Archive for the ‘Biographies’ Category

An article on Olmert post-Winograd…

January 31, 2008

…that I do not agree with.  From the New Republic:

The Olmert Omerta by
January 31, 2008
The survival of Israel’s inept and arrogant prime minister may have devastating consequences for Israeli society.

The good news about Ehud Olmert is that he is not a willful murderer of Israeli soldiers. The bad news is that he is the most inept and arrogant Israeli prime minister in the country’s history.

While the Winograd Commission investigating the Second Lebanon War has absolved Olmert of the worst accusation ever made against an Israeli prime minister–that he sent 33 soldiers to their deaths on a useless mission, whose only purpose was to bolster his image as a tough leader–the commission did confirm what the Israeli public has sensed since August 2006: that the Lebanon War was the worst military defeat in Israel’s history, that the IDF missed an unprecedented opportunity to restore calm to Israel’s borders and restore its shattered deterrence, and that Olmert’s judgment was flawed at every crucial step.Throngs of bereaved parents and reservist officers from the Lebanon war have been camped outside Olmert’s office for the past few days. Despite their demands for Olmert’s ouster in accountability for his failed leadership last summer, the prime minister will probably survive. Having been absolved of the most sensational accusation, the commission’s indictment of Olmert’s leadership comes as an anti-climax–especially given the fact that the commission’s interim report, released nine months ago, already went public with that same conclusion. His continued political survival, however, could do irreparable damage toward the already weakened the bonds of trust that Israeli citizens have with their government.

Until Olmert’s election, every Israeli prime minister could lay claim to the Zionist ethos of heroism. Israel’s leaders were divided into two groups: the European-born founders like David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, and Menachem Begin who embodied self-sacrifice, and the native-born sabras like Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon, and Ehud Barak who boasted first-rate military careers. Even Benjamin Netanyahu, the only one of the sabra prime ministers who didn’t rise to the top of the security establishment, was an officer in Israel’s most elite commando unit; his brother, Yoni, the fallen hero of the Entebbe rescue mission in 1976, added an heroic aura to the Netanyahu family.

Olmert, neither founder nor hero, is the first professional politician to serve as prime minister. Yet, in resisting calls for his resignation, he is insisting on being absolved of the standards for personal accountability in war to which other prime ministers were held. Golda Meir and her defense minister, Moshe Dayan, were forced from office by an outraged public because of failure in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, while Menachem Begin and his defense minister, Ariel Sharon, were compelled to resign because of failure in the first Lebanon War in 1982. Olmert, though, sees himself as immune from such archaic values as personal responsibility. Even before the release of the final version of the Winograd report, Olmert had announced that he wouldn’t resign no matter what the commission concluded.Olmert’s fatal flaw, and the source of his failure in Lebanon, is arrogance. No Israeli leader ever decided to go to war faster than Olmert did–in a matter of hours. And no Israeli leader was worse prepared: Not only did Olmert have no security expertise, but neither did his defense minister. The one member of his cabinet with top military credentials–former IDF chief of staff Shaul Mofaz–was serving as transportation minister, and Olmert didn’t include him in his inner circle. Olmert failed to establish clear goals for Israel’s counter-attack or to inquire whether the IDF had alternative plans. Olmert’s policy was, in effect: Let’s go to war and see what happens.

Outside Groups Aid Obama, Their Vocal Critic

January 29, 2008

Looks who is funding the candidates.  Once again the 527s (and their wealthy backers)…

Published: January 30, 2008, NYTimes
After months of denouncing the influence of special-interest money in politics, Senator Barack Obama is nonetheless entering a critical phase of the presidential campaign benefiting from millions of dollars being spent outside campaign finance rules.

 Mr. Obama has repudiated a California group, Vote Hope, that is working on his behalf. But it has pressed on and, along with a sister organization called, is planning to spend up to $4 million promoting him in California and conducting voter registration drives aimed at blacks in 11 Southern states.

The group has already run radio advertisements with local ministers in South Carolina. New advertisements, some for television, have been prepared for California, one with the rap star Common and others focusing on black and Latino voters.

As the campaign treasuries of Mr. Obama and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton are rapidly draining heading into the nominating contests in more than 20 states on Tuesday, independent political groups — whether so-called 527 groups, political action committees, nonprofit organizations or trade unions — are stepping in to help fill the void. The efforts of these groups, particularly 527s, which are named for a section of the tax code under which they fall, worry campaign finance watchdogs because many can take unlimited contributions from donors and have limited oversight.

Mr. Obama’s campaign says it has taken pains to discourage these efforts on its behalf, and in fact the campaign has no recourse in controlling them. “We do not think people should be donating to 527s,” said Bill Burton, a campaign spokesman. “We would rather have them involved in our campaign. It is our hope that anyone who supports Obama does so directly through his campaign and not through these outside groups.”

The Clinton campaign, which has not made an issue of outside help, has been a much greater beneficiary of these groups. Mrs. Clinton has large unions representing government employees and teachers on her side, as well as the politically savvy feminist organization Emily’s List. The two unions plan to spend millions of dollars on her behalf through direct mail, phone banks and get-out-the-vote efforts in Super Tuesday states.

The teachers’ union, which has 1.4 million members, has budgeted $3 million for the effort, while the government employees’ union has earmarked $5 million. Meanwhile, Emily’s List has an effort directed at women just outside the New York City media market.

