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Ron Radosh

Monthly Archives: December 2013

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The Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles this week presented its year-end list of the top 10 antisemitic and anti-Israel slurs. It is an ecumenical list, containing the usual suspects, led by Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and including Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk, and Pink Floyd front man Roger Waters, among others.

The ninth listing was reserved for writers and is titled “The Power of the Poison Pen.” Sharing the Wiesenthal award is the novelist Alice Walker, who was awarded it for comparing Israelis to Nazis, and for writing that Israelis engage in “despicable and lawless sadistic behavior” and seek to “erase” Palestinians “from their own land.” Jews, she said, “know how to hate and how to severely punish others.”

Sharing the listing with Walker is none other than “journalist” Max Blumenthal, and the Wiesenthal Center makes it quite clear that a Jew can indeed be an antisemite, and that Blumenthal is one. Equating Israelis with Nazis, Blumenthal mentions the Holocaust “only to ask [is it right] to have the Jewish victims of the Nazis impose their independence on another people’s tragedy.” Blumenthal uses the term “Judeo-Nazis” and explains the Israeli-Arab conflict as the result of Israeli politicians “outdoing one another in a competition for the most convincing exaltation of violence against the Arab evildoers.” According to Blumenthal, it notes, Israelis incite “unprovoked violence against the Arab outclass.” They also “indoctrinate schoolchildren into the culture of militarism.”

Rabbi Marvin Hier, co-founder of the Wiesenthal Center, told the Jerusalem Post that he considers Blumenthal to be a “Jewish anti-Semite.” We “judge him by what he writes,” Hier added. “He crossed the line into outright anti-Semitism.”

As I have pointed out in earlier columns, Blumenthal had two appearances in Washington, D.C., one at the National Press Club and the other at the liberal New America Foundation, whose director, Anne-Marie Slaughter, approved his appearance.  Atlantic editor Steve Clemons promoted the first appearance. Writing in his announcement for the event,  he said:

Max Blumenthal’s new book on Israel has received a torrent of attention — some caustic and some effusive.  I think his book is important and revelatory of many untouched, taboo subjects both inside Israel and in its neighborhood

A group called the “Committee for the Republic” sponsored the event. According to Source Watch, it is an ad hoc group that includes C. Boyden Gray, Charles Freeman, Stephen P. Cohen, and William A. Nitze. All are self-proclaimed realists and conservatives who are opponents of both Israel and those they call neoconservatives, whom they attack as supporters of the American empire.

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China, as we have been well reminded today by the Washington Post, is celebrating the  120th anniversary of Chairman Mao’s birthday. It’s no secret why even today’s state-capitalist China — held together in a fragile fashion by its ruling Communist Party — is seeing fit to mark the occasion. Mao is the link to its continuing legitimacy as a ruling group. Its ideology is no longer Marxist-Leninism, but Market-Leninism. Its “get rich quick” philosophy has created a slew of new billionaires, who live in mega mansions that are far greater than any in West Palm Beach or Malibu, but whose inhabitants swear fealty to the wisdom and guidance of the party leaders.

The ruling Communists eschew democracy; continue to jail dissidents in harsh prisons; and occasionally break out anti-corruption campaigns, in which former party leaders are brought down a notch and either imprisoned, executed, or subject to house arrest.  Those who write forbidden thoughts are not allowed to have their fellow countrymen read them. The Internet is severely restricted, and censors regularly pick out major Western websites which Chinese users find they are unable to access. We might think the New York Times is a leftist paper, but try to log on to it from a Chinese Internet provider. Good luck.  You never know when something in its pages might prove to be embarrassing to the comrades in charge of propaganda.

When I was in China for one of those State Department public diplomacy tours in 2000, before our highly contested election that year, I spoke all over the country to explain our American political system, how it worked, and to lecture on the meaning of political democracy. The last day in Beijing, before I was about to leave back for the States, the American embassy phoned to say they had managed to book me on the most popular talk program in the country, in which I and an interviewer — a political scientist from the university who had his own popular program, something akin to Charlie Rose on PBS here — would conduct the discussion.

