Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Eliyho Matz on the UN's Palestine Vote

by Eliyho Matz

 Well, after sixty-five years of a convoluted labyrinth path, the Palestinian people finally reached the “almost” status of a nation.  Thirty-five years ago when I arrived in New York, I spent quite a bit of time with Hillel Kook, better known in America as Peter Bergson.  Peter Bergson had  come to the United States as a young man from what was then called British Palestine.  During WWII he was the head of the Irgun delegation in the USA.  While most Jewish lay leaders and rabbis hesitated and were not sure what steps to take to save European Jews, Bergson conducted an aggressive campaign here in America and to some degree succeeded convincing the FDR administration to take some action to save Jews.  For his efforts, leading Jews in this country informed against him to the FBI: his FBI file is large, but thankfully he was not deported.

After the War, between 1946 and 1948 Bergson directed his attention to creating the Israeli nation, which he called the Hebrew Nation.  As an important means of advertisement and propaganda in America, he used the slogan “It’s 1776 in Palestine.”  Most Americans understood clearly and related to what this signified, and thus in 1947 the United States supported the creation of the Israeli Nation. 

It is a bit baffling now, after all these years that the Palestinians have struggled to define themselves politically, that the United States and Israel have found fault with that effort of self-determination.   Therefore, let us say it again today: “It’s 1776 in Palestine, November 29, 2012.”

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Eliyo Matz on the Gaza-Israel Conflict

                     THE HORSE AND THE BULL

                      Reflections and Thoughts on the Latest Flare-up

Between Israelis and Palestinians,
November 2012

All the Winners are Losers, All the Losers are Winners:
Some Thanksgiving Day Thoughts By Eliyho Matz, aka Sitting Book

            The latest expression of hostility between Israelis and Palestinians erupted in the Middle East in mid-November 2012.  There is no need to dig for new reasons to explain why the current conflict started, for this is an on-and-off fight that has been going on for years.  Ever since the first Israeli (Jewish) settlers arrived in what we call the “Ancient Land of Israel,” we had the beginning of a political, ethnic, religious enmity between Israeli Jews and Palestinians.  The Israeli Jews  succeeded in creating a nation-state in 1948.  The Palestinians rejected the idea of a nation-state in 1948.  The wars in 1948 and 1967 led directly to the confused war of 2012.

         The leaderships of the Israelis and the Palestinians failed to achieve any sort of a geo-political solution, and there are many reasons for that.  It is evident that the Israeli nation is today in control militarily of the Palestinians; this means that  Israelis control the lives of millions of Palestinians.  The Palestinians are resisting, some passively, some with arms.  The current November 2012 conflict is, in my opinion, a result of the B. Netanyahu government to avoid any negotiations with the Palestinians.  What I mean is, the Israeli settlers on the West Bank have pushed the Netanahu government to the brink of political stalemate, and Netanyahu ready for new elections in January 2013, has created a war, so he thinks, to avoid dealing with Palestinian sovereignty.

         Palestinian Gaza, under the Hamas government, has declared its desire to exterminate the Israelis, thus giving Netanyahu the ability to prolong the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, along with the opportunity not to negotiate with any Palestinians.  Of course, Netanyahu’s calculations are wrong.  The geo-politics of the world-at-large, and the unreasonable Israeli desire to use military force to solve problems associated with the Palestinians, will only hurt the Israelis in the long run.

         The American settlers who moved West encountered American Indian resistance.  The American Indians resisted because their land, their livelihood and their culture were being decimated.  The crescendo of the struggle between the settlers and the Indians happened at the Battle of Little Big Horn in June 1876.  Both American Indian leaders, Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, defeated the American force led by General Custer.  The conclusion of the battle was clear.  But even though the American Indians were courageous and won the battle, in the end they lost in their geo-political war against the American government and settlers.

         In Israel, Israeli settlers who illegally occupy the West Bank with the support of the Israeli government and of course the Higher Authority of the Israeli G-ds, have led the Israeli nation into a battle using the biblical code name that sounds like an American Indian name, “Pillar of Cloud,” to deceive the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.  Unfortunately, the Israeli trick did not work, and the Pillar of Cloud became a cloud of dust.  The Hamas showed resilience and fought back.  The Israelis revealed their strength in the battle, but lost the war.  Mr. Netanyahu can tell many stories, but his trick did not work; nothing has changed, and there are still millions of Palestinians who need to be dealt with.  He and his “Custered” generals have been defeated.  What to do next will depend on the wisdom of the Chiefs of the Palestinians, that is, if they want to apply a bit of wisdom, as well as on the wisdom of the Israeli voters in the upcoming elections. 

         Here is one suggestion: the Israeli nation established in 1948 made a public statement called “The Israeli Declaration of Independence.”  This Declaration was an attempt to copy the Western idea of a declaration of political intent.  Thus it was designed to make it clear to all what the intention of the Declaration of Independence was, i.e., Israeli sovereignty.  However, if one reads the Israeli Declaration of Independence, he or she can immediately see that the Israelis were not sure exactly what they were declaring.  Thus, Mr. Netanyahu recently declared Israel to be a “Jewish State,” while the Declaration spoke of an “Israeli Nation” and about tolerance to Israel’s inhabitants and neighbors.  If wise Palestinians understand that incongruity, they should make a public reading of the Israeli Declaration of Independence in Gaza, in the West Bank, in New York, and in other places of their choosing.  This act alone could topple the Netanyahu attempt to prevent them from becoming a nation of Palestinians, similar to the Israelis. 

         A few additional observations on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

a.)    The leaderships of both the Israelis and the Palestinians are defective.  The question is, of course, what do we do with defective leaderships?
b.)   Is the leadership of both sides doing what it is doing because it is trapped in its own rhetoric?
c.)   Both sides have plenty of Crazy Horses and Sitting Bulls, but not the leadership of reasonable people to solve the issues.
d.)   We all have to remember that the final goal of solving the conflict is an alliance between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
e.)    Is the world, that is America, I mean the American leadership, willing to see item “d” as a viable solution?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Eliyho Matz: The Cat and The Rooster--An Answer to Isaiah Berlin

(Meow) A cat has a thousand dreams, all about mice.

(A Palestinian Arab proverb, first heard in Jerusalem at a conversation with Abram Sorramello, 1970)*

THE CAT (Meow) AND THE ROOSTER (Cock-a-doode-doo): 

         In New York City many years ago, I used to visit Hillel Kook and Samuel Merlin at their east-side office, sometimes several times a week.  It was the end of the 1970’s and early 1980’s.  I was a student, and my studies on America and the Holocaust were near their end.  Our topic of conversation focused on the future of the Israelis, as a modern people who achieved sovereignty in 1948.  As a result of these conversations, I became aware of the fundamental issues relating to Israeli political identity that plagued these two elderly individuals, who mainly spoke of the process of statehood as having been a grand missed opportunity for the Israelis to become a modern people and a new nation with a written constitution, i.e., a constitution for all Israelis within its territorial sovereignty (not a constitution for New York Jews).  They spoke about an Israeli Republic, or, as they called it in the 1940’s, a Hebrew Republic.  Critical for them was the issue of an Israeli political identity, as opposed to the old issues of “Jewishness.”  They were brilliant thinkers.  Talking to them, I first grasped the beginning of what was to become my own intellectual approach to a different way of looking into Israeli society, and at Jews wherever they reside.  Their main argument was, since Israel never wrote a constitution defining itself, the political identity of the Israelis is totally unclear, and thus for a nation this omission causes a variety of political as well as personal crises of identity. 

This array of anomalies, internally or externally, very few Israeli historians till today understand.  In his second book, The Invention of the Land of Israel, Shlomo Sand most profoundly attempts to explain to the Israelis and to the world the complexities of Jewish/Israeli ideas, as well as critical Israeli and Jews’ history.  He does not immerse himself in issues of Israeli political identity, although his themes touch upon them.  His writing style tilts between Tolstoyean narrative to Isaiah Berlin’s literary and historical criticism, and to great effect Professor Sand is profound in his approach to straightening out the outline of Israeli and Jew’s history.

