Shirley Preiss was born in Kentucky in 1910 - a full 10 years before American women gained the right to vote. She first voted in a presidential election in 1932, for FDR. She’s voted in every presidential election since, but that’s all about to change due to Arizona’s draconian voter ID law.
As Art Levine reported, Shirley effectively lost her right to vote when she moved to Arizona:
After living in Arizona for two years, she was eagerly looking forward to casting her ballot in the February primary for the first major woman candidate for President, Hillary Clinton. But lacking a birth certificate or even elementary school records to prove she’s a native-born American citizen, the state of Arizona’s bureaucrats determined that this former school-teacher who taught generations of Americans shouldn’t be allowed to vote.
The state’s voter ID law, passed in 2004, requires voters to show ID at the polling place and to provide proof of citizenship in order to register. But birth certificates weren’t issued in 1910 in Shirley’s birthplace of Clinton, KY, and her elementary school no longer exists.
Shirley appeared on the local news Monday night in Phoenix to tell her story:
She’s far from the only victim of this law. The Arizona Advocacy Network reports that nearly 40,000 voter registration forms have been rejected due to inadequate proof of citizenship. And it’s getting to be a national problem.
The Supreme Court gave Indiana the green light last month on its restrictive voter ID law, and other states have already or are in the process of passing similar laws. Everywhere such laws are enacted, the voting rights of thousands of Americans - especially among the poor, elderly, and minorities - are put at risk. Fortunately many other states have fended off voter ID laws, and I’m proud that People For the American Way’s Democracy Campaign played a role in many of those fights. Nothing short of a concerted effort by the progressive movement over the coming years will succeed in safeguarding the right to vote.
Kolbert is president of People For the American Way
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Two rabbis, the first to be ordained in Poland since World War Two, received their diplomas from Warsaw's Rabbinical College on Sunday.
Nine students from the United States and Israel were granted rabbinical rights at a ceremony presided over by Poland's chief rabbi, U.S.-born Michael Schudrich, and attended by Jewish clergy from Poland, Israel and Britain.
This was a ceremony of historic proportions," said Rabbi Szalom Ber Stambler, who heads the college. "For centuries, Poland had been a world center of Jewish studies laying down the code of proper Jewish conduct."
Most of Poland's 3.5 million Jews were killed by the Nazi Germans in ghettos and extermination camps during World War Two. Since Poland ended communist rule in 1989, a Jewish religious and cultural renaissance has been under way. The college was re-established in 2005.
"Nothing remains of the German invaders who wanted to destroy the Jewish nation, but the Yeshiva (Jewish school) building has survived," remarked Rabbi Gedalia Herc of London. "Warsaw had always been a center of Jewish culture, to which Jews from all over the world travelled to partake of the wisdom of the Torah," remarked one of the new rabbis, Jakub Kruglak of Israel.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
At her editor's instructions, in order to maintian the appearance of objectivity, Cheng buried in her unquestioning transmission of a report on the evils of Israel's security barrior, a very mild defense of the barrier by Nancy Kaufman of the Jewish Community Relations Council. A delegate to the Cambridge Peace Commision wrote Cheng in response that "Nancy Kaufman recycles the myth that the wall that pens Bethlehem's population is for Israel’s security…" A Commisioner wrote to Cheng complaining that the defense of Israel's policy "struck a discordant note" in an otherwise good report.
Here from Solomonia, is what Cheng emailed in response:
Reporter Cheng, far from having her hackles raised by partisan letter writers telling her how to do her job, was remarkably compliant and in obvious sympathy with her critics. Including Nancy Kaufman's rather tepid defense of the security barrier as a defense against terror attacks was not Ms. Cheng's idea, she wrote. You see, it was her editor's fault. Had she had her way, no dissenting views would have been presented in her column. Here is an excerpt from Ms. Cheng's email dated December 23rd, 2007:
After I submitted my version on Tuesday, my editor got back to me and said that his 'defensive driving' antenna was signaling that we might want to include a quote from somebody who was in favor of the wall. I added this quote in response to his request…In an effort to present a view that might contrast with the quote from the Jewish Community Relations Council, I added Cathy's [Cathy Hoffman, Director of the Cambridge Peace Commission] statement about humanized exchanges with Palestinians.
Ms. Cheng concludes by writing,
…I am sincerely sorry that I couldn't do justice to your trip and I thank you for the understanding you have expressed thus far...please also accept my apologies.
In a separate email, the Globe reporter further ingratiated herself to the political pilgrims:
I did indeed speak to Nancy Kaufman and the quote is from our conversation. I understood the problems with what she said at the time [emphasis added] and want to assure you that I would have included more nuanced contextualization of her quote if not for the extremely tight word count.
In closing, Ms. Cheng writes:
I would prefer if you do not mention what I told you about how editing for this article unfolded in the specific detail I revealed to you...I would rather you present it as my simply having told you that I added the quote from the Jewish Community Relations Council in response to a request from him [her editor].
I hope this does not make your task more difficult and I wish you the best of luck. Let me know if I can help out in any way.
Read the whole story, including links to background concerning the Cambridge Peace Commision's anti-Israel activism under the aegis of the municipal government, here: Solomonia: Emails Reveal: Boston Globe Reporter Sucks Up to the Cambridge Peace Commission.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
While 400 people attended the opening day of the St. Louis Jewish Film Festival at Plaza Frontenac on Sunday, a group of protesters stood on the sidewalks in front of the shopping mall holding anti-Semitic signs and pickets and a flag bearing a swastika, according to police and eyewitnesses.
"Around 15 members of the National Socialist Movement were holding signs with anti-Semitic slogans and chanting," said Frontenac Police Chief Thomas Berman.
Berman said Frontenac and Ladue police were on hand to watch the protesters and monitor the inside and outside of the mall during the Jewish Film Festival event. The protesters remained on public property, and no arrests were made, Berman said.
Zelda Sparks, cultural arts director of the Jewish Community Center, the sponsor of the film festival, said the film festival's opening went on without incident, and said many people attending the event were unaware of the demonstrators, who stood along Lindbergh, just south of Clayton Road.
Lois Horwitz said she saw the demonstrators as she left the film festival, driving toward Lindbergh from Plaza Frontenac's parking garage.
Horwitz said her first thought was that the demonstrators were from the MUNY, doing promotions for The Producers, a satire whose plot presents a parodic musical about Nazi Germany. When she realized the demonstration was not a parody, she said she was shocked.
"I went to Clayton High School. I never saw any anti-Semitism in my life," Horwitz said. "To actually be in Frontenac and Ladue and see what you see in news reels, is unnerving. It was really shocking."
Karen Aroesty, director of the Anti-Defamation League for Missouri and Southern Illinois said once she heard about the demonstration, she alerted the authorities and film festival officials.
Aroesty said Neo-Nazi groups are active in Missouri and occasionally hold demonstrations. In December 2006, a small group of picketers marched along Schuetz Road in front of the Jewish Federation Kopolow Building holding signs questioning the Holocaust.
Aroesty said the best course of action when confronted with anti-Semitic demonstrators is to "not engage them in any way." "It's best to ignore them. They're on the fringe, and they need to stay that way," said Aroesty.
Here and here are the message boards where the neo-Nazis planned their protest.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
A 17-year-old French Jew was attacked on Saturday night in Paris, a violent assault condemned by President Nicolas Sarkozy and that Jewish organizations said was motivated by anti-Semitism.
The young man, identified as Rudy Haddad by one Jewish organization, was attacked by youths of African origin, according to a police source and a statement from the National Agency of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism.
The agency cited the use of iron bars in the attack. Haddad is suffering from "serious neurological problems," a police source said.
Another Jewish group, the Union of French Jewish Students, said Haddad had been identified as Jewish because he was wearing a kippa (skull cap), and had suffered several broken ribs, a fractured skull and was now in intensive care at a hospital in central Paris.
"The victim was wearing a kippa and was on his way back home, when his attackers, after identifying him as Jewish, started to beat him," the union said.
The exact number of attackers was not immediately known, ranging from 6 or 7 up to 30, depending on sources. Haddad's father told French radio RTL there were around 15 attackers.
A police source said that five youths had been taken into police custody.
read the rest here...
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
JVP is an extremely small group. They do not make their membership figures public, but there are some indications that actual membership in the group is in the range of 500 - 1,000. A recent petition drive by JVP collected 4,000 signatures, and a recent letter writing drive collected 1,400 signatures. Assuming that their mailing list is larger than their formal membership, and that their petitions are forwarded to others by those on their mailing list, 1,000 members would be a very generous estimate of their formal membership. Assuming that JVP's membership is 100% Jewish, the organization represents between 0.008% - 0.015% of American Jews. In spite of this, JVP's leaders and their political associates portray the group as having a wide constituency.