It was a big coup to place me on the program, the embassy spokesman told me. They never had been able to do that before. I got to the station on time, and presented my views much as I had in lectures at universities and public forums. These, of course, were limited to those who came to hear me. The show was taped, and I was told it was to be broadcast later that evening, in prime time. I received a call from the embassy again. The censors viewed it before airing, and right before airtime, they re-broadcast an old program, putting my interview into the ashcan. The reason, the embassy told me, was that they thought my comments on political democracy were too volatile to be heard by a vast audience.

Mao never believed in political democracy. As Gao Wenqian, once a leading Chinese Communist and now a dissident who advises the group Human Rights in China and lives in our country, explained in an op-ed:

It’s no surprise that China’s leaders have chosen to honor Mao with such pomp. In the decades following the establishment of the People’s Republic in 1949, Mao’s cult of personality formed the cornerstone of the one-party system…now, as the economy has slowed, China’s leaders have found it necessary to defend the Communist Party’s monopoly on power by invoking the nation’s “glorious” history — with Mao’s legacy its most potent tool.

Mao killed millions. The death toll alone of the “Great Leap Forward” was somewhere between 36 million and 45 million. During all that time, Mao and his leaders lived in luxurious surroundings, where servants galore rewarded every whim.

The irony is that the most corrupt and self-serving leaders, like the now-imprisoned Bo Xilai, were the first among the Party leadership to revive Mao’s legacy and urge a return to Maoism.  He, and those who purged and imprisoned Xilai, now evoke Mao’s name and legacy to serve the political ends they favor.

In another brave op-ed published outside China, a former aide to ousted Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang, a dissenter named Bao Tong who is now under house arrest, writes about how the myth of Mao still hangs over China today, and prevents the country from moving forward towards freedom.

Mr. Tong begins with Mao’s pre-Communist promise to create a “New Democracy,” which he rightfully says was a ruse meant to win allies in Mao’s fight against Chiang Kai-shek.  All of Mao’s promises were lies — the peasants got no land, all freedoms including the right to strike were taken from factory workers, and those who owned property found that the state and the party now owned them.

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The revelation in Haaretz, the left-wing Israeli daily newspaper, that the Mossad trained Nelson Mandela in Ethiopia throws a new wrinkle into the Mandela story.

The world already knew that Mandela was trained in sabotage and terrorist tactics. This occurred when he left South Africa for Ethiopia to set up a secret underground military apparatus for the African National Congress that would then wage guerrilla attacks against the apartheid regime.

The assumption was that he got his training — as he probably did as well — from the KGB or the GRU, Soviet intelligence agencies that were seeking to establish proxies in Africa loyal to communism and the Soviet Union. But until the story that appeared yesterday, no one knew that Mandela “was trained in weaponry and sabotage by Mossad operatives in 1962, a few months before he was arrested in South Africa.”

The Mossad, the writers reveal, also tried their best to convert their subject — whom they did not realize was Nelson Mandela until he was arrested in South Africa — to the philosophy of Zionism. Mandela, who had support from Jewish Communists at home as well as from other liberal Jews opposed to apartheid, was evidently familiar with both the pre-state Haganah in British-occupied Palestine, and with Zionism in particular.

On October 11, 1962, two months after Mandela’s arrest in South Africa, the Mossad sent a letter to its officers that was stamped “Top Secret”:

The Mossad sent the letter to three recipients: the head of the Africa Desk at the Foreign Ministry, Netanel Lorch, who went on to become the third Knesset secretary; Maj. Gen. Aharon Remez, head of the ministry’s department of international cooperation and the first Israel Air Force commander; and Shmuel Dibon, Israel’s ambassador to Ethiopia between 1962 and 1966 and former head of the Middle East desk at the Ministry.