         I met with Professor Shlomo Sand (Zand, in Hebrew) twice, both times on the campus of Tel Aviv University.  We had punctuated exchanges, primarily about his thoughts on the subject matter of his research, as well as some exchange of ideas on the history of Jews.  He is an original: a leftist Israeli sort of a thinker who has presented a Classical interpretation of history from the point of view of neither left nor right, thus avoiding a history that is twisted, inaccurate and misleading.  For a Classical historian’s task is to present facts, and the interpretation of facts, which might lead to “History” or “Philosophy.”  In my view, Professor Sand (Zand) is thus as an historian not to be defined as a Leftist; rather, he can better be defined as a very concerned Israeli, an Israeli patriot, as well as a thoughtful historian who has researched the history of nations.  His expertise lies in his attempt to explain to the Israelis as well as to the worlds’ readers the misconception surrounding the generic term “nationality,” any nationality.  To me, his uncompromising attempt to explore Jews’ history dating back to ancient times is not only absolutely courageous, but also essential for the enduring future of the Israeli nation, as well as for lives of Jews wherever they reside. 

In order to explain a bit of Professor Sand’s (Zand’s) book on Jews’ history as a cultural religious phenomenon, I have to take a turn first to relate or explain some other issues I have encountered over the past forty years dealing with Jews’ history.  My attempt to understand myself as a Jew and an Israeli, as well as Israeli history and the history of Jews, began at an early age, and it was not until I completed my MA at Yeshiva University in New York City that I gained a bit of a better understanding of Jews’ history.  Looking carefully at Jews’ recorded history, we have been around for at least 2½ thousand years, if not more.  My first encounters with the difficulty of explaining the history of Jews came when I was writing my Master’s thesis at Yeshiva University. The subject of my research was an analysis of the initial response of the American Jewish leadership to the massacre of European Jewry between November 1942 and April 1943.  The idea to work on this project was conceived at the University of Massachusetts.  My professor there, Dr. David S. Wyman, who taught modern American history, was at that time involved in an attempt to unravel the FDR Administration’s response to the Holocaust.  My research for him was eventually incorporated into his book The Abandonment of the Jews, published in 1984.  From the beginning his book was, and will continue to be, a profound contribution to Holocaust studies.  To me personally he was helpful, although perhaps not respectful enough academically.  In the course of our work together, Dr. Wyman introduced me to Hillel Kook (a.k.a. Peter Bergson) and Samuel Merlin.  In America during the Holocaust, Kook and Merlin carried on their shoulders the burden of responsibility to stand for the rescue of the dying Jews of Europe during the Holocaust years.  Various books and movies have been made about them; their activities during the Holocaust demand a good history.  Politically, they belonged to the right wing of Zionism, Jabotinsky’s political camp.  In reality, they were members of the proto-Israeli group called the “Irgun” (an explanation of this term will follow).   As a young Israeli, born on September 15, 1948, growing up I had absolutely no inkling about them, I had neither heard nor learned about their activities, because the history of their activities during WWII was not taught in any public schools or universities in Israel.  But to my great benefit, I ended up working at their office in New York City while finishing up my MA, as well as while attempting to write my PhD at the Graduate Center of City University.

         Here I am going to step back a bit again to introduce another individual who made an impact on my life.  He, too, was connected to research on the Holocaust.  While I was doing my graduate work, I became acquainted with S. Beit-Zvi.  “S” stood for “Shabtai,” and “Zvi” was the name of his son who had been killed while fighting in the Israeli War of Independence in 1948.  We first met at his home in Tzahala, a suburb of Tel Aviv, where he lived with his wife.  He was in his 70’s at that time, a former teacher, and the author of a book on the Zionist leadership during the Holocaust, titled Post-Ugandian Zionism in the Crucible of the Holocaust.  Remarkably, he was not a trained historian, but he had the mind of an historian, and as a matter of fact, his book, which criticizes the Palestinian/Zionist leadership during the Holocaust years, has today become a mainstream Israeli history book.  But that was not so in 1976 when the book was published, and it took years to sink into the Israeli historical mind. Self-published after years of research, Beit-Zvi’s book initially was a total failure.  The universities, as well as Yad Vashem, banned him.  Finally in recent years his book has emerged as a contender to Yad Vashem’s official Holocaust history.  From the first, Beit-Zvi always had one strong supporter –me -- and we understood each other very well.  My MA confirms what he wrote.  Beit-Zvi and I met many times in Tel Aviv and in New York, sharing conversations as well as letters, and we developed an excellent relationship that lasted for many years until he died.  The main argument of his book is: the Zionist movement was not really focused on saving European Jewry.  Politically speaking, Shabtai’s work should have shaken up the Israeli political leadership, but that did not happen.  As a matter of fact, it is still not happening.  The fact that Ben Gurion and his cronies did not do much to save European Jews during the Holocaust is still an issue that haunts Yad Vashem as well as every Israeli government until today. 

         While in New York, Hillel Kook introduced me to an Israeli philosopher, Gershon Weiler, who then in the 1970’s was a visiting professor at Trinity College in Hartford, CT.  He was a very interesting person, a Holocaust survivor from Hungary who after WWII came to Israel as a Zionist.  But as his life developed, he became influenced by the Canaanite movement.  Intellectually, the Canaanites advocated the interaction of Israelis into the region, that is the Middle East.  He was a learned man in philosophy, as well as in Jewish studies, and had written a book which was published in 1976, the same year that Beit-Zvi published his book.  However, unlike Beit-Zvi, Weiler had the backing of a very respected publisher, Am Oved.  In his book, titled Jewish Theocracy, Weiler’s basic and most fundamental argument was that Jewish theology (halakhah) inherently stands against the establishment of a modern Israeli nation.  The book is a scholarly attempt to explain that concept.  Weiler was brokenhearted: his book, which contradicted Zionist political theories and challenged Israeli political theory vis-à-vis religion and nation, was ostracized and criticized and basically led to the end of his career as a lecturer.  I met him a few times in New York, in Tel Aviv, and at his home in Rechovot.  He was a broken man.  Israelis could not understand what he had written, and besides, Israeli society was moving swiftly into the realm of political fantasy and deep religious swings, so nobody paid any attention to him or his book.  His book was later translated into English, but his message was never understood either by intellectuals or the wider public.

         I was born in Tel Aviv on September 15, 1948, and grew up in Rishon LeZion.  As a curious kid, I read profusely.  I am not suggesting by any means that I understood better than others what I read, but I read a lot, and as a matter of fact, I aspired to become a writer of some sort, but I was not sure exactly how to achieve that goal; at the ripe age of 64, I am still not sure how to make that work.  But what is significant here is that Rishon LeZion is the birthplace of modern Hebrew.  It is the place where, for the first time in 3000 years of Jews’ history, the “Rishonim” opened up a kindergarten and primary school where Hebrew was taught in Hebrew (rather than as a translation from some other language) as early as the 1890’s.  Of course, Hebrew used as textual material existed for thousands of years, but, as a spoken everyday language it was only first practiced in Rishon LeZion.  And the process was complicated.  For, fifty years after the beginning of modern Hebrew in Rishon, when a million and a half Jews arrived in Israel, and thousands of them came to Rishon, among them my parents, when Israeli independence started, those immigrants arrived speaking Yiddish or other languages, and the newly developing Hebrew became even more complex.  My teachers, with all best intentions, did not speak proper Hebrew.  So I, the Israeli-born Sabra, whose parents’ Hebrew was only mediocre, whose teachers’ Hebrew likewise was difficult to grasp…, no wonder I had difficulties learning and understanding via the broken Hebrew that I was surrounded by.  Math and Physics were difficult enough for me, but to try to study them in Hebrew with teachers who did not speak proper Hebrew – I was lost.  This school system simply did not fit my needs.  Consequently, I left high school.  After completing my high school degree on my own, it was only after three years of military service that I returned to school, enrolling at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  What a thrill it was for me when I took a course in Israeli Hebrew Literature with Professor Gershon Shaked!  Many years later I became familiar with the work of Professor Paul Wexler and his student Ghil’ad Zukermann and their analysis of our current status of Israeli Hebrew.  According to them, the DNA of modern Hebrew is recycled Yiddish. So much then for my struggles, and for the difficulties Israelis have until today in expressing themselves in recycled Yiddish.  I am reminded of the Israeli joke about a man who has just gotten married and immediately afterwards takes his wife to the Western Wall.  When his friends ask him why, he replies, “I want her to learn how to talk to the wall” -- in Hebrew, ledaber eim hakeer, which is a direct translation utilizing the well known Yiddish expression, red tzu de vant.  In another example, when a clerk at a local store in Queens that sells Israeli products asks his customer how much cheese to cut her, the Israeli-American woman answers, “I vont a little bit….”  In Hebrew, ani rotza k’tzat…; in Yiddish ich vil abis’lNu?  Let us imagine Ludwig Wittgenstein visiting Rishon LeZion in the 1930’s, trying to confirm his theories on language and uncertainty.  I cannot imagine a more thrilling situation for Wittgenstein – he probably would have written a thousand-page book on the invention of the new Hebrew (Yiddish) language.  Next, imagine one coming from Morocco or Iraq, trying to express himself in Hebrew (i.e., Yiddish Hebrew) -- it is almost a farce.

