Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Indiana’s Holocaust Observance and My Closing Remarks

Today I had the privilege — in my capacity as President of the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council — to offer the closing remarks at the State of Indiana’s annual Holocaust Observance program (this year’s title was “A Holocaust Day of Remembrance: Honoring the Past, Remembering for the Future”). The program is presented by the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Indiana Holiday Commission, and Indiana Civil Rights Commission.

The speakers at the program included Clayton A. Graham, Chair, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Indiana Holiday Commission, and Indiana Civil Rights Commission; Tony A. Kirkland, Executive Director, Indiana Civil Rights Commission; Cantor Janice Roger, Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation; and Phil Lande, son of a Holocaust survivor. The featured speakers were Richard Mourdock, Indiana State Treasurer (who, though I may disagree with him on many things, impressed me with very powerful remarks for which I express my sincere gratitude), and Norbert Krapf, Indiana Poet Laureate. Mr. Krapf spoke of growing up in a German-Catholic community in southern Indiana and his efforts to learn about his heritage and how those efforts, in turn, led to his learning about the Holocaust. He read several very moving selections from his book Blue-Eyed Grass: Poems of Germany. You can read more of Mr. Krapf’s story in A Poet Discovers a World of Complexities in His Background archived from The New York Times.

Of course, given that this blog is about Me Me Me Me Me, I decided to reprint my prepared remarks:

In Indiana, the law requires that Holocaust education be a part of the curriculum. However, teaching about the Holocaust is not the same as understanding the Holocaust. Unfortunately, this distinction was made all too apparent earlier this school year in a central Indiana middle school.

The class was an 8th grade English writing class. Some teachers in other 8th grade English classes were teaching The Diary of Anne Frank; unfortunately, they later explained, they didn’t know much about the Holocaust themselves, especially how to teach it to 8th graders. In the particular writing class, the teacher was focusing on creative writing and wanted to avoid some of the same exercises that she’d used for years. So, with the help of some materials and suggestions that she’d found elsewhere, she tried to get her students to think about bad things. She wanted them to write creatively, and especially to try to find some of the good that might be found in those bad things. While this may have been a laudable goal, in some cases — like the Holocaust — there simply isn’t an easily found silver lining. And thus the assignment went awry.

One of the possible assignments for the students was to sell something. Before I describe how this assignment relates to the Holocaust, let me first relay the first of the two examples of something that could be sold provided by the teacher:

For Sale: America. This 200+ year old country could be just what the medicine man ordered! Nestled between 2 major oceans and bordered on the north and south by 2 friendly countries, the United States of America has already been subdivided into 48 convenient parcels plus a vast tract of land near the Arctic Circle and a few heavenly islands in the Pacific. Though it no longer contains huge herds of buffalo to hunt and crystal clear streams and lakes to fish in, native peoples will still enjoy the vast tracks of farmland and those with Visa cards will be able to buy food and manufactured items to help them forget the pristine beauty which was lost. They could also watch nature documentaries on the Discovery Channel.

Though some may agree with the political viewpoint of that example, one must query its appropriateness as an example for an 8th grade English class. But what about the Holocaust? Here is the second example:

For Sale: Auschwitz. Looking for a place that would make the perfect summer camp? Think about this concentration camp. Poland would like to take the bad reputation of Auschwitz and turn it around! Think of the possibilities! The barracks could be renovated to house thousands of people. We have ovens big enough to bake bread for thousands. The razor wire will prevent students from making a break for it. There is plenty of room for exercise, where role call used to be taken. Railroads can go right through camp, meaning supplies will be at your fingertips at all times.

Yes, you heard me correctly: We have ovens big enough to bake bread for thousands. That is what I mean when I say that there is a difference between teaching about the Holocaust and understanding the Holocaust.

And that wasn’t the only example in the assignment packet. Students could also write a letter of recommendation for a job. One example provided was to have Adolf Hitler write a letter of recommendation for Dr. Joseph Mengele for a job as a plastic surgeon. For those who don’t recall, he was the “doctor” who performed experiments on twins at Auschwitz, including Terre Haute resident Eva Kor and her twin sister. Or students could create a trading card about a historical figure. The example provided was Adolf Hitler. Some of the data on the example Hitler trading card:

Hobbies: Planning New Ways to Rule the World

Pet Peeve: Jews.

You see, so long as we live in a world where people can make jokes about ovens used to destroy the bodies of millions of people murdered for no reason other than their religion, so long as we live in a world where people don’t take seriously evil experiments done upon unwilling human victims, so long as we live in a world where people can look at the evil of the Holocaust and chalk it up to one man’s “pet peeve”, then we remain at risk for the same things happening again and again.

Our world continues to face genocide. From Rwanda to Bosnia to Darfur. We give lip service to learning the lessons of the Holocaust, but it seems clear that we’re not really digesting those lessons. All too often we allow hate to fester and guide our actions.

The issue in the school has been largely resolved and those involved have used the incident as a learning opportunity, so I don’t want to spend time rehashing issues of blame or to even note which school was involved. I’m satisfied that the teacher understands the inappropriateness of the assignment.

We need to continue teaching about the Holocaust, both in terms of the facts of what happened and in terms of the lessons to be learned. And we need to be sure that we give Indiana’s teachers the tools and lessons that they need so that they can tackle this subject with the seriousness and understanding that it requires. For to teach the Holocaust as something other than one of the worst evils the world has ever seen is to teach our children that genocide isn’t a danger and that hate is an acceptable guidepost to life.

The program had a small audience. The Jewish community was well-represented. But those of us in the Jewish community need to do an even better job of attending at and participating in events such as this one (or the Holocaust Observance program being conducted by the City of Carmel on Friday) to demonstrate to the broader community that we really do care about the Holocaust and that we’re appreciative of the efforts of our state and local municipalities to commemorate the Holocaust. More importantly, we need to be sure that more Gentiles are in attendance so that we can be sure that memories of the Holocaust do not become the sole province of Jews.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Will This Finally Convince People to Stop Paying Attention to Glenn Beck

Over the past year or so, Glenn Beck has made some pretty wild accusations and statements, whether declaring President Obama to be a racist, fear-mongering about FEMA concentration camps, or any of a host of other wild and often dangerous claims. Yet people continue to watch his program and listen to his rants (though advertisers continue to flee his program). A few days ago, however, he may have finally taken a step to show people how truly deranged he is and, at least to me, that derangement is dangerous.

On his radio show Beck said this (audio available here):

I’m begging you, your right to religion and freedom to exercise religion and read all of the passages of the Bible as you want to read them and as your church wants to preach them . . . are going to come under the ropes in the next year. If it lasts that long it will be the next year. I beg you, look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!

For the record, I’m a conservative Jew. So I followed Beck’s advice and looked (I knew what I’d find…) at the website of The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and found a whole page on Social Action including a sub-topic of Social Justice that includes such things as climate change, Civility in Public Discourse, Confronting the Common Enemy: Hatred, Dialogue with Presbyterian Clergy, Jewish Community Budget Priorities, Domestic Violence, Heading Off Bias Crimes Before They Occur, Serving Our Seniors, gay marriage, Judaism and Health Care Reform, Organ Donation, and numerous other issues. Ooh. Scary stuff, right? Well, no. Not really. In fact, those positions are things that make me proud to be a Jew and proud of my affiliation.

My synagogue is also affiliated with Reconstructionist Judaism. Guess what? There is a social justice component to Reconstructionist teaching as well (though sadly the website doesn’t have a dedicated social justice page). Similarly, the website for the Union of Reform Judaism also has a whole page devoted to social action that includes, among other things, Heath Care for All, Economic Justice, and Greening Reform Judaism.

Now according to data that I found on Wikipedia (I know, I know…), there are between 5.1 and 6.5 million Jews in America (the lower number does not include children). Apparently, 4.3 million are “strongly connected” to Judaism. Of those, 46% belong to a synagogue and of those who do belong, approximately 71% are affiliated with either the Reform, Conservative, or Reconstructionist movements, all of which have a social justice component. So by my rough math, Beck has told approximately 1.4 million American Jews to leave their respective Jewish affiliations!

If that wasn’t offensive enough, here’s why Beck wants people to disaffiliate from churches that advocate for social justice:

That’s right, social justice led to the gassing of 6 million Jews. At least it did in Glenn Beck’s paranoid, freakazoid, sleazy, world o’ fear. (For the record, Beck was raised Catholic but became a Mormon.)

I’ll leave members of other religions (especially Catholics) to talk about how offensive Beck’s comments are to them; I can’t and won’t speak on their behalf. But for Beck to attack social justice — which is a central focus of much of modern (progressive Judaism) — is so far beyond the pale it is hard to fathom. But to then tie that social justice to Nazism is … well … frankly, I’m at a loss for words on this one.

Tell Fox News that it is time for Beck to go before he manages to incite his own racial, religious, ethnic, or political civil war. Then again, maybe that’s what Fox wants. After all, a good ol’ fashion civil war or even simple race riots or an assassination or two might be good for ratings.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Expressions of Anti-Semitism Becauase Israel Helps Haiti

Israel has sent doctors, a field hospital, and medical supplies to Haiti. Anti-Semites can't let good deeds like that go unpunished. Please take a few minutes and read this article from blogger Andrew Holland: Israel's Haiti relief elicits both praise and condemnation. That is what we're fighting against.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Monday, December 28, 2009

Anti-Semitic Holiday Rant from Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor, the host of Public Broadcasting's A Prairie Home Companion (the tales from Lake Wobegon) and The Writer's Almanac also writes a column for the Baltimore Sun. Here is his December 16, 2009, column in its entirety (emphasis added):
Nonbelievers, please leave Christmas alone

I've just come from Cambridge, that beehive of brilliance, where nerds don't feel self-conscious: There's always someone nerdier nearby. If you are the World's Leading Authority on the mating habits of the jabberwock beetle of the Lesser Jujube Archipelago, you can take comfort in knowing that the pinch-faced drone next to you at Starbucks may be the W.L.A. on 17th-century Huguenot hymnody or a niche of quantum physics that is understood by nobody but himself.