Mr. Obama has lined up support from unions representing plumbers and pipefitters, as well as hospitality and garment workers. One union, Unite Here, plans to mobilize its 450,000 members through direct mail advertisements, phone banks and door-to-door visits in Super Tuesday states. It will also continue efforts, begun in Nevada, to run pro-Obama television and radio spots, many in Spanish and aimed at voters in California. The plumbers’ and pipefitters’ union, which has 340,000 members, said it was working with the Obama campaign to get out its membership and was encouraging members to donate time as Obama campaign volunteers.

Unlike 527s, unions can coordinate some activities with campaigns, and spending by their political action committees must be reported to federal regulators.

The efforts by Vote Hope pose a particular challenge to Mr. Obama’s campaign, given his repeated criticism of Mrs. Clinton and former Senator John Edwards for having accepted similar help.

Referring to Mr. Edwards, Mr. Obama said in December in the heat of the Iowa campaign, “John said yesterday he didn’t believe in these 527s.” Then he added, “You can’t say yesterday you don’t believe in it, and today three-quarters of a million dollars is being spent for you.”

The two California groups supporting Mr. Obama, Vote Hope, which is a 527, and, which is a nonprofit group, are both creations of Steve Phillips, a longtime social activist and lawyer who founded five years ago.

“We have a chance to make an impact,” Mr. Phillips said. “There are not the resources within the Obama campaign to organize. You need a dedicated organization with a dedicated revenue stream.”

Mr. Phillips donated $95,000 to the effort. He is also the son-in-law of Herbert Sandler, a billionaire banker and major donor to the Democratic Party and liberal causes. Vote Hope plans to spend about $1 million supporting Mr. Obama in California, while has budgeted $2 million to $3 million for the nonpartisan voter registration drive in the South, help that could not come at a better time.

“These groups are critical to the campaigns,” said Kenneth Gross, a campaign finance lawyer who advises Democratic candidates. “The campaigns are spread so thin on Feb. 5, in terms of geography and television coverage. There is never enough money to do what you want. So these groups can step in and play a critical role.”

So long as unions are politicking among their own members, they can coordinate their efforts with individual candidates and campaigns. While rules may vary according to the structure of the group, many outside organizations, like nonprofit groups and 527s, cannot coordinate their activities with a campaign. Some of these groups can receive donations in unlimited amounts, or in amounts that exceed campaign finance limits, and with looser disclosure rules.

According to Vote Hope’s Web site, its goal is “to get hundreds of thousands of new votes pledged for Obama — starting Jan. 9 and leading up to the state’s Feb. 5, 2008 primary.”

To that end, Vote Hope and PowerPac have set up what amounts to a parallel campaign to the Obama organization, specifically directed at blacks, Latinos and young people.

A Vote Hope advertisement featuring the rapper Common saying “Obama is down for us” has already run on television in San Francisco and can be found on the group’s Web site and on YouTube. Vote Hope’s Web site is also maintaining its own voter data bank of Obama supporters.

In addition, the Web publication posted a memorandum sent to Vote Hope supporters outlining a drive to hire people — at $12.50 an hour — to find voters for Mr. Obama, drive them to the polls and then check with polling locations to be certain they have voted.

The Obama campaign says it would rather the money come directly to the campaign itself.

“There is much that you and others associated with Vote Hope can accomplish for the Obama candidacy within his official organization,” the Obama campaign said in a Dec. 28 letter to Mr. Phillips. “An independent effort outside that organization undermines the senator’s message.”

Among unions, Tom Snyder, the political director of Unite Here, which represents a number of groups including hospitality and garment workers, said the group would be sending a big “positive pro-Obama” message in Super Tuesday states, just as it did in Nevada and South Carolina. The group’s political action committee has about $660,000 on hand for its efforts.

“We plan to communicate with our members and turn them out,” Mr. Snyder said.

On behalf of Mrs. Clinton, Edward J. McElroy, president of the American Federation of Teachers, predicts a “tsunami” of activity as Tuesday draws closer. This will include phone banks, door-to-door visits and fliers on issues like education and the economy, distributed to a membership that is about 70 percent women and has an 80 percent voter registration rate.

Equally active on behalf of Mrs. Clinton is the American Federation of State, Local and Municipal Employees, which will be sending staff members to important Super Tuesday states to drum up support among its members. For the entire election cycle, including races for president, Congress and governor, the union has budgeted $60 million.

“We will have waves of mailings leading up to Feb. 5,” said Larry Scanlon, political director for the union. Mr. Scanlon estimates that “several million” fliers will be mailed, to be followed up by both live and recorded telephone calls.

Obama on Israel: No Palestinian Right of Return

January 29, 2008

Obama: Palestinian refugees can’t return

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Palestinian refugees belong in their own state and do not have a “literal” right of return to Israel, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Monday.

“The outlines of any agreement would involve ensuring that Israel remains a Jewish state,” Obama told The Jerusalem Post and other members of the Jewish and Israeli press on a conference call. He reiterated his support for a two-state solution, but said, “We cannot move forward until there is some confidence that the Palestinians are able to provide the security apparatus that would prevent constant attacks against Israel from taking place.”

His conversation with reporters and his support for the Israeli position on refugees came on the heels of scurrilous charges that Obama is secretly a Muslim who received a radical Wahhabi education.

Obama concluded the phone call by stressing how wrong the accusations were.

“There has been a constant and virulent smear campaign via the Internet that has been particularly targeted against the Jewish community,” he said. “It is absolutely false. I have never practiced Islam. I was raised by my secular mother, and I have been a member of the Christian religion and an active Christian.”

Obama said he wanted to speak personally on the subject so that voters in the Jewish community could hear “from the horse’s mouth” that “there is no substance there and that there is a strong and deep commitment and connection to the Jewish community that should not be questioned.”

