Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Jews of Yemen

Jews of Yemen on the road to extinction
Ghamdan Adakkimi 

Feb 2, 2015

~~Just as happened in most Arab countries, it seems that there will be no Jews in Yemen
~~The number of Jews in Yemen declined dramatically declined from more than 50 thousand Jews before the announcement of the state of Israel to 250 in 2010

That much of the Jewish minority in Yemen further harassment, hatred and deprivation contributed greatly to the decrease in the number of Yemeni Jews who do not exceed the rest of them only dozens seems and this is what reflects the trend to cancel any other religions or religious minorities after the Jews were the rulers of Yemen in an important stage of history.

"The question of Jewish and Jewish issue in Yemen is dealing with it very, very lightly and without the responsibility and the study of (...) We dealt with the Jewish cause hostility without understanding, without knowledge, without the knowledge," says Chairman of the General Authority of the book and the captain of former Yemeni Journalists, Bari Taher, stressing the lack of awareness Yemenis that the Jewish religion is part of ancient history.

Historians and researchers go on to say that the Jewish community in Yemen, one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world, noting that "Yemen is the cradle of Judaism," in the words of Dr. Kamal Salibi. He says Bari Taher to pier 22: "State Himyarite Cycle- before Islam, has is that united Yemen real standardized, and was on the Jewish religion and not in what it wrong."

Yemeni Jews form an essential part of the fabric of Yemen, but managed to coexist peacefully with Muslims for centuries, particularly since the Muslims entered Yemen in 628 AD, as it ensured them full rights of the Islamic religion and imposed on them the tribute, as the imposition of zakat on the adherents of the religion of Islam. The notorious since ancient exercise handicrafts, most notably the drafting of gold and silver.

In contrast, the Jews of Yemen subjected to harassment and persecution in different periods, by some of the Yemeni Islamist militants and specifically, as a result of backwardness and ignorance. The declaration of the state of Israel in 1948 resulted in the displacement of more than 50 thousand Yemeni Jew, in a campaign called "Flying Carpet", as one of the most important Zionist conspiracies, according to Bari Taher. Before and after the Zionist immigration organizations sought to displace the Jews to Palestine and Yemen to Israel or the United States and Britain in small batches.

And the most important factors that have contributed, and still is, the success of this displacement "forced" according to the researchers and those interested, a specialist in Jewish community affairs journalist Mahmoud Taha says Pier 22: "the most important factors, lack of political and economic stability and the deterioration of the security situation, in addition to violations suffered by Jews in recent years, most notably the death of Harun al-Zindani in the capital Sanaa and Masha in the daytime rosette Amran governorate end of 2008 ".

And put the displacement of dozens of Jews who were living in the village of "Al Salem" in Saada province by a group Houthis in 2007, a watershed in the biography of the life of the people of this community incident, prompting the authorities of Yemen to take them to the "tourist city" at the Sheraton neighborhood east of the capital Sanaa , near the US embassy.

Taha said "the decline of the tribe to provide protection to the Jews (as a vulnerable group), and the proliferation of armed Houthi movement, which raises the slogan" Fuck the Jews ", exacerbating the deteriorating situation currently whom the rest of the Yemenite Jews", in reference to fears of extinction of this community once and for all from Yemen .

Coexistence is fragile and many problems

Frequently talk about what has changed in the lives of members of this community, as well as the atmosphere of co-existence of all religions in one country, as the majority of the population (about 24 million people) are Muslims.

Yemen says a researcher at the Minority Affairs Fouad top: "the number of Jews in Yemen is very large and the incline of about 5,000 thousand in 1990 to 250 in 2010". Confirms Mahmoud Taha, the number of Jews remaining in Yemen currently does not exceed 70 members; eight of them in the "doted" area in Amran governorate, and nearly 60 in the tourist city of the capital Sanaa. While Rabbi Yahya Yusuf Musa says that the number of the rest of them is up to 150 individuals.

Pat decreasing the number of Jews among the community is a matter of astonishment, and this exposes them to community harassment on the one hand and deprived of their basic rights Khakhm in education and the right to public office on the other hand, according to the scholar Fouad Alaoui, who added to the pier 22: "You can not talk about coexistence now because of the rest of the Jews isolated in the tourist city and under the supervision and guarding Mshiddtan, and when one of them went in 2011 to the outside of the residential city, Anonymous attacked him stabbed to death even killed him. "

In addition to the above, the problems experienced by the rest of the children of the Jewish community about the problems of Yemenis in general is no different, as the majority ruled by poverty, especially after the extinction of the professions that they did Kalhaddadh, carpentry, and the formulation of gold, silver, leather tanning, and others. But more importantly, remains the lack of a private school authorities for the children of this community, and this is what drives some to send their children to the United States, Britain or Israel to study while others only teach them the Jewish religion through the book "Torah," the Hebrew language in private places.

And forced sectarian mobilization and harassment in the streets the majority of Jews on the Cut "Znanaarham" (two curls of hair dangling on the side of the face), which is part of their religious faith. During our visit to Rabbi Yahya Yusuf Musa in his apartment in the city, we noticed that the "sashes" just hanging on both sides of the face of the largest Jewish rabbis Joseph Moses (bedridden because of suffering a stroke).

In addition, do not receive any Jew monthly salary as an employee of the state administration, with the exception of Rabbi Yahya Yusuf Musa, one of the Jews "Al Salem" displaced from the province of Saada.

He Yahya Moussa pier 22 that all Jews living in Sanaa unemployed for lack of special tools handicrafts which were Izawlunha. [?]  However, he pointed to the authorities' continued commitment to providing residential apartments and food, as well as five thousand riyals per month (US $ 23) for each one of them was a small or large, the introduction of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh since 2007.

Places of worship are free

Despite the fact the bad and the abuses they have suffered, the people of this community avoids signal a hint or a statement to what might anger the authorities and the Muslim majority in the country against them, but do not seem to have the feelings of appreciation and praise. They practice their religion freely rituals, and celebrating with a number of religious occasions and holidays notably Kippur holiday and festival in April, and Hbuaat, and Akkakr, and Sakkat ... but they refuse to mention the details of the exercise of their religion.

Rabbi Yahya Moussa does not hide their lack of places of worship in the capital Sanaa, because of their small number, he says, "we do our prayers (morning and sunset, and the prayer after sunset) in clean places which serve as places of worship."

Not valid congregational prayer in Judaism, but from the presence of a dozen people and above, and if this number is not available, every Jew should pray individually at home. Mahmoud Taha says, "no longer exercise any religious ritual for Jews in doted rosette in Amran province, north of the capital Sanaa; they are less than a dozen people, and thus have become two of the role of the well-known worship there completely free zones."

Says another Jew named Joseph Said Naattiy The most important change for them is the declining number of members of the Jewish community, which holds their lives and practice their religious rituals. He continues, "In Judaism, prayer is not valid unless the group with ten members and above, as well as for the Queen (Royal). As the teachings of our religion requires the attendance of witnesses at the marriage contract or divorce have that they are not relatives, also circumcision children must be performed by a rabbi. "

For his part, the Yemeni Jewish demanding Yahya Moussa, who denies the possibility of the extinction of the Jewish community of Yemen, enabling the authorities to give them political and government positions like the rest of the population, with a view to the real feeling of citizenship.

Yemenite Jews have formed a cohesive mass, despite the storms that have passed their lives in varying lengths and maintained on the teachings of their religion, Metzodan assets Talmudic at the hands of religious leaders, in addition to that they have maintained their cultural heritage and their methods of life and language. After that Sanaa was Hdha- also indicate Alemradja- comprises 15 schools and 19 synagogues, and there is no offset in a number of provinces Kassadh, Aden, Dhamar, Ibb (protoplasm) and other cities, disappeared all after the displacement of Yemeni Jews abroad, specifically to "Israel ".
Google translation from this link. 


One year later from a different link...

After his father was murdered in broad daylight for being a Jew, Zindani knew he had to leave for good

Shira Rubin (Shira Rubin is an American journalist living in Jerusalem. Her work has appeared in the Daily Beast, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Atlantic.)
Last update: 25 March 2016

BEERSHEBA, Israel - Days after being evacuated in dramatic circumstances from Yemen’s civil conflict by the Israeli army, Yemeni Jew Yehiya Zindani is trying to process his drastic change of circumstance.

At a centre for new immigrants in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, Zindani smiles at the sight of children dressed in traditional costume celebrating the Jewish holiday of Purim.

“In Yemen, we celebrated our holidays quietly. There we were prisoners,” recalled Zindani, who arrived in Israel late on Sunday night with 18 other Yemeni Jews.

The group were quietly taken from the country in a secret mission that media says marks the end of a historic Jewish presence in war-torn Yemen.

Zindani, like many of the other new arrivals, said he plans to visit relatives who already live in Israel. But he will also visit the grave of his father, Aharon, who was murdered in 2012 at a market near their former home in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital.

A Yemeni Muslim who had accused Aharon Zindani of practicing witchcraft, approached him from behind as he bent down to pick up a bunch of vegetables. He swiftly stabbed him Yehiya’s father in the neck and stomach before fleeing the scene.

Four hours later, Zindani’s father succumbed to his wounds in hospital, and his remains were flown to Israel, along with several relatives, for a Jewish burial.

“The killer said that he had been sent by God to kill a Jew,” said Zindani, who along with all the capital city’s Jews lived in a protected enclave near the US embassy. The remainder of Yemen's ancient but fast-dwindling Jewish population lives in Raydah, a market town some 75 kilometres from Sanaa.

Despite the dangers, some 50 Jews still remain in Yemen and have refused Israel’s offer to emigrate, according to the Jewish Agency, a non-profit organisation that works in coordination with the Israeli government to facilitate immigration - or “aliyah”, literally “ascension” in Hebrew - to Israel.

While the Jewish Agency said that it would continue to assist any Yemeni Jews who later decided to leave the country, chairman Natan Sharansky described the latest evacuation as the end of an era.

“A chapter in the history of one of the world's oldest Jewish communities [has come] to an end. But Yemeni Jewry's unique, 2,000-year-old contribution to the Jewish people will continue in the State of Israel.”

In the past few days, the new arrivals - men dressed in typical Orthodox garb and women with their hair covered, some in burqas - have spent their first days in the country attempting to navigate a foreign bureaucracy and a labyrinthine process of filing papers.

Many said that despite the daunting challenges ahead, however, that they have great hope that younger family members will study and find good jobs in Israel.

A first step in integration is attending Jewish Agency-sponsored classes in modern Hebrew, a dialect that is vastly different from the ancient Hebrew spoken in Yemen.

Zahra Dahari, 23, has learned Hebrew since arriving two years ago, but her husband divorced her and she has been unable to find housing or a job in Israel. Making matters worse, a housing crisis has seen rent levels soar throughout the country.

"I don't know what to do," she said.

"I didn't expect that it would be so hard here, the culture is different. In Yemen, there is much modesty; in Israel the women dress very exposed," said Dahari, wearing a black headscarf and cooking fava beans on an improvised stovetop.

But she maintains that life is still better in Israel. "In Yemen, people would kill Jews; we were afraid to go to the synagogue. At least here in Israel, we are in our own country," she said.

Instability and violence in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011 has seen a trickle of Yemeni Jew refugees turn into a swelling tide.

A descent into civil war that began in 2014 has only accelerated the trend, with Yemeni Jews saying they are increasingly being targeted.

In the past few years, 200 Yemeni Jews have been airlifted from Yemen. Exact details of the operations are not known due to the secrecy of the missions.

"We came here for my children, we saw that they weren't studying there in Yemen," said Yehiya Marhabi, a Jewish Agency representative who arranged the recent airlift. He arrived from Sanaa 10 years ago, but has returned to the country periodically since then to find that "things there have gotten worse, with ISIS, al-Qaeda, and all of those groups that threaten the Jewish community," he said, referring to the Islamic State (IS).

Yemeni Jews have left a “failed state that has fallen through the cracks, where al-Qaeda, IS and a whole supermarket of radical Islamists are taking advantage of the chaos and bringing about a new level of ethno-religious divisions,” said Uzi Rabi, director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies.

An ancient community

For centuries, the Jews of Yemen made up the country’s merchant class and prided themselves on being one of the oldest and most vibrant Jewish communities in the Arab world. They maintained their traditions in a tight-knit community, teaching recitation and memorisation of ancient Hebrew religious texts, even when schoolrooms consisted of only a handful of children. 

Yemen Jews, who wear sidelocks and skullcaps, were easily differentiated from their Muslim neighbours by their different dialect and appearance.

The history of the Jewish community in Yemen has involved long periods of peaceful co-existence interspersed with eruptions of violence.

In 1792 senior Muslim clerics ordered the synagogues to be destroyed. Afterwards by religious decree, Jews were forbidden to wear new or good clothes, were not allowed to bear arms or ride mules, and were forbidden from wearing jewellery or carrying traditional curved daggers worn by Yemeni men. In 1932 in the port city of Aden, a number of Jews were also targeted in anti-Jewish stoning and stabbing attacks.

However, the historically fragile relationship received its biggest blow in 1947 with the establishment of the state of Israel.

That year, after the UN General Assembly voted in favour of a partition of Mandate Palestine that would make way for an Arab and a Jewish state, Yemenis rioted in Aden, killing at least 82 Jews and destroying their homes and shops. In response, Israel facilitated the immigration to Israel of some 50,000 Jews - the majority of the population - in what was known as “Operation Magic Carpet".

Until 1962, an unknown number of Jews continued to trickle out of Yemen, but with the outbreak of the civil war that year, they were unable to exit. After the first Persian Gulf War, about 1,200 Jews left again with the help of the US. Most arrived in Israel, but smaller numbers were also flown to the US and Europe.
'Curse on the Jews'

The ouster of President Abdullah Saleh in 2012 left the Jewish community in Yemen more exposed. Saleh had publicly courted Jews in order to curry favour with the international community.

They have increasingly become the target of animosity, harassment and hostility, largely from Shia Houthi rebels who overthrew the internationally recognised government last year and operate under the slogan: “God is great, death to America, death to Israel, curse on the Jews, victory to Islam.”

Such developments confirmed a rising fear among the Jewish community that the link with Israel would increasingly place them in the crosshairs.

“Even though Yemeni Jews are leaving behind an ancient civilisation, the situation is simply too dangerous,” said Rabi, adding that the dozens who have stayed behind are likely elderly people “who believe that they should die in their homeland".

For Zion Dahari, an 18-year-old from northern Yemen who came to Israel four years ago, leaving behind his customs, language and culture has created both problems and opportunity.

Dahari, who followed many of his friends to Israel, muses that while he would have been married by now if he had stayed in Yemen. However, in Israel he can instead focus on trying to get into university and building a career for himself - something he said would have been impossible in Yemen’s shattered economy.

When his father and grandfather arrived earlier this week, he advised them that the transition in Israel could be difficult and that life was very different here.

Israelis "have a completely different mentalities and behaviours, so you need a lot of patience," he told Middle East Eye.

“But we left behind everything there so we can build a new life, in a Jewish state that gives us a future."


June 16, 2017, from a different link...

Knesset committee: Shocking photographs reveal Israeli medical experiments conducted on Jewish Yemenite children

For years, testimonies have been heard but up until now, no evidence has been published to confirm them. On Wednesday, the Knesset Special Committee on the Disappearance of Children from Yemen, the East and the Balkans were shown photographs that seem to attest to medical experiments that were conducted on Yemenite children during Israel’s early years. In one of the photographs, naked children are seen with scribbles marking where their internal organs are located.

Jun 16, 2017, 2:00PM

Photographs from the experiments have been uncovered Credit: Israel Hayom/Channel 2 News

Confidential documents from the Knesset Special Committee on the Disappearance of Children from Yemen, the East and the Balkans, which investigated the the disappearance of Jewish Yemenite children within the Yemenite Children Affair, were already published at the end of 2016 but up until now, evidence to support the testimonies regarding unauthorized medical experiments that Israeli doctors conducted on these missing children have not been published. On Wednesday morning, photographs that seem to attest to the documentation of some of the experiments conducted were shown to the Knesset committee that is working on the affair, headed by MK Nurit Koren.

In one of the photographs, which was first published by Israel Hayom, three naked children are seen with scribbles marking the location of their internal organs. For example, the Hebrew word for spleen can clearly be seen on a child’s body near the stomach, while other words were written on other children.

The Knesset committee discussed protocols in which testimonies can be heard describing the experiments conducted on the children without their families’ knowledge or consent. The testimonies include stories of experimental treatments that lead to the deaths of at least four children, the kidnapping of a girl from Rambam Hospital and the adoption of a girl by one of the employees.

In one of the protocols, former head of the children’s hospital in Rosh Ha’Ayin Dr. George Mendel is heard making remarks to the Cohen-Kedmi state commission of inquiry, which investigated the matter. Upon being questioned, Mendel said: “I remember one or two cases in which instructions were given to give an injection of dry protein that we would separate. Serum, dry plasma…and the results were not good.”

In another protocol, Dr. Mendel admitted that he conducted medical experiments on live Jewish Yemenite children, as doctors believed that Yemenites had “African blood,” in an attempt to discover whether they had sickle cell anemia. “There was no reason to ask for the parents’ consent,” Mendel said. “They took children who died for various reasons and checked their veins, checked their hearts,” he said.

Friday, March 25, 2016

A Good Friday Remembrance of Terri Schiavo

The Martyrdom of Terri Schiavo
From my old blog, a reflection now ten years old...
Friday, March 25, 2005

I don’t want to write about the main subject in the news, Terri Schiavo. Nothing that I can write, nothing that I can do will be heard or read in a din of noise that some call a debate, but which is nothing more than the a dissonant chorus of well-meaning individuals looking at the scene from painfully different points of view. But for my own catharsis I am forced to put something into words.

As I woke up I heard a voice on NPR reflecting on how the death of this young woman in Florida somehow gives hope because it has stirred a lot of people to talk about the meaning of life and death. I wonder how many...

I posted a couple of days ago that this event underscores the need for clear planning that might avoid similar tragedies, but last night I came across an impassioned essay that dismissed such comments as “puerile” and of no real significance. In yet another effort to politicize a shared national tragedy, the writer, for whom I have only the greatest respect, goes right to the heart of the matter when he says that as a country we have chosen death. The husband has chosen death. The courts have chosen death. To speak of what ought to have been done is to avoid looking at the real problem. Not wanting to take any of the blame, we all seek to shift the burden of responsibility to someone else.

Just before I read this essay I was listening to an almost irrational talk-show host saying to a caller that if he didn’t like rudeness he should hang up the phone, change the station and listen to something else. The caller, trying to advance another point of view, had said, “If you want to be civil…” and the host interrupted him replying that he wasn’t interested in being civil. He was interested in saying something that could change what was happening to a dying woman in Florida. His passion – a good word to be using this week – seemed real.

The word “shrill” was knocked about before the election to describe those whose minority views were never going to have the dignity of civil debate. Spin masters knew they faced such hard-core opposition that debating would only serve to provide wider circulation of those views, so a better defense was to marginalize them by dismissing their views as “shrill” yelling. The response was to grab the word and wear it proudly, in the manner of demonstrators in Belgrade a few years ago by wearing bulls-eyes for the entire world to see in news photos. A Google search for “shrill” gets over three quarters of a million hits, those with a political bent topping the list.

Many of the people who used the word “shrill” pejoratively can now appreciate, in the case of Terri Schiavo, what it means to have their views, their ideas, their deepest values – another great word nowadays – rendered impotent in a tide of events over which they have no meaningful control.

I already know, after a lifetime of trying, that nothing that I say or do will make a lot of difference in the outcome of national policies. In retrospect I count myself fortunate that in my younger years I was able to participate in a movement resulting in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and an end to American involvement in Vietnam. But those things really didn’t come about because of anything that I did. Had Kennedy not been assassinated, civil rights legislation might have been delayed by the Solid South. And the end of the war came about more as the result of failing and duplicitous policies in Washington than kids in the streets.

But none of that is important. As I look around me, those were only a couple of bright spots in my youth. A darker picture emerges when I think of how helpless I feel watching the advance of what Walter Wink refers to as the myth of redemptive violence. From TV, from the movies, from books, we are spoon-fed the idea that there is a connection between violence and morality. We are led to believe that in some way God requires of man that he be willing to do more than die to defend good against evil; he must also be willing to fight and kill as well.

That is where we cross the line. It is one thing to die for something. It is another matter to kill another person for a cause. We get confused when we lose focus about what is killing and what is dying. We get tangled up in language and use phrases such as “right to die” and “right to live” when both refer to the same event, but we need to spin the argument one way or another. Typically this is an effort to shift the responsibility to someone other that ourselves.

We need to back away from the discussion long enough to see what is happening to us a population. There is no way in a representative government that any of us is allowed to claim that what our government does is not an extension of what each of us is doing as an individual. It’s like being part of a family. We didn’t choose our parents or our siblings, but whoever they are, good, bad or indifferent, that is how things are. We need not approve of a father’s abuse or a sister’s degradation, but we cannot escape the truth that he is the father, and she is the sister. Like it or not, we are all in this together.

The case of Terri Schiavo is presenting a lot of Americans with a dilemma that is old stuff for some of us: how do I reconcile my values as an individual with those of a citizen when those two values are in conflict?

The abortion debate has primed the pump. The polarization of the country around this issue has resulted in a political rift carelessly dismissed by pundits as liberal vs. conservative. But there are a large and growing number of so-called “liberals” who know that abortion, though legal, is also immoral. I imagine there are a lot of “conservatives” who breathe many a sigh of relief that a sister or daughter “in trouble” can legally escape the consequences of an “unwanted” pregnancy, though they would never say so publicly. Yesterday’s issue of Catholic Online has a timely essay entitled Gen-X: Is Terri Schiavo our Roe v. Wade? At last we can point to ourselves and know that our self-righteous attitudes about euthanasia have not kept us untainted as a nation from that stripe of evil.

In the final analysis, we have to conclude that legality and morality will never be congruent. We are not, nor do we want to be, a theocracy. We must come to terms with the shortcomings of man-made laws and systems. Those of us who oppose capital punishment have lived with those shortcomings for a long time, and will continue to do so. My opposition to capital punishment is not based on what it does to the person executed, but on what it does to me as a citizen-participant in the execution. I find it offensive that anyone would try to attach my views regarding capital punishment to any putative approval of what is happening in Florida. I have learned over the years to tolerate such ignorance as nothing more than that: a leap from the known to the unknown, based on what is in this case bad faith.

I had to be at work this year on Palm Sunday, but in past years I have taken part in several Palm Sunday services that enable the congregation to reenact the Passion of Christ. We gathered outside the sanctuary and processed into the church singing, as a symbolic representation of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Later in the service, various people read from a Passion Narrative adapted from the synoptic gospels. Part of that narrative has everyone in the congregation to cry out in response to questions from Pilate,“Crucify Him!” We all participate in the call for crucifixion. We all are part of that multitude. We all share in that shameful execution. And we all stand in need of His forgiveness.

Likewise, we all share in the death of Terri Schiavo. As citizens we are taking part in that passion narrative.

Terri Schiavo will be remembered as a martyr. Even if by some stretch of fate she were allowed to resume living for a few more years she would still die a martyr. Her death will always be remembered as a formative event in the American Public Square as the moment that finally provoked us as a nation to face at least one facet of our national sinfulness. She is a martyr because we all took part, one way or another, in her death. For some of us it is a new and painful idea, the notion that we are committing a sin simply by being part of a population. But in that common place we all stand together in need of Divine forgiveness.
Most merciful God,we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed,by what we have done,and by what we have left undone.We have not loved you with our whole heart;we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,have mercy on us and forgive us;that we may delight in your will,and walk in your ways,to the glory of your Name. Amen.
-- Book of Common Prayer


March 28, the day after Easter...
Somebody was bound to say it - the idea that everyone had and no one wanted to put into words. It seems so cold to say it out loud. Jon Carroll writes in the San Francisco Chronicle...
I do not in this column want to talk about the right to die. I do understand that it's a complicated issue, and many advocates for the rights of the disabled have serious reservations about it. I do understand that a persistent vegetative state is different from a coma. That's all interesting, but it's beside the point. 
I want to talk about political grandstanding.  I know that accusing a politician of grandstanding is like accusing a shark of eating. There are, nevertheless, limits of human decency. The president and any number of GOP members of Congress have not just crossed those limits, they have stomped on them, burned them, obliterated them. Do we have no safe harbor from the pandering ideologues? Apparently not. 
As almost everyone knows, Terri Schiavo is a Florida woman who has been in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years. Her husband, her doctors, the courts and the man appointed by the courts to act as her advocate have all concurred that the most humane thing to do now would be to remove her feeding tube. 
Schiavo's sad case is not unique; feeding tubes are pulled every day in the United States. Patients are intentionally given overdoses of morphine every day in order to relieve their suffering. Sick people choose to die, and say so, and they do die, aided or unaided. This is the cycle of life. 
Sometimes the media gets wind of one such story, usually involving a relatively young white person like Terri Schiavo. Press conferences are held. Doctors are consulted. The courts get involved, which is regrettable but necessary. And then the evidence is heard, and a decision is made, and a life is ended. All lives end -- the idea that human life is sacred is not, alas, supported by the evidence. 
Politicians become involved in direct proportion to the amount of media publicity. They proclaim piously that they believe in the sanctity of life, which is code for "I'm still against abortion." They align themselves with a socially damaging faith-based theory that opposes even contraception, because every sperm is sacred. (In that belief system, the stain on Monica Lewinsky's dress is holy in the eyes of God.) 
The panderers and the publicly pious created a nine-ring circus around a private family decision, and they used a helpless young woman as a pawn. They did so apparently without conscience and without regret. Congress subpoenaed Terri Schiavo in an effort to prevent her feeding tube from being removed. President Bush flew in dramatically from Texas to sign a special emergency bill allowing a federal court to intervene in the case. 
Did any of them care about Terri Schiavo for the first 14.5 years of her vegetative state? They did not. Did they offer to pay for the extraordinary expense of keeping her alive? They did not. Did they sit by her bedside, read her books, play her music, bathe her bedsores? They did not. There's nothing to be gained from unpublicized compassion. 
There are elderly people all over this country dying every day from simple neglect. People just forget about them. Maybe Congress could subpoena them! That way, when they didn't show up, they'd be in contempt of Congress and someone would have to go find them and at least change their sheets and give them some hot broth. 
There are children in this country dying every day of preventable diseases. Would George Bush care to fully fund all family clinics, so that a baby would not die simply because it cannot be given antibiotics in time? Would George Bush care to spend as much money fighting HIV-AIDS in the African American community as he does building large bombers? Yeah, I know, it's a tired old liberal argument, and it's been discredited because well, you're gonna have to remind me again why it's been discredited. 
Never mind. Let's just concentrate on people in persistent vegetative states. I have no idea how many people fit into that category -- let's say 25,000. If every life is so damn sacred, then all these people must be allowed to live and live and live. With enough government support, they could outlive those of us in persistent animated states. What a triumph for the human spirit that would be. 
And let's not hear this blather about quality of life. It's quantity of life that we're after, just more and more living humans in various states of distress, but all of them joyously alive as God intended, until they die, also as God intended. But never mind the second part! Let's keep cranking out the comatose! Put them all under the care and the protection of the Congress of the United States, the fine fountain of loving-kindness. 
Somewhere in Florida, there's a woman who has no idea she's become a celebrity. It's such a shame that she'll never write a book to cash in on her fame. But someone will write a book. Oh, yes.
Schiavo / Theresa Marie / Beloved Wife
Born December 3, 1963
Departed this earth / February 25, 1990
At peace March 31, 2005
[Dove with olive branch image]
I kept my promise

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Breaking the Silence -- The Poem That Exposed Israeli War Crimes in 1948

Founded in March 2004 by a group of soldiers who served in Hebron, Breaking the Silence has since acquired a special standing in the eyes of the Israeli public and in the media, as it is unique in giving voice to the experience of soldiers. To date, the organization has collected testimonies from over a 1,000 soldiers who represent all strata of Israeli society and cover nearly all units that operate in the Territories. All the testimonies we publish are meticulously researched, and all facts are cross-checked with additional eye-witnesses and/or the archives of other human rights organizations also active in the field. Every soldier who gives a testimony to Breaking the Silence knows the aims of the organization and the interview. Most soldiers choose to remain anonymous, due to various pressures from official military persons and society at large. Our first priority is to the soldiers who choose to testify to the public about their service.
[Copied from Haaretz for easier reading.]

A poem published by Natan Alterman during Israel's War of Independence criticizing human-rights abuses was lauded by Prime Minister Ben-Gurion, who even distributed 100,000 copies of it among soldiers; other such testimonies were made to disappear.

On November 19, 1948, Natan Alterman, whose influential “Seventh Column” – an op-ed in poetry form – appeared every Friday in the daily Davar, the mouthpiece of Israel’s ruling Mapai party (forerunner of Labor), published a poem titled “About This.” Excerpts:
Across the vanquished city in a jeep he did speed –
A lad bold and armed, a young lion of a lad!
And an old man and a woman on that very street
Cowered against a wall, in fear of him clad.
Said the lad smiling, milk teeth shining:
“I’ll try the machine gun”… and put it into play!
To hide his face in his hands the old man barely had time
When his blood on the wall was sprayed.

We shall sing, then, about “delicate incidents”
Whose name, don’t you know, is murder.
Sing of conversations with sympathetic listeners,
Of snickers of forgiveness that are slurred.

For those in combat gear, and we who impinge,
Whether by action or agreement subliminal,
Are thrust, muttering “necessity” and “revenge,”
Into the realm of the war criminal.
(translation by Ralph Mandel)
Extremely moved by the verses, David Ben-Gurion, then chairman of the Provisional State Council in the nascent Jewish state, wrote Alterman: “Congratulations on the moral validity and the powerful expressiveness of your latest column in Davar… You are a pure and faithful mouthpiece of the human conscience, which, if it does not act and beat in our hearts in times like these, will render us unworthy of the great wonders vouchsafed to us until now.

“I ask your permission to have 100,000 copies of the article – which no armored column in our army exceeds in combat strength – printed by the Defense Ministry for distribution to every army person in Israel.”

What were the war crimes referred to in the poem?

The massacres perpetrated by Israeli forces in Lydda (Lod) and in the village of Al-Dawayima, west of Hebron, were among the worst mass killings of the entire War of Independence. In an interview in Haaretz in 2004, historian Benny Morris (author of “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949”) declared that the most egregious massacres “occurred at Saliha, in Upper Galilee (70-80 victims), Deir Yassin on the outskirts of Jerusalem (100-110), Lod (50), Dawamiya (hundreds) and perhaps Abu Shusha (70).”

Lod was conquered in Operation Dani (July 9-19, 1948), which also targeted nearby Ramle. The political and military leadership viewed the capture of those two towns as crucial, because the concentration of Arab forces there threatened Tel Aviv and its surroundings. Specifically, the aim was for the fledgling Israel Defense Forces to clear the roads and allow access to the Jewish communities on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road – which remained under Arab control – and to take control of the hilly areas stretching from Latrun to the outskirts of Ramallah. This would mean a clash with units of Jordan’s Arab Legion, which were deployed – or supposedly deployed – in the area.

Another goal of Operation Dani, which was led by Yigal Allon with Yitzhak Rabin as his deputy, was to expand the territories of the young Jewish state beyond the boundaries delineated by the UN partition plan.

On July 10, Lod was bombed by the Israeli air force, the first such attack in the War of Independence. A large ground force had also been assembled, including three brigades and 30 artillery batteries, based on the army’s assessment that large Jordanian forces were in the area.

To their surprise, the IDF units encountered little or no resistance. Even so, there are Palestinian and other Arab sources that allege that 250 people were massacred after Lod was taken. Claims about the scale of the massacre gain credence from Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, who maintains that the army killed 426 men, women and children in a local mosque and the surrounding streets. According to him, 176 bodies were found in the mosque, and the rest outside. Testimony of a Palestinian from Lod lends support to these estimates: “The [Israeli troops], violating all the conventions, shelled the mosque, killing everyone who was inside. I heard from friends who helped remove the dead from the mosque that they carried out 93 bodies; others said there were many more than a hundred.” Clearly, though, there are no agreed-upon, precise figures, and the estimates from both sides are tendentious.

Israeli troops went from house to house, expelling the remaining inhabitants to the West Bank. In some cases, soldiers looted abandoned houses and stole from the refugees.

Ben-Gurion’s intentions with respect to Lod remain a subject of debate. Years later, Rabin related how in a meeting with him and Allon, Ben-Gurion, when asked what to do with the residents of Ramle and Lod, gestured with his hand and said, “Expel them.” This version of events was to have been included in Rabin’s memoirs but was banned for publication in Israel, in 1979. His account did appear in The New York Times at the time, and caused a furor. Allon, who also took part in the meeting with Ben-Gurion, vehemently denied Rabin’s account.On July 12, an order was issued by the Yiftah Brigade “to remove the residents from Lod speedily … They are to be directed to Beit Naballah [near Ramle].” .

‘Only a few shots’

With regard to Dawayima, some facts are clear. On October 29, 1948, during Operation Yoav (aka Operation Ten Plagues) in the south, the 89th Battalion, a commando unit, conquered the village. By then, more than three months after the Lod massacre, it was obvious that Israel was winning the war. Now, the goal was to add more territory, to empty the country of Arabs wherever possible and to enter armistice talks under convenient conditions. Extensive areas in the north, and perhaps even more in the south, were seized almost without a battle. The IDF swept through one village after another.

A case in point was Dawayima, population about 4,000, situated on the western slopes of the South Hebron Hills in the Negev (today’s Moshav Amatzia). Many of the villagers, including old people, women and children, were murdered by the Israeli forces. The village offered no resistance – even those who have sought an explanation, or possible justification, for the crime acknowledge that the IDF encountered only light opposition and that the halftracks were subjected to “only a few shots, fired from four rifles,” according to Avraham Vered, one of the commanders of the operation.

In his diary entry of November 10, Ben-Gurion quoted Maj. Gen. Elimelech Avner, commander of the military government in the area, as saying that “according to rumor, 70-80 people were ‘slaughtered’ [quotation marks in original] at Dawayima.” The perpetrators were “Yitzhak’s battalion,” referring to the 89th Battalion of the 8th Brigade, under the command of the legendary Yitzhak Sadeh, founder of the pre-state Palmach strike force. The news apparently shocked the top brass, including Sadeh himself and also Allon, who was in charge of the southern front. Several inquiries ensued. An investigation by Isser Be’eri, head of the Military Intelligence Directorate, was never completed and effectively ended in the wake of the general amnesty granted in February 1949 to persons liable to be charged with committing crimes during the war.

Some officers testified that those executed were residents of Dawamiya who were found to be in possession of documents or objects looted during the massacre perpetrated against Jews in the Etzion bloc outside Jerusalem in May 1948. One IDF commander wrote, “We remembered 1929 [the massacre by Arabs of the Jewish community in Hebron] and the Etzion Bloc ... the blood of the slaughtered cries out for revenge.”

Similarly, in an order issued on October 15, during Operation Yoav, Allon stated, “Tonight the brigade will take its revenge. Tonight all the nights of agony of the alliance of the besieged will be revenged.” What underlay the desire for revenge is not clear – probably the difficulty and cruelty of the battles against the Egyptian army in the early part of the war, which resulted in heavy losses on both sides.

Embarrassment apparently ensued from the fact that the Dawayima massacre took place under the command of Sadeh, who was known for his moral sensitivity and insistence on “purity of arms” – i.e., the use of weapons solely for the execution of a mission, without harming noncombatants. Some left-wing sources maintained that the perpetrators of the mass killing in the village were members of the former ultranationalist underground organization Lehi (led originally by Avraham Stern and afterward by Yitzhak Shamir), which had been coopted to the 89th Battalion, much to Yitzhak Sadeh’s pride. But it is patently untrue that the massacre was carried out by former Lehi personnel. The massacres at Ein Zeitun, as well, near Safed, in early May 1948, and at Lod – and others, too – were perpetrated by Palmach units, by the finest of the fledgling state’s young generation.

‘Court poet’

The Dawayima massacre was discussed in at least two cabinet meetings. For his part, on November 19, Prime Minister Ben-Gurion asked the attorney general, Yaakov-Shimshon Shapira, later appointed justice minister, to investigate the event. This was the day Alterman published “About This.” Shapira’s report remains classified to this day – by dint of a decision by a special ministerial committee, and subsequently affirmed by the High Court of Justice. The details of Be'eri's investigation are also still classified.

It has generally been assumed that Alterman’s poem refers to the events at Lod, which had occurred more than four months before it was published. However, jurist Menachem Finkelstein, in his book “The Seventh Column and Purity of Arms” (2011; Hebrew), argues that the column was written about the Dawayima massacre, which took place three weeks before its publication. According to Finkelstein, Alterman heard about the mass killings from his good friend Sadeh and knew a great deal more than what he recounts in the poem, but did not want to embarrass Sadeh or run the risk of intervention by the military censors.

Still, not everyone interprets the column in Davar as an unequivocal condemnation of the massacre. Poet and essayist Yitzhak Laor, who considers Alterman a “court poet,” has speculated that the column may even have been commissioned, and that “it was written with a didactic purpose.” In the view of literary scholar Hannan Hever, Alterman’s poem reflects a Jewish, Zionist voice that condemns the brutal event but does not dare blame the political leadership or Ben-Gurion specifically, the poet’s friend, who spearheaded the policy of occupation and expulsion.

In a 1996 book, “The Southern Front, from Sinai to Hebron” (in Hebrew), the former commander Avraham Vered mocks Alterman, who had been a soldier in the 8th Brigade but, Vered suggests, was relieved of combat duty because the war adversely affected his muse.

“Maybe the stories that were floating around about the conquest of Dawayima reached Alterman in the brigade’s tents,” writes Vered, and, “shocked by the exaggerations overlaid on the stories, he found that the time was appropriate to publish a diatribe against the Palmach in connection with Operation Dani in Lod.”

The poem was widely quoted and also drew high praise. Haaretz, reprinting it in full, wrote, “Alterman’s cry of alarm touches on the very essence of the war and its methods.” The philosopher Samuel Hugo Bergman, a member of Brit Shalom, the Jewish-Palestinian Peace Alliance, termed the distribution of copies of the column to soldiers “an extremely important event.”

Mentioning also S. Yizhar’s short story “The Prisoner,” about the shooting, in cold blood, by Israeli troops of a Palestinian prisoner, published in November 1948, while the war still raged, Bergman noted, “The fact that such works can appear in our country in wartime is wonderful testimony to the freedom of spirit that prevails here.” (Yizhar’s short novel “Hirbet Hizeh” dealt with a similar theme.”)

The first meeting of the Provisional State Council (which had legislative and executive authorities until a formal government was established) after the Lod massacre was held on July 14, 1948. Sixty-eight years later, large swaths of its minutes are still classified. In the unclassified section, Ben-Gurion relates that in some places conquered by IDF forces, such as the airport at Lod (as distinct from the city), “almost unbelievable things were done, things that on Thursday [July 8] were still in the realm of thought. An incredible reality was created.” He basks in the successes: “I learned something else – that war is not only wasteful. We acquired something that Israel would not have built in the coming 10 years: the airport at Lod [today Ben-Gurion International Airport] … That airport is worth millions.”

One of the most powerful condemnations of the events at Lod and Dawamiya came from the agriculture minister, Aharon Zisling. The language used on November 17 by the kibbutz member and representative of the left-wing Mapam party, is among the most damning ever heard in an Israeli cabinet meeting. Zisling told those present that after he received information about the events, he had not been able to sleep all night.

“I felt that the things that were going on were wounding my soul, the soul of my family and all of us here,” he said. “I could not imagine where we came from and where we were going.” Noting that he had sometimes disagreed when British occupiers in Palestine were called “Nazis” – even though, he averred, the “British did commit Nazi crimes” – Zisling added: “But now Jews too have behaved like Nazis and my entire being has been shaken. We have to conceal these actions from the public, and I agree that we should not even reveal that we are investigating them, but they must be investigated.”

That text appears in Tom Segev’s book, “1949: The First Israelis” (English translation: Arlen N. Weinstein). Segev and Morris (in “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited”) cite a precise source in the archives of the Kibbutz Hameuchad movement. However, I was unable to find the document there. Nor is it likely that the meeting in question ended with Zisling’s remarks. Other ministers certainly spoke, but their comments are classified.

There is no doubt in my mind that Zisling was referring to the Dawayima massacre. His information probably came from a letter sent by a soldier named S. Kaplan to Eliezer Peri, editor of Al Hamishmar, the Mapam newspaper, on November 8, about the Dawayima atrocity.

