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Ron Radosh

Monthly Archives: February 2009

Why the U.S. Must Leave and Condemn Durban II

February 23rd, 2009 - 10:40 am

The Durban Conference – The  UN World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance- held in 2001, turned out to be one thing only-  a conference held to single out Israel alone for racism and all the sins in the world. As a pro-Israel website put it, “the Durban conference became notorious for its unbridled attacks on Israel,  led by Iran and a number of other Arab states.”

As preparations for the second Durban conference scheduled to be held in April take place, Britain and Italy announced they are thinking of joining Canada, the Netherlands and Israel in refusing to attend the Review Conference meant to see whether the recommendations of Durban I are being upheld. Britain’s  Foreign Office Minister, Lord Malloch-Brown said: “If we can’t go forward now, we will withdraw. I was at the first conference. I have never seen such a disgraceful event in quite a long international life…We are not going to stand by and allow this racist stuff to get through and be seen as acceptable.”

This judgment comes from an officer of a government that at home, has bent over backwards to to appease Muslim fundamentalists, while tolerating anti-Semitic incidents in Britain without a peep.  If Durban is even too much to tolerate for a representative of Britain, you know how bad it really is.

Commenting on Durban I, Melanie Phillips wrote accurately that “cursory references to anti-Semitism and never forgetting the Holocaust were tossed in as a trade-off for singling out the ‘racism’ of Israel, which was responsible for ‘the plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupation.’ Instead, an equivalence was drawn between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.”  This April’s conference is dedicated to, as their first draft indicates, to condemning Israel for “apartheid,” for “crimes against humanity” and for perpetrating a “form of genocide.”  The conveners of Durban II are anything but objective.

Last October, the Sandinista who is now UN General Assembly President, (itself a travesty) Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann,  said Israeli “apartheid” must “be outlawed,” and met by “a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions.”

So the question emerges: What is the United States going to do? Is it floating the choice that our country too, like our allies Canada and Britain, will most likely not participate? Where is the voice of President Barack Obama, a man most Americans look to for leadership in the fight against racism?

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McGovern is Right: Defeat Card Check!

February 20th, 2009 - 5:29 pm

Card check, or The Employee Free Choice Act, has become the cause of the day for the labor movement and its Congressional liberal allies. The name itself is meant to confuse, since a free secret ballot already guarantees freedom of the work force to choose whether or not to make their workplace unionized. Since the days of the New Deal and labor’s hard fought battles of the 30′s, the Wagner Act- or The Labor Relations Act of 1936-already established the right of unions to hold secret ballot elections for representation, supervised by a National Labor Relations Board.

What the newly proposed Act would do, as AFL-CIO chief John Sweeney explains, is to establish that “if a majority of the employees in your workplace sign cards saying that they want to join a union, you’ll get your union, plain and simple.” It seems fair the way Sweeney puts it: “This would go a long way to restore the freedom of workers to choose a union, which…has been whittled down after for generations to nearly nothing.”

 The first thing to note in this new Act is that all privacy and secrecy disappears. Let us say you feel intimidated and pressured by those of your fellow workers who are adamant on behalf of unionization, and you tend to disagree with them on the benefits of representation. All of them would now know how you came down on the issue. That kind of pressure could lead to a great deal of unpleasantness at work, even to situations making it intolerable for you to any longer stay on that particular job.

On the other hand, let’s  say you favor unionization, and the majority of your fellow workers do not. The openness and lack of secrecy and a secret ballot means that you will stick out like a sore thumb, making you an open target for those in the company who do not want unionization and will more than likely make things much tougher on you. Indeed, that kind of situation is precisely what led the labor movement to fight in the 30′s for the Wagner Act, and to demand a secret ballot as a sine qua non for any chance of gaining union representation.

But those days of the militant labor movement have long disappeared, and unionized workers have become a smaller and smaller percentage of the work force in the blue collar industries that still remain. The union’s successes have come instead in our own age in the public service sector of the economy, particularly among federal and state government employees. These government employees have already been organized, so now the AFL-CIO is turning its sight on remaining private sector employers.   It is interesting that Sweeney singles out for condemnation none other than McDonald’s, which has mobilized  its 2400 franchises to oppose card check.  McDonald’s, whose individual franchises employ a small number of people in different shifts, is hardly akin to the old auto and steel plants that figured so predominantly in the organizing days of the 1930′s.

What if each franchise was unionized?  Immediately, the AFL-CIO union that was chosen to represent its employees would demand large wage increases, increased health benefits, and the like. The effect would more than likely put out of business many of those franchises, whose owners could no longer afford to make a profit and stay open. The result would be an end to employment of the part-time, student and unskilled people who otherwise would have held those jobs. No wonder so many of these small owners would, in Sweeney’s words, “fight tooth and nail to keep their employees from having that kind of bargaining power.”

This reminds me of what happened in New York a few decades ago, when the favorite bookstore of New York liberals, progressives and leftists, the fabled “8th Street Bookshop” run by E.S. Wilentz, faced an organizing drive and picket lines made up of those who used to be its most frequent customers. Within a short time, Wilentz was forced to close down forever, thereby causing New York City to lose one of its few independent and thriving bookstores. He simply could not afford to stay in business and meet the conditions the union demanded.

Sweeney also argues that in electing Barack Obama, America’s workers voted for “good jobs, health care for all, and the chance of working people to keep a fair share of the wealth.” Perhaps. But can he prove that in voting for Obama, they voted for card check? Somehow, I doubt it.

That is why the campaign against the Act and radio ads by George McGovern are so significant, and why the American Conservative Union chose to honor him for “courage under fire” at the upcoming CPAC convention. The bill, McGovern said, is one of “undemocratic overreach,” an understatement if there ever was one. The former Senator and 1972 Democratic presidential candidate told The Hill that secret ballot elections are a “basic right” of Americans, and a “very important part of our democracy.”  And McGovern still considers himself a longtime advocate and friend of organized labor. Indeed, he wrote his Ph.D. thesis in history on a classic labor struggle, the Ludlow massacre and its background. It was first published in 1996 as The Great Coalfield War, co-authored with Leonard Guttridge.

That McGovern openly broke ranks with organized labor-  one of his oldest and strongest group of  supporters-  says a great deal about his integrity and sense of purpose. No wonder the AFL-CIO Organizing Director termed his defection “shocking.” McGovern is not to be intimidated, despite the fact that liberal groups have given out his private e-mail address so that he can be inundated with spam attacking him. McGovern simply says: “I’m doing it because I believe it’s an important right that should be protected.” In his radio ad he says: “It’s hard to believe that any politician would agree to a law denying millions of employees the right to a private vote. I have always been a champion of labor unions. But I fear that today’s union leaders are turning their backs on democratic workplace elections.”

And so they are. In this day and age, as political lines are crossing, we now find a lifelong liberal Democrat and supporter of unions working alongside conservatives to defeat the labor movement’s top priority.  Things are not so simple anymore.  People who think like George McGovern can no longer sing so easily labor’s old anthem, “Which Side Are You On?”

The dismissal of Joel Kovel: Sanity in Academia

February 19th, 2009 - 1:54 pm

Readers of this Web site know full well about the anti-Israeli animus afflicting so many of our campuses.  There are scores of Web sites and bloggers reporting daily about its effect, and the constant attempts to single out Israel as the only perpetrator of human rights violations deserving condemnation in today’s world.

Thus, when Bard College announced that it was firing Professor Joel Kovel,  his followers and supporters immediately tried to mount a campaign claiming that Kovel had been dismissed from his position because of his open and impassioned attack on Israel and his argument that Israel should be replaced by a unitary secular state made up of both former Israelis and Palestinians. Kovel himself wrote a statement about his termination in which he writes that, “If the world stands outraged at Israeli aggression in Gaza, it should also be outraged at institutions in the United States that grant Israel impunity.”

Kovel goes on to actually accuse Bard of firing him because he believes that it is the role of an educator to criticize the injustices in the world, and that Bard’s failure to not oppose Israel’s occupation and aggression makes it an accomplice in the perpetuation of Israel’s “state violence.” Since he implies that Bard defends both Zionism and Israel ( he points out that its President Leon Botstein is musical director of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, and that when it played at Bard the group performed both the Israeli and American national anthems) he argues that the worse Israel’s behavior, “the more strenuous must be the suppression of criticism.” His major point: Bard College “has suppressed critical engagement with Israel and Zionism, and therefore has enabled abuses such as have occurred and are occurring in Gaza.”

Already Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors, (AAUP) has joined the chorus attacking Bard, and noted that he is “concerned” because Kovel’s yearly contracts “would appear to grant him an expectation of continued employment.”  But by Kovel’s own admission, he had held a Presidential appointment “outside the tenure system,” which means that it is the college’s prerogative to not renew a yearly appointment whenever it so chooses. Nelson acknowledges that “further investigation may be necessary,” but he argues that “there is also reason to be concerned that politics – namely his outspoken positions and publications about the Arab-Israeli conflict – may have played a role in this decision.” Thus Nelson takes at face value Kovel’s assertion that his firing is a “violation of academic freedom.”

Kovel was most well known for holding the first Alger Hiss Chair of Social Studies in1988. His own letter  at first makes it appear that he still holds this position now under a “half-time (one semester on, one off, with half salary and full benefits year-round.)”  Later in the letter he mentions that the Chair was taken from him in 2002. Yet Kovel has succeeded in confusing many commentators, who assume he still held that chair. The reality is that a few years ago, Yale University Press editor in chief Jonathan Brent, creator of “the Annals of Communism” series, was appointed to that chair and has been teaching under its rubric to the present. Many have commented on the irony that Brent, who as much as anyone else knows full well that Hiss was a Soviet spy, holds the chair named after the Soviet agent.  When he was appointed, I suggested that the chair be renamed “the Whittaker Chambers Chair,” which given Brent’s well known anti-Communism, would in fact be more appropriate.

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Why Barack Obama Should Fund the Raptor F-22

February 17th, 2009 - 4:37 pm

By March lst, Barack Obama will decide whether to spend $523 million on twenty or more F-22 fighter jets, beyond the 183 already allocated and planned for.  We know what Congressional liberals will automatically say: We have to cut defense spending immediately. After all, our nation faces no real threats that require such massive expenditures, and in any case, one jet could finance hundreds of new schools. It is therefore time for our nation to make a choice: use our limited resources for our domestic needs and that of the suffering American people at home, or for the military-industrial complex.

That point has already been made by Barney Frank, on The Nation magazine website.  He writes, somewhat facetiously, that he wishes there “was some way to make it a misdemeanor for people to talk about reducing the budget deficit without including a recommendation that we substantially cut military spending.” Frank is upset that even some centrists and liberals are talking about the need to curb entitlements like Social Security and Medicare that have a “social purpose,” when cutting the military budget instead would mean eliminating expenditures that “do more harm than good.”

His words say a great deal. In Frank’s eyes, voting for military expenditures like the F-22 obviously have no social purpose, and in fact, do great harm. I suspect Frank looks askance at such weapons, which as he acknowledges, he thinks are obsolete since we “have no conceivable enemy.” He sees the new generation of weapons being developed as also ones that never will have “any plausible use” and will not make us any safer from physical attack.

That is why Frank, as well as all of us, should read the remarkable article by Mark Bowden in the current issue of The Atlantic, as well as view the accompanying video. Bowden, the prize-winning author of Blackhawk Down, has the knack for being able to present complicated and serious technical issues in a riveting fashion, and thereby show readers why such a controversial airplane like the F-22 is one that deserves serious consideration for being funded.

Bowden acknowledges that a case exists against its production. At $350 million per aircraft, it is the most expensive fighter plane ever built. So why, one asks, should we produce it, when the older F-15 cost $178 million, and we have many in our arsenal?  Bowden’s article provides the answers to this question. He writes: “Without a full complement of Raptors [the F-22] America’s aging fighters are more vulnerable, and hence more likely to be challenged.”  Our potential opponents- Russia, China, Iran, North Korea etc- “will be more likely to take on the U.S. Air Force if their pilots face a fighting chance.” The result would be deadly old fashioned air battles, with many downed American pilots.

Bowden shows how the commanding edge American air power we once had with the F-15 plane is on the verge of disappearing, especially since foreign powers have bought old Russian jets and upgraded them to match the power and technology of our F-15 fleet. One pilot, explaining the difference in the aircraft, compared the F-15 to a first generation clunky personal computer, while the F-22 is akin to a 21st century top of the line personal computer designed from the bottom up and fully integrated. A sensor in the F-22 looks out everywhere in the aircraft, from front to side to back, giving the pilot a 360 degree picture of battle space around him.

So, while Barney Frank might be right that conventional weapons are useless against terrorists, Bowden writes that “doesn’t mean the old threats have disappeared.” Russia could move into the Baltic states, Iran is readying nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, and North Korea is ignoring agreements it signed to stop building them, so that “the threat posed by belligerent nation-states is still real.” If we become more vulnerable in the air, Bowden warns, conflict with these nations “may well become more likely.” In other words, preparing ourselves with a new generation of invincible weapons is more likely to prevent actual conflict than bring it on.

There is yet one other reason for funding the F-22. That is the dire state of today’s economy and the recession we are now in. The general manager of the F-22 program at Lockheed Martin, its major contractor, has pointed out that the effort is responsible for 95,000 jobs at 1000 different suppliers. Bowden puts it this way: “a decision to save money and not build more would deliver a severe blow to a sprawling and vital U.S. industry at a time when the nation is mired in recession.” If we shut down the production line, he warns, it will be difficult to start it up again, even if a new distinct threat to our security emerges.  The 1000 parts in each plane, moreover, are manufactured in 44 different states, and to assemble one aircraft takes three years.

I think the argument is solid. To fund the F-22 will preserve jobs, strengthen the economy, and protect our national security. It will be a real stimulus to the economy. Barney Frank and his liberal colleagues would do well to take another look at this issue.

The New York Times’ Favorite 60′s Terrorist

February 16th, 2009 - 11:50 am

Evidently The New York Times editors have somewhat of a crush about Bill Ayers. First, they legitimized him a few months ago by giving him a space to repeat his many lies in an Op-Ed piece.  Deciding that giving him such coveted space was not enough, they have compounded their love affair with the 60′s terrorist by now awarding him a full page in the Sunday edition of The New York Times magazine.

Titled “Radical Cheer,” the interview by Deborah Solomon is compounded by their full page color photo of Ayers—a device that indicates those the magazine chooses to interview are indeed noteworthy important people. Most egregious, however, is that Solomon clearly believes that Ayers’ and his wife Bernard Dohrn’s lifelong agenda is, as she puts it,  a “long struggle against racism and social injustice.” With those words, Solomon transforms Ayers’ and Dohrn’s actual  lifelong real struggle for overthrow of our capitalist democracy with some form of revolutionary socialism, which they define in traditional Marxist-Leninist terms, into a simple quest for peace and justice.

It is clear that Ms. Solomon has no awareness of Ayers own writings; his calls for revolution, his endorsement of bombing as a worthy tactic for antiwar activists, his advocacy of a race and class war led by the Black Panther Party and other far left black groups, to which the white New Left would serve as supporters.  Had she just read Prairie Fire, the official statement of the Weather Underground ideology and program, she would have had sufficient information about their openly stated ideas.

“We need,” their political statement said, “a revolutionary communist party in order to lead the struggle, give coherence and direction to the fight, seize power and build the new society.”  And here is the heart of their manifesto: “Our final goal is the destruction of imperialism, the seizure of power, and the creation of socialism. Our strategy for this stage of the struggle is to organize the oppressed people of the imperial nation itself to join with the colonies in the attack on imperialism. This process of attacking and weakening imperialism involves the defeat of all kinds of national chauvinism and arrogance; this is a precondition to our fight for socialism.”

 Why did Solomon not ask Ayers if he still stands by that judgment? After all, as he stood by Hugo Chavez’s side in Venezuela a few years ago, he made statements that would indicate that he still held by that original vision.  And his wife Bernardine Dohrn made the following statement in 1969:  “Revolutionary violence is the only way. Now we are adopting … classic guerilla strategy…in the technically most advanced country in the world.”  Solomon also praises Dohrn. Has she changed her vision? Readers never know. Of course, Ayers does tell Ms. Solomon that “I don’t think what we did was brilliant,”  which may be the understatement of the year.

Bill Ayers is right. He was not and is not brilliant. Indeed, as Paul Berman wrote, he was and is one of the stupidest men alive.  He ends the interview by telling Solomon he is an eternal optimist. Why shouldn’t he be? The MSM and the Times have adopted him as one of their own; simply an antiwar activist from the old days who should be continually honored.

Are We Really All Socialists Now?

February 13th, 2009 - 2:54 pm

The question of whether or not we are all socialists now is not as silly as it may sound.  Jon Meacham and Evan Thomas argue in their  cover story for Newsweek that the United States, though remaining a center-right nation culturally, is increasingly coming to resemble the  European social-democratic welfare states.  While conservatives blast the Obama Administration’s new bailout and stimulus plan as filled with pork and not doing enough to produce real stimulus of the economy, and those on the Left argue it has not gone far enough and has capitulated to conservatives who want more tax cuts, most Americans simply want something to pass, and are deferring to the corporate based economic advisers who put it together.

But I think that Meacham and Thomas are right about their main point: the American economic system is not one based on laissez-faire economics, but a mixed economy that has long accepted the contours of a modern welfare state. Years ago, in a pathbreaking but not too well known book, The United States as a Developing Country, the historian Martin J. Sklar argued that at the turn of the century, the United States was transformed from a country based on a “proprietary-competitive market” system to that of an emerging “corporate administered market.”

The result, according to Sklar, was the emergence of a new “corporate capitalism” that mixed together elements of both populism, capitalism and socialism. The modern American state, he concludes in an essay he wrote for this book, was a system that mixed public and private, socialism and capitalism- “A Mix,” Sklar calls it, that has made the United States not only stable and dynamic, but the most progressive of any nation in the world.

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A Feel-Good Meaningless Petition

February 12th, 2009 - 12:14 pm

The pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim has been known for quite some time as an advocate of Palestinian rights, and a fierce critic of the policies of various Israeli governments. His best friend was the late Edward Said, with whom he founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. You can read about his views of the conflict in the Middle East here. He has accepted honorary  Palestinian citizenship as a gesture of solidarity, and as an example of “Israeli-Palestinian co-existence.” 

Now, Barenboim is the author of a new petition, that appears in the current issue of The New York Review of Books.  It is short enough to reproduce:

For the last forty years, history has proven that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be settled by force. Every effort, every possible means and resource of imagination and reflection should now be brought into play to find a new way forward. A new initiative which allays fear and suffering, acknowledges the injustice done, and leads to the security of Israelis and Palestinians alike. An initiative which demands of all sides a common responsibility: to ensure equal rights and dignity to both peoples, and to ensure the right of each person to transcend the past and aspire to a future.

Daniel Barenboim

The petition is a perfect example of a meaningless gesture, a feel-good effort that makes the long list of signers feel very good and self-righteous.  As anyone can read, the text fails to address any of the hard and very real issues that could lead to peace. These are replaced by verbiage about opposition to the use of force, the need to find new resources of “imagination and reflection” and a “new initiative,” that will lead to a “new way forward.” What this new way and new initiative might be is not specified.

Who is not for “equal rights and dignity” to both Palestinians and Israelis? As Mr. Barenboim well knows- or should know- Israeli governments have worked in the past decades to work out a two-state solution; while the various Palestinian regimes have missed every opportunity to move towards building their own state, in favor of a never-ending declaration of war to destroy the Jewish State.

Now look at the signers. The list includes Chomskyites like Arundhati Roy, Palestinians such as Rashid Khalidi,  the Marxist writer John Berger, the left-wing activist/actress Susan Sarandon, and many others. It is largely composed of writers, filmmakers , musicians and artists who have never been known to have been politically interested in the issue at all, and who have never publicly expressed themselves one way or the other. That is why, I suspect, the Barenboim petition is so vague and general—too many specifics and half the list would not sign.

One must wonder what Debra Winger, Neil Young, Charlie Watts, (he couldn’t get Mick Jagger?) Uma Thurman, Stephen King, Jonathan Demme, Ellen Burstyn, Ralph Fiennes, Jeanne Moreau, Meryl Streep and Tilda Swinton know about the situation in the Middle East. For all any of us know, they have read and thought about it a great deal; or perhaps they only want peace and want everyone to know it, and as for the thorny issues that are to be dealt with, they know nothing. But we now know that they are on the side of the angels. 

After all, their signature appears on the same list as the sainted Desmond Tutu. Perhaps they are unaware that Bishop Tutu is an advocate of the campaign for divestment from Israel, and like Jimmy Carter, says Israel is an apartheid state. He also believes that Zionism has many parallels with racism, and complained that it is hard to criticize Israel in the United States, since the “Jewish lobby is very powerful.”  One wonders how a petition that reeks of even-handedness could get a signature from Bishop Tutu. I look in vain at the signers to see if there is anyone on the list who is known to be as pro-Israeli as Bishop Tutu is an opponent of Israel.

There are, indeed, many distinguished artists, filmmakers, musicians of note and writers who have signed. I suspect many of them know and respect Daniel Barenboim, and when he asked them to sign on, they did so quickly.  They are now on record: they want peace. Good for them. They will find that the petition will be quickly forgotten. It is one more meaningless gesture, that says a great deal about the culture today’s writers and artists live in. How one wishes George Orwell was around to comment.

John P. Diggins 1936-2009

February 6th, 2009 - 8:16 am

The American intellectual community suffered a great loss last week, when John P. Diggins died suddenly from complications from colon cancer.  Jack’s death came as a shock to many of his friends and colleagues, to whom he never mentioned his illness.

Jack Diggins was a unique figure in our polarized times. He was intellectually and politically engaged. Yet unlike so many, it was impossible to predict what he would say and where he would come down on so many issues. He could be sharp in his criticism when he disagreed with someone, leveling a blast that stung. Yet he would quickly apologize, and take another longer and more sober look before reaching final judgment.

Jack’s interests were widespread.  His first book was a study of the impact in America of Mussolini and Italian fascist doctrine. After that, he turned to examine the a group of major American intellectuals who moved from Communism to the new post-war conservatism espoused by William F. Buckley. Later he wrote books on American pragmatism as well a study of Abraham Lincoln’s moral and political views. All of his works had implications for understanding the America of his own time and place.

In his recent book on Ronald Reagan, Jack surprised many by reevaluating Reagan as a true liberal who sought peace with the Soviets.  Many  Reagan supporters simply could not take his argument seriously. His sympathetic portrait of Reagan also confused liberals who despised Reagan and who were disappointed with Jack whom they saw as one of their own. When he told Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. that he was writing a book reevaluating Reagan and that he would say positive things about him, Schlesinger responded: “Please don’t make him look too good.” Despite his unique approach to Reagan and their disagreement with him, the conservative think tanks in Washington DC all vied to have Jack appear before them to talk about his take on Reagan.

A man who was hard to pinpoint,  Jack wrote scathing critiques on Marxists and men of the Left like Eric Hobsbawm and Eric Foner for The National Interest, and blasts at the neo-conservatives whom he fiercely opposed for The American Prospect. He simply could not be pigeon-holed. One can read and learn from all these essays, and appreciate Diggins’ perspective and the very unique criticism he levied, despite disagreeing with much of his analysis.

There were few intellectuals of his caliber, who stood firmly on independent ground and had the fortitude to suffer the antagonism of those who were firmly in one camp or the other. He will be sorely missed.

 

 

 

 

The Black Panthers Remembered

February 5th, 2009 - 3:10 pm

Peter Collier and David Horowitz called their book about the 1960′s The Destructive Generation.  Of all those they wrote about, none were considered at the time as more heroic and worthy of emulation than The Black Panther Party, that gang of African-American thugs who hid their murderous activity under the rubric of Marxist-Leninist politics.

To those of us who were 60′s activists, the Panthers were everything we white boys were not—truly committed to “the revolution;” willing to risk their lives in armed struggle against the ruling class; romantic heroes who actually walked the walk and whose lives lived up to their militant rhetoric.

These thoughts came back to me when I read the obituary in today’s papers about the death of Warren Kimbro, a former Black Panther Party member.  Kimbro, who was once a killer for the Panthers, from this account, tried hard to make up for his past life. Given orders most likely by Panther leader Bobby Seale, Kimbro murdered Alex Rackley, a Panther whom the members suspected of being a police informer.  Before killing 24 year old Rackley,  the New Haven, Connecticut branch of the Panthers held him in an apartment for three days, during which time they tortured him brutally. Finally, they drove him to a nearby swamp, where Kimbro shot him through the head. It was a typical gangland killing, justified in their minds as a political act against a would-be informer.

As  Rackley was being tortured in the Panther apartment, their national leader Bobby Seale arrived to give a fiery speech at the Yale campus. When he was later arrested and charged with ordering Rackley’s execution, the white New Left sprung into action. Students on campus and others were bussed in from New York City and surrounding areas to hold rallies on Seale’s behalf. Soon radical Yale students proclaimed a student strike. Even Yale’s President Kingman Brewster came to Seale’s defense—famously stating that he was “skeptical of the ability of black revolutionaries to achieve a fair trial anywhere in the United States.”

Seale would get off in a hung jury. As for the killer Kimbro, he testified for the prosecution, and claimed that Seale had been at the apartment while Rackley was tortured, although he could not say for sure that Seale gave the execution order. Kimbro served time for the murder, and because he was a prosecution witness, was sentenced to twenty years to life in prison and eventually released on parole. Later Kimbro enrolled at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, and became a dean at a Connecticut state university.

While Kimbro repudiated his violent past and led a meaningful life, others of his generation still venerate the Panthers and persist in trying to keep their myth as black heroes alive. Every year or so a new book comes out heralding them, a movie or TV film is made glorifying them as civil rights era fighters for justice, and many academic conferences and panels are held studying them and trying to fit them into our recent history as models of the hidden history of the oppressed.

But when a memory suddenly appears, as it did to mark Kimbro’s passing, it serves us well to look back honestly and accurately at what so many of the New Left believed.  Hopefully, today’s would-be radical students will learn the truth about groups like the Panthers and resist glorifying them.

Futile Policy in the Middle East

February 3rd, 2009 - 6:28 pm

Writing yesterday in The Daily Beast, Leslie H. Gelb, a former New York Times columnist and former president of The Council on Foreign Relations, predicts that George Mitchell’s trip to the Middle East in his new position of envoy will be futile.

Mitchell will hear the Arab leaders demand that Israel make impossible concessions in advance of any peace talks and then perhaps there will be peace. But as Gelb acknowledges, “No sane leaders anywhere in the world would trust their security to the word of people who are publicly committed to their destruction and who have actually been trying to destroy them for half a century.”

In 1947 the United Nations voted to partition Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab one. When Israel was created on May 15,1948,  five Arab countries immediately went to war to prevent it from happening.  While Israel’s leaders were willing to accept a Palestinian state living in peace alongside them, the Arab nations’ goal  was to prevent Israel’s birth and to create a unitary Arab state with a Jewish minority living under their control. They were not interested in creating a Palestinian Arab state. As King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia told Franklin Roosevelt in 1945, Arabs and Jews could never cooperate, “neither in Palestine, nor in any other country.” Arabs would rather die, he told the President, than “yield their land to the Jews.”

But the Arab armies suffered a humiliating defeat.  After the State of Israel was created, one of the first crises it faced was trying to negotiate a peace.  At issue were boundaries and the Palestinian Arabs who had fled.  The Israelis were reluctant to allow more than a small number to return. In their eyes, the only reason there were refugees was because the Palestinian Arabs as well as the neighboring Arab countries had gone to war against their new State. Those who remained were welcome to stay, but the Israeli government worried that to allow all those who had fled to return would create a potential Fifth Column. David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister asked James McDonald, the U.S.’s first Ambassador to Israel, “How can we permit potential enemies to come back so long as Arab states openly threaten a new war of destruction?”   Calling his country “a small and weak” nation, Ben-Gurion told the Ambassador: “We can be crushed, but we will not commit suicide.”

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