Obama’s campaign has taken several steps to debunk the falsehoods in circulation, including sending out a flier in South Carolina emphasizing his Christian convictions – a move that upset some Jewish groups. Obama won South Carolina handily to add momentum to his tight primary race with Sen. Hillary Clinton. They will face off again on February 5, as many of the country’s largest states – with the nation’s largest Jewish populations – vote.

Obama has also recently articulated stances in support of Israel and Jewish issues, including his comments during the conference call, as well as a letter he sent Tuesday urging that America not endorse a UN Security Council resolution on Gaza that doesn’t condemn Hamas’s rocket attacks on Israel.

“The right of return [to Israel] is something that is not an option in a literal sense,” Obama said during the call – though he noted, “The Palestinians have a legitimate concern that a state have a contiguous coherent mass that would allow the state to function effectively.”

Regarding Iran, he called for more pressure on the regime, as a divestment bill he sponsored advocates, but didn’t mention the possibility of using force.

He also said that “carrots” needed to be offered, while a spokesman said that he believed there should be low- and mid-level diplomatic contacts between the United States and Iran.

“Diplomacy is not just talking with your friends, but talking to our enemies,” Obama said. “We want to send a signal to the Iranian people that we are reasonable. We are not looking to impede Iran’s legitimate national aspirations, but they have to change their behavior.”

Hitler rose to power 75 years ago…

January 29, 2008

…Time Magazine shows pictures related to this history.  Click the link:,29307,1707887,00.html

Learning to believe what politicians say…

January 28, 2008

From a Jpost article, 1/28/08.  Humans have ignored what “bad actors” have said and written in the past at their peril.  Olmert says he will believe what Ahmadinejad says…

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed Monday that Israel would not ignore any calls for its obliteration, as the Knesset held a special session to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“We will not permit ourselves to be complacent to the sounds of voices calling for the obliteration of Israel, which are backed by murderous and jealous ideologies, tyrannical regimes, supporters of terrors and malicious programs to develop weapons of massive destruction,” Olmert said during his address to the Knesset, held one day after the international day of remembrance.

The United Nations declared three years ago that each January 27 would be the International Day in Memory of Holocaust Victims.

It was the first time since the end of World War II that the UN recognized the killing of an estimated 6 million Jews and minorities by Nazi Germany.

Germany nominated the day as a national day of commemoration in 1996, while the UN named the date International Holocaust Remembrance Day in November 2005.

In his address to Knesset on Monday, Olmert also accused the allies of the Second World War of not making even the slightest effort to stop the extermination of Jews.

“The killing machine worked nonstop. Military aircrafts bombed hundreds of thousands of places across Europe, but not one raid was meant to stop the extermination process. Auschwitz, the railroads, the trains and the platforms, all worked uninterrupted, like a clock, a Nazi clock, but the sky remained clear; the sun went up and down as usual. Rain fell, snow piled up, the murderer murdered, and not a single aircraft interrupted the killing routine,” Olmert said.

Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik said during the session that at the height of the Holocaust many of Israel’s present-day friends said they did not see, hear or know anything.

“Today, there is no doubt about the existential danger we’re facing, and no one could claim that they didn’t know,” she said.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu said that “the allies knew everything, but did not dispatch even one pilot. They had intelligence in real time and some of the most enlightened leaders of the 20th century. But they were apathetic to the fate of the Jewish people.”

On Monday, the UN General Assembly will hear addresses by survivors of Nazi death camps, including U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos, and a concert by the Tel Aviv University Symphony conducted by Zubin Mehta. The UN plans also to issue a special stamp to mark the day.

Mrs. Thatcher meets Menachem Begin…

January 27, 2008

Fascinating piece of history, from a JPost article, written by an Israeli diplomat who was present:  Menachem Begin lectures Mrs. Thatcher and the British government over lunch in 1979 about how the Jews have always stood alone against their enemies, and therefore, to please not lecture him about Israeli settlements in the West Bank.  Great quote: 

“But Madam, this was 1944,” he said in a low voice reserved for dreaded things. “The Allies had all but won the war. You were sending a thousand bombers a night over Germany. What would it have taken to divert 70, 60, 50, aircraft to bomb those lines?”

Read on…

Menachem Begin’s bag and baggage
With much earnestness, prime minister Margaret Thatcher once confided to prime minister Menachem Begin her fervent admiration for the Jews.“It has to do with my Methodist upbringing,” she told him. “Methodism, you see, means method. It means” – her fingers instinctively bunched into a fist – “sticking to your guns, dedication, determination, triumph over adversity, reverence for education – the very qualities you Jews have always cherished.”

Mr. Begin, whom she had invited to 10 Downing Street for lunch shortly after her election victory in 1979, responded with a small, modest smile. “I cannot deny,” said he, “that millennia ago, when monarchs did not even know how to sign their own names, our forefathers had already developed a system of compulsory education.”

Thatcher’s eyes were ablaze with enthusiasm. “Your marvelous chief rabbi here, Sir Immanuel Jakobovits, recently made exactly the same point.

He said that the term ‘an illiterate Jew’ is an oxymoron. There is no such thing. How right he is! He has ” – she paused as if to refresh her stock of awe and respect – “such a high moral stature, such an undaunted courage, such an inspiring commitment to the old-fashioned virtues, like community self-help, individual responsibility, and personal accountability – all the things I deeply believe in.”

Then, with sudden exasperation in her voice and a frown on her brow, “Oh, how I wish our own Christian leaders would take a leaf out of his book.”

