Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mark Steyn on Hillary's Benghazi Testimony

From his column in the Orange County Register (http://www.ocregister.com/opinion/difference-409271-one-obama.html):
A couple of days later, it fell to the 45th president-in-waiting to encapsulate the ethos of the age in one deft sound bite: What difference does it make? Hillary Clinton's instantly famous riposte at the Benghazi hearings is such a perfect distillation that it surely deserves to be the national motto of the United States. They should put it on Paul Krugman's trillion-dollar coin, and in the presidential oath:
"Do you solemnly swear to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States?"
"Sure. What difference, at this point, does it make?"
Well, it's the difference between cool and reality – and, as Hillary's confident reply appeared to suggest, and the delirious media reception of it confirmed, reality comes a poor second in the Obama era. The presumption of conservatives has always been that, one day, cold, dull reality would pierce the klieg-light sheen of Obama's glamour. Indeed, that was the premise of Mitt Romney's reductive presidential campaign. But, just as Beyoncé will always be way cooler than some no-name operatic soprano or a male voice choir, so Obama will always be cooler than a bunch of squaresville yawneroos boring on about jobs and debt and entitlement reform. Hillary's cocksure sneer to Sen. Johnson of Wisconsin made it explicit. At a basic level, the "difference" is the difference between truth and falsity, but the subtext took it a stage further: no matter what actually happened that night in Benghazi, you poor sad loser Republicans will never succeed in imposing that reality and its consequences on this administration.
And so a congressional hearing – one of the famous "checks and balances" of the American system – is reduced to just another piece of Beltway theater. "The form was still the same, but the animating health and vigor were fled," as Gibbon wrote in "The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire." But he's totally uncool, too. So Hillary lip-synced far more than Beyoncé, and was adored for it. "As I have said many times, I take responsibility," she said. In Washington, the bold declarative oft-stated acceptance of responsibility is the classic substitute for responsibility: rhetorically "taking responsibility," preferably "many times," absolves one from the need to take actual responsibility even once.
In the very same self-serving testimony, the Secretary of State denied that she'd ever seen the late Ambassador Stevens' cables about the deteriorating security situation in Libya on the grounds that "1.43 million cables come to my office" – and she can't be expected to see all of them, or any. She is as out of it as President Jefferson, who complained to his Secretary of State James Madison, "We have not heard from our ambassador in Spain for two years. If we have not heard from him this year, let us write him a letter." Today, things are even worse. Hillary has apparently not heard from any of our 1.43 million ambassadors for four years. When a foreign head of state receives the credentials of the senior emissary of the United States, he might carelessly assume that the chap surely has a line of communication back to the government he represents. For six centuries or so, this has been the minimal requirement for functioning interstate relations. But Secretary Clinton has just testified that, in the government of the most powerful nation on Earth, there is no reliable means by which a serving ambassador can report to the Cabinet minister responsible for foreign policy. And nobody cares: What difference does it make?
Nor was the late Christopher Stevens any old ambassador but, rather, Secretary Clinton's close personal friend "Chris." It was all "Chris" this, "Chris" that, when Secretary Clinton and President Obama delivered their maudlin eulogies over the flag-draped coffin of their "friend." Gosh, you'd think if they were on such intimate terms, "Chris" might have had Hillary's email address, but apparently not. He was just one of 1.43 million close personal friends cabling the State Department every hour of the day.
Four Americans are dead, but not a single person involved in the attack and the murders has been held to account. Hey, what difference does it make? Lip-syncing the national anthem beats singing it. Peddling a fictitious narrative over the coffin of your "friend" is more real than being an incompetent boss to your most vulnerable employees. And mouthing warmed-over clichés about vowing to "bring to justice" those responsible is way easier than actually bringing anyone to justice.
And so it goes:
Another six trillion in debt? What difference does it make?
An economic stimulus bill that stimulates nothing remotely connected with the economy? What difference does it make?
The Arab Spring? Aw, whose heart isn't stirred by those exhilarating scenes of joyful students celebrating in Tahrir Square? And who cares, after the cameras depart, that Egypt's in the hands of a Jew-hating 9/11 truther whose goons burn churches and sexually assault uncovered women?
Obama is the ultimate reality show, and real reality can't compete. Stalin famously scoffed, "How many divisions has the Pope?" Secretary Clinton was more audacious: How many divisions has reality? Not enough.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The DiploMad 2.0: "What Difference Does it Make?"

The DiploMad 2.0: "What Difference Does it Make?": Diplomad says Hillary Clinton got away with murder in her Congressional testimony about Benghazi

To the matter at hand. There is so much wrong with what Hillary said that I can only cover a few points.  Her whole attitude was one of taking a victory lap. She is leaving the State Department, and she ran out the clock on  Benghazi. Her phrase "At this point" sums it up. The steam has gone out of the issue, and the tactic of delay, obfuscation, and deception has worked; the administration has eluded responsibility for a major foreign policy disaster of criminal proportions. They did it before with "Fast and Furious" and they have done it again. State's Accountability Review Board report, of course, was a whitewash; it was a carefully worded truce between Chicago and Foggy Bottom. It avoided dealing with the fundamentals of the Benghazi disaster, i.e., the foreign policy of this administration, and, in exchange, the bureaucrats were not held responsible for the decisions they took in implementing that foreign policy. Nobody was to blame for anything. 

As a lawyer, Hillary must know how absurd her line "what is the difference?" sounds. Here we have an administration that insists on treating acts of terror against Americans as criminal matters, e.g., call in the FBO to "the crime scene," yet here we have the Secretary of State saying it really makes no difference what motivated the "criminals" or whether the "crime" was premeditated and planned in conjunction with others. More important, however, if it made no difference why did the administration send out that horrid political hack Susan Rice to lie about it all? To blame it on a video? Where was Hillary? Why wasn't she out front telling us all on the Sunday talk shows that it made "no difference?"     Why have Rice lie?

It, of course, "does make a difference." If the attack was a well-planned one, who planned it? Were any foreign states involved? Why didn't our intel pick it up? If it was a spontaneous event, why didn't it occur to anybody at State or in the Embassy in Libya that the date of September 11 was a particularly propitious one for such "spontaneous" events? Why was Stevens in Benghazi on September 11? Why was that facility still open when the security situation in the city had been deteriorating rapidly? The questions just pour forth; you can think of dozens more.

I have written many times before about the idiocy of our policy in Libya and North Africa (see my archives), and won't repeat all that. Let me just say that hearings did not explore the biggest issue of all. What did the administration think would happen in North Africa once Mubarak and Qaddafi were removed?

Peter Van Buren on the Fate of John Kirakou

Peter Van Buren on the Fate of John Kirakou on We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People by Peter Van Buren:

The one man in the whole archipelago of America’s secret horrors facing prosecution is former CIA agent John Kiriakou. Of the untold numbers of men and women involved in the whole nightmare show of those years, only one may go to jail.
And of course, he didn’t torture anyone.
The charges against Kiriakou allege that in answering questions from reporters about suspicions that the CIA tortured detainees in its custody, he violated the Espionage Act, once an obscure World War I-era law that aimed at punishing Americans who gave aid to the enemy. It was passed in 1917 and has been the subject of much judicial and Congressional doubt ever since. Kiriakou is one of six government whistleblowers who have been charged under the Act by the Obama administration. From 1917 until Obama came into office, only three people had ever charged in this way.
The Obama Justice Department claims the former CIA officer “disclosed classified information to journalists, including the name of a covert CIA officer and information revealing the role of another CIA employee in classified activities.”
The charges result from a CIA investigation. That investigation was triggered by a filing in January 2009 on behalf of detainees at Guantanamo that contained classified information the defense had not been given through government channels, and by the discovery in the spring of 2009 of photographs of alleged CIA employees among the legal materials of some detainees at Guantanamo. According to one description, Kiriakou gave several interviews about the CIA in 2008. Court documents charge that he provided names of covert Agency officials to a journalist, who allegedly in turn passed them on to a Guantanamo legal team. The team sought to have detainees identify specific CIA officials who participated in their renditions and torture. Kiriakou is accused of providing the identities of CIA officers that may have allowed names to be linked to photographs.
Many observers believe however that the real “offense” in the eyes of the Obama administration was quite different. In 2007, Kiriakou became a whistleblower. He went on record as the first (albeit by then, former) CIA official to confirm the use of waterboarding of al-Qaeda prisoners as an interrogation technique, and then to condemn it as torture. He specifically mentioned the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah in that secret prison in Thailand. Zubaydah was at the time believed to be an al-Qaeda leader, though more likely was at best a mid-level operative. Kiriakou also ran afoul of the CIA over efforts to clear for publication a book he had written about the Agency’s counterterrorism work. He maintains that his is instead a First Amendment case in which a whistleblower is being punished, that it is a selective prosecution to scare government insiders into silence when they see something wrong.
If Kiriakou had actually tortured someone himself, even to death, there is no possibility that he would be in trouble. John Kiriakou is staring down a long tunnel of 30 months in jail because in the national security state that rules the roost in Washington, talking out of turn about a crime has become the only possible crime.

Never Again
For at least six years it was the policy of the United States of America to torture and abuse its enemies or, in some cases, simply suspected enemies. It has remained a U.S. policy, even under the Obama administration, to employ “extraordinary rendition” — that is, the sending of captured terror suspects to the jails of countries that are known for torture and abuse, an outsourcing of what we no longer want to do.
Techniques that the U.S. hanged men for at Nuremburg and in post-war Japan were employed and declared lawful. To embark on such a program with the oversight of the Bush administration, learned men and women had to have long discussions, with staffers running in and out of rooms with snippets of research to buttress the justifications being so laboriously developed. The CIA undoubtedly used some cumbersome bureaucratic process to hire contractors for its torture staff. The old manuals needed to be updatedpsychiatrists consulted, military survival experts interviewed, training classes set up.
Videotapes were made of the torture sessions and no doubt DVDs full of real horror were reviewed back at headquarters. Torture techniques were even reportedly demonstrated to top officials inside the White House. Individual torturers who were considered particularly effective were no doubt identified, probably rewarded, and sent on to new secret sites to harm more people.
America just didn’t wake up one day and start slapping around some Islamic punk. These were not the torture equivalents of rogue cops. A system, a mechanism, was created. That we now can only speculate about many of the details involved and the extent of all this is a tribute to the thousands who continue to remain silent about what they did, saw, heard about, or were associated with. Many of them work now at the same organizations, remaining a part of the same contracting firms, the CIA, and the military. Our torturers.
What is it that allows all those people to remain silent? How many are simply scared, watching what is happening to John Kiriakou and thinking: not me, I’m not sticking my neck out to see it get chopped off. They’re almost forgivable, even if they are placing their own self-interest above that of their country. But what about the others, the ones who remain silent about what they did or saw or aided and abetted in some fashion because they still think it was the right thing to do? The ones who will do it again when another frightened president asks them to? Or even the ones who enjoyed doing it?
The same Department of Justice that is hunting down the one man who spoke against torture from the inside still maintains a special unit, 60 years after the end of WWII, dedicated to hunting down the last few at-large Nazis. They do that under the rubric of “never again.” The truth is that same team needs to be turned loose on our national security state. Otherwise, until we have a full accounting of what was done in our names by our government, the pieces are all in place for it to happen again. There, if you want to know, is the real horror.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Eliyho Matz's Persian Letter...


“The meaning of life consists in the search for the meaning of life.”
Terry Eagleton:
The Meaning of Life: A Very Short Introduction

Jewish Biblical tradition encourages the belief in miracles.  The tradition of miracles is transplanted into Christian and Islamic beliefs, and stands as a core foundation of universal human existence. 

One of Judaism’s Biblical miracles is revealed in the story of Esther, which stems from the Jewish Persian tradition.  Jewish tradition is, in fact, heavily indebted to ancient Persian civilization.  Jewish ideas have been influenced by Persian thought ever since the Israelites were forced out of their ancient land of Israel/Canaan.  The encounter between the Israelites and the Persians captivated Jewish civilization ever since its inception twenty-five hundred years ago.  Under Persian influence, Jews developed the Bible and the Talmud between 450 BCE and 500 CE.  The relationship did not end there; it has continued into modern times.  Jewish merchants of Persian extraction roamed the planet from early times.  Iran today has a substantial Jewish minority still living in the midst of Shi’a Iran, an Islamic republic.

The settling of Jews in the Fertile Crescent around 500 BCE brought them into contact with Persian/Iranian civilization.  This early civilization of the Persians provided Judaism with its most important tenets of core Jewish beliefs.  For example, the concept of one God, central to Judaism, is an offshoot of their Zoroastrian worship.  It was during this period of influence that the Jewish Bible was initially developed as a religious literary document that undertook to explain Jewish existence in detail.  Why the Bible was written in the first place is not known, but it remains the foundation of Jewish claims to the antiquity of Jewish ancestry.  With its overtones of hatred toward Egypt, the Bible definitely reflected the political tendency of the Jews to accommodate the historical Persian animosity toward the ancient Egyptians.  The Persians, after a long series of wars with the Pharaonic Egyptians, finally conquered the land of the Pharaohs in the year 525 BCE. 

Politics is an ancient/modern game of options, possibilities and win-or-lose situations.  According to Biblical tradition, the Jews who were permitted to return to ancient Israel with their leaders Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah, were granted the privilege by decree of the Persian King Cyrus.  I am sure that many serious historians have been puzzled by this decree.  Jews, since that decree, have celebrated it as another miracle in their history.   But, of course, to the politically minded person, the question is, “What was the Tit-for-Tat?  I would guess that those ancient Jews paid for their permit to return to their ancient land: it is possible that the Jews were actually the mercenary soldiers that the Persians needed for their ongoing campaigns to defeat the Egyptians, and thus the privilege to return to the ancient land was paid by military service.  Some of those Jewish soldiers ended up at Elephantine (Yev) in Upper Egypt, or what is today the place of the gigantic Aswan Dam.  This community of border military police is well known today in Jewish historical circles.  So, after all, there was a definite Tit-for-Tat:  the Persians benefited from the Jewish warriors; and the Jews were rewarded by being granted residence in ancient Canaan, as well as the status of privileged  citizens of the Persian Empire.

The Jewish warrior tradition did not end there.  Rather, it continued to reveal itself in the Maccabean revolt against the Greeks, as well as in the revolt against the Romans, of course with catastrophic results.  The worship of warlike people continues today within the Israeli Nation, where the military has been an inspiration as well as a steady source of Israeli politicians. 

         The second incident seen as a miracle in the Persian context comes in the Biblical Book of Esther.  A beautiful Jewish girl is sacrificed for whatever reason, but, to put it in elegant English, the King was obviously  looking for sex.  The interaction between the beautiful Jewish woman and the Persian King led to saving the Jews from extinction.  The moral of the story is, “Don’t mess with us Jews.”  Of course, that miracle was just a miracle, and not an indication of real politics -- Jews prefer to follow miracles. 

In the context of the more than fifteen-hundred years of Persian-Jewish interaction, Judaism developed and thrived.  At the beginning of the early stages the Bible emerged, and later the Talmud, published in 500 CE.  As time passed, Persian Jews also learned the art of trading from the Persian merchants, and eventually, those Jews took a leading role in the East-West trade between China and the West.  In around 900 CE, in the region of Babylon (part of ancient Persia), Jews produced the first Jewish prayerbook, the Siddur.  In addition, they also published the Passover Haggadah.   Several more items of Jewish significance were produced under Persian intellectual influence.  One was the Ketubah, the Jewish matrimonial contract.  In the Talmud we are told that the purpose of the Ketubah is to make sure that it is difficult for the husband to divorce his wife.  Another was the Kaddish prayer for the dead.  Like the Ketubah, this prayer is written in Aramaic, which was the lingua franca of the Persian Empire.  Also, another important prayer written in Aramaic was the Kol Nidre prayer, which begins the service for the Yom Kippur Day of Atonement. 

The Persian Jewish merchants who roamed between East and West established safe and secure stops between China and Europe.  They reached these Jewish safe-havens of Bukhara and other cities via the Khazarian Empire, and thus this passage helped lay the path for the introduction of Judaism to the future Khazarian converts to Judaism.  These merchants’ activities were critical for their introduction of both business and religion to the communities along their route.    Jewish traders continued to roam between East and West for the next few hundred years, until they were later replaced by Italian merchants, one of whom was Marco Polo.  Shakespeare’s play “The Merchant of Venice” is an expression of that change.  It is no surprise that Marco Polo exemplified that change of trade: while visiting the Mongolian court, he used the lingua franca of the Mongolians, which was Persian [Laurence Bergreen, Marco Polo (New York: Vintage Books, 2008), pp. 135-136]. 

While the Jewish merchants carried out their East-West trade, the Yiddish language and Jewish culture were developing in full swing.  Turkic Khazaria lost its empire and what was left were the Yiddish-speaking  Khazarian Jewish converts who settled in small villages all over the former Khazarian Empire.  Their Yiddish language reveals a most interesting DNA.  For example, the word Davenin, which means “to pray,” is a critical Yiddish word whose origin is Turkic.  And there are many other indicators that show the connection between Khazaria and Yiddish Judaism.  Two other important events critical to Judaism developed because of the Persian-Jewish connection.  The first is that the entire Jewish matrimonial structure changed between the Third and Sixth centuries CE.  Suddenly, the determining force behind the “Jewishness” of children started to depend on the mother, not, as had been the ancient custom, on the father (imagine how in Biblical times we said, “B’nei Ya-akov” [Children of Jacob], but now suddenly we were saying, “Children of Rachel”).  The men who traveled from Persia to the far distances of the East and married other women, or had concubines, caused this alteration in the basic nature of Judaism.  Later, in the Tenth Century, again because of the merchants’ activities, Rabenu Gershom Meor Hagolah (in Europe) decreed that Jewish men could marry only one woman.  I would suspect that the Jewish daily prayer recited by men, “Thank God for not making me a woman,” would stem from the Jewish merchants’ activities.  So it is, to thank God for not making me a woman, because if I were I would not be able to travel on the difficult roads to bring parnuseh, wages, to support a family.  With their Far East trade, it is also possible that the Jewish merchants picked up some Chinese customs.  One example is the skullcap, or Yarmulke, a second is the practice of marking the burial place of the dead with small stones, and a third is the style of humor that is an ancient Chinese tradition to insult each other in teahouses.  For an example of this humor, one should only hear Don Rickles and many other old-style Jewish comedians!

Despite the vast span of years that have passed from ancient to modern times, the Persian people have remained on their land -- not like the Jews, who were scattered and converting communities around the world to Judaism.  The Persians went through the process of Islamization, and with it oral and written linguistic changes.  Christianity and Islam were both influenced by Jewish writings and ideas, and the Iranians adopted synthesized Persian/Jewish ideas that Judaism had recycled.  Recently, for whatever political reasons, the Iranians have chosen to create an Islamic Republic ruled by Ayatollahs.  Whether this type of political system will provide them with the tools to live in modern times, only time will tell.  In his recently published book The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran (New York: Doubleday, 2008), Hooman Majd depicts modern Iranian society in a vibrant and critical light.  It is worthwhile reading.  Despite the drastic political changes, the Iranian people are really the same as they were in ancient times: vibrant, argumentative, dreamlike, and, of course, they are waiting for their Messiah to arrive at any minute to bring them a better world.  Today’s Israeli society is likewise awaiting its Messiah, in spite of the fact that Zionism was established as a secular movement rather than a religious one.

The Jews, I mean the East European converted Jews, went through their own transitions.  Some moved to Western European countries, others at the end of the Nineteenth Century and the beginning of the Twentieth came to America, and still others, who became Zionists, moved to ancient Israel, then called Palestine and part of the Ottoman Empire.  The Twentieth Century was the most chaotic century for Jews in their three-thousand year existence as a religious civilization.  Between 1939 and 1945, millions of Jews were exterminated by the German Nazi regime.  Eastern Europe, the birthplace of Yiddish-speaking Jews, became the greatest graveyard for them.  Historians are still trying to figure out exactly how that happened.

In the Holocaust, we did not miraculously have a Queen Esther to defend or protect the Jews.  As far as the protective Jewish God, we can consult Elie Wiesel where that God was (in his book Night, he himself tries to figure this out).  As perhaps the most prominent Auschwitz survivor, his persona has become “psychological” help for Jews, but he has also joined the ranks of many historians and others who have failed to contribute in a more pertinent way to dealing historically, philosophically or politically with the Holocaust events.  His writing and thought does not lead me to be inspired.  Between 1882-1948, the Zionist leaders in Palestine developed a survival kit for the future Israelis.  During the Holocaust years, they did not deviate from this focus, and the leading Zionist leaders in Palestine did not engage in any great effort to save European Jews.  Worse, continuing in a failed effort, Ben Gurion came short of leading the new Israeli nation on the path to a constitutional democracy: an Israeli constitution was never written.  Consequently, “Israeli law” is as liquid as olive oil.  Try to walk on two feet on a floor sprayed with olive oil, and see what kind of miracles will happen to you!   It is my firm belief that the absence of an Israeli constitution is at the root of the cause of all Israeli political troubles inside or outside the country.  No, no, I do not think Israelis yet have plans to write a constitution.           

A perhaps more pertinent issue in this essay is the future of America’s Jews, and its non-representative organizations.  Tony Judt, in his autobiography, expresses this observation of American Jews: “Many American Jews are sadly ignorant of their religion, culture, traditional languages, or history.  But they do know about Auschwitz, and that suffices” [Tony Judt, The Memory Chalet (New York: Penguin Books,2010), p. 202].  The recitation of the Jewish Kaddish prayer on American Jews can start now -- I am not the first American Jew to suggest that idea.  During the Holocaust, Chaim Greenberg, in his essay called “Bankrupt” suggested a similar idea in response to the inaction of American Jewish leadership during the Holocaust.  A few weeks ago, towards the end of 2012, the NY Times, the newspaper of record, reported the announcement that the Washington, DC, Holocaust museum is marking its twentieth anniversary.  One should pay attention to the statistical data cited: “As of Aug.1 [2012], according to the museum, it has drawn more than 34.1 million visitors, about 90 percent of them non-Jewish, and 34 percent of them school-age children” (NYT, Dec 11, 2012, p. B-4).  By what statistical method did this museum arrive at these numbers?  And what is the use of these statistics, unless to show that Jews are simply not interested in visiting such a place.  The reason for the establishment of this museum, or others like it, in the United States is a mystery to me.  If the museums are established as an “insurance policy” to safeguard the future of Jews and Judaism, then I think they are misleading themselves.  What educational values do they offer?  It is frustrating.  Shouldn’t they be in Europe?  For example, in Paris, or in Vienna, or in some minor cities where the Europeans can look at themselves and try to remember what they did to Jews. 