The subject line of the letter was “the Black Pimpernel,” in English, the term the South African media was already using for Mandela. It was based on the Scarlet Pimpernel, the nom de guerre of the hero of Baroness Emma Orczy’s early 20th century novel, who saved French noblemen from the guillotine during the French Revolution.

“As you may recall, three months ago we discussed the case of a trainee who arrived at the [Israeli] embassy in Ethiopia by the name of David Mobsari who came from Rhodesia,” the letter said. “The aforementioned received training from the Ethiopians [Israeli embassy staff, almost certainly Mossad agents] in judo, sabotage and weaponry.” The phrase “the Ethiopians” was apparently a code name for Mossad operatives working in Ethiopia.

The report also noted that Mandela greeted everyone with the term “shalom,” and was most familiar with the problem of the world’s Jews and with Israel. He appeared to the Mossad agents as an “intellectual,” but most tellingly “he expressed socialist worldviews and at times created the impression that he leaned toward communism.”

On that, the Mossad had it right. Their training of him did not pay off. From the start, Mandela supported the Soviet Union and its foreign policy, and befriended leftist African tyrannies as well as Yassir Arafat and the PLO.

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Yesterday, the American Studies Association voted to approve the National Council’s resolution to endorse an academic boycott of Israel. In yesterday’s vote, 66.05% of voters endorsed the resolution, while 30.5% of voters voted no and 3.43% abstained. The relatively small 5000 member academic group is largely composed of leftist or left-leaning academics, and I am not surprised that the small amount who actually voted–1252 out of the entire membership–voted in favor.

The reason that the vote has received so much publicity is because the ASA has become the second American group to join its European counterparts in calling for such boycotts. The even smaller Association for Asian American Studies passed a similar resolution last April, without much publicity.

Yes, as many have pointed out, the vote is largely symbolic. Yet the board members who rammed the vote through without fully announcing its campaign do not seem to even slightly comprehend their hypocrisy. Scores of regimes throughout the world — including Iran, North Korea, Communist China, Castro’s Communist Cuba, Assad’s Syria, and many others — lack any rudiment of real academic freedom. Dissenting scholars are simply not hired or, if exposed by informers for the regime, are immediately fired. Yet the ASA has picked on the Middle East’s only existing democracy to protest and call for an academic boycott.

Indeed, Israel has many left-wing scholars who regularly in the press and in their academic works, especially in history and the humanities, freely criticize the government and society in which they live. Hasn’t the ASA ever heard of the group long ago dubbed “the New Historians,” whose works challenge Israel’s very legitimacy? Actually, the ASA position is even opposed by the Palestinian Authority’s leader, Mahmoud Abbas. An advisor and spokesman for Abbas, Majdi Khalidi, told the Times“We are neighbors with Israel, we have agreements with Israel, we recognize Israel, we are not asking anyone to boycott products of Israel.” It’s pretty extreme to be to the left of the very Palestinians the ASA claims to be defending. (I leave it for another time to question Khalidi’s claim that they “recognize Israel.”)

If you go to the list of supporters, directly after the report of the membership vote, you will see the second name. It is none other than the former Communist Party, U.S.A leader Angela Y. Davis. In her statement attached to her name, Davis says:

The similarities between historical Jim Crow practices and contemporary regimes of segregation in Occupied Palestine make this resolution an ethical imperative for the ASA. If we have learned the most important lesson promulgated by Dr. Martin Luther King—that justice is always indivisible—it should be clear that a mass movement in solidarity with Palestinian freedom is long overdue.

Davis also was a member of the Black Panther Party and lover of the black terrorist George Jackson, who died in a prison shootout. His younger brother Jonathan took a judge hostage and was killed in a courtroom, using guns he had taken from Davis’ home, for which she was put on trial. The Black Panther Party, which called itself Marxist-Leninist, believed that the heart of the Middle East conflict, as Stephen Norwood reports in an important new book, “was a war between heroic Palestinian guerrillas and ‘Israeli pigs.’” The BPP believed that Jews had no claims whatsoever to Palestine. Ancient Hebrews only lived there for 100 years, while the Arab Palestinians had a “continuous residence in Palestine until they were expelled by the Zionists in 1948.”

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As South Africans mourn the passing of Nelson Mandela, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find any honest and balanced assessments of Mandela’s legacy. Indeed, particularly on the broadcast media, including Fox News, it seems to be all accolades with nary a word of criticism.

Instead, you have many sites by liberals condemning conservatives for their view of the African National Congress back in the 1980s, during the Reagan years. At the New Republic, Isaac Chotiner argues, for example, that conservatives viewed their struggle through the prism of the Cold War, and hence thought nothing of backing apartheid because that government was our ally against the Soviet Union.  Liberals like Chotiner argue that the ANC had to take allies where they found them. Yet their struggle was moral and should have been supported then by the United States.

The Cold War, he argues, “prevented many of the people fighting it from viewing Mandela in anything but Cold War terms.” How, he asks, could anyone even think of the apartheid regime as part of the Free World? The Cold War, he writes, “didn’t require anyone to wear these blinders.”

Strangely, but predictably, Chotiner does not ask why Nelson Mandela and the Communist leadership of the African National Congress — which was controlled completely by the South African Communist Party — did not see any contradiction between their own calls for sanctions against the regime (as well as requests for international solidarity) and their support of the most brutal and repressive Communist regimes and leftist tyrannies, including Gadaffi’s Libya and Fidel Castro’s Cuba.

The issue was raised in the New York Times by former executive editor Bill Keller, in a column titled provocatively: “Nelson Mandela, Communist.” Acknowledging that Mandela was probably both a Party member as well as on its ruling Central Committee, Keller, unaware that the SACP had acknowledged his membership proudly a few days earlier on its own web page, asked a simple question: “Does it matter?”

Keller answers his rhetorical question the following way: People say one thing, but party platforms and ideology are often ignored. This, he says, is what the pragmatic Mandela did. Conservatives who harp on it are engaging in “gleeful red-baiting.” The truth, he writes, is that Mandela “was at various times a black nationalist and a nonracialist, an opponent of armed struggle and an advocate of violence, a hothead and the calmest man in the room, a consumer of Marxist tracts and an admirer of Western democracy, a close partner of Communists and, in his presidency, a close partner of South Africa’s powerful capitalists.”

In other words, he was a man of contradictions. His alliance with and membership in the SACP was simply a “marriage of convenience,” in a movement with few friends. He was able to receive money and arms from his Soviet and Chinese comrades for their “feckless armed struggle.” Despite ideology, when push came to shove, the pragmatists and the realists won out.  Mandela emerged from prison a changed man, who brought reconciliation to his native land that could have erupted in civil war, and both avoided bloodshed and gave his backing to South African capitalists who could have been his enemy.

His Party membership can be explained simply by the fact that the Marxist-Leninist group was the only political group that allowed whites, blacks, Indians and mixed-race people as members.

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Last week, I wrote about the New America Foundation’s sponsorship of Max Blumenthal’s vicious screed against Israel. Now that the event is over, James Fallows has taken to the web pages of The Atlantic to praise the reprehensible bigot and ignoramus Blumenthal, whose book he describes as “ a particular kind of exposé-minded, documentary-broadside journalism whose place we generally recognize and respect.” Fallows also adds that “items like this one in Commentary had said that New America should not provide a platform for what it claimed was destroy-Israel hate speech. Some members of the board got personal email pitches to the same effect.”

The column in Commentary by Jonathan S. Tobin appeared after mine on these pages, and Tobin credits my column for alerting him to Blumenthal’s appearance. As for the personal e-mails, I addressed one of them to a board member whom I am in touch with, as did other individuals whom I told about the scheduled event. One person I know wrote to Anne-Marie Slaughter, who did not respond to the e-mail he sent.