Begin nodded an acknowledgement, but said nothing. Perhaps this was because he thought it would be indiscreet to concur. Or, perhaps, it was because he and chief rabbi Sir Immanuel Jakobovits, champion of Israel and celebrated Judaic scholar whom Thatcher would later elevate to the peerage, did not always see eye-to-eye on the Jewish state’s vision of itself.

The two prime ministers were standing chatting in what is called the Blue Room when the house manager rapped three times on the floor and announced, “Prime Minister, gentlemen, lunch is now served.”

“Do you know,” continued Mrs. Thatcher doughtily as she led the way into the oak-paneled state dining room, “in all the many years I have represented Finchley, my parliamentary constituency, which as you know has a high proportion of Jewish residents, I have never once had a Jew come to me in poverty and desperation. They are always so well looked after by their own. And that is absolutely splendid!”

Pundits would postulate that it was this cast of mind that accounted for the remarkably high number of Jews in the various Thatcher governments — six at one time or another, in addition to close advisers. And in a class-conscious society where the aristocracy was solidly Anglican, her Methodist roots made her an ambitious outsider.

So, yes, it was natural for her to see Jews as kindred spirits. They provided refreshing ballast to the paternalistic Tories of the old school squirearchy, where anti-Semitism was commonplace, while Jews were not.

“Now, let’s talk about your country,” said Mrs. Thatcher affably, as they reached the table and took their seats, accompanied by half a dozen colleagues and aides, me amongst them.
Lord Peter Carrington, the foreign secretary, full of the self-confident repartee common to graduates of Eton and Sandhurst, ho-hummed in the authoritative, patronizing warble of the British upper class: “I bet you a wager, Mr. Begin, that I know what passed through your mind when we were introduced earlier, before lunch.”

“Do you, Lord Carrington? I’m not a betting man, but please tell me: what did pass through my mind?” An impudent and impish smile hovered over his features. The whole table grinned at the cheekiness of the banter.

The foreign secretary chuckled devilishly. “You were thinking to yourself: By George, those Camel Corps chaps at the British Foreign Office are a bunch of Arabists besotted with an irredeemable proclivity toward the Arab interests. Am I not right? Come on – own up.” He threw an audacious smile and pointed two fingers like a pistol to add to the tease.

Begin raised his arms in a don’t-shoot pose, his eyes bright with mirth. “Amazing! Totally correct! And you put it so well, Lord Carrington.”

Everybody threw their heads back and let out a great peal of laughter.THATCHER, LAYING on all her charm, said sportingly, “Oh, come, come, prime minister, you know Peter’s just teasing. You know very well you have good friends here in Whitehall, even if we don’t always see eye-to-eye on everything.”
And then, solicitously, “How do you find the salmon? It’s specially catered – kosher.”
“Delicious. Your thoughtfulness is appreciated.”

And then, back to the Foreign Secretary sitting opposite him: “What, pray, do we not see eye-to-eye about these days?” He was desirous of moving on to the nub of things.Lord Carrington’s gung-ho jousting vanished. Flatly, he answered, “Your bag-and-baggage approach toward settlements, mostly.”A fiery light in the Israel premier’s eye switched on. “Bag-and-baggage approach, minister?”

“Yes, prime minister.” And he stepped into the ring and began punching hard, one-two, one-two, one-two: “Your settlement policy is expansionist. It is intemperate. It is a barrier to peace. The settlements are built on occupied Arab soil. They rob Palestinians of their land. They unnecessarily arouse the animosity of the moderate Arabs. They are contrary to international law – the Geneva Convention. They are inconsistent with British interests.”In a voice like steel wrapped in velvet, Margaret Thatcher affirmed, “The foreign secretary is speaking on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government in this matter.”Begin chose to fight Carrington, not Thatcher. He leaned forward to focus his fullest attention on him. The two men’s eyes traded malevolence. Then he let fly: The settlements were not an obstacle to peace. No Palestinian Arab sovereignty had ever existed in the biblical provinces of Judea and Samaria. The Geneva Convention did not apply. The Arabs had refused to make peace before there was a single settlement anywhere. The settlements were built on state-owned, not Arab-owned, land.

Their construction was an assertion of basic Jewish historic rights. The settlement enterprise was critical to Israel’s national security.

Lord Carrington’s face went blotchy with anger. He would have none of it. Tempers were at flash point.Abruptly, Begin turned to face Margaret Thatcher. “Madam Prime Minister,” he said in a voice that brooked no indifference, “your foreign secretary dismisses my country’s historic rights. He pooh-poohs our vital security needs. So, I shall tell you why the settlements are vital: because I speak of Eretz Yisrael, a land redeemed, not occupied; because without these settlements Israel could be at the mercy of a Palestinian state astride the commanding heights of Judea and Samaria. We would be living on borrowed time.And,” – his face went granite, like his eyes – “whenever we Jews are attacked we are always alone. Remember in 1944 how we came begging for our lives – begging at this very door?”

The British premier’s brow creased in concentration, and she muttered pensively, “Nineteen-forty-four? Is that when you wanted us to bomb Auschwitz?”“No, Madam, not Auschwitz. We asked you to bomb the railway lines leading to Auschwitz. In the summer of 1944 Eichmann was transporting a hundred thousand Hungarian Jews a week along those lines.”Thatcher cupped her chin in profound contemplation, “You know, Prime Minister,” she said forthrightly after a momentary pause, “I have at times wondered what I would have done had I been here at Number 10 in those days. And I have to tell you in all candor, the policy of the Allies then was to destroy the Hitlerite war machine as speedily as possible. I would have agreed to nothing that would have detracted one iota from that goal. I would not have agreed to bomb those lines.”Menachem Begin went white. Clearly, the woman had not been briefed who this man was – a survivor of a Soviet gulag, a survivor of the Shoah, orphaned of virtually his whole family.“But Madam, this was 1944,” he said in a low voice reserved for dreaded things. “The Allies had all but won the war. You were sending a thousand bombers a night over Germany. What would it have taken to divert 70, 60, 50, aircraft to bomb those lines?”

“And what does this have to do with the settlements?” Thus Peter Carrington, barging in.
A livid Begin turned on him and snapped: “Lord Carrington, please have the goodness not to interrupt me when I am in the middle of a conversation with your prime minister. Do I have your permission to proceed?”CARRINGTON WENT puce. The shocked silence was interrupted only when Mrs. Thatcher emitted a genteel cough.

“Gentlemen,” she said in a voice of uncommon informality, “I am not certain I understand why, but it is my impression that whenever the Holy Land comes up for discussion powerful emotions are stirred and tempers get frayed. It seems to me that we Britishers display a rather — how can I put it? — un-English passion on the matter.”

The foreign secretary took off his spectacles, breathed on them, polished each lens in turn with a handkerchief from his top pocket of his Saville Row suit, seemed about to speak but didn’t, and then changed his mind and did: “Quite right, Prime Minister,” he said apologetically. “Somehow, your little country, Mr. Begin, evokes all sorts of high emotional fevers. Stirs up the blood, so to speak. Amazing!”

“Not really,” said Begin, smiling in an unmirthful way, his composure regained. “The story of the Jewish people is very much a tale of survival against bouts of irrationality and hysteria. It occurs in every generation.”

“Gentlemen,” said the Iron Lady sharply, “it’s time to move on. I should now like to talk about our binational trade relations which, incidentally, are excellent.”

The lunch tended to peter out rather quickly after that.

The writer, a veteran diplomat, was an adviser to four prime ministers, including Menachem Begin.

Bush on the Holocaust: bravely breaking taboos.

January 27, 2008

Again W says things that need to be said and that haven’t been said before.  Roosevelt, whom American Jews voted for to the tune of 90% (including my grandparents who worked at a Brooklyn Democratic Club for FDR), wouldn’t lift a finger to save Europe’s Jews.  At Yad Vashem in January of this year, W said that the US should have bombed Auschwitz to save the Jews.  I don’t think any sitting US president has said this.  Again, hats off to the president everyone loves to hate for having the moral clarity and courage to say the right thing (as he did on Israeli settlement blocks):

In dialogue: Bush on Auschwitz


Medoff: Shortly before Holocaust Remembrance Day in 1990, the ‘Lapid’ organization held a mock trial of the Allies for their failure to bomb Auschwitz. More than 300 Israeli academics, educators, and survivors attended. You served as the judge. How did it come about that you were asked to play this role?

Shetreet: The organizers of the trial realized that any serious discussion of the bombing issue would involve questions of international law and related legal fields. They knew I had done extensive research and teaching at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in public law, constitutional law, and international law. At the time, I was also a Member of Knesset, serving on the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee of the Knesset.

Medoff: The defense, represented by Katriel Ben-Aryeh, argued that it was militarily too difficult for the Allies to reach Auschwitz. What did you think of that argument?

Shetreet: We carefully reviewed that claim. The evidence showed that the US had carried out a number of bombing attacks on the Monowitz industrial sites that were extremely close to Auschwitz. Therefore, I had no choice but to reject the argument that Auschwitz was out of the range of operation of the Allied forces. It was clear that the military technology available at the time did enable the Allies to bomb Auschwitz.

Medoff: In 1944, when Jewish organizations asked the Allies to bomb Auschwitz, officials of the Roosevelt administration said they could not do so because it would have required ‘diversion’ of military resources that were needed elsewhere.

Shetreet: I dismissed the diversion argument for several reasons. The Free World should have sent a clear message that it knew about the extermination machine, and that stopping the mass murder was one of the goals of the Allies, as one part of the overall strategy of defeating the Nazis. Stopping genocide is a legitimate goal. The fact that Nazi Germany allocated vast resources to carry out the extermination of the Jews during the war, should have resulted in a similar willingness by the Allies to use their resources stop the horrible crime against humanity that Germany was committing. Medoff: Ben-Aryeh also raised the issue that some of the Jews in Auschwitz would have been killed if the Allies had bombed the camp.

Shetreet: This claim was not a valid basis for justifying the failure to bomb. There was a real possibility that many thousands of Jewish lives could have been saved if the Allies disrupted the operation of the extermination machinery. Even if there might have been some casualties among the Jews from an Allied bombing, it would have been justified, especially since those Jews were all about to be killed anyway. Nor was I convinced by the argument that the Nazi extermination system could have reorganized and gone back to the system of shooting as the method of extermination. At that late stage of the war, the Germans were in no position to do that. The other point to remember is that when the US War Department rejected the requests to bombing, it did not claim that the problem was the danger of Jewish casualties. It claimed that the US could not ‘divert’ its planes. But we know the planes were already there, striking Monowitz.

Medoff: In your ruling, you found that the Allies had a legal obligation, under International Law, to bomb the camps. Why?