JVP has made a name for itself as a supporter of divestment from companies doing business in Israel. In doing so, they, on the one hand, associate with extreme anti-Israel groups like ANSWER (read the ADL's take on ANSWER here), and, on the other hand, market themselves to groups that actually have mainstream, moderate constituencies like the United Methodists. Depending on their target audience, they sometimes represent themselves as mainstream and moderate themselves, saying to those audiences that they advocate very limited divestment targeting only corporations providing direct material support to the so-called "occupation" of the West Bank, Gaza and "East Jerusalem", sometimes naming specific individual corporations. The truth, however, is that JVP has a history of calling for a complete boycott of Israel, including of Israeli artists wishing to perform in the United States.
In one instance, JVP supported the group called "Women in Black-Los Angeles" (or "WIB-LA") in demanding that the individual members of the Israel Philharmonic sign a sort of loyalty oath with respect to their views of the political situation in the Middle East if they wanted to avoid a boycott of a planned concert in Los Angeles. WIB-LA sent, and JVP's leaders co-signed, a very polite letter to the orchestra's musicians, referring to the musicians as "representatives of the State of Israel", and giving them an ultimatum to sign a letter of support for the views of WIB-LA and JVP and return it three months prior to the concert in February 2007. (The letter containing this demand bore the closing "Peace and blessings". Nice touch.)
When the musicians did not sign this loyalty oath, WIB-LA picketed outside the concert with signs reading "BOYCOTT ISRAEL".
(Read about the protest action supporting a complete boycott of Israel at Women in Black - Los Angeles. Read the letter demanding the musicians sign a loyalty oath here at the so-called "OFFICIAL WEBSITE OF NORMAN G. FINKELSTEIN".)
Now, JVP (via their blog, "Muzzlewatch") is protesting two institutions (Spertus Museum and the University of Michigan Press) banning intellectual content deemed to be biased against Israel and, in the case of one, overtly anti-Semitic (read JVP's views on this here, a press report here, and the views of Stand With Us here). JVP's reasoning? They believe in freedom of expression. Their action against the Israel Philharmonic has apparently been forgotten.
JVP did not mention their push to boycott Israeli creative artists on "Muzzlewatch", the hypocrisy of doing so being too apparent. Maybe they need to have an alternate blog for such actions. They could call it "Muzzle".
Historian Dr. Rivka Shpak-Lissak has embarked on an ambitious project, detailing the history of Jewish towns in the Land of Israel that are now known as Arab. Seven of her articles in this series have appeared on the Omedia website, and she has many more coming.
The bottom line, Dr. Lissak told Israel National News, is that the Arabs have not been here for thousands of years, as they claim, and that in fact most of the formerly Jewish towns of the Galilee were populated by Arabs only within the last 300 years or so.
Monday, June 16, 2008
An internationally wanted 'Nazi war criminal' has been spotted supporting his national team at the Euro 2008 football championships in Austria.
Mr Asner is wanted by Interpol for alleged genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during his service as a police chief in Croatia during the Second World War, when the country was ruled by a Nazi puppet regime.
But Mr Asner, 95, who now lives a quiet and undisturbed life in Klagenfurt, Austria, has been seen taking leisurely walks, sipping wine with his wife Edeltrat and mingling with Croatian football fans prior to the matches of his country’s national team.
He is the number four on the most wanted list of the Nazi-hunters and Croatia has demanded his extradition.
But Austrian authorities have refused to deliver Mr Asner, claiming that he is unfit for a trial due to his advanced age and the onset of dementia.
Efraim Zuroff, the head of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, which tracks down Nazis around the world, told The Telegraph that the pictures and videos of Mr Asner circulating indicated that he was perfectly fit for a trial and that Austrian authorities were lenient towards cases like his.
"The pictures and the videos clearly show that Mr Asner is in a relatively good health and that he could be brought to justice for." said Mr Zuroff.
"There is no statute of limitations for what he did. If Austria is to dispel the notion that it is a paradise for Nazi criminals, it needs to act now.
"I will point that out to the Austrian Justice Minister following the new revelations about Asner."
Mr Asner, who also goes by the name of Dr Georg Aschner, was allegedly the chief of the notorious fascist Ustasha police in the Croatian town of Pozega during the war, when he is accused of deporting hundreds of Jews and Serbs into concentration camps. He is also accused of involvement in other atrocities against Jews.
He fled Croatia in 2004, when the Simon Wiesenthal Centre tracked him down, and has been living in Klagenfurt ever since. Despite demands for extradition on behalf of Croatia, Austrian authorities have first claimed that he was an Austrian citizen, but when it emerged that he had, in fact, been stripped of his Austrian citizenship, authorities claimed he was unfit for trial.
Medical experts commissioned by the Austrian Justice Ministry found that he was suffering from dementia and therefore not able to appear in a court of law.
According to Austrian law, a person deemed unfit for a trial cannot be extradited to a foreign country, even if they are foreign citizens.
But in a statement issued today, Mr Asner has denied the accusations against him.
Speaking about the claims he is a war criminal responsible for the deportation of hundreds into death camps, he said: "It is not true. It’s hilarious.
"I didn’t have anything to do with it. I was just an officer with the justice department — a lawyer. I never did anything bad against anybody."
Br Mr Zuroff said: "There is enough evidence against Mr Asner. Austrian authorities are only preventing the course of justice in his case. The new revelations clearly show that he is fit to stand trial."
Erna Wallisch, another suspected war criminal who worked as a guard in the Polish concentration camp at Majdanek and reportedly confessed to having sent children into gas chambers, died aged 86 in February in Vienna without having faced trial.
MPAC-UK, whose site we visit from time to time, is currently devoting a series of posts to refuting the "Top 10 Zionist Lies." Let's sample some of the truth served up by MPAC:
Here are some more evident quotes by, David Ben-Gurion - Prime Minister of Israel:According to Wikiquote, citing Efraim Karsh, the correct reading of the first quote is "We do not wish and do not need to expel Arabs and take their places." The second quote has had an eventful career. It evidently began its life as a fake Israel Koenig quote and then decided that Ben-Gurion impersonation was more rewarding. The wages of truth . . .
"We must expel Arabs and take their places." David Ben Gurion, 1937, Ben Gurion and the Palestine Arabs, Oxford University Press, 1985.
"We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population." David Ben-Gurion, May 1948, to the General Staff. From Ben-Gurion, A Biography, by Michael Ben-Zohar, Delacorte, New York 1978.
This certainly raises some questions. For one, does this reflect a lack of depth on Carter's part? Was he interested only in getting some publicity as a "peacemaker" and legitimizing negotiating with Hamas, as opposed to actually following through with a diplomatic effort? Is such an effort simply out of his capabilities and that of the Carter Center?
Yesterday, I met with some Americans who have just returned from traveling to Syria, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, and Libya. They met a number of high ranking state officials in these governments but also met with representatives of Hamas and Hezbollah.
What they report back about the Carter mission to meet with Hamas is that there has been no follow up, no communications or ongoing dialogue since the high profile meeting.
I'm only hearing from Americans who were reporting what they heard -- and am not stating definitively that Carter and his Center have not followed up. But it is interesting that Hamas had hopes for an ongoing discussion -- which they are seemingly not getting.
Or perhaps, just perhaps, in the real world, outside the boardrooms of well-intentioned NGOs, negotiating with Hamas doesn't go quite as smoothly as a well-intentioned "peace-maker" might hope. Maybe they have a lot less to offer in terms of compromise or even in terms of basic, reasonable dialogue than Jimmy Carter expected. Maybe Hamas liked the idea of seeming reasonable more than actually being reasonable.
Did I say "maybe"?
Sunday, June 15, 2008
At the request of the Jerusalem Center, bloggers can only repost the introductory bullet points, not the interview itself. Please take the time to click the link to their website (here) and read the interview in its entirety. Its well worth the click.
from the Jerusalem Center on Public Affairs: Robert Solomon Wistrich >>> "Antisemitism Embedded in British Culture"
- Antisemitism has been present in Great Britain for almost a thousand years of recorded history. In the twelfth century, Catholic medieval Britain was a persecutory society, particularly when it came to Jews. It pioneered the blood libel and the church was a leader in instituting cruel legislation and discriminatory conduct toward Jews.
- English literature and culture are drenched in antisemitic stereotypes. Major British authors throughout the centuries transmitted culturally embedded antisemitism to future generations. Although they did not do so deliberately, it was absorbed and has had a long-term, major impact on British society.
- In the new century the United Kingdom is a European leader in several areas of antisemitism. It holds a pioneering position in promoting academic boycotts of Israel. The same is true for trade-union efforts at economic boycotts. There is also no other Western society where jihadi radicalism has proved as violent and dangerous as in the UK.
- In the UK the anti-Zionist narrative probably has greater legitimacy than in any other Western society. Antisemitism of the "anti-Zionist" variety has achieved such resonance, particularly in elite opinion, that various British media are leaders in this field. Successive British governments neither share nor have encouraged such attitudes-least of all Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. They have shown concern over antisemitism and the boycott movement and tried to counteract them. However, Trotskyites who infiltrated the Labour Party and the trade unions in the 1980s have been an important factor in spreading poisonous attitudes. The BBC has also played a role in stimulating pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli attitudes over the years.
