Saturday, December 29, 2007

Streit's Matzo Leaving Lower East Side

from the AP: "Lower East Side matzo factory for sale" By VERENA DOBNIK

Long after most of its customers left the neighborhood to pursue the American Dream, the last matzo factory on the Lower East Side is moving out, saying goodbye to a part of town that was once home to hundreds of thousands of immigrant Jews.

Streit's, a family-owned matzo-making giant that churns out 16,000 pounds of unleavened bread a day and has been on the Lower East side for nearly three-quarters of a century, is putting the property up for sale.

It hopes to get $25 million for the antiquated six-story building in a part of New York where tenements and sweatshops have given way to fine hotels and condos, expensive restaurants and trendy nightclubs.

"We're doing this with a heavy heart," said Aaron Gross, the great-great-grandson of founder Aron Streit, an Austrian immigrant. "We're America's last family-owned matzo factory."

The red-brick factory will keep producing matzo until the family builds a new one in about a year, probably in New Jersey.

The 32-year-old matzo heir said it is just too difficult to keep manufacturing in the city. The streets are too congested for the company's tractor-trailers, and he gets regular complaints about the loud machines that mix, roll and cut the dough before it is baked in two 72-foot-long steel ovens.

At the turn of the 20th century, the Lower East Side was the very capital of immigrant Jewish life in America, a vibrant neighborhood teeming with Yiddish-speaking shopkeepers, factory workers and pushcart peddlers.

Half a million Jews, many of them fleeing persecution in Eastern Europe, were crammed like herring into the lower Manhattan neighborhood. Among those who once called it home were actors George Burns and Walter Matthau; gangsters Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel; and musicians Irving Berlin and George and Ira Gershwin.

The Jewish population dwindled after World War II as the immigrants' children and grandchildren moved up and out to better neighborhoods, replaced by Chinese and Hispanic immigrants whose influence is evident in the bodegas and noodle shops that dot the neighborhood.

Today, there are around 30,000 Jews living in the area and only scattered reminders of a bygone era, including Katz's Delicatessen, the oldest deli in New York, and the Yonah Schimmel bakery, whose slogan is: "It takes a downtown knish to satisfy an uptown craving."

While many blocks of the Lower East Side are seedy, gentrification has swept the neighborhood since the 1980s. The elegant Beaux Arts structure built in 1912 for the Yiddish-language newspaper The Jewish Daily Forward — which boasted a circulation of 275,000 in the 1920s — has been converted into million-dollar condos. (The Forward says circulation for its Yiddish edition, now a weekly, is down to just 5,000, the English-language edition to 35,000.)

Earlier this month, the 120-year-old Moorish-style Eldridge Street Synagogue was rededicated after a 20-year restoration. But in a sign of the times, the building will serve a dual purpose as an American Jewish history museum and a functioning synagogue.

"After the 1980s, you got this continual increase of property values and rents and it just never stopped or went down again," said Clayton Patterson, a local preservationist. "I think it's tragic. What we're getting now is kind of boring and mundane."

Alan Dell, co-owner of Katz's, said he has no plans to unload the nearly 120-year-old deli famously featured in the fake orgasm scene in the movie "When Harry Met Sally." But he acknowledged an outrageous offer — "stupid money" — could change his mind. "As my father said, `Money can make a blind man see.'"

As for Streit's, "we haven't found a place yet, but we want to stay close to our base in New York City," said Gross, adding that Streit's already has warehouses in New Jersey from which the matzo is shipped.

The factory doesn't appear to have changed all that much since a photograph from a half century ago that shows a group of rabbis in white coats supervising production to make sure it's kosher. Many of the 60 employees have been working there for decades.

Streit's has tens of millions of dollars in annual sales and about 40 percent of the U.S. matzo market. Its chief competitor is Manischewitz.

Customers can still walk up and buy matzo from the Streit's factory, but the retail business has slowed since the 1960s.

"With the rejuvenation of the neighborhood, a different type of person is living there. It's not an ethnic Jewish neighborhood anymore," Gross said, "and the need to be here isn't what it was."

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Former Arafat aide: "Arafat founded Black September"

read it here: Elder of Ziyon: Former aide admits Arafat founded Black September

They're called "abed" (Arabic for "slave")

from the Forward: "Director Focuses on the Legacy of Muslim Slavery"

‘The Film Class” could be the most important small film that almost nobody will ever see.

Set in the Bedouin town of Rahat in the Israeli Negev, the film, which was shown earlier this month at the Boston Jewish Film Festival and at The Other Israel Film Festival in New York, follows Israeli filmmaker Uri Rosenwaks as he teaches a small group of Bedouin women the rudiments of documentary making: how to load film, how to operate a camera, how to interview. It all seems as ordinary as linoleum, except for one thing: The Bedouin women enrolled in this class are all black, as in black African. We know that the Bedouin are the original nomadic inhabitants of the Middle East’s deserts, prototypical Arabs. Who, then, are these black Bedouin?

Apparently, the women themselves hardly know. They have only hazy notions of their ancestors — extremely strange, since Bedouin customarily know their lineages down to the 20th generation. But as novice filmmakers, the women begin asking questions and following stories, and the stories that engage them most are those about their own lives and history. They interview a young black man who fears for his life because he and a white Bedouin girl fell in love. A little girl tells the women she feels hurt because white children call her krembo, the local variety of the n-word. Then we learn that the white Bedouin typically refer to the black Bedouin as abed — slave.

A black Bedouin interviewee says, “They [Arabs] would steal them [her ancestors] from Sudan.” An old white Bedouin says, “They were all bought, all branded.” An old black Bedouin says that slave-catchers “used to roam the countryside,” kidnapping children.

The pre-credit opening shots are of the slave pits in Zanzibar. Later the women are shown contemporary drawings of Arab slave markets and slave caravans, with lines of black Africans chained together by the neck or yoked like animals. The women are shocked to think that the pictures might be of their ancestors, that their great-grandparents might have been kept in those pits. In its tiny, unassuming way, “The Film Class” opens up one of the greatest and most enduring tragedies in human history, one that is, incredibly, hardly known in the West at all: the slave trade of the Muslim and Arab world.

Westerners, Americans especially, tend to think that the Atlantic trade, with the horrors of the Middle Passage and the industrialized chattel slavery of the plantations, was in some sense unique and uniquely evil. Most of us are ignorant of the vast appetite for slaves in North Africa, Turkey and the Middle East that lasted for 1,300 years and swallowed untold millions from the great sub-Saharan slave pools of Sudan, Ethiopia, Chad and the Congo. We do not know about the great Zanj slave rebellion of the ninth century that killed hundreds of thousands and all but swallowed the Baghdad caliphate — by far the greatest slave revolt in history. We don’t know about the dreaded Forty Day Road and other equally horrifying caravan routes across the Sahara, littered with centuries worth of slave bones. Or about the 2,000-mile sea voyages from Lamu to the Red Sea in dhows packed as tightly with human cargo as were the slaving ships that crossed the Atlantic. We can hardly encompass with our imaginations the atrociousness of the eunuch trade, in which perhaps one in 10 or one in 20 of the children who were castrated survived the operation.

In part we don’t know these things because our sense of guilt has focused us on our own slaving history and because our historians have had rich troves of Western slave-related documents to draw on. In the Muslim world, neither the same kind of guilt nor equivalent documents has ever existed. Finally, the United States and other Western former slave-holding societies are home to a black African diaspora hungry to find its roots and trace its historical experience. In the Muslim world, for its own interesting reasons, no parallel diaspora has persisted. “The Film Class” shows us a tiny, anomalous, though not unique, diaspora community. In so doing, it opens a truly prodigious Pandora’s box whose existence most Westerners never suspected.

To learn more about “The Film Class,” visit the Web site of distributor Ruth Diskin,

Friday, December 21, 2007

Dana Goldstein on Ron Paul

from TAPPED Archive | The American Prospect


Dear Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Greenwald,

I don't have a problem when people with whom I sometimes agree laud Ron Paul's original opposition to the Iraq War (a position he shares with Barack Obama, of course) or his long-running stance against American imperialism (Dennis Kucinich, too, has been there, done that). What does disturb me, though, is the rather uncritical idolatry of Paul that has flowered, even among self-described moderates and liberals. Andrew, your "endorsement" of Paul lends credibility to his entire agenda, not just those parts of it you highlighted in your post. And Glenn, I am not a pro-choice essentialist who believes no other issue, including the disastrous war in Iraq, should inform one's choice of a candidate. Rather, I situate Ron Paul's anti-choice extremism -- he believes a fetus has all the rights of an individual from the moment of conception -- within his illiberal, race-baiting, anti-gay, and corporatist history. I will document this characterization, but first, bear with me while I share a personal anecdote.

Earlier this fall, after I published an article on white male voters' decreasing significance within the Democratic electorate, I was hit with several weeks' worth of anti-Semitic email and comment-thread attacks from American white supremacist groups, who posted my photograph and contact information on several neo-Nazi websites, including Stormfront. The content of those attacks is far too disgusting to post here, but suffice to say, they featured the very crudest sort of racism and sexism, as well as physical threats against me. About a dozen of the hundred odd emails I received referenced support for Ron Paul, which at the time, I brushed off as a curiosity, a case of the white supremacists wrongly seeing an ally in Paul because of his wacky ideas about monetary policy and the threat of a North American Union. I still believe Paul's ideology departs significantly from that of his white supremacist supporters. But I no longer believe his record on race can be ignored.

Though Paul has long railed against the supposed "victim mentality" of American women and people of color, he's guilty himself of rank fear-mongering among white Americans, convincing them that they are the true "victims" of "the blacks." Check out Paul's analysis of the 1992 Los Angeles race riots, from an old newsletter mailed out to his supporters. Paul has since claimed that a staffer wrote this report, but it's safe to assume the newsletters accurately reflect his own views at the time. "We now know that we are under assault from thugs and revolutionaries who hate Euro-American civilization and everything it stands for: private property, material success for those who earn it, and Christian morality," he writes. In the same 1992 newsletter, Paul outlined his ideas for a separate justice system for African American children:

We don't think a child of 13 should be held responsible as a man of 23. That's true for most people, but black males age 13 who have been raised on the streets and who have joined criminal gangs are as big, strong, tough, scary and culpable as any adult and should be treated as such.

And Paul isn't a changed man. This past October, he gave a speech to the Taft Club in Virginia, a group with close ties to the white nationalist movement. But wait, there's much more -- more history that shouldn't be ignored by any person concerned with the individual liberty of women or gay people.

In his 1988 book Freedom Under Seige (you can read the whole thing online), Paul railed against sexual harassment victims. He wrote, "Why don't they quit once the so-called harassment starts? Obviously the morals of the harasser cannot be defended, but how can the harassee escape some responsibility for the problem? Seeking protection under civil rights legislation is hardily acceptable." What if a victim needs to keep working because he or she feeds their children and pays their rent paycheck to paycheck? What if quitting just isn't a viable option? For Paul, the rights of the employer not to be sued simply trump the rights of the individual. Corporations are people, too!

And Paul was no less compassionate when it came to HIV/AIDS patients. He wrote in his book that insurance companies should be free to deny care to HIV-positive individuals since, "The individual suffering from AIDS certainly is a victim -- frequently a victim of his own lifestyle -- but this same individual victimizes innocent citizens by forcing them to pay for his care."

Andrew and Glenn, I hope you'll respond to this post. We can't let Paul's history on these important civil rights issues be papered over by his opposition to the Iraq war -- opposition that other presidential candidates offer as well.


--Dana Goldstein

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ron Paul group members petition to include neo-Nazi in forum

You may remember an earlier post on this blog concerning Will Williams (read here). Williams, who is also known as "White Will" has been a leading racist and neo-Nazi activist in this country for 30 years. He has played a leadership role in the National Alliance Party, the largest neo-Nazi group in the U.S., and has been associated with the Ku Klux Klan and other racist groups. His specialty has been recruitment, targeting various demographic groups considered susceptible to a racist, anti-Semitic message. He authored and distributed to teenagers an eponymous comic book ("White Will") which features its hero attacking a Jewish teenager. He's an organizer of Ron Paul internet "meetups" in his native Tennessee, and a frequent poster of bigoted commentary in forums devoted to support for Ron Paul -- comments which met little opposition other than "don't scare away non-racists with this stuff" -- not exactly righteous indignation. Williams has also organized meetings of Paul supporters at which he may be recruiting for racist groups. He has a history of staging innocuous sounding events which turn out to be neo-Nazi recruitment rallies, like the time he staged an Irish and Slavic music festival in Cleveland where the audience was subjected to multiple speeches by neo-Nazis.

Since I've posted about this, and more importantly, since this was picked up by some big league bloggers (read here), Williams meetup organizing privileges have been suspended. He is now reduced to posting racist comments as "Former Member", still listing his hometown, Mountain City, TN, and readily identifiable by both tone and content (read here: "Must Dr. Paul capitulate to our Jewish masters' demands?"). This material is still available on the Ron Paul Meetup website, as are the responses of the supposedly mainstream ronpaulians, which can be summarized as "are you sure it's a good idea to say this publicly?"

Now Williams' supporters in the Ron Paul campaign have organized a petition to restore his presence on Ron Paul forums. You can read it here: Petition to restore forum privs for Will Williams - Ron Paul 2008 Meetups.

It seems that it may be hard for Paul to distance himself from racists when they make up such a significant part of his base of support. Too decisive a distancing might just alienate those who are less overtly bigoted than Williams, but who don't really object to his views. So the Paul campaign is still on the fence about its neo-Nazis supporters who organize, petition and comment freely in his internet forums. I wouldn't expect a complete clean break any time soon.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Fact-checking Ron Paul's anti-gay anti-Clinton jibe

A reader has contacted me with respect to the following quote attributed to Ron Paul which was included in a Daily Kos post (read here) which I reposted in this space.
"How dare the Clinton Administration talk about sexual deviance! It’s officials could have had their own float in the Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Parade."
The reader says that he is a gay man who supports Paul, and that he contacted the Paul campaign who claimed they were unaware of the quote and wanted to know its source. While I relay this story with a grain of salt warning (the Paul campaign is notorious for having false representives of various interest groups comment to blogs to the effect that Paul doesn't really hate that group), I do want to acknowledge that the sourcing for the quote was insufficient and that it needs verification.

Here's what I know of the quote. The Daily Kos piece linked to a October 1993 newsgroup comment (read here) which stated that Paul made this statement in June 1993 and that it was quoted in the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor (Phoenix, Arizona; July 1993). That piece, which is available online here, actually cites the quote supportively. It states that Paul was responding to Janet Reno's statement that David Koresh and the Branch Davidians first came to Justice Department attention because of allegations of child abuse. The McAlvany piece states that Paul was arguing that Reno's statement was implausible because the Clinton administration was filled with what he would call 'sexual deviants'. (If this is true, it is a truly repugnant argument on several levels.)

Not having access to another source for the original quote by Dr. Paul, I have not been able to verify its accuracy, and I'm not comfortable relying solely on the McAlveny piece. If any readers can either verify or refute the accuracy of the quote, please post a comment to that effect including the links or citations to your source. If I can't further verify its accuracy, I'll issue a retraction. Thanks.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Ron Paul: 1930's Isolationists "argued for a pro-American foreign policy"

Ron Paul advocates isolationism as he renounces it

In what is comically called "A History Lesson With Dr. Paul", the Paul campaign has reposted a Washington Post article highlighting Paul's views on isolationism (read here). Dr. Paul was rebutting John McCain's charge that Paul's anti-Iraq War stance is equivalent to those who advocated appeasement in response to Nazi aggression. This is a case where I disagree strongly with both sides in the argument, but that's not my focus here. What caught my eye was an admission by Ron Paul that he, despite numerous and constant denials of his isolationism by him and his campaign, still supports the isolationism of the 1930s that allowed Hitler to conquer most of Europe and plunge the world into chaos. Here's what he says on his website:

"'People in the 1930s who didn't want war didn't cause World War II. I think Hitler caused the war, not the Americans who argued for a pro-American foreign policy,' he said.

While it's true that Hitler and the Nazis (along with Japan) were ultimately to blame for the war, that is a long way from absolution for the isolationists who foolishly prevented the United States from making an appropriately strong response to Hitler's aggression. The original isolationists allowed the Nazis to have a free hand in expanding their military and invading their neighbors, and did their best to prevent the U.S. from preparing for the war that was to follow. Paul now admits that he thinks that the isolationists were just fine and says they were just advocating a "pro-American foreign policy". He does seem to prefer to call both himself and the original isolationists "non-interventionists", however. But now that he has associated himself so clearly with the original isolationist movement and has said that they as well as he should be called anti-interventionist, it's clear where he stands with respect to isolationist ideology and what he really means by the terminology he prefers. Paul's "non-interventionism" is just isolationism with a PR agent.

Paul's brand of isolationist "pro-American foreign policy" would surely be the undoing of the nation it purports to help. The only way it could be sold would be to call it something other than isolationist and to pray that Americans know nothing of their nation's history. That's really what Paul depends upon.

[Thanks to Deborah Lipstadt (read here) for correcting the original version of this post. The "History Lesson" was first published in the Washington Post (read here), then reposted by the Paul campaign website.]

Lou Dobbs: Short on facts, long on opinions

It seems that Lou Dobbs, not satisfied with only one hour per day on CNN and a nationwide book tour, is planning several more hours per day on CBS-TV and a syndicated radio show. Dobbs already hosts a CNN "news" program devoted largely to his anti-immigrant propagandizing. His factual distortions have been critiqued by the New York Times (read here). Media Matters uncovered his attributed use of material authored by the hate group Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), formerly known as the White Citizens Council (read here) (learn about the CCC here and here). Dobbs, undeterred, now roams the land on a book tour falsely claiming that no major errors have been found in his reporting and that his views have no connection to bigotry. Interviewers almost exclusively lob him softballs, but every so often the unexpected happens, and his feet get held to the fire. READ THIS:

Southern Poverty Law Center Hatewatch:
‘Democracy Now’ Takes On Lou Dobbs:

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of “Democracy Now,” a serious radio and television news and analysis program, conducted an hour-long interview with nativist CNN host Lou Dobbs yesterday, and it was a doozie. Dobbs was pounded with questions about the bogus “facts” that he regularly trots out to demonize undocumented immigrants, such as his claim that a “third of our prison population” are “illegal aliens.” (As “Democracy Now” pointed out, the Justice Department says about 6% of state and federal prison populations are non-citizens. The government does not know what percentage of those non-citizens are undocumented.)

Dobbs’ chief reaction was to attack the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), whose Intelligence Report has carried a series of reports on Dobbs inaccuracies (see here, here, here and here), his promotion of racist conspiracy theories (see here), and the appearance of hate group members and leaders on his program (see here). (“Democracy Now” relied heavily on that SPLC research to confront Dobbs, who was plugging a new book.) Bizarrely, Dobbs responded to mention of his use of a white supremacist group’s graphic by noting that he had sent producers and reporters to SPLC’s Alabama offices in late 2004 “to make certain this sort of thing doesn’t happen.” But minutes later, he described the very same SPLC as “indulging in pure BS” in order to raise money. On his own show, he has called the SPLC a “fascist” group after SPLC criticized him. The whole thing was reminiscent of the way Dobbs last spring defended his false claim of immigrant-borne leprosy in a on-air debate with SPLC officials (see here).

This morning, “Democracy Now” invited Mark Potok, editor of the Center’s Intelligence Report, to respond to Dobbs’ comments and to discuss the magazine’s new cover story, which details an apparent surge in violent, anti-Latino hate crime.

Also today, The New York Times reported that Dobbs was planning to add a three-hour daily radio program to his CNN show, “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” and his post as a commentator on CBS’ “The Early Show.” Dobbs characterized his radio show in this eyebrow-raising comment to the Times: “My interest is in bringing a voice of reason, rather than the partisan and ideological poles that define talk radio right now.”

Saturday, December 1, 2007


from The Jewish Chronicle:

Jews and Muslims forge a bond in the Oxford mêlée
By Bernard Josephs and Leon Symons Oxford
Jewish and Muslim student leaders at Oxford University have expressed hopes that their co-operation in trying to stop the David Irving-Nick Griffin debate on free speech on Monday night will herald a new relationship between the two groups.

Their members were among up to 2,000 banner-waving, chanting demonstrators who besieged the Oxford Union buildings for four hours in the centre of the university city. A sit-down protest blocked the narrow entry gate to the Union and stopped many of the sell-out audience from getting in.

The Union of Jewish Students and Oxford University’s Islamic Society carried a huge banner marked with the symbols of both organisations. Some Muslim demonstrators carried posters proclaiming “Hands off our Jews”, while the Jewish Society carried others saying “Hands off our Muslims”.

Deborah Lipstadt, whom Irving sued unsuccessfully for libel that led to him being labelled a Holocaust denier by the trial judge, said in a message read out during the demonstration: “Inviting these two men [to the Oxford Union] smacks of a stunt which gives them what they most need to survive: publicity.

“Some of those who have defended the Oxford Union have called for open minds. The problem with people with open minds is that sometimes their minds are so open their brains fall out — and that is the best that can be said of the organisers of this debate.”

Ten minutes before the scheduled start, 30 demonstrators scaled the perimeter wall and invaded the hall, delaying the debate and sparking scuffles as the student audience tried to push them out.

The organisers were forced to split the event in two. Holocaust denier Irving joined Oxford West Lib-Dem MP Dr Evan Harris and author and journalist Ann Atkins in the debating chamber while BNP leader Griffin was despatched to the OU library with two student debaters, South African James Dray and Jess Prince from Canada. The event got under way 75 minutes late against a background of shouting and chanting.

Jewish Society president Steven Altmann-Richer said: “Ironically, the first event we held with the Islamic Society was last term when someone from the Muslim Council of Britain talked to us about the dangers of the BNP. We get on well because both societies are non-political. When politics comes in, it changes people’s attitudes.”

He added: “I am upset that the event was hijacked by rent-a-yob and that people got into the hall. But when you get a crowd of that size, there will always be people looking for trouble.”

Sazan Meran, co-president of the university’s Islam Society, said: “We have had good relations with Jewish students for some time and this demonstration has definitely brought us closer together. I am sure that this experience will result in us co-operating in the fight against racism. We may have differences over politics but, at the end of the day, we have a lot in common.”

Oxford Union president Luke Tryl admitted he had been shocked by the level and ferocity of the protests but maintained that he had been right to invite the pair. He said he intended to write a full report on the event, with contributions from the society presidents, “so that the OU can learn lessons from this. I don’t want future presidents to think that this gives them licence to invite anyway they please”.


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