In fact, another soldier, who was an eyewitness to the event related his experiences to his friend Kaplan, a fellow Mapamnik, who passed it on to Peri, who was also a member of the party’s political committee. In many respects, this letter, apparently written in real time, is of immense importance and significance. It remains relevant and germane today, and is published here in full for the first time. It was found in the archive, typewritten, with several minor corrections and handwritten proofreading, and reads as follows:
Dear Comrade Eliezer Peri, 
I read today’s editorial in Al Hamishmar about procedure in our army, which conquers everything except its base instincts. 
Eyewitness testimony given to me by a soldier who was in Dawayima on the day after its capture. The soldier is one of ours, an intellectual, 100-percent reliable. He told me what was in his heart because of a psychological need to unburden his soul of the horrific awareness that our cultured and educated people are capable of achieving this level of barbarism. He told me what was in his heart, because not many hearts today are capable of listening. 
There was no battle and no resistance (and no Egyptians). The first conquerors [to enter the village] killed from 80 to 100 [male] Arabs, women and children. They killed the children by smashing their skulls with sticks. There was not a home without its dead. The second wave of the army was a company to which the testifying soldier belonged. 
Arab men and women who remained in the village were shut into houses without food or water. Then came sappers to blow up houses. One commander ordered a sapper to put two old Arab women into the particular house that was going to be blow up with them inside. The sapper refused, saying he took orders only from his commander. So the commander ordered his soldiers to shut the women in, and the horror was perpetrated. 
One soldier boasted that he had raped an Arab woman and then shot her. Another Arab woman who was carrying a newborn baby was made to clean the courtyard, where the soldiers eat. She did that service for a day or two, and in the end she and her baby were shot. The soldier relates that their cultured, polite commanders, who are considered upstanding members of society, turned into base murderers, and not in the heat and passion of battle but in a system of expulsion and destruction. The fewer Arabs that will remain, the better. That principle is the political driving force of the expulsions and atrocities, to which no one objects, either in the operational command or in high command. I myself was at the front for two weeks and heard tales of boasting by soldiers and commanders of how they excelled at hunting and “screwing.” To screw an Arab, just like that and under all circumstances, is an honorable mission and there’s competition for winning at this. 
We are in a bind. To issue an outcry in the press is to assist the Arab League, as our representative rejects their complaints out of hand. Not to react is [to show] solidarity with baseness of spirit. The soldier told me that Deir Yassin is not the peak of the wildness. Can we shout about Deir Yassin and remain silent about far worse? 
We must raise a scandal in the internal channels, demand an internal investigation and punish the guilty. And first of all the army needs to establish a special unit to restrain the army. I myself accuse the government above all – it has no interest in combating these phenomena and is perhaps also indirectly encouraging them. Inaction is in itself encouragement. My commanding officer said that there is an unwritten order not to take prisoners, and each soldier and commander interprets “prisoners” for himself. 
A prisoner can be an Arab man, an Arab woman or an Arab child. Only in display windows such as Majdal [Ashkelon] and Nazareth is it not done. 
I am writing you this so that the newspaper and the party will know the truth and take effective action. At the very least do not get swept up by false diplomacy that covers blood and murder. The newspaper, too, as far as possible should not remain silent. 
The original of this letter, which was stored in the Aharon Zisling’s personal archive, has disappeared. A copy was graciously provided to me by Benny Morris. Zisling’s archive is now part of the Yad Tabenkin Archive (formerly the Kibbutz Hameuchad Archive). From that “private archive,” as it is designated, not only minutes of cabinet meetings from decades ago were removed, but also personal letters.

Addendum: Since the original publication of this piece, last month, in Hebrew, I have learned definitively that “S. Kaplan” was the later Shabtai Kaplan, who went on to serve for many years as the correspondent of the Mapam newspaper Al-Hamishmar in the south.

Prof. Yair Auron is a scholar of genocide studies and genocide education. He is a member of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Shalom, Israel’s only Jewish-Arab village*.

Yair Auron
Haaretz Contributor

*This ten-minute video is about the village mentioned above.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Notes on Education

Reposted from my old blog, 2005...Looking at Education

Public Schools...private schools...home care....NCLB....NEA....Headstart....religious instruction....ID and evolution....and now book lists, for crying out loud!

I'm sick to death of hearing so many ignorant voices claiming to know the path to wisdom. Talk shows use public schools as whipping boys when the news is slow. Preachers rail against Godless education now that they don't have Godless Communism to kick around any more. Otherwise respectable, well-meaning parents sniff and sigh because immigrant kids are invading their neighborhood schools, while real estate agents steer clients here or there depending on whether elementary or high schools are "good" or "not the best."

I have in the last couple of days found vivid examples of stellar achievement on the part of people whose formal education was anything but good. One could argue that these are "exceptions" but that "most" students aren't learning as much as they once did. I cannot argue with that, but I will argue that the shortcoming has more to do with family values than public policy. Yesterday's in-depth three-hour interview of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus on C-SPAN revealed, among other things, that this incredibly accomplished and erudite man was a self-described "goof-off...a high school dropout," who still went to college to become one of the most articulate and influential voices of our time. Children do not develop values in a vacuum. Society, culture and public policy are important, but in the end the finished product, the adult who fails or succeeds in life, reflects more about family background than culture. Thanks to cultural mobility, the offspring of dysfunctional families need not be doomed to failure. Likewise, and unfortunately, there is no guarantee that ideal families will not produce kids who grow up to be weeds in an otherwise beautiful garden.

To illustrate my point, there are two timely reading assignments. It doesn't matter which one comes first, because both illustrate the same point. One is about the development of inner-city kids, the other is about Jews. In both cases the impact of family and social support (or lack of appropriate support) jumps off the page as the formative difference.

A paper by Gregory Cochran and others, entitled Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence advances the notion that a specific genetic component common to Jews of Ashkenazi origin, which includes most of Eastern Europe and North America, gives them a statistical advantage in intelligence. I have run across several references to this paper while surfing. I find it interesting, but not particularly surprising. The paper runs to forty pages, should anybody want to study it, but I have not. I want to get that on the table first off, because I don't like the eugenic implications. Even if it is scientifically sound, the conclusions, while compelling, will not lead me to change my thinking on the subject about which I am writing, the importance of family values on education. I mention the paper only to acknowledge the jumping off point of one horn of a two-horned discussion.

Having said that, I want to point to the brilliant and on-point comments of Judith Weiss of Kesher Talk. (Link no longer active.)
But there is so much evidence that intelligence is malleable that I tend to favor nurture over nature arguments. I put forth a few of these in one comment thread: 
Jews prize scholarship, but this goes beyond just subsidizing the studies and genes of the smartest young men.For centuries all male and some female children were taught to read, in places where the vast majority of the population was illiterate. All males were expected to study Torah and Talmud at least a bit. Talmud study is very intellectually demanding; it's like tort law, history, folk tales, homilies, and spiritual riddles all rolled into one. Often women would run small businesses so their husbands could study, so women had to know basic math and be able to read, even if they didn't go to yeshiva like the men. Also they would be very assertive (which gets stereotyped into "domineering" and "pushy.") 
Children are encouraged to ask questions. Torah and Talmud study is traditionally done in "chevruta": pairs of students reading and discussing the text together. Any pedagogue will tell you this is an excellent method to get students to really engage with the material. Until recently almost all Jews spoke at least two and often more languages. 
Also, a persecuted minority which wants to survive as a culture REALLY values its children. They are treated with great affection and concern. At an extreme, this is smothering, but in general it enhances the kid's self confidence and intelligence.Since the Enlightenment Jews encouraged their children to attend university, Jewish immigrants in Western countries have been similar to Asian immigrants in pressuring all the children to get good grades and advanced degrees, and sacrificing to support their children's academic and professional careers. 
With this kind of culture you don't need genetics to explain intellectual achievement. In fact, somebody wrote a book about 10 yrs ago on "how to raise your kids the Jewish way." He went through all these cultural practices, which are not universal in Jewish families, but ARE pretty common. They are stereotypes which are for the most part true. His thesis was that "these child-rearing methods will produce self-confident smart kids and you don't have to be Jewish to use them." Talk about philo-semitic! 
I browsed that book at a used book store in Austin about eight years ago; I regret that I didn't buy it, because I have not been able to track it down since. 
There is nothing to add. She said it well.

Next, from the first comment left at this post we are directed to a very different, longer piece in City Journal by Kay S. Hymowitz. The article opens with the spotlight on Bill Cosby, whose unwelcome but cogent remarks are more like preaching at the choir than to it.
“The lower economic people are not holding up their end of the deal. These people are not parenting!” Or the litany he presented in a Paula Zahn interview: “You got to straighten up your house! Straighten up your apartment! Straighten up your child!” Wearing a sweatshirt with the motto “Parent Power!” he doubtless would have blasted the “poverty pimps and victim pimps” who blame their children’s plight on racial injustice.“Proper education has to begin at home. . . . We don’t need another federal commission to study the problem. . . . What we need now is parents sitting down with children, overseeing homework, sending children off to school in the morning, well fed, rested, and ready to learn.” 
We can hope that his efforts prove to be more than Quixotic. He is speaking loud and clear but I see little evidence so far that his words are having much effect changing the course of the cultural aircraft carrier which includes most of America. The stigma and penalties of a sick culture of non-education shows most clearly among black kids but it is endemic to the whole country at all socio-economic levels. Even in the best of middle-class families parents often regard schools and teachers as an extension of daycare in loco parentis. The symptoms do not show on academic testing, but become apparent in different forms. Eating disorders, substance abuse, promiscuity, body piercing and a casual acceptance of profanity and just about any variant of lifestyle choices are not the result of educational failures but failures of the nuclear family. 
Forty years after the War on Poverty began, about 30 percent of black children are still living in poverty. Those children face an even chance of dropping out of high school and, according to economist Thomas Hertz, a 42 percent chance of staying in the lowest income decile—far greater than the 17 percent of whites born at the bottom who stay there. After endless attempts at school reform and a gazillion dollars’ worth of what policymakers call “interventions,” just about everyone realizes—without minimizing the awfulness of ghetto schools—that the problem begins at home and begins early.Yet the assumption among black leaders and poverty experts has long been that you can’t expect uneducated, highly stressed parents, often themselves poorly reared, to do all that much about it. Cosby is saying that they can. 
[...]Head Start, with its annual budget of $6.8 billion, remains a sentimental favorite of the public and of Congress. But the truth is, from the first time they parsed the data, Head Start researchers found that while children sometimes enjoyed immediate gains in IQ and social competence, these improvements tended to fade by the time kids hit third grade. The failed promise of Head Start might best be captured by a visit I made several years ago to a Head Start program in a housing project on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a cheerful and orderly place that would satisfy anyone’s definition of quality child care. As I was leaving, an administrator introduced me to a young woman of 21 or so just arriving with her four-year-old. “This is Sonia,” he said proudly. “She went here when she was a little girl.” 
Not only had Head Start failed to prevent a poor child from becoming a teen mother, but a Head Start administrator didn’t even seem to think that it was supposed to. For him—and, one suspects, for many teachers and parents—Head Start had come to be nothing more than a nice neighborhood preschool; it wasn’t meant to change lives, and it boasted with institutional pride of what elite private schools and colleges call legacies.
A challenge that disproportionately affects black families is, in fact, trans-racial. We see it plainly where it stands out most clearly, making it tempting to dismiss the issue if you are not black. The City Journal article goes on to discuss several alternative programs, none of which has caught fire. Finally she comes right out and says
...poor parents raise their kids differently, because they see being parents differently. They are not simply middle-class parents manqué; they have their own culture of child rearing, and—not to mince words—that culture is a recipe for more poverty. Without addressing that fact head-on, not much will ever change.
The article is excellent. Recommended reading, by all means. There is a heart-breaking script of a two-year-old and her welfare mother interacting in a way that almost certainly insures what I would call scar-tissue on that child's development. My visceral reaction as I read was similar to what I feel when I see a child harshly disciplined for behavior that for him is normal, but embarrassing for the mother when it happens in public.

But as I was reading I couldn't help reflecting on an even larger picture of the family's role in educational and personal achievement. I have only the greatest respect for educational accomplishments, but I probably know more accomplished people who have done well due to perseverance and character traits than education. And my guess is that whoever is reading this post knows a serious number of people in their own circle whose successes in life -- whether economic, social or cultural -- have fallen far short of the promise of their educational accomplishments.

We need a nuclear option, alright. But the nuclear option I have in mind has nothing to do with Senate rules. The nuclear option I want to see is a nuclear family. That means a family that starts with two parents and stays that way until the child or children are grown. That means that the same two parents, God willing, will still be good role models for any grandchildren and great-grandchildren should they be blessed with any. Absent offspring, any two people who marry should become good role models for their neices and nephews, participating in their growth and development, again taking seriously their responsibilities as role models for any children in their lives, including those across the street, at the pool, or anyplace else that children and adults interact.

As long as there is going to be a public debate about education, it is only fair to start with the basics. By basics I don't mean the three R's. Illiterate families the world over rear children successfully. Education is about more than books. It is about values. Books, like calculators, are nothing but tools. In the same way that a skill saw can chop off a finger when not used safely, books, improperly understood, can corrupt and destroy a mind. But the problem is not with tools. Safety is taught by the teacher, the coach and the underpinnings of wise parenting.

Monday, March 7, 2016

How Palestinian Teachers Became the People's Heroes

Copied from Haaretz for easier reading. 
The link is infested with pop-up ads that never seem to stop.
The pedagogues’ strike demonstrates once again the beauty of a public that organizes and fights for its rights and attempts to correct an injustice.
by Amira Hass Mar 07, 2016

The strike by Palestinian teachers is the most important and moving process taking place within Palestinian society in the West Bank today. It is overcoming the geographical isolation and mental distances that exist between Palestinian enclaves, as well as blocking the tide of social atomization that has been enhanced by the elimination of any political horizon. 
Palestinian Teachers in Ramallah, February 2016
One of the clearest signs of the lack of social cohesion is the “lone-wolf” intifada. The teachers’ actions are based on a heritage of collective struggles, both national and trade unionist, while simultaneously rejuvenating this legacy. They show yet again the power and beauty inherent in a group of people that unites and fights for its rights and to redress an injustice. 
Teachers young and old, religious and secular, male and female, traditional, politically affiliated or those who distance themselves from any party – all are working together as partners. Each has his or her own personal story of dispossession or oppression: one is from a refugee camp; another is from a village on whose lands some settlement is living the good life. One man was a prisoner, another woman was wounded by gunfire at a rally during the first intifada, and another lost a brother to the same Israeli weapons. In short, this is the people at its best: distressed and dignified. 
This is why support for the teachers is so widespread, despite efforts by the Palestinian Authority and its security agencies to intimidate, split them and minimize the significance of the strike. 
The teachers’ protest is revitalizing democratic processes and concepts (such as free elections, representation, changing leadership, freedom of assembly and organization) in a society bent under the yoke of one leader, President Mahmoud Abbas, and in which democratic principles and institutions have been silenced. 
A temporary teachers’ coordination committee was elected to replace the leaders of the official teachers’ union, which is subordinate to the Palestine Liberation Organization. It was appointed in a shadowy process and its loyalty to Fatah and Abbas supersedes its loyalty to the teachers. The PLO has not been a liberation movement for a long time, but its name is exploited as a sacred cow in order to block change. In the name of past glories and the sanctity of the PLO, the government refuses to deal with the coordination committee elected by the teachers. 
The teachers’ justified and modest wage demands – Why don’t they have seniority levels to determine salaries like other public sector workers? Why is their base pay so low? Why is the group responsible for educating children so shortchanged? – are directed at the illogical logic of the Oslo-ist PA. In other words, against excessive allocations to security agencies – the darlings of the United States, Europe and Israel. 
‘Security’ first, then education 
In 2015, the PA’s revenues totalled 11.85 billion shekels (about $3 billion). While teacher salaries in government-funded schools totalled 2.141 billion shekels, salaries to security agency personnel totalled 3.271 billion shekels. Running expenses at the Palestinian Education Ministry were 258 million shekels, while security forces’ running expenses reached 300 million shekels. Figures for 2016 are still unavailable, but, as usual, education lags behind “security.” 
It was Yasser Arafat who started the building of an inflated security apparatus – in terms of numbers of agencies, people employed and budgets allotted to them, even though it is not the external enemy that they were trained to face. Through high ranks, prestige and advancement, Fatah activists were rewarded for years of resistance against the Israeli occupier. For other young people – graduates of the first intifada whose education was disrupted – joining the police or security forces was a substitute for unemployment benefits. After all, the heavy hand of Israel over the Palestinian economy has always limited the creation of new jobs. But inflating the security agencies was a way of establishing a large social strata that directly owed its livelihood and loyalty to the leader and ruling party. 
After some of these agencies and their employees contributed to the militarization of the second intifada (encouraged by Arafat), donor countries and Israel forced Palestinian security bodies to undertake a reform. Indeed, there was a need to restore the personal security of Palestinian civilians, who faced armed gangs pretending to be freedom fighters. 
Also, in light of the poverty and concerns about crime caused by socioeconomic gaps, there was a greater need for a strong police force and private security agencies. However, the imposed reform was geared mainly at tightening internal policing and surveillance. These assignments and agencies protect the top echelons of the PA and the socioeconomic circles surrounding them, whose salaries, profits and way of life seem like science fiction to most Palestinians. 
This is a group of people that has, despite its patriotic declarations, gotten used to the status quo set by Oslo – namely, the Palestinian enclaves reality, the political and geographical rift and the disappearance of East Jerusalem. This is a societal layer whose immediate interests hinder the forging of a comprehensive strategy against a violent Israeli regime that constantly escalates its hostile acts. 
The teachers’ strike rejects the logic of this inflated allocation of funds to security agencies, and their sanctification. This rejection is also expanding the ripples of critical analysis, regardless of the strike’s final outcome. It encourages a debate on the status of donor countries that regard themselves as democratic, but which are strengthening an authoritarian Palestinian regime in order to preserve a status quo in which only the Israeli occupation benefits.Criticism of that kind has been heard before in academic and public debates and through some independent media outlets. But the teachers aren’t just talking, they’re taking action.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Spotting Hillary Clinton Hit Pieces

Between now and November there will be endless negative ads about Hillary Clinton. Some will be valid but a couple of the old standards are nakedly misleading, thanks to Carl Rove and others crafting and repeating them early and often.

Here are two clues that a Hillary Clinton hit piece is ahead:
  • that picture with dark glasses holding a cell phone, and 
  • any reference (visual or print) to "What difference does it make...?" 
Go to the links and read the context for each item. After endless so-called hearings the Benghazi inquiry, finding nothing of consequence, quietly folded their tent and moved on to the email matter. I'm not sure what the big deal is about security when literally thousands of individuals have access to information tagged "classified" and private email is routinely used by many government employees from time to time. (And when I read about data breaches in places like the Office of Personnel Management and most recently the IRS I question whether the official channels are all that secure anyway.)

These two items taken together have become for Clinton what Katrina and Mission Accomplished were for George Bush, reliable indicators that the reader or viewer is encountering something critical, and not in a good way. Both have been taken out of context and spun with remarkable success.
The buzzed-about image was actually taken by Diana Walker on assignment for TIME back in October 2011. In fact, Walker, who worked as TIME’s White House photographer for 20 years under Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, was recently awarded the Luce Lifetime Achievement Award for her remarkable contributions to political photography, of which the Clinton picture is just one example. Taken during a weeklong trip with the Secretary of State for a TIME cover story, Walker’s image shows Clinton reading her mobile phone upon departure in a military plane bound for Tripoli, Libya on Oct. 18, 2011. A similar image by Kevin Lamarque of Reuters, who was also on the trip, is being also being used on the Tumblr.
The "What difference..." quote is from one of the endless Benghazi hearings in January, 2013, just a few days following Hillary Clinton's fall in which she sustained a brain concussion (which was why she was wearing glasses). Read the extended transcript and it is clear that her meaning was totally different from what is routinely being twisted to sound awful.)
In December 2012, Clinton fell and sustained the concussion while dealing with a stomach virus. She was subsequently treated for a blood clot and returned to work the following month. 
At the time, some conservatives accused her of faking injuries to avoid testifying before Congress about the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. 
Recently, though, Republicans have increasingly tried to raise doubts about Clinton's health in light of her possible 2016 presidential run. Republican strategist Karl Rove suggested at an event last month that she may have suffered brain damage as a result of her fall -- an assertion that was rebuked by Clinton's spokesman and condemned by some Republicans, such as Newt Gingrich.
The following screed is being copied and pasted all round the Web. I found it first in a comment at Morning Joe, but a search turns it up in a number of other places, typically in a comment. I recall most of these names and events from when they happened, but this list relies on allegations, suppositions and suspicions more heavily than documented facts.
If you're under 50 you really need to read this. If you’re over 50, you lived through it, so share it with those under 50. Amazing to me how much I had forgotten! 
When Bill Clinton was president, he allowed Hillary to assume authority over a health care reform. Even after threats and intimidation, she couldn’t even get a vote in a democratic controlled congress. This fiasco cost the American taxpayers about $13 million in cost for studies, promotion, and other efforts. 
Then President Clinton gave Hillary authority over selecting a female attorney general. Her first two selections were Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood – both were forced to withdraw their names from consideration.  
Next she chose Janet Reno – husband Bill described her selection as “my worst mistake.” Some may not remember that Reno made the decision to gas David Koresh and the Branch Davidian religious sect in Waco, Texas resulting in dozens of deaths of women and children. 
Husband Bill allowed Hillary to make recommendations for the head of the Civil Rights Commission. Lani Guanier was her selection. When a little probing led to the discovery of Ms. Guanier’s radical views, her name had to be withdrawn from consideration. 
Apparently a slow learner, husband Bill allowed Hillary to make some more recommendations. She chose former law partners Web Hubbel for the Justice Department, Vince Foster for the White House staff, and William Kennedy for the Treasury Department. Her selections went well: Hubbel went to prison, Foster (presumably) committed suicide, and Kennedy was forced to resign 
Many younger votes will have no knowledge of “Travelgate.” Hillary wanted to award unfettered travel contracts to Clinton friend Harry Thompson – and the White House Travel Office refused to comply. She managed to have them reported to the FBI and fired. This ruined their reputations, cost them their jobs, and caused a thirty-six month investigation. Only one employee, Billy Dale was charged with a crime, and that of the enormous crime of mixing personal and White House funds. A jury acquitted him of any crime in less than two hours.Still not convinced of her ineptness, Hillary was allowed to recommend a close Clinton friend, Craig Livingstone, for the position of Director of White House security. When Livingstone was investigated for the improper access of about 900 FBI files of Clinton enemies (Filegate) and the widespread use of drugs by White House staff, suddenly Hillary and the president denied even knowing Livingstone, and of course, denied knowledge of drug use in the White House. 
Following this debacle, the FBI closed its White House Liaison Office after more than thirty years of service to seven presidents. 
Next, when women started coming forward with allegations of sexual harassment and rape by Bill Clinton, Hillary was put in charge of the #$%$ eruption” and scandal defense. Some of her more notable decisions in the debacle were: 
She urged her husband not to settle the Paula Jones lawsuit. After the Starr investigation they settled with Ms. Jones. 
She refused to release the Whitewater documents, which led to the appointment of Ken Starr as Special Prosecutor. 
After $80 million dollars of taxpayer money was spent, Starr's investigation led to Monica Lewinsky, which led to Bill lying about and later admitting his affairs. 
Hillary’s devious game plan resulted in Bill losing his license to practice law for 'lying under oath' to a grand jury and then his subsequent impeachment by the House of Representatives. 
Hillary avoided indictment for perjury and obstruction of justice during the Starr investigation by repeating, “I do not recall,” “I have no recollection,” and “I don’t know” a total of 56 times while under oath. 
After leaving the White House, Hillary was forced to return an estimated $200,000 in White House furniture, china, and artwork that she had stolen. 
What a swell party – ready for another four or eight year of this type of low-life mess? 
Now we are exposed to the destruction of possibly incriminating emails while Hillary was Secretary of State and the “pay to play” schemes of the Clinton Foundation – we have no idea what shoe will fall next.
This is the backstory of Hillary Clinton's oft-reported and totally misleading reference to her "support" for Goldwater. 
Hillary Clinton in the Civil Rights Era
By Bill321
Friday Mar 04, 2016
Those who still, against all reason, insist that canvassing at age 16 for the Republican her father supported in 1964 somehow made Clinton a racist, need to know who she met between the 1960 election and the 1964 election 
One Sunday evening in April, 1962, Hillary Rodham and her church youth group attended a speech given by Dr. Martin Luther King at Chicago's Orchestra Hall. Seeing and hearing the civil rights leader had a profound effect on her. She with her group met and talked to King personally after his address, and the event compelled the 14-year-old to volunteer to babysit for migrant workers who could not afford child care. 
Yes, in 1964, at age 16 she again again canvassed for her father’s favorite, the candidate of the Party of Lincoln. Few Americans voted against Goldwater for being personally racist. He wasn't considered a racist. He was considered a lunatic fringe nutcase whose VP pick wanted to drop H-bombs on anyone he didn't like. And for many, his vote against the 1964 Civil Rights Act, though he defended it on legal grounds, meant he would take the nation in a direction—backwards—that they did not want to return to. The Deep South was the only region where Goldwater won, five states, essentially because he promised them he would not upset the segregation apple cart that every facet of southern culture and economy was built on. He voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 just a few months before the election. 
But Goldwater's Department Store in Phoenix was integrated. Goldwater hired black Americans to work there, and he had done so for years. He was not a segregationist, but as he told Meet the Press in 1964, when asked if he was courting the segregationist vote, "I'll go hunt where the ducks are." Racist ducks are all he brought home in 1964. 
Bernie was 23 in 1964. A young civil rights idealist. At age 20 in 1968, Hillary put on a black armband the day after MLK was assassinated and initiated a civil rights movement at Wellesley College. She led demonstrations and a drive to force the school to recruit more black students. 
Also at age 20, she denounced the Republican Party as being racist, after she attended the RNC convention in Miami and saw Richard Nixon's supporters attack, sometimes physically, supporters of moderate Republican Nelson Rockefeller, who stood on the old guard Party of Lincoln platform. Nixon threw that one out with his Southern Strategy that swept the racist southern Democrats off their feet for the GOP. 

At age 21, class valedictorian Hillary Clinton graduated from Wellesley women's college and was selected to address the class of 1969 at the commencement ceremony—the first student commencement speech in Wellesley history. 
Senator Edward Brooke was the keynote speaker, and Clinton's address followed his. Brooke, a Republican from Massachusetts, was the nation's first elected African-American Senator. (Eleven African-Americans served in the House, all Democrats.) 

Much more at the links but you get the idea.