Saturday, November 28, 2015

America’s “Gospel of Democracy” meets Putin’s Realpolitik: Russia’s return in force to the Middle East

“Russian media reported earlier that Russia may sign a deal with Egypt for the delivery of Kamov Ka-52K helicopters. Last week the two countries signed a deal to build four third-generation nuclear reactors in Egypt.”

For more than a decade I have described on JPost and other Israeli web-based forums the retreat of the United States from the Middle East and the world. Since Bush invaded Iraq and sued for peace in 2007 America has desperately sought a graceful exit from the region. America, I concluded, would soon be replaced by a more determined and aggressive Russia, with dire consequences for the US and the EU. 

With 70% of the world’s oil reserves; with the Suez Canal as transit point for global commerce; with the surrender of the region as military crossroad between north/south, east/west: it seems beyond the ability of American politicians and their academic advisers to see the implications of abandoning the region to Russia. Apparently overlooked in the rush to vacate is that along with control of the ground, Russia would also achieve its likely principal goal, control also of the Mediterranean Sea. And, lest American policy-makers need reminding Europe, already dependent on Russia for natural gas to heat its homes and fuel its factories will find itself sandwiched between the Russian Navy to the south and The Russian Army to the north. Does it really require deep strategic imagination to appreciate that the loss of NATO will leave the United States naked and alone, with but two oceans as buffer in a world of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles? Is Isolationism a viable option in a world which views the United States with equal measures of envy and hate?

In an op-ed piece appearing recently in JPost, Defeating Islamic State, Amitai Etzioni describes a counter-script to the general impression of the US Government and its military. America, he insists, did not lose the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Just the opposite, it
“won both wars easily and quickly, suffering few casualties and low costs, and causing little collateral damage. Both campaigns ended up badly once the US decided to make out of these nations stable, democratic, US-friendly regime." (emphasis added)
I agree. It was the politicians: the White House backed by Bush’s "yes-sir" appointees, including his defense secretary and chairman of the Joint Chiefs who decided that the two war’s outcomes be determined not on the field of combat but by the democratization of the invaded countries. Etzioni is correct in describing both recent US presidents as committed to nation-building after “America’s image.” It is this which for a decade I have described as America’s Gospel of Democracy. Blind-sided by Ideology successive US administrations failed to learn the lessons of serial failures of US diplomacy at least back to Carter and Iran.

Whatever Bush’s true motivation for deposing Sadam Hussein, in the end he fell back on, "providing the Iraqi people the gift of democracy.” And the outcome was Iraq as failed state and hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis. Obama, determined to be “Not-Bush” wound up pursuing the same Bush agenda with identical results: the failed states of Libya and Syria and hundreds of thousands more dead Arabs. And while Obama did his best to add Egypt to that list by ousting America’s loyal and secular ally Hosni Mubarak in favor of an Islamist for president intent on imposing Sharia law on Egypt, in the end it took another general to oust the Islamists and restore Egypt to secular governance. Adding insult to injury Obama then refused to recognize the new Egyptian president with the result that Egypt has now turned to Russia for military materiel needed in fighting MB-inspired terrorists. Egypt is also purchasing several nuclear reactors, a response to Obama welcoming the terror-state Iran into the nuclear community. 

It is likely that an Arab Spring and its revolutionary anti-West Islamism was an event waiting for an opportunity. That it emerged when it did is clearly the result America’s faith-based “diplomacy,” its stubbornly-held Gospel of Democracy.


The single, most obvious lesson of United States-imposed regime change in the Middle East is that not only does the American model of “liberal democracy” fail as an option for ill-prepared states (recall it took two centuries for the West to arrive at its present approximation of that political ideal), but most of the world today is only recently emerging from a century and more of western-imposed colonialism. And how many states born of that oppressive regime even approximate the basic social stability fundamental for an “educated” electorate? Imperialism created “states” without recognition or regard for religious and traditional tribal distinctions. While a strong colonial military with superior weaponry provided the appearance of “native” social tranquility, rivalries simmered for centuries beneath that apparent tranquil surface. And so the much heralded by the West Arab Spring; and al-Qaeda in Iraq have metastasized into today’s “Daesh.” Amitai Etzioni' article, Defeating Islamic State, describes the hoped for end to the terror empire. But Daesh as seething memory of defeats past will continue to survive and evolve, to metastasize likely into something even more brutal. 

Cultural grudges are not soon forgotten.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Response to Professor Sharkansky’s JPost blog on Jonathan Pollard: Another hero, also flawed

I would have posted this as blog response to statements made and issues raised in your present blog, Another hero, also flawed, but was dismayed to find no response option. Which is why I decided to contact you by email. I have rewritten parts of my response to you for readability by my blog audience.