 Solving the problem of Israeli self-expression will take a long time.  The repercussions of this unresolved process are not just inconvenient, but impact Israel’s way of conducting itself as a nation.  A cardinal issue relating to understanding the Hebrew language in modern times is demonstrated in the use of the term “leumi.”  For example, the organization “Irgun Tzvai Leumi” was established during the end of the 1920’s into the early 1930’s in Jerusalem and disbanded in 1948.  Irgun means “organization,” Tzvai means “military,” and Leumi means “nationality.”  The question is, what “nationality” were they referring to?  Most Israelis would say, “Jewish.”  But, that cannot be, because Jewish nationality as a political concept has never been politically defined, and to me the political definition of Israeli nationality represents the quintessential issue of Israeli survival; otherwise, we cannot hope to endure in the modern world.  The Israeli Declaration of Independence (or the Declaration of Non-Independence) carries within it the duality of “Israeli” and “Jewish.”  Today’s Prime Minister, B. Netanyahu, with his coalition members, wants Israel to be a “Jewish” state.  But politically one cannot define Jewishness; religiously, one can.  So, does Netanyahu mean that Israel will transform itself into a religious “Jewish” state, thus being one that can be neither democratic nor Jewish, and definitely not Israeli?  Or, to make things more interesting, the human race of homosapiens in Israel will become “homozionists” or “homojewish” – of course, this is absurd.  The political goal of Zionism that was achieved in 1948 was meant to integrate “Jews” of the world community into a new nation that was called the Israeli nation, but still the essence of the concept of  “nation” or “leom” in Hebrew remains fuzzy and undefined. 

         For many who are not aware of it, linguistic inefficiencies in modern Hebrew have created major obstacles in issues of self- and critical-expression as well as in thinking for the Israelis.  Perhaps then it is no wonder that Israel has produced great scientists, great doctors, great generals, great felafel-makers and great Israeli-salad makers, but not a single great intellectual.  To understand the depth of the meaning of “the Intellectual,” it is important to look at a book by Edward W. Said, Representations of the Intellectual (New York: Pantheon Books, 1994).  It is sort of ironical, but not unusual, that an American professor of Palestinian descent who taught at Columbia University wrote a classic piece on the Intellectual; Said was definitely an example of an intellectual.

         Moving on from this odyssey that I have taken to explain Eliyho Matz’ trip to Ithaca ( cf “Ithaca,” a poem by C.P. Cavafy), I would now like to describe what I see as the most important event in Israeli history in recent years.

         Throughout his life, Professor Shlomo Sand (Zand) has been, it can be said, sort of a radical person.  For awhile a leftist and Communist, he later became associated with Palestinian rights and is now standing on the frontline of their fight, presumably appreciated by some of those whose cause he is trying to support.  As for his education, he had a difficult path to higher education, but he made it.  Professor Sand is a concerned Israeli patriot with his eyes on the future of the Israeli nation.  Over the past few years, through teaching and studying the broad aspects of nationality, he has done what no other scholar in Israel has done.  His study of Jews’ history, as reflected in his first book, The Invention of the Jewish People, is a testimony to his unique efforts to explain to Jews their history.  What he reveals is a different type of history – though the entire academic world is not ready for it.  His general theory that he demonstrates unequivocally is that Jewish survival is due to conversion, whether Jews like to hear it or not; that conversion is the pivotal source of success in Judaism throughout the ages, which is the main point of his book.  In his second book, The Invention of the Land of Israel, Sand goes on to deal with the overriding attitude of Judaism, which is how Halakhic Judaism views the Land of Israel.  In this book he makes a very interesting point: he demonstrates that historically as Jews became scattered throughout the world, the Land of Israel came to represent two distinct and separate entities, that although they supposedly seemed connected, they were not really connected.  That is because on one side throughout the centuries, the core rabbinical (Halakhic) thought stood against settling the Land of Israel: praying for the land was the acceptable norm, but to settle there was totally forbidden.  On the other side, it was only the Zionist ideology in modern times that began mixing and connecting the concept of a modern nation with an ancient land, and the consequences have been brutal.  Sand’s book is a scholarly attempt to explain this concept of bringing together the people and the land, and its ramifications. 

         The final chapter of Professor Sand’s (Zand’s) book is a reflection on Israeli military, political and religious extremism.  Tel Aviv University where he teaches stands on the ruins of a Palestinian village.  Sand’s historical narrative includes a mild suggestion for a way for Israelis or Tel Aviv University to display a sign to memorialize the Arab village of Sheik Mounes, but only time will tell if anything will be done to rectify what he points to.  The title of this chapter is “The Scorpion and the Frog,” which reminds me of another professor, Isaiah Berlin of Oxford University, who wrote an important and elegant essay many years ago titled, “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” which was Berlin’s attempt to explain Tolstoy’s great novel War and Peace to the English-speaking world.  He was one of the brightest intellectuals of the Twentieth Century.  Apropos to the subject of Holocaust and rescue, during WWII Berlin aided the British government in New York and Washington by providing secret reports on America and its Jews.  How many Jews in Occupied Europe died as a result of his work one can never know (Britain was happy for any excuse not to save Jews), but too much concern for the exterminated European Jews he did not have.  He is not the only Jewish intellectual residing in New York or other areas of the United States who did not pay attention to the events of the Holocaust; many other intellectuals felt no urgency in this regard.  As a general theory on intellectuals of that period, Jewish intellectuals were not in the business of saving Jews.  As a footnote to this, here I would like to insert some radical ideas of my own on the subject of the Holocaust.  Aside from the fact that most Jewish intellectuals did not deal with the Holocaust while it was occurring, one should mention that the entire rabbinical establishment as well as the organized Jewish lay leadership also failed in their response to the Holocaust.  Shouldn’t that teach us something?  Shouldn’t we modern Jews look back at our two-millennium span of rabbinical Jewish authority and conclude that something with Judaism went wrong?  But of course, Jewish life continues without looking back, until the next disaster will arrive.

         Most of my university studies centered around American Jews, American Jewish leaders and the Holocaust, but eventually it became obvious to me that I had to turn my focus to the Holocaust and its aftermath.  What I mean by “aftermath” is explained in my book Who is an Israeli?, which has been published as an Amazon Kindle e-Book.  The Israeli nation, that was born in 1948, has been my concern ever since I became aware of all sorts of issues connected to its establishment.  Many years ago, when I visited Abram Sorramello, I heard from him the famous Palestinian-Arabic saying, “The rooster is dead, but his eye is still looking at the garbage pail.”  Thus, all the historians and philosophers I have mentioned in this essay have been like the cat or the rooster: very, very focused. 

To add to Professor Sand’s (Zand’s) dreams, I would like to suggest a performance by Simon and Garfunkel on the bridge over the Yarkon, which is very close to Tel Aviv University, singing their song “A Bridge Over Troubled Water.”  And since I live in the Berkshires of Massachusetts in the vicinity of Arlo Guthrie’s shrine to his father Woody Guthrie, the great American balladeer, I have suggested to him in a letter that he join with Simon and Garfunkel to perform Woody’s popular American folk song “This Land is Your Land” with a choir of Chassids and Palestinians singing a cappella.

         Benedict Baruch (in Yiddish, Borech or Berel) Spinoza, in his famous Theological Political Tract in which he analyzes the fall of the Second Temple, concluded that a nation cannot exist unless there is a separation between church and state.  This tenet of Spinoza entered into our modern world, though with difficulties, but is normally accepted in the Western tradition of government.  Spinoza, hopeful about the Jewish experience in the future, saw no problem in the future creation of a new Jewish political entity that would adhere to his recommendation.  It is very unfortunate that today’s modern Israeli nation has not followed his line of thinking.

         Good luck Shlomo Sand (Zand).  I hope they follow your advice.

[The famous Italian actor Marcello Mastroiani, the quintessential Don Juan who knew his way around women, once said, “Not a single woman has ever applauded me while we were having sex.”  I think Marlon Brando would probably concur.  STELLA, STELLA!  (For Marlon Brando’s contribution to the creation of the Israeli nation, see my essay on the Altalena.)

Shlomo, don’t wait for the applause….]

*Dedicated to Dianne (DD) and her cats, which
     had difficulties catching mice.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Summer Break...

Blogging should be sparse this summer, hope to get back to it after Labor Day. Enjoy your Summer Vacations!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Watch Anthony Marx's Presentation on Future of NY Public Library

It's online at the NYPL website (ht Caleb Crain), http://media.nypl.org/video/news_20120522_newschool.mp4. IMHO, he's smug, condescending, and does not sound like a book lover,

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Criminal Gives Deerfield Academy Commencement Address

So much for a criminal conviction--especially for DUI, a particular problem for youth--serving as a deterrent...New York Public Library boss Anthony Marx is scheduled to give the graduation address at Deerfield Academy, a posh boarding school (catering to the elite 1% and fraction thereof), according to this story in The Scroll:
Anthony Marx, president of the New York Public Library, former president of Amherst College, and father of Josh Marx ’12, will be speaking at Commencement this year.
No mention of Marx's drunk driving conviction in the school newspaper. Obviously, Deerfield journalists know how to suppress a story. So, where's Mothers Against Drunk Driving when you need them?

Hush Money Allegations Add to Criminal Anthony Marx's New York Public Library Scandal

From Robin Pogrebin's New York Times article Former Employees Feel Silenced on Library Project.
The library says nondisparagement clauses are standard in separation agreements and that it has used them for 18 years. Still, critics say that for an institution with a tradition of championing free speech — the library opposes book bans and has permitted visitors to watch pornography on its computer terminals — the clauses seem inconsistent. “It does raise the question, what are they afraid people are going to say?” said Joan E. Bertin, executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship. “So what if former employees criticize them? They ought to be able to take the heat.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Criminal Anthony Marx Tells WABC TV News He Wants More People, Fewer Books in New York Public Library

Incredible public confession on NY TV news from convicted drunk driver pushing New York Public Library real estate vandalism scheme, watch here: More on this topicon Caleb Crain's blog, SteamThing.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Update on Protests Against Criminal Drunk Driver Anthony Marx's New York Public Library Vandalism

Hey Laurence, You have received the following message about "President Marx: Reconsider the $350 million plan to remake NYC's landmark central library" on Change.org ------------------------------------------- Update about 'President Marx: Reconsider the $350 million plan to remake NYC's landmark central library' Dear Colleagues, We are writing to those of you who signed the letter to Tony Marx, protesting the plans for the CLP at the New York Public Library. *First, we want to let you know that since the petition went online a few days ago, we've added more than 300 signatures, among them those of Tom Stoppard, Colm Toibin, Francine Prose, Donna Tartt, Darryl Pinckney, and Antonio Munoz Molin. Now we need your help circulating the petition on Facebook, Twitter, email or in person—whatever works for you. It is vital that we get as many signatures as possible. *Second, we want to invite you to join us at a public meeting about the Library's plans on Tuesday, May 22 at the Theresa Lang Community Center of the New School for Social Research, 55 W 13th St, 2nd floor, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. A panel consisting of preservation architect Mark Hewitt, historian David Nasaw, n+1 editor Charles Petersen, and historian Joan Scott, will be moderated by Eric Banks, president of the National Book Critics Circle. The NYPL has been invited to send a representative to join the panel discussion. Thus far they have declined. *Third, you may have received a letter yesterday from the library's president, Tony Marx, in which he mentions a piece in the New York Review of Books by Robert Darnton. Several of us have sent replies to Darnton's article to the NYRB. You can expect to hear more replies to Tony Marx's comments at the panel on Tuesday. *Fourth, there has been a good deal of coverage of the petition in the New York Times (http://nyti.ms/JMYaus) and the Wall Street Journal (http://on.wsj.com/JjHhJU). An investigative article and overview of the library's plans, with many new revelations, has also been published in n+1 magazine (http://bit.ly/K2wHTH). Even the American Conservative (http://bit.ly/Kj52fp) has picked up the cause. There are more articles in the works. Our letter seems to have opened a public discussion in exactly the way we hoped it would. We're extremely grateful to you for having help us do that. Please help us continue to do so by spreading word about this petition with whomever you can. Many thanks, Joan Scott (for the organizers of the protest campaign) ------------------------------------------- Click the link below to view the message and reply. http://www.change.org/messages/private?message_id=52267840&ue=emn To stop receiving update emails about this action, click the link below. http://www.change.org/account_settings/petition_updates_opt_out?email_id=SLMSDSMWUEPZZCENIXAF&event_id=375338&ue=emn

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mark Alan Hewitt: The Man Who Could Save the New York Public Library

For more information, see Mark Alan Hewitt's Save the NYPL Stacks Website.

Save the New York Public Library!

This letter to the President of the New York Public Library, Anthony Marx, was written to express opposition to the plans (never fully publicly revealed or discussed) to drastically restructure the library's landmark main building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. Journalists and bloggers had alerted us to the Central Library Plan (CLP): Scott Sherman wrote an excellent long-form article in The Nation; Caleb Crain wrote a series of important posts on his blog; and Charles Petersen wrote a two part investigative essay for n+1. As public awareness spread, architects joined the outcry. This letter seemed the best way to express our collective opposition. Initially, it was circulated by email. 750 signatures from librarians, scholars, artists, writers, students, and (as one person described herself) “ordinary users” arrived in record time, among them Nobelist Mario Vargas Llosa; Pulitzer Prize winners Frances FitzGerald, Margo Jefferson, David Levering-Lewis, Edmund Morris, Art Spiegelman, and Annalyn Swan; writers Salman Rushdie, Jonathan Lethem, Amitav Ghosh, and Luc Sante; Anne Waldman, Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets; John Palattella, literary editor of The Nation; historian Natalie Zemon Davis; Lorin Stein, editor of the Paris Review; Jackson Lears, editor of Raritan; and the editors of the journal n+1; Lawrence Weschler, head of the New York Institute for the Humanities; Srinivas Aravamudan, President of the Consortium of Humanities Councils and Institutes; and Jonathan Galassi, President of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. On May 9, 2012, the letter was sent to President Marx, as well as to every member of the library’s board of trustees, to Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn, and to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The letter was also sent to local and national media, where the movement to stop the renovation has begun to receive wide coverage. Even Garrison Keillor has started cracking jokes about the library's plan to move a majority of its books to New Jersey. We thought it important to continue to express outrage about the plan and to demand a public discussion of it. That meant putting the letter on-line in this format. We hope you will sign and circulate it to others. The more names we collect, the better. The goal is to bring the CLP out into the open and to have a frank and critical discussion of what it will mean for the future of the NYPL, the People's Library. In an effort to open a public discussion of the library's plans, the organizers of this petition are holding a meeting on May 22 at the Theresa Lang Community Center of the New School for Social Research, 55 W 13th St, 2nd floor, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. A panel consisting of Mark Hewitt, David Nasaw, Charles Petersen, and Joan Scott, will be moderated by Eric Banks. The NYPL has been invited to send a representative to join the panel discussion. — Anthony W. Marx, President New York Public Library Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street New York, NY 10018 Dear Dr. Marx: We write as scholars, writers, researchers, and teachers who have long benefited from the services and collections available to us at the four research facilities of the New York Public Library. We are alarmed by the Central Library Plan, which seems to us to be a misplaced use of funds in a time of great scarcity. The budget cutbacks of the past five years have had disastrous effects for the NYPL’s research libraries, and especially 42nd Street: *the skilled staff vital to supporting our research activities—curators, archivists, bibliographers, and librarians—has been drastically reduced in number; *the Slavic & Baltic division and the Asian & Middle Eastern division have been entirely eliminated; and there is no full-time curator for the Slavic collection; *the Schomburg Library in Harlem—the place to do research on African-American history—has been allowed to deteriorate through the postponement both of capital improvements and of computer upgrading; and *the Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center is no longer a haven for scholars and critics. Many of the reference librarians who specialized in dance, music, recorded sound, and theater were eliminated, moved off the reference desks, or offered buyouts. Instead of addressing these issues, the CLP will spend over $300 million on a restructuring of the 42nd Street building which includes a huge expansion of public space, the removal of stacks (and the 3 million books in them), and the creation of a circulating library in the building. While we understand that it may be necessary to store some books in order to make room for others and that more computer access may be necessary for users of the library, the changes planned envision a much more radical transformation. NYPL will lose its standing as a premier research institution (second only to the Library of Congress in the United States)—a destination for international as well as American scholars—and become a busy social center where focused research is no longer the primary goal. Books will be harder to get when they’re needed either because of delays in locating them in the storage facility or because they have been checked out to borrowers. Those of us who also use university libraries know how frustrating it is to discover that the book we need immediately is checked out or lost. And we worry about the effects of removing the stacks that now support the glorious Rose Reading Room. More important, perhaps, is that the CLP seems to make no mention of restoring the staff positions that have been lost and that are critical for the functioning of a major research institution. One of the claims made about the CLP is that it will “democratize” the NYPL, but that seems to be a misunderstanding of what that word means. The NYPL is already among the most democratic institutions of its kind. Anyone can use it; no credentials are needed to gain entry. More space, more computers, a café, and a lending library will not improve an already democratic institution. In fact, the absence of expert staff will diminish the accessibility of the collections to those who aren’t already experienced researchers, narrowing the constituency who can profitably use the library. They will be able to borrow books, to be sure, but they won’t be inducted into the world of archives and collections if staff aren’t there to guide them. Also, in the age of the web, we need, more than ever, skilled, expert librarians who can assist us in navigating the new databases and the back alleys of cyberspace. We understand that it is often easier to raise money by attending to buildings (and naming them), but the real need at the NYPL is for the preservation of a great library and the support of its staff. We appreciate the fact that you have established a committee consisting of some critics of the CLP to advise you. We hope you will take a hard look at the plan you’ve been given and revise it so that the splendid culture of research embodied by the NYPL can be maintained. We think the money raised can be better used to preserve and extend what already exists at 42nd Street. Change is always necessary, but not of the kind envisioned by the CLP. Signed: Domenick Acocella, City College CUNY Jarrietta Adams, Center for Worker Education, CCNY Neil Agarwal, Graduate Center CUNY Jean-Christophe Agnew, Yale University Brinton Ahlin, New York University Ammiel Alcalay, CUNY Graduate Center Robert Alegre, University of New England Meena Alexander, Graduate Center CUNY Sarah Allan, Dartmouth College Esther Allen, Baruch College Harriet Alonso, CCNY Bruce J Altshuler, New York University Benjamin Anastas Bonnie Anderson, CUNY Graduate Center Anthony Anemone, The New School Gil Anidjar, Columbia University Emily Apter, New York University Bettina Aptheker, University of California, Santa Cruz Jonathan Arac, University of Pittsburgh Lorraine Aragon, University of North Carolina Srinivas Aravamudan, Duke University John Michael Archer, New York University Rae Armantrout, University of California, San Diego Abe Ascher, Graduate Center, CUNY Kiran Asher, Clark University Roark Atkinson, Ramapo College of New Jersey James Atlas, Atlas & Co. Jane Augustin Dolores Augustine, St. John's University Shira Backer, Bryn Mawr College John S. Baick, Western New England University Deirdre Bair, Independent Scholar/writer Deborah Baker, Brooklyn, NY Andrea Baldi, Rutgers University Ian Balfour, York University, Canada David Ball, Smith College Nicole Ball, Smith College Henryk Baran, SUNY Albany Tani Barlow, Rice University Eric Barry, Rutgers University Miriam M. Basilio, New York University Christopher Baswell, Columbia University & Barnard College Ian Baucom, Duke University Rosalyn Baxandall, SUNY Old Westbury Daphne Beal Adam H. Becker, New York University Seymour Becker, Rutgers University Gail Bederman, University of Notre Dame Stephen Behrendt, University of Nebraska Juliet Bellow, American University John Belton, Rutgers University Giovanna Benadusi, University of South Florida Thomas Bender, New York University Marion Berghahn, Berghahn Books Diana Berkowitz, Queensborough Community College Bill Berkson, San Francisco Art Institute Elizabeth Bernath, University of Toronto Susan Bernofsky, Queens College CUNY Alison Bernstein, Rutgers University Charles Bernstein, University of Pennsylvania Elizabeth Bernstein, Barnard College Laurie Bernstein, Rutgers University, Camden R. B. Bernstein, New York Law School Yuliya Bir, Cataloger, Harvard Law School Library Elizabeth Blackmar, Columbia University James J. A. Blair, Grad Center CUNY Ruth Bloch, University of California, Los Angeles Carol Bloom Carla Blumenkranz, n+1 journal Yve-Alain Bois, Institute for Advanced Study Felicia Bonaparte, City College of New York Eileen Boris, University of California, Santa Barbara Mauricio Borrero, St. John's University Margaret Bostwick, John Jay College/CUNY Paul A. Bove, University of Pittsburgh Alexis Boylan, University of Connecticut Susan Boynton, Columbia University Laura Bracken, Lewis-Clark State College Gloria Bragdon, Grad Center CUNY Kim Brandt, Columbia University Francesca Bregoli, Queens College CUNY Sarah Brett-Smith, Rutgers University Renate Bridenthal Darryl Brock, Berkeley, CA Stephen Eric Bronner, Rutgers University Ethel Brooks, University of the Arts London, UK Peter P. Brooks, Princeton University Virginia Brooks, Brooklyn College CUNY Elizabeth Brotherton, SUNY New Paltz Olga Broumas, Brandeis University Carolyn A. Brown, Rutgers University Elizabeth A. R. Brown, Brooklyn College/CUNY Jerome S Bruner, New York University Helena Buescu, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal Phong Bui, Publisher, Brooklyn Rail Jane Burbank, New York University Kate Burlingham, California State University, Fullerton Kathryn Burns, University of North Carolina Judith Butler, Columbia University & University of California, Berkeley Caroline Walker Bynum, Institute for Advanced Study & Columbia University David Byrne Raul Alejandro Martinez Ca?on, New York University Anne Callahan, MIT Linda Camarasana, SUNY Old Westbury Ardis Cameron, University Southern Maine Marilyn Campbell, Rutgers University E484Press Isabel Sobral Campos, CUNY Anna Marie Cantwell, Rutgers University Jane Caplan, University of Oxford, UK Elisheva Carlebach, Columbia University Siobhan Carroll, University of Delaware Antonia Castaneda, St. Mary's University, TX Madeline H. Caviness, Tufts University Mary Ann Caws, Graduate Center CUNY Vanessa Ceia, New York University John W. Chambers, Rutgers University Michelle Chase, Bloomfield College Ranita Chatterjee, California State University, Northridge Tanya Chebotarev, Curator, Bakhmeteff Archive, Columbia University Catherine Ciepiela, Amherst College S. Hollis Clayson, Northwestern University Paul G. E. Clemens, Rutgers University Federica Kaufmann Clementi, University of South Carolina Cornelius Collins, Fordham University Kathleen Collins, Librarian, John Jay College/CUNY Maritza E. Colón, Columbia University Michele Cone, Author & independent scholar Brian Connolly, University of South Florida Joy Connolly, New York University Philip Connors Sandi Cooper, CUNY Ken Corbett, New York University Alfred Corn, Cambridge UK Francois Cornilliat, Rutgers University Catalina Arango Correa, New York University Paula Cossart, Université Lille CeRIES, France Debbie Cox, Curator Arabic Collections, The British Library, UK Caleb Crain, Brooklyn, NY Kate Crehan, College of Staten Island CUNY Thomas Crochunis, Shippensburg University Ashley Cross, Manhattan College Richard Crouter, Carleton College, Canada Margaret Cruz Emily Curtin, CUNY Graduate Center Suzanne G. Cusick, New York University Andrew Daily, University of Memphis Francesca Dal Lago, Collegè de France Jake Dalton, University of California Berkeley Nicholas Dames, Columbia University Daniel D'Arezzo, Argentina Emily Davidson, York College Belinda Davis, Rutgers University Lydia Davis, Bard College Natalie Zemon Davis, Princeton University & University of Toronto Ashley Dawson, Grad Center CUNY Marcia Decker, Librarian Ruth DeFord, Hunter College CUNY Carl N. Degler, Stanford University Marianne DeKoven, Rutgers University Brian Delay, University of California, Berkeley Alexandra deLuise, Queens College Art Center Dolores DeLuise William Deresiewicz, NYC Annalise Kinkel DeVries, Rutgers University Marta M Deyrup, Librarian & Professor, Seton Hall University Arcadio Diaz, Princeton University Stephanie Dickey, Queen's University, Ontario, Canada Jean Dickinson, Librarian, University of California, Berkeley Morris Dickstein, Graduate Center CUNY Mario DiGangi, CUNY Carolyn Dinshaw, New York University Arif Dirlik Golbert Doctorow, The Harriman Institute Lura Dolas, University of California Berkeley Andrew Scott Dolkart, Columbia University Ana Dopico, New York University Daniela Dover, New York University Doug Dowd, Cornell University Jim Downs, Connecticut College Grazyna Drabik, CCNY Mary L. Dudziak, University of Southern California School of Law Lawrence G. Duggan, University of Delaware Stephen Duncombe, New York University Marcela Echeverri, College Staten Island CUNY Andrew Edwards, Princeton University John Efron, University of California, Berkeley Andrea Rosso Efthymiou, Yeshiva University Ben Ehrenreich Susan Einbinder, Hebrew Union College, Ohio Uri Eisenzweig, Rutgers University Eric Eisner, George Mason University Madeleine Elfenbein, University of Chicago Tamer El-Leithy, New York University Yaakov Elman Mohamed Kamal Elshahed Laura Engelstein, Yale University Jonathan Epstein, John Jay College/CUNY Brad Evans, Rutgers University Stuart Ewen, Hunter College CUNY Judith Ezekial, Université de Toulouse le Mirail, France Crystal Feimster, Yale University Paula Feldman, University of South Carolina Margaret Ferguson, Librarian, University of California Davis Ada Ferrer, New York University Sibylle Fischer, New York University Leslie Fishbein, Rutgers University Sandy Fitterman-Lewis, Rutgers University Frances FitzGerald, The New Yorker Richard Fitzsimmons, Librarian, Pennsylvania State University Melissa Flashman, Trident Media Group James V. Fleming, Princeton University John V. Fleming, Princeton William Flesch, Brandeis University David Fogelsong, Rutgers University Darcie Fonatine, University of South Florida Meghan Forbes, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Joyce Foster, Williams College Frank.Warren, Queens College/CUNY Carmela Vircillo Franklin, Columbia University Deborah Franzblau, College of Staten Island CUNY Nancy Fraser, The New School Paul Freedman, Yale University Joanne Freeman, Yale University Amanda Frisken, SUNY at Old Westbury Larry Frohman, SUNY-Stony Brook Renaud Gagne, Cambridge UK Jonathan Galassi, Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books Rivka Galchen Ziva Galili, Rutgers University Sandra Gambetti, College of Staten Island CUNY Deborah Gardner, Hunter College Milton Gatch, Union Theological Seminary Haidy L Geismar, New York University Alix Genter, Rutgers University Laura George, Eastern Michigan University Sean Gerrity, Graduate Center CUNY Judith Gerson, Rutgers University Keith Gessen, n + 1 Journal Amitav Ghosh Molly Giblin, Rutgers University Michael Gitlin, Hunter College CUNY Jon Giullian, Slavlib subscriber Elizabeth Goetz, CUNY Kenneth Gold, College of Staten Island CUNY Chad Alan Goldberg, University of Wisconsin, Madison Janet Golden, Rutgers University Francine Goldenhar, New York University Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, Harvard University Linda Gordon, New York University Manu Goswami, New York University Anthony T. Grafton, Princeton University Shane Graham, Utah State University Greg Grandin, New York University Bruce Grant, New York University Jane Greenlaw, Retired NYPL Librarian Justina Gregory, Smith College Mark Greif, n+1 Journal Gerald N. Grob, Rutgers University Helen Gross Irena G. Gross, Princeton University Michael Gross Mimi Gross Atina Grossmann, New York University Cooper Union A. Tom Grunfeld, SUNY Empire State College Rochelle Gurstein Janet Gyatso, Harvard Divinity School Nathan Ha, University of California, Los Angeles Marilyn Hacker, CUNY Grad center Mark Von Hagen, Arizona State University Samira Haj, Graduate Center CUNY Lee Hall, Independent Scholar Murphy Halliburton, Queens College Susan Halstead, Curator Slavic Collection, British Library, UK Susan Reynolds Halstead, Curator Czech & Slovak, British Library, UK Jeffrey Hamburger, Harvard University A. S. Hamrah, n+1 journal Lila Marz Harper, Central Washington University William V. Harris, Columbia University David C. Hart, Cleveland Institute of Art Jonathan Hartmann, University of New Haven Karen Hartnick Molly Haskell, NYC Alan Hausman, Hunter College/CUNY Mary Hawkesworth, Rutgers University Jack Hawley, Barnard College John Stratton Hawley, Barnard College Anthony Heilbut Rachel Heiman, The New School Marjorie Heins, New York University Anissa Helie, John Jay College/CUNY David Henderson Ruth Henderson, Librarian, City College of New York Gail Hershatter, University of California, Santa Cruz Stephanie Hershinow, Johns Hopkins University Dagmar Herzog, Grad Center CUNY Susannah Heschel, Dartmouth College Walter Hess Susan Heuman Colin Higgins, Librarian, St. Catharine's College Cambridge UK Joe B. Hill David Hinton Nancy J. Hirschmann, University of Pennsylvania J Hoberman, Cooper Union Martha Hodes, New York University Roger D. Hodge Hilde Hoggenboom, Arizona State University Denis Hollier, New York University Beth Holman Brooke A. Holmes, Princeton University Oliver Hoover, Editor and Curator, American Numismatic Society Susan Schmidt Horning, St. John's University Florence Howe, NYC Susan Howe, SUNY Buffalo Martha Howell, Columbia University Andrew Hsiao, Verso Books Jane S. Hu, McGill University, Canada A. B. Huber, New York University Peter J. Hudson, Vanderbilt University Amy Hughes, Brooklyn College/CUNY Lynn Hunt, University of California, Los Angeles Stephanie Insley Marguerite Iskenderian, Music Cataloger, Brooklyn College Library Sarah Ruth Jacobs, Graduate Center CUNY Matthew Frye Jacobson, Yale University Karl Jacoby, Brown University Natalia Jagannathan Alice Jardine, Howard University Margo Jefferson Dianne Johnson-Feelings, University South Carolina Pierre Joris Ben Kafka, New York University Amy Kaplan, University of Pennsylvania Marion Kaplan, New York University Temma Kaplan, Rutgers University Priscilla Karant, New York University Rebecca Karl, New York University Pepe Karmel, New York University Barrie Karp Demetra Kasimis, Yale University Ben Katchor, The New School Marion H. Katz, New York University Stanley N. Katz, Princeton University Nadezhda Kavrus-Hoffmann, Independent Scholar Joel Kaye, Barnard College Donald R. Kelley, Rutgers University Elizabeth Kendall, Eugene Lang College Ellen Kennedy, University of Pennsylvania, Department of Political Science E. Tammy Kim, CUNY, Graduate Center Ann Kjellberg, Little Star Journal Stuart Klawans, Ruder Finn Communications Agency Stacy S. Klein, Rutgers University Terry Knickerbocker, New York University Jerome Kohn, Hannah Arendt Center, New School Anne Kornhauser, CCNY Adam Kosto, Columbia University Barbara Kowalzig, New York University Christopher Kramaric, Yale University Paul A. Kramer, Vanderbilt University Joseph Kramp, John Jay College/CUNY Rosalind Krauss, Columbia University Rachel Kravetz, Graduate Center CUNY Jeffrey Kroessler, Librarian, John Jay College/CUNY Victoria Kuhr Molly Laas, University of Wisconsin, Madison Kathleen Lamantia, Librarian, Stark County District Library, Canton OH Mark Lamster Yvette Florio Lane, Rutgers University Antonia Lant, New York University Danielle Lanzet, Chris Calhoun (Literary) Agency Robert Lapides, Manhattan College Renee Larrier, Rutgers University William Larsh, Librarian, Polish Studies, Yale University Charlotte Latham, Queens College CUNY Beth Lau, California State University, Long Beach Antonio Lauria, New York University Aldo Lauria-Santiago, Rutgers University John Lauritsen, Independent Scholar J. E. Law , Swansea University, UK John Law, Swansea University, UK Jackson Lears, Rutgers University Adrian LeBlanc Dorota M. Lech, Berlin, Germany Andrew H. Lee, Librarian, Bobst Library, New York University Jennifer B. Lee, Curator Performing Arts, Columbia University Library David Lelyveld, William Paterson University Jonathan Lethem, Pomona College David Levering-Lewis, New York University George Levine, Rutgers University Michael Levine, Rutgers University Rhoda Levine Marcus Levitt, University of Southern California Sharona Levy, Brooklyn College Hong Liang, Yale University Natasha Lightfoot, Columbia University Herbert Lindenberger, Stanford University Michael Lindgren Julie Q. Livingston, Rutgers University Zachary Lockman, New York University Laurence Lockridge, New York University Dee Longenbaugh, Sitka, Alaska John Loughery, NYC David Ludden, New York University Richard Lufrano, College of Staten Island CUNY Steven Lukes, New York University Victoria Lunzer, Librarian, University of Vienna, Austria Raechel Lutz, Rutgers University Christopher Lyon, The Monacelli Press Benjamin Lytal, Newberry Library, University of Chicago Ian MacDougall, Columbia University Law School Robert Machado Arien Mack, The New School Laurie Manchester, Arizona State University Elena Mancini Alan Mandell, SUNY Empire State College Velina Manolova, Graduate Center CUNY Jane Marcus, CUNY Vida Margaitis, Librarian, Harvard University Norman Markowitz, Rutgers University James H. Marrow, Princeton University Margaret Marsh, Rutgers University James Martin Lucia Martinez, University of Pennsylvania Cate Marvin, College Staten Island CUNY Carla Massey John S. Mayer, New York University John Maynard, New York University Elizabeth Mazzola, CUNY Maisie McAdoo Steven McGrail, Rutgers University Sarah Blake McHam, Rutgers University Michael McKeon, Rutgers University Lynn McLeod, Retired Librarian, Toronto, Canada Elizabeth Mcmahon, Librarian, NYPL Adam Mekler, Morgan State University Jordana Mendelson, New York University Ben Mercer, College of Staten Island CUNY Bill Merod, Soka University, CA Jim Merrod, Soka University, CA Ruth Milkman, Graduate Center CUNY David Miller Leslie Miller, The Grenfell Press Michele Mitchell, New York University Phillip Mitsis, New York University Rebecca Mlynarczyk, Graduate Center CUNY Seth Moglen, Lehigh University Molly Molloy, Librarian, Stanford University Ted Mooney Edmund Morris Jacob Morris Karl Morrison, Rutgers University Susan Brind Morrow Brian Morton, Sarah Lawrence College Alyssa Mt. Pleasant, Yale University Dorothea von Mucke, Columbia University John Mulryan, St. Bonaventure University David Munns, John Jay College CUNY Laure Murat, University of California, Los Angeles Timothy Murray, Cornell University Fred Myers, New York University Linda Neiberg, Graduate Center CUNY Judith Nemethy, New York University Catharine T. Nepomnyashchy, Barnard College William Van Nest, Sir Sandford Fleming College, Ontario, Canada Frederick Neuhouser, Barnard College Joshua Neustein Barbara Newman, Northwestern University Steven Newman, Temple University Mae Ngai, Columbia University Mary Nolan, New York University Betsey Norland Sydney Van Nort, Librarian, City College of New York Anne Norton, University of Pennsylvania Michael Nylan, University of California, Berkeley Kate Nearpass Ogden, Stockton College Laura O'Keefe, Librarian, NY Society Library Ferris Olin, Rutgers University Susan Oliver, University of Essex, UK Susan O'Malley, Graduate Center CUNY Thomas Ort, Queens College CUNY Michael J. Osborne, Librarian & bookseller Patrick O'Sullivan Miranda Outman-Kramer, Managing Editor, Signs Ron Padgett, Academy of American Poets John Palattella, The Nation Andrew Palmer Thalia Pandiri, Smith College Elizabeth C. Parker, Fordham University Harold Parker, University of Pennsylvania Duygu Parmaksizoglu, CUNY, Graduate Center Sneh Patel, New York University Silvana Patriarca, Fordham University SJ Pearce, New York University Marta Chavez Peixoto, New York University Martha Perlin Ross Perlin Nina Perlina, Indiana University Marjorie Perloff, Stanford University Charles A. Petersen, n + 1 Journal Anthony Petro, New York University Svanur Pétursson, Rutgers University Dia Philippides, Boston College Louis Phillips Pablo Piccato, Columbia University Krystyna Piorkowska, Muzeum Wojska Polskiego, Poland Gerald Pirog, Rutgers University Jeanine Plottel, Hunter College, CUNY Brenda Plummer, University of Wisconsin, Madison Adam Plunkett Leah Plunkett, Harvard Law School Jennifer Poggiali, Lehman College - CUNY Dana Polan, New York University Patricia Polansky, University of Hawaii Fanette Pollack Sarah Pollack, College of Staten Island CUNY Tanya Pollard, Brooklyn College/CUNY Katha Pollit, The Nation Michael Polson, Graduate Center CUNY Kenneth Pomeranz, University of California, Irvine Jacquelyn Pope Christopher Prendergast, Kings College, Cambridge UK Alexander Provan, Triple Canopy Sara Pursley, CUNY Julie Leininger Pycior, Manhattan College C.M. Pyle, Columbia University Barry Qualls, Rutgers University Laura Quinney, Brandeis University Jon Rachmani, Grad Center CUNY Alicia Ramos, Hunter College CUNY Peter Ranis, CUNY Graduate Center Rayna Rapp, New York University Shirley Rausher Kandice Rawlings, Rutgers University Amelia Reesor, Transylvania University, Kentucky Mariana Regalado, Librarian, Brooklyn CUNY Nancy Freeman Regalado, New York University David Reid, Rutgers University Lisa Reilly, University of Virginia Joanne Reitano, La Guardia Community College CUNY Melissa Renn, Harvard Art Museums Nancy Renn Nicholas Rennie, Rutgers University Silvia Rennie Benjamin Resnick-Day, Rutgers University Irina Reyfman, Columbia University Joseph Rezek, Boston University Bruce Robbins, Columbia University Camille Robcis, Cornell University Mary Louise Roberts, University of Wisconsin, Madison Yael Roberts Corey Robin, Brooklyn College and CUNY Alice Robinson Jeffrey C Robinson, University of Colorado, Boulder Stephane Robolin, Rutgers University Judith Rodenbeck, Sarah Lawrence College Susan C Rogers, New York University Gordon Rogoff, Yale University Renato I Rosaldo, New York University Hannah Rosen, University of Michigan Ann Arbor Ruth Rosen, University of California, Berkeley Noah Rosenblum, Columbia University Alex Ross, The New Yorker Andrew Ross, New York University Ellen Ross, Ramapo College of New Jersey Morris Rossabi, Columbia University Guenther Roth, Columbia University Karen Routledge, Parks Canada, Calgary Sheila Rowbotham, UK Nina A. Rowe, Fordham University Matthew Rowney, Wertheim Study Everett Rowson, New York University Jay Rubenstein, University of Tennessee Andrew N. Rubin, Georgetown University Ryan Ruby, York College, CUNY Teofilo Ruiz, University of California, Los Angeles Frances Ruoff, Kingsborough Community College CUNY Salman Rushdie Nancy Ruttenburg, Stanford University Charles Rzepka, Boston University Sam Sacks, Open Letters Monthly Nanette Salomon, College Staten Island CUNY Roberta L. Salper, Brandeis University JC Salyer, Grad Center CUNY Margaret Samu, Yeshiva University Kristin Samuelian, George Mason University Romy Sanchez, Sorbonne, France Martha A. Sandweiss, Princeton University Jeannette Sanger, Books&Co Imprint Luc Sante, Bard College Manuel Sanudo, Librarian, Queens College Masha Sapp, Librarian, Washington University Nikil Saval, n+1 Journal Sylvia Schafer, University of Connecticut Donna Schaper, Judson Memorial Church David M. Schaps, Bar-Ilan University, Israel William Schipper, Memorial University, Newfoundland, Canada Jane C. Schneider, Graduate Center CUNY Peter T. Schneider, Fordham University Johanna Schoen, Rutgers University Ellen Schrecker, Yeshiva University Kyla Schuller, Rutgers University Christine Schutt Will Schutt, Writer & Translator Claire Schwartz Martin Schwartz, University of California, Berkeley Donald M. Scott, Queens College CUNY Joan W. Scott, Institute for Advanced Study Jerrold E Seigel, New York University Gunja SenGupta, Brooklyn College CUNY Michael H. Shank, University of Wisconsin, Madison Mary Shaw, Rutgers University Scott Sheidlower, York College, CUNY April Shelford, American University Naoko Shibusawa, Brown University Evie Shockley, Rutgers University Anna Shparberg, Rice University Jack Shuler, Denison University Alix Kates Shulman, NYC Richard Sieburth, New York University Jonah Siegel, Rutgers University Lee Siegel Allan Silver, Columbia University Carole Silver, Yeshiva University Judith Simonian John V. 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Friday, April 20, 2012

US Treasury Secretary Pays Tribute to Morgenthau, Pehle & DuBois

Remarks By Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner At The U.S. Capitol On The Annual Day Of Remembrance Ceremony Hosted By The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
WASHINGTON - Mr. Speaker, Ambassador Oren, Speaker Westerberg, Chairman Bernstein, Vice Chairman Bolten, Director Bloomfield, survivors of the Holocaust, and other distinguished guests.
I am deeply honored to be here today.
The Museum asked me to speak about Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr. and to tell the story of his leadership and the courageous work of his staff on behalf of European Jews during World War II.
Before I relate those events, I want to recognize Robert M. Morgenthau, Henry's son, who helps maintain the legacy of his father's work at Treasury. Bob could not be here today, because he is speaking at a Holocaust Remembrance event at West Point. We all admire his long and distinguished record of public service, and it is appropriate that we honor Bob as we honor his father.
I also want to pay tribute to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the men and women who have made it such a vital institution. Their work has helped show millions of people, in vivid and painful detail, the dangers of unchecked hatred.
And they have brought us together here in this great setting to remember not just the millions who died but also those who chose to act to save lives.
Henry Morgenthau served as Treasury Secretary from 1933 to 1945. He believed that individuals serving in government carry a moral responsibility. He was not constrained by the limits of his direct responsibility or authority. It didn't matter to Morgenthau that the Treasury Department was not the Department of War or the Department of State. He was not concerned with the risk of criticism or strength of the opposition to what he believed was right.
Morgenthau was prescient about the threat of war with Nazi Germany and the need for early U.S. involvement. In 1938, he persuaded President Roosevelt to give Treasury's Procurement Division significant authority over military purchasing policies—more than two years before the U.S. would begin its Lend-Lease program.
Morgenthau used this authority to help arm our allies and prepare the nation for war. He was instrumental in the effort to stockpile and ramp up production of war materials. And crucially, he enabled the UK and France to purchase U.S.-made aircraft—sometimes over the objections of the War Department and isolationists in Congress.
Later in the war, news of the mass murder of European Jews came to the attention of a small group of men at the Treasury.
Josiah DuBois, a Treasury assistant general counsel, and John Pehle, Treasury's chief of foreign funds control, uncovered mounting evidence that State Department officials were systematically undermining efforts to save Jews in Europe.
They were delaying licenses necessary to provide financial support to relief organizations in Europe—licenses that would have enabled the rescue of hundreds of thousands of Jews. They were denying visas to refugees. And they were blocking the spread of information about the Holocaust.
The State Department first received word of the "Final Solution" on August 11, 1942, in a message from Gerhart Riegner, the World Jewish Congress Representative in Bern, Switzerland. Upon receiving confirmation of the news that November, the Department then acted to suppress the evidence.
DuBois set to work on a report, which was presented to Secretary Morgenthau by General Counsel Randolph Paul on January 13, 1944. The memo bore a chilling title: "Report to the Secretary on the Acquiescence of This Government in the Murder of the Jews."
The first page read, "Unless remedial steps of a drastic nature are taken, and taken immediately, I am certain that no effective action will be taken by this Government to prevent the complete extermination of the Jews in German controlled Europe, and that this Government will have to share for all time the responsibility for this extermination."
Morgenthau moved quickly. That Sunday—January 16—Pehle, Randolph Paul, and Secretary Morgenthau met with President Roosevelt at 12:45 PM. They explained to the President that because other parts of the government were resisting action, the only solution was to create a body with independent authority in the matter of refugees. Roosevelt agreed, and six days later, he issued Executive Order 9417, which established the War Refugee Board.
The Board's charter declared that it would "effectuate with all possible speed the rescue and relief of victims of enemy oppression who are in imminent danger of death."
John Pehle was named Executive Director. At Morgenthau's direction, Pehle set up shop in an office on the fourth floor of the Treasury Department and began his work.
Pehle had to secure private funds for the vast majority of the Board's activity. But Pehle was industrious and relentless and effective.
He secured a haven for 1,000 Jews at Fort Ontario in Oswego, New York. He helped purchase boats to ferry thousands of refugees out of Romania. Under his leadership, the War Refugee Board streamlined the process for issuing licenses, so that relief organizations in Europe could provide funds and aid within weeks of requesting it. And the Board sent representatives to neutral countries, which assisted in evacuating Jews into safe territory.
One of those representatives was Treasury employee Iver Olson, who was sent to Sweden. In Stockholm, Olsen helped send a young Swede named Raoul Wallenberg under diplomatic cover into Hungary. Wallenberg's efforts saved as many as 100,000 Hungarian Jews.
Iver Olson's son Jerry is with us today, along with George Lesser, whose father Lawrence Lesser also served on the War Refugee Board.
By the end of the war, the work of Pehle and the Board had saved some 200,000 Jews from almost certain death.
Years later, Pehle said, "What we did was little enough. It was late. Late and little."
But without the work of the War Refugee Board, and without the actions Morgenthau had taken to arm and prepare the Allies, the history of that time would have been even darker, with hundreds of thousands more killed.
When we think about the Holocaust, we are forced to come to terms with more than just the evil of Adolf Hitler. We must also confront the failures that allowed this genocide to occur—the moral failures, the institutional failures, the cowardice and apathy and hate.
Henry Morgenthau, John Pehle, and Joe DuBois refused to accept those failures.
They knew that when institutions fail, individuals must act. It did not matter to them whether it was in their job description or not.
When warned by an official of the political risks, Secretary Morgenthau responded, "Don't worry about the publicity. What I want is intelligence and courage."
These men understood their own power as individuals in public life to make a difference—their obligation to do so—and they took it very seriously.
I am proud to say that this tradition has continued at Treasury.
Stuart Eizenstat, as Deputy Secretary of the Treasury in the 1990s, helped achieve a measure of justice for victims of the Holocaust and European Jews, by negotiating—through sheer force of will and individual initiative—landmark agreements with foreign governments covering restitution, compensation for forced labor, recovery of looted art and money, and payment of insurance policies. More recently, Under Secretary Stuart Levey and a group of individuals at Treasury built—from the ground up—the world's most creative and effective system of financial sanctions to stem the flow of money to terrorists and deter Iran from pursuing its nuclear ambitions. Their work, led today by Under Secretary David Cohen, is crucial to thwarting those who would kill in the name of hatred.
We live in a world in which people still possess an alarming willingness to abuse, imprison, and murder others because of the god they worship or because they are different.
In confronting this reality, we are always reminded of the complexities of the world—the shades of grey, the intricacies of choice, the risks of action and inaction.
The world is indeed a complicated place. But our basic responsibilities as human beings are not. Protect the weak. Shelter those in need. Resist evil in all its forms.
These are our responsibilities. They cannot be fulfilled only with thoughtful reflection. They require action.
The Talmud says, "Whoever is able to protest against the transgressions of the world and does not, is responsible for the transgressions of the world."
John Pehle, Joe DuBois, Henry Morgenthau—these men understood. They protested against the transgressions of the world. And they made a difference.
For more historical background on this topic, watch my documentary film: WHO SHALL LIVE AND WHO SHALL DIE?