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Friday, December 9, 2011

Doctor Max and Doctor Norman


Dr. Max Naumann, Berlin, 1934
(1875 - 1939)
(from he volume by Klaus Herrmann)

My German Jewish parents, in Berlin, were about as assimilated to German society as one could be.  They almost never visited a synagogue.  They spoke no language other than German.  They thought that Jews who had immigrated to Germany from Poland were, speaking politely, ungebildet, uncultured.  And about Zionism, they held a polite but firm distance.  Until about 1934, Christmas was celebrated in our house, to be replaced by Hanukah only after Hitler taught them, around 1935, that we were, after all, Jewish.

But despite these German proclivities, the word Naumannianer (follower of Max Naumann) was always a term of derision in our house.  A Jew who tries to be a Nazi ?  Verrückt.  Crazy.  And that may well be the most charitable judgement that history now has for Max Naumann, founder, protagonist, and leader of the Verband nationaldeutscher Juden (VnJ).  One of the very few Jewish line officer in the Kaiser's Army, Naumann felt strongly that he was German, very very German, right-wing German, and he felt gravely hurt that the emerging right-wing movement of young Germans after WWI considered him, a Jew, to be outside their Volk.

Solution:  a movement, VnJ, started in 1921, with the following theory:  yes, it's true, many Jews are in fact Schweinehunde, just as the anti- Semites say they are, but those are the Ostjuden, the Jews from Poland and parts East, not the truly deutsche Juden (us), who are in fact good Germans, very good Germans.  So Naumann advocated: a) true Germans like himself need to vote for the  Nazis (in 1932); b)  Eastern European Jews need to be expelled from German territories; and  c) (once the Nazis were in power), the Zionist Organization of Germany needs to be outlawed.   Dr. Naumann also sent a personal letter to Hitler (retrieved by my late friend Klaus Herrmann), which respectfully suggested to the Führer that the good German Jews (but not, of course, the Jews of Eastern origins) be drafted into the Wehrmacht together with their Aryan Volksgenossen.  Since the Führer never deigned to reply to communications from members of inferior races, Dr. Naumann's letter remained unanswered.  However, the Nazi government took enough notice of the VnJ to make sure that it was outlawed before other Jewish groups.  Dr. Naumann was briefly arrested but was then released to die a natural death in 1939.

We now live in times of renewed onslaught against the Jewish people, and Naumann-like characters have again arisen to to urge the enemies of the Jews to proceed more energetically than these enemies are inclined to do at the moment.  In the video below, we have a Dr. Norman Finkelstein, no less a Doctor than Naumann, urge the Hezbollah to act with greater military resolve against Israel:  "Israel has to suffer a military defeat," he opines.

Has Doctor Finkelstein heard of Doctor Naumann ?  That is not likely, given Doctor Finkelstein's reluctance to give much thought to Jewish history.  But that is neither here nor there.  The two Doctors are related by a common commitment to harm their own people.

Further reading re. Naumann:  

Carl J. Rheins, 1980,  "The Verban nationaldeutscher Juden 1921-1933," Yearbook of the Leo Baeck Inst. XXV.

Klaus J. Herrmann, 1969, "Das Dritte Reich und die Deutsch-Jüdischen Organisationen 1933-1934." (In German)

Matthias Hambrock, 2003, "Die Etablierung der Aussenseiter." (In German)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

OWS -- La Crème de la Crème

MIKE CHECK:  Some animals are more equal than others.  Some animals are more equal than others.  Some ....

And so, it seems,  Orwell had it right all along, about Occupy Wall Street no less than about Animal Farm:  some animals are more equal than others.

In a remarkable article by Mattathias Schwartz in the current New Yorker,  we are told about the various heavy thinkers and busy organizers behind OWS.  (In a recent interview on WNYC radio in New York, one of these "facilitators" stressed the "horizontal," i.e. leaderless nature of this movement.  But the interviewer, usually perceptive and smart, failed to ask the obvious:  who appointed you "facilitator" ?)  And here are the names, nine in number and given here in alphabetical order, that Schwartz has found to constitute OWS's Crème de la Crème:

Fithian, Lisa
Graeber, David
Holmes, Marisa
Lasn, Kalle
Sitrin, Marina
Stamp, Nelini
Tunney, Justine
Wagner, Evan
White, Micah

MIKE CHECK:  You are the one percent !  You are the one percent !  You ...

The attentive reader will no doubt have noticed that the names of six of these crème people are shown as links.  The links are to statements by these crèmists declaring opposition to Israel.  These statements vary in intensity, from the virulent Judeophobia of Kalle Lasn (who, by anybody's account, is the éminence grise of the movement) to a merely offhand defamation of Israel by Marina Sitrin.  But here it is, fully six out nine crèmists have gone out of their way to harm Israel through public expressions of hatred.  How common is that in the American population ?  One percent ?  It certainly does not represent the "ninety-nine percent" for which the crèmists presume to speak.

So here is a humble request to the Crème from one of the ninety-nine:   please, please do not do it in our name !

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Puzzle of Adass Jisroel: A Sham Synagogue in Berlin

Rabbi Ezriel Hildesheimer (1820-1899)
Founder of Berlin Adass Jisroel

Rita and I spent a week in Berlin last month.  Most of the time was spent visiting the small Jewish institutions, and the exercise was more than a little depressing.  In short, there is no continuity at all with Berlin Jewish life before the War.  Of course this was no surprise.  But there were some features that were startling to me:  much of what is ostensibly Jewish is in fact run by non-Jews.  A recent article in the Jerusalem Report, "Jewish Newspapers without Jews," shows how ostensibly Jewish newspapers in Germany are in fact largely run by non-Jews, and are apparently also read mostly by non-Jews.  The same holds true for other ostensible Jewish features of today's Berlin.  There are Jewish symbols and Jewish titles for this and that, but there are few if any actual Jews behind some of these.

A very conspicuous example of this make-believe is the continued existence, in the eastern part of the city, of what amounts to a sham synagogue.  It was established by the Communist government in the final phase of the so-called German Democratic Republic and has had a continued existence in post-Wall Berlin, not only through the stealth of its promoter but also through the complaisance, fear, and cowardice of the authorities and the media.

The story has been told a number of times, most notably by the well-known German Jewish journalist Henryk Broder in a (German-language) article in 1991.  But there has been little attention to the matter in English,  which alone could bring the matter to the attention of the Jewish community world-wide.  (But see my link to the important work by Ruth Gay, below).   Moreover, Broder's article and similar exposés are now twenty years old.  I have suggested an up-to-date  and in-depth inquiry, with the understanding that the results would be available in English as well as German.  Here is the fundamental question:  is there any legitimacy to the claim that this new Adass Jisroel is a continuation of the old Adass Jisroel ?  That is has any of the characteristics of the old Adass Jisroel, any at all ?

The original  Congregation Adass Jisroel (עדת ישראל) was formed in Berlin in the second part of the 19th century by Rabbi Ezriel Hildesheimer and his Orthodox co-thinkers.  They left the Unified Jewish Community, which, then as now, included both Orthodox and Liberal Jews, because they wanted a stricter Orthodoxy in their own religious life.  They were secessionist, wanting neither government nor Community supervision, and, for the sake of their religious convictions,  they forewent government and Community subsidies.  As it happens, their intellectual and cultural achievements -- I speak as someone who (as a child) only observed them from afar, as an outsider -- were extraordinary.  The famous Adass Schule at Siegmunds Hof in my old West Berlin neighborhood operated from 1924 until it was destroyed by the Nazis in 1938.  It taught not only the Orthodox Jewish religion but also excelled in secular subjects, following the founders' dictum of Torah im Derech Aretz, i.e. a devotion to both Torah and secular learning.  At its last Abitur in 1938, the (Nazi) government examiner was moved to compliment the graduates on their unusual scholarly achievements. Not longer after that, of course, the Nazis proceeded to send the bulk of these graduates to their death, together with the other remaining German Jews.