Now, Fallows charges us with censorship, and with trying to stand against free speech. Tobin accurately calls Blumenthal’s book one with a “complete lack of intellectual merit or integrity.” So when Fallows says everyone respects and recognizes Blumenthal’s courageous journalism, he is speaking only for himself.

Sadly, his blog indicates that the campaign for the delegitimizing of Israel is succeeding among liberal sectors of our intellectual class, who are now welcoming as good journalism the worst kind of gutter tripe. Consider The Nation magazine’s Eric Alterman, who has written a blog post that could have been published by “The Friends of Hamas Book Club,” if such a group existed. Evidently Mr. Alterman, himself a man of the far Left, does not realize how far in the cesspool his liberal and leftist colleagues have fallen.

As for censorship and calls that the NAF board should have considered not sponsoring a talk about his book, this is hardly an assault on free speech. There are scores of serious critical books about Israel that are worth having a dialogue with authors about. This is not one of them. That a book exists — and there are hundreds they could have chosen from — does not mean that such a book should receive the imprimatur of the New America Foundation

By Fallows’ own admission, what Blumenthal does is find anti-democratic extremists in Israel. He then paints a picture showing his readers that their existence reveals the true Israel — a bigoted, anti-democratic state content to oppress all whom stand in the way of keeping it a Jewish state. With his one-sided attack, Blumenthal hopes to sway the American public against the United States keeping Israel as an ally.

Blumenthal has a right to his views. He found a publisher, and they are giving him quite a tour and send-off. To urge a distinguished liberal think tank to reconsider being one of the venues for his views is hardly a clarion call to suppress speech. It is simply an attempt to suggest to the board and leaders of NAF that they question whether they really believe liberalism in America means supporting a speaker whose book has been praised by none other than David Duke.

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As pundits spend much time commenting about the factions dividing the Republican Party — Tea Party radicals poised in opposition to mainstream, old-guard, establishment liberals — the Democrats are suffering their own largely unreported symptoms of a serious new dividing line.

Look no further than Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. As the Washington Post reported on Sunday, “a more liberal and populist voice is emerging within a Democratic Party already looking ahead to the next presidential election.” And its candidate is none other than Senator Warren. The new movement is what journalist Zachary A. Goldfarb calls “both a critique of Obama’s tenure and a clear challenge to Hillary Rodham Clinton, the party’s presumptive presidential front-runner, who carries a more centrist banner.”

Leave aside Goldfarb’s characterization of Hillary Clinton as a centrist (many would simply describe her as an opportunist  who will shift to whatever stance the base wants in order to obtain their votes). While many conservatives see our current president as a man of the Left (which he undoubtedly is), his leftist critics see him as a man who bent to Wall Street, who keeps his private views to himself, and who only tries to achieve his social-democratic aims by stealth means.

Warren, to the contrary, is upfront about what she favors: taxing the rich in order to fund left-wing economic programs.

Warren would not even countenance any reforms to Social Security that might save the program by major fixes. Instead, as Jon Cowan and Paul Kessler write:

Sen. Warren wants to increase benefits to all seniors, including billionaires, and to pay for them by increasing taxes on working people and their employers. Her approach requires a $750 billion tax hike over the next 10 years that hits mostly Millennials and Gen Xers, plus another $750 billion tax on the businesses that employ them.

This is the program the new Democratic Party far left is calling “economic populism,” itself a misleading term masquerading the upfront socialist economics advocated by its proponents. Their new program includes calls for taxing the rich, demanding legislation that would create a giant increase in the federal minimum wage, and concentrating on programs they claim would greatly reduce “economic inequality.” Aiding them in this new propaganda offensive is, of course, the pages of the New York Times. A few days ago, the paper debuted a new series on the topic in the Metro section, which ended all pretense of separation of the news pages from those of the editorial section and the views of its editors.

As Ira Stoll wrote at Smartertimes.com yesterday: “The Times metro section as propagandist for the de Blasio administration’s grim class warfare focus is off to quite a start.”

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