(hat tip: Solomonia.com)
Saturday, June 14, 2008
The revised document, according to the Jewish statement, "is infused with the very bias that the original statement condemned." The Jewish agencies note "with profound hurt" that the "new season of mutual understanding and dialogue" called for by the 2006 Presbyterian General Assembly "has indeed not yet arrived."
The Following is a Joint Statement issued from the American Jewish Committee; American Jewish Congress; Anti-Defamation League; B'nai B'rith International; Central Conference of American Rabbis; Hadassah: The Women's Zionist Organization
Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Jewish Reconstructionist Federation; The Rabbinical Assembly; United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism; Union for Reform Judaism; Women's League for Conservative Judaism; and the Women of Reform Judaism.
The joint agency statement follows:
"We are deeply distressed by the revisions made to the Presbyterian Church (USA)'s recent statement calling for "Vigilance against anti-Jewish ideas and bias."
The revised statement is infused with the very bias that the original statement condemned. We are disappointed that after taking steps toward better relations, the church has rescinded many of the positive statements it made about rooting out anti-Jewish invective. It is even more disturbing that this occurs after Jewish groups had warmly welcomed the original statement, and only days before the church's upcoming biennial. As such, we can no longer welcome its publication and must rescind the letters and statements in which we welcomed the original document.
We resent the implication in the revised statement that some Jewish criticism of Israeli policy justifies the PC(USA)'s one-sided stances. It does not. There is legitimate criticism of Israeli policies that comes from both Christians and Jews. However, some criticism crosses the line. Sadly, many PC(USA) statements have and continue to cross this line.
A 2004 policy stated that Israeli occupation is "at the root of evil acts committed against innocent people on both sides of the conflict." A 2007 church teaching resource claims a two-thousand-year continued Christian presence in the Holy Land, but writes Jews out of the history until the middle of the twentieth century. A 2008 church statement termed the rockets that Hamas has fired into Israeli civilian areas as "provocative acts of retaliation." The newly revised statement on anti-Jewish bias describes Israel as "the oppressive force in the Israeli-Palestinian situation," dismissing the anti-Israel and anti-Jewish terror that has killed and maimed Israeli civilians in buses, restaurants, and markets. Each statement and action moves beyond legitimate criticism and rewrites history or assigns excessive blame to Israelis, even for violence directed against them.
A further example of blaming Jews for that which harms us is the revised language on Palestinian liberation theology. Gone is language recognizing that such theology presents "unique problems" and is "troubling in its demonization of Israel." Instead, the burden is shifted to Jews who, the statement claims, "inevitably construe" calling the Jewish state a crucifying power as anti-Jewish. We know that we do not shoulder alone our horror over statements by liberation theologians such as "the Israeli government crucifixion machine is operating daily," or "Israel has placed a large boulder, a big stone that has metaphorically shut off the Palestinians in a tomb, similar to the stone placed on the entrance of Jesus' tomb" or "security is a pagan god that Israel worships." Christians and all people of good will also construe such rhetoric as echoing classic anti-Jewish accusations.
The revised statement inserts a litany of church policies against Israel, including targeting corporations for "engagement" as a viable approach to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. No recent church policy has caused greater harm to Presbyterian-Jewish relations. In contrast, the church has yet to take any action to "engage" corporations that foster anti-Israel terrorism through investment in state sponsors of terror, including Iran and Syria. This demonstrates a continued one-sided and distressing approach to peacemaking.
The revised statement also adds a most troubling interpretation of the biblical promise of land. The original statement recognized both a universal gift of land and one made specifically to the Jewish people. This is replaced with a re-interpretation that the Jewish covenant instead includes a promise of land to "the Jewish people and to all the descendants of Abraham."
In June 2006, Jewish organizations broadly welcomed the call for a "new season of mutual understanding and dialogue" issued by the 217th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). In January 2007, after the issuance of an anti-Israel PC(USA) statement, we questioned whether that new season had arrived. Today, we note with profound hurt that the season for which we continue to hope has indeed not yet arrived."original version online here...
Sister Ruth Lautt works from a single room on the 19th floor of the God Box. Such is the nickname for the Interchurch Center, the office building on Riverside Drive in Manhattan that is the closest thing to a Vatican for America’s mainline Protestant denominations. Indeed, Sister Ruth’s fellow tenants include agencies of the United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Wearing the tapered suits left over from an earlier career in law and the crucifix of her more recent life as a Roman Catholic nun, Sister Ruth cuts an inconspicuous figure at the elevator bank. And on many of the issues that animate the mainline churches — ecumenical outreach, social justice — she makes a perfectly companionable neighbor. On the subject of Israel, however, she qualifies as something more like the enemy within.
Through the organization she founded three years ago, Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East, Sister Ruth has frequently and sharply clashed with the very denominations housed under the God Box’s roof. When they have proposed divestment from Israel or more generally condemned its actions against Palestinians, she has fought against those positions, vociferously speaking out for Israel’s right to self-defense and security.
In the rancorous and relentless debate on the Middle East conflict, Sister Ruth stands as a sui generis player. She has little contact with Jewish advocacy groups, none with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobby. She disassociates herself from Christian Zionists of the theological and political right. Even while defending Israel’s defensive measures, including the separation barrier, she openly criticizes its occupation of the West Bank and laments Palestinian suffering.
As for her methods, Fair Witness has specialized in behind-the-scenes infighting at denominational meetings. A former litigator with the famously aggressive Manhattan law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Sister Ruth has become both effective and controversial by working the floor at religious conventions, helping opponents of divestment draft motions, applying persuasion at the subcommittee and committee levels.
“We are informed by the Christian mandate to stand for justice and to raise our voices when we see someone being falsely accused,” Sister Ruth, 44, said in an interview at the God Box. “The issue isn’t divestment. Divestment is a symptom, a symptom of bias against the state of Israel and an attempt to lay the blame on the shoulders of Israel.”
Such a viewpoint collides with the political and theological direction of the mainline Protestant churches. Influenced by a version of liberation theology espoused by the Palestinian Christian activist Naim Ateek and his organization Sabeel, which likens Palestinians to the persecuted Jesus, all five of the mainline denominations in the United States (Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Evangelical Lutheran and United Church of Christ) have debated and in some cases adopted policies intended to bring direct or indirect economic pressure on Israel to compromise.
Just last month, with Sister Ruth present as a nonvoting observer, the United Methodist Church defeated three divestment motions. At the same time, however, the church’s general conference approved several motions reiterating opposition to Israel’s settlements and military presence in the West Bank.
To divestment proponents, Sister Ruth is an intrusive irritant.
“It’s inappropriate for an outside group like this one to come in to our conference and seek to influence internal decisions that reflect our values and our previously adopted positions on the occupation,” said Susanne Hoder, a member of the divestment task force of the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church. “It’s an odd pursuit for a nun to spend so much of her time seeking to discredit Christians who are trying to protect other Christians who are being persecuted by the occupation.”
Sister Ruth parts ways even with her own order of nuns, the Dominican sisters, in her stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On a Web site devoted to “justice and peace,” the Dominican order formally opposes the separation barrier and calls for “solidarity” with Palestinian Christians.
Acknowledging the friction, Sister Ruth said: “The overwhelming majority of these folks are extremely good people trying to be faithful to the Gospel call to justice. But they are mis- and under-informed when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and typically have only seen this conflict from one side.”READ THE REST HERE...
Friday, June 13, 2008
The fact that the proposal's authors have chosen to link the potentially popular anti-war proposal to the less popular anti-Israel one raises questions as to their priorities. Are they more interested in promoting an anti-Zionist agenda than they are in ending the war? If not, what practical reason do they have to link the two issues making passage of the anti-war provisions less likely? Why don't they give voters the option of signing separate petitions, one concerning Israel, the other Iraq? Why do they conceal the anti-Israel provisions of this referendum within the Trojan Horse of the anti-Iraq-war provisions?
In addition to attempting to conceal its anti-Israel provisions, SDWO have also lied about how sweeping they would be. Some supporters of the referendum (read here) have implied that it would target only companies providing military equipment used in the West Bank and Gaza. Some have even claimed that the bill would only effect Halliburton and Caterpillar. This is patently false. Here's a quote from the proposed referendum:
The city of Seattle shall not invest its employees’ retirement funds in ...(c) corporations that provide direct material support for activities of the Israeli government within the occupied and besieged territories of West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, and Golan Heights (and) (d) corporations with a presence (including but not limited to offices, manufacturing plants, franchises, and significant trade ties) in Israeli settlements in the occupied territories of West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Golan Heights.
Please note the vagueness of the term "presence". The referendum pointedly does not limit the word "presence" to "offices, manufacturing plants, franchises, and significant trade ties". In fact, it does not define the limits of the term "presence" at all. A law with language that vague would provide bureaucrats with arbitrary power with respect to deciding which corporations to punish. In effect, any corporation doing business in Israel could be deemed by the administrators of the pension fund to be "present" by dint of some connection to the areas specified and subject to divestment.