There is not much to tell about the succeeding years.  The East Berlin AJ synagogue was destroyed during the war, and nobody from the old AJ, or from anywhere else, appeared to take an interest. In West Berlin, of course, there was a functioning Unified Jewish Community, consisting mainly of Russian Jews and a few other individuals from here and there.  In East Germany, tiny Jewish congregations existed in some places, by the sufferance and/or sponsorship of the Communist regime.  That is until about 1986.  At that time, Ari Offenberg, a grandson of one of AJ's founders, appeared in East Berlin together with his son Mario, to be designated by the Communist government as the rightful and legitimate resurrected Congregation Adass Jisroel.  There were no other members in sight.  Nevertheless the GDR government, with the personal approval of its lider maximo, Genosse Erich Honecker, proclaimed the Offenbergs as the legitimate, the continuing Adass Jisroel.  Father Ari, however, remained in the background like a piece of stage prop.  It was Mario, the son, who was and has remained as the star of post-war Adass Jisroel.

Once the Berlin wall fell and the city was re-united, Mario lost his GDR protection and his GDR subsidies.  But he was undeterred.  He launched a five-year litigation against Berlin's Senate for the recognition of his AJ as a Jewish Community with equal status to the Unified Jewish Community, and, not coincidentally, for renewed subsidies from public sources.  And after these five years, on October 15, 1997, he was given all that by the highest administrative court.  Since then he has vocifirously campaigned against any and all who dare to question his bona fides, never hesitating to label his critics as anti-Semites, Stalinists, greedy Jewish oligarchs, as the case demanded.  In the end, the Unified Jewish Community has declared some sort of a truce, under the theory, as one person explained it to me, that it is best to letting sleeping dogs lie.  Offenberg has been sufficiently aggressive and media-savvy to intimidate all the various authorities of today's Germany.

Mario Offenberg was born in 1946 in Tel Aviv and apparently served in the Israeli army, so of course he knows modern Hebrew (which, it goes without saying, is not the same as having had a Jewish religious education).  In the late 1960's he migrates to Berlin with his father, and studies there at the Free University.  In 1975 he completes his thesis, which, as Ruth Gay explains,  was an attack on Zionism.  In 1977 he makes an anti-Israel movie, which receives an award from the PLO.  His politics were anti-Zionist Trotskyism in those years. In 1975, he collaborates with Eike Geisel to translate into German an anti-Zionist pamphlet by the Trotskyist Nathan Weinstock. Together with Moshe Machover, he publishes an article in 1978 in the Israeli Trotskyist publication Khamsin, in which he attacked anyone on the Left who might support Israel.  

What did the Jewish religion -- not to mention Orthodox Judaism -- mean to him in those days ?  Henryk Broder interviewed a comrade of his from those days, who said that Ollenberg, at least at that time, was as much religiously Jewish as he himself was Santa Claus.

Now of course people can change.  We know that Saul experienced an epiphany and became Paul.  Moreover, we are also told that there is more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repenteth than over ninety-nine who have no cause to repent.  Did Mario Offenberg, like Saul,  have some sort of epiphany ?  Did he repent of the radical Trotskyism of his youth and middle age ?  Well, when Henryk Broder asked him about it, Dr. Offenberg opined that his time is much too valuable to discuss matters of that sort.

In the meantime, this new Adass Jisroel continues to exist, at least on paper.  No rabbi is mentioned on its website.  It runs what it calls a kosher restaurant, but when I visited this establishment last month there was no Jewish personnel to be found in it.  All inquiries are to be directed to its office, I was told.  But this office, when I tried to visit it, just happened to be closed, as it also happened to be closed when others tried to visit it.  AJ is said to have a synagogue, but attendance there is allowed only by appointment.  The large AJ cemetery, which was given to Offenberg by the GDR government, cannot be visited except by appointment;  people I know tried to make such appointment but were told that 6:30 in the morning is the one and only time for which an appointment can be considered.

Last year there were press stories that the Berlin government is demanding proper accounting of the funds that it has channelled to Offenberg, as required by law, but apparently refused by Dr. O.  Then the story was quietly dropped.  When I was in Berlin now, I met with a reporter from one of the Jewish papers (who, of course, was not Jewish himself).  I was interviewed most courteously, and a most courteous account of my visit was published.  But there was not a word about the main interest that I expressed in the interview, viz. Adass Jisroel.  The reporter later told me why this was red-pencilled by his editor:  let sleeping dogs lie.

UPDATE, March 26, 2012:  It now seems that a new court judgment has recognized the fraudulent nature of Offenberg's operation, and that this so-called synagogue may well be forced to shut down.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"Progressives" on the Shalit deal: Israel is the moral equivalent of Hamas

Arab terrorists, 2011

Some of the discussions by Jewish "progressives" and their allies have used the Shalit prisoner exchange to propose a moral equivalence between the Israeli justice system and the Hamas abductors.

First, there is a relatively mild version.

Mr. Ralph Seliger, writing a blog for "Partners for Progressive Israel," has the following musings on Shalit:
There’s a lot more that can be said on this, of course. For example, the diverse reasons that so many Palestinians have been imprisoned, some justly and others not: from participating in heinous mass murders to offenses that should not be cause for  imprisonment, e.g., merely being a member of Hamas.
In other words, the Israeli system of justice is sometimes just, to be sure, but at other times it is unjust, when, not to put too fine a point on it, it functions on the moral level of the Hamas abductors.  Mr. Seliger insists that there are "so many Palestinians" who may have been, or have indeed been, imprisoned for "offenses that should not be cause of imprisonment."   How does he know this ?  He speaks, by way of example, about "mere membership" in Hamas as too trivial for punishment.  But what were the details in cases that he would consider instances of unjust imprisonment ?  Were these cases of Hamas membership with or without criminal conspiracy to commit murder ?  What does he know about actual cases ?  If he knows he will not tell.  We are just asked to trust him that "there is a lot more that can be said" about the Shalit matter, namely that Israel acts unjustly.

If Mr. Seliger's musings are annoying and pretentious, his colleague Ashley Bates on "Tikkun" (to which Seliger also  contributes regularly), is more than a bit over the top. 

Now, we know that the boss of Tikkun is person whom his supporters and he himself call Rabbi Michael Lerner, but who has steadfastly refused to disclose how or by whom he was ordained, apparently on grounds of freedom of speech or some other important democratic principle.  I have had occasion to write about him before; since then,  I have found nothing on his on-line publication that detracts from my impression of him as someone implacably hostile to Israel and the Jewish people.

Ms. Bates, in her contribution to the Lerner blog, complains that media reports on Shalit have given the impression that only he was a victim when, in fact, according to Ms. Bates, there are thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails who suffer just as much.  At least many of these imprisonments, she suggests, are as unjust as that of Gilad Shalit.  On these general matters she resembles Mr. Seliger, but then she does something that Mr. Seliger does not do:  she goes into detail.  And she does this with such surprising clumsiness that any attentive reader is bound to catch her various distortions.

1)  how many Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails ?

Ms. Bates maintains that since 1967, "about 20 percent of the Palestinian population have served time in jail."  How does she know this ?  Her data come from the link that I have reproduced here, i.e. Addameer, a Palestinian support group.  Not perhaps the most unbiased source.  But be that as it may, the very source that Ms. Bates here quotes does not support her allegations of 20% having "served time in jail."  What it in fact says is that
Since the beginning of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories in 1967, over 700,000  Palestinians have been detained by Israel. This forms approximately 20% of the total Palestinian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).
So Ms. Bates goes from the "have been detained" of her source to "have served time in jail."  "Detained" by police can mean detention of a few minutes or hours to much longer.  Not a distinction that Ms. Bates will entertain.  This switch -- from detention in her source to imprisonment in her text -- is enough to destroy any and all credibility of her piece.  And, we must conclude, this is not a matter that the learned Rabbi who is in charge of Tikkun would care to investigate.

There is also something breathtakingly vague about the computation of that twenty-percent figure.  A percentage computation requires a numerator -- in this case the number of prisoners -- and a denominator -- in this case the population.  When Addameer speaks of the Palestinian population "since the beginning  ... in 1967," just which population figure does it have in mind ?  In the last forty four years many have died, many were born.  Does Addameer include in its population the total of all these lives and births and deaths ?  Or only the population at one point in time ?  If it is the latter, as the context suggests, then the denominator is artificially diminished, leading to an artificially inflated percentage figure.  Of course all this asumes that we can trust the original raw figures, which we cannot.  But even if they were trustworthy, the computational errors would vitiate the results.

Does either Ms. Bates or her self-styled rabbinic supervisor care about such detail ?  Apparently not.

2.  The case of Ameer Makhoul

Most of Ms. Bates's piece is taken up by the case of Palestinian convict Ameer Makhoul.  Ms. Bates's take on the case is that it is a matter of unjust imprisonment for strictly political reasons, citing Amnesty International and a variety of pro-Palestinian sources.  She writes about 500 words on this case, charging forced confessions and other such matters.  She also reports that Makhoul is now involved in a hunger strike, etc.  But nowhere in her piece does she mention that Makhoul in fact agreed to a plea bargain in which he admitted espionage against Israel.  The facts were reported in Haaretz, and were certainly available to Ms. Bates.  Why does she suppress them in her reporting ?

Ms. Bates suggests that Makhul was victimized because he supports a boycott of Israel, and she cites the recent anti-boycott legislation in Israel as somehow relevant to his case.  Like others, she distorts this legislation (see my blog on this, and also that of NGO MONITOR).

But her overall charge is really against the Israeli system of justice as a whole:  it is unjust, period.  To believe this proposition, which is also endorsed by Mr. Ralph Seliger and other Jewish "progressives," one would have to be so biased against Israel (and the Jewish people) as to simply overlook the internal inconsistencies and obvious distortions of those who advance it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


 Mr. Kalle Lasn
Vespasian imposed a Urine Tax (Latin: vectigal urinae) on the distribution of urine from public urinals in Rome's Cloaca Maxima (great sewer) system. ... The buyers of the urine paid the tax.
The Roman historians Suetonius and Dio Cassius report that when Vespasian's son Titus complained to him about the disgusting nature of the tax, his father held up a gold coin and told him, Pecunia non olet! ("Money doesn't stink!"). [1]  
 -- Wikipedia

Mr. Kalle Lasn is a gentleman of Estonian origins now living in Vancouver, Canada.  He edits the very progressive -- I don't think he'd mind my calling it that -- the very progressive magazine Adbusters, which has been credited, by David Brooks and others, with first calling for the Occupy Wall Street movement.

So far so good.  But it is also appears that Mr. Lasn,  in conjunction with his distaste for Wall Street, has taken a strong dislike to Jews (who are, according to him, responsible for much of the ills of the world), and also to Israel, which is ... well, you know the rest;  Alana Goodman of Commentary magazine has given us a full report.

But wait.  This is not the whole story.  In today's New York Times we learn that Mr. Lasn has been pleased to receive substantial sums for his progressive pursuits from a Mr. Robert S. Halper, a Brooklyn-born "retired Wall Street trader," to the tune of $50,000 to $75,000 over the last twenty years.  Just a month ago Mr. Halper wrote Mr. Lasn a check for $20,000.

So there you have it.  Does Jewish money from Wall Street have a smell ?  None that Mr. Lasn can detect.

Monday, October 17, 2011

JStreet's Mr. Ben-Ami is being "straightforward", but I have a better explanation

The Background

My previous posting concerning JStreet showed that, for the only fiscal year that is documented (2008-9),  eighty-seven percent of the group's finances came from just twenty-one sources.  Three of these are members of the Soros family, who together provided $ 245,000.  Nobody else gave anything near that much -- except for a mysterious payment of $ 811,697 from a mysterious donor named Consolacion Esdicul, resident of Hong Kong.

Now various reporters and bloggers have wondered:  how and why would a lady in far-off Hong Kong, hitherto completely unknown to one and all, how and why would this shadowy person step forward and send close to a million dollars to a cause that is not, in any obvious way, her own ? People pay to play, generally.  What is her game here ?

 Well, to Mr. Jeremy Ben-Ami, the self-appointed leader and spokesman for JStreet, there is a "straightforward" explanation for  this apparent mystery:

Some press reports have ... noted a large contribution on our return from a resident of Hong Kong named Consolacion Esdicul. The explanation for this is straightforward. Bill Benter, a philanthropist and political activist from Pittsburgh, is a major supporter of and contributor to J Street. He is a generous donor to a range of causes related to his hometown, national politics and the Arab-Israeli conflict, and a passionate advocate for peace.  
As we were launching J Street, Bill committed to contribute and to help raise substantial funds for the effort should we get it off the ground. One contribution he helped raise was from Ms. Esdicul, a business associate from Hong Kong, where he lives for part of the year and has business holdings.
So here we have it.  The friend of a friend sends $ 800,000, just like that.  What could be more natural, more "straightforward" ?  Actually, we know as little about "Bill" Benter (not Jewish either, apparently) as we do about Ms. Esdicul.  What are their motives ?  Remember, this Esdicul sum of money is substantially larger than the contribution of any of the other presumed billionaires who make up the rest of JS's twenty-one angels.   In fact, the Esdicul money constitutes one half of everything received by JStreet in the only documented accounting that we have of the group.

Ben-Ami is not consistent in his "straightforward" explanation.  In another version, sent to a supporter of his in New York, he writes that "Bill Benter is the source of the donation which came through the account of his business associate in Hong Kong...." So what before was strictly Ms. Esdicul's money is now Mr. Benter's.  Which is it now, Mr. Ben-Ami ?  Liars should have good memories.

Either way, Mr. Ben-Ami is obviously not straightforward at all.  His explanation(s) cannot be taken seriously;  they defy all credulity on their very face,  So here I offer my own surmise of what is behind the "Esdicul" money:

My Surmise

Some time in 2008 a meeting took place somewhere in Pakistan on the subject of the oppressed Palestinian brothers.  A number of sheikhs attended, with one of them presiding, let's call this one Sheikh O.B.L.   A visitor from Palestine came to the meeting with a request for $ 1,000,000 to be spent in a very particular way.  This is what the brother said:
Everyone here knows that the dwarf Zionist entity would vanish from the face of the earth without the criminal support it receives from America, may Allah punish it.   But how do the Zionists get America to support this ugly dwarf so consistently ?  Investigative reporters, some of them Jews themselves, have told the story:  it's the Jew-Zionist lobby, called AIPAC, that  keeps the American government in line on behalf of the Zionists, primarily through the enormous bribes that it dispenses.   Ergo, without AIPAC, no American support to the Zionist entity;  without American support, no Zionist entity. And, Sheikh, we now have it our power to destroy AIPAC, and therewith the dwarf entity !
Now, praise to Allah, the Jews are a race that has no sense of solidarity, no more than the apes and the pigs from which it arose.  A Jew has now appeared in Washington -- he calls himself Ben-Ami, 'Son of the Jews' --  who has taken it upon himself to destroy AIPAC, and we must help him do this !  This Son of the Jews has started a group called "Jew Street," with the following program:  a)  force the Zionist entity to make concessions that will, in fact, destroy it, and b), as a first step, destroy AIPAC.   Now we have investigated this Son of the Jews, who says that he does not like us but who, in fact, is more valuable to us than a thousand of our own martyrs.  His father before him, though calling himself a Zionist, was already valuable to the cause of our people.  This was in the time of Ben-Gurion, the founder of the Zionist entity.  This father was a follower of a European Jew called Jabotinsky, whose group was effective in creating mayhem,  violence,  and confusion among the Zionists.  Just an example:  the Jabotinsky group executed one of the most dangerous Zionists of the time, one Chaim Arlosoroff, in 1933.  Praise to Allah, the Jews are their own worst enemies, and we must be smart enough to take advantage of that.
Now, with just a million American dollars -- a drop in the bucket -- we can help this "Jew Street" outfit get really started.  Obviously, discretion is required.  But I have secured some trusted intermediaries -- among them a female infidel in China -- to handle the transaction.  The infidels wanted a twenty percent commission, but I was able to jew them down to nineteen percent.  In other words, of your million, a full $811,697 will go to this  "Jew Street" group, which, with the help of Allah,  can destroy Satan's AIPAC and Satan's Zionist entity ...
 Now, dear reader, I leave it up to you.  Which explanation do you find more plausible, that of Mr. Ben-Ami, or my own surmise ?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Inner and the Outer Layers of JStreet

Ms. Consolacion Esdicul of Hong Kong
Exactly half of JStreet's 2008 money came from her

[This posting depends in part on details I have previously presented here and here.]

Quite often what you see is what you get.  Sometimes this is not quite true, and sometimes it is not true at all.  At JStreet it is not true at all. In this it resembles certain other shadowy movements  --  the old Communist Party comes to mind, as does the Church of Scientology, and (this is for connoisseurs only) the Lambertistes of France.

Hannah Arendt observed that the Communist movement of her time resembled an onion;  there were layers upon layers of outward appearances that concealed the inner core.  The outer layers were designed to appeal to a great many people who would shrink from the outlandish doctrines and practices of the inner core of the movement.   Even Albert Einstein, among many other men of fame, was ensnared to give his good name to the now-infamous Cultural and Scientific Conference for World Peace, which Moscow organized for their "useful innocents" at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in March of 1949.  Very few of the attending fellow-travelers would have approved of the Gulag, which of course was never mentioned.  The talk was all about peace and justice and a better world.

The outside of the onion

The outer layer of JStreet consists of its professed, ostensible policies:  We are for Israel and we are for peace.  We want two states living side by side in peace.  We want the good life for one and all.  We want democracy there and elsewhere.  We stand for the open society.  Etc.

Such aims are tirelessly enunciated by JStreet's Leader Maximo, a Mr. Jeremy Ben-Ami, among whose main qualifications, according to himself, is the fact that his late father had been a follower of Jabotinsky.  Go figure.  Who appointed Mr. Ben-Ami to this position ?  Nobody I have talked to quite knows.  And who determines JS's policies ?  Nobody has a clear answer.  The one thing that is known is that, notwithstanding all the professions of democratic values, ordinary JS members have no vote on such matters.  

But even here, on the outside, JS's policies can sometimes be seen as hostile to Israel.  As Representative Gary Ackerman noted in January, announcing his break with JS:
The decision to endorse the Palestinian and Arab effort to condemn Israel in the UN Security Council, is not the choice of a concerned friend trying to help. It is rather the befuddled choice of an organization so open-minded about what constitutes support for Israel that its brains have fallen out. America really does need a smart, credible, politically active organization that is as aggressively pro-peace as it is pro-Israel. Unfortunately, J-Street ain't it.
On the whole, however, many of the formal policy pronouncements seem acceptable, or at any rate harmless, to supporters of Israel.  That is the outside of the onion.  Once we penetrate a layer past that, the picture changes dramatically.

The middle layers

The first signs of trouble become apparent when one examines the makeup of JS's "Rabbinic Cabinet."  It seems that some 80 out of 600 members of this Cabinet are identified with groups of the anti-Israel extreme left wing.  One notable Cabinet member was David Mivasair, not only a rabbi but also, simultaneously, a Christian clergyman in Vancouver.  This Rev. Mivasair went on YouTube to declare that the Hamas missiles directed at Sderot were perfectly appropriate, given the (presumed) fact that some of those firing such missiles were (probably) displaced Palestinians from Sderot.  After these pronouncements by the  Reverend Mivasair received publicity on this and other blogs, he withdrew the YouTube video, and also, now, can no longer be found as a Cabinet member of JStreet.

There are close relations between JStreet and the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS) movement that wishes to punish Israel.  The last JS Conference organized a special session to discuss the issue, inviting the BDS leaders to explain themselves.  It seems that a good portion, perhaps a majority, of the JS delegates approved of BDS.  NGO-Monitor has provided a comprehensive analysis of JS's ties to the anti-Israel Left.

I have an acquaintance who strongly supports JS, but supports also, he says, the security of Israel.  I asked him why, if JS is so much for Israel, it attracts so many foes of Israel as members and Rabbinical Cabinet dignitaries.  "Well," he opined, "those people -- with whom I in no way agree -- see JS as the place where the action is."  And just what kind of action would that be ?  My friend here gave voice to more than he realized.

Whatever the relationship between its anti-Israel wing and the leadership of JS, it is revealing how the cynical Rabbi David Saperstein, speaking for the JS leadership, explained  its refusal to endorse BDS: “Successful strategy and tactics need to consider not only the theoretical decisions you take but the practical impact of those you choose.”  In other words:  I agree with you folks, but, come on, don't scare away the useful innocents.   The rabbi would have been right at home at the Waldorf conference of 1949.

The inner layer:  where the money is

The world knew nothing about the inner core of JStreet until last September, when Eli Lake of the Washington Times published figures that he obtained from a leaked Schedule B, IRS Form 990 that covers contributions to JStreet for the fiscal year 7/1/08 to 6/30/09.  (The actual forms -- extremely important -- were first put on the internet by Ben Smith)   These figures are the only reliable information about JStreet's money.  JS's website gives other figures from time to time, partial at best, but there is no way to verify these;  in the matter of moneys received from George Soros, for example, JS's representations have been shown to be outright lies.

Now, in the only fiscal year for which we have reliable data, JS reported to the IRS that it received a total of $1,616,311 in contributions.  Of this total, $1,405,197, or 87%, was contributed by 21 persons, each responsible for a contribution of at least $5000.  The remainder, viz. $ 211,114, was donated in sums each less than $5000.  Ben-Ami has said that JS has 10,000 contributors, which, if true, would mean that the average contribution, from the average JS supporter and not counting the top twenty-one,  amounted to just $21.16.

Just who are these twenty-one angels of JStreet ?   Are they the average, well-meaning, liberal American Jews that JS claims to represent ?  Not quite.  Not by a longshot.

As it turns out, the family of George Soros, the international currency manipulator and convicted insider-trader, is responsible for a total of $245,000, or just over 15% of JS's income.  JS has consistently lied about its Soros money (see link three paragraphs above).  But at least the world knows a little something about Mr. Soros.  He doesn't approve of Israel very much, but he has never called for its destruction.  The same cannot  be said with any certainty about that outsized elephant in this room:  Ms. Consolacion Esdicul, citizen of Hong Kong apparently of Philippine background, who was kind enough to contribute $811,697, fully fifty percent of JS's income in this particular year.

Here is the list of the twenty-one large JS contributors in the sequence shown on  Schedule B:

2,  DAVIDI GILO, LOS GATOS, CA   $ 55,000.
3.  GEORGE SOROS, NEW YORK, NY   $ 145,000 
4.  ANDREA SOROS, NEW YORK, NY  $ 50,000.
5. JONATHAN SOROS,  NEW YORK, NY    $ 50,000
9. MARTIN BUNZL,  LA JOLLA, CA     $ 25,000.
12. ALAN SOLOMONT, NEWTON, MA    $ 10,000
17) GAIL FURMAN, NEW YORK, NY $ 5,000.
18) JERRY HIRSCH, PHOENIX, AZ   $ 5,000.
20) ABBY SHER, SANTA MONI CA , CA   $ 5,000.

Nothing at all is publicly known about Ms. Esdicul or her motives.  The explanation offered by JStreet is laughable on its face:  Ms. E. is a friend of a friend of JStreet.  (Nobody in that chain is said to be Jewish).   The suggestion that it is Arab or Iranian money that is being transmitted here from Hong Kong has, at the very least, the virtue of believability.  It is the Islamist world, after all, that has an interest in trying to sabotage the overwhelming solidarity of American Jews with Israel.

In any case,  he who pays the piper calls the tune. So whoever or whatever lurks behind Ms. Esdicul determines what this group does and why.   Those well-meaning American Jewish liberals who get invoked by Mr. Ben-Ami, even though they may pay $21.16 a shot for a piece of the action, can be no more than the useful innocents in this shadowy movement.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

"The Nation's" Hidden Angels

The Nation magazine, under date of September 30, is indignant that the Tea Party, apparently, does not reveal its donors adequately.  Nation writer George Zornick wants to "force [the] secret donors into daylight." Do I agree ?  You betcha.

But, guess what, The Nation itself clouds its finances in a most unusual and extreme secrecy.  It avoids financial disclosures to the IRS by being a "limited partnership," not a non-profit entity, so neither the government nor the public can have an insight into the identity of the donors who keep it afloat.  It is claimed that some thirty percent of its revenues come from these sources, but there is no independent verification of this or of any of the magazine's financial data.  What we do know is that, not being a registered non-profit organization, donations to The Nation are not tax-deductible.  In other words, the magazine is willing to forego the very substantial financial advantages of tax deductibility for the sake maintaining an absolute secrecy of its contributing angels.

(The Nation magazine has undergone a number of incarnations, some of which were perfectly honorable.  In this article I deal only with its current one, which, it would seem, began with the editorship of Victor Navasky at the end of the 1970's. For an assessment of the magazine as of 1951, see the article by Granville Hicks, "The Liberals Who Haven't Learned," Commentary, April 1951)

Who might want to be an angel to this Nation ?  And why would such a person, or entity, hide his generosity from the "daylight" of public knowledge ?  To get an understanding of such questions, it is instructive to review some of the magazine's more notorious articles of faith, to wit:

1. The Stalinist movement, in balance, was a "progressive" force, working for the benefit of mankind.  So Stalin's most steadfast American supporter, Paul Robeson, is one of the fifty greatest American "progressives" of all time, as is his comrade in arms, I. F. Stone.  Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, far from being some sort of criminals, were idealistic American "progressives."  And so on.

2.  When it comes to the conflict between the old Soviet Union and the Jews who attempted to escape from it, guess who was in the right ?  Well,  The Nation weighed in on that one on March 1, 1986, under byline of  Mr. Alexander Cockburn.  It is true, at least according to Franklin Foer, that this Mr. Cockburn does not much like Jews to begin with.  But even so, this article was extraordinary.  The immediate issue  was that of the famous refusenik Nathan Sharansky, who had languished in the Gulag for many years on trumped-up charges.  Mr. Cockburn opined, contrary to the views of just about everyone else outside the KGB,  that Sharansky was most probably "an American spy."   I must say that when I first saw this article some twenty-five years ago I thought that the The Nation had been taken over by psychopaths;  my subsequent occasional forays into its pages haven't changed this impression to any substantial degree.  (For anyone interested in the details of the Sharansky case, there is the definitive  600-page analysis by the Canadian law professor Irwin Cotler.)

3.  Israel is always in the wrong.  While The Nation has never explicitly endorsed the popular Arab slogan "Death to the Jews," the import of what the magazine has to say, week after week,  is not far from this.  When the magazine wrote one of its routine attacks on Israel in connection with the Gaza "flotilla" of 2010,  there was a protest from a surprising source:  Eric Alterman, himself a left-wing critic of Israel and indeed a columnist for The Nation.  "This editorial," he wrote, "like most Nation editorials on the topic, simply assumes that Israel is 100 percent at fault in this conflict, and that whoever opposes it is 100 percent correct."

Now, in addition to perhaps some unreconstructed old Stalinist lately come into a bit of cash, which person or entity, foreign or domestic, would care to finance this kind of ranting and raving and malicious insinuation, week in week out ?  And who would do this without any kind of tax benefit to himself, being rewarded only by having his bad deeds clouded in the deepest of secrecy ?  Well, to ask the question is to answer it, isn't it.

Also read, on related subjects:
Eli Lake on Soros funding for JStreet
Israel Matsav on off-shore, non-Jewish funding of JStreet

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

George Marlen's Ghost at the University of Toronto

Corey Balsam

Yet another diatribe against Israel from the University of Toronto, again in the guise of an MA thesis,  using the time-honored methods of the late George Marlen.  Reviewing another work, I had occasion to describe the Marlen method as follows:

The method he uses, the Marlen Method of Great Insight (MMGI), is so named to honor George Marlen, a Trotskyist thinker of the 1940's. Marlen discovered that World War II was not a real war at all. It was a hoax, Marlen discovered, perpetrated as a conspiracy of the German, British, and American ruling class to fool the workers of the world. It was a phony war from beginning to end. Professor Noam Chomsky, among others, has testified to Marlen's importance to his own thinking.  
MMGI can prove any idea that the powers that be wish to suppress. MMGI can be used, and indeed has been, to prove that the world is flat, that Napoleon never existed, that the moon is made of green cheese, that Zionists are really Nazis. This is how MMGI works. First and foremost, you decide what it is want to prove. Anything will do, as long as it is an idea that most of the world would find preposterous. Next, you go to a big library (Marlen worked at New York Public), you consult hundreds of books, you carefully write down on little pieces of paper any phrase, factoid, or even single word that fits into your pre-determined idea. Finally, you publish or at least self-publish your idea, buttressed by all these little papers you have taken from the library, and, voilà, you are a fearless, independent, scholarly thinker, and will gain, at the very least, a dozen people who think you're great.

The work at hand here is called "The Appeal of Israel: Whiteness, Anti-Semitism, and the Roots of Diaspora Zionism in Canada." It is written by a young student named Corey Balsam and supervised by Sheryl Nestel, a professor at the U of T's Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE).  Nestel has supervised a number of similar theses over the last two years. (See my previous postings on her and OISE.)

True to the Marlen tradition, there is no scholarship in this thesis.  There is an appearance of scholarship -- footnotes and bibliography -- but none of its substance.  I will give but three examples of its many flaws:

1)  Although accepted in a department of sociology, there are no social science methods in evidence.  The author presumes to tell us something about the state of mind of Canadian Jews but at no point is there any reference to the many empirical studies of Canadian Jewish attitudes. (Quantitative methods seem to be completely absent from OISE sociology.)

2)  The author insists that aspiring for "whiteness" has something to do with how Canadian Jews think.  How would he know a thing like that ?  This concept -- whiteness -- is not, as far as I can tell, one that Canadian Jews employ to describe themselves, and the author does not claim that they do.  It is something that he imputes unto them.   Several OISE theses have used this term;  it is a piece of in-jargon at the Institute.  (That, and other such jargon, establish OISE as a cultist organization).  Stripped of its verbal acrobatics, when these OISE writers use "whiteness" they mean racist.  Together with the other theses on Jews that Nestel has supervised at OISE, Balsam asserts that  North American Jews are racist, no more, no less.  All this, moreover, in the face of actual empirical studies that show the very opposite to be true.

3)  True to Marlenite methodology, the author likes to refer to other writers whenever these seem to agree with his thesis.  One of his authorities is particularly instructive:   Shlomo Sand's anti-Israel screed  "The Invention of the Jewish People." This book holds that the very notion of a Jewish people is a Zionist propagandist lie. Sand is described by Balsam as an "Israeli historian," forgetting to mention that Sand is a specialist in modern France without any background whatever in either ancient or medieval history, nor indeed in genetics, all subjects that he claims to master.  Sand's book was published in English by an anti-Israel group, and has been wildly applauded by political groups hostile to Israel.  The specialists who have written about it, for example Martin Goodman of Oxford University and David Nirenberg of the University of Chicago, have said that the book is the work of a charlatan.  But to Mr. Balsam,  Sand remains an unchallengeable authority.

4)  Most of all:  the tone, the announced intentions, the atmosphere of this essay run counter to even the most relaxed canons of scholarship.  There is no curiosity, no spirit of enquiry. The author obviously has little interest in the ostensible subject of his thesis, the Jews of North America.  He opines about things in general and concocts a mock-radical theory of capitalist society.  He goes on and on citing  Freud, Fanon, Foucault, Gramsci.  It is a huge mumble jumble of sloganeering and half-digested ideas from others, without any apparent relevance to Canadian Jews.  Is there a point to all this, beyond his apparent interest in impressing his cultic teachers and comrades ?  The only point seems to be this one:  look how radical, how anti-racist, and especially how smart a thinker I am.

Mr. Balsam has of course every right in the world to think as he does, to be as pretentious as he wants to be, to write as he does, and to work, as he says he does, against Israel.  Obviously Ms. Nestel, his sponsor, has all these rights as well.  But none of this makes Balsam's a work of scholarship in any sense whatever.  For OISE to say otherwise is a piece of legerdemain.

So, University of Toronto, for how long, for how long will you allow the OISE rot to undermine your academic credibility ?

hat tip:  Richard Klagsbrun

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Rise of the Schivone Jews

Mr. Gabriel Matthew Schivone is one of the very few people in human history whose very name appears destined to become a description of a phenomenon, in this case the Schivone Jew.  Previous examples of persons who have given their names to phenomena include Vidkun Quisling, the Earl of Sandwich, and only very few others.

If you google Mr. Schivone, very little of his distinction will appear.  You will find him described as a proud Jewish member of the Gaza flotilla, as an interviewer of Noam Chomsky, even as a poet;  in short, just another one of those very very righteous Jews who battle on behalf of the oppressed Palestinians.  Nothing outstanding there.

Here, for example, he explains why, particularly as a Jew, his conscience led him to resist "U.S. - Israeli aggression."

Well, so far so good.  The only problem is that Mr. Schivone is not Jewish.  He has had a distant Jewish relative, but no, no Jewish parent, no conversion to Judaism.  On the other hand he feels strongly about the Palestinians and suggests that such feelings qualify him as a Jew;   as he put it, you work with what you have.

These little bits of his biography have just emerged from two letters published in Haaretz, to which he had contributed one of his anti-Israel rants.  Here is the first of these letters:

In response to "A moment before the next flotilla," Week's End, June 24.
 In his editorial about joining the flotilla to Gaza, Gabriel Schivone represented himself as a Jewish college student. I feel I must point out that this not his true identity, but one he has created in order to generate insider credibility, shield himself from accusations of anti-Semitism, and resonate with a target audience.
I met Gabriel in 2004 while attending the University of Arizona, where we became very close friends. I am a strong supporter of Palestinian human rights and agree with Gabriel that the blockade of Gaza has caused great humanitarian suffering. However, readers have a right to know the facts and reach their own informed conclusions.
 Gabriel is not Jewish, whether in terms of ethnic ancestry, religious belief, or cultural identity. He has never identified as a Jew until it became useful in advancing his political agenda. During the High Holiday season of 2007, Gabriel told me that he discussed Israel with campus representatives of Chabad, identifying himself as a Jew. When asked why he did this, he explained that he has a distant Jewish relative and that "you use what you have."            
In all the time I've known him, he has never expressed feeling morally conflicted about Israel, nor has he succumbed to pressure to be "silent." The editorial's narrative is not Gabriel's story, but one crafted to lend moral and emotional weight to his argument while appealing to the young, college-aged Jews whose participation is so vital to the pro-Palestinian movement.
The aim of this letter is not to discredit that movement or the flotilla, or to take a political side, but to alert readers to specific distortions in this editorial. It is a shame that the war of narratives so readily eclipses and manipulates the truth.

Valerie Saturen  
Tacoma, Wash.

And here is Mr. Schivone's response:
I'm astonished by the bizarre charges about my most cherished sense of personal identity made by a person I haven't seen, nor corresponded with, in years. It is precisely through my work organizing for Palestinian human rights with other Jews that I evolved to become deeply proud of my identity as a Chicano Jew. 
This is not an uncommon story. Many of us find, after years in the wilderness, that this work has brought us closer to our Jewish roots because we found a community of other Jews who believed as we did and who commit themselves, with every ounce of their being, to full equality for all people, especially Palestinians. 
Petty attempts at personal defamation of this sort act as distractions from the urgent task that should concern us all: to expose, and resist, U.S.-Israeli policies of closure and the ongoing destruction of Palestinian life under occupation. 
Gabriel Matthew Schivone
Athens, Greece        
What are we to make of the Schivone Jews ?  Gabriel here is the purest form:  no Jewish background whatever, but this lack compensated by a strong desire to work against Israel.  The old joke was about the fervent anti-Communist being some-sort-of Communist, so, why not, by that logic the anti-Jew surely has claim to being, at the very least, a some-sort-of Jew.  This pure form of being a Schivone Jew may be rare, it is the Schivone Jew in the strong sense.

Much less rare is the Schivone Jew in a weaker sense.

Most of the few active anti-Israel Jews that I have known fall into this category.  Usually there was a Jewish parent (whether mother or father, in this context, matters little) but a life totally apart from any other Jewish entanglement.  The spouse (or, more often, the "partner") would not be Jewish, and, of course, there would not be synagogue membership, except when that involves, as it sometimes does, anti-Israel activism.  In short, the self-identification as "Jewish" comes up for one and only one purpose:  a life devoted to fighting against Israel.  Which brings us to a definition of the Schivone Jew:  someone of little or no Jewish background who, nevertheless, petulantly claims a Jewish identify for the sole purpose of agitating against Israel as an aggrieved Jew.

As it happens, Schivone Jews seem to predominate in the major self-styled "Jewish" groups that oppose  Israel.  This is certainly true of Jewish Voice for Peace (of which Gabriel Schivone is a member and reports "many non-Jewish Americans" as members) and perhaps also of Michael Lerner's Tikkun (which acknowledges that 40% of its readership is non-Jewish).

Chapeau:  Paul Bogdanor

read more details on Mr. Schivone by Benjamin Weinthal of the Jerusalem Post

UPDATE, July 2012
It appears that another Schivone  Jew (i.e. a non-Jewish anti-Israel activist, claiming to be Jewish) has appeared in Germany, a Ms. Irena Wachendorff.  Here is the Jerusalem Post report.

Chapeau:  Richard Klagsbrun

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Life Among the Chachamim

Theodore Bikel

An Occasional Series on Great Jewish Geniuses

So here is the actor Theodore Bikel, or Chaver Bikel as he is known to his comrades of Meretz.  Eighty-seven years old now, but brilliant, absolutely brilliant in his razor-sharp analysis of war and peace in the Middle East.  Here are his remarkable insights, as reported by the Forward:
Anyone who has strong feelings for Israel like I do, and that [sic] believes it is an absolute necessity to strive for peace, understands that the single most obvious obstacle are the [Jewish] settlements ...
Ten thousand Hamas missiles fired at Israeli civilians ?  That's nothing.  Holocaust denial by much of the Arab press ?  A trifle.  Hamas calling for an end to Israel ? Nada.  No, according to Chaver Bikel, it's the Jews who cause the trouble.  The Jews.  What a friend we have in Bikel !

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A JStreet "rabbi" endorses Hamas bombarding of Sderot

David Mivasair of Vancouver, who calls himself a rabbi but is also listed as Chaplain of the First United Church of Vancouver, is a member of the "rabbinic cabinet" of the Soros-financed pressure group JStreet.

Here he is on a street corner in Vancouver, explaining why he supports the Hamas bombardments of Israeli civilians at Sderot

hat tip: Richard Klagsbrun

UPDATE Sept. 5, 2011:  Mivasair has removed this video from Youtube.  With people like that, you must be grateful when they don't have the courage of their convictions.

UPDATE, July 30, 2013:  Here, compliments of FresnoZionism, are Mivasair's words as uttered on the video that he has removed:
Whenever we read about … I have to say about a puny, ineffective rocket fired into some place like Sderot, something to think about is very likely that very likely the people firing it are the children or grandchildren of people who perhaps once lived in Sderot. But it wasn’t Sderot, it was a Palestinian village that had existed there for centuries that had several hundred people who were forcibly expelled at gunpoint and when the place was empty, then Jews moved in and built a town…

UPDATE Jan. 2, 2013
Here he is, in a street-corner appearance in Vancouver on Nov. 18, 2012, declaring his support to Hamas and his enmity to Israel:

see my previous posting on JStreet

More than eighty of JStreet's rabbis are active against Israel

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Chomsky's Veracity Problem -- continued

"Wer die Wahrheit nicht weiß, der ist bloß ein Dummkopf. Aber wer sie weiß, und sie eine Lüge nennt, der ist ein Verbrecher!" ('He who does not know the truth is merely an ignoramus. But someone who does know it while calling it a lie, that person is a criminal.') - Bertolt Brecht

Noam Chomsky is now eighty-two years old. He is an academic linguist, but for the last half century the bulk of his considerable energy has been devoted to his two grand passions: his hatred of American society, and his even greater, enduring and consuming hatred of Israel and the Jewish people. And yes, his problems with veracity have remained as troubling as ever.

Partners in Hate. Noam Chomsky and the Holocaust Deniers

There is now an "official website" of Noam Chomsky's which republishes many of his offenses against the truth over the years. Stuart Easterling, according to the site, is the person in charge of it.

The list of Chomsky's prevarications is long and depressing, and it would be tedious to rehearse it here ("The top 200 Chomsky lies" have been described by Paul Bogdanor). But I have had a personal brush with Chomsky which, despite the years that have intervened, is kept current by him and/or his supporters, and therefore worth describing now.

It began when I detailed, back in 1985, Chomsky's active collaboration with the French Holcaust-denial group La Vieille Taupe (VT) which was then led by Pierre Guillaume, Robert Faurisson, and Serge Thion.

After Chomsky and Edward Herman published their "Political Economy of Human Rights" in 1979, the problem came up of who would publish a French translation. Pierre Guillaume wrote an account of his friendship with Chomsky (in an essay "Une mise au point" in a volume "Droit et Histoire") that shows Chomsky eager to help VT and Guillaume by allowing them to publish this translation of the Chomsky-Herman volume. Guillaume relates that Chomsky could have had a main-line publisher do this but refused, specifically to help Guillaume and VT.

After I published my report of the Guillaume essay, Chomsky -- in a letter to a Canadian Communist journal and then in a personal letter to a correspondent -- says that he read the Guillaume essay and that it contains nothing at all remotely relevant to the issue of his book. Moreover, Chomsky maintains, Cohn is a "pathological liar." These Chomsky letters are now part of Chomsky's "official website."

Chomsky also maintains that the French version of his book was not at all published by VT, but rather by the "mainline" publisher J-E Halier/Albin Michel. The truth of the matter, as explained by Guillaume, is that he, Guillaume, directed this publication for Halier/Michel. Moreover, the catalog of the Bibliotheque National in Paris lists the book as published by Hallier / Michel, in a collection Le Puits et le Pendule, which, it explains, is directed by Pierre Guillaume at La Vieille Taupe:

Type : texte imprimé, monographie
Auteur(s) : Chomsky, Noam (1928-....)
Herman, Edward S. (1925-....)
Titre(s) : Économie politique des droits de l'homme [Texte imprimé] / Noam Chomsky, Edward S. Herman
Traduction de : Political economy of human rights
Publication : Paris : J.-E. Hallier : A. Michel, 1981
Description matérielle : 23 cm
Collection : Le Puits et le pendule, ISSN 0248-5478
Lien à la collection : Essai (Paris. 1978).
Le Puits et le pendule.
Sujet(s) : Droits de l'homme

Note(s) : Un ouvrage annoncé comme faisant partie de la collection a paru dans une autre collection
Collection dirigée par Pierre Guillaume
Certains volumes sont numérotés
Variante(s) de l'adresse : Paris : Éd. de la Différence, 1982- ; Paris : la Vieille taupe, 1985- ; Beaune-la-Rolande : Éd. de la Vieille taupe, [2009]-
Périodicité : Collection
Autre(s) forme(s) du titre :
- Autre forme du titre : Collection Le Puits et le pendule

So Cohn is a "pathological liar." Guillaume did not say at all what in fact he did say. And the catalog of the Bibliotheque National in Paris ? Also part of a Zionist conspiracy against Noam Chomsky ?

I have collected all the details here, including links to the Guillaume essay in both French and English. (The catalog entries at the Bibliotheque Nationale, which I have just now discovered, are new at the present blog posting). Of course this dispute is more than twenty years old, and I could surely be excused for dropping it -- if it weren't for the fact that Chomsky's "official website" continues to call me a "pathological liar" and also maintains that I have never "dared to respond" to Chomsky on this (see here and here). So I wrote a polite request to Mr. Stuart Easterling, the person in charge of the "official website," requesting that he furnish his readers with a link to my responses to Chomsky. And no, Mr. Easterling has not deigned to reply.

Monday, June 13, 2011

University of Toronto: Now Anti-Semitism Without Fig Leaf

First, we heard about the Peto case (on which I reported extensively in earlier posts on this blog), in which the U of T covered itself with the fig leaf of academic freedom in order to justify its sponsorship of anti-Semitic propaganda. Now there is the case of a U of T junior professor of social work who conducted a "Jew count" of professors and university donors, thereby exposing, she appeared to say, the domination of Canada by the Jews. This lady had previously been on record as opposed to "Zionism," but in her latest activism she dispensed with any such pretext for her anti-Semitism. The students who participated in this "count" were sworn to secrecy. But not all heeded her on this, so the story came out.

None of this would be remarkable if it were not for the shameful cover-up by U. of T. officialdom. In the months that followed the incident, no University official rebuked this professor; instead, she was rewarded by a renewal of her contract.

The details of this story can be found in the blog Eye on a Crazy Planet and also in the more extensive article by Professor Ernie Lightman of the U of T.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

JStreet: the Gentle Facade and What's Behind it

Not since the days of the Communist Party -- the quarter century that began about 1930 -- has there been a comparable spectacle of methodical disingenuousness in American political life. The communists, smack in the days of Stalin and the Moscow Trials, proclaimed to one at all: Communism is the most American doctrine of them all; it is, in fact, "twentieth Century Americanism." The American communist contingent to the Spanish Civil War was dubbed the "Abraham Lincoln Brigade." The Communist night school on 16th Street and Sixth Avenue in New York, where the works of Marx and Stalin were taught, was called the "Jefferson School." And certain secret members of the Party, like Paul Robeson, denied to the end of their lives that they even were communists. Robeson was corrected on this after his death by the comrades themselves. (I have told this story here and here).

But all the time that the communists were explicit in their lip-service to democratic values, they strictly averted their eyes from the Gulag. Their facade of being gentle democrats ("peace" was a major slogan, until the Soviet Union was attacked in 1941) hid an ugly engagement for Stalinism.

As was the case of the Daily Worker, circa 1940, you can read the "policy statements" of JStreet and find little on the surface that is amiss; things are, by and large, American as apple pie, Jewish as chicken soup. There is talk of being "pro-Israel, pro peace," and, indeed, much of what is said seems unexceptional. Yes, Israel has a right to defend itself. Yes, Hamas is violent, and must be criticized. What is really bad, so JStreet, are the "occupation" and the "settlements." Even here there is no hateful language, and the sentiments, by themselves, are not far from mine. Nobody likes the occupation, and there is general Israeli and Jewish consensus that much of the Jewish settlement in the West Bank is dispensable. We do not need JStreet to tell us that. What is exceptional, and exceptionable, is JStreet's essential one-sidedness, portraying Israel as the major barrier to peace. JStreet's scattershot agitation -- relentless but not always explicit -- goes as follows: 1) failure to achieve peace has been the fault of Israel, essentially only of Israel; 2) dismantling all West Bank settlements will bring lasting peace. (I will not here dwell on what happened each time that Israel unilaterally did withdraw its army and its settlements, in Gaza, for instance). It is in these unilateral demands by JStreet on Israel -- radical, mindless -- that the facade of cheerful peacefulness becomes pierced.

Take the punitive campaign for boycotting Israel that we hear from left and right-wing fringe groups. What does JStreet say ? There is an official answer: we do not participate in that. But there is also an unofficial answer, expressed more in action than in explicit words. At the last JStreet conference in Washington, one session was devoted to the question: shall we participate in boycotts of Israel ? The session was off record, but according to bloggers who attended ( see here and here), it seems that much of the membership is in favor; one observation was that the membership is to the "left" of the leadership. At the very least, the punitive boycott of Israel is an option very much alive in the corridors of JStreet. Moreover, five rabbinic supporters of the boycott organization  are members of JStreet's "Rabbinic Cabinet": Rebecca Alpert, Michael David, Lynn Gottlieb, David Mivasair, and Bryan Wall. In short, the boycott movement is in fact supported, or at least partly supported, or at least supported by many who are active in JStreet. And this does not even take account of Michael Lerner, another adornment of JStreet's Rabbinic Cabinet.