I recently responded to Fred Burton of Stratfor on much of the same territory covered by you in your article so will leave that out of my present response. You wrote: "What he [Pollard]provided to Israel exposed US sources of information within the Soviet Union, set back US intelligence efforts, and resulted in the death of informants."

To my understanding this falls into the problem of Aldrich Ames, CIA mole and chief of East Europe who provided his masters in Moscow the names, etc of agents known to him. “Somehow” responsibility for the deaths of those agents, the compromise of CIA agents and methods remained mysteriously on Pollard’s head justifying presidential inaction over the decades to release him (remember Pollard as possible release at Wye River only to face CIA Director George Tenant’s threat to resign should Pollard be released.

"Early on, Pollard boasted about his affinity to Israel. His supervisors should have taken notice of a man showing strong commitments to another country and emotional instability, and reviewed his access to sensitive material. What he provided to Israel was material that the US would have supplied, if asked officially."

The second issue first: What the US was NOT providing Israel. In my discussion in the Burton/Stratfor article I responded to this same question: why would Israel take such risks since there was in effect a Memorandum of Understand covering intelligence sharing? The obvious answer immediately suggests itself: the MoU was not being adhered to by elements in the US intelligence community and, for present discussion, the Department of Defense supervising Naval Intelligence, the agency for which Pollard was employed as analyst.

Which brings up the first part of your question regarding the "lack" of vetting evident in the hiring of Jonathan Pollard. As an outspoken Zionist one might have expected Jonathan Pollard to have been immediately flagged a security risk. Instead he was hired and serially promoted, increased in security clearance until his assignment to the team tasked by NI to oversee the exchange of intelligence with Israel!

Hopefully this raises at least some doubt regarding US motives and actions regarding Pollard, particularly when one takes into consideration events surrounding his arrest: Irangate (for readers not familiar with  the term) describes a pattern of Reagan Administration criminal activity spanning several years involving the sale of arms to Iran while using the profits to fund Nicaraguan terrorists called “Contras).”  

Why the Reagan Administration hullaballoo over Pollard and Israel? After all, Dr. Sharkansky, as you acknowledge the United States does, has since pre-statehood days, spied on Israel. How is reciprocal espionage a "breach of faith" by Israel? As you certainly know, at the time of Pollard’s arrest the CIA was running its own Israeli spy against Israel, the former IDF Major of intelligence, Yosef Amit!

"Pollard violated a pre-sentencing agreement with respect to not talking to journalists. He spoke with Wolf Blitzer, and the violation was instrumental in an extended sentence."

I agree that Pollard violated the letter of his pre-sentence agreement. But who would have had the authority to authorize a reporter for an Israeli journal, Jerusalem Post, access to the high security prison that housed him even as US media were denied access? Surely not the warden! And considering that the US Government gave Blitzer access, twice (Blitzer expresses surprise that a second request was also approved); were you Pollard might you not at least have viewed the interview approved by the Justice Department? Not only was Blitzer approved by appropriate authorities to meet with the prisoner, twice, but was granted “courtesies” possibly unprecedented. He was allowed to bring with him into that high security prison to interview a prisoner described as a security risk a tape recorder and camera!

I leave aside the questions you raise regarding the Israel Government’s role in the Pollard Affair. You are better positioned than I, an American, to address that.

“We felt betrayed, not only by Pollard but by Israel.” Broken Trust: The Pollard Affair

In an interview on “the David Brinkley Show Richard Helms, director of Central Intelligence from 1966 to 1973, was asked by Sam Donaldson,  "Well, surely, Mr. Helms, the United States isn't spying on its allies, is it?" Helms matter-of-factly replied, "I certainly hope so."”

Several months ago Stratfor published an article by Fred Burton: Broken Trust: The Pollard Affair. Timed to coincide with Jonathan Pollard’s release from thirty years in prison Stratfor chose to republish the “analysis” which, with its abundant weaknesses should not have seen the light of day the first time. The piece is emotional and lacking in objectivity, two qualities that are better suited for “pop journalism” than a reputable open-source intelligence provider. Burton’s piece reads more like “polemic”:

“Maybe 30 years is long enough to bring the former U.S. Naval Intelligence analyst to justice. But I still vividly recall what a powerful sense of betrayal the entire intelligence community felt... As special agents and analysts at the intelligence services, every day we handled sensitive, classified information. Most of us took that responsibility extremely seriously… But Jonathan Pollard broke that trust… After he was discovered, a deep fog of anger settled over the U.S. intelligence community. We felt betrayed, not only (or even primarily) by Pollard but by Israel — and specifically, by the Israeli intelligence service.

