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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Pete Seeger -- A Counter-Obituary

I have a new blog called  And on this blog I have written something of a counter-obituary about Pete Seeger.

Want to read it ?  Of course you do.  Here is the link:

Pete Seeger’s Life of Dissimulation | Werner's Opinions

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Who Loves Edward Snowden ?

"Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are."  Like all proverbs, this one has its limits, and is not, in any case, an infallible guide.  Who does not have, in his circle of friendly acquaintances, someone whose wisdom and/or probity is open to question ?

But with all that, the collection of Edward Snowden admirers is striking.  Snowden, it will be remembered, is a former employee of the US National Scurity Agency who stole US secret documents and took them to his current residence in Moscow, where he is a fugitive from US law enforcement.

I have previously reported on the politics of Glenn Greenwald, the London Guardian columnist who is largely responsible for much of  Snowden's publicity in the West.  (And in the same place I reported on the mutual admiration between Glenn Greenwald and Noam Chomsky.)  Today I wish to point primarily to the extraordinary approbation of Snowden by the neo-Nazis in Germany.

The most conspicuous German supporter of Snowden is not a neo-Nazi but the Green Party Bundestag deputy Christian Ströbele.  Ströbele travelled to Moscow to interview Snowden and praises him as one of his heroes.  Ströbele, in the far left wing of his party, is also known as the lawyer for the terrorist RAF Baader-Meinhof gang,  Visiting Israel in 1991, Ströbele declared in an interview that the Iraqi Scuds that were employed against Israel at the time were thoroughly justified in view of Israel's repressive policies. And last year, Herr Ströbele demanded that the German prohibition against brother-sister marriage be revoked for the sake of much needed sexual freedom.

Snowden no doubt appreciates friends like Ströbele.  But does he also appreciate the admiration and friendship of Chairman Holger Apfel of the neo-Nazi National Democrat Party (NPD) ?

Last month Apfel created a disturbance in the legislature of Saxony in which he represents his party.  He interrupted proceedings by demanding that Germany give asylum to his hero, Edward Snowden, in line with the NPD position that the US, together with Israel, represents an absolute evil, and that, ergo, anything that hurts the US deserves his, Apfel's, enthusiastic support.  When the chairman of the chamber pointed out that asylum is a federal and not a provincial matter, and that Apfel's motion is therefore out of order in the provincial legislature, Apfel refused to yield the floor and had to be banned from the legislature for the session.  (He had previously been banned from the legislature on a number of occasions for making anti-Semitic statements on the house floor.) For those who understand German, here is a report with video of Apfel's tantrum in the Saxon legislature.

As far as I know, neither Snowden nor Greenwald has commented on these efforts by their German supporters.  Nor has Mr. Pierre Omidyar, Greenwald's billionaire sponsor.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

When Comrade Glenn Greenwald Meets Mr. Pierre Omidyar

Crackpot + $8,5 Billion = Potential for Mischief
When Comrade Glenn Greenwald Meets Mr. Pierre Omidyar

Dramatis Personae

I  The Main Characters
Leon Trotsky
Pierre M. Omidyar
Glenn Greenwald 
Edward Snowden
Julian Assange

II The Supporting Characters
Laura Poitras
Jeremy Scahill

III Walk-Ons
Sherry Wolf
Chorus:  International Socialist Organization

"If it had not been for these things, I might have lived out my life talking at street corners to scorning men [but now I am very important]" wrote the anarchist Bartolomeo Vanzetti (of Sacco and Vanzetti fame) after  what he considered his unjust conviction for murder in 1927.  Similar words could today be written  by the (London) Guardian's columnist Glenn Greenwald.  

Up to now, Greenwald's message was hardly newsworthy.  It proclaims that Snowden, Assange, Noam Chomsky, and yes, Leon Trotsky are the great heroes of modern times.  And it holds that  America and Israel are the greatest villains ever.  Concerning Russia, China, Hamas, Hezbollah, Assad:  no complaints there.  In other words, cranky views hardly distinguishable from those of so many others in little fringe groups and fringe publications. Like Julian Assange of "Wikileaks," Greenwald obtained a certain amount of notoriety for himself by retailing the leaks of secret US government documents that were provided by Edward Snowden and Private Bradley (now Chelsea Elizabeth) Manning.  Notoriety yes, but no real influence.

If it took a death sentence to propel Sacco and Vanzetti to popular attention, Greenwald's leap from mere notoriety to a potentially major nuisance came as a result of an unexpected financial coup: the decision by the super-rich  Pierre Omidyar (net worth = $8.5 billion) to bankroll him.  

Born of Iranian parents in France, educated in the US, founder of eBay, Mr. Omidyar has announced that he is committing about $250 million to a new online publication to be run by Greenwald and like-minded publicists Lauro Poitras and Jeremy Scahill.  Why would a multi-billionaire who owes so much to his adopted country bankroll a cranky malcontent who sees no greater evil than Uncle Sam ?  Search me.  

The major newspapers have reported the plans for the Omidyar-Greenwald enterprise in some detail, and have also given some of the background of the two protagonists.  But with regard to Greenwald, the media have pulled their punches.  There is an under-reported story of Greenwald's work in a pornographic enterprise, revealed by the Daily News but ignored everywhere else,  to which Greenwald has taken umbrage.  (Not all secrets should be revealed, it seems.)  

And speaking of secrets that should not be revealed, it must be said that neither Greenwald nor Snowden nor Assange has ever broached the problem of Chinese or Russian, or, for that matter, Ecuadorian secret spying activities.  These fearless fact-revealers blow their whistles only against the United States (and, of course, Israel).

But back to what the papers have failed to tell us about Greenwald.  All the information that I am about to mention is freely available on the internet.  It does take a certain amount of willingness to dig.

For at least three years now Greenwald has been a featured speaker at the annual "Socialism" conference of the International Socialist Organization.  At these events he invariably stresses his solidarity with the ISO.  To understand the wellspring of Greenwald's project we must look at this group.

The ISO is the most active and energetic of the remaining Trotskyist grouplets in the United States.  Its ideology follows one particular stream of the Trotskyist movement,  that initiated by Tony Cliff (Yigael Gluckstein) of Britain, which holds, contrary to its Trotskyist rivals, that the Soviet Union was not a "degenerated workers state" but rather a kind of "state capitalism."  The dogmatists of the various Trotskyist grouplets still dispute one another on this and similar fine points.  (Of course all Trotskyists agree on the wonderful achievements of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, on the need for a revolutionary overthrow of capitalism, on the "imperialist" nature of American capitalism, and on other axioms of contemporary revolutionary Marxism.)  In any case, the American ISO holds an annual get-together to thrash out fine points;   such concerns are called "Marxist theory" and, the ISO tells us, "Marxism matters."  

But theory spinning is far from the only thing that happens.  These annual meetings are also occasions for hyperventilating in noisy chantings of what the group considers its most important slogans of the day.  Some of the recent slogans, chanted for amazingly long periods at the meeting, include "Intifada! Intifada!", "Free Abortion on Demand !," "Disarm the Police !,"  "Free Palestine, From the River to the Sea."  I have included some materials on ISO agitation in a previous blog.