Although the Seattle divestment proponents like to cite arms manufacturers as their targets (except Boeing, see below), in fact, this measure would mostly effect corporations doing business in completely non-military fields such as software, retail, agriculture, banking and pharmaceuticals, many of which employ and serve Arabs as well as Jews. Corporations specifically targeted by previous divestment initiatives include: Ahava, Boston Scientific, Domino's Pizza, GM, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Intel, International Paper, Johnson & Johnson, Kodak, Lehmann Brothers, Lucent, McDonald's, Merck, Motorola, Pizza Hut, Teva, Texas Instruments and Volvo. Under the terms of Initiative 97, all of these corporations would be subject to divestment. Corporations which operate under contract with both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, such as Caterpillar and Cement Roadstone would be subject to divestment as well.
In fact, this measure is so vaguely written that it could actually apply to corporations doing business with relief agencies providing services to Palestinians insofar as they act in concert with the Israeli government or provide services to Israelis. It could also apply to the corporations whose equipment is used to provide fuel or even water to Palestinians if Israelis also used that fuel or water in the regions named in the law. Many of the potentially effected corporations actually employ Palestinians and/or provide Palestinians with goods and services.
The literature produced by the New England United Methodist Conference (NEUMC), the group which spearheaded the anti-Israel divestment movement in the U.S. and provided the model the others follow, is helpful in understanding exactly how broad the intentions of the divestment movement really are, and why the provisions of Initiative 97 are so vague. (Read here and here) Take Blockbuster Video as an example. The NEUMC goes so far as to target Blockbuster for punishment because it
has kiosks in illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land. These settlements violate the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Companies providing services to these settlements, which violate international law, contribute to their growth and appeal for Israelis. They make it harder to withdraw Israelis from the occupied territories, an essential step for any lasting peace agreement with Palestinians."(O)ccupied Palestinian land" in this instance refers to places such as French Hill (a neighborhood in Jerusalem), Maaele Adumim and Ariel. Just how video kiosks interfere with lasting peace is unclear. The theory seems to be that Israelis with access to DVDs are less likely to leave.
The fact that completely harmless commercial activity such as this has been specifically targeted by the divestment movement would seem to portend that, if Seattle were to implement this measure, the definition of "presence" would be very broad indeed. Any business whose goods or services are sold to or even used by Israelis beyond the pre-1967 "Green Line", including within Jerusalem, could be subject to divestment.
In fact, the inclusion of "East Jerusalem" in this measure also broadens the referendum's scope beyond any practicable definition. Jerusalem has effectively been unified for 41 years, since Israel removed that city's barbed wire barricades and walls which were erected by the Jordanians in 1948. Targeting a business with a "presence" on a particular block or in a particular neighborhood would be completely unworkable. Would the pizza delivery guy have to consult a 1967 map of Jerusalem to determine if he was subjecting Pizza Hut to divestment? Would he have to ask if the recipient of the pizza were Arab or Jew? And if an Arab and a Jew shared the pizza...
The measure would even punish commercial activity in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City. If a publicly traded corporation produces religious articles such as siddurim, tallitot, or kipot used at the Western Wall, it would be subject to divestment.
Here's the bottom line: any corporation whose goods or services are used in Israel could be subject to divestment under this measure, depending on the interpretation of its vague language.
This measure has local implications specific to Seattle voters concerned about local businesses, complicating matters for its advocates. Seattle-based corporations such as Boeing, Microsoft and Starbucks could be subject to punitive divestment, and the divestment people are anxious to spin this aspect every which way but loose. The Seattle Post Intelligencer has reported that the measure's backers claim that the measure would somehow not effect Boeing, although they don't explain why not (read here, fourth paragraph). A local pro-divestment activist named Richard Silverstein has claimed (here, in the last sentence) that Boeing would be exempt because, in his words, "the company is not involved in any commercial enterprises in the settlements". However, both the NEUMC (here) and the Seattle Palestine Solidarity Committee (here) specifically name Boeing as subject to divestment because it supplies aircraft used by Israel in the Palestinian territories. Boeing also does business with the Israeli defense contractor Elbit Systems (ESLT) (read here) which would fall under the "direct material support" provision of the referendum. Yet Silverstein and the referendum's unnamed "backers" maintain that Boeing's business in Israel somehow wouldn't be considered either "direct material support" or a "presence" under the referendum.
In fact, not only would Boeing's military presence fall under the aegis of this measure, such innocuous activities as Microsoft's sales, user support or training programs in the areas specified in the referendum would subject that Seattle-based corporation to divestment as well. Furthermore, Microsoft acquires several Israeli startups every year and has R & D facilities in Haifa (read here) and Herliya (read here). If the referendum passes, it would remain to be determined by whoever would determine such matters whether these operations have a "presence" in the relevant areas. Transportation or other programs for employees living in the targeted areas, subcontracts with other businesses, or contracts with the Israeli government might well open the door to Seattle being forced to divest its Microsoft stock under the broad terms of Initiative 97.
Even Starbucks, which does not have any stores in Israel (read here), might be subject to the measure, based on their "presence" as a funder of various Jewish and Zionist charities. In fact, anti-Israel activists have specifically targeted Starbucks for a boycott because of the support of its CEO Howard Schultz for Israel (read here and here). The boycott Starbucks movement has produced virulent anti-Semitic propaganda such as this. If Initiative 97 passes, Seattle's pension fund administrators may be forced to rule on whether charitable donations to Jewish institutions in Jerusalem constitute a "presence".
Seattle has relatively few Jews and little connection to Israel, but SDWO has attempted to capitalize on one local connection. The Seattle area was the home of Rachel Corrie, the Palestine Solidarity Movement activist killed by a Caterpillar bulldozer in Gaza. SDWO has played on this connection, blaming the Caterpillar corporation for Corrie's death and going so far as to claim that Initiative 97 would only mandate divestment in two companies: Halliburton and Caterpillar.
One local connection to anti-Israel terrorism took place just two years ago in 2006 when the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle (located in the 36th LD) was the subject of a horrible terrorist attack by a Muslim proclaiming opposition to Israel (read here and here). Six women were shot in that attack, including one who was 17 weeks pregnant. One of the victims died.
The Referendum's Sponsors
Initiative 97's organizational sponsors (listed here) have a history of opposing Israel's existence, supporting a "one-state solution" and advocating complete boycott of Israel. Some of them have even come out in favor of suicide bombing and terrorism. This advocacy is not at all reflected in the literature they've published in support of the petition or on the petition itself.
One of the initiative's main sponsors is the Seattle Green Party, and one of the main endorsers is the Washington State Green Party. The Washington State Greens, like the U.S. Green Party, has a history of anti-Israel activism in addition to it's better known pacificism, anti-globalization and environmentalism. With respect to the presidential election, the Washington Greens voted for Cynthia McKinney, who is now the Green Party's presumptive presidential nominee (read here and here). (McKinney is still listed as a Democrat, not a Green, on the SDWO website, here.) McKinney, who has built her political career largely around her opposition to Israel, recently advocated the "Palestinian right of return" (a code word for a "one state solution") in a speech to an anti-Israel rally at the UN on the 60th anniversary of Israel's founding (read here: "Cynthia McKinney on Israel: ‘Not in my name’"). McKinney has formally endorsed the Seattle divestment referendum and promotes it on her website, albeit in deceptive terms. Her website states that the referendum "would block the city from investing its pension funds in corporations that benefit from the Iraq war, or from certain other Middle East military occupations." (Read here.)
The Greens elsewhere advocate a complete boycott of Israel in more open terms. In November 2005, a resolution (read here) of the national Green Party called for:
"civil society institutions and organizations around the world to implement a comprehensive divestment and boycott program (i.e. against Israel). Further, the party calls on all governments to support this program and to implement state level boycotts."The U.S. Green Party is apparently extremely ambitious with respect to their influence on "all world governments".
In October, 2007, the U.S. Green Party again called for a complete "economic boycott", as well as an end to aid for Israel (read here). They made similar calls for a complete boycott in March 2008 (read here) and, in honor of Israel's 60th anniversary, here.
Considering the Green Party's history as the spoiler in the 2000 presidential election, one can only speculate as to their motivation in Seattle in 2008. A ballot measure such as this would almost certainly attract the attention of Republicans who would seek to tie it both to the Obama campaign and Washington State Democratic candidates.
