "Israeli", is the operative identity. No Palestinian Israeli historian (or non-Jewish Euro-American, for that matter) would have achieved even the limited accceptance and credibility accorded to the Jewish Israeli revisionist historians.

There is then another power that Azzi and most others won't discuss or fight for and that is the power of naming. The dominant form of oppression in Palestine today is Jewish supremacism and it enjoys the support of the overwhelming majority of Jews worldwide but you'd be hard-pressed to find very many people in the West--Palestinian or otherwise--who will say that publicly.

As the pseudonymous Sara said in "The Forgotten '-ism': An Arab American Women's Perspective on Zionism, Racism, and Sexism": "In this country, progressive circles are Zionist circles. ... You might be able to say Palestinians are victims but you can't say they're victims of Jews. ... You can't name Jews as your oppressor, but it's the Jewish state." Or as Paul Eisen said in "Jewish Power": "The crime against the Palestinian people is being committed by a Jewish state with Jewish soldiers using weapons displaying Jewish religious symbols, and with the full support and complicity of the overwhelming mass of organised Jews worldwide. But to name Jews as responsible for this crime seems impossible to do."

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Update II: The First Jewish President

Below is an image of the cover of the September 26, 2011 issue of New York magazine.


See also:

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Is Judge Goldsmith Biased in AATA Suit?

Henry Herskovitz is reporting another apparent conflict of interest in the AATA "Boycott Israel" advertising controversy. In a section of his recent vigil report entitled "Disturbing News Flash" he writes:
On the heels of this conflict of interest existing with AATA Board members and Counsel, comes this: according to U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith's biography, "[Goldsmith] has also served in the leadership of several community organizations, including ... the B'nai B'rith Anti- Defamation League." We have also determined from a separate and reliable source that his leadership included Board membership on the ADL. How many foxes does it take to guard this henhouse? Will someone ask Judge Goldsmith whether he supports Israel’s claimed right to exist as a Jewish state (the ADL sure does), and whether that answer might influence his ability to render a fair verdict?
Judge Mark A. Goldsmith was nominated to the federal bench by Barack Obama while serving on the Oakland County Circuit Court. A little digging revealed more evidence of Goldsmith's potential bias in the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority case. Goldsmith's 2010 federal Financial Disclosure Report (Section VII) indicates that he doesn't own any US bonds but he does own Israel Bonds and they're the only asset for which he did not declare a value. Furthermore, Goldsmith and his wife sent their sixteen-year-old daughter to study in Israel. Can a man with such strong Zionist ties really be expected to preside impartially at a trial over the constitutionality of an advertisement graphically criticizing Israel as an apartheid state and calling for its boycott?

The Code of Conduct for United States Judges says:

CANON 2: A JUDGE SHOULD AVOID IMPROPRIETY AND THE APPEARANCE OF IMPROPRIETY IN ALL ACTIVITIES
  1. Respect for Law. A judge should respect and comply with the law and should act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
  2. Outside Influence. A judge should not allow family, social, political, financial, or other relationships to influence judicial conduct or judgment. A judge should neither lend the prestige of the judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others nor convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge. A judge should not testify voluntarily as a character witness.
  3. Nondiscriminatory Membership. A judge should not hold membership in any organization that practices invidious discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, or national origin.
Regarding Canon 2B, Goldsmith has or recently had demonstrable family and financial ties to Israel. It may be, too, that his social relationships unsuit him to preside at this trial. In the nominee's questionnaire Goldsmith submitted to the judiciary committee, he discloses that he became Vice-President for Religious Affairs of B'nai B'rith Barristers in 2009. "Advocacy for Israel" is second on B'nai B'rith's list of "Our Prime Issues". B'nai B'rith has publicly "condemned" supporters, such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, of the international boycott of Israel. Furthermore, Goldsmith has been a member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee since the 1990s.

Goldsmith is also evidently a "strictly Sabbath observant," devout adherent of Judaism; he is a cantor at his synagogue and a serious student of the Talmud. In his nominee's questionnaire Goldsmith reports that he is a member of the Board of Directors of the Council of Orthodox Rabbis of Greater Detroit. Goldsmith was profiled in 2011 in "Jewels of Justice: Timeless Jewish Values in the American Courtroom" in the American Jewish Spirit (emphasis added). Reportedly, at his federal investiture ceremony, "the newly appointed judge said 'he was grateful to the Almighty for allowing my plan to be part of His plan,' and in the words of an ancient Jewish prayer, thanked God for 'granting us all life, sustaining us and allowing us to reach this day.' ... 'I do believe with a complete faith, Judge Goldsmith said, 'that the Spirit above guides the spirit within.' "

Being devoutly religious should not per se be a disqualifying factor but one wonders how the "Spirit above" will guide Goldsmith's "spirit within" when it comes to Coleman v. AATA. He's been a member of Congregation Beth Shalom since 1987; he joined its Board of Directors that same year and served until 2005. He was the president of the congregation from 1997 until 1999. Congregation Beth Shalom describes itself as providing "opportunities for all ages that nurture our love of and commitment to Jewish life, our Synagogue and the State of Israel" and it hosts an "Israel Affairs" committee. There can be little doubt that the Congregation Beth Shalom agrees that Zionism is an affirmation of Judaism and "has its origins and roots in the authoritative religious texts of Judaism. ... Anti-Zionism, not Zionism, is a departure from the Jewish religion."