As I have said, Glenn Greenwald has addressed annual ISO meetings for at least three years.  These addresses are available on Youtube;  the last one, in 2013, is shown here. 

It is quite a spectacle to watch.  There is the ISO agitator Sherry Wolf (described by Wikipedia as  "an American socialist, Jewish anti-Zionist, independent journalist and author …. openly lesbian …") to introduce the proceedings.  Then Jeremy Scahill, The Nation writer and collaborator of Greenwald in the new Omidyar enterprise, introduces the featured speaker, Greenwald, who speaks to the conference by Skype from London.  Greenwald, as he has done at other Socialism conferences, stresses his complete solidarity with the ISO.  He shows, with the chorus of the ISO as backdrop, where he stands, what his mission is.  This stance -- aiding all those who would subvert and overthrow democratic society -- is not in any way hidden.  As I mentioned, it is there for anyone to discover on the internet. (For Greenwald's use of anti-Semitic tropes, see this important article by Jeffrey Goldberg. For the ideological background of Greenwald's antipathy toward Jews, see my article on Trotskyism and the Jews.)

Now what about Pierre Omidyar ? Why would he bankroll Greenwald ?  Omidyar has signed the "Giving Pledge" initiated by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, a non-binding commitment by billionaires to give most of their fortunes to charity. But in the meantime he has committed a big chunk of his wealth to the cause of malice. Why would he do this ? Who can explain ?  Does he really wish to go down in history as the Henry Ford of the 21st century ?  As a bow to Ford's  Dearborn Independent, will Omidyar's new enterprise be dubbed the Honolulu Independent ?

Addendum 10/27/13

Greenwald on Chomsky and vice versa:  a mutual admiration society.  All you need to know about them is right here.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Quakers on Israel and China: A Study in Hypocrisy

So here he is, the Quaker gentleman.  What does he stand for ?  Peace, yes peace above all.  And justice.  And human rights, all over the world.  And did I mention love ?  Yes, love for all human beings.

The American Friends Service Committee is the foremost Quaker organization charged  with the Quaker mission to the world.  Here is its statement of the Quaker values, which, it says, inform everything it does:
AFSC values are grounded in Quaker experience and universal truths that are upheld by many faiths and that honor the light of the divine in each person.
We cherish the belief that there is that of God in each person, leading us to respect the worth, dignity, and equality of all.We regard no person as our enemy. While we often oppose specific actions and abuses of power, we seek to call forth the goodness and truth in each individual. We strive for integrity, simplicity, and practicality in our expressions and actions.We assert the transforming power of love and active nonviolence, as a challenge to injustice and violence and as a force for reconciliation.We work in partnership with people in communities around the world, respecting their wisdom about how to change their circumstances and offering our own insights with humility.We trust the power of the Spirit to guide the individual and collective search for truth and practical action.We accept our understandings of truth as incomplete and have faith that new perceptions of truth will continue to be revealed. 
So far so good.  If a bit abstract and perhaps lacking in specifics, surely these are high-minded ideals.

But there are also specifics in the AFSC.  When it comes to the conflict between Israel and the Arab elites, it endorses the latter without equivocation. This issue takes up much, if not most, of AFSC's world-wide activities.  Most telling of all is AFSC's endorsement of the Boycott-Israel movement (BDS);  together with BDS, AFSC endorses  a Palestinian "right of return."  This latter phrase is generally understood as code for the destruction of the Jewish state.  There is no recognition anywhere in the AFSC's literature of any legitimacy  whatever in Israeli views.  Nor is there criticism anywhere in AFSC's material of violence, hatred, or incitement to violence on the part of Arab elites.  As for the Jews of Israel, as far as AFSC is concerned, there does not seem to be  "light of the divine in each person."  Nor does the Jewish community of Israel seem to have "wisdom" that would be worthy of AFSC "respect."

Well, you may say, according to AFSC's "inner light," it is the Jews (or, as they would put it euphemistically, the Israelis) who bear all of the blame for the plight of Palestinian Arabs, and so, by God, it is the Jews, I mean Israelis, who deserve all the blame.  (Who is to blame for the plight of Syrian Arabs ?  Never mind, this is not a topic that engages the AFSC).  Well, this inner light (a key Quaker concept) seems more than a little at variance with AFSC professions of an even-handed, loving, concerned, very humane and very enlightened universalism.

As readers of my blogs know, I have long been interested in Laogai, the Gulag of China.  Currently there seem to be 3.5 million people imprisoned in Chinese forced labor camps, many for political reasons. Many other political prisoners are in Chinese jails.  Some five thousand Chinese are executed annually by their government, many for political reasons.  In the United States, it is the Laogai Foundation, under the leadership of Harry Wu, to which we owe much of what is known. The US State Department, charged with annual reports on human rights violations throughout the world, paints a similarly bleak picture.

In terms of sheer magnitude of repression, the human rights situation in China should surely rank high on the list of concerns of would-be humanitarians. One would think so.  But insofar as the AFSC is concerned, there is no human rights problem in China at all, at least none worth mentioning in public.

As I searched AFSC materials, I repeatedly found the name of Joseph Gerson in connection with the AFSC's interests in China.  A functionary of AFSC since 1976, he is currently the  Director of Programs and Director of the Peace and Economic Security Program for the AFSC in New England. AFSC insistently refers to him as "Dr. Gerson."  In effect, he received a Ph.D. from the shadowy Union Institute and College in 1995.  In any case, his interests seem propagandistic rather than scholarly;  according to his official biography,  "he focuses on challenging U.S. foreign, military and domestic doctrines designed to reinforce global hegemony and to replace them with commitments to common security."  In 2008 and 2009, he organized reciprocal visits between the "US peace movement" and the Chinese People's Association for Peace and Disarmament, an agency of the Chinese government.

When I spoke with him on the phone on March 12, he mentioned to me that our conversation is "between one Jew and another." (As far as I can determine from sources on the internet, his religious affiliation has been liberal Christian, at least for some decades.) He told me that when he was in China in 2008 or 2009, he insisted that he talk with human rights activists there.  When I asked him why there has not been any public criticism by the AFSC concerning human rights in China, he said that AFSC believes in quiet diplomacy.  When I pointed out that AFSC is anything but quiet about Israel, he explained that Hannah Arendt had been critical of Israel, as has been a former Israeli official whom he had known.  That was the extent of his explanation for his own vociferous opposition to Israel.   I asked him repeatedly to explain what I perceive to be AFSC hypocrisy:  "quiet diplomacy" concerning China, harsh enmity toward Israel.  So far he has been mum, but, who knows, perhaps I will still hear from him, in which case I will promptly report his explanation.

