Monthly Archives: September 2008

Noah Pollak on Tom Segev on the Grand Mufti

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[H/t to Contentions. I read the review in this Sunday's NYT as well. I was going to post something but why bother when Mr. Pollak has made most of the points for me. However, unlike Mr. Pollak, I do not view all of the "New Historians" in such a negative light. Benny Morris, for example, is an excellent historian.]

Tom Segev, one of the leaders of the Israeli “New Historians” — their cause is to expose the “founding myths” of Zionism, so as to undermine Israeli self-confidence — has written for the New York Times a review of a book about the grand mufti of Jerusalem that is a perfect illustration of the desire of the New Historians to see politics triumph over scholarship. (The grand mufti was the leader of the Palestinian Arabs during the 1920’s and 30’s and a proud ally of Adolf Hitler.)

It is apparent from the get-go that Segev applies the same intellectual standards to reviewing a work of history as he does to writing a work of history:

“Icon of Evil,” is of little scholarly value, and may be potentially harmful to Middle East peace prospects.

What in fact has been very harmful to the peace process is the New Historians themselves, whose work has helped convince the Palestinians that the “right of return” is not just historically legitimate, but that there is pressure building among Israeli elites to approve just such a concession.

It is also interesting to hear Segev advocate that the touchy subject of the Mufti be suppressed, when he has never discouraged Arabs from broaching a host of subjects that cause acute touchiness in Israelis — such as Holocaust-denial, the glorification of killing Jews, and the standard practice on Palestinian state television of denying Israel’s existence on maps. For Segev, as for most self-styled peaceniks, it is only Arab sensitivities that must be respected in order for the peace process to go forward.

Palestinian leaders have a long history of aligning themselves with tyrants — Hitler, followed by the Soviet Union, then Saddam Hussein, and today, at least for the Hamas half, Iran. Does Segev believe that discussion of these alliances should also be suppressed?

[Read it all here]

More on Jewish Voting Patterns in Election 2008

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[H/t to A.L. and Sultan Knish]

As I’ve written elsewhere, talk of the “Jewish community” or the “Jewish vote” is misguided as there are many Jewish communities and these various communities have different voting patterns. For example, Reform Jews generally vote Democratic while the Orthodox tend to vote Republican.

Nevertheless, polls are one way of measuring voter preference. In a previous post I mentioned a (flawed) poll that had Jews voting for McCain over Obama 54 percent to 32 percent. Here are some more recent poll results (article from the JPost):

Barack Obama leads John McCain by 27 points among Jewish voters, according to a new survey.

Obama leads 57 percent to 30% among those polled in the American Jewish Committee’s 2008 Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion, with 13% undecided, but he significantly trails the Jewish vote for recent Democratic presidential candidates.

By contrast, John Kerry received 76% of the Jewish vote four years ago against George W. Bush, and in the three prior presidential elections, Democrats won 78% to 80% of Jewish votes. The 2004 AJC survey, taken three weeks earlier in that campaign than this year, found Kerry leading 69% to 24%.

The poll by survey research organization Synovate of 914 self-identifying Jewish respondents, selected from Synovate’s consumer mail panel, was conducted by telephone September 8-21. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

McCain enjoyed a 78% to 13% lead among Orthodox Jews, but Obama won easily among all other Jewish groups: Conservatives, 59% to 26%; Reform, 62% to 27%; and those calling themselves “just Jewish,” 61% to 26%.

Sultan Knish has this to add:

Jews do vote fairly predictably but the most predictable percentage of the Jewish vote breaks down into three categories, senior citizens who grew up with FDR or the memory of FDR and treat the Democratic party as a safety blanket against fascism and the depression, Jewish women for whom gender is highly important and are career oriented and thirdly an assimilated class of politically liberal yuppies with very little in the way of a Jewish identity…

McCain will however not make a great deal of inroads with the latter category of younger liberal yuppies because they are liberal first, followed by a catalog card of identities, with Jewish and American appearing on the list somewhere in the back or not at all. Which is why asking why they don’t vote following Jewish interests or Israel is pointless, because they really don’t consider themselves particularly Jewish. And really they aren’t.

I usually avoid denying a particular identity to people (Jewish, leftist, conservative, etc.), especially when they self-identify with that particular identity. For example, if someone identifies themselves as Jewish I don’t question that. But the Sultan is correct in pointing out the mushiness of this identity (and the concept of identity in general) as well as the notion that all of us are packages of an assortment of interrelated identities (religious, class, ethnic, political, nationality, gender, etc.). Which identity takes precedence? And can we ever truly disentangle these identities from each other?

Ahmadinejad in NYC

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In case you didn’t see this

Jodi Evans, a founder of the radical anti-war group Code Pink and “bundler” for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Wednesday.