Initiative 97 is also sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). This group has made the divestment movement their focus, especially with respect to groups such as the United Methodist and Presbyterian churches. Divestment advocates frequently cite Jewish Voice for Peace to counter charges that opposition to Israel is rooted in anti-Semitism (read here and here and this pdf). JVP, like the Green Party, goes so far as to call for a complete boycott of Israel (read here), a position which they do not generally reveal in their pro-divestment advocacy. They also recently sponsored a "Nakba" commemoration on the 60th anniversary of the creation of Israel (read here). Liat Weingart, one of the groups leaders, recently lobbied the United Methodists to divest their pension funds from Israel. In the course of her speech to the United Methodist General Conference, she said “(i)f you haven’t been accused of anti-Semitism yet, you haven’t been doing the work of Justice.” The audience reportedly "gasped and laughed". (At that same conference, the Methodist Federation for Social Action voted against resolutions opposing anti-Semitism and calling for human rights in Muslim nations.) (Read here.) The Methodists, to their credit, ultimately voted against divestment and in support of the measures opposing anti-Semitism and for human rights.
Another of Initiative 97's sponsors, Palestine Solidarity Committee, Seattle, actively opposes a two state solution and opposes Israel's existence (read here), stating
We demand ...establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital toward the establishment of a secular democratic state in historic Palestine.Nothing on the SDWO website or in the pro-referemdum literature indicates this sponsor's opposition to the existence of Israel.
Similarly opposed to Israel's existence is Initiative 97 sponsor ANSWER. (Read about ANSWER here.) That group's record of opposition to Israel's existence is simply too extensive to cover in this forum. Suffice it to say that their extremism on this issue even got them on the fighting side of such anti-war groups as United for Peace and Justice and the War Resisters League (two groups notably absent from the list of sponsors of Initiative 97). (Read here and here.)
Fight within local Democratic Party
One of the petition's main sponsors, Amy Hagopian, is actively campaigning to win the measure the Democratic Party's endorsement in Washington's 36th Legislative District. Hagopian, who is listed on the SDWO website as being unaffiliated to a political party (read here), is also attempting to get the Democratic Party to provide workers to gather signatures for the petition. If she succeeds in getting the local Democratic Party to approve her proposals, this would certainly be fodder for the Republicans in the upcoming presidential election. It would inevitably be tied to Obama. Whatever the ultimate fate of the petition, the actions of Democrats in this small legislative district in Washington State may have national importance.
The voters in the 36th LD tend to vote to the left. Seattle's Jewish population, and its awareness about Israel, is relatively low. Support for Israel in this sort of area is frequently portrayed as intrinsically neoconservative, pro-Likud or pro-Bush. The idea of progressive Zionism is a bit of a foreign concept there. The liberal voters of the 36th LD, who are being currently being lobbied quite intensely by the divestment advocates, would seem fertile ground for support for Initiative 97. On the other hand, local opponents of the measure are organizing to oppose supporting the measure and they're putting up a good fight to tying the Democratic Party to such an extreme anti-Israel measure.
Now the good news
A coalition of Jewish groups has filed suit to prevent the measure from reaching the ballot. In the first phase of the litigation, which dealt with the deceptive language of the petition, the judge decided that the language was "unclear" but not "misleading". He also decided that, while the language of the petition should be clarified, the signatures to the earlier, unclear version should still be counted in order to protect the rights of those who signed. My question concerning that is what about the rights of those who signed based on unclear language, but would not have signed has the meaning of the petition been plain?
Now here's the good part: an upcoming phase of the litigation deals with the question of whether the resolution would be enforceable even if it were to be placed on the ballot and approved. Seattle's pension funds are administered by a board which, while appointed by the City Council, operates independently of the council. This board is not subject to referendums, City Council resolutions, executive orders by the Mayor, etc. Under the statute which established the Pension Fund board, when deciding where to invest its funds, the board can consider only factors relating to the performance of its investments. The divestment advocates, for their resolution to pass judicial muster for their resolution, will have to prove that the broad range of companies which the referendum covers will actually have perform poorly as investments. In other words, they need to prove that stock in companies like Microsoft or Pizza Hut (both of which qualify for divestment under the plain language meaning of the referendum) will lose value as the result of their business with the State of Israel or in the specified geographic area. According to Robert Jacobs of Stand With Us Northwest, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the divestment advocates may find this extremely difficult to prove.
The Seattle City Attorney, which sided with the divestment advocates in the first phase of the litigation involving the deceptive language of the petition, has joined with the petition opponents in this phase of the litigation, further improving the odds that this referendum won't be on the November ballot. The question of what damage the divestment movement will do to the Democratic Party in the process remains to be seen.
British attorney Anthony Julius, has said with respect to the British academic union's Israel boycott resolution: "Going for a boycott is gesture politics in the first place but a resolution that comes close but avoids actually spelling it out is a gesture wrapped up in a gesture - it's nothing more than a bad smell." (Read here.) This is equally true of Seattle's deceptive divestment initiative. It just doesn't pass the smell test.
The Forward's May 21 report on Seattle's anti-Israel referendum is an excellent backgrounder: "Seattle Activists Try To Put Divestment Measure on City Ballot (by Rebecca Spence).
[As an aside on another issue: in researching the Washington State Greens for this story, I was surprised to discover the extent to which they promote "9/11 truth" conspiracy theories. I have a post on that subject here, cross-posted here. Cynthia McKinney has made "9/11 truth" a main plank of her platform (read here).]
THIS ARTICLE IS CROSS POSTED AT DAILY KOS (READ HERE)
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
(Hamid Tehrani is a researcher,blogger and journalist. He is Persian editor of Harvard Global Voices and is the founder of "Sounds Iranian," a community for researchers on Iranian blogs. He has published in various Persian, English, French, and Italian magazines. Hamid Tehrani has been interviewed several times by international media such as BBC.)
Iranian anti-Semitic blogs reveal important information that can help us gain a better understanding about the roots and dynamism of anti-Jewish sentiment in Iran. Yet, anti-Semitism has rarely attracted researchers' interest. In recent years, Iranian president and Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has organized cartoons on the Holocaust in Iran and invited notorious international revisionists to a conference to Tehran, surprising the world. Reading these blogs will help us to explore anti-Semitism in Iran as an old and dynamic "ideology." Ahmadinejad's comments and actions are just one visible and official part of it.
Iranian anti-Semitic blogs combine different schools of rhetoric. Some are religious in nature, some nationalistic.
Islamist anti-Semitic blogs
These bloggers choose to present a few selected verses of the Qu'ran, and some Hadiths, to portray Jewish people as an eternal enemy of Muslims.
Some of these bloggers cite a single verse of the Qu'ran (Surat Maedeh verse 83) that says: "Jews and infidels are the worst enemies of Muslims." Then they conclude that learning about this "absolute enemy" is a duty for each Muslim.
The blog Yahood Shenas (means "knowing the Jews") refers to the writings of a 17th century influential cleric, Majlesi, to expose so-called Jewish hostility to the will of God and Mohmmad, the Prophet. According to Majlisi, Jews wanted to kill Abdullah, the Prophet's father, to prevent his birth — but they failed. But the blogger adds that Jews are "responsible" for the suspicious death of Abdullah.
Islamist anti-Semitic rhetoric about Jewish hostility is not bound by any given time frame. It started before Islam and it will continue until the advent of the Hidden Imam Mahdi at the end of the world.
Alhadid blog writes that according to one Hadith, there will be a fight between Muslims and Jews. Jews hide behind a rock and tree but the same rock and tree shout here is a Jew hide in me, come and kill him.
Analizehahghghat (means analyzing truth) warns Muslims that according to one Hadith no Jew does not want to be alone with a Muslim except to kill him.
This kind of anti-Semitism gives a spiritual and metaphysical dimension to hatred against Jews. They are not only a nation or country but against God, from the beginning to the end!
Nationalism shows up on some Iranian anti-Semitic blogs. These bloggers cite events in Iranian history to prove that Jews have played the role of "traitors" for centuries at any opportunity.
Alhadid writes about Sa'ad al- Dwla , a Jewish physician and statesman in 13-century Persia. He was grand vizier (minister) from 1289 to 1291 under the Mongolian Ilkhan in Persia Arghun Khan. The blogger says that this Jewish statesman encouraged Arghun Khan to invade Mecca and turn Kaaba into an idolatry center!
Another favorite story of these bloggers concerns the Biblical figure, Esther. The book of Esther was written near the end of the second century BC. According to the book of Esther, Haman—the Visir of Ahsuerus, the Persian King and Esther's husband—decide to kill all Jews in the Empire. Esther informed the King about this event and Ahsuerus ordered the execution of Haman and his sons.
Anti-Semitic bloggers emphasize certain Biblical verses that speak of the Jews killing their enemies in all countries— "up to 75000 were killed."
The irony is that Islamist bloggers try to prove their point by referring to the Book of Esther in the Bible —yet they believe the Holy Book of Christians or Jews is not a reliable source.
These bloggers are still suspicious of the Iranian Jewish population and believe their "negative and destructive" role continues in today's society. One anti-Semitic blog that calls itself a "Jewish" blog specializes in revealing "conspiracies" of Jews and their "dark propaganda."
He adds that an Iranian Jewish magazine promotes Hollywood and Jewish Iranians whose goals are criticizing the Iranian regime and Muslims.
Still other blogs recycle the bigoted claims associated with European anti-Semitism: the Holocaust is a lie, Jews rule the world according to the tenets of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Jews are animals.