Speaking of this Cabinet: what exactly is it ? The term suggests a leadership or policy-making or "spiritual guidance" function. None of this seems applicable. As I read the invitation to join, it would appear that anyone who says he or she is a rabbi or a cantor can sign up and be in the "cabinet." In at least several instances in what is claimed to be a membership of 600, individuals appear to be self-ordained. In any case, the "cabinet" is far from being representative of American rabbis. Of the first ten names in the list, seven are women, only three are men; eight appear to be graduates of a Reform seminary, one is Reconstructionist, and one, well, let us say she is "other." There are no Orthodox rabbis in this small sample of the "cabinet," although there may well be a sprinkling in the whole group.

In a word, the "Rabbinic Cabinet" is a piece of puffery. It seems to be almost exclusively Reform and Reconstructionist, largely female, in an American rabbinate that is overwhelmingly Conservative and Orthodox and male. Like the old-time functionaries of the Communist International, JStreet here presents a facade of benign normalcy, seeking to hide a reality that is much more marginal.

The financing of JStreet seems to flow largely from a number of billionaires, not all of whom are Jewish. The secret contributions from George Soros were at first denied by the group but were then shamefacedly admitted when a leaked document surfaced. The story has been widely-reported; one article about it can be found in the Washington Post. It does not seem likely that JStreet could at all exist -- certainly not in its present lavish form -- without these millions pumped into it by wealthy "angels." It is a glaring example of how the ultra-wealthy in this country, if possessed with enough will to impose their views, can distort ordinary democratic process.

One of the most striking aspects of JStreet's propaganda is its regular and repeated dismissal of criticism as "right wing." Here are some instances, from its website:
Since our founding, accusations about J Street and our leadership have morphed from whispered lies to stated fact in attacks on J Street in various right-leaning publications, organizations, and blogs. Right-wing bloggers continue to assert J Street is somehow “tied” to Saudi Arabia...

Some right-wing bloggers and opposition researchers engaged in a fear-and-smear campaign attempt to tarnish J Street because – among its thousands of donors are a small handful who have worked in some capacity with Arab countries or are themselves Arab Americans....

Far right-wing blogs have accused “J Street co-founder” of saying Israel’s creation was an “act that was wrong”...

Right-wing blog claims that Daniel said that “Israel really ain’t a very good idea” are debunked here by Jonathan Chait...

Despite a false report in the right-wing Washington Times, J Street did not set up meetings for Judge Goldstone on Capitol Hill, as JTA reports....
If and when critics are wrong about JStreet, of course they need to be answered. But why this persistent label of "right wing" ? How does JStreet, in its wisdom, determine who is right wing and who is not ? Or does disagreement with JStreet, by itself, make a critic right-wing ? And even if all the critics of JStreet were right-wingers in some sense, would that make their arguments wrong ? Here again, by its persistent use of argument by vilification, JStreet resembles the CP operatives of former years. And, if I may say so, it doesn't sit well for a group whose constant complaint is that it is being "smeared" by nasties on the "right."

Finally, there is an issue that I find particularly galling. JStreet publishes polls of American Jews, which, it says, prove that American Jews have opinions similar to those of itself. Briefly put, these polls are essentially fraudulent.

Noah Pollak of Commentary magazine has pointed out that the ostensible JStreet independent pollster, Jim Gerstein, is actually JStreet's vice president, thus suggesting that the polling results are slanted to suit the organization. But since the technical sampling faults in these polls are so glaring, it hardly matters whether the questions were deliberately worded so as to yield a biased response.

In response to Pollak, JStreet has stated that, whatever Gerstein's affiliation, his scholarship is exemplary and beyond criticism, and that, moreover, he has fully disclosed the methodology of his study. And indeed, there is a disclosure from Gerstein of sorts, which reads as follows:

Gerstein | Agne Strategic Communications designed the questionnaire for this survey of 803 self-identified adult American Jews, conducted March 17-19, 2010. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent; the margin of error in the split samples is +/- 4.9 percent. Gerstein | Agne contracted the research company Mountain West Research Center and Opinion Outpost to administer the survey by email invitation to its web-based panel, which is regularly updated and consists of nearly 900,000 Americans. 

For anyone interested in polling, this disclosure is worse than useless. The problem of adequate sampling in polling research includes the following issues, at the least:

a) What is the operational definition of the universe, in this case the whole of the American Jewish community ? Ideally a universe is a list of names that can be sampled. Since there is not and cannot be a total list of all the Jews in America, some reasonable facsimile needs to be fashioned. This is not easy, and certainly not cheap. But responsible polling scholars, for instance the National Jewish Population Survey, have successfully grappled with this problem. A perusal of the NJPS methodological discussion makes it clear that JStreet-Gerstein is totally innocent of any scientific approach to the problem of the Jewish universe, at least insofar as Gerstein has deigned to disclose his methods.

b) Once we have defined the universe, we need to find a scientific, i.e. a random way of sampling it. Again, this is not easy, and certainly not cheap. Again, according to Gerstein's descriptions, it is obvious that the JStreet surveys fall far short of scientific standards. Moreover, Gerstein's talk about "margin of error" is worthless because no such statistic can be calculated for non-scientific samples.

Regarding a), the problem of universe, it appears that JStreet has employed some definition of the total American population, rather than of the Jewish population. As I have shown elsewhere, this procedure is much cheaper and is used by some news organizations, but it leads to gross distortions of Jewish opinion. In particular, it under-represents Jews who live in relatively dense Jewish population centers, and it over-represents Jews who live in relative isolation from other Jews. It cannot give a valid picture of American Jewish opinion as such.

Regarding b), the sampling problem, it appears that there were "email invitations to a web-based panel." So those who accepted such "invitations" were asked questions by the good folks of JStreet. How were people chosen to be invited ? And of those invited to serve on these "panels," how many accepted ? And how do we know that those who accepted are typical of all those who were invited, let alone of the universe from which they were ostensibly drawn ? We do not know, not from Gerstein's explanations. What we end up with is a group of essentially self-chosen respondents, drawn from a list that is biased in favor of individuals who live outside of major Jewish population centers.

All this is a text-book example of polling malfeasance. It is an insult to an intelligent reader to be told that he is presented with a valid report on Jewish public opinion. The New York Times has published its own (useful) standards concerning public opinion polls. JS's Mr. Gerstein violates just about every one of these.

To sum up. JStreet's facade is one of a gentle, peace-loving, rational, honest, intelligent bunch that wishes to make the world a little better. Behind the facade there is a determined propaganda to endanger Israel, using techniques that include misrepresentation, secret money, vilification of opponents, puffery, and, in the case of its opinion polling, something akin to outright fraud.

Read also Ron Radosh, on how JStreet's David Saperstein teaches his followers to speak with a forked tongue.

UPDATE June 5:

The closer one examines JS's "Rabbinic Cabinet," the more curious this body seems. The Rabbi David Mivasair who is listed as resident of State College, Pa., is listed in other online sites, many of them anti-Israel, as having a congregation in Vancouver, Canada, and another one in Seattle, Wash. But he also is pleased to list himself not only as a rabbi of these congregations but also as a clergyman of the (Christian) First United Church of Vancouver. Well, after all, why can't this person be part of a Rabbinic Cabinet ? In the reign of Tammany Hall, lists of eligible voters included dogs, children, and the dead. As for State College, Pa., the congregation there tells us that Mivasair left them in 1996.

Concerning the opinion polling, so-called, conducted for JS by their vice president and ostensible polling expert Jim Gerstein -- I sent him my analysis of what I consider his faulty polling methods (see above). Who knows -- perhaps I was mistaken in my take on his work ? I wrote to him some days ago, requesting his comments. If I was in error, either of fact or interpretation, I would certainly like to make amends. Well, Mr. Gerstein has not responded at all. Does this mean that he is happy with what I had to say ?

A JStreet "rabbi" supports Hamas bombings of Sderot

More than eighty of JStreet's rabbis are active against Israel

Read Alana Goodman's revealing reportage of the 2011 JStreet meeting

Also read, on related subjects:
Eli Lake on Soros funding for JStreet
Israel Matsav on off-shore, non-Jewish funding of JStreet