Regarding Canon 2C, Goldsmith's service (1986-1994) on the "Regional Advisory Board of B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation League" (ADL), which was highlighted in his Senate confirmation hearing, sets off alarm bells. The ADL is decidedly and undeniably pro-Israel and that to the detriment of Palestinians. A case can be made that it "practices invidious discrimination" (although probably not in its membership) against non-Jewish people and Jews who are not Zionist (or insufficiently so).

In 2000, a Colorado jury awarded a $10 million judgment against the ADL to two people who had been defamed as "anti-Semites" by the ADL. That award survived all ADL appeals. Earlier, in 1999, the ADL was forced to pay $175,000 in an out-of-court settlement stemming from forty years of domestic political espionage by the ADL. The ADL has been active in lobbying against Congressional recognition of the Armenian genocide. This had led some Massachusetts communities to pull out of the ADL's bogus "No Place for Hate" campaign. Interested readers are urged to have a look at Professor Steven Salaita's book, Israel's Dead Soul. Salaita devotes an entire chapter to the ADL where he makes a compelling case that "according to its own public criteria, the ADL should classify itself as a hate group."

In light of all of the above, should Goldsmith recuse himself? You decide. Canon 3C(1) of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges says: "A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned ..."

See also Coleman v. AATA Update

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Conflicts of Interest at AATA?

As I pointed out to a friend and fellow activist Sunday night, the current dispute over the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority's Board of Directors decision to reject a proposed bus advertisement by Blaine Coleman raises the matter of conflicts of interest in the AATA's decision-making process. After huddling in a closed session with AATA counsel Jerry Lax, the Ann Arbor Chronicle reports that the Board voted unanimously, with Board chair Jesse Bernstein and member David Nacht present and voting, to support a resolution endorsing a rejection of Coleman's proposed "Boycott 'Israel,' Boycott Apartheid" ad by the AATA's advertising contractor. It doesn't seem likely that the entire Board would go against the advice of legal counsel and, thus, it's reasonable to conclude that Jerry Lax supported the resolution too.

The problem is that Lax, Bernstein, and Nacht are, apparently, supporters of Israel, the very entity targeted by Coleman's ads. The Washtenaw Jewish News reported in December 2009 that Jerry Lax has served on the boards of the two local pro-Israel outfits: the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor and Temple Beth Emeth. Lax also added his name to a campaign advertisement of "Michigan Jews Who Support Senators Obama & Biden". Here's part of the text of that ad:

Stay focused on the issues:

Israel's security:
"Let me be clear. Israel's security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable."
Barack Obama, speech to AIPAC, June 4, 2008.

Iran's threat: "There is no greater threat to Israel – or to the peace and stability of the region – than Iran ... and my goal will be to eliminate this threat." – Barack Obama, speech to AIPAC, June 4, 2008.
Yes, those were the first two issues in the ad. No wonder those Michigan Jews supported "The First Jewish President."

As to AATA Board chair Jesse Bernstein, well, he's also on the Board of Directors of the Michigan Israel Business Bridge. 'Nuff said, right? Okay, but it won't hurt to mention that Bernstein is also a donor to Kehillot B'Yahad/Congregations Together (KBY), whose aims include: "STRENGTHENING THE JEWISH STATE". Bernstein also happens to be the chair of a Temple Beth Emeth's Long Range Sustainability committee. David Nacht's LinkedIn profile identifies him as a supporter of the Anti-Defamation League, a former Board member of Temple Beth Emeth, and a donor to the Jewish Federation of Washtenaw County.

Inquiring minds want to know how much these guy's--all three associated with Temple Beth Emeth--support of Israel may have colored their judgment in favor of violating the First Amendment rights of Coleman. The vote also potentially put the AATA and, thus, taxpayers on the hook for an expensive legal fight it seems likely to lose.

12/11/2011 Update: Just days after this post was published the ACLU announced that it is bringing suit in federal court against the AATA on behalf of Blaine Coleman. It's a real shame and a bit of a mystery that the Board of Directors are not named as defendants in the complaint.

See also: "Is Judge Goldsmith Biased in AATA Suit?"

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