For these bloggers, Jews are not victims because the Holocaust did not happen — and even if it happened, it was not that important. One blogger, denying all reliable statistics, says there were only 500,000 Jews in Poland and Germany before World War II. They publish revisionist photos and call them the real victims. Many have published the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a forged document, to prove the Jews' "conspiracy" to rule the world. Ever since the early 20th century the veracity of this document has been rejected — but of course these bloggers ignore that fact. King Faisal of Saudi Arabia used to give the Book of Protocols to his guests. This is the same King who believed Jews drank the blood of their enemies. (1)
Finally, as usual, Jews are presented as greedy people acting in secrecy against any society in which they live.
One of the obsessions of these blogs is that there are "hidden Jews" who hide their Jewishness to push their goals not only in Iran but in the whole world. Even Muammar Gaddafi may be considered a hidden Jew. Some Iranian Jews are accused of using non-Jewish names to hide their identity.
An anti-Semitic blog called "Jew" writes that “Gaddafi is responsible for the kidnapping of Mousa Sadr, a Shiite leader in Lebanon. After years of chanting slogans against Israel, he asked several Arab countries to normalize their relations with this country. What a Muslim he is!” The blogger mentions that Gaddafi's mother was a converted Jew. He considers that Gaddafi can be a hidden Jew too.
Anti-Semitic bloggers on one side promote their own products, while rejecting pro-Israel and pro-Jewish products. They promote Holocaust-denying cartoons while warning against pro-Jewish films, books and other goods.
There are a lot of warnings about Hollywood movies such as Roman Polanski's The Piano, in which an oppressed Jewish character is featured. Steven Spielberg comes in for especial abuse.
One of the most interesting topics is the Harry Potter series. One anti-Semitic blog asserts that books and movies try to give a positive image of witchcraft. Thus, the blogger claims, may be contrary to Islam and Christianity, but is attractive to Jews. According to the filmpedia blog, Mickey Mouse was created by Disney to give Jews a positive image. Why Mickey Mouse? Because Jews were considered like rats in Europe and Mickey Mouse presents a positive image of rats in the eyes of Europeans!
Most of these bloggers publish photos of civilians who were wounded and killed by Israeli military attacks — but there is no consensus in support of the Palestinian cause.
For all of these bloggers, there is no doubt that Israel — or as they call it "occupied Palestine" or the "occupied regime of Qods" (Jerusalem) — is illegitimate and should be eradicated.
But some of the bloggers back Hamas and publish declarations of Hamas, such as Anti Sahyoon blog, while others condemn both Hamas, a Salfite group, and Mahmoud Abbas as part of a corrupted Fatah movement.
Perhaps, as many Jewish people say, we do not so much defend Palestine as we fight Israel. We think the problem is Israel and Israelis because of all their "plans" for us.
Walking the Talk
In the course of this investigation of Iranian anti-Semitic blogs, I have examined some 30 blogs. Most have very limited audiences; fewer than 50 readers. All of the bloggers are anonymous and pro-government, and all came into existence after Ahmadinejad's victory. These bloggers walk their talk by supporting demonstrations against Israel or against a company such as Nestle that is "considered an ally of Zionism."
There are many other blogs that cover a broader range of issues, though from time to time they express anti-Semitic views. These reach a bigger audience, some getting a few hundred visitors per day.
Anti-Semitic blogs are a small part of the Iranian blogosphere and can be considered a sub-group of Islamist blogs. These blogs show that anti-Semitism is a dynamic movement in Iran, able to combine traditional/religious, national and Western elements.
The conspiracy theories these blogs peddle reflect the trademark rhetoric associated with Ahmadinejad: denial of the Holocaust, suspicions about 9/11, claims that inflation is a Jewish plot. All of these claims have a common element: the denial of facts.
All Iranian statesmen do not support Ahmadinejad's attitude. Former President Khatami calls the Holocaust a reality. Many Iranian religious leaders, despite their strong anti-Israel rhetoric, seldom sound anti-Semitic.
1. James Parkes, Anti-Semitism (Vallentine-Mitchell, 1963), pp. 45-55 and D.Prager & J.Telushkin, Why the Jews (First touchstone book, 1983), p. 125.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
An Afghan journalist working for the BBC in the country's southern Helmand province has been found shot dead.
Abdul Samad Rohani had been abducted on Saturday and his body was found on Sunday afternoon in Lashkar Gah.
The BBC paid tribute to Rohani, saying his "courage and dedication have been a key part of the BBC's reporting from Afghanistan in recent years".
Rohani worked with the BBC Kabul bureau and was the Pashto service reporter for the BBC World Service in Helmand.
The province has seen some of the worst recent violence of the Taleban-led insurgency.
A BBC statement said Rohani's "bravery - and that of his colleagues - have allowed us to tell a key story for audiences in the UK, in Afghanistan and around the world".
It added: "His death is a terrible loss - our thoughts are with his friends and family. We are working closely with his family to support them at this difficult time."
There have been a number of attacks on journalists in Afghanistan this year and the Kabul-based South Asia Media Commission says five Afghan journalists were killed in 2007.
Elderly Jews say they are outraged that Lithuania is pursuing them over their wartime role as anti-Nazi partisans
Fania Branstovsky was just 20 when she joined the Jewish partisan movement fighting the Nazis in her home country of Lithuania. In the Vilnius ghetto, she and her fellow partisans carried out attacks against the occupying German forces. By the end of the war, almost her entire family — more than 50 people –— had perished at the hands of the Nazis. Yet now, over 60 years later, she is the one being branded unpatriotic, and is reportedly under investigation by Lithuanian authorities for alleged war crimes.
National and local newspapers and television stations are referring to the 86-year-old Holocaust survivor, who now works as a librarian at the Vilnius Yiddish Institute, as a murderer and a terrorist. Earlier this year, the Vilnius-based newspaper Lietuvos Aidas called for her to be put on trial. The allegation levelled against her is that during her time as a partisan, she committed crimes against Lithuanians. But she strongly denies that she and her partisan colleagues ever targeted groups of local people.
“It’s very upsetting and shocking,” says Branstovsky, a mother of two, with six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. “We fought against the powers of the Nazis. Not against the locals. The Nazis wanted to annihilate all Jews and all people who loved freedom, and I joined the underground partisan organisation in September 1943 to defend myself and my people. It was a matter of honour.”
Even with a possible war-crimes prosecution hanging over her, she has no regrets. “I didn’t want all Jewish people to die with no resistance. I feel very proud and I’m very glad that I had the opportunity to do something for honour and humanity.”
She vows that the prospect of being put on trial for war crimes will not drive her out of her country. “I’m very patriotic. I was born here and have always lived here. Of course I am worried, but I am not planning to leave because of this. By doing this they want to rewrite history.”
Branstovsky is not the only Holocaust survivor being pursued by the Lithuanian authorities. Yitzhak Arad, a historian and former chairman of Israel’s Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, is also being investigated over similar alleged crimes.
Arad joined the partisan movement in the Vilnius ghetto during the war. His parents had already been taken by the Nazis two years earlier, eventually dying in Warsaw. So the teenage Arad decided to try to make it alone. “The night before we had to go to the ghetto, I escaped to Belorussia [then part of the Soviet Union, now Belarus],” he recalls. “In doing that, I escaped the killings. Forty members of my family were killed as well as many people from my village.”
He returned to Vilnius as a member of the pro-Soviet partisan movement, whose main activity was sabotaging German trains. Having fought so hard to survive the Nazi killings, Arad, who settled in Israel after the war, says he is “upset and disappointed” at being branded a war criminal.
“In doing this they are trying to rewrite history and to turn the murderers of thousands of Jews into heroes and the few survivors into criminals,” he says.
Although he has had no formal confirmation from the authorities that they are looking into his partisan activities, or that a prosecution is planned, he says he has heard through other channels that a group of anti-Soviets in the country filed a complaint against him to Lithuanian prosecutors. This led to an investigation being launched. The local media have also reported that an investigation is under way, accusing both Arad and Branstovsky of massacring civilians in the village of Kaniukai.
The prospect of standing trial has, naturally enough, left Arad reluctant to return to his home town. “I have not been back for two years, and I’m not planning on going back now,” he says.
If trials do go ahead, it seems that a third Jewish partisan could be the primary witness for the prosecution. Rachel Margolis, founder of Vilnius’s Jewish museum, has written a memoir recounting her escape from the ghetto and her time as a partisan. Extracts from her book, she fears, could be used as evidence by prosecutors.
Margolis, who lost her family in the Holocaust and now lives in Israel, was unavailable to talk to the JC. But according to Efraim Zuroff, director of the Jerusalem office of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, an investigator was sent to the address which she uses in Lithuania. He says the investigator interviewed Rachel Konstanian, the director of the Vilnius Jewish Museum, and told her that he was looking for Margolis in order to question her regarding an investigation into Fania Branstovsky.