“It’s rare for a head of state to take time during an official U.N. visit to meet with the peace community, especially in a situation where the host government—represented by the Bush administration—is so hostile,” Evans said in a statement. “The fact that the meeting took place and was so positive is, in itself, a major step forward.”

[Read it all here]

This is some of what Ahmadinejad had to say at the United Nations General Assembly:

The Zionist regime is on a definite slope to collapse, and there is no way for it to get out of the cesspool created by itself and its supporters…

The only sustainable way to the betterment of mankind is the return to the teachings of the divine prophets, monotheism, respect for the dignity of humans and the flow of love and affection in all relationships, ties and regulations, and to reform the present structures on this basis…

To fulfill this objective, I invite everybody to form a front of fraternity, amity and sustainable peace based on monotheism and justice under the name of “Coalition for Peace”, to prevent incursions and arrogance and to promote the culture of affection and justice.

[Feel the love? You can read the full text here]

Editorial from the New York Sun on Ahmadinejad’s visit to our fair city:

The American Jewish community has fallen into a paroxysm of recrimination in the aftermath of Senator Clinton‘s dropping out of the rally against Iran, and of the disinvitation to Governor Palin that followed. A long article in the newspaper Yated Ne’eman asserts that “the real culprits in this story” were “the die-hard Democrat partisans within the three sponsoring groups” — the United Jewish Communities, the UJA-Federation of New York, and the Jewish Council on Public Affairs — “who were determined to block Palin’s appearance at the rally.”

Some Palin fans are blaming the rally’s organizers, including, improbably, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein, one of the most tireless and shrewdest American Jewish leaders we know, and a longtime pioneer in confronting Iran.

Others are blaming Mrs. Clinton for dropping out or the Obama campaign for not making Senator Obama or Senator Biden available to appear at the rally with Ms. Palin. And we don’t mind saying it’s an important moment. We characterized it in an earlier editorial as a “disgrace” that the political constellation couldn’t figure out a way for Ms. Palin to express her sentiments and those of Senator McCain before the thousands of demonstrators making a protest against Iran.

Amid all the searching for villains within America, we’d venture a reminder that it is important to keep an eye on those we’d call the real culprits, President Ahmadinejad of Iran and the supreme leader to whom he reports, Ayatollah Khamenei. Mr. Ahmadinejad made his purpose clear with his speech at the U.N. General Assembly seeking to blame the Jews for the financial crisis. The key for all Americans concerned about stopping Iranian terrorism and the Iranian nuclear program will be to keep our eyes on the real enemy.

Anarchist “Rabbi” Rudolph Rocker

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Bob from Brockley on the anarchist “rabbi” Rudolph Rocker*

This month is the 50th anniversary of the death of the great Rudolf Rocker, one of my heroes. The Jewish East End Celebration Society (JEECS) is holding an event at Toynbee Hall on Sunday to mark this. There is a walk in the morning (details below) and a celebration in the afternoon.

Rocker was a non-Jewish German anarchist bookbinder who lived for a couple of decades in the East End of London as the “rabbi” of the Yiddish anarchist and labour movement there. He later lived in Germany, where he was a key figure in the syndicalist movement, and then in upstate New York, where he was associated with the Freie Arbeiter Stimme group and the libertarian education movement.

[Read it all here]

*For those interested, have a look at An Anarchist Rabbi: The Life and Teachings of Rudolph Rocker by Mina Graur.

Communism and Treason: Lessons of the Cold War, I

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[This post is written as a response to Sultan Knish's "Does Anyone Understand the Meaning of Treason Anymore?" If you haven't read it, have a look. I've reprinted an excerpt below.]

The quest to redeem the Rosenbergs cannot and is not separable from the quest to minimize the evils of Communism. The revisionism of the Rosenberg defenders is no different than that of David Irving, Pat Buchanan or any historical revisionist trying to redeem the Nazis by finding chinks in history’s armor.

Anyone who objects to this analogy should go and dig in the frozen fields of the Gulags for the corpses of two generations of Jews brutally murdered by the Communists, or the remaining millions who were spared only by the chaos in the aftermath of Stalin’s death. Those were the monsters whom the Rosenbergs, as loyal Communist party members served, and they deserve no mercy.

Had the Rosenbergs done nothing more than simply been members of the Communist party, they would have deserved to die for it. Can anyone seriously argue that that being a member of an organization responsible for the brutal murders of millions deserve anything less? The same thing goes for Nazis or for Islamists.

Right now many of the people reading this will be wincing at what I just said. It seems much too brutal and ruthless. After all we can’t kill people just for joining a “political” organization. And that wince is a sign of just how much Communism has been legitimized and how the very idea that someone who works to overthrow the United States and murder its citizens should be somehow sacrosanct because his motivations are political or religious, has become sacrosanct.

When you dedicate yourself to mass murder by being a dedicated member of an organization meant to destroy that country, that country has every reason to execute you and no reason to let you go on living.

A political organization that seeks to end democratic rule and impose a tyranny, is not a political organization. It is a totalitarian organization seeking to achieve its objectives by political means. An organization that makes it clear that it has and will kill numberless amounts of people to fulfill its goals is a terrorist organization that must be destroyed, root, branch and leaf.

I don’t agree with the automatic death penalty for communist party membership. But I find myself agreeing with the overall message of Sultan’s post. Members of the Communist Party (CPUSA).

The CPUSA was not only dedicated to the ideology of communism it was an appendage of the Soviet Union, an enemy state. CPUSA cadre constantly worked to further the foreign policy goals of the USSR against the capitalist world, especially the US. All one needs to do is read their newspaper, The Daily Worker, to read this firsthand. But a large part of the strength of the US—and all free societies—is the ability to allow these crackpot groups to exist and express their views. Let them have their newspapers.

Problems developed when members of the CP began to occupy positions of authority in the unions (especially the CIO), produce media and educational materials, and infiltrate the federal government. They were ultimately driven out of the unions but the level of government infiltration was much greater than many realize today. The Rosenberg case is still fairly well-known but many people have forgotten about Alger Hiss and Whittaker Chambers.

Lastly, in addition to fellow travelers we should not forget the useful idiots. As is always the case, there are usually far more of the latter than the former. The numbers of card-carrying communist party members and other radicals in the US was never that high. But the various communist front organizations (Including International ANSWER/ISO, Workers World Party, etc.) were and remain adept at rallying large numbers to their demonstrations. Look at the “anti-war” demonstrations in the US today.

[Image from Zombietime]

If any of this is of interest, you should also have a look at historian Ronald Radosh’s op-ed, “Case Closed: The Rosenbergs were Soviet Spies” in the Los Angeles times (and elsewhere):

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed 55 years ago, on June 19, 1953. But last week, they were back in the headlines when Morton Sobell, the co-defendant in their famous espionage trial, finally admitted that he and his friend, Julius, had both been Soviet agents.

It was a stunning admission; Sobell, now 91 years old, had adamantly maintained his innocence for more than half a century. After his comments were published, even the Rosenbergs’ children, Robert and Michael Meeropol, were left with little hope to hang on to — and this week, in comments unlike any they’ve made previously, the brothers acknowledged having reached the difficult conclusion that their father was, indeed, a spy. “I don’t have any reason to doubt Morty,” Michael Meeropol told Sam Roberts of the New York Times.

With these latest events, the end has arrived for the legions of the American left wing that have argued relentlessly for more than half a century that the Rosenbergs were victims, framed by a hostile, fear-mongering U.S. government. Since the couple’s trial, the left has portrayed them as martyrs for civil liberties, righteous dissenters whose chief crime was to express their constitutionally protected political beliefs. In the end, the left has argued, the two communists were put to death not for spying but for their unpopular opinions, at a time when the Truman and Eisenhower administrations were seeking to stem opposition to their anti-Soviet foreign policy during the Cold War.
To this day, this received wisdom permeates our educational system. A recent study by historian Larry Schweikart of the University of Dayton has found that very few college history textbooks say simply that the Rosenbergs were guilty; according to Schweikart, most either state that the couple were innocent or that the trial was “controversial,” or they “excuse what [the Rosenbergs] did by saying, ‘It wasn’t that bad. What they provided wasn’t important.’ “

Indeed, Columbia University professor Eric Foner once wrote that the Rosenbergs were prosecuted out of a “determined effort to root out dissent,” part of a broader pattern of “shattered careers and suppressed civil liberties.” In other words, it was part of the postwar McCarthyite “witch hunt.

But, in fact, Schweikart is right, and Foner is wrong. The Rosenbergs were Soviet spies, and not minor ones either. Not only did they try their best to give the Soviets top atomic secrets from the Manhattan Project, they succeeded in handing over top military data on sonar and on radar that was used by the Russians to shoot down American planes in the Korean and Vietnam wars. That’s long been known, and Sobell confirmed it again last week.

To many Americans, Cold War espionage cases like the Rosenberg and Alger Hiss cases that once riveted the country seem irrelevant today, something out of the distant past. But they’re not irrelevant. They’re a crucial part of the ongoing dispute between right and left in this country. For the left, it has long been an article of faith that these prosecutions showed the essentially repressive nature of the U.S. government. Even as the guilt of the accused has become more and more clear (especially since the fall of the Soviet Union and the release of reams of historical Cold War documents), these “anti anti-communists” of the intellectual left have continued to argue that the prosecutions were overzealous, or that the crimes were minor, or that the punishments were disproportionate.

The left has consistently defended spies such as Hiss, the Rosenbergs and Sobell as victims of contrived frame-ups. Because a demagogue like Sen. Joseph McCarthy cast a wide swath with indiscriminate attacks on genuine liberals as “reds” (and even though McCarthy made some charges that were accurate), the anti anti-communists came to argue that anyone accused by McCarthy or Richard Nixon or J. Edgar Hoover should be assumed to be entirely innocent. People like Hiss (a former State Department official who was accused of spying) cleverly hid their true espionage work by gaining sympathy as just another victim of a smear attack.

But now, with Sobell’s confession of guilt, that worldview has been demolished.

[Read it all here.]

Added (more on the Rosenberg Case):

Intellectual Conservative: Rosenberg Guilt Tip of Iceberg

New York Sun: Morton Sobell and Me

NYT: Figure in Rosenberg Case Admits to Soviet Spying

Ron Radosh: The End of a Lie

WaPo: Cold War Spy Testimony Released

Jews Now Favor McCain in New York, 54-32

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[H/t to Roland (But I am a Liberal!) for bringing this post by John Podhoretz at Contentions to my attention. The sample size of the survey is way too small but I always suspected McCain would do as well as Reagan among Jewish voters, if not better.]

The Siena poll, one of the two key polls of New York state voters, has come out with its monthly snapshot of the presidential race in the Empire State. And it’s stunning. It is remarkable, though not eye-opening, that John McCain is now only 5 points behind Barack Obama, 46-41 – not shocking because polls have narrowed to similar margins in New Jersey. (It should be noted, however, that according to a Rasmussen poll released yesterday, Obama is leading in New York by 55-42.)

No, the shocking detail has to do with a wild, 35-point swing toward McCain among Jewish voters. Obama led among them by a margin of 50-37 in August. This month, McCain is actually leading Obama by a margin of 54 percent to 32 percent.

Siena polled 626 likely voters this month. Of those, according to Steve Greenberg, the spokesman for the Siena poll, 77 were Jews, or 12 percent of the sample. That is Siena’s best guess of the size of the Jewish vote in New York state in November. With a sample size that small, the margin of error for the Jewish voter sample is plus-or-minus 11 points.

That means the poll could be off by as many as 11 points in either direction — i.e., McCain could be leading by as little as 11 points or by as many as 33. (UPDATE: I got this wrong; this stat could also mean they’re tied or that McCain is more than 40 points ahead or anywhere in the middle. For a clarification on this point, click here.)

[read it all here]

New Democratiya (14/Autumn 2008) Available Now

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14 / Autumn 2008

Editor’s Page

Letters to the Editor

Michael Walzer
Robert Reich
Anne-Marie Slaughter
Mark Major
David Lowe
Ben Gidley
David Miliband
Eric Lee
Martin Shaw
David Clark
Elizabeth Porter
Martin Shaw/David Hirsh
Max Dunbar
Tom Gallagher
Eric B. Litwack
Lawrence J. Haas
Cathy Lowy
Gary Kent
David R. Adler
Kevin Higgins
Michael Weiss
Denis Healey

Interview with Robert Reich / Supercapitalism: A Critique

Catching Up

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Trying to catch up with what I have been missing at all my usual haunts:

Airforce Amazons: Heart of Darkness: The Core and the Gap. Part I, II, III.

Bob from Brockley: Re: Jena “I didn’t realize David Duke was a KKK scumbag” Delich here, here and here. My choice of words. Bob would never stoop to the use of the word scumbag. He has too much class for that.

But I am a Liberal! Palin, Obama Activists and the Working Class

Contentious Centrist: Obama’s Self-Nullifying Supporters

Democratiya: New Issue here.

Don’t Trip Up: Science (plus everything) lessons

Elder of Ziyon: International Solidarity Movement Loves the Muslim Brotherhood

Greater Surbiton: A Russian War Against Israel?

Martin in the Margins:LRBias (on the anti-American, anti-Israel, London Review of Books)

Modernity Blog: Everyone should thank Modernity for the excellent posts on the outage of Harry’s Place.

NeoConstant: Jury of Our Peers?

Snoopy (Simply Jews): Having Sex in Dubai – How not to

Stark Tenet: The Case for Sarah Palin

Sultan Knish: The Media Goes Full Liberal, The Double Standard on John Edwards and Bristol Palin

Z-Word: Antisemitism and More, The Democratiya Debate