In 1979 at Yeshiva University in New York, I published my Master’s thesis, “The Response of American Jewry and Its Representative Organizations Between November 24, 1942, and April 19, 1943, to Mass Killing of Jews in Europe”.  The impetus for my choosing this topic came when Dr. David S. Wyman, a my former professor at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, was in the final phases of his important book on America’s behavior during the Holocaust.  His greatest academic difficulty in those days was how to enter into the archives of Jewish organizations; most of them were closed to him.  I, however, was able to gain access and carry out the research that he was unable to do there.  I examined the papers of most Jewish organizations that had offices in NY City.  While working on my MA project, I also met Hillel Kook (a.k.a. Peter Bergson) and Samuel Merlin, two heroic but tragic individuals who during the days of the Holocaust raised hell in the US on behalf of European Jews.  The Jewish people, I mean the Jew in the street, supported them, but not the leadership of American Jews.  Put off by their outspoken and radical methods, the totality of American Jewish organizational leadership wanted them deported, or at least jailed (the files in the FBI indicate this clearly).  One of the great achievements of these two men during WWII was that they were instrumental in helping to bring about the creation of the War Refugee Board (WRB).  In truth, it was not exactly what Mr. Bergson and his allies in the US Congress had envisioned: they did not ask for an agency for refugees, but rather for an act of the President and the diplomatic military authorities to save Jews.  In his book The Abandonment of the Jews (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984), Dr. Wyman explained the process that led to the creation of the WRB.  I once wrote an article explaining that, too [“Political Actions vs. Personal Relations” in Midstream (April, 1981), pp. 41-48].  But the Holocaust Museum in Washington prefers the old-fashioned Jewish miracle explanation (let’s not forget the Esther miracle), for according to them and other “scholars” and many “advanced” studies, it was Henry Morgenthau Jr., the “miraculous Jewish” Treasury Secretary, who convinced FDR to do something to save Jews, which is factually incorrect.  FDR as a politician, and quite an accomplished one, understood one thing for sure: political public pressure, and that pressure was provided by Mr. Bergson and his non-Jewish allies in the Congress.

For his efforts to stand up for Jewish rescue, and for his foresight about the practical political structures necessary to the establishment of the new Israeli nation, I believe that Peter Bergson was probably the most important Jewish individual to live in the Twentieth Century.  He was a Palestinian British Jew who arrived in the United States in the 1940’s.  His activities between 1940 and 1948 reflected a deep sense of his burden of responsibility toward the Holocaust, which, over the past ten years, I have written a number of articles about.  His activities are important to explain, but the Jewish Holocaust museums prefer not to mention them.  Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and the Holocaust Museum in Washington have ignored his activities on behalf of Jews, and do not appear to be changing their minds yet.  In the 1980’s, while I worked in Bergson’s office in NYC, he and I used to debate, or converse, about issues that included the Holocaust and the Israeli nation.  One of the topics we covered was Elie Wiesel.  Wiesel, an Auschwitz survivor, a writer and a Nobel Prize winner, has become a symbolic guru of American Jews.  I personally do not hold much respect for this individual: first, because he has nothing to contribute intellectually to the future of Jews; second, Mr. Wiesel, when he arrived in NYC during the Fifties, was a victim in a pedestrian- automobile accident near 42nd Street.  The money to save his life was provided by Peter Bergson.  Ever since Bergson’s death, I have never seen any public statement or an article in an important newspaper or magazine by Wiesel about Peter Bergson.  While he did make an effort to make sure that Bergson’s name would be mentioned at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, I do not think that this was enough of a gesture.

And now, something about American Jewish organizations, representative or not representative of America’s Jews.  In recent years, they have all pursued the political policy of supporting almost every action of Israeli politics.  This totally subservient approach and non-critical political outlook is harming American Jews, as well as the Israelis.  We can start again our Kaddish (of course spoken in Aramaic, or Middle Persian) for American Jews.

I would like to end this article with a short story.  Peter Bergson, who, as I stated above, was I believe the most important Jewish individual of the Twentieth Century.  While trying to save European Jews, he also spent quite a bit of time meditating on the future of the Israeli Nation.  He called it the “Hebrew” Nation.  In the early months of 1944, he purchased a building and raised the flag of the Hebrew Republic, which eventually became the Israeli national flag.  Ironically, the building Bergson purchased belonged to the Iranian people and had been their Embassy in Washington!  The flag had been created in the early Twentieth Century in the town of Rishon LeZion, which at the time was part of Ottoman Palestine.  As a matter of coincidence, Rishon LeZion was also the birthplace of the modern Hebrew language.  This small town created the first Hebrew kindergarten and grammar school of modern times.  So the cycle has come full circle: it is Biblical Hebrew coming from the Persian tradition in the Assyrian alphabet that went through the Yiddish and was recycled into what we now call modern Hebrew.  It was my birthplace as well and the place where I started reading and writing in Hebrew.  It was only when I came to America that I started meditating on the subject I wrote about.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Happy New Year!

All good wishes for 2013! May the New Year bring you health, wealth, happiness and peace...