Margolis’s cousin, Budd Margolis, who lives in London, fears that the stress of going through a trial could prove life-threatening to Holocaust survivors now in their eighties. “This is very shocking and upsetting,” he says. “My cousin, as well as the other two people involved, are all quite elderly now, and it’s very unfortunate that they have to deal with this at this stage of their lives. It’s terribly unjust.”
He adds that his cousin is now too scared to return to Lithuania. “She is worried she may get arrested.”
Rachel Margolis’s memoir, which has been published in Lithuania, contains a description of how a group of partisans, including Fania Branstovsky, attacked a Nazi garrison in the village of “Kanyuki”. She writes: “The partisans had surrounded the garrison, but the Nazis were exceptionally well armed and beat off all attacks. They broke the flanks of the Jewish detachments, and the partisans withdrew precipitously. Then Magid jumped up on a rock and yelled: ‘We are Jews. We will show them what we are capable of. Forward, comrades!’ This sobered the men up; they ran back and won.”
A willingness to prosecute alleged war criminals is something not often displayed by the Lithuanian authorities. Even though around 212,000 of its Jews were killed, the Baltic country has only ever brought three of its citizens to trial over war crimes, two of whom — Kazys Gimzauskas and Algimantas Dailide — were convicted, but were excused imprisonment, in Gimzauskas’s case because of illness, in Dailide’s because of advanced age. Dailide was 85, a year younger than Fania Branstovsky is now.
According to the Lithuania embassy in London, there are currently no plans to prosecute Branstovsky. In an emailed statement, Minister Counsellor, Deputy Head of Mission Jonas Grinevicius said: “There is no lawsuit against Mrs Branstovsky and there are no charges by the Prosecution General against Mrs Branstovsky, nor there is any other legal action against Mrs Branstovsky initiated. Mrs Branstovsky is only asked to appear in the court hearings as a witness in the case of the massacre by Soviet partisans of peaceful inhabitants of Kaniukai village in Salcininkai district. The killing of 38 Kaniukai inhabitants occurred in January 1944, it was committed by 120-150 Soviet partisans.”
Lithuanian denials do not impress Efraim Zuroff. He has written a strongly worded letter to Asta Skaisgiryté–Liauskienè, the Lithuanian ambassador in Israel. In it he accuses the Lithuanian authorities of “launching a campaign to discredit Jewish resistance fighters by falsely accusing them of war crimes in order to deflect attention from widespread Lithuanian participation in the mass murder of Jews during the Holocaust”.
He tells the JC that this is a “malicious campaign against the innocent heroes of the anti-Nazi resistance. We are hoping the investigations will be dropped,” he says.
And so are Fania Branstovsky, Yitzhak Arad and Rachel Margolis.
Friday, June 6, 2008
from the Southern Policy Law Center Intelligence Report (via AlterNet): "Vermont Secessionists Meet with Racist League of the South"
In 2003, the Second Vermont Republic (SVR) sprang up to push for the independence of Vermont, a tiny, idyllic Northeastern state with fewer than 630,000 residents. In its seemingly quixotic quest, SVR took up the mantra that small is beautiful, arguing that secession would lead to sustainability, ecological balance, an end to military entanglements overseas, and a better life. SVR activists designed a new green flag for Vermont and started selling T-shirts, particularly popular with the state's many tourists, that read, "U.S. OUT OF VT!"
But in recent months and years, SVR's actions have gone from way out to worrying. Starting in 2005, SVR leader Thomas H. Naylor -- along with SVR's very close ally, the Cold Spring, N.Y.-based Middlebury Institute that is headed by longtime leftist Kirkpatrick Sale -- began openly collaborating with a collection of Southern extremists to build a national secession movement.
SVR's disturbing new partner is the white supremacist League of the South. The Alabama-based group is against interracial marriage, believes the old Confederacy never surrendered, and wants to reestablish "the cultural dominance of the Anglo-Celtic people and their institutions" in a newly seceded South. It seeks to accord different classes of people differing legal rights in what sounds very much like a medieval theocracy of lords, serfs and clerics. League intellectuals have defended both slavery (which was "God-ordained") and segregation, a policy described as protecting the genetic "integrity" of both blacks and whites. Right after Hurricane Katrina, league members put up "whites only" housing offers, including one from Alabama offering a trailer to a "white family of three or four," and another from Tennessee offering to temporarily house a "White Christian family."
Many Vermonters have been shocked by this alliance. After all, the Green Mountain State was the first to abolish slavery in 1777, and its men fought fiercely to preserve the union in battles during the Civil War, some of which are proudly commemorated in paintings displayed inside the gold-domed State House. But Naylor isn't worried about his fellow Vermonters' concerns, hotly defending as critical his newfound alliance with members of the radical right.
"For the last 30 years, people have been speculating on the idea of far left meets far right, and I saw the possibility for that not to be fantasy but to be real," Naylor told the Intelligence Report. "The objective is to bring down the Empire." The League of the South, Naylor added, though "not perfect," is "not racist."
Birthing a movement
Talk of secession has been heating up in Vermont since the early 1990s and even before. In 1991, then-Lt. Gov. Howard Dean moderated debates in seven towns that then voted for secession. That same year, University of Vermont professor and current SVR advisor Frank Bryan argued for secession in a series of well-publicized debates with Vermont Supreme Court Justice John Dooley. With the election of George Bush and the onset of the increasingly unpopular Iraq war, secessionist sentiment in traditionally liberal Vermont picked up, with a 2006 University of Vermont poll showing 8% of residents interested in the idea.
It was Naylor who turned that sentiment into a movement, founding SVR after self-publishing The Vermont Manifesto in 2003. Naylor was spurred to create SVR by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which he does not believe were organized by Osama bin Laden, a "fundamentalist living in a remote cave," but rather were the ultimate result of American arrogance. In his manifesto's preface, Naylor writes: "Our nation has truly lost its way. America is no longer a sustainable nation-state economically, politically, socially, militarily or environmentally. The Empire has no clothes." A perennial curmudgeon, Naylor regularly berates government officials. He calls Vermont's elected officials "enemies of the state" and has labeled six-term Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, "a world-class prostitute."
To most Vermonters, SVR was originally seen as a far-out outfit that engaged in publicity stunts to push secession. At least in the beginning, its most enthusiastic supporters seemed to be the Glover, Vt.-based Bread and Puppet Theater troupe, a merry band dedicated to "cheap art" whose building hosted SVR's first statewide meeting in October 2003. One SVR attention-grabber was a "memorial service" held on March 4, 2005, commemorating the day in 1791 that Vermont joined the union. The service included everything from a reading from Ecclesiastes to the strains of Chopin's "Funeral March." A funeral procession with a New Orleans-style jazz band carried a flag-draped coffin containing the "deceased First Vermont Republic" to the State House in Montpelier, where it was placed at the feet of Vermont Revolutionary War hero Ethan Allen's statue. SVR even achieved a symbolic political success, persuading the legislature to designate Jan. 16 as Vermont Independence Day to commemorate the establishment of the First Vermont Republic in 1777.
Naylor's leftist credentials were enhanced greatly by his close friendship with Kirkpatrick Sale, whose Middlebury Institute he helped found in 2005. Sale, a contributing editor at the left-wing journal The Nation and a chronicler of the militant, 1960s-era Students for a Democratic Society, is best known as the author of The Conquest of Paradise: Christopher Columbus and the Columbian Legacy, a 1991 history that was the first to denounce Columbus for "founding" the New World and ushering in the destruction of its native peoples. Between 1965 and 1968, he was editor of The New York Times Magazine. Thirty years later, in 1995, Sale was named as a "visionary" by the Utne Reader, a liberal journal. Sale also is known for his hatred of technology, once famously smashing a computer to bits on a New York stage.
In 2005, the Vermont secessionist movement also spawned a popular independent newspaper, Vermont Commons, that the SVR describes as a "sister organization." The newspaper promotes nonviolent secession and a "more sustainable Vermont future." Both SVR and Vermont Commons argue that the United States has become an unsustainable "empire" in need of dismantling.
From Mississippi to Montpelier
The image of SVR as a quixotic band of idealistic Vermontophiles fighting for an independent Green Mountain State has taken a public beating since 2006, when Naylor and Sale began openly working with the League of the South and other neo-Confederates. But the fact is that from the beginning, the SVR has been in many ways a Southern import that pushes 19th-century claims about states' rights and a revisionist take on Lincoln and the Civil War.
Naylor, the SVR's 71-year-old founder, is a born-and-bred child of the Deep South. He apparently developed his secessionist ideas under the guidance of former League of the South member and Emory University philosopher Donald Livingston -- a man Naylor told the Intelligence Report is the "philosophical guru of the Second Vermont Republic" and who is also published in Vermont Commons. Livingston -- who told the Report in a 2001 interview that "the North created segregation" and that Southerners fought during the Civil War only "because they were invaded" -- has attended most of SVR's events. Livingston is also featured in the SVR video, "U.S. Empire and Vermont Independence," alongside SVR stalwarts Frank Bryan and Jim Hogue, who is an Ethan Allen reenactor.
Naylor is a native of Jackson, Miss. Some of his father T. H. Naylor Jr.'s correspondence is found in the archives of the infamous Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, a secret state spy agency that was formed to battle integration. The elder Naylor was even featured in the notorious film, "Message From Mississippi," which promoted the joys of segregation. Now retired, Naylor taught economics at Duke University in Durham, N.C., for 30 years, and has written 30 books, ranging from tomes on computer simulations to political works on Gorbachev. In the early 1990s, he worked as a consultant for companies in the USSR. During that time, he became convinced that the break-up of the Soviet Union was a harbinger of America's future.
Although the younger Naylor told the Intelligence Report that while in college he refused to stand when "Dixie" was played at the University of Mississippi's football games, his ideology is now rife with neo-Confederate ideas. By 1997, Naylor, in his book Downsizing the U.S.A. -- co-authored by William Willimon, the dean of chapel and a professor of Christian ministry at Duke University in North Carolina -- was calling the Civil War the "War Between the States." Parroting the neo-Confederate anti-Lincoln line, Naylor calls Lincoln "arguably the worst" president in American history. "Lincoln invaded the Confederate States without the consent of congress," he wrote in his Manifesto, adding that Lincoln "may have also been the father of American internal imperialism."
And he adopted a revisionist view of the causes of the Civil War that has been roundly rejected by most serious historians. "Most Americans think the Civil War was fought about freeing the slaves, but rather it was fought to preserve the union and build an empire," Naylor told The (U.K) Independent last October.
Naylor also is down on desegregation. In a 2007 essay, "Minority States NOT Minority Rights," Naylor criticizes segregation but also "forced racial integration," complaining that the federal government was in the 1950s and 1960s "ordering me to associate with minorities whether I like it or not." Overall, Naylor can't abide by the idea that since civil rights legislation was passed in the 1960s, "minority rights always trump states' rights." He asks if integration "disempowered minorities, diluting their influence over their communities and implying that every solution to their problems always lies in the hands of the majority-backed government?"
Naylor's reasons for moving to Vermont are explained in Downsizing the U.S.A. He portrays his then-hometown of Richmond, Va., as overcome by crime and angry African Americans, saying it was in a "death spiral." When he moved to Vermont in 1993, Naylor almost immediately started calling for an independent state. He pines for a separate Vermont, perhaps allied with other Atlantic maritime entities, that would resemble Switzerland or Luxembourg -- countries Naylor considers as close to perfect as possible. In Downsizing the U.S.A., Naylor sounds a theme similar to that of many white supremacists, suggesting that some parts of the country could be broken up according to ethnicity. "If Palestine could be divided into a Jewish state and an Arab state, why can't independent African American, Hispanic, and Native American states be carved out of the United States?"
In Vermont, Naylor grew close to an unlikely secessionist, the renowned diplomat George Kennan, described by Naylor as "the godfather of the movement." In his 1994 autobiography Around the Cragged Hill, Kennan had suggested breaking the U.S. into "a dozen constituent republics" for reasons that don't sound that different than Naylor's. In a letter to Naylor quoted in The American Conservative, Kennan wrote of "unmistakable evidences of a growing differentiation between the cultures, respectively, of large southern and southwestern regions of this country" and worried that "the very culture of the bulk of the population of these regions will tend to be primarily Latin-American in nature." Kennan questioned whether American society should be "recklessly trashed" for what he called "a polyglot mix-mash."
Though he has spent his entire life in the New York region and been a regular on the progressive intellectual scene in New York City, Kirkpatrick Sale, too, has sounded very Confederate of late. When addressing the League of the South's convention last fall in Chattanooga, Tenn., Sale came off like a newly minted neo-Confederate. Describing himself as a "Northerner but with the blood of the South running through my veins," Sale told the cheering audience that he was descended from the Sale clan of Virginia and Kentucky and that one of his ancestors, Charles "Chic" Sale, wrote a popular story in Southern vernacular on building outhouses called The Specialist. At the end of the league conference, the audience stood and sang "Dixie" together. In a more recent essay, Sale described his view of what happened when the South seceded the first time: "They were ruthlessly attacked and their society eventually destroyed."
Early last October, Sale's institute co-hosted with the league the Second Annual North American Secession Conference in the same Chattanooga venue. With about 60 attendees, most of the conference's speakers were members of the league or prominent neo-Confederate activists. The event also attracted interest in white supremacist circles outside of the South. For example, publisher Bill Regnery, backer of the white supremacist National Policy Institute, which issues reports on such things as "The State of White America" and "Conservatives and Race," was on hand. For a movement supposedly led out of Vermont and New York, Southerners seem now to be at least co-driving the bus.
Left meets right
Four years earlier, in November 2004, SVR held its first serious conference in Middlebury, Vt., in conjunction with Fourth World, a left-wing British secessionist group supported by Sale. That was the beginning of the close partnership between Sale and Naylor.
Attended by 35 people, the conference produced "The Middlebury Declaration," named for the place where it was signed, the Middlebury Inn. The original signers were Naylor, Sale and Donald Livingston, the former league leader. The declaration asserts that "[t]he American empire, now imposing its military might on 153 countries around the world, is as fragile as empires historically tend to be, and that it might well implode upon itself in the near future." Hence the need for a "new politics" based on separation.
Secessionists with League of the South connections were soon involved. Naylor said they approached SVR "as a role model."
Speaking at a Vermont Independence rally that same year was John Remington Graham, an expert on the Francophone independence movement in Quebec, Canada, and an affiliated scholar at the League of the South's Institute for the Study of Southern Culture and History. The main outcome of the meeting was a decision to create a think tank to explore secession around the world. That idea came to fruition with the establishment of Sale's Middlebury Institute in 2005 as a sort of secessionist gathering point that posts material on its website about secessionist groups around the world. The institute also holds conferences on secession, two of which have prominently featured league members as well as other neo-Confederates.
In November 2006, SVR and the Middlebury Institute co-hosted the First North American Separatist Convention in the Montpelier State House (which, ironically, is graced by a large statue of Lincoln). The secessionists-only conference brought together several groups, including the Free Hawaii movement and members of the Alaskan Independence Party. But the bulk of the crowd even then was made up of Southern groups including the racist League of the South; Christian Exodus, a theocracy-minded outfit headed by a former league leader from Texas; and the Abbeville Institute, which was established by Donald Livingston in 2003 after he finally left the League of the South due to its "political baggage." Livingston's institute is devoted to the "Southern tradition," including what it describes as the ignored "achievements of white people in the South."
In October 2007, the league, Naylor and Sale met again in Chattanooga for the Second Annual North American Secession conference, an event organized by the Middlebury Institute and this time officially co-hosted by the league. The conference issued the "Chattanooga Declaration" -- a document that pronounced the "old left-right split meaningless and dead" and called for "diversity among human societies." It was while in Chattanooga that Sale spoke so fondly of his Southern roots.
Sale defended the league to reporters, telling The (U.K.) Independent that fall that he wanted to show the "folks up north" that league members are "legitimate colleagues" who have been wrongly declared "racists." (Sale declined to discuss the league, its history or anything else with the Report, saying by E-mail that he did not trust it "for one instant to be fair or truthful.") Sale has hotly contested the SPLC designation of the league as a hate group, telling The Associated Press in 2007 that the league -- whose leader, former university professor Michael Hill, has engaged in such activities as sending out E-mails mocking the names of his African-American students -- "has not done or said anything racist in its 14 years of existence."
AND THEN THERE'S THIS:
Besides speaking at league conferences, Sale's speeches are for sale at Georgia League of the South leader Ray McBerry's Dixie Broadcasting, where Sale is described as a "social liberal who supports the Constitutional concept of the right of secession." The league advertises on its website that it will participate in the Third Annual North American Secessionist Convention, to be put on by Sale's Middlebury Institute next fall.
In the last two years, Sale and Naylor even signed on as guests for the now-defunct Tennessee-based hate radio program "The Political Cesspool," run by white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens board member and David Duke pal James Edwards. (Note: I understand that this radio program is now returning -- A.H.) Naylor, who has been a guest twice on the program whose guest line-up reads like a Who's Who of the racist radical right, appeared during its celebration of "Confederate History Month" in April 2007.
In the case of Israel, Sale has views that are common to the far left and the far right. In a 2003 article for the left-wing journal Counterpunch called "An End to the Israel Experiment? Unmaking a Grievous Error," Sale asks "[w]hether the 50-year-old experiment known as the state of Israel has proven to be a failure and should be abandoned." He points out that "[t]he [Jewish] diaspora, after all, has existed since 70 A.D., far longer than the state has, and might even be thought of as the natural or historic role of Jewry."
Naylor sees it similarly. "We have a government that is unconditionally allied with the state of Israel, which is an apartheid terrorist state," he told the Report. He complained that the entire congressional delegation of Vermont "supports Israel."
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