People in Cambridge learn to be wary of brilliance, having seen geniuses in the throes of deep thought step into potholes and disappear. Such as the brilliant economist Lawrence Summers, whose presidency brought Harvard to the verge of disaster. He, against the advice of his lessers, invested Harvard's operating funds in the stock market and lost the bet. In the cold light of day, this was dumber than dirt, like putting the kids' lunch money on Valiant's Fancy to win in the 5th. And now the genius is in the White House, two short flights of stairs above the Oval Office. This does not make Cantabrigians feel better about our nation's economic future.

You can blame Ralph Waldo Emerson for the brazen foolishness of the elite. He preached here at the First Church of Cambridge, a Unitarian outfit (where I discovered that "Silent Night" has been cleverly rewritten to make it more about silence and night and not so much about God), and Emerson tossed off little bon mots that have been leading people astray ever since. "To be great is to be misunderstood," for example. This tiny gem of self-pity has given license to a million arrogant and unlovable people to imagine that their unpopularity somehow was proof of their greatness.

And all his hoo-ha about listening to the voice within and don't follow the path, make your own path and leave a trail and so forth, encouraged people who might've been excellent janitors to become bold and innovative economists who run a wealthy university into the ditch.

Unitarians listen to the Inner Voice and so they have no creed that they all stand up and recite in unison, and that's their perfect right, but it is wrong, wrong, wrong to rewrite "Silent Night." If you don't believe Jesus was God, OK, go write your own damn "Silent Night" and leave ours alone. This is spiritual piracy and cultural elitism, and we Christians have stood for it long enough. And all those lousy holiday songs by Jewish guys that trash up the malls every year, Rudolph and the chestnuts and the rest of that dreck. Did one of our guys write "Grab your loafers, come along if you wanna, and we'll blow that shofar for Rosh Hashanah"? No, we didn't.

Christmas is a Christian holiday - if you're not in the club, then buzz off. Celebrate Yule instead or dance around in druid robes for the solstice. Go light a big log, go wassailing and falalaing until you fall down, eat figgy pudding until you puke, but don't mess with the Messiah.

Christmas does not need any improvements. It is a common, ordinary experience that resists brilliant innovation. Just make some gingerbread persons and light three candles and sing softly in dim light about the poor man gathering winter fu-u-el and the radiant beams and the holly and the ivy, and you've got it. Too many people work too hard to make Christmas perfect, find the perfect gifts, get a turkey that reaches 100 percent of potential. Perfection is a goal of brilliant people, and it is unnecessary where Christmas is concerned.

The most wonderful Christmas of my life was 1997, a quiet day with no gifts and no tree, waiting in a New York apartment for my daughter to be born. And the second most wonderful was one in the Norwegian Arctic, where it rained every day and the sun came up around 11 and set around 1, not that you ever actually saw the sun, and the food was abominable, boiled cod and watery potatoes, and the people were cold and resentful, and there was no brilliance whatsoever. And I had the flu. Why was I there? Good question. But every year it gladdens my heart to know that I will not be going to Norway for Christmas. A terrific investment. Mr. Summers should be so smart. For one week of misery, I get an annual joyfulness dividend of at least 25 percent. Merry Christmas, my dears.
Can you imagine the outcry if a Jew wrote this about Sen. Orrin Hatch's Hannukah song? And how does Keillor's outrage square with the so-called "War on Christmas"? Which war would that be? The one where a bunch of Jews (like Irving Berlin, for example) write Christmas songs that are played and sung year after year after year? We Jews aren't the ones playing those songs in the malls; I suspect that we'd be just as happy if Radio Disney was playing (well, maybe that was a bad example).

But the hostility in Keillor's comments (to Lawrence Summers, to Uniterians, and to Jews) is stunning.

And for the record,  I'd love it if some Christian musicians would write a Rosh Hashanah song or a Hannukah song; my daughter asked why all the good holiday songs were for Christmas. Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand have recorded Christmas albums. Maybe Bruce Springsteen or Dolly Parton can record a High Holidays album. And maybe if people like Keillor spent a few minutes writing songs for us, they'd have a few minutes less time to think about why they hate those who are different from them. Why does Keillor seem to feel so threatened that others either express different views or want to make the holiday season more joyous?

But I really love the sentiment expressed in the following line: "Christmas is a Christian holiday - if you're not in the club, then buzz off". Of course, when non-Christians object to Christians trying to force Christmas down our throats, then we get the same response: "buzz off". Talk about "cultural elitism"! In Keillor's world, Jews and other non-Christians should neither object to having to endure Christmas this and Christmas that, but should stay away from trying to participate in the festival and holiday season.
Well, Mr. Keillor, I'm sure you don't care, but fuck off. I hope Rudolph kicks you right in your anti-Semitic chestnuts. Oh, and have a Happy New Year.


Bookmark and Share

Monday, November 9, 2009

How Do We Respond?

Last week, I posted a photo of this banner that was prominently displayed at Rep. Michelle Bachmann’s anti-healthcare reform (and anti-government, anti-Obama, etc.) “press conference” rally at the Capitol:


If you can’t read the words or make out the image, it says, “National Socialist Health Care Dachau, Germany – 1945” above a photo of a pile of naked bodies.

Think for a second about the comparison being drawn: President Obama’s efforts to extend healthcare coverage to millions of uninsured Americans is being directly compared to the genocide committed by Nazi Germany.

Here is another sign that was displayed at the gathering (and remember, unlike the 9/12 rallies with 70,000 participants [or millions as Fox and the right like to suggest], last week’s rally drew a paltry 3,000 or so):

Nope, no anti-Semitism in that poster (and note that the the family’s name is Rothschilds; if you’re going to hate them, you could at least spell the name right…). Oh, and out of curiosity. If President Obama is a secret Muslim, why would he be taking orders from Jewish financiers?

After my previous post was uploaded, I learned that Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) was one of the speakers at the tea party. Why does this matter? Well, Rep. Cantor is the Republican whip (second-highest ranking Republican in the House of Representatives) and he is the only Jewish Republican in Congress (presuming for the sake of argument that Joe Lieberman isn’t really a Republican…). So what did Rep. Cantor have to say about the banner suggesting that the Holocaust is a fair comparison for healthcare reform? Nothing. His spokesperson said simply that the sign was “inappropriate”. And when interviewed and asked specifically about Rush Limbaugh’s comparisons of President Obama to Hitler (the comments were made back in August; Rep. Cantor did not respond to them until now), all that Rep. Cantor could only bring himself to say:

Do I condone the mention of Hitler in any discussion about politics. No, I don’t, because obviously that is something that conjures up images that frankly are not, I think, very helpful.

Here’s the video:

Note that when asked specifically if Limbaugh’s comment was “inappropriate”, Rep. Cantor is unable to simply say, “yes”, let alone come forth with a strong condemnation of Limbaugh’s hate-filled rhetoric.

And, for the record, other Republican members of Congress at the rally, including House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), have yet to condemn these signs or the messages that they convey.

So let’s compare Rep. Cantor’s views with those of another Jewish member of Congress, Rep. Steve Israel (D-New York):

Here’s what David Harris, President of the National Jewish Democratic Council had to say:

Today’s G.O.P. “Tea Party” on Capitol Hill opposing health insurance reform invoked disgusting Holocaust imagery and outright anti-Semitism. Top Republican Party leaders including House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA), and House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-IN) stood before a crowd that included a banner protesting health care reform and displaying corpses from the Holocaust. Yet another sign charged that “Obama takes his orders from the Rothchilds” [sic]. Such vile invocations of Nazi and Holocaust rhetoric have been condemned in recent weeks by rabbinic movements, The Interfaith Alliance, and The American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants.

The time has come for Boehner, Cantor, Pence and other G.O.P. leaders—especially those who were present today—to condemn these disgusting comparisons and anti-Semitism. They must tell their base once and for all to cut out this despicable pattern of Holocaust imagery and rhetoric.

Norman Podhoretz recently wrote Why Are Jews Liberals? In his book, Podhoretz asks why Jews have aligned themselves with the Democratic party rather than with Republicans. Perhaps the refusal of Republican leaders, including Jewish Republican leaders, to take a strong stand and condemn the use of Nazi and anti-Semitic rhetoric might have just a little, tiny bit to do with it? Perhaps it might have something to do with the fact that the Republican party is willing not only to accept those who espouse hate, but actually allow them to influence or even dictate policy. And perhaps, just perhaps, it has something to do with a party that views truth and intellectual honesty as mere options.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Breaking News: 2 People Shot at U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (update 2)

Moments after posting my prior entry, I came across an interesting video clip. FOX News now appears to be waking up to the hate speech:

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Breaking News: 2 People Shot at U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (update)

Well it looks like the guard who was shot at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum earlier today was killed. According to The Washington Post:

Gunman Shoots, Kills Guard at Holocaust Museum
Suspect Identified as White Supremacist

A lone gunman known to authorities as a white supremacist shot and fatally wounded a private security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in downtown Washington today before being shot and wounded by guards who returned fire, officials said.

The security guard, who police identified as 39-year-old Stephen Tyrone Johns of Temple Hills, and the gunman were both taken to George Washington University Hospital.