UPDATE, December 8, 2013:

Read:    When Did the Quakers Stop Being Friends, by Asaf Romirowsky and Alexander H. Joffe

Read:  an Australian pro-Palestinian "peace activist" is mugged by reality

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Jews for Racial and Economic Justice

There is no organization, none (except perhaps the Ku Klux Klan) that exceeds the New York-based  Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) in its radical hatred of Israel.  But this hatred is veiled.  It is obviously known to JFREJ's own cadre and to people who make the effort to dig behind the facade, but it is not apparent to the casual sympathizer whom the group seeks to entice to its orbit.

This hatred of Israel, in my view, is the core of JFREJ.  But before we get to this core, let us look at some of the outward appearances.

Much of the activity of JFREJ is reminiscent of the "cultural work" of the American Communist Party in the 1930's and 1940's.  (On which see Great Day Coming.  Folk Music and the American Left,1971,  by the late R. Serge Denisoff,)  Where the CP looked back on an American "folk music" tradition, which the CP misrepresented where it did not simply invent, JFREJ affects an interest in Yiddish culture and the Yiddish socialist movement, both of which, I believe,  are severely misrepresented by it.  Here is a small example:  JFREJ's Yiddish phrases are invariably spoken or sung in the phonemes of American English.  And of course there is no contact whatever with the only living communities that speak Yiddish natively, viz. the Hasidim.

And perhaps worst of all,  JFREJ's  misrepresentations of the Jewish Socialist Bund, a largely pre-WWI formation in Czarist Russia, would make the Bundist activists and leaders turn in their graves.  (For what I take to be the best history of the Bund, see Jonathan Frankel's Prophecy and Politics, Socialism, Nationalism, &and the Russsian Jews, 1862-1917.) JFREJ seems to believe, or in any case seeks to make us believe, that there is some sort of kinship between them and the truly heroic figures of the Bund.  Yes, the theorists of the Bund polemicized against Zionism, advocating, instead, an autonomous Jewish culture in the pre-WWI pale of Jewish settlement.  That Yiddish-speaking community is gone, so how these old polemics could have relevance today is a mystery to me.  And no, none of the Bundists ever, ever, made common cause with those out to destroy the Jews.  And just wondering, dear JFREJ folks, have you as much as heard of the Bund leader Victor Alter, of Henryk Ehrlich ?  These were our people, not yours.

Those active in the current very small movement of secular Yiddishism -- with which I have a great deal of sympathy -- overlap  to some extent with those active in anti-Israel agitation.  This has been going on for some decades, for reasons that are not entirely clear to me.  There are no logical grounds for this overlap, as far as I can see.   In much the same way, more than a few people active as Jewish Lesbians are also active in the anti-Israel movement.  Again, I can see no logical reason for this overlap.  Here is an interview with a JFREJ member on the subject:
(QuestionI came to the Meyer Awards on the last night of Hanukkah and I noticed that there were a lot of queer Jews. JFREJ isn't explicitly [gay] but it seems pretty queer.  It seems to me that being a LGBTQ individual and JFREJ sort of go hand in hand.
(Answer) JFREJ is not exclusively queer but we work within an explicit anti-oppression framework.  Beause of that JFREJ is safe place for LGBTQ people as well a place to to celebrate the LGTBQ community.  We're not explicitly queer but, yeah it can be pretty gay.
But these curious overlaps aside,  JFREJ appears to be unexceptional at first blush or even at second.  Who wouldn't endorse justice, racial, economic, or any other kind ?  And even a casual look at the group's website shows nothing very alarming.  They wish better pay for domestic workers in New York.  Who can argue with that ?  They don't like the NYPD's stop and frisk policy.  Well, some of my best friends feel the same way.

Things get slightly more dicey when, way up there on their very short list of priorities, JFREJ thunders against "Islamophobia."  Of course any kind of phobia -- "an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion"  -- is to be avoided whenever possible.  But is Islamophobia the only kind we need to worry about ?  Not Judeophobia, for example ?  No, not Judeophobia, not according to JFREJ.

Furthermore, when the NYPD engages in  surveillance of suspected Muslim terrorists, that practice, according to JFREJ, constitutes Islamophobia and must be stopped, stat.  Well, perhaps JFREJ has a point and perhaps it hasn't.  I am inclined to trust the professional judgement of the NYPD but I can see that errors in judgement are always possible. But  who can forget the case of Brooklyn's own terrorist, the blind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman ?  Here is the indictment of this gentleman, and here is the judgement.  Is the NYPD being phobic, as JFREJ alleges,  when it keeps an eye on certain mosques, or is it a matter of being safe rather than sorry ?

Well, let's move on.

A reader's first strong indication of JFREJ's inner core comes in its recent declaration in support of the official sponsorship by Brooklyn College of the BDS movement.  No, "JFREJ has not taken an organizational position regarding BDS because it falls outside our focus area," it says. On the other hand, JFREJ holds, BDS must be given freedom of speech at Brooklyn College.   Freedom of speech ?  Somehow JFREJ forgets that nobody ever tried to prevent BDS from holding its meeting at the College.   The controversy arose because Jewish students objected to official College endorsement of the event, of using public resources to promote the BDS hate speech.  (I have here written about the incident.)  So it would seem that more than freedom of speech here is what JFREJ is after.

Now consider this statement:  "JFREJ has not taken an organizational position regarding BDS because it falls outside our focus area."  Brilliant, isn't it.  On the one hand, no, we have not endorsed BDS, so all you right-wingers are liars if you say we have.  On the other hand, wink wink, you know where we stand, don't you.  I suppose this is what lawyers call the need for deniability.

Moving right along ...

Marjorie Dove Kent is the current Executive Director of JFREJ.  She has concluded what she calls a study of Zionism and Palestinian nationalism, entitled  What Happened Before That. The booklet mentions Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, a number of times.  But there is no mention at all of Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, onetime Mufti of Jerusalem and arguably the founder of the modern Palestinian nationalist movement.  Al-Husayni  of course gets airbrushed out of this kind of literature, for obvious reasons.

Of the many howlers in her opus, this one, in particular, caught my attention:

Something that gets left out of this history all the time: During the “conquest of labor” stage, Jews were imported from Yemen by Zionists in Palestine to perform unskilled labor in the place of Palestinian Arabs. 
Though they were Jewish, they were not included in the Kibbutz settlements. These were exclusively Eastern-European institutions. Remember – Zionism developed during the same time as modern racism and embodied racist ideology in many forms. The deliberate exclusion of Mizrahi Jews from the economic opportunities arising for other Jews created inequalities that still play out in Israeli life today.

True, there are not many Yemenite Jews on kibbutzim.  But the one kibbutz where I once spent six months had Yemenite members.  If Ms. Kent had ever talked to a single Yemenite Jew she would have been quickly disabused of her notions of the Yemenite aliyah.  It would be tedious for me to talk about what is obvious to anyone who knows anything about the matter.  As for Misrachi and Sephardic Jews, here is a partial listing of the many political, military, academic, and business leaders of Israel who have come from this background.