My primary criticism of Burton’s starting point is his apparent naiveté, certainly unbecoming one who served and, according to his biography, rose in the ranks of the US Defense Security Service (DSS) and is described by Stratfor as "one of the world's foremost experts” in his field. “We felt betrayed”? Betrayed? That any branch of US intelligence, including that of the State Department, would be emotional regarding the common practice of espionage between allies and enemies should, by itself, raise questions regarding the author’s credibility and qualifications.

But back to the substance of Stratfor’s emotional and one-sided “analysis” of Jonathan Jay Pollard’s admitted crimes and those of “the Israeli intelligence service.” Coincidentally, even as Pollard was spying for Israel, half a world away America’s Central Intelligence Agency already had in place an Israeli spying for the United States.

Yosef Amit was a former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) major who worked in intelligence and operated agents in Arab countries. Soon after his release from the IDF Amit was recruited by a CIA agent based at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv. Tasked with providing highly classified information on Israeli intentions and troop movements in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, Amit was arrested in 1986, one year after Pollard. Not only was he employed by the CIA against his own, and far more vulnerable country, the major was also alleged to have passed classified information to a NATO country in Europe.

So much for Fred Burton’s plaintive, “After he was discovered, a deep fog of anger settled over the U.S. intelligence community. We felt betrayed...” As former CIA director Helms acknowledged when asked about US spying on allies, “I certainly hope so.” fdIt is a matter of record that the United States had been spying on the Yishuv even before it became Israel!

Having failed to provide a level playing field for inter-ally espionage and limiting focus only on Israel, what follows from Burton’s article only reinforces the rank amateurism with which he approaches his topic. Take, for example, the following assertions:

“Rather than go through the established liaison channels, Mossad recruited Pollard and went behind our backs to commit espionage that, at least to my knowledge and to that of all my colleagues, we would have been open to sharing with them anyway.”

In another incident of either poor “tradecraft” as journalist or commitment to position sans facts Burton again demonstrates ignorance of the facts of the Pollard Affair. Pollard was neither recruited (he volunteered) nor was he accepted by Mossad. Any unbiased observer with even a nominal knowledge of the Affair had to know that the Pollard operation was handled by Lakam, Israel’s Bureau of Scientific Relations headed by Rafi Eitan.

As to: “we would have been open to sharing [intelligence] with them anyway…” this only raises further questions regarding its author’s qualifications in his profession; how limited his knowledge of, or interest in the actual facts surrounding Israel’s decision to accept Pollard’s offer. As Burton should know, Pollard was an analyst for Naval Intelligence, an office under the umbrella of the Department of Defense. DOD was headed by Caspar Weinberger widely knon to be both antisemitic and anti-Israel. Weinberger was instrumental, for example, in the decision to provide the Saudis AWACS battlefield control aircraft which compromised Israeli security while having opposed the sale of advanced fighter planes to Israel. According to Ollie North, a close adviser to Vice President Bush (the elder) during the years of Irangate,

“[Weinberger] seemed to go out of his way to oppose Israel on any issue and to blame the Israelis for every problem in the Middle East. In our planning for counterterrorist operations, he apparently feared that if we went after Palestinian terrorists, we would offend and alienate Arab governments – particularly if we acted in cooperation with the Israelis… Weinberger’s anti-Israel tilt was an underlying current in almost every Mideast issue.”

As Burton describes there was an agreement in force at the time between President Reagan and Israel, a Memorandum of Agreement regarding close intelligence sharing between Israel and the United States. Even Burton should be hard-pressed to explain why Israel, in a trusting relationship with Reagan Administration would risk the MOU by engaging an American Jew to spy on the US if, as Burton assures, the MOU was working? Which beggars the question how it was that a young and boastful Zionist, employed by Naval Intelligence, would have found himself among the negotiating team tasked with providing Israel intelligence due her under the MOU: Whatever the state of compliance of other US intelligence agencies, there was a state of non-compliance in Weinberger’s Defense Department. And “conveniently” Zionist Jonathan Pollard was well-placed to observe the non-compliance. It was his participation in the team, as Pollard explains to Blitzer in Territory of Lies, that led him to approach Israel as a volunteer.

I responded to the Burton article when it first appeared and hoped that his severely flawed Broken Trust: The Pollard Affair would have achieved its just desserts, oblivion. Embarrassing that Stratfor, an otherwise respected source for intelligence, would resuscitate so poorly researched and fact-checked an article as this. At best the explanation for Burton writing it was a deep-seated prejudice from his exposure to the Pollard Affair as a new, naïve and impressionable “special agent” for DSS. At worst it is just a poorly written polemic. In neither case should it have passed editorial oversight to appear in Stratfor.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Antisemitism as national policy: The US Congress shuts the borders, 1923-4

Wednesday Jan 25, 2012

“Upon signing the Act, President Calvin Coolidge commented, America must remain American.’ This phrase would become the rallying cry of anti-immigration sentiment until after World War II.”

Over the next months the United States will become the focus of my writing. This is not because I believe this country more antisemitic, is historically more aggressive in persecuting its Jewish citizens. The contrary. While the level of popular and institutional antisemitism in the U.S. roughly paralleled Europe before and during the years of National Socialism; and while the United States failed to live up to tradition as refuge when it came to Jews fleeing Auschwitz, neither did it actively participate in the systematic bloodletting that was Europe’s effort to achieve a Final Solution to the West’s enduring Jewish Problem. No, I discuss antisemitism in the United States because I happen by birth to be far more familiar with this country’s history: as I discuss the United States over the months it should not be seen as an example, but as a metaphor for western antisemitism. I firmly believe, and try to demonstrate in my writings, that the risk to Jews represented by the Diaspora has not diminished over the centuries: the Holocaust demonstrates that its mortal threat has exponentially increased.

Introduction: It is a matter of historical fact and common knowledge that in the years before and during the Holocaust the United States first limited, then barred entry to Jewish refugees, targets of Europe’s persecution and eventual murder campaign. According to the president American immigration law tied his hands. And while there were other options available had the will to rescue been present, technically Roosevelt was correct. In the 1920’s Congress passed legislation widely understood as targeting the Jews that would only be lifted forty years later; twenty years after Auschwitz gassed its last victims.

Jews had lived in the United States since earliest colonial times. And while they faced discrimination in the past it was not until the early 1920’s, influenced by growing antisemitism and American eugenics, that discrimination took a more ominous and, for European Jewry, fateful turn.

Henry Ford distributed the Protocols at all dealerships across the U.S. His purchase of  The Dearborn Independent allowed hit to spread antisemitism beyond the showroom.

“The Immigration Restriction Leaguewas the first American entity associated officially with eugenics. Founded in 1894 by three recent Harvard University graduates, the League sought to bar what it considered inferior races from entering America and diluting what it saw as the superior American racial stock (upper class Northerners of Anglo-Saxon heritage).”

League membership was a virtual who’s-who of academic luminaries and included, “A. Lawrence Lowell, president of Harvard, William DeWitt Hyde, president of Bowdoin College, James T. Young, director of Wharton School and David Starr Jordan, president of Stanford University.”

Between 1880 and 1923 approximately two and a half million Jews, mostly fleeing Russian pogroms, arrived in the United States. In deciding the year to base the demographic profile for its Federal Immigration Restriction Act of 1924 Congress chose the census of 1890, the boundary at which Jews began arriving in greater numbers. The bill, “limited the annual number of immigrants who could be admitted from any country to 2% of the number of people from that country who were already living in the United States in 1890.”

If the law sounds as if written by American eugenicists, it was. It was based directly on testimony provided by the Eugenics Record Office (ERO). “Eugenics Record Office Superintendent Harry Laughlin became the anti-immigration movement's most persuasive lobbyist... [He was appointed by the chairman of the committee writing the law their] expert eugenics agent.” By deceptive data and reasoning Laughlin fed Congress what it wanted to hear, that new immigrants were polluting America’s bloodline with “feeblemindedness, insanity, criminality, and dependency.” The resulting bill “did everything eugenicists had hoped for... it restricted immigration from southern and eastern Europe countries to only 9% of the total. Northern and western European countries got 86% of the quota, even though they made up the minority of immigrants in 1923.”

Though the law's quota system targeted immigrants based on their nation of origin rather than ethnicity or religion, Jewish immigration was a central concern… The law sharply curtailed immigration from those countries that were the homelands of the vast majority of the Jews in America, almost 75% of whom came from Russia alone.Because Eastern European immigration only became substantial in the final decades of the nineteenth century, the law's use of the population of the U.S. in 1890 as the basis for calculating quotas effectively made mass migration from Eastern Europe, the home of the vast majority of the world's Jews, impossible.”

 President Coolidge Signs the immigration act on the south lawn of the White House(Wikipedia)

Upon signing the Act, President Calvin Coolidge commented, ‘America must remain American.’ This phrase would become the rallying cry of anti-immigration sentiment until after World War II.”

“When Hitler published Mein Kampf in 1924, he held up a foreign law as a model for his program of racial purification: The U.S. Immigration Restriction Act of 1924… When the Nazis took power in 1933, they installed a program of eugenics--the attempted "improvement" of the population through forced sterilization and marriage controls--that consciously drew on the U.S. example... Small wonder that the Nazi laws led one eugenics activist in Virginia to complain, "The Germans are beating us at our own game."”

We will return in more detail to the impact of this restrictive immigration law on European Jewry when the topic turns to the Holocaust. One result not often discussed was that, beyond providing a fig leaf for the administration to hide behind as justifying inaction, the fact that the leading democracy in the west, representative of the humanistic and liberal ideals, the fact that the one country that might have provided a model of moral and ethical behavior instead set an example for other potential countries of refuge (tiny Bolivia was the exception having admitted some 30,000 Jews between 1938 and 1941) to also close their borders.

Such theatrical gestures by the administration as the Bermuda Conference and that “too little-too late” afterthought the War Refugee Board were mere window dressing intended to placate critics at home, and particularly America’s mostly impotent Jewish community themselves fearful of antisemitism sweeping the United States, even as Europe’s Jews were being murdered.

Recent writings in this Series:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Before Hitler the Aryan Master Race was America’s ideal

“[T]he concept of a white, blond-haired, blue-eyed master Nordic race didn't originate with Hitler. 

"Eugenics is the self-direction of human evolution": Logo from the Second International Eugenics Conference, 1921, depicting Eugenics as a tree which unites a variety of different fields (Wikipedia)

Introduction: While I will be drawing on multiple sources for this article, I recommend Edwin Black’s War Against the Weak to the reader interested in a single source for the topic of America’s pursuit of it’s own Aryan racial population. I will allow Mr. Black to provide the introduction:

Eugenics was the racist pseudoscience determined to wipe away all human beings deemed "unfit," preserving only those who conformed to a Nordic stereotype. Elements of the philosophy were enshrined as national policy by forced sterilization and segregation laws, as well as marriage restrictions, enacted in twenty-seven states. In 1909, California became the third state to adopt such laws [the first was Indiana, 1907]. Ultimately, eugenics practitioners coercively sterilized some 60,000 Americans, barred the marriage of thousands, forcibly segregated thousands in "colonies," and persecuted untold numbers in ways we are just learning. Before World War II, nearly half of coercive sterilizations were done in California, and even after the war, the state accounted for a third of all such surgeries.”

Eugenics was not an “invention” of the United States, but it was enthusiastically embraced by America. Politicians, educators, social scientists of all stripes saw in genetic engineering and the resulting American racial ideal a strategic national imperative, a goal of the highest order. The following are drawn from the book, The Nazi Connection, by Stefan Kuhl: In his inaugural address, Woodrow Wilson said: “[T]he whole nation has awakened to and recognizes the extraordinary importance of the science of human heredity [eugenics], as well as its application to the ennoblement of the human family… Theodore Roosevelt expressed the fear that “inferior” segments of the population were gaining power.” Steps taken to control the danger to humanity’s “ennoblement,” to ensure that the “inferior” would not “gain power”, at least in the early years included legalization of the involuntary sterilization of the “unfit,” and laws “that prohibited marriage and sexual intercourse between blacks and whites... The Commission of the American Genetic Association… proposed that the lowest 10% of the population be sterilized. [The measure] was intended to “eradicate” the “inferior” members of the society over a time period spanning two generations.”

Without American leadership, training and support, German National Socialism would likely have still pursued the Final Solution to the West’s Jewish Problem, but the effort would have lacked the credibility of a “scientific” justification, the enthusiastic moral support of America’s elite, the funds provided by America’s wealthy.

The Immigration Restriction League (founded in 1894) was the first American entity associated officially with eugenics. The League sought to bar what it considered dysgenic members of certain races from entering America and diluting what it saw as the superior American racial stock through procreation.” Although “eugenic ideas” were already “in the air” among America’s elite in the 19th century (Alexander Graham Bell, married to a deaf woman, proposed sterilization as a way to eliminate “deafness” from America’s gene pool around 1881) America’s movement to genetically engineer an ideal racial stock gained general popularity only in the early 20th century.

 Contestants get ready for the Better Baby Contest at the 1931 Indiana State Fair (Wikipedia)

In 1904 the Carnegie Institution created a laboratory complex on Long Island dedicated to eugenics research. Carnegie generosity was soon matched by other far-sighted philanthropies such as the Harriman railroad fortune and the Rockefeller Foundation. “The Rockefeller Foundation helped found the German eugenics program and even funded the program that Josef Mengele worked in before he went to Auschwitz.” But this is getting ahead of our story.
Before describing how American eugenics was applied as social engineering in the years before Nazism it is instructive to acknowledge some of its more prominent supporters.

A short list of the founders of the American Eugenics Society (established in 1922) includes: J. P. Morgan, Jr. of U. S. Steel; Miss E. B. Scripps of Scripps-Howard and United Press International; John H. Kellogg of cereal fame; Margaret Sanger of Planned Parenthood.

Prominent politicians and others included: President Theodore Roosevelt; President Woodrow Wilson; Alexander Graham Bell; the Rockefellers, Harrimans, and Carnegies; Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, to name a few.

Nearly all educational institutions from Ivy League to local collages promoted eugenics as a positive model to improve the national gene pool. Positive change, according to the model, would be achieved through encouraging, “the higher classes of society to reproduce offspring.” Those outside that model, the “unfit,” would be eliminated “humanely” by forced sterilization. Euthanasia, or “negative eugenics,” was proposed as a national project, was in fact utilized by some physicians and hospital administrators, but never became, as in Germany, a national program of race improvement. One reason advanced was that Germany’s public and overuse of euthanasia made it unattractive outside of Europe.

The “Unfit” defined: Among the so-called genetic traits to be eliminated from the national Aryan gene pool was deafness, blindness, insanity, criminal tendencies and laziness. Schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder and depression: mental illness in general was also slated for elimination. Some races would be allowed to survive in segregated reservations, but sexual intercourse or intermarriage, called miscegenation, would be illegal and carry severe penalties. But restrictions on racial intercourse was not unique to eugenics; its history as practiced by many states went back to the American colonies.

“In 1907 Indiana became the first of more than thirty states to adopt legislation aimed at compulsory sterilization of certain individuals. Although the law was overturned by the Indiana Supreme Court in 1921, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a Virginia law allowing for the compulsory sterilization of patients of state mental institutions in 1927.”

Eventually thirty-three states would adopt laws, backed by the U.S. Supreme Court, providing for involuntary sterilization resulting in more that 60,000 by mid-century. The last legal forced sterilization in the United States was performed thirty-six years after WWII, in Oregon in 1981.

The American model of race improvement by means of sterilizing the “unfit” would be replicated by the Third Reich. “[T]he Germans enacted compulsory sterilization laws partly based on the U.S. experience, and American eugenicists took pride in their influence on Nazi policies. 

Miscegenation laws forbade sexual relations, including marriage, between white and non-whites in the United states from earliest colonial days until as recently as the year 2000. Penalties varied from state to state and could involve a fine, “up to $2,000 and/or prison terms of up to 10 years.” But often offenders did not face justice in court, but at the end of a rope, or worse.

At mid-20th century approximately 30 states still had laws regarding miscegenation. One example was the Virginia Integrity Act of 1924. It prohibited marriage between a white person and anyone with a trace of blood other than Caucasian. The 1967 Supreme Court decision on Loving v. Virginia made American anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional.” At the time of the Court’s decision Barack Obama was six years old.

But Virginia was not the last state to surrender its miscegenation laws. Alabama was the last hold-out and only rescinded the law in November, 2000.

Recent writings in this Series:

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Zionism , from antisemitism to Holocaust

“Eliminate the diaspora or the diaspora will eliminate you!”
 (Ze’ev Jabotinsky, Poland, 1937)

Had antisemitism remained social and political very likely most Jews, conditioned by centuries of religion-inspired discrimination, would have patiently waited for the most recent storm to pass. But following 1500 years of persecution and the dawn of political-religious reform, having tasted the promise of emancipation and acceptance represented by the Enlightenment, for some at least hope turned quickly to despair. Awareness grew that Christendom’s religion-based Jewish Problem was too deeply embedded in the in the West’s history and culture to vanish because secularism replaced religion-based society.

Jewish responses to Emancipation and continuing discrimination predated Zionism by decades. Two very different such efforts, are represented by Moses Mendelssohn, descended from a line of orthodox rabbis, and Karl Marx, the son of a Lutheran convert himself the son of a rabbinical family. Mendelssohn would ensure Jewish survival by “modernizing” religious practice while Marx’s was far more radical: Jewish identity along with Judaism would fall away, as would distinctions for all based on class, religion and nationality in proletarian revolution (pardon the obvious oversimplification). He wrote On the Jewish Question in 1843 in part in opposition to an opponent of Jewish emancipation. But the work was also a first attempt at his theory of dialectical materialism, and in it he identified the Jews symbolically with money, the West’s universally recognized stereotype. This symbolic representation of the Jews would provide a rationale for already existing antisemitism, provided a political ploy for both the left and the right, before and after the Holocaust and, when a state of the Jews appeared, included Israel and the movement whose creation it was, Zionism.

The first sparks of what would become a Zionist movement came out of Russia-Poland in the late nineteenth century. In 1882 Leon Pinsker, an assimilated Russian physician wrote Autoemancipation, a prescient work that anticipated the risk to Jewry in the twentieth century. That work, written fifty years before Germany voted the National Socialists into power, may even today represent the most accurate diagnosis of the condition of Jews in Christendom; of the West’s Jewish problem and its cure

Leon Pinsker (Wikipedia)

Pinsker’s preface is an impassioned Zionist challenge: Take responsibility for the fact that antisemitism is a permanent feature of the Western Diaspora; accept that the obvious Jewish response to “the terror of bloody atrocities” is self-emancipation, the creation of a Jewish national homeland.

After the terror of the bloody atrocities [the pogroms] a moment of calm… the Western Jews have again learned to suffer the cry, "hep! hep!" [by anti-Jewish rioters, typically students, in Germany]… Shut your eyes and hide your head like an ostrich -- there is to be no lasting peace unless … you apply a remedy more thoroughgoing than those palliatives to which our hapless people have been turning for 2000 years.”

“But,” Pinsker continues, “the greatest impediment in the path of the Jews to an independent national existence is that [we] do not feel its need… deny its authenticity (see Jabotinsky, below).”

Pinsker was not a Marxist but a Zionist and his solution to the Jewish problem lay not in a larger social revolution but in the removal of the Jews from that danger: “This change cannot be brought about by the civil emancipation of the Jews in this or that state, but only by… the foundation of … our inalienable home, our country.” Pinsker the physician diagnosed Judeophobia a, “psychic aberration… [an incurable] disease transmitted for two thousand years… Prejudice or instinctive ill-will is not moved by rational argument (so much for educating society away from persecution), however forceful and clear.”

For several decades after the appearance of Autoemancipation young and idealistic Jews, inspired by Pinsker and prodded by pogrom, made their way to Palestine as individuals and in groups. Among the first were the Hoveivei Zion, the Lovers of Zion, who founded Rishon l’Zion, one of the first Jewish towns in Palestine. But enthusiasm alone was not enough to inspire immigration sufficient to create in a state, and another decade would pass before another, more charismatic and politically-savvy leader would appear.

Theodor Herzl in Basel, 1897 (Wikipedia)

Theodore Herzl, another assimilated Jew, was a Viennese playwright and journalist. In 1894 he was sent to Paris to cover the treason trial of Captain Alfred Dreyfus. “Herzl witnessed mobs shouting “Death to the Jews” in France, the home of the French Revolution, and resolved that there was only one solution: the mass immigration of Jews to a land that they could call their own.” Apparently unaware of Pinsker or Autoemancipation, Herzl came to the same conclusion regarding the risk to Jewish survival in the West. Antisemitism, he concluded, “was a stable and immutable factor in human [well, Western] society, which assimilation did not solve.”

Recall that the events described above took place before the First World War, before National Socialism was voted into power in Germany and half a century before the West embarked on its final solution to it’s Jewish problem. For the Jews, at least, the Holocaust was still unimaginable. But some among the younger generation were already sensing the coming, if indefinable, disaster. Among them was Ze’ev Jabotinsky.

Following Hitler’s electoral victory Jabotinsky crisscrossed Poland and Eastern Europe warning of the impending Final Solution. While few took the warning seriously, who beyond visionaries could imagine the unimanageable and unprecedented fate awaiting the Jews, Jabotinsky knew. On Tisha B’ Av of 1937, a traditional day of mourning on the Jewish calendar a leader accepting defeat Jabotinsky exhorted the Jewish people to expunge themselves of the Diaspora or perish:

It is already three years that I am calling upon you, Polish Jewry… warn you incessantly that a catastrophe is coming closer… [you] do not see the volcano which will soon begin to spit all-consuming lava… In the name of G-d! Let anyone of you save himself, as long as there is time, and there is very little… whoever of you will escape from the catastrophe, he of she will live to see the… the rise of a Jewish state.

“Eliminate the Diaspora or the Diaspora will eliminate you!”

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An American lynching: the Leo Max Frank Affair

Ninety years ago, some of Marietta's leading citizens gathered to hang a man, Leo Frank, a Jewish superintendent of an Atlanta pencil factory… [He was] murdered on a farm belonging to former Cobb County sheriff William Frey.”

Introduction: The trial and murder of Leo Frank stands in stark contrast to the outcomes of those other contemporaneous antisemitic outrages, the “trials” of Menahem Beilis and Alfred Dreyfus. In the end Russia and France, however reluctantly, recanted and their victims survived. Not so the American Jew. This incident illustrates the depth of antisemitism present in the United States for decades preceding the First World War, a level that only intensified after that war, and continued to do so through the Second World War and beyond. It was this same antipathy towards Jews, endemic to Western culture, that resulted in America violating its long tradition of refuge as last resort, at least when it came to Europe’s Jews fleeing the Holocaust.

Leo Max Frank was manager of the National Pencil Factory in Atlanta, Georgia. On the night of 27 April, 1913 the body of a thirteen year old employee was discovered in the factory basement. She had been raped and strangled.

Frank was accused of the 1913 murder of Mary Phagan, a former Mariettan who worked at the National Pencil Factory in Atlanta. Historians [and some police investigators at the time] believe that the state's main witness, Jim Conley, a janitor at the factory, murdered the 13-year-old girl.”

As it turned out John Conley, “who was arrested when he was seen washing red [described as “blood”] stains from a shirt,” became the state’s main witness. Conley, who had an arrest record involving alcohol and violence, “later gave at least four contradictory affidavits explaining how he had helped Frank dispose of the body. ”At one point he testified to being illiterate, a claim later contradicted when he asserted that Leo Frank had ordered him to write two notes, as if by the girl, as she lay dying. Conley also claimed that Frank paid him $200 for helping move the body but, but when asked by the police where the money was he claimed Frank had taken it back.

One of the two murder notes found near the body. (Wikipedia)

Tom Watson, publisher of the Jeffersonian newspaper, [see earlier submission] was instrumental in creating the atmosphere of antisemitism that would shape public outrage against Frank. He made cash payment to the police for access to police evidence, was accused of having removed evidence he felt favored Frank.

The grand jury investigating the case indicted Frank in the death of Mary Phagan on 24 May, 1913. On 28 May the pencil factory foreman was reported by the newspaper The Georgian to have said that he believed Conley "strangled Mary Phagan while about half drunk.” Two other witnesses against Conley were also not called to testify.

Why the grand jury chose not to pursue Conley, is not known. What is known is that following the indictment several members of the panel expressed doubts regarding Frank’s guilt, felt Conley should have been the one indicted.

Lucille and Leo Frank at Frank's trial. (Wikipedia)

Amidst controversy surrounding the police investigation, the manipulation and even disappearance of evidence; with accusations of witness badgering and even coaching by the police and prosecution, the trial ended on 26 August, 1913. Frank was convicted in the murder. Presenting evidence of jury tampering and intimidation a mistrial was demanded. And denied. Frank’s conviction was greeted with jubilation in the street.

William Manning Smith, the attorney who initially defended Conley, reversed his position in 1914 after concluding that his own client was the guilty party.”

Appeals to both the Georgia and US Supreme Courts were unsuccessful.

Tom Watson, who in 1920 would represent Georgia in the US Senate, had little patience for the “legal wrangling” following Frank’s conviction. “If Frank's rich connections [a not subtle reference to the Jews] keep on lying about this case,SOMETHING BAD WILL HAPPEN!” But out of public view, “Watson let it be known to [Governor] Slaton that he would throw his support behind a Senate bid if only the governor would let Frank hang.”

Days before leaving office the governor, citing inconsistencies in evidence, commuted Frank's sentence to life in prison. Forty years later the governor would recall that he was convinced following the trial of Frank’s innocence and assumed “[it] would eventually be fully established and he would be set free”.

Responding to the governor’s decision Watson led a group of Georgia’s finest citizens to the prison, drove Frank 240 miles to , “A site at Frey's Gin, two miles east of Marietta [Mary Phagan’s home], had been prepared, complete with a rope and table supplied by former Sheriff William Frey. The following morning the self-styled “Knights of Mary Phagan” lynched Leo Frank

The lynching of Leo Frank. The man on the far right in the straw hat is Newton A. Morris, a superior court judge. (Wikipedia)

The lynch party was not a drunken polyglot of street hooligans in a rage. Frank’s murders consisted of 26 cool and calculating members of the professions, the cream of Atlanta’s elite. Among these luminaries were: former governor Joseph Mackey Brown; Superior Court Judge Newton Morris (standing near the hanging body of Leo Frank, above); Eugene Herbert Clay, son of U.S. senator Alexander S. Clay, and himself the former mayor of Marietta; John Tucker Dorsey, a lawyer and state legislator (and solicitor general for the Blue Ridge Circuit who would have been responsible for prosecuting the lynchers, had any been indicted!).

Following the lynching a festive atmosphere prevailed, and crowds searched the site for souvenirs… A short time after the lynching of Leo Frank, thirty-three members of the group that called itself the Knights of Mary Phagan gathered on a mountaintop near Atlanta and formed the new Ku Klux Klan of Georgia.”

“On March 11, 1986, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles granted Frank a pardon, citing the state's failure to protect him or prosecute his killers. But neither did they exonerate him:

Without attempting to address the question of guilt or innocence, and in recognition of the State's failure to protect the person of Leo M. Frank and thereby preserve his opportunity for continued legal appeal of his conviction, and in recognition of the State's failure to bring his killers to justice, and as an effort to heal old wounds, theState Board of Pardons and Paroles, in compliance with its Constitutional and statutory authority, hereby grants to Leo M. Frank a Pardon.

Georgia has yet to admit to Frank’s wrongful conviction, responsibility for its miscarriage of justice.

The names of Frank's murderers were well-known locally but were not made public until January 7, 2000, when Stephen Goldfarb, an Atlanta librarian and former history professor, published a list on his website. The Washington Post writes that it includes several prominent citizens—a former governor, the son of a senator, a Methodist minister, a state legislator, and a former state Superior Court judge—their names matching those on Marietta's street signs, office buildings, shopping centers, and law offices today.”

Recent writings in this Series: