Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Winograd Report is Issued: Final ground op 'did not achieve military goals', but approving it was essential step

read excerpts here: Haaretz

Dershowitz: Obama Should Repudiate Brzezinski

Yesterday, I posted then took down a piece on controversy on Obama's foreign policy advisers' views on Israel. I was essentially defending Obama's choice of Samantha Power as an adviser and defending her against what I initially thought to be excessive criticism of remarks she made in 2002 concerning Israel and domestic political concerns. I found problems in both sides of the argument with respect to inflated tone and emphasis on rhetorical issues. Frankly, I have mixed feelings concerning the merits of both sides of the argument over Obama's foreign policy staff and need a little more time to research the facts and digest the issues.

In the meantime, let me clearly state that some of Obama's choices are troubling to me. Of particular concern are the presence of Robert Malley and Zbigniew Brzezinski, both of whom are biased against Israel. Obama needs to explain what the presence of these two advisers in key positions on his staff says about his intended policies. I know that this issue will be a key point of the upcoming campaign should Obama be nominated -- as it should be. These are legitimate questions to raise reflecting both on Obama's position on the issues and his judgment with respect to nominees. Obama and his campaign staff have made some very positive statements in support of Israel in response to these questions, but avowals of good intentions are not enough. As a loyal Democrat strongly concerned about the welfare both of the United States and Israel, I want Obama to more fully address these issues now. It's in his interest and in the nation's as well.

I also wanted to use this piece to make the point that neither Democratic candidate is likely to do as much damage to the long-term interests of both the United States and Israel as the Bush administration has by pursuing policies which lower the value of the dollar, raise the price of oil and saddle the United States with excessive debt. This has weakened the United States and strengthened the oil-producing Arab states in ways that will become fully clear over the next several decades. I am much more concerned with that than I am with what Samantha Power said in an interview in 2002.

While I consider my position further, read the following from the NY SUN of September 12, 2007:

Dershowitz: Obama Should Repudiate Brzezinski (BY RUSSELL BERMAN):

Senator Obama may have distanced himself from a book criticizing the Israel lobby, but a prominent Harvard law professor — and Senator Clinton ally — says the Illinois lawmaker needs to go a step further and repudiate his newest foreign policy adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski.

The Harvard professor, Alan Dershowitz, has emerged as a chief critic of "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," a new book in which authors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt argue that a powerful coalition of individuals and organizations has pushed America into supporting Israel in ways that undermine its national interests.

The book has drawn widespread scorn from the pro-Israel community, and it appears to have divided Mr. Obama and Mr. Brzezinski, a former national security adviser to President Carter who recently joined the Illinois senator's presidential campaign. Mr. Brzezinski will be with Mr. Obama as the candidate delivers a major policy address on Iraq today in Iowa.

Amid a firestorm over an initial working paper Messrs . Mearsheimer and Walt published last year on the Israel lobby, Mr. Brzezinski rose to their defense, even as he demurred on the question of whether he agreed with their central arguments. The authors, he wrote in the journal Foreign Policy, "have rendered a public service by initiating a much-needed public debate on the role of the ‘Israel lobby' in the shaping of U.S. foreign policy."

Mr. Obama's campaign took the opposite route earlier this week when notified that an ad for its Web site appeared on the page of the Mearsheimer-Walt book. The campaign immediately removed the ad, saying its placement was unintentional, and issued a statement saying Mr. Obama believed the arguments in the book were "just wrong." "I'm glad he's done that, but now he has to dissociate himself from Brzezinski," Mr. Dershowitz said in an interview yesterday. He said the Mearsheimer-Walt book was "a bigoted attack on the American Jewish community" and that Mr. Brzezinski's comments in Foreign Policy last year amounted to an endorsement.

Through an assistant, Mr. Brzezinski declined repeated requests to be interviewed yesterday about his views on the book and Mr. Obama. He endorsed the first-term senator last month, praising his long-running opposition to the Iraq war and offering a high-profile boost to a candidate who has struggled at times to combat the perception that he is inexperienced in foreign policy.

Mr. Dershowitz, who has contributed $1,000 to Mrs. Clinton's campaign and is supporting her candidacy, said his criticism of Mr. Brzezinski extended beyond the Mearsheimer-Walt book to what he said was Mr. Brzezinski's broader "anti-Israel" rhetoric in recent years. The former Carter aide was highly critical of Israel during its war last year with Hezbollah in Lebanon, at one point saying its actions amounted to "the killing of hostages."

Mr. Dershowitz said that while Mr. Obama has been a strong supporter of Israel, he "made a terrible mistake" by bringing on Mr. Brzezinski, which he attributed to "naïveté."

In response, the Obama campaign released a statement from one of its top supporters in the Jewish community, Rep. Robert Wexler of Florida. "Barack Obama has been a consistent supporter of Israel and this is an unfortunate case of a fabricated controversy for political reasons," he said. "I speak with him often on Israel policy, and I can tell you firsthand that Barack Obama is opposed to the arguments presented in this book."


Monday, January 28, 2008

West Bank pollution threatening Israeli groundwater

from Haaretz

For several years now, a white river has run through the Hebron Hills. The color comes from pollution - waste from a sawmill near Hebron. And according to a recent Israeli-Palestinian study, pollution from this river and others like it is threatening the groundwater inside Israel, and is impeding attempts to rehabilitate Israel's rivers.

Israel has tried to deal with the problem by collecting and purifying the waste at the Green Line, the boundary between Israel and the West Bank. But that is insufficient, because much pollution enters the groundwater in the West Bank and spreads to Israel underground.

The two-year study was conducted by the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, the Blaustein Institute for Desert Research at Ben-Gurion University and the Palestinian Water and Environmental Development Organization. It focused on the Alexander River, which runs from Nablus to the Mediterranean north of Netanya, and the Basor River, which runs from near Hebron to the Gaza Strip. Major investments have been made in rehabilitating both rivers in recent years, including by establishing waste treatment plants along them.

However, the study found, the Basor is now full of both municipal waste and toxins emitted by the stone- and leather-working industries around Hebron. It estimated that anywhere from 45 to 90 percent of the pollution seeps into the ground before the river reaches the Israeli treatment plant, thereby endangering the groundwater. Moreover, some of this underground waste then reenters the river downstream of the treatment plant.

The study found that faulty sewage systems in Israel also pollute the river.

While the Alexander River has improved substantially, the study said, it still is being polluted by municipal waste and the olive oil industries around Nablus and Tul Karm, as well as various sources within Israel, such as fertilizer and insecticides from nearby farms. In this case, too, about half of the pollution on the Palestinian side seeps into the groundwater before reaching the Green Line.

Amos Brandeis, chief planner of the project to rehabilitate the Alexander, noted that the German government plans to build waste treatment plants for Nablus and Tul Karm, but they will not be operational for several years. He also noted that the amount of municipal waste on the Palestinian side has grown, due to population growth and because many more houses have been connected to the sewage system in recent years - and this system flows directly into the river, rather than to a treatment plant.

Hydrologists Lior Assaf and Hila Ackerman of the Arava Institute said that more could also be done on the Israeli side - for instance, said Assaf, "planting buffer zones of vegetation along the river banks, which would help prevent pollution from entering the river."

Professor Alon Tal of the Blaustein Institute, in his summary of the research, noted that Israelis and Palestinians had managed to work together to reduce pollution despite the political tensions. "Nevertheless, what has been done to date is only the first stage," he wrote.

(via Solomonia)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Islamist Anti-Semitism: Old European Roots, Contemporary European Apologetics

from Haaretz: "Jihad and Jew-Hatred" by Benjamin Weinthal

a review of:

Islamism, Nazism and the Roots of 9/11, by Matthias Kuentzel (translated from German by Colin Meade) Telos Press Publishing, 180 pages, $30

In 1993, a mere four years after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, while gnawing away at the voluminous stockpile of documents left behind by the German Democratic Republic (GDR), the American historian Jeffrey Herf uncovered an especially cruel case of anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism in the nascent phase of the now-defunct East German state: The persecution of Paul Merker, a member of the Communist party's Central Committee, who was incarcerated in 1952 for his passionate defense of Israel and his advocacy of financial compensation for Jews whose property had been "aryanized" by the Nazis. "I am neither a Jew nor a Zionist, though certainly, it would be no crime to be either," declared Merker in 1956, after his release. The East German Jewish writer Stefan Heym, devoted a section of his 1979 novel "Collin" to Merker's case; the GDR, however, banned his book.

While Herf, who introduced the story of Merker to the English-speaking world in 1994, does not mention him in his splendid foreword to the English translation of Matthias Kuentzel's "Jihad and Jew-Hatred: Islamism, Nazism and the Roots of 9/11," there is a striking parallel between the figures of Merker and Kuentzel, a German political scientist. Both stress the primacy of extreme anti-Jewish ideology within reactionary social and political movements; the mainstream German left sharply attacked both men for their opposition to German anti-Zionism; and both have been intellectual iconoclasts vis-a-vis standard European leftism. Merker was a trailblazer during the war period - like Hannah Arendt in the 1950s and Herf himself in the 1980s - in highlighting the role of radical anti-Semitism in shaping historical events. Kuentzel is considered a co-founder of the loosely defined segment of the pro-Israel German intellectual left.

Kuentzel, who like Merker is not Jewish, published his book in Germany 2002, and stated that by the time the book was released, most of his "erstwhile political friends on the left had excluded me from their world - a world that had either greeted 9/11 with unconcealed gloating or interpreted it in an 'anti-imperialist' framework."

Kuentzel applies his intellectual tool kit to his thesis, which was disturbingly ignored and marginalized by the German intellectual establishment following the attacks on the Twin Towers; namely, the interplay between radical political Islam - with its handmaiden jihad - and Nazism in the pre-Holocaust Middle East. His groundbreaking book has been translated into superb English by Colin Meade, with updated sections on the 9/11 Commission Report and Iran under Ahmadinejad.

Kuentzel, who is an external research assistant at the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism at the Hebrew University, debunks the ubiquitous view among a large segment of the chattering classes in Europe that Islamic hatred of Jews was a kind of natural, Pavlovian political reaction to Israel's Independence in 1948. His book establishes - as it jolts the reader out of his/her complacent slumber - that a driving engine of radical political Islam is grounded in the ideas of the former grand mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Muhammad Amin al-Husseini, who was an ally of Adolf Hitler. What emerges, according to Kuentzel's analysis, is the crude absorption of German anti-Semitism into shaping and informing Islamic anti-Semitism. But Kuentzel demonstrates that the anti-Semitism of Husseini (1895-1974), "was particularly evident in August 1929, during a mufti-inspired pogrom in Jerusalem that was directed not against Zionists, but Jews - the victims belonging to the centuries-old communities of Safed and Hebron."

In the book's opening chapter, "The Muslim Brotherhood and Palestine," Kuentzel demonstrates that the mufti was filled with loathing of Jews even before Hitler leveraged himself into power in 1933. That helps to explain why Kuentzel attaches significant empirical weight to Husseini's Judeophobia. In his role as the president of the Muslim Supreme Council in Jerusalem from 1921 to 1948, the mufti was the prime mover in shaping and influencing the formative stages of modern Arab-Jewish relations.
Act II of the mufti's campaign to abolish Zionism - and participate in the Holocaust - begins with his passionate support of German fascism ("in the struggle against Jewry, Islam and National Socialism are very close," he said in a talk to the imams of the Bosnian SS division in 1944). Husseini traveled to Berlin in 1941 with a staff of 60 Arabs to unify his Islamic project with the Nazi movement. Via a Nazi-sponsored radio apparatus in Zeesen, Germany, Husseini was able to broadcast to the Arab world his anti-Jewish diatribes, into which he threaded selected quotations from the Koran.

That the man who became Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was an avid listener of the mufti's Germany-based broadcasts, which were transmitted to Iran in Farsi, introduces a new perspective on the after-effects of Hitlerism on the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Kuentzel carves out new social-scientific territory as he covers the socialization of Khomeini, whose "anti-Jewish outlook, which contributed so much to his popularity from the beginning of the 1960s onwards, had been shaped during the 1930s."

Kuentzel is dazzling in the way he shifts back and forth between German anti-Semitism and its ability to condition and influence extremist Islamic hatred of Jews. A telling example of his comparative analysis is the ideological language of the National Socialists when contrasted with Ahmadinejad's outbursts. "The extermination of Jewry throughout the world," according to a Nazi directive from 1943, is "the precondition for an enduring peace."

Ahmadinejad states: "The Zionist regime will be wiped out and humanity will be liberated." There is a temptation to be lulled into a kind of psychological avoidance when reading and hearing such emotionally destructive language, as Kuentzel himself notes, but human history is riddled with totalitarian leaders whose rhetoric was filled with conviction and praxis.

SS special unit on standby

The collaboration between the mufti and the Nazis almost culminated in the destruction of Jewry in Palestine. Referring to recent research by the German historians Klaus-Michael Mallmann and Martin Cueppers, Kuentzel writes that an "SS special unit had been on standby in Athens, ready to implement the Shoah in Palestine in alliance with the Nazis' Arab allies following an anticipated victory by Rommel in the North African theatre."

The incorrigibly anti-liberal and anti-democratic ideas of the mufti and Nazism gained astonishingly fast momentum within the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt in the 1930s, triggering the Palestine campaign of 1936, in which a general strike was launched to stop Jewish refugee immigration. The Muslim Brotherhood introduced the oft-quoted notion of jihad; the pathological devotion to dying a martyr's death when waging war with the forces of non-believers. Kuentzel avoids the sweeping generalizations that tend to dominate the discourse about Nazism and Islamic anti-Semitism: "Neither the Mufti nor the founders of the Muslim Brotherhood were creations of European fascism. However, both were strengthened by it. Like an elder brother, National Socialism had backed the fledgling Islamist movement up with catchwords, intellectual encouragement and money."

Kuentzel crisscrosses a host of academic disciplines in his account of the rise of Egyptian Islamism, from the time of Nasser to the present day. He assimilates vast quantities of information covering the Koran; the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna; the Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser's affinity for the mufti, and the role of "former Nazis who decamped there [Egypt] in droves in the 1950s." This enables him to apply his comparative methodology to bring to the fore the interconnections between Nazism and Islamism.

The extension of the ultra-reactionary ideas of the mufti and the Muslim Brotherhood find their expression in Hamas, which is still viewed by many Germans - and Europeans - with a sort of incurable naivete; that is, as a fabulous social service organization with an army of social workers. Kuentzel carefully scrutinizes the Hamas charter's ideological justification for waging its war against Israel. He concludes that the Hamas program is reminiscent of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," the famous czarist-era forgery, blaming international Jewry for the world's misfortunes. Hamas shifts the onus of world evil to "world Zionism." Kuentzel, invoking the powerful role of radical anti-Jewish ideology, writes: "Amazingly, this most obvious of explanatory sources, Hamas' program, very rarely gets a mention in the interminable journalistic musings about the motivation for suicide bombing."

Kuentzel presents a strong case in his final chapter, on "September 11 and Israel," that there cannot be a separation between "the murder of American civilians by bin Laden and that of Israeli civilians by Hamas." The nexus between bin Laden and the Muslim Brotherhood, and their mutual enthusiasm about Khomeini's victory in Iran shows a commonality in the desire to dissolve Israel coupled with a virulent hatred of American democracy.

It requires at times the lucidity of an "outsider" scholar to address the flaws of the U.S. 9/11 Commission report. Kuentzel's analysis will surely upset many policy makers and academics in the West, for he challenges their premise "that Islamism first arose in response to current American and Western policies." He systematically outlines examples of "undisguised anti-Semitism" among the 9/11 hijackers and these startling omissions in the Commission report. Why is there a paucity of attention to what may have been the central motivation for the 9/11 attacks, which was, according to bin Laden, an effort "to force America to end its support for Israel"?

The plan to engulf Manhattan's skyline in an inferno was first conceived by the Nazis and Hitler, according to the diaries of the Fuehrer's architect, Albert Speer. A Daimler-Benz blueprint shows an "Amerikabomber" plane designed for suicide missions meant to target New York. Both the Nazis and the 9/11 terrorists shared the view that the U.S in general and New York in particular embodied Jewishness. The new dimension to this type of Jew-hatred involves the deadly mix of modern technology with a campaign to exterminate Jewry. In his discussion of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's pursuit of a nuclear program, and the Iranian dictator's frequent references to the idea of wiping Israel off the map, Kuentzel builds on the notion of "reactionary modernism," which invokes the historian Herf's concept of an amalgamation of sophisticated technology with a repressive political movement.

Kuentzel's method is a dialectical masterpiece; he is a social scientist who pursues connections. The suicide attacks of the intifada in Israel are, for Kuentzel, inherently linked to the attacks in America on September 11. That explains his remedy for fighting anti-Semitism: "Whoever does not want to combat anti-Semitism... hasn't the slightest chance of beating Islamism." Kuentzel is in many ways the modern successor to Paul Merker, a rare voice in Germany, who, like Merker's view of Arab princes as embodying "reactionary interests", shifts the terms of the discussion to anti-Jewish ideology as the sine qua non of understanding radical political Islam, its destructive energy and its social and political violence.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Oxford debates Israel's right to exist

The Oxford Union is staging a debate tomorrow on the question of whether the State of Israel has the right to exist. They've assigned two notoriously anti-Israel polemicists to defend Israel, and two other notoriously anti-Israel polemicists to oppose it. Norman Finkelstein, fresh from meeting with Hezbollah leader Nasrallah, to whom he referred to Hezbollah as "the hope" (read here), and fresh from stating that support of Hezbollah equals opposition to injustice (read here) , has been touring British universities on a speaking tour for the past few weeks. In case you don't know, he's the fellow who loves to mock Holocaust issues on his blog with tasteless faux headlines he places above real news stories. Recently, Finkelstein headlined an article about the difficulties of Holocaust education in German public schools with the following: "To reverse declining German interest in Holocaust, Britney Spears to play Anne Frank in new Holo-porn video" (read here). This in spite of the fact, which he frequently wields in defense against charges of anti-Semitism and general grossness, that his parents were Holocaust survivors. (For someone who mocks others for raising their survivor status in debates, he's noticeably not shy about doing so with respect to his family.) He's the guy the Oxford Union thinks best suited to defend Israel in their debate.

I guess that I shouldn't be too surprised. They recently gave a forum to two Holocaust-denying racists, "historian" David Irving and politician Nick Griffin, speaking in favor of freedom of speech. (read here and here) The Oxford Union would appear to be more interested in generating heat than they are in generating light. That may be a good way for them to attract attention, but this sort of attention corrodes their reputation, earned over several generations, for thoughtful examination of difficult political issues.

from the
Jerusalem Post: "Oxford Union stages 'farcical' debate"

Oxford University's debating society is being accused of childishness and sensationalism by Jewish groups after inviting participants with alleged anti-Israel backgrounds to support a motion questioning Israel's right to exist in a debate on Thursday.
The title of Thursday's Middle East debate is "This House believes that the State of Israel has a right to exist." But questions are being asked as to the likely tone of discussion and vote, since not only the opposers of the motion, but also the proposers, are considered detractors of Israel. "All Oxford students with sense should stay away from this farce," said a Zionist Federation official.
Proposing the motion are Norman Finkelstein, formally of De Paul University in Chicago, and Ted Honderich, professor of philosophy at University College London.
Finkelstein's books include The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering and Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict. On his Web site, he hosts Brazilian cartoonist Latuff, whose work won second prize in Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial art competition in December 2006.

inkelstein is speaking at a number of campuses in the UK this week. His "UK tour," entitled "Palestine's occupation: Roots of conflict and prospects for peace," is organized by the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, which support a "one-state" solution, and supported by the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign and Action on Palestine.
At a rally in New York opposing the 2006 Lebanon war, Finkelstein said: "Every victory for Hizbullah over Israel is... a victory for liberty and a victory for freedom..."

For his part, Honderich, in his book After the Terror, published in 2003, wrote: "All of us should take part in all forms of boycott against retail stores and other businesses dealing with neo-Zionist Israel, divestment, civil disobedience, non-cooperation, not voting, picketing, ostracism, naming, symbolic public acts, strikes and whatever else is rational against neo-Zionism."
In his 2006 book Humanity, Terrorism, Terrorist War: Palestine, 9/11, Iraq, 7/7, Honderich defends Zionism, defined as the creation of Israel in its original borders, but also states that Palestinians have had a moral right to their liberation - to "terrorism within historic Palestine" against what he calls the "ethnic cleansing of Neo-Zionism," the expansion of Israel beyond its original borders.
"Oxford Union has embarrassed itself and its institution once again soon after the invitations [it issued] to David Irving and the leader of the far-right British National Party [Nick Griffin]," said Gavin Gross, director of Public Affairs at the Zionist Federation. "Norman Finkelstein issued public expressions of support for Hizbullah during its war against Israel and Ted Honderich has written in support of boycotting and divesting from Israel, yet these are the two speakers chosen to debate in Israel's defense! All Oxford students with sense should stay away from this farce."
"The Oxford Union has shown quite clearly that it is more interested in sensationalism than constructive debate," Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said. "This event stands alongside recent invitations to far-right hardliners, Holocaust deniers and a conspiracy theorist whose bizarre writings place him off the scale of rational thought. This ridiculous spectacle, where those arguing both for and against a proposition are all of the same view, demonstrates how low this once venerable institution has stooped."
Opposing the motion in the Oxford debate is Palestinian scholar and activist Ghada Karmi, who believes that Jews do not constitute a nation and they lack "biological, racial or national characteristics."
Joining Karmi is Israeli academic Ilan Pappe, currently at Exeter University in the UK.
Last February, Pappe declared his warm friendship with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and suggested that Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah "should be put on the committee to decide the future of Israel."
Emily Partington, president of Oxford University Union told The Jerusalem Post: "The motion was decided upon as it is a current topic of discussion, and people who might not have extensive knowledge about the State of Israel may well question the existence of a state which appears to differ so greatly from others. Much of the interest in the motion derives from the debate about what constitutes Israel, and what Israel does. All of the participants in the debate will be arguing from their own independent perspectives, rather than representing anything or anyone else."
More here from Solomonia...




here from Alan Dershowitz: Double Standard Watch: Oxford Union gives new meaning to the word 'debate'

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Poland's Anti-Semitic Right Attempts to Suppress History

from SPIEGEL ONLINE: Fear and Slander in Poland: Anti-Semitism Book Could Land Historian in Jail

By Siobhán Dowling in Berlin

Prosecutors in Poland are considering charging the US historian Jan Tomasz Gross with slandering the Polish nation following the publication of his book on anti-Semitism in the country after World War II. The book has provoked a storm of controversy.

A new book probing the murder of Jews in Poland after the end of World War II has not only unleashed a storm of controversy, it may land its author in jail. The Krakow Prosecutors Office is considering bringing charges against the Polish-American historian Jan Tomasz Gross for his book "Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland after Auschwitz." The charge? Slandering the Polish nation.

The book has stirred a huge debate in the country since the Polish language version went on sale last Friday. While some academics, clerics and politicians have slammed the book for what they see as generalizations about the attacks that were carried out on Jews in post-war Poland, others have defended it for its contribution to the debate about Poland's past.

Gross' book focuses on the 1946 Kielce pogrom in which 40 Jews were killed. He claims that such cases demonstrate a widespread wish in Polish society to rid the country of Jews. He argues that this was motivated by anti-Semitism and by people wishing to avoid disputes with returning Jewish neighbors over property.

According to the Polish Institute of National Remembrance, which investigates both Nazi and Communist crimes, between 600 and 3,000 of the approximately 300,000 Jews who survived the Holocaust were subsequently killed in Poland. Gross, a professor at Princeton University, says around 200,000 Jews decided to leave the country after anti-Semitic attacks.

'Inappropriate to Burn Books'

The author is now under investigation by the public prosecutors in Krakow, home to his publishers Znak. They are looking into whether the book broke a law that makes slandering the Polish nation a crime. Statute 132 was passed by the government of former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski in 2006 and provides a three-year prison term for anyone "publicly accusing the Polish nation of participating in, organizing or being responsible for Nazi or Communist crimes."

Gross says he is shocked at the investigation. "I find it so inappropriate to put books on trial or burn them," he told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "They should be discussed in a completely different forum."

The prosecutors have 30 days to make a decision but they are expected to make an announcement sooner than that. Gross is pretty confident things won't go as far as a prosection. After all, the law itself is soon to be reviewed by the country's constitutional court after human rights activists complained about it.

Even if Gross does not end up in court, the book has unleashed a storm of controversy in Poland, with many right-wing commentators lashing out at its conclusions. Gross suspects that such criticism comes mostly from those who haven't yet read the book. "I think the discussion will slowly develop in a more substantive direction once people read it," he said hopefully.

The uproar isn't doing sales any harm. According to the publishers, 20,000 copies have already been sold since the book was published on Jan. 11, with the books flying off the shelves so fast that they had to rush to get another batch printed.

Right-Wing Backlash

One of Gross' fiercest critics is Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, an historian based at the Institute of World Politics in Washington. In his "After the Holocaust: Polish-Jewish Conflict in the Wake of World War II," Chodakiewicz sees the murder of Jews within the context of the Soviet-imposed communist dictatorship. He wrote an editorial in the daily Rzeczpospolita, published last Friday, which accused Gross of picking out the facts to back up his theory. But Gross dismisses Chodakiewicz as "not much of an historian" and a "right-wing apologist."

The book has likewise ruffled feathers in Poland's conservative establishment. The Archbishop of Krakow, Stanislaw Dziwisz, who has been described as the late Pope John Paul II's right-hand man, wrote a letter to the chairman of the Polish publishers to complain about the book. He said that they should propagate historical truth and not "awake anti-Polish and anti-Semitic demons." The archbishop said that the book had not taken into account the political realities in Poland of the time and he has also said that he does not want to meet with Gross who is currently in Poland promoting the book.

Meanwhile, the ultra-conservative League of Polish Families, which had been a junior coalition partner in the last Polish government, could not resist putting in its two cents' worth and called for Gross to be made a "persona non-grata" in the country.

The publishers have dismissed these complaints. "We should talk about these difficult issues," Znak spokesman Tomasz Miedzik told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "We have the freedom to ask difficult questions about our history and we should do that."

Gross, who was born in Warsaw in 1947, emigrated to the United States with his family in 1968. His previous book "Neighbors" likewise sparked controversy when it was published in Poland in 2001. It dealt with the massacre of Jews by Polish inhabitants of the town of Jedwabne in 1941. Gross concluded that the Jews in the town had perished at the hands of their own Polish neighbors rather than the Nazis, as had been previously assumed.

A Welcome Debate

Many journalists and academics have rushed to defend Gross' book, even if some have disagreed with its central thesis, because they welcome the debate it has ignited about Poland's past. "The book has attacked the Polish myths, and for this reason it should be read and discussed," Miedzink says.

Marcin Zaremba, a historian at Warsaw University, said that he agreed with the argument that Poles had their share in the Holocaust. "Anti-Semitism was a kind of cultural code which Poles used at the time," he told Polish Radio.

Poland's chief rabbi, Burt Schuman, said that he welcomed the debate, although he felt it was unfair to depict the country as anti-Semitic. He told Bloomberg that what was happening now was "harming our goal of reconciliation."

Writing in the left-liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza on Monday, the influential Polish columnist Marek Beylin called for a "sincere debate about the dark secrets of the Polish past." While he criticizes Gross' book for not stressing the differences between the Nazi anti-Semitism of the Holocaust and Polish anti-Semitism, he praises the "challenge that Gross mounts to our efforts to come to terms with our past."

Beylin argues that the book's "blistering arguments and confrontational language" have done more to ignite a debate than all the well-measured historical tomes have managed to do in the past.

And he questions whether the criticism of the book isn't a sign of increased Polish nationalism. "Has the (former Kaczynski government's) propaganda that there are enemies trying to destroy Poland and the Polish identity made the public indifferent to Poles' past trespasses?" he asks.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Angry White Man

James Kirchick of the New Republic has done a great job of debunking Ron Paul by tracking down archived copies of Paul's newsletter and by closely examining Paul's ideological roots and associations. This piece is a must read for anyone interested, as I am, in making sure that extremism doesn't sneak into the political mainstream within a Trojan horse.

from The New Republic: Angry White Man:

If you are a critic of the Bush administration, chances are that, at some point over the past six months, Ron Paul has said something that appealed to you. Paul describes himself as a libertarian, but, since his presidential campaign took off earlier this year, the Republican congressman has attracted donations and plaudits from across the ideological spectrum. Antiwar conservatives, disaffected centrists, even young liberal activists have all flocked to Paul, hailing him as a throwback to an earlier age, when politicians were less mealy-mouthed and American government was more modest in its ambitions, both at home and abroad. In The New York Times Magazine, conservative writer Christopher Caldwell gushed that Paul is a "formidable stander on constitutional principle," while The Nation praised "his full-throated rejection of the imperial project in Iraq." Former TNR editor Andrew Sullivan endorsed Paul for the GOP nomination, and ABC's Jake Tapper described the candidate as "the one true straight-talker in this race." Even The Wall Street Journal, the newspaper of the elite bankers whom Paul detests, recently advised other Republican presidential contenders not to "dismiss the passion he's tapped."

Most voters had never heard of Paul before he launched his quixotic bid for the Republican nomination. But the Texan has been active in politics for decades. And, long before he was the darling of antiwar activists on the left and right, Paul was in the newsletter business. In the age before blogs, newsletters occupied a prominent place in right-wing political discourse. With the pages of mainstream political magazines typically off-limits to their views (National Review editor William F. Buckley having famously denounced the John Birch Society), hardline conservatives resorted to putting out their own, less glossy publications. These were often paranoid and rambling--dominated by talk of international banking conspiracies, the Trilateral Commission's plans for world government, and warnings about coming Armageddon--but some of them had wide and devoted audiences. And a few of the most prominent bore the name of Ron Paul.

Paul's newsletters have carried different titles over the years--Ron Paul's Freedom Report, Ron Paul Political Report, The Ron Paul Survival Report--but they generally seem to have been published on a monthly basis since at least 1978. (Paul, an OB-GYN and former U.S. Air Force surgeon, was first elected to Congress in 1976.) During some periods, the newsletters were published by the Foundation for Rational Economics and Education, a nonprofit Paul founded in 1976; at other times, they were published by Ron Paul & Associates, a now-defunct entity in which Paul owned a minority stake, according to his campaign spokesman. The Freedom Report claimed to have over 100,000 readers in 1984. At one point, Ron Paul & Associates also put out a monthly publication called The Ron Paul Investment Letter.
The Freedom Report's online archives only go back to 1999, but I was curious to see older editions of Paul's newsletters, in part because of a controversy dating to 1996, when Charles "Lefty" Morris, a Democrat running against Paul for a House seat, released excerpts stating that "opinion polls consistently show only about 5% of blacks have sensible political opinions," that "if you have ever been robbed by a black teen-aged male, you know how unbelievably fleet-footed they can be," and that black representative Barbara Jordan is "the archetypical half-educated victimologist" whose "race and sex protect her from criticism." At the time, Paul's campaign said that Morris had quoted the newsletter out of context. Later, in 2001, Paul would claim that someone else had written the controversial passages. (Few of the newsletters contain actual bylines.) Caldwell, writing in the Times Magazine last year, said he found Paul's explanation believable, "since the style diverges widely from his own."

Finding the pre-1999 newsletters was no easy task, but I was able to track many of them down at the libraries of the University of Kansas and the Wisconsin Historical Society. Of course, with few bylines, it is difficult to know whether any particular article was written by Paul himself. Some of the earlier newsletters are signed by him, though the vast majority of the editions I saw contain no bylines at all. Complicating matters, many of the unbylined newsletters were written in the first person, implying that Paul was the author.
But, whoever actually wrote them, the newsletters I saw all had one thing in common: They were published under a banner containing Paul's name, and the articles (except for one special edition of a newsletter that contained the byline of another writer) seem designed to create the impression that they were written by him--and reflected his views. What they reveal are decades worth of obsession with conspiracies, sympathy for the right-wing militia movement, and deeply held bigotry against blacks, Jews, and gays. In short, they suggest that Ron Paul is not the plain-speaking antiwar activist his supporters believe they are backing--but rather a member in good standing of some of the oldest and ugliest traditions in American politics.

read the rest...

Friday, January 4, 2008

Poles to publish book on Polish Holocaust crimes

from Deborah Lipstadt’s Blog: Poland and the Holocaust: Jan Gross' book, Fear, about to appear in Polish translation:

"This may be the biggest event of the year." So said a reporter from Rzeczpospolita, one of Poland's leading dailies, when he called to interview me this afternoon. Fear, which examines some -- many -- Poles' treatment of Jews during and immediately after the Holocaust. He has found some horrifying evidence. It is unclear just how widespread this antisemitic behavior was, but, according to Gross, it was not unique to Jedvabne [Yed-vab-nia] the town in which the Jewish residents were murdered in the period right before the entry of
the Germans into the town. Gross wrote about that town in Neighbors.The book
strikes at the Polish self-image of the nation as a "victim." I reviewed the book in Publisher's Weekly [the review is posted on Amazon] and then commented on it subsequently in previous posts.More on this as it evolves. It will be a striking example of how history is not confined to the past. In fact it's not even over.


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