And here is Ms. Kent's conclusion to her study:

The occupation of Palestine is inherently linked to the violence between India and Pakistan, the genocide of Native Americans, and the poverty of Sub-Saharan Africa. All are manifestations of the same systems of oppression. When we fail to attack the systems, we unfailingly attack each other. This is not the way towards liberation. Let us instead mourn the violence we have perpetrated against each other, and seek new systems for real collective liberation 

No doubt scholars will disagree about the degree of perspicacity in these lines, but they do bring us further in our search for the core of JFREJ.

This core is actually found in whom JFREJ has chosen to honor over the years.  These include Tony Kushner, Debbie Almontaser, Adam Shapiro, and Henry Schwarzschild, among others.  Adam Shapiro, honored by JFREJ with a special award in 2003, is among the few anti-Israel activists who does not shy away from actually urging, rather than just winking at,  Arab violence against Israel.  But the tone-setting annual JFREJ award was the first one, in 1995, to Henry Schwarzschild, who died a year later.

Some years before this award, Scharzschild had resigned from the board of a Jewish publication Sh'ma, with the following explanation:
I now renounce the State of Israel, disavow any political connection or emotional obligation to it, and declare myself its enemy.  I retain, of course, the same deep concern for its inhabitants, Jewish, Arab, and other, that I hold for all humankind. ... 
 If those be the places where the State of Israel chooses to stand, I cannot stand with it.  I therefore resign all connections with Jewish political and public institutions that will not radically oppose the State and its claim to Jewish legitimacy.  Sh’ma is one of those.
Scharzschild resigned from Sh'ma but was happy to stand with JFREJ.  In this, he defines the core meaning of this group.

UPDATE, Nov. 2014:
Here is a video of Marjorie Dove Kent, Executive Director of JFREJ, as she is hosting an anti-Israel meeting in New York in November of 2014.  JFREJ here is in “partnership” with Jewish Voice for Peace, one of the most virulent anti-Israel groups in the US.  (See the ADL description of JVP here.)  The video is long and boring but should prove enlightening  to those who still think that JFREJ is in some sense benign.  Anyone who supports Israel, so JFREJ here, isipso facto an “Islamophobe.” Spoiler warning:  Mayor de Blasio is revealed as  a Zionist stooge.
UPDATE, Jan. 12, 1015
Ms. M. D. Kent, now as before Executive Director of JFREJ, co-signsa hate-Israel statement, together with members of Jews Say No andJewish Voice for Peace.
UPDATE, Feb. 18, 2015
Please read my additional posting, The Two Sides of JFREJ, written in response to the organization’s infiltration of mainline synagogues.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Enmity Movements

Dr. Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945)
German Minister of Enlightenment and Propaganda

One of man's most persistent traits is hate.  Is it an "instinct" and absolutely universal in the human species, or is but a response to frustration, as the "frustration-aggression" theorists would have it ?  While varying in degree and type among cultures and individuals, one would be hard put to find humans altogether without it.

It also seems clear that certain groups and individuals seem to have more than their share.  In fact -- and this is the subject of this blog posting -- there are organized movements that specialize in the theory and practice of fostering enmity and hate.  The historical examples are of course clear:  pre-eminent among them are the totalitarian movements of the last century.  But I will not focus on these here.  Instead, I propose to turn attention to some examples in contemporary America.

First, some preliminary observations.

World literature has some outstanding haters, and it would seem that the enmity groups of today have been inspired by these, at least in part.  (I have looked in vain for something like a history of vituperation among the famous writers of the past, but,  as far as I can detect, a book like that is no more than a desideratum.) Some of the great haters of the past include, at a minimum, Martin Luther, Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, and Adolf Hitler.

Hatred against Jews is prominent among historical hatreds, but it is not the only such enmity that is captured in the great literature of the past.  Be that as it may, in the case of Luther and Marx (and of course Hitler), it plays an outstanding role.

As to Luther, according to Wikipedia:
Luther describes Jews as a "base, whoring people, that is, no people of God, and their boast of lineage,circumcision, and law must be accounted as filth."[1] Luther wrote that they are "full of the devil's feces ... which they wallow in like swine,"[2] and the synagogue is an "incorrigible whore and an evil slut".[3]
And here is Karl Marx:
Let us consider the actual, worldly Jew – not the Sabbath Jew, as Bauer does, but the everyday Jew.
Let us not look for the secret of the Jew in his religion, but let us look for the secret of his religion in the real Jew.
What is the secular basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money.
Very well then! Emancipation from huckstering and money, consequently from practical, real Judaism, would be the self-emancipation of our time.
Most of the descriptive literature of these classic haters mentions their violent, vituperative, vitriolic polemical style.  But this style is usually considered as no more than an aspect of the particular issues of the time.  I think that it deserves a treatment all of its own.  I think that this style, in its radical disregard of the personhood of its targets, often seeks no less than the physical annihilation of enemies.  Wishing the death of opponents, and the attempted and sometimes accomplished murder, are fairly common features of the hate groups, as we shall see.

When we come to enmity groups in contemporary America, it would seem that certain religious and political sects give us the most conspicuous examples.  None of these groups are very large, but neither are they, in their totality, too insignificant to deserve attention.  (There are also enmity groups that cannot easily be described as either religious or political -- e.g. Scientology and the Larouche cult -- for which there are ample descriptions on the internet.)

The Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka is perhaps the most extreme example that one can find of an enmity group.   Their in-the-face hate picketing in various parts of the country -- "God Hates America," "God Hates Israel," "Fags Eat Poop," -- give the impression of parody, but that does not seem to be the intention.  Their latest antic was to declare that "God Sent the Shooter" at the funeral of Sandy Hook victims.

Not all groups that start out as hate groups remain so forever.  The Jehovah's Witnesses of the 1930's certainly promoted enmity.  Their favorite slogan -- "Religion is a Snare and a Racket" -- was used by them to shock Catholics.  On one occasion, June 25, 1939, there was a bloody brawl between JW members and those of another hate group, Charles Coughlin's  Christian Front.  These combative years of the Witnesses seem to have been confined to those of J. F. Rutherford undisputed leadership (1917-1942).

A number of other religious sects have enmity practices that are mostly internal:  one faction opposes another, using extreme verbal violence that sometimes becomes physical assault.  We have such reports regarding Satmar Hasidim and occasionally other Hasidic groupings.  And back in 1933, the American-Armenian Archbishop Leon Tourian was assassinated in New York by members of an opposing Armenian faction.  And so forth.

One religious enmity group, or rather a set of such groupings, are known as the Closed Brethren divisions of the larger Plymouth Brethren movement.  These Closed Brethren, best described by the late Bryan R. Wilson in a series of publications, have now been with us for almost two hundred years.  Their history is one of holier-than-thou and mutually antagonistic grouplets, marked by excommunications, shunning, and extremely hateful language toward one another.  The fact that their numerous antagonisms concern mainly their inner politics, and also the fact that -- as far as I know -- there have been no reported cases of physical violence, would explain why these people have not generally attracted the attention of mainline media.

Coming now to the more political enmity groups, there are of course the classic haters like the Ku Klux Klan, the neo-Nazis, etc.  Their hatreds are well documented and obvious, and need no more discussion here.

The old American Communist Party, on the other hand, is not conventionally classed as a hate group.  And perhaps, if it were not for the excellent writings of some ex-Communists, most of us would simply not know about the culture of enmity in the old CP, i.e. in the years of its virulence, roughly from 1930 to 1960.  (The Party today is of course but a pale shadow of its past, and I do not discuss its current situation here.)

The historian Aileen S. Kraditor, having spent about a decade in the CP beginning in 1947, published her remarkable book "'Jimmy Higgins', The Mental World of the American Rank - and - File Communist" in 1988.  No other work, to my knowledge, has given us as much detailed and insightful information about the Party's internal atmosphere of hatred, which was directed as much against perceived "renegades" as against the ostensible main enemy, capitalism. Kraditor devotes her fourth chapter specifically to "the rationale of hate" in the Party, a hatred which, from time to time, explicitly called for the death of opponents.   And she quotes from a 1937 article in a party journal:
It is from Marx we inherit the quality of fierce partisanship rising from objective historic analysis ;  his writings live today not as disembodied , cold philosophy, but, because of their intensive scientific objectivity, bright with the fires of hatred for the oppressors, which is but the other aspect of love for the working class and its vanguard.
The old CP is dead, more or less, but Marxist-Leninist enmity promotion still lives in America. It seems most virulent today in a group that had been a prime target of Stalinist hatreds, the Trotskyists.

Now as ever, Trotskyism is divided into numerous quarreling little sects, much like the Esclusive Brethren mentioned above.  Many of these groupuscules have been around for years, others arise and fall because of splits and mergers, and some seem to die due to pure exhaustion.  But there is one group, the International Socialist Organization, that, more than any of the others, seems to show signs of energy at the moment.

The ISO is "Cliffite," e.g. it adheres to that branch of Trotskyism that was founded by the late Tony Cliff of the British Socialist Workers Party.  Unlike most of the other Trotskyist groups, the Cliffites did not defend the Soviet Union as a "workers state," insisting, instead, that it was marked by "state capitalism."  But while it was thus more reasonable in regard to Stalinism, Cliffism has been,  at some distance, the most rejectionist about Israel in this overall anti-Israel group of organizations:  for the Cliffite groups that there is no right of Israel to exist, no matter how tiny its borders. The issue is discussed here by one of the SWP"s Trotskyist rivals in Britain, Workers Liberty.

The verbal violence of the ISO is remarkable, certainly for a post-Stalinist organization.  Here is a video of an ISO meeting last year in Chicago

ISO's Comrade Sherry Wolf tells us that she wants to "piss on Reagan's grave" (see below at 33:24)

Over in England, the Cliffites have a friend and collaborator in the House of Commons, the Honourable Gentleman from Bradford West,  Mr. George Galloway.  Here he appears at a debate at Oxford, February, 2013

Finally, we have a talk on the website of the New York ISO branch that features Ms. Lannis Deek, an Arab-American lawyer and supporter of Hamas,  in which she claims that "Zionists" like David Ben Gurion have advocated and practiced the cold-blooded, indiscriminate murder of Palestinians:

Comrade Deek purports to cite Ben Gurion.  I have been unable to receive a reply from her when I inquired about the source of this alleged quotation.  The text is, however, listed in a compendium of false "Zionist" quotations that has been made available by CAMERA.  Comrade Deek is a member of the NY State Bar, whose Rules of Professional Conduct (Rule 8.4(c)) prohibit a lawyer, ISO member or not, from  "[engaging] in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation." She may wish to review these Rules.

The history of enemy groups -- which I have tried to sketch from Martin Luther to, if you will excuse me, Lannis Deek -- is obviously part of our tradition, and is unlikely to end in our times.  I offer these comments in the hope that a greater understanding of such groups will help to mitigate the harm that they do.

See also

The Language of Hate: Animal Attributions

The Trotskyist Movement's Changing Positions on Israel

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Grumblings in the Chomsky Cult

Misunderstood by his Master, unjustly rebuked for heresy by him, wrongfully scolded by him for disloyalty, what is the Disciple to do ?  This one tells us:  "I almost lost the will to live."

Who is this disciple ?  Is it perhaps one of the twelve whom Jesus rebuked in Mark 8:18 ("Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?") ?  Or is it perhaps Rudolf Hess, whose peace trip to England was so brutally condemned by his adored Führer ?  No, none of these.  It is rather one of Noam Chomsky's faithful followers, the Guardian's columnist George Monbiot, who reports this crushing experience in his relationship to Chomsky.  And another of Chomsky's disciples, the journalist Ben Cohen, upon hearing that Monbiot almost lost the will to live, chimes in:  "as a huge fan of Noam Chomsky, I almost did too".

The background to this bit of crisis in the Chomsky cult is the following:  Edward Herman and David Peterson, not only Disciples but actually Apostles in the Chomsky cult, published a book "The Politics of Genocide" in 2010.  The salient thesis of this book is that the 1994 genocide of the Rwandan Tutsi never happened;  that, if anybody, it is the Hutu who were the victims;  that, moreover, it is US imperialism that is at fault in the history of all true genocides (Vietnam, Korea, American Indians, etc.); and that the ostensible genocide of Tutsi is a story concocted by these self-same US imperialists.  Chomsky wrote an endorsing foreword to this book (as, indeed, he had contributed a preface to a book by the Holocaust-denier Robert Faurisson) and it is Chomsky's name that appears, together with the authors', in the same font and size, on the cover of this Herman-Peterson volume.  There are two thorough reviews of this book:  one by Gerald Caplan, the other by Martin Shaw.  Both agree in their description of the book, as follows (in Caplan's words):

Why they want to create such gratuitous hurt for the survivors of the genocide in Rwanda is impossible to fathom,  but their egregious views relegate them squarely to the lunatic fringe.

Now Monbiot, Chomsky's loyal follower up to this point, happens to be an expert on Africa, and, loyalty to Chomsky notwithstanding, cares about the Tutsi.   He wrote to Chomsky repeatedly but respectfully, even obsequiously,  asking the Master to distance himself from this lunatic-fringe view of the Rwandan tragedy.  (Monbiot published this correspondence here.)  But Chomsky would not budge.  In fact,  he sees fit to shower his erstwhile disciple with sarcasm and personal nastiness.  So now, it would seem, Monbiot is banished from the cult.

There is a bit of a moral here.  To be an accepted Disciple in the Chomsky cult, shed all vestiges of humanitarian concern. And never, ever, cross the Master.

See also

How Smart is Noam Chomsky ?

How Smart is Noam Chomsky ? II

Professor Chomsky's Veracity Problems

Tom Bartlett on the Chomsky cult in linguistics

Nicholas Evans and Stephen Levinson: The Myth of Language Universals
(a thorough debunking of Chomskyan linguistics)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Today's Pacifists Hate Israel

Despite their rhetoric of brotherly love, reconciliation, and sweet reasonableness, the pacifist organizations of today have enlisted in the propaganda war against Israel.  And that includes, to all intents and purposes, an endorsement of violence.

The groups I have looked at are

1) the American Friends Service Committee
2) the Fellowship of Reconciliation
3) the War Resisters League, and
4) the Christian Peacemaker Teams

In my article I show how these groups have turned their backs on historic pacifism to endorse hatreds and violence.

Here is the link to my article:

Speaking with Forked Tongues;  The New Pacifists' Doctrine of an Evil Israel

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Trotskyism, Chicago, 2012

The International Socialist Organization, one of the Trotskyist splinter groups and apparently the only one to have youthful members, finds that socialism as of 2012 means three things:  a disarmed police, death to Israel, and free abortion on demand.  But especially death to Israel:  intifada, intifada !

hat tip:  EAG

Doc Martyn, on another site, has suggested a companion piece (from the movie Cabaret):

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Life Among the Fellow-Travelers -- Then and Now

Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has a bit of a sour face in this picture, and well he might.  His predecessor of sorts  -- Comrade Jos. Stalin of the late Soviet Union -- had many more, and infinitely more prestigious fellow-travelers in the West.

A day after I celebrated my twenty-third birthday, on March 25 of 1949, Stalin's fellow-travelers in the United States  convened their Cultural and Scientific Conference for World Peace in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. [This link leads to a complete list of participants]. This "Waldorf Conference," not to put too fine a point on it, was organized to denounce the United States and to praise the Soviet Union and Stalin's dictatorship.  (William O'Neill has furnished an insightful description in his 1982 volume "A Better World. The Great Schism:  Stalinism and the American Intellectual."  [yes, one still has to go the library for important materials !])

The list of luminaries who allowed their names to appear as "sponsors" of the Waldorf Conference appears incredible to us now.  Some of them no doubt held crossed fingers behind their backs, and  at least one, Norman Mailer, used the conference to come out as an anti-Stalinist, much to the chagrin of his erstwhile comrades.  But for the rest of roughly six hundred -- what could they have been thinking ?  The facts of the Gulag, by and large, were known to anyone who cared to know.  

Among the most familiar of the Waldorf sponsors, here are some that are household names to this day:

Leonard Bernstein
Marlon Brando
Rudolf Carnap
Aaron Copland
W.E.B. DuBois
Albert Einstein   ---  yes, THE  Albert Einstein
Lillian Hellman  --  nor surprise here
Langston Hughes
Norman Mailer (but see above)
Thomas Mann  --  remember that when you're told about the wisdom of great writers
Clifford Odets
Eugene Ormandy
Paul Robeson
Artur Schnabel
Henry Wallace
Norbert Wiener
Frank Lloyd Wright

Notably absent from the list were the prominent open Communists of the time;  for example,  William Z. Foster, the CP boss, did not sign.  (Paul Robeson, a secret Communist, did sign.  He was outed as a Communist only after his death -- by his own comrades.  See my previous blog here.)  The idea was, in line with the well-known deviousness of the Stalinist movement, that this Conference was not at all a Communist enterprise -- no no no, not Communist at all !  Just a sincere, honest, peace-loving initiative by sincere, honest, peace-loving progressive human beings. 

But be that as it may, the list of celebrities was truly dazzling.  More sober American intellectuals like Dwight Macdonald and my erstwhile teacher Sidney Hook thought that this Waldorf group were dupes of totalitarianism (as did I, when I confronted a signer who was one of my CCNY teachers).  But the opponents could in no way match the prominence of the Waldorf supporters.

Now, compare this list of 1949 luminary Soviet enthusiasts with the tiny list of what are, by just about any standard, the  nonentities who make up  the Western supporters of the Iranian dictatorship.

Perhaps the best known is the British MP George Galloway.  Here is Wikipedia's take on his relationship to Ahmadinejad:
Galloway has attracted criticism from both the Left and the Right for his comments relating to the regime in Iran, and his work for the state-run satellite television channel, Press TV. Scott Long, writing in The Guardian, criticised Galloway's claim that "homosexuals are not executed in Iran, just rapists", pointing out that current law in the country stipulates that "Penetrative sex acts between men can bring death on the first conviction".[137] Long-time Gay Rightsactivist Peter Tatchell, also writing in The Guardian, accused Galloway of spouting "Iranian Propaganda", continuing: "His claim that lesbian and gay people are not at risk of execution in Iran is refuted by every reputable human rights organisation, including Amnesty InternationalHuman Rights Watch, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and the International Lesbian and Gay Association."[138] Galloway argued that Western governments should accept the election of the conservative President of the Islamic Republic of Iran,Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.[139]The Trotskyist Workers' Liberty group also condemns Galloway, largely on the basis of his support and work for the current Iranian regime. In "No vote for Galloway – an open letter to the left", he is quoted from his Press TVinterview with President Ahmadinejad as stating that he requires "police protection in London from the Iranian opposition because of my support for your election campaign. I mention this so you know where I’m coming from."[140]

On the other side of the Channel there is the African-French self-styled comedian known as Dieudonné, about whom I have blogged before.  Here is the latest news about Dieudonné:  a) last Sunday he was defeated in his run under the "Anti-Zionism" label for the French Assembly, receiving a score of 0.14% in his district;  and b) he has made an anti-Semitic movie called, appropriately, L'antisémite, for which he has received money and sponsorship from the Iranian government.  Robert Faurisson, dean of Holocaust deniers but perhaps best known as friend of Chomsky's, appears in the movie as himself.

For those who can understand French, here is Monsieur Dieudonné in Teheran, praising the Iranian dictatorship:


(Here is a good article on Dieudonné by Tom Reiss in The New Yorker some years ago.)

Both Galloway and Dieudonné enjoy something of an international notoriety, something than can scarcely be said of the American retired sociologist James Petras.  More or less alone even among leftist anti-Israel activists, Petras supports the Ahmadinejad regime.  He calls Jewish dentists and doctors, whom he sees as prone to be active in AIPAC, as the main peril to America.  His difference from  Chomsky -- whom he criticizes for his "ethnicity" -- is that he sees the problem, frankly, with Jews as such, without bothering to employ code terms like Zionist.  His approval of Ahmadinejad has been criticized by fellow leftists.

No review of Western supporters of Ahmadinejad would be complete without a bit of comic relief.  The American Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke sees Teheran as his spiritual home, and has participated in Ahmadinejad's 2006 Holocaust-denial conference, as have some self-styled rabbis of the unfortunate Neturei Karta (about whom the less said the better).  

So here it is,  the story of the mighty fellow-travelers and how they have fallen -- from Einstein all the way to David Duke.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The One Percenters Against Israel

Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt, Jewish but as famous for her love affair with the Nazi philosopher Martin Heidegger as for her activities as a public intellectual, attended the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem in 1961.  She did not much like Israeli culture as she observed it in the court room.  This is what she wrote to Karl Jaspers as the time:
My first impression: On top, the judges, the best of German Jewry. Below them, the prosecuting attorneys, Galicians, but still Europeans. Everything is organized by a police force that gives me the creeps, speaks only Hebrew, and looks Arabic ... And outside the doors, the oriental mob, as if one were in Istanbul or some other half-Asiatic country.
The "Galicians," also known as the Ostjuden by the elegant sections of German Jewry, were of course not as gebildet, as "cultured" as those German Jews who could frequent the salons (and the beds) of German philosophers.  As for sephardim -- well, they're not even Europeans, let alone human beings ....

Ms. Arendt is dead and buried, but her spirit lives on.  Where ?

The New York Times of April 18 has a full page ad by the New Israel Fund (heretofore known mainly for its support of Arab attempts to dismantle Israel).  The ad solicits funds ("tax-deductible," i.e. partially financed by US taxpayers) to combat "EXTREMISM" (in letters 1 3/4" in height) in Israel.  What does this "extremism" consist of ?  Suicide bombers, stone throwing by Arab youngsters, missiles from the Gaza Strip ?  As they say among certain sophisticates of the Upper West Side:  don't be naive.  According to the ad, the great danger of "extremism" comes from the Yiddish-speaking Ostjuden in Bnei Brak and other Orthodox neighborhoods.   It seems that there is an "actual photograph" (displayed on 7.5" of the ad's 20")  of a billboard that has been "defaced" by "religious extremists" in Jerusalem.

Naomi Chazan, Pres., New Israel Fund

OK.  Let's be naive for a moment.  The "defacement" appears to consist of a partial ripping of a poster that contains a woman's face.   Is that the very worst example of "extremism" that one can think of ?  (In the American understanding of freedom of expression, even "defacing" the Stars and Stripes is protected -- see Texas v. Johnson (1989) ). And then, why is the American taxpayer asked to tell the people of Israel what to allow and what not to allow ?  While the photograph may very well be "actual," how do we know that it was "religious extremists" who perpetrated this heinous act ?  Finally, NIF is famous for demanding "freedom of expression."  Why demand such freedom for the enemies of Israel, but not for Orthodox Jews ?

Toward the bottom of the ad, we are told that "your tax-deductible gift will be matched up to $500,000 ... thanks to the generosity of our donor Murray Koppelman."

As the current expression goes, Mr. Koppelman is part of the one percent.  No doubt he has a right to   express himself, but does he have the right to keep others from expressing themselves, especially others who live in another country ?

As it happens, Mr. Koppelman (in this NIF video) is disarmingly frank about what bothers him about Israel.  When he visits religious neighborhoods there, he says, he is distressed to see religious women walk behind their husbands.  He doesn't like it.   So what does he do ?  Well, like any self-respecting billionaire,  he wants to put an end to the practices that he doesn't like.

Now, just a bit more about those one percenters who want to remake the world in their own image.  Don't say that the New Israel Fund does nothing but cause mischief in Israel.  No, on the contrary:  it does something right here in the US.  According to the two-year old but last available report (Form 990) that it has submitted to the IRS, the NIF helps to create at least one more American one percenter.  In 2008, NIF payed its top official, Mr. Daniel Sokatch, the sum of $342,717, which puts Mr. Sokatch safely in the top one percent of individual income earners in the US.  But not to worry.  Even after paying Mr. Sokatch, NIF still has lots of money to pay for full-page ads in the NYT, where the rates range, depending on how much the Times likes you, from $100,000 to $200,000 a shot.

It may well be that some NIF money goes to worthwhile causes in Israel.  But in view of the documented millions that NIF spends on  Israel-hostile and frivolous pursuits, what do the NIF fat cats say to the truly disadvantaged ?   "Get lost," or some variant thereof, is what in fact they say to the social, educational, financial, and security needs of the Jewish people.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Trahison des Clercs at the University of Pennsylvania

Earlier this month a conference was held at the venerable University of Pennsylvania.  The purpose of the conference was to promote boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel -- BDS.  Not to put too fine a point on it,  it was a Hate Israel conclave.  (Cf. the report by Guy Herschmann)

This being a free country, people have a right to organize hatred of Israel;  that is as American as apple pie, or at least as American as Ku Klux Klan.  No complaint there.  

But the conference was not just an expression of free speech.  What was planned there, what was advocated in at least one of the sessions, was the subversion of the independence of scholarship and university teaching. 

Of course we know that in Soviet times the universities were told to preach the state doctrines, and we know that the Nazi universities were there to advance the truth according to Adolf Hitler. And there is also an older notion, in some quarters,  of religious faith as the supreme arbiter of  what is to be taught.  Against all these threats from various quarters, we want an independent profession of scholarship, one of free inquiry and free discussion, with a clear line separating it from propaganda and indoctrination.

Yet here, in the halls of one of the most prestigious universities of the world, one of its full professors of English, Amy Kaplan, gave a seminar on how to press an hate-Israel message in the academic curriculum:
My question falls on Professor Norton's statement that Boycott may not be the most important part of BDS, and is kind of the closest to where we live as academics and also with Professor Kaplan's call to think about a positive program on BDS, a positive aspect of the Boycott [of Israel]....And that's um about teaching in the classroom about BDS and how, not just in our life as professional producers of knowledge, and scholars, but as teachers, how can that be formed in this pedagogy, especially I guess when the course is not dealing directly with material that has to do with Palestine"
Well I don't know how you can, how you can address the issue if you're not dealing with a course that has no content or relationship to it.... But I know that, I mean, you can make courses that have content. I mean, for example, I happen to know that you're interested in prisons, and the literature and culture about, you know, prisons, so you can teach a course on which you included prison as a really, really big thing, not only in the political life of Palestinians, but also in their literature and in their poetry, so that will be kind of an ideal way -- you take a thematic course, and you bring in themes from this issue, and literature is really a great way to teach students about what's going on -- students they think, they know they have an ideological line, a political line, and then they read, you know, they read darwish, they read, you know, The Pennoptimist and it opens up a whole new world -- so that's my answer to that.
This exchange was widely reported on the internet.  I myself wrote to the University president,  Amy Guttmann, that "it would seem that Professor Kaplan may need to be reminded that there is a line between propaganda and teaching, and that we really should try not to cross it , at least not in this deliberate,  blatant, and gross way.  What do you think ?"  And no, I did not receive a reply from the good President.  On the other hand the Chair of the English department at Penn, Nancy Bentley, has issued the following statement in response to a blog by Elder of Ziyon:
I can say I didn't agree with the way the blog characterized Professor Kaplan's comments on the recording. The blog stated the following: 
"At the Q&A session, another teacher asked Kaplan how to incorporate the BDS memes of demonizing Israel into college courses, even when the course has nothing to do with "Palestine." And Professor Kaplan answered him. Here we have a professor at an Ivy League university explicitly calling on like-minded educators to shoehorn hate of Israel into every one of their classes." 
This characterization is not accurate. Contrary to the claim that Professor Kaplan believes that political views on Israel-Palestine should be forced into college courses that have nothing to do with that subject, Kaplan explicitly said she didn't think that was feasible: "I don't know how you can address the issue if you're not dealing with a course that has no content or relationship to it." 
She took the position instead that certain kinds of thematic courses, such as prison literature or prison history, would have an inherent relation to the topic of Israel-Palestine (as one case among others). Prison writing is a well established area in literary studies, as is the history of prisons. Any search of data bases will reveal this neutral fact of academic history. And I fail to see how the case of the Israeli-Palistinian [sic] conflict would be inherently inappropriate as a case study for a thematic course of that sort, just as with courses like war literature or the literature of mourning and violence. If you can explain how this is not the case, I'd be happy to comment. 
"For these academics, college is not about teaching but it is merely a platform for them to spout their political views at their captive audience." This assertion on the blog does not seem accurate to me either, since Professor Kaplan expressed the idea that only courses in which Israel and Palestine were relevant to the advertised course theme would be logical candidates for discussing these questions. Such courses (prison writing, war and literature, etc.) are not required of English majors or SAS students, so discussions of the politics of the Israeli-Palestine conflict would never be forced on a "captive audience."
 So here, according the English Department of the University of Pennsylvania, the problem is solved.  We will not indoctrinate our English majors -- that would be bad -- but we will indoctrinate more specialized students, only those.

What the U. of Penn. should have said, but what is has failed to say so far, is simply that it will not indoctrinate.  That it will present controversial topics in a way to allow students to appreciate and to learn about various points of view.  Present the student with various points of view.  Let him judge.

But education in this sense -- in a sense that is clearly distinct from indoctrination -- is absent from the mental world of the zealot.  We can hardly blame Professor Kaplan for this problem.  A look at her resume confirms the primacy of her zealotry over scholarship, and zealotry, like thrall, is probably not something that can be abandoned by will power alone.  That is one of the reasons that we look to universities for institutional safeguards.  And, so far at least, the great University of Pennsylvania is clearly failing us.

So here is my challenge to the University of Pennsylvania:  when the Israel-Palestine conflict comes up in any course, for whatever reason, make sure that students will be informed, in an even-handed manner, that there is an Israeli point of view in addition to that of its detractors.  Can you commit to that, U. of Penn ?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Death of a Stalinist

Bill Mardo (1923-2012)

and his vozhd  1878-1953

It seems that a Mr. Bill Mardo, né William Bloom, died in New York on January 20 of this year.  Seven days later the New York Times ran a 750-word obituary on the gentleman which may well be the most mindless obit ever written.

It seems that this Mr. Mardo was one of three such comrades who wrote columns in the Daily Worker during the nineteen fifties in which they urged that African-American baseball players be hired by the major leagues.  Obviously, the failure of the baseball industry to accomplish integration so late was shameful.  But did this comrade have anything to do with the belated integration of black players ?  The NYT obit has no doubt that he played a leading part.  But the obit writer here, Richard Goldstein, seems blissfully ignorant of the actual role of the American Communist Party in mid twentieth century America.

During the whole period of Mardo's tenure at the Daily Worker, the Communists constituted a small conspiratorial group totally devoted to the interests of the Soviet Union and to Stalin.  Any interest they had in African Americans was consistently subordinated to their devotion to the Soviets. The details of the Communist stance of "the Negro question" has been documented by a number of historians;  a very convenient source is Maurice Isserman's Which Side Were you On ? (1982).  Mr. Goldstein has either never read these sources or has chosen to disregard them.

Mr. Goldstein does furnish some details of Mardo's life that should have aroused at least some curiosity.   But no, to Goldstein everything appears to be as normal and American as apple pie.

On Mardo's name change, this is what Goldstein writes:  
Mr. Mardo was born William Bloom in Manhattan on Oct. 24, 1923 .... He changed his name to Mardo as a tribute to his sisters Marion and Doris when he began his career in journalism ...
As a tribute to his sisters !  What could be more natural than that ?  What loving brother could possibly do less than change his last name to honor his sisters ?  The fact that Communists in that era took on "party names" for conspiratorial reasons does not seem to be known by Mr. Goldstein.  In the case of Jewish Communists, the party names were almost invariably "Americanized" to hide the Jewish origins of these comrades.

And then, somewhat later, 
He left the newspaper to work as a Washington reporter for the Soviet news agency Tass in the early 1950's ..
Again, what could be more normal, more American, than to have a young American reporter (who by the way never went to college and never learned other languages, as far as we know) to work for the Soviets in Washington ?  And no, Mr. Goldstein has never heard of just what the Soviets were up to in those days of the Cold War.  Why mention a thing like that, anyway ?

But it does seem that this generation of readers needs to be reminded of just what the CPUSA was doing in those days, especially in regard to the civil rights of African Americans.  An African American sociologist of the time, Horace Cayton Jr., put it most succinctly:
... the record shows that where and when the Communists seemed to be fighting for Negro rights, their objective was simply to strengthen the hand of Russia.  When this was accomplished, they abandoned the fight and turned to somethings else ...  (cited in Maurice Isserman, Which Side Were you On ? 1982)
While the CP gave verbal support to civil rights issues before 1941, such support was  muted after the Soviet Union was attacked by Germany on June 22 of that year.  Overnight,  support for the war became the overriding issue. The Communists throughout were antagonistic to the  Civil Rights movement of A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin.  Just before June of 1941, these two leaders were denounced by the CP as "war mongers" because they were sympathetic to the cause of the Allies while Stalin was in a pact with Hitler.  After June of 1941, these Black leaders were denounced by the comrades as insufficiently pro-war.

And, obviously, neither the Daily Worker, nor its Comrade Mardo, could find any fault whatever in the Soviet Gulag, nor in the Soviet oppression of Jews.  In this they were in stark opposition to the whole Civil Rights movement of the 20th century.   The last words have to go to Martin Luther King, who wrote in support of the Soviet Jewry movement:

The New York Times 
January 16, 1965
I am profoundly shocked by the treatment of the Jewish people in the Soviet Union. I would like strongly to endorse the moral protest and appeal of conscience to the Soviet Union published as an advertisement in The Times Jan. 14.I should like to add my voice to the list of distinguished Americans of all faiths who have called the injustices perpetrated against the Jewish community in the Soviet Union to the attention of the world.
The struggle of the Negro people for freedom is inextricably interwoven with the universal struggle of all peoples to be free from discrimination and oppression. The Jewish people must be given their full rights as Soviet citizens as guaranteed by the Constitution of the U.S.S.R. itself.
The anti-Jewish tone of the economic trials must cease. The free functioning of synagogues should be permitted. There should be no interference with the performance of sacred rites. The religious and cultural freedom of this old Jewish community should be re-established.
In the name of humanity, I urge that the Soviet Government end all the discriminatory measures against its Jewish community. I will not remain silent in the face of injustice.
Martin Luther King Jr.Atlanta, Ga., Jan. 14, 1965