Johns died at the hospital, authorities said later, and the gunman, who was not identified, was reported to be in critical condition. A third person sustained minor injuries in the incident, according to police. Museum officials said in a statement that Johns had worked at the museum for six years. The museum said it would be closed tomorrow, and lower its flags to half-staff, to honor Johns's memory. "There are no words to express our grief," the statement said.

A law enforcement source identified the gunman as James W. von Brunn, 88. On a Web site he apparently maintains extolling a "Holy Western Empire," von Brunn says he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, worked for 20 years as an advertising executive and film producer in New York and then became "an artist and author" living in Maryland.

Police recovered a notebook from the gunman that apparently contained a list of different D.C. locations, law enforcement sources said. D.C. police bomb squads were called to search and secure those locations after the shooting, including one in the 1400 block of Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House.

"Everything is getting checked out," a police source said. No other details on the locations were immediately available.

Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who serves on the board of the museum, said in a statement, "We are horrified by what happened in Washington today. It is especially shocking that this attack took place at a museum designed to prevent violence and remind us of the dangers of hatred and bigotry."

Sgt. David Schlosser, a spokesman for the U.S. Park Police, said the security guard and the gunman were the only two people hit by gunshots in the museum shooting. He said the museum has been "completely secured and evacuated."

A spokesman for the museum, Andy Hollinger, said in a statement that after the gunman opened fire, "two Museum security officers returned fire hitting the assailant."

Police initially identified the attacker's weapon as a shotgun, but D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier later said it appeared to be a rifle.

The gunman "came into the entrance and immediately opened fire, striking one security guard," D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty said. "There was gunfire returned; the gunman was hit."

Fenty said the gunman is in critical condition.

Fenty called the shooting "an extremely isolated incident" and said the security guards "performed exceptionally well and behaved exactly as they were supposed to." He praised "the heroism of the security guards."

Lanier said the assailant appeared to be "a lone gunman who entered the museum and opened fire with what appears to be a rifle at this point." The assailant's weapon was visible as he entered the museum, she said.

"Immediately as he entered the front doors of the museum, he raised the rifle and started shooting," she said. "The second he stepped into the building, he began firing."

Police have used bomb-sniffing dogs to sweep the museum and the area around it as a routine precaution, Lanier said.

An off-duty D.C. police officer who was nearby responded to the museum immediately after the shooting, along with U.S. Park Police who were patrolling in the area, officials said. They helped the wounded guard until medical crews arrived.

A spokeswoman for Wackenhut Services Inc., confirmed that the company provides security for the museum. According to the company's Web site, Wackenhut is the U.S. government's "largest contractor for professional security services."

The company has more than 8,000 employees in the United States and abroad. In the National Capital Region, it has 1,000 employees and 10 security contracts.

In a short biography on his Web site, von Brunn gave his birth year as 1920 and wrote that held a journalism degree from a "mid-Western university."

He boasted in the Web biography and on a Wikipedia page of an escapade in which he attempted to take over the Federal Reserve on Dec. 7, 1981, holding the Board of Governors "under citizens arrest" and charging them with treason. He was captured, tried and sentenced to 11 years in federal prison. He blamed a "Negro jury," "Jew/Negro attorneys" and "a Jew judge" for his conviction.

Upon his release after serving 6 1/2 years in prison, von Brunn said he joined Mensa, the society for people who score in the top 2 percent of a standardized intelligence test. An executive assistant at Mensa, Joy Martin, confirmed that von Brunn was a member for a year starting April 2, 1987. But he was dropped from the membership rolls in 1988 for failing to pay dues.

According to the biography, Von Brunn captained a PT Boat in World War II and earned "four battle stars." That claim could not be immediately substantiated.

A woman who opened the door at von Brunn's apartment, in a neighborhood outside downtown Annapolis, declined to comment.

Neighbors, who asked that they not be identified, said that they recently invited von Brunn to their home for a drink and that he unexpectedly brought up his belief that the Holocaust did not occur.

"He didn't believe the Holocaust existed. It was just off the wall," one of the neighbors said.

The shooting was reported to police at 12:52 p.m., and officers rushed to the scene just south of Independence Ave. bordering the Mall.

Scores of police and emergency vehicles converged on the scene, blocking 14th Street, a major artery between downtown Washington and the Virginia suburbs. Police closed the area around the museum. They said they were trying to reopen 14th Street to traffic as soon as possible.

One witness, Dave Unruh, of Wichita, Kan., said he was waiting to enter the museum when he heard one gunshot, then a sequence of four or five gunshots. He said he then heard someone scream, "Hit the floor!" He and his wife, Karen, and their two teenage grandchildren dropped to the floor and were subsequently herded out of the building by authorities.

Unruh called the experience "intensely, extremely frightening."

By 1 p.m., the street in front of the museum was blocked by a museum police officer. A group of schoolchildren was rushed onto a chartered luxury coach and the bus driver struggled to pull away from the block.

Kimberly Frank, 44, of Chicago, said she was coming out of the museum with her 14-year-old son Tyler when "we heard shots, pretty consecutive, within seconds."

"We were on the lower level, just getting ready to exit," Frank said. "I was thinking about what I'd just experienced through the whole memorial. I wasn't thinking too much of it till I came outside and saw all the people running around."

Schlosser, the Park Police spokesman, said an unidentified man walked into the museum about 12:50 p.m. with a "long gun." The gunman was just outside the museum's metal detectors when he was confronted by a security guard, police said.

After the shooting, a U.S. Park Police SWAT team swarmed into the building and carried out a search for anyone else who may have been involved, Schlosser said. He said the gunman apparently acted alone.

Trevor Ezelo, 18, from Arizona, said: "Basically we were in the propaganda exhibit, walking around, and all of a sudden we heard five shots. We all started looking around. We didn't even think it was gunshots. We thought it was something that fell over. Then a security guard ran in, saying, 'Move back into the exhibit!'"

Then, Ezelo said, "some lady ran in crying, and we all knew something was wrong."

In a statement e-mailed to museum staff shortly after the shooting, William Parsons, the museum's chief of staff, said all staff and visitors were safe.

"One of our guards was shot and has been taken to the hospital," he said. "The suspect who committed the shooting was shot by our guards and has been taken to the hospital."

He asked employees to remain in their offices until police finished conducting a sweep of the museum.

Since it opened nearly two decades ago, the Holocaust museum has become a top attraction for school groups and tourists from across
the nation. Groups of various races and ethnic backgrounds converge on the striking stone building daily to tour exhibits that document, in chilling detail, the extermination of 6 million Jews and millions of other people by Germany's Nazi regime during World War II.

The museum also has played an active role in documenting and decrying what it describes as more recent attempts at genocide, including conflicts in Darfur and Bosnia.

Law enforcement officials attend sensitivity training programs there, and elderly Holocaust survivors have come to the facility -- children and grandchildren in tow -- for emotional reunions that attest to the failure of the Nazis to achieve their goal.

About 400 employees and 300 volunteers work at the museum, which is both publicly and privately funded.

The FBI sent "members of its National Capital Response Squad, including agents and team members on SWAT, Evidence Recovery and the Joint Terrorism Task Force, to provide on-scene support," said John Perren, special agent in charge of the Washington Field Office's Counterterrorism Division. "The situation is fluid and therefore no other statements will be made at this time," he said.

A leading U.S. Muslim organization, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, condemned "this apparent bias-motivated attack" and said it stands "with the Jewish community and with Americans of all faiths in repudiating the kind of hatred and intolerance that can lead to such disturbing incidents."

So it appears that the hope that I expressed earlier today that this shooting would not be another violent expression of anti-Semitism looks to have been in vain. And I can't help but wonder if Mr. Johns, the murdered security guard, was the guard who checked me through the Museum's metal detector just a few weeks ago.

I tried to take a look at the webpage mentioned in The Washington Post's article, but it appears that the site has been taken down. I guess that's good; we don't need any more whackjobs being exposed to the killer's writings, but it would have been interesting to see if there was an explanation for the hate he must have felt.

I suppose Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and especially Pat Buchanan will blame this attack on President Obama, too. It is time that we start to take hate speech seriously. How many right-wing attacks does it take before we start to recognize it for what it is: terrorism? And how many right-wing attacks will it take before some of the crazy voices of hate on the TV and radio will recognize as (or be recognized for) inciting those attacks? Just think: Since President Obama was inaugurated we've had several right-wing attacks on police, the killing of an abortion doctor, and this attack at the Holocaust Memorial Museum, not to mention the arrest of at least one other right-winger with bomb-making materials.

Oh, and it's a good thing that it's easy to obtain hunting rifles!

(Update: I mistakenly only posted the first part of The Washington Post's article; the entire article has now been posted.)


Bookmark and Share

Breaking News: 2 People Shot at U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

According to The Washington Post, a security guard was shot inside the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.:

A gunman armed with a shotgun walked into the U.S. Holocaust Museum in dowtown
Washington today and opened fire on a security guard before being shot and seriously wounded himself by at least one other guard, authorities said.

The security guard and the gunman were both transported to George Washington University Hospital with serious injuries, police said.

Sgt. David Schlosser, a spokesman for the U.S. Park Police, said the security guard and the gunman were apparently the only two persons who were shot. Initial reports said at least one other person sustained gunshot wounds.

U.S. Park Police said a gunman armed with a shotgun opened fire on the security guard and that other security guards returned fire. The gunman was reported wounded.

The shooting was reported to police at 12:52 p.m., and officers rushed to the scene just south of Independence Ave. bordering the Mall.

D.C. Fire Department spokesman Alan Etter said there was no immediate information on the shooter. He said two men were transported to a hospital with "serious" gunshot wounds.

One witness, Dave Unruh, of Wichita, Kan., said he was waiting to enter the museum when he heard one gunshot, then a sequence of four or five gunshots. He said he then heard someone scream, "Hit the floor!" He and his wife, Karen, and their two teenage grandchildren hit the floor and were subsequently herded out of the building by authorities.

Unruh called the experience "intensely, extremely frightening."

By 1 p.m., the street in front of the museum was blocked by a museum police officer. A group of schoolchildren was rushed onto a chartered luxury coach and the bus driver struggled to pull away from the block.

I visited the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum three weeks ago. The facility was packed full of of families and student groups and I cannot begin to imagine how bad this situation could have been. Let's hope that this is not yet another violent expression of anti-Semitism.


Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Using Dr. Tiller's Murder to Espouse Anti-Semitism

Just a quick post of a quotation that I came across from James Edwards, host of an AM and Internet radio show (and former staffer for Pat Buchanan) talking about the murder of Dr. George Tiller:

I’m sure most Americans were shocked to hear that an abortionist was shot to death this weekend. The really shocking part was that it happened at his church - most abortionists attend synagogues.
Hard to spin that as anything other than blatant anti-Semitism.

Oh, and Pat Buchanan? He's been a guest on Edwards' show several times. For those interested, the Anti-Defamation League has an interesting expose on Buchanan's relationships with right-wing and anti-Semitic organizations. It is time for MSNBC to recognize Buchanan for the bigot he is and take him off the air.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Sampling of Signs from the "Tea Bag" Parties That You Didn't See on the News (update 1)

I wanted to take a brief moment to show an advertising graphic that was used to promote last week's tea parties. This graphic was used by the Bay Area Ron Paul Campaign for Liberty to promote the tea party in San Mateo, California.

The text on the graphic (I tried to enlarge it, but I wasn't able to make it more readable) says: "Uncle Sam Reminds You: KEEP PAYING TAXES. The ongoing extermination of Palestinian Children Can’t be Done Without Your Help."

At least California's GOP Chairman condemned the poster. But what does it say about either Ron Paul, his supporters, or the tax parties in general, that a poster this despicable was used in the first place?

Anyone who truly believes that these tea parties were simply grassroots gatherings of people who believe that their taxes are too high needs to take a bit of time and examine how those tea parties were organized and promoted (hint: Fox News) and the messages espoused (secession, revolution, and racism among others). Some on the right are upset about the recent report from the Department of Homeland Security warning about the possibility of violence from right-wing extremists. After listening to some of the messages and looking at some of the posters from the tea parties, it seems that DHS may have gotten things absolutely right and we should be worried.

Update: I found a larger, readable version of the poster.


Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Friday, April 10, 2009

For Those Who Think Hamas Are the "Good Guys"

One of the best ways to understand the thoughts and intentions of the Muslim and Arab world is to watch and listen to their own TV and radio and read their newspapers. It turns out that what is said in Arabic is often quite different from what is said to international audiences. Unfortunately, given that so few westerners speak Arabic, it can be very difficult to find out what is really being said and it is rare for our western media outlets to report on what is really being said in the Arabic-language press (like Al-Jezeera). To that end, there is MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute) and the MEMRI TV Reserach Project which follow the Arabic-language press and offer translations for western viewers.

By way of recent example, take this "drama" presented at Gaza Islamic University during a festival to commemorate the founder of Hamas and then broadcast on Al-Aqsa TV on April 3, 2009 (if you don't want to watch, here is the transcript). The material is too abhorrent and disgusting for me to embed or reprint here (focusing as it does on the blood libel). But it is worth viewing and/or reading in order to see what is being presented on the official Palestinian TV network. Browsing through MEMRI's other offerings will show that this is not an isolated incident. When a Palestinian resident of Gaza turns on their TV, this is the kind of material that they can watch. It makes even FOX News seem fair and balanced.

The next time that someone tells you that Hamas wants peace or that the Palestinians don't teach hate or that Muslim clerics offer only peaceful messages, show them this clip or just tell them to look around at MEMRI and see what the Palestinians and other Arab nations really have to say about America, Israel, and Jews.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What Do Israeli Arabs Think?

I've recently come across two very interesting articles that are worth reading for what they have to say about the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I've re-posted the articles in their entirety because I think that they are important and because I don't know how long they will be freely available online. The first article, On Campus: The Pro-Palestinians' Real Agenda (posted at Hudson New York) is an interesting (and disturbing) read:

During a recent visit to several university campuses in the U.S., I discovered that there is more sympathy for Hamas there than there is in Ramallah.

Listening to some students and professors on these campuses, for a moment I thought I was sitting opposite a Hamas spokesman or a would-be-suicide bomber.

I was told, for instance, that Israel has no right to exist, that Israel’s “apartheid system” is worse than the one that existed in South Africa and that Operation Cast Lead was launched only because Hamas was beginning to show signs that it was interested in making peace and not because of the rockets that the Islamic movement was launching at Israeli communities.

I was also told that top Fatah operative Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life terms in prison for masterminding terror attacks against Israeli civilians, was thrown behind bars simply because he was trying to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Furthermore, I was told that all the talk about financial corruption in the Palestinian Authority was “Zionist propaganda” and that Yasser Arafat had done wonderful things for his people, including the establishment of schools, hospitals and universities.

The good news is that these remarks were made only by a minority of people on the campuses who describe themselves as “pro-Palestinian,” although the overwhelming majority of them are not Palestinians or even Arabs or Muslims.

The bad news is that these groups of hard-line activists/thugs are trying to intimidate anyone who dares to say something that they don’t like to hear.

When the self-designated “pro-Palestinian” lobbyists are unable to challenge the facts presented by a speaker, they resort to verbal abuse.

On one campus, for example, I was condemned as an “idiot” because I said that a majority of Palestinians voted for Hamas in the January 2006 election because they were fed up with financial corruption in the Palestinian Authority.

On another campus, I was dubbed as a “mouthpiece for the Zionists” because I said that Israel has a free media. There was another campus where someone told me that I was a ‘liar” because I said that Barghouti was sentenced to five life terms because of his role in terrorism.

And then there was the campus (in Chicago) where I was “greeted” with swastikas that were painted over posters promoting my talk. The perpetrators, of course, never showed up at my event because they would not be able to challenge someone who has been working in the field for nearly 30 years. What struck me more than anything else was the fact that many of the people I met on the campuses supported Hamas and believed that it had the right to “resist the occupation” even if that meant blowing up children and women on a bus in downtown Jerusalem.

I never imagined that I would need police protection while speaking at a university in the U.S. I have been on many Palestinian campuses in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and I cannot recall one case where I felt intimidated or where someone shouted abuse at me.

Ironically, many of the Arabs and Muslims I met on the campuses were much more understanding and even welcomed my “even-handed analysis” of the Israeli-Arab conflict. After all, the views I voiced were not much different than those made by the leaderships both in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. These views include support for the two-state solution and the idea of coexistence between Jews and Arabs in this part of the world.

The so-called pro-Palestinian “junta” on the campuses has nothing to offer other than hatred and de-legitimization of Israel. If these folks really cared about the Palestinians, they would be campaigning for good government and for the promotion of values of democracy and freedom in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Their hatred for Israel and what it stands for has blinded them to a point where they no longer care about the real interests of the Palestinians, namely the need to end the anarchy and lawlessness, and to dismantle all the armed gangs that are responsible for the death of hundreds of innocent Palestinians over the past few years.

The majority of these activists openly admit that they have never visited Israel or the Palestinian territories. They don’t know -and don’t want to know - that Jews and Arabs here are still doing business together and studying together and meeting with each other on a daily basis because they are destined to live together in this part of the world. They don’t want to hear that despite all the problems life continues and that ordinary Arab and Jewish parents who wake up in the morning just want to send their children to school and go to work before returning home safely and happily.

What is happening on the U.S. campuses is not about supporting the Palestinians as much as it is about promoting hatred for the Jewish state. It is not really about ending the “occupation” as much as it is about ending the existence of Israel.

Many of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas officials I talk to in the context of my work as a journalist sound much more pragmatic than most of the anti-Israel, “pro-Palestinian” folks on the campuses.

Over the past 15 years, much has been written and said about the fact that Palestinian school textbooks don’t promote peace and coexistence and that the Palestinian media often publishes anti-Israel material.

While this may be true, there is no ignoring the fact that the anti-Israel campaign on U.S. campuses is not less dangerous. What is happening on these campuses is not in the frame of freedom of speech. Instead, it is the freedom to disseminate hatred and violence. As such, we should not be surprised if the next generation of jihadists comes not from the Gaza Strip or the mountains and mosques of Pakistan and Afghanistan, but from university campuses across the U.S.

Beyond the subject matter of this article, what is really striking is its authorship. While I suspect that the title of this post gave things away, the article was written by an Israeli, but not by a Jew. The author?

Khaled Abu Toameh, an Arab Muslim, is a veteran award-winning journalist who has been covering Palestinian affairs for nearly three decades.

He studied at Hebrew University and began his career as a reporter by working for a PLO-affiliated newspaper in Jerusalem.

Abu Toameh currently works for the international media, serving as the “eyes and ears” of foreign journalists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Abu Toameh’s articles have appeared in numerous newspapers around the world, including The Wall Street Journal, US News & World Report and The Sunday Times of London.

Since 2002 he has been writing on Palestinian affairs for The Jerusalem Post.

Abu Toameh has also been working as a producer and consultant for NBC News since 1989.

Perhaps even more striking is the article "Lost in a blur of slogans" published at SFGate (a part of the San Francisco Chronicle's website; emphasis and typos in original):

For those who haven't heard, the first week in March has been designated as Israel Apartheid Week by activists who are either ill intentioned or misinformed. On American campuses, organizing committees are planning happenings to once again castigate Israel as the lone responsible party for all that maligns the Middle East.

Last year, at UC Berkeley, I had the opportunity to "dialogue" with some of the organizers of these events. My perspective is unique, both as the vice consul for Israel in San Francisco, and as a Bedouin and the highest-ranking Muslim representing the Israel in the United States. I was born into a Bedouin tribe in Northern Israel, one of 11 children, and began life as shepherd living in our family tent. I went on to serve in the Israeli border police, and later earned a master's degree in political science from Tel Aviv University before joining the Israel Foreign Ministry.

I am a proud Israeli - along with many other non-Jewish Israelis such as Druze, Bahai, Bedouin, Christians and Muslims, who live in one of the most culturally diversified societies and the only true democracy in the Middle East. Like America, Israeli society is far from perfect, but let us deals honestly. By any yardstick you choose - educational opportunity, economic development, women and gay's rights, freedom of speech and assembly, legislative representation - Israel's minorities fare far better than any other country in the Middle East

So, I would like to share the following with organizers of Israel Apartheid week, for those of them who are open to dialogue and not blinded by a hateful ideology:

You are part of the problem, not part of the solution: If you are really idealistic and committed to a better world, stop with the false rhetoric. We need moderate people to come together in good faith to help find the path to relieve the human suffering on both sides of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Vilification and false labeling is a blind alley that is unjust and takes us nowhere.

You deny Israel the fundamental right of every society to defend itself: You condemn Israel for building a security barrier to protect its citizens from suicide bombers and for striking at buildings from which missiles are launched at its cities - but you never offer an alternative. Aren't you practicing yourself a deep form of racism by denying an entire society the right to defend itself?

Your criticism is willfully hypocritical: Do Israel's Arab citizens suffer from disadvantage? You better believe it. Do African Americans 10 minutes from the Berkeley campus suffer from disadvantage - you better believe it, too. So should we launch a Berkeley Apartheid Week, or should we seek real ways to better our societies and make opportunity more available.

You are betraying the moderate Muslims and Jews who are working to achieve peace: Your radicalism is undermining the forces for peace in Israel and in the Palestinian territories. We are working hard to move toward a peace agreement that recognizes the legitimate rights of both Israel and the Palestinian people, and you are tearing down by falsely vilifying one side.

To the organizers of Israel Apartheid Week I would like to say:

If Israel were an apartheid state, I would not have been appointed here, nor would I have chosen to take upon myself this duty. There are many Arabs, both within Israel and in the Palestinian territories who have taken great courage to walk the path of peace. You should stand with us, rather than against us.

Ishmael Khaldi is deputy consul general of Israel for the Pacific Northwest.

Yes, you read that right. Israel's consul general for the Pacific Northwest is an Arab and a Muslim. Oh, and in his own words, Khaldi is "a proud Israeli".

So next time you hear someone call Israel an "apartheid state" or express support for Hamas or Marwan Barghouti, suggest that they take a few minutes and broaden the scope of their examination of the viewpoints on these issues.

One other point worth making. In Telling the Truth About the Palestinians, an article published at the Middle East Forum in 2004, though still relevant today, Abu Toameh (author of the first article printed above) said:
The lack of free speech in the territories should not be dismissed as an internal Palestinian problem. When Palestinian journalists are intimidated, it affects foreign journalists, who depend on Palestinians to be their guides and translators in the territories. When foreign journalists interview Palestinians, many translators often mistranslate or even reprimand Palestinian interviewees critical of the Palestinian Authority, and foreign journalists' ability to accurately gather facts is thus hampered.

Another problem with the Palestinian media is the sad fact that some Palestinian journalists see themselves as foot soldiers serving the revolution. These so-called journalists are often politically affiliated with one group or another. Under the PA, you basically cannot be a journalist if you are not a member of Fatah or the security forces. All the credible independent journalists have been fired by the three major Palestinian newspapers, and there are many professional Palestinian journalists, but they have been forced to seek work with the Arab and foreign media.

There are some in the foreign media who knowingly hire consultants or journalists who are really political activists, and rely heavily on them for their reporting. These "consultants" include former security prisoners and political activists who are hired by major media organizations, including American ones, who are often aware of these so-called journalists' problematic backgrounds. Despite the bias of their consultants, which inevitably affects their reporting, the media organizations keep quiet about the consultants' backgrounds. It is hard to say if this acquiescence by foreign media organizations is due to intimidation or to the need to maintain a good relationship with the PA, but it seriously affects the ability of journalists in the region to report the facts on the ground to the world.

Consider that next time your read news reports about events in Gaza or the West Bank.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Response to "Israel Lobby Intimidation"

This morning's issue of The Indianapolis Star included a "Fresh Thoughts" editorial by Scott Williamson entitled "Israel Lobby Intimidation". (Note that I don't necessarily hold the title against the author; I've learned that titles that I suggest for my IN Touch posts aren't used and, instead, the editorial staff of the paper chooses a title. Therefore, I will give Williamson the benefit of the doubt that he did not choose the inflammatory title given to his post.) There is much that I could write about Williamson's post, in particular the fact that the evidence simply doesn't support the allegations that he makes. Instead, I'll start by simply copying the comment what I posted in response to Williamson:

You make the statement that Mr. Freeman withdrew his name after "repeated attacks" and claim that these attacks came from supporters of the "Israeli right".

First, since when is it an "attack" to discuss a particular nominee's previous stated positions as well as the nominee's affiliations (including those nations from whom the nominee has accepted payment)?

Second, why do you presume that someone who was opposed to Mr. Freeman must, by definition, be a supporter of the "Israeli right". Isn't it equally possible for supporters of Israel or for an equitable resolution to the conflict to be concerned by Mr. Freeman's positions and ties to Saudi Arabia?

Finally, while in response to a later comment, you endeavor to distance yourself from the distasteful connotations of the term "Israel Lobby", in your original post, you allege there is a "taboo that forbids our public officials from disagreeing with Israeli policies". Of course, you don't back this statement up with evidence because it is simply untrue. American officials criticize Israel all the time; Secretary of State Clinton did so during her recent visit to Israel. The belief in a "taboo" is simply buying into the worst aspects of the myth of the "Israel Lobby" that you then attempt to avoid.

Moreover, isn't it possible that American officials largely don't disagree with Israeli policies because they do, in fact, agree with those policies? The argument ought not to be whether the mythic lobby is so strong as to create a taboo; instead, the question ought to be whether America should support a democratic regime that recognizes human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and other basic notions of fairness that are important to us as Americans or end that support in exchange for support of non-democratic regimes that have no respect for human rights and which use violence as a means to political ends, both foreign and domestic?

Another thing worth noting is the content of some of the other comments to Williamson's post (selected comments only, internal format editing not noted, all spelling errors in original):

Carl writes: Chas Freeman's sin was to utter the truth: 9/11 attacks were the direct result of our blind support for Israel. We need patriotic Americans to speak out against the Israel Lobby. Senator Joe "israel" Lieberman and Chuck Schumer led the fight in Congress. It is a shame that a patriotic and talented American like Chas Freeman was driven out by a parasite lobby. The Israel lobby is a malignant in America's body.

Jack writes: And you wonder why Hitler called the Jews a threat to his country?

mike writes: this is why germans hated jews and finally decided to take back their country

Lowell writes: Shame, Americans have NO control over their country. Obama/McCain all had to get blessing of AIPAC for becoming President. Rahm Imanuel (his father was a memeber of jewish "terrorist" organization Irgun, which killed countless Britisth!) runs White house.What do you expect? Time for Americans, to take their country back. America needs more Jimmy Carter, Paul Finlay!

Keltrava writes: When Israeli air force and ground troops weee killing hundreds of children, women, civillians, policemen and bombing UN compounds, schools, bomb shelters, government buildings and private homes without any objection from Obama he promised to have plenty to say after inauguration. So far not a whisper. A look at Obama's appointments, financial backers and speeches at AIPAC clearly demonstrates that AIPAC will define US policy in the Middle East.
While Williamson may have intended his post to raise and address a good faith discussion of a particular issue, his framing of the issue merely emboldens the more vitriolic anti-Israel and anti-Semitic crowd. So posts like Williamson's inevitably lead to comments and viewpoints like those set forth above which are becoming more and more prevalent and against which we are fighting. And, when I say "we" I don't intend to limit that to supporters of Israel. Instead, the "we" that I refer to includes all of those who believe in open, honest, reasoned debate, free of unsupported allegations, innuendo, and bigotry.

I'm happy to debate anyone on the issue of US support for Israel or Israel's right to exist and to defend itself, but I'm not interested in having that debate with someone who refuses to be intellectually honest, to support their position with facts, or to accept the legitimacy of facts that weaken their position (Jimmy Carter being the chief example...). And I'm certainly not willing to have that debate with someone who, in the absence of facts and logic, will resort to timeless anti-Semetic rants, whether in the form of modernized versions of the Blood Libel or the equally modernized reframings of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

As Alan Dershowitz has suggested:
So long as criticism is comparative, contextual, and fair, it should be encouraged, not disparaged. But when the Jewish nation is the only one criticized for faults that are far worse among other nations, such criticism crosses the line from fair to foul, from acceptable to anti-Semitic.
(The Case For Israel, 2003, p.1.) So, by all means criticize Israel, but in doing so be sure that your criticism is reasoned and just, supported by facts, and that you don't hold Israel (or its supporters) to a standard higher than that to which the rest of the international community is held. When you confuse Israeli and Jew, when you question the motives of American Jews, when you resort to vague innuendo that hearkens back to the Blood Libel or Protocols or "Jews control the media/banks" themes, then you are no longer engaged in good faith criticism, but rather you have crossed over the line.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bahrain's Overtures Toward Jewish Citizens

I just came across an interesting article on JTA:
The king of Bahrain said he would facilitate the return of Jewish expatriates through restored citizenship and land offers.

King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa met in New York Tuesday with about 50 Bahraini Jews who had immigrated to the United States, following a similar meeting in London this summer.

The king said that all expatriate Bahrainis, whatever their religion, were welcome to return.

"It's open, it's your country," he said in New York.

Hamad had reversed a law that banned dual citizenship and was ready to restore the citizenship of Bahrainis who had lost it in the interim, as well as offer it to their children.

"The younger ones can’t remember much, but we want them to know," he said of Bahraini heritage.

Returning Bahrainis would be eligible for land allocations, the king said.

Hamad is in New York to attend an interfaith conference co-sponsored by Saudi Arabia and the United Nations. He has instituted reforms in recent years, including extending the vote to women. He recently named a Jewish woman, Houda Nonoo, as his ambassador to Washington.

In an interview, Hamad told JTA that he did not expect his reforms to replicate throughout the region.

"What we do in Bahrain is for sure for Bahrain, it’s not to be exported," he said.

Bahrain has recorded a Jewish presence since the Talmudic era. Its current community of several dozen Jews is descended from Iraqi Jewish merchants who settled in the late ninth century.

Several things about this article struck a chord for me. First, given the open hostility to Jews throughout the Arab world (not just Israelis), the idea that an Arab country would take positive steps to improve relations with its own Jewish community is a terrific sign. Many people forget that a large segment of the Israeli population is comprised of Jews who fled or were expelled from Arab countries in the years following the formation of the State of Israel. And many people forget that the few remaining Jewish communities in Arab countries are often discriminated against or used as scapegoats for societal ills (or accused of being Israeli spies). So it is a welcome sign to see at least one Arab country actually recognizing that Jews play a role in their society and welcoming them as full partipants. Compare this to countries like Saudi Arabia where it is a crime not to be a Muslim.

But Bahrain has, apparently, gone further than just welcoming Jews. The Bahraini government has actually given a Jew (and a woman, at that) a position of power and influence within the government. That is a very positive step forward that could, given time, help form a base for some kind of construction dialogue between Bahrain and Israel. For the record, I wouldn't expect Ambasador Nonoo to be pro-Israeli; she should be pro-Bahraini and advocate for her nation. On the other hand, one would certainly hope that even if she opposes the government of Israel, she would also oppose anti-Semitism and could become a voice for tolerance in the Arab world.

Of course, the King's recognition that he did not expect the reforms to spread through the region is the "reality check" upon this small positive step forward.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Friday, September 26, 2008

What Does Sarah Palin Really Think About Jews?

On September 25, 2008, at the Clinton Global Initiative, Gov. Palin had the opportunity to meet and greet Israeli President Shimon Peres. According to The New York Sun:
President Peres of Israel yesterday met for the first time with Governor Palin and with Senator McCain, who called the veteran Israeli statesman "my old friend." The warm handshake and exchange of broad smiles occurred during an international gathering known as the Clinton Global Initiative, hosted by President Clinton. "I wanted to meet you for many years," Ms. Palin told Mr. Peres, according to an aide to the president. "The only flag at my office is an Israeli flag," she was quoted as saying, "and I want you to know and I want Israelis to know that I am a friend."

I wonder what President Peres would have said to Gov. Palin if (a) he wasn't a polite elder statesman who is smart enough not to get involved in the internal politics of an ally or (b) he knew a bit more about Gov. Palin and her church.

For example, on September 4, I wrote about Gov. Palin's attendance at a church function where David Brickner, the executive director of "Jews for Jesus", preached about his group's efforts (fraudulent as they may be). During Brickner's presentation to the congregation, Gov. Palin heard him say that terrorist attacks on Israelis are God's "judgment of unbelief" of Jews who haven't embraced Christianity. I'm just guessing here, but I don't think that President Peres would respond very warmly to someone who believed that terrorist attacks on Israelis were God's "judgment of unbelief" or who didn't speak out against Anti-Semitic comments like that.

On September 19, I discussed Palin's involvement with an African witchhunter who offered "bold" prayers for her to become governor of Alaska. Well, it turns out that in another presentation by that same African witchhunter to Gov. Palin's church earlier this month (with Gov. Palin in attendance), he said:
The second area whereby God wants us, wants to penetrate in our society is in the economic area. The Bible says that the wealth of the wicked is stored up for the righteous. It's high time that we have top Christian businessmen, businesswomen, bankers, you know, who are men and women of integrity running the economics of our nations. That's what we are waiting for. That's part and parcel of transformation. If you look at the -- you know -- if you look at the Israelites, that's how they work. And that's how they are, even today.

Um, what was that? Did the witchhunter really just say that "Israelites" are running the economics of nations and that "we" need Christian businessmen, businesswomen, and bankers because the "Israelites" are the wicked storing the wealth for the righteous? I didn't see or hear Gov. Palin jump up to defend Jews or Israelis from the witchhunter's Anti-Semitic smear.
(Here's a link to the video; the above quotation comes at about 1:20.)

And, at about 7:30 in the video, Gov. Palin comes up to the pulpit to receive the witchhunter's blessing (and endorsement, it sounds like) as he repeatedly talks about the "enemy" and evil. What do you suppose President Peres would say of or to a candidate willing to accept a blessing from a man who, just minutes before, repeated tired, old Anti-Semitic charges about Jews controlling the world ecomony?

So what does Gov. Palin really think about Israel? More importantly, what does Gov. Palin really think about Jews?

Unfortunately, as I listen to sermons from Gov. Palin's church, I'm reminded a bit too much of Rev. John Hagee (a supporter of Sen. McCain until some of Rev. Hagee's Anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic statements became a problem for Sen. McCain). Rev. Hagee supports Israel because of the coming "end of days" and the need for Israel to exist for the messiah to come. Of course, Hagee also blames Jews for the Holocaust and suggests that the Holocaust was a good thing because it led to the creation of Israel. But if you look at what Rev. Hagee says and then look at some of the sermons and blessings coming out of Gov. Palin's church, there are a few too many similarities for my comfort.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Monday, February 18, 2008

An Open Letter to Steve Berry regarding The Alexandria Link (part 1)

As I've mentioned in previous posts and in my LibraryThing review, I had quite a strong (negative) reaction to the book The Alexandria Link by Steve Berry. And, as I've also previously mentioned, I've been working on an open letter to the author concerning the anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli narrative of the story. Unfortunately, my letter has gotten longer and longer, because there are so many points that I want to make, because I want to sure that potential readers are alerted to the problems in the text, and because I want to be thorough and accurate in my comments and criticism.

Thus, with the foregoing in mind, I have elected to post the first half of my letter now while I continue to work on and revise the second half. I'm posting the first half now because I'm hopeful that by cutting the length in half, more people will be willing to read what I've written and because I am interested in any suggestions that people may have to make my letter even stronger. When I have finished the second part of the letter, I will post it here as well and then, after people have had an opportunity to read and react to that part of the letter, I will synthesize those comments, make any additions or corrections that may be necessary, and forward the letter to Steve Berry and his publisher.

Therefore, what follows should be thought of as a "work in process" subject to further revision. And, though it should go without saying, the following statements and analysis are my opinion. Finally, the use of quotations from The Alexandria Link is without the permission of the publisher; however, those quotations are used for the purpose of criticism, comment, and scholarship, pursuant to the Fair Use provision of the Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. § 107).

With that said, what follows is part 1 of my open letter to Steve Berry:


Dear Mr. Berry:

I have just recently finished reading your novel The Alexandria Link, the second of your novels to feature the character Cotton Malone. Unfortunately, the novel proved to have numerous issues with which I became gravely concerned and which I have elected to address with you by way of this letter. However, prior to doing so, I would like to make a few preliminary points.

First, I have read each of your previous novels. Some, like The Amber Room, I liked very much. Others, like The Third Secret, I found less enjoyable. Nevertheless, I’ve enjoyed each of the books enough to add each new novel to my reading list.

Second, please understand from the outset, that my concerns with The Alexandria Link have nothing to do with the central premise of your novel, that certain information hidden in the lost library of Alexandria might reveal that the land G-d promised to Abraham and the Jews might not have been the same land upon which the modern State of Israel exists. This is just the sort of fanciful plot device that I frequently enjoy, even if not particularly plausible.

Just for the record, I did a bit of quick Internet research on Kamal Salibi, the author of the basic premise upon which your plot rests. It is worth noting that his ideas have apparently met with scorn within the academic community including the following comments from Philip C. Hammond, of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Utah (as apparently printed in the August 1990 issue of the International Journal of Middle East Studies [although I acknowledge that I have not had an opportunity to review the original article]):

A proper review of this book would unfortunately subject the reader to a volume far larger than the one being reviewed. The sheer enormity, page by page, of “identifications,” transmutations [sic!], blatant historical error, misconceptions, and similar problems with the scholarship, preclude considerations within the scope of any “review.” It is difficult to understand how such a volume could have been foisted upon an unsuspecting public. Perhaps the scholarly reader will find a certain degree of amusement in appreciated the skill of the author in his attempted linguistic exercises, but the lay reader might, regrettably, be misled by the appearance of the “scholarship” presented. To assume that similar, or even identical, place names are proof of “identity” between two places is palpably absurd. To declare that archaeology, with its modern chronometric techniques, cannot place occupations correctly is contrary to fact. To ignore the linguistic analyses of biblical Hebrew from the Massoretes to modern scholarship is presumptuous. To dismiss casually all modern scholarship in the field is unscholarly in the extreme. To display ignorance of published archaeological and other data in favor of selected, “favorable” quotations is likewise not the way knowledge is advanced. [¶] In short, this reviewer can see no reason why this volume was published, either in its original German edition, or in English translation.

Nevertheless, the plot device, while fanciful, is not the reason for this letter. Instead, my concerns are related to your treatment of several, related issues: The 1948 Israeli War of Independence, the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, anti-Semitism, and other matters of import to Jews and supporters of Israel. Before diving into these areas in more detail, let me make one more thing clear: I did not object to making Israel a “villain” in the story. While I am both unaccustomed to and uncomfortable with the idea of Israel as villain, I decided that, so long as it made sense within the framework of the story, then I could put that element aside and allow you to tell me the story that you wanted to tell. The problem with The Alexandria Link is not that you have made Israel a villain, but rather your treatment of the aforementioned issues. I can only conclude that the book was written as it was because you were not particularly thorough in your research or because you actually intended to espouse an anti-Semitic viewpoint.

When I finished The Alexandria Link, I was curious to know if other readers had reactions similar to mine. Imagine my surprise to find the essay “Evil Fiction” by well-known author Orson Scott Card (winner of two Nebula Awards and two Hugo Awards). Before finally addressing my specific concerns with The Alexandria Link, allow me first to quote several points that Card makes in “Evil Fiction” about The Alexandria Link. I offer these quotations as background and so that I will not have to rehash the points that Card makes in my own critique and commentary.

[T]his book, to the degree that it is read by people ignorant of history (i.e., practically everybody), will move us closer to a future in which our society permits or even approves of the murder of Jews and the destruction of the state of Israel.


[W]hat Berry is providing is pure propaganda – the propaganda created by terrorists and murderers to “prove” that Jews “deserve” to be blown up suicide bombers.


So when a novel like Berry’s The Alexandria Link treats such events as background, as if everybody knew that this is how Israelis act, what it is really doing is furthering the propaganda of one side in a desperate war.


One can argue for or against many decisions of the Israeli government, but it takes a flagrant disregard for historical accuracy or standards of fairness to pin any significant part of the blame for the killings in Palestine on Israel.

Berry’s novel is not just a book that happens to mistake some Palestinian propaganda for truth. It is a book that systematically and continually makes false and damaging charges against Jews, Zionists, and Israel, while denying or ignoring the massive number of betrayals, lies, atrocities, and crimes against humanity committed by Israel’s enemies.

Anybody who reads Steve Berry’s The Alexandria Link is opening his mind to pro-terrorist hatred and lies. This is not a situation where you read both sides and assume the truth is somewhere in the middle. This is a situation where Berry’s work is based on lies designed to goad people into supporting or tolerating the murder of innocent people.

So, with those comments in mind, allow me to address certain aspects of The Alexandria Link in more detail, including a number of elements that were outside the scope and focus of “Evil Fiction”.

Word Choices

Throughout The Alexandria Link, you interchange the words “Israeli” and “Jew”. For example, in Chapter 17, a character refers to “Jewish spies within the Palestinian Authority”. The novel’s narrative provides no evidence that the spy was Jewish rather than a person (Jewish, Muslim, or Christian, working on behalf of Israel). Thus, an Israeli spy, certainly, but a Jewish spy? Similarly, in Chapter 21, a character (Hermann), referring to actions taken by Israel (on the basis of information from “Israeli spies” – most likely the same people as the “Jewish spies” referred to above), says that “The Jews had overreacted, as always...”. Not, “the Israelis had overreacted”, but “the Jews”.

Once again, in Chapter 27, a character (Sabre) thinks of Israel as “the Jews”; what is odd about this moment is that in a previous chapter when Sabre heard Hermann refer to the “Jewish problem”, Sabre noted that he “wasn’t aware there was a problem” and that was after deciding not to comment on Hermann’s statement that “Jews are a problem... They’ve always been difficult. Being different and obstinate breeds unmitigated pride.” So, in essence, we have a character that, at first seems surprised or at least indifferent to one character’s anti-Semitic remarks, but who then adopts a similar referential viewpoint later.

In Chapter 53, yet another character (Daley) substitutes “Jew” for “Israeli”. While I can certainly see one anti-Semitic character (Hermann) doing so, it makes little sense for Daley to do so. And, even if it makes sense for Hermann, Sabre, and Daley to frequently substitute “Jew” for “Israeli”, it makes absolutely no sense for Thorvaldsen, himself a Jew, to do so as he does in Chapter 87, noting that “the Jews seemed satisfied”. For my part, I have never heard a Jew refer to Israelis as “the Jews” rather than as “Israelis”.

While Israel may be a Jewish state, any actions that it takes are Israeli, not Jewish. Don’t forget that a large percentage of the population of Israel is Muslim or Christian (somewhere in the neighborhood of 25%). Moreover, it is worth comparing that to much of the Islamic world where it is often illegal to be a non-Muslim or where non-Muslims are often denied full citizenship; in fact, Muslims are represented in the Israeli Knesset, at present making up approximately 10% of the governing body. Thus, one must question your motive for continually interchanging the terms “Jew” and “Israeli”; was it a means of denigrating Jews? Was it a means of somehow calling into question the patriotism of American Jews (more on this subject later)? Or were you just sloppy? I don’t imagine that you would refer to the Indian government as “the Hindus” or the South African government as “the blacks”. So why refer to the Israeli government as “the Jews”?

Odd word choices are not just for Jew and Israeli. In Chapter 13, Brent Green, the Attorney General of the United States, refers to “Palestinian militants” rather than “Palestinian terrorists”. While the media may be loathe to use the term “terrorist,” few in the US government, especially in law enforcement, use the term “militant”. But the term “terrorist” might be inflammatory if applied to Palestinians, so you have substituted the more mundane, less threatening term. Militants appear to have a legitimate right to their actions; terrorists do not.

In Chapter 74, Thorvaldsen says that “Jews will learn that the Old Testament is a record of their ancestors from a place other than Palestine.” Forgetting the portion of this statement that deals with the actual plot of the book, a Jew is highly unlikely to refer to the “Old Testament”; doing so implies the existence of a New Testament. Instead, Jews refer simply to the Bible or the Torah. Another odd reference can be found in Chapter 42, where you note that Thorvaldsen “was a Jew. Not devout or overt, but still Hebrew.” I’m not sure what exactly that is supposed to mean, but somehow, the use of the word “Hebrew” reads as nothing less than a racial or ethnic slur, no different from “nigger”, “wop”, “spic”, or any of the other words commonly used to denigrate those of a different racial or ethnic background (for the record, I find the use of such terms to be reprehensible, and I use them here merely as examples).

Also troubling is your substitution of the word “Palestine” for “Israel”. While I understand this in the case of dialogue by a Palestinian or an Arab or even a critic of Israel, in Chapter 22, an Israeli official says that Haddad telephoned “Palestine”. I can see an Israeli official saying that Haddad called the Palestinian Authority or Ramallah or the West Bank or Gaza, but that Israeli official would never have used the phrase “Palestine” in a conversation of that type. After all, at present Palestine does not exist as an entity. (More discussion on “Palestine” will follow.)

Thus, it appears that, throughout The Alexandria Link, you have been either repeatedly careless with word choices or, more troubling, made intentional word choices that serve no purpose other than to subtly promote and advance an anti-Semitic viewpoint. Given that you are, by profession, both an attorney and an author, it seems hard to believe that you were so careless with word choice so many times; yet if you were not careless, then that means that your word choices were intentional, in which event the meaning of those words reveals something about your feelings about Jews and Israel.

Actions of Jewish Characters

Beyond the word choices of Hermann and the Israeli official mentioned above, The Alexandria Link also contains numerous instances in which Jewish and/or Israeli characters act or say things that, at best, make no sense or, at worst, run completely contrary to Jewish culture and belief.

One of the most offensive passages in the book can be found in Chapter 49 when Malone’s 15-year old American son asks Thorvaldsen (who, you will recall is Jewish), “Why do people hate Jews?” The colloquy that follows demonstrates what I believe is either the depth of your anti-Semitism and/or your lack of understanding of some of the simple fundamental differences between Judaism and Christianity:

“Why do people hate Jews?”

He’d [Thorvaldsen] many times pondered that question — along with the philosophers, theologians, and politicians who’d debated it for centuries. “It started for us with Abraham. Ninety-nine years old when God visited him and made a covenant, creating a Chosen People, the ones to inherit the land of Canaan. But unfortunately, that honor came with responsibility.”

He could see the boy was interested.

“Have you ever read the Bible?”

Gary shook his head.

“You should. A great book. On the one hand, God granted to the Israelites a blessing. To become the Chosen People. But it was their response to that blessing that ultimately determined their fate.”

“What happened?”

“The Old Testament says they rebelled, burned incense, credited idols for their good fortune, walked according to the dictates of their own hearts. So God scattered them among the Gentiles as punishment.”

“That why people hate them?”

He finished fastening his mantle. “Hard to say. But Jews have faced persecution ever since that time.”

“God sounds like He has a temper.”

“The God of the Old Testament is far different from the one in the New.”

“I’m not sure I like that one.”

“You’re not alone.” He paused. “Jews were the first to insist that man is responsible for his own acts. Not the gods’ fault life went bad. Your fault. And that made us different. Christians took it farther. Man brought his exile from Eden on himself, but because God loved man He redeemed us with the blood of His son. The Jewish God is angry. Justice is His aim. The Christian God is one of mercy. Huge difference.”

“God should be kind, shouldn’t He?”

Several things should be noted about the preceding passage. First, the Jewish character responding to the question of why people hate Jews never mentions the charge of deicide, that Christians blame Jews for killing Christ. Talk about the proverbial elephant in the room. Nor does Thorvaldsen mention any of the litany of charges leveled against Jews over the centuries, from the blood libel (using the blood of Christian babies in the Passover Seder) to causing the Black Plague to controlling the world’s money or media to simply being “different”. And nor does Thorvaldsen respond that people are simply wrong or bigoted or uninformed or xenophobic. And finally, he doesn’t say, “I don’t know.” Instead, and I can’t imagine any Jew responding to such a question the way you have Thorvaldsen respond, he focuses on ancient biblical understanding without referring to the birth of Christianity, the death of Christ, or any of the other reasons that have been used over the centuries.

Second, I find it absurd that a Jewish character would describe the “Jewish God” and the “Christian God” as different, with the focus on that difference being anger and mercy. While I don’t want to get into a theologic debate, such a ridiculous simplification can serve no purpose other than to denigrate Jews, Jewish theology, and the “Jewish God”. That a Jewish character would say this is beyond nonsense; it is patently offensive. Add to this the statement, again by the Jewish character, that “because God loved man He redeemed us with the blood of His son.” (Italics added.) Who precisely is the “us” to whom Tharvaldsen refers? Jews certainly don’t believe that Jesus was the source of redemption. That may be a Christian way of looking at things, but it certainly is not the Jewish perspective. A Jew might say that Christians believe that is what happened, but would certainly not articulate the statement in the way that you ascribe to Thorvaldsen. So why would a Jew, when asked why people hate Jews, respond in such a way? Is this your way of telling the reader that it is, in fact, acceptable to hate Jews? After all, if the “Jewish God” is not the same as the merciful “Christian God” then perhaps it is acceptable to hate (and kill?) Jews. Add to this the statements by the American character that he does not “like that one” (referring to the “Jewish God”) and that “God should be kind” and it appears that you are telling your reader that, from the American perspective, it is acceptable to dislike the “Jewish God” and that the “Jewish God” is not “kind”. Offering this sort of subtle anti-Semitic perspective, disguised as a thriller, is dangerous.

Then in Chapter 60, Thorvaldsen is given the chance to utter another bizarre and totally misleading statement:

These books,” he said to Gary, “supposedly tell us how history unfolded for the people of Israel thousands of years before Christ. They were a people whose destiny was tied directly to God and the promises He made.”

“But that was a long time ago?”

He nodded. “Four thousand years in the past. Yet Arabs and Jews have warred with one another ever since trying to prove them true.”

Once again, history does not support this statement and it is ridiculous to think that it would be made by a Jew. In point of fact, Jews and Muslims enjoyed a very healthy relationship until the early part of the 20th century. Muslims often refer to Jews as “people of the Book” and for centuries afforded Jews special status within Muslim culture (that of dhimmi). Jews thrived in the Ottoman Empire and in Moorish Spain while European Christians put Jews in ghettos, forced conversions at the point of a sword, and blamed the evils of the world on Jews. Show me examples of Jews and Muslims fighting over the promises made by G-d prior to the rise of the Zionist movement in Europe. Basically, there aren’t any. Arabs and Jews lived together in relative peace for centuries. Only when Jews tried to reestablish a homeland in the latter part of the 19th century did Jews and Arabs find themselves at odds. Any Jew with a rudimentary history of his religion or the world knows this, so Thorvaldsen’s crazy assertion must be seen for what it is: yet another attempt by you to subtly influence the reader with your anti-Semitic viewpoint.

Another troubling aspect of The Alexandria Link is the impression given to the reader by two Jewish characters, one Israeli and the other American. Heather Dixon appears for much of the book to be a villain (although she is somewhat rehabilitated late in the story). You tell us that she is an Israeli citizen, a Mossad agent, and that she is attached to the embassy in Washington. Yet how many Israeli citizens do you reasonably think are named “Heather”? I looked online at a number of databases of Israeli names. I found lots of Hannah and Esther and Ofra and Shoshana and Yael and many other names from the Bible, but not a single instance of “Heather”. Moreover, you’ve given her the married name “Dixon” leaving the reader with a name that is about as American girl-next-door as would be possible to create. Why is this meaningful? Keep reading. You have also created an “off camera” character, that of a “successful lawyer with an Atlanta firm, a senior partner, but also a Jewish patriot. Huge supporter of Israel. Homeland Security believes that he’s helped finance one of the more militant factions in the Israeli government.” (Chapter 39.) Putting aside what precisely you mean by a “militant faction” of the Israeli government (as if some factions of the Israeli government want violence and bloodshed, I suppose), let’s look at what you have, in fact done. With the characters of Heather and this unnamed “Jewish patriot” you have, in essence, shown American readers that Jewish spies could be anywhere in their midst. A Mossad agent could be the girl next door, Heather Dixon, or the successful lawyer could, in fact, be an Israeli spy. In other words, a casual reader of The Alexandria Link could be left with the impression that any Jew that they meet could be a spy for Israel or, said another way, a “Jewish patriot” as opposed, I suppose, to an American patriot, who also happens to be a supporter of Israel. Was it your goal to make your readers wary of their Jewish neighbors?

In a single novel, you have managed to add messages telling your readers that it is acceptable to dislike the “Jewish God” and that those same readers should distrust their Jewish neighbors.

You also put Israel in the position of engaging in actions that are completely out of character and don’t accurately reflect reality. The prime example of this is the plot device that has Israel detonating a bomb in a Jerusalem café in order to kill Haddad. Do you honestly think that Israel, a country besieged by terrorists and suicide bombers, would resort to a terrorist bombing of its own in Israel? Assuming, for the point of your plot, that Israel in fact wished to kill Haddad, don’t you think that it would have been more likely for them to kill him with a gun or an exploding cell phone (as was used to kill a Hamas bomb maker) or a targeted missile attack on an quiet desert road or even a knife in a dark alley? If you were to conduct an honest analysis of Israeli military and anti-terrorist actions (and not just rely upon Palestinian propaganda) you would find that Israel frequently aborts attacks against terrorists in order to minimize civilian casualties. Israel could easily flatten Jenin or Ramallah or Khan Yunis, but does not. So does it really make sense that Israel would try to kill Haddad with a bomb that would certainly kill Israeli citizens? Of course not, unless you honestly believe that Israel goes about indiscriminately killing civilians as some Palestinians falsely claim. But the use of this plot element furthers your point in making Israel out to be, not just the villain, but a nation of terrorists. The use of an Israeli bombing of a café takes attention away from real life Palestinian terrorism on buses, in discotheques, in pizzerias, in shopping malls, and at Passover Seders.

Similarly, the “Jewish patriot” lawyer from Atlanta is apparently killed by Israel, simply to tie up a loose end. Even assuming for a moment that Israel would use an American citizen to engage in the sort of espionage work that you’ve described, does it really make sense that Israel would then kill that man (especially if he was useful to Israel)? Several Americans have spied for Israel; they’ve gone to jail. Israel has petitioned for their release, but, so far as I’m aware, Israel never tried to kill them to keep them quiet. In other words, the Israel in your world will kill its own citizens and its own supporters, apparently without conscience. That may be what the Palestinians tell you about Israel, but it is not the Israel reflected by facts. But that is precisely what Palestinians do. A quick look at news reports will show numerous examples of intra-Palestinian violence (remember when Fatah and Hamas each threw a supporter of the other group from the roof of a high rise building or when the Palestinian Authority allowed a mob to dismember an Israeli police officer?).

And, just to be sure that readers don’t miss your messages, you even have the Palestinian character Haddad convert to Christianity. Perhaps you were worried that your readers would not be able to sympathize with Haddad and his cause because he is a Muslim; if the reader can’t sympathize with Haddad, then it is less likely that the reader will be swayed by the anti-Semitic and pro-Palestinian messages throughout The Alexandria Link. But, by having Haddad convert to Christianity, you make him more similar and sympathetic to your readers, thus making it easier to espouse and have readers accept your viewpoint. And given that there is no real reason in the story itself for Haddad to have converted, then your reasoning for doing so must be something outside the story. And, it is worth noting what you actually say about Haddad’s conversion to Christianity: “He became an academician, abandoned violence, and converted to Christianity” (Chapter 12). The subtle (or perhaps not-so-subtle) message in this passage, is that Muslims are, by definition violent while Christians are peaceful. Again, without going into a detailed analysis of history or theology, I think that it is safe to say that plenty of violence has been conducted by Christians in the name of G-d. All one needs to do is read your previous book, The Templar Legacy, to be reminded of the violence that has been committed within Christianity.


Thus, ends part 1 of my letter to Steve Berry. Part 2 focuses on the Palestinian narrative of history (in particular related to the 1948 Israeli War of Independence, but also more recent matters) that Berry adopts without challenge in The Alexandria Link. Just to whet your appetite for some of what is to follow, allow me to quote two very brief passage from the book: First, Thorvaldsen (who you will recall is Jewish and a supporter of Israel) says that the term nakba (Arabic for disaster or catastrophe, and the term that is used by the Arab world to describe Israeli) independence is a "fitting term" for "both sides". Second: "Stephanie [a senior American intelligence officer and one of the clear "good guys" in the story] knew that, of late, the Arab world had been far more accommodating than Israel".

For discussion of those points (and many others), you'll have to wait for part 2.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share