Shetreet: The prosecution in our trial argued that a state not only has the right to intervene to defend the life of its citizens even outside its borders, but that a state also has a right to carry out humanitarian intervention to save the lives of people who are at risk of death. I concluded that because of the severity of the situation, this right to intervene became an obligation to intervene. I was persuaded that genocide was so unique a crime, that the response to it had to be exceptional and unique as well. When genocide is occurring, the usual rules of criminal law cannot apply, and the usual defenses or justifications that might be invoked in a criminal case are not applicable. Therefore international law must treat the prevention of genocide as creating a unique legal obligation. It is true that there was no legal authority to impose this judgment, but that cannot be a reason to refuse to recognize the obligation. It is incumbent on the judge to fill the gap. By the way, in the years since the mock trial, there was a judicial ruling holding that there was a duty of Serbia to prevent mass killings by the militias in Kosovo.

Medoff: You also ruled that the Allies had a moral duty to bomb Auschwitz.

Shetreet: On the one hand, of course the main aim of the war had to be achieving military victory over the Nazi enemy. Operations against strategic and military targets were naturally higher priority than the destruction of the Auschwitz death camp. At the same time, however, the Allies had a basic moral duty to also take action against murder installations. This does not mean that the Allies were obligated to take action that might have genuinely interfered with the main war effort. I left open the question of what the Allies’ legal or moral obligations would have been if it had been peace time. But in this specific wartime situation, when the Allies were both attacking military targets next to Auschwitz and could have attacked Auschwitz itself, they could have fulfilled their moral duty at the same time that they were pursuing their objective of defeating the Nazis.

Medoff: President George W. Bush said at Yad Vashem last week that the US ‘should have bombed’ Auschwitz. What was the significance of his statement?

Shetreet: President Bush recognized the duty of the superpowers to act militarily in times of war to prevent genocide, parallel with their main war campaign against the enemy – the same point that I made in the mock trial 18 years ago. Such a statement coming from the president of the United States carries great weight. It helps establish a norm of conduct among the nations that there is a duty to act against crimes of genocide.

Medoff: Do you believe that the US or other countries have a moral obligation to use their military power to stop genocide? Should they intervene more actively in Sudan today?

Shetreet: As a matter of general principle, there is an obligation to act in order to prevent genocide. The practical question is when and how to exercise this obligation. Since we are not in the midst of a world war, the question of how to intervene is also affected by considerations such as the rule of proportionality and determining which responses are most effective. There certainly is a duty to intervene in Sudan, although nobody has proposed bombing there. What is needed is effective action by both the United States and other countries – a coalition of nations to stop the atrocities in Darfur. That is what should have happened during the Holocaust, and what must be done today.  

Rafael Medoff is director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies. Shimon Shetreet is a law professor and former cabinet minister.

Amr Moussa, Sec Gen of Arab League, opens the door to negotiations…

January 27, 2008

From a May 2006 article.  He says very interesting things…

According to Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, the Israelis got the Arab peace initiative of 2002 all wrong. He should know. “I drafted it,” he said.

In an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post, which took place here the day after the closing of the World Economic Forum on the Middle East, Moussa spelled out the conditions for that initiative, conditions which he said would allow the Israeli government to engage in a substantive peace process.

Notably, he spoke of the possibility for territorial adjustments along the Green Line. Moussa, in a rare interview with an Israeli publication, said he had a burning message for the Israeli people. It was evidently so important that he get it right that, at one point, after speaking for half an hour, he stopped the interview and said, “Look, I’m not pleased with this interview. It does not convey my real message to the Israeli people. Let’s start again.”

The message, he said, was that Israel and Israelis needed to reexamine the 2002 plan. Their understanding of it, he said, was mistaken. In March 2002, the Arab League made an offer to Israel in a seven-point document, also known as the Beirut initiative. All 22 Arab countries agreed to full peace with Israel in exchange for a “full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967,” the acceptance of a sovereign Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital and the achievement of “a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194.” Israel ignored the offer, dismissing it as unfeasible.

“We have two main problems with it,” a Foreign Ministry official said this week. “One, it contradicts the road map by predetermining that the borders between Israel and the Palestinians will be based on ’67. The road map says let’s sit together and agree together upon the borders.”

Not so, said Moussa. Everything, including the ’67 borders, he said, “is subject to the negotiations that will take place between the two parties.” “What we are offering in the Arab initiative is two states,” Moussa said. “An Israeli state with the Jewish people living there and a Palestinian state, dividing the land of Palestine along the lines of 4 June 1967… If there are changes in the borders, or around the borders, they have to be astride the borders. You take this, I take that. Just to adjust.” Everything must be negotiated, he said, “in order to reach a solution that if this piece of land is to be given to Israel… the Palestinians should be compensated with another piece of land.”

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s convergence plan could only work if it were clear that it was a step before a negotiated final settlement, said Moussa. “I still have to know the details about the offer Mr. Olmert has in mind. Is he going to leave 90 percent of the territories and leave the rest to further negotiations within an agreed short period of time?” Moussa asked. “Or just, ‘OK, that’s it. Here’s our borders, good-bye and do whatever you want.’ Such an offer would not work. Any resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict would be based on negotiations and mutual understanding in order to have a settlement that both partners can live with.”

The other reason Israel ignored the initiative was due to the inclusion of UN Resolution 194 regarding solving the problem of the Palestinian refugees. It states that refugees can return to their homes in Israel if they choose. This “opens the question and doesn’t rule out the possibility that millions will come and settle in the State of Israel,” said the Foreign Ministry official. “Which means the destruction of Israel, because demographically it won’t survive it.”

However Moussa said that the issues of refugees was also subject to negotiations. Indeed, the Oslo Accords stipulate that the Palestinian refugee problem will be dealt with in the final-status talks. “How many will return, how many will return to the Palestinian state, how many will return to the Israeli state, how many will be compensated, how many are ready to return to either state or a third state… It can take its time,” he said. “They can agree on the time frame of such negotiations. But meanwhile, withdrawal can take place, a Jerusalem solution can be reached, certain security arrangements for a certain period of time can be agreed, then we move on.”

The time frame is five years, he said. Negotiations could be done “within a year or two” and implemented “in the next five years or so.”

Moussa questioned Israel‘s desire for peace. “This requires a partner. Do we have a partner in the Israeli government that would accept that? Withdrawal? A Palestinian state? A solution for Israel – an agreed solution for Jerusalem, the achievement of a solution for the refugees?” he said. Moussa said the initiative has the support of the Arab world. “I’ve talked to all of them,” he said, “from presidents and kings to the simple man in the street. All of them agree. We want to solve the Palestinian problem. We cannot live for decades or generations with the same Arab-Israeli conflict.”

But what about Hamas?

“We want it to support [the initiative],” he said, “and there is a possibility for success.” He added that acceptance does not mean recognition of Israel. “No, no, it’s not recognizing Israel. But it shows the readiness to recognize Israel in case it negotiates peace.” “We have accepted that Israel will exist in our midst – and read the Arab initiative again – we are ready to end that conflict,” he added.

For the Arabs, he said, the 1973 war was the last war. It was meant to recover their hurt pride from the defeat in the 1967 war, he claimed. “[The 2002 initiative] was not based on the fear of what happened in ’67, but the confidence gained in ’73,” he said. “We don’t want to have other wars or enter into any gimmick… No! The time has come [for] us to be sincere in our endeavor for the peace solution between the Israelis. Believing that this thing is finished. Israel is there. Israel will remove its settlers from the occupied territories, help establish a viable Palestinian state, the Arab citizens will be returned back. There will be no reason for further confrontation or clashes between the Arabs and the Israelis, especially in view of the fact that it is not a question of Jewish vs. Muslims or Jewish vs. Arabs… “This is the message we want the Israelis to know. We are not playing games.”

Per Anger, Wallenberg partner, saved Hungarian Jews…

January 27, 2008

Another hero…

From a 2002 article:

Per Anger, Wallenberg partner, dies in Sweden

Per Anger, the Swedish diplomat who assisted Raoul Wallenberg in the struggle to save Hungarian Jewry, died yesterday in Stockholm at the age of 89. Anger had a distinguished career spanning four decades in the Swedish foreign service, serving as Swedish ambassador to Canada and Australia. But his defining experience was as secretary in the Swedish legation in Budapest, where he personally saved numerous Jews by granting them “provisional passes” which allowed them to escape the Nazi occupation.

Wallenberg joined the Swedish legation in 1944, and the effort to rescue Hungarian Jews was greatly accelerated, ultimately resulting in the rescue of more than 100,000 Jews. Anger often accompanied Wallenberg to scenes of Jewish deportation, where the two Swedes would pull numerous people out of line and shove life-saving passes into their hands. On several occasions, the two men climbed into crowded death trains and dragged dozens of Jews away, warning the German guards “not to interfere in official Swedish business.”

After Wallenberg was taken prisoner by the liberating Soviets in January of 1945, Anger dedicated his life to discovering the fate of his partner, a fate still unknown. Anger chaired the Wallenberg Association of Sweden, and managed his government’s Wallenberg file until 1989.

Anger was named a Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1983, and became an Honorary Citizen of Israel in September of 2000. Said Max Grunberg, Chairman of the Raoul Wallenberg Honorary Citizen Committee, “Anger and Wallenberg were two great humanitarians who chose to put themselves at risk in order to save Jewish lives. They were two outstanding beacons of light in an otherwise dark and dismal world.”

From Wikipedia:

Per Johan Valentin Anger (December 7, 1913August 26, 2002) was a Swedish diplomat who participated in efforts to rescue Hungarian Jews from arrest and deportation by the Nazis during World War II.

Born in Göteborg, Anger studied law at the University of Stockholm and later at the University of Uppsala. After graduating in November 1939, he was drafted into the army. Soon afterwards, the Swedish foreign ministry offered him a trainee position at the Swedish legation in Berlin, which he began in January 1940. Anger was assigned to the trade department, but after the legation received information about an impending Nazi attack on Norway and Denmark, he became involved in relaying intelligence to Stockholm. In June 1941 he returned to Stockholm, where he worked on trade relations between Sweden and Hungary. In November 1942 he was sent to Budapest as second secretary at the Swedish legation.

After Germany invaded Hungary on March 19, 1944, Anger became involved in efforts to aid Hungarian Jews. Anger originated the idea of issuing Swedish provisional passports and special certificates to protect Jews from internment and deportation. Seven hundred of these documents were issued initially. Although the legality of the documents was doubtful, the Hungarian government agreed to recognize their bearers as Swedish citizens.

On July 9, Raoul Wallenberg arrived in Budapest. He immediately extended Anger’s initiative, introducing colorful protective passes (Schutzpasse) and creating “safe houses” throughout the city. Anger and Wallenberg worked together, often literally snatching people from transports and death marches. After the Soviets invaded in January 1945, both Anger and Wallenberg were taken into custody. Anger was released three months later, but Wallenberg never emerged again, becoming one of the 20th Century’s most famous missing persons.

After the war, Anger served in numerous diplomatic posts in Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Austria and the United States. He later became head of Sweden’s international aid program and served as ambassador to Australia, Canada and the Bahamas. Throughout his post-war career, Anger led efforts to learn what happened to Wallenberg, even meeting personally with Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s. In 2000, the Russian government finally acknowledged that Wallenberg and his driver died in Soviet custody in 1947, although the exact circumstances of their deaths remain unclear.

In 1982 Anger was recognized by Yad Vashem as one of the Righteous Among the Nations, and in 1995 he was honored with the Hungarian Republic’s Order of Merit. In 2000 he was awarded honorary Israeli citizenship. In 2001, the American Swedish Historical Museum presented him the “Spirit of Raoul Wallenberg Humanitarian Award,” and in April 2002 Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson awarded Anger the “Illis Quorum Meruere Labores” for his actions during and after the war.

Anger died in Stockholm after suffering a stroke.

Psychoanalyzing Arafat…

January 27, 2008

From an Op-ed I submitted to the New York Times in January 2002, when Arafat had launched attacks on Israel and Sharon had him surrounded in his Muqata compound in Ramallah.  He died in 2004.  This Op-ed was never printed.

Understanding Arafat 

By Roger M. Scher 

If Arafat were on the couch, what would you find out?  Is he a “together” person, or is he emotionally unstable and self-destructive?  What does he really want out of life?  Can he be trusted? 

Arafat’s behavior over the last forty years, and especially in the last two, reveals a man who is not motivated by a desire to establish a viable Palestinian state at peace with Israel, nor by a desire to eliminate Israel and establish a Palestinian state “from the river to the sea”.  Arafat’s personality is characterized by a lust for danger, violence and chaos.  Arafat seeks the exhilaration of risk-taking, feels alive when under fire, powerful when triumphing over adversity.  Some people of this nature take physical risks on the ski slope, skydiving, or car racing.  Others take huge financial risks, they gamble, try to hit it big.  Still others risk their personal lives or their health. These people are looking for attention, for a validation of their weak sense of self. 

Bill Clinton was one such risk taker, allegedly having affairs in the Arkansas Governor’s mansion and certifiably fondling an intern in the White House.  Likewise Clinton seemed to perform best with his back against the wall, like when Newt Gingrich and Co. gained control of Congress in 1994.  Clinton came back with a vengeance to win reelection.  And when he was being impeached, Clinton’s tenacity and performance in the job were admirable.   

Like Clinton, Arafat has become bored with the normal affairs of state.  If a State of Palestine were declared tomorrow and peace finally came to the Middle East, what would Arafat be?  He would be the aging leader of a small country, charged with making sure the traffic lights work, the garbage is picked up, and there is no corruption at the country’s ports.  He would not be flying to London to meet with Tony Blair.  He would not be making a triumphant address to the U.N. General Assembly or the Arab League.  He would not be waltzing into the Rose Garden with the Prime Minister of Israel and the President of the United States.  He would not be accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. 

In recent interviews, Arafat said that Sharon should not write his obituary yet.  He explained how he survived Israeli attacks in Jordan in 1968, survived Sharon’s drive to Beirut in 1982, survived assassination attempts in Tunis for years.  He revels in being in the thick of things, in the middle of the action. 

Remember — Arafat is a guerrilla, an aging, pathetic guerrilla, but a guerrilla nonetheless. Arafat is in his element right now. With Israeli tanks surrounding his compound, and violence erupting all around, he is comfortable. Much more comfortable than when he had to pore over the details of Barak’s peace offer in early 2001, to consider which settlements would be where, what Palestinian units would be deployed where, how the Gaza and West Bank would be linked. That stuff was boring. Now he will prove his mettle. He will emerge yet again from an Israeli onslaught unconquerable. He will become a true national hero to the Palestinians, reliving past glories. He won’t ever become a glorified traffic cop or a garbage collector.   

Fouad Ajami in his recent Foreign Affairs article said that Arafat unleashed the second intifida in the irrational belief that anger from the Palestinian “street” would somehow result in a messianic deliverance in which Israel would accept all Palestinian demands (which Barak largely did) because the Israelis would become demoralized and would give in to international pressure.  Interesting idea, but I don’t think Arafat thinks that far ahead.

Arafat’s motivation is much more primitive.  He seeks self-aggrandizement, and the only way he has ever known how to get this is by being in the center of the mayhem and violence and surviving, his cause and rear-end intact.   

Some Freudian ideas come to mind.  Namely, narcissism and the so-called “death instinct”.  Arafat is probably narcissistically disturbed, as are many political leaders.  He is overcome with his own grandiosity, his own mission, his own invincibility.  And, as a lifelong guerrilla, the only way he knows how to feel like a winner is by blowing things up. 

Freud’s death instinct relates to man’s natural aggressive drive, natural inclination for destruction, the opposite of his instinct for love and creation.  This instinct is obviously coursing through Yasir Arafat’s veins. 

This diagnosis of Arafat is all well and good. The trouble is that Arafat’s preference for violence has been costing the Palestinians their nationhood as well as their lives, and causing numerous deaths in Israel. What is the world to do with this pathetic, aging guerrilla? 

Short of years of psychoanalysis, what Arafat needs is to be ignored.  Ignored by Israel, ignored by the world.  Then, he might wither away and cease to cause any more harm.  The world should stop dealing with him. To deal with him is to invite further acts of violence. 

Whether you are Iran seeking to destroy Israel or AIPAC seeking to strengthen it, Arafat is not your man. He has no other goal than to remain in the center of the mayhem. By causing death and destruction and getting Tony Blair to notice him, Arafat can really feel he is somebody in this world.    

Roger Scher is a professorial lecturer in international relations at Johns Hopkins University and a member-in-training at the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis.