In watching “Night Will Fall,” the documentary made frm the British and American footage of the liberation of the concentration camps at the close of WWII, what struck me first was the irrationality of Nazis starving a slave population that was intended to work. How inefficient that was as people diminished to skeletal weight and racked by dysentery and typhus could not have performed tasks with even the semblance of purposeful activity. This only adds to the mystery of why the Germans went to the expense and bother of constructing and staffing camps and transporting victims to them, often from great distances, instead of killing people in situ as they frequently did in mass ditches dug by the victims at the outskirts of towns and villages. According to Daniel Goldhagen (How Auschwitz is Misunderstood NYT 1/25), it was to distance the killers from their victims. Though this was true for prisoners brought from all over Europe, it certainly wasn’t true for German Jews who were brought to camps in Germany which were in close proximity to their former neighbors. A look at the map that Alfred Hitchcock created for the original documentary shows camps dotting Germany, often within a mile of cities and villages.
For answers to why so many young Jews are disaffected about Judaism and uninformed and hostile towards Israel, consult The Jewish Week of Jan 23rd. The cover story addresses the meeting organized by Repair the World at a Martin Luther King Shabbat in Crown Heights where three community activists spoke about race, privilege and partnership. The panel included a black woman, Tynesha McHarris (director of community leadership at the Brooklyn Community Foundation; a black man, Mark Winston Griffith (exec. director of the Brooklyn Movement Center) and a white Jewish woman, Amy Ellenbogen (director of Crown Heights Community Mediation Center). A questioner asked how the largely white audience could become effective allies in pursuing racial justice. McHarris responded that people of color needed to be the leaders while white people could follow and support. Griffith disagreed and said that his aency offered leadership roles to everybody. Ellenbogen stated that whites needed to “shut up and listen, and when you’re done with that, shut up and listen some more.” When a question arose concerning the selective filtering of history in the movie “Selma,” Professor James Goodman (History, Rutgers) felt that it was perfectly legitimate to airbrush Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel from the film despite his enormous contribution to the Civil Rights Movement, his prominent position at the march (the iconic photo shows him in the front line) and his close personal friendship with Dr. King.
It’s nice that the United Nations General Assembly held its first meeting recently on anti-Semitism, but while there were some important issues raised, the thing was rife with irony.
The meeting “sparked calls for global action to combat the rising hatred of Jews and a surprising denunciation from the world’s 57 Islamic nations of all words and acts that lead to hatred, anti-Semitism, Islamaphobia,” according to the Associated Press.
The denunciation by the Arab World — Saudi Arabia in particular — is indeed surprising, shocking, really, until you note that it threw “Islamophobia” in there, in a cynical effort to equate Israeli self defense and attempts to stop the Islamization of Europe, with murderous attacks against innocent, unarmed Jews in Israel and elsewhere.
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power, said the statement delivered by the Saudi Arabian U.N. Ambassador on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation was “extremely significant,” especially since the United Nations has often been a venue to try to de-legitimize Israel, A.P. reported.
Clearly, Powers didn’t immediately catch on to the Saudi game, because she’s right — the U.N. has become a body focused almost entirely on bashing Israel, and I can’t believe the Arab world has suddenly seen the error of its ways.
Despite the incessant (and patently false) drum beat out of the Arab world that Israel is an Apartheid state, the real Apartheid is found in Saudi Arabia where Jews aren’t really allowed to be at all. By contrast, a large minority of Israel’s population is Arab — Muslims and Christians — and they have completely equal rights, serving in the Knesset and the military and as doctors and patients in Israeli hospitals and teachers and students in Israeli schools and universities.
Most sites on the issue of Jews in Saudi Arabia, however, suggest that if Jews deny being Jews, they might be allowed to visit the kingdom, but not if they have ever visited Israel. Israelis are verboten altogether, and no Jews have lived in Saudi Arabia since the creation of the kingdom.
This was not always so.
The so-called holy city of Medina was, in ancient times, first settled by Jewish tribes, according to historical references. Some scholars even suggest the roots of the virulent anti-Semitism in the Muslim world today, may be traced to the ancient Jews’ refusal to accept Muhammad as a prophet.
“One of the reasons for ‘this discrimination’ against the Jews is… because the Jews’ development of land and culture was a prime source of booty in the Arabian desert peninsula,” one source says. “Beginning at the time of the Prophet Muhammad and Islam — from the expulsions, depredations, extortion, forced conversions or murder of Jewish Arabians settled in Medina to the mass slaughter of Jews at Khaibar — the precedent was established among Arab-Muslims to expropriate that which belonged to the Jews.”
So, unless the Saudis have suddenly seen the light, they are merely trying to do it again — to expropriate the fight against anti-Semitism, and turn it around to suit their purposes.
But, let’s examine the meaning of the two words — anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
The one means the irrational hatred of Jews and the other means the irrational fear of Muslims. To my mind — and when held up to historic review and against today’s headlines — the one has no realistic basis and the other, kinda doesn’t seem necessarily irrational. The Jews have never deserved the periodic waves of attacks against them through the ages — the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Holocaust. But, one need not be Einstein to notice that Islamo-Fascists are wreaking havoc, slaughtering innocents, worldwide.
It is not irrational to fight to keep the irrational mindset that drives the Islamists from taking root in the West, because a world under the jackboot of Sharia Law would not be worth living in.
So, that Saudi/Arab announcement, seeking to equate Jew hatred with fear of Islamists, is going to be used against the Jews and the West in years, or maybe days, to come. I’m sure of it.
Part of the reason that Islamic terrorism continues to proliferate in the western world is that too many of our opinion-molders and interpreters have been hamstrung by not understanding that we are fighting a war which always means that certain freedoms need emergency adjustment. We all accepted the need for us to remove our shoes and submit to personal searches when airplane hijacking became part of our new normality. But we also submitted to the notion that blaming Islam for the murderous deeds of a minority was somehow a “phobic” over-reaction and unacceptable in our politically correct society. So we went out of the way to mislabel a terrorist attack at Fort Hood as “workplace violence” and to insist that not erecting a mosque less than two blocks away from the killing fields of Ground Zero was an assault on our freedom of religion. Some among us became enraged at the revelation of how much data the NSA had collected in its extraordinary surveillance, forgetting that the loss of some privacy may have been essential for increased security from terrorist acts. The tagline for Nicholas Kristof’s article in today’s Times is “Let’s not respond to extremists with our own brand of intolerance.” (1/8/15)
Remember your personal physician? He or she may not be yours much longer. And even if they are still your doctor, the odds are they are not really working for you. Soon, most doctors will have abandoned their private practices and become employees of hospitals, multihospital affiliations, or the Government. Only 35% of doctors currently describe themselves as independent, compared with 62% in 2008. This trend will undoubtedly continue; a doctor graduating from medical school today has little or no chance of starting their own solo practice. How did this happen, and why does it threaten patients?
It seems to me the Palestinians must be feeling pretty confident that the world has completely ingested the revisionist Arab narrative to take what even the A.P. called the “risky” step of trying to bring war crimes charges against Israel at the International Criminal Court.
Before seeing “Mr. Turner,” written and directed by Mike Leigh, it would be wise to get some background information on JMW Turner, the great British painter who transformed seascapes into ephemeral swirls of impressionistic light and color decades before impressionism became a movement. In the movie, Turner is played by Timothy Spall who creates a persona not unlike the hunchback of Notre Dame - a man whose default facial expression is a tight-lipped scowl, underscored by frequent grunts and inappropriate gropes. Though he wears a top hat and is clearly an acclaimed member of the Royal Academy, it’s hard for his peers and the audience to know what to make of his behavior. Does he suffer from Tourettes syndrome or some personality disorder? What accounts for his attractiveness to the kind and caring Mrs. Booth who doesn’t know that he is the famous painter until well into their relationship? Leigh does little to try to explain Turner’s peculiarities, wanting us to accept him at face value - an eccentric genius and a riddle for which there is no answer.
A decade ago, a Danish publication posted cartoons of the prophet Mohammed that roiled the Muslim world, resulting in death threats for the editor whose life was subsequently lived under constant security watch. Although this was international headline news, The New York Times refused to publish any of the cartoons, buckling in fear for the security of its own establishment. So of course it’s ironic and amusing that their editorials have been so self-righteous about the need to uphold our absolute freedom of speech in the wake of No Korea’s hacking of SONY and threats to theater owners of a 9/11 type of retribution for screening The Interview. The most sensible suggestion I have read is that the government pay SONY for the rights to the film and then air it free on television and over the internet. It seems patently unfair to call for greater courage from commercial theater owners than the Times was able to summon in its role as dispatcher of all the news that’s fit to print.
In considering the sequence of events, I’m troubled by the notion that private businesses, in this case theater owners, should be expected to pay the penalty for the foolishness of other for profit private ventures. Even if no act of terrorism resulted from the hackers’ threat, wouldn’t audiences stay away from that possibility and wouldn’t theater owners suffer a financial loss? And what would their liability have been if any act of violence had occurred? Would Seth Rogen’s movie have been any different with a fictitious name for an Asian dictator? Is any work of fiction justified in using the real name of a living head of state or public personality? At what point does freedom of speech clash with the right to live without being threatened? What would the reaction of American pundits have been to a satiric movie about President Obama being lynched? We live in a society where you cannot say or print the word nigger without euphemizing it with just its initial - does that represent freedom of speech? Is one word more inflammatory than a movie whose plot concerns a political assassination?
If the Times wishes to restore its bona fides in this area, let it now publish the Mohammed cartoons along with an apology to the American public for its dereliction of duty the first time around. And perhaps a mea culpa to SONY and the theater owners for the Times having made the same decision themselves ten years ago, before deciding to lambaste them for their behavior would be sheepishly appropriate.
All my life I’ve been hearing people talk about their diets and frankly, it bored me to tears. I had never dieted, as I am a cardio junky, and had always burned more calories than necessary to remain reasonably thin. And then, about a year and a half ago, I got a job as a staff writer for The Arsenio Hall Show.
I last saw Brenner about a year ago in New York City. Although graying a bit, he was as sharp and edgy as ever both on stage and off. His observational humor included stories about how New York City has changed through the years. Bike lanes and taxis were among his targets. Many of his longtime social and political subjects are equally relevant today–overcrowded prisons, America’s school system, Congress and lobbyists. He described his humor as talking about the simple things in everyday life. He stayed up-to-date on current events and discovers the ridiculous side of them in his stand-up act.
“If Satchmo played the trumpet, I wouldn’t have to do anything,” a recently svelte Paula West said. “I’d just sit back and let him make a load of money.” She was referring to her five-year-old French Bull dog sitting at her feet. The dog is named after the late legendary jazz musician Louis Armstrong. Satch, who accompanies the vocalist everywhere, relaxes in the green room during her performances. “Satch is a big attention whore; he’s changed my life.” She continued, “I don’t trust people who don’t like dogs. It’s as offensive as saying, ‘I don’t like Mexicans or I don’t like Blacks.’” She feels those folks are missing something in life. She clarifies, “he’s not my kid; but he’s my baby. The plus side is the ramifications of ‘F’ ing up a kid are worse.”
It only took the first day of Cheryl Strayed’s 1,000 mile odyssey to make me uncomfortable - the moment when she yanks off her rotting toenail and watches her shoe tumble down a ravine, then tosses its mate furiously after it. I worried about the details - wouldn’t she be in pain hiking without a toenail? why didn’t she bandage her toe to protect it from infection? Did she bring along an extra pair of boots? By day 3, my concern about her foot was eclipsed by my fears about her marching through a scorching desert all day long without a hat - a blue-eyed blonde with ivory skin - wouldn’t she have been burnt toast by day 1? When a director chooses to structure a movie by the calendar, we expect a greater degree of versimilitude; he is telling us “this is how it was day by day - right from Chery’l diary.” So here she was, a woman who had packed about 40 lbs of equipment to carry on her back through open wilderness without even a 6 oz baseball cap. She had a tent, a stove, a pot, chemicals to turn swamp water into potable liquid, dried packaged mush, enough books for a small sidewalk stand in Greenwich Village, enough condoms for a professional, but NO HAT.
About six weeks before the 2012 presidential election, I was walking through Rockefeller Center in New York when I heard a woman’s voice calling my name. I hesitated before I turned around: As a conservative in Gotham, I never know if I’ll be accosted by a raving leftist screaming “fascist!” at me. (Yes, that happened.)
Nothing illegal transpired when the grand jury voted not to indict the policeman who put Eric Garner in a chokehold. People may not have liked that decision but no one has accused the prosecutor of not following the proper guidelines of the law or the jury of having been corrupted. There are remedies for dissatisfaction with this conclusion and they have already started to go into effect. The federal govt has begun preliminary investigations into the possibility of a Civil Rights lawsuit and the family of Mr. Garner will undoubtedly initiate a civil suit against the city for wrongful death. A prestigious law school should have used this event as an important lesson in how our legal system works and how individual rights are balanced against other forces and considerations. Instead, Columbia Law School has deemed this event a trauma for its students and has decided to postpone final exams for those students too impaired to take them. By this reasoning, every time a lawyer loses a case, he should be excused from his immediate work load. The only people who can properly be considered traumatized by Garner’s death are members of his immediate family; students of all colors who are displeased should still be held to their academic responsibilities or the definition of trauma gets diluted down to sheer meaningless-ness.
Newsflash: North Korea did not hack into Sony Pictures in retaliation for the studio’s upcoming release of “The Interview” — based on a script about a kooky, clandestine CIA plot to off North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
While the Rev Al Sharpton was in Ferguson last Sunday, whipping up continued frenzy over the refusal of the grand jury to indict white Officer Darren Wilson for killing a black man who had just committed a robbery and when apprehended, tried to grab the officer’s gun, 8 black people were shot - 3 fatally - in Newark and 4 more at a baby shower in Brooklyn. These were all young adults whose lives were snuffed out or brutally impacted by other blacks, though no arrests have been made so far. A month ago, a black man used his car to plow into a crowd of black people who had also attended a baby shower, killing one and injuring two. The racial violence of black on black is a nightmare for law-abiding urban black citizens, most of whom understand that the police are there to protect them, not act as executioners. But for the Reverend Al, playing the race card has always been and continues to be his only modus operandi. It’s the ticket to his overwhelming acceptance by American political leaders, too intimidated to excoriate a lying tax cheat who profits from his motor-mouthed characterization of black people as continually oppressed and victims of white racism.
With the election over, thank God, I thought pesky telephone polls would subside. But if anything, they’ve increased. Not the “Who has your vote?” polls, or what I call “Slur Polls” — questions designed not to collect answers but to deliver attacks; polls that start out normal and then slide into insinuation: “On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being most disgusted, and 1 being not as disgusted as you ought to be, how revolted were you to learn of the secret slush fund of Rep. Peckinsniff …”)
Those who are certain that numbers don’t lie and that the 15 women who have come forward to accuse Bill Cosby of drugging and molesting/raping them stand as evidence of truth should be reminded that 37 people claimed to be afflicted by witches in the 1692 Salem Witch Trials. This doesn’t mean that Bill Cosby is innocent of the charges but it does mean that this isn’t a class action suit and that the details of each of these experiences may differ significantly enough to not be proof of anything. As of now, we are listening to women tell about events that happened as far back as four decades ago, a long enough time for anyone to forget or re-interpret the past. Some of these women accepted money from Cosby, often over a long period of time. Some, like Janice Dickinson, made a career out of bedding famous men and bragging about that in interviews and books. Many of these women admitted that they were hoping for acting jobs on Cosby’s popular tv show. There was never a shortage of female groupies who considered sexual experiences with entertainers as trophies for their collection or women who aspired to careers in show biz who were perfectly comfortable with the requirements of the casting couch.